Join Us For Next Year at The Parker Ranch

Join un in Clayton for the next painting retreat and you can be painting right here on the river!

Still time to sign up Plein air at Parker Ranch

3 Day Workshop $225  1 - 5 Friday, 10 - 5 Sat, & 10 - 3 Sunday

Stay together, paint together. The Parker Ranch  in Clayton, GA is a cozy gathering place and a place I go back to year after year. 
Learn to capture the outdoors with a limited color palette. Working from the landscape is such a great way to improve your paintings, but it can be overwhelming when you're just starting out. In this class, using a limited palette will help you with color mixing and creating harmony in your paintings.  I love the energy working outside brings to my paintings. Find out more HERE
Deadline to sign up is April 28th.

Other Classes and Workshops

Tuesday Evening Painting Studio 
Tue, April 4  -  June 6  6:15pm -  9:15pm   5 weeks  $175.  

Plein Air Retreat Coastal North Carolina  **2 spaces left** Thurs, Oct 12 - 15.  3 nights lodging and some meals included. Check in Thurs. - check out Sun afternoon. $485

Paint Yelapa Mexico Feb 3 - 10  6 Person Max.
6 Day painting retreat. 5 night lodging, breakfast each day, one dinner party. Check out photos from my Jan 2017 trip here

I will have my summer schedule out soon. Please get in touch if you have something  you'd like to see me teach.

For more info, check out  my  Classes page. 

Hooray for spring!

Get the most out of your paintings

Techniques class 1 Recap

By taking the time to work out your design and values before hitting the canvas can make the experience more enjoyable and result in a better painting. If you haven't decided where you are going with the painting or what are the most important elements, you can spend most of your painting time trying to work through all that and it will show.

Here is a recap of what we covered in class today. Working from a photo, create as many gesture sketches as needed until you are happy with the design. These need to be fast and are meant to help you work through your ideas about the composition. Make as many adjustments as you need. Next step, create a value painting using black, gray, and, white. By taking away the color in a study, it's much easier to see what is going on in the painting. Again, make any adjustments to make a stronger painting.

In this example, I am working from several different photos.

Below are my initial gesture sketches.  The wagon is the focal point and the house is just the back drop. But in my first sketch the wagon is a minor player. I switched to oil pastel and tried agin. It wasn't until the 4th one, I came up with something I liked. I finally made the wagon the major part of the painting. I was able to work through this in about 30 mins. That's the beauty of a rough drawing, just keep tossing them out until you get a good one.

Gesture sketches for wagon painting

Next week  - block in the painting with color. 

I often will do this step in acrylic so that I can make quick adjustments before starting with the oils. When you"re happy with the overall design and color palette,  it's time to paint!

Blocking in color for wagon painting

All of this took under and hour, and the time and struggle it will save for the rest of the painting will be well worth it. 

We will work on blocking in the color in next weeks class.

Second week making color notes.

Below you can see  the next steps. Making color and value decisions. 

Until then - have a great week!


Hope to see you out there.

Happy fall, Dawn

DIY Palette Box and Wet Panel Carrier

As I am getting ready for the 3 day painting retreat at The Parker Ranch in Clayton, I thought I would share this earlier post on how to build a palette box. If you are handy, it's nice to make your own! - Dawn

In a recent Plein air workshop, one of the students asked me to share how I made my palette box and wet panel carrier. Of course I've had that on my to do list for months, but that was the motivation I needed to get my to sit down and work on it.

A portable palette box and wet panel carrier for plein air

I typical paint 12 x 16 when working plein air, so I made the bottom of the box large enough to hold that size once I put the sides on. 13x 17 plus the handles.  Once I had the back cut out, I cut out the space that will go around my tripod. I used the jigsaw and drill with a spade bit to make this cut.

Now I have base of the palette box, I made the sides. I used  1/2 inch oak for this and cut them to size using the miter saw. Next I cut a block to bring the handle up to the same height as the sides. Now I put an adjustable bracket on the handle that will hold it on to the tripod.

This is a close up of the handle.  I mitered the top piece so that it can easily slide on to the tripod and the tension will hold the box in place. Also, it can be adjusted if I ever change tripods. 

Time for the folding shelves. I made two sides for the shelves first to make sure I had the measurements right, then cut the panels to make the tops. Glueing and nailing them to the frames

Okay ready for the hinges. I ran four small hinges down each side. 

Here's the completed box. I put blocks on the back as well with enough open space for me to guide the panels in. I have clips on the sides that will hold the panels in place.  It will hold 2 panels facing each other with plenty of space between them to keep them from touching. 

I also stapled elastic to the sides, that holds my palette knives, brushes and small tubes of paint. Then put mirror hangers on the sides and attach a shoulder strap and voila!!

Okay, there you have it. I hope it's helpful  

Thanks Megan for motivating me to actually do this. Let me know if you have any question!



Paint Yelapa Mexico!!

When we found out our amazing friend, Lisa, is part owner of a resort ( casitas - think glamping ) and bar in Yelapa Mexico, Rob and I booked a flight and packed our bags!!! Yelapa is a hidden gem - a beautiful little fishing village tucked away in a southern cove of Mexico.  It's super safe, really laid back, weather is perfect, wonderful food, and so affordable!!! Everything you need for a painting trip. You get there by water taxi from Puerto Vellarta and then step away from the crazy pace most of us live in today. This was a discovery trip with the idea of a starting a plein air retreat with Lisa at Oasis by the River in 2018. I could go on and on, but just look at the photos below and decide for yourself. Even if you can't join me for a painting trip at the Oasis, it's worth putting Yelapa on your bucket list.

Join me for a wonderful painting retreat in February 2018. I'll have more info up soon. 

Happy Painting,


Still time to sign up for classes!

I have room for one more in the Wed morning class and 1 for the 5 week session on Tuesday nights. Join me if you can. Classes start this week!


Favorite Subject For Painting

I love painting scenes of cyclists. I guess it makes me feel the joy of being out on two wheels while working in the studio! Here I'm using a photo by my friend and great photographer Kevin McPeake for my inspiration. You can check out his work on Facbook

I loved this photo when I saw it: love the diffused light and the mystery in the fog.  I painted this image about a year ago ( middle image ), but decided to give it another try and work on the grays a little differently. Here's the second attempt ( the image on the right). I was a little bolder with the reds. Although it similar to the first painting, this one feel more like night time to me.