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!