All week I told myself to get out to the studio and work more on this painting. All week I stayed in the house doing other stuff. Finally went out there yesterday. Now the feet are left to finish. This painting has actually required very little work and something about that makes it seem less important. Stupid. The length of time worked on a piece is irrelevant to its value. I should be thrilled that I have experienced no real pain in doing this painting. The colours come to me, the brushes lay it on, and the session lasts maybe two hours. Still I am very tired at the end of the session so I suppose I must be working harder than I thought. I have decided, also, to keep this plain and simple. No extraneous do-dads or fussing with anything. Kind of goes against my grain:-)
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Tuesday, November 6, 2012
I can scarcely believe a whole month has gone by since I last posted! I was fairly tired after the workshop and spent a week cleaning up, reorganizing, and just resting. The beautiful Autumn weather was not to be missed by spending too much time in the house so apples were picked, wood stacked, grass raked, walks were taken and time just standing in the waning sunlight, soaking up warmth was enjoyed. Then the rains came as they always do up here this time of year, and we have been preparing for winter. A new, very efficient woodstove in the basement is heating up the house so well we are finding we only need to use it once every couple of days and what a savings on the expensive oil furnace!
Michael Ward, the intrepid male model from Victoria, arrived for a day of conversation, eating, (homemade vegan treats) and posing. He was to have been accompanied by the beautiful Tegan but she was not able to come at the last minute. Too bad as I had dug into my stash and found fabrics to drape her with that would match her currently dyed pink hair! Another time, although the hair will likely be a different colour by then. That's ok too.
Michael posed for me so I could just draw but mentioned feeling a little sad that I am not as inspired by the male figure as I am the female, and that is true. I think I understand the female form so much better, physically and psychologically, plus one can seem to play more with the subject, poses, dressing up, hair styles, backgrounds, etc. I always feel more constricted by the male form - more serious? Less bendable and twistable! Michael does have a collection of marvelous costumes and I am thinking I should look into this, see what he has, and work from there. He presented two quite large, beautiful photographs to me, taken by well known photographers who often use him as a model. In one he was dressed in full medieval armour and in the other he was posed with Tegan, both body painted and set in a dramatic, futuristic, apocalyptic setting.
Having Michael here provoked my conscience and I pulled out the drawing I had done of him months ago with intentions of starting a painting and I did just that. I am sticking to the 16"x40" canvas size that is my current favorite and got paint on the surface this week. After the preliminary background work and a bit of value placement on the figure I started in on skin tones yesterday. I was not in the mood to fuss. I had no powers of concentration available for itsy bitsy paint-every-square-inch-precisely as I tend to do. I kept the palette limited: quick dry white, naples yellow, cad yellow medium, cad red medium, burnt sienna, brown pink, indian red, permanent rose, and indigo. I looked at my photo reference and mixed some colours and kind of slapped them on. I had NO patience. I was irritated and feeling restless. I kept looking out my window and asking myself if I really want to continue painting for the rest of my life (I know, I know...what kind of a question is THAT??). It is such hard work painting and I find myself feeling fed up and tired of it all sometimes these days. Part of me seems to want to just rest, to retire I guess. Another part rebels at such a notion. I will never stop. I know that, but I think I may slow down. I am actually liking the days I spend going over recipes and pulling together interesting foods. The act of keeping the house clean (at least on SOME days) feels like a prayer to living and honouring that privilege. I take a lot of time with books and I am a shamelessly promiscuous reader. I am constantly discovering new authors (new to me) who open doors in my mind and allow me to travel on the beauty and skill of their amazing craftsmanship. How do they find the right words and the way to put them together just so? Look for A Message for the Emperor by Mark Frutkin to sample harmonious ideas and structure; simplicity and complexity woven seamlessly. Some painters can do that too.
This I painted in that outside-of-myself mood of no patience and realized after the strokes were down that I had found where I truly reside. My hands know and I let them off the leash. The rest of the painting may not match this. I won't know until I return to the canvas. I don't mind either way as I am happy with what I discovered.
Michael is scheduled to come visit again at the end of the month and bring another lovely female model whom he knows. He is very devoted to the needs of his favorite artists and photographers! I've never known another quite like him. I posed him for more photo references while he was here and had intended to use Tegan with the fabric full of stars, but I posed Michael there and think I know what my next long, skinny canvas will be, only horizontal this time. Michael is a star in his own right:-)
Friday, October 5, 2012
The workshop went really well! Six were scheduled to come for the weekend sessions and at the last minute I received a call from another person who had heard about it and wanted to know if I could squeeze them in. I decided the more the merrier. While we were, indeed, kind of "cozy" all in one space I found that this little group was very attentive and serious about improving their skills, taking what I talked about and demonstrated to heart. It is so hard to put it all into a mere two days, the things I want to show people and have them understand, things it has taken me so many years to develop in my own head.
We started the first morning with drawing from a skull replica that I set up on a table. I wanted to emphasize the underlying structure of a head/portrait, which I happen to think is important for understanding the process of portrait painting.
"Yorick," the studio skull
I drew these two versions very quickly to show the basic elements to be looking for and how to avoid getting hung up on extraneous details. After an hour or so of drawing "Yorick" we moved on to Planes of the Head:
Last year,before I got this "Planes of the Head" figure, I debated for some time about whether or not to invest in it...the head is not inexpensive. It has turned out to be one of the best purchases I ever made for my studio. "Planes" is wonderful to set up in a variety of lighting, to test angles and to see if a proposed pose is going to work. One of my students this weekend is a talented woodcarver who would like to do more portraits and he spent most of his time with "Planes", drawing and redrawing it. One side is carved very simply and the other side has more detail. Moving from the skull to "Planes" was a smooth transition showing how bone and muscle shapes work together to form a head and face. We spent a couple of hours with "Planes." From there to the living model was an easy step, and spent the afternoon and all day sunday working with Mary Ann, our living model.
Apologies to MaryAnn, as I should have spent some time taking a better photo of her! She has good bone structure and is very attractive! I will try to get a better photo of her when I see her again and vindicate myself! At least this shows the transition between skull, Planes of the Head and drawing and painting from life, (see top photo of my painting demo). I was more engrossed in drawing and painting her and seeing to the needs of the class than I was in photographing things; all to the good as far as the workshop went!
Bob, as always, played chief cook and bottle washer, and amazing host to all our guests. Lunches were tasty and satisfying, as was dinner for the three students who stayed overnight with us, after first taking a leisurely walk up the old logging road on the mountain we live on. We spent the evening over wine and nibblies, talking at length about art, telling each other funny stories, and never got around to kicking back to watch NetFlix. Could it get any better? It is a weekend I can relive in my mind over the upcoming long winter when we may be snowed in and hoping the power comes back on soon.
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
With the Portrait Workshop coming up in a couple of days I have decided to put this painting away for a bit and give my brain a chance to work on it incognito so to speak. It looks very close to completion but I know something is missing and quite possibly I'll understand what that is later next week when I return to it. The good news is that it does not have to be ready until late October so I have some breathing time.
I am doing a lot of cleaning and straightening and rearranging to get ready for the workshop, especially as some of the participants are staying with us overnight on saturday. Certain things, not necessarily the SAME things, are priorities for Bob and for me. How clean does the tiny furnace room really have to be? Is anybody going to look in there? What about the area of carpet on the other side of our bed that our dog Gabe owns, which you can't even see from the doorway? Did the reverse osmosis water filters really have to be changed TODAY? and take all morning? Bob, you aren't seriously going to make a Mexican Chili for lunch to serve these people...we have to be together for two whole days!
I have to move things around in the studio to make more space available. I hope this computer will pick up the router signal from the other side of the room. I love this large desktop but so many times I have wished I had opted for a laptop when I was computer shopping five years ago. This iMac works perfectly and does everything I need it too so I have absolutely no excuse (or budget) to get a new one. I was secretly considering a refurbished mini laptop - I can get a nice one for under $300 - with the money I make this weekend from the workshop. However, my car insurance renewal bill arrived in the mail yesterday, which will eat up the whole works and then some. I am trying very hard to appreciate being able to pay my insurance bill, which would be more difficult without this weekend's income, but somehow the excitement is missing.
Friday, September 21, 2012
Feeling a bit better about this now. I have to wrap my head around the idea that it's ok to let shapes and colours just kind of land on the surface and not worry if it isn't perfect or is completely correct in proportion, etc. It would be too easy to get lost for weeks on end in all the little leaf shapes for instance; a recipe for insanity. This is what I ended up with today.
This was yesterday's work with closeups below. I am allowing one small figure in the piece. This was a little girl who was part of our group who sat working on paintings of her own. I think it's appropriate since this IS The Children's Forest!
The figure is so tiny in the painting that there is no way I can add any facial detail, but that's ok. I just like having her there.
Bruce, am I getting the hang of slapping it on yet?
Thursday, September 20, 2012
Coming along, coming along, and nail biting being avoided. Yesterday I made the mistake of losing the "big picture" and spent too much time picking away at a very small area:
Studying the work of a few landscape artists whose work I admire is helping me to get back on track; artists like Bruce Sherman and Brian Buckrell.
We'll see what today's session brings.
Sunday, September 16, 2012
The weather has been so beautiful I decided to pretend to be a plein aire painter and took all my gear outside (but I'm working from sketches and photos so it isn't really plein aire:-) I meant to take a photo of my outdoor setup and then forgot, so I'll try to do it tomorrow if the weather persists in being so perfect!
This piece is 20"x30" which is a decent size to be attempting this landscape. I need to get it done within a couple of weeks so I intend to keep at this daily if I can.
This is interesting for me because I am so accustomed to working with the figure or portrait and knowing just what steps I need to take, whereas here I am stumbling along trying to figure out the best procedure. As it turns out the steps I'm taking are similar to my approach to portraiture, laying in basic values and building up layers of colour. I guess painting is just painting, eh? I have to admit I'm not entirely unhappy with it so far but the ol' "what if I ruin it?" syndrome is in the back of my mind. I have to keep telling myself, "it's only paint, it's only paint," but I have the same fears no matter what I'm working on, and I am fairly good at ignoring them.
Working outdoors on such gorgeous days is such a treat. All of us here on the north island are taking advantage because we know that the rainy season, (rainy, chilly, windy, there-goes-the-power-out-again season), will soon be upon us. On the other hand, that means it will be time to fire up the woodstove and enjoy cuddling under blankets, reading good books, lighting candles and oil lamps, and making wonderful dishes from the fruits of our garden put up in jars or the freezer. I need to get back to that afghan I started last year when I broke my ankle...it's only about half finished. Simple pleasures really are the best.
Friday, September 14, 2012
I am the champion procrastinator at times but finally I started on the painting for the Cortes Children's Forest fund a couple of days ago. My start is ok but now what? Landscape painting is not my cup of tea and so I will probably be struggling with this as I add more layers. Just looking at things as shapes and values is helping so I need to plunge in and get some real colour on this baby.
My week has not been a total waste of time,however. I caught up on paperwork, housework, laundry, and cleaning up the studio. After the weeks I spent silk painting my dress I returned to find stuff everywhere! I am normally a fairly neat worker but my frenzy to complete the outfit in time overcame my natural tendency to clean up as I go along. Now all is in reasonable order again and that provides peace of mind for me to at last delve back into painting. I even rearranged paintings on the walls.
There is good news regarding my upcoming Portrait Workshop...so far I have five students! There was a sixth but she backed out yesterday because she realized some of us (including me) will be using oil paint and she has a very strong allergy to oils, even when working outdoors anywhere near an oil painter. I have looked at her work and I know I could help her with what she is doing, but I also completely understand her problem. I have allergies to many strong odors, although not as bad now as when I was younger so she has to do what is best for her health. Maybe I could work out a future workshop for portraits in acrylics, since so many people use those. I used to paint with acrylics but don't really think they are as wonderful for subtle shifts, blending, and luminosity as oil paints. What about water soluble oils? I have some that I bought a few years ago when they first came on the market and hated them. I am told there are better ones out there now that really are much closer to the feel of regular oils. Perhaps I should try a few colours, just primaries and black and white, and see how I feel about them now. I wouldn't mind a bit if I could put solvents, even the pretty good odorless ones, (my favorite being Gamsol), out of my studio permanently.
Thursday, September 6, 2012
detail from "Tristan Traveling Through Time" oil, 36"x36"
I am giving a portrait workshop the last weekend of September here at my Sayward Valley Studio. Several people have asked me about when I would do this again as it has been quite a while, so I decided early Autumn was a good time. Here are the details:
September 29th & 30th
organic vegetarian lunches included
Basic structure of the skull and planes of the head will be first morning; drawing in graphite
Afternoon work from live model and begin to discuss skin tones, hair rendering, lighting, poses
Second day continue colour work from model
in Oil, Pastel, Color Pencil, or Acrylic
I can put up four people and there is a very nice B&B and a hostel nearby; also dinner available at Cyprus Tree Inn; breakfast available at Cable House.
As I stated previously lunches are part of my fee, made with loving care by my wonderful husband, Bob:-)
I have two signed on so far and need at least two more, but four to eight students would be ideal. Anyone interested should call
I understand completely that this is not going to be possible for most who read this blog but just thought I'd mention it anyway; I also know it is a bit short notice. I think I have to get better at long term planning for these things!
Saturday, September 1, 2012
The deed is done! My son and his beautiful bride, Rachel, are married!
The trip back to Hilton, NY was long and tiring but so worth it. Unfortunately Tristan had an accident on his motorcycle six days before the wedding and broke his right tibia and ankle very badly. He had to be put in a cast up to his upper thigh and on tuesday (after the wedding) he had surgery. A metal rod the length of his entire shin and a plate with six screws around the ankle was inserted, and another cast going all the way up the leg. The cast can come off and a new one below the knee put on in a couple of weeks if all goes well. Neither Tristan nor Rachel let this setback make a dent in the wedding plans and the whole event was truly beautiful, taking place in the back yard of her parents' home, four acres in the country! A large tent was put up and included a dance floor, many round tables, chairs, etc. lights, and beautiful table settings with floating candles and tea lights all over, and sprinkled with red and white rose petals. The ceremony was small with only immediate family but at 9 pm the 100 invited guests arrived and everyone had such a good time that no one left until 2am!
You probably notice that Rachel is wearing black. It is her favorite colour to wear and she didn't feel constricted by our present day convention of the bride being in white or a soft pastel colour. She had a friend make the dress and this picture does not do it justice. Gorgeous! In fact, the picture of Rachel does not do my new daughter justice either...she is incredibly beautiful! And sweet, and smart and most important, she truly loves Tristan (as he love her) and is SO good to him. Also her family and I hit it off immediately, which was a big relief as we had never met before. I stayed with them for several days and felt completely at home.
As you can see my dress was a success (the "backup dress" was with me but stayed in the closet:-) and got a lot of compliments. For being 67 (I had my birthday while I was away) I suppose I looked presentable and enjoyed being in something other than jeans/sweatpants, t-shirt/sweat shirt, and gum boots, my usual apparel for up here in the semi wilderness. I took several nice things with me to wear which hang ignored in my closet most of the time and it was a treat to go out looking civilized. Now they are back in the closet no doubt for quite a while until some other special event comes up.
I will get back to posting about what I'm doing artwise pretty soon. I have to start the painting for the Cortes Children's Forest fund auction this month. Oh yes, I just found out that "Spanish Shawl" was accepted into the FCA AIR show (Annual International Representational) so must ship that off in a few days.
Monday, August 13, 2012
The hem layers actually hang pretty evenly at a side slope...
the upper layer is hanging weird due to the way it is on the hanger...looks better on a body.
Another quick post...I couldn't resist showing off photos of the dress which is finally about completed. I have a few straggly fibres to trim off the hems and may add some extra hand embroidery to the neckline, but otherwise I am finished! And with a week to spare! And, to my amazement I have discovered that I am down to 112 lbs. and I wasn't even trying...I haven't weighed so little in about 20 years. (I guess that shows what a bit of stress and hiking around wilderness forests will do for you.)
Now I have to get back to sanding and refinished the rest of my studio deck. Can't wait to get out there...sigh.
Now I have to get back to sanding and refinished the rest of my studio deck. Can't wait to get out there...sigh.
Sunday, August 12, 2012
Part of our group last weekend on Cortes Island in the Children's Forest
This is just a quick check in as I haven't posted since mid July. I have been SO busy and will continue to be so for a while. And it's only nine days until I leave for the east and my son's wedding. (The dress is turning out great thank goodness!).
I spent three days last weekend on Cortes Island with a group of other artists and those who live on the island trying to arrange financing to buy a tract of forest there to keep in perpetuity for future generations. They are calling it the Children's Forest and have many of the island children involved in this. A logging company has plans to come in the next few months to start logging much of the island and it will be a real shame if they take everything! Those of us who were invited artists spent the time photographing, sketching and painting to come up with ideas for finished artwork that will be auctioned off on SaltSpring Island in October (they have a bigger potential for lots of buyers there). I cannot begin to tell you how well we were treated...and fed! It was an amazing experience and I want to delve into this more and provide many more photos in a later post.
My Mother-of-the-Groom dress is very close to completion and has been through a few transformations (i.e. ripping out and redoing). I will also post photos of me in the dress at the wedding at a future date.
Cheers to all of you and I hope everyone is having a wonderful summer!
Thursday, July 26, 2012
The dress in progress - mostly pinned together here!
I know it's been a few weeks since I last posted and I can hardly believe I let so much time go by. My excuse is extreme busyness and many nights of falling into bed exhausted. You see summer finally arrived up here and there were so many outside jobs to tackle, although Bob does most of the really hard stuff:-) But, also, I realized time was slipping by very fast and I needed to get started on making my Mother-of-the-Groom outfit. I had planned something similar to a design I liked a lot by Ivonne Dome, a designer for Mon Cheri. I ordered Peace Silk (they don't have to kill the silk moth!) and began a long, tedious process of relearning how to dye silk and how to make it into something to wear other than a scarf or shawl.
I started with many drawings and little watercolours. Then I had to find a pattern that was reasonably close to what I had in mind and then alter it to meet my requirements. That is a long story in itself...long and boring. Anyway I then moved on to figuring out how to stretch such large sections of silk and getting the pattern onto the fabric without having it move all around, mark the area with a special pen that has fade-away ink, draw Gutta resist around those lines, let it dry, then apply the dyes. That meant experimenting with dyes on fabric samples first since I wanted this to be fairly subtle. The dyes are quite strong and intense so I ended up adding a lot of distilled water to them and only had to mix the colours a bit - the turquoise had a bit of royal blue added and the leaf green had a bit yellow added.
I decided to go with a seaweed theme since there are so many beautiful specimens of these plants and you can play with the shapes. The above photo shows how the colour looked when first applied, and it was just what I wanted; soft and subtle.
This, however, is what it turned into when dry. All the green migrated to the edges of the gutta and left the yellow showing. You see, I had painted the blue first and didn't steam it, I just let it dry and then painted on the green seaweed shapes. That made the dye mix in with the underlying blue, and thus the migrating green occurred. At this point I was days into the project and very tired. I decided to go with it. I just didn't want to be dying and steaming the same pieces of fabric twice. I just use a big canning pot and cook up the silk on a hot plate sitting on my studio floor. (Silk isn't just crammed in...it is carefully wrapped and placed on many, many, many layers of round cut newspaper and a shield of foil). Steaming for wearables is approximately four hours. Check that water level every half hour or you could end up with ashes to wear...
French Seams are Good! When you turn them over they disappear!
The next phase required some sewing tutorials. I have sewn a lot over the years but don't have a lot of experience with such delicate, slippery, fussy fabric as this. I was getting very frustrated with puckering and snags and general this-is-so-home-made looking I could die syndrome. Finally found an article that discussed my problem and voila! French seams and other techniques that allow you to sew delicate fabrics beautifully. All the puckering went away and I felt rejuvenated, because, you see, I had almost decided to GIVE UP this effort and go with another option - namely, to wear an outfit loaned to me by a friend.
Ok, I'm not there yet, there is still a ways to go but I stand a good chance of actually coming up with a decent result, something I, and more importantly, my son, won't be ashamed of. As I progress I will post the further efforts. And that picture at the top is not the finished product...that is still just a partial finish. Most of it is just pinned together so I can see what is happening.
At least I have a backup outfit and I strongly believe in backups.
Sunday, July 1, 2012
Completed (I think) and leaving me ready to go back to the other two small floral works I started two months ago! I still might go in and pull a few more petals out into the foreground, but for now I am reasonably happy with this. I can't think about it any more.
I received some excellent news on thursday...all three of my entries into the Sooke Fine Art Show have been accepted. Considering there were 1335 entries and only 163 artists made the cut, and only 19 of those had all three of their entries accepted, I feel especially honoured and pleased! Now I need to pull together 12 copies of my bio (they have bio books about the artists laying throughout the gallery display area) and print up some new art cards (we are encouraged to have cards and prints of our work for sale in the gallery gift shop), and pack up the work to deliver next saturday. It is about a 4 1/2 hr. drive and I was so happy that Bob immediately suggested we deliver the work in person rather than shipping it. It is a chance to visit daughter and grandson who live down that way; maybe even pick up Tyler to bring back with us for a few weeks. Here are the three pieces that are going into the show:
I am also taking Debbie Reusch's piece "On the Gauntlet" (she is my neighbor up here in Sayward valley) for her as this was accepted into the show. Due to some misunderstanding about the dates of production on two other of her works they were disqualified, unfortunately, as I think they stood a good chance of also being accepted. Debbie does beautiful watercolours. You can see her work at http://www.debbiereusch.blogspot.com; I know she would love you to visit. Her work is delicate and sensitive but with a very strong underlying feel; each of her pieces is carefully thought out and constructed yet not static or cold...they offer a sense of quiet satisfaction and appealing comfort.
We continue to live in our rain slickers over sweaters while the rest of the continent seems to be baking and thirsty. Sick as I get of so much wetness I realize we are actually lucky...I could not work in all the heat and humidity and I very much dislike air conditioning. Today, Canada Day, a bit of sun maybe? Hard to tell at 9:52 am, but at least it is not currently raining! Good thing we live on the lower slope of the mountain as all the water slides past us rather than filling our basement and it is not at flood stage in the valley floor although the river is quite high. It's hard to find a wetless enough day to cut the grass and soon it will be kneehigh again if it doesn't dry out a bit soon. My gumboots are holding up well at least.