Monday, December 26, 2011

Playing with pastels

Round Chair 16x20 pastel, copyright 2011

As promised, here's a look at my play with the new pastels.  This was a fun one with no expectations going into it.  The goal here was just to experiment and see what would happen with new pastels and a new surface.  The pastels are Sennilier half sticks, a set of 80 landscape colors.   I've used them before as I also have a set of 40 random colors, but it's nice to have a larger variety.  Sennilier makes a total of 500 colors, though I'll have to win the lottery before purchasing the full set.  They are very soft in texture and flow easily over the paper but also break easily - one has already been dropped and broken.  But that's okay, it still works!

The paper is black Canson pastel board, coated with Colourfix pastel primer, 16x20 in size.  The board has a large tooth to it and the primer has a very fine texture - the combination works very well for lots of layers.  And I worked in a lot of layers.  In a few places I blended and/or took off pastel with a paint brush.  I also blended with my fingers.  At one point I lightly sponged the surface with a wet rag then moved the damp pastel around with fingers, coating it with more pastel after it dried, which made an interesting texture on the wall behind the chair.

I'm pleased with the results, these soft pastels are perfect for large areas with minimal detail.  Combing them with a harder pastel, and a bit of fixative between layers, should work well for me in a larger format.  This is the first time I've worked with the Canson paper/pastel primer combination and the first time I've worked on a black surface, and I like how deep the darks can get.  I think it will all work quite well for me.

Happy Holidays

Hope everyone's holidays have been as joyous as mine.  Nothing beats spending time laughing and loving with family.  Mine was very good to me in the gift department as well.  I received a brand new set of 80 landscape Sennilier pastels and have played with them a bit already.  The results will be posted in the next day or so.  I also got a wonderful book, the companion to an exhibit at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.  All pastelist are big fans of Degas, as he was instrumental in elevating the medium as a serious art form.  Although I didn't get to the actual exhibit, the book is the next best thing, offering insights into his thought process and including rarely exhibit pieces from private collections.  I'm really looking forward into curling up with it and a cup of tea.

The Dayton Daily News also had a brief article about the upcoming Life Drawing exhibit, and included a quote from yours truly.  I also sent in a photo of one of my pieces, but that didn't seem to have made it into the paper.  It's an uphill battle for attention for small art centers, and for emerging artists such as myself, so I was happy for all of us.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Blank Slate

The three unfinished paintings hanging on my walls taunting me are now two.  Not because I finished one, but because I white washed it.  I had spent hours and hours on it, and it was nearly there, or so I thought, but never quite right.  Those are the hardest ones to fix.  One of the others has a lot of potential, but the mistakes are very obvious.  The other really has nothing wrong with it, it just needs to be finished. It's the ones that are almost there that are the toughest because while you know something is not quite right, you just can't put a finger on it.

So there it hung.  I still like the idea and subject matter, round hay bales sitting in the summer sun.  But it was flat, lacking dimension, and last night I had the sudden realization that the fault lay with the composition, which could only be corrected by starting over.  Before I could second guess myself, it came down off the wall was coated with white paint.  It's a hard thing, to learn how to let go and move on when things aren't working, but I know it was the right thing to do for this painting.

After that liberating decision, I did a few quick sketches, thinking of ideas for another pastel.  Between a cold that won't go away and the holidays it may be a while before I get to it, but maybe if I put the thought out there to the universe (or the cloud anyway) it will happen.

Value Study, Round Chair 5x7 graphite pencil, copyright 2011

Friday, December 16, 2011

Third time's a charm

Early Morning Frost 12x9 pastel, copyright 2011

This one is from the same spot and the same sunrise as the previous two landscapes, but looking in the opposite direction.  Despite the resentment of this night owl for having to get up at this hour, it really is a magical time.  In particular I have a fascination with watching the shadows on the trees slowly slide down to the ground as the sun creeps over the edge of the hills behind our house.  Every clear morning it's the same, yet somehow different.  I've tried to capture that a bit of that idea here.  While the previous pastel was all about the light, this one became all about the mood.

As a historical aside, nearly two years ago I painted this same barn.  It amazes me how much progress I've made since then, and I get exciting thinking about how much better I can get.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Portrait attempt

Study of a Redhead 12x16 pastel, copyright 2011

Wow, portraits are hard!  This one started out as a portrait of my daughter, based on a sketch done during Life Drawing last week.  After hours and hours of working, erasing, and reworking, I finally gave up trying to make it look like her.  The only thing I kept was the hair.  I wonder if it's easier to do a portrait of someone you don't know as well.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Life Drawing sketch

Bookworm Sketch 11x14 charcoal pencil, copyright 2011

This week I was happy to return to the Life Drawing session after a long absence.  It was a special session for me since my daughter agreed to sit as the model - her boots and long red hair were quite the crowd pleaser.  Unfortunately I discovered that I was rather rusty and that I had brought the wrong type of paper.  I started with a charcoal pencil, hoping to get lots of detail, but the tooth of the paper is too rough and I tried too hard to force it.  This was the best of the three sketches.  I may rework it a bit to fix some proportion issues, especially with the left arm.  One other sketch was in pastel.  Her enviable hair turned out well but the face definitely needs work.  I'll post that later if it turns out.  

FYI, next month the Preble County Fine Arts Center will be featuring A Year of Life Drawing, an exhibit of sketches, drawings, and perhaps a few paintings from artists who have participated in the Life Drawing sessions.  I will have a few pieces in the exhibit.  It will open on January 4, with a reception at 2pm on the 14th.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

One sunrise, but not the same

      Sunrise, First of December 6x6 oil, copyright 2011

December Sunrise 12x9 pastel, copyright 2011

A first for me, two different paintings from the same reference photograph.  The first was just a quick study, painted the same day I took the photo.  It came out a bit softer and more muted, in part because I was spent perhaps 15 more minutes on it than I should have, and was starting to make mud.  I stopped when I realized it, made a few corrections then quit.  The second one I finished just yesterday, and perhaps overcompensated a bit for the earlier painting's softness, though the colors look a bit too saturated on my monitor.

Looking at the two of them together, I can't decide if one is really better than the other as both capture some aspects of the mood of the moment.  I'm not sure if it's the media or light in the studio or my subconscious that made them so different.  It's an exercise worth trying again with another photo.

Edit:  The pastel image has been revised, and is now a bit closer to the real thing.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Inspired by O'Keeffe

My annual three birthdays and a holiday in the same week is done, so now I'm just trying to get back into a routine of sorts.  Today seems like a good time to squeeze in a painting - the sun is actually shining after days and days of the cold dreary downpours that make November such a cheery month here in the Midwest.  When I stepped outside this morning, there was a thick layer of frost over everything, so I ran back in to grab my camera.  Much to the dog's annoyance, I stopped and got a few photos during our walk.  The light was excellent as the frost and sunrise turned everything soft grays and blues and pinks.

Before my crazy week hit I was able to do a quick pastel study of the deer skull I pointed out in the some-day studio photo.   If you read the comments below you'll see that I decided to take up the challenge of painting in the style of Georgia O'Keeffe.  Not sure if I accomplished that, but it was enjoyable to "research", flipping though books and web sites.  By the way, Sue Pownall, who urged me on in the challenge, is an excellent artist as well.  You should check out her fascinating blog, she's quite the traveller and is currently residing in Oman.  And she has a sketch of a skull too, if you are into that sort of thing.

Study of a Deer Skull 12x16 pastel, copyright 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011

Back to basics

Toronto Waterfront Skyline 5x7 graphite pencil, copyright 2011
click to purchase this sketch

The count of nearly finished paintings this month is up to three.  I seem to keep hitting a wall with these bigger ones. They are all almost but not quite there, and I end up getting frustrated and setting them aside.  To give myself a break, a little sketchbook was dusted off and it was back to basics with a pencil drawing. It's been awhile since I've done anything in pencil and it was a nice refresher, a reminder to keep it simple.  This one is from a photo I took this summer, looking at Toronto from a ferry ride to the regional airport.   Only about 2/3 of the CN Tower fit into the sketch, which of course dominates the skyline in its extreme scale.

On a technical note, I've been getting a lot of hits from questionable web sites based in Russia.  One of them even had a notice that it had been removed due to copyright violations.  Seems a bit suspicious, and since I hate to cover my images with watermarks that can be removed by determined and patient personnel, I'm going to start post the images at a lower quality.  Hopefully that won't affect how they look on a computer monitor, but it should discourage printing them out.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

work in progress

Things are a little slow in my art world.  I've actually been working on a still life when I can sneak in the time.  Usually I work pretty quickly, but I've been taking my time with this one, trying to make it look a little more "finished".  After reaching a point of frustration last week it's been set aside for the moment.  Instead I've been doing some touch up work on a few pastels and trying to get better photographs of a few for online contests.  The weather is being a bit uncooperative though.  Photographing outdoors in natural light is preferable but it's been too windy on sunny days and raining on the rest of them.  With holidays and birthdays coming up, I don't know how much work will be done in the next few weeks.  Excuses, excuses....

There are a few motivating factors however.  The Preble County Art Association now has an online directory of local artists, myself included.  Hopefully it will get me some much needed extra exposure.  Check it out, there are some very talented people out there!

And in other news, an electrician will be stopping by this afternoon to give me an estimate for wiring a room in our house, soon (hopefully) to be my studio space.  There's a lot of work to be done first - it has been used as storage space for probably 50 years or more.  It was originally the kitchen and has a huge fireplace with some original cabinetry.  Here's a shot of one corner, including the fireplace.  And yes, that is a deer skull on the mantle - my husband found it a couple of years ago.  It will show up in a painting one of these days.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Background drama

Zinnia with Bud Vase, 6x6 oil, copyright 2011

We've had several hard frosts this week, killing all my flowers with the exception of these little ones that I'm pretty sure are zinnias.  Zinnias are normally sensitive to harsh weather so I'm not sure how they've managed to hang on so long, but they offer a nice bright splash of color to what is becoming a rather dull landscape.  This composition came to me when I first picked them, but I ignored it and instead attempted to paint three of them in a clear glass jar.  That one wasn't working - and ended up getting wiped -  so I went with my original idea and found that I should have followed my instincts to begin with.

The flower and vase seemed to be working quite well at first, but somehow it still was a bit boring.  I turned to other artists to see how they handled still life and realized that the background made a huge difference.  At first this one was almost a solid pale blue, which is what I used for the set up in the studio.   But looking at the works of David Cheifetz in particular I realized that a dramatic backdrop can push the subjects forward and make them far more interesting.  I've been playing a bit with light and shadows, but seeing the difference in the before and after on this one (wish I'd taken photos!) really hit home - I will definitely keep it in mind for future reference.

It's funny though, the hardest part was know when to stop.  I kept seeing little things that needed to be corrected - a bit of white here, a splash of yellow there.  Hopefully my taking a photo will encourage me to stop messing with it.  The saying comes to mind, "It takes two people to make a painting: the artists to paint it, and another to stop him before he ruins it."  I think I stopped in time...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Painting glass

Amber Glass Ornament 6x6 oil, copyright 2011

One of the things on my "bucket list" is to learn how to blow glass.  It's amazing to see a glowing, gooey glob on the end of a pipe turn into a work of art using only fire and air.  I still remember the first time I watched a demonstration of someone making a large serving plate by blowing a globe, then folding it together and spinning it to shape a disk.  Over the years since I have slowly accumulated a collection of handmade glass items, mostly ornaments.  This particular one is my most recent acquisition, picked up this fall at the Renaissance Festival.

Glass and water are two very challenging subjects to paint.  They are transparent and opaque at the time time and can be a confusing mess of reflection and refraction.  The light and shadows feel right on this one, but I haven't quite figured out how to portray the slightly transparent quality accurately.  Water gives me the same sort of fits - how do you paint both the surface and below the surface at the same time?

Monday, October 24, 2011

etsy shop up and running

Finally!  I know I've promised this for awhile now, but at last my etsy shop is open and ready for business.  I've added the link to the side and the bottom of my blog.  It's also on my web site and Facebook page.

At the moment there are nine of my 6x6 oil paintings listed.  I will add to that list as the more recent pantings dry and are varnished - I usually like to give them about 2 months before varnishing.  The mats that were on back order have been shipped and should arrive in the next few days.  This means that pastels will also be listed, in two different sizes.  I don't have any immediate plans to list different sized oils, although I can easily do that if the demand is out there.  For now, if you see something on the blog or web site that isn't listed, just let me know and I can easily put it on there for you.  If you are local to me, send me an email and we can arrange to have the piece dropped off or picked up if you don't want it shipped.  For those who have their own etsy shop, add me to your favorites or your circle, and I will gladly return the favor.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Miniature roses

Floating Miniature Roses 6x6 oil, copyright 2011

On one of the last truly beautiful days of the season I picked the three best flowers off my miniature rose and set them floating in a little bowl.  Moving around to find the best shadows, I finally settled on the stone steps that go down into the bubbling spring we are fortunate to have in the front yard.  There is nothing quite like bright sunshine to make shadows and highlights and colors really pop, and that's what I decided to emphasize instead of trying to capture the details and the texture of the horn bowl and stone step.   

For some reason roses are always a struggle for me.  I'm not sure why, but the layers and layers of short, brightly colored petals give me fits.  It took a little bit of reworking, but I feel pretty good about these.  And I really feel like I've big improvements on capturing the shapes and shadows of rounded objects like the bowl.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Return to Central Park

View Across The Lake 6x6 oil, copyright 2011

Today while looking through my photos in preparation for etsy, I rediscovered this never posted painting, finished early in the summer and sold almost before it was dry.  It's a view of Central Park, looking across the aptly named The Lake towards Midtown.  Buildings are challenging to me as it's hard to know how little detail you can get away with and still have them look like buildings.  Add in reflections on windows, deep shadows, architectural elements... it can easily become a mess.  Surprisingly though, the real struggle for me was the water.  I just couldn't get the reflections right and it kept looking like a pathway instead of a lake.  I think it was scraped down 4-5 times before I was satisfied.  I have to say though, the most satisfying part for me was that I was able to get a tiny flag on the top of the central building.  Don't ask me how I did it, as I'm sure I won't be able to do it again.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sketching Degas style

Famous people get to do some of the coolest stuff.

I recently discovered the blog of Neil Gaiman.  I'm not very familiar with his work as I'm not really into graphic novels, although I do love science fiction.  After reading a bit more about him, I've decided to give his novels a try.  When I have time.

But the real reason behind my posting about him has to do with his post on October 5.  In it he described, among other things, how he and his wife got a private tour of the "Degas and the Nude" exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston since she narrated the audio guide for the exhibit.  During the tour, they convinced the staff to allow her to pose nude in front of one of the paintings while he sketched her.

What an amazing experience that would be for any artist.  If this was any closer to me, I think I'd be calling the museum and demanding that they have life drawing sessions in the exhibit hall.

Monday, October 10, 2011

October trees

Trees Study, Early October 12x16 pastel, copyright 2011

This autumn the trees have been unusually colorful; it seems we got the right amount of rain and cool temperatures followed by ten clear, warm days that made the perfect combination for a wonderful show.  I've taken many reference photos to hopefully cheer me up during the dreary wet late autumn that will soon be here.  I spotted this pair of trees about a week ago on the way to Greenville to pick up my artwork from a show and ended up turning around and driving past twice to get the shot.  Thankfully traffic was non-existant at the time.  Today is likely the last clear day and I plan on spending some time getting a few more photos.

The show in Greenville late last month gave me a bit of a birthday surprise: my painting, White Zinnia, won the purchase award.  This means a local business promised to buy a piece from the show, with some of the proceeds going to the Greenville Art Guild.  This is the first time that one of my pieces has been purchased by someone at random, who has never met me and is unfamiliar with my work.  It feels like a big step forward.  A special thanks to Granny's Corner Frame Shop in Greenville.

An update on my plans for etsy:  I have ordered some supplies, which are now on back order.  This is why haven't set anything up yet.  They are pastel supplies, including cut mats that I plan on including with sold pieces.  I'm getting a bit tired of waiting on them, and the date of their availability keeps changing, so I may just go ahead and start putting oil paintings on there and hold off on the pastels until the mats arrive.  I'll post once everything is up and running.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Birthday azaleas

Pink Azaleas 6x6 oil, copyright 2011
click to purchase this painting

My husband often gets me flowers on my birthday and this year was no exception.  Typically they are cut flowers and it's always a race to paint them before they wither and die - usually a losing race.  But this year he bought me a little azalea bush so I was able to take my time.  I wish I could plant it outside and let it grow into a huge bush, but unfortunately the soils around here are too alkaline, so it will just have to take its chances inside.  It is sitting in my kitchen window above the sink, so hopefully that means I will remember to water it.  Plants in my house need to be quite drought tolerant.

I played with this one a little bit, curious to see how little I could detail I could go into and still have an easily recognized subject.  In the end I went back to the individual flowers for some touch up work, but mostly left the leaves as is.  For some reason I tend to shy away from using black, worried that it will dull the palette, but I'm getting used to the idea that a little bit here and there in the shadows really makes the highlights stand out.  

Friday, September 23, 2011 prep

I've been doing some work recently in my etsy shop, getting things ready to open it again as a venue for selling artwork.  For those of you who aren't familiar with the site, it is modeled somewhat after ebay.  However, unlike ebay, all the prices are set and there are no "auctions" or bidding.  And etsy caters specifically to the creative types.  The only things that can be sold on etsy are handmade, one of a kind items, plus a few vintage things and arts and crafts supplies.  Crafts outnumber arts, but there are a lot of artists on there.  Personally I find the environment a lot more friendly and a lot less chaotic than ebay, where it is far too easy to get lost in the shuffle.

Right now I am in the process of ordering supplies and just generally organizing things to get ready.  When everything is up and running, I will post to let everyone know, and I will have a link to the shop available on the blog, the website, Facebook and Twitter.  More details will follow when it's all said and done, hopefully by the end of next week, if not sooner.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Morning Mist near Alexander Bay

Morning Mist Near Alexander Bay 20x10 pastel, copyright 2011

I was finally able to get a piece finished to my satisfaction by returning to summer vacation, this time along the St. Lawrence River.  Alexander Bay is a pleasant little resort town in the Thousand Islands region.  It was raining when we arrived in the evening, though the clouds broke up near sunset and a rainbow made a brief appearance.  In the morning we took a tour via paddle boat.  It started cool and misty but was quite warm and sunny by the time we returned to the hotel in the early afternoon.  The photo I took in morning of just a few of the 1700+ islands was the most intriguing one of the trip - I'm thinking of saving it for a photo exhibit.

This painting was a bit different for me since I usually prefer bright sunshine and saturated colors but the challenge of capturing the mood was too much to resist.  The most difficult part lay in making the water look like water rather than snow and ice.  In the photograph the water is too chopping and the lighting too poor to show reflections - but what works in a photo is not always the same as what works in a painting, so I took a bit of artistic license.  The size is also a bit unusual, but it seemed to fit the linear composition.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Asparagus patch work in progress, part 2

And now to finish the painting...

Work continues on the details bit by bit.  This included darkening the trees with black and burnt sienna (a rusty colored brown) and redrawing some of the branches in the nearly finished trees.  I'm also pulling the sky down into the trees as I go.  Artists like to call the spaces in trees where the sky is visible "sky holes".

More blacks and purples in the shadows and more orange in the highlights.  I've also added more of a blue-green-grey to the middle tone areas.  Asparagus has a bit of this color in it, plus I wanted to de-emphsized the areas that weren't being directly hit by sunlight by making them more neutral in color.  Though it isn't obvious in the photo, a bit of salmon pink and lavender are going into the sky.  The trees on the left are more blended, again to de-emphasize them.  I really want to push the patches of sunlight.

At this point I got caught up in the "zone" and forgot to take more photos until it was pretty much done.  In the final piece, the trees got darkened quite a bit with black, burnt sienna, purple and dark green.  A lot of burnt sienna goes into the silo as well, and I toned down its highlights by using blue rather than yellow.  The yellow in the sky made it too washed out; bright orange and bluish purple made it both more intense and darker, and more in keeping with early morning.  Though I increased the contrasts in the background asparagus slightly with a few more blacks and yellows, it seems darker because the foreground is much brighter.  Various yellows, including just a bit of the palest yellow, add depth and texture.  It isn't obvious, but there are bits of the bright orange from the sky scattered throughout the asparagus as well.

Hopefully next week I'll have a newly finished piece to show you.  I also have receptions for two different shows next weekend, so keep your fingers crossed for me!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Asparagus Patch, work in progress part 1

I haven't posted lately partly because I've been pretty busy and partly because I honestly don't have any thing worthwhile to post.  I've made a few attempts in pastel recently, including a large sunflower, a plein air landscape and a still life with tomatoes.  None of them turned out, so I decided to switch to a larger sized oil landscape.  It's giving me fits as well.  I haven't abandoned it yet, but I did decide to set it aside for awhile until I feel like I can work on it without getting frustrated.

Meantime, I thought everyone might be interested in a series of photos I took of the asparagus patch posted a few weeks ago.

I started by quickly sketching the scene in black pastel to give me the basic idea of where everything show go and to lay out the foundations for the darkest areas.  I sprayed this with fixative so it wouldn't smear all over or blend with and dull the light areas.

Then I added color to the sky, followed by the trees, working from left to right to minimize smudging.  Highlights in the asparagus were next.

Purples and blues in the shadows followed, along with highlights on the little storage silo.  Then I started on the details of the asparagus and trees on the left, adding depth with more yellows and oranges to emphasize highlights and trying to work out the texture.  A bit of pale yellow was added to brighten up the sky as well.

Blogger seems to be objecting to my adding a whole series of images in one posting, so I'll finish it up tomorrow.

Friday, September 9, 2011

A stop at Lake Ontario

Clean Hands  6x6 oil, copyright 2011

A brief moment of sunshine, the first in almost a week, allowed me to finally get a decent photo.  The redhead and her hat return to the water, this time in Lake Ontario.  Between Niagara Falls and the 1000 Islands region, we stopped at one of the many state parks along the lake shore.  It has become a family tradition to make a sand castle on every beach we come to.  So far this has included three of the five Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean.  After building is completed, hands must be washed free of sand - my daughter came up with the appropriate title.

The hardest part of this one was getting the ripples right.  They were painted and wiped several times before they finally seemed right.  I've tried a few other scenes with water this past week that haven't turned out as well.  Ripples and waves and reflections all conspire to make a very challenging subject to paint.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fall art shows

Me Time 24x18 oil, copyright 2011

While my first attempt at a plein air painting didn't work out, the entry for Sacred Spaces did.  Having focused on small paintings and pastels lately, it's been awhile since I've painted anything this large.  I think the practice has paid off and I feel a lot more confident about setting up the compositions for my paintings.  A cup of tea and a good book, by the way, is one of my favorite ways to escape the craziness of life - it becomes my personal sacred space.  This show runs from September 6-30 at the Preble Fine Arts Center, with the reception on September 24.

In other news, I've entered three pieces in the Greenville Art Guild's annual show.  Two pastels, Meadow at Crown Point and Waiting for the Sun and one of my 6x6 oils, White Zinnia will be included.  The awards will be given on September 23 and the show runs from September 24 to October 1 at the Shawnee Prairie Preserve just outside of Greenville.

Friday, August 26, 2011

En plein air

I've just returned from a plein air session, the first in quite a while.  En plein air is French phrase for "in the open air".  Painting outside instead of in the studio is a fairly recent concept in the art world.  Prior to the invention of pre-mixed paint in a tube in 1841, artists had to make their own paints by grinding down pigments and mixing them with linseed oil.  Pre-mixed paint in a resealable tube freed artists to paint where ever they pleased and lead to a creative boom in the mid 19th century known as Impressionism.

It is a bit of a chore though, having to haul paint and canvas and palette and easel and stand in the sun hoping the light doesn't change to quickly.  I don't do it to often except in the vicinity of my own home.  However, in October there will be a joint plein air show with the Preble County Art Association and the Preble County Historical Society.  It's a plein air show, with all works to be painted at the PCHS site.  They have a lovely property with flower gardens, and old barn and house and a restored log cabin.  A wetland was created a few years ago, attracting all sorts of birds and encouraging wildflowers.

This morning a friend and I went to work on our paintings for the show.  She was much braver than me, working in watercolor, a medium I have never been comfortable with.  I stuck with my trusty pastels.  We'll have to schedule a time to get back though, as neither of us finished today.  And I saw a few more good painting spots I'll have to try.

As an aside, I have been working on an oil for Sacred Spaces, but it isn't quite done yet.    I have to finish it soon, or it won't b dry enough for the show!  It will be posted when ready.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Asparagus patch, early morning

Asparagus Patch, Early Morning 12x16 pastel, copyright 2011

I am not a morning person.  The transition to getting up before the sun and getting the kids around for school is never an easy one for me.  To try and keep myself awake, the dog has been getting a brisk two mile walk after the bus leaves.  The first day of the walk I realized that the rarely seen morning sun makes rather dramatic shadows and highlights, so the next day I took my camera along.  The dog was a bit annoyed with all the stops but I was seeing some very familiar scenes in a different light - literally.

One of our neighbors has about 1/2 an acre or so of asparagus.  I watched for a few minutes as the light of the sun crept though and over the trees to catch the dew on the plants.  Every morning now I find myself staring as I walk by to see how it changes from day to day.

The asparagus, by the way, is wonderful on the grill.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sacred Spaces

Sacred Spaces is this year's theme show at the Preble Fine Arts Center, and I am struggling to come up with something to fit this theme.  I don't want to paint anything obvious, like a church.  There will plenty of those - that was actually a concern for the Board when the idea was proposed, that it will be nothing but churches.  We are talking about rural Ohio after all.  But the theme is open to interpretation.  Now I just have to interpret it for myself.

I had a few people tell me they were thinking of landscapes, which is probably what I will fall back on since I have plenty of those ready to go.  But I'd like to come up something a little more personal.  So then the question becomes, what is sacred to me?  It can a tough one to answer.  Time spent with family and friends comes first.  But there is also my studio, that's my sacred place in the house.  And the "beach" at our creek.  My flower garden.  Greece.  Sitting in the front yard, watching the clouds.  Getting lost in a good book.

All of these things are important to me, but are all of them sacred? And if they are, how do I translate them onto paper and canvas?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Sidewalk cafe

Waiting for the Sun 9x12 pastel, copyright 2011
click to purchase this pastel

Back to the pastels.  I decided that the problem with the one I painted last week was the lack of color.   Quite possibly I overcompensated with this one, but the saturated tones were just too much to resist.  It is based on a photo I took during a quick trip to Toronto with some friends.  A couple of us strolled down to a little marketplace on the edge Lake Ontario where overpriced kitsch could be found in abundance.  A nearby cafe/pub had this row of flowers sitting in brightly painted pots and umbrellas waiting to be opened  in the scattered sunshine.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Tabletop sunburst

Tabletop Sunburst 6x6 oil, copyright 2011
click to purchase this painting

Hopefully no one is tired of sunflowers, because I certainly am not.  They are really starting to come out now, and I can't wait for the challenge of one that is very dark.  Most of them are of the brighter variety like this one, dark in the center fading to bright on the ends of the petals.  I know that I need to practice my ellipses and a flower in a round vase certainly fits the bill.  It takes a lot a measuring to make it look right, and I really have to force myself to be patient with it.   Random petals are so much more fun to paint!

I have a request to ask of anyone who is local to me: if you see a field of sunflowers in bloom, let me know, I'd love to go out and paint them.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

White zinnia

White Zinnia 6x6 oil, copyright 2011

I gave up on the pastel I was working on - it just wasn't working.  But the little oils seemed to be working just fine.  One of the things I love about working in several different media is that I can switch back and forth when things aren't going well.  The occasional change up seems to help me look at things with fresh eyes.

Since melting outside in this extended heat wave has no appeal to me, I've been cutting flowers to bring into the studio.  The perennials are also melting, but the annuals are doing quite well.  My zinnias are mostly reds and pinks, but I had a few surprises.  This large white one really stood out from its peers.  The biggest challenge for me was to make it a brilliant white without washing out all the color.  I think the bright yellow center helped with that.  I considered making the background more monochromatic, but I just can't seem to get away from the bright colors.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A new home

I managed to accomplish a few things this past week - a pastel and two little oils.  But I haven't decided yet if I like the pastel, which is why I didn't post it.  And in this heat and humidity, the oils are drying very slowly, which makes it hard to get any good photos.  We did finally break down and buy a second air conditioning unit, so at least I am not soaked in sweat by the time I am set up to paint.

In other news, the friend who commissioned the two sunflowers posted a photo of them hanging on her wall.   This got me to thinking about how cool would it be to see all my paintings in situ as they say in archaeology.  So I've decided to start an album on my Facebook page of sold paintings hanging in their proper place.  Just send a photo to me, and I'll post it.  Don't worry, I won't include any personal info!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Bowl of cherries

Cherries in a Bowl 6x6 oil, copyright 2011

This one was inspired by a Yooper friend of mine - though my plain white bowls with blue trim are not nearly as interesting as her vintage Pyrex.  For those who don't know, a "Yooper" is someone from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan - and cherries are big business in Michigan.

This biggest challenge for me on this one was in making each cherry stand out from the others and not have a big blob of dark red red.  They were also very dark - I prefer the taste of black cherries, though their color doesn't make them easy to paint.

Friday, July 22, 2011

At the Lake

At the Lake, Memorial Day 6x6 oil, copyright 2011

Went back to late May for this one.  A cool dip in the lake sounds inviting in the extreme heat we've been having this week!   Over Memorial Day weekend, the family headed out to a man-made lake in eastern Ohio where my parents have a small cottage.  Boating, fishing and swimming took up most of our time.  

Close to the cottage is an area for launching boats, and swallowtail butterflies gather at the edge of the water to drink up nutrients from the mud.   My daughter tried to see how close she could get, but they all took off at her approach.  I tried painting them flittering around her, but the painting is just too small - they came out just as blobs.  

I think this is the first time I have painted a figure in oil.   Slowly it's sinking in that careful measurements before painting make a big difference in the end.  And I have to add, that I am loving her hat - I think that might make a few more appearances in the future.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sunflower II

Sunflower II 6x6 oil, copyright 2011

My very first commission is finally complete.  I am fortunate that my friend has been so patient with me.  Things got rather hectic over the spring, and spilled over into summer, but I am learning to convince myself that sometimes it's okay to say no.  

I enjoyed these sunflowers, the petals are challenging but fun to paint.  This spring I planted a variety of them, and it looks like a few will be blooming soon - I even had one self seed, and it has about 5 blooms on it.  Can't wait to see what color they will be.  I've had a few people mention how beautiful fields of sunflowers are, so if anyone local spots one, please let me know where, I'd love paint it!

Sunflowers I is below, to compare.  I didn't want them to quite match - after all each flower is unique. 


Friday, July 15, 2011

Lake Champlain at Crown Point

Lake Champlain at Crown Point 12x9 pastel, copyright 2011

I've finally gotten around to posting this one from our New York trip earlier this summer.  I could blame work, family obligations and a quick trip to Toronto for being so slow about it, but the truth is that I just wasn't happy with it and didn't know why.  It was one of those paintings that is perfectly fine, but somehow not quite right.  

This morning I finally realize that it was just boring.  Too many blues and greens and not enough interesting lines which made it flat and dull.  So this morning I warmed it up with yellows and oranges, using short vertical strokes over the long horizontal ones.  It's amazing how much the seemingly little things can make such a big difference. 

By the way, this is the same park as the previous pastel.  Beautiful spot, I highly recommend it.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Why Do I Paint?

The question most commonly asked of an artist is probably, “How long does it take to create a painting?” A fellow artist told me the answer she likes to give is, “Two hours. And twenty years.”

Another common but much more difficult question is, “Why do you paint?” I’ve been struggling a bit lately to put that answer into words suitable for a biography or artist’s statement. To tell the truth, art for me is a selfish thing – or perhaps self-centered is a better description. I paint because something catches my eye. I see a line or a color or a shadow that I find pleasing and want to put to paper or canvas. It’s really all about what appeals to me. If it also appeals to someone else, that’s just a bonus. I think a lot of artists work this way. After all, if you didn’t like your own work, why even bother?

But just this week I saw that art can be so much more than just a line or a shadow or a splash of color. A friend of mine recently took a photo that caught my eye, and I knew I had to paint it. The thought was in the back of my mind that she would like it as well, but mostly it was about me. With her permission I based a pastel off of her photo, and it turned out quite well. I was happy with it and when I emailed her the image, so was she.

Then the unexpected happened when she finally saw the original. The subject matter was very special to her, and the fact that I thought of her when I painted it made it even more special. It brought tears to her eyes in fact. It was a wonderful reminder that art isn’t just a self-centered pursuit but something that should be shared and that like music, the world is a better place for having art in it. Art may not be “necessary” for life, but I think it makes life better, and I’m glad to be a small part of that.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Meadow at Crown Point, New York

Meadow at Crown Point, New York 12x16 pastel, copyright 2011

Last week the family took our summer vacation, this time driving from Niagara Falls through the 1000 Islands region to Quebec City, then down to Lake Champlain and back home.  With a very busy schedule, we always try to pack as much into our vacations as possible, this time putting about 2300 miles on the car.  This isn't very conducive for sitting and sketching, so I typically take several hundred photos in the hopes that some of them will work as references on the return.  This is one of them, the first of many I hope.

Crown Point is at the narrowest spot in Lake Champlain, and the site of a French fort (Fort St. Fredric) and supporting community in the early eighteenth century.  The French destroyed it in 1759, abandoning the area to the British, who replaced it with Fort Crown Point, one of the largest British fortifications in North America.  Neglected following the end of the French and Indian War, it was later taken by American forces in 1775, and control went back and forth between the two during the war.  It was largely neglected after that until the State of New York took it over as a state park in 1910 and repaired and partially restored some of the ruins.  

Today the entire peninsula is also a wildlife area, and most has been left to return to nature.  I'm not sure what the blue flowers are, I think they might be lupine.  There were also daisies and buttercup and prairie grasses.  It is rather ironically a serene spot now.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Winning Entry


One last post about Desire, and then I will quit talking about it.  Maybe.  This weekend was the reception for the Annual Juried Art Exhibition at the Preble Fine Arts Center, during which the winners were announced.  For the second year in a row, I took first place in the pastel category, which makes me think I must be doing something right.  This win is particularly meaningful since the piece is for a friend, who will actually be visiting during the show, and will get to see her painting hanging in a gallery with a first place ribbon beside it!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Life Drawing Face

Looking Down, pastel, copyright 2011

As the kid's school activities are winding down, there has been time to get to a few Life Drawing sessions at the Preble Fine Arts Center.  I've been missing these, I really feel like I get a lot out of them.   It is both easier and more challenging to work from life, and definitely easier than looking in the mirror.

This is the first time I decided to focus solely on the model's face.  It was a difficult angle to capture well, but it was a challenge that couldn't go unanswered.  It seemed to be working pretty well, but when I got it home my husband pointed out that she looked like a much older woman.  He was right, and the problem lay in my making the face, and therefore the nose, far too long.  I needed to compensate for the angle by shortening the face.  After a lot of reworking, I think the angle is about right, although it needs additional work in other areas.  

And I might as well admit, I had to "cheat" by looking in the mirror.  So while it looks like neither the model nor me, at least it looks like it could be someone.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Pale Yellow Iris

Pale Yellow Iris 6x6 oil, copyright 2011
click to purchase this painting

While the weather has been particularly volatile this month, there have been a few break here and there.  During one of the those I tromped down to the creek with my pastels.  That wasn't a successful endeavour, though it was a pleasant one.  A few days later another break came and back out I went, this time only as far as the front yard.  The wind kept tossing my brushes and my subjects around and the wind dried the paint quickly, but I tried to capture a bit of that movement rather than fight it.  The iris I have now are of the simple, unbearded (beardless?) variety and are a bit smaller and more delicate looking than the more popular types.  Only two of them are yellow, and they really pop when surrounded by purple.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Poster style print now available

After a long absence due to other obligations (ie kids) I've decided to take the plunge into prints.  The first one will be a bit of an experiment, though I suspect it will have a ready built audience to some extent.  With the go-ahead of the owner of the original, I am now offering a print of the pastel, Desire, on  Rather than going with a straight forward print though, I've made it more poster-like.  That way she still has a unique and original piece of artwork, but the general public gets something too.  And a guitar seems an appropriate subject for a poster.  The size of the poster is 12 x 16, which preserves the size of the original pastel while making the poster large enough to fit a standard size wall frame.

I'm hoping people will take this one to concerts with them this summer, on the off chance of getting a band member to sign it.  If you should get so lucky, I'd love to see your picture of my poster with The Edge's autograph on it!

I'm thinking about offering a few other prints with this same sort of template.  Photoshop can be a bit tricky since it can be so complicated, but I feel like I'm starting to get the hang of it.  The next one will probably be Nautilus, I'll post it once I get time to breathe.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Opinions on prints?

Some time back I mentioned on the blog that I had been thinking about offering prints of my work for sale. I haven't gotten around to it yet, since it will require the extra effort of getting high quality photographs taken.  But just recently a friend mentioned that one her friends would like a print of one of my pastels and there has been considerable discussion on an art blog that I follow about prints, which has brought it all up to me again.  I'd like to hear the thoughts of both artists and non-artists on this subject.

On the art blog the opinions ranged from "prints/reproductions/giclees/lithographs are the bane of all artists everywhere" to "I like to offer prints, but only for a few pieces and in limited editions" to "I wouldn't survive as an artist without them".  Giclees, by the way, are high quality limited edition digital prints on canvas that have been touched up by hand.   Lithographs are also high quality limited editions, but using much more traditional techniques.

So, I was wondering what the average person thought of prints.  Would you buy them?  How much would you pay?  Are you willing to pay more for a higher quality, limited edition print?  Would you buy an original if you knew that a less expensive alternative was available?  Would it bother you if you knew that an original you owned was made available as a print?  What I am getting at is that there is an argument that having prints available "cheapens" originals.  And there is the counter argument that having affordable prints available increases interest which in turn increases the value of originals.  I'm not sure which is true; it's possible both of them are.

What do you think?

Monday, April 18, 2011

For love or money

Desire 9x12 pastel, copyright 2001

Stepping outside my comfort zone again, this time for a friend.  I've never painted a musical instrument before and the various textures were challenging: the wood grain of the body of the guitar; the plastic (?) and painted gold leaf on the pick guard; and in particular the gold colored metal knobs.  Those knobs were the toughest part, they took hours and hours and were erased who knows how many times.  In the end I had to ignore the reference photo and all its extraneous information and just work from instinct.

A little bit more information about the subject is required, as this is not just any guitar.  Those of you old enough may recall the song Desire by the Irish band U2, dating to 1988.  This guitar (a Gibson ES-295, so I am told) was played by The Edge during the recording of that song.  A few years ago it was sold at an auction to benefit Music Rising, a charity that raises money to replace instruments for musicians, churches and schools in New Orleans that were lost during Hurricane Katrina, a charity in which The Edge is heavily involved.  It was won by a friend of a friend.  That friend took the reference photo, which I used with her permission.  It had such dramatic lighting, I couldn't pass it up.  And I know she will appreciate the effort as only a serious fan a could.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The city at night

Manhattan Evening 6x6 oil, copyright 2011

I definitely stepped out of my comfort zone on this one.  Cityscapes are rare for me and looking back, I don't think I've ever done a night painting.  Just for fun, I went into this one not thinking about having a nice finished piece, but trying to capture the mood, the idea of the city at night.  Getting each and every window would have been difficult on such a small scale and I don't have the patience for such things anyway so keeping it loose seemed the only way to go.

In trying to work it out, I looked a couple of other artists to see how they tackle such things.  One of them, Karen Jurick, also rarely paints cityscapes, but does often work quite small.  I like her take on Lower Manhattan.  Another artist I looked at is David Cheifetz, who often does paint cityscapes.  I love his combination of loose and traditional, and when you sign up for his newsletter, you get to see his works in progress.

The hardest part about this one was photographing it.  The strong contrasts did all sorts of funky things in the camera, as did the very visible brushstrokes - it looks too yellow and not purple enough on my monitor.  One of these days I will get or make myself a light box which should help immensely.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

First Storm of Spring

First Storm of Spring 9x12 pastel, copyright 2011

The first day of spring saw the first big thunderstorm of the season.  It was coming in just as I was getting off work, and it became a race to get home and grab the camera before it moved on.  I really need to start carrying a camera with me everywhere I go!

The worst of the storm passed to the south of us, although it did manage to plop some huge raindrops on my windshield and some hail on my daughter's track practice.  The edges of a storm are what really catch my eye, when the clouds are piling up and spreading out, but daylight still manages to peek through in a dramatic way.  I kept thinking that if I had the time, I would be a one of those storm chasers - I just love painting clouds and skies, no two are ever alike.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Waiting for spring

Sunflower I 6x6 oil, copyright 2011

Has it really been almost a month since I last posted?  Things have been gearing up with work and the kids, it seems everyone is frantically preparing for spring.  I actually have done a few art related things this month.  An oil and a pastel are at the Randolf County Art Show in Union City, Indiana.  I've touched up a few pieces from late last year that needed minor work (mostly fixing trees), finished a couple of little oils and started a few pastels.  I also had a few sales from my very first studio visit.  Looking at that list, it seems I accomplished more than I realized!

This winter I also worked on my first commission, the sunflower above.  It's for a friend, done at a time when we both were in need of reminders of summer.   Sunflowers do quite well out here in the country - this past summer we had a few that were probably 8 feet tall or more before a wind storm knocked them over and I had to tie them to the brick wall.  The heads get quite large too, more than a foot across.  It's always a race to save a few seeds for next year before the birds get them all, but it is fun watching them work on these tasty tidbits.  If there are enough, I'll even have a few myself.

I've recently started on a second one so that there will be pair to hang in my friend's kitchen.  It will be a challenge to find the time, but one can never have too many sunflowers!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Reflections on a dam

Tributary with Ice 6x6 oil, copyright 2011

Early in February my husband, son and I went tromping through the woods along the creek.  A neighbor had told us that a very ambitious pair of beavers had tried to dam up the creek over the summer.  Because of concerns over the breaking dam potentially causing flash flooding, the beaver were trapped and moved elsewhere.  The remnants of the dam are surprisingly still in place considering that they had built it out of corn stalks of all things!

Just upstream of the dam the water was deep and quiet.  The creek usually doesn't freeze over completely, but there was quite a bit of ice in this spot.  Across the creek from us was one of the many little tributaries that are more typical of the waters that beavers prefer to dam up.  It was a sunny day, and the contrast between the ice and the reflections were what caught my eye on this one.

Unlike the previous 6x6's, I took my time on this one, even going back to it several times to touch up here and there.  It kind of felt this was my first try at applying what I had learned from the previous nine.  I just wish I had time to do more of these!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Blue Bridge

Pony Truss Over Leslie's Branch, 12x9 pastel, copyright 2011

Between feeling a bit under the weather and having far too much to do, February has been an unproductive month for me.  A managed to get only a few pieces done, and I wasn't happy with how most of those turned out.  But with a yet another snow day this week, I did sneak in this pastel.

Years and a lifetime ago when I was an archaeology intern at the Department of Transportation, I was asked to do a few line drawings of some historic bridges.  The drawings were then engraved into plaques to be given to organizations that had helped preserve those bridges.  These days it would be probably all be done digitally.

Those little drawings gave me an appreciation for the aesthetics of historic bridges, which are rapidly disappearing.  The pony truss bridge in this pastel is about 1/2 mile from our house.  It is a bit rusted and the deck is a bumpy ride, so I can see the county replacing it in a few years.  About a mile upstream another iron bridge dating to 1913 was replaced this past summer by a very practical and completely nondescript deck and guard rail.  I'm not sure how old the pony truss is, but probably dates to the 1950s or 60s.  It's really too bad that aesthetics are rarely taken into account for such things anymore - bridges like this this are a part of the charm of the rural landscape.  And yes, it really is that blue.

Okay, maybe I exaggerated the blue, but only a little.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A bit more snow

Smokehouse with Snow 6x6 oil, copyright 2011
A Track in the Snow 6x6 oil, copyright 2011
With snow melting on the ground, I have two more of these little snow paintings left.  Today I looked at the dates on the back and realized that I had painting nine of them in a one month period.  I had a lot of fun with them, and learned a lot as well.  

I think my trees are slowly getting better, though they still need work.  And I learned that color toned down slightly works better than bright color in most instances - these two for example, are a bit too saturated, though it works better on the second one.

I think what I need to do now is concentrate on a few "finished" pieces.  In other words, take some more time and get a bit more detail, using the things I've learned from these nine pieces.  There is a 6x6 competition in California that I am considering if I get some good pieces done in time.  Thanks Bonnie for the heads up on that one!