Monday, August 6, 2007

Newport Coast Sunset - Week Two

Newport Coast Sunset
20"x80" original oil on canvas - in progress
All Artwork is protected by copyright

I am trying something that I've never done before! I have been photographing my progress every hour, which will then be compiled into a slide show. When the painting is done, the slide show will show the painting dynamically coming to life. I'm very excited about this project, and can't wait to share it with you.

In the current stage of this painting, I have finished the sky's background. So, you see the glow in the sky from the setting sun. I have started to work on the clouds, which are beginning to look three-dimensional. But, I still have some work to do on the clouds. I plan to make them look very dramatic, and won't stop until I'm happy with them.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Newport Coast Sunset - Week One

Newport Coast Sunset
Original Oil on Canvas (in progress)

Even though it's been 2 weeks since my last post, I have only worked on this painting this week. I have been so busy with Art-A-Fair that I couldn't find time to paint in the studio.

Before I started this stage, I restled with where to put the light source. I couldn't remember from the original scene if the sun had already set or was hidden behind the clouds. So, I considered both options.

Putting the sun behind the clouds would allow me to show the sunlight streaming down on to the water. Plus, I could show patches of light and dark on the water representing the clouds' shadows. But, what are the colors in the sky when the sun is behind the clouds? Because I wasn't sure, and I knew I could create a dramatic sky with the sun dipped below the horizon, I opted for this option.

I am happy that I went with this choice because the sky is coming along beautifully. I must admit that I find myself passing by this painting at various times in the day, and am amazed at how beautiful the colors look. Even at night in low light, the sky seems to glow.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Newport Coast Sunset

My Next Painting...

I wanted to give you a glimpse into my next painting. I will be sharing with you weekly updates as I create it. I'll even go out on a limb and share the mistakes that I make as I go.

It's 20" x 80" and is a scene of the sun setting from Newport Coast in California. I saw this scene as I was driving on the 73 tollroad one evening. The sun was setting after raining that day. So, there were some beautiful clouds in the sky. The visibility was great too as I could see all the way to the Palos Verde peninsula. The scene was breath-taking! I know the initial stage of this painting doesn't look very pretty; but with enough work, it will evolve into something beautiful.

Unfortunately, I didn't have a camera with me, and I haven't seen the same sight since. It truly was a rare sight! So, I am going to try to capture on canvas what I remember of that sight. For a realistic painter like myself, this will be extremely difficult.

So, stay tuned over the next few months as I share updates on this painting...

- Michelle LaRae

Thursday, June 28, 2007


My booth at Art-A-Fair

Art-A-Fair opened last night with a wonderful Preview Night. I'm sure there was well over 500 people there last night.

I enjoyed meeting everyone and hearing your thoughts on my new paintings. I received the highest compliment an artist can receive when a patron had tears well up in her eyes when she saw the Laguna City Lights painting. She said I captured the scene perfectly, and the colors I used created a magical effect.

If you are in Southern California this summer, please stop by my booth at Art-A-Fair. The show runs from June 29th thru Sept 2nd. The hours are 10AM - 9PM Sunday - Thursday and 10AM - 10PM Friday and Saturday. There is great art, great food, great music and fun workshops for the kids. For more information, please see

- Michelle LaRae

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Introducing My Classic Car Paintings

"1940 Ford Dreamin'"
11"x14" Original oil on canvas
All artwork is copyrighted by Michelle LaRae

I would like to introduce you to my classic car paintings. They can be seen on a website devoted entirely to classic cars: I encourage you to check it out, and forward this link to anyone who loves classic cars.

As always, and this blog will be devoted to my landscape paintings.


Michelle LaRae

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Fountain of Solitude

"Fountain of Solitude"
11"x14" original oil on canvas
All paintings are protected by copyright

This is my latest painting, titled "Fountain of Solitude".

I took this photo at the San Juan Capistrano mission in Southern California. It was amazing coincidence to have taken this photo at the precise moment the sun was hitting the fountain. I added the hazy sunlight streaming down for a special effect. But, the sunlight was definitely illuminating the water on the fountain when I took the photo.

I hope you enjoy this new painting. I plan to paint more from the San Juan Capistrano mission, so stay tuned!

I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to post comments.

- Michelle LaRae

Thursday, May 17, 2007

How Does an Artist Become Successful?

What makes one artist successful and another not?

I was talking with the mother of an artist recently, and she desperately wanted me to confirm that artists cannot make a living. She's so worried about her daughter's decision to pursue art. What could I say? I'm standing in her daughter's shoes, but wisdom helps me see her perspective too.

I think it's much easier to be an unsuccessful artist -- that's why we see so many of them. If an artist wants to be successful, it requires a lot of work.

Success requires the following skills:
  • Lots of talent and versatility - There are many reasons that affect a person's decision to buy art: aesthetic appeal, financial investment, decorating decisions. An artist needs to be able to create very good art. At the same time, they need to understand current popular trends in art and decorating, and integrate them into their own personal style.

  • Willingness to learn new skills - Being successful means learning general business management, sales and marketing skills. Whether it's accounting, business licenses, contracts, tax issues, designing an exhibit, or selling your artwork directly to customers or indirectly to galleries, an artist needs to be talented in many areas.

So, you say, "I can't do all of these things. I'll just get signed up with an art rep." If that is your goal, you will still need to promote your artwork until you are discovered -- and this could take years. By learning these skills, you will become much more professional, increasing your appeal to galleries and art reps.

Alyson Stanfield offers several courses and resources to help bring up the level of professionalism of your art business.

I would like to encourage other artists out there to not give up, but be willing to re-evaluate their business approach. It's always good to have some critics that you trust who will tell you the truth about your art and business strategies.

Wisdom has taught me that I will never know everything, but to always be willing to learn from those who know more than you.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Dana Point Harbor Art Walk - May 12th & 13th

Art Walk at Dana Point Harbor

I will be participating in the Art Walk at Dana Point Harbor, CA on Mother's Day weekend - May 12th & 13th.

The Art Walk will run 9:30AM to 5PM May 12th and 13th.

Please look for my tent in front of the Harpoon Henry's restaurant near the parking lot. Here are the directions:

I hope to see you there!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Painting Process - Stage Three

Original Photograph

Finished Painting

The final stage of my painting process involves challenges on composition and choice of colors.

Every painting style has it's unique challenges. For representational paintings, the challenges are:
  • to paint the subject accurately
  • compose the scene in an asthetically pleasing way
  • choose colors that will appeal to the viewer

After all, my paintings must do more than what a simple photograph can accomplish. So, I allow each painting to start with reality, and make the leap into the imaginary.

I would love to hear your comments.

- Michelle LaRae

Friday, April 20, 2007

Laguna Lifeguard Tower

"Laguna Lifeguard Tower"
oil on canvas

I was planning on posting the Stage Three of my painting process comparing the final painting with the original photo, but my scanner broke. So, in the meantime, I thought I'd introduce you to the final painting in the Laguna Beach Series.

I took this photo when I walking in Laguna Beach with a friend. This lifeguard tower is a local landmark that has been painted by many artists.

The painting portrays a young girl walking along the boardwalk. I wonder what she is thinking? Her face doesn't seem to match the bright, beautiful day.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Painting Process - Stage Two

The next stage in my painting process is applying the colors!

I generally work from back to front, so that I don't accidently paint over the details in the foreground object. Even though I can remove paint when it's still wet, I prefer to avoid this. I also try to work from left to right. This is simply to avoid putting my hand in wet paint since I'm right-handed. Enough of the boring stuff... Now on to the colors!

As I am painting a certain area, I start off with the darkest color that is suitable for the effect I'm creating. For example, in the sky where the sun is setting, I used thioindigo violet for the outer edge of the glowing part of the sky. Then, as I work closer to the sun, I first lay down cad red mixed with thioindigo violet. Next, it's cad red mixed with cad orange. Then, straight cad orange. Then, closest to the sun is cad yellow medium. Each section is blended to give the sky a smooth look.
Notice the dark red and orange areas of the sky. They are simply constructed by painting the cad orange in the lighter places, and letting the cad red and violet show through in the darker places. But in this case, I didn't have the cad red and violet so close to the sun. Instead, I added it later to make the sky more dramatic.
Of course, the painting doesn't always work out this perfectly. Sometimes, I spend a lot of time re-working the composition and the colors to achieve the effect I'm looking for. In fact, I spent at least 4 hours on the sky alone.
Finally, I use cad yellow light mixed with white to paint the sun. Also, I use cad yellow light (maybe adding a timy bit of white) to add the highlights in the sky which create a hint of clouds.
The general rule in applying colors using the Old Master's Technique is work from dark to light. If you try to do it the other way, the colors will look flat and chalky. The other trick is to apply each layer when the previous layer is still wet. This takes some time to get used to, but it will allow you to layer the colors in a way that they blend a little.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Painting Process - Stage One

Laguna Sunset II - Stage One

Many people have asked me about my painting process, so I thought write a blog entry about it. I hope this doesn't bore you to tears!

The first stage in creating a new painting is to transfer the image onto the canvas. I always work from either my own photographs or friends' photographs -- with permission, of course. I use a projector to transfer the image on to the canvas. This is to save time. Sometimes, I will draw the image by hand, or add various elements to the entire scene by drawing them directly onto the canvas.

I use the Old Master's Technique of underpainting the image first. This stage captures the values, shapes and many of the details of the painting. I use a single color, generally Mars Violet. You'll notice that my brush strokes can be rough. Usually, I just want to capture a dark enough base in order to give depth to the color when the painting is finished.

In fact, this is the secret of my technique!

Have you ever looked at a painting and felt the colors looked flat or fake? This is because they have only one -- maybe two layers -- of color. In every one of my paintings, you will see at least 3 layers of color: the underpainting plus two colors minimum.

This is the same technique that has been used since the Renaissance Period. Next time you seen an original painting from this period, notice how rich the colors are.

Check back next week to hear about the next stage in my process...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Festival of the Whales

Dana Point Harbor, California

I haven't had a booth in the Dana Point Art Walk since last year's Festival of the Whales. So, it was very nice to be back this year. We had wonderful weather too! I especially enjoyed seeing some familiar faces, and hearing about how my art has enriched your homes.

I hope you had a chance to see the Laguna Beach Series on display for the first time. If you missed it, you are more than welcome to give me a call for a studio visit.

The wonderful thing about the Dana Point Art Walk is the quality of the artists who participate. Many of the artists have won awards, exhibit in local galleries, and participate in the prominent Festival of Arts and Art-A-Fair summer exhibits in Laguna Beach. Howard O'Donnell shows his work at the Festival of Arts. George McGee and Leo Simone show their work at Art-A-Fair.

If you happen to be in town for Mother's Day or Memorial Day Weekend, you won't want to miss the Art Walk along the boardwalk in Dana Point Harbor. Feel free to contact me for more details at

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Laguna Beach Art Walk

Laguna Beach Art Walk

I had the opportunity to go on the Laguna Beach Art Walk last Thursday. I feel very fortunate to live 15 minutes away from some of the top galleries in the world. So, I thought I'd share some of the highlights with you.

We decided to start with the galleries in "Gallery Row" north of the main beach. Unfortunately, because of time, that was all we were able to see. Here are the highlights:

Gallery McCollum

Gallery McCollum displayed a beautiful collection of work by Caroline Zimmermann. I was mesmerized by her use of color and broad brush strokes.

Studio 7 Gallery

I love to visit this gallery on the Art Walk. You will always get the opportunity to see the artists painting in the studio.

Lynn Wiederman was working on a spectacular piece where the sun is setting behind some trees. The colors used in the sunset were brilliant oranges and reds. I am really looking forward to seeing this piece completed.

Lu Martin Galleries

Lu Martin Galleries featured paintings by Stephen Charles Shortridge. He has some striking pieces showing a piano set in a music room. The sunlight streams in through the window giving him the opportunity to use some brilliant yellows. Of course the yellows balance perfectly with the black piano. A must see if you're in Laguna!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Laguna Beach Series

Laguna Beach Series

"Laguna City Lights"
oil on canvas

"Laguna Sunset I"
oil on canvas

"Laguna Sunset II"
oil on canvas

I love Laguna Beach!

Over the years, I have seen Laguna Beach in many different types of lighting. I finally decided to try to capture these famous scenes right at sunset. Not too many artists have tried to do this. To begin with, it's very difficult to photograph at this time of night. But I was up for the challenge. So, many artists have painted the scene looking down at the main beach during the daytime. So, I just had to try my hand at painting this scene at night.

I took my 30-year old Canon AE-1 camera and a tripod down to the area near Las Brisas restaurant, and waited for the right lighting. In the meantime, I took some photos of the sunset from the gazebo. Little did I know these would become paintings in the series.

I actually had to wait until 30 minutes after sunset to start taking pictures. I wanted to capture the lights from the town reflecting on the water. I took at least 10 pictures over the next 30 minutes or so.

Once I started working on the "Laguna City Lights" painting, it was a significant challenge to capture the scene on canvas. It seemed I was constantly needing to make it darker. So, I kept re-working various elements of the painting, until I was finally happy with it. My friends were tired of hearing me say it was done, and then changing my mind.

All-in-all, the painting took nine months to complete. It was a "labor of love," and I'm sure you'll agree that it was well worth it.

The Laguna Beach Series will be on exhibit at the John Wayne Airport April 4 - June 15, 2007.

- Michelle