Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Plein Aire at Fort Saint Clair

Stone Bridge at Fort Saint Clair Park, 12x9 pastel, copyright 2010

Things have been hectic as usual lately, leaving little time for my artwork.  I was able to sneak one in this week while my daughter ran with her cross country team.  The team ran at Fort Saint Clair Park in Eaton, and with the sun actually shining it seemed like a good opportunity to try some en plain aire, or outdoor, painting.  A nieghbor friend and talented fiber artist, Laura Wogamon, joined me as her daughter is on the team as well.

My experience with plein aire painting is pretty limited and I've never tried it with pastels.  The brilliant sunlight slipped behind the trees pretty quickly and the mosquitos started getting to us (note to self: bugspray!) but it was an enjoyable experience.  The fading light and limited time forced me to work quickly, but I was able to cover the entire paper, and did only a few touch ups in the studio once I got home.  Not sure if I quite captured the dappled evening light on the bridge, but I think it turned out pretty well.  Now I am actually looking forward to cross country practices!

Thursday, June 17, 2010


About a week ago one of the blogs I follow had a posting about comparing past and recent works to see how far you've progressed as an artist.   He admitted to being "embarrassed" about some of his earlier pieces, and in the responses below a few people even admitted going to far as to destroy past works.  I don't think I could bring myself to do that, and I don't find most of my old pieces embarrassing.  I actually like having reminders of how far I've come and how much I've progressed, especially in the last year or so.

Two years ago when I painted the pastel on the top, I really didn't know where I was going with my art, just a vague idea that maybe I could become a professional artist.  I was experimenting a bit with perspective and knew that I preferred saturated colors, but wasn't sure how to express myself well.  I had not found my "voice" yet, and in fact didn't even realize I needed to find it.

Two years later the above blog posting inspired me to bring out that same bowl and see how things have changed.  I now have a better understanding of lighting and the use of underpainting to make my colors even bolder, and how to create a more interesting composition using perspective.  And I'm no longer as concerned about getting it exactly right - I'm learning to loosen up a bit.  I'm still trying to find my "voice" but I feel like I'm a lot closer to it now.

Square Bowl on a Round Plate pastel 12x16 copyright 2008

Square Bowl with Blue Interior pastel 12x9 copyright 2010

Monday, June 14, 2010


The Garlic Keeper 24x18 oil

The oil painting I finished last week finally dried enough for me to get a decent photograph.  This little garlic keeper was given to me by my parents some time ago when they were living in Germany.  The German word for garlic is knoblauch, which is written on one side.  I decided to leave that out - I'm starting to recognize the necessity of simplifying.  It's taken awhile, but I'm getting more comfortable with the idea that paintings are not photographs, and don't need to be exact replicas  of what I see.  It's far to easy for me to get caught up in details, fussing to make sure everything is right.  The more paintings I do, the easier it is to let go of such things.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Yes, that's me

Water's Edge pastel, 12x9

Current events don't typically find their way into my artwork; it's just not what I do, and I think that's true of many artists whose primary subjects are still life and landscapes.  But I follow a number of artists' blogs, and have seen a bit of a trend lately, an exception perhaps to this.  There has been an increase in the number of  water scenes, in particular beach scenes.  I didn't recognize it until after I finished this pastel yesterday.  The oil spill seems to have given a number of artists a need to find a pristine beach, at least on canvas and paper.

This one is based on picture my husband took while we were at Indiana Dunes.  It's a beautiful place, if one can get past the view of the adjacent cooling tower.  Photographs of myself are rare (I'm usually the one taking pictures), and artwork even less common.  But I was drawn to the hat and the shadows on the barely perceived face, and the challenge of unusual position of the figure.  I don't generally like pictures of myself, but if I ignore the fact that it's me, I'm pretty happy with this one.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Nautilus, 12x9 pastel, 2010

Last weekend's trip to the Art Institute of Chicago left me feeling inspired, even if my family wasn't so impressed.  During the week I was able to (mostly) finish two pieces.  One was an oil which still needs a little work; I'll post that one later.  The other was the pastel I've posted here.

I've been thinking about ideas for pastels ever since my Colourfix paper arrived, but this one ended being more of an impulse than a planned painting.   The shell was bought by my husband many years ago while on spring break in Florida and it's been calling out to be painted for quite some time, but the iridescent interior put me off a bit.  With new paper and new pastels in hand, I decided to give it a try.   It took some effort on my part, but my main goal was not to get too caught up in perfection and to keep it loose.  Having a set of very soft pastels helps, it's hard to get too detailed with them.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Art Institute of Chicago: Lessons Learned

This Memorial weekend saw a flurry of activity from the family as we visited old friends, got a personal tour of an archaeological site, went to two museums and a beach.  We don't do relaxing vactions!  One of the museums was the Art Institute of Chicago, where I had been once before, nearly ten years ago.  This experience was very different from the first, and I learned a few important lessons.

First, art museums have little appeal to an eight year old boy, who would really rather see mummies and mastadons and a T-rex named Sue (we went to the Field Museum the next day).  Second, paintings tend to be a lot bigger then what you expect.  You can read in a book that Sky Above the Clouds VI by Georgia O'Keeffe is 96 in by 288 in, but it doesn't quite register how large that is until you see it hanging on a wall.

Third, non-representational modern art has little appeal to the non-artist.  And I'll admit, I don't always get it either, but I try.  I heard a lot of mutters through the galleries along the lines of, "What is that supposed to be?  How is this art?"  Some of this is the fault of the general public which likes to be spoon fed everything and some of this is the fault of the art community which likes to deliberately obfuscate, at least at this level.  When the two are able to meet as at the Cloud Gate, called "the Bean" by locals, it is art at its best.