Monthly Archives: May 2013


I’ll be at Maple Rock Gardens in Newcastle, California, Saturday afternoon, June 1, 2013, for Bloomtastic!, along with a few of my colleagues from High Hand Gallery. We’ll have a booth with artwork; I’m going to bring something to demonstrate while I’m there—probably my gouaches. They’re easier to transport, and I don’t want to confuse people with the plein air competition they’re going to have.

Yellow Lily, ©2013 Stephanie Benedict.
Yellow Lily, 8″ x 8″, oil on panel. ©2013 Stephanie Benedict.

I’ll also be bringing some of my floral paintings to share. Every spring, I find myself painting flowers. I don’t really plan it—it’s more of a compulsion. I wish all compulsions were this fun!

I’ve heard they’re expecting a lot of people for the event. I’ve been out to Maple Rock Gardens once, last summer. There are several types of gardens, a miniature train set, a greenhouse—it’s a pretty amazing place, actually. They’ve even got a Sunset Magazine test garden out there now.

I’ll be there in the afternoon, but the event is 9:00 to 4:00. If you are in the greater Sacramento/South Placer area and are interested in gardens—come on out!

Tickets are here, and directions here.



Just for Fun!

Here’s something I’ve been doing just for the fun of it.

Stephanie Benedict's sketches from Fun with a Pencil.
My versions of drawing assignments in Andrew Loomis’ book Fun with a Pencil. He’s right–it is fun!

These are my interpretations of the lessons in Andrew Loomis’ wonderful book, Fun with a Pencil.

I’ve never thought of myself as a cartoonist before, but these guys have been a ton of fun to do. Loomis was an illustrator who wrote several books on drawing. I’ve learned more from them than I ever did in art class! Well, maybe not more, exactly—but a lot.

What do you like to sketch? Have you ever tried sketching cartoon heads?


Auburn Arts in the Parks

I’ve been invited to participate this weekend in a plein air painting event at the Foothill Farmer’s Market in Auburn, California. I’ll be painting near the market in the morning. In the afternoon, my paintings will be available at the Arts in the Parks event.

Stephanie will be painting at the Farmers Market on May18.
If you’re in the Auburn area Saturday, May 18, stop by the farmers market to find me painting, or head over to the Arts in the Parks in the afternoon to vote for your favorite plein air painting.

I went to the farmer’s market last Saturday to scope the site out. The market itself is very small and BUSY! There’s not a lot of room for a painter near the booths, so I’ll be out on the fringes of the event. Someday, I’ll see if I can paint people in the wild. In the meantime, I’m going to stick to more stationery subjects: buildings and flowers.


Changing the Composition

Sometimes it’s only when you’re back in the studio that you see.

Plein air painting is a challenge: the light’s always changing; there are bugs and heat (or cold), etc., etc., etc. James Gurney recently posted a list and video on plein air painting disasters. Well, here’s another one: sometimes you don’t see the inherent weaknesses of your composition until you’re back in the studio.


Stephanie Benedict mustard and goldfields en plein air
The original study for Mustard and Goldfields, on the easel. This one is too squished.

At the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge last month, they took us to a portion of the refuge not normally open to people. Which was fabulous and much appreciated. The day even cooperated a bit: the light got better as the high clouds started to move out.

So I set up my easel under the canopy the refuge staff kindly set up for us on that unseasonably hot day* and went for it. I wanted to try to capture the wide expanse of the scene, the feel of the sun shining, the open sky.

But I only had squarish boards: 9″ x 12″, 8″ x 10″.

So I tried squishing the composition to fit the board. I thought I could get both ends of the composition and leave the middle out**. The image above is that first version, painted on site.

Once I got back into the studio, I saw my experiment had failed. Oh, the day is warm, and the greens are close to right, but—eh. The painting doesn’t sing.

So I changed the composition, after this time doing some value sketches. Here’s what I’m getting. This one’s not quite done yet, and as I look at the photo I can see things that need changing. But this larger one has much more the sense of the open space, the big wide world that I almost always want to portray in my paintings.

Work on progress by Stephanie Benedict
Mustard and Goldfields in progress, by Stephanie Benedict. Oil on canvas. 12″ by 24″

I guess this is more reason to switch my plein air materials from pre-made boards to something I can manipulate—either cut or mount—later. So I can get the compositions better the first time round. AND be more rigorous about those doing those thumbnail sketches first!

What are you looking for in landscape paintings?

*or maybe this is the new normal in the Central Valley: almost no rain, and 90 degree days in April.

**And yes, I can think of lots of other solutions NOW, back in the studio.