Looking back to my art successes — both personal triumphs and award recognition — some credit goes to my art groups. 

Getting feedback on my work from other artists is SO valuable. I consider it to be my single most effective resource for inspiring and improving my work.


Some groups create an incentive to produce art — after all, you’ll want to have something to show at the meetings! Plus, after a few hours of talking art you’ll be wanting to paint.

Some groups get together to paint. My fall 2015 bird class at Village Gallery decided to meet on their own to paint after the classes ended. Here they are with their paintings – some are in progress.

Ronna, Mary Lou, Gail, Robin & Meg (JoAnn was painting with me at the Kauai workshop)

Some groups offer an art critique. Cultivate a culture of respect and trust and you will have access to a wide range of ideas and possibilities. There are times when we get stuck with a painting and can’t figure out what it needs! Feedback from others is SO valuable.

Most groups create friendships and a cross pollination of ideas.  You might be introduced to the work of other artists or where to go to print greeting cards or how to set up a studio.


I belong to a total of six different art groups now and they all have something unique and valuable to offer!

I joined Westside Critique group 7 years ago. Through their camaraderie and support I have flourished! In working with this group I’ve discovered many of the techniques I use in my art today. We meet once a month and paint together each August at the coast.


Two large and well established groups — Painters Showcase and Lake Area Artists — pool resources to put on art shows and sales.

The very first travel workshop I led in Tuscany formed an art group of their own, The Melogranos. I am an honorary member and love being connected with them.


The other two groups started in 2015. They are both intensionally quite small. The Moas, forming out of the momentum of an exploratory trip to France, offers camaraderie, inspiration and a strong emotional connection.

Critical Mass has just 4 members but is a powerful “teaching” group that helps focus my art career. It began when Liz Walker asked if I would get together with her to critique our work. The next month we asked Geoffrey McCormack and Chris Stubbs to join us. We talk about contests, inspiration and sometimes the “business” of art.

I very much recommend finding a group to join or starting one of your own.


Determine how many members you want. 
Identify others who produce art regularly and embrace artistic growth.
Look for artists who have integrity and are completely trustworthy.
Welcome a variety of styles and personalities.
Make sure potential participants realize the extent of their commitment to the group.
One way to add to your group is to invite prospective members to submit work and attend one meeting, after which both decide if the match feels right.
Decide where and how often to meet. 
Intimacy: A group where members feel safe to be completely vulnerable.
Nurturing: Members will support each other in reaching their goals.
Respect: Members communicate thoughtfully and constructively and have a good ability to listen.
Inspiration: Artist members should feel free to share artistic ideas and opportunities.
How much time does each person get? 
Will we use a timer?
Can we meet at a time not used for art making?
How long will our meetings last?
What is it that’s calling you?  (Media, size, subject?)
What are your artistic strengths, weaknesses?
What would you like to say, create, achieve with your art?
What’s holding you back?
What’s your wildest art dream?
What do you want from the group?
How can the group help? best support your vision?
Where do you find your inspiration?
Goal for next meeting?
Based on joint goals…
It is good to have an identity for your group. Some groups prefer to “grow” into their name instead of choosing one too quickly.
“The Raven” which hangs in OSA’s 12×12 fundraiser show
sold on the opening day! I painted it on a very
textured paper called Shizen, treated with matte medium,
and over a poured watercolor background.

Preparing for a portrait session in Hermiston with Watercolor Society of Oregon, I began to think about what strategies work for me when I’m painting. So I wrote them down. I was planning on 5, but the ideas just kept coming! 

Approaching my work with these ideas in mind, things seem to flow better for me. They may resonate with you, too…

Your odds of getting there greatly increase. Make several rough sketches to work out the design issues in advance. Be sure to include value shapes and your color palette.

Once you begin to nit pick, it’s very hard to stop. There’s a place for that, but not usually right off. I often spend 10% of the time creating the bulk of a painting. Adding the last bit of paint takes the other 90% of my time!

You won’t see it there, in your reference, if you haven’t gotten into the habit of looking for it. But when you know where to look, you will find it!

You will never know if you’re going to like a painting later on unless you give it a chance. Usually the more it’s mucked with the worse it looks. You can always change it later if it’s still not working, but paintings often look best when you aren’t controlling everything.

Don’t imagine it should look refined or finished — it’s still the diamond in the rough. Becoming precious is usually the death of creativity. If even half of your paintings turn out, that’s wonderful! Just make a few extra.

You can use the face from one photo, the body from another with a background from a different image — just be sure it all reads believably.

Work on several paintings at once and it’s much easier to stop to allow drying time at a critical point. Then check occasionally to see that you like what is happening as the paint dries.

I spend a lot of time looking at a painting in progress and thinking about where it needs to go. It will tell you, if you listen!

Often what isn’t described becomes more interesting than what is. Experiment with leaving information out to let the viewer fill it in. That way it becomes interactive!

Things have a tendency to fall into place if you give it time. Better to wait until you know what the painting needs than to rush in without considering. On the other hand, trying something, even when we’re not sure how it will work out, is how we learn!

I’m busily planning my booth for the Painter’s Showcase art show & sale. If you’re not already familiar with the event,
it has been happening for at least 35 years, and this will be my second year to participate.

Photos from 2014…

You’ll see a whole new slate of paintings this year, and I plan to have prints to sell, for the first time!
And cards, of course.

Where: The Reserve Vineyards & Golf Club

4805 SW 229th Ave
Aloha, Oregon 97007
503. 649. 8191

When: September 18th, 19th & 20th 

Hours: Friday & Saturday 10 am to 8 pm

Sunday 10 am to 5 pm

Reception: Meet the Artists
Wine, Appetizers, Music

5 to 8 pm Friday & Saturday night 

Admission: Free

Parking: Free

Drawing: Chance to win one of eight original paintings

Website: www.painters-showcase.com 

Facebook Page: Painters Showcase of Portland 

Here is the postcard…
Check out our Facebook page

I know I will show “The Dance” which is 22 x 30
She is marbled over the painting and then painted over that.

And these northern gannets painted on marbled paper, 
painted at Menucha during the Creative Arts Community camp. 
“Love Struck” 14 x 14, framed 20 x 20
I’m working to finish unveil a new painting of a brown pelican, 22 x 30

I DO hope to actually be painting there as well — considering I plan to be there most of the time and still need to prepare paintings for my portrait breakout demo in Hermiston for WSO, October 3rd.

Maybe I’ll see you one of those places!

I decided a year ago to join the experimental group, ISEA — seemed like a good fit for me! And I noticed I could join as a lifetime member. So I took the plunge 🙂 and started entering. Nothing the first year — you know how it is.

But this year I am one of four Oregon artists whose work made the show in Traverse City, Michigan — I recently packaged my painting and sent it off. You might enjoy seeing all our accepted work. How diverse each piece is!


Geoffrey McCormack

“Science for a Changing World / Blue Water.”
This painting is created digitally and printed.


Susan Greenbaum

Yes! Look at that texture… it is so beautifully layered. And the color palette


Rene Eisenbart

Marbling, of course, for me. This piece helped me get NWS acceptance. It was the painting that was NOT used for the Home & Gardens poster (the original poster art was a gift for editor Sandra Rowe). 
You can see it before marbling HERE.  MUCH better after!


Airi Foote

It’s “painted” with rust and coffee — no actual paint! How cool is that?!!!

Summer may be over,
                but it was certainly memorable. 

We had a ton of fun in my backyard with the summer marbling workshops!

Pretty amazing work came out of the marbling bath. No surprise there — I was working with some very accomplished artists. Note the LARGE pieces on the line!

Intense lighting during the first workshop made photographing a challenge — not to mention I was preoccupied with teaching. Still, this will give you a flavor of the experience.

Lots of room outdoors for rinsing and drying.
Lining the walls and carpet inside with plastic and tarps worked perfectly!

Everyone had their own counter-height table.

Smaller trays inside, and we got out the big tray day 2 outside (below)

 The quality of work was amazing and magical — even backlit you can see it!

This lovely piece by Donna Jarvis, “Tea and Incense”, took a prize at Painters Showcase. She said it transformed a painting that wasn’t working before. Isn’t it magical?
Sue marbled this cat wine bottle and gifted me with it — full of white wine! After consuming the wine (it was Tom’s birthday after all!) I repurposed it with a pour spout.
After the class I experimented with marbling on prints from my Canon on photo paper — and it worked well! That’s one way to test out patterns before you commit to marbling over an original. 

And I marbled this nandina on a 12 x 12 cradled panel. It sold at the Creative Arts Community gallery at Menucha.

Our second group with their favorite marbled pieces.

A few examples of student work from the second workshop…

The feedback on this workshop was very positive! 

Here are comments about the experience:

“I’m a realistic painter, and wondered how i would use marbling. My hope was that I could “improve” my art with marbling. It was a very hot day, but we were in Rene’s cool basement, but had sunshine for our papers to dry outside.   
Rene prepared for what felt like days and days to make us comfortable, and to have the whole adventure go smoothly. She was patient, accommodating, cheerful, and extremely knowledgeable about all that she shared with us. It was all so much fun, I almost didn’t realize how much I learned in two days. 
It was an all round great experience, and I hope to do it again sometime. I am now spending time thinking about my work and which pieces I could marble, and all the effects I can create. 
Thanks, Rene, for all you did for us.” 
                   Kris Preslan 

I was so delighted with the results of the marbling over my two “losers” that I am matting and framing them and bringing them to the Painters Showcase Show.  I also embellished another plain marbled sheet and will show it also.

I want to be counted as one who thoroughly enjoyed your workshop and appreciated all the extra work you went to, to keep us cool.”

                   Donna Jarvis 

I spent the second half of May leading a workshop in Tuscany. 
There were 10 of us.
How lucky we feel, to be in this place with such fabulous traveling companions!
It was a wonderful experience.

There is art everywhere in Italy!
Here is a slideshow of beautiful art that was created during this time together.

We cooked and ate the most amazing food!
Laura prepared our first feast and others followed.
Here are just a few…

We took long, rejuvenating walks in the countryside.

 And enjoyed pleasant evenings under the tuscan sun!

We spent a day painting and seeing the sights in Portovenere.

Janet showed us how she makes  
accordion paintings (left) that show a different image viewed from different angles. 
And we looked through her detailed sketchbook studies (right).

We visited Mary Lee in Nocchi — here’s her bright and beautiful kitchen…
…and then went on to Pietrasanta to see the huge sculptural installations in the city center.
I could put my foot inside the nostril!

Marge Pucchi, an artist living above Lucca, came to visit and brought her work to show us.
And I showed her the portrait I’d been working on…
Laura led us in this group mosaic project…

…and made seafood on the half shell to go with it!
Parting shot — the group is ready to head out on our last day. 
I look forward to traveling with many of you again!
next year’s trip will be to France… 
Several participants in this workshop group have already travelled with me on two or three trips and are signing up for France next year! This is undoubtably the very best compliment they could possibly give. Here is what they are saying:
As always, the workshop was the epitome of professionalism. You three work beautifully as a team — all conscientious, but also full of the joy of art and travel. The instruction was detailed, precise, focused and beautifully connected to the location. The critiques were kind, useful and encouraging. The food, music and humor were an extra delight — icing on a rich cake. The balance between exploration and time to work was well planned.
Loved the house where we stayed. Of course the time to paint was wonderful — especially the whole days. An amazing, life changing experience. Everything is beautiful & delicious. You cannot help but improve as an artist. 
Hard to choose what I liked best — from wonderful accommodations & fellow artists to informative lessons and critiques — all were great. And did I mention the field trips? Loved the flexibility in how we were using time. An incredible, joyful learning experience in a magical environment.
I would absolutely recommend it. Educationally this was an amazing 2 weeks. Financially the best value ever. Enticement? If you want the chance to learn about painting and have the time to try it out, sign up!
I look forward to another workshop with Rene for a year. I couldn’t have enjoyed the demos more — inspiration to try a new technique. Thank you —
I am so filled up with the joy of our shared time together in Tuscany.  It was one of my most enjoyable experiences.  Your companionship, sparkling personalities, remarkable skill sets from your lives, love of art, courage to be yourself in luminous watercolor, will be a treasure for me to remember. 
Immerse yourself in the experience of creating, discussing, loving art outside of your regular routine. You will be uplifted, inspired and form lasting bonds with like minded artists.



I am preparing now to teach an Oregon workshop focused on portraits later this month in the Columbia Arts Center right in Hood River’s charming downtown. It takes only about an hour to get to Hood River from downtown Portland. MORE INFORMATION about the workshop

DATES: June 19-21     
COST: $285
HOURS: 9am – 4pm
Basic painting skills are helpful, but all levels are welcome

I believe there are still spaces available. You can REGISTER ONLINE
or contact COLUMBIA CENTER FOR THE ARTS to sign up directly


The first half of May I traveled in France to begin to formulate a workshop there for 2016. Laura Shea, Janet Parker, Mary Lee Damutz and I had an incredible time exploring the possibilities there. I will let you know the details when they’re set.

The second half of May I taught a workshop in Tuscany and I can’t wait to tell you more about it! Look for my next post, including work from this event.

Here is a portrait I started in a demo for the Portland group Buffalo Grass and finished in the Tuscany workshop, from a photo taken last year in Italy. This work is of an artist, Marj Pucchi, who taught art in the states and retired with her husband to his family home in the hills above Lucca. She is quite a charmer, both in personality and image!

ART ISN’T MAGIC, it’s Planning!

Often that time spent with the initial planning determines the success of your painting! While this workshop covers all aspects of portrait painting, an exceptional work is very much dependent on design. Learn how to set yourself up for success with your portraits.

STEP BY STEP, a new portrait

I began this as a demo in my 3-day workshop in Vancouver last April.

Here’s what the first pour looked like:

I’m liking how this begins! I’ve barely started laying in flesh tones when I take off with a pour.

Then with a brush I paint in the small red flowers using M.Graham’s Quinacridone Red — one of my favorite pigments (PR209). Daniel Smith calls it Quinacridone Coral. It’s confusing how different manufacturers use their own names for identical pigments! To know what you’re using you have to check the pigment numbers.

Notice the dark area — it overpowers the painting at this point but I know I’ll be adding other darks to balance it. And I’ve used my black mix which is quite liftable should I want to lighten it later on.

Below a detail of the pour:

To simulate moss, I’ve used a Daniel Smith paint Undersea Green which is essentially a mix of Ultramarine Blue and Quinacridone Gold (PB29 & PO49). Seeing two pigment numbers on a tube tells you it is a “convenience blend.”

D.Smith is a master of marketing and packaging, but the quality of their product is good. But I prefer the consistency of M.Graham. When I use DS paint I normally mix it up with water in a small squirt bottle because I don’t like that it dries out on my palette. If you don’t want to buy an extra tube of paint, just mix your own using M.Graham and you’ll find it pretty much works the same way. This mix works well with salt.

Here are two more details.
I’ve layered in darker areas of paint in the hair. Notice I’ve also done a bit of lifting.

I’ve added more detail to the hair, working in the appropriate values. And I still plan to integrate the edge between body and background. But my aim is to complete this without destroying all the freshness created by the paint pours!


My painting “Pondering” took the top prize in the Western Federation Watercolor Society show in Lubbock Texas!
It is an incredible honor and I am still walking on air!!!
The exhibition runs April 16 through July 15


This full sheet piece is all about the dramatic lighting and keeping it loose!

Winning a top art award is a little like playing the lottery. After looking at the other entries for Western Fed, I am humbled!  — You can see the other paintings entered HERE.

The show was juried by artist Linda Daly Baker.
And I am so pleased that among all those paintings, Linda chose to rank my painting first!
I had the pleasure of meeting Linda at the WSO convention last fall and she is one of the warmest, most generous jurors we have ever had. I could be biased because she gave me an award there, too. But I heard so many similar comments from others that I think not.

Check out her work  HERE — it’s phenominal!

The thing is, I knew my entry was a strong one and that it had a shot at glory. But I’ve been disappointed before. A lot! And another juror may have given the prize to someone else — maybe you!

Here is what I know… 

Like the lottery, you have to enter to win. My odds are better with art 🙂

This does cushion the blow of not getting a painting in the NWWS (Northwest Watercolor Society) show. And just so you know, I entered Western Fed several times before I even got a piece in. Ditto with WSO!

It totally pleases me that I can compete at this level! But no point in resting on my laurels… the immediate effect this has on me is it makes me want to paint. I want to top that one! And I know I will have to if I want to experience more of this.

If there is any one thing that helps me succeed in this arena it is that I love to learn!
I believe in my ability, but just being good is not enough. I am among incredible talent. So the only way to succeed is to keep pushing the envelope. It also helps to be relentless in my pursuit! Though I don’t paint every day, I work constantly — to the extent I have abandoned my closest friends — just ask them 🙁 they’ll agree!

Everything you do today will inform what you do tomorrow.

I’m inspired by wake robins, the quintessential flowers of spring, as they bloom in the woods where I live. The trillium tell me spring is here — or at least the promise of spring. So I sketch and paint them.

Here’s an example  from my journal pages:

And this one that started as a demo and evolved into a painting I just love! It started on 140 pound watercolor paper, treated with matte medium. That technique allows paint to puddle and form oozle “gems” as it dries. It is sketched with a Lyra water soluble graphite pencil.

Then I marbled it… and it virtually glows. Look how the colors in the marbling both hide and highlight the painting color.

So now that the trillium are blooming again, I dug a couple from my orchard to bring in to paint.
I want to go BIG! And LOOSE!
Here’s the painting that resulted, — full sheet and still unfinished. I may marble over this one, too!

Everything is connected and one thing leads to another. 

With trilliums in mind, I glanced at a Sockeye painting, and that started me thinking about salmon. Now I’m imagining fish painted in the style of these trilliums!

But first, more trilliums. I’m making four paintings on 6×6 inch canvases for Village Gallery’s Art Challenge fundraiser that opens Saturday, May 9th and trillium seem like the right subject for the technique I want to use.

My process is born of play. It is also inspired by travels to Italy where I’ve cultivated a strong appreciation for antiquity. I’m using the ancient arts of marbling and gilding with my contemporary subject. The trilliums are painted in watercolor with gold gesso background. Then gold leaf is applied – very shiny!

They are marbled in acrylic adding a bit of patterning to subdue the glitz. 
Digital doesn’t quite capture the change in the gilding from shiny new to antique, as a glaze is added and they are aged to appear older than the hills. I’m pretty happy with how they turned out!


You are invited to the opening celebration of Village Gallery’s ART CHALLENGE 

on Saturday, May 9th, 2-4pm.


Village Gallery is off Salesman Road, just north of Cornell, next to the Cedar Mill Library.
There will be lots of bargains but be advised, they can go fast!

These are $60 each or $225 for the group, an exceptional value considering the time and love in each one. Only because it’s a fundraiser for Village Gallery — and you can only purchase through them.