Toned underpainting


acrylic and collage on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

The hand that holds the rose opens.

Can you smell that scent which captures the heart?

It often happens in my classes where free expression and an abundance of enthusiasm mixes with paint and inks applied in robust fashion – it all blends on the paper to make a single value “soup”.  For that reason it’s so important to know how to used opaque passages as well as transparent glazes to finish a piece.

This piece was the demo for a lesson I created to give us tools to combine beautiful neutrals with high chroma pigments.  Start with one primary color painted all over and let dry.  Here it’s red, obviously.  Then mix the complement with that color to get a lovely neutral.  Here it is blue-green.  Paint on a shape with the dark neutral, and before it is dry, spray with alcohol to get texture which reveals the under-color.

Mix the neutral with gesso for a lighter shape and paint that over.  Scrape out shapes while it is wet.  Paint a dark transparent glaze (lower left) to see how the under-color glows through.  I borrowed the lovely toned photograph of a rose from my husband for collage and subject matter.

The Monday Muse students did some fabulous pieces in the lesson, all very different and original.  At some point I will have the time to do a student slide show to share!

If you want to jump in and try a class, I have a space in the next Saturday workshop, March 7!  And I’m signing people up now for the next session of monthly Saturday workshops.  For more information visit my website.


Ready for the Red Carpet

Since I took my Party Chick paintings over for the show at Corrick’s Gallery in Santa Rosa I’ve been missing them.  And luckily a new flock flew into my studio just in time for the Academy Awards tonight.  I wonder what the fashion critics will have to say about their sense of style!


#1 – Acrylic and “skins” on canvas, 12″ X 12″

I do hope you’ll help me with names!  I haven’t gotten that far yet and could definitely use ideas.







And of course they would love it if you pretended you were an Academy member and voted for your favorite!


Pocket sketching



Tombow pen and watercolor in Pentalic Nature Sketch journal 7 X 5″

These days sketching the figure in public almost always involves an electronic device.  Good thing actually, because it renders the figure (the human being) into at least a temporarily frozen state.  While waiting for my car to be serviced I discovered that this was true even for a very squirmy child.. . at least for a minute or two!


The woman next to me, of a different generation was frozen in position by the archaic form of entertainment, the printed page, making her an excellent subject for a slow pen drawing.


Pitt Artist pen and watercolor in Moleskin pocket sketchbook

Another day recently I was at a photography opening for the work of my husband and other photographers. I sat down with my glass of wine to wait for him. Four preteen boys blew in with their skateboards and iPhones and plopped down right opposite me.  Of course I am somewhat invisible to people that age, so I brazenly whipped out my pen and book.  I did eventually “get caught” by the youngest one, but he was friendly and appreciative and thoroughly charming.


I have been listening to the news of course and feel a little sheepish showing this sketch when my east coast friends are in the deep freeze!  I am very empathetic and wish I could send a bit of sunshine your way.


A Day at U. C. Berkeley


Pitt Artist brush pen, watercolor in 7.75 X 9.75″ watercolor journal (dble page)

A day of brilliant weather, a chance to have lunch with my son and his friends, a good friend to sketch with. . .does it get any better?  We were so happy to be on this campus, which always feels a bit like the center of the universe with people of all nationalities and persuasions and lifestyles passing by each moment along with memories of history, demonstrations, a hive of social conscience.  So we sat on a wall by Sather Gate, in the warm winter sun, and jumped right in.  I’ve been wanting to practice architectural sketching, or at least to discover quick versions, so this seemed like a good spot.  But after a few minutes we were both groaning about the complexity of the scene.  And the sun which was getting too hot.  It’s always easier in theory.


Tombow water soluble pen and watercolor

So we moved to the shade of a dining hall deck for some people sketching.  And what a gold mine it was!  There were enough young people coming and going that when one figure you were sketching moved, you could just wait til another similar one sat down to tack on the missing leg or hand.  And then there were the people on computer, who are an easy mark for the pen.  I find myself making up stories about who they are and what they are doing.  What I hadn’t guessed was that all the young students dressed in ties and dresses (not the normal berkeley school attire) were high schoolers from around the country who were there for a debate contest.  This we learned when one of them from Utah sat down with us to see the sketches and fill us in.


Tombow pen and watercolor

After lunch with Andrew and friends and a fascinating tour of the Environmental Design building on campus, we settled down for some more mind numbing lines and angles and perspective.  Fun?  I’m not sure.  Good for me? Undoubtedly.But the coffee shop across the street beckoned with afternoon treats. Too tired for more sketching and anticipating the drive back to the country, I wolfed down a piece of carrot cake, drank my iced coffee and we called it a day.


Love Birds


acrylic and collage on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

Cooing and kissing, these love birds tip together,

fluffing feathers to the beat of all the love songs ever sung.

They inch sideways one way, and then another.

They’ve done this dance before and know it well.

Even when the music stops, they continue well into the night.

Coo coo, kiss, kiss. 

Darling, you make my heart sing and my tail feathers rustle.

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Cozy up.


Gilt bearer


acrylic inks, gesso, collage, tracing paper transparency on 10 X 11″ w/c paper

gilt bearer of Florence

wears the burden of his craft heavily

proceeds despite the dangers of over-working

more paint!  more line!  more gold!  more layers!

maybe the brush will know where to go next round

maybe the glow will assert itself finally

and all will be redeemed

This is a good example of starting out with one intention and ending up somewhere else. We were playing with the idea of using transparent overlays over the painted surface in Muse Group. Using tracing paper we “borrowed” a line drawing from a source using permanent pen, then glued it with gel medium over a painting so that the painting would show through (as in an image transfer)  I used Michaelangelo’s sculpture of the “reclining adolescent” as my source, traced it, and collaged it onto a painted surface.

And then the little art-store-junky voice in my head kept giving me ideas of where to go from there.  Since I have a frightfully large collection of materials, there was no end to the suggestions.  And truly this is why I’m a mixed media artist.

And so . . . I needed more red and then gold and then well maybe some Interference Blue, but no, then I needed the dip pen and black ink and back to more gold, but then it was getting too dark and I called on the gesso and then. . .until eventually, with exhausted satisfaction, my gilt bearer was birthed.




“Angelus”, Acrylic and collage on textured canvas, 10″X 30″

Most of us feel the need to call on angels at times.  One dark and gloomy day during the holidays I went out to my studio feeling leaden and a bit oppressed.  I wanted to paint angels. I could almost see the radiant garments and wanted to touch them with my brush.  It felt like an indulgence that might lift my spirits. I started with some gesso and molding paste texture and then painted lavishly with new “patina” mixtures, iridescents and rich darks.


“Angelus II”

Both angels hung above the sink in my studio for a while before flying off to the home of a buyer. Now I’m left with a blank wall and a strong desire to paint more Angelus (Latin for angel).

In conversations with the Muse I mix paint with vision, collage with story, word with meditation and prayer. And out of the mixture comes a release of energy and healing and a lightening of the load of everyday living. You'll find most of it here, where I've been showing up for the past few years, along with collectible paintings, travel sketchbooks, figure studies and an invitation to join me in art play and discovery!

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By Susan Cornelis


All images and text are the original copyrighted work of Susan Cornelis unless otherwise attributed.


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