Saturday, December 14, 2013

Rainbow of Peppers

© Ellen Blonder
Before a predicted frost, the generous owners of Draper Farms in San Anselmo, California, allowed members to harvest what was left of the peppers and tomatoes. We brought home a rainbow. I wanted to remember the peppers with a colored pencil sketch.

The farm is a labor of love, well worth joining if you're in the area. It's a joy to gather vegetables from their beautifully-tended rows, then traipsing home with the bounty.

Friday, December 13, 2013


Foodie break. I made this beet tart the other night, from an excellent blog, Keepin' It Kind, and I just had to share it. The tart crust is phyllo dough, and under the balsamic-drenched roasted beets is a layer of pureed cashew "cheese" with rosemary and lemon. The resulting tart has a shatter-crisp crust, and just enough richness from the cashews to offset the sweet-tart beets. Yum! I'll be making this again.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Big Goat - Final

 © Ellen Blonder
© Ellen Blonder
Finally finished. I decided to stop before overdoing everything. The second photo gives a better sense of the scale of this, and why it took so long to paint.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Big Goat - 18

© Ellen Blonder
I've been working out the orchid structure, frustrating because my key reference shot was blurry and other shots were from different angles. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Big Goat - 17

© Ellen Blonder
I'll still have to do more to the background, but I want to add details to the orchids first. I've waited a long time for this. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Big Goat - 16

© Ellen Blonder
Today, I filled in the thin red flower stalks to the goat's right, and added more detail behind the goat's back.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Big Goat - 15

© Ellen Blonder
I want to keep a misty softness to the background as I start filling in the tree trunks and foliage. Today, I started on the red ti plants on the right. I'm saving the orchids for last.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Big Goat - 14

© Ellen Blonder
I finally finished the plant on the lower left and can move on to the middle and background. The first step was giving the air a soft, misty look. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Big Goat - 13

© Ellen Blonder
Leaf by leaf, this is the last few days of work.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Big Goat - 12

© Ellen Blonder
Working on the smooth-leaved plant in front of the goat is a welcome change after painting all that fur. Only the leaves toward the right are finished.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Big Goat - 11

© Ellen Blonder
Painting fur all day long. I'm two-thirds done down the length of his body, then still need to add highlights and shadow.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Big Goat - 10

© Ellen Blonder
I realized I was already painting the goat's fur way too finely, noodling it in with a 00 brush before I getting the general sweep of all those unruly locks. Today, I roughed it all in with a bigger brush, to refine more gradually.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Big Goat - 9

© Ellen Blonder
I'm filling in the plant on the lower left, in front of the goat. Otherwise, it's hard to judge how light to go with the goat's fur. It doesn't feel like fast progress, until I realize the painting is about four times the area I usually paint. Only the darkest leaves on the bottom are even close to finished.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Big Goat - 8

© Ellen Blonder
The fur is at a point where it looks terrible, with the much of the under color painted, but not the detailed lighter fur over it. It'll be hard to rest until I get it right.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Big Goat - 7

© Ellen Blonder
I've spent the last few days focusing on the lower right side, leaf by leaf, with more and more detail.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Big Goat - 6

© Ellen Blonder
Hard to know what order to paint things, but the bromeliads in the lower right corner wanted attention most, yesterday and today. The leaves aren't done; it's tricky sorting each one apart from the others.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Big Goat - 5

© Ellen Blonder
Hard to spot today's progress, but I worked on underpainting the fur and filling in the grass underfoot.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Big Goat - 4

© Ellen Blonder
Facing the face today, especially those weird goat eyes.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Big Goat - 3

© Ellen Blonder
I wanted to photograph today's progress with my slippers in the picture to give a sense of scale. This one's going to take a while, but at least today I laid washes to cover all that white canvas.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Big Goat Painting - 2

© Ellen Blonder
Roughing in background today, trying to be patient about more careful painting later. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Big Goat Painting - 1

© Ellen Blonder
© Ellen Blonder
I haven't done a big painting in a long time. This one is on a 3 x 4-foot canvas. After a week of sketching in details to scale, I've finally started the underpainting the last couple of days. I spied the goat in a field in Kapa'a earlier this year, and he posed for me obligingly. Painting his long ivory fur is going to be a challenge.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Fierce Fish Fossil

© Ellen Blonder
Last year, I was fascinated by the fossils at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. I have finally gotten to do a sketch of a giant fish from a photograph that I took. I wish I had taken better notes at the time about it, but its fierce demeanor came through, even in its bony fossilized form. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Hibiscus Watercolor

© Ellen Blonder
© Ellen Blonder
© Ellen Blonder
© Ellen Blonder
© Ellen Blonder
In front of the Beach House restaurant in Kauai, a rich orange hibiscus caught my eye. I photographed it months ago, but finally managed to paint it in watercolor. Instead of posting daily progress, I've strung together each day's work in one post to show how I built up the color.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Egrets - Final

© Ellen Blonder
The last time I posted progress on this painting, I felt completely stuck. I took a month off to clean the basement and host house guests. Afterward, I finally could face that the sky needed darkening, as did all three cycads in the background. I also redid the foliage to the left near the smaller egret. This finally feels finished.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

O Canada

© Ellen Blonder
A fun thing about going through and cleaning out old stuff is revisiting art that used to make you think you were hot stuff. This is from fifth grade, age 9 or 10, when I had just discovered how to make letters three-dimensional and shade just the edges of the land masses, much more sophisticated than coloring in all the water.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013


I've been taking a break from painting while doing some much-needed organizing and cleaning up. What's always fun about that chore is discovering things you didn't know or remember you had. Many of the tools here came from my family's farm, and were thrown into boxes when my parents moved years ago. I don't even know how some of these tools function, but I love their beautiful shapes and the workmanship involved in designing and manufacturing them.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Egrets, after Three Weeks' Work

© Ellen Blonder
Changes are harder to see now. I did add a plant to the lower left corner, and spent a lot of time refining the big plant in the middle in front of the birds. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day Foodie Break

© Ellen Blonder
Foodie break for Father's Day to make Nick's favorite semolina cake, also with almond meal, orange, and layers of marzipan and apricot jam under the chocolate icing. Let me know if you want the recipe. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Egrets, Days 16 and 17

© Ellen Blonder
The last couple of days have been slow, gradually shading the feathers on the egret on the right. Once it was done, I decided to refine the branch coming in from the right. Next I'll add light and shadow to it. The lower left corner remains unresolved.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Egrets, Days 14 and 15

© Ellen Blonder
Progress feels slow as I paint in the grass and add details to the foreground plants. As I do, I also need to adjust the whites in the egret feathers. I'm not sure yet what to add to the lower left corner, if anything.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Egrets, Day 13

© Ellen Blonder
Try as I might, I never seem to be able to lay something out in final form from the start. I thought I'd be putting two egrets in a grassy field, but it looked flat and boring. Today, I started "planting" a garden for them instead.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Egrets, Day 12

© Ellen Blonder
I had originally intended to put the egrets in a grassy field, but I can't seem to help myself adding other plants. I'm just getting started.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Egrets, Day 11

© Ellen Blonder
After a week and a half of houseguests, I'm finally painting again, mostly refining the shading on feathers and darkening legs and grass.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Egrets, Days 9 and 10

© Ellen Blonder
Big changes. I read an article recently about a relaxed brain being necessary to making intuitive decisions, so I went for a walk to try to figure out what was bothering me about this painting. I realized the egrets were too much the same scale, making the whole painting feel flat. I redrew the one on the left, and moved it away from the foreground. I'm still not sure if this is going to work, but it feels better.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Egrets, Day 8

© Ellen Blonder
More work on the leaves today. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Egrets, Day 7

© Ellen Blonder
Slowly filling in leaf details. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Egrets, Day 6

© Ellen Blonder
Today was about adding details to the cycad trunks and darkening the background.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Egrets, Day 5

© Ellen Blonder
At the end of a day painting leaves, I wanted to give a trunk some dimension. There's no way to paint this without simplifying drastically. The birds have to be painted later; they're going to look rough for a while.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Egrets, Day 4

© Ellen Blonder
Filling in leaves... This is going to take a while.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Egrets, Day 3

© Ellen Blonder
For a change, I'm going to try painting the leaves in back before the ones in front, so I don't have to paint in between so much. Much of the cycad on the right will be covered eventually.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Egrets, Day 2

© Ellen Blonder
Figuring out the right shade of blue for the sky before I get too far on the cycad leaves. The leaves that I started are way too bright, and the values of the blue and green are too close.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Egrets, Day 1

© Ellen Blonder
Our Kauai friends let me know when they were power-mowing their field so I could take reference photos for a cow egret painting. I've long noticed them flocking to any mowing equipment, which must agitate all the bug life to create a feast. I ended up taking over 200 photographs, although many were a blur.

I've been sketching from the photos for a while, and had a whole separate layout that included nine birds, but I settled on this, with two birds because if felt like a stronger layout. Here's the sketch transferred to a 22 x 27-inch canvas with the first part of underpainting. I plan to put several cycads in the background.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Plant Study

© Ellen Blonder
Does anyone know the name of this plant? I saw it growing in a large pot in Kauai, and loved its colorful ribbon-like leaves. This is a colored pencil study of it from my sketchbook.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Speckled Rooster - Final

© Ellen Blonder
I always seem to do the background last. One of these days I should lay something out completely before I begin painting, but I don't seem to work that way naturally. I'm happy putting this rooster in a lusher environment that where I found him, wandering around a strip mall parking lot where we went to pick up a take-out dinner in Kapa'a.