Barbara Kemp Cowlin vs The Super Bowl: Painting Water Opens February 1

A solo show of my paintings is coming up soon (in 10 days but who’s counting), on Sunday February 1, at the Rancho Linda Vista Gallery in Oracle. For the past two years I’ve been focused on creating all new paintings for this show. Weeks ago, I had the postcards invitations to the show printed and was just getting ready to mail them out when guess what—I overheard someone talking about Super Bowl Sunday. Coming up on Sunday, February 1. Imagine my horror when I realized I had inadvertently scheduled my opening for that very day. Too late to change the date.

In deference to the Super Bowl, I decided to start the opening earlier, at one o’clock. That way the Super Bowl won’t loose any viewers—they can see my show early and head home in plenty of time to take in the game. And in addition, I’ll be providing plenty of chips & dips and libations, so visitors to the exhibit can do their eating at my show and not have to worry about food distracting them from the game.

And for the rest of you, if you’re feeling left out, come to my opening and join in on conversations about art and other fascinating non-game related topics. And you, too, can have your chips and dips.

Rancho Linda Vista exhibit announcement

A New Painting for the New Year

Happy New Year!

My painting, Water Juxtaposition, is officially completed and photographed. And I’m into the four week countdown to the opening of my exhibit, Painting Water, on February 1 at the Rancho Linda Vista Gallery in Oracle. Which means I’m going to be working like mad in my studio between now and then.

Water Juxtaposition-480px

Water Juxtaposition, 48 inches x 60 inches, acrylic on canvas

Although I treated myself to a few lazy days over the holidays, I managed to get quite a bit of work done. In addition to a massive cleaning of my studio, I started several new paintings and updated the workshop page on my website. This winter & spring, I’m offering workshops around Arizona. Information on signing up is on the workshop page or you can contact me.

Classes in my studio will be by request during this time period. I put together a list of workshops I’ve offered in the past and these can be adjusted to fit your needs. It’s easy—just get a group of four or more people together and I can schedule a special workshop for you and your friends.


One Finished Painting and Ten in the Works


Here is an officially completed painting—official because Jim photographed it. There are snapshots of it in progress on previous blog posts. The painting, Water Jazz, is large—2 canvases which when bolted together make the painting 58 inches x 80 inches. Here it is:

Water Jazz


And yes, I’m really am working on ten paintings at once. Don’t ask me how this happened. Perhaps a bit of panic at my rapidly approaching shows? Four of the paintings are actually 4 separate panels which will end up as 2 paintings—a long & square panel each for each painting. So maybe I should say I’m working on 8 paintings at once. All in different stages of completion. Since I don’t have enough room on my easel, I have a bunch of paintings I’m working on flat on tables. You should see me dancing back and forth across my studio applying paint—it’s quite aerobic.

Here’s a painting that’s maybe (with luck) be getting close to completion:

in progress 12-2-14


Just started the one below:


In prog 12-2-14


And here are 6 (or 8 depending on how you count them), flat on tables:

6 at once 12-2-14


Enough of this spending time on the computer—I need to get my apron on and get to painting!


Featured Artist, Article on Manhattan Arts International Website

I was recently honored to be chosen as a Featured Artist on the Manhattan Arts International website. The website was started in 2000, but the history of Manhattan Arts International started years before.

Founder and director Renee Phillips has an impressive background in the arts, starting with schooling at the Art Student’s League in NYC. During the time that she was studying painting, Renee got interested in the curatorial aspects of the art world. As a result, she has curated over 60 exhibitions.  She is also an art critic and a member of the International Association of Art Critics. Her essays and articles have appeared in numerous arts magazines.

One of Renee Phillips’ passions is in helping artists move their art careers forward. And one of the ways she achieves this goal is through Manhattan Art International. For 17 years, Renee Phillips and her company published Manhattan Arts International, a full-color magazine devoted to promoting under recognized artists. In 1999 the magazine was shifted to an online website which continues the mission of the original magazine. One of the main focuses of the website is the Featured Artist Program.

“We are a creative community of art professionals dedicated to promoting and rewarding artistic excellence through juried and curated art programs. Our editorial coverage is international. We present new informative and inspirational articles about art events, influential art world leaders and under-recognized creative visionaries” according to the website.

To see the Featured Artist article about me, please visit Manhattan Arts International.

Paintings: Finished, Finishing & a New Start

I’ve been working away in my studio—and here is an update on my progress.

Horizontal Water in Staccato is finished and this is the official photograph. I did some experimenting using High Flow acrylic in a Fine Line marker, which allowed me to “draw” skinny horizontal lines inside some of the horizontal textures. It added a new, linear feel to the painting. And it was fun.

Horizontal Water in Staccato

Horizontal Water in Staccato 30″ x 30″ Acrylic on panel


Below is the a snapshot of the as yet unnamed painting on which I’ve been working seemingly forever. It’s lurking on my easel, but I’ve been trying to tune it out all week in order to take a little break from it. The theory being that I’ll be able to look at the painting anew and suddenly see what it still needs. I’d move it into another spot in my studio, but it’s so large that it doesn’t fit anywhere else. Jim suggested that I cover it in a white sheet. A tempting suggestion, but I do take quick peeks at it looming there and perhaps the solution to this painting’s problems is eminent.

Almost done? 480

Title?   Size—real big   Acrylic on 2 panels


Next up, a new painting in progress, just begun this week. I started this one with a thin coat of Light Molding Paste over the gesso. Once it was dry, I used really watered down paint to create washes across the canvas. I did this by laying the painting flat on a table and using a large paintbrush, I covered parts of the canvas with water. Then I applied the soupy paint and tilted the canvas back & forth to get the paint to run. I also used my trusty spray bottle to spritz some areas and applied paint to those. Once the whole surface was covered, I dried it with a hairdryer and then repeated the process a few more times. Oh, I also flung some paint around on the canvas. By the way, this painting is 48″ x 60″, so it’s pretty big.

First day 480

Day 1


On day two I started to add layers of various colors over the top of the washes using some glazes and some light molding paste with color added and applied with a palette knife. To some, I also added texture using one of my favorite New Age texture tools.

Second day 480

Day 2


Yesterday I added more layers and also a green glaze to parts of the painting to start adding some depth.

Day 3

Day 3


What’s my plan of attack for today? I have no idea what or where or how I’m going to continue. And now it’s time for me to get myself over to that easel and figure it out.

Sonoran Arts Network Online Journal Interview

The Sonoran Arts Network is a monthly online journal published by C.J. Shane. The journal, which is a labor of love by Shane, has been in publication for several years, “connecting arts and communities in the Sonoran bioregion”. There are so many artists doing such good work with so little recognition that I hope this publication will eventually lead to all kinds of interesting results.

Recently, Shane asked me if I would like to be interviewed for the October issue. Of course I said yes. A number of thoughtful questions required me to get introspective. Here’s the link to this interview which also includes lots of photographs of my paintings.

Be sure to take a look at the Sustainability Fund  page in the e-journal. I’d be delighted if Shane received some money as a result of this blog post. As I mentioned above, the Sonoran Arts Network is literally a labor of love, taking many hours of Shane’s time and much energy. At this point her funding comes from reader contributions. I’d also like to point out that you can sign up to receive the monthly mailing. It’s always a treat when it hits my inbox—something to look forward to every month.

Shane is a remarkable person with a fascinating life story. Take a look at her website to see what I mean. Shane is an accomplished artist—painter, relief printmaker and creator of artist books, as well as a published writer. Not to mention an editor, a librarian, a historian and an avid gardener.


A Video “Painting Water” By James Cowlin

Growing up, for some reason my family never owned a video camera—and yes they did exist even way back then. Consequently, I’m used to seeing myself in photos but not in action. I admit to having some discomfort at the thought. I don’t mind standing up in front of people and talking but somehow talking in front of a camera seems much more threatening to me.

Jim had suggested creating a video of me talking about me, me, me and my art work for a long time, but due to a distinct lack of enthusiasm on my part, it hadn’t happened. Until a few days ago. In preparation for teaching iPhone video workshops, Jim has been enlisting several people to participate in his process for use in his workshops. How could I refuse? So here’s the video, all 4 minutes and 7 seconds.



Moving Boulders in My Paintings

Sometimes I feel like carving out the time to paint feels like trying to shove boulders up a hill. And sometimes when a painting isn’t going well, it also feels like the act of painting is like moving boulders around. In this instance, I was literally moving boulders around in two paintings.

It started when my friend, the artist Sharon Brady, stopped by to critique my work. She liked the painting, but then after spending some time looking, something started to bother her. It was the boulders. They were all the same size and shape and were regularly spaced. Why hadn’t I noticed that before? That’s what artist friends are for—they can see things you can’t because you’re too involved. I’m grateful for Sharon’s input.

I got out my trusty sander, proceeded to get rid of the boulders as best I could and started back in. The domino effect of art took hold and before I knew it I was revamping the whole darn painting. In the end, it took me at least twice as long as a painting this size warranted. I think it improved the painting. I hope.

Passageway, Acrylic Painting by Barbara Kemp Cowlin

On the next painting I started the domino effect all by myself. Another smallish painting, initially a vertical format, initially based on some snapshots from Canyon de Chelley, in Northern Arizona. That didn’t go so well, so I turned the on it’s side and continued on, still based on those Canyon de Chelley snapshots. DID NOT LIKE IT AT ALL. Out came the sander again. This time the painting morphed into something totally different—based on snapshots from Zion National Park. Two states, 3 paintings on-top-of-each-other later here is what I ended up with. Are we there yet? I sure hope so.

Roundabout, Acrylic Painting by Barbara Kemp Cowlin

My artist friend, Diana Creighton, came by today to have a look at my big painting. She agreed that it wasn’t done. I knew it, but was hoping I was wrong. She had some very helpful suggestions, so as soon as I finish this blog post, I’m getting to work on this painting. By the way, it’s a lot bigger than the little paintings above, but of course, on the screen they all appear the same size.

Wave, Acrylic Painting by Barbara Kemp Cowlin

And here’s one I just started a couple days ago.

Painting in progress, Barbara Kemp Cowlin

Paintings in Progress…For My Sister, Nancy

My wonderful sister, Nancy, tells me that she enjoys seeing sequences of my paintings in progress. Several other people have mentioned this to me, too. It kind of surprises me, maybe because when I’m in the process it’s quite a lot of hard work and often I find it hard to believe I’ve made any progress after a day of painting. I guess what I see is the hard work and what others see is the progress? At any rate, I always intend to document my work as I go along. Partly to post here. Also in the hope that I’ll find some sort of formula for getting from Point A to Point B, eliminating the struggle in between. But then I’d probably get bored!

58 x 80 inch large acrylic painting in progress

Above is a painting I’ve been working on for several months. I did start out documenting it daily, and posted a few photos several blog posts previous to this one. Then I got involved in painting and totally forgot to take pictures. This painting is 2 canvases bolted together. The total size is 58″ x 80″. Unbolted, it will fit into our Element, to be transported to shows. I’m finding it’s an aerobic workout to cover the surface of this one.


Try # 4 on this canvas, the other 3 are underneath

This little painting has been a real big pain in the neck. At 14 x 28″ if I charged what I’ve gone through on this one, it would cost a million dollars. It started out as a completely different painting. I decided I didn’t like the image—not the color, not the design, not anything. So I morphed it into a longer view of the same place. I worked and worked and worked. Hated that iteration, too. So I sanded off a lot of the paint, took what was left and created what you see above. Not only a different view but from an entirely different state! The initial painting was from Canyon de Chelley on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona and what you see here is from Zion National Park in Utah! So far so good I think. We’ll see if it cooperates and gets itself done.


24 x 24 inch start of rock & water ptg

I’ve barely worked on this one. I like what’s here, which is also a problem.  If I hate what I’ve done, then I feel free to mess with it because it’s no big loss. If I like it then it’s hard to continue for fear that I’ll goof up what I like about it. The classic lose-lose proposition. Soon I’ll take the plunge and get to back to work on this one. But not today…

Role Reversal—the WEGOs Teach Me About Watercolor Using the New Golden QoR Watercolors

Some time ago, I received a package from Golden Artist Colors. It contained a sampling of their brand new QoR (pronounced Core) watercolors. All of the Golden Artist Educators and Golden Working Artists were asked to experiment with QoR and then give feedback on how it performed and how it compared to other watercolor brands.

I sat on the goods for quite awhile since my watercolor experience is almost non-existent and I wasn’t sure how to proceed. The only watercolors I had ever used were inexpensive cake watercolors when I taught elementary school art. And then only to help the children create their own fabulous artwork. I myself had little luck using the watercolors. I figured right off that this wouldn’t count as a legitimate comparison to QoR.

I went to the library and picked up several books on the subject but just couldn’t manage to get started.

Then a flash of brilliance hit my brain. I thought to myself, “I’ll call on the WEGOs”.  And so I did.

WEGO stands for Watercolor Exploration Group of Oracle. The WEGOs are a remarkable group of seven women who have gotten together every Wednesday afternoon for the last 6+ years (to be precise, their journey started on May 28, 2008 but who’s counting) to create with watercolor. Over the years, the group has accumulated a vast amount of knowledge and experience with the medium. They assign themselves a project/experiment every week to be completed for the next meeting. They attend workshops in the Tucson area and around the country as individuals or in groups. Then they teach each other what they learned. Most remarkable of all is that they remain close friends, supporting each other in their art and personal lives. They say they’re not competitive with each other at all. Amazing!

The WEGOs were kind enough to come to my studio on a Wednesday afternoon several weeks ago. Their task—to experiment with the QoR, to compare it to the other watercolors they use, and to give me feedback. Plus have fun of course. And as a big bonus, I would be able to observe and learn and do some experimenting myself.

For starters I had no clue what to do with tubes of watercolor. My first surprise is that this group (as well as many other watercolorists) doesn’t use the watercolors straight out of the tube. Instead, they use palettes with dividers in which the tube colors are allowed to dry, each in their own separate little space. Each time they’re used they are moistened with water. When the painting session is over, the watercolors dry and are packed away ready to be used next time. Voila!

In order to get set up, Nyla Butler came over a few days before the get together with a supply of styrofoam plates she’d subdivided into sections using silicone to create a barrier between each section. Nyla and I had a mini-party applying a blob of each QoR color into its’ own little section on enough plates for each of the participants.


Two days later, the watercolor blobs had dried. The WEGOs arrived at my studio. Above, you can see them poised and ready to jump into their task.


Each person took a different approach to their experiments. Above is a chart comparing QoR to several other brands of the same color. And you can see the nifty plate with with its silicone barriers.


Since the group uses a variety of different brands of watercolors, there was a lot of chart making and comparing going on. On the left is a previously made chart and on the right is a new chart including the QoR watercolors.


And here is another participant’s chart.


Washes and charts.


Working away…


Here’s a chart in progress with a sketch of the pears included. Lovely isn’t it!


More experimenting.


Working from a magazine illustration.



The WEGOs took a well deserved break to refuel. Above is my famous (in Oracle) guacamole with chips, apples straight off our tree and last but not least further down the table and not visible here are homemade cookies.


Back to work. Having fun.


Above, Jill is concentrating on pears, experimenting with washes and lifting the paint.


A  landscape in progress.


I thought this was an interesting way to experiment with the colors. Each band is being build up with layers using a variety of techniques.


The pears again.


Apples. The texture is the result of QoR Watercolor Ground. The ground can be applied to all kinds of papers and a variety of other materials, such as canvas, to create an absorbent surface suitable for watercolor. Before the workshop I coated some big sheets of Arches 88 paper with 2 coats of QoR watercolor ground. Arches 88 is a smooth, heavy printmaking paper. You can see the texture created by using a coarse bristle brush, applying a coat on direction, letting it dry and then applying a second coat going the other direction. Lots of interesting possibilities for experimentation with this stuff.




More pears.


Experiments using Yupo.


Poppies in progress.




At the end of the afternoon, everyone commented on their reactions to QoR. There was a lot of enthusiasm. The group felt that the intensity of the QoR colors was remarkable. They liked the liftability as well as the blending capabilities. There were lots more specific observations, too.

So there you have it. A great afternoon with a great group. Many thanks to the WEGOs. And to Golden, of course.

I don’t think I’m on track to becoming a watercolorist, but I do think I’m going to have fun experimenting. And I’m going to bring QoR along next time I travel—so portable, such beautiful colors—maybe I’ll finally get around to creating a travel journal!