Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Floral Oil Painting How-to

An Adventure Outside the Comfort Zone
By Terry Strickland

In this demo, I’ll be sharing my inspiration, motivation, step-by-step technique, and materials used to create, Scarlet in Winter, 20in x16in, oil on panel. 

I brought this amaryllis with us when we moved from Florida to Alabama years ago. In late Winter, when it’s gray outside, its blooms are a bright spot of sunshine in our home. 

My passion lies in painting figures and faces, but I’ve always thought I’d like to tackle this beauty. Recently it occurred to me to do a figure painting featuring amaryllis. Studies outside my comfort zone were called for!

Step 1: Set-up, composition, and Block-in
I moved the flowers from the foyer to the studio and introduced a little drama by adding a spotlight and a dark backdrop. 

I chose a composition and began painting with Burnt Umber thinned with a bit of odorless mineral spirits (OMS). I used a #2 filbert, drawing lines to locate the stalks and flowers in the composition.

Next, I laid in the shadow areas using thicker paint. Rembrandt Oils are formulated to have the perfect consistency straight out of the tube, so I rarely use a medium. When I do it’s a 50/50 combination of linseed oil and OMS.

Step 2: Drawing and Value Map
I created a map of the values that will be a guide when color is added. At this stage, my painting technique was a combination of adding paint with a large bristle fan brush or removing paint by rubbing out areas of light with a soft cloth rag.

When I paint, I think of purposeful mark-making rather than filling in my drawing. It’s a subtle shift in thinking but makes for more expressive brushwork and accuracy. I concentrated on modifying shapes from loose and general to more specific.

Step 3: Color
I mixed green and red color strings, consisting of at least three values of each. I painted the stems and flowers in the back first. The last thing painted visually pops forward, so I saved the foreground for last. 
When painting individual forms, I painted the dark first and worked toward the light. I kept the values in a close, dark range in the shadows. That way they seemed to fall away from the light and into the background.

I worked in adjacent areas while the paint was wet so I could get soft edges. This enables the forms to meld into each other, integrating with the environment.

Step 4: Wrangling Reds
Reds can be tricky to paint and unless a pink flower is your aim, it’s best to avoid white. A better solution is to change pigments or modify with colors other than white.

I used Scarlet, semi-opaque, and Permanent Madder Deep, semi-transparent; and added other mostly transparent colors such as Ultramarine Blue Deep, Viridian, or Phthalo Green Blue to darken or subtly neutralize the chroma in the shadows. I switched to more opaque pigments such as Cadmium Reds and Oranges in the areas of light.

Step 5: Using Transparency and Opacity with Purpose
Using more transparent pigments in the shadows and more opaque paint in the light is what gives oil paintings a luminous quality similar to stained glass.

Think of a pool of water glowing from its depths versus the light glinting off its surface. As forms turn into the light and the paint becomes more opaque an illusion of three dimensions is created.

This idea is an important concept I consider in every painting. When someone describes a painting as chalky it’s a clue that the shadows have too much opacity.

More about Transparency VS Opacity: Know Your Paint, Check the Labels
On the Rembrandt Oil tubes I use, there are small squares that indicate the specific transparency level of that pigment or combination of pigments. Most oils have a code or say right on the label. 
left to right, transparent, semi-transparent, semi-opaque, opaque
On Varnishing: Yes, Always!
I use a varnish on my paintings that contains a UV filter. It protects the surface from dust, scratches, and light, as well as giving the surface a beautifully uniform finish. I wait 3-6 months and pre-varnish with a very thin layer of 50/50 Galkyd/Gamsol. I let that dry for a few days, then apply 1-2 layers of gloss Gamvar, which is formulated to be used as soon as the paint is dry to the touch. 

Rembrandt Oil Colors by Royal Talens
Burnt Umber
Titanium White
Cad Yellow Medium
Yellow Ochre
Transparent Oxide Yellow
Cadmium Orange
Transparent Oxide Orange
Cadmium Red Light
Cadmium Red Med
Permanent Madder Deep
Permanent Red Violet
Ultramarine Blue Deep
Kings Blue
Phthalo Green Blue
Silver Brush Company
Ruby Satin- Filberts #2,4 Flat #6
Silverstone- Fan #6,#2
Refined Linseed Oil
Gamsol (odorless mineral spirits, OMS)
Gamvar (gloss)
RayMar Oil Primed Belgian Linen Panel

Artists & Illustrators Magazine Article: I was delighted to be asked to write about my process for Artists & Illustrators Magazine. A slightly shortened version of this blog post appears in their December 2018 issue.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Best Art Books

I recently hosted an open house and studio visit for my students. At the end of the visit, someone commented on seeing art books around the house and asked for a list. It wasn't my first request for book recommendations so I thought I'd share a list on the blog of art books I've enjoyed from my collection. Art books can be found throughout our house. Maybe one day I'll get organized and put them all in one spot, but then again, to quote my student, ours is a "house dedicated to art."

I've read and enjoyed each of these books and they are the ones that have survived various book purges. Get those Christmas wish lists out!

Books on the nightstand.

I have separated them for you into How ToArt Theory and InspirationBooks About Artists categories.

How To:

Classical Drawing Atelier, by Juliette Aristides (I recommend ALL of Juliette Aristides book. I learned so much from them and continue to refer to them.)

Lessons in Classical Drawing, by Juliette Aristides

Classical Painting Atelier, by Juliette Aristides

Lessons in Classical Painting, by Juliette Aristides

Oil Painting Secrets From a Master, by Linda Cateura- (One of the first books about oil painting that I ever bought, other than textbooks. It is written by a student of David Leffel and consists of ideas he presented in class. It was helpful in my journey to being a good oil painter, but not great if you are looking for a step-by-step)

Alla Prima II Everything I Know about Painting--and More, by Richard Schmidt (The first book was out of print so I was really happy when this one came out a few years ago. Expensive, but chock full of good info about oil painting)

The Artist's Complete Guide to Figure Drawing, by Anthony Ryder (so good)

The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards (This was the text years ago when I taught as an adjunct at Brevard Community College in FL)

The Human Figure, by Vanderpoel (I've read this one multiple times and new things click every time)

Bridgman's Complete Guide to Drawing From Life, (left over from college days and I still refer to it)

Artistic Anatomy, by Dr. Paul Richer (anatomy reference, also left over from college)

Drawing the Head and Hands, by Andrew Loomis (if you look around this one is available as a free pdf for download)

The Practice and Science of Drawing, (Illustrated) by Harold Speed
Books in the studio.

Art Theory and Inspiration:

ART & FEAR, by David Bayles and Ted Orland

The Art Spirit, by Robert Henri

The Age of Insight, by Eric R Kandel, (this is a fascinating book about science, medicine, and art, and how the mind and brain relate to art)

The Story of Painting, by Sister Wendy Beckett

The Painted Word, by Tom Wolfe, (A short, but must read for contemporary realists)

The Object Stares Back, by James Elkins

What Painting Is, by James Elkins (this book changed the way I think about painting.)

The Art Instinct, Beauty, Pleasure and Human Evolution, by Denis Dutton

What Painting Is, by James Elkins

On Ugliness, by Umberto Eco

History of Beauty, by Umberto Eco

The Secret Language of Symbols, by Fontana

The Artist's Way- A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, by Julia Cameron (Still working my way through this one)

The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How, by Holly Dewolf

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, by Sheryl Sandberg (not specifically about art, but about navigating the business world and the ever-changing role of women in our culture)

The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings on Authenticity, Connection, & Courage, by Brene Brown (Audible) Brene's work and research is a powerful force for reason, understanding, creativity, and love, and living a meaningful life, her other books are on my to-read list)

Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living, by Krista Tippett (not specifically about art, but valuable for connecting with ourselves, the world, and people around us.)

Guns Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, by Jared Diamond (not specifically about art, but very thought-provoking about societal issues)

Manage Your Day-To-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind, by Jocelyn K. Glei (editor)

Books About Artists:

Leonardo Da Vinci, by Walter Isaacson (Still reading this one)

A Life, Sacred and Profane: Caravaggio, by Andrew Graham-Dixon

J. W. Waterhouse, by Peter Trippi

Essential Klimt, by Laura Payne

The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh, edited by Mark Roskill (this is an amazing insight into Vincent's mind and process)

The Passion of Artemisia: A Novel, by Susan Vreeland

Behind the Easel: The Unique Voices of 20 Contemporary Representational Painters, by Robert C. Jackson with Pamela Sienna

Many of these books are probably available used, in paperback, or the out of print ones might be available as downloadable PDFs. A few I have on audible, but if there are pictures I like to own a hard copy.

If you have favorites, please put them in the comments section below, because books are great items to put on a Christmas list. And as artists, we are always looking for inspiration.

I have a book about my work, too The Incognito Project. If you have a book about your art feel free to leave a link in the comments. Happy Reading!
The Incognito Project

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Terry Strickland Portrait Workshop at The Florence Studio, Fall of 2018!

I'm so pleased to announce that I'll be teaching again in Florence, Italy this fall. Here's a video created from a few clips one of the students took, (thank you Leslie) and other miscellaneous shenanigans from our trip last year.

I didn't have room to include pictures of the delicious gelato, so much great art, picture-postcard sunsets, our wonderful hosts, and the food, oh the food. You'll have to experience those for yourself.

Dates: Oct 1-5, 2018 - 
The Florence Studio

What: Oil Painting Portrait Workshop
5 days instruction Mon-Fri 10am-3:30pm

Price: 875 Euros, 50% non-refundable deposit due at time of registration. That price includes model fees. Students are responsible for their own airfare and accommodations. Register through The Florence Studio or Email me for more info at

About the workshop: This is a back to basics, oil painting, portrait class working from a live model. All skill levels are welcome from beginning to advanced. We will spend the first two days working on drawing, value and color mixing. The last three days we will put it all together in a painting of a single pose. I will give step-by-step demonstrations and individual easel to easel critiques. Most of all it's going to be fun!

Have you seen my TEDx Birmingham talk about empathy and realism?

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Women Painting Women: In Earnest

A Traveling Museum Exhibition 

I'm honored to have my painting The Seamstress, included in the show. The list of artists includes many whose work I admire and have followed for as long as I've been doing this professionally, so pinch me, I must be dreaming.

Curators’ Statement

Women Painting Women: In Earnest is an exhibition that honors the human spirit and shares the thoughtful and unique vision of 34 artists who explore the complexity of being a woman today. Each artist looks beyond the surface of her subject, beyond mere replication of the physical world before her, in search of deeper realities. These artists have found a freedom to avoid voyeuristic depictions of the female form to examine honest and sometimes personal narratives about the struggles and resilience of the indomitable contemporary woman. With a sincere conviction to their craft, these artists raise such ideas as role association and identity, fragility with dignity, and emotional complexity to engage the viewer. Our hope as curators is that this exhibition will elicit an emotional response or unexpected connection that grants access to a greater depth of experience for both artist and viewer. As a noun, the word earnest can mean “a promise of what is to come." Indeed, these artists serve as the bellwethers at a time in history when women have the freedom to define how we see ourselves.  

~Alia El-Bermani - Curator and Co-Founder of Women Painting Women
~Diane Feissel - Curator and Co-Founder of Women Painting Women

The Seamstress, 39x32, oil on canvas over panel.

Important information: 

Exhibition at Customs House Museum & Cultural Center, Clarksville, TN
August 1 – October 1, 2017 
August 10,  5-7pm -  Opening Reception 
Sept 16 - Artist and Curator Walking Tour  5-7pm I will be in attendance for this event

Exhibition at J. Wayne Stark Galleries at Texas A&M University, College Station, TX
Oct 16 - Dec 31, 2017
Oct 18 - Panel Discussion in the College of Architecture
Oct 19 - Afternoon Demo in Stark Galleries or College of Architecture

If you are in Clarksville, TN, or College Station, TX, do stop by! And if you can't get to the show in person, there is a beautiful catalog available online.
Do women paint women differently than men? The WPW movement is giving us a chance to see these paintings in a collective way and an opportunity to contemplate the question.

I have painted a male model wearing this superhero shirt many times but never painted a woman wearing it before.

This is one of those paintings that for me began as a story inspired by an individual and personal story but has transcended into a universal theme.

The model is my daughter, Carly. Rather than wait for her time to come, this young heroine is taking her destiny in hand. Who doesn't want to be a superhero? ‘Tis better to create her own reality, even though at times it may feel as though she’s holding it all together with safety pins. She can be in charge and look feminine and sexy as hell at the same time.

Click on Read More below to see details of the painting and musings.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Florence Studio Painting Workshop

I'm so pleased to announce I'll be teaching a workshop at The Florence Studio, in Florence, Italy, my first international class.

What: 5-6 day Holiday Workshop
5 days instruction Mon-Fri 10am-3pm with one-hour lunch break with some afternoon and Saturday group activities in Florence with our host, sculptor, and co-owner/operator, of The Florence Studio, Frank Rekrut.

Dates: Oct 9-13, 2017

Price: 875 Euros, 50% non-refundable deposit due at time of registration. That price includes model fees. Students are responsible for their own airfare and accommodations. Email me at or Laura at The Florence Studio, to register

About the workshop: This is a back to basics, oil painting, portrait class working from a
live model.

All skill levels are welcome from beginning to advanced. We will spend the first two days working on drawing, value and color mixing. The last three days we will put it all together in a painting of a single pose. I will give step-by-step demonstrations and individual easel to easel critiques.

Most of all it's going to be fun! As of now, I think there are two spots open.

This is from a quick demo I did at the Portrait Society of Atlanta, last year. 
Here is one of my latest studio paintings. David and Bathsheba, 36x58, oil on canvas over panel, 2016.

See you in Florence.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Reinventing Ourselves from Another Point of View

Opening tonight, August 19, 2016! 7-10pm  
I'm so pleased to have my painting included in this First Annual Poets and Artists self-portrait show and publication. 
Self Portrait With Beard, 20x16, oil on canvas over panel

You may see all the work in the show by checking out

 33 Contemporary Gallery
Or find more information at 33 Contemporary Gallery.

Also, you may view my recent TEDx Birmingham talk,
it's now up on YouTube.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

TEDx Birmingham Talk, Art and Empathy

My talk is up on YouTube. What an honor it is to have been asked to do a talk at my local Birmingham TEDx event. It was a wonderful day, with so many amazing speakers!

I feel like this is THE opportunity one simply has to accept even if it's outside your comfort zone. What a great chance it is to talk about a concept that is important to you, something worth saying and worth sharing. After all, the point of TED talks is that they are Ideas Worth Spreading.

My nine minutes is about how viewing representational art can change our perspective and help us gain empathy for other humans. TEDx asked who might relate to my talk and after quizzing a few people that had heard the talk, the answer came back everyone. Art is merely the vehicle used to talk about human issues.

I could write more here, but why? Watch it and please share it on all your social media! If ever we could use a little more empathy it's right here and now.

You may read more about my TEDx journey and preparations HERE.

Monday, February 22, 2016

How to Paint Alla Prima Flowers

I've had these Amaryllis bulbs for years. They were at the house in Florida that we moved to three weeks before my son was born. Then they made the move to Alabama with us. They are a part of our late winter / early spring experience every year.

They have multiplied like crazy over the years and most of my gardener friends have some of their babies. I've never painted them. I guess because flower paintings aren't really my thing. Maybe I'm just being contrary. It seems like women are expected to paint flowers, so meh...I've just not been interested. Don't get me wrong I love other artist's paintings of flowers. And admire people that do them really well. 

But I wanted to do a figure painting featuring Amaryllis and realized I needed to do a couple studies. It turned out to be super fun. And you know if I had to pick a favorite color, it'd be red, so it wasn't like it was torture. So here's how it went.

Of course, I like a little dramatic lighting so I moved the flowers into the studio. 

I started working with Burnt Umber, Rembrandt, thinned a bit with Gamsol, odorless mineral spirits. I was working on a 20x16 RayMar panel. I used a large fan brush and a #2 filbert for some drawing. I did a rub out with a T-Shirt rag. 

I immediately, while everything was still wet, began laying in the colors. I worked from the background to the foreground and from darks to lights. It's important to work while everything is wet so you can get those really soft edges. 

Scarlet in Winter, 20x16, oil
Reds can be tricky to paint. Many people add white and then they have a pink flower. It's best to avoid white but change the pigments you are using. I used mostly Rembrandts like Scarlet, adding Permanent Madder Deep and other transparent dark colors like Ultramarine Blue Deep, Viridian, or Thalo Greens to darken and adding various Cadmium Reds in the light areas. There might also be some Pyrolene Reds too.

I was mostly using a large fan brush. I used a Ruby Satin Filbert at times on the edges where I wanted it even smoother like the flower stalks.

I used thinner paint in the shadows and heavier paint in the light. This really gives a sculptural quality to the painting. Also,  I was very careful to keep the values close and in a dark range in the shadow. That way they just fall away the right amount.

The next day, I came back and added a few of the more orange-red heavy paint details.

This painting is all dressed up for a new forever home. Email me at if you're interested in inviting her into your home. She is available for $1900, framed and free shipping in the continental US. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

TEDx Birmingham Journey

Thank you for traveling along and allowing me to share this art path with you. It has taken an unexpected and fun little trek.

I'm honored and humbled to be a speaker at the TEDx Birmingham, March 12, 2016, event. (Edited, my talk is now up on YouTube!)

It has been quite a learning process to write this talk. One of the toughest parts was narrowing down all the things I could say about art and focusing in on the one point I really wanted to make. Tough to do when you are passionate about so many aspects of a subject.

The TEDx Birmingham organizers have been fantastic during the entire process giving information about how to craft a great talk, giving us deadlines to meet, and assigning speech coaches to each of us.

There will be 15 speakers and Pure Imagination is the theme. I will be sharing some of my work and speaking about how when we experience representational art, by making it and viewing it, we gain empathy for each other and gather insight into what it means to be human. 

I was asked to submit in July 2015, found out I was accepted in October and immediately started working on the talk. To help me prepare, I read a very interesting book, Resonate by Nancy Duarte that is specifically about presenting visual stories.

Yesterday, I had my first focus group presentation. In my group was Jonathan Owen, Donna Dukes and Rubin Pillay, MD, PhD. Their talks were fascinating. You can see more about them on the TEDx Birmingham's speaker page. It was great to get feedback from impartial strangers.

We all got tips and advice for the presentation delivery. Six weeks till the talk gives us time to memorize it better, try for a more conversational manner, put emphasis in the right spots, vary the cadence, and figure out what to do with our hands and body.

When & Where: Saturday, March 12, 2016, Alys Stephens Center, Birmingham, AL. The event will also be live-streamed, and on the TEDxBirmingham site after the event. All the info is on their website.

Tickets: Seats are limited so you must apply for a ticket.

*Applications will be open until Midnight Jan 31.* More information about the speakers, program and tickets may be found on the website.

A little more news, one of the TEDx Birmingham's organizers just happens to also be this year's 2016 TED Prize Winner, Sarah Parcak. The UAB space archeologist will get $1 million to invest in her idea which will be revealed at TED2016. Congratulations Sarah!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Fall Sepia Oil Sketch Sale and How To Paint Your Own

Fall Sepia Oil Sketch Sale
$275 Framed - Free Shipping in the US, $20 international shipping. Sales tax applies in AL, USA - email me at for arrangements.
Add One to Your Collection!
Art Lesson Du Jour : (or how'd she do that?)
The method I've used in these little life-studies has more in common with sculpture or watercolor than with more traditional methods of oil painting. 
Here's why: I first block in the general shape of the figure in a fairly solid area of paint. I imagine it as a big chunk of marble. I'm looking for a pleasing composition and the correct general proportions of the figure. 
Kelsey on Tuesday, 14x11, oil on linen over panel
I then use a piece of soft T-shirt fabric to rub out the light areas, leaving the dark. It's this reductive method that is much like a sculpture carved from a block of stone, where bits of clay are chipped off, rather than an additive method where pieces of paint, or clay in sculpture, are added to the artwork to build up the form.

Anders on Tuesday, 14x11, oil on panel
The white of the canvas is utilized for the lighter values, rather than adding white to make the paint lighter. In that respect, this method is similar to watercolor where the white of the paper is reserved for lighter areas. Mid-tones are built by allowing more or less of the white of the canvas to shine through the paint. For that reason, I would only use a transparent or semi-transparent paint to do a rub-out. 

Claire Sits 14x11, oil on panel
Toward the end of the painting, I will add a few strokes of thinker paint for darker accents but only use the one color, burnt umber. At this point, I could add full color but I think these sepia studies are beautiful and sometimes choose to leave them as they are.

I've been practicing these little sketches for years at a weekly life drawing group. They're so much fun, and I find they are great exercises for understanding the human form and values. I then apply that knowledge in my studio work, which also starts out with a burnt umber rub-out underpainting. So artist friends give this watercolor/sculpture painting method a try! 
The studies are framed in a wood frame painted in an espresso color.
If you're an artist in Birmingham, AL, consider joining us on Tuesday nights at Forstall Art Center, 6-9 pm for X's 8, ( pronounced Times 8) nude life drawing group. $10 per session or $35 for the month. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

How to Self-Critique Your Art

Art Lesson Du Jour
Spend Less Time on the Ropes to Make Better Work
(dedicated to my champion students)

Fact: It's a simple truth that every painting and drawing are a series of corrections. 

When taking a jab at art, each mark is our best guess in relationship to the other marks we've made. It's the best mark we can make right then, at that moment in time. We make it knowing full well that it is likely to change, and that's ok. Later in the process we will know better. 

Problem: Panic, strong emotions, and harsh self-criticism will defeat the creative process. 

I often see students in a knock-down, drag-out with themselves when things aren't going well in a drawing or painting. Their critique of the work becomes a criticism of self. It's easy to allow the critical voices of one's insecurities or the nasty voices of others into your head. I've been there and done that as well. Trust me, when you let those guys talk, no constructive critique is going on! 

When I see my students hitting below the belt I say, "Hey, don't talk to my student that way," "Would I say that to you?" or "Would you say that to anyone else in your life?" Of course the answer is always "No!"

Panic too can creep in during frustrating moments. We live a fast paced life with instant gratification and the sheer time required to look and see properly can make an artist feel panic. The brain is constantly yelling, "This is taking too long." We feel certain that everyone else is figuring this stuff out with more agility and speed than we are.

All this self-doubt and emotional thinking clog up the creative process, so that's why it's important to have a strategy in place. 

Your brain without a plan.
Solutions: Click READ MORE  below for answers. 


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