Mixing Neutrals

I taught a one-day workshop on color mixing at Edgewater Gallery last month, and have been asked by many to teach an online version of it. Color Mixing in Acrylics: Focus on Neutrals.

Zoom, Friday, June 2, 4:00 – 6:00 EDT.

Many color mixing workshops focus on color theory, and mixing colors around the color wheel. This is an important area of study, but often the softer, more nuanced muted and neutral colors get left behind. Neutrals – grays, beige, sand, taupe, charcoal, etc. – can form the real backbone of a painting by giving the bright colors more importance. Generally, lighter value neutrals carry very little visual weight. They serve as breathing room, letting other elements speak more loudly.

Here is a short video in which I demonstrate just one of the approaches included in the workshop on June 2. With this mixing technique, you will learn to control and alter colors generally, not just the neutrals.

Read more about the workshop, and sign up for it here.

I would love to read your comments on this video, or on your thoughts about neutrals or color mixing in general. Enjoy!

Do Not Get Scammed

Have you gotten emails asking to buy your art, with a specified price range and then asking if you take checks? A typical email says:

“My wife/husband/partner has been browsing through your work on Fine Art America/Pinterest/your web site and she/he/they LOVES it. I want to buy a piece for a special anniversary gift. I’m looking to spend $3000 – $3500. Oh, and by the way, do you take checks?”

I usually delete these or send them over to Susan for a laugh, if there is a particularly inventive variation. But recently an emailer asked for two specific paintings, and I didn’t catch the scam right away; I sent her the links (from my web site) and she said she’d rather pay by check than by PayPal. So she sent a check…Written for $500 more than the amount she owed. This is the scam. At this point she asks me to keep an extra $50, and send her a gift card in the amount of $450 to Walmart or Amazon.

The check, of course, is bogus. So if I fall for it I am out not only the $450, but also the paintings and shipping cost. I have heard from people who have fallen for this. The over-written check is the big clue. In the above case, I just insisted that she send a check for the correct amount, or choose another painting to make up the difference. Of course, I never heard from her again. I took her check to the bank to ask if there were telltale signs of its fraudulent nature. There was nothing obvious, but a few subtle things.

I am writing this to warn you. This scam has been around awhile, and the scammers think artists are easy prey: we warm up to flattery, to those who claim to love our work. And we’re delighted when someone wants to purchase it. I know I am.

You can read further on this in the New York Times (if you have access), the FTC, New Hampshire’s Consumer Protection and Antitrust Bureau, and Renée Phillips’ the Atrtrepreneur Coach.

I’d be interested to know if you have gotten similar emails or if you have come across other scams we need to watch out for.

Improvisational Drawing

Do you ever just feel like drawing or painting, making marks, but you don’t have any idea what to draw or paint? Sometimes the urge to make images comes from a specific source of inspiration – a particular subject matter, or a group of colors, or an image you saw done by another artist. But do you need an idea to start? What if you get the itch to draw or paint, but have no subject in mind?

Ever the optimist, I’m going to celebrate the advantages of not having a clue. First, you will not be disappointed. If you don’t have an image in mind, you can’t compare the image that shows up on your page to some ideal model. You can’t say “it didn’t come out how I planned”. Second, you get to surprise yourself. Whatever shows up on the page is new. It doesn’t mean it will be utterly unlike anything ever created, but it will be a new image that you had not previously imagined.

I’m calling this “improvisational drawing” because that is exactly what it is. Improvisation. Your structure consists of the materials you choose. In the following video I make an improvisational drawing with oil pastels, markers, graphite, and crayons. See links to all supplies below.

Share your own improvisational drawings!

I’ve created a group on Cluster, which is super easy to use. Upload your own drawings and see those of others. You can comment on others’ posts as well. Here is the link to Improvisational Drawing.

Here are the supplies I use in this video:

Sketchbook: Bienfang Mixed Media sketchbook I used the 9″x12″.

Cheap oil pastels: Here is a link to Crayola oil pastels, but there are many comparable brands.

Crayons: I use Caran d’Ache NeoColor II.

Tombow Markers: get them in sets or individually.

Graphite crayon: I use Lyra.

Woodless pencil: Try these out as well.

Thanks for visiting my blog. I would love to read your comments below.


I seem to be on a roll with drawing-scribbling-painting-collaging heads. What’s up with that? Here is a sampling of the work. I’d love to hear your thoughts, and whether you’ve worked with this kind of imagery.

In most of these I’ve used oil pastel. My favorite high quality ones include Sennelier, which are really creamy; Holbein, which are firm; and Caran d’Ache neo-pastel. There are many many brands of cheaper oil pastels to choose from. The ones in my collection include Van Gogh and Faber-Castell. Oil pastels, unlike oil sticks or Pigment Sticks, do not dry. To keep them from smudging I am experimenting with spray fixatives. Have you tried any products that keep oil pastel in its place?

Thanks for visiting my new blog. I’d love to read your comments.

Brand New Blog!

I decided it was time to switch my Collage Journeys blog over to a new platform. I will continue to have links to my previous blog, as there is content on it that I refer back to on occasion. This blog may be a little easier to comment on since my previous one got SO much spam I had to moderate comments.

See the previous blog here.

Here are a few pieces of new, experimental work. I guess it’s all experimental…