Monthly Archives: September 2016

Lines for study of "Milkmaids, Novella" 1962, by Nikolai Nikolaevich Baskakov
Lines for study of "Milkmaids, Novella" 1962, by Nikolai Nikolaevich Baskakov

Doing a study of a masterwork can be a great way to learn. I have been in awe of the handling of color and value of many of the paintings on display at The Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis, MN so was thrilled to receive permission to do a study there. To get the most of the experience I applied some advice a teacher/mentor gave me to this museum study: go with a question you want answered. My question or goal: To better understand how to handle value and color. How did a lot of the Russian Realist painters paint with value and color so masterfully?

For the time available to me, I could choose only one painting for study (to clarify, my time was not limited by the museum but by other factors). I requested permission to study the painting “Milkmaids, Novella” 1962, by Nikolai Nikolaevich Baskakov 1918-1993. So my question became, “how did he handle the values and colors in this painting?”

Grayscale study of "Milkmaids, Novella" 1962, by Nikolai Nikolaevich Baskakov
Grayscale study of "Milkmaids, Novella" 1962, by Nikolai Nikolaevich Baskakov

Another mentor suggested that I draw or trace the masterwork I'll be studying BEFORE I go to the museum. If I were to draw on site I would have spent several extra days on just getting the drawing correct. By preparing the drawing before I went to the museum, I could use my limited time to really focus on exploring that main goal of better understanding value and color.

I did two studies, one just focusing on the relationships of the values so I painted it in grayscale. Then I did a second in color. One of the challenges was that the original piece must be nearly 8'x4', and my studies were merely a fraction of that. I wasn't going to be able to get all the blending and nuanced color and value changes. Instead, for the grayscale version I focused on the relationships of the values, and the large value shapes. For the color version I focused on the color relationships (their hue, temperature, value, and chroma). A lot of the color in the original was created by overlapping strokes, or strokes with multiple colors in them so my version was more a study of the larger impression or appearance.

Color study of "Milkmaids, Novella" 1962, by Nikolai Nikolaevich Baskakov
Color study of "Milkmaids, Novella" 1962, by Nikolai Nikolaevich Baskakov

Note: This was an excellent learning experience! I would like to give special thanks to The Museum of Russian Art and the head curator, Masha Zavialova, Ph.D., for allowing me to do this study.

Do you feel overwhelmed by your to-do list?

I came up against this again recently and my usual skills weren't helping me much this time around. Through a class, someone introduced me to a time management tool. They attributed it to Stephen Covey and his Time Management Matrix (just do an internet search and you'll get loads of information on it. I found one such article written by Shana Lebowitz on Business Insider, posted December 30, 2015. Take a look and you'll see how the approach I used differs).

A prioritizing and "time-management matrix" aapted from Stephen Covey's "time-management matrix"This is how I learned to use it: create 4 quadrants and label them "Urgent", "Not Urgent", "Important", and "Not Important". Then list all your projects or activities in the quadrant where you think they fit best. Here's where I departed from the standard approach. I was encouraged to come up with my own definition of what those 4 categories mean to me. I also decided to add 2 categories within those 4 quadrants: "Personal" and "Professional". My goal was to sort my commitments and other activities (like time with family and friends, or exercising) in the hope that I could better decide in what order to accomplish tasks. I defined "Urgent" as "things that need to get done this month" and "Not Urgent" as things that will happen within the next 2 months or later. "Important" and "Not Important" were based on what my current values are.

This helped me see where I needed to focus my attention most, and in which areas I had a bit more time. This gave me some much desired breathing room and helped me refocus my attention.


papers-lunch-and-learnLunch and Learn: Papers

Overwhelmed by the many available paper options? Uncertain about pH Neutral, acid free, buffered, and "archival"? During this Lunch and Learn you'll learn about some of the different papers we use in creating our art and the many choices we have. You'll get some answers about what papers to use for what media. Plus you'll learn some useful terms and the different properties to consider when buying paper to use for your own projects.

Please arrive a few minutes early and bring your own lunch.

When: THURSDAY, September 29, 12:00 - 1:00 p.m.
Cost: $10
Where: The Atelier Studio Program of Fine Art
1681 East Hennepin Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55414

I'm not quite sure where it came from. The idea arrived, and delighted me with its silliness.

I pretty much followed my usual process on this one: drawing, reference, value studies, color studies, paint.

Line Drawing and Value Studies This time I drew on tracing paper and did minimal values with the pencil. Then I scanned it in and broadened the range of values with darker darks and a few lighter lights. I was initially thinking this would be a blue sky with puffy white clouds.mitzuk-flying-turtles-values

Reference Some of the reference I used for this project included shots of turtles from our local zoo (and our doctor's office of all places). I also purchased a few toy critters to hold up outside so I could see what the value relationships might look between the light shapes, dark shapes, and background.flying-reference


Color studies I did a few in gouache on 300 lb watercolor paper and a few digitally. Once I got the color idea down in front of me, I decided I didn't really like the blue sky and puffy white clouds. Those colors and lighting situation didn't have much drama or story to compliment the more dramatic view of the turtles soaring overhead. I decided to experiment with sunrise or sunset colors and lighting. Perhaps they're on their way for a mission, or returning from one?flying-turtles-color-studies

Paint Oil on oil primed linen stretched over a board with bracers on the back.

oil painting on primed linen of turtles flying with propellars coming out of the top of their shells and wearing aviator caps by christine mitzuk
Flying Turtles

We made a lot of trips to the local library when I was a kid. Some of my favorite finds were anything by Bill Peet. Looking back at the stories and art I see playfulness, lively lines, a quirky sense of humor, and fun use of color.

Some favorites were:

"The Whingdingdilly" by Bill Peet"The Whingdingdilly"








"The Pinkish, Purplish, Bluish, Egg" by Bill Peet"The Pinkish, Purplish, Bluish, Egg".

Learn more about Bill Peet and see more of his work at