Painting in the Round

I found working in a circle quite challenging and interesting.  I must make a point to look at Sargent’s rotunda murals both at the MFA and the Boston Public Library.  For some reason there is a sentimental aspect that comes through in a circle.  I will have to explore the reasons for this.

In dividing up the circular picture plane I choose to divide it in to quarters and think of it as three sections in relation to one.  I found that I wrestled with


the perspective a good bit.  And I need to process the building on the left a little more.  The debate I have with myself is to distort the image in the round, into a fish eye or organize it as if I am viewing it on a flat plane.

So much to learn from such a simple idea.  I first do thumb nails, sketches in the round, a value study, sketch on the canvas and then paint into it.  I will rethink some of the drawing and put this up on my next blog.  I would like to solve the problems.  Working in a target it is hard to get flow and movement in the painting.

Fruitlands Museum Spring Painting Class

Spring is such an amazing time of year to be outside painting, though a little unpredictable with the weather. The light is warm and the colors are starting to pop.

In my supply list, on this blog, there are items that an artist should consider for working outside. You should have equipment that are portable, which means you should figure out what you really need. All other stuff should be left in the studio. Useful to have is a well packaged painting kit, portable easel and light weight table, bungees to tie stuff down, (strong winds at Fruitlands), landscape umbrella, (not great to work in full sun) and supplies to help you feel physically comfortable enough. In my classes I will demonstrate my set up. Possible sites to look at for supplies:

Judson’s Art Outfitters or Jerry’sartarama or DickBlicks

The other project to do before going outside to painting is to do some prep, either the week before or the night before. The week before, you can do the thumb nail drawings and designing. You might find it useful to do a drawing on your canvas before you come to class. Get the drawing correct before painting. It will save you time. I always set up my pallet the night before I go out. I put out my basic colors and I might do a little mixing for additional colors that I think I might use. In no way does this mean I don’t have to mix colors on location. It just means I am a little ahead of the game and get right to work.

The light is fleeting and there is only three hours to get it down. Which sounds like a lot of time but it is not.

On the first project be sure to get the perspective correct of your structure and connect it with its environment, the landscape. Don’t worry about the details of the structure, like the windows and doors, until you get this first step completed. And make sure you can identify where the light is coming from, this will make your life easier. Remember you don’t have to do an entire building… you can crop it to one side or another of the building in your landscape. In previous blogs I have a lot of thumb nails of landscape designs. At a later point I will put up some perspective clues, to help the process along.

The second project is to do a circular painting. Why? Great compositional challenge. It will help reinforce painting a rectangle. What I like about this project is it relates to the history of early American women painters. The women who painted the beautiful design on plates. More on this later.

Don’t worry about perfection. Enjoy the process. And remember there are no have to’s here, just suggestions for your learning experience.

Plein Air Drawing & Painting Workshop In Maine

Come and paint in Maine this summer 2018
Plein Air Drawing & Painting Workshop In Maine
for Oil or Acrylic Painters or Pastel

or other drawing media

Four full days of drawing & painting on Orr’s & Bailey Islands in Harpswell, Maine

Sunday, July 8 to Thursday, July 12, 2018

Notice new month, (last year it was offered in June)

Welcome Artists new and old to the seventh year of drawing/painting up in coastal Maine. Imagine painting on location with professional guidance, creating art each day on the coast where the light is clear and crisp and the views are filled with classic Maine rocks, ocean, and trees. The workshop will start with a demo to get students inspired. Students will have time to dive into their own work with my guidance. We will visit four locations which includes open ocean, beach area, docks and boats, and a rocky shore line. Students will learn how to simplify forms, develop overlapping areas of trees and rocks to create depth and color relationships in the water, sky, and land, and address

other compositional issues. Students will learn how to get going quickly with the set up and how to capture the scenery fast with big shapes, thus capturing a moment in time. Critiques, art discussions, and historical references are available. In bad weather, we will work inside or on the porch of “Crow’s Nest” lodging or at the Drift Wood Inn on Bailey Island. Each day, students will work hard, we will have a group critique, and then in the evenings we will relax and enjoy our stay

Location and Lodging

Margaret Arndt is sharing her rustic old family summer-house known as “Crow’s Nest” nestled on the top of a hill overlooking Harpswell Sound, a part of Casco Bay, on Orr’s Island in Maine. Crow’s Nest has seven bedrooms and two bathrooms that can accommodate 12/13 people. An open porch faces west providing a spectacular view of the sunset and oftentimes Mt. Washington in NH over 100 miles away. Breakfast and an a la carte take-out Lunch will be prepared each day. Two dinners will be included with an option to purchase a third home cooked meal can be ordered.


Please contact me for registration form and/or more information.


Spring 2018 Class Schedule

Lexington Arts and Crafts Society

1. Continuing beginning painting class in oils & acrylics:

March 22 for 8 weeks – 1-4 Thursdays

2. Pastel, All levels for 3 classes March 22, 29, April 5th – 6-9 Thursdays

3. Drawing, All Levels for 5 weeks, March 24, April 7, May 5, 12, 19 – 9:30-12:30 Saturdays


Worcester Art Museum

1. Oil Stick class, April 9th, 9:30-4, one class, Monday

2. Colored Pencil classes, starts, May 7, 6 weeks Mondays


Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, MA

All levels painting class, Painting the landscape, April 24 – June 12, 9:30-12:30 – 8 weeks – Tuesdays


Ryan Estate in Lincoln, MA

Wednesdays, starting May 2-June 6 7 week class Acrylic Or Oils 9:30-12:30 Level: Beginner/Intermediate

The Creative Process: Solutions for our Paintings

This class is designed for the student who is new or one going that has painting issues that need to be addressed. All painting issues are helpful to all students. Perhaps you have a painting that you never finished or drawing that you always wanted to turn into a painting. Than this is the class for you. Through demos, critiques and process we will get down to the issues of what you need to move forward in your work. Come and explore.

I am looking forward to another wonderful spring time of classes and continuing to work with some of you and meeting some new students as well. Below you’ll see an attached registration form.

To ensure your enrollment, after the discount, please send me your completed registration form and payment of $266 registration fee

Directions to the Ryan Estate and a supply list will be mailed upon registration.

Please make your check payable to Jill Pottle and please mail to: 296 Lancaster Ave. Lunenburg, MA 01462


Contact me for registration form:


Painting Demonstrations from LAC & CAA

LAC demo is painting in  Acrylics on a Cadmium Red Medium background.  It is the second example of painting.

CAA demo is in Oils painted on Quinacridone magenta background.  This is the three versions of this painting.  After the demo today, I went home and scraped and reworked areas of the  painting.  I also have an example of my pallet.

Am I finished?  I will figure that out in a few days.  I don’t believe all the problems have been solved yet… but time will tell.

Great turn out today at CAA.  If you want to learn more, come and take a class with me or get on my email list for future classes:



Designing a from a difficult Photo

One of my students in my Fall 2017 class was working from a photo that was taken from her backyard.  She was having a hard time figuring out the design and the terrain of the landscape.  I took her landscape image and manipulated the colors and also manipulated the image in black and white.

Often, when you give yourself more information on the subject in a photo, you will find what you need to create a good composition, design and a believability factor.  There are many truths in realism and it does not have to be totally based on the literal photo.  Your artwork just has to work visually, so that we believe your use of space, perspective and idea.  This is particularly true if you subject is not an identifiable place, like a monument or historic location.  In another words the truth can be bent to create an effective illusion of a viable landscape.

Below is the process in which I do my search.  I don’t do this search for all my landscape subjects.  This is only done on ones that I can’t quite understand the lay of the land.  This is a great example of the desire to paint on location.  If I was there, I may have a better chance to understand the hills and valleys and what is where.  Remember photos do interpret their own way. It is up to the artist to figure out how to make it work.


Good Questions, Problem Solving & Rantings about Painting & Photography

In classes my students ask me questions, which keep me alert, sharp and I learn new things about creating artwork in the realm of realism.  We are all students, us artists, always growing and expanding, refining, redefining, discovering… when this stops we are no longer an artist.

Many of my student are rather fond of their photos and want to copy them.  I discourage them from this practice and note that copying is a skill in itself but can be very limiting. The more you work from a photo, the harder it is to work from life.  I keep wondering about photography vs. painting rules.

Using a single photograph by itself to create a painting will not help student’s skills, creativity or understanding our observational world.  The reasons being is that photos are a “mirror-like reflection of reality”, ( quote from Andre Basin’s Epistemological realism), ie.:  pictures that record exactly what is in front of the camera lens.  Cameras rely on imagery that exists in our reality and we tend to believe it as the truth.  Often times the given image that you have photographed has too much detail or not enough, no color or value changes in the shadow areas,  inaccurate colors, a confusing depth of field and questionable warm and cools areas in the high lights.  The edges are also odd, in that they are flattened by the media.  Now keep in mind this is not a judgment of photography.  This is why it is problematic to use a photo as a sole reference for painting.   I would suggest you use your computer to enhance areas of the photo with Photoshop or other programs and move things around and manipulate your image to help guide your eye to an artists possible truths.

When I  jury a show and I can point out every painting that was done from a photo. Edges are flat, no color in the shadows and detail that is not needed to create an effective composition.   Rarely will I see a painting that has succeeded, by just the use of a single photo.

Photos are a different form than painting.  As far as I can see they share similarities in composition, the rule of thirds, values, viewpoint… but when it comes to symmetry and patterns I believe photography is far more successful.  Often times photography will also have a straight, diagonal, curvy, zigzag or radical shape that takes you thru the space and this element as well, does not always work in a painting. Framing in photography, where there are equal trees on each side of the picture plane to frame an image.  Another concept in photography is a super dramatic view that could not be achieved in painting from life.

Photography can document the truth and paint can reinvent the truth.

When working from a photo, I always manipulate my photos into more intense colors.  I print them out in high and low contrast black and white.  And I draw, and design from my subject over and over, till I find the information I need to move forward.  I reinterpret my photos, that I take.  I also only paint what I have seen and painted in real life before I would attempt it in a photo.  In being familiar with the subject matter,  I have the information fresh in my head of what I could possibly do with my images.  And only then will I find some success from my photographs.

I do want to be clear that I am not a photographer but we live in a contemporary world where we have these incredible tools to use.  I am always questioning how these devices should be used.  I am sure in future blogs, I will add to this with more experience.

It is best to work from life.  It does not lie like a camera and it leaves your vision open to interpretation and there in front of you is the whole truth, real color, value, volume and relationships in nature.  There is nothing better in this world than engaging our reality.  It is truly remarkable.

One extra note:

In teaching there are many styles, traditions, gimmicks, theories… I am not one to follow a dogma, I just follow my vision, my heart and my intuition without comprising skill.

What is: Tangent: Great information on (

Painting with Oils – Fat over Lean

Here are some references for my students about the fat over lean discussion…..

R&F Handmade paints site

A SIMPLE EXPLANATION First of all, fat over lean refers only to oil painting and not to any other medium. It is a rule of traditional oil painting whereby fat colors (those with high oil content) should be laid over lean colors (those with low oil content). The reasons for this are: • Lean colors are less flexible and can crack when applied over fat colors during the drying process, and • Fat colors can dry to a glossy surface that is difficult for another paint layer to adhere to. HOW DO I KNOW THE OIL CONTENT OF A COLOR? The answer is a little confusing. Manufacturers don’t list the oil content of their colors. Nor do some of the artists’ handbooks. And the handbooks that do contradict each other on several colors. So, while it helps to know which colors are very fat and which colors are very lean, there are a number of variables that make it difficult to know the oil content of every color [see page 2]. At the end of this technical sheet is a list of R&F colors, in the order of lean to fat. It is based on the pigment manufacturers’ specifications and on the way we formulate and mill our paint. Note that other brands of oil paint may vary from this. Note also that if you add a medium to your paint you are changing the oil content.

HOW IMPORTANT IS THE RULE OF FAT OVER LEAN? The lack of specific oil content numbers does not make the rule unimportant. The rule still should be understood. But the good news is that the fat over lean rule is not as rigid as it sounds. Part of the answer depends on your method of painting. Here are points to keep in mind: • Fat over lean pertains to the traditional technique of building up layers of paint after each lower layer has dried. If you are painting wet into wet, the fat over lean rule is of little or no importance. • Fat over lean is most important when you are applying thick layers of paint. If you apply a lean color over a thick layer of fat color, that upper layer can crack. • If you add an oil medium (such as linseed oil or stand oil) to your paint, you are making the paint fatter. This is a way to compensate for the fact that you may not know the oil content of a color.

LIST OF FAT & LEAN COLORS In R&F Pigment Sticks VERY LEAN: Cobalt Green, Cerulean Blue, Neutral White, Mars Violet, Titanium-Zinc White, Jaune Brillant, Brilliant Yellow, Dianthus Pink, Naples Yellow, Azure Blue, Cadmium Orange. LEAN: Turquoise Blue, Chromium Oxide Green, Cadmium Yellows & Reds, Mars Orange, Red, & Black, Cobalt Violets, Cobalt Yellow, King’s Blue, Veronese Green, Manganese Violet, Neutral Grey Pale & Lt.. AVERAGE: Warm Pink, Siennas, Umbers, Indigo, Courbet Green, Ultramarine Blue & Violet, Cobalt Blue & Turquoise, Graphite, Cadmium Greens, Neutral Grey Med. & Dp., Ivory Black, Prussian Blue, Mars Yellows, Viridian, Payne’s Grey. FAT: Iridescent Colors, Warm Rose, Sanguine Earths, Sepia, Green Earth. VERY FAT: Brown Pink, Alizarin Crimson, Phthalo colors, Quinacridone Magenta, Rose Madder. SUPER FAT: Lamp Black, Intense Carbon Black

LIST OF FAST & SLOW DRIERS Here are the R&F colors grouped according to their drying rates. These may differ slightly from those of tube oil colors because of varying amounts of wax content. The drying range is based on paint thickness and absorbency of the surface painted on. VERY FAST(1-4 days): Umbers, Cobalt Yellow, Indigo, Neutral Greys. FAST (2-10 days): Cadmium Green, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue, Cobalt Green Light, Cobalt Turquoise, Cobalt Violet Dp., Courbet Green, Manganese Violet, Neutral White, Payne’s Grey, Phthalo Green, Prussian Blue, Sanguine Earths, Siennas, Viridian. AVERAGE (6-17 days): Brown Pink, Cadmium Green Pale, Cadmium Lemon, Cadmium Yellow Lt. & Med., Green Earth, Iridescent Pearl & Pewter, King’s Blue, Mars Yellow Dp., Mars Orange, Mars Violet, Mars Black, Sepia, Titanium-Zinc White, Turquoise Blue, Ultramarine Violet, Veronese Green. SLOW (7-27 days): Alizarin Crimson, Azure Blue, Dianthus Pink, Iridescent Silver, German Silver, Brass, Gold, Copper, Bronze, Ivory Black, Mars Yellow Lt., Mars Red, Phthalo Blue, Phthalo Turquoise, Rose Madder, Warm Rose. VERY SLOW (10-50 days): Brilliant Yellow Extra Pale, Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Yellow Dp., Cadmium Reds, Chromium Oxide Green, Cobalt Violet Lt. Graphite Grey, Jaune Brillant, Naples Yellow, Quinacridone Magenta, Ultramarine Blue, Warm Pink. SUPER SLOW (45-90 days): Lamp Black, Intense Carbon Black.

ARTIST HANDBOOKS THAT DISCUSS DRYING AND FAT OVER LEAN A.P. Laurie, The Painter’s Methods and Materials, Dover; Gettens and Stout, Painting Materials: a Short Encyclopaedia, Dover; Ralph Mayer, The Artist’s Handbook of Materials and Techniques, Viking; Kurt Wehlte,, The Materials & Techniques of Painting, Van Nostrand; Reed Kay, The Painter’s Guide to Studio Methods and Materials, Prentice-Hall; Mark David Gottsegen, A Manual of Painter’s Materials and Techniques, Watson-Guptill.


When using oil paint, a composition is usually built up using different layers of colour. For example, if you are painting a portrait, you may start with an area of background colour, on top of this you may sketch out the proportions of the portrait with another colour, and on top of that you may add further colours for the detail. The way each of these layers of colour interacts with each other is important and will affect how your finished work looks.

If you want to make the most of your painting, there are three tried and tested rules that will serve you well:

Fat Over Lean
Each successive layer needs to be more flexible than the one underneath. This can be done by adding more medium to each successive layer, which makes each new layer more flexible than the previous one and stops the painting from cracking. Think of the rule as ‘Flexible over Non-Flexible.’
Winsor & Newton has a range of mediums to help create this flexibility within layers. One of the most commonly used mediums is Liquin Original and by using it, there is no need to keep on adding oil to your colour.

Thick Over Thin
When painting with heavy colour, it is best to apply thick layers over thin layers, this is because the thin layers dry quicker. For example if you like the impasto style of the Impressionists with their thick bold brush strokes then it is important to remember that these thick layers need to be upper most – thin layers on top of impasto layers are likely to crack.

Slow Drying Over Fast Drying
It is best to use fast drying colours continuously as under layers. If a fast drying layer is applied on top of a slow drying layer then your painting may crack. This is because the fast drying layers will have dried on top of layers that are still in the process of drying out, and as the slow drying layers dry, they will pull and twist those (fast drying) layers above causing them to crack.