Saturday, October 03, 2015


pastel on archival paper, 12 x 9 inches

This is a pastel that I did this past summer during a paintout in Durand, WI. Fragrant stalks lined this deserted roadway giving off a wonderful fragrance. This pastel comes matted with matted size being approx. 18.5 x 15 inches. The pastel will come well packaged and ready to frame.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Follow the Light

"Follow the Light"
size: 12 x 18 inches
pastel on UArt paper

Last week one of the local high schools had an art show. As a guest artist, I gave a demonstration on pastel for the local high school art students. What fun! This little gem was the result of that demonstration.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Chatty Day

"Chatty Day"
pastel on UArt Paper
12 x 16 inches
Unframed and unmatted

This pastel is a one hour study done from life at our Life Drawing weekly session. It was great fun having two models and working quickly.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Afternoon Delight

"Afternoon Delight"
11x17 inches
pastel on archival UArt 500 sandpaper
$375 ready to be matted and framed (mat and frame not included)

This pastel was painted on location on one of Minnesota's Parks. What a delightful afternoon it was sitting along the creek listening to the sounds and painting from life.

The water moved slowly creating beautiful reflections from the foliage and trees along the banks. Most of the pastels sticks used in this painting are ones that I made by hand.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Along the Path

"Along the Path"
12 x 12 inches
oil on linen panel

This summer seems to be flashing by in seconds. The above oil painting is one that I did on location at one of Minnesota's parks. Shadows flickered across the pathway in the park with dancing tall grasses and black-eyed susans.

One of the things that is on my list of things to do is post to this blog more and do more small studies in oil and pastel. More of what I have been painting will be posted in the upcoming days.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Morning Delight Dance

"Morning Delight Dance"
pastel (handmade) on UArt paper mounted to gatorboard, unframed
size: 8 x 16 inch

This is my first attempt trying to utilize all of my handmade pastels. This painting is 95% done with those pastels. It is delightful to have beautiful gray tones in warm and cool temperatures that provide those subtleties that are my favorite part of painting.

With this pastel, I wanted the trees to just pop against a subdued and soft background. Everyday I see this little grove of trees on the other side of my dirt road at the end of my driveway. I wanted this painting to be all about those trees and how they dance in the morning sunlight on a crisp winter morning.

More on handmade pastel sticks:
Last week I put in another order for some new pigments for making pastels from Kremer. I really like their site as they also give the lightfastness ratings for the pigments along with the data sheet. Another site that I have used to order pigments is Sinopia. They have a wonderful selection, but it is more difficult to determine what exactly makes up the pigments. They did state in an email to me that they only sell pigments that are of the best quality and have excellent lightfastness, but the chemist/engineer in me wants to see the data. I do plan on taking a sample of each pigment that I have and putting a pigment sample on a piece of pastel paper, wetting it in with alcohol, taping half of the sample off to protect from sunlight and exposing the other half to a south window in my house. I will let them sit for a year and see what happens.

I also learned a new trick for dealing with those water-insoluble pigments that are also light in weight. When making handmade pastels, the mixes commonly used are water soluble. However, some pigments are not soluble in water. To fix this most pigments will wet-out in alcohol, but if they are light in weight (many of the organics compounds are), then mixing them with a little of the French chalk and letting the mix dry is suppose to help make them easier to use. After the mix is dry, it is crumbled up and used as the starting pigment. Apparently, the pigment dyes the chalk and this adds weight to the pigment and it is then more versatile for making pastels along with being able to mix with water. The pthalo blue pigments are a nightmare to work with due to the high tinting strength (everything turns blue) and their inability to mix with water and light weight. I hope to try this method on that pigment to see what happens.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Winter Corn Field

"Winter Corn Field"
size: 9x12, pastel on Wallis paper mounted on gatorboard, unframed
copyright 2013 MaryAnn Cleary

This is today's study of a corn field along the dirt road to my house. I liked the shadows form the trees and the design of the cut corn stalk rows.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mangled Birch

"Mangled Birch"
pastel on Wallis board, size: 9x12 inches, unframed
copyright 2013 MaryAnn Cleary

This week I had planned on going outdoors to do some painting, but the temperatures became too frigid along with gusting winds. I did managed to do some sketching while sitting in the car with the heater on and take some photographs. "Mangled Birch" is the result of a pencil study and photographs.

This pastels uses many of my own handmade pastels. I am finding that I reach for them more than the purchased ones. I did make up many handmade pastels that are dark in value and also ones that are warm and cool grays. For the gray tones, I used complimentary colors for the initial mixture and then made lighter graduations. So far, most of the handmade pastels are exceeding my expectations. To date, I have had only one failure where the end result gave me a pastel that is extremely hard and refuses to make a mark. I will probably crush this one up, re-mix it and add titanium white/French chalk to it to see what happens. The French chalk (calcium carbonate) is what gives many pigments that soft feel.

For my next handmade pastels, I am also going to try adding a little carbon black to some of the pigments to see what happens. Just a touch to try to deepen that values. Typically, I do not use black when I am painting, so it will be interesting to see what happens. My goal is to keep the pigments vibrant and fresh looking versus flat and dull. I have a feeling that a little black will go a long ways.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Rising Sun on the River

"Rising Sun on the River"
size: 8x10 inch, acrylic on linen canvas board, unframed
copyright 2013 MaryAnn Cleary

This is my first attempt at using what are called "open acrylics". They do not dry as fast as normal acrylics and tend to behave a bit more like oils. I purchased a limited number of colors to try them out. Titanium white, titanium white buff, ultramarine blue, cadmium yellow, cadmium red, cobalt blue and the open acrylic thinner.

The open acrylics tend to be a bit goopier than oils, but they can be worked wet-into-wet or alla prima. They dry fairly quickly if the layers are thin. I also could load up my brush and do a dry brush technique. I definitely will do a few more paintings to try them out.

I also tried using regular acrylics on a painting that is similar to one that I just finished up in oils of the sun setting on the Rum River - just to get a feel for the difference between oils, acrylics and open acrylics. I love the subtle colors that one gets with oil paints compared to regular acrylics that do dry quickly...very quickly, unless using a gel or medium to slow the drying down. I prefer the open acrylics to the regular acrylics, but I can see where each type would be useful for different techniques. More experiments to come.
"Setting Sun"
size: 8x10, acrylic on linen canvas board, unframed

I hope that you are enjoying the small studies using different types of paint. I will continue to offer paintings at Daily Paintworks with a low starting bid. If the painting does not sell at auction, it will then go to my normal pricing. This is an opportunity to purchase one of my works at an affordable price. Here is the link to my gallery at Daily Paintworks or click on the link in the sidebar.


Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Sunset on the Rum River

"Sunset on the Rum River"
oil on linen
size: 8x10x1.4 inches (gallery wrapped canvas with sides painted)
Ready to frame or hang as is.

This is an oil painting after the first big snowfall along the Rum River. The sun is setting behind the trees and left a beautiful cast on the fallen snow.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Birch Trees

"Birch Trees"

size: 8x10 inches
oil on linen canvas on board
copyright 2013 MaryAnn Cleary

This painting is an oil study that I did from a photograph on my monitor in the studio. With sub-zero temps outside, it did not make sense to freeze in the -20F temperature.

I hope to do more studies and I will be offering them on Daily Paintworks on auction at a very reasonable price. Stay tuned for more.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Lily Pads

"Lily Pads"
12 x 12 inches
Pastel on archival paper mounted on board

This is a pastel that I started late this summer. I finally decided to try to finish it up. Many of the pastels used in this pastel painting are ones that I made by hand. I have been working on making a better selection of dark tones.

This past week I gave my first drawing class at the Cambridge Center of the Arts. What fun! For this initial class, I went over the various pastel surfaces and different types of pastel. Since this is the very first class at our local Art Center, we started with a basic drawing class using conte and paper. They did a great job!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Winter Wonderland

"Winter Wonderland"
pastel on Canson coated paper
size: 9 X 13 inches
2012 copyright MaryAnn Cleary

This is my first attempt at using the latest Canson coated paper for pastels. A few months ago I decided to buy the sample pack as I loved the array of colors that Canson offered on the paper. My favorite paper to date is Belgian Mist by Wallis, but since they had been having manufacturing issues (no longer an issue) and supplies and sources for that paper could not be found, I opted to try out a variety of others.

Some of my favorite papers for drawing are the toned papers of Canson MiTientes for drawing using conte or charcoal. Having a toned color to use for a value in the drawing is nice. With that in mind, I ordered the sample pack. The Canson sample pack came with several toned surfaces, including white, and a nice sample size of 10 x 14 inches.  My previous experience using a coated paper has not been a great fit for me. With a couple of other surfaces that I have tried, one layer of pastel on the paper and that is the end of trying to get anymore pastel on the paper as the grain has filled and the pastel just slides across the surface.

This paper has a coating that actually feels like a sandpaper. I would rate the surface as a fine grit or tooth - enough to get a few layers of pastel on the surface - probably due to there being a pumice or grit in the coating. It is textured and not the popped bubble kind that I have seen in some surfaces.  The paper that I used for "Winter Wonderland" has a very light gray tone to it (parts can be seen in the snowy area of the background behind the trees on the right). I also like to block in an initial layer of pastel and then either use alcohol or wipe the surface with a cotton rag to get a blended surface. For this painting, I used a rag for this first layer as I had just had had a bad experience with another brand of paper and alcohol. I did not want to risk the coating coming off.

Canson Coated Papers without the light gray - Sample Pack
After that I re-did the drawing and began blocking in the dark, shapes. I had no issues and the tooth of the paper is good for this initial layer and subsequent layers. However, I also like to really lay in the pastel really thick in the last stages of the painting and that is where I saw the tooth fill-in. The pastel began sliding across the surface and not gripping or laying down onto the paper. These areas would be the highlight found on the the tree branches. I will definitely use this paper again and I love having a variety of colors. I just need to remember to utilize those tones for the background and not try to fill each and every space of the paper as well as have control on those last textural areas that I love to fill.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Serenity of the Meadows

"Serenity of the Meadows"
Oil on linen panel, 12 x 16 inches, landscape

There is something about this area for plein air painting. The peacefulness. The quiet. Loons speaking in the distance. The experience is humbling. 

For this painting, I loved how the water inter-played with the water lilies and grasses and how the clouds in the distance changed their formations and color. Painted on a peaceful day at Crex Meadows.

Friday, August 17, 2012

On the St. Croix

"On the St. Croix"
oil on linen panel
9x12 inches, landscape

Last week while taking a workshop with Marc Hanson, I did this painting. One of the things that Marc had us do is to choose a portion of the subject and focus on it. With this subject, my favorite part was the contrast of the trees on the left. I liked how the shadows of the trees laid against the bright green. With this painting, my focus is on that area. The rest of the painting is suggested. If a person looks at something, our eyes focus on a certain area. We do not see the other areas "in focus". They are blurred. Try it.

I hope to do more studies similar to this technique. My goal will be to determine what my focus will be or the focal point, spend time with that area in the painting and let the rest be more abstract. Your mind and eyes will fill in the rest for you.