How Does A Painting Happen?

Three Amigos: Pelicans | oil on canvas | 95” x 64” | Corporate Collection - Larsen Learning Center

Many folks have asked about this painting, “Three Amigos: Pelicans.” Here is the back-story about how it happened:

One summer afternoon, I was enjoying a delicious Italian meal in Naples, Florida, sitting on the restaurant’s patio near the Gulf of Mexico and watching pelicans do their thing. Three of them were hanging out together – wings spread to dry. It just struck me as a funny sight and I visualized a potentially strong composition. I did a sketch. (Side note: A sketch book or point-and-shoot camera is usually loaded in my purse. I never know what might interest me and when.) I returned to my studio where a large freshly-stretched canvas had been tilted against the wall for a few weeks, waiting for me. In my mind, I could image an entire painting – the goofy pelicans teetering on the edge of the wharf. I started with a gestural drawing in charcoal on the unprimed canvas and retraced the lines with Mars Black oil paint using one of my favorite brushes (Isabey Décor, favored by DeKooning). The last step was deciding on Venetian Red and Cadmium Reds as the predominant color. This is one of the fastest paintings of this size (95” x 64”) I have ever done – finished in three days. Imagine me dancing to compose this piece because the strokes all required very large, long and fluid movement.

That’s me with “Three Amigos: Pelicans,” outside my studio before it leaves for its destination. The painting hangs in the lobby of a Sarasota-based company, TLC (The Larsen Center). Patty Larsen, the Founder and President, is an inspirational testing-taking prep and learning coach for college-bound kids. She offers tutoring and classes in person and online ( It gives me a lot of pleasure to know that Patty and her client base of families and kids still comment on enjoying this piece.

3 thoughts on “How Does A Painting Happen?

  1. What a funny and happy explanation of inspiration for a painting. I’m sure it helps those tutees study – who could be stressed or angry when three friendly pelicans are watching?!

    Happy holidays – Stephanie W

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