The Agile Arts Atelier of Northern Virginia is a place where a small number of privately taught students learn classical and contemporary realist painting methods. To visit the studio, see Tricia's art and learn more about the cumulative curriculum she teaches, please call the studio at the number above directly for an appointment.

This site is designed to for students and art lovers to find inspiration and useful learning resources that Tricia has collected over the years. (additional blog posts available below).


Agile Arts Atelier - Supply List for Drawing and Painting Lessons

Materials / Supply list for Agile Arts Atelier

Contact the teaching artist with questions: Tricia Cherrington Ratliff

Basic Drawing Materials

  • Grey Paper 
  • #2, #4, #6 and #8 Charcoal Pencil (Generals brand is very good) 
  • 3 White Generals Charcoal Pencils
  • Soft VineCharcoal  (get at least one large one the size of your finger and some smaller ones ) 
  • 1 small hand held pencil sharpener
  • Stumps (A stump / trillion the size of your thumb is ideal but smaller ones work too) 
  • 2 Kneaded erasers
  • Painter's tape (You can get blue painter's tape at home depot) 
  • Chamois (this is a soft leather/suede chamois, not the synthetic one you use to clean a car) 
  • Full set of graphite pencils ranging in hardness from at least 4H or harder to 4B. For example, a typical drawing pack might include 8b, 6b, 4b, 2b, hb, f, h, 2h, 4h, 6h. 
  • Hand Wipes / Baby wipes for cleaning hands (optional)
  • Ruler or any straight edge
  • Knitting needle or metal BBQ skewer
  • Sketch book (for your own use)
  • At least 4 large sheets of grey toned paper (Canson's Mi-Teintes works well)  (charcoal, drawing or pastel paper in either bound or loose form) 
  • Drawing board (optional at this time but will be required later)

Advanced Drawing Materials (buy later)

Burnt Sienna Watercolor Paint in tube
High Quality Sable watercolor brush
Mi Tienes Cream colored paper
Denatured Alcohol
Amber Shellac
Read preparing paper for red chalk 
Drawing board

Oil Painting Materials 

Painting lessons begin with colors marked (LP) for “Limited Palette” below. Students eventually progress to “Full Palette” of all colors below which may include the optional colors. When purchasing paints avoid anything titled ”Hue” or student paints such as “Winton”. 

  • At least 5 smooth texture primed canvases in various sizes: 8x10, 11x14, 16x20 and 18x24 
  • Grey gesso: Some of your canvas will need to be toned in advance with thin wash of gamblin #5 grey acrylic gesso
  • High quality bristle filbert and flat brushes sizes  #4, #8, #12 #16 (silverbrush grand prix are great) 
  • 3 small round brushes in sizes 1 and 2 (These are for detail work. So, beginners can bring 2-3 round synthetic brushes. Advanced painters should bring High quality Red sable or mongoose filbert brushes in small size)
  • Glass palette with case and cover (Masterson brand rectangle) 
  • Walnut oil
  • Palette cup with lid (small glass jars with lids will work)
  • Thick rolls of soft paper towels (Soft blue shop towels or “Viva” brand works well)
  • Gamsol (optional but quite useful) (turpenoid is ok, no turpentine allowed) 
  • Glass scraping/cleaning razor (available at hardware stores)
  • Brush cleaning soap or product 

Transparent Red Oxide (LP) or burnt sienna
Raw Umber (LP)
Alizarin Crimson 
Quinocridone Magenta
Cadmium red bright/light or Vermillion (LP)
Cadmium orange
Peralean red 
Naples yellow (optional)
Indian Yellow  
Yellow Ochre 
Azo Yellow (LP) or Cadmium lemon 

Viridian green (optional)
Cadmium green light (optional)
Cinnibar Green light (optional but useful)
Thalo Green (optional)
Thalo Blue 
Cobalt Blue  (optional)
Ultramarine Blue (LP)
Dioxazine Purple or Violet (optional) 
Manganese Purple (optional)
Burnt Umber (optional)
Fastematte Ivory Black (LP) 

Cremnants white (Zinc, Flake or Lead)
Titanium white
Fastmatte Titanium White (LP)

NOTE: If you have studied with other teachers, there should be natural overlap between this list and those of other teachers ( Danni Dawson , Dan Thompson , Steven Early , Sherrie McGraw , David Cheifetz , Rob Liberace , Kurt Schwarz , Tony Ryder , Rick Weaver,  Angel Academy , Florence Academy of Art , Zoll Studio , Schuler School of fine art , schools or ateliers , David Leffel , Grand Central Academy , Art League , Art Students League , and many other schools or artists listed on the Art Renewal Center list of ateliers and art academies )


"Wholesome" series of oil paintings by Tricia Ratliff

Over the past couple of years I enjoyed painting about freedom and the cycle of life - and feathers were featured in those paintings. But over the late fall and winter I've also been enjoying painting my "Wholesome" series. It is a group of paintings that started with bread  ( Panera ) as a subject.

Bread and Wine 12x12 oil on panel

The bread feels complete - representing both daily life and larger spiritual meaning. It also calls up feelings of abundance, simplicity, health and happiness. A classic hand made loaf can even remind us of family and time spent at home.

Wholesome - 18x24 oil on canvas

These paintings are a good example of how a series typically evolves for me. Often the process isn't a straight road but more like an enjoyable walk in the woods without a path. This journey started long before the paintings. A couple of years ago, I was enjoying painting bread in one of my bread and wine paintings. I was thinking about  the symbolism of bread and that it would make a wonderful primary subject. But at the time I didn't do anything with it. I just thought about it for awhile and studied bread in museum paintings and as a secondary object in my own paintings.

Bread Milk and Eggs - 8x10 oil on canvas

It took awhile for the right compositional ideas to start emerging but after awhile I started to enjoy even the most subtle shifts in similar compositions.  When I painted the one above I was studying with David  Cheifetz whose work I like because he's good at pushing back anything that isn't the subject.

As I was working, I even painted the same composition using different techniques, in different sizes to get slightly different effects. When seen in person, this 8x10 below is actually quite different than the larger one above.

Simple Life - 8x10 oil on canvas

Here's another example of a painting composition that I used for a softly painted study (top) as well as a classical realist version of the painting (bottom). I painted these both as the same time but the top one was painted wet in wet while I was waiting for layers in the bottom one to dry. The jug in the painting on the bottom is accurate to real life while I felt free to experiment and modified the one on the top to create a more triangular composition. I also sorted the edges of the pot to create a glow. They look similar but to me these are completely different paintings in so many ways. 

Health and Happiness - oil on canvas

Bread and Wine 18x24 oil on canvas

After awhile, I would be working on other paintings and see new things that I wanted to pair with bread. Or, in this case the "wholesome" theme influenced a related painting without any bread in it. But you can see the similar color family and treatment of the objects as I'm pulling on a certain feeling.

 Crisp linen for quilting. 18x24 oil on canvas
detail of crisp linen

The thing about a series is that one thing becomes an intense focus for awhile and then the artist may shift (a little at a time) until we end up in a new place. Here in the painting below you can see that the tea kettle is grabbing more attention than the bread.

The "Wholesome" series will continue to evolve and I can't say where it will end or if it will tangent into something completely different. For example, I've been wanting to paint bread and wine again but I have a couple more ideas to explore before bringing that juicy strong alizarin crimson (red) back into the compositions.

Soft and Warm 12x12 oil on canvas  

What's next? Well, I'm inspired by a suggestion from my biggest fan (Mom) to paint one of bread with butter and jelly. I can already picture the juicy color of the jam and the soft tone of the butter.


Caravaggio (Image and Video - techniques)

Caravaggio described here on Wikipedia was a 17th century narrative painter who used subjects of his own time in his visual stories. The strong lid and shade format of his paintings also make them great subjects of study for academic painting students.

My personal favorite is this painting of the taking of Christ which I'd like to copy/reproduce someday when I have the time.

In the video below historians propose various Techniques Caravaggio might have used.


The Mother Artist Project : DEBBY LUCILLE BIRD

The Mother Artist Project : DEBBY LUCILLE BIRD: What is your name? Debby Bird Where are you from? I grew up in Pippa Passes, KY a city with an official population of 532 (2...


Workshop: The Power of Painting With a Limited Palette

Saturday January 24th through Sunday January 25th 2015
with teaching artist Tricia Cherrington Ratliff 

Learn to create powerful compositions using a limited palette to explore subtlety and drama in your paintings. This workshop prepares artists to make stronger paintings using a limited palette of colors. Tricia will teach options that simplify the work of color so that the mind is able to focus on one idea at a time and make more powerful compositions.

Using classical techniques we will do a series of activities that strengthen a painters approach by learning to mass values, build realistic 3D volume, use grisaille and improve decision making in order to create color illusion with very few pigments. Students will also learn to leverage the important skill of deciding what to leave OUT of a painting.

Through these interesting and fun exercises you'll create multiple, small limited palette paintings in a row. In doing so, you'll learn to make active decisions about the use of direction/movement, weight, light, strong rendering (including the simplified modeling of forms) and temperature to make even a small paintings feel more powerful to the viewer. The workshop will also introduce the pros and cons of various "limited palette" options (or recipes) to help make good decisions about which colors to lay out before beginning any painting.

Through increased confidence and focus, you can put restrained power and pop into your paintings.

To register, contact workshop coordinator
Debra Keirce


Paintings in a simple "movie" format.

I'm experimenting with turning a few images into a simple movie format in order to create training slides for my students. Here's a simple movie of images that I created while playing around. Enjoy!


A moment of enjoyment.

And just for fun ... a little photo of some wild roses I picked at lunchtime today.


Grisaille , Tonal Painting , Underpainting (Open and Closed Grisaille)

Interested in tonal and grisaille painting?

I've collected some free online videos below to provide context and an introduction to various approaches (or reasons to use) grisaille and monochrome or tonal painting. These steps are all about the form. This is the reason students (like those at Agile Arts Atelier) begin with casts and white objects.

 Jon deMartin's introduction provides useful context.

This video of Mandy Boursicot moves rapidly but is a great overview in only 10 minutes.

Part I

Part II

Why use Grisaille or other forms of underpainting?

This is a natural question given that many talented painters today don't use this method while others rely on it to create beautiful 3 dimensional looking work (particularly for portraits and figures).  When pigments were expensive and time consuming (prior to pre-mixed tube paints), grisaille provided a cost effective way to establish the volume of forms, accurate drawing and composition before using that precious color. Today, that remains a useful step to insure the same benefits regardless of the cost of pigment. But, it also serves another important purpose as light passing through some upper layers of pigment (particularly with a glaze) reflects off the opaque white areas or is absorbed into the dark areas. In the Agile Arts Atelier we use it as a teaching tool to transition students from drawing through monochrome painting into color. Even if you are an alla prima painter, there is no disadvantage of learning and practicing the various approaches to underpainting and tonal painting because it will help you understand and leverage the grey tone on your support while painting alla prima.

Here's a video introduction to the history dead layer of painting.(Please don't use this narrator's pronunciations of words like grisaille or names like Titian, I think he must have been reading from a script.) They've kindly put their advertisement at 18:40 near the end of the video so you can stop watching at that point if you aren't interested in the ads.

To students who are learning here at Agile Arts Atelier and comparing methods you see above: I've never found ANY video fully illustrating ( step by step ) the exact way I was taught grisaille. But, all of the approaches make sense once you learn some key components of form painting and why to use them. If you are studying it here it's still useful to see different approaches. Hopefully these videos will be an interesting survey.

Finally, in a related topic, here is another video introduction to glazing.


Creative Connections Game in the Press

Journalist and award winning photographer Ryan Dunn came to the Creative Connections game and wrote this great article about it below. The original article is published here in the Connections newspaper.

Council for the Arts of Herndon Holds Creative Connection Event
Local artists network at Classical Ballet Theater.

From left -- Herndon resident Tricia Cherrington Ratliff with Council for the Arts of Herndon (CAH) Director Signe Friedrichs. Ryan Dunn

By Ryan Dunn Wednesday, November 20, 201

Saturday, Nov.16, the Council for the Arts of Herndon held a networking event at the Classical Ballet Theater, in the Reston-Herndon Office Park. Wine and light refreshments were served, and the event was open to the public. “We had always planned to hold the event at different venues to highlight the arts venues in Herndon,” said Council for the Arts of Herndon (CAH) Director Signe Friedrichs. “The first of these events was held at ArtSpace Herndon.”

Herndon resident Tricia Cherrington Ratliff assisted in setting up the Creative Connection Event. A local artist, Ratliff was asked by the CAH to make her successful art networking event public. “It began as a gathering of five artists in my studio who came together to show our latest work and get inspiration: Jordan Xu, Vicki Blum, Trisha Adams, Juanita Dahlin and me,” said Ratliff. “We naturally shared business knowledge with each other too.”

During the meeting, everyone has the freedom to share or display their latest project, portfolios, handouts or news. Attendees could participate in the "Creative Connections Game," where participants write labels describing what they do and a goal they are trying to achieve. “There's a kind of collective ‘pay it forward’ attitude that makes the game successful,” said Ratliff. “I had come up with the idea of a game for a Women in Technology networking event many years prior and saw that it would be applicable to this group,” stated Ratliff.

Local artist Vicki Blum brought several paintings with her to display at the Creative Connections Event. photo by Ryan Dunn

Amy Skiavo, resident of Chantilly attended the event with her sister. “My sister Anna Bledsoe volunteers with the Herndon Arts Council, so I came out to support them.” Skiavo enjoys designing jewelry in her spare time and has written for several different comedians before beginning her own career in comedy.

Also attending was Reston resident Kathleen Leatherwood, author of “That Crazy English: Raps and Songs for Teaching English Literacy.” “This is my second time attending this networking event. I heard about this through a friend at ArtSpace Herndon,” said Leatherwood. She is a former ESOL teacher for Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia.

Reston resident Kathleen Leatherwood, author of “That Crazy English: Raps and Songs for Teaching English Literacy.” Ryan Dunn

Other artists attending the event included Vicki Blum, who brought several paintings with her. “I find this to be an opportunity to speak with other artists and enhance my career. It is a great exchange,” said Blum. Freelance artist Jordan Xu brought several pieces with him. Xu has a painting style that combines classical realism with vibrant colors and broad, casual brushwork. Also attending was professional guitarist Al Robertson, board member of the Herndon Foundation for the Cultural Arts.

Herndon resident Nancy Rose (center) speaks with local artists and attendees of the Creative Connections Event at the Herndon Classical Ballet Theater. photo by Ryan Dunn

“I am very happy with the event,” said Friedrichs. “As time went on more and more connections were made. This is one of our most satisfying events because it consists of people learning from each other.”

Herndon’s Classical Ballet Theatre of Northern Virginia will be performing the holiday favorite “The Nutcracker” this year at Northern Virginia College in Annandale, production dates are Nov. 30-Dec. 1. For more information and to obtain tickets, visit www.cbtnva.org/nutcracker. To learn more about Council for the Arts of Herndon, visit herndonarts.org.

Freelance painter Joradan Xu brought some of his works to display at the November Creative Connections Event. To learn more about the Council for the Arts of Herndon, visit http://herndonarts.org/ photo by Ryan Dunn


Oil Painting and Drawing Lessons in Northern Virginia with Tricia Cherrington Ratliff

Oil Painting and Drawing Lessons 

in Northern Virginia 

Call 703.593.6444

Topics include:
- Solid Foundations in Drawing
- Oil Painting
- Master copies
- Grisialle
- Modeling 3D forms in light
- Color
- Composition
- Still Life
- Plein Air Landscape Painting
- Portrait (advanced)
- Narrative Painting

I teach students to create beautiful, lifelike, realistic drawings and paintings using a combination of time honored classical techniques mixed with contemporary color methods. 

If you study here, your journey will begin with a set of 4 private lessons and a review of your personal artistic goals. As you practice and demonstrate mastery of each new drawing and painting concept you'll graduate at your own pace through each level of the program. At each step, you can move as quickly or slowly as is appropriate for you. 

Call to visit the studio and determine whether these lessons are a good fit for your artistic goals. 


Agile Arts journal by www.TriciaRatliff.com: Atelier in Northern Virginia: Drawing Lessons and Oil Painting Lessons

Agile Arts Atelier is a learning environment customized for students focusing on realist drawing and oil painting. You move at your own pace so if you are a serious student who does a lot of homework, you will progress to a high level of quality. For more information see the post below.

Call for more information 703.593.6444

Agile Arts journal by www.TriciaRatliff.com: Atelier in Northern Virginia: Drawing Lessons and Oil Painting Lessons


Progression of work by Abigail Muncy ( Atelier Student )

Today, I'm featuring the artwork of a student to inspire other students of classical realism. Abigail Muncy has shown complete commitment to her program of learning. She started with basic lessons including an essential overview of the way light behaves on a form.

This was followed by a series of classical drawing copies of originals by Charles Barque. It's inspiring to note that while it can easily take a year to complete this number of drawings, this student's dedication to her homework carried her at a much faster pace and she reached the top level in about 7 months.  

\Once her drawings were exact, we were able to add the skill of a new medium (terra cotta pencil on hand toned paper) to give them an added level of warmth. She also created a couple of white on blue paper which have a strong "cool" feeling (not shown here).

The challenge with these warm tones is that she needed to make some guesses and adjust the value range in order to given them a real and lifelike quality. This level of skill takes time to develop but the results are well worth it.

Having become independent enough to finish the course of Barque studies at home, she began her cast drawings. There are two natural challenges here for a student with her level of experience. First, when drawing from life, old habits from college art classes were very present and she had to unlearn the practice of sketching in heavy forms. Here, she restarted the drawing when she realized she needed to be more precise and block in large areas. It can also be a challenge to make the jump from flat master copies to 3D forms because the eye and body naturally move around revealing different angles and shapes in the form. With her second pass, she quickly recovered by leveraging a lesson on how to find her exact position in front of the easel and cast.

Now she is beginning her first painting work. Fortunately she has taken cell phone photos during her course of study over the last 9 or 10 months. I think students everywhere are lucky to see this detailed progression of another hard working student.

 This looks great doesn't it? Well, it's NOT DONE YET! I hope that fact is inspiring to others. Here, she has done her first pass of color including a base layer of transparent shadows. Now, she has opaque layers of color and little shifts in temperature using her limited palette of colors to give the painting a shimmery "real" feeling. I'll update this post when she's done.


Great NEWS!  The official word is out about the next Creative Connections Game! Can you share this with your friends? 

If you've ever attended a Northern Virginia, Art Jam ... you already know how much fun this is. If you've never participated, you're in for a real treat!


Creative Connection Game
A fun convening of creative minds
Wednesday November 16th @ 7:00pm (until whenever)
Location for be announced!
703.689.9535 (Call if you need more details)
Cost: FREE !! (plenty of free parking) 
Are you energized by creative people? Join us at the next Creative Connections Game sponsored by the Council for the Arts of Herndon. Creatives from all professions gather here for a short night to brainstorm artistic and business ideas, get feedback, swap art and have a great time visiting with each other in an energizing environment. If you’re working on something creative, bring your work in progress, portfolio, laptop, printed material, iPhone photos … whatever it takes to share what you do! 
Who attends?
Visual Artists, Musicians, Dancers, Inventors / Makers, Technologists, Community Leaders, Performers, Designers, Collectors, Illustrators, Teachers, Experts, Gallery Owners, Models, Writers, Curators, Actors, Filmakers, Animators and YOU!
Activities of the Council for the Arts of Herndon are sponsored in part by the Town of Herndon, the Arts Council of Fairfax, the Virginia Commission for the Arts, the Ruth and Hal Launders Charitable Trust and the Nelson J. and Katherine Friant Post Foundation. The Council for the Arts is a 501 c 3 tax exempt nonprofit organization.


How to fold a paper boat (and other items) for your drawing or painting homework

Beginning students who study here learn drawing techniques to capture edges, mentally measure lines and angles and separate light/shadow patterns to make an object look real - all of this happens in one of their first lessons. They often draw a folded piece of paper as a way to practice the techniques ... the complexity of the folds depends on the experience of each student.

If you're one of my students, I've probably asked you to do a homework project involving paper and suggested you look at this blog for ideas. To inspire interesting homework projects, here are some helpful paper folding links ...

Folding a paper boat -> http://inspirestudy.blogspot.com/2012/07/fun-with-paper-on-fly.html

How about a bird ->

And finally the simplest option ... paper airplanes


New Painting Featured at Broadway Gallery

One of my newest paintings is featured in Broadway Gallery's recent newsletter. I have always enjoyed this clean, open look. So, when I stumbled across these cut cherry blossom branches on a neighbor's sidewalk, I collected them and waited until the first buds opened in order to paint this. I hope this calls up the freshness of spring for you.


Canyon Road Summer Events

Hi Everyone,

I had a great time painting at the historic canyon road paint out ... and check this out ... my photos is featured in the Albuquerque Journal Summer Guide this coming May. Canyon road is one of my favorite places to spend time enjoying great art in the company of people who love the arts. If you visit, please stop by Ventana Fine Art to see my latest work there.


Atelier in Northern Virginia: Art/Drawing Lessons and Oil Painting Lessons

Study Realist Drawing and Painting
Agile Arts Atelier, Northern Virginia
Location: Reston/Herndon


- Drawing & Oil Painting lessons
- Classical and Contemporary Realist Techniques 
- Open to Adults and Teens of any experience level who are dedicated to skill improvement
- Small semi-private group study (no large classes)

Atelier students begin with a series of lessons to establish a strong understanding of light on a solid form, perspective/ellipses, transferred light (glass), complex form, notan/value patterns and the foundations of composition. 

This is followed by copying a series of progressively challenging drawings in charcoal and graphite by great 15th - 18th century artists artists like Titian, Rembrandt and Charles Bargue. During this process, students may leverage additional studio time to explore a variety of materials for drawing and sketching (chalk /cante, charcoal, loose graphite, and monochrome watercolor). 

By next working on 2-5 drawings and paintings from plaster casts and other light monochrome objects students learn to render form in an ideal environment free from confusion about color and movement. Here, subtle temperature shifts in painting can also be approached with only 4 colors (black, white, red and yellow) to create realistic work. 

With a strong foundation of drawing and grisaille paintings, students then work with a limited palette of color on one or two realist still life paintings of non living objects. A variety of primary and secondary colors are added to the palette as the student develops a deeper understanding of color through color studies and glazing projects. 

Throughout the entire course of study, students develop a command of their own materials and techniques, and are able to explain their choices with confidence. They also have opportunities to discover and express their personal narrative as accomplished artists.  

Students are also invited to attend separate workshops on important topics such as: Landscape Painting (Studio and Plein Air) , painting perishables, portrait commissions, composition, figure painting, gesture drawing, florals, working with galleries, business skills, and advanced contemporary color. 


Free Appraisal Day ... the MOST FUN !!

With a passion for art and antiques, Broadway Galleries' appraisal day in April is a fun activity. If you have some interesting object at home and have always wondered what it is ... or what it's worth ... this is your personal antiques road show WITHOUT THE CROWD.

I confess that I'm that person who spontaneously starts cheering or clapping when someone else make an amazing purchase at auction. I think this is even more fun because we all get to learn about our unusual objects, how much they are worth and in some cases how to preserve them. It does take time to wait while everyone gets their object appraised but Ben is so gentle and entertaining that I enjoy every minute of it.

Saturday, April 27th, 1 - 4 pm: FREE Verbal Appraisal Day at Broadway Galleries in Alexandria.

Back by popular demand, Ben Hastings will be offering free verbal appraisals on up to three items per person to include paintings, sculpture, china, icons, and other fine art collectibles. Customers will be seen on a first come, first serve basis.


There are a few different limited palette color combinations I've encountered when creating a duo tone (closed grisaille)

I find it easiest to start the drawing with a raw umber (or burnt sienna, ultramarine blue and white) as an oil sketch on grey ground. Sometimes, if I want to create a composition dominated by warmth, I'll create this sketch in transparent red oxide. Raw umber is cooler so if I need those cool green tones to show up, raw umber is the color of choice.

Then I can build the lit side flesh using a limited palette. Here are some examples of simple pigment combinations that provide a useful temperature range:
- Cadmium red and cad yellow with a little black
- Cadmium red with white only letting the grey show through
- Cadmium Orange, Cad Green Pale, White and a dash of Scarlet 

Later, the intense color can be added. It's useful to create a mini color study of paint directly from the palette (unmixed) to help me see how far I can take it and study the temperature shifts.


Rembrandt Van Rijn up close

I'm sharing this video because some of the close up shots of the paintings show the beautiful variation in paint that is lost in most on-line images. It's very difficult for photos to capture the colorful nuances that make a painting beautiful. So, I always like to keep notes like this when I find images that are close to experiencing the real thing.


"Their Future" ... a painting linked to my future

I'm making baby steps toward those larger paintings with purpose.

Thank you to everyone to came to my exhibit last weekend. For those who didn't make it, here is one of the feature paintings that motivated me to share new work in this private setting. It is a simple narrative painting called "Their Future". I've spent a lot of time thinking about not only the legacy I'll leave to my own grandchildren but the legacy we leave to future generations who will have a great responsibility technologically and scientifically as stewards of an ever changing world. For those who might consider it trite because it's been said before ... consider that sometimes the most common ideas are also those that are enduring. They are enduring for the very reason that deep down we universally know these ideas should be part of our daily decision making processes.

A few years ago, I made a major life decision to give up other pursuits in order to focus on my art in order to eventually leave a legacy of meaningful paintings to future generations. With that decision, I discovered how many great artists have mastered realistic painting techniques and was inspired to pursue the same level of excellence so that my paintings wouldn't lack anything in credibility. I want the focus to be on the art ... without distractions of technical weakness or other issues. That alone it turns out will be an on-going lifetime pursuit.

I noticed back then that many artists were prioritizing meaning (or concept) over technique while others emphasized technique over meaning. I aspired to be an artist who marries the two in my multi-figure narrative paintings ... even while my own work was not yet at a technical level that satisfied me. But it has been a pleasure to see the great things others have been doing (see earlier post).

After years of "talking about it" but not feeling capable yet of accomplishing it, I decided earlier this year that even if I'm not ready, I need to give it a try anyway just to see what's possible now. So, I started simple with the painting above.

Then, when someone forwarded David Gluck and Kate Stone's blog post to me this morning ... I thought "Well, NOW the gauntlet has been thrown down hasn't it? ... no more messing around". =) (LOL)

But Seriously - Thanks David and Kate! I feel that much more motivated to take the next step.



Recently Sold: "Steaming Tea" oil painting by Tricia Cherrington Ratliff

My recent painting called "Steaming Tea" took a short tour before finding it's collector home.

First, this painting was selected as a marketing feature painting for a recent "Something Hot" exhibit in Leesburg. At the time it wasn't varnished because I had just finished it. Then, it came along to Broadway Gallery in Alexandria to be shown during my still life drawing demo ... if you check my profile photo you'll see it hanging above my head during the demo. Shortly after that, it was selected by Ventana Fine Art to exhibit in Santa Fe.

From it's first days, the painting has gotten a lot of attention and many people approached me to share their enjoyment of it. Their responses ranged from the warm feeling it evoked, enjoyment of the flowing steam and curiosity about the technical aspects of painting that hot red. Your responses to the painting have made it that much more special.

So, when I met the collectors who purchased it during the Historic Canyon Road Paint Out, it charmed me to know where it was going. It will hang in one of the homes of a very warm art collector couple here in Santa Fe.

Goodbye Steaming Tea ... I'll miss you but have enjoyed our time together.


Great Days in Santa Fe

The weather in Santa Fe has been AMAZING! It's cold at night but beautiful each day here. A few artist friends and I are hoping for good weather tomorrow because we'll be outside painting in the Historic Canyon Road Paint Out. I also delivered a new painting to the gallery today ... and will share a photo of that in my next newsletter -> http://tricia.fineartstudioonline.com/email-newsletter

This trip has been wonderful. I've been staying in a great adobe home just four blocks from canyon road. Adobe has an insulating quality that catches the daytime sun and keeps the home warm all night. I find this fresh, quiet air so soothing.

Poem: Landscape Painting by Theresa Ann Moore.

Brush strokes with tints, line, and texture
From an artist’s palette willingly surrender
Lending to interpretation of visual conjecture
With inspired mastery they convincingly render

Focus and purpose of intent adhere to the surface
Locking in the impressions of sunlight and shade
Leaves on trees shimmer with coolness beneath…
Near a curving brook that invites an ankle deep wade

Veiling clouds give movement to the atmosphere
A mountain of strength is admiringly proclaimed
Flowering trees bloom and scent the tranquil air
The completed painting will forever stay the same

As the landscape of reality changes day by day
Skies turn to gray and become a menacing threat
Storms with burnishing winds mercilessly obliterate
Streams overflow as trees stand in naked silhouette

Return to the consistency of yesterday’s serenity
Seek the gentle warmth of the season and reminisce
Captured images are sustained within the picture frame
Calming with a tender embrace and a comforting kiss


Historic Canyon Road Paint Out - Looking forward

Historic Canyon Road Paint Out

As the days here in Virginia grow cooler and the weather has drawn us back outside I'm looking forward to flying to New Mexico to participate in the Annual Historic Canyon Road Paint Out for the first time in 2012 and will be painting at Ventana Fine Art.

I'm already thankful to artist friend Wendy Higgins for enthusiastically telling me about this event last year. She describes it as a wonderful day where artists of varied interests all come out together and have a great time creating. It's not a competition but a good old fashioned paint out where anything goes. It's this kind of camaraderie that creates a beautiful balance in the independent lifestyle of many studio artists. While our contemplative life in the studio or daily experience of painting alone "en plein air" affords us plenty of peaceful time that many of us cherish - the bursting dialog of visual ideas is an equally important and stimulating treat.

Come listen with your eyes!

If you're in town, please drop by and see me outside Ventana at 400 Canyon Road. The Fifth Annual Historic Canyon Road Paint out takes place from 10am - 3pm on Saturday October 20th in Santa Fe.

For more information about the event visit the event's webpage:
Fifth Annual Historic Canyon Road Paint Out

To see my latest artwork , learn about upcoming events, private lessons and educational opportunities sign up for my newsletter at: http://tricia.fineartstudioonline.com/email-newsletter and visit my website http://www.triciaratliff.com


Teacher ... What's on Your Palette and why isn't it on the materials list?

I kind of chuckled as I wrote the title to this post.

The previous post led me to the realization that I never give students a straight answer when they ask "What colors are on your palette". The truth is that it changes based on the goal of the painting. But, for the sake of sharing I'm going to write down what I'm thinking when I load up paints and see if it's useful to others.

First, when I'm starting a painting I ask myself if it needs to be hot and bright, subtle grey tones, old master, tight, loose etc.

Then, I decide if I'm going to finish it all in one sitting or work through many layers to get a particular look.

Those considerations determine what I lay out on the palette. I always set out my basic limited palette of 4-5 colors: Alizeron Chrimson, White, Ultramarine Blue, Indian Yellow and sometimes Cadmium Lemon Yellow. From these colors I can create a surprising range of temperatures in a painting with soft tones. I leave space between these colors for others that I might add for another simultaneous painting. Transparent Red Oxide and Thalo blue are often the first to be added because this combo gives me two of each primary. So, if you walk into my studio, you'll see the following.

- White
- Alizeron Crimson
- Transparent Red Oxide
- Indian Yellow
- Cadmium Lemon
- Ultramarine Blue.
- Thalo Blue

Then ... I have some favorites below that I add when the situation calls for them. Usually, the "situation" is something unusual like I want to get some screaming hot pinks, or maybe a little color vibration on a turquoise glass bottle. I might use a variety of reds next to each other if I want to create a shimmery glowing red. Finally, orange, cerulean, naples yellow, purple and kings blue are colors that are quick problem solvers for various situations like quick portrait oil sketches.

- Quinocridone Red or Quinocrdone Magenta (Don't always need Alizeron)
- Napthol Red or Parylene Red (transparent)
- Cadmium Bright Red
- Cadmium Orange
- Cadmium Yellow
- Thalo Green (sometimes Viridian)
- Thalo Turquoise
- Sap Green (I love juxtaposing this with Thalo)
- Cerulean Blue or Kings Blue (if I'm working on a 2 hour portrait sketch)
- Cobalt Blue
- Cobalt Violet (I only seem to use this for quick floral shadows)
- Manganese or Dioxazine Purple (depending on whether I want bluer vs redder)
- Naples Yellow (I've used just this and Trans Red Oxide for dramatic oil sketches)

So, take a look at my palette on any given day and a few pigments from the second list will be added to the first list. Look closely and you'll probably see that selected grouping of color has something to do with the subject of the painting.

The bottom line is that together this is a long list when you really consider that there are twice as many optional colors as there are baseline colors.

The reason I don't mention the great old faithful colors like ivory black, cadmium red deep/dark, cadmium red, yellow ochre, mars yellow, burnt sienna, prussian blue etc. is that with such a wide range of colors in the two lists above, these remaining colors are easy to make or replace. It just never crosses my mind to buy them. For example, transparent orange is a really useful color -> you can mix it almost exactly by using a transparent yellow with parylene red. When I put them on the palette it's usually because I want to use up an old tube that has been patiently waiting in the bottom of the paint box.

That's the most direct answer I can give. If you are a student you are welcome to sit down with this post and my paint box to get a feeling for which paints have been relegated to the crease behind the main compartment ... and why.

Wishing you a fun day of painting!


Experimenting with M Graham Paints ... and still using Walnut Oil

Hello Everyone,

I've been switching over to M Graham paints recently and am loving them. Particularly the yellows and reds.

About two years ago while pregnant I was concerned about fumes (something which frankly have never bothered me ... on the contrary, I find studio smells very welcoming ) because I was painting every day and wanted to be cautious about the baby. So, on the advice of artist/friend Wendy Higgins, I temporarily stopped using OMS and any varnishes, alkyds and mediums to painting exclusively with walnut oil.

That move immediately made some positive changes to my working process as well as the environment in my studio. I started using a dash of OMS again this summer in a cup alongside the oil but have found that I don't use it as often as I used to now that my habits have improved (brush cleaning, paint loading, knife mixing etc.)

Like most artists, I prefer different brands of paints for different pigments/colors. Right now, I'm using fresh new tubes of M Graham's Napthol Red, Aza yellow, Cadmium Yellow and Cadmium Orange. I still love my Winsor Newton Cad Red Bright and the colors work very well together. I do like to occasionally dab some pink into my yellow and use very little yellow in my paintings so the quality of that color is really important to me. I haven't settled on an all time favorite Quinocridone (I sometimes use Quinocridone Red or Quinocridone Magenta) but working with such a clean, bright yellow has been helpful.

I haven't gotten into my new tube of cobalt blue (still squeezing the remaining life out of a 5 year old tube of another brand) and will let you know how that goes.

If you're an artist and have any favorite colors, send me a note - I love trying new things.

Oh ... and if you know me personally, you know Transparent Red Oxide has been a favorite for years. That hasn't changed but I have decided not to buy the rembrandt product anymore. Something happened and it seems thinner and weaker now (which kind of defeats the purpose) so I'm finishing up an old tube given to me by a friend if I want it smooth and a tube of Vasari if I like it gritty. When I run out of those it will be time to reassess.


Cedrus Amplexu by Tricia Ratliff recently sold

Some paintings are a simple reflection of beautiful moments in life ... while others carry a deeper meaning. My painting called "Cedrus Amplexu", meaning "Cedar's Embrace" is one of those paintings with hidden meaning. This seems like a good time to share the story of this artwork because it was recently purchased by a collector from Ventana Fine Art in Santa Fe New Mexico.

I miss it already.

We had a warm fall, winter, and spring this year so I enjoyed walking my son to school and pondering life on the walk home before working in the studio each day. One morning, I was looking forward to painting this fabulous antique pot from Germany. It is believed to be 200-250 years old so I wanted to say something about the beauty of it's age. During my morning stroll, I noticed a damaged Juniper branch among a series of large healthy Juniper trees by a local church. Given the symbolism of Juniper, I took a clipping and dreamt about how I'd create the setup along the way. The cool blue berries and warm greens were perfect with the warm tones in the vessel.

The Juniper here represents fresh, young life and protection. Juxtaposed with the old crock, I consider this a subtle reminder for the young to protect and cherish for the old for many reasons; not the least of which is that they are the vessels of family history and collected wisdom that can be gained only through experience. It seemed fitting to paint it using the teachnigues of the old masters. During the Renaissance, Juniper represented not only youth but also purity and protection. I became interested in the meaning of Juniper upon seeing a portrait of Ginevra De' Benci by Leonardo Da Vinci in the National Gallery (Washington DC). Later research revealed that at Christmas, the Juniper branches used in advent wreaths (around the candles) represent the protection of Jesus, Mary and Joseph during their flight to Egypt from Harod in Bethlehem. Notice the series of triangles crossing over each other. The base of the larger Juniper branch is pointing upward and backward while it's newest leaves and berries point slightly forward into the future.

(Here is the Da Vinci painting with Juniper trees in the distant background) 

I enjoyed "Cedrus Amplexu" in our dining room for a few months before we were ready to let it go to be exhibited. Now, it's good to know it will be cherished by someone new. On to the next painting

Painting Alla-Prima: Videos of Rob Liberace and Sherrie McGraw

Below are a series of videos of Rob Liberace and Sherrie McGraw painting. I'm re-posting it here as a reference for my students. To contact me about drawing or oil painting lessons, visit the following website


Cylinder Perspective

Here's a great little video on the basic principles of creating a cylinder in perspective.


A little Plein Air fun

Hi Everyone,

Recently, I enjoyed a little change from studio painting and spent a few days outside Plein Air painting country farms in Virginia. Here is the painting I finished today. The weather was scorching hot but fortunately, I found a breezy hill near a barn overlooking this cute little shed. I instantly fell in love with the tuft of hay falling out of the window and set up to paint for a few hours.