Springtime in Sedona

Now is the time for a quick trip to the Verde Valley and Red Rocks of Sedona. I (we) hit the road, yay!


The weather is perfect for outdoor painting.

(Snake-boots, in case you were wondering:)

Lately, I’m making small plein air paintings on linen. Small so I can make several studies of a scene in a couple of hours. This quicker work sets me up for studio painting later. I appreciate the freshness of the small works and love the swishy-scrubby brushstrokes and transparent to opaque layering.

Here are some examples of the weeks work:

While in Sedona, I stop at the Art Center, where the Arizona Pastel Artist’s Association (APAA) is having their National Show. IT IS Fabulous!

Pro Pastelist Aaron Shuerr gives a great demo on his red-rock country pastel painting process:

It’s an exciting week, actually get work done and have a blast, now to keep up with the plein air “quickies”.


P.S. Open Studio is April 14 &15 from 10-4pm. My home studio will be open. These and many more works will be on display and for sale. Please stop in.

Lucky Purple Piglet

Continuing with the discovery of underused colors in the paint-box I find: Manganese-Violet-Reddish, Old Holland Blue, Hansa Yellow Light, and Brilliant Pink.

I know I can’t do all 4 this week so I choose the colors without white added and just one pigment because they tend to mix cleaner: Hansa Yellow and Manganese Violet.

Here is a model of the chemical compound 11-cis-Retinol and/or All-trans-Retinal, a form of Vitamin A, which makes vision possible (complicated). It is a challenge to draw-could be disastrous-but you have to try!



I really don’t know which color to pick. I want to use purple but am hesitant. So I give it a rest and focus on something else.


Even though it is Hotter than Hades here in Tucson, we still must walk the dogs. This enables the collection of smashed ground trash, an ongoing project correlated with dog walking.

I am currently going for smashed glass, it is so sparkly in the early morning light…Here see one mornings worth of glass, plus nifty glass photo cube as container.


…and subsequent exhausted Jack on his floral matt.


Smashed glass pick up requires some speed so Mr. Pepe stays home while Jack and I explore nether alley-hoods for most-best glass.


Day two of glass collection-This is going to take longer than expected.


At least now I know what color to use for the Molecule! Hansa Yellow Light; lemony and bright.

Now, for the little lucky pig.

Here is the drawing board so far. When I look at this, I get inspired to keep going. Making drawings is relaxing for me because color can be so risky…drawing feels safe compared to color. So, draw first to figure out what you are doing or where you are going and the more difficult stuff will fall into place, or do it the other way around-paint first and draw after!


I am doing these paintings on SourceTek oil primed linen birch boards (drawings on Strathmore 200). 10×10 size is about $10. It is a good way to get used to painting on a really nice surface without a huge expenditure. All surfaces take paint differently and you should practice on what you want to know best.


The Manganese is very dark. I can barely see the drawing through the tone, so I wipe it off a little, it stains nicely.

My set up under halogen lights. I am working mostly at night on these studies, so I don’t always get the values right, but at least I know that, now…


Here is everybody so far, they are all 10×10. Interesting how the colors look together.

So, how about we put it all together and see what happens; all the main pigments and all the objects and a bigger canvas?


See you in a week!

Food for thought. Find collections of things that have some similarity and paint them…it makes a series that you don’t need to think too much about and it can reveal memories tied to the objects…

Hint: You can also create similarity with a patterned fabric or hue or concept, like abstracting things a certain way or zooming in on something…as long as there is a relationship/continuation/building on it through each piece, it’s a series!


Azo Coral…and Friends

This Summer, I’m thinking of short projects that explore drawing, composition and color.  My color-box holds many tubes (freebies, trades, impulse buys) that I wonder about but haven’t really seen in action. So, exploring these untried hues will be the driver for the following series of compositions.

Our first selections include: Kings Blue Deep, Golden-Green Deep, and Azo Coral.


I’m captivated by this truck-stop-dime-store elephant and love to draw it. The funky Krewel pattern is a favorite backdrop subject



Tracing the scene on clear plexi really helps figure out the best placement of the elephant on the square canvas format I’m working with. I use expo dry erase black marker.

Tools: Many sharpened soft charcoal pencils, rubber pencil eraser. I don’t like to stop to sharpen things when working so I prepare many in advance.


The first drawing is compositional and drawn from looking at the dry erase trace. The second is its development working from the actual still life.

Below you can see I made the drawing the same scale as the canvas panel so I could transfer it directly to the canvas, which you can see to the right. I fix the canvas drawing with a fixative so I can paint a colored wash over it. (toes for scale;-)


Now, for the big guns!



I am pre mixing the palette so I don’t need to stop and mix the right hue/value/chroma with each brushstroke. I can just locate the pre mixed pile and plug it in. Believe it or not, this method gives you more choices plus, if seeing is believing, this will help you on your way.

That does it for the first day of painting. I want to finish it now…but much better to wait until tomorrow. Slow and steady wins the race.


Above see the Azo Coral possibilities, with the hue plus ivory black and titanium white.  Azo coral acts a bit like cadmium scarlet. It could be an alternative, less expensive and less toxic selection.

Now, for Golden-Green Deep. Love this color!

Kings Blue doesn’t really stand up to prolonged mixing, as it is a mixture to begin with. But, gave it a try with this model of the plane Dad flew during the Vietnam War, since it is Memorial Day today. General Electric F-111D.

I tend to get wrapped up in the concept of things and rush them, as in the painting below. The background needs more evaluation in terms of temperature and contrast. I should have given the plane an overnight like the Elephant.

Continuing on, I shall slow down in general.

Okay, this is good for one week of practice. I think 2-3 days on each work is doable. I hope this gives you something to chew on!

We’ll see how many obscure tubes of paint I can dig out of the paint-box.

Paint on!

Upcoming Shows/Openings This Week

Tohono Chul,Day for Night” opens this Thursday night from 5:30-8:00. February 16 – April 19.

An amazing group of artists. Beverages and nibbles included, plus free entrance to the Gallery and Gardens with opening.

Sneak Peak: “Sonoran Sucus” 40×40, oil on linen, 2017, (one of two Sonoran Desert inspired oils included in the show).



Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum’s Ironwood Gallery. Opening this Saturday, 18, 2-5PM. (entrance fee if you are not a member).

Take an afternoon cruise out to the Museum (located on the west side of the Tucson Mountains) for a large selection of fine pastel paintings from Arizona Pastelists.

Sneak Peak of Madera Canyon, 12×12 pastel, (one of three pastels selected).


Desert Harmony Pastel Show runs from February 18-April 17.

Come fill your senses.

Upcoming Classes in Oil Paint and Pastel

Hello Friends,

I am teaching the following classes this Winter/Spring.

I teach through Art Verve Academy (AVA), Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum Art Institute (ASDM) and offer individual and group classes and workshops on demand.

To sign up please go to:



http://www.asdmartclass.com and arts@desertmuseum.org


contact me directly at studiomilstead@gmail.com


Take a look at the following classes and their locations. Sign up for a class today!


Introduction to Plein Air Painting, Plein Air Basics, and Plein Air on Location:

February 21, 28, March 11, 18, March 21, 28

Tuesday Afternoons, 1-4PM

$75 for each 2 session class

to sign up and pay please visit: http://www.artverveacademy.com


Oil Painting: Self Directed Projects

March 17, 19, 26, April 2, 9, 23

Sunday Afternoons 1:30-4:30

$170 for 6 sessions

to sign up and pay please visit: http://www.artverveacademy.com


Pastel Landscapes in the Studio: Sky, Rocks, Water

April 2. 9, 23,30, May 7, 14

Sunday Mornings, 9-12

$75 for each 2 session class

to sign up and pay please visit: http://www.artverveacademy.com



Pastel From the Ground Up

February 15, 22, March 1, 8, 15

Wednesdays 9-12

$150 members/$200 non-members

sign up at: http://www.asdmartclass.com


The Colored Wilderness: Pastel Workshop

February 17, 18, 19

Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 10-4PM

$150 members/$200 non-members

sign up at: http://www.asdmartclass.com


Thanks for taking a look. I hope you find something that will fit into your schedule. If not, feel free to send me suggestions for future classes and times/dates: studiomilstead@gmail.com or respond to this post.



Winter Session Oil Painting: Glazing: Part 1

Here is a visual demonstration of the steps we covered in class of a multi stepped process used by today’s traditional painters, developed during the Renaissance.

You can produce a drawing  or cartoon of practically anything. I am looking at a mask and practicing drawing from observation.

To start the drawing, I use a piece of vine charcoal which is easily erased. I make a line drawing and then fill in the light and dark values by shading. This step is a very important part of the glazing process as you will need to spend some time finding the appropriate values. It will save you a lot of time (and tears) if you figure this out at the very beginning.

To see values better, take a black and white photo of your subject and a black and white photo of your drawing and compare the two. Do the values match up? Squint!

As you work on the drawing, have fun! Pretend that this is going to be the final piece. Include everything you want to see, experiment.  You may want to add more layers of charcoal and colored pastel. To do this you’ll need to fix the layers beneath so that they do not smear into the top layers.

I use non-toxic Spectra Fix. As you can see, it tends to squirt out unevenly. Just dab up the excess with a paper towel.

After you are satisfied with your drawing. Transfer it onto your canvas.

Here are the steps:

Trace the drawing on transfer paper. Tape the transfer paper to the drawing so it will not shift.

Flip over the paper and coat with dark chalk.

Flip back onto canvas exactly where you want it. Tape down to canvas so it won’t move.

Press over traced lines with sharp pencil. Check to make sure the transfer is happening.


You don’t need to make it detailed, just a map of shape and light changes. Chances are you may need to augment the canvas drawing.

In the next step we tone the canvas a warm semi-transparent color. I am using Yellow Ochre.

Our drawing is made of charcoal which will smudge away if we paint over it at this stage. To secure the drawing onto the canvas I use a water soluble walnut drawing ink. You can use any ink. I paint over the traced lines. This ink will wash off with water, so I could change the lines if necessary. It will not wash away with oil, however, so when we paint over it, after it has dried, if will remain visible.

If your paint is too thick, mix in a little linseed or walnut oil to make it spread more easily. Avoid mixing in mineral spirits as this will dull the surface.

Let the paint dry over night. Make sure the paint is dry before you begin the next step. You may want to start another drawing and transfer while waiting!

In the next step we make a grayscale painting. This is where the value drawing comes in handy. Reference your drawing and the observable object (if you are working from observation).


Mix up a grayscale for your palette.

I am using a paper plate with a barrier surface. I start with Ivory Black and Lead White (you can use Titanium White). I make several shades of gray. I will not be using pure white or pure black in my painting. I am using a medium called Neo Megilp which has been formulated to perform like an “Old Masters” painting medium which allows you eliminate the appearance of brushstrokes and blend easily.

Neo Megilp is a glazing medium. I put a blob in the middle of my palette and will pull it into the values as I need them. I use soft bristle brushes for the glazing process.

I make a grayscale or “grissaile” painting first, before adding any color. I keep the paint thinned with the medium. I make sure this paint layer remains smooth without texture. Tuexture comes much later.

This concludes Part 1. I will let this first pass dry to the touch, about 12-16 hours. With “fresh eyes” I will reevaluate it and correct  areas and layer more if necessary. I want to get the grayscale just right.

This process takes time! Please enjoy the slowness of it. It will allow you to think more and change more as you proceed.

Part 2 will cover the next step, color!

Tutorial:Triads in Oil Paint

Here is a mixing and painting demonstration for our first triad class.

We are exploring the possibilities of the primary triad: Red, Yellow, Blue.

There are many many tubes of paint and selections of each color to choose from for this triad.

Naturally, in painting, you will discover what works for you by trying different combinations out, which takes time, so have fun with it and think “research and development”.

Another way to decide which paints to use is to refer to the material/physical properties of the paint.

  • Is it transparent, semi-transparent or opaque? Similar qualities might make better mixers although there are always exceptions (we are not making rocket fuel, after all).
  • What is the tinting strength? When mixing a strong tint into a weak tint use a tiny speck at first, otherwise the stronger tint will totally take over, (think about what happens when you mix Phthalo blue into anything).
  • Lastly, consider the prismatic richness (rainbow intensity) of the paint, is it dull/earthy (yellow ochre) or bright and bold (cadmium yellow)? Paints with similar qualities might mix better than a mishmash of bright and dull (but this does not mean you cannot enhance a color with a brighter one if it feels right to you…color conveys mood/emotion aka. feeling).

In class we talked about a few different primary triads.


  • Earthy: Venetian red, yellow ochre and cerulean blue.
  • Traditional: Cadmium red, cadmium yellow or gamboge, and ultramarine blue.
  • High Key: Magenta, hansa yellow and cyan.

Our reference book is Confident Color by Nita Leland

We spent some time mixing the palette:

  • Place three generous piles of paint on the outer edge of your palette.
  • Scoop a portion of each one into a separate pile and mix them together to make a “mother” pile.
  • You want to mix something that does not lean towards any of the three colors, a neutral “gray-like” color.
  • Test the neutrality by mixing a small bit with white.
  • Once you have a good pile, divide it into three and align each of the three under a pure color (unmixed) pile.
  • Mix a bit of each corresponding primary into each pile. This will make a colored shade of each primary.
  • Take a bit off and add white to make a tone.
  • Take a bit off of the pure pile and mix white into it to make a tint.
  • Save a bit of the original “mother” to make a grayscale to use for areas of absolute “rest” in your painting. (the cones do not register”gray”, this allows them to relax, which makes you relax,  when your eye looks at gray).

See below for all of the mixtures.


and placing them into a pie chart for the record:


We toned the canvas with the color that reflected the temperature of the light source:

Blue for LED.

Pink for Daylight Balance Fluorescent/LED.

Yellow for incandescent (ordinary lightbulb and candlelight).

Here is an example for Blue:

See here the difference the light makes on the yellow and red still life compared to the blue.


Here is an example of halogen, which is warm (yellow), emphasized by the yellow subject matter and blue accent.

  • In this example I work darkest dark first and each color at a time, blue first; shade, tone, tint.
  • Then red not in any particular order, then yellow; shade, tone, tint.
  • Then, I repeat the process if I’ve left something out… This way, if there is a neutral color I can’t identify at first, I can leave it until the next pass…
  • Usually, I can figure it out after some practice identifying more obvious colors first…have faith!

If you make your drawing with a paintbrush, it will prevent you from over-detail. I use a long filbert, called an Egbert, it holds enough paint for drawing. Get loose! Remember, you want a general map and you can always wipe out what does not work.

Now, try some different triads or try different dominant colors or repeat what you’ve already figured out…just paint.

Okay, now no excuses for not doing your homework!