Paintings With Soul

Since October 2006 I've been a daily painter, creating a new pet portrait at least 5 times per week. Over the years I've expanded my offerings to include a variety of animals, pets, race horses, children and other treasured heirlooms. In addition, I accept a limited number of commissions each year.

In 2015 I am honored to be the Kentucky Derby Artist.

You may use the links below right to receive my daily paintings via email or to follow my blog with a feed. I post additional info, including in-process jpgs and other related information, on the studio Facebook page as well.

Meanwhile, thanks
so much for your continued support of my artwork.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Maggie, A Lesson Painting, Part III


Before running away to Saratoga over the weekend, I left Maggie on my easel with a cloak of rainbow colors. Today I got the chance to pick up my brushes and finish her portrait.


I began the painting session by laying down wide swathes of local color - however, you'll notice there remain small strips of the bold, hot hues around the edges of the forms. I'll leave these "peek-a-boo pockets" all over the painting - they will add some color zing to the end result.


After identifying the overall background value of the couch cushions, I defined the lighter stripes, focusing on the drape of the fabric and not so much on the proper values. These I would correct later with layers of glaze (translucent paint).

I also toyed with the patterned couch pillows, but determined they created too much pattern, and painted them out. I want the viewer's eyes to rest on Maggie, not to get distracted by a wealth of other details.


And here she is as she stands now - the stripes have been pushed back with some glazes, and the greatest density of detail is packed into the triangle made by her eyes and nose.

I'm waiting to hear from my client if there are any other tweaks needed to further capture her likeness. This waiting time is the absolute hardest part of painting portraits.

The piece is titled simply "Maggie." It's larger than life at 12" x 20", and done in Golden Open and Heavy Body Acrylics on an Ampersand Gessobord.

Want one of your own? Then email me!

Thanks, as always, for sharing my artwork with your friends and family,

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Where To Go?


Despite wanting to stay in Saratoga, I got my butt home.

I'm playing catchup now, which is standard M.O. after vacation.

But once I'm caught up, you can bet you'll see a mess of new horse racing paintings.

Thanks, as always, for sharing my art with your friends and family,
My new favorite place, Hidden Gardens Flowers and Antiques, on Maple Avenue in downtown Saratoga Springs, New York.
Next summer, I'll be bringing something home from here.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Saratoga Springs

Our drive from Toronto to Saratoga was rather adventurous, involving a nearly empty gas tank, an unplanned road closure, and Larabars.
And lots of good tunes and laughter.
We arrived too late to make it to the track, but spent the evening strolling the streets, soaking up the town, listening to the street performers, and continuing with the laughter.
Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Barn Manager


I am officially en route to Saratoga for our girls' weekend/artist retreat.

Tonite I'm shacking up at Linda Shantz's farm, where I was welcomed by Betty Cat, who reminded me to seriously slow down and savor these next couple days.

Tomorrow we'll be at the track, and I hope to have a photo or two (thousand) of a racehorse to share with you.

Meanwhile savor your evening!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Maggie, A Lesson Painting, Part II


Here's where we left off yesterday - I had begun to lay down a range of values and then identified some drawing problems that needed attention before any more paint layers went down. (You can see yesterday's progress - including the inspiration photo - here.)

Yes, this is the same panel! I redrew Maggie, correcting her oversized bum, making her eyes a little brighter, and pulling her chin forward. I corrected the improbable angle of her shoulders and front legs, too.

And then I threw in underpaintings for the background that will be compliments to the ultimate final layers of color. This totally changed the painting, no?

Using those same hot colors as in the underpainting, I dropped in bits and flecks of color in Maggie's face. This is what will give her painting life and intensity.


I moved my attention to the back 1/2 of her body, and used neutralized versions of the same colors to begin pushing it back in space. Notice how I painted over the tip of her left ear? The brushwork wasn't cohesive behind the edges of her ear and across her shoulder, so I smoothed things out by going straight overtop it.

And that's where I ran out of steam! I hope to pick the brushes up again tonite after dinner.

Thanks, as always, for sharing my artwork with your friends and family,
Letting off Steam
(or Dragon Slaying)

I'm working up concepts for my new series of Dragon Slayer paintings. I've gathered some great props and am sorting through the Dragon Slayer candidates, matching the muse to it's dragon and building a painting around their relationship.

You probably can't tell, but I'm working really, really hard.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Maggie, A Lesson Painting, Part I of III

Yeah, I know - I might be going overboard with the lesson paintings as of late! For whatever reason, I'm tackling bigger paintings with more complex compositions, stepping outside my comfort zone and trying new things. Which means the paintings are taking multiple days, which means you reap the benefit of following along!

So, take a deep breath, and let's bring the newest muse on board.
This is Maggie. I've painted Maggie and her four legged family members before, but her Mom requested something a little more substantial. Something that honored their years together and showed what a dignified and dear friend Maggie had been.

I started with a big panel - this painting will be nearly life sized at 12" x 20". It got toned a light yellow, and then I started with my drawing.

I placed Maggie close to the picture plane, and blocked her and the background in using a very large brush, bold color and loose brushwork. Remember, the majority of this will get covered up later - but there will be some peek-a-boo pockets revealing these first layers, so I am choosing colors that will sing alongside compliments and help emphasize focal points.

Sometimes it helps me to interact with the painting better if I can engage myself with a "hook" - in this one, I decided it would be Maggie's gaze. So I started in with the eyes and nose.

Once I have these points established, I can use them as references for things like relative measurements and determining adjacent values.

And here is where I've left off. I can see some obvious problems anatomically, which I will adjust when I pick my brush up next. All the brilliant painting in the world won't change the fact that her body shape is rather pig-like, and I've gotta get that fixed!

Thanks, as always, for sharing my artwork with your friends and family,

Learning from a Master

Every day I look at art, if not in real life than certainly on the computer. While visiting artists' websites and blogs, I have discovered talent and styles that I might never have stumbled across in real life.

Take, for example, Texas painter Qiang Huang. He started his daily painting journey shortly after I did, with a focus on still lifes, expressive brushwork, and dramatic light.

I am a huge fan of his style. And his work ethic. And his modesty - he will occasionally admit to being happy with how one thing or another turned out, but he follows that up with a declaration as to what he will improve next time.

Last night he wrote something that was particularly inspiring. He said " should congratulate yourself if you see problems in your painting, because you have caught the problem, it is no longer hiding, so you are half way to success already."

Qiang's given all artists license to throw a party! 

I wonder what will be in the pinata.....

Meanwhile, I best grab my brushes and set to correcting Maggie's poor bloated body!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Visiting the Spa

This morning I installed a solo show at Daniel's Spa in Rochester, Michigan. Over 3 dozen paintings are on display in their lobby and treatment rooms. You are welcome to stop by and enjoy, even if you are not partaking of a mani.

No appointment necessary. Honest! 

(Oh, and by the way, they had a small mountain of OPI Shatter polish at the front desk. All the colors. I wanted a bottle of each, but exercised some self control.)

The exhibition will be up until the end of August. After which I'd love to hang it in your neck of the woods, so email me and we can make arrangements!

(Theoretically, if I visited the show every 5 days, I could pick up another bottle of polish, and by the end of the month, I'd have them all......)

Thanks, as always, for sharing my artwork with your friends and family,

Me at Saratoga, photo courtesy of L Shantz
Visiting the Spa
For Real

Balston Spa, that is.

Yes, it's that time of year again when I make my annual pilgrimage to Saratoga Race Course.

This year I'm joining four other girlfriends, all artists and fans of horse racing, for a long weekend of talking shop and being railbirds.

I'll collect reference materials to continue The Saratoga Series of paintings. 

And of course we will pamper ourselves with plenty of ice cream, chocolate, and limoncello.

I can taste Mrs. London's now.

Friday, July 15, 2011


Fairy Doors are popping up everywhere around Lake Orion!

This is the latest magical site, a crabapple tree nestled amidst a swath of green, festooned with ribbons and beads, sprinkled with fairy dust and other magic.

It just appeared, out of thin air, when the family was away. Rumor has it that the children have been performing fairy welcoming rituals in their garden at dusk for the last month or so.

And this fairy family definitely has a sense of humor - there is a Lego Storm Trooper and Chewbacca figure set into the walkway "Hotel Hell" style.

Do you believe?
PS What kind of dogs do you think fairies have?

Furiously Happy

Last night I listened to The Bloggess's** IGNITE Talk**. The topic? Pursuing your passion. Her passion is being "furiously happy."

And it got me to thinking. I have some obvious passions, yes. But one not consciously acknowledged and have definitely kept underwraps lately was - or is - my passion for imagination and fun.

Life is supposed to be fascinating and mysterious and victorious.

Not just when we are little - it's even more important to embrace these things when we are bigger (notice I didn't say "grown up").

I pledge (and now you can hold me accountable!) to make time in my life for more laughter. The good belly kind. And to work even harder at inspiring others. Whether that be to paint, or to advocate, or just simply to believe. 

Wanna join me?
**The Bloggess has a potty mouth, so if you find cursing offensive, please don't click on the links. 

**If you don't find cursing offensive, you most certainly will enjoy The Bloggess and Beyonce the chicken..

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Momma and Me

"Momma and Me," 6" x 12", portrait of two dark cows (my bovine knowledge is clearly limited!), done in Golden Open and Heavy Body Acrylics on an Ampersand Gessobord. Available for purchase for $369 - inquiries may come to me.

I totally flaked on photographing today's progress, but I assure you it was a good time. If you want to see the earlier stages of the painting, check out yesterday's blog.

There is SO MUCH color, it's like a rainbow leaked onto their sunwarmed backs.

Thanks so much for sharing my art with your friends and family,

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Every artist has them. The days when what we intend to happen at the easel just doesn't. Not because of the phone ringing or children who can't be hypnotized by the television. But because our muse isn't present. (Which reminds me, one of my all time favorite TED Talks by Elizabeth Gilbert is a must-hear for all you creatives).

I tell my students for every painting they see on gallery walls, to visualize at least 10 others in the trash. Because that is my reality. And it was especially apparent today.

My idea: a tender little painting of a calf and her mother, off in the distance of a vast field. 

Doesn't sound like rocket science, does it?


So the underpainting got carefully painted, with warm, bold colors in the foreground, a fantastic yellow chosen to perfectly compliment the dark blue in the cows' bodies and a lovely pale blue bit for the furthest distance. I envisioned the cows as tiny little forms, perhaps a 1/3 of the width of this panel, in the upper left.

So I started to sketch them in, and it's all wrong. The calf was a long-legged rat and the mother looked equine. I wiped it out (the lavender streak below is a remnant) and tried again. And again, a mess. And a third time, no go. I kept working and redrawing and refining, and the cows were creeping closer and closer to the picture plane.

My subconscious wanted these cows big, and I kept forcing them to be teeny. Clearly I was losing the battle, so I surrendered.

I put music on LOUDLY and stopped second guessing - I let my muse take over and do her thing.

And look what started to show itself!


After a few hours at the easel, a totally different version than what was initially intended came about. It's far more colorful than I ever envisioned, and embodies tenderness despite the mass of the momma cow (or perhaps because of her mass?).

And I liked the lavender reminder of my mistakes and frustration so much, that I left it there.

This one is a true Lesson Painting.

With a resolution to come tomorrow.

"Ole!!" (seriously, listen to Elizabeth Gilbert)

Thanks so much for sharing my art with your friends and family,

 Ted Talks

You seriously don't know about TED conferences and TED talks?

Visit and take a look around. 

No matter the subject, there's a fascinating talk presented by an expert (or at the very least, a highly entertaining wanna-be).

Here's a few of my favorites:

Seth Godin (this is one of MANY of his talks, all worthwhile)

Tell me what TED talks you fall in love with.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

You Are My Sunshine, A Lesson Painting, Part II of II

Shall we recap?

Yesterday, in celebration of little Mona Lisa's 1st birthday, I began a kitten lesson painting. You can see what was accomplished in my blog entry from Monday.

Picking up where I left off, I began laying glazes* down on the background/floor. (*A glaze is a transparent layer of paint which allows the layers underneath to peek through, while also creating an illusion of "floating" brushwork.)

Multiple layers of glaze have reduced the color saturation of the yellow and orange without reducing any of the "shimmering" effect they created.

I also started putting more color into the kitten, molding and sculpting her form with my brushwork. Working from a 1" flat to a smaller 1/4", I finished Mona out with a handful of carefully placed whiskers and fur. There's no need to paint all of them - the viewers eye will fill in the necessary details.

And here she is, all finished:  "You Are My Sunshine," a Gratitude Painting, 11" x 14", depicting the studio's littlest muse and rescue kitty Mona Lisa. Done in Golden Open and Heavy Body acrylics on an Ampersand Gessobord, $568 to the first one asking "purr-ty please." Which can be done via email.


Thanks so much for sharing my art with your friends and family,

Gratitude Paintings

I'm currently working on a series of paintings starring rescued animals, which I have titled "The Gratitude Project." 

I've called them such because only an animal can overcome homelessness, being abandoned or mistreated, to willingly supply a lifetime of faithful companionship. It's a life lesson I can personally take note of while trying to be more open hearted and forgiving myself.

Each original in the series is earmarked for proceeds to benefit a particular group. Usually it is the group that initially rescued/rehomed the animal. Furthermore, when reproductions (giclees and notecards) of the same painting are sold, the proceeds also benefit animal welfare.

It's my way of staying focused on the positives and working to make a difference. Even if it's only a few lives, it's a few more lives touched than were I to sit on my butt all day and eat bon bons.

If you know of a rescued animal or a non-profit group that deserves to be part of my Gratitude Series, please let me know.

Thanks in advance!

Monday, July 11, 2011

You Are My Sunshine, A Lesson Painting

To properly celebrate the kitten's 1st birthday, I thought I'd take one of my demonstrations from the recent workshop and finish it off as a lesson painting. Enjoy!

One of the first things I talk about with my students is taking artistic license, modifying reference photos to improve on the composition AND make the image more lifelike (because photos will chromatically flatten the scene and make highlights and shadows exaggerated and dull). Here are some of the changes I consciously chose before laying brush to canvas:

  • I plan on contrasting the blue and lavender tabby with the honeyed orange floor.
  • I am tilting her head just a bit towards the viewer to create an oval/round shape out of her tail and body.
  • I've also shifted the grain of the wood to run at a diagonal, thus creating a balance to the angle of her body.
  • I will remove the distracting elements in the background.
  • I will further separate the far ground shadows from her own, creating a sliver of lighter space that pulls the viewer's eye straight to her.

I began with an indian yellow and cadmium yellow underpainting because they will properly capture the essence of the sunlight. (Did you notice the directional brushwork I used in the yellows to create a sensation of the hardwood?)

Overtop that yellow ground, I began to roughly place the kitten's form and the shadows. I used a big brush - at least 1" wide. I am working out the basic shapes that will create this composition, without getting fussy. I am also starting to create the pattern of lights and darks.


Next I have redrawn the kitten's form, using relative measurements to make certain she is anatomically correct. I decided to tighten the curve of her tail so that the tip of it breaks out of the shadow and into the light - doesn't this add an element of whimsy and motion to an otherwise quiet composition? I picture it sort of flicking back and forth.

I don't usually add markings this early in the process, but felt that placing them would aid me in modeling her tiny form. So in they went!


Meanwhile, I return to the floor and add saturated colors - these will make up the "peek-a-boo pockets" that will show through the layers of paint that are next to come.

I also glaze over and soften the edges of her shadow - the only sharp edges in this entire painting will be in Mona's body. This is a great trick I use to drive my focal point home. (And photographs' edges are always universally crisp.)

Up next? I will refine my overall values and begin to lay in some playful color. You'll see more tomorrow!

Thanks so much for sharing my art with your friends and family,

Happy Birthday Mona!

Our 2 lb bundle of purr has captured miles of contentment and sunbeams during her first year of life.

We don't really know her true birthday - the shelter estimated she was a tiny 10 week old, but our vet estimated she was 1/2 that. Based on her petite size now (a trim 8 lbs), we think it's likely she was somewhere in between the two.

It's hard to imagine life in the Santini household without this little sweetheart. She is a willing snuggler, an even more willing playmate, and a fierce hunter of dust bunnies.

Even Finnigan has learned to love her. (Well, love might be a strong word. He tolerates her surprisingly well, and does his job to keep her butt extra clean.)

And all came about because she stretched a paw outside her crate, latched onto my son's tshirt, and wouldn't let go.

I heard today that our shelter (the Oakland Pet Adoption Center) has over 170 cats. I imagine shelters across the country are just as crowded.

Mona is a perfect example of the wonderful pets that are waiting, patiently, to bring joy and delight into the lives of those willing to adopt or foster.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Great Expectations, A Lesson Painting, Part II of II

In an effort to complete this piece in one sitting ("alla prima"), I burned some midnight oil, but ran out of steam. I powernapped and came back into the studio for another go this morning, and have it pretty darned close to completion.

Here's Part I for those of you who missed yesterday.

And without further ado, here's Part II:


I started with a wider flat (about 1/2") and got some elementary shapes down that properly molded the pups bodies. I then went down a step to a smaller flat, building more "general" detail, before grabbing a round and popping in some key highlights and a few lines.

The detail above shows the two dogs on the left after they've been gone over once with the smaller flat brush. The pup on the right has only been hit with the 1/2" brush, and is patiently awaiting a fresh layer of color and more detailed marks.

Because I am impatient, I work from left to right, in order to avoid smearing wet paint. When the entire surface is wet, that means I get to take a quick break for chocolate or email, whichever calls my name the loudest.

ALL FINISHED (or rather, I'll simmer with it for a couple of days and decide if any tweaks need to be made):  "Great Expectations," 7" x 16", portrait of 8 Great Dane pups, painted in Golden Open and Heavy Body Acrylics on a Raymar panel. Proceeds from the sale of this painting (and subsequent reproductions) will benefit Ohio Great Dane Rescue. $559 plus applicable shipping and handling charges. Inquiries may come to me.

I'll share more details and a larger view of the painting next week - there's a lot happening in here that warrants a closer peek!!

Thanks so much for sharing my art with your friends and family,

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