Painting the Light

Bass Harbor Light

Painting light after all is what we are doing in our artwork. Light creates volume, sets the mood, creates interest, and gives your painting life. In our classes we’ve been concentrating on different lighting situations recently in our landscapes and our upcoming seascape. I thought I would share my thoughts and preparation for painting the Bass Harbor Light.

Bass Harbor Light

Bass Harbor Light

I was asked by one of my students to paint the Bass Harbor Lighthouse in Maine so I began to research the structure and different lighting options. I decided that I wanted to make the light house stand out through my use of light and detail. I wanted the lighthouse to have the most detail and gradually use less and less detail as I moved away from the center of interest. Of course, that’s the way to create a center of interest.

Sunset , one of my photo inspirations

Sunset , one of my photo inspirations

Being a sky enthusiast, I love watching clouds and the colors in the sky at different times of day, I’ve taken lots and lots of sky and cloud photos. This was a good opportunity to go back through my photos as inspiration for the sky in this painting. I found the color ideas and cloud formations to create drama and decided where in my painting I needed to have the most vivid colors and active clouds to call attention to the center of interest.

Sunset clouds inspiration

Sunset clouds inspiration

Next I decided on the size canvas I would use, actually I went to my stock of canvases and discovered the 12 x 24″ which I though would add even more drama to the painting.

I created my drawing of the lighthouse, sized it, and positioned it roughly on my canvas since I would be covering it up when I added the sky. I used DecoArt Traditions paints because I like the vividness of the colors and quality of the paints, just right for a dramatic sky.

Half of the work of creating a painting goes in the research and preparation before I ever pick up a paint brush. I sketched a thumb nail of my design and when I was satisfied with placement and possible colors I was ready to choose my paints and begin the sky.

I had decided on an evening sky with strong sunset colors just before the sun goes beyond the horizon so I chose oranges, yellows peaking through a dark blue sky. Then I applied my first layers of paint for the sky and water.

Beginning the sky

Beginning the sky

I’ll continue my process in my blog so check back to see how I progressed and what needed adjusting as I painted. As you see there will be a lot of changes made.

Or even better, you can join one of my classes at Artful Endeavors and paint along with me. Check the schedules for the Raleigh day class and the Cary evening class. I’ve been asked to hold a Saturday class and I’m looking for a day that works. Let me know if you would like to come paint with us any of these times.

My Favorite Painting

Sunning Turtles
designed by Liz Miller CDA
video class can be found at

I am sometimes asked, “What is your favorite painting?” My answer is usually, “The next one.” Actually my favorite part of painting is the process. I do have paintings that I have completed that I especially favor but they are done. It’s pleasing to look at them and share them with others. I like and need praise like all of us and that’s rewarding, but those paintings are completed.

The process is the most exciting part to me, the most absorbing, where time just passes unnoticed.   I love getting started on a new painting, figuring out how to begin and in what direction I’ll wander.


turtles, the beginning of an idea


The turtles would be great in this setting.

The best part is that there is no rule about what I have to do with any one painting. Yes, of course I have studied, know about composition, perspective, color harmony, and all the rest of our artistic theory, absorbed it all and take it into consideration. One of my favorite ideas from Candice Olson, HGTV designer, is knowing the rules and knowing when to break them. We do need a good base of knowledge about our art, how is good art structured, know the rules. As these rules are internalized and become the foundation for our art, they are then liberating. We can explore from there.

I love figuring out how to create something new to me, a new idea, a new texture, technique, subject. This is usually done by experimenting. If I try this does it work? If not try something else. If it does, wow, exciting. And there is no end to learning. That’s my favorite painting.

Sunning Turtles designed by Liz Miller CDA video class can be found at

Sunning Turtles
designed by Liz Miller CDA
video class can be found at

What are Brushos?


When Kathie George said the we could do a project with Brushos I had no idea what she was talking about. So I had to investigate.

Brusho Crystal Colours are highly pigmented ink-powders that can be used like watercolors, sprinkled on to a damp surface to burst into color, and many other ways. They are fun to work with and can result in some exciting effects.


Brusho Crystal Colour

And yes, that is a push pen stuck in the top of each lid. It’s a great tip for sprinkling the powders so you don’t have to take the top off of the concentrated powders. Take the push pen out and sprinkle.

Here’s a sample that we painted with Kathie, who is always bringing us some new and exciting product and/or technique.

sheep with brushos

Kathie’s Sheep A Kathie George design

When I received my Brushos (wow! exciting!) I had to experiment. So, after I had explored YouTube a little ( I was too excited about my own explorations to spend too much time watching others) I tried dampening watercolor paper and sprinkling.



Brusho on wet surface

And of course I had to check out each color.  Then I sprinkled first and spritzed with water.

Another Wow!  Then I made marks in it with my stylus, then tried some salt.


Sprinkle then spritz

And then I tried a combo with specific colors, Red of course. I think this would make a beautiful background for something.


Reds with Brusho

OK, then I had to try something like Kathie’s sheep, but cats!


Brusho cats

OK, interesting. I usually overdo at first. Maybe a little less sprinkling the next time.  Now I want to perfect my Brusho cat technique. That means more playing. Hummm…  What next.  I’ll let you know what I come up with.

I encourage you to try Brushos. There are lots about them on line and on YouTube so check them out and have fun.

Warning: Brushos can become habit forming.


I’ve Been Noticing….


The trees…  The spring trees, especially this year after so much rain, are so lush and such varied greens. This is a great time to take reference photos. Noticing the shapes, lights and darks, and how the trunk and branches peaking through the foliage help us to understand the structure and how to portray this in our artwork. See how the line of trees catch the light, how the shadows give shape, volume, and depth to the grouping of trees.

Down the street

Down the street


What greens are we seeing? What colors do we see in the lights and the darks? Could we use colors other than greens to create our trees?

I took photos outside my studio in Raleigh so you can find trees willing to pose for you most anywhere.

The forest and the lake view were from my recent trip to PA to teach for a wonderful group of painters. web-WVA-mtsWhat a terrific opportunity to see lots and lots of beautiful trees while traveling by car through WVa, Va, and NC.


Summersville Lake, W Va

Get your camera out and do some seeing.

Outside the Sawmill Studio

Outside the Sawmill Studio



Spiffed Up and A Fresh Look


Did you received our latest news letter, Creatively Speaking, this week end? Yes, great. No? Then you can subscribe in the right hand column here on our blog.

I’ve had such a difficult time trying to get emails out this fall. Some of the email providers just won’t deliver emails from me.  Called me spam, imagine that. I’m still working on getting the email problem worked out, but, I have switched the news letter to a different format, using Mad Mimi. Don’t you love the name. So you should be able to receive our news that I’ll send out about once a month.  Watch for upcoming events, workshops, and juicy tips and techniques from my blog.


Chick-a-dee A Lydia Steeves design

Meanwhile we’re finishing up our paintings for this year and making plans for 2015.  We’ve adjusted the schedule so be sure to look for the updates.

You’re may be finishing up ornaments so here is a finishing tip that I like to use.  I paint the edges of my ornaments with a Krylon Leafing Pen. This gives me a beautiful finish.  I can even create a border on the edge of my ornament if I like.  I’ve used the Krylon Pen to finish the edge of the chickadees.

To finish the Pheasant below I wiped the edges with DecoArt Metallic Lustre, Iced Espresso in this case. This add just the right touch for a finished look. This is especially nice if you have an embossed surface.

Pheasant painted by Liz Miller original by Veda Parsley

Pheasant painted by Liz Miller
original by Veda Parsley

Be sure to mark your calendar for our Welcome Back to Painting in 2015 party, Jan 4, 1p-4p. I’ll have more information for you a little later.


Just a last note:  You are on our email list because you requested to be there.  I don’t solicit emails from anywhere.   If you don’t want to receive our newsletter you can unsubscribe on the newsletter. When you mark something as spam you stop everyone on that email provider from receiving the emails, and they might want to be able to receive emails from me. So just unsubscribe. If you are getting emails from me that you don’t want to receive, let me know and I’ll be glad to remove you from the list. Thanks much.  Liz


Face Book Not For You?

I’ve heard that a lot from my painting students. They just are not into the social media thing, too much else to do, don’t want their private information out there….

Consider again in terms of our art and painting.

  • Since Paint Works is no longer being published and the Decorative Painter, journal of the SDP, is our only hard cover decorative painting magazine, on line options are our other source of decorative painting inspiration, except classes and local chapters of course.
  • If you have a face book account you can join various art groups to see what others are creating and to share your own paintings.  Look for groups with lots of members posting subject matter that you enjoy. Then when you go to your face book account you’ll have inspiration from fellow artists around the world.
  • There are certain artists on face book who post wonderful art tips and others that just inspire you with their artwork. Consider friending them.
  • You’ll find out about on line classes, supplies, techniques, …
  • You don’t have to accept friends unless you want to, you don’t have to play games, and you only have to check your face book page when you want.  It is nice to keep up with family members to share photos and activities, though.

One last idea is that there are some pages on face book that you can see without an account. Like my Artful Endeavors page.  You can still keep up with what’s happening on your favorite pages.

Maybe Face Book is not for you, but then, maybe it’s worth considering again.


Paint Tech

I’m always a little behind in the tech world but I finally purchased a tablet this summer. Yeah me!  I can now view my photos in awesome color and clarity since of course I had to have the latest in graphics, Tab-S impressive.  And face book is just that much more exciting!/?

I can see face book on my pc and my smart phone.  I didn’t need a tablet to do that… but my students were using their tablets and I-pads in class, taking step-by-step photos and it seemed to be a useful idea.  And they could enlarge the photo to see specific areas for detail!   Terrific!.  I used it for this very purpose in the seminar with Susan Crouch that Maggie and I attended in Charlotte.  It worked nicely and I have all those photos saved for future reference.

Here are the step-by-step photos that I took for my pumpkin painting and could view on my tablet during class.  Besides letting the students see the painting develop it helps me remember what I did the first time I painted.

web-DSC_0558 web-DSC_0561 web-DSC_0564 web-pumpkins-adj

So, I’ve been trying to find ways to utilize my tab-S more and better for my painting and teaching.  One idea that I stole from Nancy Couick in Charlotte who hosted Susan, was hooking the tab up to her TV monitor to view Susan’s photos and notes. Well I can do that now! Exciting! I can take step-by-step photos of my class samples as they progress and show them to you on my monitor,…. or reference photos, or something on the web, or watch an online painting video, or… I’m sure there’s much more.

Tab and monitor

Tab and monitor

And I’m getting more excited about using my tab S the more uses I discover.

Let me know if you have more good painting related ideas for using a tablet.  I’ve discovered a photo editing app that I like, but more about that later.

Let’s Begin

Basic Techniques
Yellow Daisy clock
Session 1

Daisies in a ring with a beautiful mottled blue background.  Every painting different but each with a common design lesson.  Starting with a simple coma stroke we can create a multitude of design details.  In the first lesson of decorative painting basics we’ll begin learning brush control right away while creating a colorful painting.  The added element is your own personal creative style and preferences.

Basic Techniques Yellow Daisy clock Session 1

Basic Techniques
Yellow Daisy clock
Session 1

I’m starting new students with our Basics In Decorative Painting projects.  You can join us too, either on Tues am, 10am – 12:30p, or Wed evening, 6p-8:30p.  You’ll work at your own pace since I’m adding new students as they are able to begin. Join our community of existing students who will inspire and encourage you. Both classes will have students working on other projects as you begin your artistic journey.

Continue with Basics 2 where we’ll work on side loading for shading and creating volume with our colorful berries.

Berry Sampler

Berry Sampler

These classes are also appropriate for painters who haven’t painted with us or who would like to build their skill level.  You will be working at your own pace.

Give me a call to plan your start date.  More details…..and to register.

Where is the bottle of paint??


Paint storage: I store my paints on their side, in color families with the bottom of the bottle showing. I can easily identify colors and values rather than just read labels.  Great for recognizing color relationships.
I have some terrific storage boxes from In The Barn Wood Design/ Leon Schmidt.

Paint storage racks

Paint storage racks


Where’s the creativity in that?


Recently on face book someone questioned where the creativity was in everyone painting the same design in a seminar. This created a lively response and got me thinking about our project classes.

Colored Pencil Class

Colored Pencil Class

Decorative painting opens art for those individuals that think they aren’t creative.

Everyone is creative in some form or another. We all choose our clothes to wear each day, colors, what goes together. Some may express their creativity through cooking, child care, writing, photography, sports, and numerous other ways depending on their interests.

Most important for the student to have is an interest and a desire to learn to create art. The techniques can be learned and practice just means painting more which is the fun part anyway.  If someone is interested and motivated they will work/play with their art and develop their skills.

web-DianneBy offering patterns and teaching step by step the teacher is able to focus on theory and techniques that are specific to the project.  Each student is encouraged to  develop their own style and to exercise their preferences as they build on art theory and techniques learned in class. Even though painting the same subject each painting is personalized by the different student to reflect their own style. And no one can paint exactly like the teacher anyway.

Project classes where students paint the same subject allows more time to focus on theory and technique associated with that specific painting. Students grow their skill sets while developing their art preferences and then continue on to create their own individual and independent pieces of art.

Cats Eyes

Cats Eyes

There is always creativity involved. There it is!