Sunday, February 24, 2013

Get Out There And Paint!

That is what I did today. Why? I dunno. Seemed like the prudent thing to do, that is, for about fifteen minutes. The thermometer said 40+ degrees at home. But down in the bottom of the canyon it was in the lower thirties, with a stiff breeze blowing. So much for playing it smart. I even waited later in the morning, until the light was not throwing long shadows, so it would be warmer. What the wind chill factor was, I have no idea. I only know that by the time I finished, I could no longer feel my finger tips. So grabbing the brush, even with my fingerless gloves, was proving to be quite a challenge.
I finally threw in the towel and cleaned up my spot, making sure to police the area for errant paper towels and runaway brushes.
I painted Karen Carr’s place again, but this time from another vantage point, looking slightly down on it. I included more of the buildings and no truck this time. The buildings were moved to be able to include the distant mountain range, which was decidedly blue today. It’s nice to play god and move things about; especially when the composition wouldn’t otherwise work. It is still recognizable, but slightly altered for compositional considerations. 
When you paint in the studio, you have complete setup control You abdicate that when you paint plein air. So I figure if I can't change the temp, the sun or the wind, I sure as heck can move a building!
Wind Canyon Etude 7
Oil on Board 11x14
The little bit of snow we have had has melted almost completely away. So my hope of getting some snow painting in has proved elusive.  The land still wears its golden brown dress and has not got any evidence of new greening about to pop up yet. So my palette was mostly in the muted gold and neutral range. This late winter painting gives me practice with mixing grays and neutrals, as in when painting the naked deciduous trees. With the lack of rain and snow in the area, I may have to restock the yellows and golds in my palette.
We still have a couple of months before the warmth comes back. Maybe we will get lucky and get some rain and snow. In the meanwhile, I guess I’ll learn to paint with paint that stiffens with the cold and wear another layer, like maybe a wind breaker. That is the price you pay for getting out there and painting.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Learn As Though You Will Live Forever

Go to My Website

I’ve been off my stride with this blog.  Apologies all.
But I have a good reason. Two weeks ago, I taught a pastel workshop here in Silver City. It was very well attended and I can honestly say that everyone did a bang up job with the challenges I had set up for them. They all dug in, got familiar with the new stuff and produced lovely things. From semi-abstract to very detailed realism, the results were exciting.
After her return home, one of my ladies had a stroke. And it was not of the kind that allowed recuperation.  When we were working I had quoted Mahatma Gandhi’s words to ‘Learn as if you will live forever’.  She had done just that, and with enthusiasm.  We all had spoken about how tomorrow is not promised to any of us, that we should do what makes us happy and fulfilled.

Angela's Teddy Bears
Our friend Angela did not make it and we were saddened to attend her memorial service three days ago. All of this was a shock, as not one of us had noticed anything out of normal bounds, when we spent the last couple days of her life with her. Her eyes had danced with excitement for those two days.
The abruptness of it all makes the quote and the artistic intensity of Angela’s last days almost an imperative in my mind. It is even more important to me to learn as though I will live forever; to paint as though I will finish every work I start; to honor like minded friends by thinking of them as I create my pieces. Perhaps some of their spirit will enter my work that way. I know I will never teach a workshop with complacency. I will cherish every discovery by every attendee, love the ability to share the passion, and in doing so honor my artist friends, and those who taught me.

So do the same as Angela did, and learn as if you will live forever. Maybe through our works we can a little bit.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Simply Getting There

I wondered why my plein air pack was getting so heavy. 

You see, I had been using a back pack on rollers to transport my painting things. The wheels were small and didn’t negotiate sandy or gravelly surfaces very well and often I had to pick it up to carry to the site before setting up to paint. So the transport from car to view point could be taxing.  This was especially true as the bag seemed to get heavier at each outing.
One of the things that a backpack does very well is hide things from you as they migrate to the bottom of the bag. When in the field I defy you to find those pliers, or that sunscreen. I had a heck of a time doing that. So upon your return, if you are like me, you throw into the bag those items you could not find when you were last out. That is how I was carrying about 3 pairs of pliers and 2 large tubes of sunscreen, along with 6 tubes of various yellows and 5 of different blues.

Enough!  No wonder I was played out at the end of a painting day.
This is what I was using. Notice the tiny wheels. They rolled smoothly as long as the surface was slick and like marble,

I saw a great little system that a fellow painter had and asked her about it. It consisted of a black metal tube folding trolley with 5 inch wheels and a cooler she had purchased at Walmart. Her wheels traversed a gravel parking lot with ease, while I had to carry half my kit. I seldom if ever actually backpack in to a site, but I do cross many different types of surfaces from fine soft sand to asphalt and concrete paving.  I realized that I was carrying as much as I could without wearing myself out totally. You do need energy to paint, and I was wasting it on logistics! And this system was compact enough that it could live very comfortably in a small compact car.

This is what I now have. 
 Look at those wheels! You could hitch a horse to this thing, and it would fly!

The beauty of it is that it is washable, crushable and inside car friendly. It is a collapsible cooler!
Everything is open to view once the lid is unzipped. It comfortably holds my Open M paintbox, my paints, turps container, brushes, fingerless gloves, sunscreen, vinyl gloves, hand wipes,  mahlstick (retractable backscratcher from Walgreen’s), trash bags and water bottle. And it is all visible from above. No more trying to find things at the bottom by Braille method. Believe me, that was an adventure in the case of my razor blade paint scraper.

Painting season is upon us. Take stock of what you are using to paint in the field. Is there a better option to fit your needs that you might find less taxing and more efficient? As I get older and find I am unwilling to give up my time outside painting, it is obviously worth my time to work these things out.  It is easier to paint outside when you are not huffing and puffing from the exertion of simply getting there.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Pastel Inside for a Change

I know this isn’t plein air, but it is art and you might be interested why I have not painted outside so much lately. Number one reason was the weather and the fact that I am wimpier than when I was younger. 
My pastels in their travel Heilman case
Number two is that I held a pastel workshop here in my studio to introduce many different papers, pastels and ways of working to people who had pastels but no working knowledge of how to even start a piece. Some had started but left the work in confusion, knowing there was an easier way to do this, but what the heck was it? Having it here meant that I had to clean and organize my studio so that was week one. Then week two was spent in setting up tables, chairs, and covering tables. I also had to get a drawing done for them so that they could concentrate on the pastel part, not the drafting part, and getting photos enlarged so that whatever they did not finish in the studio could be worked on in their own work space and I still had to set up my own pastels.

A workshop attendee who swears she isn't
a 2 dimensional artist. I am not listening to her anymore.
She fibs.
 That meant tearing down the oil setup for my studio and breaking out the pastels. So I have been busy. One of the beneficial by-products of all this activity is the finding of various and sundry items that I had wondered about since our move from California.  I liken this situation to the single sock syndrome. Such as, here is the pencil sharpener, where the heck is its base? Well I found many missing items that had been oh so carefully put in a safe place, which in my case equals the kiss of long loss and death. I can actually find anything I need in that studio now.

A student enjoying her very first workshop, and her
very first pastel piece.
The students were amazing. We didn’t dwell on inexperience in the medium, we just all jumped right in, experimenting with different papers, underpaintings and pastels. If we moved along quickly, it was by design. That gave them less time to dwell on how unsettling it was to be out of their comfort zones. They were all a bit uncomfortable and that was good. It provided a common ground for people who had not known each other before. And it was invigorating for all of us. I love teaching as it solidifies many concepts when I have to give voice to them for others to understand. And I love questions that are well considered and insightful, and there were plenty of those.

Student block in for Teddies Left Behind piece.
And did they produce! Wonderful pieces, from semi abstract to tightly realistic pieces, everybody had successes and room and direction in which to grow. I’d say that this weekend was an unqualified success. It certainly enriched my experience and I was very pleased when I could see the lights go on above their heads when a concept clicked. I do like those light bulbs.

The piece directly to the left is the very beginnings of a talented student's piece with antique teddies, sailboat and red truck. It was intriguing to see  almost 20 teddies take form and all of them unique in color and attitude and expression.

Favorite Quote:
The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled, for it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching.        (Gregg Stone)