Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Red Bel Air - Step by Step of a Classic Car Painting

I have been thinking about a number of ideas for a few new car paintings. They are always fun and challenging to do with all of the highlights and reflections. Instead of thinking about what I am actually painting, I have to concentrate just on shapes. It is always intriguing to me how these shapes eventually come together. It seems so abstract while I am working on it - then at some point you step back and realize, wow - that actually looks like something!

Anyways, here is "Red Bel Air" step by step:

Sketching the basic outline:

Laying in blocks of color - I like to do this to check out the composition and accuracy of my drawing. It is still easy to change things at this point:

Starting to play with the shapes - just looking at all the little shapes of different colors, not thinking about what the shapes actually are:

Moving through different parts of the painting - starting to see some of the shapes coming together:

 Getting close to done! This is when I look at it as a whole and make any changes/additions to make sure it all works together and is cohesive:

The finished painting:
"Red Bel Air"
10 x 10", acrylic on canvas

I believe it is a '55 Chevy Bel Air by the way - the 1950's seem to be my favorite decade for car designs! If you are interested in seeing more of my classic car paintings, you check them out in the category view on my DailyPaintworks site here: Classic Cars

"Red Bel Air" is currently hanging at the Newburyport Art Association's Spring Members Exhibition in Newburyport, Massachusetts through April 29th.



Sunday, March 25, 2018

Rt. 1 Mini Golf - Neon Sign Painting

Rt. 1 Miniature Golf
24 x 18 inches
acrylic on canvas

Gotta love the miniature golf course along Route 1 with the orange dinosaur. But - ack! - it is no longer there! Not only do I miss seeing the dinosaur, but it was also a fun course to play - with batting cages and an ice cream stand as well. While the developers promise to keep the orange dinosaur on site, it just isn't the same when he isn't lording over the edge of the course right next to the highway. This painting is part of the neon sign that also accompanied the business. The sign no longer stands - I had painted it previously as a small painting, but knew I needed to preserve the memories in a larger format.

Progress pictures:
 Sketching in the composition and laying out the sky color


 Refining the composition and filling in blocks of color before adding details


Hey there - it's me! I don't often include myself in pictures, but decided to change it up a bit!

Want to see it in person? "Rt. 1 Miniature Golf" will be on exhibit late March through the 27th of April at the Salisbury Public Library in Salisbury, Massachusetts. (Click on image to see it larger.)



Corner Coffee Shop

George's Coffee Shop
20 x 16 inches
acrylic on canvas

I've never been a big fan of chain restaurants  - I'd much rather try out the small local mom-and-pop greasy spoons. I've found a lot of gems along the way. (And some misses as well!) Breakfast is my favorite meal to eat out - so places that serve breakfast all day are always on the top of my list.
George's Coffee Shop is  great little diner on a busy corner in Gloucester, Mass. I recently drove by and noticed that the signage had changed - I like the older hand-painted version better so I decided to paint it that way and preserve the more old-fashioned character.

Progress shots:
Roughly sketching in my composition


Laying down some quick color washes 


Refining some areas, and going back for more detail


Want to see it in person? "George's Coffee Shop" will be on exhibit late March through the 27th of April at the Salisbury Public Library in Salisbury, Massachusetts.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Progression of a Painting - Stay


"Stay" is a recently finished 18 x 24" acrylic painting of a part of a sign from the Salem Willows in Salem,  Massachusetts.

I have an obsession with this sign! It combines neon and light bulbs, great colors and interesting shapes all on a sign with a bit of history. I have painted various parts of it from different angles - and every time I look at it, I see another way I want to paint it!

I am showing you some work in progress photos to show you a bit about my process.


I always start by sketching my composition out on the canvas or panel. Frequently I do rough thumbnail sketches on paper to make a plan, then I do a quick sketch on the substrate. Usually I go over my pencil lines with some paint; I like to get a feel for the composition, plus the paint stays in place, while the pencil lines usually get smeared or rubbed out.


Next I get into the painting by laying out blocks of color. If the painting has difficult values, then I will do a one color value painting as a base (kind of a grisaille). But usually with my larger paintings, I like to block in colors. It covers the white of the canvas and helps me check the composition and juxtapostion of colors. I can then make any corrections to the drawing and composition before I start adding details.

Then I do layer after layer of color, adding form and eventually details.

I work my way through the whole painting, then I go back with a few more details and add some color notes throughout the entire piece.

I am thrilled that "Stay" was juried into the Newburyport Art Association's Winter Members Juried Exhibit  (jurors Todd Bonita and Donald Jurney) and will be on exhibit at the Art Association until  March 4. It's a wonderful exhibition - hope you can check it out if you are local!

For more info about the Newburyport Art Association, see their website here. And for more information about "Stay", please contact me here.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Color for a Grey Day

How nice it is to be able to enjoy a touch of the tropics on a cold, grey New England winter day!

For the third year, the Haverhill Arts Association is holding a "Paint-In" inside the greenhouse at Nunan's Florist and Greenhouses in Georgetown, Mass. For three Sundays, we set up our easels, settle with in our sketchbooks, sculpt in clay - or work in whatever medium we choose - anywhere the main greenhouse at Nunan's. 

It is so amazing to work among all the color and beautiful tropical plants during the usually dreary month of January. There is colorful inspiration everywhere:





I usually have a hard time deciding where to paint - there are so many lovely things here! Besides the beautiful plants, there are wonderful statues, colorful pots and all kinds of fun accessories. Sometimes, I choose to set up a little still life. Other times I just  zoom in on a single plant. Then greenhouse is  usually fairly warm and bright, which makes it a pleasant place to be in the middle of winter.  It is also quite humid - which makes it a bit extra challenging to paint with acrylics.  I am used to painting quickly, in thin layers  - so paint that won't dry can be a bit difficult and requires me to be flexible. This year I decided to try working on canvas, since in the past I found that the paint on panels wouldn't dry at all. Experimenting always keeps things interesting!

One Sunday, I picked out a lovely tropical plant in oranges and yellows to paint. Here is my set up:


After wrestling with it for a bit, I ended up with this little 6x6" piece on canvas:

On Sunday, January 28, we will be having an exhibition at Nunan's from 12 until 3 pm to show what we have been working on the last few weeks. It is always fun to display our work in the greenhouse! More pictures to come......

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Behind the Scenes....Setting up for a Small Exhibition

So, a few weeks ago, I got a last-minute opportunity to display my work in a new venue. I had originally planned to exhibit there in a few months, but the chance arose to hang earlier and I had work in my studio that had just come back from another venue so I said "Why not?" (I am trying my best to be flexible these days!)

I hadn't seen the actual space yet and just had rough dimensions to work with. To improvise a layout, I took some painters tape and a tape measure and marked the approximate size of each wall on my studio floor. Then I moved some paintings around, trying to figure out what worked best together and fit within the spaces.

I was definitely nervous about how it was all going to work out since I really had no idea what the actual location looked like. I packed up my chosen paintings, crossed my fingers and went to set things up.

I arrived with my work and my hanging caddy (a bag with some basic tools, extra hanging wire and "just in case" items like duct tape and paper clips) to find a lovely little niche with a new hanging system all ready to go. I've hung my work in a lot of different places - you never know what you are going to find - so this definitely was a pleasure. The Haverhill Arts Association president Ann Jones was there to help me and together we got everything hung rather efficiently.

In the end, I think it fit the small space rather nicely:

There was even a nice bit of publicity in the local media - thanks WHAV!

If you are local to Massachusetts and are interested in checking it out, my little exhibition is at the UMass Lowell Innovation Hub at Harbor Place in downtown Haverhill until the end of February.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Happy New Year - and Gratitude

Time Traveler, acrylic painting by Debbie Shirley

How do you start off the  New Year? Do you make resolutions for what you plan to do or change this year? Do you look back to see what you accomplished or didn't get done?

I tend to do a little of both: I usually spend time over the holidays looking back over the year and also making plans (mostly business related) for the upcoming 12 months. This year the holidays were a little more hectic than usual with a lot of family things going on, so I never really felt I had the time to sit back and think. But one thing did really stick out in my mind - both for last year and moving forward - which is despite all the things that can temporarily get me down, I do have a lot of reasons to be grateful.

I've been thinking a lot about gratitude as this new year kicks off. I have so much to be thankful for! I am so thankful that I was able to travel home to see my family for Thanksgiving. With three very busy kids and a husband who often travels for work, I don't get to make the trip back to the Midwest nearly often enough. It was wonderful to spend the holiday with my parents, siblings and their families.

I am also so grateful for my collectors. Thanks to them, I get to do the work that I love to do every day.  Without people buying/supporting my work, I wouldn't be able to continue painting - so a huge "thank you" to you all!

As another busy holiday season is now in the books, I am also thankful for all the small businesses who have supported me by allowing me to show and sell work in their stores. These are the kind of businesses that I like to shop in myself - the small, independently owned shops, each with their own personalities and unique offerings. If you are local to Massachusetts,  I hope you will check out the following places where my work is available:
(And if you aren't local, I hope you will find some small independently owned businesses near you to shop!)
West Village Provisions, Boxford, MA
Positive Images Gallery, Haverhill, MA
North Shore Makers Mart, Topsfield, MA
Newbuyport Art Association, Newburyport, MA
Zenobia, Ipswich, MA
Pop Gallery, Gloucester, MA

I am looking forward to what 2018 will bring - lots of new work, new shows, new experiences to share - I hope you will continue to travel along with me. You can always follow me on Facebook or Instagram for more frequent updates. Or contact me if you have any comments or questions - or ideas for paintings that you would like to see. In the meanwhile - thank you and Happy New Year!