Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Seasonal Pond

Seasonal Pond, 11 x 14 in.

I've been silent for so long because just before Thanksgiving, we moved (same area of Austin), and life was a bit nuts. Things are settling down, and I'm happy to say that I'll be participating in Davis Gallery's Holiday Group show that starts this Saturday, Dec. 3. The opening is Saturday night from 7-9p. I'll be there, and if you're in the area, please stop by (837 W. 12th)! Work by all the artists will be up through Dec. 31.

-julie davis

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fenceline Grove

Fenceline Grove, 6 x 8 in.

Sincere apologies for the inconsistency in posting lately. We have sold our house and are moving! In town....but hectic doesn't quite describe the last few weeks. I'm trying to get my painting legs under me again, and am most excited that I'll have a larger studio--a whole room all my own. Things might be a little off and on for the next few weeks, but I'll post when I can and know that I'll be consistent again soon.

This little painting was from my Idaho trip--this old fence just blended into the trees along it. With a lovely field adjacent, it caught my attention.

-julie davis

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cattle and Cottonwoods

Cattle and Cottonwoods, 11 x 14 in.

This is another enlargement from a study done this summer based on my time in Wyoming and Idaho. The cottonwood trees group themselves in such a variety of ways. Wonderful windows of space between groups of trees create beautiful forms in what could be called "negative space." I prefer to think of it as not the absence of mass, but the presence of a shape. (Kinda think I'm sounding a little nuts....) But I do think that's what makes the cottonwood trees so appealing to me.

-julie davis

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Early Evening Calm

Early Evening Calm, 16 x 20 in.
contact the artist to purchase 

I've been off the grid for a bit, slammed at home, but have lots to say! First, fantastic news to's official, I'm now proud (ecstatic, elated, etc.) to be represented by Davis Gallery (no relation) here in Austin!! I feel like I may have to say "no relation" every time I mention the gallery, but really, no, I don't own a gallery! This has been brewing since the show last spring, but I'm officially on the website now, and hope you'll all check it out. Here's the link: Click on my bio in the top right corner for more info. :)

Second, last weekend I was fortunate enough to attend the opening of Scott Christensen's and Quang Ho's show at the Insight Gallery in Fredericksburg, Texas. The opening was Friday, and they had a demo on Saturday morning, which was delightful. Their work was amazing, and Insight represents many other of my favorite artists, whose work was also on display, so it was a treat to be there.

And last, I love this painting above--can I say that?? I feel like I crossed some invisible threshold with it. It's based on a study I did of the cottonwoods this summer, and I actually did another one this size first, then began a new canvas, correcting things the second time around that I didn't care for in the first enlargement. I came out of the summer with plenty of "tree inspiration," and this is finally one of the products.

-julie davis

Friday, September 30, 2011

Light Canopy

Light Canopy, 9 x 12 in.

I love finding a grove of spindly young oaks. Although my favorites are the natural groves that have a shape of their own, it's not unusual to find these small oaks kept in check along fence lines, where some unique vista is revealed through the trunks. These are some of my favorite views--I look for what the view will be almost as if I'm anticipating what is inside a wrapped gift.

-julie davis

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Quiet Pond

Quiet Pond, 6 x 8 in.
donation to ARC of the Capital art auction

This one is from references from my trip to Idaho in July. More on the tree theme. I think this makes 19, but here I was focused not simply on the structure of the trees, but on the structures along the horizon line. I did enjoy the trees the most, though--it's like an illness.....

-julie davis

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Point Lobos Rocks

Point Lobos Rocks, 6 x 8 in.

I'm continuing to explore the ocean/rocks theme through photos I took at Point Lobos, and through the studies and color notes I made while there. The coast in that area offers an endless number of compositions--every time you turn there is a unique rock configuration and a new look to the light or water or both. I can see why so many artists spend years painting the area!

-julie davis

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Point Lobos Cypress

Point Lobos Cypress, 6 x 8 in.

While in California painting at Point Lobos, I saw, but never got a chance to paint, this scene, though it was at my back or just around a cove just about the entire time. I snapped several photos, and with the ability to use my studies on site for color references, painted this study this week. I've actually done a larger version already, and have had a good bit of fun with it!

-julie davis

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Point Lobos Study 5

Point Lobos Study 5, 8 x 6 in.

This was my final study during Kevin MacPherson's workshop at Weekend with the Masters. On the first two studies, he had us using very limited and differing palettes to teach relationships. For the last, we were able to use our usual palette. Mine is limited to a warm and a cool of each primary, plus white, so that is what I used here. I had quite a bit of fun with this fast piece, and particularly enjoyed the blues I was able to play with.

-julie davis

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Point Lobos Studies 3 and 4

Point Lobos, Study 3, 12 x 9 in.
white, dioxazine purple, phthalo green, cadmium orange

The second painting day at Weekend with the Masters, I again spent the day with Kevin MacPherson. This time his focus was on using a (very) limited palette, to promote harmony in the painting, and to primarily teach that everything in a painting is relationships. The colors used in this first study are listed above. Seeing what color relationships we could build just using these four--and that they were not the primaries, surprised all of us, I think.

Point Lobos Study 4, 9 x 12 in.

For this next study, he gave us individual limited palette assignments. This one was done with white, my standard "black mix" (aliz., ult. blue, raw umber), cad yellow lemon, and cad red light.

-julie davis

Friday, September 16, 2011

Point Lobos, CA

Point Lobos Study 1, 6 x 8 in.

Point Lobos Study 2, 9 x 12 in.

Last week I was able to travel to California to attend the Weekend with the Masters conference and workshop in Monterey. I spent four days soaking in everything I could in a fantastic learning environment, and painting in some very beautiful (but cold!) spots.

These are the first two studies I did--both in Kevin MacPherson's class, and both at Point Lobos. Kevin's emphasis in this class was on simplifying the outdoors--a lesson that continuously bears repeating. Doing a thumbnail sketch, or several, and keeping those simple, can help focus your composition. As Kevin pointed out, there are many things vying for our attention when we paint outdoors. Finding your darkest darks and your sunlight and shadow sides, keeping your lines connected (versus creating various separate shapes), and finding the rhythms that go through your composition help to keep a focused composition.

It was quite foggy, cold, and windy the first two days we were outside--think eight layers--so we got plenty of "gray days" studying in!

-julie davis

Monday, September 5, 2011

Tree Study 18

Tree Study 18, 8 x 6 in.

This is a scene from a small pond in Idaho that I did from a little different angle while there. In this angle I wanted to include more of the pond and its reflections. I'm pretty pleased with it.

I'm headed off tomorrow for Weekend With the Masters again in CA--cannot wait! I'll try to post some from there, but down time is usually at a minimum, so I'm not sure what I'll get to do. I'm looking forward to taking some classes with Joe Paquet and Kevin MacPherson, not to mention many others I'll get to see demos or hear lectures from. Super excited, and can't thank my husband and kids enough for giving me the break to run and do this!!

-julie davis

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Creekside, 9 x 12 in.

A small study of this scene is an early part of my tree studies that I've been working on since late July. I was able to play up the transitions of blue water to yellow-orange fields to purple hills in this version. The lazy, gentle quality of this group of trees by the creek caught my eye right away this summer, and a successful study ensured a fun couple of hours working it up as a larger painting.

-julie davis

Monday, August 29, 2011

Trees, Number 16

Trees Number 16, 6 x 8 in.

This post is based on my Idaho/Wyoming trip. These cottonwoods stand in the valley of Jackson Hole, and this particular group of trees had a lovely buck and pole wooden fence that ran in front of them. I liked the way the trees framed the field in the background--almost like a window.

-julie davis

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Texas Palms Study

Texas Palms, study, 8 x 6 in.

One of my friends here in Austin has been after me for a while (could be something over a year) to do a little something with a palm tree in it--she has a place at the coast here in Texas. I keep telling her Austin isn't exactly rife with palms. I finally relented and said I'd do one in my tree study series if she'd get me a photo or two, so she sent some photos my way of some palms near her place at the beach. Well, here you go, friend. This one is for you. :)

-julie davis

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Number 14

Study 14, 6 x 8 in.


So this one is less of a tree study than some of the others, but the trees were still my main focus. I painted this study somewhere in the midst of all the others, and since I spent a good bit of yesterday and today dedicated to my kids and the "business" of art, it got the nod for today's post.

It's a scene I painted while in Idaho on one of our quick studies--I left out the hay this time, and changed the fence line--I'm planing to do a larger version (with the hay), but I'm trying out a few things first.

-julie davis

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Copying the Masters

Tree sketch

In the midst of my own tree studies, I'm taking an online course with Deborah Paris called "Drawing and Painting Trees." Perfect for me, right? She has us doing all sorts of studies/sketches of trees, and this week one thing we've studied is the taper of a tree.

Deborah recommends reading The Elements of Drawing, by John Ruskin, an influential late 19th-century artist. She suggests copying his and other's sketches as a way to learn. It's a time-honored technique, but I can't say I'd ever done it! And it's very different copying another's work--following rather than leading, if you will, but I learned some very valuable lessons. First, slow down. Be more thoughtful about each line. Study what you're drawing. Look twice, mark once. All of these apply to painting, and all are things we tend to gloss over in the bliss of spreading paint.

A big thank you to Karla Uphoff, for making my blog her "Blog Find of the Week" on her blog. My tree studies are what drew her. Thank you!

-julie davis

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Tree Study 13- Copying the Masters

Tree Study 13, 8 x 6 in.

Several people have asked about whether the "active" side of the tree is always the lit side of the tree. It makes sense to assume that it would generally be the case, as light draws the eye. However, assume the entire tree is in shadow/silhouetted. One side could nevertheless be more "active" than the other. One side should have more emphasis, the other would be subordinate. Here, I have a tree that is obviously lit from one side, but I intentionally made the shadow side the active side, just as an example.

Even after doing all these studies, it's still difficult for me to restrain myself from "decorating" the entire outline of the tree with activity. One strives for balance, and this exercise is about interest. The balance would come in from the rest of the composition, as these are studies, and not meant to stand alone.

-julie davis

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tree Study 12

Tree Study 12, 6 x 8 in.

I'm playing (studiously, of course) :) with tree groupings. Again, a reference from my trip to cooler country and taller trees.

-julie davis

Monday, August 15, 2011

Summer Graze

Summer Graze, 6 x 8 in.
The cottonwood trees in Idaho and Wyoming are, from my West Texas mesquite-trees-the-size-of-bushes perspective, majestic. (I grew up in several West Texas towns, so this is said with love and passion for that land, though the trees are notably not tall). The lovely thing about the river valley area around Jackson, WY and nearby Victor, ID, is that everywhere one turns, there are beautiful trees, many, many of them cottonwoods so tall they dwarf buildings and especially cattle.

This painting was really an attempt to study pushing the trees off the top of the panel, and to create a less dominant sky. It was such a pleasing little painting to make.

-julie davis

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Tree Study 10-A good study coming to grief

Tree Study 10, 6 x 8 in.

The next in line.....I don't feel my best effort came through in it. Too spotty--a pitfall with trees. A favorite quote of Scott Christensen's comes from John Carlson, and (sadly) relates directly to this study....but this is about learning for me, which is why I'm posting this.

Carlson says, "The big form is difficult to preserve because by he time we have modeled the smaller forms upon the big and added the necessary highlights and shadows, the chances are that we have overdone these so that our big form is cut up and spotty. These highlights and shadows belong there, but we may put too many brilliant highlights upon it; meaning that we may put lights upon the upright form that should possibly belong to the flat-lying plane. This passion for putting too many and too brilliant "lights" upon all the forms or planes is responsible for more good studies coming to grief than any other cause."

So, here the overdone highlights compete directly with my ground plane value, and lead to a tree that is "cut up and spotty," instead of being more of a mass. Even though I'd heard this and read it many times prior to doing this study, it still happened!

-julie davis

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tree Study 9

Tree Study 9, 6 x 8 in.

Another small study.....this time, small, skinny oaks grouped together like so many here in Central Texas. These were part of a much, much larger group, and on a hillside. I began to put the rest in, and took out what I'd started--it took on a bit of a watercolor look because of it all.

-julie davis

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tree Study 8

Tree Study 8, 6 x 8 in.

A day or so ago, an artist whose work I quite admire, Randy Saffle, left a good question on my post for me regarding trees in a mass, asking "When you paint a group of trees, do you change which side of the tree is active within the same painting or do you keep it all the same side?"

I thought I would share my response in today's post since I thought it was a great question and something I needed to work with: "You can go either way, depending on the design of the composition and where you want to direct your viewer's eye. I'll have to do some groups of trees and play with that. I do think it all depends on composition.... As a mass of trees, though, you'd play down anything active within the group, and choose a side of the mass to make more active, depending on the composition.

I hope this helps. I'm still figuring it out, obviously, so thanks for the question."

I hope this helps anyone else with that question. I'll definitely be playing more with groups of trees and this concept in this study series. And thank you, Randy!

-julie davis

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tree Study 7

Tree Study 7, 7 x 5 in.

I think sometimes that I'm a little off.....I enjoy these small tree studies so much. Perhaps I should paint an orchard--ha. Here, I focused on loosening up the edges more than usual, and working with the trunks last--applying them on top of the tree's form rather than exclusively underneath. Still thinking about active and passive sides.

-julie davis

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tree Study 6

Tree Study 6, 6 x 8 in.

Another in the tree study series.... Scott Christensen consistently reiterated variety of line in a composition. No matter the line--horizon line, a stand of trees, the top of a mountain, the edge of a creek, even variety of line in the grasses or shadows of the ground plane. This plays into the active/passive side of individual trees as well.

-julie davis

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tree Study 6

Tree Study 6, 8 x 6 in.

It may seem redundant to do the same subject over and over, but trees are something I adore painting, and their importance in a landscape cannot be underestimated. Any new manner of approaching them that I come across, I want to play with it until it becomes second nature. In addition to the active/passive side I've written about, Scott stressed the importance of the core of the tree being the darkest, and painting toward the core as you address the shadow and light aspects of the tree.

I'm not sure I subordinated one side of the tree here as successfully as I could have, but these studies are learning vehicles for me as much as anything--so go easy on me as I try to absorb and incorporate it all! :)

-julie davis

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

more tree studies / panel comparisons

Wind River alkyd primed linen, 6 x 8 in.

RayMar oil primed linen, 6 x 8 in.

Several of you wrote and asked which panel (cotton or linen) I preferred from my last post. First, as you know, there are so many variables, and you should really test them out yourself--your personal style and materials will affect your opinion. With the medium I use (refined linseed oil), the brushes (natural hog bristle or bristle blend, mostly filberts), and my paints (generally Gamblin), at first I really liked the way the paint glided across the linen panel, while I noticed the cotton really grabbed the paint. And I always love the way linen looks as a finished product. But, I also love to apply a thicker paint--often with my palette knife, and I felt the cotton held the paint better for that. So, I'm still experimenting, and like them both, perhaps for slightly different approaches.

That said, today I tried two linen panels--the same Wind River 359 alkyd primed linen that Scott Christensen uses and that I tried in my last post, and the RayMar Claessen's double (oil) primed linen that I've used before on occasion. What I noticed today was that the alkyd primed had a little more tooth than the double oil primed (as billed), and I did like that. So, I should try the single (oil ) primed for the sake of completeness--it would not be as smooth and may be a better apples-to-apples comparison. I know both of these companies sell a variety or sample pack, for just this type of experimentation.

-julie davis

Sunday, July 24, 2011

active/passive side tree studies

"active" side - shadow side

"active" side - light side

One of the many points Scott made in his workshop was that when painting trees, always subordinate one side of the tree. Obviously, in ideal light, a tree will have a light side and a shadow side. And clearly, the way an artist handles the point at which these masses meet is vital. I think an equally valuable point, which Scott made again and again, is that a tree should have an "active" side and a "passive" side. I believe that some trees are more naturally inclined to reveal which side to subordinate:), but that's where the artist comes in. The eye loves variety, and this applies to trees as well.

In these two ten-minute studies, I was doing two things:
1. Testing panels : the first is a Wind River Arts linen, and the second is a RayMar cotton...
2. Subordinating a particular side in each. In the first, it was the light side that I played down in order to play up the shadow side. I attempted the opposite in the second study. I pretty much did these simultaneously, so that I could focus on both objectives at once.

-julie davis

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Workshop friends

July workshop participants

Finally, I'm home! My husband and kids came up to Idaho for the last two days of the workshop, and we all stayed on in the Jackson area for a few more. Since then, we've been to visit my sister's family and their new baby, and we're home at last so I can post and paint.

Scott's studio sent this photo we took from the final day of the Intensive workshop. We all look like a bunch of happy painters--surprising that we were smiling after all we had been through.....:) Such abuse! Honestly, the positive takeaways will be soaking in for months, and I'm fortunate to have a super-supportive family that allowed me the time to attend!

-julie davis

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Study 5 and 7-Lessons in Speed

Study 5, 8 x 6 in.

Study 7, 8 x 6 in.

This morning I headed out to the last day of Scott Christensen's workshop, and it's been such a formative experience, I'm sad it's over. A couple of days ago, Scott had us go out on our own to paint three studies in as many hours (not including travel and set up time), which proved to be a challenging, but very productive exercise. When you're thoughtfully considering composition and value and attempting to not make a complete disaster out of your painting, an hour per study isn't much time. :)

The first of these images is the first study I did that day. The second is not posted (a "complete disaster"), as I painted it in my car in a desperate attempt to avoid the bloodsucking horseflies that filled the air..... The other is my third study--completed in 15 minutes, as I took too much time on the first two and managed my time poorly.

Lessons learned: Painting quickly is an excellent way to force fast decisions based on first impressions and to train your eye to make value judgements quickly. I really found that my quick studies could be more competent compositions than ones I could spend hours on--a valuable lesson for any plein air painter.

-julie davis

Friday, July 15, 2011

Study 4 and hazards of plein air painting

Study 4 "Before", 6 x 8 in.
Christensen Workshop

Tuesday evening after class, several of us went out to paint in an aspen grove--to study what we'd be painting the next day. I did two small studies--I was pretty happy with this one--a little foreshadowing. The next morning we were painting in the same spot, so I had it out for reference--on the ground behind me against my backpack--admittedly not the best spot! As I put the last mark--literally--on my morning study, I backed up to look at it, and yep.....stepped right in the center of my happy little study! :

"After," 6 x 8 in.

Needless to say, I spent the next forty-five minutes in repair mode! (Lesson: never get too happy with something because it can disappear in an instant!!) It did have a nice abstract quality to it....

-julie davis

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Study 3

Study 3, 6 x 8 in.

Oh the poor photography! This little study was the first I did yesterday, and I got the mountain plane value too dark--a combination of bright sun and inexperience painting mountains....

Today we spent the day indoors sketching and studying composition, while Scott did a demo in the afternoon. And did I mention it poured most of the day? By 4:00 though, it was sunny and cool, and several of us headed for an aspen grove to paint.

-julie davis

Monday, July 11, 2011

Study 2

Study 2, 8 x 6 in.

Yesterday we watched Scott do a large demo--actually, he worked on two large pieces, so we didn't paint until late--and on our own time. We'll just say that after two days of taking in information and trying to process it all, the painting I did was an odd combination of everything I'd been hearing mixed up and spat upon a canvas. I lost me in there somewhere, but thankfully, today I came back, having distilled some of what I'm learning.

This is the second study I did today--I would've posted them in chronological order, but this one was in front in my little stand and I'm hurrying to meet new friends for dinner! I'm loving these trees--all of them--the pines, the cottonwood, the aspens....but I love darks, and I had a ball with this.

You might check out Scott's studio blog, a thoughtfully written and full-of-good-insights weekly post called "Flow," written by one of Scott's right hands, Kathy--you'll see me painting. :)

-julie davis

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Workshop Sketches

Sketches from the workshop

Today was a pretty intense day of lecture and learning--no painting--but all worth it and valuable. We worked a good bit on composition--these are a couple from class and a couple I did after. Again, apologies for the odd photo angles and poor I look back if you look at the first sketch just the right way, the shaded mountain in the back resembles a wooden roller coaster....hmm......

-julie davis

Friday, July 8, 2011

Study 1

Study 1, 8 x 6 in.

After a long and necessary absence from blogging (end of school, family vacation), I'm happily attending Scott Christensen's July workshop in Idaho and posting again. Today was the first day of the workshop, and I'm taking it all in. We had a little time this afternoon to do a quick study and try out what we're learning. I've included a photograph of the view I chose. Sorry for the poor photo of my work--hotel room photography--have to find a better setup!

-julie davis

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Sketches in Tuscany

Blogging while traveling isn't something I've mastered. Today, though, I've posted a thumbnail sketch I made in Tuscany, where we've been fortunate enough to be for a bit. I know I say nothing new when I describe the area as beautiful in every direction, but truly, there is a painting in every direction. While we're busy touring, I'm finding some time in the late afternoons to sketch, and am taking loads of photographs. Sorry for the lack of paintings lately, but the sketches will have to do for a while.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Shoulder to Shoulder

Shoulder to Shoulder, 6 x 8 in.

These peaches were smaller than we're used to here in the Hill Country--these are from California.....hmm..... They sure made a delicious snack after they posed for me here, though. My youngest and I enjoyed them with a bit of sugar on top today. I like the way these came out even better than the last post.

-julie davis

Friday, June 3, 2011

Still Life Studies

Pear and Apple, 6 x 8 in.

Continuing with my still life studies, I painted this study alongside my favorite 7 year-old nephew and my brother (!) who were painting Pokemon and a landscape, respectively. What can be more fun than painting alongside your family?! I loosened up a bit more than usual I think, and I like the results.

-julie davis

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tom Miller Dam

Tom Miller Dam, 9 x 12 in.

Today I had the good fortune to go out painting with my good friend, Laurel Daniel. Both our schedules are nuts right now, but we managed to find a cool spot for a quick painting under the Red Bud Trail bridge (unbelievably, the high in Austin today was 100, so we were fortunate to be out early). I hadn't painted the dam before, though many times I've painted looking the opposite direction, down river. This dam was completed in 1940, after two other dams had proved incapable of holding the floods the Colorado River can produce. It's a sight I pass frequently, as I cross the bridge countless times each week.

(the painted sign reads: DANGER Automatic turbine action may release swift water any time without access beyond cable at all times).

-julie davis

Monday, May 23, 2011


Accepted, 6 x 8 in.

The pear, that is, is accepted by the cherries.... It's been quite fun working with so much red lately, though after painting this one, I think the way in which I've handled this lighter background doesn't adequately balance the impact of such a vivid color. I'll keep moving forward on my experimentation....

-julie davis

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Comfortable, 6 x 8 in.

Playing with greens and reds together in this one. I've got to work on getting better lighting for my still life set ups--I have light coming from several directions where I paint them, and haven't developed a good way to limit it to one yet, since I rarely painting still lifes.

-julie davis

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Steadfast, 6 x 8 in.

And she liked it. My friend, from yesterday's post. :)

It's kind of fun doing some still lifes after working so intensely on landscape as the subject matter for the Davis Gallery show. It really allows one the time to carefully examine a form, much like the trees I so enjoy studying (except this fruit is much smaller, and the light on a still life doesn't change!)

-julie davis