This time of year can be stressful and fun.  We decorated the house for the holidays.  One of our favorite decorations is our collection of nutcrackers.  We love the ballet and there was even a new Disney movie released this season called, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.  We talked throughout the film comparing the music, the dancing, and the costumes to the different ballets.  So in the spirit of the Nutcracker while sticking to my crimson theme I painted this derpy character.  I hope you like him as much as we do.

Nutcracker 12 x 12 oil on wood

The visual challenge I had to sort out for this piece was how to render his black hat and boots against the black background. I think I did ok with that.  I had a composition of an espresso pot in mind but the visual challenge of black on black stopped me.  After painting this derpy little guy I feel more confident to tackle the black on black in the future.

Thank you so much for checking out my site and my little paintings. 

My best,
Emily Warren


Most folks in the US will tell you that Thanksgiving is their favorite holiday. It is mine too.  In Tennessee the weather is usually mild, the leaves are blowing around, and the food is delicious.  Family time is to be cherished and/or dreaded.  Then, there is the next best holiday, Black Friday.  This is officially for shopping but it is also when we can throw ourselves wholeheartedly into all things Christmas. Decorations, music, movies, peppermint mocha, and holiday baking.  The holiday season is official after Thanksgiving.

What better way to celebrate the holidays than to include some festive decorations into your artwork! I worked on this little derpie nutcracker today.   I still have a lot of details to add.  I am still using too much oil.  Because when I got home from my hike, dinner, and a movie his face melted a bit.  I will continue to work on a balance of oil to paint ratio.

Until then,  I hope this work in progress brings your pleasure.

Nutcracker oil on wood 12 x 12

My best,
Emily Warren

Before and after

A few weeks ago I had a mentoring session with one of my favorite artists, Abbey Ryan.  The first painting I completed after our session was this one of a single red pear. 

I am not sure I love it.  So today I went in and revised it.

Not sure how I feel about it now that I painted the background ivory black.  I feel like it needs further revision.  All of this leads me to question myself.  Just because I don’t want to look at a painting does that mean the painting is no good?

A week or so ago I was faced with this same question when I repainted dice.  I could over analyze things and comment on how there is a lot of art out there that doesn’t interest me but others worship. The first painting I did of the dice, I could see countless things about it that I simply disliked. I could also see things in it that I liked and appreciated.   Ultimately, I threw it away with some old paint tubes and a tattered paint box.  I was given a ‘hard time’ by my loved ones about this disposal.  I am reminded of the quote: ‘The artist belongs to his work, not the work to the artist.’ —Novalis I feel justified in starting over, throwing out work I don’t approve, and repainting a piece. Right? 

My best,

Emily Warren


Change of scenery

Sometimes a change in scenery can lead to a creative burst or a new way of looking at things.  This weekend brought a change of scenery for me.  I got to spend some time doing all the things I love.  I went for a little hike with my love, decorated for the holidays, cuddled up watching movies with my family, and went to a remodeled museum.  

We were cuddled up on the couch watching holiday when I decided to rethink a painting composition.  I grabbed the popcorn and the peppermint sticks.  For about a week I had been looking at a composition with the peppermint sticks and a silver cup. Not loving the composition I didn’t feel pressed to paint.  

I set up a second option I had tossing around in my mind, an espresso cup, saucer, and a stovetop espresso pot.  This composition presented me with a visual puzzle.  The handle on the espresso pot is black. I wanted to paint it against a black background.  Visual problem.  Well, I solved that problem by not painting it! lol  This is what I decided to work on instead.

Espresso yourself #workinprogress 12×12 oil on wood

There is still work to be done but I needed a little break.  Thank you so much for following me painting journey.

My best,

Emily Warren


Considered to be one of the parents of modern painting, Caravaggio’s work  work became popular for the tenebrism technique he used. It’s known for using shadow to emphasize lighter areas.  Tenebroso in Italian means dark, gloomy, mysterious.  This use of light is fascinating.  It is sometimes called a ‘violent transition between light and dark’.  

This contrast appeals to me. I remember seeing my first Caravaggio in a battered art history book.  My favorite being Judith Beheading Holofernes. Poor Caravaggio.  He has such a bad boy reputation, but look at his work!  

So in my own practice I find myself trying to use shadows and darkness to make still life look vivid.  Is there a place in contemporary art for tenebrism?  Novalis said, ‘The artist belongs to his work, not the work to the artist.’   Caravaggio belongs to this work.  The work is dark, mysterious, and violent (like the artist) but it’s also illuminatingly beautiful.  

Old Holland Oil Colors

When I first started painting I used the cheapest paints I could afford. I had a list of colors I was supposed to purchase for my painting class.  I remember pondering for hours.  I went from paint display to display comparing the Windsor & Newton ultra marine blue with Gamblin.  I had no idea what series 1, 2 and 3 meant.  Some tubes said artist grade, while others said professional grade.  I was confused and ended up buying a hodgepodge of brands, qualities and grade paints.

What a mess!

One of my classmates painted the most beautiful vivid fantasy oil paintings.  Her dragons glowed.  Her clouds shimmered.  I studied my own paintings only to see them as flat.  Lackluster.   Sad.

Somewhere along my painting journey I tried old holland oil paints.  I immediately fell into a deep unbreakable and true love.  I am now committed to the brand.  I use old holland oil colors exclusively.  I love their buttery texture.  I love the saturation of pure pigment.  I love their rich history.  You can read all about them and the history here.

I will never regret learning to paint using less pricey and, in my humble opinion, lower quality  paints.  I learned to paint using them and most of those paintings are long gone and embarrassing; I hope they never resurface.  Instead, feast your eyes on these beauties.

Old holland the only brand I use

Thank you for checking out my paintings.

My best,
Emily Warren

Camera obscura

I just watched a Netflix documentary about one of my all time favorite Dutch painters, Vermeer.  I have half listened to the ‘controversy’ about him using a camera obscura.  I never really bought into the controversy because I LOVE photo realism.  I like hyper-realism too.  I think that sort of duplication is a gift to art.  There, I said it.  Anyway, Vermeer and van Leeuwenhoek were working at the same time! Van Leeuwenhoek acted as the executer of Vermeer’s will after the painter died in 1675.

So as the camera obscura was being used by Vermeer, van Leeuwenhoek invents the freaking microscope and sees animalcules (we now know these were microbes or protists).  Optics had a huge moment in Holland at the same time the Dutch were painting like, well, Dutch Masters.  I can’t believe I just learned this.    It’s like science and art had a little Dutch baby!!!

I used the camera to help me in my painting process.  I use it to frame a potential composition.  I use the camera to capture an image.  Doing this  I can look at a composition  while I am away from my studio.  This helps me.  I paint looking at the still life and sometime a photo too.  Most artist use photo references. Why should anyone be bothered that Vermeer did too? van Leeuwenhoek’s drawings of animalcules are wonderful representations.  I fantasize about the two of them having tea together or going out for a beer.  I hope they were good friends.

My best,
Emily Warren

diagram of camera obscuras with image reflected on the top

See caption
replica of  microscope

Strategy vs. chance

Are you one of those people who plan everything?  Or are you more of a risk taker?  Let the chips fall where they may?  Do you ever ponder how your life would be different if it weren’t for a few random auspicious/inauspicious incidents?  Is serendipity how you roll?

I have been thinking about those things lately.  Sometimes we have to roll the dice, risking it all, or play it safe.  Follow a strategy. Those thoughts inspired this painting.


Thanks for following my art musings!

My best,
Emily Warren

Starting Over

Sometimes you have to throw in the towel.  Starting over isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  I finally repainted this dice composition.  I struggled with getting the translucency rendered for hours and hours one Saturday.  Then, I worked for hours and hours the next day.  At the end of about 16 hours I felt completely defeated.  Normally, I work on a painting for about 2-4 hours. Here is the image:


After looking at this painting for a couple of weeks I decided that I don’t like it. I can’t live with the misshapen dice. The way they look is so unnatural and wonky. I like the way I rendered the wood block and  I like the composition.  So, I had the crazy idea to start ALL OVER AGIAN with a blank canvas!!!  I worked for about 4 hours to produce this image:


The translucency is more realistic in this second rendering. It isn’t finished but it’s Friday night and I want to step back and look at it again with a fresh perspective in the morning.  I am far more satisfied with the look of the dice.  They look translucent and natural.  I still have some work to do but I feel so much happier with this ‘second chance’.

Starting over doesn’t have to be a negative thing.  Sometimes that best thing to do is give up and begin again.

My best,
Emily Warren
%d bloggers like this: