Wednesday, October 3, 2012

My Blog has moved!

Greetings Fellow Bloggers and Artists,

Beginning October 3, 2012 I am moving my blog to Fine Art Studio on Line to be more interactive with my website.  You may access the new blog via my website at or go direct via

All posts published prior to October 3, 2012  will continue to be available on this blog, "Art Talk and Images", for your reading and viewing enjoyment at

I'll look forward to continuing our communication with one another.  If interested, you may also subscribe to my monthly Email Newsletter via my website to stay current with my career events and new paintings.  The new blog, "The Painted Canvas",  will focus on art  issues and instruction.

Warmest regards,

Sharon Griffes Tarr

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

On: Why Paint a Still Life?

Many students say,"I don't like still life's, can I paint something else"?

"Untitled Study", 12x9", oil on canvas

Learning to "see" is the first and most important skill a beginning student must learn to develop.  By far, the humble still life is most emphatically the very best place to do this for several reasons.  No where are color, value relationships based on light more consistent and straightforward than in a still life.  Everything the student needs to learn is long lived and clearly stated in a still life without deviation or distortion as in a photograph.  This gives the student time to study, see and perform without the stress of the ever moving light found in the landscape or of subject matter that twists, turns and moves through the scene. It far exceeds the convenience of painting from photographs which fall far short in providing this information. As the well known and respected  Russian born American artist, Sergei Bongart, is known to have often said:

  "Still Life is best school, best exercise for artists."

Bongart is most definitely not alone.  Few well known contemporary and old master artists would disagree with him. Most  have hailed the still life as the place to learn light and to see value and color correctly.  I believe that if a student can paint a good still life then he or she will have the tools to paint anything else that might present itself as subject matter  It is for these very reasons that all of my students begin by painting still life's in my classrooms. I care greatly about my students and want them to grow and be all they can be and I know of no better way for them to prepare for a life of painting then by learning to see from life in an environment in which they have total control.

The aluminum pitcher in the study above was done in a short time during one of my classes as I painted along with my students.  My painting focus was totally on the light and its play across the surface of this graceful object as it reflected the beautiful colors of nearby influences.  It is studies such as this that I find most valuable to me as an artist in developing my "seeing" skills and improving my painting technique.

A student who puts subject matter ahead of learning creates an enormous rift in their growth that ultimately slows them down to a snails pace in advancing as an artist.  In my studio, I practice with these small studies more often than I paint paintings.  I believe the humble still life is what makes my ability to paint my passion for the landscape possible. No, I don't love painting still life's....I am after all, a landscape painter.  Like my students, I would frankly prefer to be painting something else. BUT, I am grateful for the still life and hold it in the highest esteem for its ability to develop my eye and technique beyond the mundane.

 If you want to learn how to paint, paint the still life...paint life. You wont be sorry!

Monday, February 13, 2012

On Gamblin's Chromatic Black Pigment

Sometime ago, I wanted to explore the use of black in drawing and redrawing shapes in my work such as the French Impressionists employed in their work.  At first, I used Ivory Black but did not like the intensity of the color in that it appeared too bold for what I was attempting.  In frustration, I wrote Robert Gamblin at Gamblin Colors and asked what he might suggest.  His response was to try their Chromatic Black, a transparent dark rated at lightfastness 1.  I loved the transparency of the pigment and was delighted with the results.
"Study of Grapefruit", 12x9", oil on panel

As time passed I eventually dropped my original idea but found that I thoroughly enjoyed Chromatic Black's (CB) versatility. As a result, I am now using it to tone many of my panels prior to painting as well as creating lovely warm and cool gray mixtures during the painting process. "Study of Grapefruit" (above) was painted on a CB toned canvas. Many of the colors within the painting have varying amounts of the transparent black added. The result is a lovely, moody image that represents the subject very well in the cool light of the Conservatory where it was growing.

The beauty of CB is that it is not "black" at all but rather a mix of chlorinated and bromated phtalocyanine and quinacridone red The color tints out to a lovely grayish mauve and is supportive to many of the more vivid color combinations found in nature. I've found that adding colors to CB creates beautiful subtle variations that are very pleasing to the eye.  It has become a most welcome and frequent addition to my regular palette.

Painting note: "Study of Grapefruit" was painted en plein air in the Conservatory at Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Ann Arbor, Michigan on a CB toned Raymar Panel in the afternoon on February 13, 2012.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

On The Rhythm of Painting

Wow!  I think this has to be one of the most unusual Michigan winters on record for plein air painters. Each year some of us look forward to the snow because of the fantastic abstract subjects it provides us.  However this year, Mother Nature has played some really nasty tricks on us.  Since last fall, it seems like the weather has seesawed between cold and snowy to warm and balmy spring like weather on an almost day to day basis.

Ingham County, Meech Road
9 x 12", oil on panel

I'm finding that my palette has fluctuated daily between my usual winter palette and a much grayed fall color palette.  It's kept me on my toes as we never know from day to day what Mother Nature will deal out.  Last weekend I enjoyed a beautiful sun-filled snowy day with lots of blues and violets contrasted with high key warm lights.  Today, no snow, lots of sun and a perponderance of warm oranges and warm grays in the vegetation. It's a challenge to say the least.

Ingham County: First Ice,
11x14", oil on panel

By the way, getting back to painting after almost a year of little plein air work due to family concerns has been just about everything but easy. Even after regularly painting outside over the past month I'm still don't feel consistent.  It's frustrating to say the least and I'm getting impatient with myself.  Some days paintings almost paint themselves  like the"Barry County: Charlton Museum" painting (see newsletter) painted in the snow last weekend.  I come away excited thinking that I've finally made a break through.  Then I have a couple of days like yesterday and today when I don't seem to be able to nail my usual style of outdoor work  Getting back into my rhythm is proving harder than usual. I'm sure the weather fluctuations affecting subjects hasn't helped nor the length of time since I've been able to paint en plein air on a regular basis.

Do you ever experience the loss of rhythm in your work?  How do you deal with overcoming it?  I'd love to get some tips on how you work through this problem.

Don't forget, you can now subscribe to my monthly email newsletter at and stay updated on my plein air and studio paintings completed each month. Frankly, I'm finding that keeping my blog updated is a real chore with my current teaching and painting schedule. For this reason, my focus has changed to doing a quality newsletter each month instead of frequent blog posts. Perhaps when my work levels out a bit and I don't feel so pressed to paint instead of write I'll be able to get  back to blogging again.  I suppose, time will tell.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

On "How Long Did it Take to Paint That?"

Artist's are frequently asked "how long did it take you to paint that painting"? It's a question I always hated as I felt it shortchanged my efforts and experience. I've often been tempted to glibly respond, as I once heard another artist remark, "50 years and an hour". While this is not exactly accurate, it does at least suggest the years of training and experience that hones the diverse skills required to create a painting of merit.

 It seems to me though that when a prospective collector asks this question what they really want to know is if  the price I'm asking is a fair price?  A much more accurate and better answer would be "three months plus my X years of experience". 

So, you ask,  how did I come up the the idea of three months? 

Actually, my husband Paul came up with the idea and I thought it was a great way to deal with this situation.  He suggested that I average out the amount of time it takes me to show a painting from the time of inception through developing the idea, creating the painting, framing and marketing. As I considered this criteria, I realized that there have been a number of paintings that have taken several years and of course those that are created en plein air in an hour or two and may never be made into a studio work.  It took a bit of doing but, as best I could, I averaged these factors out and realized that my paintings over the past five years, all things considered, generally average about 3 to 3.5 months.  So now, my answer to the age old question of "how long did it take you to do it" is, "three months plus my 50 years of experience".

This  response is so much more realistic than simply saying X hours of painting time and it satisfies most inquiries. The price of the painting is immediately seen as a good deal instead of being pricey and is fair to me as an artist for the amount of hours I've worked on it in my thinking, planning, and marketing, as well as in the doing. 

I hope this helps you as much as it has helped me deal with an awkward situation. If you have another way of answering this question I'd sure love to hear it.  Remember you can always contact me below through this blog or via my website at

My studio on wheels.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

On Getting Started Again

Sketchbook: pen and ink over a watercolor wash
Old Barn at Cedar Creek, Barry County,Michigan


 It's been ages since I last updated my blog…. (I really do  have excuses!)

Last May Paul severely injured his back which was followed by one thing leading to another and then again to another requiring my focus on him and his situation(s). I’m delighted to say that six months later we are gratefully arriving at the end of a long dark tunnel and he is doing just great now. So…….! It’s time for this artist to begin getting her artistic life back in order. I’m counting on 2012 being a renaissance year.

Obviously, during these past months I’ve not been able to paint much but I’ve given a lot of thought to where I’m at and where I’m going with my work. The result is I am in transition. Not particularly satisfied with where I’ve been and still not completely sure of where I’m going but getting closer every day.  If you're an artist, you probably know what I mean.

The one thing I’m completely sure of is that I am back in touch with my love of shallow water and the environment. I still love landscapes more than any other genre and plan on exploring more shallow water subjects as they relate to the land.   The photo below is one such scene taken at a recent artist’s retreat where I spent a goodly amount of time sketching and photographing my favorite subjects while doing a lot of serious thinking. This was so good for the soul...I came back refreshed and energized.

Cedar Creek, Barry County, MI


 If you haven’t as yet signed up for my website newsletter you might want to do that so you can keep abreast of  new paintings fresh from the easel and events as they are announced.  If you’re like me you hate to miss out on anything fun or exciting….you just never know! Click here then click on "Newsletter" in the main menu and fill in your address.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Arizona and Back Again

I just returned from a short week in Arizona where I found the mode of transportation to be versatile...
 ...the dress casual and a bit different from what I'm used to in Michigan....

....and  the natives friendly and always willing to say "howdy".

As soon as my paints, paintings and gear arrive via UPS I'll be able to add a few more new images to the blog.  Rarely do I take a workshop, usually I conduct them.  However, this trip was a learning trip for me.  I studied with Carolyn Anderson, a fabulous instructor by the way, at the Scottsdale Art Center in Scottsdale.  I was fortunate to have friends to stay with and so was able to get out and see the desert and get up close and personal with the horses. Needless to say, with such a full day of learning and fun evenings exploring the desert I was exhausted and usually in bed by 9 pm to gear up for another day.

More later......