All about the inspiration behind the art. Acrylic Paintings, Impressionism, Art, Southern, Modern, Contemporary, Coastal, Flowers, Famous Places, New Orleans, Florida, Gulf Coast, Food, Expressionism, Fauve, Cityscapes, Architecture, Decor, Painting, Beach, Tropical, Seascape, Landscape, Still Life Mona Vivar Fine Art

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Contrast To Make Paintings Catch the Eye

The two elements of an eye-catching painting are contrast and color.  I have written several posts about using color to make a painting come to life, so today I will discuss contrast.
Light and dark contrast makes any scene more interesting.  Nature always offers us fine examples of vivid shifts in light.  I am especially fond of the light in Florida and used a photograph I took of palm trees and shadows on a wall to make my point.  The following is a walk through of Welcome to Florida my latest acrylic painting.

I have studied the beauty of Florida's landscapes for years and almost feel them when I paint.  So when I began this painting I attacked the canvas with very loose fast brushstrokes to block in the major areas. 

 I like showing what my palette looks like during the painting process.  I always smile and wonder how the colors of the palette can look so yummy even when a painting hasn't come together...

So back to the painting.  I keep adding layers of colors and bring more focus on the shapes of the palm fronds and the wall behind them.

I add even more palm fronds and bring up the light with my lightest greens and yellows.  I thought the image below was going to be the final one, but I left the painting alone until the next day in order to better judge how it came out.

Ultimately, I decided that the hard line of the wall on the left of the painting was distracting.  I simply went in and added more palm fronds over the wall to make the line disappear.  I also added a few more intense, but light greens on the fronds and splashes of palest pink on the wall.  I am satisfied that the light appears to dance on the wall because of the contrast between the darkest shadows and the lightest lights.  I hope this painting catches your eye!

Copyright Mona Vivar, Welcome to Florida, 14 inches by 11 inches, acrylic on canvas
Ebay Auction begins Tuesday, Sep 23, at 6:00 PST in my shop at

Friday, July 25, 2014

Simplify Your Acrylic Color Selection

I am all about time management and simplification especially when it comes to producing art.  If you are like me you want to spend more time painting and less time (and money) buying supplies.  Walk into any art supply store or browse any art supply website and you will be overwhelmed by the color selections available with each acrylic paint brand.  What colors do you REALLY need to make a painting? 
I have spent a lot of time doing trial and error work to narrow down my color selection.  I do both impressionistic and abstract paintings, and here is the palette that works for virtually any painting in those styles.
Starting on the left top corner and going right and then down these are my colors:
Titanium White
Cadmium Yellow (medium)
Yellow Ochre (sometimes called Yellow Oxide by various companies)
Cadmium Red (light)
Naphthol Crimson/Red
Alizarin Crimson
Magenta (or Permanent Rose)
Ultramarine Blue
Phthalo Blue
Cerulean Blue
Cobalt Blue  (this one is optional but I really like the color)
Phthalo Green (or Viridian Green)
Burnt Umber
Black (Mars Black or Ivory Black will work)
These acrylic colors work well for me.  I keep them in the same order on the palette because it trains my hand to automatically dip the brush in the right color without looking.  A real no brainer!  As you can see from the mixes in the middle of my palette everything looks harmonious.  Maybe you can try them for yourself and make those paint purchases easier on the wallet and less time consuming.
Well it's back to the easel with me and my latest New Orleans scene.....


Friday, July 11, 2014

Painting the Essence of a Dragonfly

The other day I was on my patio admiring the few container plants that have survived the first half of summer when a beautiful blue dragonfly perched on the succulents and sat still long enough for me to get a snapshot of him.   I also took a photo of my fiery red salvia blooms.  Yet another example of painting subjects readily available in my own backyard!
Here is the step by step process I used to combine my subjects in an acrylic painting.

My easel with the printed photos for reference.  I use blue house painter's tape to keep my canvas from sticking to the easel.  Also helps with clean up.

Convenient set up with easel, palette, water and a chair if I need to sit rather than stand while painting.

I use my handy foam brush for a quick gestural block in of the star of the painting.  The canvas is already toned with yellow ochre.
I continue to use the foam brush for broad slapping on of paint for the succulents.

The palette colors mimic what I have on the canvas.  I don't thin my paints with anything.  This allows me to make juicy strokes on the canvas.  I keep the foam barely damp with water.

Here I use a large nylon brush to place smaller details on the dragonfly.

I go back to the foam brush and add the dark foreground for the blooming salvia.  Up until this point I have been painting wet in wet paint.  The greens will dull the red blooms so I wait until the paint dries before continuing with the blooms. 
I add the red blooms.

I add lighter leaves on the salvia and multiple stokes of various cheerful colors around the canvas.
I use dull yellow on the background and allow some of the darker toned canvas to peek through.  I also put a few strokes of red on the dragonfly for more unity with the red blooms.

I sign and Summer Visitor (acrylic on canvas, 11 inches by 14 inches) is finished!
Now listed on Etsy at Mona Vivar Fine Art
All images copyright Mona Vivar 2014.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Paint Red, White and Blue Loose with Foam Sponges

Summer conjures up images of endless flowers for me so I cave in to the urge to paint them.  This week was no different except I decided to use foam sponges instead of brushes to paint with.  I have been experimenting with the foam sponges as a way to exaggerate motion and paint thickness.  It keeps me from piddling along with details.
Here are the foam sponges I use.  They came from Target in the hardware and house painting section.  A pack of three was slightly over a dollar.  You can find them in most other discount stores or hardware and home improvement stores.

At first, I wanted to paint pink, orange and yellow blooms in an aqua fiestaware pitcher.  I blocked in the basic shapes.

The colors looked great on my palette, but I thought the painting looked anemic as it began to develop.  I was very happy with slapping paint on with the foam sponges though!  I used a brush only towards the end to finish off the table and pitcher.

Independence Day was right around the corner, so I made a decision to completely change the color of the flowers to red, white and blue.  That's the great thing about painting, you can make it anything you want....
I kept the pitcher the same color.

I changed the background from the neutral grey green to white in order to make the mood of the painting more summery.

Finally I was happy with July Blooms.  Here is the finished piece.  Those foam sponges are my new best painting "secret"!  Enjoy Independence Day.

Copyright Mona Vivar, July Blooms, 14 inches by 11 inches, acrylic on canvas
Now on Ebay at Mona Vivar Fine Art

Friday, June 27, 2014

Loose Painting and New Orleans

A painter's "style" doesn't develop overnight.  I am no exception.  It has taken years to narrow in on what thrills me when I paint.  Ultimately, I aim for bold, loose, and border line sloppy as I balance reality with abstraction. 
Architecture is a painting subject that normally demands precision, but I push it into a less precise form on purpose.  Especially when I paint any New Orleans streets or buildings.  Buildings in that famous city are frequently old, sagging and battered.   That's what gives The Big Easy such charm.  It is a perfect city to paint loosely.
I recently painted Streets of New Orleans with acrylics and photographed the various stages as I went along.   I had painted this scene before so I was more confident and more able to paint freely.
Here is a fast and furious start.  I don't draw anything, I just jump right in with blocking in the basic shapes.

I then work on some of the distant buildings keeping the background light in order to lend some depth to the painting. 

I didn't like the bright blue on the front buildings so I covered those areas with warmer color.
I also lightened the sidewalks.

Here is my palette with my selection of colors.  Notice the rich greys.  I don't use a ready made grey paint on the palette because it is possible to make beautiful greys from combinations of complimentary colors, such as blue and orange in this instance.  This helps keep the painting harmonious.

I add the smaller details at this point;  windows in the distant buildings, lights on the closer buildings and reflections on the pavement.

Final version of Streets of New Orleans (acrylic on canvas, 14 inches by 11 inches, copyright Mona Vivar).  Balconies have been added as well as additional reflections on the pavement.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Painting From a Photograph

A few weeks ago my husband and I were driving around enjoying a beautiful afternoon along the Alabama-Florida border when we pulled off the road to look at the newly constructed boat ramp in the community of Lillian, Alabama.  The boat launch is on Perdido Bay.  I never waste an opportunity to snap some reference photos for future paintings, so I took several.
I was struck by the blueness of the clear, breezy day.
The pine trees and the frothy water sparkling the sunlight made me wish I had brought an easel and paints!
I especially liked this particular angle.  The shadows and light were wonderful.  Now if only I could catch it on a canvas. 
I ultimately did get my impression of that beautiful day on a canvas.  I regret not documenting my step-by-step painting process, but here is the final version.   As you can see, I ramped up the colors, especially of the sand and water.  I emphasized the purple, blue and green in the water and added zing with the red, orange and yellow of sand.  I also lightened the pine tree trunks because the darks of a photograph are always darker than the real live actual shadows.   The painted scene has most, but not all of the detail of the photograph because I am an impressionist painter who can create my impression of a perfect day. 
Copyright Mona Vivar, Wind in the Pines, 11 inches by 14 inches, acrylic on canvas
Now on Etsy at Mona Vivar Fine Art

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Lure of Summer

Warm weather is here again.  I relish the sight of all that green when I open the blinds each morning.   All the birds are loud and busy this time of year.  There is a pair of brown thrashers in constant motion.  Nesting mockingbirds fly at the cat's head each time she crosses the yard.  Big blue jays steal food from her bowl.  Sabrina the old cat sleeps oblivious to the racket and uncaring about the feathered frenzy.

Meanwhile, my "Social Climber" pink rose that I planted a year ago has tripled in size.  In another year it will be in its full glory.  Big pink roses bloom.  The smell is intoxicating.
A pair of rabbits has declared the yard to be part of their territory.  I watch them morning and evening as they nibble on weeds when the yard gets shaggy.  They follow each other and frequently circle and jump around.  Perhaps little ones will make an appearance soon?  All of them can stay.  They don't eat the roses or my selection of potted plants. 
Rain cools the temperatures, and the hydrangea bush is full of blooms.  I want to take a nap.  I decide to paint those blue blooms to catch the spirit of summer.
Copyright Mona Vivar, Blue Border, 6 inches by 6 inches, acrylic on canvas
Now on Etsy at Mona Vivar Fine Art