Artist Friends

I’m not sure whether artists, on the whole, see the world a little differently. Maybe yes,
maybe no......

I’m not sure whether artists, on the whole, see the world a little differently. Maybe yes, maybe no. When you’re a fish, it’s hard to see the water, so it’s difficult for me to know for sure. I do know that when I’m in the company of other artists, I have things to talk about and connect with. When I’m in the company of people that are not engaged in some sort of creative endeavor, I’m just, well, bored! I do my best to be polite and I’ll even try to reframe what they are talking about in some sort of creative light. It can be challenging though. Does this make me a curmudgeon?

Artists tend to be very positive and engaged folks. They’re excited about what they are doing and love to share it. That makes talking and connecting fun. It’s infectious too. You get to feed off one another’s positive energy.

Finding a tribe of like-minded artists is important. I know I tend to work in a very isolated, solitary situation. Even though I’m a YouTuber and do tons of social media in reality, I’m by myself most of the time. So when I had the opportunity to go to Bend, Oregon to take a lesson from an artist/friend Eric Jacobsen, I wanted to do it. My student, Graham (aka) Sandy arranged for the two of us to drive out and spend the day with Eric. At first, I jumped at the opportunity, knowing that I’d get a lot out of it, but as the day drew near, all the hesitation started to creep in as did my tendency to want to stay cooped up in my cave. You know how that is…you plan something that sounds really good and then when it comes around you think of all the ways you can squirrel your way out of it! Luckily, despite some initial efforts to do just that, some last-minute complaints about why it was annoying, I packed my gear and jumped in the car with my friend/student Sandy. Off we headed to Bend.

The weather cooperated on the drive out and we were rewarded for our efforts with a spectacular sunset show over the mountain pass. Conversation was easy as we mined the mysteries of art-making. The 3.5-hour drive passed in a snap.

As we pulled up to Eric’s place the chickens greeted us first, followed by Eric’s big smile.
It’s always exciting to see another artist’s studio. Eric’s is warm and inviting. You want to hang out there! It’s loaded with paintings, paint, art books, vinyl records, and nick-knacks. It’s a visual and heart feast; the perfect place to cultivate creativity. He generously invited us to make ourselves at home and poke around as much as we pleased!

After we had our initial fill of his wonderful space, we settled down for a brief talk about the fundamentals of painting and the creative process. Eric emphasized that he wasn’t going to tell us anything new or that hasn’t already been said by countless art instructors. I loved this. He’s right, the principles of painting are the same for us as they were for Edgar Payne or Joquian Sorolla. We can be assured of the soundness of these principles, we just have to learn them! It helps to have good guides like him!


Eric did two demos for us; one in oil and one in acrylic. For the oil painting demo, he simply stood looking out the large picture window at the lovely winter landscape. He used a limited palette to create his beautiful, loose interpretation of the scene. He emphasized that he wasn’t copying exactly what he saw, but arranging the elements and composing them to create a pleasing design. He worked steadily and confidently. The thing that struck me was his brushwork; it’s both bold and sensitive.


For the acrylic painting demonstration he showed us how he would interpret a photo reference. This time he toned his board using a thin layer of phthalo blue. He approached the piece in much the same way as the oil painting, using the elements of the scene to create a pleasing composition. He moved things about, eliminated unnecessary elements and by doing this created movement and rhythm for the eye. Towards the end, he added some marks or “detail” that draws the eye to his focal point.

After lunch, Sandy and I got set up to paint. What to paint? Sandy chose to set up looking out the window at the same scene that Eric had painted. Good idea! Since I’ve been working on my still life workshop, I thought I’d tackle a still life. Eric had a large table set up with various vases, bottles, some beautiful yellow and red apples, dried leaves and lots of crazy branches and stems. I knew this was too much for me to do in a short time, so I poked around his shelves for another bottle or vase to place in the scene that I could use as my focal point and paint just a small section of the set-up. I didn’t spend too much time hunting around but I found a cool green jar.


I had the opportunity to show Eric the paints I typically use and he made suggestions based on my still life. I sometimes use viridian green but he suggested phthalo green instead because of its transparent quality. The bottle is transparent, so that makes perfect sense! And I love the phthalo colors, so I jumped on that. I really enjoyed painting the still life in his studio…so relaxing and fun to be in a different creative space!

Eric is a gifted painter and generous, clear teacher. Both Sandy and I felt fortunate to spend the day with him.
We left full of inspiration and gratitude. What could be better? The drive home was a bit different, but Sandy is a super good and safe driver. We spent the hours in more conversation about what makes a piece of art great, why art matters and how it enriches life! A good trip I’d say!
Home safe and sound with loads of ideas and a wonderful treasure…I purchased a small piece from Eric “The Hay Barn”. I love the quality of light and the beautiful color palette! It’s a beautiful addition to my space.Thank you Eric Jacobsen and my friend Sandy for dragging me out of the cave!

To see Eric Jacobsen’s work please visit:

To see Graham Salisbury (aka) Sandy’s site please visit:

Happy Painting, 


12 Responses

  1. That was a fun post to read & so very generous of you to promote your friends’ websites/art as well.

    I love your work & do plan to buy into your instructions/videos as soon as I can get my act together. Until then, I appreciate being able to glean anything I can from what you offer.

    Thank you so much,
    Margaret Washburn

  2. I agree with every thing you wrote. I have a group of like minded artist friends – invaluable. I am alone working a lot – and I really don’t like leaving the studio. Non-artists are pretty boring. I’ve been married to a chemist for a long time. Most of our friends are from my art connections. His work buddies are boring. When ever I do make art road trips, I’m very glad I did it. Art knowledge does transcend the ages – still nice to know. Anyway – I enjoyed your blog.

  3. This was a good read…thank you…glad you got out of your comfort zone…it is tricky and we have to have some strong talks to ourselves!!! I’m doing just that and am losing sleep. Signed up for Fall Color paint out in White Mts . of New Hampshire in Oct.(an Eric Rhoads plein air event) HUGE venture physically(some HC issues… and logistically. Trying to figure how to travel, take and how to pare supplies down, etc. Know you’ve done this often but me…not so!!! Part of me excited to put myself out there…part of me terrified of how to manage and enjoy. No lectures or demos so all time devoted to painting and sharing then in eves. So your comments about learning nothing new particularly but getting a chance to practice, apply what know and paint everyday sounds exciting. Know I’ll improve.
    Anyway…appreciated your thoughts too and just wanted to share.

  4. I can certainly understand your “cave” analogy after many years of being a full time painter. I spend 7 days a week in the studio, and on the rare occasions when I interact with anyone out side our home, it’s a strange and experience; I always come away felling like “I didn’t get it right.” My process starts in the 2×4 pile at Home Depot and the crowds can be somewhat inhibiting.

    But twice a year there’s something I look forward to well in advance of the event: the spring and fall shows at RSG. It’s twice a year when I get to be with other painters and for those few hours, it’s another world for me and I feel a sense of belonging to something. To be with other painters and talk about, even just for a short time only twice a year is wonderful.

  5. I so enjoyed indirectly participating in your time with Eric through your blog. Sounds like it was a feast for the soul!

  6. Totally identify with this. Never happier than when in the ‘cave.’ More so during my writing career actually, than now, when I paint with pastels. Like you, I sign up for activities and when the date comes around my heart sinks! Also, get the point about non-creative people. Although I have many in my family and love them dearly. Best friends are writers/artists/craftspeople – really people who have passion for something and are driven to create every day.
    Love the blog. I do miss your pastel demos Marla btw, however your oils and acrylics are stunning. Love the still life – beautiful.

  7. Thank You Marla for sharing your lovely day painting and learning, or pleasurably re-learning what we already know. You are a Wonderful & Talented Woman, Marla … and I see you attract lots of like-minded people! … Also Thank You for sharing how much solitude is needed to really explore and create art … being a fairly extroverted person, I still struggle with that … a lot of the time I feel like all my friends left the planet … and forgot me! haha! 🙂 … Thank You again Marla! You do such Wonderful Work and we all Love and look forward to your u-tube demonstrations!!! … Much Love, Sarah. 🙂

  8. I enjoyed your blog, reminds me of myself, so easy to become a hermit if you allow it. I’m fortunate to have a friend who enjoys art like I do. We’ve spent once a week together painting at each other’s home studio/dining room for over 10 years. We also take classes together and learn so much. Our last class was in pastels and my friend painted one of your landscapes! She amazed herself and couldn’t believe how wonderful the experience was. I enjoy your creativity and tutorials, thank you for being there with your guidance and support!

  9. First, thank you for the vulnerability you’ve shown in this post. What you wrote strikes a chord with me and many others, I am sure. But also, thank you for sharing evidence of the fact that you are a life-long learner–not necessarily of the principles of art-making, but in the practice of art-making.
    For myself, in order to grow and change as an artist, I benefit from realizing not just that I have changed and am not the person I was ten years ago or even six months ago, but also that every time I create I step into an unknown wonderland that helps me move into who I am becoming! It’s a wonderful adventure if we allow ourselves to take it.

  10. Hi there Marla, loved this blog and do admire you and your friend for travelling 3.5 hours each way in mid winter (or so it would seem !) for a one day workshop … brave …. I live in the north of New Zealand so snow is an unknown to me … that journey would have sacred me ridged !!!
    Looked like a really fun day though and your still life was amazing
    I am currently 2/3rd of my way through your Oils for Anybody course and loving it … learning heaps .
    Thanks so much for all your dedication and hard work

  11. Hi Marla, loved this and venturing out with you! Your description of loving and needing your ‘cave’ resonates so well with me: I increasingly need solo time and space, all the more so since discovering art, and it’s lovely to hear that echoing with someone like you! I’m never happier than when gazing at something or messing about trying to express it. However, it’s good to be sometimes coaxed out – or prised out! – and be enriched and surprised by all the delights out there too – especially with others on a similar wavelength. I admire you both for setting out on that long drive through the snow. You photos were a joy too – and the chicken welcome! I’m away from home looking after some chickens and ducks and they are such characters. It’s fascinating how, as in your photo, the birds often stand and move in formation, with just one looking the opposite way! Perhaps that’s what we’re doing when we’re making art! Thanks for sharing your treasures with us: it’s always good hearing from you.

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