Wednesday, January 30, 2013


For the past two weeks I have been struggling with three different pastels, each very different from the other other but all of them giving me fits.  One is nearly done but not quite there.  The other I may give up on, it's been wiped down twice already.  And then there is this one.

Drifting Fenceline 9x12 pastel, copyright 2013

It started out as a painting of a plowed field, snow covering the furrows in rows behind one lone fencepost.  It works quite nicely as a photo.  But those nice neat little rows did not want to work in a painting.  First the perspective was wrong.  Then the shadows.  Then the color.  The pastel layers kept getting thicker and thicker until I finally realized I was just making mud - or perhaps slush would be a more appropriate term.

Last night I finally gave in, wiped the snow off completely and started over.  It just did not want to be a plowed field, and I'm slowly starting to learn to "listen" to my paintings.   They want to be painted, but they sometimes seem to have their own opinion about what they want to say.  And this one was reminding me to simplify - so that's what I did.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Snowy farmstead

Snowed In 12x9 pastel, copyright 2013

Though long gone, it seems there is still plenty of inspiration to be found in the snow.  The reference photo was a drive-by on my way to pick up some paintings in Sidney.  It was not a very good photo and included reflections in the window and some of the car door, but it was good enough for a starting point.  From that it was mostly a matter of being confident enough to trust to "artistic license".

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Gone but not forgotten

Red Barn, Winter 6x6 oil, copyright 2012

Thanks to rain and above normal temperatures this week, our snow is completely gone.  I did manage to get quite a few reference photos though and am working my way through them.   Snow can be rather challenging to paint.  The brain tells you that it is white, but the eyes see blues and purples in the shadows, yellows and pinks and oranges in the light.  It can be tricky to find the right balance between what you think you know and what you think you are seeing.

This particular painting was the last one I did last year.  It is loosely based on a neighbor's barn, one that can be seen from our house.  

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Rethinking things

Path to the Creek 6x6 oil, copyright 2012

It seems my New Year's resolution to better my photography skills has yet to come to fruition.  The texture of both the paint and the canvas are giving me fits and I have not figured out how to work around them.  I'm sure it as something to do with the lighting.  Hopefully further experimentation will resolve the issue.

Meanwhile, it was suggested to me by Susan Pownell that "more and better" was far too vague a resolution especially if I had no idea how much I had done to begin with, so I took a more detailed look at the year and was a bit surprised at the results.  I was in nine shows, took one workshop, had 80 blog posts, won three second place awards, and posted 64 finished pieces.  It seems I have been much busier than I thought I was, which is a good thing.

After this I've refined my goals somewhat.  I'd like to take more workshops or perhaps a class.  I don't necessarily feel the need to be in more shows but rather will try to get into more juried shows (I was one for two last year) and go beyond my usual haunts.  And while 64 finished pieces is a good number I'd rather see more better quality pieces - quality rather than quantity.  

The marketing thing has me a bit stumped though.  80 posts on the blog equals 80 posts on Facebook and Twitter.  There were a few extra postings on Facebook, but not many.  I know some artists post on Twitter daily and I have seen an increase in followers, but I'm not seeing how that is really helping me. Perhaps I just haven't figured out how to use it effectively.  I'm also wondering if I should increase my online presence by entering more online shows (I entered only one).

All things to think about and a big shout out to Susan for helping me change my mind set on this.  By the way, you should definitely check out her work, she does amazing things with pen and ink.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Getting better

Chateau Eze 9x12 pastel, copyright 2013

Over the holidays I was reminded that several photo albums borrowed from my parents three years ago had not yet been returned.  Before giving them back I decided to see just how far I had come since 2010, painting a photograph for a second time.  Above is the painting finished just this morning, below is the one painted three years ago.

Chateau Eze 12x16 pastel, copyright 2010

I think it's safe to say there have been improvements.  Details are no longer as important to me as light and shadow.  Creating a sense of depth and drama has overridden the urge to "get it right".  I'm also much more confident in my ability to paint with pastels and to find my own voice.   This exercise certainly makes me feel good about the direction I'm headed.

As a reference point, here is the photo that I was working from.

Chateau Eze by David Kuhns, copyright 1996

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A world in white

Freezing Over  6x6 oil, copyright 2012

It's a new year, and time for some new resolutions.  I find that I'm not good at following through with specifics, so this year I've decided to go for the simpler approach.  More and better.  More paintings, more pastels, more marketing, more connections.  And better at all of these.  This I can stick to.

One of the first things I can do better is photographing my art.  I still haven't figured out how to do a good job on the high contrast paintings with lots of texture.  You'll just have to trust me that this little painting looks much better in reality than it does on your screen.  When I figure it out, I'll go back and replace this photo.

And I should have plenty of practice coming up.  Nearly eight inches of snow fell on the day after Christmas, and it's still around, plus a bit more.  With reference photos in hand, I've started another series of small oils, much as I did two years ago, the last time we had a significant snowfall.  While it is not easy to drive in, it is easy to get inspired.  The creek is high due to the rains that came before the snow, but not so high that it isn't starting to freeze along the edges.  This is one of my favorite spots, where it takes a bend and disappears beyond the trees.