Palden Gyatso, Glorious Ocean

Hello, Everyone,
I’m excited to let you know that an article about my recently completed painting of Palden Gyatso, Glorious Ocean, has just been published in the East Valley Tribune by writer and reporter, Srianthi Perera.


This painting and the story of how it came about is close to my heart, and I am so glad to share it with you. The paper is also packed with other stories that are of interest, no matter where you live. You can pick up a free copy at newsstands in downtown Gilbert or at the Gilbert Museum on the SW corner of Elliot and Gilbert Rd., and you can also read the story online, page 11, at:

Wishing you a fantastic summer,
Marsha Rhodes Gilliam

Mediums, Solvents, and Flashpoints

Medium1   Summer is coming, so I want to caution you all that if you are still using turpentine-type spirits with your oil painting, remember that they can spontaneously combust at 86 degrees fahrenheit–just a mere 86 degrees!  They have the lowest flashpoint, coupled with the highest volatility rating, of any other kind of combustible. So if you leave a paper towel or rag with turpentine on it in your studio, you could have the recipe for a fire.

You can buy a special can and lid made specifically for oily rags, but the least expensive way to ensure safety is to have a metal trash can outside, away from your house, with a little water in it; then drop your rags in there each day when you finish work. Later, you can take the lid off and let the water evaporate, rather than polluting the ground or pouring it down a drain to get in the water system. Then just throw the dried rags in the trash.

Solvent vapors can cause cancer with prolonged exposure, so don’t keep medium and brush cleaning solvent containers open on your taboret any longer than you have to. The less exposure you have over time, the healthier you’re going to stay. If you can’t do without spirits, choose the least damaging kind and keep it stored in an airtight container.

There is a new one out with a flashpoint of 200 degrees, called Turpinoid Odorless Mineral Spirits Light–this doesn’t mean that it’s safe to leave it uncovered, or to breathe deeply just because you can’t smell it, but it is a better alternative because of the lesser fire hazard. Just remember that Turpinoids are not for use in oil painting. They are just for cleaning brushes, because they tend to have residues that can inhibit or prevent complete curing of your paint film.

And remember that solvents of any kind are not for cleaning hands! No, No, No! Instead, use any kind of oil (olive, coconut, baby oil, etc.) followed up by soap. Same with brushes. Remove as much paint as you can from your brushes, then use olive oil to remove the rest, followed up by soap. And speaking of soap, some of you probably already know about this and have some under your sink, but I’m a “newbie” and have just tried Murphy Oil Soap for the first time–I love it. There’s a reason why it’s been around for more than 100 years–what an amazing soap! It so easily and quickly removed oil paint residue from my shirt, that I tried it on my brushes. It cleaned them faster and more thoroughly than anything else I’ve ever tried, and left them soft and beautiful with no residue–and Murphy has 98% natural ingredients and is non-toxic. We keep learning, right?

It is easy and just as effective to create beautiful oil paintings with non-toxic mediums like Oleogel, or Oil of Spike Lavender mixed with artist-grade linseed/stand oil. If you want to glaze, Oleogel (an inert fumed silica) will do that just as well, or better, than toxic mediums made with turpentine. Then use cleanup materials like olive oil, safflower oil, or Oil of Spike Lavender (behaves like turpentine only better), followed up with Murphy’s. Find out more about these products here:

The Chelsea Classical Medium, Lavender Spike Oil Essence, is handcrafted using the finest quality lavender which is imported from Spain. A safer natural alternative …

Oleogel is a firm thixotropic gel made with linseed oil and fumed silica. Add to thicken colors for creating impasto effects that do not sink. Contains no driers, so …

Buy Murphy’s Oil Soap, 32-Ounce on FREE SHIPPING on qualified orders


Hello, Artists,


We are planning a workshop the week of November 14, 2016, which is our only opportunity window for quite a few months. Can you make it? We will also have a Free Prep Day on November 7, a week before the workshop, in order to help you get a wonderful start. The cost for the 5 days is $489.

Art of the Masters Workshop
When: Nov. 14-18, 2016
Where:  Gilbert, Arizona
Time: daily, 9:00 – 5:00

If you feel undecided, maybe now is the time to get off that fence and embrace your true art self. We promise that you will get more step-by-step art instruction in one week with us, than you will get anywhere else, even in workshops that cost more than twice what we charge. We also give you helpful handouts (most art classes don’t) because we want you to be able to remember and continue working on what we’ve taught you. To us, the most important thing is continuing the legacy of the Old Masters, and we are passionate about passing on their wisdom and techniques to others. We would love to have you with us!

And like Maestro Frank Covino always did, we offer $100 off the cost of your tuition for each of your friends that sign up for the class.

Below is a sample of first-time student drawing (24″ x 30″), in preparation for painting.  Amazing, huh!


Here are things needed for the Free Prep Day:

Materials for board preparation, graphing, and drawing:
Ampersand Gessobord brand surface
metal yardstick and ruler
ultra-fine Sharpies, various colors (black, blue, and red are probably enough)
General’s charcoal pencils, soft
kneaded eraser
High quality photo of Old Master painting to work from, printed on 8 1/2”x11” glossy photo paper, one grayscale, one color–Art Renewal Center is an excellent online museum source–
blending stumps (tortillions)
Exacto knife
spray workable fixative
clear tape

Other helpful items:
transparent 18” triangle
India ink and sable liner brush
artist’s white tape, removable

Please respond below, and we’ll get right back to you!

Marsha and Karen
Art of the Masters

ART OF THE MASTERS Workshop Wonders!

Hello, Artists,

We thought you might want to see some of the work just completed at our first Art of the Masters workshop last week in Gilbert, Arizona.  Karen and I were so proud of our students’ success thus far.  Here are some pictures:


Shelly H.  in early stages of drawing At the Fountain, after William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1897


Shelley B. drawing The Laundress, after Jean-Baptiste Greuze, 1761


Teachers Marsha Gilliam (in the mirror) and Karen Schmeiser, with student Shelly H.


Completed charcoal drawing~


Completed drawing with partial verdaccio underpainting~

Below are the students’ drawings alongside actual paintings by Greuze and Bouguereau.  When completed, students’ works will look like these original works, and Shelley and Shelly will have learned much about seeing, drawing and painting during this process of copying the Masters:



We hope you enjoyed seeing some student work, and hope you will be able to join us for our next event.  Where else can new artists get a five-day workshop with two teachers for $489?  We are in this to perpetuate the systems and processes of the Old Masters, and are planning another workshop in the fall, to be announced.

YOU CAN CAN CAN do this too,

Marsha and Karen 🙂



Hello Artists,

The spirit of Frank Covino visited me this morning and I wound up with white paint on the back of my hand, that had transferred to the sink and countertop before I realized it.  I searched all over but couldn’t find the source, and was blaming the cats for perhaps stealing a tube of my paint–so I was frantically looking for that as well–don’t need any mentally challenged lead-white-eater kitties in my life.

My husband found the source on the underside of a shelf wire in the refrigerator, the result of a paint storing fiasco last week.  I thought I had cleaned it up thoroughly, but I guess not.  It’s amazing how far a little dot of paint can travel when you don’t want it to.

Remember how Frank was so good at getting more paint on our painting tables and on himself, than on our canvases? 🙂  So, two days before Karen Schmeiser and I begin our Art of the Masters workshops in Arizona, I’m guessing Frank stopped by this morning on his Memorial Celebration Day to remind me to loosen up and not be so picky about making a mess with paint.

Frank will always live on in all our hearts and memories of him.  Will you please share below, some of your memories with the rest of us?



ANNOUNCEMENTArt of the Masters classical oil painting workshop, plus free additional day.

Karen Schmeiser and I are carrying on Maestro Frank Covino’s legacy by teaching workshops here in the Phoenix Metro. It was an important decision for us, and since each of us have studied with Frank for over twelve years and we both love teaching, we honor his memory by doing our part to assure that these Old Master techniques do not get lost.

  • Learn to paint like the Old Masters.
  • Receive the expertise of two instructors (Marsha Gilliam and Karen Schmeiser) as you learn the methods of the Old Masters in a 5-day workshop, June 27-July 1, 2016 Open to artists of all levels.  Get more instruction for your money.
  • Cost: $489.  If you check the prices of art workshops these days, you will find they cost nearly twice as much.  A supply list will be provided upon registration.
  • Also included at no extra charge is a free preparation day on June 20, 2016, to help you properly begin your drawing on your painting panel.

YOU can do this! The three most important things to bring with you are your patience, your determination, and an accepting mind.  Here are examples of what you can expect to achieve:

First painting by Karen Schmeiser:


Copy of The Shepherdess, 1866, after Johann Baptist Hofner

First painting by Marsha Gilliam:


Copy of Girl with a Pearl Earring, 1665, after Johannes Vermeer

The author and associate editor of the East Valley Tribune, Srianthi Perera, recently published this article about our upcoming workshop, and there is also an article about it just released in The Gilbert Sun News


We hope you will join us–it was a life-changing experience for us, and we hope it will be for you, too.


Marsha and Karen


Hello, Artists~~

The author and associate editor of the East Valley Tribune, Srianthi Perera, just published an eloquent article today about our upcoming workshop.  Karen and I wanted to share it with you:


  • Learn to paint like the Old Masters.
  • Receive the expertise of two instructors (Marsha Gilliam and Karen Schmeiser) as you learn the methods of the Old Masters in a 5-day workshop, June 27-July 1, 2016.  Open to artists of all levels.  Get more instruction for your money.
  • Cost: $489.  If you check the prices of art workshops these days, you will find they cost nearly twice as much.

YOU can do this too,

Marsha and Karen