Hare-brained Studios March Update

This first quarter of 2017 has been a blur- a fantastic and exciting blur! Returning to my studio in Tubac in mid-January after 8 weeks of travel and holiday fun, I began preparing to teach my first oil painting workshop. Wet Your Whistle Original Oil Painting Leslie Miller Fine Art

I found teaching about a subject I am passion about to be very rewarding. I learned a lot during the lesson planning as well as from my students. The lessons we learned covered a broad spectrum- from making a workbook in Adobe InDesign and designing slides for the presentation in Keynote to the challenges and benefits of painting a subject more than once. Choosing a subject that reflected the group’s area of interest and included lessons in composition, color mixing, and perspective was challenging. I painted from one reference photo 4 times to achieve the perfect size, aspect ratio, and appropriate difficulty and timing for a beginners class. I learned from the experience the importance of value sketches. Familiarity with the subject allows me to create more energetic and expressive brush strokes and the appearance of a more spontaneous reaction to the subject that drew my eye initially.

February Bold and Loose Beginners' Oil Painting Workshop

February Bold and Loose Beginners’ Oil Painting Workshop

From my seven students, I learned more about myself as well as more about creating art. One of the most interesting things to me is how differently we all see the same subjects. Eight paintings approached with the same color pallets, same reference material, and same workflow rendered eight distinctly unique, beautiful paintings. We each have our very own style, vision, and individual mark-making tendencies to express our impressions and observations. This reminded me that we all are creative beings with an artist’s sensibilities. The differentiating factor is how much time and dedication is given to developing skills to become a better artist.

If this inspires you to give oil painting a go, I’ll be teaching the same workshop again March 30, 31 and April 1.Learn more here.

Santa Cruz Valley Open Studio Tour Leslie Miller Fine Art

Santa Cruz Valley Open Studio Tour Leslie Miller Fine Art

In February, I was incredibly and humbly thrilled to learn that I had been voted by the community of TCA to receive The Masters Meed Award.Leslie Miller Fine Art award Master Meed for 2016
A long-standing tradition at the Tubac Center of the Arts the Master Meed award selection takes place by popular vote during the annual Member’s Juried Exhibition. Meeds an old English word meaning “a merited recompense or gift.
The artist acquiring the most votes award a special medallion plaque and he is or her name is permanently added to the Master Meed plaque hanging inside TCA. The first award was made in 1971.
A Tubac jeweler, Tom Barbre of Cloud Dancer gallery, donates mistime and talent to casting the silver medallions designed by Harold Wilson, Tubac Center’s architect.
In January, I launched a new website and product especially for artists-  www.artrepreneuroutliner.com  Art business specific outlines and templates are designed to be used within Evernote, a powerful, fully customizable, and free virtual filing system. Evernote is available on multiple platforms so your ideas, inspirations and everything about your business is stored in the cloud and available to you anywhere, anytime.
After the excitement of the class and the TCA show, John and I checked a huge item off our bucket list this month- an African Safari! It was the trip of a lifetime, steeped in life changing experiences. Be watching for lots of wild animal art, African landscapes, and even portraits to be painted soon. First I’ll have to wade through the 2000+ photos!
I invite you to support the local arts and enrich your soul this weekend. If that wasn’t enough of a whirlwind, I’m thrilled to be hosting a tour of my home studio as part of the Santa Cruz Valley Open Studio Tour. The annual event welcomes visitors to artist’s work spaces for inside look at the individual art processes and inspiration that make artists tick.
How to Cope When Life Gets in the Way

How to Cope When Life Gets in the Way

How To Cope When Life Gets in the Way- lesliemillerfineart.com

Life Gets In the Way Sometimes

The second week of January was filled with distractions, cause you know, life gets in the way, sometimes. We packed up our apartment in Knoxville and gave up our lease. A difficult decision to make, I am so relieved to have all of my belongings in one central location, to live, really live, in one house. During the process, John was having dental procedures finished, I launched my new website Artrepreneur Outliner, and we discovered halfway through packing we would need to leave our RV in Tennessee until spring. Leaving the RV meant we needed to reconfigure our packing and only take what would fit in an SUV. So, not all my belonging are together yet, but soon. It was a bittersweet drive back to Tubac. Hard to leave the family we enjoyed so much time with over the holidays, but anxious to get back into a routine.

Needless to say, my painting time was cut a little short. I did, however, complete these three little studies.

Week two recap of the #30in30paintingchallenge!

Setting Alternative Goals

This time when life got in my way I set an alternative goal. Unable to paint on the road with all my supplies packed deep below the clothes in the SUV. I had planned to supplement with sketching in the car as we rode across the country since the goal of the #30 in30 painting challenge is to create every day for 30 days.  Since Sadie found my lap to be her favorite spot in the car, that never happened. Sometimes life gets in the way.

I really want to make sketching part of my daily practice, though I find it easy to put it on the back burner and let the day slip away without one single sketch. Listening to podcasts is one of the ways I stay motivated and inspired. It’s something I cherish about my drives to and from CrossFit, my 5 am workout. This time John listened along, preferring the interviews which Eric Rhodes conducts with artists on the Plein Air Podcast, it was really fun to hear his insights. Three episodes in a row that we listened to, stated,  sketching as being the number one thing you can do to improve your painting. Using thumbnail sketches for composition, drawing skills are key to the successful rendering of the subject and it is a way of seeing through an artist’s eyes. The three interviews I highly recommend Charlie Hunter, Jim Wodark, and Stephanie Birdsall.

Setting Priorities

On our second day home I had a bit of a breakdown. I hadn’t accomplished much for the #30 in 30 painting challenge, my blog had been neglected, and I wanted to visit with my friends, enjoy the sunshine in the Arizona sky, my easel was calling me, we had no food in the house, a huge stack of mail to address, bills that needed paying and I couldn’t even start a load of laundry because I couldn’t open the drawer with the detergent for the moving boxes stacked in the way.

An overwhelming feeling of the things that need to be done, the things I want to get done, and the time I wish I could invent, crippled me.  John sat me down and said, “OK…What all are you trying to accomplish

  • What has to be done right away?
  • What are the things preventing you from completing these tasks
  • What can I do to help you?

Just the act of stating everything out loud that was rushing through my head gave me more clarity. Paying attention to the dates for deadlines and activities really made the priorities have an obvious order.

Voicing the things that were in my way, in this case quite literally, help me make a plan of action, set some things aside and make quick actionable steps for the others. Knowing that he was willing to help, was the final step in eliminating the paralyzing mind freeze I was experiencing. Delegating, and letting go of the responsibilities that he was capable of accomplishing was such a relief.

Setting Your Intentions

My intentions for the next few days clear, I crawled into bed early, for a good nights rest. The next morning I woke up with a plan of attack and a fresh free mind to tackle the molehill that looked like a mountain the day before.

We’ve only been home 4 days but I have been able to nearly completed two paintings. I am painting for a couple of juried show deadlines so I’m thrilled to be back in my garage studio, with the incredible light open spaces like the southwest brings. I’ve sold a painting. Written this and another blog post, opened a door for my Artrepreneur Outliner project in my community. Spent some much needed time with my wonderful friends and family.  I completed a 10 module training course, in which I am very excited about, but you’ll have to wait for an announcement to share in my excitement.. I happily cooked healthy dinners in my wonderful kitchen, thanks to my sweet husband’s generous offer to run the many errands that accompany a return home after 12 weeks.

Next Time How Will You, Cope When Life Gets in the Way?

My hope is that you’ll stop and really look at what’s most important, and give those things priority. From that list of priorities create a timeline and strategy to accomplish these goals. Enlist the help of others, whether that’s a loved one who volunteers or a service you can hire, delegate. Lastly, give yourself a break if the closet is a mess for a few days it will be okay, if you can’t participate in every activity that comes your way, they’ll be another time.

For me, I’ll create every day I am able to physically walk into my studio, and not stress about the days that other things take priority.


In other news, I’ll be teaching a beginners’ oil painting workshop in a couple weeks. Tubac Art Academy will be hosting the three-day event. Structured for beginners’ the class will focus on the basic of oil painting. Breaking down the fundamentals of oil painting into manageable blocks. Students will learn about surfaces, brushes, mediums, palette and easels types, paint mixing, drawing with paint, values (light/dark), composition and color theory. When and how to use the tools of the trade.

If you or someone you know has been contemplating adding a creative practice to your life, this class will truly be a benefit to your pursuit. Oil paints are lustrous, rich and juicy, the gold standard of mediums throughout the history of art. They can also be intimidating, with their many pigments, oils, varnishes, turpentine, and brushes. Students will receive individual attention at every step along the way, leaving with a basic knowledge of the materials and techniques used in oil painting as well a completed painting or two.

A Loose and Bold Approach to Oil Paintng a beginners 3 day Workshop Held in Historic Tubac, AZ learn more at lesliemillerfineart.com

Week One 2017 30 in 30 Painting Challenge

Week One 2017 30 in 30 Painting Challenge

Week One 2017 30 in 30 Painting Challenge

Recap of Week One January 2017 30 in 30 painting challenge

I recently took an online course with Dreama Tolle Perry. Her process incorporates a technique which is new to me, and I love it! Using only transparent colors in the underpainting and finishing Alla Prima her art has become iconic for her use of joyful color.  I highly recommend her online course. Following her process has brought a new depth of color to my artwork.

This week’s work has brought me much joy! I am currently painting in the dining room of our apartment in Knoxville, TN. Not my dream studio space although the light on a sunny day is quite wonderful. Unfortunately, yesterday’s snow was the first sunny day of the week. The dreary weather and constant construction just outside the apartment have made being joyful a bit of a struggle. I am ready to be back in my desert studio in Arizona. The juicy colors have brought a ray of sunshine to the space!

This is my third attempt at a #30in30paintingchallenge! I am more organized than the last go around, thanks to my #30in30 Artrepreneur Outliner kit for Evernote.  We are however moving out of the apartment and traveling across the country, yet again, in the motorhome, this month. That week may need to be about drawing, rather than pulling out the oil painting materials, sketching is an area I need to concentrate on anyways!. Those wonderful little thumbnails I see so many plein air painters begin with just don’t come naturally to me.

Come February, I am teaching an oil painting class for beginners at The Tubac Art Academy. This is the reason you’ll see some duplicates of the same subjects in my daily paintings this month. I am narrowing down my choices of subject matter I’ll use in the demonstrations. The Rockin Red and Desert blossoms, for example, are from the same reference photo. I am looking for a subject with dynamic color combinations and a simple organic subject, which will appeal to many. Any suggestions would be welcomed!!

A Loose and Bold Approach to Oil Paintng a beginners 3 day Workshop Held in Historic Tubac, AZ learn more at lesliemillerfineart.com



Cruz the Puma

Cruz the Puma

Cruz the Puma

Cruz the Puma

The 47th annual TCA Member’s Juried Show

I am honored to tell you, Juror Dr. Julie Sasse included my piece, Cruz the Puma, into the 47th annual TCA Member’s Juried Show. Tubac Center of the Arts host multiple shows throughout the year, this is one of my favorites. There are so many talented people within the region working in so many different mediums, it makes for uninteresting show.

 I experienced something wonderful.

Cruz, the Puma is the result of a plein painting trip to the area near the  Sonoran Desert Museum and Old Tucson in preparation for PACE 2016. The plan was to paint until the desert museum opened and then meet friends to tour the grounds and have lunch. Fortuitously my friends plans changed, though I was disappointed not to have their company, I experienced something wonderful.

I had all day to watch and observe the wildlife at whatever pace I chose. There is something incredibly centering about doing your own thing in your own time not concerned for others preferences and needs, just to feed your soul, in your way. So many times we spread ourselves to thin trying to please those around us that we lose the very essence of what makes us, us. Encourage you to put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others. You’ll have so much more to give.

 Sonoran Animals and Plants- lesliemillerfineart.com

As I took photos with paintings in mind, bebopping here and there, out of order, waiting as long as it took to get the perfect shots, I felt my creativity well filling. I had had the best time, but I was getting tired but the one animal I really wanted to capture. The mountain lion had been busy flirting with visitors in the window earlier in the day. I went back again to the beginning of the two mile path to visit him one more time.

Restless Cruz the Puma lesliemillerfineart.com

Restless Cruz the Puma lesliemillerfineart.com


This time he was on the opposite side of the habitat area, looking for a spot to lounge, preferably with a good view. As I watched him search for the perfect spot, I found my perfect spot, set up my tripod, out of the way of other visitors but with a great vantage point. I enjoyed hearing children ask questions about the big cat, the volunteers telling stories about Cruz and about Strawberry the black bear next door, and I waited.

Cruz found his spot, vacillating between napping and watching, from his cool perch inside the rock face atop a boulder warm form the sun. I snap shots for 20-25 minutes then, as I was looking through the lens, Cruz looked right at me. I felt the connection with this beautiful creature as our eyes met and our souls spoke.

Cruz and Strawberry

A puma named Cruz and a black bear called Strawberry got their names from a naming contest. Cruz was submitted by Darlene Baty of Tucson, Arizona, and references the Santa Cruz river that runs through the Sonoran Desert. The naming contests follow the Museum’s tradition of selecting names that are particular to the Sonoran Desert, are related to the scientific name for the animal or are similar to names selected in years past. Love that the community and fans of the rescued animals are a part of the adoption process by helping choose their names!

Painting Process

I knew that Cruz need to be something special, and that I wanted to accurately portray the connection I saw in his eyes. To that end I began my painting as I often do, with an oil rub-out method. Once I had him rendered and in place, I was faced with portraying the rock face, his habitat. Quite happy with Cruz in this rub-out stage I wanted to complete the whole painting in this rubout stage. The challenge being it must be completed before the fast drying colors used begin to set up and dry.
Enter my magic tool. I can’t claim the discovery of the magic tool, that honor belongs to Julie Ford Oliver. I purchased her excellent online tutorial on fracturing. She uses it in a different way than I used here, I love her technique using the tool to break color and line then reinstate to produce an impressionistic quality in her work. and I love this tool which I use in various ways. Thanks Julie for introducing the magic tool to me.
The magic tool-lesliemillerfineart.com

The magic tool.

What is the magic tool? Simply a squeegee inserted into a paint scraper tool handle. Here are the two components, I ordered on Amazon.
I use it to scrape away mistakes, clear a spot in masses for pure color, rocks, straight lines (way harder than it should be for me to achieve)and to make repetitive marks
 The magic tool was my tool of choice to create the rock face in this painting pushing the dark values darker and giving the appearance of depth while the lighter ares where the sun is hitting the surface seem to come forward.

the Finishing of Cruz

Though I was quite happy with the rubout stage, I didn’t feel it was finished. I wanted to see it in full color, wanted to convey the excellent natural camouflage Cruz found in his habitat. Pumas are hunters after all.

 Since the initial coat of paint was now dry, I opted to uses transparent glazes to bring the color to life in this painting.
Using a mixture of Universal Painting Medium with pigments with transparent qualities, and layering multiple passes in varying strengths with a sable hair brush and wiping away in areas with a rag, to create more depth of color.
The final stage involved sandpaper, steel wool and nail files before a final coat of varnish brought the various elements together.

A little More about Mountain Lions

Fun facts from the Desert Museum:

  • Mountain lions are not true lions and cannot roar;
  • they hold the Guinness record for animal with the most names — with over 40 names in English alone;
  • Proportionally they have the largest hind legs in the cat family.

Artwork, See It In Person

 As with most art, a camera the best photographic skills cannot compare to viewing it in person. This painting is quite difficult to capture with photography, the true beauty in the layers can only be seen in person.

Go and Visit Cruz the painting at Tubac Center of the Arts opening reception Friday December 9, 5-7pm. If you cannot make the opening reception the exhibit will be on display thru January 15th, 2017. I hope to see you signature in the guest book!
3 Lessons Sorolla Confirms

3 Lessons Sorolla Confirms

Sorolla whispered to me... Lesliemillerfineart.com

3 truths Sorolla whispered to me.

What Sorolla whispered to me.

Joaquin Sorolla whispered some truths to me during a recent visit to his home studio-museum in Madrid, Spain. I would like to share these truths with you.

Have you ever been taught something only to find out it was false or self-serving?
Whether you are on a self-guided journey as I am or you attended a well-known school of art, it’s nice to know the principles you’ve been learning are valid. I have been so very fortunate to learn a great deal from one particularly great teacher. I have also attended many workshops and the same core teachings have been expressed from all sources. While some artists find more importance in one principle or another, the basics are mostly the same. Each  artist uses those basics to create their unique style. It’s funny how many times we need to hear it before we take it to heart.

While visiting Sorolla’s home and studio, these three ideas were reiterated in a powerful way in my mental library:

3 truths Sorolla whispered to me. lesliemillerfineart.com-Joaquin Sorolla-El Bano del Caballo / Le Cheval Blanc

Joaquin Sorolla-El Bano del Caballo / Le Cheval Blanc

1: Paint With Your Whole Body

Quick, deliberate strokes made with complete confidence read with an energetic vibrancy that transforms a rendered image into a work of art. I was ever so self-conscious as I found myself holding an imaginary brush and imitating the gestures required to make certain strokes that were so obviously fired with passion. Sorolla knew his drawing sensibilities were strong, so he was able to place the marks just where he intended them to fall.

Cotilde Sitting on the Sofa - 1910- Joaquin Sorolla

Cotilde Sitting on the Sofa – 1910- Joaquin Sorolla

2: Light Does Not Come Only From White

Juxtaposed colors and temperatures vibrate with light. Hard and soft edges along with “lost and found” edges create form. This is one of the concepts my mentor, Lou Maestas, has pounded into my head. I totally understand, in theory. My challenge is seeing which two complementary colors the light is reflecting in a given area. I am not sure if this is the artist’s interpretation, a result of the surrounding local color, or my poor squinting skills. To see Sorolla’s works up close, then to stand back and observe the overall effect of juxtaposed complementary color, and to hear Henri’s words in my subconscious, I can recognize that luminosity is found in color not white.

What a treat to see how effective this technique can be. The white of Cotilde Garcia del Castillo’s dress with its high key mixes of pinks and greens next to blues and oranges reads as nothing but white.

Mi mujer y mis hijos, 1910-Joaquin Sorolla-blogpost- 3 truths Sorolla whispered to me- lesliemillerfineart.com

Mi mujer y mis hijos, 1910-Joaquin Sorolla

3: There is No Need to Paint to full Completion

Once the story is told, is it really necessary to say more?

We all know that person- they start a story with so much enthusiasm you can’t help but  be drawn in, then they embellish it with a backstory and you’re even more intrigued, but then there is a backstory to the backstory and an association that needs explanation by means of another association, and soon you are no longer listening but wondering, “will the ever stop talking?”
Many of Sorolla’s works -in fact, two of my favorite- were not painted to completion. I had to hear it on the audio guide before I even noticed that his wife’s face is basically still in the “mud face” stage in “Mi mujer y Mis Hijos.” There are parts of the child’s hand that are little more than a placement sketch. There are sections inside the focal point area that are incomplete. I was so drawn into the scene that the lack of these details was lost on me.


Each child’s individual characteristics and personality were expressed. The oldest poised and confident, the obvious leader. The middle child pushing to be seen and heard. The younger girl is also checking to see that they are all together. The baby, a free-spirit, unencumbered by things like clothes. All followed by a devoted and beautiful mother.

imageLet me share some bonus insights

When we settled into our hotel room later that afternoon, I did some research on Jaquin Sorolla y Bastide, specifically his painting methods and theories.

One very interesting observation is about value choices in his paintings.  Sorolla kept at least two full steps between value changes of the shadows and the passages of light. That insight gives me something to ponder and to strive for.

I found this article particularly fascinating study of Sorolla’s techniques and methods:


Joaquin Sorolla studio peekcollage-@leslimillerfineart.com

Joaquin Sorolla studio peek collage

Was it A Crazy Choice?

It’s kind of crazy to think I chose one painter’s individual museum over seeing the world famous Museo de Prado on my visit to Madrid. I did so because I love Sorolla’s work, particularly his loose and expressive strokes, accurate rendering, and, of course, treatment of the light. The ability to capture light evades most artists, even though it is commonly our ultimate goal. What better way to break down the elusive task than to study from the master himself?

Offa’s Dyke Painting Auction, #30paintingsin30daysAuction

Offa’s Dyke Painting Auction, #30paintingsin30daysAuction

Beginning in October, the 18 paintings I completed in the September #30paintingsin30days! will be up for auction to the highest bidder.

The paintings were inspired by a recent trip along Offa’s Dyke path following the borders of Wales and England from the south coast to the northern coast of Wales.

This means there’s a great opportunity for collectors to either add to their collection, or perhaps get started collecting. I’m offering these small painting on an art auction website, www.dailypaintworks.com  it easy to bid and easy to pay through PayPal .

#11 #30in30paintingchallenge! purple-mtn-cliff-walk


We interrupt this Regularly Scheduled Content

We interrupt this Regularly Scheduled Content

Stealthily Disguised Bobcat, lesliemillerfineart.comUplifting to my Soul

We interrupt this Regularly Scheduled Content for some exciting art opportunities! When I signed up to participate in the #30in30paintingchallenge, I had no idea how many fantastic opportunities  were going to present themselves this month! Several shows and competitions I would really like to enter have deadlines  the first week of October. I am going to need to reroute my path, just a bit, but I am still committed to painting every day for the month of September. 
Returning to the artist mecca that is the little village of Tubac has been very uplifting to my soul. I’ve been reminded how important art is to the lives of others. I have also been exposed to so many new avenues to expose my art, including new shows, exhibits, associations, and general participation in the art scene.
When I sat down to do a little personal business and organize my Evernote folders today, it occurred to me how much there is to do!
Have you been wondering what happened? No posts for ten days there is so much to accomplish in September so much that I intended to post this a week ago and never hit publish!

Why the rules of #30in30paintingchallenge! Rule!

First off you need to know there are no rules. There is no such thing as cheating. So, if you want to paint seven paintings in a day and take the rest of the week off then that’s ok! If you want to get an early start in August then that’s ok too. Just don’t post an old painting as the whole point of the challenge is to get you to paint more! –Leslie Saeta-founder of the #30in30paintingchallenge.
No rules! These are my kind of rules!

Choose your Battles

The pressure I have put on myself is beginning to take it’s toll. I am learning that having a messy house, not having dinners planned and neglecting my family is not conducive to open creativity.
I am a firm believer in choosing your battles. Life is complicated enough without fighting the universe. The goals I set for myself at the beginning of this year  are very high on my priority list. To reach those goals, I feel it is necessary to switch my focus for the next few days. There are six painting submission deadlines scheduled on for the first week of October. Luckily for me, there were three pieces near completion hanging in my studio when I arrived back home.
It is important to me to finish what I have started for two reasons: because I announced my theme and intentions to do so publicly and because I feel the subject is so very deserving of 30 paintings. The number one goal for me in choosing to participate was to renew my painting practice after being away from the easel for nearly four months.

Offa’s Dyke Path Sensory Stories

I will commit to finishing my sensory stories  about Offa’s Dyke Path, though they may not be all complete by October 1. I may also combine two or three prompts into one story. Sometimes the wheels in my head turn faster than I can keep up with and then my mouth runs before I test the ideas that swirl around up there. Does that happen to you?
I really appreciate the positive feedback associated with these stories. I enjoy writing them and its fun to see where a little phrase can take my mind.

What I am Trying to Say

Painting every day in September is still my goal. However, I most likely won’t complete a painting each day. The subject matter is going to take a little detour, but I will revisit it soon. All of the submissions will be related to the southwest in one way or another, since the exhibits and contest are all in Southern Arizona. I plan to continue sharing my progress; that may look like an abbreviated post each day, but sharing the journey none the less.
Once the priorities are addressed, the Offa’s Dyke Path series will be continued…
Let me know what paths you’ve had a struggle rerouting, in the comments below or on Facebook. Also do you think September is an extra busy month? Always love hearing from you.
Cruz- lesliemillerfineart.com