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! 


Friday, December 28, 2018

Plan like a Pro

Think you're organized when it comes to entering competitions or keeping track of upcoming ones? That's our topic today as I try to answer some of your questions about this.

And p.s... 
As my gift to you, at the very end of this post, I list for you a few online competitions that you might want to get started with if you're not yet entering shows or competitions. (The opposite of "online" are those that require you to ship your painting to a gallery or other venue, if and when you're accepted into the show by the judge.  I apply to some of both.)

Now for the business of show/competition organization:

1.  Buy a pretty binder.  Because I keep it sitting on a shelf along with all my other pretty binders (for workshops, etc.). We are visuals, after all. I marked my binder "Entries".

2.  Add Binder Dividers. The competition name goes on each tab and they appear alphabetically in my binder.  I do this only after I decide to actuallly enter a particular show.  Yes, your tabs will likely not fall in beautiful tabbed (visually sized) order, as you add another tab between 2 existing tabs, but it's a small price to pay.  At some point in the future, buy another set of dividers and rename them so the tabs look pretty again if you prefer.

3.  Behind the appropriate divider (let's say Watercolor Society of Alabama), insert a 3-hole punched Prospectus for the show (which you will download from their website). I highlight any important details that pertain to that show.  In the top right corner of the front sheet, I mark the Deadline date (DL), the Notification date (when they will announce those accepted), and the Show Dates.  All this info is already written in the Prospectus, and I've highlighted it where it appears, but I need a quick reference available to me.  So I always write it in the same top right spot.

If I enter the same show in a different year, the new Prospectus just goes on top of the old.  All communication from them to me goes in this section as well (e.g. an acceptance letter with directions for where to ship, or a copy of my show payment, etc.)

4.  To the left of the Prospectus (on the back of the Divider, in other words), I write what I entered into that year's show.  If I enter a 2nd or 3rd year, they get recorded here so I always know what I've entered to this particular show. I also record whether a painting got accepted or rejected.

4.  In the very FRONT of the binder, I add a calendar for each month of the new year.  You may find a free, printable calendar HERE. When you open the file, all 12 months will print for you.

Here's where I add the appropriate Deadlines for the shows I'm interested in or have already entered.  Next year, at a glance, I can transfer these dates to the following year's calendar (they're usually only off by a day or two, but it does allow me to not forget them).

5.  At the very BACK of the binder, I've added a manila envelope, cut down on one side as shown, and double-taped to the binder.  Into this envelope, I add any Prospectus I've printed but am NOT going to enter.  At some point, I will end up looking through them again. Picture reading about a show in a magazine and thinking to yourself "didn't I already look into this one and reject it for some reason?".  Easy way to check on it.  On each prospectus, you could write the reason you had chosen not to enter.

Miscellaneous Thoughts:
- Some shows require you to be a member of their organization in order to enter them.  If that's the case, they ALWAYS allow you to join AS YOU'RE SIGNING up for the current show.  Once you're a member, you will get emails from them, announcing upcoming shows way ahead of time. If you're not yet ready to become a member (because each one costs about $30-40), you could reach out to them via email and ask to be put on their email list instead.
- Study each prospectus carefully.  If they say the painting must have been created after a certain date, they mean it.
- Never enter pieces that you created in a class or with a teacher's input.  You could be banned from entering future shows and your name will circulate for many to see.
- You have to start somewhere.  If the show is online, what have you got to lose other than your entry fee?  If you want to enter a show that requires shipping your accepted painting to them, I'd initially choose shows that are close to where I live to keep the shipping costs down (sometimes you could even drive your piece to them.)
- Don't enter shows if your only reason is to win a prize. The odds are heavily against you.  I didn't enter shows for many, many, many years because I preferred having the painting available for my galleries or for festivals I participated in around the country (think booth setup).  I'm just now starting to explore shows again because at some point you want to know if you measure up against all the many other artists out there.  Shows keep you motivated and taking on the next big challenge makes you a better painter.
- If you do enter a piece, hopefully this binder will help you keep track of what's spoken for already.  Don't embarrass yourself by entering the same piece in two shows by mistake. Again, if you enter and get accepted, you'd better be ready to ship that painting out.  
- Buddy up with someone.  If you get accepted and you know that the ship date falls during a time when you might be traveling, have an artist friend (or family member) ready to ship it for you. That could mean packaging it up ahead of time, just in case, or your friend (your very GOOD friend) could do that for you.  

Online Competitions for you to consider entering (although some of them also hold "send in" competitions as well.

- Artists Magazine
- American Women Artists
- Richeson75
- International Watermedia Show
- Women Painters of the Southeast
- Professional Artist
- Splash
- The ArtboxProject

I hope this helps some of you.  Let me know! (and feel free to ask your own questions in the Comments).


In 2019, I'm teaching at a castle in France (where we'll LIVE!)
Non-painting spouses are also invited! 


Monday, November 19, 2018

Daphne goes to Venice (Part 1)

This coming April, I'm taking Daphne (my youngest granddaughter) to Venice with me.  With us will be her Daddy (our son), one of her favorite people on Earth!  I'm excited he's coming too because we never get to spend much time together and he's heard me talking about Venice for years. He might as well see what all the fuss is about!

About 1.5 years ago, after one of my Venice trips, Daphne (then age 5?), listened very attentively to my travel stories.  She took me to one of my watercolors hanging on their wall, and said, "tell me again about the bird in the cage?".  

"Italian Colors" by Helen K Beacham Fine Art
In a Private Collection.
She listened again, as I told her the story of sitting across the canal from these colorful buildings on Burano (an island in the Venetian lagoon, just north of Venice).  I told her that an older lady was playing piano from the top window in the orange house.  I told her that there was a birdcage in the window below that, where a canary sang for us while we painted!

Daphne, with truly innocent eyes, looked at me and said "I'm going with you one day, Oma".  Oh, boy.  I was smitten and then I spent a year working on her parents to get the okay to take her.  And now we're actually going!  Planning is half the fun, BTW.  She's our little artist, so I've already got her drawing from some of my Venice photos so that she gets used to the different architecture and colors.

She spent the night this week, and together we read the story "Mimi and Piggy's Adventure in Venice".

Book by Chisato Tashiro.  Find it HERE.
Many questions ensued after that, including "Can I go swimming in the Grand Canal?".  I replied "No, Daphne. There are lots of boats on the Grand Canal."  After a second to think, she said "after the boats go home for the night, can I go swimming??".  And so OUR adventure continues....

I think I'd like to record our story as time goes by.  If they bore you, just delete-delete!

I wish you and your families a very Happy Thanksgiving!  I'm grateful for each of you that have touched my life.  I wish I could repay the bounties!!

In 2019, I'm teaching at a castle in France (where we'll LIVE!)

And YOU can come with me!

Early Bird fees (thru this Dec 15) apply!
Non-painting spouses are also invited! 

And following the Castle workshop, I'm thinking of adding a
Sightseeing trip to Cinque Terre, Italy (or elsewhere TBD).
Let me know if you'd like info as it develops.



Sunday, October 7, 2018

Tippette #38: How to avoid Pencil Marks in your Paintings

Tippette = Snippet of a Tip (in watercolor).

I've never minded my pencil marks from showing in my paintings.  Matter of fact, it's kind of a "thing" with me to have them show.  My marks reflect me as the artist, and they're a permanent record of what happened with that painting. (Did you know everyone's marks are unique to them?)

HOWEVER, if that's not YOUR thing, consider drawing (lightly) with a neutral watercolor pencil and your pencil marks will dissolve when you touch them with water and/or watercolor pigment!

In 2019, I'm teaching at a castle in France (where we'll LIVE!)

And YOU can come with me!

Early Bird fees (thru this Nov 1) apply!
Non-painting spouses are also invited! 

And following the Castle workshop, I'm thinking of adding a
Sightseeing trip to Cinque Terre, Italy.
Let me know if you'd like info as it develops.


Tuesday, July 3, 2018

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.

I took this photo in Venice...I'm in the process of painting it (or at least a stylized version of it...stay tuned...not sure myself what it'll morph into).

Today's Tippette:  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.
Unfortunately for him, he won't be included in my painting.
But now I have to figure out what to do about the door...hmmmm.
Luckily, I have MUCH experience with painting doors!
Well?  Were you amazed by how much detail was hidden from me?

The answer for an artist 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. 

I hope these periodic tippettes help you in your painting journey.  Ask me anything in the Comments (or email me) 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.


In 2019, I'm teaching at a castle in France!
And YOU can come with me!
Early Bird fees apply!
Won't you please share my post with a friend??
Non-painting spouses are also invited!  Yay!

If 2018 is a better travel time for you, I still have 2 spots open in both my France and Venice workshops! You could even do them back-to-back!