Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas Week - Painting at Leonesse

We just got back from our annual Christmas trek to California to share the holiday with the kids and grand kids  It was prefaced by a major prep effort. I had to pack the car with my oils, some boards to paint on, turps, brushes, paints, paper towels and all the accouterments of a plein air painting day. Oh yeah, there were gifts going in the car too.  And fudge. Don’t forget the fudge. Underwear you can always buy….good fudge is harder to find. 

Looking East from Leonesse's atrium. Friend Irina is painting.
I also had to call the winery ahead of time to set up a paint day for us. It’s really important to always get permission to paint on anyone’s grounds ahead of time. As artists we tend to find out of the way areas to paint where we are not underfoot, and where traffic is minimal, where observations are best, the better to concentrate and paint. 

Here are a few pointers to have a successful day painting.
  • Get permission to be on the grounds. Public grounds require a simple adherence to rules. Private lands require permission.
  • Be mindful of your wake. Do not leave trash around for others to pick up.
  • Voice your appreciation for their hospitality. Thank them.
  • Do be gracious to any onlookers who are also visitors to the location.
  • Enjoy yourself and the process.

Me painting with my hat dorkily set on the front of my face to
shade my eyes. 
I have never witnessed an artist knowingly leave trash behind, and some of us leave the place in better shape than it was when we first arrived. While we painted at Leonesse, in Temecula, we were actually painting as a tour came through. There were questions, and some tour takers wanted to know the usual. How long did it take to paint? Have you painted a long time? Do  you always work so small? How much do you charge for a painting? Small price to pay for a day in the sunshine and vineyards, a glorious time with friends and the hospitality that Leonesse showed us. I will return and paint Leonesse again. 
It was a golden day.
During the execution of this painting, I asked myself first what the painting was about. For me, the thing of beauty was the breaking of the light as it crested the hill and bounced around through the leaves of the trees below me. That was my concept for this painting, and the one elemental thing I tried to preserve during the painting of Leonesse's vineyard.
My almost finished painting of Leonesse's grounds.
View is to the left of this shot.
Leonesse Morning 11x14 Oil on Board

I would encourage those who own picturesque locations to allow artists access to the grounds. It can result in a mutually beneficial alliance. The titles of my paintings from Leonesse always give the winery’s name and location, and have resulted in people hunting out the vineyard. I enjoy recording the husbandry of their fields and the richness of the colors. And I further enjoy the casual friendliness of the staff and management. Leonesse is a class act.

Favorite quote:
"Artists must know what they are doing and how they are going to do it, while allowing room for spirit and intuition to influence the creative experience."    (Donald Demers

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Amaryllis Times Two

Too many years in the California sunshine has made me feel the cold more than I had predicted. So while I am still learning to pace myself in the New Mexico winters, this week, I painted in the studio. I did two paintings this week. One was 16x20, and a variation on the theme was a tiny 6x6. The Randy Higbee show gave me the idea to try a really small size and see what I could do with a piece I had done in a much larger and slightly different format. I’d love to try and get into that show this next year, if I can tolerate working that small. So this was an effort to see if I liked the results as much in a vastly condensed size.

Amaryllis Source Shot
My yearly amaryllis plants went crazy about a month too soon. They bloomed in November just in time for turkey day rather than waiting for Christmas. While I do not consider myself a floral painter, I love the bright intensely red flowers during the holidays and had planned to paint them alla prima, from life. Because they bloomed so early, when I was not ready to paint them, I took pictures and did them in the studio.

Here you see the really neat setup that my husband fixed for me, a shelf on the left of my easel, so that I can use my computer rather than a printout for reference. At the cost of inks for printers, this should, over time, save a pretty penny. Additionally, I find that monitor  color is not as skewed as is printer color. Here you see the initial drawing and the beginning of the block in of the local color. I like to key in the background first to give me my light and dark working parameters.

I worked fairly quickly, not wanting to over-think this. I wanted the painting to have a sense of immediacy and for the brushwork to remain lively. I had done a lot of composing when I took the pictures. Its easy for a floral to get fussy and overworked. I was trying to not let that happen. This was a totally different approach than the last time I did flowers and glazed magnolias for weeks to get the required depth of form built up. Not quite alla prima, as it took two days, but the smaller one was.

Here you see the color adjustments I made as the painting progressed. I used much more orange than was visible in the photo pf the real flower. It was a very hot red and the highlights were actually a very light lilac.
This is the finished 16x20. It is going to a collector in California. 

Pictured immediately after it, is the 6x6. Tiny, but still full of impact. I actually like it better than the bigger one. I have to figure out why now.  Is it the painting itself, or the format that I like? A square does present its own compostional restrictions. But it is a nice solid shape. The brushwork does seem more prominent in the smaller one. Curious.
Christmas Amaryllis II
6z6 Oil on Prepared Board
Available - email if interested
Its the same shot, but they look radically different. Which do you prefer?

Favorite quote:
 If I could pass anything on to the next generation, it would be to follow your passion, work hard, play, be curious about everything, read a lot, travel, explore, live, love and dig deep. And don't drink cheap wine. 
(Clyde Aspevig)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Inspiration In Old Readings

Do you ever re-read your old art magazines? I confess that I do. In fact last night I was reading a Fall 2011 issue of American Artist-Plein Air Painting. In the issue I was reading there was a great article by James Gurney, on the benefits of using a limited palette, entitled Color and Light in the Landscape.
Remembering not-too-fondly my last time around with this concept, I read through his palette of suggested colors. Guess what? Alizarin crimson was not listed! Here was a list I might actually like! In fact Cad red light was not there either! Here is what he did suggest as a truly pared-down palette:
  • Titanium white (PW 6)
  • Ultramarine blue (PB 29)
  • Yellow ochre (PY 43) (notice no cadmiums here either)
  • Venetian red (PR101) (Can you see me jumping for joy because there is no Aliz crimson here?)

For additional effects such as sunsets, signs, houses and man-made structures he says that adding the following makes all the colors anyone painting the landscape would/should need.
To the above list add the following:
  • Cad yellow light (PY 35)
  • Pyrrole red (PR 254) (now this one is intense and almost as bad as Alizarin crimson for creeping into things)
  • Burnt Sienna (P Br 7)
  • Viridian (PG 18) (talk about a travelling color, this one does too!)
The numbers following the colors are their pigment codes.

Now the idea of a restricted palette and the issues that it banishes from color mixing is one that truly appeals to me. Not to mention I like the idea of not carrying the whole studio along, and the lack of heavy metals from cadmiums is an idea I like as well. But alizarin crimson was not a color I enjoyed as much as one I would engage in, as in combat, say. It just was too unruly, like the kid who was hopped up on sugar. I love the soft effects that a restricted palette gets you, as you are forced to mix colors you might not have mixed before. All hues are related in a restricted palette. It’s like the completely functional family everybody wishes they came from!

I cannot recommend this article by Gurney enough. He continues with a color wheel that he calls the YURMBY wheel. In that wheel he notes the value differences as well as the chroma differences between colors. This is something that almost all color wheels ignore. It was illuminating.

But the thing that made this issue so good, was this Gurney article mated with the article from Maddine Insalaco. Her article was an approach for a quicker way to paint outdoors. It seemed counterproductive, as she mixes her colors on-site, BEFORE she starts to paint and has her palette pre-determined. By doing this, she postpones applying the paint in favor of organization. And I am ignoring the fact that she uses the dreaded A crimson and chromium green (another heavy metal paint). A direct quote from her states “Although the best and most exciting solutions in painting come from experimentation and impulse, good painting ultimately is an alliance between knowledge (intellect) and instinct (feeling).” It smacks of Ken Auster’s Intellect and Passion theory. But I am finding it more true than not. A few judicious minutes spent in organization will provide you with the stage to let fly with the emotional part of painting.

My next time out painting, I intend to try the limited palette that Gurney proposes and Maddine’s systematic approach to mixing the larger body of required colors and allow for some providential inspiration along the way. But today it’s snowing and visibility is super limited. Maybe tomorrow will be a sun on snow day. I am packing my restricted palette. And I am headed into the studio to work on an amaryllis painting that is a studio piece. Should I post it here? It’s not plein air…..who knows?

Favorite quote:
“I don’t run away from a challenge because I am afraid. Instead, I run toward it because the only way to escape fear is to trample it beneath your feet.”              (Nadia Comaneci) – Olympic Gold Medalist

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Noting the changing seasons

It’s trying to winter up here in southern New Mexico. We have had several mornings of lower than 20 degrees. The land is trying to go to sleep. Most of the color is draining from the plants, but the skies are really interesting. From the HUGE moon we had to the cloud banks and somewhat grey dawns, we are experiencing a change. Even the birds looked cold.
Wind Canyon still has the most engaging play of light across the paling grasses and dusty roads. We had one morning of low valley fog that made the mountain tops look like islands in a sea. But the skies are really noticeable lately. The colors can be intense.

December Morning 11x14
Wind Canyon Etude #10
Oil on prepared board - Available 

One of these chilly mornings, when the sun was putting up a valiant fight to overcome a cloud bank, I grabbed my paints and tried very hard to record the amazing colors. It was a dance between the strong light and the dark sky. Nobody was up walking the canyon, and I saw no one except for those headed to work. It was too cold for anyone to be out unless they had animals to care for. All except for that crazy painter who lives on top of the hill. Did I tell you how my uncle once told me I couldn’t be a painter because everybody knew that they were all crazy? I keep trying to prove to him that I qualify. It was cold out there, and I may have to start wearing extra layers…….TMI.

I have painted this scene before, and I included the truck and wind mill when I last painted it. It was too cold for that nonsense this morning. I got the essentials and think I caught the interplay between both the sun and that threatening front. Today it was a try at getting the values and the color intensity right.
This one is called December Morning. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Studio Grand Opening - At Last

I am recuperating from the studio opening we had last weekend.

Viewing area, with comfy couch and good light.
How did it go? I’m glad you asked. It went really well. We had a lot of people for this canyon. Not so many if you compare to other places. But I really believe you have to blossom where you are planted. Painting alongside the road has established an interest in what I was doing. Some people came by because they had seen me over the last year painting Wind Canyon. And we got to meet neighbors we had not known before. A dear friend sent me the loveliest flowers. Thank you, Dianna Ponting. So the studio was cheerful and dust free (as much as I could make it) and staged.

Hubby got the new wall done 2 days before the opening. Gone is the huge roll up door. I can be warm when I paint in the winter now. But I had to wipe down all the dust from the plastering and sanding. It was everywhere. Then we had to move out all the extraneous stuff that is waiting on a shelf or container being built. My new flat paper storing cabinet is not here yet. And we did not get the 2 shelf running bookcase made either. So much of it remains to be relocated when we get those items done. So this stuff was just clutter. It is back, but it made me re-organize which is a good thing.

Main wall with some of my paintings.

I spent a full day making porno pink signs to put along the road. I am not a sign maker. But they were effective, actually pulling people from the highway who would not have stopped otherwise.  I also got the opening in three local magazines. I sent postcards out to those who had expressed an interest in the studio too. And I had put up posters in town for the event at various businesses.
Comments were favorable about both the lovely working space, and my work. I almost sold a painting. But it is hesitant to find a new home. It is still here.
I learned a lot doing this.
  • I needed to have more signs at the other end of the canyon entrance.
  • I needed to do more advertising locally - especially newspapers.
  • I also think I might try a radio spot.
  • There needs to be more posters put up.
  • And I need to do this more than just once.
  • A local painter friend wants to do one with me, and I just might.

So it went well, and I was drained of energy, just from the effort of putting it all up. I sure hope it stays nice and neat for a while. But it is a WORKING studio, and not a glitzy gallery. I am still waiting for that perfect gallery - to the tune of "Someday My Prince Will Come", just substitute gallery. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

From Life - Inside

I have been in the studio preparing for its Grand Opening which I will tell you about later.

I have never been able to be in the studio without picking up a brush and starting to paint, even when I am supposed to be moving things about, clearing and cleaning. It did get done, but not until I had set up and started a painting with a great find form my friend Holly's house. Amazing how artists who do still life work peruse their friend's houses always hunting for that unique item to use as a prop.

Fall always gets me in a mood to think about those that came before us, the tools they used and their every day lives. The old butter churn that is central to this piece and the old lamp are two really evocative pieces, to me. Even though Holly owns the churn I begged to borrow it form her and she allowed me to use it. The construction of it is not super old, but how many people do you know who own one?
Set up for Fall Bounty
So before I even was aware, I was setting up the above still life. I love white pumpkins and may have to use them again in another piece before they get yucky. And yes that is a technical term.
Item placement for Fall Bounty
This is how I began this painting, making sure all the elements would fit the 16x20 format.
I have painted the lamp before and was not satisfied with the job I had done and wanted another crack at it.  I was sitting when I painted it so the perspective was a tad different than the photo's. The pumpkins and squash were larger.
Block In for major items in Fall Bounty
This is how I developed the background and major elements. Love those white pumpkins. I had not decided how to tie the right side into the whole yet. It felt empty on the right, and I was puzzling this out as I worked - what did I want there?
Fall Bounty - 16 x 20
Oil Available
Contact me if interested
Indian corn was the answer. A vegetable that was definitely a fall harvest item. I particularly like the lamp. I did a better job on that than I had in the other painting. And the central apple is a good paint application. My painter friend Deb thinks the orange pumpkin is to die for. Isn't it funny how nobody mentions the white pumpkins??

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Small Things That Occupy Your Mind

Sometimes it’s the little things that matter. So I painted small this Thanksgiving morning. After all, I had to go back up the hill to check on Mr. Tom Turkey, bubbling happily away in my oven. 14 people depended on him being done to a golden brown with no trace of sawdust when sliced. So to get too engrossed in the paint works might have resulted in the dreaded failed holiday meals stories that live generations on past the poor cooks. I can see it on my headstone, “The backlit landscape was to die for, but for this, the poor turkey should not have had to give up the ghost.”  I digress.

Thanksgiving morning was early up to stuff and truss that big ol’Tom and pop him in the fourneau, that’s stove for you English types. Everybody else was off to a late start, so I grabbed my brushes and a small prepared board and down the hill I went to record the last gasps of the rabbitbrush. No more brilliant gold. The color is more like the color of worn wheat, a silvery yellow atop sagey green rangy brushes. I did a small piece only 8x10. So I kept my view small.

 I painted the arroyo from a vantage point on the edge of the road. No more bunnies this year, but I heard the quail and the hawks and something else rustling the bushes. I sang a bit. No I’m not musical, but I do have a pronounced survival fetish. Whatever it was, left. I tell you, if it isn’t art critics, its music critics.

After looking at this piece for about a week, I think I might have gone into it a bit darker, but I like the sun-flooded arroyo bright and airy. It's definitely showing a lot bluer than in real life and I have uploaded several times. The color shift occurs at the point of upload to the blog. Weird. It looks fine in Photoshop, where I cropped it.
So I framed it and called it “Thanksgiving Morning, Wind Canyon”. It was a sunny morning, cool the way it makes your nose run. I love fall. 8x10 and it is available at a reduced price this weekend at my Studio Grand Opening.

Oh yeah, that the other thing that has kept me busy besides cooking and an out-of-town wedding and house guests for the holiday. My Studio Grand Opening is this Saturday and Sunday. If you are around do stop by and visit. Its not totally done….its just mostly done. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Grand Opening! - Its Official

Wind Canyon Studio will have its grand opening this coming Saturday and Sunday. It is located just outside Silver City New Mexico, just off mile marker 107, on HWY 180.

This is the actualization of years of hopes and dreams. In this space I will be able to welcome visitors, art patrons and fellow artists alike. And even the curious by-passers. The facility will allow for groups to assemble and work, for the occasional show, although its primary function will be as my haven to paint and explore.

So what with family, holidays, painting, cooking and cleaning, I haven't posted as much lately. Do look for pictures in the future of my upcoming pastel workshop in February and other events. 

Meanwhile, if you are in the area, do drop in, if only to look about. Hours are 9 to 4, both days.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Finding Time to Blog, and Paint

How on earth do people blog who have a life? I just got back Sunday late at night from the AWA (American Women Artists) Master’s Weekend in Tucson. That is deserving of an entry on its own, so here goes.
What a powerhouse group of ladies in this organization, and even more important, how wonderfully sharing they all are.
The first show in Tubac had some of my heroes in it, so it was a thrill to see many works there by names I knew, if not the people. I have decided to put Nancy Boren on retainer just for her skill in naming works. She had an amazing portrait there of a young sullen cowgirl, and the title was fetching as all get out. All the pieces were blow you out of the water good. I am really going to have to do my duck impersonation and be calm on the exterior and paddle like heck underwater to even come up to close to this group. These painters will prompt me to grow and everybody needs that. Me especially. Its awfully easy to get complacent. Especially if you are selling what you are doing and/or everybody seems to like what you paint. Tack on a studio in the tullies, and you are your only critic. So a group that establishes a high benchmark is a real plus.
Easy complacency is not the journey I want. I want every day and every painting to teach me to be better at this passion of mine. This group will help me do that. Just to get up to their standards will be a stretch. And I don’t do yoga.  I found myself giving myself counsel as I painted in the studio this afternoon “Stephanie Birdsall said this, and Carol Swinney said that……it just keeps getting replayed in my mind.
The paintout was great and at the Sonoran Desert Museum. People were so nice and I painted an absolute bummer of a painting. It needs repair as I spotted a major compositional error after I got it home. So I will fix it when we return from a family do in about a week, or simply use it as a takeoff for a studio piece, but with corrections in place.
I did ask how people blog who have a life, didn’t I? Now if only Texas weren’t so darned big to have to cross.
Amazing ladies all.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Don't Need It? - Ditch It

Every now and then it does a body good to go outside the normal viewing area and paint something new. So yesterday I went to Las Cruces with a friend from the Black Range Painters and the Southwest New Mexico Plein Air Painters. There were about 6 or 7 of us. I never was good with math. (And I honestly didn’t count the bodies.)
Dripping Springs is a National Recreation area. I guess it’s not a National Park, but the difference eludes me. My old crusty senior pass got me in for free, so I was glad it was under Federal control. State control would have meant a parking fee. And there were restrooms, a real plus when you go out to paint.
Dripping Springs National Recreation Area and Trail
 It was cool in the early morning and in the desert that means no early snakes. Another plus. I certainly wouldn’t want to be there in the heat of the year. The place looked to be toasty more often than not. But it was crisp and cool this morning. The mountains had a slight haze, but the shadows were deep and dark, cool too. It didn’t take long to get the composition down. I opted for a dynamic interpretation of the land, with a real Z thing going on.
Dripping Springs - La Cueva Formation
11x14 Oil on Wood Panel

In fact I even played god and ditched a far off part of the mountain range, which leads me to my point today. If you don’t think it will help the piece, ditch it. Who says you have to have 14 trees in a row if you only feel three will do it? A painter paints, but an artist creates. Its art knowing what to keep, not how many blades of grass make up the green area of the painting. So some days I take real liberties with what is in front of me. Even Monet moved trees. An observer commented on a painting in progress saying he could only see one tree, not two. Monet told him the second tree was behind him. If it works, who am I to argue?
Favorite quote:
Artists are the people among us who realize creation didn't stop on the sixth day. (Joel Peter Witkin)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Golden Chamisa and A Naming Contest

Its fun to try to find your painting eyeballs after you’ve been not painting for a bit. I painted again today, and at least I didn’t feel run over by a steamroller when I was done this time. I started a bit earlier, and didn’t drive very far. So getting back home was just a jaunt back up the hill.
Just as you enter our canyon 

I did decide to stretch my abilities and paint a barn and a truck. They belong to my neighbor Karen Carr and her hubby, who live down the hill from me. I don’t normally paint buildings, so I need a lot of practice doing that, just so I don’t balk. I have never painted a truck before. Luckily, it was not front and center, but behind their stock trailer, so it’s a lesser character in the painting. I let the paint dry so that I could put in their windmill. That’s a first too. And did you know they move with the direction of the wind? Talk about a fidgety model. The sky was too juicy to lay it in at one go. So I guess I could call this piece Alla Prima Plus 1. Or maybe Alla Prima con Camion. You do have to hunt the truck, it’s not in your face, even if it is a cerise colored red truck. So finish details will be on Monday, after the first paint has ‘tacked up’ a bit and I can lay more on without bringing the first layer up. I’ll post it then.
The whole idea came from the fact that the chamisa (or rabbitbrush if you are an Anglo) is blooming all along Fleming Tank Road and Wind Canyon Drive. The whole valley is rimmed in gold tipped flowers, supported by bluish green rangy bushes. They lay besides the roads, waving their brightly colored blooms as we drive on by. But by Karen’s place, there is a little vale and dell and a rise with their drive and more chamisa flowering in its bright fall dress. So the chamisa framed their little ranchito as if it were a painting in a golden frame, just needing hanging. Figuring that this could be one of those lessons hard learned, I decided to go for the barn, trailer and truck and well as their drive. After all, conquest goes to the brave. It’s a lovely setting, and I can see why they enjoy the place so much. 
Needs a Title
11x14 oil on board

The quail who are residents at that level, were very vocal in clucking their disapproval of me being there. I got scolded by woodpeckers and ravens alike. No hawks today…they must have been busy elsewhere. But knowing they were around heartened me that the local sidewinders were not out this morning. Its when it gets real quiet that I get nervous, and start scanning the ground every few minutes.
Chamisa is also called RabbitBrush. So does the title need to be something like Rabbitbrush Roadway, or Chamisa Chalet, or Yaller Brush Season?? Its gotta be something……no ideas here. Suggestions, anyone? Give the title that we use, and I will send you a print of the finished painting. So suggest in the comments and leave a way for me to contact you. Winner to be picked by my impartial husband, in one months’ time. November 22, 2013.

Favorite quote for today:
The artist that paints every tiny little detail is an artist with nothing better to do. (Sam Adoquei

Monday, October 15, 2012

I'm Baaaaaack!

OK, I am wiped out, much like a failed painting. But I got out and painted today. Wind Canyon is sporting the brilliant yellow of fall and the grasses are bleached out to a muted light yellow awaiting winter’s arrival. Even the llamas and the horses are looking furrier, as are the local deer. There are no more quail babies, as that time has long since passed. But some of the adults have these deep red heads. Rather pretty.
Wind Canyon - a fall morning

I have been dying to paint the canyon while the bright yellow flowers are out. They are fading in some spots already. But there are fields out here that are full of these bushes. They are sagey-green and rangy looking topped with brilliant yellow flowers.  What a dazzling sight in the sunlight. Wish I knew their names.
Because this was my first time painting since my very unscheduled surgery, I opted to use any colors I wanted to and treat myself to some rich colors. Fall has always had a sentimental attachment to me of rich deep colors, spiced by occasional brilliance and brilliant blue skies. Today did not disappoint.
No.3 Wind Canyon oil on board
11 x 14

I parked on Fleming Tank Road, just off the highway and started to paint. Again my neighbors are considerate in the extreme, slowing down considerably, to keep from enveloping me in a cloud of fine white dust.  And several stopped to inquire about the painting. Some even said they thought it was beautiful. I love meeting my neighbors this way and its getting to where they stop and visit when they see me paint. Some artists don’t care for the intrusion, but out here in the country, one never knows when a helping hand might be needed. And a little civility goes a long way.
I didn’t approach this painting with any specific system in mind. The composition just seemed to unveil itself as I went slowly down the road. After looking at this piece for a bit, I have decided the glaze the foreground, when it is dried, with a subdued blue, to tone down the transparent red earth in the bottom. Its a bit too strong and needs taming. I remember a teacher who always said "It's easier to tame a wild stallion than to resurrect a dead horse". 
My friend Connie used to live in the house atop the hill. New people are moving in as they have moved back East. I hope the new people are a good fit for Wind Canyon. I have gotten to feel pretty much like the canyon is mine now. I know many spots better than some of the long time locals who pass them every day, unseeing. Civility and friendliness, yup, that seems to sum up Wind Canyon. And privacy when desired. This is #3 Wind Canyon Drive.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

When You Can't Paint, What Do You Do?

My posts have been conspicuously absent this month. I apologize for that. But as a friend told me, after 40 you just don’t fluff as fast after major surgery. And I am way beyond 40. Things are headed in the right direction but I need to build stamina. I have a goal of painting before the week is out. And that means stuffing the car, so I do need some energy. But we have not been standing still here, hugging our my husband went to work on the studio.

While I have been recuperating, hubby has taken down the large whale-sized rollup door in the studio, which was very noisy and not energy efficient in the least. And he has built in its place a wall, nice and tidy and tight. When the wall is completely taped, mudded and painted it will provide a nice large shelf for painting storage in between shows and for keeping what inventory does not immediately sell. Along that wall will be a flat paper storage unit, and a low 2 shelf bookcase. That will allow me to get rid of 3 small bookcases that pop up here and there in the studio, taking up valuable floor space and adding to the visual clutter. The middle expanse of wall will be used to hang pieces for a while as I think them over. I do muddle through some pieces.

Already it is amazingly quiet in the studio. Not the raucous mess it was before. Living atop a mountain in Wind Canyon, that door had plenty of opportunity to be loud and intrusive when I worked. I am so pleased that it is gone. What a lovely birthday gift.

I have been reading art books, and re-viewing my many art DVDs while I have been getting over this surprise appendectomy. It has been a time to recharge and think about my work. So I hope it has not been wasted. I will miss some shows I wanted to be in due to simply not being up to it. And that is galling to someone who has no patience with being a patient. I was in two shows during that time and did garner a ribbon. So all was not wasted. But as I get older I find I am more miserly of my time. I do not want to waste one day of it not painting.
OK, so where is that magic energy pill???

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

LOKI Is Alive And Well And Living In Colorado

Loki is the Viking god of mischief. I thought he was dead, gone - kaput.
More the fool was I.

On Saturday, ten days ago, hubby and I had set out for Westcliff Colorado, via a stopover in Denver to visit family. The occasion was a long awaited workshop in the Rockies taught by a renown painter in a to die for location. I almost did.

Hubby was on his motorcycle and I drove my car full of art supplies and high hopes. We hadn't been on the road but a few hours when i started to fell quite sick. It continued and did not abate through the weekend. On we drove, and arrived in Denver on Sunday. On Monday morning I painted with my cousin in El Dorado Canyon, just outside of Denver, all the while thinking how lousy I was painting and what the heck was the matter with me.
Me, painting in El Dorado Canyon during my appendicitis attack, about 3 hours before surgery.

After almost passing out, I asked my cousin to find me an urgent care. The urgent care doctor sent me to an ER.  From the time I walked into the hospital until they wheeled me into surgery less than an hour and a half had passed. I missed my workshop. But I am here. I will paint again.

Now I ask you - what person wants to mark their 65th birthday with an emergency surgery for a perforated appendix? I think that despite Loki's best efforts, my guardian angel was definitely on overtime, guiding me to an absolutely wonderful hospital, a great surgeon and caring hospital staff. But most of all, I had a loving husband, the voice of sanity, who insisted that I be quiet and listen to the doctor with whom I was arguing, (cause who EVER heard of a grandmother of 4 needing an emergency appendectomy?) to go read the results again cause he HAD TO BE WRONG.   DARN.   He wasn't. 

Frankly the Vikings can keep their gods.

Pretty apt quote: 
"Life is what happens while you are making other plans." 
- John Lennon

Friday, September 14, 2012


Do you remember the old ketchup commercial where the closeup of the product slowly creeping out of the bottle was accompanied by the song "Anticipation"? I wanted so much to pop that bottle in the butt and force that stuff out. Life was a rushed deal in those days for me. Time was limited, structured and finite. I couldn't, wouldn't waste it. Its been years now since I have felt like that. Love retirement.

But I am remembering that commercial this week, anticipating my workshop with Don Demers this next week, just south of Denver at Art in the Aspens. Finally. I tried to get there last year. It didn't work and I didn't get to go. That was a disappointment. His work is extraordinary, gorgeous stuff. I intend to pick his brain. I am bringing my brain picking fairy with me. I need one as my memory sucks as I get older. Hers is better. Aided by a notebook and copious notes and a lot of photos, I am hoping a lot of it sticks.

This workshop is out in the middle of nowhere USA. So I am taking half the studio with me. This is a picture of the car packed with just my art stuff. I haven't even thought of clothes yet. The important stuff goes in first, right? Oh did I mention I have an opening tonight? Yeah, here in town. I  have 4 paintings in it. New crowd of people, new faces. Should be fun. Who says retirement is dull?

The weather channel says possible snow in the mountains of Southern Colorado this weekend. So I am bringing the warm snuggies. Hubby too. Can't forget the fingerless gloves and coffee thermos. I understand Donald is a task master working his students very early and very late. I sure hope to have some new and much better paintings to show you when I return. And the snow can be a new challenge too. Especially for someone who has spent the majority of the last 35 years in Southern California. Golden Aspens, that's the ticket. I am packing a couple of yellows in my box, leaving the ketchup at home.

Does anyone know how to get a jingle out of your head? Anticipation, anticpa a  tion........
Wow that's going to be one long ride if I can't get it out.

Fav quote:

Courage and perseverance have a magical talisman, before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air.      ~ John Quincy Adams                                                

Monday, September 10, 2012

Make new friends – But keep the Old

There is an old song we used to sing as girl scouts when we were around a campfire (there is also a reason why I carry every tool know to man in my backpack – be prepared!). It went something like “Make new friends, but keep the old, One is silver and the other gold”. A truism to be sure, but it’s valid none the less. It’s good life philosophy, but a good thing in painting too.  I like to think my friends are for life, as I value them dearly, just as I value certain pigments in my palette. They provide a safe haven of known performance and give me a base of comfort from which I can charge forward with newer additions, experimenting and learning as I go.
Entrance to Wind Canyon Estates

Limiting color choices in a palette keeps a painting within a family of colors. But this past week I bought and read Lexi Sundell’s new book  “The Acrylic Artist’s Guide to Exceptional Color”.  I paint in oils so I had to translate to oil what the pigment names were, but I found her logic interesting. Her explanation of additive versus subtractive color systems is one of the simplest and easiest to grasp I have ever read. She has a gift for explaining why color acts as it does.

I had seen artists in the Southwest use a strident teal, stronger than cerulean in their palettes and had railed against it. I had thought that it would be impossible to tame that chroma. My recent foray into Ken Auster’s palette had me recoiling from alizarin crimson, finding it even on my underwear! I swear that stuff had legs. So I was very wary of the Quinacridone Magenta she suggested as a red. And the thought of using a brilliant hansa yellow, was, well, brilliant! I tried them today. I did add a deep cad orange and a deep, deep, purple and white to the litany of colors I laid out. But the results were not at all strident!
Wind Canyon Entrance - √Čtude 9
8x10 Oil study - Linen on wood

 In fact I was able to get that elusive color of sage tips that has haunted me for the last two months. So now I have found that I LIKE this palette. Moral: Go get Lexi’s book. It’s laid out in the most logical way for visual learners, with many clear well thought through and imaged examples. And there is fodder there for people who have painted for a long time. Sometimes we need that nudge to try something new. We are creatures of habit, putting colors where they have always been in our layout, each having its own unique spot. Mix it up! Add a new color. Try it out.
I found inspiration in her pages and I tried something I had not tried before, And I liked it. I probably would never have bought that tube of cobalt turquoise given how expensive it was. But I found an older tube and talked the store guy into a deal. And I also found out that in painting, as in life, it is easier to tame a wild horse than to resurrect a dead one.

Monday, September 3, 2012

To Print Or Not To Print – That Is The Question

This is a long post and for that I apologize. I just got home last night from a lovely art Festival in Las Cruces. The grounds were lovely, surrounded by pecan orchards (or is it groves?). The venue was convenient for unloading and loading. Neighbor vendors were friendly and helpful. The music was live and wonderful. The Franciscan Friars were so very nice. The food was great. It was wonderful.
Plein Air Painters of Southern New Mexico
My paintings are those in gold frames on the left

Did I sell anything? No – not a thing. I am analyzing why not, and I think I have found several reasons why the lack of sales. Of the 5 artists that I showed with, only one sold a very small and not expensive painting and a few prints, which were extremely moderately priced. Was the quality of work good? Across the board, we hung very well together. The quality was excellent from each and every one of us. Our styles are all distinct and did not overlap to create a competitive situation, and the media we used was everywhere from oils, to pastels, acrylics to watercolor. We talked up each other’s work and pointed out evasive qualities to those viewing our work. Each piece was unique and personal. The reaction we had from passersby was extremely positive. People walked in with huge smiles on their faces and peered intently at our work. Comments were so very positive, but sales were dismal.
Bob in his part of our booth at the
Franciscan Art Festival, Las Cruces

I walked around and talked to artists who said they had made over a thousand dollars that weekend. I studied what they were doing. Their sales were a trail of ten to twenty dollar sales, with very few larger items being bought. The four large pieces that did sell at this festival, were the result of one artist having a following from years of exposure at this venue, to some with major reductions in price, to a very lucky stroke of luck in the last 20 minutes of the two day affair. So what were these artists actually selling? Small, cheap prints sold well, as did cards and folksy gourds and lots of little jewelry pieces. Everything was handmade, each booth unique and every artist was good. Anything that was over fifty dollars did not move easily.
So now I am asking myself – “Should I do prints?” My gut reaction is an overwhelming no. Why you ask? Well most of my work is plein air, studies providing information for larger works. They are the result of a moment in time, careful study and observation. I choose to not do prints for several reasons. I could do a legitimate series of copies even after a sale. But think of the art. Having a thousand copies devalues the original. Nobody will want to buy an original at whatever price, if a $35 print is to be found in hundreds of homes and businesses. Look at the can of worms Kincaid opened up by slightly retouching giclees (prints) and calling them original art. Think of the thousands of buyers who felt deceived when these practices were uncovered and the money they felt tricked out of. All those prints will not accrue in value. There are simply too many of them. They will become today’s Currier and Ives prints, found in every home and worth but a few pennies. And those of us that follow him are now required to be even more honest in our dealing with the public.
The cons to prints:
  • Too many exist, there is no ‘unique’ quality to the piece
  • The prints' existence devalue the original
  • Maintaining the inventory is a cost and is an energy and space drain
  • The effort to transport and display such wares makes the effort to show more heavy
  • Too many prints can cause an opportunity for others to copy an original and further devalue your work, thereby increasing competition for a finite market
  • Maintaining the reproduction quality is a job in itself

The pros to making and selling prints:
  • An artist can sell and resell his/her work
  • The artists can reach a market that cannot afford the work in its original form
  • Proliferation of an artist’s work can mean greater exposure

So what to do? I personally do not feel I want to make prints of my plein air paintings. Often the quality of the stroke is an integral part of the work. Some of the strokes stand out from the canvas. That is lost in reproduction. There is a quality to an original that simply cannot be reproduced. When I produce a studio work that is large enough to command a far greater price, I might consider making a print. I have done just a very few of my piece “Mother’s Love”, which is pencil and carries quite an impact.
Mother's Love
19x20 Colored Pencil _Available

 But to do a print of a plein air would destroy the uniqueness of the experience of the painting itself. I would rather sell one painting at a decent price (and mine are not overpriced) and have the owner realize that what they own cannot be bought at Walmart.
Historically, art is not created for the masses that cannot afford it. This is not elitism, it is fact. What we produce as artists is a select product. As such it requires a select client base. We can allow a payment plan or take credit cards that allow payment over time. We need to respect ourselves and our work. For if we do not, who will?

What are your views?
Fav quote:
A novice painter stays in their comfort zone, a professional painter takes leaps of faith and makes daring choices in every painting.
(Lou Maestas)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Plein Air at Around 100 Degrees

When the temps hover around a hundred, it’s too darned hot for painting outside. It’s August, so Southern New Mexico can be hot. Saturday the plein air painters in the area converged on a mini eco-system in the middle of the vast nothing that is south of I10 between Lordsburg and Deming. One of the Black Range Painters has a large ranch there and graciously opened her home to us to paint. Nestled under very large cottonwood trees, her home was protected from the onslaught of the sun, and populated by a group of friendly dogs that barked at cars, but proved to be very happy to have company. Temps were even cool under this natural umbrella.
Our painter friend has artifacts that have been found on her property by her family for the last hundred years and more. So the setup possibilities are varied and interesting. From Mimbres pottery bowls, to rusted old spurs to glass butter churns with wooden paddles, topped by the products of her gardens, and the output of her canning. And she had AIR CONDITIONING.
Velva's Window 16x20
Oil on canvas - Available, contact me please

With the sun streaming through her kitchen windows, her canning jars took on the clear jewel tones of a stained glass window. And when she added her depression glass oil lamp, what to paint was decided for me. The window and lamp and canning jars grouped with some fresh veggies suggested to me “Velva’s Window”.  It’s not my usual subject matter, and dear hubby does not know what to make of it. I am still undecided too.
This painting is large for a plein air (I painted it from direct observation) as a 16x20. A few adjustments still needed to be done in studio to add the final touches. But the streaming light was just too delicious to not paint. Very seldom can you use pure unadulterated pigment in plein air. Most colors are neutralized from the atmosphere and reflections.

Thanks Velva for an inside plein air experience. The carrot cake you made wasn’t bad either. Now that’s the way to plein air paint. I figure I deserve brownie points just for trying this piece.

Tomorrow I leave for Las Cruces, to be one of the artists at the Franciscan Art Festival, held at Holy Cross Retreat. There will be many artists and lots to 'oooooh' and 'aaaaah' over, so stop on by if you are in the area. (No 'pthaaaas' allowed!)

Fav quote:
"Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race." The difference between a winner and a quitter is that one has a strong will and the other has a strong won't. Never, ever give up.                                           (Calvin Coolidge)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Clean Out Those Corners

OK my studio is a wreck. And it’s gonna get worse. I have a big plein air show in Las Cruces to get ready for this week. I am leaving Friday to go and set up for Saturday morning. So that means an inventory that reflects what I am taking in paintings, packing those paintings and photographing them to have a visual record. Getting the tent and grid system/hangers in the car and ready to go, remembering the duct tape and sunscreen.  How can anyone have a show and forget the duct tape? Been there.
So here is my list for prep for the show.
  • Make inventory of products going to the show 
  • Gather like materials and put them by the door of the studio to facilitate packing the SUV
  • Make list of EVERYTHING I need to bring (do not forget undies, don’t ask)
  • Paint the donation painting It’s a wee one for the Holy Cross Retreat Center where the show is – they do not take a percentage of sales, just the donation painting

So I started by moving things about which meant sweeping the odd assortment of dead gnats and flies off the floor of the studio. I suddenly stopped and bent over to spy what I thought was a dead scorpion.  Yup. Scorpion. Dead? Not quite. So the next thing I did was make a mental note to not kick off my shoes as I often do and putter around here barefoot. Into the dust bin went the dying scorpion and I said a silent prayer to please protect me from things that scurry in the night, Lord. I hate scorpions. Now what ever possessed God to make those things? Them and mosquitoes. I don’t get it.
So the bottom line is to clean out the place more often, not just when I have a show to get ready for.  That, and tell the exterminator guy how much I value his work.
Here’s the painting that I did today for the donation painting. It’s called “Let The Monsoons Begin!” Actually we almost got 2 inches of rain in the last two days, and clouds are forming for later today.
Let The Monsoons Begin!
Oil on wood panel - Donation to Holy Cross
4.5x6 inches

This showing at outdoor venues is new to me. I hope it works to get more visibility for my work. I still do not have gallery representation. Hopefully the future holds that in store. I have been approached by a few, but they are not the ones I need and want my work to be in.
I am also finishing a very recent painting that I did down in the very dry and hot SW corner of New Mexico, on a lovely tree sheltered, over one-hundred year old ranch. Who says “aren’t you lucky you get to paint all day??” Yeah, you come and pack the car.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Dear, Guess What??

I have been painting a piece for the New Mexico Centennial celebration. On January 6th, 1912  we became part of the Union. 
I had thought about the heritage of New Mexico, wanting to put into a painting my thoughts on my new home state and its people. Being about as white bread as a body can get, and as much as I love the pottery and art of the native Americans of New Mexico, I did not want to infringe on what I felt was their personal history for this piece. 
Having such white heritage made me think, what would my reaction have been if I had lived here at that time? How would I have learned of it? There was no internet, nor TV, and the newspaper was only published once a week here in Silver City. The Enterprise was not non-partisan by any stretch of the imagination. Remember this is the part of the country where Randolph Hearst mined and where his money funded many enterprises. So the newspaper would have been my opinionated link to the greater goings on of the attempt to achieve statehood.
Off to the library I went to look up the actual newspaper front page. It was so early, that all the papers were still in microfiche. I had not used a machine of this type since I was in college researching for a paper of my own. There was no entry for that day that spoke of the new state. In fact for January 6th, it was a pretty much the same old local newspaper with ads, reports of a murder, and political wrangling,  much as we have today.
Back home I went to set up for a still life reminiscent of the time and news. I sent my long suffering husband to the store for a 'pretty red apple with irregular form and modulated colors'. (Picture eyes rolling in his head and a gentle "OK, but it better be right, I don't have your eyes").
He did a great job.
If I had been here, reading in the early evening I would have had an electric light, maybe wire rimmed glasses and genteelly been drinking a cup of tea or coffee when I read about the news. This is how I came to the idea. painted from a real life set up. It therefore qualifies for this blog, having been painted in real life. 
Controlling the light for the setup was the hardest part.
I blocked it in using my new love, the eggbert brush, and lived with the block in for a day to see if it 'felt right'. The newspaper was the biggest obstacle, as I am not a sign painter. I did that part in acrylic first, then put oil glazes over the paper to integrate into the rest of the painting. The front page is a near approximation of the Silver City Enterprise masthead and a truncated headline from the Albuquerque paper, which did carry the news that day. Oil over acrylic is a proven working method and allowed me to redo the front page several times until it wasn't too objectionable. The period teacup and lamp are loving contributions from a new friend. In the background is a New Mexican black on black pot, filled with ivy ( I just had to put one in for regional flavor, couldn't help myself) . This painting is an amalgamation of underlayment of acrylic on the newspaper, lots of glazes and some direct alla prima painting.
Here is the resultant painting is called "Dear, Guess What??" It has been accepted into the open New Mexico show in Pinos Altos, starting this October. I was striving for the essence of the time, a personal experience of the news. Did I succeed?