Monday, December 30, 2013

Red And Green Christmas?

There are those who say that heaven and hell are of our own making. If it’s true, I had a glimpse of what heaven can be this past week. I had the absolutely best Christmas gift a person could have, and I did not even have to unwrap it. You couldn’t put it under the tree,  it had no glitter and it didn’t smell of pine. What was it?

I got to go painting with two of my grandkids. One had been with me before and the other had not. They are both teenagers and it was a true gift to be able to spend the morning with them. It was even better that they wanted to go and paint. It took a real effort of will to get one of them to give up a precious morning of sleep on their holiday break. And the other was interested but knew that he was red/green colorblind. So we prepped a bit before we went.
Painting With Grandma 2 days before Christmas
I had read pages 154 through 157 of Al Gury’s book Color For Painters on how to approach painting for those who could not tell the difference between certain colors.  I have not found a great deal of information about teaching painting with this in mind. In fact my grandson told me that his art teacher in high school had just assumed that the students knew what the colors did and how they worked. Seeing a real omission there, I was very thankful to have just read that particular passage of Gury’s book. We found a color wheel, and we talked about how the colors interact when they are mixed and when they are alongside each other.
I know that talking about it is not seeing it. But if on an intellectual level, some understanding is reached, perhaps that, with the color wheel in hand, is better than no help at all. After all, without intensive testing, who is to say how very pronounced or not is a body’s colorblindness? How can you tell, where challenge starts, if you are not challenged in that way?

Granddaughter's painting of Leonesse Winery, Temecula CA
I am proud of the effort that they both made, but in awe of my grandson and his willingness to paint with me. Even Winston Churchill was intimidated by a white canvas, and so are most of us at one time or another.
A not red and green landscape and its creator.

Their paintings were wonderful. Soft and light filled, with wonderful colors and great recession. His painting was not heavily green or red. He did most of this with what he could differentiate without trouble.

Christmas this year was sunlit, hazy, soft and warm. Yeah, Christmas is not always red and green.

Favorite quote:
Courage and perseverance have a magical talisman, before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air.                                                       (John Quincy Adams)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Broadway Belle - A Beauty Still

Go To Louise Sackett Fine Art

I finally got around to painting a little old lady I met.
She’s a lovely old Victorian house on Broadway, at the top of the hill, below the old County Admin offices in Silver City.  I have wanted to paint her since I first saw her. She is a designated historical building, one that has a for real name. But I call her ‘Broadway Belle”. She’s been on Broadway a long, long time. But she still retains some of her allure.
She has had her porch removed and rebuilt and has survived a whole lot of upgrades since she was first constructed. Right now she is for sale and needs a coat of paint. I was trying to figure out when the light would be most advantageous to her, and finally said ‘to heck with it’, and painted her yesterday morning.

This is the beginning, where I block in the darks, planning
the shapes.
Perfect light is not worth trying to plan. The light never takes a painter’s needs into account. I can paint a location all morning and never have that shaft of light happen that Richard Robinson says is God’s finger saying “PAINT THIS”. So why wait? You might as well do it when you can, and forget the desirable light. In any case this house was fairly well lit, off and on, with a cool light in the early a.m. that made for a lot of interesting angles with that complex Victorian roof line. I learned a lot painting this piece, like why I don’t paint buildings very well. I guess I get lost in the puzzle-like character of the shapes. People like Lori Putnam, Shelby Keefe and Greg LaRock make it look so easy. I wish that it were. It’s not for me. So I trudge on, painting buildings in the hope that they sooner or later will start to look more plausible. At least not look like they are on borrowed time, unless they actually are.

At this stage I am playing with the colors and determining the foreground.
 I was playing with a burnt red oxide and ultramarine violet this time. I actually thought that the ultra violet couldn’t be that far off the mixing properties of ultramarine blue. Man can pre-conceived notions be wrong. I really liked the softening qualities of the violet, how it subdues strident chroma when using it in a mix. It’s very different from the blue. And I tried their crimson. It’s a softer more controllable color than alizarin crimson, yet it has deepening attributes when combined with a Cad red light. It’s actually a lot like a carmine pigment. Actual color matching was not what I was mostly concerned with in this painting. I was actually more into getting the light and architecture right, than the color accuracy. With all the downed leaves, the only real natural color, other than the sky, was the yellowed grass and the evergreen spruce. There were no flowers, and the bushes all had that 1920s dun and beige color thing going on.

Broadway Belle
11x14 Oil on board
The good thing about getting out there to paint regardless of the conditions,  is that sooner or later you will find something that is stunning. Like the alley I ran across at 9a.m., downtown. I mean to go back there and see if I can find that light again. Lots of trashcans, lots of kitties, cars, and lots of light. I need practice with cars too. If I remember correctly, it was just down the street from the Broadway painting site.
Maybe that finger of God was there after all.

Favorite quote:
"Don't be afraid to let a good painting go in the pursuit of a great painting."
Rick Howell

To learn about a plein air competition for the benefit of the Wounded Warrior Project, and to win cash prizes and a chance for a two person show,  click here and go to Downloads. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Changes Are Coming - And Not Just The Weather

Those of you who do follow this blog may have noticed a change in its format. You are correct. The format HAS changed. I did this in response to my blog having issues with the interactivity disappearing and re-appearing at will.  Nothing I did caused it and it was intermittent.  I was frustrated. So I can only imagine what it was like on the reader side. Now people should find it easier to comment and otherwise send me an electronic raspberry if you don’t like what I posted, either verbal or visual.

As anyone who has troubleshot a computer or a program knows, an intermittent problem is the worse kind to find and fix. So I opted to not try and to throw in the towel. I have other things on the burner that are for me more important. I have actually traded in a car rather than try and find a computer/electrical problem in an otherwise just fine car. Life is too short to be frustrated. (And I paint???)

On the painting side, I find I am that way about my problem paintings en plein air too. I will take them in the house, especially if something is hiding about the edges of my consciousness, telling me something needs fixed. Especially if I do not know what the heck that thing is that needs fixing. I live with them a while until the goblin pops out at me. And I do know that goblins were for last month, but they hang around here some times, way beyond their welcome date.

Hillsboro Arroyo
6x5 oil linen on board

That was the case with this little painting. I did it a few weeks ago and something really bothered me about it. So it sat in the living room, a 6x6 itch I couldn’t figure out how to scratch. Every time I turned on the TV, sat down with a cup of coffee, tried to catch up on my phone missives, there it sat, staring back at me.

When I read something said by Harley Brown, in a recent interview, the light went on. Harley said (not quoting here) that you should never put the same amount of detail in the background as in the foreground. Imagine that simple a solution! I had gotten to the point where I knew that it was the background that haunted me. I had painted this tiny thing with smaller brushes. I should have kept the bigger ones handy. Once I simplified the background, a few judicious lights were added and suddenly it bordered on the acceptable. Don’t get me wrong – it’s still in the living room. Is it a still plein air? You betcha. I figure it only needed about 5-10% modifications, so according to my criteria, it’s still a plein air. But those pesky goblins are gone for a bit. They were probably afraid I’d mistake them for the turkey. 


Favorite quote:
·“The painting is finished before the artist knows it is.”
Harley Brown

To learn about a plein air competition for the benefit of the Wounded Warrior Project, and to win cash prizes and a chance for a two person show,  click here and go to Downloads. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Glow Before the Snow

Some mornings are just blessed from the beginning. The sun is shining, the breeze is gentle and the colors will blow your mind. The bees are curious, the horses are wary and you experience a morning like no other. That is why I like painting in the outdoors. It reminds me how small I am in the scheme of things, and how all of it will go on long after I am gone. So while I am here, I want to leave my impression of it all. That is a small part of why I paint ‘en plein air’. To show how it is in my eyes, and to give thanks for the existence of it, me and all.
Wow. Heavy for so early in the day. But being in the outdoors is somehow more spiritual to me than being in a church. Everybody has their affinities. Being outside, painting is mine. This is a typical plan and layin stage.

The cottonwoods are passing peak, losing their leaves, and the breeze does have a bite to it, when it blows. The sun is still warm, but soon the colors will fade, the leaves will fall, and winter will descend. So while it is still a riot of color, I drove to Arenas Valley, parked my car, upset the deer in the field and set up my paints. I only painted two small studies. Only 6 x 6 in size. I tried to capture the lights and darks, the brightness of the yellows, the temporary quality of it all.

This tree is massive. It dominates the road. Its color lit up the sky. How could I not paint it? I could have panted that tree all day if I had not gotten cold standing there. Time for layers when I go out, I think. The shadows were great and really defined the solidity of that tree.
This is ‘Colors of Cottonwood’. It is only a 6x6 oil on board.  Tiny, but its impact is massive.

The other painting I did that yesterday, is of a tree lined gully, filled with bushes, trees and golden leaves. I tried to paint the scene, the sun spilling down between the limbs, but it was an ambitious undertaking. This painting is somehow way more abstract than the first one I did. I do not know if I succeeded. I shall have to live with it for a while. But this little 6x6 oil is called ‘And the Deer Hide Here’.

You really couldn’t see them once they got into the thicket. Smart little buggers. It’s still hunting season here. I am sure they came out in the sunshine once I left.
Can you tell I love a fall palette?

Favorite Quote:
Art begins with resistance - at the point where resistance is overcome. No human masterpiece has ever been created without great labor.                                 (Andre Gide)

To learn about a plein air competition for the benefit of the Wounded Warrior Project, and to win cash prizes and a chance for a two person show,  click here and go to Downloads. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

An Open Gate To Opportunity

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So do you go in a gate that is left ajar? Do you NOT go in? I mean it wasn’t closed, or barred. There was a gate; it was open. But it is hunting season, and who knows who left it open. The owner, or the hunters?
I gathered up my nerve (OK, so this isn’t out of character to those of you who know me) and drove on in, right up to the house. Then a kindly lady in her housecoat came up out of her house with a friendly “May I help you?” Which is how I met a very nice friendly lady who let me paint on her property in Hillsboro, New Mexico. As early as it was, Patty was even excited that we (my friend Gay and I) were there to paint her arroyo. She drove by twice to take a peek. And she said she liked the colors we were using. They are not as vibrant as New England in the fall, but they are pretty, very gold and even orange. The dried grasses go from pink-tinged to russet in their depths. So it runs a pretty good competition to many places in the states. But Patty did warn us not to go too far from the road as it is still hunting season here, and there were hunters on her property who had asked to use it too. I guess she feels they can tell a cow from a deer. But could they tell a painter??? I thought it best to not test their discernment skills. We stayed close to the driveway.
My friend Gay Painting in the arroyo - Hillsboro, NM
We painted in the arroyo, with running water, serenaded by the mooing cows that were in the river bed. They stayed on their part, we stayed on ours. We never even got a visit from them. Apparently we were not so very interesting as the grasses on the banks. And that was fine by both of us. It’s one thing to fend off wild burros, snakes and skunks. But a bovine intent on tasting terre vert outweighs me by a few pounds, so I was glad they were in a Greta Garbo frame of mind.
Hillsboro Arroyo - Block In
Oil on board.
 This oil painting is a 10x10 on board. I tried a new format, square. It’s also a bit smaller than my usual size, and so it’s cheaper. Real cheap if I don’t have to frame it. “Hillsboro Arroyo” was actually fun to paint because the river bed was so rock-strewn, that we were constantly losing our balance, which made us look like painting drunks. I did some funny two steps out there! And that wasn’t even around the cow presents.

Hillsboro Arroyo
Oil on board finished
Favorite Quote: unknown
"Step by step, a path,
Stroke by stroke, a painting"

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Travelling for a State of Mind

Your work reflects your state of mind. At least that is what I keep telling myself. I wanted to paint in Colorado on my birthday. So my husband and I got in the car and headed there, with my paints in the trunk. Last year we had gone with similar intentions, only for me to end up in Good Samaritan Hospital having a surprise appendectomy. So this year I was determined to paint SOMETHING in Colorado. ANYTHING in Colorado.

My cousin, who is a pastel artist, his sister, and hubby and I all headed out for Garden of the Gods just outside Colorado Springs. My cousin was intent on going there to paint, and we had not been since our honeymoon, over 45 years ago.  The sky was cerulean, the sunlight bright and the breeze, just a tickle. The traffic coupled with the road construction was a nightmare. We got a late start and needed to be back by a certain time, so the window to work was short. The place was so amazing that we could have wasted our time looking for that perfect view, amidst the wondrous choice of views, and I was determined to not do that, given that our time there was so short. My cousin and I set up right there in the parking lot by the visitors’ center, as the rest of our group headed out to explore.
Welcome To The Garden of The Gods
11x14 Oil on prepared board

Immersed in the play of light, the coolness of the cast shadows and the glow of the red rocks, we got to work. Getting down to the painting of it was the foremost thing on my mind, before I lost that delicious glow. Some of the rocks were on fire with light. Just try painting the light play over a rock face to make you realize how fast the light changes. I no sooner got what I thought was a great introduction to the park than all heck broke loose with the sun dancing across surfaces. The light changed as fast as I put down the value notes. Talk about practicing your visual memory! There was no dawdling. Even the light conspired to make us work fast, not just our schedule. It was an exercise in thinking “O gawd, why didn’t I wait for this light effect to paint……it’s so much more beautiful than the one I am doing!” But if you chase the light you are lost. You cannot paint it all. Darn. I wanted to.  Instead I painted “Welcome to the Garden of the Gods”, and vowed to return some day to do it again.
Favorite quote:

Art is a collaboration between God and the artist, and the less the artist does the better.
Andre Gide)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Winning When You Don't Expect To

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Socorro is a town that runs North/South along the I25 and Rio Grande corridor. It has the New Mexico School of Mines and is an old town in the state. Most people know it only by the fact that they run through it, getting gas and maybe stopping to pick up a few sundries.

This past weekend, many artists, (me and my friend Gay Scheibl included) converged on this lovely place, with the intent to paint for three days and compete in a plein air competition. There were artists whose name I had become familiar as I have been a member of PAPNM for a while now, never having been able to make a paintout for numerous reasons. I knew their work, not them. So this past weekend I got a chance to meet them and share experiences. What a blast. What lovely work they produced. Amazing stuff, all painted in the rain, or under threatening clouds, spiced only with the occasional break in the cloud cover and a sudden burst of sunlight. No wusses here! Those bursts were to die for. The sun had a brightness, when surrounded by the weather, that I cannot forget. I stared at those islands of light, committing them to memory and wanting to paint that dazzling color and light – not the ominous clouds.

Rushing water on the second day made the canyons not so safe, so Gay and I painted in the town center, in a lovely park, with old buildings. Some dated from the 1800s, with hand hewn log ceilings, herringbone brick floors that undulated as you walked over them, and gorgeous overhanging portals. Again, the light was dazzling, if fleeting. We had a tour from a beautiful lady named Marguerite, and got to know Socorro better than the scurrying tourists.

A Break in the Clouds
Oil on board 11x14
First Place Winner in the Three Day PAPM competition

I marveled at the variety in the pieces produced, and at those we painted in the quick draw on Saturday morning. It was my first quick draw event, and the first plein air competition I painted in, with the intent to compete. Pressure! I didn’t even think about it or never would have painted such a geometrically complex piece. I forced myself to paint buildings, something I never would have tried before the LaRock workshop last month. But I did get it done by the whistle blow! Waid Griffin won first in the quick draw. His piece was beautiful and felt wet.

"Box Canyon - A Moment of Light"
Painted during PAPNM - Socorro NM
11x14 Oil on Board

The three day paintout ended with a show at Vertu Gallery, an enchanting gallery, just off the town square. I showed 2 paintings, one a view of the color and light in the town square as the cloud cover broke, and one of Box Canyon, just up the 60, from Socorro. When the awards for the three day event were announced, I was absolutely shocked to have won first. It looked like I was on a different planet than the rest of the painters, mine was so bright. I am thankful and wonder what the judging committee put in their tea that morning, but I am not complaining!

My First Quick Draw - Socorro Abstract Building
8x20 Oil on Board
Thanks to all the other artists for their gracious acceptance of two unknown painters in their midst. PAPNM rocks!  And not least of all, thanks to Karyn and Dave Debont without whom it would never have taken place. Socorro County, the owners of Vertu Gallery - Prescott and Georgette, the Debonts and even the city groundskeepers  made us all feel really welcome. Thank you.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

What the Heck is Plein Air Anyhow?

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Keith Bond ran an article on FASO’s blog wondering what constitutes a plein air work. He said that there are several definitions, mostly referring what percentage of the work had been done in the field, and that each had some validity. He also said that many studio pieces when shown, are sometimes categorized as plein air. Really?

Well……here goes a can of worms…

I think (read in personal opinion here) that the minute you get more than fifty percent of the work executed in the studio, you now definitely have a STUDIO piece. To me, the percentage needed of ‘in field work’ to be a ‘plein air’ is much higher, more around 80% to 90%. Now before you find fault with this, understand that some exhibitions demand that the entire piece be completed on site for a piece to be a plein air. There are times when the underlying paint makes telephone lines, boat moorings, staircase railings and the like impossible to paint until the bottom layer has gone a bit tacky. Tacky, meaning sticky, not a condition of the quality of the painting itself. There are those pieces whose finishing flourishes need to be completed after the fact because the rain, snow, wind, hail (add your personal preference for natural disaster) has made finishing in the field an impossibility. This is understandable. I have shelved more pieces than I care to think about because I could not finish in the field. I am waiting for similarly lit days to complete the paintings. Now THAT is plein air. Being there in the flesh. Whether you are on a chair, under a canopy, sheltered by a car, transported by car, truck, cart, bicycle, horse or mule is immaterial. It means being there, on site, in the act of painting.

Early Morning Crystal Cove
6x8 Oil on board - Available
But if the percentage of the painting left incomplete is so high that it requires an equal or near equal amount of time in the studio to achieve completion, then rest assured it is NOT a plein air piece. Yes you may have started it in plein air, and perhaps it still retains some glimmer of the authenticity that plein air observation imparts, but it is not plein air. The smell of the flowers, the taste of rain on the way, the rising tide, the blow of the wind threatening to blow over your whole rig all lends a sense of reality to the work that the control of a studio, however comfortable, cannot furnish. Think of that Subaru commercial. That guy has it right regardless of what you think of his work.

Afternoon Crystal Cove
6x8 Oil on board - Available
And then there is the light. The crucial element. So you say you have good photos. Good for you. They are not enough. Your own eyes are so very much better at discerning the infinitesimal differences of value from lights to darks in a scene, that no typical camera, digital or otherwise, can compete. Unless you are bracketing a shot, you are diluting the darks into black, or blowing out the lights to white. I mentioned this to a painter who swears she is such an avid photographer, and she did not know what I was talking about. To expect painters to do this is an awfully unreal expectation from people who think their phones are too complex to operate. Yes you can paint from a photo. Will you get the same results? No.  Undeniably, NO.  You lose color in the shadows. You lose temperature shifts of color in the transitions. You lose the unique quality of the light itself.

So to Keith Bond, I say yes there is a point at which a piece can no longer be considered a plein air painting. It’s when it is not painted out of doors. Literal translation from the French: en plein air = in the open air, the outdoors. In other words, not within the confines, comfort and limitations of the studio.

I recently drove 700 miles to take a Greg LaRock workshop in Laguna CA. Yup. That far. And what did we do? We turned our backs on the water, one day, to paint the beachside cottages at Crystal Cove. I could hear the surf, taste salt, pour on the sunscreen, hear the gulls, and here I was, painting the buildings. Wow. I learned a lot. Greg is an unbelievably good painter and a wonderful teacher. He is well spoken, gets his point across and teaches with a natural gift. He teaches plein air. In the field. With the sound of the water crashing in your ears. Creating a feeling that is impossible to replicate in a building.
Favorite quote of the day:
When painting and sketching plein-air I sink into the landscape, and am attuned witness to its mood and beauty.                                                                                    (Dianne Bersea)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Doing the Ant Dance and Other Outdoor Activities

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Have you ever watched the froth of ants on the ground just prior to a thunderstorm? I never have before. They scurry back and forth in a literal boil of little ant bodies, frantic to get back to their burrows, bring their food with them and gather any needed supplies before they head back. Much like people making a run on bottled water, disposable diapers, hammer and nails, batteries and toilet paper before the next big one (fill in your own disaster) hits.

Well if I had only looked down, I WOULD have noticed. No. I waited until they were crawling up my leg and yes, they were biting. Darn. That hurt. I thought the view of the oncoming thunderstorm was too good to pass up. So I quickly parked the car, jumped out and set up. Right in the path of an army of ants hurrying back home, toilet paper, water and diapers firmly grasped in their little pincers. (I looked closely after the first few bites.)

Well I wasn’t ready to give up on the painting, and the oncoming clouds meant that I would not have the luxury of a second setup before the rain made my paint unworkable. So I grabbed the ant spray that I carry in the car, and sprayed the ground around my feet. A healthy couple of shots of OFF and a quick ant dance to shake off those I had missed and I got a chance to finish this small piece. My friend Barbara was laughing at me until I noticed that she was seated under a tree. In all fairness, when we started it was the only shady spot around. But it didn’t take long to change. And under a tree is not a safe place in a thunderstorm. Where do all the cattle go I wonder?

So sometimes when you go out to paint, it’s not the hunt for the esoteric. It’s the hunt for the ant spray and the laughter that the ant dance can bring.

Here is McComas Peak Storm.  An oil, at 8x10 it is available and because it is so small and unframed, it is a wonderful bargain. Email me, if you are interested.

Favorite quote of the day

There is in art the notion of less is more, which is to say, you don't torture a painting that has already confessed.                                                                (Robert Brault)


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Tyrone Thunder

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This week I painted a semi plein air, semi studio piece. It’s called Tyrone Thunder.

Now before anybody gets their tidy whiteys, in a knot because this is a plein air site, get over it! I am still getting over that dratted sinus and bronchial infection, and painting out in the rain does not figure in the recuperation scheme. I’d love to be out painting in it, and it is coming soon. But in all honesty, the weather here has been so very changeable, that you can be comfortable one minute and the intense, falling rain can be threatening to take the feet out from under you in the form of a gully washer in a heartbeat. We drove home yesterday from Las Cruces in one of the most intense storms I have ever been in. Even the semis brought their speed down to under 40 mph on the Interstate, the better to not run over someone they could not see, or to avoid hydroplaning off the road! I got pictures of water coursing through rivers and gullies that I have never seen water in! I am already dreaming about future paintings. And the mountains were being courted by a bevy of clouds caressing their inclines.

This piece is one that started as I was looking out my dining room window. The thunderstorms have been truly dramatic this monsoon season. They usually really get going in the late afternoon, or early evening, when the sun is starting to set. So the skies and the light can set up an unbelievable drama. I did push the pink in the sky for effect, but the darkness of the clouds, at that time can foretell the darkness of the oncoming night. No moon here lately, the clouds see to that.

"Tyrone Thunder"
20x20 oil - Available
Some paintings seem to paint themselves. This was one like that. The concept for it was so strong, looking out my dining room window at the mine, that I knew what where and how intuitively… I also knew immediately when it was done. I didn’t want to piddle it to death with detail it didn’t need. While painting, I reflected on how very much that mine has grown since we have moved here. You could barely see the Tyrone mine three years ago from our house. You had to hunt it down. I actually love the different colors that the overburden has in different light. This view beats the heck out of a fenced in Southern CA view as I look out my window.

Favorite quote of the day:

The artist that paints every tiny little detail is an artist with nothing better to do.                          (Sam Adoquei)


Friday, July 12, 2013

What To Do When It Is Ashing Outside

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The Gila Wilderness has been burning and owing to the draught of the mountains and prevailing winds, we have been inundated with thick ash, acrid smoke and noxious fumes for the past three weeks. My reaction? To get sick of course. 

Consequently, for the last three weeks, I have been in the process of getting better rather than getting out in it to paint. Besides who would want a New Mexico landscape with burnt orange to brown skies? Of course life goes on and we even sandwiched in a family reunion in East Texas over the fourth, the better to get away from our dirty skies and air. Even the prospect of driving across the widest parts of Texas was preferable to staying here and breathing that STUFF.

On the few days that I felt half way human (and they were few ), I stayed in the studio which is now air conditioned and somewhat filtered. What to do? I painted a small still life of some flowers in a copper bucket. It’s an 11x14, from life, en filtered air, not plein air.  To go out was self destructive for those three weeks, so I thought you might all understand. It was fun being able to keep a controlled environment for this piece. Kinda like playing the almighty being, not having to track the light as it willfully moved across the scene. This is Flowers in Copper Pot. Real inventive, my naming skills, wouldn’t you say?

Flowers In Copper Pot
oil 11x14

Rublev Chart No.1
I also took the time to do something I try to get all my painting friends to do. I made some color charts. I bought some new Rublev oil colors at the plein air convention, and they seemed far more subdued than my normal palette, and I had wondered at their range as tints. They were quite dark coming out of the tube and it was hard to tell what they would do as I added white. As I am looking for a new portrait palette, I was interested in what would result. So this is the straight tinting chart of the colors that I have bought. I have not tried to do a chart with mixes, though that is my future intention. Knowing a color’s tinting strength is really important when mixing.  Richard Schmid says that he continues to do color charts even at his stage of development as a painter. And hey, if he does them, maybe I should too! I do know that his book Alla Prima goes into some detail about doing the charts and their value if the exercise is not rushed. He even touts doing the charts in his DVDs.

I know that we are habitual animals and predictable color is a normal thing, but one to be guarded against. I know when I told an artist friend about my flowers in a copper pot, she recited her favorite color recipe for copper. It was certainly interesting to me to know that I had not used one of the colors she had cited! We tend to like certain mixes and rely upon them to the neglect of other colors. So when doing a chart, I ask myself “Is this a suitable replacement for a habitual color of mine?”.  It is definitely broadening as far as building color skills are concerned.

Favorite quote:

Most people think painting is a God-given talent. It Isn't. It is a product of hard work and intense mental effort and only those can succeed who have the capacity for work and the necessary intelligence.  

(Frank Benson)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Floater Frames

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It’s been very, very, hot here for a very long time. So I have been playing inside while the poor wild animals have to deal with the incessant sun and temperatures. We do not have air conditioning, having been told when we bought our house that it was not necessary this high up, at altitude 6300 plus. Somebody fibbed. And it wasn’t me.
So what painting has happened here has been in the studio, under cover from the sun and out of the triple digit temps. This has given me time to think about framing  and various types of framing. Normally I buy my plein air frames. But that gets really expensive when working on larger pieces.

I have been developing, with my hubby’s help, a simple floating frame that he can cut and I can finish. With framing prices what they are, I am opting for bought frames for only those pieces that I deem worthy. And since I rarely like anything I produce once the effort is over, I guess he’ll be building me some frames for a while.

I am just finishing a 24”x24” seascape from my studies and photos while I was in Monterey.  I liked the square format, and it promoted a composition that I might not have done in a conventional horizontal format. It’s quite large for me, since I usually work in at 11x14 ; a size for which I find frames easily, and comparatively less expensively.

Here are several shots of the WIP (work in progress).
Initial layout

Block In

Finished "Monterey Morning"

Floater frames are basically an L shaped frame into which one drops the finished artwork. One either glues or screws the artwork to this frame from behind. The type I am developing with hubby’s help has an extra ¼” border on the inside between the outer frame part and the artwork.  This edge makes it easier to center the artwork in the frame. I can also gold leaf it, or paint it black. That wee edge is a real nice touch. And truth be told, he loves having a project to use his new saw on. Plus he is a perfectionist. How lucky can a gal get?

The yellow is the picture on either board with glued square dowels attached or a stretched canvas.
The lower brown section is where one places the screw to attach the art to the frame.
It’s a lot of work ripping the wood to the desired specs, but he does a lovely job. And as long as I don’t ask him too often, the floater frame might just be the ticket. And a seascape was jut the thing to cool off mentally if not physically.

Favorite quote:
Painting is just like making an after-dinner speech. If you want to be remembered, say one thing and stop. To see things simply is the hardest thing in the world.                             (Charles W. Hawthorne)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Spring - Revisited Along Truck By-Pass

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A few weeks ago I went painting along truck by-pass. There is a bush along that road that turns pink for about two weeks out of the year. The rest of the year, it is a nondescript, dead army cammo green. I had a good painting morning.
When I got home, I put my painting next to the one I had done of the same bush last year. It’s interesting to see the differences in what is essentially the same composition, same location, same bush and same painter.
And I wonder at the changes. I did not bring the earlier piece along with me, as I did not want to unduly influence this year’s painting.  I thought that I had changed the composition. True, there is a big depression and ditch so one does have to be careful to not become one with the landscape, and the cactus in the area makes that a tumble I would not want to experience. So the area that you can walk about looking for a different vantage point to paint is limited, which might help to understand the similarities.

Spring On Truck By-Pass
Spring 2012

Pink Bush Spring
Spring 2013


There are differences in the two pieces.
  • The first is much more tightly drawn than the other
  • Last year's is more colorful than the other
  • The newer one has freer brushstrokes
  • This year's is more cool in tone than last year's work
I find I like the newer one far better. It seems less self-conscious to me, and more painterly. Which do you think better?
Favorite quote of the day:

Be of good cheer. Do not think of today's failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles. Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost.”
(Helen Keller)


Saturday, June 1, 2013

Sketching the Blues Festival

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I have been painting and sketching this past week. The sketching was in the middle of the Blues Festival, here in Silver City. It’s a Memorial Day tradition here with many of the locals avoiding downtown for the duration.
But the city’s merchants love it. The influx of people and the business it brings is enervating and a necessary shot in their fiscal arms. The music was good, as we sat in lawn chairs, watching the parade of exposed, sunburnt freckled skin and smelled the burnt carmel corn, and churros that the food vendors were hawking. It is tradition in this southern NM mountainous part of the state.

In the midst of this hoopla, I decided to try to sketch. Using Kath McCaulay’s system, (she swears you can be invisible while doing this), I did one little sketch of the crowd and the musician who was on stage. She was right. You can be invisible while doing this. So now I plan to try doing this in a restaurant tonight. Nobody bothered me, stopped and intruded or otherwise caused undue attention to be brought to play. Neat.

Blues Festival Sketch
Then this morning, I went out to paint a view I have ridden by every time I have left Silver for Deming. It sits right off the 180 South, a lovely little ranch that seems to sit upon the landscape, alongside the Grant County airport road. At this point the land seems to be stretching out from the Moggollon and Burro Mountains foothills to the flatness that supports Deming. You could see the Floridas Mountains, but only just barely. I have always loved the way the house and barn just seem to flow with the roll of the terrain.
So I stopped and parked and set up my paints and board, nodded to the cows in the field and started to paint. I was doing just great until a snake (a really long, skinny, silver-gray thing) slithered past so very quickly. I didn’t hear any rattles, and would not even have seen him had he remained still. What really unnerved me was the much bigger snake that was nearby that I didn’t see or hear until I was almost done with the painting. No rattles, just lots of attitude. So I finished much more quickly than I wanted to, and really kind of just splashed in the foreground. I left him to his piece of the road and the hunting I was obviously interrupting. So here is the rushed version of the Edwards' place. I painted less than an hour on this one. I just threw things into the car, I wanted to get out of Dodge too.
The Edwards' Place
So I ask you, too many people (complete with kids with filled diapers and chain-smoking fiends) or too many scaled critters? You can come across either hazard when you leave the safety of the studio. I think I’d rather the scaly guys. They pretty much avoid you if they can. Can’t say the same for the two legged critters.

Daughter says to get a snake bite kit for the car. Not a bad idea.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Bag O' My Tools

Long time friend Katherine Tyrrell has espoused and promoted sketching for a long time now. Her blog “Making a Mark” is a great source of inspiration and resources for learning and obtaining materials along with reviews of materials and artists. Katherine is the consummate sketcher, plunking herself down on steps at Westminster Abbey and the heck with passersby, and just going into her own world with pen and sketchbook in hand. She has sketched her way across a lot of France, the US and her native England. The results of her work can be breathtakingly soft and beautiful.

So with this powerhouse sketching friend, and my new friend Kath Mccaulay from Tucson, noted pocket sketcher and artist, why on earth did I wait so long to sketch outside? After all, I paint outside. Why not sketch too? Especially when travelling on the back of the motorcycle. Sketching materials are so liberating rather than taking along the painting kit that my oil paintings require. Its sometimes a choice between my riding rain gear and painting stuff. 

Good friend Vivien Blackburn also sketches the moors and roadways of her native England as well. She is not a city dweller, so her sketching is more the rural side of the countryside. Lovely works, she often shows the moody side of rock, glade, water and fen.

Felt pen and watercolor sketch #1

Why not do both? I can paint when I have the infrastructure to do so, and now I can take along a sketching kit when the time and the situation do not permit a full on oil painting. Both are plein air, but sketching is so unobtrusive that you can even do it in a restaurant. I have witnessed Katherine T. do it, and even been the subject of her sketches when she liked my dangly earrings and straw western hat, as we drove across Arizona together.
 Kath McCaulay has honed down the sketching kit to a compact fanny pack that straps about you and is something at which, the casual stroller would not even take a second look. It’s a great thing for walk-abouts and touring. Go here to see it. Just drop down the page a bit to see the bag. Its amazingly compact.

Felt pen and watercolor sketch #2

Sketching is, to me, even more personal than oil painting. Each piece seems to have a life force of its own. Sometimes that life force results in a lovely energy filled piece. Sometimes the piece resembles that over the top, hyper five year old everybody wants to shush in a restaurant. These paintings are valued because of  “Iren”, the life force in them. Your hand and stroke work in these sketches is ever so apparent. You CANNOT hide your personality in them with perfect finish. They glow from the life they have.

Felt pen and watercolor sketch #3

So here I am showing you the very first of my sketches using Kath McC’s system. With practice I think I’ll like this. The portability is a BIG plus. The onus of not having to do a ‘finished painting’ is liberating as well. If it goes south, you have only lost 15 to 20 minutes, not the hours that a painting takes. And coupled with photos, these little sketches have within them the values and color notes that are necessary if an artist wishes to develop a larger painting and doesn’t have the luxury of time to do a full on oil sketch en plein air. I guess the sketching was inevitable, given that all the artist friends I have do it as often as they can.

I will be giving a short talk on 'sketching on the loose" June 8th at the Customs House in Deming at 9 a.m. Drop on by if you'd like to catch it.

So one more tool is getting stashed into my bag o’tools. I must be becoming an Irish artist, ya think?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Monterey Reflections 2013

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I am filled with anxiety about posting my paintings from my trip to Monterey.

I know that the only person you are in competition with is yourself and your last painting. And the majority of us are so wanting when we compare ourselves to the giants of plein air that we watched up on the stage, that we feel humbled.  I know that I can only paint as good as I can paint right now, and that plein air has it’s own inherent situational problems. I know that NEVER do we EVER paint as well as the masterpieces we paint in our own minds. I know that I talk to myself as I paint just to remind myself of what is uppermost in my mind as a goal with this current painting.  It’s a miracle somebody doesn’t call the men with the white coats that have those VERY long sleeves. So all that said……here goes.
I will post four of my paintings, flaws and all here for you to see. Just judge kindly and remember the 50 mph gusts of wind!

First is the seascape that I did the first day we all painted together at Asilomar State Park, just south of Monterey. It’s done now, or as done as it’s going to get. Are there things I would change? ‘You betcha’ as my Midwestern friends would say. There are at least two paintings in this study, if I ever work from it later on, and I may, there is material here for development.
Day 1 at Asilomar State Park

Second is the piece from the Sunday that I left Monterey. This piece has two paintings in it as well. I am sensing a theme here. I think I am not simplifying ENOUGH. Maybe next go round I won’t get distracted and may remember this lesson.
Piece 2 at Asilomar
Third is the only painting that I did in which I actually like some parts. It is of the coastline along the community of Monterey. Although there is a lot in this painting, the hierarchy of subjects works for me.  I painted along with Michelle Maris and Debra Groesser that morning. What a fun day.  This was the first time I ever painted cypress trees. Man they are weird and twisty! But fun! And I sure didn’t get much of the Pacific in this one, but trust me, it was there, cold, wind and all. Funny story – a Monterey local came by and told me “You sure can tell you’ve painted those trees a lot!” Go figure.

Monterey Cypresses

Fourth is the painting that I did in Santa Ysabel CA on the return trip. I took that day to spend with my friend Glenda and we painted together. The sun seemed to fairly race across the sky that morning and I didn’t want to get caught in the race, so I committed and painted what I at first saw. It changed so very much from that early threatening sky that it looked nothing like this by the time we finished. I love this valley and as long as we lived in San Diego County I had always wanted to paint it.

Santa Ysabel Morning

Hubby’s favorite is not at all what I would have expected it to be. He likes number one. What’s your favorite? Or do you not have one?
All these paintings are available, already framed in gold or black. If you are interested in any one, please email me.

Favorite quote of the day:

There are four artists: There is the artist you think you are, the artist you wish you were, the artist you want others to think you are, and the artist that you are. If you spend too much time thinking about all this, you may never find out who the last one is!                                                                                        (Susan Holland)