Sunday, January 30, 2011

Winter's Deep

Winter's Deep 12 x 9 pastel, copyright 2011

I have had more than enough of snow and cold, to point of wishfully looking up real estate in Belize last night.  You wouldn't know it from my paintings though.   I guess since I haven't painted snow much before this winter I feel the need to practice and perfect it.  And there is certainly no shortage of subject matter, with more on the way later this week.

This one was actually started more than a week ago, but wasn't quite right.  The Richardson paper is a dark brick red and I unconsciously chose warmer colors to go with it - which is the wrong choice when paining snow.  The original intention was to make it foggy, but that failed utterly.  I came back to it today, toning down the reds and pinks a bit with blues and yellows and defining the trees quite a bit more.  A friend recently pointed out that I had not been including the white trunks of sycamores, which are prevalent in river bottoms around here, so I will be making more of an effort to include them from now on.  I'm happy to have the feedback - I'm okay with criticism, as long as it's constructive!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Learning curve

Snow Shadows 6x6 oil, copyright 2011
Field of Snow 6x6 oil, copyright 2011

One of the good things about doing so many of these little paintings is that I am learning rather quckly what works and what doesn't work.  With these two there was a lot of the latter and a little bit of the former, particularly with the painting on the left.

With this one I decided to experiment a bit.  I've been coating the panels with a pastel primer, which is a clear acrylic base with very fine pumice mixed in.  I was curious what would happen if I didn't use the primer and just painted directly on the surface.  This is what happened:  the surface immediately soaked up all the oil from the paint, making it gum up and very difficult to move around.  This means I couldn't really blend the paint on the surface and if I messed with it too much it rolled into little balls.  No matter how many layers I put down, the effect was the same.  From now on I will always use a primer for oil paints on clayboard.

The second one turned out better since I did use the primer for it, along with a purple wash.  I also experimented a bit with a dry brush technique.  This works by using an essentially dry brush to blend the paint after it's laid down on the surface, for a softer look.  It can work well for backgrounds but if overused in the foreground it can make the image too fuzzy.  That was one thing that actually worked in this painting.   But while a large expanse of snow in the foreground and a straight horizontal line of trees in the background can make an interesting photograph, it can also make for a boring painting.

So now I know.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Country Road in Winter

Country Road in Winter 6 x 6 oil, copyright 2011

Our little one lane country road stretches for about 2 1/2 miles through open fields, wood lots and pasture.  It doesn't really go anywhere, which means there's not a lot of traffic; things are pretty quiet out here.  This particular stretch at the end of our driveway is a straight shot through the valley of Twin Creek before it starts gently sloping up out of the valley in the distance.  The hardest part was getting the perspective right.  I had to wipe the distant trees twice before I finally realized I was painting them too large and too detailed. 

For this one I used a black acrylic wash before starting; some of it shows through on the road and shadows on the right.  The oil paint is quite a bit thinner than the last two, especially in the sky where you can see a bit of the texture of the primer.  It's been a great to experiment with different with techniques, seeing what works best in each situation.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Winter Reflections

Winter Reflections 6x6 oil, copyright 2011

The next little oil, this time of Twin Creek.  Painting snow on a white background seemed a little dull, so I gave this panel an acrylic wash in purple before starting.  You can see it poking through here and there.  I kept with the impressionistic feel on this one, laying down the paint quickly and thickly.  I think the reflections turned out pretty well, though they don't really match the trees.  I'll have to pay more attention to that in the future.  And I think I need a bit more practice with trees - some look pretty good, some not so good.   I tend to get a bit bored with tree after tree, something I really should get past considering how much they dominate the landscape around here!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Snowbound and Shaded Lane - SOLD!

Snowbound, 9x12 pastel, copyright 2010

I'm not normally one to put much into New Year's resolutions and wishes, but lately I've been wondering if there's something to them.  This year I talked about ideas for what I would like to see happening in the next 12 months and even wrote a few of them down - "putting it out to the universe" as one friend calls it.   Oddly enough, shortly after I did that things started to happen.  A college friend's parents emailed me to say they wanted to buy Snowbound, and were interested in two other pieces.  Less than a week later, another friend expressed an interest in Hayloft; she's currently saving up for it.  A week after that another friend asked for a commission, my first one.  And then last night I arrived at Life Drawing for the first time in probably six weeks to find that another artist had bought one of my pastels in the Starving Artists show, Shaded Lane.   It seems I am finally expanding beyond family and close friends, which makes me think that after 3 1/2 years of ups and downs since I decided to see if I had what it takes to become a professional artist, I'm finally getting some results.  It's a good feeling.  A very good feeling.

Shaded Lane, 9x12 pastel, copyright 2010

Monday, January 17, 2011

Starving Artists Invitational

To give a quick update on the show are the Preble County Fine Arts Center: the reception was this Saturday, and we had a good turn out.  Most of the artists were able to come, and thanks to some good press from Twin Valley Publications (the Advertiser), the Palidium Item in Richmond and the Register Herald in Eaton, we got quite a few guests as well.  I tried scanning the Advertiser's article (I'm quoted in that one), but it's just a little too big - or rather, my scanner is too small!

I like the idea of artists getting together socially.  I've talked to most of them through my job at Arts Center, but it's nice to get to know them personally for a change.  I think it's good for the public as well.  I wonder if a lot of people are intimidated by art and artists.  There's a perception of elitism that has been perpetuated by artists at the highest level, and I think that's what most people expect.  And I often hear "I don't know anything about art".  I wish more people had the opportunity to meet with artists, to talk to them about why they create and to hear their stories about individual pieces.  That personal connection is important, and that's something I'm trying to achieve with this blog.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Drifting snow

Drifting Snow 6x6 oil, copyright 2011

Number 2 of the small oils.  This is a farm I often pass by on my into Eaton.  It's a bit run down, but I've found myself attracted by the roof lines and the washed out colors.

I had a lot of fun with this one, it was really enjoyable getting the paint on thickly.  For awhile I was worried it was getting too thick and was starting to get away from me.  But I kept at it, and I think it actually adds to the mood.  

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Winter shows

Just a quick mention, a plug for myself and the Preble Fine Arts Center.  The current show at the Arts Center is the Starving Artists Invitational Show, now through the end of the month.  There are 13 artists total in this show, myself included.  There's a pretty good range of work, from ceramics to mixed media to painting and drawing and photography. Everyone is from the area and most are from Preble County.  The artists have agreed to donate an extra amount from the sale of one item to the Art Center, so it's a fundraiser as well.  Personally, I have three paintings and three pastels in the show.  For all the locals, a reception/ meet and greet will be held this Saturday from 2-4.

There are also a number of other shows coming up, and I will need to make some decisions about which ones to enter.  There's one in Kettering (a Dayton suburb) for example, that I've tried to get into several times without success.  Should I try again, or am I just wasting my time and money?  And there's also the Randolph County show which keeps getting better and bigger.  That one I will definitely be in, it's more a matter of choosing the right piece.  Perhaps I will avoid landscapes this year, since they seem to be the most popular subject, and maybe it will make me stand out in the crowd a bit.  We shall see....

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Warmth and sunshine

Top of the Dunes 9x12 pastel, copyright 2011

A snow day from school seems like a good day to huddle in the studio and think about summer.  After fives straight snow paintings (don't worry, I'll post the rest as they dry) a change of pace was needed.  This is a scene from one of our three day weekends, a quick trip to Indiana Dunes and Chicago.  The largest and most recent dune is bare of vegetation on its summit (hence the name Mount Baldy), but grasses and trees sprout along its slopes and on the adjacent dunes.  It's well over a hundred feet to the beach below, offering an excellent view of Lake Michigan.  And the nearby cooling tower, which is a bit disconcerting.

Originally there was a tree to the right, but it just wasn't working.  My husband pointed out that it was making a mess of the horizon line and throwing the whole thing off balance, so out it went.  It's good to get some feedback!

On a technical note, this is on Richardson paper, which is new to me.  It has a deeper texture than the colourfix paper I was using before.  This means it can hold many more layers of pigment, but also that the pigment doesn't blend as readily.  It takes a little getting used to, but with good results so far.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hay Bales in the Snow

Hay Bales in the Snow 6x6 oil, copyright 2011

The first painting of the year is also my smallest so far.  I took advantage of a post holiday sale and bought some 6" square clayboard panels.  These have a smooth surface and are designed for water media, but I coated them with a bit of pastel primer to give them the texture of very fine sandpaper, giving the oils something to grip on to.  I have 16 of these panels so I can experiment a bit with texture and color.

The idea behind the small size is to force me to simplify and to pay more attention to composition and light.  At this size, every brushstroke counts, so you really have to think about what you are looking at before you begin.  At the same time, they are very liberating because you just can't get caught up in the details and can't fuss about making it perfect.

This image is from a photo I took before the last snow melted.   I spent probably two hours that day just driving the back roads looking for interesting images.  In the fall there was a field nearby with hay bales, but when I drove past last week they were all gone.  On my way home I caught a glimpse of these and had to turn around and go back to get the shot.  The daylight was rapidly disappearing and the photo was actually too blue, so I pushed the colors to the lighter, warmer end of the spectrum.

By the way, if you have a wide screen monitor, when you click on the image it will appear larger than the actual painting.  Not sure if I like that idea, I can see all the little mistakes!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

All is quiet...

Hayloft, Evening Light 9x12 pastel, copyright 2010

How appropriate that the last paining of 2010 is of fading light as the sun goes down.

Overall I felt like it was a pretty good year for me.  I became an aunt and the mother of a teenager, started a new job that I love, got to visit with friends and share the love of family.  In my life as an artist, I received a first place award for the first time, took a very helpful workshop,  and had the satisfaction of increasing my skill level over the last year.  I feel like I'm finally hitting my groove.

Hopefully this will continue throughout 2011.  I'd like to take another workshop, get into a few new juried shows, and even a gallery or two.  And while I am grateful for the wonderful supportive of friends and family, I like to expand my network beyond those who know me personally.  I feel like it's time to start making my mark in the art world.

Lofty goals indeed, but that's the optimism of New Year's Day for you.  I wish everyone out there the best of luck in 2011!