I used to love it as a kid, growing up in the midwest, when my family would go hiking in the woods – especially in fall. The crisp feel in the air, the crunching of leaves underfoot and the beautiful autumn colors, along with spending time with my mom and dad were special times. In Fire and Gold I wanted to recreate those warm memories, choosing reds and yellows of autumn to heighten those happy feelings and using energetic strokes with my paint reminiscent of a carefree, simpler time. Building up thin transparent layers of oil paint also add to a certain glow and magic in the final piece.
Follow the deep wood’s path and wander under a canopy of sheltering leaves, light shifts through each branch and twig. Long, late rays of sunlight pierce the dreaming autumn forest, as you enter shadows dapple your journey. You are walking down a loamy path, filled with color-drenched leaves that invite you into the purple shadows where you may seek your dreams. This oil painting of a tranquil wood’s trail inspires your journey and your dreams with lush colors and rich images of beauty ahead.
E-mail Niki Gulley for more information on my contemporary landscape paintings.
Now showing at American Fine Art Gallery in Dallas, in Colorful Transformation, I wanted to focus on brilliant color and simple shapes to see if I could communicate the excitement I feel when surrounded by nature. Using energetic diagonal strokes and thick, textured paint, I hope you get a sense of the motion in the leaves and the power of nature to invigorate your spirit. I just love how this piece captured that essence!
Early morning light washes over Monet’s water lily garden in his beloved home at Giverny, France. Quiet, tranquil colors rim the pond, reflected in the glassy surface, waters casting back sky and foliage in a radiance of hues. Iris leaves front the pond, lilies break its surface, willows brush the water’s edge – everything just as Monet would have seen, now in a fresh, contemporary new work of art.
Or, if you would like to join us in May for our next ArtTrek to Paris, France, and paint Monet's Gardens in person, visit nikigulley.com/?page_id=1420, which goes into detail about our upcoming Plein Air Painting & Photography Workshops. Registration deadline for Paris is today!
Three 48" x 30" canvases to form a 48" x 90" triptych
textured mixed media on wrap around canvas
I decided it would be a fun challenge to create an extremely large painting, and I wanted the final piece to be very uplifting, colorful and full of energy. Opting for warm colors and working with extremely thick oil paint and palette knives, I chose this lily pond reference from our visit to Monet's Gardens in Giverny, France. The grounds were breathtaking and I could actually see his paintings come to life. I was drawn to the energetic flow and yet calming serenity in this view, and I positioned the water lilies and my paint strokes in a circular pattern to add to that mood. The morning light peeking through the distant foliage added to a sense of mystery and promise that I wanted to capture in paint, and share with you that feeling of hope.
Or, if you would like to join us in May for our next ArtTrek to Paris, France, and paint Monet's Gardens in person, visit nikigulley.com/?page_id=1420, which goes into detail about our upcoming Plein Air Painting & Photography Workshops. Registration deadline for Paris is this Friday, so don't wait!
5" x 7" textured oil painting, White Rock Lake, by Niki Gulley
Dallas Plein Air Painting Workshop with Niki Gulley
Day 2 - Afternoon Location: Sunset Bay, White Rock Lake
In the afternoon at White Rock Lake, we switched locations to find better light on our subjects. Everyone was drawn to this peaceful bay and the vibrant fall colors. Even though every painter basically sketched the same scene, it was fun seeing each artist's individual style come thorugh. With just a short amount of time left at the end of the day, I quickly captured the lake, shoreline and autumn foliage with a palette knife and my leftover paint before starting our critique.
A perfect ending to our plein air painting workshop at the Dallas Arboretum and White Rock Lake – sharing our work from each day with new friends after a gorgeous weekend of painting outside. Thanks guys!
9" x 12" oil painting, White Rock Lake, by Niki Gulley
Dallas Plein Air Painting Workshop with Niki Gulley
Day 2 - Morning Location: White Rock Lake
On the second day of our plein-air painting workshop, we enjoyed a beautiful morning at White Rock Lake. Focusing on capturing water and the morning light, each painter picked a different vantage point, some choosing only natural subjects and others depicting sailboats on the horizon. I chose to paint these colorful boats largely for their vibrant colors and I liked how the line of the pier leads your eye back to the docked vessels. With a gentle breeze, the water had a little movement and shimmer to it that I suggested along with the vibrant foliage in this peaceful inlet. A perfect autumn morning!
Bamboo Forest – 8" x 10" oil painting by Niki Gulley
Afternoon Location: the Dallas Arboretum, Bamboo Garden
In the afternoon of my Plein Air Painting Workshop that I taught at the Dallas Arboretum last weekend, we found another quiet painting spot at the furthest end of the gardens. Again, it was really interesting to see how half a dozen painters all view the scene differently. Some students chose to paint roses, some potted plants and tucked away benches, and others the dappled light coming through the trees highlighting some of the mums and pathways.
My EasyL pochade box and palette set-up.
I've always loved the bamboo garden, so that's what I chose for my subject. I like the feeling of being protected by the tall stalks and the canopy they form overhead. There is a peacefulness back there, so that you feel like you are immersed in the middle of a forest. I also liked the way the light was filtering through in just a couple of places to illuminate the walkway and the distant clearing.
One of my students, Ann McCann, painting the Arboretum's beautiful rose bushes.
Purple Clematis, 8" x 10" oil painting by Niki Gulley
Morning Location: the Dallas Arboretum, Poetry Garden
On the first morning of the Plein Air Painting Workshop I taught at the Dallas Arboretum last weekend, we found one of the most quiet locations we could on such a busy, beautiful morning at the Arboretum. While a little chilly at the start of the day, it quickly warmed up to a beautiful 68 degrees. The gardens were in full fall bloom, and it was difficult to narrow down just a single subject to paint, but each painter picked out something that spoke to them – from a single flower, to a sun-lit path framed by trees, to the architecture in the private garden or a quiet bench framed by flowering pots.
So that my students wouldn't miss out on the morning light, I started a quick demo that I had sketched out the previous day of these clematis. To save time, I had also laid out my palette colors, working with water-soluble oil paints, the night before and stored them in the freezer to keep them from drying out. Pre-mixing some of the purple values in the flowers, the greens of the leaves, and the stucco colors in the background so that I could just paint, and not have to stop and mix colors in the process, I quickly laid in a thin coat of the stucco wall and shadow colors so they could be drying.
Then, I established the darks in the flowers with brush and came on top with lighter colors and palette knife to give the flowers dimension. Normally I would work around the whole canvas, but with plein air painting, your time is so short between when your light changes, that at this stage, I went ahead and finish out the details in my focal point, the two main flowers. Lastly, if there is time left, I finish up the painting, in this case adding leaves, vines, and thick painter to the stucco wall to suggest the sun reflecting off its surface. At this point, it's best to stop and not overwork the spontaneity of the sketch - you can always go back and tweak things back in the studio later.
Check out some of my students' morning paintings. Even though we were set up within 20 feet of each other, I love how each painter sees things differently.
Scrolling bark peels back like white washed parchment revealing secrets in the deeply textured wood below. A painting of grace and beauty, it’s verticality offset by embracing branches wound round as a sheltering arm. Each stroke is crisp, vivid, defined by thick textured oil, rich colors strike a reververberating chord – purple and the compliment of gold create a visual vibration that resonates in an optical song.
To see more of my aspen and birch tree oil paintings, please visit my website at NikiGulley.com.
Niki Gulley’s passion for painting began in grade school when she had to draw something as mundane as shoes for art class, and loved every minute of it. Her parents enrolled her in private lessons and she was hooked. Following her childhood in Chicago, Niki relocated to Dallas to pursue an art major at SMU. Since she disliked the freezing Illinois winters, Dallas seemed like the place to stay after graduating.
Next, Gulley entered the world of advertising, working as art director for a local magazine. After a few years passed, Niki felt like something was missing. So she started painting again every free moment. This is what she had been missing and she began to feel fulfilled again.
It is from this feeling of true joy that Niki translates onto canvas. She seeks to capture the beauty of our landscape, utilizing vivid colors in oil paint and pastels to convey a particular mood. Gulley invites you to reconnect with nature and escape day-to-day responsibilities along with her in these creations.