Still Life Under Pressure

The Learning Continues...Ala Prima

(first published April 5, 2008, edited 9/25/2017)



Vicki Ross Blue Pitcher.jpg

Note: 09/26/17 The Wild, Wild, West of the internet in 2008. It was all new...Facebook was just hitting its stride.

This blog 'stuff' is still new to all of us! Be sure you click on the links from your FeedBlitz email to go to the actual blog page (the one with the pretty green border).

I promised me not to get obsessed with blogging, to not let it take away from painting, or to bore my subscribers with my trivia. But once a week would be good, and I missed last week!

Am driving an hour to Pineville, MO to study with Theresa Rankin, for as long as she continues to teach there. Can't drive 2 hours! Talk about a workout! THREE still life setups in 5 hours. 

This technique in oil is 'Alla Prima' or all at once. As I experiment with it, and study Richard Schmid's books, I am realizing that you HAVE to be familiar with your basic pigment colors or 'palette' and what they do with each other. I'm fascinated with the drippy backgrounds I've gotten. 

Vicki Ross crystal still life.jpg

While the different mediums (pastel, watercolor, oil) are vastly different in range of application, there is a similarity or overlap in this transparent loose technique. You find it in Charles Reid's watercolors, Ramon Kelly's figurative, John Howard Sanden's portraits, Albert Handell's pastels and Richard Schmid's landscapes. A common element is the 2-3 hour painting, loose expressive backgrounds, and a definite 'mark of the artist'.

Watercolor is known for being a challenge with using the pigments suspended in a wet passage where they mix somewhat, but retain some of their individuality. Modern pastelists have a range of papers that will take the abuse of water or turpentine washes that dissolve the dry pastel pigment, and can provide a look similar to the oil technique I'm enjoying. I might have to explore this theory further in the next few weeks.


Love Me Some Color Charts

The Learning Continues...Color Charts

(first published April 15, 2008, edited 9/20/2017)



Being one of those 'fortunate' people who is equally at home working out of each side of my brain, this exercise was right up my alley! Left Brain: analytical, math, computer. Right Brain: creative, dreamer, ARTIST. Sometimes it takes time to shut off my left brain so my right brain can enjoy the creative process. One trick I use is to have my iPod earphones IN MY EARS. For some strange reason my left brain (control freak/little bossy voice) listens to the music instead of barking orders or cautions to me while painting. Music playing through speakers is too easily tuned out. Listening to audio books or podcasts helps too.

SO, as I investigated the much recommended modern master painter, Richard Schmid and his fabulous book 'Alla Prima' I decided to follow his suggestion and painted the color charts using his choice of pigments...11 of them. On 12 pieces of canvas, you end up with 660 different tints of color...over a 5 step value plan.

Both brains had a ball...the left keeping me organized so i would mix the right pigments in the right order...the right having as much fun as a kid in a candy store marveling over all the 'preddy kolors'. Finished all 13 in 3 that is an example of left brain obsession!

BUT, let's TAKE IT UP A NOTCH...BAM! I (or probably my left brain) didn't want the fun to stop, so I started over with Ann Templeton's 16 pigments...17 sheets, 1360 color tints.

The absolute beauty of these colors is that they are all mixed with pure pigment...only 2 pigments (different colors) and white. Clean, Fresh, Exciting! 

Worked on these one day in an art group I go to, and was told by a couple artists that I was wasting my time. Of course, Richard Schmid's paintings are in major museums and collections, and he does these periodically himself. 

Ultimately you will learn how to mix these without your cheat sheets, but in the meantime they are a wonderful tool.


Cow, Sheep, Pig, Rocks

The Learning Continues...French Treasure

(first published September 2, 2008, edited 9/20/2017)



French Village

One of our last days on our first French trip, Kippy (Hammond, LaBonneEtoile) suggested on a whim that we pile in the van and go paint somewhere close. A few of us nearly knocked each other down to get to the van.

Kippy took us to a little village, where there was a charming landscape scene just begging to be captured. I named it 'Cows in France', but it was nicknamed 'Cow-sheep-pig-rocks in France' (Kippy knows how to keep me in check). 

As we were painting, one of the village women came up and asked Kippy if we would like to see inside the little building we were using for shade. Curious, we were all for it.

Inside this natural stone/stucco building were three statues carved by the town's famous son. The statue of his mother has a bronze head.

I've painted the statue of the mother and child several times in silverpoint and in oil. 

P.S. Do  me a favor and click thru to the blog post. I'm studying numbers and click through rates.





Art is Timeless #4 Musings

The Learning Continues...

(first published August 31, 2008, edited 9/5/2017)


THESE ramblings IN YOUR Box

I'm including this post because I want you to have a better understanding of my journey to understand art. var

Just trying to catch up on a few emails (200 I saved for later in the past few weeks). I've had a conversation with several of my arty friends about 'Figurative' as opposed to 'Portraiture'. Somehow I had figured it out all by myself to mean something totally different than what Katherine Tyrrell says in her blog.

I had tried to discuss this with Kippy Hammond (my French friend from Atlant one day...and failed miserably. My definition was that portraiture was of a child in a hand-smocked dress or little button on shorts, white dress shoes, halo of light behind their head...or a supreme court justice in his robes...Figurative in my mind was a profile of an attitude, or the impressionistic nude's back, or a casual people scene.

Boy, was I ever wrong according to Katherine! Must do some more study on this...



Art is Timeless #3

The Learning Continues...

(first published December 26, 2008, edited 9/5/2017)


With a HUGE workshop coming up next week with Leslie B. DeMille, I did one of my days at my art cooperative, Poor Richard's Art in Rogers, AR. We had a steady stream of people today.

Bill, wife of one of the owners (yeah, ya heard me right) solid as a to be with, and a good judge of character. I love being in the shop with him. We have so much fun with customers..harassing them, playing like we don't even like each other...firing each other...and the customers LOVE it.

Attitude 24x12", pastel, ©Axully, V.N.Ross, Collected

Bill fell in love with one of my paintings of a Black Woman I named 'Attitude'. It was from a photo Randy took while we were on our vacation (?) in CapeTown, South Africa the first xmas after our bad stuff. (if you don't know about our bad stuff, you'll just have to search the web about it).

Anyway, Bill was always attracted to this painting because it reminded him of a woman who helped caretake him and his siblings with good homecooked food and appropriate discipline. He always talks about how much he is drawn to this painting. Even today after he bought it and it was hanging in their house.

I told him I had done a self-portrait and he wanted to see that.

SO, I took the SP in today and had show 'n tell. Put it on a counter where I was working on the silverpoint of the statue in France (see previous blog). Forgot about i sitting on the countert.

Now HERE is the story. A customer and family came in and loved the shop. Mom and Pop and the 2 sons absorbed every artist in the shop. As is the custom, when offered a complimentary soft drink or fancy coffee, Mom accepted. She had already visited with the others working in the shop...but for some reason kept surepticiously (that is sneaky in arkansas-talk and I'm too lazy to look it up) at me. We chitchattyed a minute or 2, and she moved on down the aisle.

She burst out laughing, at herself. Caught my eye and said she had just had a blonde moment. I asked why, and she said she was trying to figure out why I looked so familiar, where she knew me from...and then realized she had seen my self-portrait earlier in their visit!

Made MY day! guess I caught my likeness.

If ya are lucky, I'll post a photo tomorrow...



Art Is Timeless The Very First Post

The beginning

The Learning Continues...

(first published March 3, 2008, edited 9/5/2017)

New stuff coming…watch this space

This is the inaugural edition of our new blog. Please follow along as whatever strikes our fancy to write about will appear here. Who knows, we may include adventures from trips we've taken to Italy, France and South just never know about us!

Email Invitation_VickiB.jpg

On Friday, March 7, 2008, Vicki Ross will be the featured artist at Julie Wait Designs in Historic Downtown Rogers, AR. The show is sponsored by Poor Richard's Art on First Street. The artist's reception is from 4-8pm, and will hang through April 25. The art will hang, not the reception or the artist!



The Learning Continues...

(first published December 26, 2008, edited 9/1/2017)

Watch This Space for News from Vicki
Be Sure to give me your email so you will get these in your email

In Dec, 2002, our good friends 'kidnapped' us and insisted we join them on a trip to Cape Town, South Africa. They figured if we were on the other side of the world, the 1 year anniversary of the fire and loss of Sarah would pass a little under our radar...because of the time zones we didn't even know what day it was there.

My first photo in capeTown with my new digital camera!

My first photo in capeTown with my new digital camera!

I insisted on having my very own digital camera...Randy kept wanting to take photos for me, but I wanted to learn how to do my own source photos for painting. Had only dabbled with painting for a few months...knew nothing about that OR cameras!

SO, when I got this beautiful flower ALL BY ME, it has always brought a smile to my face...I was so excited when the colors and focus were there. Of course, composition wasn't great, but I'm just sayin'!

Determined then, as now, to become as good an artist as I can be...I spent HOURS looking for watercolor en plein air gear. In November 2002 there was not much available. Finally found a Winsor-Newton mini-kit with pans of w/c paint and a bitty brush. Of course, it did not make it in I made my own. The pigments in that kit are still as fresh as the day I put them in! Went to Hobby Lobby and bought empty paint pots, the ones on a plastic strips with a locking cap. Filled each one with pigment. Added a small tupperware bowl, reusable paper towel, sponge, pencil, eraser, and brushes.

Now, (OF COURSE), my gear is much more brass watercolor palette, ala Charles Reid, was custom made and has my initials on the outside cut out of brass and soldered on. The interior is enamelled. Do I paint better? No. But LOOKING like a real artist is half the battle.

Here is an on location study I did.

Watercolors are so difficult to photograph. the paper always ends up looking dirty.

CapeTown Flower, Watercolor, ©Axully, V.N.Ross. Collected 

CapeTown Flower, Watercolor, ©Axully, V.N.Ross. Collected 

I did a larger version a year or so after the trip, when I had been learning more about how to do this new 'hobby' of mine.

This is the result...and has been collected.



In 2005 or so, I started dabbling in pastels. Love at first sight! Not as problematic as watercolors, but you still have to frame under glass...and worry about pastel particles showing on the glass.


CapeTown Flower, Pastel, 12x15". Axully, V.N.Ross

CapeTown Flower, Pastel, 12x15". Axully, V.N.Ross

Guess I'll never get tired of painting this flower. Maybe some day I'll get tired of it. Maybe not. It was my first photo. It is interesting to see how it looks from watercolor to pastel, and now in oil.

The pastel painting disappeared in the move, and I couldn't believe I didn't have a photo of it before it was framed! So after extensive search of my computer and all archives, I gave up on that and decided to find the painting.This photo is obviously taken with a reflection from the glass.

THAT caused another series of events yesterday. I'm a bit obsessive/compulsive and when I get something on my mind, I dream about it. Josh and I had packed all the framed paintings in my gallery carefully in boxes. There were a few big ones that wouldn't fit our they were hand carried and moved to the new house. The ones I moved are carefully stacked in my garage...out of harms way until we get our hanging system installed.

The ones Josh and I packed were in boxes stacked 3 and 4 high in the future studio (the floored attic just off the family room upstairs. It was 70 degrees yesterday, so I thought it a good day to see if I could find the painting AND empty a few boxes. NOPE, no painting. Went through the ones in my garage twice, Nope.

Finally resigned myself to the fact that the last paintings to leave the old house were the first things in the big garage...and a trailer load of stuff 'n junk piled all around them. Today I found a way to make a path to that stack of paintings AND Voilå! There is was, and I could finish this blog entry.

Thought I was kidding, didn't you? 

Capetown Flower, Oil 8x10", ©Axully, V.N.Ross

Capetown Flower, Oil 8x10", ©Axully, V.N.Ross

Since I've become enamored with oil, guess what I just had to try...YOU GUESSED IT! My Cape Town flower...

Whew. This blog took a bunch of effort. I'm now off to work on my portrait challenge from Different Strokes from Different Folks. Erika Nelson talked me into joining this merry band of artists. I'm looking forward to it.




Art Is Timeless #1

The Learning Continues!

(first published March 26, 2008, edited 9/1/2017)

Watch this space for exciting news!

Texas Hill Country 14x11" oil, ©V.N.Ross

Texas Hill Country 14x11" oil, ©V.N.Ross

OR, the learning is just beginning! After the last blog, the show, and the 2 day workshop with Theresa Rankin...I finished up the 3 from the workshop. As finished as they can be without overworking. Texas Creek is from a photo we took in South Texas a couple years ago on a scenic drive through Joe May's old stomping grounds.




Austrian Morning

Austrian Morning

Austrian Morning is a view of a spectacular lake we painted on a day trip with Charles Reid's Salzburg/Prague workshop. My alla prima painting that day was tough.





Rome Flowers, 11x14" Oil, ©V.N.Ross

Rome Flowers, 11x14" Oil, ©V.N.Ross


Rome Flowers is a photo I took in Rome, exhausted with the walking and tourist-ing, and a drizzly dreary day. Alas, I have fallen in love with my background...and it should be cropped. 

I'm pleased with these, especially with all I had going on that week. 

Forward to any friends or like-minded people who are interested in art. Of course, if you aren't interested, pftttt to you! (that is my best spelling for tongue out, blowing raspberries at ya)

All my social media links are available at


Look Who's Laughing Now!

Thanks for being patient with me while I simplify things over here in Wicki-Land. I haven't touched this blog post design and the MailChimp RSS fee for two years. High time to change it, right? Hopefully my subscribers will be able to get here easily, and make comments…I hope so, anyway!

Now that I have totally jumped into my left brain, I might just clean up the website. I KNOW not to try to paint right now, because it will take a couple days to switch back to the creative brain. Whew! It is scary in there :)

One of my best friends growing up, Retta Finn, had one of these in her kitchen. I always liked it. RanDEE found this one at a garage sale. Doesn't work, but you get the drift!



Doodle & Coloring Pages

My $5 Patrons on the Patreon platform get a digital file with three versions of one of my original Doodle Coloring Pages CLICK HERE. You can purchase direct for $7.50 CLICK HERE.Or, if you are in Rogers, AR, The Rusted Rooster Antique Mall on Walnut Street has two prints for $8.50.

Whew. The more I paint, the worse my computer skills get. After doing computer design since the dial-up days, I sure hate to lose that edge. But not enough to give up painting and talking about painting and teaching about painting!

I average 3-4 hours a day in my studio, including this kind of work so I can use my desktop computer. Couple hours a day on mobile with social media, and that still leaves a few hours with the TV on as evening dwindles down to bedtime. I sure hated losing those hours playing Angry Bird! When Shannon Green LINK HERE posted a YouTube video about her doodling practice, I immediately jumped on the bandwagon. I could sit and doodle in a 5x7" spiral bound mixed media journal with just a pencil, kneaded eraser, and a black pen. WhooHOOO! Log down another couple hours creating art.

This was just because. I wasn't trying to make a product AT ALL, but when my online friends said they would make great coloring pages, it still took me a month or so to figure it out. By creating digital files 8x10"-ish, I could print one at 100%, 50% and 25%. Enlarged just a bit created larger white spaces for coloring. Printing in 25% allowed coloring on top of the black design. The 50% version works great with gel pens over the black design.

Printed on cardstock at home, or at a Staples, I designed it to leave plenty of room for binding (also at home or Staples). Do a version in as many colors or ways you can think of: color on top of the black lines with colored pencil or gel pens, color only the white areas, or do both. Hours of entertainment. I also want you to use these as practice for your own free-form doodling.

The first one above is printed on a specialty paper called Wide Wale. It has a suede-like finish and took colored pencils beautifully, coloring in the white areas. A life-long friend of mine did the colorwork on this one. The second is colored pencils on the black design, and the third is using gel pens. Those aren't finished.

Both these versions are on plain cardstock, with colored pencils and a gold gel pen. I used a Purple and a Blue pencil on the main black areas, combining them to obtain the third purple color. The heart was layers of red, orange, yellow and purple pencils. The second one is mainly a Blue and Green pencil, and the heart is Purple, Red, Blue. Both have accents in gold gel pen.

I could come up with more versions of these two for fun! Yellow and Red, Green and Yellow, color the white areas…possibilities are endless! I used a selection of 12 Crayola pencils and generic gel pens on these so it would be easily achievable on any budget.

Have fun, and I'd love to see your results!



Mixed Media, Coloring, JB5's, Patreon

I have so many irons in the fire it is hard to figure out which one to pull out first! I've got over 700 subscribers on YouTube LINK HERE, and have found that it is easier to have conversations there than comments from blog posts. Besides, the comment button here is confusing...some people reply to the automated email they get and it doesn't appear with the original posts.

I started blogging back in 2009 when I was in the throes of learning as much about painting as I could...entering competitions, getting juried into some big shows, working toward signature status. One day I woke up and realized that I was painting for that purpose, and not exploring as much. Not only is that practice expensive with framing, entry fees, shipping, etc., it was limiting me. The minute I decided to take another path, I started having more fun with my art.

My studio still has my oil taboret setup, and my pastel section. I just added a flat workstation for mixed media. Then started collecting all the way cool supplies available for the more crafty side of art. Papers, paints, ephemera, sprays, stencils, stamps, die cutting and embossing machines…and then figuring out how to organize them so you can get right to them for using (and learning to use them). 

It was a gradual shift…I started and fell in love with encaustic. I could use pastels, oil sticks, oil paint to mix my own colors like I do with oil. Collage is encouraged, mark making with any kind of tool…it was a great segue into mixed media!

Most of my art up to this point was realism…I didn't have an abstract bone in my body! Everything was as controlled as I could get it: compositions planned on the computer, colors mapped out, drawing perfected. Very rigid. I became curious about art journaling. Glueing junk mail onto a page in a book that you might make out of a plain old composition book, or junk catalog is non-threatening and requires NO planning. In fact, Shannon Green YouTube LINK HERE came up with a process she calls "Journaling by 5's" LINK HERE. Twenty pages, 15 minutes to apply paint, 15 minutes for a stencil, etc. When you finish all five stages you have a journal-ish book you can keep working in, or put away. 

It worked! I was slapping paint, glue, colors, trash from my desk onto my pages, whatever was within arm's reach that could keep me under the :15 limit. Since then, I've done canvases using a glue gun for texture, modeling paste for stencils, sanding to show underlying layers and, in general, having a ball. Everything is possible. Anything goes.

Coloring for adults entered the scene, but I didn't want to manage a bunch of colored pencils in my TV chair at night after spending several hours in the studio. That was too much like work. Shannon came to the rescue again with her doodling pages. Simple, easy-peasy, only one color to mess I fell in love and was all of a sudden doodling several hours at night.

The piece at the top is a prime example of one of my free-form doodles. Then I printed it in 50% black and in 25% black and colored OVER the black areas. I could go back and keep going in the white areas if I want, or quit anytime I want.

Anyhow, after some encouragement from some of my admirers, I am offering these for sale CLICK HERE. All three versions are available as a package. You can print them for your own use, not for sale or claiming as your own of course. If you do, the Muse will turn her back on you forever! They are cursed :) Print with a laser printer or inkjet printer. Laser is permanent and inkjet will bleed, so test first if you want to use watermedia. 

I was also encouraged to set up a Patreon Account LINK HERE. Consider it a tip jar for artists who provide free content via YouTube. Monthly subscriptions as low as $1 a month get you access to special content, and rewards. These coloring page sets are available free at the $5.00 a month level.

Join me on YouTube, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, and where else I can't remember offhand. Go to for all my social media links.