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!   

Monday, February 7, 2011


Mystras with Lemons and Geraniums 9 x 12 pastel, copyright 2011

Snow was falling once again as I worked on this pastel earlier today.  Since I have not been able to convince my husband that we should move to Belize, I decided the best I could was a painting of someplace warm.

Mystras (pronounced mees-TRAS) is a Byzantine period site in the mountains overlooking ancient Sparta. Churches, a monastery and the palace are still largely intact or carefully restored.  It is a beautiful place, though the narrow, winding road we took to reach it was a rather unnerving drive through morning fog.

I still haven't decided about the Richardson pastel paper.  I'm wondering if maybe the dark red was not the right color choice, and that it might be influencing my color choices too much.  Cool colors seem too cool, and I think I'm overcompensating by making all the paintings too warm.  Or maybe it does work, and I'm just too worried about the colors being "correct" and too used to working on a more neutral background.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Pitcher and Cup

Pitcher and Cup 9 x 12 pastel, copyright 2011

The little pitcher in this painting was made by Clara Whitman Parrett from Connersville, Indiana.  She was one of the artists featured in the Starving Artists Invitational Show last month.  The show was a big success; 13 pieces were sold, and unusually high number, and we had a lot of traffic despite the bad weather.   It also went well for me personally, since I sold a piece to someone other than a relative or close friend for the first time, and bought this pitcher.

I enjoy painting ceramic and glass pieces, though they can be quite challenging.  Light can bounce off at odd angles, pieces reflect one another and the background, and shadows fall in unexpected places.  I couldn't count how many times I reworked this one, tweaking it a bit here and there.  I'm still getting used to the rougher texture of the paper which makes blending a little more difficult.   But it was a welcome break from the snow paintings, especially after the ice storm earlier in the week.

By the way, more of Clara's beautiful and utilitarian pottery is for sale at the Arts Center.  

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Google Art Project

This has got to be the best idea since sliced bread, or to put it in artists' terms, since paint came in a tube.   I've just discovered it today, apparently it went online last week.  It is the same idea as StreetView, where you virtually walk around a city, looking at photographs taken by Google staff.  But this site is for art museums, and not just any art museums.  Included on the list is everything from MoMA to the Uffizi to the National Gallery in London.  You can "walk" around the museums, search for specific works and look at them much closer than you ever could in real life.  Individual brushstrokes in the hair of Venus are visible, for example, and side bars give additional information on Botticelli and the piece itself.

This is an ongoing project, with 17 museums so far, and more to be added.  Can you tell I'm excited about this?  If you don't hear from me in the next couple of days, you know where I will be.  Maybe we will bump into each other in St. Petersburg!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Winter Fog

Winter Fog 6x6 oil, copyright 2011

This one gave me fits when I photographed it, making the snow looks a bit washed out.  It's probably my favorite so far though, I really like the mood of it.  The dry brush technique was used over most of it to give it a very soft look.  For the reflections in the water, paint was applied thinly and the dry brush dragged across it in a downward direction.  You can see a lot of the bright blue underneath.  Just yesterday I realized that the applied base coat has a specific terminology: ground.  So my ground is an acrylic wash with a pastel primer.  

I realized two other things during this painting.  Reflections work best with a minimal amount of paint and detail, at least on such a small scale.  The eye does a good job of filling in assumed detail as long as the reflection has a vague resemblance to the objects.  I also discovered that the quality of the paint really does make a big difference.  A better quality paint, such as Winsor and Newton, is thicker, smoother and more opaque than less expensive brands.  As the tubes go empty I am replacing them better ones.