Saturday, July 19, 2014

On Location Lesson 1...Choosing Your Subject

On Location...Lesson 1

Tips for Choosing Your Subject

All the Painters at work in St. Chamarand, France

Painting on location is one of my favorite things to do!  In preparation for my next trip with students to Tuscany Sept. 27-Oct 4, 2014, I thought I'd begin a series of posts oriented toward helping you get great photos and pick where you should paint when you're out of the studio and on location, or "en plein air" as they say in France.  This first lesson gives some hints on to how to frame your shot. Whether you're a photographer, or a guerrilla painter, hopefully you'll find food for thought here...
St. Chamarand, France
Vue de la Rue- St. Chamarand, France
11x15 watercolor- Rebecca Zdybel

When on location, deciding on your subject...what to paint and how to paint it can be difficult.   Once you find an interesting subject, the next decision you face is how to frame your subject to best advantage?  These are some good questions to ask yourself:
  • What angle will you use? 
  • Where is the best view? 
  • Will your subject be most interesting viewed from head on, from the side, from below, or from above? (hint: look for interesting shapes and angles)
  • How much time do you have to paint or draw?  (if not much: then pick something simple.)
  • Is there a good pattern of lights and darks?
  • What interesting features do you want to highlight?
  • Is there shade or a place to sit and be comfortable? 
  • Where is the nearest bathroom? This is NOT A JOKE, lol!
  • Do you hear thunder?  Also NOT a joke...Take shelter!  (I learned this the hard way right after the photo b!)
Setting up to paint in St. Cirque la Popie-
Don't ignore gathering Dark clouds even if it's bright and sunny...
Needless to say, I didn't get very far before we had to RUN for shelter!

Hint: Use Your camera as a Viewfinder

If you have a subject which excites you and you're not sure whether or not it will make a good painting...TAKE A PHOTO. It used to be that artists would carry little cardboard viewfinders in their bag, but these days, we all have cameras.  Cameras have essentially made it unnecessary to bring an extra viewfinder.

When possible, make an effort to view your subject from multiple perspectives through your camera.  Assess your photos, and then let the best photo help you decide how to compose your painting.  Digital cameras, phones, and iPads or tablets make this easy.  
(I have found that tablet screens e.g. iPads are very difficult to see in the bright sunlight.  They are also cumbersome as camera's...often taking a long time to focus and shoot).  

Scene from Gigouzac, France (Landscape orientation)

Same scene- Gigouzac, France portrait orientation with sunshine
Once you find the right vantage point and get ready to begin your sketch, here's another TO DO LIST:

  • I will frequently take a photo with my iPad if I have it.  Sometimes I use it onsite as a quick reference to begin my drawing.  
  • ALWAYS TAKE A PHOTO ONCE YOU ARE SEATED AND BEGIN YOUR DRAWING.  This will record your unique seated perspective for future reference if you need to alter your sketch or complete it once you get back in the studio.  Remember: If you take a photo while standing, your horizon will be at standing eye level.  If you sit down, the seated position lowers the horizon line and changes all perspective lines. 
  • TAKE ANOTHER PHOTO IF THE LIGHT IMPROVES OR CHANGES.  (Shadows change, and some light patterns are more interesting than others.)

In my next installment I'll give you some tips on solving some of the perspective problems which can arise on location.  Subscribe to this blog so you'll get them delivered to you as soon as they're posted. 

Thanks to those who have been leaving me comments.  I really enjoy hearing from you!

Rebecca Zdybel
Artist, Instructor, Art-Travel Instructor
Art Lessons in all media
Myrtle Beach, SC

Spread Light, Share Love, DO Art!

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Angelic Warrior Joins Me to Fight Arthritis!

Children have a wonderful way of being open to ideas and welcoming of new experiences without expectations.  Think about it...we all began that way! Yesterday, I was reminded of how fabulous it can be to experience painting with the heart of a child.  Join us for this fun watercolor art lesson.  It's great for young kids or the "young at heart".  

It was my privilege to participate in the SC Arthritis Foundation's Fundraising Project for 2014. I was asked to work with a child from Myrtle Beach who has been diagnosed with arthritis.  My role was to help her develop a piece of art which could be sold for fundraising purposes.  With that in mind, I met this little Art Angel...

Arianna Sanchez is READY!!!

This little Art angel is a warrior!  

She is in a battle with arthritis.  

But she is not about to let that stop her!

She came to my studio along with her sweet mom and brother, and we set off to CREATE something!
Perhaps you'll enjoy her journey as an artist and want to share it with a child in your life.  In fact, maybe your Inner Child will be so inspired that you may want to give it a try...I hope so!  We all had fun with it, and you may too...
Rebecca Shows Arianna some of the materials they will use
I showed her some of the materials and gave her lots of verbal instruction. Given her age, I approached it as a color exercise.  Our First Step: Crayon lines as "wax-resist"... we made random lines and got loosened up with some mark making on the page. 
Adding a bit of yellow watercolor
Then I had her use large hake brushes and with a pure lemon yellow color, she created a winding path of yellow on a wet piece of watercolor paper.  You can't see the crayon lines, but they added some "resist" to the watercolor, creating white or relatively light lines. 

Setting a pure Manganese blue in beside the yellow and then helping it find a path to the edge was the next step. Try not to mix the colors, just set them next to one another. As I often say: 

"Water paints better than I ever could."

Next comes blue and then comes pink!
Along the way, I had her note what colors resulted when blue merged with yellow (green).  Then we added some pretty Opera Pink, but the stipulation was...add it next to any color except "Green".   When she added the pink, we noted what color resulted when it merged with Blue (purple)  and when it merged with yellow (orange). She and her brother had big fun naming the colors and figuring out where she could put them.

We continued to add strong mixes of watercolor, all the while placing colors next to one another rather than mixing them together.  Instead, we sprayed with water to encourage their mixing.  We continued our guessing game about what color would result from our additions.  We added Winsor Red, and avoided placing it next to "Greens".  We added American Journey's Arctic Ice, but avoided placing it next to "Orange". Then one at a time, with instructions of what colors to avoid, we added more pink, blue and yellow.  (Avoiding the complementary colors helps to keep the colors bright.)  As she did her additions, a variety of beautiful colors emerged on the paper.

How about some RED! 
Once the page was full of color, we added some salt for texture in places where the paper was not as "shiny".  At least for a while, we were able to restrain the application of salt to the dry areas...then it was so much fun pouring salt, that things got a bit salty!  But that's ok, we have to let go and have some fun along the way, right?!

Then it was time to paint with the blow dryer.  Some of the deep wells of color could be moved in lines with the force of the blow dryer.  Things also need to dry before we could move on...soooooo
Painting with the blow dryer!

After blow-drying our paper, and blow-drying her brother, and lest we forget, of course we had to blow-dry mom... 
After everything was dry, we ended up with a beautiful bright page full of color and texture.

Next came the lines....To add the lines, we made big sweeping gestures with Elmers Glue.  Once the lines travelled around the paper, we added more salt...(oh yesssssss!) but we did so by pinching a bit between our fingers and dropping it directly into the wet glue lines.  Here we are doing this step.  (Since Arianna's arms were a bit short for our big painting, I gave her a had with the glue)  We all helped put salt into the wet glue.

Once the glue lines were salted, we set about adding the same colors next to one another along the lines.  This requires a gentle touch.  Simply touching the glue lines with a loaded soft brush full of paint works best.  There were so many lines that Big Brother, Christian needed to lend a hand!

Beautiful colored lines begin to form all over the much fun!

Then it was time to get out the blow-dryer out mom!

After drying completely,  it was time to do a little coloring with American Journey Watercolor Sticks.  They are a fun water media product that goes on like a crayon, and dissolves like watercolor.  Arianna used those to intensify some of her colors and create a few strategic dark shapes.  I limited her choices to ones which would keep her out of color trouble, and encouraged her to search out a shapes that had been formed by the lines we had created. I had her color till she was tired of coloring in each shape, and then spread the color the rest of the way  with a wet brush.  She liked being able to quit on a shape when she felt like it, and just letting the water do the rest...

Once she had a page full of beautiful colors and lines, I thought giving her composition a calm border might be nice.  So together, we added a white acrylic border along the edge.  
 Finally, the painting needed her signature.  She looked at the piece from all directions and decided which way it should hang.  I suggested a place for her to sign it and she used 2 pieces of paper as a guide for placement, and for how large to write her signature.  I had her use graphite, to make it easy to write her name.  She did it perfectly! 
"Keep On the Sunny Side" Painting by Arianna Sanchez
Mixed media of Watercolor and Acrylic on Paper.  18"X24"
Painting will be available for sale 
Don't you just love her painting?  Comment here and I will share those comments with Our Art Angel and her sweet family.  If you're inspired to help her and other kids like her, join us in the fight against Arthritis, and attend the Masquerade Event in Charleston, SC follow this link:

August 3  Gallery Show to celebrate each piece created this year at Lowcountry Artists Gallery 1-3pm Charleston, SC

September 6 D'Vine Affair Masquerade Gala Benefitting the Arthritis Foundation. at Memminger Auditorium  Theme: Masquerade--Faces of Arthritis7 pm
Charleston, SC

Rebecca Zdybel
Artist, Instructor, Art-Travel Instructor
Art Lessons in all media
Myrtle Beach, SC

Spread Light, Share Love, DO Art!

Feel free to share any of this blog post on your own blog or website, but I ask that you you include:
Rebecca Zdybel is an artist and instructor in Myrtle Beach, SC.  Follow her and see her work at

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Cave Art Mystery!

The mysteries just keep on getting bigger!  Cave paintings similar to those found in Europe have been found high in the cliffs of the Great South African Escarpment.  REALLY?!  How is that explainable?

If you are as intrigued by all this as I am, be sure you read my previous post, and then you may enjoy this video...Let me know what you think~

Let me hear from you! I'd love to know your theories...
Ancient Apparitions -Watercolor, acrylic gesso, ink on paper  11X15 $300
Rebecca Zdybel

Rebecca Zdybel
Artist, Instructor, Art-Travel Instructor
Art Lessons in all media
Myrtle Beach, SC

Spread Light, Share Love, DO Art!

Feel free to share any of this blog post on your own blog or website, but I ask that you you include:
Rebecca Zdybel is an artist and instructor in Myrtle Beach, SC.  Follow her and see her work at

"Like" my facebook page: Rebecca Zdybel- Artist
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Sunday, June 1, 2014

Cave Paintings at Cougnac and Pechmerle

France: Cougnac and Pechmerle Caves-  Go and GO SOON!
A page from my trip journal...

Sometimes the things you see on a vacation are a complete surprise. These caves were fantastically surprising!  The definition of great art for me, is a painting that intrigues me, with mystery or a sense of story that draws me in and captivates me. These caves and their paintings have all that and more...  

Talk about other-worldly!  The caves of France are incredible and a MUST SEE, as far as I'm concerned.  Cougnac caves are near Le Vieux Couvent in Frayssinet, which was our home base.  Pechmerle is also nearby. Once I experienced the Cougnac caves, I vowed to see as many others as possible.  Thankfully, a small group of us took another trip and made the effort to see Pechmerle while in France.  Thanks to Karlyn Holman for helping us to make that arrangement!  It was another moving glimpse into our connection with artists from our ancient past.

Cougnac Caves-

The idea of artists painting in caves is not news.  We've all heard about it, but experiencing it is another thing entirely!  I thought the drawings would be like frescoes or decorations which might be found just inside the door or cave entrance.  Well I couldn't have been more wrong!  First of all, there's no door.  Second of all, it was an incredible effort just to make your way to the place where the first artists created  their paintings.

The artists who decorated the walls of ancient caves were painting with saliva and ground minerals approximately 25-30,000 years ago! Imagine's awe inspiring and difficult to even comprehend.  What that means is that art was an impulse and a form of expression present in our earliest ancestors.  Homo sapiens were vying for domination of the humanoid species, but Cromagnun man (and woman!) may have been among the first artists.  In fact, published research from 2013 indicates that the MAJORITY of cave painters were female! How about that?! We didn't hear about the female artists during our tours of the caves, but my research confirms this factoid. Since handprints were often found as part of the imagery in the caves, researchers have done analysis and come to the conclusion that over 60% of the paintings were likely done by females.   GO GIRLS!  (look for this research described in publications dated October-2013 including Smithsonian magazine and elsewhere)

Some of the images are wild, and make you wonder if they might represent fantasy creatures.  Many are images of now extinct animals. You'll find wooly Mammoths, and deer with huge "moose-like" horns, as well as spotted horses in these ancient paintings.
Scientists speculate that these leopard spotted horses may actually have been in existence during these paleolithic times!  Maybe early relatives of appaloosa or paint breeds? (my non-scientific speculation) 

One of the artists may have even been an early relative of Kilroy (just kidding!).  Like the Kilroy graffiti which GI's left behind at places they visited, there is an odd geometric/avian symbol found in a few different ancient cave sites in France.  Some of the sites are more than 30 Km apart from one another.  This means that one artist got around to various sites, or that various artists found meaning in  that same symbol.  That meaning has been lost to us over the thousands of years since it was made, but here it is below:

The art is obviously practiced, and was done without photos or real subjects for reference.  To create these images, we all agreed that the paintings we viewed were not the work of a novice.  The artist had obviously painted these images many times in order to be so certain with their lines.  Sometimes the contours of the rock would be used to advantage of the image.

It was not possible to peek around the corner and see their subject either...there was no running outside to get a look at what they were painting.  The sites where they painted were often circuitous,treacherous  routes which were only reached by winding your way through stalagmites and stalactite  riddled passages and multiple tunnels, often about half a football field underground.  That seems to rule out the idea of a carcass being nearby for reference.  These images were done from memory.  Impressive!

Each painting must have been executed by the light of a small hand held oil lamp made out of rock.  I kept thinking...what if they ran out of oil?  How would they ever find their way out?  No one would ever hear you if you called for help.  The pathway was treacherous, filled with stalagmites and stalactites.  The path was also winding and a long distance from the surface in order to get to the chambers where they painted. No rope would be long enough to mark the trail.  Cave bears inhabited the caves, so if you got past them and didn't break your neck on the way, you had better be sure you didn't run out of oil!  Finding your way out would have taken more than a trail of bread crumbs!  Yikes!
stalactites drip limestone from above and form the stalagmite below

The caves are in danger of contamination from visitors.  Our breath and the contamination from our fingers introduce changes which threaten the environment of the caves.The real Lescaux caves have been closed to visitors, and all you can see now is an exacting replica.  I've heard it's wonderful, but seeing the real thing at Cougnac and Pechmerle may be something future generations may not be able to do.

That's why I say, "GO!", and "GO SOON!"  Enjoy these photos, but understand that they DO NOT do the real experience any justice. The environment is mystical and imparts a sense of the supernatural to these ancient works of art.  I found myself wondering if Gaudi may have visited these caves and been inspired to create his drippy style of architecture found in the Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona...What do you think??

We could not take photos of the art while in the caves, but we could photograph the rock formations.  My photos of the rocks were done while I was underground, but my only record from the cave paintings are the quick sketches I did while in their presence.   Thankfully, the internet allows me to share these photos of the actual cave paintings here.  I used my sketches of the images while in the caves in order to do a painting which was inspired by all that I saw.   A photo of that painting is below.   I can't wait to introduce this subject to my students as an interesting and playful lesson for us to paint together in the studio when I get back home...
Ancient Apparitions -Watercolor, acrylic gesso, ink on paper  11X15 $300
Rebecca Zdybel

Let me hear from you! I look forward to your comments.

Rebecca Zdybel
Artist, Instructor, Art-Travel Instructor
Art Lessons in all media
Myrtle Beach, SC

Spread Light, Share Love, DO Art!

Feel free to share any of this blog post on your own blog or website, but I ask that you you include:
Rebecca Zdybel is an artist and instructor in Myrtle Beach, SC.  Follow her and see her work at

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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Le Vieux Couvent- Frayssinet, France

Le Vieux Couvent- Where Artists Come to Play (and enjoy good food!)

Walk in the gates and expect to be transported... immediately you have a sense of walking into a "Secret Garden".  Every corner is seemingly composed as if to be painted or photographed.  Corinne Campbell and her partner Bill Boychuk, have transformed a compound of historic houses within the small French village of Frayssinet, and formed an artists' retreat.   

This lovely place was conceived as a destination for artists by the warm and welcoming hostess Corrinne. Her husband Bill, and their son also help to manage things. A small and friendly staff helps cook and clean.  

Check out a few of my photos from the grounds...Don't you see a potential painting in every one!

And have I mentioned the food??  With greens often picked fresh from the garden, Corinne has a mediterranean slant on her French cuisine.  Our breakfast was included each day, with lunch prepared for us most days.  
Prosciutto and Melon with Port wine reduction

The food is beautiful and delicious

The bridge at Cahors
The staff even prepared a classic picnic with linens and wine for our market day.  Our picnic was on the shore of the river in Cahors.  Such fun! 
Enjoying a picnic on the riverbank after a morning at the market.

At 6PM we always enjoyed aperitifs to accompany our critique of paintings from the day.  Somehow we were always ready!
Joel arrives with our aperitifs as the bells in the church chime 6PM
Our celebration supper- isn't it beautiful?!

Lunch and dinners were always inclusive of local wines.  And I have to mention the French cheese course and dessert.  Yummmmm! 

The cheese course is a regular part of ending our meals...just before dessert!

We actually do more than just eat here too...The art studio is spacious and well lit for artists to set up and leave their materials at their work tables. The room is great for both daytime and nighttime painting (important for night-owls like me!) They also have portable chairs to take with you on location, as well as extra umbrellas and boards for use as supports.  There are lots of large tables, a heater and a sink in the studio.   It makes working in the studio very comfortable.  The extra supplies can lighten your packing requirements too.  

Located in the village of Frayssinet, Le Vieux Couvent is well located for day-trips to many beautiful and authentic French villages in their region of the Dordogne.  This time of year, the poppies are beginning to blossom, but we did not see fields full of them.  However, the iris and jacaranda trees are in their full glory.   Enjoy these photos and let me know if you are interested in joining me for a future trip to Le Vieux Couvent!  I can't wait to return...

Let me hear from you! I read every comment and it means a lot to know you are out there reading.

Rebecca Zdybel
Artist, Instructor, Art-Travel Instructor
Art Lessons in all media
Myrtle Beach, SC

Spread Light, Share Love, DO Art!

Feel free to share any of this blog post on your own blog or website, but I ask that you you include:
Rebecca Zdybel is an artist and instructor in Myrtle Beach, SC.  Follow her and see her work at

"Like" my facebook page: Rebecca Zdybel- Artist
Join me on Google+ Rebecca Zdybel Google+ Profile

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