Saturday, March 27, 2010

Finding the potential

Sometimes it takes awhile for a piece to come to its potential.  Back in December I started an oil painting of a pitcher and large plate on an unusually sized canvas.  There was a time when I bought a number of these, thinking it would be an interesting challenge, but gave that up when I found the biggest challenge was framing them.  This is the last of those canvases.

I had thought it finished in December, so I signed it and hung it on my wall.  It didn't take long to realize it wasn't right - the plate looked flat, the background was boring, and pitcher's opening was off.  But it hung there for several months, nagging at me to fix it every time I sat down to dinner.  Earlier this month I finally pulled it off the wall and got to work.  It took awhile to get the adjustments right, but now I feel like I can look at it without getting annoyed with myself.  Until I notice sometime else wrong with it.  An artist's work is never really done.

The pitcher and plate were both wedding gifts, given by two different people who had never met, yet their gifts complimented each other quite well.  Lemonade and birthday cakes have been served many times from these two pieces.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Pastel Workshop

This weekend I was lucky enough to participate in my first pastel workshop, sponsored by the Greenville Art Guild.  This was my first formal instruction in pastel, and I was pretty excited about it. The instructor was Thelma Frame, a well know artist from eastern Indiana.  I had actually signed up for a pastel workshop with her last spring at the Richmond Art Museum, but it was cancelled due to lack of interest.

It's actually been a source of frustration for me, as pastel specific workshops and classes seem to be few and far between.  Most of what I have found has been several states away and/or beyond my limited budget, which is why I was so happy to find this one.

It turned out to be an excellent experience.  There were about 16 people there, all from the area, and Thelma seemed  to know most of them.  She demonstrated her technique for a bit, then walked around offering advise.   I chose a picture from the stack she had brought, and set to work with the limited 
colors I had brought.  The instruction she gave me was pretty minimal, mostly "keep going".  At the end she showed my piece to the few remaining participants, who invited me to join the Art Guild and take a class.  I feel pretty encouraged by it all, and hopefully have made a new set of connections.  I was also pretty impressed by the quality of work I saw on other people's easels.  I think this will be a good group to join.  A special thanks to Sandy for hosting the workshop in her remarkable house, Selena for the delicious lunch, and of course Thelma for her insight.

Here is the result of the day's work.  I touched it up a bit once I got home, but it really didn't need a lot.  It is on 12x9 slate blue Colourfix paper.

Shaded Lane, 9x12 pastel, copyright 2010

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Monument Valley revised

With the purchase of new tube oils, I decided to go back to the Monument Valley painting and do some touch ups.  I don't usually do a lot of touch up work, especially in oils, as it can be difficult to match the new work to the older. That really wasn't a concern this time as I reworked the entire painting.  Using a brush allows for greater detail as well as a wider color range than oil sticks, which are really too clumsy to use on a small painting.  I was also able to emphasize the highlights and shadows a bit more to hopefully increase the drama of an already dramatic setting.  I may have gone a bit overboard in the sky with my favorite blue, but for some reason the skies in Monument Valley and the southwest in general are a much more saturated shade of blue than they are in the midwest.  I'm not sure if it the dryness of the air or the increase in elevation, but trying to capture that is a temptation I'm finding hard to resist.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

In the zone

Some days it's a struggle to get in the mood to paint, to focus and find the painting in the canvas.  And some days it just happens with little effort.  Yesterday was one of the days where everything fell into place despite the chaos of soccer practice, gathering sap for maple syrup and an art association meeting.

When I posted my Monument Valley painting on Facebook, I got such a hugely positive response I threatened to pull out a Death Valley picture and paint it.  When I followed through on that threat yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised by the results.  I'm not sure it's possible to fully capture the scale of Death Valley in a small painting, but I'm happy with how it turned out.

Turns out my biggest issue with the Monument Valley painting was the paint sticks.  I love them, they are great to work with on a large painting, but are rather awkward for a smaller one.  So I bought a set of basic   colors in tubes and some small brushes.  What a difference having the right tools for the job makes!  I'm now thinking of a series of small (8x10) oils of the southwest, fitting them in while waiting for larger ones to dry.  It's funny, some pastelboard I ordered arrived on Tuesday and I have really not thought about pastels.  Since the oils seem to be going so well, I think I'll stick with them for awhile longer, and hopefully will be able to get back in the "zone".

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Monumental attempt

Earlier this week I took a break from a big painting I've been working on for awhile to do a small quick one.  I've discovered that a lot of artists are doing small daily paintings and then auctioning these on ebay.  I wish I had the time to do a new painting every day, I'm sure the practice would do me good.  Instead I'll have to settle for the occasional quick painting while another is drying.  This one is my first attempt, and it looks to me like I really could use the practice!  Landscapes seem to be something I find easier to capture in pastel.  And I don't think I made it any easier on myself by choosing a scene from some place as iconic as Monument Valley.  I'm not sure if it's the lack of colors available to me (I have 100+ pastels, but only about 15 oils, most of them oil sticks), or that I am not used to working on a smaller scale (the painting is about 14x11).   I think part of it may be that I am used to working pretty loosely with oils, and haven't figured out yet how to translate that into landscapes.