Posts Tagged ‘Visual arts’

Bettye W. Harwell

Drawing using pencils, metallic silver on toned and printed paper
Cropped image scanned onto white background. My son (though he would deny it.)

Today, I was once again, trying to organize paper, just paper.  I am ready to write. I tell myself over and over, I will write today.

Today as I was sorting to gather all of the last 2 years of research  on my latest women series (more to come), I kept finding jottings and sketches and ephemera. Ephemera includes articles , photos, preliminary and just-because sketches.

This sketch is one of the few efforts to record my boys. Their personalities escape me visually. The girls I know visceral. Been there. Done that.

I thought today, this is not bad in capturing him or someone like him. A subject can see his/her  own image interpreted by the artist, and deny any relationship. Which is OK. Often the person grows into the painting. Sometimes they are so familiar with their faces in the mirror, reversed that they cannot imagine another angle.

I have done self-portraits, precariously clinging on the bathroom face bowl while checking the mirror. Who is that old lady and why is she staring at me? Happy Halloween.

I am researching an artist of mixed race, dating 1800s. One critic of her work describes her as having white features from the eyes up, and signs of her other parentage by her thick lips and coffee-colored skin.  The comments are from another long-gone era but echo today. This gifted lady was reduced by this critic to her ethnicity and not her talent. (Fortunately she received fame and some fortune with her talent.)

Who knew?

With all of the tools we have for organization, it is still difficult to organize paper. What if you throw away something you will need? Once the piles are made, then what? My papers are all sizes, all subjects, all precious. I find at the mid-pont, that I cannot remember which pile is for what. And today, I took this sketch to the computer to share with you as a way of preserving it.

Did you know?

I have been a sometime blogger for a long time. Last year I sold one of the women series  (Rosa Bonheur).  I have been working on these paintings for nearly three years. Selling one put a lot of pressure on me to determine what the exit strategy would be to complete the series.

I decided that for an exhibit, 30 paintings would be the magic number. So I have been for months  selecting the last ones. Every time I counted, the number to-do seemed to expand. Now I am up to choosing the final two. My list of good choices has grown beyond any definite closing number. I am committed to 30 or maybe 31 because of the sale. Pretty sneaky, I say.

Those of you who show and sell your work will understand that just finishing the work is not the end. Documentation, promotion, framing, if paintings, etc. Where was that business plan, carefully written last year?  I know that my iPad chews up the very data I have stored.

Getting organized

1. Put all of the pertinent files in one place.

2. Keep your reference material close at hand. I have accumulated, books, articles and online information.

3. Make a format that will set the style for each painting. Later you can adapt for promotional requirements.

4. Have that place where you can think and write which has lights, water and a way of telling time.

5. Take a break periodically whether you want to stop or not.

6. Do not think and write. Write and then come back to edit. If you know something is not accurate, mark it, write a question, or in some way leave yourself a note.

7. When you are certain, ask someone to read it, read it aloud to yourself or someone else, tape it and play it back. The flow will not show up at first.

Now, if I can just follow my own suggestions…and file those papers off the floor.


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While thinking of the New Year’s possibilities, review your art skills

when the sky is dark and gray,

the landscape frozen white

is there no dark?

is there no light?

Remember the darkest dark forces the brightest light. This area in painting, photography and music brings emphasis and shape to the work. It is the most dramatic and the most emotional connection with the viewer.

How do you do this in a painting?
– do you glob on white next to black? Maybe.
– is the tube of white as bright as a touch of yellow mixed in?
– are you limiting yourself to the direction of light around you? A wonderful teacher in Nashville, the late Hazel King, pointed out many sources of light in her classroom: windows, flourescent fixtures, an open doorway. Her work used light creatively for color and composition. She had a system which a comparison of paintings would appear.
– does your darkest dark shape the light? I looked online at The Horse Fair by Rosa Bonheur. It was the largest painting by any man or woman. The overall tone of the painting is dark. There is a Steam Engine rear left and a mass of horses moving left to right across the canvas. Almost in the center, a bit forward, a large, black horse rears up. In the version I saw, a light circle curves under its silhouetted hoofs, around under his body swinging back to the right. It extends to become a subtle oval. Encased within the light is a large white horse pulling you into the painting.

You have to believe this was the intent of the artist. You can study other paintings where the artist wishes you to hang around.
– does your painting follow Bonheur’s method?
– do abstract works use the same darkest dark/lightest light technique?
– what do small dots of red or red next to green add by moving the eye of the viewer?

When you are not satisfied with your work, go back to basics. Add a strong dark next to the lightest area. Make it define the shape. Turn your painting in three directions and observe from a distance. Squinting or a card blocking portions of a canvas can make you aware of how to punch your work.

Sign it, save it or sign it, sell it!

UZU app

Dark and Light

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Bettye Harwell

My recipe: Like any recipe, adjust it and make it your own.

Take reasonable precautions. Keep water handy. I like a spray bottle.

Oven baked clay*
Fome ball or wet tissue
Extender clay optional
Medium and wax

Hot air gun
Griddle or heat source**
Shaping tools
India ink optional

1. Collect materials needed. Set up area to work.

2. Knead clay until it can be rolled into a ball. Add enough extender to get a smooth ball.

3. Press clay flat enough to cover the fome ball. If head is smaller, pare off enough to be completely covered. Wet tissue is another possibility to lighten head.

4. Shape face and hair. Use things like toothpicks, palette knives, fingers.

5. Shape a neck to attach head. One or two holes will permit thick thread to be inserted.

6. Bake the head following directions. The head should stand. Cool.

Waxing the face
In tuna cans, melt enough medium to divide with the number of colors you wish to use. Non-synthetic brushes are the only ones to use.

Place stick or darning needle through holes.

Use Medium first. You could also use gesso. Cover all but the part that will be used to anchor the head. Fuse with hot air gun to glossy stage.

I used layers colors: orange, red, red-orange, blue and green. Fuse between each layer, using only enough heat as needed. To mix colors, put drops right on heat and paint from the mixture. Black piece can be put on heat without medium for hair.***

Cooling, Carving
Let the waxed head cool. If it no longer stands, place a drop of hot wax on support and it will stand. Unused wax can be reused.

Carve and smooth the wax as needed.

Eyes can be painted with a skewer touched in india ink. I tend to ignore eyebrows but what ever works for you. Want more color detail? Oil paint, pastel,powdered pigments are possible additions to rub on.

Buff the head with a soft clean cloth. Wax may feel tacky. Wax will get smooth and translucent. It also may feel cold.

* I have used two types. One is very white. The other is more tinted.

** You can use an old griddle, electric frying pan with a thermostat. Thermostats about $10 at Target. Up to 200 degrees for wax.

*** See craft books for hair ideas. (Search engine Bing or Google)

You can follow my art images at:


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Image 1

The revived interest in encaustic for fine art has finally caught up with me. When you take a break from working in your medium the world does not stop. Encaustic wax is an ancient process. It may not interest you. Throwing wet clay on a wheel has not been appealing to me. But trying different things helps in all of your efforts.

It is important to work and study to be inspired outside of your chosen medium. Self-educating includes keeping up with the new materials and their uses. The art basics do not change regardless of medium. Strong patterns, contrasts, color, harmony may vary by the skill and temperament of each artist.

I am coming to this medium like all converts do: with all the curiosity and energy possible. I do not have the time to start at the beginning but want to see the possibilities. Even to try using wax in non-recommended ways. For example, there are some ‘no-no’ s.* I like to look for alternative methods.
*You can never use water based mediums with the wax. See Martha Stewart video in her TV archives and decide.

Take a class? Are you comfortable? Play with it. See what controls you have with a new process. No knowledge is wasted. Years from now you will glad to have tried it.

The photo is of two dolls in progress. The heads and arms are made with oven baked clay. They were painted with melted wax. A little powdered pigment was rubbed into their hats and rouged the faces. They are temporarily standing on fome cones. Eyes are touched with a skewer dipped into india ink. Crude but with attitude. What would you do with wax?

**next Blog University for how-to make the heads.


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Extended Sale Days
Cool it with Art
Open Studios
Hanging Around
1506 8th Avenue S
Nashville 37203

Extended Sale Days
July 1 Hours: 10 AM to 5 PM
July 2 Hours: 10 AM to 5 PM
July 3 hours: 10 AM to 5 PM

Original artists work from Hanging Around, Bettye Harwell and Toni Hooper (greekgirl777.wordpress.com). Art includes Paintings, Stone Sculptures, Drawings and Photographs. All welcome.

Closed on July 4th.

Online purchases: Ask questions in comment.


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by Bettye W. Harwell

encaustic wax with rice paper

The circle is the purest shape. It is the earth we live on and the space we are enclosed by. The human body can be recognized by the many circles that compose it. Our mother’s womb to her protective arms encircle us whether in reality or in our memories.

We may have to look at our fathers for the circles a bit harder, but like the earth, he is the symbol of protection. His circles may, like the mothers’, enclose and exclude. By keeping the bad stuff at bay, the child in us feels safe.

At least that is what should happen. We play at night with the shadows on the bedroom walls knowing that the morning will come again. We can cry in our pillow and yet, by morning be refreshed, ready to be IN the circle or to BE the circle.

Nurturing can be observed with the mother bird in the porch light. She does not go far from the gently swaying chicks. If danger comes, her flight diverts the danger but soon she is back to feed and comfort the little ones.

And sometimes you can observe the father bird! He sits on top of the fixture, he is wary of changes from the outside that might endanger the young. He listens to the mother singing to and with her babies.

Who knew?

Each year, this cozy spot provides a place to nest, the perfect circle.

Mother Bird

Mother Bird

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The Journal is replaced by wordpress and the internet.

The Journal is replaced by wordpress and the internet.

Yesterday's message is  good today and forever. Share.

Yesterday’s message is good today and forever. Share.

The little girl says, "We want more, more. Her voice rings in our ears.

The little girl says, “We want more, more.” Her voice rings in our ears.

We have had snow, rain, cold, warm, wind, beautiful skies and fog. Even a few tornado warnings. But that does not need to dampen our spirits.

In the meanwhile, teaching a grand child-artist, soon to be 10, my enjoyment of the app for iPad called Paper by 53. Here are some of my efforts. The media is so varied now, the standards for “ART” changing and merging with writing, found objects, absence…!  How can you go wrong?

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