Thursday, April 29, 2010


It's been a rather frustrating and frantically busy week.  Between a karate tournament, a soccer game and gearing up for the summer shows, I haven't had much time for painting.  And when I was able to carve out a bit of time, it really didn't work out so well.  "Wipers", or sometimes oil painters call them "scrapers", are a part of the process.  These are paintings that just don't come together and get wiped or scraped off.   It happened to me twice this week.

The first was a large pastel that has been sitting for awhile as I hoped to be able to salvage it.  But it never really felt right and I finally admitted it and wiped it clean.  The second was a smaller pastel that wasn't right from the beginning.  It didn't take much convincing to wipe that one off.

I'm finding that the more painting I do, the more willing I've become to admit defeat.  It's a hard thing to get past "I can fix this" but I'm getting more comfortable with the idea that it's okay to fail.   Looking back over the past year's pieces, I can see that I'm making progress, slowing getting better.  A step or two backwards is frustrating but at the same time it can be liberating as I know a step or two forward is just behind that paint rag.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Maple Syrup Ewer

Two summers ago my husband, who is an archaeologist, excavated a maple sugar furnace dating to 1840-1860.  It inspired him to try making our own syrup, so he tromped through our woods to locate a small stand of sugar maple trees and built his own furnace (in the front yard of course) out of cinder blocks.  That winter we collected about 60 gallons of sap and boiled it down to 1 1/2 gallons of syrup.  It worked out so well we did it again this year, and I even made about 1 1/2 cups of maple sugar.  It's a lot of work, but worth it.

The only problem we had was the lack of proper serving ware.  Then a friend pointed me in the direction of Joy Bridy.  Joy throws wonderful stoneware pottery in practical shapes meant to be used, including bottles, mugs, storage vessels and even bird feeders.  They are then wood fired, giving them interesting and unique coloring.

She had some long necked ewers that worked perfectly for pouring maple syrup, as well as being lovely to look at.  When not in use, ours sits on display on a kitchen shelf.   This spring as the sun started filtering through the window, the interesting shadows cast on the ewer caught my eye.  This painting of it came together in one very satisfactory 3 hour sitting earlier this week.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Plectrums and Lemons

Plectrums, for those who don't know, are guitar picks.  Their presence in this painting is due to a conversation with a friend.  Another friend sent me few to use as reference when I got stuck trying to figure out how to make them look like something other than blobs of blue paint.  Sometimes a painting is a cooperative effort!   I love how the picks add an unexpected bit of whimsey to an otherwise straight forward still life.  They are also an excellent excuse to use my favorite blues.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A step forward

A few years ago I painted a pastel of oranges in a black bowl that I thought turned out pretty well.  As I was recently searching for ideas to paint, I decided to try it again in oil.  This is the result.  I hung it on my wall to dry a bit with every intention of doing more work.  But the longer it hung, the more I liked it, and the more worried I got about messing it up.  Hard as it was, I decided to just leave it be; artists never seem to be completely happy with their own work.  There are little faults here and there that could be fixed, but maybe I'm the only one who sees them.

I've been looking at a lot of other people's work, trying to figure out how to make mine better.  Finally I realized what was missing - I need to pay more attention to the lighting.  I've been told this already, but it seems to have taken about six months before it finally sunk in.  I feel like this particular piece is a big step forward for me.

This oil, along with a pastel (Spider Plant) will be in the Spring Fling show in Sidney, Ohio next month.