Karen LeGault ~Fine Art Blog

February 21, 2016

What’s in a Brushstroke?

Filed under: Floral/Botanical,Technical Aspects,Uncategorized — by Karen LeGault @ 09:11
I have observed many students loading a brush and then wiping out their efforts by dipping it in their water jar and eliminating the color they so carefully had picked up.
Painting with watercolor requires an attention to the quality of the relationship between pigment and water. You have to be constantly thinking about what you are trying to place on the paper.
The more water, obviously, the less intense the color will be, and vs a vs, an application of straight pigment with very little water added will yield a more intense color. There is a time for each!
There are many many types of brushstrokes, some are wet, wet and sloppy, some are dry, some very dry, some are big and bold, some are tiny and precise. The size, shape and nature of the brush and how wet or dry the brush is before you touch the paper with it all come together as you imagine what you want to happen when the stroke is placed.
Ultimately it is your imagination that is in charge! It has to request support from you and your brush, together with pigment and water, to create the strokes that lead to revealing your vision.

January 22, 2015

Engineering in Art ~ The Creative Process in the Evolution of a Painting

Filed under: Artists,Floral/Botanical — by Karen LeGault @ 02:44
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by Karen LeGault

All writing and paintings in this article copyright by Karen LeGault. If you share please give credit to Karen LeGault and post a link to my website – http://www.karenlegault.com.

Engineering in Art 

“One of the things that really struck me when talking with you is that you use a predictable and disciplined approach to your creative work – it’s not a random walk in the dark that I think many non-creative types think creativity is about.  Rather you have the structure built into your process to allow the creative juices to flow and the art to take form through “design” and iteration.  That’s the core of any successful innovation, in my mind anyway.” Kevin McGourty http://www.inpdcenter.com

How my Persimmon Paintings Have Evolved

Recently I was speaking with my friend Kevin McGourty, who helps engineers and manufacturers figure out how to reformat existing tools to create new products. As a visitor to my studio he was particularly interested in the creative process of how paintings evolve.

He said that one of the issues he often faces with engineering types was they wanted their answers in a straightforward manner. One of his challenges was to get engineers to let go of the need for a direct answer and to “play around” with some ideas and options to see where they lead.

One of the many subjects my students have painted as a class project over the years has become a Persimmon Painting. It didn’t start out as a persimmon painting. It started out as a Loquat Painting.

In teaching Chinese Brush Painting we learn by copying the excellent compositions and brushstrokes of paintings of Master Painters who we admire.

One of the many Masters who we have emulated is Chao Shao An, who excels at the Lingnan School style of painting. The Lingnan School is a “Southern” style exemplified by an environment that is warmer, hence softer, intimate and even somewhat tropical. By contrast, to give you an idea, the “Northern” style often shows imposing and cold looking mountains, sharp and angular composition and brushstrokes as opposed to flowing and rounded.

Chao Shao An is widely collected and shown by the Asian Art Museum in SF. His brush strokes are wonderful and the control of dark and light ink very compelling.

Here is a picture of  Loquat Painting by Chao Shao An that I have long enjoyed.


Loquat Painting by Chao Shao An

After a few years of painting (every so often) paintings inspired by this painting as a “jump-off” point, I began to think to myself that since I rarely, if ever, have seen a Loquat Tree that I would turn the painting subject, in a similar composition, into a Persimmon Painting. I do adore Persimmons and I had painted them from life into many of my still lifes.


Persimmon in a Silver Dish, still life on hot press paper circa 1996

View from my bedroom window

Inspiration when I wake up…A view of a persimmon tree from my bedroom window.

 People forget that when you paint on rice (actually a mulberry source) paper, there is no going back and redoing your composition. The strokes need to be in the right place, or you need to be able to follow up on seeming poorly placed strokes to recover the balance and movement that you are aiming for.

So it started to look like these, from imagination using a series of various brushstrokes.



or like these – from life examples I placed on my work table to work fromPersimmons


Sometimes I revisit the original composition and opt for minimal brush strokes.


After that the painting began to look more like these

Persimmon Branch - Version 2


… and I started going back and forth between a direct brushy style and a more built up and layered style.


I enjoy both styles, but as an artist ultimately want to move towards an expression that is uniquely my own.


40″ wide

Currently this is the evolutionary development.

This long horizontal was a radical departure from the earlier compositions. There are many small branches rather than one main branch. Maintaining the interest while “spreading out” the subject matter was a challenge. If poorly planned, the shapes could be repetitious and uninteresting. I want a flow across the paper, the “breath of the dragon” to still be in play.

Partly from life and partly from imagination, I created a sense of overlapping leaves to lead the eye back and forth into the depth of the painting to stay engaged.

Currently I was  inspired by a new client to create a painting based on it that would be taller. This was even more of a challenge,  creating a sense of movement across a frontal space with fairly repetitive forms. I had to keep the forms balanced in the lights and darks and wanted to keep the rich fall colors. One of the challenges is to avoid parallel lines. Basicly this is a composition of lines balanced with oval shapes. The space between the branches is really critical to a dynamic composition. The placement and turnings of the leaves and fruit shapes has to keep the eye in motion and in the picture. It would be a simple matter to let it “die on the vine”, so to speak.

Here is the painting in progress. It is currently being created. Several studies preceded its inception.

Cameron commission persimmon painting in progress

In Progress – Cameron commission persimmon painting

November 7, 2013

Working with Pen and Ink

Filed under: Floral/Botanical,Uncategorized — by Karen LeGault @ 19:01
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by Karen LeGault

In my high school art classes everyone had a chance to work with pen and ink. In those days we used the crow quill pens that you would dip into a jar of ink to draw with. Inevitably there were always blobs from the nib that drop here and there, or smudges from a hand as the quill moved across the paper dragging a splotch from a blob.

A few years later a friend encouraged me to work with a rapidograph pen, a technical pen with a vulnerable filament of a needle that had a chance of bending if you took it apart to clean it. The beauty of using the pen lies in its perfect lines and permanent ink, non-soluble ink.

Fortunately rapidograph pens evolved and the vulnerable needles are now encased in a cartridge barrel that protects it from the user. The cartridges can be replaced when they wear out.

The drawback of these technical pens is that the ink that is formulated to be used in these pens may dry between uses, causing the needle to stick in the cartridge, requiring a thorough soaking with water and a dissolving agent to free up its movement and release of ink. There has been more than a few times when I soaked a pen cartridge for a few days in a solution of ammonia and water to get it to loosen up.

In Today’s Art Stores there are numerous disposable technical pens, drawing pens that do not have the problem of drying ink. Line work looks pretty good, though nothing really beats the clean line of ink released from a metal nib in a barrel such as a Rapidograph.

When I first started drawing plants in pen and ink, I drew them using the cross hatch style that grew out of the printing industries need to receive image images that separated the ink on their plates enough so that ink wouldn’t look blotchy and build up on the printing plates too thickly after repeated printings. Using cross hatching you can indicate the shading and subtle changes of plane that plants have a lot of. Think of the drawing of Durer for example.

As I grew dissatisfied with the mechanical look of cross hatching and began to aim for a more free and fluid look I began to draw without the cross hatching and to use instead scribbles and dots to help see the shifts in plane.

I spent several years drawing almost exclusively with a pen when I had time, refining my ability to record “place in space”, passing many hours at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden “interviewing” single plants and filling my notebooks with our meetings.

Drawing with the limitations of a pen, which has a singular sort of line, eventually segued into applying everything I had learned into the multi-dimensionality of the bamboo brush used in Oriental Brush Painting.


I found that a pen and ink “study” would increase my understanding of the forms within a subject rapidly so that executing the same with a brush was more successful.

Above is an example circa 1986 of a pen and ink drawing that I added watercolor to.

©Karen LeGault


March 21, 2012

Newest Print Release “Red Lotus”

Filed under: Floral/Botanical,Prints — by Karen LeGault @ 02:23

“Red Lotus” pen and ink and watercolor on paper
26 x 40
by Karen LeGault ©2003
fine art giclee print, signed and numbered, 26 x 40

26 x 40 giclee print, limited edition, signed and numbered

Recently a visitor at my studio was taken by this 26 x 40″ watercolor painting and was interested in purchasing it. I explained that it is in my personal collection, to be used as source material for other paintings, and not for sale.

Back in 2001 to 2007 I had the amazing experience of frequenting a Lotus Garden in Northern California, spending whole days there whenever I could, perched on the banks of the small bonds where the flowers are cultivated, with the buzz of dragonflies in the air, busy about the flowers, in the often sweltering summer heat. I was protected by the shade of some nearby willows and pines, drawing and painting, breathing in the fragrant air of the tall (and short) voluptuous flowers and their huge umbrella shaped leaves. The flowers open and turn to follow the sun during the course of the day. The petals of a flower I am looking at may have completely fallen off by the end of the afternoon. I loved the “eep” sound of the small frogs as they would leap into the water from their leaf perches when I walked by them and the sight of them sleeping in the muddy water.

The Lotus Garden is no longer open to the public, closed since 2009. I have at least 20 paintings from my times there. My visitor, Val, undeterred asked me if I had considered making a print from this painting, which was the one she liked the best. Yes, I had considered it, but now, it seemed, the time was right.

I am offering these stunning prints full size, 26 x 40″. The color is beautiful, a very close match, an excellent job by my print maker. They are printed on an acid free watercolor paper with long lasting archival printing inks, signed and numbered.

I will have this print on view at my art festival venues this year, or you can contact me about seeing it sooner. Please stop by and take a look.

August 13, 2010

New Print “Foxglove” Being Launched

Filed under: Floral/Botanical,Prints — by Karen LeGault @ 05:41

This is an image of my newest Fine Art Giclee Print release.  The image has been a favorite at shows for a while, so I decided to put it into print.

I painted it a few years back when I was growing very tall Digitalis in my garden, back when I had a good sunny spot. I literally dug it up out of the ground and posed it on a stool near my worktable. The willowy curve going up is so “Tai Chi”!  Its really elegant. It reminds me of energy going up the spine, similar to Kundalini energy, Notice that none of the flowers is facing the same direction. I think you can really feel the full flowering.

As a print it is available from 30″ up to a full 52″, (that is the size of the original). It is printed on archival watercolor paper and meets the highest industry standards for Giclee prints.

It looks great in vertical gaps between openings.

Let me know what you think. Write to me for pricing.

Thanks for taking a look.

March 24, 2010

March 23 garden mural progress at the “Flat of Medici”

Filed under: Commissions,Floral/Botanical — by Karen LeGault @ 03:42

The Garden is growing, several new horsetail ferns, some jack-in-the-pulpit, large ferns and moss filling in….  I am working on how to add some trees or suggestions of trees, without having to go all the way up to the ceiling, which would add to the cost. A trip to the Botanical Garden soon will help to give me some ideas. Much of the art of it is in suggesting changes of plane and mass so that it all seems to fall together and have a kind of earth logic of its own. There are multiple perspectives and places for the eye to move in and around the painting. The eye should be able to feel many textures and changes of temperature. It doesn’t make sense to have all these shade loving plants and no trees, so off onto the tree puzzle.

Regarding the allusion to the “Flat of Medici”, my benefactors and I were joking around about how I would refer to them in this blog, since they prefer to remain un-named.  One suggestion was – “21st century ‘flat of medici’, patron to famous artists” (or artists yet to become famous)

I will be taking a several day break from the mural. I teach all day on Wednesdays and will be getting ready for the Belmont show, which is over the coming weekend, March 26, 27 and 28. The Belmont show will be at Carlmont shopping Center near Alameda de las Puelgas, down the peninsula. I will be showing and selling both framed and unframed paintings, prints and greeting cards.

March 18, 2010

New Bathroom Mural in Progress

Filed under: Commissions,Floral/Botanical — by Karen LeGault @ 02:40

Its March 15, 2010.  I am creating my first BLOG! This morning I found myself in a bathroom between two rooms full of Birds. Cockatiels, parrots, parakeets, budgees, a canary and some I don’t know how to recognize yet. Reflective of their various owners, I am listening to an amazing array of clicks, clacks, whistles, copies of answering machines, recorded messages, sirens, car alarms, excerpts from symphonies… The people who own the house babysit birds. (and dogs, cats and rabbits) I am just getting started on a mural for this bathroom. It doesn’t look like much yet, just getting started  blocking stuff in. The wall tile is a gray green, accented with plum neutrals and tints, the floor an earthy selection of dark greens, grays, gray lavenders. This picture is taken on March 16 around 6pm.

The image is just taking shape. There are a lot of decisions to make. The inspiration for the mural is Strawberry Creek in the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden. The shape the image and composition will take is entirely invented though, to fit the horizontal shape of the space above where a beautiful slipper bathtub will rest.

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