30-in-30: How to paint a snow storm

snow storm
White out study
8″ x 10″ watercolor on Arches 140# block paper

A recent photo of a white-out blizzard in the East posted by my cousin intrigued me. A study in high-key values, it called out to me to be painted. Permission to use her photo was granted and here you can see the first pass of the results. (Although deer do roam her property, this little doe is from my own head.)

I love snow. Granted, until this year I’ve never lived where there’s been too much (meaning any) snow, but I live in the mountains now, and this December we had a couple unusually heavy snowstorms. The snow was magical; the cold air made me tingle, the cool light reflecting the sky made my heart sing. But alas, I was too busy to do any plein air painting while there was snow on the ground, but there’s a snow storm promised for next week, so I’m hoping…

The hardest thing for me was keeping my values light. I normally paint with a pretty heavily loaded brush. I also realize that I want to mess with the composition a bit. And it really didn’t turn out the way I saw it in my head, so I think it deserves a couple more attempts, with more time in the planning.

pencil drawing
Pencil study for White Out

30-in-30: Watercolor selfie

Self portrait 8" x 10" watercolor on Arches 140# hot press
Self portrait
8″ x 10″ watercolor on Arches 140# hot press

This is pretty much what I look like, dear readers, although I might have smoothed out the bags under my eyes, and neglected to paint the complete truth about hair color. I come from a red-face family, and my cheeks are often nearly that crimson, although in this painting they might have been exaggerated just a bit by the new tube of Daniel Smith quinacridone rose. Awesome color. I’m afraid to do a light test on it…

I love to draw, almost more than anything else (except maybe eat), but I spent all this morning with a pencil in my hand, and by this afternoon, I was just tired of it. This little painting was done with only two pencil marks, one to mark the top of the head and one to mark the angle of the chin. Everything else was by brush alone.

And after 2 weeks of arguing with Aquabord, I decided to do my daily painting on PAPER! Although it wasn’t my beloved 300# hot press, it was still Arches, cotton rag torn out of a block. Ah, back home again.

Although I tried to limit myself to 1 hour, when the ringer went off, I had to mess with it just a half hour more to bring it into some sort of completion.


30-in-30: Painting in pink

Watercolor on 6″ x 6″ Aquabord

I’ve been wanting to paint this image for a while. I snapped this photo at Columbia Historic State Park last year.

It reminds me of two of my cousins. I’m not going to say they were sweet little girls, although they were. But they were also holy terrors, and a super amount of fun to visit.

30-in-30: Making a nice painting from a bad photo

Watercolor in Strathmore Mixed Media Journal

Coming clean here: For the last couple days I’ve been painting like crazy to finish a painting for the art show Animalscapes (More about this show in another blog post). Up against the deadline? Yep.

But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been painting my 30 paintings in 30 days. Just not blogging about them.

Two days ago I painted the tiny study you see at the top of this post. I painted while the fiddler drove. The painting is just a small block of color in my sketchbook of a photo I took at Christmas. The photo is dreadful; I think I dropped the camera and accidentally snapped the picture. But there was something about it that intrigued me. Maybe it’s the angles of the large green carpeted space.

In a class taught by one of my favorite artists, Felicia Forte, I learned to look at these blurry, awkward photos in a different way. Can they be cropped to create an interesting composition? Are there interesting shape or color combinations? Is there something of use?

There is something in the original photo that makes me want to keep playing with this image, and give it a bit more time.

The only baby at Christmas
Watercolor sketch on 9″ x 12″ Ampersand Aquabord




30-in-30:Time behind the brush


Deer painting
Deer in landscape study
Watercolor on Ampersand Aquabord

Lately I’ve been working on Ampersand Aquabord. I don’t totally love it the way I love Arches #300 hot press, but I’m fond of the idea that I don’t have to frame it behind glass. That makes it far cheaper, even considering the cost of the board. And I also like that I can rub the paint away more easily to correct mistakes (although it’s surprisingly simple to blot out errors on the Arches).

For today’s painting, I experimented on this 9″ x 12″ Aquabord with some tried and true watercolor cheats techniques: Salt, alcohol, and masking fluid.


watercolor with salt on aquaboard
Detail: Watercolor with salt on Aquabord

Paint doesn’t really soak into the Aquabord, so it was difficult to rub off the salt without rubbing off the paint. But it does make an interesting dark texture.

Watercolor with masking fluid
Detail: Watercolor with masking fluid on Aquabord

I don’t normally use masking fluid, but occasionally I find a use for it. The texture of the board makes it hard to apply the mastic in an even stroke, and the rubber cement pickup picked up the paint too.


Watercolor with alcohol on Aquaboard
Detail: Watercolor with alcohol on Aquabord

I’ve never been happy with spraying alcohol on paper, but on the board I liked the random, irregular marks it made in the paint. It bears more experimentation.


I like these quick little studies. I try not to think about the end result, but rather try many different things. If you’re participating in Leslie Saeta’s daily paint project in January, I hope on some days you’ll just have a fling with your paint. Who knows what you’ll discover?






30-in-30: Deer head study

Deer head
Deer study
Watercolor on 6″ x 6″ aquaboard

I’m challenging myself (yes, once again) to make and post a painting a day for the month of January, and to participate in Leslie Saeta’s annual January Thirty Paintings in Thirty Days. I usually paint everyday (with the exception of Christmas holidays, when painting is bumped off by what seems like round-the-clock cooking), but I don’t post to my blog everyday. We’ll see how I do for the month of January.

I’ve got no theme, other than to try to limit how much time I spend on these daily paintings, so I don’t take away time from larger projects. Today’s painting is a study for a larger painting that involves deer. If you follow me on Instagram (@Margaret.Sloan), I’m posting small bits of this bigger painting as I make them. I have to be finished by the 8th of January (the submission date for the Animalscapes show) so that is when I’ll unveil the whole painting.

I’m working on Aquaboard, a rather new surface for me, and painting a deer is a rather new subject matter, so I’m feeling my way through, making lots of studies.



Why in the world would I take on two internet challenges because my life isn’t busy enough?

Every month the interwebs crackle with bloggers answering challenges—painting a day; photo a day; poem a day; recipe a day, a workout a day, et cetera. I don’t normally participate in these—they’re a lot of work—but every so often I stumble across one that I like. The most recent was the Thirty Paintings in Thirty Days from Leslie Saeta. It was fun, but at the end of the month I felt like a horse that had been, as my best friend is fond of saying, “rode hard and put away wet”.


I’d busy, you’re busy, we’re all busy. But my favorite challenge—well, not really a challenge, but more like a personal project —is Roz Stendahl’s International Fake Journal Month. Roz isn’t about making you work like a dog. This project is so low-key and so much fun that it makes it easy to join. If you’ve got a sketchbook and 15 to 20 minutes a day, you can do it. As it indicates, you’ll be keeping a fake journal. You get to be someone else in your journal. It’s a lot of fun.

BloggingUThis month I also got caught up in the WordPress “class” Writing101. Everyday there’s a prompt with a twist. My personal challenge is to write to the prompts in a way that fits the subject matter, tenor and tone of Mockingbirdsatmidnight.com. That is, how do I write about art and music using the prompts from the Happiness Engineers? Will I be able to add an illustration? I don’t know if I’ll make it everyday, but it will be fun to try.

That’s what I’m doing in April. What are you doing?


30-in-30: It’s all over now but the singing

Collage of 30-in-30 paintings made with PicMonkey
Collage of 30-in-30 paintings made with PicMonkey

Today is the last of my 30-in-30 paintings as part of Leslie Saeta’s Thirty Paintings in Thirty Days. I want to thank her for challenging the paint-o-sphere to take up brushes and post their results everyday of January. I also want to thank her for hosting all of us on her blog. It’s been fun; I’ve found some amazing and dedicated artists this way, and met some lovely people.

My goal at the start of January was to make 30 paintings strictly from life. I love the way that it made me see differently; made me see more clearly; and made color even more flavorful than it usually is to me. I’m excited to paint from life more often. I’m curious to see how it will affect my work from photos.

But just because it’s no longer February doesn’t mean that I’ve got to put down my brushes. Onward and upward! More eggs!



30-in-30: Watercolor portrait from life


Watercolor portrait
15-minute portrait
Watercolor on really terrible paper

I began this painting in the life drawing session on Thursday. But since the models (us!) only posed for 10 to 15 minutes, I didn’t have time to A. Catch a good likeness and B. apply much paint. So I brought it home and played with it in my studio. I admit, I cheated a little bit. I started it on Thursday, but finished it today. (I didn’t have time to start a personal painting today, as commercial work fell in my lap, and you know how freelancing goes: work when you’ve got it and starve when you don’t.)

This is paper that, even though it wasn’t cheap (although not at the top of the food chain either),  is even more unsatisfactory than the really cheap stuff. I was sorely disappointed in this paper, and have never really used it for anything much at all. It looks like it should be a wonderful paper, but when you start applying washes, it gets very strange speckles all over it. And you can’t take any of the paint off; scrubbing gets you nowhere. I won’t tell you the brand in public (I don’t like to kiss and tell), but if you really want to know, I can tell you privately.

Maybe I haven’t learned how to coax the best from this paper. Eventually I guess I’ll learn as I still have a whole pad of it.