Monday, November 14, 2011

A Helping Hand

You don't have to go too far to find a good subject to paint.  For homework, I had to create two paintings of my hand using a reductive method with burnt umber.  My first two sketches were my hand in my lap and then in holding it up in the air, but they were pretty boring.  I wanted something that someone would actually find interesting.  With the timer on my camera and my reflective light, I took about 30 shots.  I spent about as much time setting up the lighting and running back and forth to the camera as I did painting.  Actually, it was more time painting, but the time spent on the setup made a big difference.  I love tonal paintings and I'm always scared that I will ruin a good tonal study with color.  If I don't make a mess of these two, I'll post the finished paintings.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Happy Birthday to Us

I recently found out I share a birthday with Burt Lancaster, Marie Antoinette, Daniel Boone, Cookie Monster (yay!) and Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin.  So to celebrate our day, I had some cookies and created a painting after one of Chardin's paintings.  His paintings often depict common settings, like the kitchen, and have wonderful diffuse lighting.  I picked one of his easier paintings and one without critters.  
Pears, Walnuts, and a Glass of Wine
I can easily get hold of pears, walnuts and wine, but not so much rabbits and birds.  The challenge was trying to get the right lighting.  Chardin's lighting is soft, yet strong.    Below is my version.
Blue Glass
This was a fun exercise and may try emulating some of his more complex paintings.  As always, critiques are welcome.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Critiques Welcome

Pumpkin and Grapes
All artists love the positive feedback on their work, but I also love good criticism, if delivered kindly.  I've been meeting occasionally with few members of a local art club for "Critique Night" but have not been able to make it for a while.   I'm hoping to create a "Cyber Critique" from anyone who might read my blog.

I've been working on a lot of still lifes (still lives?) lately and have two that I consider almost done but something is missing.  I've been looking at them for a while and I think I know what they need, but I'd love some feedback from my artist friends (and strangers).

Please feel free to add comments on either of these two paintings.  (I know I forgot the stem on the pear)
Modest Pear

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Surrendering Control

Task List

The end result of my latest paintings were not my vision.  I'm not an abstract painter but this media transformed my approach to painting.  I recently took a class in encaustic (wax) painting.  I tried many different techniques with the wax including collage, layering and scraping to lower colors, etching and filling grooves with paint.

But before I could experiment, I had to be willing to give up any designs I conjured up before starting the painting.  The wax hardens so quickly and the techniques to smooth and soften (iron and heat gun) do not give predictable effects.  As a result, I had to adjust my plans as I progressed.  Each of these paintings has some small part of my original vision, but most evolved over time. If you are looking for a way to learn to let go, encaustics just may be the thing for you.
Are We There Yet?

"Task List":  Many layers of wax manipulated with a heat gun.  Text (my Outlook Calendar dump to a text file) was printed on laser paper and rubbed onto the wax.  Paper then wet and rubbed off.  The hand was etched and filled in with black paint and then painted with oil paint.

"Are We There Yet?" is primarily collage (paper, metal findings) with some etching and rubbing as described above.  Many failed attempts before I finished with this one.

Going Home
"Going Home":  Many layers of colored wax.  Scrapped away to lower colors.  The poem is scrapped in and filled in with various colors of paint.  The water is also embedded with little tiny silver beads.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Kate Who???

Those of you who know my sense of fashion (or lack there of) will probably be surprised by my latest purchase.  I also don't have a lifestyle where I have much opportunity to use cute little evening bags.  But I do have a collection of art from local artists in a variety of media.

When I first saw Kent Stetson's bags, I fell in love with most all of them.  I had a hard time justifying buying even one because I was thinking of them as purely functional.  Kent mentioned that one of his customers bought one just to display, and that was all I needed to hear.  His bags are a form of 3 dimensional art worthy to sit amongst my paintings, pottery, rugs and art glass.  They are fun, tactile, and well made. They sparkle, shine or shimmer, and they are all his designs.  His background as an artist has found a new outlet in his bags.  I've been remiss about spotlighting artists from my collection; Kent's bags have got me back into that mode.  (And I will find reasons to use these bags as well as put them on display.)

So who needs a Kate Spade when you have a Kent Stetson.  Check out his Etsy shop if you want to be chic and hip (like me!).

Monday, September 12, 2011

Life's Lesson for $50

I look at all my art related activities as contributing to my “education.”  My classes at Rhode Island School of Design and other workshops I’ve taken are the most obvious formal lessons.  On the other end of the spectrum, I consider each painting a “class” that I may or may not learn from. 

Last weekend, I participated in the Pawtucket Arts Festival and got a lesson in marketing AND life.  The marketing lesson cost me $50 (entrance fee) and taught me that my work may not be appropriate for all Art Festivals.  But, I also got a few life lessons that were (o.k., I’ll say it) priceless!  First, I had wonderful neighbors (unexpected cold beers where the best!) but secondly, were the wonderful people who stopped by my booth.  No one bought a painting, but the morning of the second day, one of my booth neighbors altered my frame of mind.

People came to the festival for many different reasons (food, music, culture, crafts).  Fine Art was not high on many lists and many probably stopped at my booth just because it was on the way.  I got wonderful compliments, but I was caught off guard by the number of people who couldn’t believe that I had actually painted all the paintings in my booth.  I think it may have been the first time they connected a painting to a live person.  Their reactions of surprise and admiration seemed quite genuine.  I often get that reaction from kids, but never from so many adults.  One gentleman had been out of work for many years (and probably longer without healthcare).  He just wanted to just stand and watch me paint.  He was amazed how a mass of purple transformed into grapes. 

So here is my life lesson:  I didn’t sell a painting, but I like to think there are a few more people out there who will look at a painting differently. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Is this "Fake Art"???

Over the years, I’ve had conversations with fellow artists about paintings I created using a software application called ArtRage and whether they are “real art.”  At first, I was surprised that I’d have to defend the media.  But then it got me thinking about what is “real art” and what makes computer art different.  

Painting is all about capturing some aspect of reality in two dimensions.  Whether the artist’s style is realistic or abstract, the end result is still the artist’s individual interpretation.  The properties and techniques of watercolor are very different from oil, which are very different from pastel, which are very different from pen and ink, which are….(you get it).  Whether I put pigments mixed with oil on a primed piece of cotton canvas with a paintbrush, or chose a canvas texture and then select a color which is applied and manipulated with my mouse, I’m still creating an illusion.  

A photographer is still a photographer even if s/he uses a digital camera and a computer instead of film and a darkroom. The big difference between paint on canvas and using my computer might be that I could print up as many copies as I wanted.  As with photography, there are other media where this is possible.  This reason might influence the price, but it should not negate the skill, time etc…  

If painting as about creating an illusion would that make all "real art", in fact, "fake art"?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Joys and Sadness of Selling a Painting

Blue Beached Boat
Of course, I love it when someone enjoys one of my paintings enough to buy it for their home, but there are mixed emotions associated with a sale.  When so much time is spent getting a painting just right, it becomes an extension of your soul.  A part of me wants to share it with the world, but another part is sad to see it go.  When I meet the people who buy a painting, I’m often left with a longing to know them better (which sometimes happens over time).  I’m grateful to have talked with them and love seeing their happy faces when they hold the painting for the first time.  (Yea, a bit sappy, but that’s me.)

But sometimes, you don’t get to meet the buyer.  You don’t get to chat or to say “Thank You.” And there is a bit of a void.  I’ll occasionally wonder what it was that they fell in love with, where the painting is hanging and  will sometimes actually miss the painting like a lost friend.  I write this because I was just told one of my favorite paintings, “Blue Beached Boat”, just sold and I hope to someday meet its new owner.

Friday, July 22, 2011

"Values do the work...

Sunrise on Newport Bridge
Although I struggled getting up with the birds, I only spent a few of hours painting on site.  My goal was to capture the color, composition and values and use my photos to finish it later.  When I looked at the painting later in the day, I was disappointed with how pale and washed out it was.  I then looked at the photos, I found the darks were so much darker than I painted.  I realized my eyes were “seeing” much more light in the shadows.

Using the photographs, I fixed the painting.  What I loved about the early morning sun and the low angle was the deep shadows created on the bridge and the boat.  I will keep my value finder handy from now on, until my brain learns how to see better.   I once read "Values do the work, color gets the applause."  This was a good example.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Artistic Talent - Nature vs. Nurture

I gratefully receive all compliments on my gift of being able to paint and draw.  They're like that one great swing in golf, they keep me coming back to the easel (or green).  Today, after reading a wonderful comment from Deb P,  I read a post by Seth Godin on whether people succeed because they have something “special” and started to wondered if painting is a "gift."

I believe that genetics gives us a foundation, but we are strongly influenced by our environment from the day we are born.  Our talents might have some link to those strands of DNA, but they would never surface without some encouragement.  (See cultivating young artists.)  At some young age, I probably made a little sketch, showed it to a relative, which prompted some type of positive feedback.  Then, another little sketch and a bit more gushing from an aunt, and so on…  I think that is how it all started for me. 

As a late bloomer, I’m now seriously pursuing my art and my “gift” is consistently strengthened with:
  • Many hours of painting to improve my techniques
  • Evening classes at Rhode Island School of Design (and related homework)
  • Checking websites of other artists
  • Learning how to market art
  • Attending gallery openings to understand what makes a good contemporary artist
  • Attending art association meetings
  • Reading books on selling art
  • Incorporating technology into the process
  • General networking
Please keep those kudos coming.  I have a long way to grow and I can use all the reassuring I can get as I strive to be a better artist.

Some quotes on talent:
“Everyone has talent.  What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads.” – Erica Jong.
“Talent is cheaper than table salt.  What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” – Stephen King.
“Hard work without talent is a shame, but talent without hard work is a tragedy.” – Robert Half.
“I know quite certainly that I myself have no special talent; curiosity, obsession and dogged endurance, combined with self-criticism, have brought me to my ideas.” - Albert Einstein

Saturday, July 02, 2011

I'm Painting as Fast as I Can!


 I found a great spot this morning, but it seemed that each time I looked up from my painting, the scene was a bit different.  I knew the sun would change so I tried to capture the color notes quickly, but I was quite surprised by how fast the tide came in.  The sand exposed at low tide was a beautiful shade of mauve/purple and my favorite part of the scene.  So glad I had my camera because the sand disappeared so fast.  Plein air painting is so much better than working from photos, but it does have it's pros and cons

Pros                                                                        Cons
Getting up at 5 AM                                            Getting up at 5 AM
and beating the beach crowd

The tan is looking good!                                     Missing a spot when putting on sunscreen

Friendly people stop by to chat                          Friendly bugs stop by for a close look at the painting 
                                                                            and sometimes get stuck in it.

Surrounded by nature, the sound of                 No place to go when the effects of coffee kick in.
birds and the smell of wild roses.

Friday, June 24, 2011

My First Art Festival

All zipped up under the watch of the Coast Guard Towers
My booth is set up and tucked in for the evening.  The weather is "unsettled" but I'm optimistic - I just hope future collectors are thinking the same.  While driving home I thought back to what went into preparation and how everything progressed this evening.  I wondered if there were other professions where "co-workers" and potential competition are so willing to share tips/information to help you succeed.  They will tell you where to get the best price for materials, what tent works best, how to prepare for inclement weather, and strangers will help you put it all together.  Someone complemented me on my setup, but if given an award, the band would start playing before I could thank all the people who helped me get off on the right start.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cultivating Young Artists

Glass Flowers by Colleen
I might be biased, but my niece seems to be very perceptive for someone her age.  A couple of years back, I noticed she was good at picking out details and patterns in the world around her.  I introduced her to contour drawing (good for a few laughs) and we did some plein air sketching at the zoo.  But kids often don't have a long attention span.  She recently bought herself a camera and may have hit upon a creative outlet that can happen "instantaneously."  I've been sending her some photo challenges and I then get to see what she sees via email.  She may never take up painting, but if she does, I hope learning how to see, at a young age, gives her a head start.  Only time will tell...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Following the Sun

Spring has not really sprung here in Rhode Island, so traveled a little south to meet it en route.  I went to Maryland for a long weekend where all the trees had leafed out, the azaleas were at peak and I didn't need to wear a jacket.  A little plein air painting and visiting with my sister was a nice boost.

Bird Houses

It has been pretty dreary since I got back, so I repainted those paintings - but not by choice!!!  I carefully arranged my car for all my wet paintings (forgot the carrier), only to have my paint box slide over them when I accelerated.  My landscapes had a bit of an abstract look, but they still had all the right color notes,  I just needed to put them back in the right places.  Here are two of my repair jobs.

The Old Man
 Can't wait to get some local plein air paintings done.  O.k. sun, I'm waiting.....

Friday, March 25, 2011

Painting with Ben and Sherwin

I've been painting every night this week with my buddies Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams. Nothing against their consistent quality, but I'd rather be spending time with my best bud, Winsor Newton.  (Sounds like a sober George Thorogood song.)  Actually, I really do enjoy painting rooms and trim, even if the final result can't be framed and sold.  It can be exciting to transform the personality of a room or just refreshing years of wear and tear.  I can't have too much fun with color as this is a rental.  After 5 days of painting, I hope to find time to produce something "framable" for my big show at the RI Home Show.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

How to feel productive, without really trying?

 Go find paintings you never finished!

Marble Canyon
Nankoweap Canyon
About two years ago I started learning how to paint with oils.  I used watercolors for many years and even then did not spend a lot of time painting.  When I started with oils, I used the paint much like I did watercolor paint; very thin.  I started painting some images from a whitewater rafting trip through the Grand Canyon, but put them aside.  I'm glad I did.  I've learned a lot in the last few years and I think these paintings are better than if I had finished them before.  In a few years, I may look back at these paintings and say "I could do better."  I finished these paintings, and two below, in record time.  It helps if you have 75% of the painting completed.
Blue Beached Boat

Boogie Board

NOTE:  A year later (2/21/12),  I looked at the two canyon paintings and thought about taking them out of the frame to make some improvements.  This is a good thing!  I've developed better painting skills over the past year.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Learning To Paint Like The Masters - Part 5 (finished!)

I finally finished the "Lobster Pot" painting. (Woo Hoo!)  It was a longer process because of the glazing, but I like the effects achieved with the layers of colors.  I did revert back to my direct painting techniques for the tree and other smaller spots, but tried to stay true to the process for the rest.

The Lobster Pot is located in Provincetown, MA.  It is a motif photographed and painted many times, but I don't mind being among the masses.  This is such a lively painting with the vibrant reds against the glowing white building.  One of my favorites!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Surviving Winter

Early Morning Marsh
Race Point Dune Path
I've realized my choice of subject matter for the last few paintings is my subconscious longing for winter to end.  More snow is predicted for Monday, so this weekend I'll enjoy the sun (although cold and windy), build a fire, and paint more memories of last summer.

I suppose I could have painted snow scenes, because there was plenty to be found, but I like my little mental vacations.

Learning To Paint Like The Masters - Part 4

Well, I've started my glazing.  This process requires a lot more patience than direct painting!

In the Lobster Pot painting the sky has about 4 layers.  The first was yellow, then a Cerulean Blue (made it too green), then some Ultramarine Blue with white (made it too purple) then a very thin glaze of Veridian Green.  Whew!  The street started with a warm brown, then glazed over with Paynes Grey and white, and some small areas with Earth Green and white  Most of the other parts have one or two layers with more to go. I'm not having much luck on the sunny side of the building.  The top is too yellow and the bottom is too grey.
The tea pot painting has only one layer of glazing.  The drop cloth will next get a glaze of brown and the copper pot will get some red.  Then I'll start on the cup and tea pot.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Learning To Paint Like The Masters - Part 3

Verdaccio is another Italian “old master” technique for underpainting.  Here, I’ve used mixtures of Green Earth Hue (or Chromium Oxide green), Ivory black (a warm black) and Flake White.  I thinned it down using Galkyd Lite but you can also use your “turps.”  You want this layer to be thin, especially if you are going to glaze over this layer. Always remember “fat over lean” when applying paint.  If you glaze with a thin layer over a thick layer of paint, the top layer may crack as the bottom layer dries.   
I still have some work to do on the right part of the sign, but I can evaluate the strength of my composition using just values.  I might lighten the dark window at the top and the sky just a bit.  If my composition fails at this point, it probably won't get much better when I add the color glazing.

Another version of this underpainting is the French grisaille technique which uses neutral or warm grey tones.  Using what I learned in Color Theory class, verdaccio could be better for portraits as the green is a nice complement to the reds of skintones.  Contemporary paintings are often stared with an underpainting using complementary colors. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Learning To Paint Like The Masters - Part 2

Now I'm on the "dead" layer.  Mixing white with a small amount of the local color, I paint over the lighter parts of the "bruno" layer.  I can make some minor corrections to the bottom layer, if needed.  If the value shifts are related to transitions in the form, use the same paint, but just thinner scumbling so the burnt umber of the bottom layer shows through.  If the value shift is a different object, use a darker value of paint. I broke this rule for the cup because it was solid white and I didn't what any of the burnt umber showing through.

The next step will be glazing with color.  As the glaze will make the dead layer darker,  it is better to err on the side of painting this layer too light.  After I photographed the painting I realized some parts need to be lighter.  Glazing next week.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I'm Not a Morning Person...

Scrub Pine
   but I will force myself to crawl out of bed at the crack of dawn for the right reasons.  Getting great reference photos is the best reason.  While visiting Provincetown, MA last summer, I was on the road before the sun came up.  Located at the tip of Cape Cod, this area is surrounded by ocean and light.

It rained the first three days of my trip, so I had to make the most of the little time left.  For me, early morning light is the most beautiful.  It always seems just a little softer than late afternoon light.  And you get some beautiful shadows.

Well, I finally got around to painting one of those special spots.

Monday, January 24, 2011

10 Steps to Becoming a Better Artist (from Kesha Bruce)

I'm stealing this from Kesha Bruce, so I hope I don't get in trouble if I give proper attribution and you visit her site.

1. Make some Art.
2. Make some more Art.
3. Make even more Art.
4. Make even more Art than that.
5. Make Art when you don't really feel like making Art.
6. Make Art when you REALLY feel like making Art.
7. Make Art when you have something to say.
8. Make Art when you got nothin' to say.
9. Make Art every day.
10. Keep making Art.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Learning To Paint Like The Masters - Part 1

I’m taking a kind of “back to basics” class.  We first stretched and primed our own canvas’ and then laid in a ground.  The ground was a glaze using a mixture of yellow ochre and raw umber for a nice warm gold.  I’m now working on the “imprimatura” stage of the painting, using burnt umber.  From Wikipedia - Imprimatura is a term used in painting, meaning an initial stain of color painted on a ground. It provides a painter with a transparent toned ground, which will allow light falling onto the painting to reflect through the paint layers.  Its use as an underpainting layer can be dated back to the guilds and workshops during the Middle Ages, however it comes into standard use by painters during the Renaissance particularly in Italy.
Imprimatura Layer
Next I work on the “dead layer" - the next step of the classical Flemish technique, also called the Gray Layer.  I paint over this layer with white and various shades of gray.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

I LOVE my new TV, but not for the obvious reasons...

My "Studio"
Today was a very productive day.  I redesigned my studio/bedroom around a TV. 

I while back, I decided to look for a replacement for my old clunky analog TV to 1) get a better screen and 2) get the built-in digital converter in preparation for dumping cable :-(.  At Best Buy, I noticed most had a PC input.  I think I stood in front of a TV about 20 minutes – not deciding which to buy, but trying to redesign my bedroom in my head.  My “studio” is at one end of my bedroom and I was figuring out how I could set up the TV for regular viewing, but most importantly, to use it as a monitor while I paint.  (If you work from photos, I strongly recommend using your computer monitor instead of prints.  The colors are more true, especially in the shadows.)

This morning, I built a stand with some scrap wood so I can put my laptop under the stand and the TV above.  I checked off the “Extend my Windows Desktop to this monitor” option and had one image on the TV and a second on my laptop.  The color was better than my laptop monitor and a thousand times better than working from prints.  I never had so much fun painting!!  With the big screen, it was like plein air painting but without the hassle. 

Now all I need is a little fridge and I have no excuse to leave my bedroom.  Oh, yeah; except to go to work.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Under the Knife

Tangerines and Tome
I'm finally getting the hang of the palette knife.  I started out as a watercolorist, so this truly is a big leap!!  I love the juicy paintings my fellow artists create with the knife so I tried for the first time last summer.  I fought the urge to pick up the brush and it is getting easier each time.

I have no problem putting in my large masses, but have a very hard time progressing to smaller areas and details.  The heal of the knife would unintentionally pick up paint from places it didn't belong and move it to places I surely didn't want it. 

There is nothing better to keep colors clean and pure.  As someone who still fights the urge to work the little places too soon, struggling with the knife in details makes them the last thing I want to do.  It is a very liberating little tool.

Here is my latest painting with the knife.  I'll admit I cheated a little and used a brush for some small spots, but other than that, it was all knife.