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Rhonda Sorrells’ Nesting Bird Creations




  • How did you learn to paint?  Can I learn how to paint?

          Like many artists today, I did not receive any formal visual art training at a university, art school, or atelier. Instead, I sought out and received instruction from many wonderful artists via online workshops and classes, as well as videos, books, and even blogs. There are many great resources available to the novice artist these days. If you are just starting your creative journey, some great places to begin are Patreon, Skillshare, and YouTube.

          I believe that painting is a skill that anyone can learn. The people who successfully learn to paint do so, in my opinion, because they #1: start, and #2: have the courage and desire to continue so that they can improve. No one starts out being able to paint the Mona Lisa....

          Serious artists work to develop a specific skillset that not only allows them to see like an artist, but it also enables them (along with technique) to translate their vision to their paintings. This skillset includes things like understanding values, making good compositions, learning about color theory and how to use it in your paintings, controlling edges, and much more.  

          Learning to paint requires persistence and practice, but it is achievable.



  • What inspires you? How do you choose your subject matter?

          Nature is my biggest inspiration! I like to paint many different subjects--bird portraits, florals, and trees, to name a few. However, I generally don't like to include people or manmade objects in my paintings because they tend to grab the viewer's focus and detract from the beauty inherent in the scene. I make exceptions for animals or things like old barns, fenceposts, or other items which lend rustic, authentic character to the landscape.

          Overall, I am drawn to moody scenes that make me feel something, and more often than not, I look to the skies for drama. I love painting skyscapes with clouds and the ever-changing gradations of color and value found in sunrises and sunsets or the turbulence of stormy weather.

          I also like painting the effects of the sky on bodies of water, so my paintings will often include a stream, lake, or sea component, but they are not usually the star of the painting. The sky is.


  • How do you know when a painting is finished?

          Great question! Everyone is different, but here is what I do. When I think a painting is about finished, I step away for a little while and go do something else to clear my brain. When I come back to the painting, I make any needed adjustments. Usually these are small--the softening of an edge or adding just a bit of highlight, for example.

If I am not sure if any adjustment is needed, I might put the painting up on my display shelving and "live with it" for a few days or more. It helps me to see it with fresh eyes and I can feel if it is "complete" or if I still have tweaking to do. 

I also might hold a mat up to the painting (for pastel/watercolor works) or pop it into a frame (oil/acrylic) to see if that makes the piece feel done. Also, taking a photo to look at in small format can often help me see potential problem areas.

In general, as I am painting I tap into a mental checklist of things that are important to me, artistically speaking. As I near the finish of a work, that checklist gets shorter and more completed. Your checklist will be different from mine depending on your aesthetic and vision as an artist, but I have found that the truer I stay to my inner vision, the more successful a painting will be.



  • Are you a studio painter or a "plein air" painter?

          BOTH!  However, I would say I am more of a studio painter who also paints en plein air (or outdoors/from life). I love the cozy comfort of my studio--it's where I am my most authentic self. However, painting in the open air is a heady thrill that I highly recommend if you are looking to challenge yourself as a painter! It can also be very humbling....


  • What are your favorite mediums?

          I mainly paint with water mixable oils or soft pastels. I also love to paint in watercolor when the mood strikes--usually in November when I'm thinking of painting our family's Christmas card!


  • What surfaces do you like to paint on?

For studio oil or acrylic paintings, I prefer painting on Gessobord or my own prepared hardboard suface. I also often work on stretched canvas for larger pieces--they are lighter than panels of larger sizes.

For plein air oil pieces, I have been using Centurion LX universal primed linen panels. They are lightweight and have a little more texture to grab the paint and do well with water mixable oils.

For pastel, I prefer UART sanded paper. It's tough, takes a lot of abuse, and lets me do an alcohol underpainting without buckling.

For watercolor I use Arches coldpress or hotpress 140lb paper. I also like Strathmore Mixed Media paper.


  • Do you varnish your paintings?

          It depends. I typically varnish my oil and acrylic paintings with Gamblin's Gamvar varnish (gloss) for their protection from dust and dirt. Watercolor and pastel paintings are left unvarnished/unfixed as they should be matted and framed under glass for protection.