Denali caribou 8″ x 10″

The driver of our tour bus shouted “Caribou ahead!” and we all reached for our cameras!  What a stroke of luck that I was sitting on the left side of the bus and had THE perfect view as the beast ambled by!  Denali caribou



moose skull arch 9″ x 12″

A very quick sketch.  I’m not sure how to depict these antlers – they are so interwoven.  This was my favorite thing in Fairbanks.  I just did not find the town that interesting and we were sorry we spent an extra night there before meeting up with our group to begin the trip.  Our hotel was a little ways outside of town and not near anything in walking distance.  We had to take the hotel shuttle everywhere.  The driver was very nice but, a bit down on the place and said that alcoholism is a real problem.  He was not a native, though, and I can see where winter would drive you crazy in this place.  We had long days there — it didn’t get dark until 11 PM!  If you talked to the shuttle driver who was native, you got rave reviews for the place.  I still don’t understand how they survive the cold and dark of winter, though.

moose skull arch

me and the mooses -- we did get to see some live ones, too.
Yours truly doing an awesome moose impression : )  There may be caribou antlers here, too, not sure.

Alaska Wilderness Lodge 9″ x 12″

My husband and I had a wonderful trip to Alaska.  I’ve been doing a lot of new paintings based on photos I took there.

wilderness lodge

Initial block in



A few stages of the painting.


The whole study was done in about an hour.  The usual palette was used and the gessobord was coated with a dilute mixture of cadmium vermillion and sevres blue (which was dry before I began the painting).  This gives a nice warm undertone that shows through.

wilderness lodge

Kenai Riverside Lodge
Kenai Riverside Lodge

walk in the park 9″ x 12″

walk in the parkYesterday’s painting with photo used, my set up in the studio, and stages of the painting.

Palette: the usual (cad. yel. lt., cad. red verm., quin. mag., ultra blue, sevres blue, burnt umber, tit. zn. white)

Total time: about 1 1/4 hr.










walk in the park

by the huge oaks 6″ x 6″

big oaks

palette: cadmium yellow light, quinacridone magenta, cadmium red vermillion, ultramarine blue,  sevres blue and white.  Initial warm tone of vermillion plus some sevres blue (applied as a wash).  This one was not quick like yesterday’s.  I had to scrape a lot off at one point because I was painting too many details.

red Hobie cat 6″ x 6″

red Hobie cat

oil on archival panel

© Anita C. Miller 2013

After spending an hour on this, the painting was accurate, but lacked movement.   So, I started taking “swipes” at it pretty much out of desperation to make something happen.  I think it has some energy to it now, so I’m happy.

red sails

afternoon sail 6″ x 6″

afternoon sailoil on archival panel

© Anita C. Miller 2013

I’m continuing to experiment with color (a different palette) and brushes.  Palette used: cadmium yellow light, cadmium red vermillion, quinacridone magenta, ultramarine blue, sevres blue and zinc titanium white.  Painted alla prima in about 45 minutes.   The brushes used are my new Silver Bristlon (brights) which I am loving.

Also, before starting the painting, I brushed a thin warm color over the entire panel, then wiped most of it off.  This toned the surface so that I wasn’t painting on white.  I left some of this color show through on the sails and the right side of the hull.

sailing in the shadows 6″ x 6″


oil on archival panel

© Anita C. Miller 2013


Yesterday’s photo of Trump Tower reflecting the afternoon sun inspired this little painting.  I painted only a very small part of the photo and took  some liberties — which is pretty much always the case : )

Palette used:  titanium zinc white, cadmium yellow light, cadmium red vermillion, quinacridone magenta, ultramarine blue, phthalo blue and graphite grey mixed with some white to make a light cool grey.

red spinnaker 6″ x 6″

red spinnaker

oil on archival panel

© Anita C. Miller 2013


All of a sudden I’m painting with lots more color and using thicker paint.  I can’t really explain why except it truly feels like summer and things should be more colorful.  I’m also using some new synthetic bristle brushes which I like a lot.  They’re Silver Bristlon (brights) in various sizes and I got them online from Dick Blick.  

yellow boat – late afternoon light 9″ x 12″

yellow boat

oil on archival panel

© Anita C. Miller 2013


Happy 4th everyone!

Later, when it gets dark, we’ll go to the lakefront

and watch the fireworks which are shot from a barge.


I loved using several blues here.

Colors used:  all the Portland greys, graphite grey, sevres blue, ultramarine blue,

cadmium yellow deep, rose dore, and zinc titanium white.

I started by brushing a light glaze of Portland grey light over the

entire panel, then painted into the glaze with the other colors

alla prima and finished in under an hour.

I tried to not blend the brushwork too much in order

to keep it fresh and moving.

Windward Coast

I used Gamblin’s Portland greys (light, medium and dark) and Chromatic Black.  The Ampersand gesso board is sometimes lightly brushed with Gamsol solvent before starting the painting.  I’m using fine sable hair brushes (and sometimes my fingers) for these little paintings.

"Windward Coast", 6" x 6", oil on board, © Anita C. Miller
“Windward Coast”, 8″ x 8″, oil on board, © Anita C. Miller

Trail To The Summit

This little monochrome painting from yesterday is based on an Oahu hike my husband and I took this past winter.  I’ve included the reference photo this time and the link to my previous post on this hike where you can see the summit views.

"Trail To The Summit", 8" x 10", oil  © Anita C. Miller
“Trail To The Summit”, 8″ x 10″, oil on board   © Anita C. Miller

I could have kept working on the painting, but decided I liked the ambiguity and stopped.  No clear view of the trail ahead.

my husband leading the way.  I had the figure in the painting initially, but then took him out.
My husband leading the way. I had the figure in the painting initially, but then took him out.


behind the scenes — stretching a canvas

I know painters who have painted many years and have never stretched a canvas.  That’s fine… but, there are several reasons why I do it and thought you might like to see how easy it is.  If you can wrap a package you can do this!

Here’s the canvas rolled out on the studio floor.  (I bought 3 yards of unprimed 60″ wide canvas at the art store.)


Next, I place the stretcher bars face down on top.  The photo makes it look like a square, but the actual size is 4′ x 5′


I use this electric staple gun by Bostitch and it works great.  You can find one at your local hardware store.


Next staple the canvas in the middle of each side.  Do not pull tightly… pull just enough that there are no wrinkles.  Also, make sure that the sides of the stretcher bars are running parallel to the weave of the canvas before stapling.


Proceed to staple once every 4 inches or so starting at the middle staple on each side and going to the corners.


Fold the cloth at the corners like you would wrap a present and staple (I usually put a few extra staples at the corners.


Now the canvas is ready for gesso.


Gesso is used to create a barrier between the canvas and the oil paint.  If this is not done, the oils in the paint will eventually rot the canvas.  The first coat of gesso is thinned with water to a cream like consistency.


Now brush the thinned gesso onto the canvas using a large brush.  Make sure it goes into the weave and brush in all directions.

*** Most important****– start from the center of the canvas and work out.  The canvas starts to shrink and pucker when it gets wet.  See… you didn’t have to pull the canvas tight at the start because it will “shrink wrap” itself when it gets wet (like a pair of jeans that haven’t been pre-shrunk).


I usually do a cross pattern like below and then fill in the remainder diagonally  ie. upper right, then lower left, etc.


So here it is with the first coat finished.  It’s tight with no wrinkles.  Two more coats (not diluted) will be brushed on to complete the gessoing.  Let each coat thoroughly dry (about 24 hours) between coats.  It’s next to the canvas I worked on last week (which is unfinished).

Oh, and the reason I go through all this is to have the flexibility of getting the exact size canvas I want.  Maybe I want a 30″ x 45″ or 36″ x 54″ or 40″ x 50″ canvas… these are not standard and the art store doesn’t have these.  But they do sell stretcher bars in numerous sizes.


silver serenity

(click on photos to see large)

view from Diamondhead
we hiked up the trail to the top of  Diamondhead –the view was so worth it
Hanauma Bay snorkelers
Hanauma Bay snorkelers
green sea turtle
green sea turtle coming ashore at Hanauma Bay

This beautiful creature inspired my most recent painting.  We got to see him up close

before an area was roped off to keep people away.


silver light off Waikiki Beach
silver light off Waikiki Beach

~ see you next year!

detail of a painting in progress © Anita C. Miller

Dear fellow bloggers, I will be taking the rest of the year off from blogging.  See you in 2013!  I wish everyone a very happy holiday season.

Best wishes!


endings and beginnings

“Fall Woods”, 24″ x 30″, oil on canvas, © Anita C. Miller

Whenever I finish a painting, I often play around with it to get ideas for new paintings.

I take pictures of it, upload them on my Mac and fool around in iPhoto.

I crop, flip and change color and contrast, etc.  So below are some “sketches”

for possible future paintings all based on “Fall Woods” above.

flipped image and cropped
played with color; misty feeling, reminds me of Pacific Northwest forests
lots of sky; color less saturated; feels like spring a bit to me

All images © Anita C. Miller

Two Versions of Fall

“Fall” (version 1), oil on board, 6″ x 6″, © Anita C. Miller

This version was painted over and ended up as the following (which I think I also painted over).

I will use them as studies for a larger piece, perhaps.

“Fall” (version 2), 6″ x 6″, oil on board, © Anita C. Miller

Painting Horses

cave painting from Altamira Cave in northern Spain

When I was in college I got to see these cave paintings firsthand and I remember being in awe of them.  I was a Spanish major for a brief time (art came much later after college) and I was very fortunate to take a month long trip to Spain with others at my college.  It was my first trip abroad and so exciting!

I also remember spending some time at the Prado in Madrid and seeing these HUGE Diego Velazquez paintings!  He’s always been one of my favorite painters.  This was in the early ’70’s and I have not been back since.  It’s definitely on my bucket list to go again!

The Count – Duke Olivares on Horseback, 123″ x 97″, Diego Velazquez
Equestrian Portrait of Prince Balthasar Charles, 82″ x 68″, Diego Velazquez

Last September, I traveled to London and saw this beauty in the National Gallery…another huge horse painting.  This was before I even thought about painting horses, but, I realize now that the seed of the idea was planted here.

“Whistlejacket”, 115″ x 97″ , George Stubbs

I’m a great Lucien Freud fan and he was very fond of horses and a good equestrian.  Here are a few of his horse paintings.  I also love how he painted dogs.  His paintings are so sensual and I feel that the animals come alive in them.

“Skewbald Mare”, Lucien Freud, from wikipedia
It’s tough being an artist’s model – that horse looks beat!

And even though I could show numerous other examples, I’ll end with a very recent show of Joe Andoe’s horses.

This last one is bordering on the sentimental, but is just quirky enough that I like it!


Here’s my latest horse and a detail of the eye.  The eye is like a mini abstract painting and I love painting it.

Finally, I should add that I used to have a horse, and horses were my first passion.  I no longer ride… and now my passion is painting.  As a young girl, I remember trying to draw horses but, I never dreamed I’d be painting them someday.

On a personal note, I wish to dedicate my horse paintings to my father who (for years) took me to the stable, horse  shows, watched me ride at an unheated riding stable (I still see him standing with a glass of blackberry brandy to keep warm!) and basically gave me an ideal childhood.