Friday, August 21, 2020

Studio Clutter Bee

I've now watched a few episodes of HGTV's "Hot Mess House" and have gathered that I'm what they call a CLUTTER BEE   (I'm organized but prefer to "see" my frequently used items.)

So today I created this little corner in my art Studio! It is 43" wide and 24" deep.

From the bottom left: Standing up against the wall are my watercolor papers in plastic bags and cardboard. Above that is my bulletin board. Top center are some Montreal paintings.  Under that is a simple shelf, screwed to the wall (I show you a close up next). On the table are all my paints. To the right of the table is a LazySusan with brushes, pencils,etc. Under the table against the back wall are my Fredrix watercolor canvases. And on the stool are unread art magazines or books, perfect for a quick grab as I head to any appointment where I know I may have to wait a while.

This is a closeup of the shelf. It's made of 1x4's and is attached to the wall with an L-bracket.  I didn't make it. I found it about 25 years ago either at Goodwill or some such, and figured it was the perfect shape for storage. Since then, it's lived in my attic, till today! 💟

Everything in its place, and easily grab-able!  The little plastic shot glasses are labeled with whatever paint color they hold (marked with a Sharpie).  Sometimes on a very large painting, I want large quantities of a particular color. I squirt in fresh paint and add enough water to get it to whatever value (lightness/darkness) I will be using. I've also used this method for "pourings".

So, are you wondering which Clutterbug YOU are?! Take the test! 
...and let me know in the Comments!

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Two Things...

1.  I'm finishing my latest watercolor by adding pen and ink, using a dip pen and Sepia ink I bought in Venice.  I inadvertently dropped my pen last night, and bent the nib. 😧I used pliers to try to fix it but nothing helped (it just wouldn't hold the ink). I panicked. I only had about 5 more minutes left to finish the piece.  Tried shopping online, and then I remembered....!

Two years ago I bought this child's version of a dip pen for my then 6 yr old granddaughter/artist. I felt she did not yet have the dexterity to handle it or the ink bottle, and who knows? She might even drop and break the pen!  💚

Her pen saved the day! I've been recording (at high speed) the painting process for this piece. I just have to figure out how to stitch the various videos together now.  😕 

2) Because I wanted a variety of yellows for my aforementioned painting, I pulled out several tubes and created "drawdowns" for them.  (I used to work as Purchasing Manager for a household paint manufacturer in my 20's. In their world, drawdown is a large sample of paint from the actual can of paint being used for the job.)

Here I sampled two Daniel Smith pigments and realized they were beyond "extremely similar", although the New Gamboge does seem to be more vibrant by just a hair. It made the cut!


Admit it! We've all felt too cooped up!  Please REPLY to this email if you'd like to be added to my Notifications about upcoming workshops.  In the Fall of 2021, we are going to Venice, Florence and Portugal!

THIS November, if all goes well, you'll have the pleasure of painting with Kim Minichiello, an awarded artist from Florida. I invited her to Summerville, SC to teach you!  Summerville is only 20 miles from the Charleston airport (airport code CHS if you want to research flights).  You may find details for Kim's workshop HERE. Just the "proverbial" few spots are left at this point! You will paint both of these reference images, as small 8x8 to 12x12 paintings. Please share this info with a painting friend? Thanks!!

Paintings copyrighted by Kim Minichiello (Workshop Details HERE).

All my best,

Helen 💟

Monday, December 9, 2019


Today's recommendations (I get no compensation)...

1) I'm impressed with Creative Mark (Creative Inspirations) watercolor brushes. They range in price from $2 to $6 or you can buy sets. If you like a Round, consider a No 8, T1-RS.  If you like a Flat, how about a 3/4", T1-FS?

You can buy them HERE

2) I'm loving 2 of Daniel Smith's gray watercolors...

- Jane's Grey, and
- Joseph Z's Warm Grey

I like how one is cool and one is warm.  They mix well with other colors and they also glaze nicely (see how you can thin them down to nothing?)

You can buy them HERE and HERE

Click on my Upcoming Workshops:






Join me in a 2020 Workshop!
(Helen xoxo)

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Black Holes in Reference Photos

A watercolor "tippette" from July 2018 - worth a 2nd look!!

Tippette #37: The Black Hole(s) in Reference Photos

Tippette = Snippet of a Tip (in watercolor).

Here's a real life example of why artists shouldn't rely solely on photos for reference.

Photos lie, especially in the darkest portions of a photo.  Just look at the difference between the reference photo and then the lightened up version below it.  Get ready to be amazed!

So hard to tell what's going on in the darks.

Lightened up version (use any photo editing software).
No way I saw that door open, with a man walking through it.
And just look at the windows!!
But now I have to figure out what to do about the door...hmmmm.
Luckily, I have MUCH experience with painting doors!
The answer when working from photos is to be sure you know exactly what's happening in your dark areas or you'll end up with a black hole that nobody wants to go down. Here's the finished painting...

"Late in the Day"
Watercolor on 300# Arches - Available
Helen K Beacham Fine Art
I hope these periodic tippettes help you in your painting journey.  Ask me anything in the Comments below and I'll either direct you to an existing tippette, or I'll write a post with my answer.


Remember to sign up to receive my blog automatically, sent via email to your inbox!  Let me know if you have trouble doing that.

My next overseas workshop is VENICE IN APRIL 2020
Please share with a painting friend!?  Thank you!


Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Merry Christmas to me!

I pre-ordered this book 3 months ago when I heard about it. A knock on my door just now announced its arrival!!

It's my intention to review the book for you and hopefully I'll give it high marks! (I just flipped through it and I bet I will!)

 If you want to buy it now, HERE'S THE LINK for you.

My next overseas workshop is VENICE IN APRIL 2020
Please share with a painting friend!?  Thank you!


Wednesday, September 25, 2019

A Moment in Venice: Rare Sighting

Photo by Helen K Beacham Fine Art (copyrighted)

You would think cats were a common sight in Venice.  They're not.

Maybe they're mostly kept inside because Venetians allow their dogs (sometimes? oftentimes?) to roam freely off-leash. 

Although the dogs ARE mostly tiny and really cute!

Photo by Daphne (copyrighted) 

My next overseas workshop is VENICE IN APRIL 2020
Please share with a painting friend!?  Thank you!


Monday, August 26, 2019

A Moment in Venice: Dusk

Dusk settles slowly but surely over Venice
Photo Copyright:  Helen K Beacham Fine Art
Next overseas workshop is VENICE IN APRIL 2020
Please share with a painting friend!?  Thank you!


Thursday, August 22, 2019

A Moment in Venice: Girls will be Girls!

"Here, I'll show you how it's done."
Sitting on top of a cistern in Campo San Stefano, girls entertain themselves while their parents sit and enjoy an aperitivo before dinner.
(Photo by Helen K Beacham Fine Art: Venice, Italy 2018)
Next overseas workshop is VENICE IN APRIL 2020
Please share with a painting friend!?  Thank you!


Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Next: The Castle!!

Even though I've been talking about my France Castle workshop for a while now, it's not happening till Sept 5 and we're really gearing up for it now!

Bordeaux, France
I'll be joined first in Bordeaux (for 5 days) by 6 in my group (you know who you are!!) so we can get over jet lag and do some sightseeing (and wine tasting!).  Then we head over to Castle Marouatte about an hour from there, to meet up with 8 more in our group.  Our Castle host is Miles Copeland III, music and entertainment producer, and I'm told he knows how to show folks a great time!

This is what my dining room looks like for now, as I plop down items I don't want to forget...just so I can pull some back out later, when I realize it won't all fit. (it never gets easier!)

WIFI permitting, I shall post photos from our trip while we're gone.  Wish you were coming!

Helen xoxo

Next overseas workshop is VENICE IN APRIL 2020
Please share with a painting friend!?  Thank you!


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

How to Create Reproductions

Reader Question: Can you tell us how you go about getting reproductions (*) made?

(*) Reproductions nowadays are usually called giclees (zhee-clay) which means they use archival inks and paper.  Because they're printed digitally, you may order any quantity, from as little as One.  In the Olden Times, we ordered Lithograph prints which were not archival and we had to order quantities closer to 1,000 in order to offset the high upfront cost of using a 4-color printing press.

- Decide if your painting is reproduction-worthy.  Sometimes I just want a professional image that I can use for competition entry (this is the first step, anyway, in getting a reproduction). Other times, I actually do proceed to print either because someone asked for that print specifically, or to shrinkwrap them for a bin at an upcoming art show, in the hopes of selling them.

- Name your painting.  That's how you'll refer to it in the future...more details about this below. (Start a spreadsheet with the names of your paintings along with a brief description of it so you can "remember them").  

- Take your painting to a reputable digital printer, preferably in your own area (so that you can have a 1-on-1, face to face, discussion about what's important to you).  I use Inkpressions/Photographiks in my town of Summerville, SC.  They do a great job for me. Please tell them I sent you! (If you're lucky enough to have more than 1 printer in your town, compare prices.  They can vary dramatically.)

- The printing company will guide you through your options of paper for your prints and they'll discuss your pricing options.  There's an initial setup fee, a scanning fee (depending on the size of your painting) and printing fees (depending on size and type of paper).

- They'll scan your painting and show you a proof for approval, printed onto whichever paper you chose above.  If, during your 1-on-1, you told them what you expected from the result, your proof should be ready for sign off.  (A digital printer can never 100% capture all the nuances of a painting which is typically created on non-totally-white watercolor paper, using any number of pigments.  So I might say to them that "obtaining that special orange I used for the dress on this commission is critical", or I might say "I want the highlights to pop"...things like that).

- If you're truly not happy with the proof, tell them why.  If it's fixable, they'll do it.  If not, they'll tell you why not.

- After approval, they'll save the file on their system under the name you gave the painting, so you can just call them and order "x" number of prints at a future date.  

- I go the extra step, and I always ask them to save the high resolution Photoshop file onto a thumbdrive I provide them with at time of approval. I also ask for a small proof, which is a duplicate of the one I signed off on.  (There's an extra charge to do this.) If the printer ever goes out of business, I have my high rez file and a proof to give to the next printer so they have something to color match to.

- I create a low resolution image, using the hig rez, so I can file the low rez in a folder on my computer for a quick visual.  They're saved in alphabetical order in that folder.  If you don't know how to create a low rez, ask your printer to save one on your thumbdrive for you (be courteous and do that on the front end so they don't incur extra hours).  I then post my low rez to social media as well.

Hope this helps!  I love your questions so feel free to ask me anything! 

Friday, May 3, 2019

Daphne Goes to Venice (Part 4)

We're back from our terrific trip to Venice!  Daphne grinned from ear to ear every day (other than for one hour on Day 7 when she had a meltdown in a restaurant...not a tantrum, just big fat tears.  She was worn out and we still had a 1 hour concert ahead of us.  She got over it and we ended up with a memorable evening!)

Things I learned:

1.  Don't expect your child to sleep soundly the whole way over the ocean just because they're good sleepers normally.  Have plenty of entertainment available.  Necessities:  Good headphones, various flavors of gum, and a kid sized fluffy blankie and pillow.

2.  Don't expect your picky eater to suddenly want to eat everything put in front of her, just because you're in Venice!  Luckily, she truly enjoyed the bread, potatoes (not so much those other veggies) and she loves prosciutto and salami. And gelato!!! And brie or gnocchi!

3.  Anticipate fatigue in your wee ones.  On the front end, I shared my intentions of buying a scooter for her so she was "high" with anticipation and she never once complained of being tired once she got it.  We also gave her the option of walking/scooting to our destinations or riding a boat.  The scooter was foldable so you could easily carry it on board, and, when we left Venice, we abandoned it in the apartment for the next family to enjoy.

4.  Much of the culture will be over their heads. I gave Daphne a writing journal.  On the first few pages, I wrote a small paragraph about things she'd see:  cisterns, knockers, lions, fountains and so on.  I also wrote a bit about how Venice is made up of  118 small islands with bridges connecting them.  She read it on the plane and was ready to watch for these things when we got there.  She then wrote daily in her journal.  Some evenings it was hard for her to remember everything that happened, but with the aid of her camera and pictures, she managed pretty well on her own!

5.  Give them a little grownup freedom.  I gave her my old camera to use.  I attached it to a kid-sized lanyard and she had that camera with her the whole time.  First she was taking panoramic shots.  Soon, as she observed me, she started honing in on closeup shots, even just reflections in the water. (I don't think there's a dog or pigeon in Venice that DIDN'T get photographed!!!  Lots of paintings to come from those, I imagine!)

6.  Don't assume kids wouldn't like exhibitions (or concerts).  One day, I recommended to Antoine (her Daddy, our son) that he could go inside the DaVinci exhibit (where they've created working models of DaVinci's inventions) while she and I sketched outside.  He suggested she might like the show too, so we all went in.  She seemed fascinated by it all!

7.  This one's addressed to me:  Don't assume your little artist won't want to sketch EVERY day.  She very well might!

The day (night??) we landed back in JFK, Daphne looked at me.  She said "I'm going back to Venice one day."  I said "Yes, I'm sure you will."  She said "But...probably not before I'm 12."  😍😍💙💜💚💗

The End (for now)

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Mother Mary Gets to Travel

"Mother Mary Comes to Me"
is traveling to Decatur, Alabama
for the 78th Annual National Exhibition
of the Watercolor Society of Alabama!

This painting allowed me to play with the moodier side of color.
You all know how much I love Venice and this Mary's home is inside the Chiesa di San Salvador, close to the Rialto bridge.

 I'm honored that renowned juror Laurin McCracken chose my painting
to be a part of this prestigious show!

The show will hang at the Alabama Center for the Arts (Decatur, AL)
from June 2 to August 2.
Reception is Sunday, June 2, from 1-4pm and everyone's invited!

My painting will be available for purchase at the show or through me.

Email me at

And remember, in September, I'm teaching 
at a castle in France (where we'll LIVE!)
Come, and bring your non-painting spouse too! 


Monday, March 25, 2019

Daphne Goes to Venice (Part 3)

Saturday I really put Daphne to the test.  If we're going to sketch Venice in real life, we'd better practice sketching canals right now.  I was a bit scared for her (and for me...I figured she'd balk, or worse).

I showed her the following photo, pointed out a few things like "See how the reflections fall right below the buildings themselves?" and "See how the building on the left disappears off the page at the top?"  I saw her looking at the photo and I thought maybe her eyes were glazing over when I heard her say "I totally understand what you're saying."  I leaned in and said "You don't understand what I'm saying?" "No.  I TOTALLY understand."  (She's 6.5!) That was my cue to say "I'm leaving you now to draw.  See you in a few."  

Those of you that took my "Venice Vicariously" workshop might
remember this photo was the one I painted from.

...and here's Daphne's sketch.
She drew the main shapes first and then, as she said, 
she "drew the details last".  That's my girl!

What do you think!?  Other than some angle issues (perspective issues...which even my adult students encounter!), she completed it beautifully in about 20 minutes.

We leave for Venice in 2.5 weeks.  My itinerary will be slightly different this trip because I don't want to take her where it's crowded (I'll share our itinerary at some point...I'm hoping to see things I don't usually get to see).  I typically stay away from crowds anyway, but at some point you do have to go through them or around them (although April is a splendid time when tourists have not quite arrived en masse).

P.S. in the reference photo she worked from, she saw the flag in the top right and asked me about it.  These are hung throughout Venice and the lion represents St. Mark, the patron saint of Venice.  I myself own 2 Venice flags so I gave her the smaller of the 2 for her room.  Happy camper = Happy grandma!

So...please tell me if you've ever taken your grandchild on a trip with YOU!  Where did you go?  What did you do? HOW did it go??

You might also enjoy:

And remember, in September, I'm teaching 
at a castle in France (where we'll LIVE!)
Come, and bring your non-painting spouse too! 


Monday, March 4, 2019

Daphne Goes to Venice (Part 2)

In just 5 weeks, I head to Venice with Daphne (my 6 yr old artist/granddaughter) and her Daddy (our son, Antoine....he kept his French name when we moved from Montreal to the U.S. when he was only 3.5 yrs old.)

When Antoine decided to join us on this Venice trip, I wanted to be sure he wouldn't be bored, because Daphne and I will sketch or paint every day (probably all day long, since it's her favorite thing to do).  Antoine reassured me and said he might actually paint with us!  As a child, he was good at sketching, but real life got in the way of things creative although I'm sure he'd say golf is his creative outlet!

As part of my effort to get him up to speed quickly, I've created a tiny TRAVEL PALETTE for him (it's actually a pill container!).  I've included 3 cool colors, 4 warm colors and I've added Shadow Violet by Daniel Smith which is a color I can't live without lately. It plays so nicely either by itself or mixed with other colors.

Pill Container turned into mini travel palette.  Buy it HERE
(If you buy a different brand, make sure it's still white.)

Pigments from left:  Daniel Smith (DS) Thalo Blue (green shade), Winsor & Newton (WN) Permanent Rose, DS Nickel Titanate Yellow, DS Quinophthalone Yellow, DS Aussie Red Gold, WN Cadmium Red, DS Ultramarine Blue, DS Shadow Violet (in the center).

The first 3 are cool colors.  The other 5 are warm.
You really could use whatever cool and warm colors you already have, but try to stick with blue/red/yellow since there are not many wells.

You may buy the water brush HERE.

Then I created a chart in the back of his SKETCH BOOK that shows him what every color looks like, painted over every other color.  Look at all the colors you can create with just 7 colors! Check out the variety of greens w/o one single tube of green being included!
I used a PINK PIG 270g A5 Posh Banana Watercolor Book, but when I went to find it online for you, it's only showing up on Amazon UK.  I do believe I actually bought it through them and it shipped to me in about 2 weeks' time.  The price is right and the paper holds up very well to lots of water.  Check it out HERE.
The colors bled only because I didn't wait long enough to cover the initial color with more color.  I knew better.

For Venice or France, I particularly like the combo of Shadow Violet with all of the other colors (as shown in the top row of the chart)! Except when you're on the Venetian island of BURANO, when all of the other brighter colors will come into play!

Even though I use all kinds of travel palettes, I'm planning on all 3 of us using this new mini version in April. I'll let you know what Daphne thinks about that in a future post! We're really starting to get excited now!

You may also enjoy "Daphne Goes to Venice (Part 1)" HERE.

In September, I'm teaching at a castle in France (where we'll LIVE!)
Non-painting spouses are also invited!