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: 2013

Friday, December 27, 2013

A New Year's Wish

At the end of this busy, challenging year, my thoughts turn gratefully to all who have touched my life.  To all my family, friends  customers, and readers old and new I wish you a bright new year of love, hope and comfort. 

Thank you each and every one and Happy New Year. 
Copyright Mona Vivar, West of Florida II, acrylic on canvas, 11 inches by 14 inches

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas and The Painting I Wish I Had Painted

Every Christmas I wonder what it would be like to have snow on the ground for the holiday.   Lower Alabama does not see snow very often.  I seem to remember that it snowed here late one Christmas eve, but it looked more like sleet and the ground didn't turn pristine white.   Oh well.  Anyway, the thought of snow gets me to looking at my favorite snow painting, The Magpie, by Claude Monet.
The Magpie is considered the best of over 40 paintings Monet did of snow scenes.  I agree.  It's not giant (35 inches by 51 inches), but what an impact it makes!  I lust over this painting with its rich texture, sunlight flowing between the gate slats and over the top of the snow piled high on the fence.  And then there is the lonely little bird (that's the magpie) sitting in the midst of this splendor.  Everything is quiet.  One's feet would crunch on the snow while walking.  I dream of those blue shadows.  It's the richness of the shadows and the contrast of the creamy color-filled white snow that makes this scene so gorgeous.  My mouth waters.  I want to go over to that gate, open it, and walk beyond.  I wish I had painted it.
I will share it with you instead and wish you a beautiful Christmas.
Claude Monet, The Magpie, 1868-1869, oil on canvas, 35 inches by 51 inches, Musee d'Orsay, Paris
Image in the public domain of the United States

Friday, December 13, 2013

How to Make Acrylics Look Like Oil

My painting career has been filled with doubt about whether I should paint with oils or acrylics.  I happen to like both and have worked with both successfully.  Oils are so rich and buttery, but they take at least a few days or weeks to dry (even when mixed with alkyd mediums).  Acrylics, when used thickly, take no more than a few hours or overnight to dry enough to varnish, pack and ship.  Sometimes, though, acrylics can look a bit harsh or "plastic" because they are plastic.  
So that's my dilemma.  I paint with the idea that each painting will find a new home fairly rapidly.  I have to ship most of my paintings to my customers.  Time is of the essence.  I routinely use acrylics as my go to medium.  BUT I still want that rich, buttery oil look!  Agh!
I finally came across a tip that has helped me achieve the look I want.  I put 20 drops of acrylic retarder in a small 2 ounce spray bottle filled with water.  I shake it up well and use it to spritz my canvas and the paints on my palette (make it moist, not drippy).  This keeps the paint application flowing well so I can blend and soften edges as needed.  I use heavy body acrylic paint, usually Golden brand.  Then I add thick gel medium as well as acrylic retarder to my paint to make the paint nice and impasto thick.  I use bristle brushes and palette knives to apply paint just as I would with oils.
Take a look below at Daffodil Surprise detailed photosThis is a recent acrylic painting that I completed using exactly the technique described.  Looks like an oil painting.  Dry as a bone and ready to go!
Daffodil Surprise detail showing thick paint

Daffodil Surprise detail showing soft edges on right

Daffodil Surprise detail showing thick vigorous brushstrokes

Copyright Mona Vivar, Daffodil Surprise, 14 inches by 11 inches, acrylic on canvas
Now available in my Ebay store at Mona Vivar Fine Art

Friday, December 6, 2013

How To Make Lights In A Painting Glow

The one thing that magnetically attracts people to a painting is the use of light.  Subtle tones can work in some paintings, but I personally am bowled over by extremes in contrast.  The 17th century Dutch painters, and Johannes Vermeer in particular, were masters of light and contrast.  Their paintings shimmer with light ranging from velvety blacks to brightest whites.  So magical!
I am a firm believer that new art can build on the foundation of old art, so I strive to implement techniques used by those masters who have gone before.  I almost always employ both black and white in my paintings.  Even my abstract pieces.  That's how much I think that the Dutch Masters got it right.
So how do I make light work in a painting?  One recent example is from my New Orleans series.  I wanted to depict a trolley at night in downtown.  Night scenes have all the right contrast elements of darks and lights which go a long way to making a painting work for me.  The hard part of course is making the lighting in my painting look convincing.  For this I use a tip I learned while watching a painting video by contemporary realist master, David A. Leffel: subtly lighten the area a little nearest the object that light is striking in order to give the illusion of light glowing on the object.
Looking at my painting, Trolley Cheer, you see that the strongest light is inside the trolley and along the top of the trolley.  I put my whites in these areas and then lightened the nearest areas.  The yellow border around the trolley windows adds to the illusion of glowing light.  The white top of the trolley fades into pale blue.  The night sky above the trolley is lighter than the sky at the top of the painting.  All of these elements conspire to make the viewer experience the painting as a glowing night scene.  Just what I wanted!

Copyright Mona Vivar, Trolley Cheer, 11 inches by 14 inches, acrylic on canvas
Now available in my Ebay store at Mona Vivar Fine Art

Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday Frenzy And Cyber Monday Too!

Today is Black Friday and everyone is supposed to be out grabbing deals in the wee hours of the morning.  Perhaps you are one of the those folks and just now got back in time to read this post.  Whether you are or are not a Friday bargain hunter, I wanted to offer you the chance to save some money on my art this weekend. 
From now through Monday, December 2, I am offering free shipping on all paintings in my Etsy shop and on Buy It Now paintings in my Ebay store.  Grab a cup of coffee, settle down in your favorite spot, and shop the easy way.....

Copyright Mona Vivar, Proud Rooster I, 10 inches by 8 inches, acrylic on canvas
Now available in my Ebay store at Mona Vivar Fine Art 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Watch Birds While I Build My Website

A big part of being an artist that sells art is keeping up with technology.  I ignored computers for a long time after my one and only computer science class in college introduced me to the punch card and computers the size of a room.  Nothing made sense.
Time passed (a lot of time) and suddenly I was using computers in my day to day work life as a lawyer, then a gallery manager, a financial advisor and now as a full time artist.  I use Ebay, Etsy, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest with more skill that I would have guessed possible and am now at the final frontier (for the moment) of building my own website with the help of Big Cartel do-it-yourself website builder.
At the moment I have my own web page at with exactly one piece of art shown.  There is much more to come, so keep your fingers crossed for me.  Meanwhile, here are some birds for your viewing pleasure while I get back to work. 
Copyright Mona Vivar, Great Blue and Turtle Too, 11 inches by 14 inches, acrylic on canvas
Now in my Ebay store at Mona Vivar Fine Art

Copyright Mona Vivar, Sandhill Cranes, 14 inches by 11 inches, acrylic on canvas
Now in my Ebay store at Mona Vivar Fine Art

Friday, November 15, 2013

Why Paint Abstractly Too?

There are many artists who are strictly realistic painters and others who are strictly abstract painters.  Throughout my painting career, I have been predominantly in one camp or the other, but not both at the same time.  Lately, I have found myself following both paths.  I relish the freedom and looseness of abstract expressionism AND the challenge of depicting scenes I find interesting.  So I am doing both.
My work benefits from this unorthodox method of development.  The abstract pieces have better composition and harmony because of my realistic work.  My realistic work has more spontaneity and boldness as a result of my abstract work.   Go figure.
Copyright Mona Vivar, Two, 20" x 16", acrylic on canvas

Copyright Mona Vivar, Showin' Off, 12" x 9", acrylic on paper
Now at Mona Vivar Fine Art on Ebay

Copyright Mona Vivar, Climbing Roses, 12" x 9", acrylic on paper

Copyright Mona Vivar, Disconnect, 14" x 11", acrylic on canvas 

Copyright Mona Vivar, Beauregard Beauty, 12" x 9", acrylic on paper

Friday, November 8, 2013

Artful Birds

Birds are one of my favorite painting subjects.  They have all the elements necessary for visual interest--graceful poses, brilliantly colored feathers, funny feet, bright eyes and the ability to fly.  Everyone from the ancient Egyptians to modern photography buffs have made the effort to immortalize these airborne creatures. 
I keep a pair of binoculars handy by my windows just in case I see bird activity.  I visit places along the coast and woods to see the large wading birds with their elegant long necks and legs.  I can't seem to get enough of birds and their habitats.  I come home to paint my impressions of birds.  It's hard to do them justice.  I keep trying...
Copyright Mona Vivar, Flight, 11inches by 14 inches, acrylic on canvas

    Copyright Mona Vivar, Shore Patrol, 8 inches by 10 inches, acrylic on canvas

Copyright Mona Vivar, Marsh Dance, 30 inches by 40 inches, acrylic on canvas

Friday, November 1, 2013

Applause for Golden Artist Colors

This past week I attended a product demonstration given by Golden Artist Colors company at Alabama Art Supply in Mobile, Alabama.  I use Golden brand paints and consider them my first choice of brand for acrylics.  I wanted to learn best practices for using various mediums and techniques to make sure all my paintings are durable for my customers.  As an artist, I also wanted to keep myself alert for new techniques to better my painting skills.

I was delighted with everything about the demonstration.  Artist, K. D. Tobin, was an excellent speaker for the event.  His painting style and process is very different from mine, but everything he discussed kept my thoughts clicking along on how I could use what was said to enhance my paintings. 
The next morning I eagerly applied texture and shimmery bronze and gold touches to create shore bird paintings.  What a difference those two additions made!   Both paintings have a sculpture-like relief texture that adds atmosphere and mood.  It is nice to see impressionism and abstraction meet.  I will be doing more of this work.

Hats off to Golden Artist Colors, K. D. Tobin and Alabama Art Supply for a fine learning event!   None of them paid me to say this either....

Copyright Mona Vivar, Shore Birds I, 6 inches by 6 inches, acrylic on canvas
Copyright Mona Vivar, Shore Birds II, 6 inches by 6 inches, acrylic on canvas

Friday, October 25, 2013

Stress Free Holiday Shipping

I know we all get tired of seeing Christmas tree displays appear in the big stores as early as July, but here we are staring down Halloween and beginning to have thoughts of what to give our favorite people for Christmas.
In an effort to make things as effortless as possible so you can actual enjoy Christmas, here is a simple listing of carrier deadlines for shipping in time to arrive by December 25. 
United States Post Office
December 14 - Parcel Post
December 20 - First Class Mail
December 21 - Priority Mail
December 23 - Priority Mail Express
December 16-23 - UPS Ground (varies by destination)
December 19 - UPS 3 Day Select
December 20 or 21 - UPS 2nd Day Air (with confirmed pick-up)
December 23 - UPS Next Day Air/UPS Next Day Air Saver
December 12 - FedEx Smart Post
December 17 - FedEx Home/ FedEx Ground
December 19 - FedEx Express Saver
December 21 - FedEx 2 Day
December 23 - FedEx First/Priority/Standard Overnight
December 25 - FedEx Same Day  (I have no idea how they do this!)  
These deadlines are for United States to United States shipping.  International dates differ so be sure to check with the chosen carrier for exact information.  
Now go have some cocoa.
Copyright Mona Vivar, Poinsettia, 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches, acrylic on paper


Friday, October 18, 2013

The Power of Small Paintings

At the start of my painting career in the 1990's I mostly painted big (measured in feet not inches) abstract paintings.  I enjoyed the freedom of a large canvas back then, but big always came with the challenge of storage, transportation and studio space.  There was also the challenge of finding buyers who had the space to hang such pieces and the means to buy them.
But things changed.  I became interested with realism in all it many forms and liked the plein air movement with it's smaller format.  Soon I was painting impressionistic small and medium works.  I continue to follow that path.  I find it physically less demanding and certainly more convenient.  My work has a fresher, more spontaneous look too. 
Lately, I have tried my hand at miniature paintings.  Officially, the name of a painting that is 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches is "Art Card Edition and Original" or "ACEO".   The art world phenomenon of ACEOs started in 1996 in Switzerland as Artist Trading Cards.  Now people buy and sell such art regularly.   
Small paintings are easy to transport, mail, display and enjoy.  They go anywhere.   A small painting done well can open the door to the imagination the same as a painting of any other size.  That's a lot of power in a tiny package!
Copyright Mona Vivar, Ibis Wade, ACEO 2.5"x3.5", acrylic on paper
Copyright Mona Vivar, Sweet Nectar, ACEO 3.5"x2.5", acrylic on paper
Copyright Mona Vivar, Van Gogh's Field, ACEO, 2.5"x3.5", acrylic on paper

Friday, October 11, 2013

Forget The News And Go To The Nearest Garden

As our governmental officials arm wrestled each other this week, I decided to turn off the news and go over to Mobile's lovely Bellingrath Gardens for an afternoon walk.  There is a lot of benefit to be had from strolling a garden.  
It is quiet--only birds, squirrels and bees going about their business.   
It is an easy way to exercise.  Bellingrath Gardens has 65 acres for walking.
It is beautiful.  
It offers a multitude of gorgeous subjects for anyone who takes photos, paints or draws.
In the end, it offers peace.  Wishing you many garden moments.

Copyright Mona Vivar 2013

Copyright Mona Vivar 2013

Copyright Mona Vivar 2013

Copyright Mona Vivar 2013

Copyright Mona Vivar 2013


Friday, October 4, 2013

A Visit to the County Fair

Fall in my part of the country means the arrival of the county fair.  This year was no exception, so I made a trip across town with my husband to see what the Baldwin County Fair had to offer.  We were not disappointed.  We saw:
old tractors
chickens (fluffy, crazy feathered chickens!)
baby ducks
scary topsy-turvy rides
funnel cakes
corn dogs
prize-winning jams, jellies and pies
floral arrangements
children's' art
model trains racing around on lots of tiny tracks
and kazoo players.
So much fun even if we dared not eat the fried food (being well past the age where that is possible).   If you live somewhere that is close to a county fair then get out and enjoy!  It will make you appreciate all the simple good things that surround us.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Why I Paint What I Paint

I was in the moment of painting a big bunch of sunflowers the other day when I realized that I love painting gorgeous bright flowers.  I adore the rich, thick, squishy paint as I move it around to form organic shapes.  It makes my mouth water.  I love the complimentary color play of yellow and purple, orange and blue, red and green which shows up so often in floral paintings.  I love a painting that catches my eye and makes me break out into a smile.  Flowers were always my first painting love, and I now find myself full circle painting them again.  They are just one of the many subjects I paint, but I do seem to like them the best. 
I know I will never be accused of furthering the development of the future of art with my paintings.  I will leave that to other artists using other means and messages.  It's okay.
The main thing I must have when I paint something is that I enjoy painting it and that my customers enjoy looking at it.  If I don't enjoy making a painting, that lack of joy will show right through the piece.  I can see it and everyone else can too.  But when my excitement flows through the paint brush it will live forever in the painting.  That's what I want to give my customers.  That's why I paint what I paint.
Copyright Mona Vivar, Sumptuous Sunflowers, 14 inches by 11 inches, acrylic on canvas

Friday, September 20, 2013

Van Gogh's Parents Made Him Read

I am currently reading Van Gogh - The Life by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith.  I recommend this excellent biography as an insightful glimpse of Vincent's life and the times in which he lived.  I am charmed to learn that Van Gogh's parents made him and his siblings read extensively. They read everything from Dickens to fairy tales (but not American cowboy and Indian stories which were deemed to be too stimulating).  Reading was a habit that Van Gogh kept all his life.
This biographical information confirms my own belief that reading lots of books is valuable for all endeavors.  As an artist, I tend to get overly focused on the craft of painting and don't pay much attention to anything else.  Ironically, being too focused reduces imagination and creativity.  Taking time to read something everyday keeps creative energy fresh.  
So I follow the advice given to Vincent.  I read a lot of books.  All kinds of books.  Both fiction and non-fiction.  Van Gogh went from painting fairly dull brownish paintings to the masterful intense yellows and blues of Arles during his short life while keeping to his childhood habit of voracious reading.  Maybe I can grab some of that!  Maybe we all can.
Go read something good and spark your imagination.  
Copyright Mona Vivar 2013, Moonlight Rose, 14 inches by 11 inches, acrylic on canvas  

Friday, September 13, 2013

Five Reasons to Take a Short Break From Your Art Business

If you are a self-employed artist you know that your business can easily consume all your waking moments.  And you also know that home chores can sneak their way into what should be your productive business hours.   It is a delicate balancing act to keep the flow going.  Keeping at it all the time can lead to boredom and dullness for you and your customers.  So take a little break.  It could be a few hours or a few days.  Here's why:
1.  The best ideas frequently come to you when you are doing something other than your business.  I find that the act of driving a car or taking a walk has produced some of my most creative thoughts.
2.  All work and no play makes you irritable and no fun to be around.  Just ask your family and friends.
3.  You never know what new venues for your work will appear if you go somewhere you have not been before.   A trip outside your usual area might uncover a shop or gallery that is looking for work just like yours.
4.  Your body will appreciate the chance to do other things.  Let those shoulders, back, neck, arms, hands and fingers really relax.   You will avoid unnecessary medical bills.
5.  Your creativity needs some stimulus.  We are self-employed artists because we want to create not stagnate. 
I took my own advice this week and spent three days away from my business.  I spent time with family.  I ate birthday cake.  I sat with my husband under moss-laden oak trees and watched kayakers slowly float by roosting white ibises on a shimmering river.  I came back renewed and ready to work.     


Images copyright of Mona Vivar 2013

Friday, September 6, 2013

A Big Thank You to My Customers

Eight months into my year of living dangerously (working as a full time artist) I look back with amazement at the progress I've made.  The fact that I am still painting away is amazing, but even more fabulous is the following:
1.  Sold 213 paintings since January 1 this year.
2.  Became an Ebay "Power Seller" with next designation of "Top Rated Seller" within reach.
3.  Became a regular weekly blogger (even when I thought I might not have enough ideas to write about).
4.  Using Facebook and Twitter on a regular basis.  Pinterest is next.
5.  Painting images of life in the south that my customers recognize as things they love about the south!
I am grateful for all these milestones, but I am most grateful to my wonderful customers.  So THANK YOU!
Mona Vivar, "Night St. Augustine", 11 inches by 14 inches, oil on canvas  

Friday, August 30, 2013

Labor Day--Who Knew?

This weekend typically marks the end of summer slow down for most people.  Students are back in school or are headed there.  Traffic on the road in my little town going to the beach lightens.  The air feels just a tad drier.
But I never knew exactly what Labor Day was about.  Something to do with labor and taking a break?  I learned some basic facts about it today (courtesy of Wikipedia).  It was a federally declared holiday in 1894 in response to the deaths of workers taking part in the Pullman Strike in Chicago.  This came at a time when labor unions were a growing force to be reckoned with in the United States.  Ironically, Labor Day is now one of the biggest retail shopping days of the year (second only to the Friday after Thanksgiving Day) and retail workers are hard at work on this day.  They also make up the largest sector of the job market in the United States with the least unionized labor force.   Strange how these things turn out.
I wish you all a relaxing holiday.  I will be painting.  That isn't a labor for me.

Copyright Mona Vivar 2013, "Jazz New Orleans", 14 inches by 11 inches, acrylic on canvas 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Small Paintings Lead to Better Painting Skills

I am always looking for ways to increase my artistic skills.  Every artist should strive for improvement.  The question for me is: what is the most efficient way to become a better painter?  The first and foremost answer to this question is to paint as many paintings as possible.  I mean A LOT of paintings.  Years of painting. 
When it comes to being efficient, however, the broad idea of painting lots of pieces needs to be broken down to a more focused approach.  For me, the answer came in the form of small paintings.  I first read about this idea in Kevin MacPherson's wonderful book Fill Your Oil Paintings with Light & Color (North Light Books 1997).  I whole heartedly embrace this concept.
I have begun to see progress in my own work through painting multiple 6 inch by 6 inch images.  The petite sized canvases are easy to line up as a group for quick brush strokes.  Harmony develops as I use similar color choices.  Subject matter becomes aligned.  Style comes out of hiding.  My mind focuses more quickly.  Spontaneity occurs.  Ultimately, a cohesive body of work appears.   A very good thing.

Copyright Mona Vivar, "Wave Dance", 6 inches by 6 inches, oil on canvas

Copyright Mona Vivar, "Oyster Blue II" 6 inches x 6 inches, oil on canvas  

Copyright Mona Vivar, "Wave Dance III", 6 inches x 6 inches, oil on canvas

Copyright Mona Vivar, "Wave Dance II", 6 inches by 6 inches, oil on canvas

Copyright Mona Vivar, "Oyster Blue III", 6 inches by 6 inches, oil on canvas


Friday, August 16, 2013

Summer of Clouds

Summer in Alabama is always hot.  We normally have at least a few days in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  If we are lucky, afternoon thunderstorms bring occasional rain.  This summer has been one big magnificent picture show full of rain and clouds and fresh green lawns.  Temperatures have stayed in the 80's even for us on the southern most tip of Alabama.  I have become obsessed with the summer of clouds.
I take photographs of the sky.


And I paint clouds.  My best images come from a weekend trip to Moundville, Alabama to attend a family reunion with my husband.  Oh, the clouds we saw along the way over Demopolis, Linden, Marengo and Highway 43!  Of course, there would be paintings.
Copyright Mona Vivar, "Clouds Over Moundville", 5 inches by 7 inches, acrylic on paper
Copyright Mona Vivar, "Sunday Morning (Demopolis)", 12 inches by 16 inches, oil on canvas 
I have savored this summer's clouds.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Enjoy Doing Commissioned Paintings that Customers Snap Up

Any artist who has been creating art to sell for any length of time will, at one time or another, be asked to do a specific painting for a customer.  This can be both a blessing and a curse because done right, the painting is sure to sell, but the image requested might not be what the artist normally paints and can cause frustration for the artist.  How can the artist make the process enjoyable for both parties?
First of all, each party needs to be as specific as possible to avoid confusion and dissatisfaction.  I have a valued customer who wanted a big painting of a photograph he took himself.  I made sure we both understood what the finished size of the painting would be before we did anything else.  I also told the customer I would use acrylic paints.  I studied the photo and determined that it was strongly composed, had pleasing color harmony, and would not need to be changed much for a painting.   The subject was boats and water which is one of several subjects I paint on a regular basis.  We agreed on a price.  I also wanted to engage my customer (who lived in another part of the country) with the painting process so I sent him images of each step of the painting as they occurred.  This was fun for both of us.
Here is the customer's photo on the laptop set up next to my easel.   This was a much easier method than using a printed photo to see the subject as I could enlarge sections if need be.  Nice photo, huh?

I put a base coat of yellow ochre on and loosely sketched out the boats, rocks and deck with a mix of ultramarine blue and quinacridone magenta.  I used white to highlight some of the lightest areas to better judge the value scale of the entire painting.  I had warned my customer that the painting would go through several scary, messy stages before it looked right.  Paintings in process are always a series of corrections!

The painting progressed through multiple stages of corrections, especially the angled dock in the right corner.  You can see my palette on the right.  I used the following selection of colors:  white, cadmium yellow medium, cadmium red, naphthol crimson, quinacridone magenta, pink, ultramarine blue, phthalo turquoise, burnt sienna and black.

I worked all over the canvas for unity, but the background came together first.

The colors of blue, green, brown and orange were harmonious.  Mixtures of those colors made lovely grays for the rocks and dock.

I kept the shadows in the water towards the rocks lighter than they were in the photo.  I wanted the rocks to look like they were in the background and I wanted to show the beautiful color of the water.  

The boats needed to be tied to the dock, so the ropes were the last thing to add.  I liberally edited the multiple ropes in the photo for a more pleasing composition.  I also left out the oar that was sticking out of the background boat in the photo as I thought it would be distracting.  I wanted to make sure the ropes were aimed at the correct angle and rather than risk repainting a whole section if I got the ropes wrong, I took a long piece of string, draped it from the top of the painting, and held it at different angles near the edges of the boats until I figured out the best placement.  Then it only took one shot per rope to get that finishing touch! 

Mona Vivar, "Lahania Small Boat Harbor", 30 inches by 40 inches, acrylic on canvas
Private Collection
The painting is now being admired in its new home.   Every commission should be so enjoyable!