Spanish Hammock, Summer Storm

Spanish Hammock, Summer Storm

“Spanish Hammock, Summer Storm”, framed in a white floater, © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

Inspired by a small plein air painting done on Tybee Island last year, “Spanish Hammock, Summer Storm” is a bit bigger studio painting, 18 x 24”.

“Spanish Hammock, Tybee”, oil, 4 x 6”, © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

I kept coming back to the memory of racing clouds casting huge moving patterns of light and shadows across both Spanish Hammock and the distant marsh on the back of Tybee Island.

“Spanish Hammock, Summer Storm”, oil, 18 x 24”, © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

“Spanish Hammock, Summer Storm”, oil, 18 x 24”, © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

But it was the clouds themselves I found most fascinating.

All that big movement that comes in the sky just before a storm blows in.

And the edge of the marsh is the perfect place to watch those forming weather patterns, with the wide open canvas of the marsh below to reflect back what’s happening above.

Your Color Mixing Guide: Gorgeous Neutral Colors from Yellow & Violet

Your Color Mixing Guide: Gorgeous Neutral Colors from Yellow & Violet

Mixing neutrals

Mixing neutrals

I want to share with you what I think of as being the secret sauce of color mixing: the neutral colors.

If you’ve been using more intense, saturated, rich color in your paintings, especially if you’re using optical color, like I’ve talked about so much, I want to make sure that you’re thinking about not just more intense colors, but that full range of intensity.

If you’ve got super-intense color, also include the neutrals in order to have that kind of contrast that’s really going to engage the viewer and compel them to look at your painting, which is what we all want.


If you were with me a couple of weeks ago, I did a quick demo on how you can use Indian yellow to create super rich yellows, all the way from cool lemon yellow to a really warm, dark cadmium, deep yellow. Or the equivalent thereof, because as y’all know, I don’t use cadmiums in the studio anymore. Well, I want to show you how you can use that same color, Indian yellow and yellow ochre, to create gorgeous fall neutral colors.

So we’re going to take Indian, yellow, yellow ochre, and violet, specifically dioxazine violet. Those two are a complimentary pair and we’re going to use those to create incredibly gorgeous, rich fall neutrals that you can use in your paintings. So let’s dive right in. 

Here, we’ve got the three colors that I want to work with in this demo. I want to show you what happens with a really super intense violet, Egyptian violet in Williamsburg, the same color in Gamblin is dioxazine purple, which is the actual pigment name. It is the compliment for yellow. And for yellow, we’ve got Indian yellow, and I’m also going to show you what happens when you modify that violet with a little bit of yellow ochre as well because yellow ochre is also a compliment color. It’s a slightly duller and cooler yellow.  

I want you to see how both of them look and how you can make some really rich, slightly muted colors as well as some neutrals. There’s a whole range from the super intense to the very neutral and that range is something a lot of people forget to use really efficiently.

We’re going to look at that right now. Our colors that we’re using again today are Egyptian violet from Williamsburg,  yellow ochre from Williamsburg, Indian yellow from Williamsburg and flake white replacement, which is to titanium white from Gamblin. 

These are the ones that I’d already mixed. 

They’re Indian yellow and white. That’s all that’s in there right now. And so I’ve got three different values. And we’re going to explore what happens to those as we add different amounts of violet to them. And then we’re going to explore violet and yellow ochre. Let’s dive in.  

Notice how dark that Egyptian violet is. It is so dark that it is almost black. A very transparent pigment, which means that as you spread out the mass tone, you can actually begin seeing the hue and you can see how violet it is. It does not take very much of that color to tint anything at all. 

One small tube will last a really long time. Let’s take just this much. You see how little is on that knife. Just that much. And see what happens to this pile of Indian yellow and white.

One of the reasons I’ve got those two piles there is so that you can see the impact of the violet and how quickly that very small amount neutralizes the yellow.  

We’ve got a really nice rich, warm brown right there. Take just a little tiny bit here. See how little I’m going very small. I’m trying to give it the same amount. So this has less of the Indian yellow in it. It’s going to go more violet, if we’re adding that same amount. And remember, there’s a little bit more white in here. So we’re getting a really nice lighter opaque tan here. 

Now, if we add about that same amount to that last pile down there, which has even more white it’s going to be even more purple because there’s less of the yellow effecting it. So, it gets much more brown as it goes down here. Then we get a light purple. That’s not quite as hyperintense as it would be mixed with just the violet and the white.  

So, on this next one, I’m going to add just a tiny, the tiniest little bit so it barely modifies that yellow and it ends up being much warmer. So, now we’re getting some great dull yellow oranges. 

Remember this last pile has the least amount of Indian yellow in it. It’s mainly white.

So this pile is going to look a little bit more violet.

Just to give you an idea of what the violet looks like when it has a little bit of white in it. Doesn’t take much. So I’ve got that much on the knife. You could see how super intense the dioxazine violet is. Massively intense.  That’s why it’s such a useful pigment. Because a little bit of it goes a really long way.  

Now, if I take some yellow ochre this time, and this is one of my favorite neutrals and purples. I use this a lot giving away my secrets here. So I’m going to take just a tiny little bit of violet here. It didn’t take much at all to begin to affect that yellow ochre because yellow ochre doesn’t have much tinting strength at all. It’s still relatively warm though. Let’s get a little bit more in this pile. So, it’s been darkening and going a whole lot more violet. 

This is why I tell people you can’t just say it’s gonna be half purple and half yellow, because if one has more tinting strength than the other half of one and half of the other is not going to give you a neutralized color, this is pretty close to being neutral, but it takes very little violet to impact that ocher. 

I’m going to try and get a little bit more of the violet in here, and at this point, that amount of violet makes the yellow ochre, basically just a carrier for violet. It becomes a very earthy purple and significantly darker than this one, you can tell when I put them side by side. But a very distinct purple. 

So that’s a look at just a few of my favorite colors and how I use them to mix a really wonderful range of neutral colors.  

I hope you enjoyed that. And it’s given you some ideas about how you can begin to incorporate more rich, neutral colors into your paintings. Don’t you just love the colors that you get when you add violet to those two pairs of yellows. I just absolutely swoon over yellow ochre and dioxazine violet.

Once you see it, you’ll start noticing it in a lot of my paintings. If this has been helpful for you, I would love to have you join me on my painting journey.


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The 5 Pillars of a Thriving Successful Artist

The 5 Pillars of a Thriving Successful Artist

Viewer, Linda Calkin asked what the very first thing to do in getting started online.

In this video I share five keys for becoming a thriving and successful artist!

As an artist myself, these are some of the things that have helped me get to where I am today. Whether you’re an aspiring artist or someone who’s been at it for years, there’s always room to learn more. Let me know what you think in the comments below!

5 pillars to thrive

5 pillars to thrive

Video Transcript:

Linda asked a really good question a couple of days ago in my free Facebook group. ”How to start from the start, the very start, what to do first, what to do second, third and so on.” And as I was thinking about how I was going to answer that question, it occurred to me that it’s been a while since I’ve talked about the five key things that you need in order to be in a position to share your artwork with the world.  

No matter what your end goal is, whether you want to have impact, meaning you’re not worried about making money from your paintings, you just want eyeballs on it because you want to change people’s lives in some way, or whether you want to increase your income from selling your work. It doesn’t matter which one it is. There’s some key things you’ve got to have in place. It’s not just going to magically happen and there’s no little red easy button on your desk or on your easel that you can press to just serendipitously have it all.

And yes, even though I started a good while back on doing this, you can still do it now. In fact, there’s never been a better time to get started than there is right now. 

So, let’s look at what those five pillars are to a thriving artist’s practice. 

Number one is the center part, the thriving artists mindset. Because if you don’t get your inner game lined up, it really doesn’t matter what you do on the outer. 

The single most important differentiator between whether somebody is able to achieve their goal as an artist or not has to do with their belief in themselves. If you don’t believe in yourself, you’re not going to be successful. You’ve got to have that compelling belief in yourself or you’ll stop when the going gets tough. 

That inner authority, that inner belief helps you when you run into brick walls, when you run into roadblocks, when you feel blocked. 

The second big pillar is creating compelling artwork. Mindset comes first, but then comes the ability to create compelling art. None of us make perfect artwork. All skillsets are always in progress. We’re always improving, always learning, always making better art. You don’t have to wait to make perfect paintings in order to get started because remember, you’re never going to make a perfect painting. Share the most compelling paintings that you have right now and do everything that you can think of to make better paintings.

What is compelling artwork? It’s the stuff that grabs your attention like a magnet and pulls the viewer in, things that, for example, are using really strong value patterns. Because as my students know, because I preach this all the time, value is the first thing our visual perception recognizes. It’s the key to making compelling artwork. Make compelling artwork and you’ll have that second pillar in place. 

Third pillar is to build your online platform. Doesn’t matter whether you think you want to work with physical galleries or you want to sell on your website, or you don’t want to sell at all. You just want to share your work with the world. You need an online platform.  

Gone are the days when you could get into a gallery solely on slides. Anybody remember slides? That’s totally outdated. You have to have a website. That’s how those people find you. We have to be active partners with the galleries that represent us.

We have to do part of the work. We can’t just sit back and do nothing, eat bonbons and paint. Nobody gets to do that anymore. I’m not sure anybody ever did that. 

What goes into an online platform? There are three parts and I’m going to give them to you in order. These are the tools that are going to help you reach your audience.  

The first tool is to create a social media hub. Social media is crucial. It’s one of the things that gives us our independence at this point. It’s one of the things that lets us build a direct relationship with our potential ideal collectors. What platform doesn’t matter. You want to be on the platform that you are more likely to post on and the platform where your ideal collectors hang out.  

You don’t have to be on all of them. You need to be on one of them effectively. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook, but you gotta be on one. That’s step one. First get the social media hub going. You can actually sell off of social media directly, not the best way to go about doing it, but it’s possible. You can use that as a way to leverage your audience there and get started. Social media first. 

The second part is your email list. You need to get an email service provider and you need to start collecting email subscribers, and you don’t have to have a website in order to do that. 

Third step is your website. Many people make the mistake of doing this first. That’s the wrong way around. They go and build their website first. And then they go, “where are all the people?” And amazed that nobody has shown up. 

Well, that’s because they don’t know who you are. There’s no way for them to find you. So, you do that last and you use those first two things to drive them to your website. And when you work those three things in tandem and you have a system worked out so that you’re not just mindlessly scrolling on Facebook or Instagram, and you’re intentionally driving traffic to your website and getting people to subscribe to your email list.

Then you can move to pillar number four, which is to grow your audience. When you get to building an audience, you are using your online platform, your thriving artist mindset, and your compelling artwork to reach out to your ideal collector and grow an audience. Not just an audience of anybody and everybody, but your audience of ideal collectors.

It doesn’t do me any good to build an audience of other artists. I see so many artists doing that. Don’t do that. Some artists buy. A lot of artists don’t. You don’t want to fill up your audience with other artists who are not necessarily going to be your buyers. You need an audience of your ideal collectors. You can do an awful lot with a small audience and so don’t feel like you have to get to a thousand people before you can do anything.  

Once you have that audience engaged and you build a relationship with them, then you can move to pillar five and launch your artwork. In essence, have your own online solo show, where you share your work with whoever you’ve decided your ideal audience is.  

Whether it is gallerists, because you want to get into a gallery, interior designers, because you want to work with designers, or people who collect landscapes, all of those revolve around you creating some kind of event and releasing your work out into the world. But you can’t do that until you’ve got those other four pillars in place. 

So there is indeed an order, starting with the mindset. Number two is the compelling art. Number three is the online platform, and remember it starts with social media, goes to your email list, and then to your website. You then use your online platform to grow your audience, which is pillar number four. Then moving on to pillar five, you share your work with that audience through a launch.


CCL Webinar CTA-4

How to Use Value, Color, and Composition to Make Compelling Paintings

You're invited to a special free workshop I’m hosting where I'll share how you can leverage composition, value, and color to make compelling paintings. If you missed this earlier now's the time to save your seat.  You can learn more here and find a time that fits your schedule.

Building Clouds | 4 x 6″

Building Clouds | 4 x 6″

"Building Clouds" 4 x 6" oil on panel


$235.00.00 (unframed) + $10.00 shipping

4 x 6 inch oil on panel

Ships within 7 days

The higher more distant clouds aren’t white at all, more of a mauve, a pale bluish purple that gives the sky closer to the horizon line a darker smudge.

As they build that smudge will turn into a dark bruise just before it releases the water.

Kudzu Tree | 6 x 4″

Kudzu Tree | 6 x 4″

“Kudzu Tree”, oil on panel, 6 x 4”


$235.00.00 (unframed) + $10.00 shipping

4 x 6 inch oil on panel

Ships within 7 days

Kudzu and grape vines almost completely covered this tree along Cabin Creek.

Old and ailing, it leaned out over the road at a surreal angle for many years.

The vines kept on creating fantastical, ghost-like shapes.

A good wind, in the form of either Hurricane Joaquin or Matthew brought it down over the road finally.