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-

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

Restless Cruz the Puma


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

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!

The Key to Shopping Smart for Art Supplies

the key to Shopping smart for Art Supplies

the key to Shopping smart for Art Supplies

Knowing where to shop for Art Supplies

Got a question? Please ask; it helps me out and may help others as well.
Recently, I was asked where I purchase my art supplies.
It had not dawned on me this was something I learned from other artists. The day I decided I wanted to become a fine artist, I thought Michael’s was the end-all and be-all of shopping for art supplies. Well, not really, because I was fortunate enough to grow up in a town with a really good art supply store. It wasn’t until I lived in the middle of two no-wheres that I had to rely on mail-order. There, I learned what my options were from others.

Art supply stores to an artist is like a candy store to a kid!

Experiencing the Five Senses while Shopping Art Supply Stores


Nothing quite beats walking into the local art supply store…
  • Smelling the reams of paper, the mineral spirits, and painting mediums
  • Touching the hairs of the brushes and the texture of the paper, or testing the flow of a new fountain pen
  • Hearing other artists exclaim their joy, feeling like kids in a candy shop
  • Seeing the array of colors, comparing one brand’s Indian Yellow to another’s and eyeing the size of a canvas for the painting in my head
  • Tasting might not be such a wise idea, but sipping a glass of wine while I shopped would be in the shop owner’s best interest!
All of this together creates a magical place, where every big idea can become a beautiful reality.

Ordering Online Tips and Hints: Coupons, Sales, Bulk, Clubs, and Co-ordering.

Knowing the basic supplies and the better brands is the first step to saving by ordering online.

  • Once you know the brands you prefer and the amount you need, waiting for annual sales and monthly coupons is a great way to save
  • Many online retailers offer a value discount with larger purchases. If you need less than the minimum order, my guess is that you know someone else that would love to share shipping costs for a larger discount.
  • If you plan on attending any art conventions or large workshops, visit the vendor tables. Many vendors offer special discounts at events. Once you are producing enough art to merit it, use this time to order bulk consumables and equipment.
  • Another great alternative to craft stores are shopping clubs, such as If you can afford to order ahead, this is a great resource.

Quality over Quantity

Buy the best quality you can afford and start with the basics. As I mentioned, there was a fantastic art supply, called Rechenbach’s, in my hometown. Starting out, that didn’t seem like a good choice to start my stock of supplies because I perceived it to be quite expensive. What I didn’t know was that the big box craft supply stores carry mediocre brands. The mediocre brands cost less on your receipt at checkout but don’t last as long, perform as well, or inspire a fervor to create just by their texture.

  • The better the quality materials, the better the painting.
  • Sure, just buying high-priced supplies will not make you a phenomenal painter, but it sure will make the road that much smoother getting there.
  • When you are struggling to learn all the principles of art and design and the techniques to achieve the painting you imagine in your mind’s eye, why add to the struggle? (Maybe have something like – When learning to julienne a carrot, you don’t use a dull knife, sort of thing)
    • Take oil paints, for example. Paints that have more filler and less pigment don’t flow very easily, and they are hard to control.
    • The color from tube to tube isn’t always consistent, and learning to mix colors can be more than daunting.
    • Having to stop and sop up excess oil every time you squeeze out paint will derail the flow of that white-hot moment of pure creativity.
5 great Online Art Supply Resources
5 favorite resources in no particular order
  1. Jerry’s Artarama
  2. Rosemary Brushes
  3. Raymar Art
  4. Utrecht
  5. Dick Blick
Shopping for art materials online can save you time and money if you
  • Keep your inventory list up to date
  • Wait for sales
  • Buy ahead
  • Pool-Shop with fellow artists to save on shipping
 Download this free  Art Supply List  Evernote template and start getting organized so you can focus on your artwork.

Artist Crush-Qiang Huang

Artist Crush-Qiang Huang

Qiang Huang demo at #PACE16

Qiang Huang demo at #PACE16

I have an artist’s crush his name is  Qiang Huang.

Of the twelve demonstrations I attended at#PACE16, my favorite wasQiang Huang- Capturing the Texture of Old Architecture. An inspired artist and exceptional teacher, Huang managed to explain his process so clearly I felt as if I could accomplish a passable representation of an architectural piece, a genre that,so far, has eluded me.
I first noticed Qiang Huang‘s (pronounced Chong Wong) artwork on Pinterest
Then in March I listened to his incredible interview on AHA . I knew from that point on he was someone I could connect with, learn from, and have an affinity with his vision. Serendipitously he was on the teaching staff at #PACE16, held in all places, Tucson! Just about 40 miles from my home. #PACE16 hosted by Plein Air magazine and Eric Rhodes know how to pick’em!

His demo, much like a mini workshop, at #PACE16 was a breakdown of his painting process. He shared the reasons for his color palette choices,such as using Naples Yellow Pale for warmth in the lighter values.He also gave us tips for drawing with the proper perspective and shared some great nuggets of wisdom.

If you see a happy accident,try and keep it.

Signature Style

Huang uses various painting methods to create contrast and variety in the same color notes. Some of his most used tools include the palette knife, bristle brushes,paper towels,calligraphic strokes, and even a credit card.

way better than a photograph

Qiang Huang’s philosophy on painting.

Qiang Huang-inspiration tip

I think I’ll use this reference for a painting and consciously recall Huang’s mini workshop

I have signed up to take his workshop in February, at Scottsdale Artist’s School in Pheonix, and can hardly wait! Last I checked spots were still available. If you have never been to the Scottsdale Artist’s School, I highly recommend it. You can read about my experience in the post-Workshop Review-Michelle Dunaway.

Qiang Huang demo at #PACE16

Qiang Huang demo at #PACE16

I hope you have enjoyed this latest “Artist Crush”, please feel free to share on social media, it really helps me out 🙂


Radiant Daze

Radiant Daze


Ever wonder why coyotes howl at the moon? Or why they get such a bad rap?
Or do you look at them and wish you could go up and hug their neck, like a puppy? Do you say ˈkīˌōt or kīˈōdē?

Radiant Daze LeslieMillerFineArt

Radiant Daze Oil on cradled Panel 36×36 $1800

A look at the folklore passed down for generations gives us a peek into the mysterious life of a coyote.
Legendarily the coyote is the bringer of fire. Take a look at some of the stories.

Hated by ranchers, feared by small pet owners and admired by naturalists the coyote has proven to be a survivor. Coyotes symbolize the freedom and the can-do, pioneering spirit that settled this country.

The coyote in the photo reference for this painting projects a feeling of confidence and bliss, knowing his place on the earth. It reminds me of that feeling when the sun is shining on your back, filling you with warmth and peace.

Reference Photos

I use reference photos and I’m not ashamed to tell you. I have a passion for animals, but it’s hard to get those suckers to sit still. I enjoy taking my own photos whenever I can. I also save time by searching out royalty free photos that inspire me via the internet. Some of my favorites sights include dollar photo club, Flickr- the commons, unsplash.

reference photo tips for artist

5 qualities to look for in reference photos

Top 5 qualities I look for in a reference photo

1. Color, Composition, Clarity:
I know this seems obvious, but why struggle with a poor quality photo when there are so many problems to address when painting?
2. Sentience: Am I able to feel an emotion that resonates within me when I look at it the subject.
3.Create: Does it ignites a passion in me to go paint
4. Captivating: Would I enjoy looking at it every day?
5.The Light! (As an artist the essence of the light is at the crux of my mission.)
(I am drawn to light and how it interacts with the subject)

Some of the Coyote reference photos in my files.

Some of the Coyote reference photos in my files.

Anthony Douglas Williams quote.