Monday, August 31, 2009

My Version Of

11x14 inches, acrylic on illustration board

I think one reason I read other people's art blogs is that I want to learn, to get ideas, to grow. One aspect of watercolor that doesn't always thrill me is lack of really intense color. Sometimes I crave it, as some folks crave chocolate. Acrylics allow for that intensity.

Sometime back I subscribed to a newsletter by an acrylic painter named Robert Burridge, an artist whose workshops have always appealed to me, though I have not spent the money or time to attend one. His newsletters and his blog have ideas for using color effectively, and his use of complements really calls to me. This painting, finished this morning, is essentially a copy of his demonstration. I learned something doing it about using color to create a focal point. The yellow and white in the center really does pull in the eye, and the way he uses the blue and orange is effective as well. No real emphasis on slavish detail here, just suggestions of shape and lots of color. I was interested in the way he pulls colors from the bunch of flowers into the bottoms of the vase as well. Maybe the vases of zinnias I bought at the farmers market this weekend made me want to paint something floral.

Quick follow-up note: I framed this painting using a craft store pre-cut mat and black sectionals. I had a brain storm and bought an old and faded 16x20 framed print from my local consignment shop for $2.00, simply to get the glass. The total framing cost came in at just under $20.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Another Go At It - and a poem

21x16 inches, watercolor and gesso on Yupo

Yesterday's poppies swirled down the drain, and these sunflowers have taken their place. It's probably just wishful thinking, since we haven't had much sun here in days. I'm finding the black gesso to be problematic. Using a skewer or stick puts down too much, and it doesn't dry very well. Part way through the process I switched to a small brush, and I think I outlined too much. It's staying the way it is though.

I spent part of yesterday out shopping for a new palette. I have a small plastic one I like very much, since it has a space in the lid for stashing paints, brushes, or whatever else I want to haul off to painting session. The problem is that a couple of the paint wells have developed cracks, and are currently mended with duct tape. I don't want to ditch this one until I have to, but the day is coming.

I also visited an artist co-op in a nearby town, since one is opening here soon. I have paintings and mixed media pieces in a local gallery, though nothing has sold in the last year. Questions arise. Do my pieces not sell because they are not appropriate for this market? Because they are not high enough quality? Because the local economy is suffering? Should I try the co-op, even though there is a monthly financial commitment, and an obligation to work a certain amount of hours each month? Should I just try selling online instead ? Right now I just don't know.

Drama on a Sunday Afternoon
by Donnajean Durkin (The Wisconsin Poets Calendar)

The storm took an hour
to serve up a decent-sized rain.
Whirlwinds huffed and puffed,
choreographing my lilies
like ballerinas in a pas de deux.

As I ran to close the windows
the downpour arrived,
stalking across the stage
of our meadow -- a villain,
a Boreas, in thunderous attire.

Returning, I sat on the porch
to watch the histrionics, when
the contrary performers
flew off to the east.

Play-acting was over.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Doomed Experiment

Take a quick look, because this baby is headed for the sink.

I enjoy trying new techniques, and the painting group at L'Atalier here in Janesville is a great place to learn them, and get ideas. This week Marilyn demonstrated a technique that looked like fun. Here are the steps as I wrote them down:

1. Get yourself a piece of Yupo, that synthetic paper that is actually plastic. I like the stuff because it's fairly inexpensive, and if I don't like what I paint I can clean it off and start over. I also like how intense the colors are, since the pigment doesn't soak in, as it does with regular paper.

2. Decide on a design and paint it on the Yupo loosely with yellow paint (light, easy to paint over or lift). She had lots of sunflower pictures as references, but most of mine disappeared when I lost my hard rive a while back. I did take some new photos, but this design was actually borrowed from something I clipped from a calendar.

3. Use white gesso and loosely apply it wherever you think you want texture. Let it dry. This means you might need to do something else - some laundry maybe, or a quick game of Bejeweled Blitz. How about a chapter of Tale of Two Cities?

4. Paint your design using a watercolor mixture that is heavy on pigment and light on water. The consistency should be creamy.

5. When that dries, get out the black gesso and something with which to apply it. Marilyn used both bamboo skewers and a palette knife. The idea is to make gestural marks, not simply outline the flowers.

Hers looked better. I do like the boldness of this approach, but I obviously need some experience with the technique. The biggest reason this painting is headed to oblivion is that I had too much moisture in the black gesso, and even 24 hours later the surface is tacky to the touch. I probably just had too much gesso anyway. It was fun, but I don't see myself painting in this style very often. I did like the texture of the white gesso under the petals and foliage, and especially in the poppy seed pods (you didn't know these were poppies, did you?). So, I may give it another go later on.

I hate to waste paper.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

After Visiting the Garden

On Tuesday I visited a local painting group. This is a congenial group of women who meet each week, and who often paints flowers. While I don't particularly want to paint flowers, they are lots of fun, and always trying new techniques. Tuesday they were painting sunflowers, and I realized that most of my personal reference photos bit the dust this summer when my hard drive crashed, so I decided to trek over to Janesville's Rotary Gardens to take some new photos. It wasn't a sunny day, so no dramatic shadows, and also no sunflowers. The gardens are beautiful in any light though, good in visit any season. If you are a painter and want to adapt these for your own work, feel free. I'd love to see what you do.

There are formal French and Italian gardens, but I have a special fondness for the Japanese garden, with its paths, waterfalls, and statuary.

I actually prefer the Japanese bridge in fall or winter, since the contrast of red and green is very strong. When there are autumn leaves the bridge integrates into the scene more pleasantly, I think. Still, it's fun to stand on the bridge and watch the fish and turtles swim under.

There is statuary everywhere. This lady stand in an herb garden.

A carved head, rescued from a demolished building, peeks out behind flowers, adding a little delight to a stone wall.

Of course there are flowers everywhere. These begonias cascaded from a hanging basket.

There are lots of benches in the gardens, inviting the visitor to sit and enjoy the colors of the season. Most feature quotes, and I jotted down this one, which applies to all sorts of artistic endeavors:

Nobody is bored when he is trying to make something that is beautiful or to discover something that is true.

William Inge

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Done Yet? Endlessly fiddling

I worked on this some more, added a couple of dark glazes for the background, and felt pretty satisfied. Then I brought the painting downstairs and asked my dear husband what he thought. His first comment was that it was "pretty good." Then he added, "but it doesn't look like you much."

It happens. You work and work, fiddling with highlights, shadows, color choices, and an offhand comment makes you realize a project's flaws in a moment. After I photographed and posted the painting it occurred to me that there is something rather cock-eyed about the mouth, and there are places where the values are just to dark. One the other hand, I think this is the best portrait I've painted. I like the sunny highlight at the bottoms of the face, and I think I handled the jacket effectively. Perhaps I'll let the painting rest for a few days before I decide if I want to play with it more. Maybe it's just time to move on.

Update - I did fiddle with the mouth (wider) and left eye (lower), and while the paper is now officially overworked, the face looks better. Now I'm wondering if the top of the hat is too white.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Work in Progress

Every now and then I like to paint a watercolor as a response to an online challenge. The first group I ever participated in was at Maury Kettell's Watercolor Passion web site Maury poses four challenges a year, and the current one is to paint a self-portrait. I painted one about four years ago, and thought I would have another go at it, smaller this time since the first one was painted on a half sheet, and I find it almost frightening to look at myself that size.

This one is not finished. The photo I used was taken on a hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, and I like the strong shadow the hat cast over most of my face. I probably will leave the face mostly alone, but I still have lots of work to do on the background. I want a simple background, darker on the right side, a little lighter on the left. What color should I use? This is the scary part, because at any time I can still really mess this up. I printed out a copy of the painting so far, and plan to play with different backgrounds before I commit myself to the paper.

Any suggestions?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Janesville WRAP Day

Today the Janesville Art League hosted a Wisconsin Regional Artists Program show and workshop. The show was held at the Janesville Performing Arts Center, and a judge came and critiqued the paintings, photography and sculptures. Some, including my painting of two peppermint candies, qualified for next year's state show in Madison. I also did the smaller painting of an iris, though that one wasn't chosen as a winner.

There was a sobering moment when the beautiful pen and ink drawing of a spray of flowers won a state award, since the woman who created it recently suffered a serious stroke, and there probably will be no more drawing from this formerly vibrant person. A reminder of the uncertainty of life, and the need to live every day fully.

There were a couple large welded sculptures that had a real "wow" factor. This dancing couple swirls around.

Linda admired some of the many watercolors, oils, acrylics, and drawings. This show featured an abundance - a whole garden - of flowers. I suppose it's because summer here can be relatively short. People celebrate natural beauty in their artwork.

From The 2009 Wisconsin Poets Calendar:

Blue Alert!
by June Nirschl

This is a public announcement.
The sky this afternoon drained the blue
from Van Gogh's paint box. Despite
pigment excess, the arbor vitae and
ironwood remained forest green;
the black-eyed Susans and goldenrod
danced in the light; wild apples turned
upon their stems to ripen with rays,
as though this were an ordinary August
day; and Queen Anne's Lace waited
to be gathered for a bridal bouquet.
Only the bedeviling spotted knapweed
succumbed, a bit of faded blue creeping
along each mauve-colored flower's
edge. Be assured, friends, it's only
a matter of time. Only a matter of time.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Recycling, Art, and Vacation Postcards

We were away for a week recently, hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, and visiting with friends in Breckenridge, Colorado. When I showed Dick the pictures he said there were too many of him, not surprising since I am the one who carries the camera.

The scenery was stunning - a mix of mountains, lakes, trees, and wildflowers that just took my breath away. Of course, the altitude might have had something to do with this effect as well.

I took along the little paint set I made from an old metal cigarette tin, with pans made from Fimo, filled with my Winsor Newton paints, a cut down sponge, some pens and a sawed off paint brush. The postcards were old ones coated with gesso. This was an experiment to see how painting on recycled post cards would go, and I liked the results. Painting little scenes doesn't take much time or paint, and the results can be mailed home. I sent this one to myself to see if it arrived intact, and was pleased by the results. None of the paint lifted, despite the fact I had no way of fixing the little watercolors. This snow scene was from imagination.

This is another little watercolor on a recycled post card. I made a couple to send to our host, and another group of friends who joined us on vacation. I never like fussing with carrying too much equipment, and this whole kit fit nicely in a sealable plastic bag.