"Everybody knows a work of art takes at least an hour!" Lucy to Linus, (Peanuts)

FineArtViews Painting Competition - Twice in the Fav 15%

http://canvoo.com/boldbrush/badge/13203 three times selected for FAV15%, Fine Art Views Bold Brush Painting Competition

Thursday, December 30, 2010

I Feel Another Painting Coming On...

This week I met with Samanda and visited her family home where I was introduced to Chica, their parrot. She is sweet and gentle and very social so it was a real treat. I have already planned my next painting with Samanda in it but now I think there will be another to follow that...one with Chica included. I am envisioning something but don't want to discuss it much since when I do that the project has a good chance of never happening. I need to learn how to keep my consul when planning my work...I can be such a blabbermouth though. When I did the pastel painting of Lisa with a Lyrebird I didn't talk much about it and the result was successful and sold almost right away! I had to research Lyrebirds and try to incorporate found photos with the images I had taken of Lisa when she posed for me. This time I can pose Chica with Samanda - always a better option for having light and angle work together. I think it will be later this Spring or Summer when Samanda is home from school again and it will need to be at her house. Chica is very sensitive and might not want to cooperate in an unfamiliar setting (like my studio). In the meantime a friend has given me about $300 worth of canvases that she is not going to be using so I am probably set for the whole of 2011. Happy New Year to all!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The 100 Hurdle!

Sketches for Stained Glass ceiling, Las Vegas Hilton Hotel, circa 1973
Today is a milestone...One Hundred followers! Wow. I really never expected to earn the interest of so many and I am very appreciative, believe me! I shall endeavor to keep you all from getting majorly (is that a word?) bored and find good stuff to talk about and intriguing images to post.
This is a serious motivator for me to keep a fire under myself to produce the best work I can.
Thank you everyone!
I decided to celebrate my 100th follower by showing some old sketches of mine from my Illustrator days. I had just moved back to LA in 1973 and found free lance work with a company that made stained glass windows and lamps for commercial use (restaurants, etc.). They had me design windows and lampshades for The Rusty Scupper restaurant chain first and then I was hired to design a ceiling that was to be 24ft. long for the newly built Las Vegas Hilton Hotel...one of the lobbies. It had to have an underwater mermaid theme I was told. I knew a bit about how stained glass is put together having taken a short course that same year and understood about the necessity of designing to make sure the connecting areas of glass would not cause stresses that could compromise the stability of the whole. I was enthusiastic and excited. I worked for a couple of weeks on a lot of ideas and finally came up with the one you see at the bottom. I also did a colour drawing but that has long since disappeared unfortunately. Even more unfortunate was my client's reaction. Instead of the happiness and thrill I hoped for, he was very concerned over the complexity of my vision. He also did not want to pay for the 80plus hours of work I had put into this project. He paid me about half of what I expected, took my design and had his inhouse designers rework and simplify it. The result, which I didn't see until a year or so later when my husband was passing through LasVegas and stopped to take a photo of the ceiling, was a mere token of my idea. It was cartoony and limpid and a major disappointment. All I could do was chalk it up to experience. A few short years later the hotel had a big fire and the ceiling was destroyed I am told. Karmic justice I thought secretly to myself...

Monday, December 13, 2010

It's That Time of the Year

"Cat Nap" oil 22"x28"
How can I think about the upcoming plans for new work right now? This happens to me every year about this time. I am not especially enmeshed in holiday rush stuff as it is basically just Bob and me and possibly Elissa and Tyler will come up after Christmas for a few days. Old thoughts press to the forefront and it is hard to find the impetus to start a new canvas. That will pass as it always does so I just go with it for a time until I am sick and tired of not producing anything:-) Meanwhile I post some old work, but most of you who follow me have not seen it so to you it can be new. This was my son, right around Christmas time, back in the early 80's. The material on the futon was from drapes my mother had made for the house in the 50's. I used that fabric for quite a few things around my own places. I still have some of it. Very trendy stuff now I understand. She also made the afghan draped over my sleeping child. That got ruined when I washed it and put it in the dryer...I don't think she ever quite got over my doing that...I thought it was dryable yarn, which all her other afghans happened to be! I had just gone back to school to work on my MFA when I did this painting. I was excited and inspired. It got me into a good gallery and sold to somebody in Philadelphia but I don't know who. I often wish I hadn't parted with it.
The cat had been with me since Toronto and moved to LA with me and back to east to Rochester after I got married and had Tristan. Poor, Puff...had to give him away finally as my allergies began to cause serious health concerns for me...he couldn't forgive that but he didn't understand the deadly alternative to finding a new home for him. No body promised him life would be easy
but I did my best, for both of these little guys. Tristan is 34 now...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Winter procrastination

Cyclamen & Lace colored pencil 24"x30"
It seems to be happening a bit early this year, the sense of procrastination that overcomes me every winter. I think I can manage to get through it soon as the guilt will become too much and force me back at the easel. I will once again wonder what the problem was since I am always
very happy after I become absorbed in the work. In the meantime I am putting together all the
pictures of our wedding in an album - from eight years ago! They have been sitting in a box all
this time; talk about procrastination...
Above is a colored pencil piece I did quite some time ago when I still lived in Rochester, NY. This was a window in my tiny attic studio. I draped a lace tablecloth over the curtain rod and placed a small potted plant on the sill to brighten up a dreary, winter scene. I had used the same lace cloth as a curtain in previous abodes right from the mid seventies when there was no money to buy regular curtains. It always provided a sense of elegance to an otherwise somewhat impoverished environment, but then, I have read that artists know how to live well even when they have no money - my places never wanted for interesting decor:-) Now they call it "shabby chic."
I hear the pages of the wedding photo album calling...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Last Image of Samanda, I Promise!

"Juanita in her Hat" - graphite sketch from life
"Juanita" - vine charcoal sketch from life - 1/2 hour pose
"Chrysalis" - oil - 36"x24"
I reshot the painting of Samanda, titled it "BodyWrap" and submitted it to the online FineArtsView
competition for this month. Having been chosen for the top FAV 15% in September with the painting of "Lisa" I am hoping for another notice! We artists are consummate "egoists" - always about Me, Me, Me, I know...so let's talk about YOU for a change...tell me, what do YOU think about me? Old joke, I know. Anyway, this is the last post of this image for a while. I just wanted it to be a better shot than what I posted previously - colours are more accurate here - at least on MY monitor - what about yours? Someone wrote me that Samanda is like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis and I love that idea and it feels very right, so I have to retitle this piece and call it "Chrysalis". Much better! I am so lousy at naming my own work or finding the right metaphors for it...it is there in my head, all of it, but putting actual names to things is not my strong point. I wonder if I can go back and rename the piece in the competition?
The sketches are from yesterday's drawing group at Vicky Scott's studio near Courtenay. I haven't been for a while so it was good to get back. This model, Juanita, we have had many times and she is really wonderful to draw. Vicky and I discussed hiring Juanita to pose just for us and one or two others who are interested in a long carefully planned pose. Most of those who come are interested in poses no longer than an hour. I would like to do an oil painting of Juanita and I loved what she was wearing yesterday. Again, it just felt right. I can never describe to models what it is I want from them accurately enough. When it is there, it is is simply obvious. Juanita has a natural grace and sense of beautiful posing and features that are timeless. I have several quite beautiful drawings of her. A portrait is in order soon, I think.
Thank you for all the wonderful comments on the painting of Samanda! It is so great to have you guys around! It is ok to let me know when you don't like something I do, also, you know! (But be gentle:-).

Monday, November 22, 2010

I'm Saying I'm Done...

This painting has reached the point where I just can't work on it any more. Every new brushstroke would be fussing. A friend says the fabric is creating a mystery in that it is impossible to tell if she is wearing a sari like dress or just wrapped in fabric that is hooked to the sky somewhere out of the picture frame. Her face, she said, looks out with vulnerability but not
with fear. I don't have the answers.

Friday, November 19, 2010

What Colour is "Flesh"?

Continuing with the painting of Samanda I am once again made aware of the huge variety of colours in so-called "flesh" (of the human variety). Caucasians are not just "white" or "peach" or
"rose" toned. Darker skinned peoples are not "brown" or "black". We are all made up of the same
rainbow of colours, just different intensities and values of those colours. Our surroundings and the lighting we are in also influence the colours that stand out in our skin. Samanda is Asian. Her skin has beautiful golden tones. Here in her arm I noticed intense orange and soft yellow but also sienna, umber, viridian green, shades of lavendar, and deep reds. Cerulean Blue and Naples Yellow mixed to make some of the greenish tones, while Permanent Rose, Alizarin Crimson, and Burnt Sienna, and Cobalt Blue are in some of the shadow areas. The red/violet and blue colours in the fabric she holds in front of her reflect subtly on her arms and under her neck and chin. I am unable to locate a single tube of paint that would be the right "colour" for painting her or anyone else. I notice that many artists paint beautiful portraits of people using quite limited palattes, mostly umbers and subtle mixtures of red, yellow and white. There is nothing wrong with this in the least - I just find it more exciting to really look for all the variations that are actually there in the models skin. If you really look at your own hand, move it into varying light and shadow, and you start to notice that rainbow that is part of all of us.
An aside: I entered the Blossom Art Competition recently and received word yesterday that I was not juried in. They had 2300 entries and a very limited number that could be accepted. I look forward to seeing those who were chosen and congratulate them. This is a competitive business but not being accepted does not mean one is unworthy. A different jury would pick a different group of paintings. I am aiming fairly high lately so I have to accept with good grace that I still am a winner because deciding to aim high forces me to paint as well as I can and to reach for more than I might have. I had entered "Nicole in the Rose Trellis" and "Heather with Peonies" and both paintings achieved a benchmark level for me - now on to see if I can surpass myself!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"All Art is Propaganda" George Orwell

Opening up into our valley on the walk home...Salmon River
in the distance.
Coming down the mountain...
Bob with three of our four dogs - Micky is probably in the
waterfall to the right:-)
We live on the right hand lower slope of Mt. H'Kusam
I want to thank those of you who had such gracious comments regarding my post of yesterday. I only know you through this blog and your blogs but it has come to be a meaningful community to me as I think it has for you. I allowed myself to drift into a perilous mood and expressing it in my blog was possibly not wise but it is how I am sometimes. Reading a compilation of Orwell's essays called All Art is Propaganda, by George Packer, intro by Keith Gessen. This is a statement Orwell made several times in his writings. So much thought from the 1930's feels so relevant these days. There was a definite political correctness influencing artists and writers of that time; "Anyone sensitive enough to be touched by the zeitgeist was also involved in politics."
"It was a time of labels, slogans, and evasions. At the worst moments you were expected to lock yourself up in a constipating little cage of lies; at best a sort of voluntary censorship." Anything that wasn't anti Fascist was suspect (not that being Fascist is a great idea!) but the point was there was a lot of censorship going on and stifling of free thought. "It is inconceivable that good novels should be written in such an atmosphere. Good novels are not written by orthodoxy-sniffers, nor by people who are conscious-stricken about their own unorthodoxy. Good novels are written by people who are not frightened." The same holds for all the art forms. In this current political climate there are slogans and projected suppositions regarding ecology, human rights,
animal rights, and what it means to live an "authentic" life. I admit to being on the side of Democratic Socialism...I like having a government who cares about the health and well being and education of its citizens but one who does not infringe on the rights of that citizenry to think and act freely without fear. This is a tricky balance. In every time of history there are complicating and mitigating factors that influence and push events. Artists need to feel free because they are the canaries in the mine so to speak. They hold up a mirror for everyone to see into if they choose to. Even art I don't care for or ideas I don't believe in have a right to be out there. Thus, I do try to be honest but understated in my own work. I don't really want current ideologies to be plastered in my face but I don't want anyone telling me or any artist what to paint or write or dance or act...My pain is for all those in other places struggling to have that right...to just be who they are without persecution, (accepting, of course those who for whatever reason are inclined to seriously anti-social and psychopathic behavior - even full blown anarchists don't want gunslingers and barbarians at the door! Question: Can a violent psychopath be helped?). Here, in our "relatively" peaceful Western society, though, certain notions are stifled and big corporations seem to be financing a lot of worrisome things all in the name of the bottom line. I like to consume stuff too - I grew up in a consumer society, but I know when it is over the top. That is why I am finally finding that I need much less than I used to think, and it is a big relief. Look at the photos above of where I get to live. Our home is modest, our income low, but we live in a spectacular place as yet unspoiled and I am frightened that soon there will be no place like it left. If "all art is propaganda" than I hope to propagandize the idea that, when we are fed, housed, healthy, free, educated, (and I mean REAL food, not MacFood, human scaled and sensitively designed homes and work places, education that is open ended, open minded, and thought provoking, and health care that is fully available without bankrupting you) and mostly that we are kind to one another "all we have is all we need." Gee, I don't ask for much, do I...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Return to Samanda

Yesterday I arranged all my wares beside me and pulled up the images I have on my computer of Samanda. I was not in the mood to paint but I began anyway. Have to get back into a painting I stopped working on over a month ago and not feeling too pleased about it. Within ten minutes I was fully back and lost track of the time. I felt all thumbs and left handed. I played with some colours I don't normally work with (Prussian Blue, Napthol Red). I heightened the contrast and colour in her hair and lightened the upper left hand corner, reworked the drape of the cloth and fussed with her lips. It occurred to me that I am once again at a point where a change is going to happen in the way I work. These are usually subtle and not too apparent to the outside observer but to me they are major. I was just getting comfortable. Drat. This always happens. I am bored unless I am working outside that comfort zone just a bit. Now what, I ask myself. Finish this thing and move on, that's what. It is NOT going to be the painting I envisioned (they never are) and I am going to accept that and do the best I can with it. I wish her pose were different, slightly turned more with emphasis of weight on one hip, maybe a different expression on her face...maybe not looking out me with such expectancy and challenge. And once again, that small itch that sits in the back of my mind, I wonder if doing this is a worthy occupation in such "interesting times" as we live in. Should I be in Darfur attempting to save refugees from the terrible civil war? Would it help if I could raise enough money to rebuild Haiti or build new lives for those who have lost everything in Pakistan or Indonesia? Would I ever know where to start such undertakings? I mention them on my FaceBook page and sign the petitions and rail against all the injustices I hear about. Yet there is that self centered me who just would like to be able to be here painting, reading my stack of books from the library, and listening to amazing musicians on my stereo, making some Apple Crisp from the harvest I shared with the bear, being in touch with friends now and then...and without guilt because I have it so good and so many have it so bad. The years spent struggling to make a living, to find my way, make some imprint on the world, raise my child, trying to defeat the severe clinical depression in my DNA, all are beginning to feel far behind me now and I just want peace. I wish the world the same. I want everyone to find their true way, their true heart and joy. It is naive to think that will happen any time soon. A dear friend tells me that birthing art into the world and seeing the happiness that brings to others is gift enough. It would be so nice to think that was true.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Art Expo Workshop Demo

I received this photo today from Susan Schaefer, who, along with her life partner, Jeff Shields,
organized the whole Island Art Expo event that I took part in last weekend. It is not a closeup of Ruth, my model, but at least it does show that I was working from life. I had a table set up next to me with a Masterson sealable palate and brushes, etc. I don't like to take along everything I own for painting on site so I have a couple of carryalls that hold everything I need and this portable easel. I had a spotlight on a tripod just off the picture edge. I had no idea what to expect for
the room I was to work in so I tried to be prepared for a variety of possible situations. It has taken a lot of trial and error over the years to come up with a suitable way to pack for these trips. It is never perfect but generally I am able to manage nicely.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

One Hour Demo

At the Island Art Expo this past weekend not only did I get to do a portrait of Santa Claus but I gave an hour and a half workshop/demo on portraiture. This always is a tense situation for me since I feel I have to "perform" well and do an impressive job in a short time. Talking and demoing is also a bit of a trick since I want to concentrate on what I'm doing and not on my verbalizing. The model arrived in time and sat very nicely...didn't move a muscle for the entire
hour...she is a professional and that helped very much. I began and proceeded and got through
the demo without shaming myself so for that I am pleased! I was actually just starting to get the
feel for my subject and wanted to continue, to make all the corrections I could see were needed, but the time was up and I managed to discuss my process fairly coherently...everyone seemed happy. I cannot believe, though, that I did not take any photos of the model so that I could work
on this at home. Perhaps that is for the best. I can use this as a reminder of what is possible for me to accomplish in a short time if I'm expected to, and also how far I have yet to travel in my quest for improvement.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Island Art Expo weekend

I am back from the weekend art expo down in Qualicum Bay at the Lighthouse Centre. Exhausting but fun time. Bob couldn't come along to help me schlep stuff because we have
four canine children who can't be left alone for three days and would not really be welcome romping around the art expo venue. Some gallant male artist friends helped me get those
folding doors set up and then yesterday, repacked into my truck.
I did several quickie portrait sketches over the weekend and yesterday morning a man came
to my table and asked if I would be averse to doing a portrait of Santa Claus. "Why would I?" I replied. Santa is as entitled as anyone to get sketched if he has the $15! (Everyone was giving
me $20 for their sketches...knowing that they were STILL getting a real bargain). So Santa came
in the afternoon and sat for his portrait sketch. He was a big hit with the other show goers.
The musicians that played on stage during the weekend enjoyed him too but were not inclined to
break into "Jingle Bells" thank goodness. It is still a BIT early! But I posed with Santa to prove to any skeptics that I really did do Santa's portrait(!) and darn it, my chipmunk cheeks are showing...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cupcakes and All I Need

So, ok, I got a bit carried away with this cupcake theme. It was a fun vacation for me, though, and I think I can get back to more serious mark making now that I have that out of my system. The painting of "Samanda" sits patiently waiting for my return over there on the other side of the studio. She is quiet and undemanding, except that the look in her eyes is a bit reproachful. I have now, in any case, my Christmas gifts ready to send off in a few weeks to my mother-in-law and sister-in-law, loving women in my life. I promised them hand painted scarves and I like to keep my promises when I can. Being a new Senior "pensioner" is giving me a sense of freedom I've never had before...I still intend to market my work but the sense of urgency is gone. I can breathe. I can relax a bit. I can sleep nights instead of wondering if this will be the month we can't make the mortgage payment. And thankfully our needs are small. I am letting go of a lot of the materialistic desires I once had. The house isn't my dream house but so what? It is a good house. A strong, warm house. I have put my stamp on every room and it enfolds Bob and me. The surroundings here are magical...I live in nature...the best decorator ever. The food is wholesome and we have enough of it. The birds visit, the dogs romp, and the other wildlife visits (sometimes when not invited but always welcome so long as they don't eat everything in sight and wreck the topiary). All I have is all I need. But a new camera would sure be nice...tell you what...I'll trade a personalized cupcake scarf for a good used Canon T1i Rebel DSLR.

Monday, October 18, 2010

FineArtViews Painting Competition Award

I got a wonderful surprise today when I got home from a long day in both Courtenay and Campbell River with Bob running errands. I thought I would quickly check my email and received the message that my painting "Lisa" was selected as one of the FAV15% in the September FineArtViews Painting competition. This is means I might get featured in the informed collector section sometime in the coming months. I am trying to embed the award badge in this blog but I got a message that the gadget is broken right now. Hope they get that fixed soon. In any case, I feel very grateful to the jury and feel that I am finally making a bit of progress in getting more attention for my work. Artists ride the fence of ego vs. selflessness, trying to offer the world part of their gift and at the same time wanting some of the spotlight as a result. I am no different. I would like to be a well known, well regarded artist. I'm human! I also seriously hope that my small efforts bring a bit of light into our world...I am aware that in the long run none of this matters but while we're here it is nice to contribute in a positive way and be recognized.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Nicole Up Close and Personal

I decided to post this close up detail of Nicole since I have received comments and emails about her skin tones. I struggled with this for quite some time and kept scraping off what I had done. I finally realized that there was a lot of yellow light bouncing around in the trellis area, a distinct
lemon colour, greenish and pale. When I used that it seemed to come to life at last. In a photo it is harder to see, unfortunately. In any case, this gives a better idea of what is going on in those skin tones. Lots of Permanent Rose also for the reflection from the deep red flowers, especially around the chin. Used a pale, greyed lavendar on her forehead. I felt like I was painting a clown face at the time but it worked! I am very appreciative of everyone's enjoyment of this painting. No word yet on how its doing with the Blossom show jury.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A "Bearly" Plausible Notion

This guy (or girl - don't know which!) has been seeking the center of my attention for over a week now. No matter what I do, hanging out old smelly dog blankets on the fence (after repairing where he crashes through), old dirty laundry (don't really want to go there...), rewiring the electric fence, sending the dogs out to do bear baiting duty, picking all fruit and cleaning up everything I can think of,and stomping around the yard banging loudly and annoyingly (just ask the neighbors) on a pot with a big metal spoon, this bear just won't take the hint. A real cutie, though, don't you agree? When Bob gets home in a week (God, a whole WEEK??), we are going to string barbed wire. Maybe put a loud speaker out there and play heavy metal 24 hrs. a day.(Isn't that how they finally got rid of Noriega?)
Meanwhile I am seriously considering doing a painting of this yard wrecker...just wish I could get close enough to make sure I get his eyelashes correct.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Heather's Sister

Nicole in the Rose Trellis oil 16"x16"
Here is the other entry to the Blossom competition. I've posted Nicole before but some of my newer followers may not have seen her. I so appreciate everyone's wonderful comments about
my work and it is very motivating! I never expected to find so many other talented people out there who would be interested in what I'm doing. I love following all of you also even though I
don't comment all the time - if we commented on everything none of us would have time to paint!
Regardless of the outcome of this show I'm trying for the support from all of you is enough! Who needs a jury full of strangers to give us the vote of approval when friends, old and new, are so warm, helpful, considerate, and just plain fun?
Meanwhile, I have to get back to my Black bear, the one who keeps breaking into our property - a real cutie who is having trouble with overstaying his welcome. See my FaceBook page for pics. Or maybe tomorrow I'll post one here. It has also been suggested to me that I should do his portrait as I have a pretty nice shot of him up our big fir tree. Hmm. Maybe I will.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Waiting and Wondering

Heather with Peonies oil 14"x14"
This is one of my two entries into this year's Blossom competition - the one with the big awards and a national tour. You are allowed to enter a painting that includes subjects other than flowers, but flowers must be a major part of the image. I don't know if my portraits of two sisters with flowers around them will qualify (the other is my "Nicole in the Rose Trellis" piece.) I love to paint most subjects but it always feels more "right" for me if a figure is included. Entering shows is now part of my regular routine but the waiting and wondering if it will be accepted is a bit frustrating. There are so many wonderful artists now...have there always been? Or is it that we are a more affluent society that has allowed the inner artist in so many to come to flower? More people can afford to be artists, not having to struggle just to survive...although there are still far too many in the world who exist that way. The starving artist in a garret is merely a romantic notion that has never been the best way to nurture one's talents. Most artists don't care about becoming millionaires but not having the funds to keep a roof over your head, decent food in your belly, and pay for the needs of your children is not in anybody's definition of a great way to become "true to your art." So, I continue to enter shows even though part of me dislikes the whole juried thing, the separating what one person or a committee thinks is good from what they think is not worthy...when, in fact, the same work presented to a different jury will likely be rated differently.
It's a gamble but part of being an artist is not to hide your light (i.e., your work) under a barrel but to have others be engaged with what you have done, to find delight or meaning in it and to let you know that your efforts are appreciated. We all need a pat on the back once in a while...and
some coin to put in the bank on occasion is nice too.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Look at an Older Painting

I just entered this is this month's Bold Brush competition...it is from about four years ago and won
an award of Excellence at the CIPA show in Calgary. I ask myself if this is the direction I want to continue in...highly detailed and lots of time spent on small colour changes...months of work. Or do I want to do more of the painting-in-a-day themes? I did a few of those when I first started this blog. They were fun and there was a nice sense of accomplishment being more prolific. When I get back to painting on Samanda's picture I imagine I will strive for more of what I have going here, but there are fewer fussy details to consider. I hope to get back to that painting soon...too much in the way right now! Anyhow, if you like this consider going on to facebook where I have it
posted as of yesterday and vote "Like" for it and it will place it higher in the popular competition part. I am at Karen Martin Sampson on FB. If anyone likes it enough to buy it that is one thing, but there is no charge for simply "liking."

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Finished Silk

I managed to steam the silk without anything bleeding, waited 48 hours to wash out the gutta,
and this is the finished result. For a first silk painting project in many years I am not unhappy with this, although I now feel I could do something more exciting. I think Sandy will like this in any case. It is time I was getting back to the painting of Samanda. Maybe tomorrow?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tuesday Drawings

Every tuesday, well almost every tuesday, I drive an hour and a half down to the Courtenay BC area, a Dove Creek property just north of the town, to Vicky Scott's studio. She holds a drawing session each week and we hire a model. The group size varies from three or four to over a dozen week to week. I love the interaction and friendships I have formed in this group over the past seven years. Working with a live model is the best ever way to keep your drawing "chops" up (I have been married to two musicians so I sometimes use their lingo). Recently the group has asked me to give lessons so now I go down there on thursdays also and teach for four hours...they even PAY me! How great is that? Sometimes the models are clothed sometimes nude but we have endless discussions about what we're trying to accomplish and the learning goes on for a lifetime. The drawing process brings your mind around to the essentials and seeing mistakes is much easier than in painting, at least for me. My first love was drawing and it will always be a passion for me, much as I have come to love painting and colour. In art school we were cautioned to take full advantage of the life drawing classes because there was a good chance we would not have access to live models too often in our "real" lives. That was true for many years but in the past decade or so there has been a resurgence of interest in life drawing and we have four groups that I know of just in the mid island region that meet regularly. Most of us are older and female but there are men and younger people too who have come to join the drawing movement. This is one of the things in my life that keeps me sane!
Boy, I nearly missed the boat with this one yesterday - got sidetracked by that great hat and messed up proportions on her legs...
We always start with two minute sketches - forces you to stop hovering on details and get to the nitty gritty of the pose.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Painting on Silk

I haven't had time to work more on the painting of Samanda. With Bob traveling down to Wisconsin to be with his father, who is dying, I have a heavier chore load around here, which is ok. I'm glad to be able to manage it. I did start a painting on silk over a week ago, which I scrapped (washed out) after a miserable start. It's been over 8 years since I painted on silk and I am in relearning mode. It is not quite the same as watercolour painting. There are some technical things that you need to know in order to avoid making a huge mess. It is coming back to me! I am doing this 36"x36" scarf for my dear sister-in-law, Sandy, (of the Presenting Miz Sandy fame - see blogs from last spring). She requested "ferns" when I asked what she would like me to paint.
I am also going to do one for my mother-in-law. Sandy suggested cupcakes. That will be fun!
Silk requires a lighter touch and a leap of faith. You draw the image with a gutta resist and then apply the dye with a brush and let it flow. It blends to the edges of the resist and stops (unless the resist has a leak!).The colours can be mixed right on the silk or in little glass cups. Over painting, too many strokes, letting part dry and then going back in causes blotches and ugly spots but sometimes they can be fortuitous if you are willing to play and take a few risks. Once the image is completed the silk is carefully wrapped in newsprint and placed in a container (a canning pot is good) so it sits over water that is brought to a simmer. A solid lid that holds the steam in is necessary. The steaming goes on for about four hours to set the colour. The results, if there are no problems with water touching the silk and unexpected "bleeding" of colour, are
spectacular - vibrant and satiny. Glorious.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Shifty Business

Repositioning the mouth and nose made all the difference. I felt comfortable going in to work more on the skin tones and bring out highlights on the entire face. This is the burden, if you will,
of portrait painting, constant shuffling, shifting, and reworking. Patience pays off. Acceptance that it probably isn't going to be right the first two, five, or ten times of making changes...but that with each change it will be closer. Only very occasionally have I found that all this change making made a portrait worse and that usually indicates a fundamental problem that goes back to the initial concept...the pose, lighting, or composition. I am not entirely finished with the face but for now I will move on to another area so that what I have done has time to stew in my brain. I may yet discover another shifting that has to be made. Note that the way I work on a portrait is not necessarily the way anyone else should. I have developed my process over time to suit my temperament. I know some portrait artists who paint very directly and are able to make the changes very quickly, or may have to make hardly any changes at all. We aren't all shifty:-)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Nudging the portrait likeness

Although I am not really concerned with this being a "portrait" with an exact likeness I find myself evaluating the facial proportions with almost the same obsessiveness that I experience when doing an actual commission. It just bothers me when I can see things are "off" a bit. Measuring and looking over and over, putting it away for a while, bringing it out again to look at again, and I start to see where I need to "nudge" the features into truer position. I have posted here the fix that is necessary to bring Samanda's features where they belong. I was off by just a very tiny bit - eyes I had right on, but nose, a trifle too long (although shape and size were right) and mouth, (also size and shape correct) therefore needed also to be brought up. We are talking less than 1/8" . It is quite amazing how the human face can look so different when features are off by such a small measurement. A slight crease in the wrong spot, a dimple over to the right or left too far, a jaw a bit too wide...all these can make or break the "likeness." The biggest change I had to make was the width of the jaw - I was too wide by about 1/4". Her neck is now going to look longer, but a longer neck is almost always of benefit to a portrait. I don't mind a touch of mannerism in neck, limbs, or torso. I will let the repainted lines for the nose and mouth and jaw dry thoroughly before going back in to repaint the skin tones. I do not want them turning into mush. Mush is distasteful in painting as well as food.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Off in its own direction already

Taking a break from this today and contemplating the next session. Already the painting is off in a direction that I had not wanted it to go in, which is more intense colour than I expected. I had an idea of keeping it pretty high key and very subtle, low value colour, but it got away from me. I can bring it back no doubt but now I have to decide if I want to do that. This always happens and I keep promising myself that someday I will do the same painting in more than one version so that I can really explore the various possibilities I envision. Decisions always have to be made and once made remove other "might have been" results. Monet liked painting the same scene in varying light situations and the results were quite intriguing, although I have to say that haystacks and old cathedrals don't really hold my attention, (I hope I won't be struck down by the Art God for my blasphemy!). Anyway, I do want this painting to have a subtle overall look from the slight hue changes in the fabrics, both wrapped around the figure and in the backdrop. One side is warm, the other cool. It is too easy to get caught up in small areas and forget to keep the entire image in mind as I work.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Who is that behind those Foster Grants?

Here is something to keep away the monotony of just watching me paint Samanda for days on end...a colored pencil piece I did back in the early 90's. I have always loved those early Renaissance portraits and wanted to do something to update them a bit. Four versions of this
were started, including one in pen & ink with hours of stippling. I repositioned the heads in a
better composition than this but never completed it. I just ran out of steam and enthusiasm. Kind of fun but pointless:-)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

An arm and a hand...

Today, by the time I got to the painting, I wasn't really in the mood but knowing how things work if I decide to push through my lethargy I took up the brush. I became so involved that I didn't even know it had been raining right outside my large window until I came up for air a couple of hours later. I worked on the neck, hand, and arm but had a rough beginning. The first hour was me muttering to myself that I didn't seem to know what I was doing...just mixing colours randomly, applying them carelessly and seeing what happened. The second hour I felt the "groove" and suddenly knew what I was supposed to do. I just needed to get into that zone of concentration and I'm sure most of you who are so kind to be following me know exactly what I'm talking about.
It just can't be forced, but it can be nudged:-) There are a rainbow of colours in these skin tones.
Lots of very dark reds and umbers, lighter shades of cerulean mixed with a bit of naples yellow, and subtle purples. I will need to get back into the shadow areas around the fingers...maybe I won't even have shadows there. They are making her fingers look kind of pudgy...don't know. I'm too tired to have any sort of good judgement.
I also want to get a few small things ready for an outdoor exhibit on Sept. 11th that my Campbell River gallery is having in the Spirit Square next to the Campbell River Public Gallery. If the weather holds it could be good opportunity to make some connections. I also want to get started on the two large silk scarves I have planned. One is stretched and I have my reference ready...just have to work up the impetus to mix the gutta and actually start. I'm also waiting to hear about a couple of shows I entered. The Canadian Institute of Portrait Artists contacted me this week and my entry has been accepted but no word on the other shows. Heard about a few more shows to enter by November. Do I even want to? Getting ready for shows is stressful, but the chance for more exposure is important if I want to sell more. Some days I feel too old to be keeping up the pace.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Real Abstraction

Working from the center out seems to be the way I paint best. I know of artists who paint from one upper corner down to the opposite bottom corner, completing each section before moving on. I was basically taught to work over the entire piece throughout but it reaches a point where I need to concentrate on small areas and let it build from there. This section took almost four hours. I am always astonished when I look up and see how much time has gone by while I concentrate on a small section - sometimes no more than a couple of square inches. In the case of painting fabrics it becomes a lesson in abstraction, although even painting a small section of hair or skin can result in abstracted pattern and colour when seen up close and out of context with the rest of the painting. This is not going to be a "painting in a day." Few of my pieces are. Some of this will need refining and more or less definition. Undoubtedly it will not turn out anything like my original
intention so I wait and wonder as much as anyone about what the finished painting will look like.
I sometimes feel as if there is someone else inside who takes over when I pick up the brush.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Blocking finished

I'm going along faster than I expected on this so far but now that the underpainting is done I have a feeling that the universe will slow down for me. The layers of transparent fabric with all of the changes in light, reflected light, shadows, and highlights is going to take concentrated effort to pull off. In some ways this is about the fabrics and not the model. She is a wonderful conduit for exploring those elegant folds. Textiles are one of my favorite things and painting portraits of beautiful fabrics is a way to preserve them beyond the limitations they experience in various environments which can cause them to deteriorate quickly. Since the human face is also one of my favorite things the two subjects are a perfect meld for me. But you should paint more landscapes or florals I have been told - who wants to buy a painting of someone they don't know? Somehow the right buyer often comes along and responds to the painting regardless of the subject. I have to admit, though, to having a growing collection of figurative paintings which so far have not found a home. It is almost like the way old fashioned wire hangers seem to accumulate in the closet - are they mating in there - and do I really want to know?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Blocking in

Underpainting is usually the part of painting that is most invigorating and makes me the most nervous. Everything follows what is done from this step, builds from it, and is influenced for good or ill by it. Above I blocked in warm and cool colours and established position of features. The second image has had all the colours blended with a very small fan brush and some corrections in the drawing of the features. This needs to dry now before I can start the next layer. I will block in the rest of the figure and background probably tomorrow. This session took a couple of hours which doesn't sound like much but the concentration required is very tiring.
Meanwhile, we are having a bit of a heat wave out here - kind of unusual, although it does happen about this time in the summer for a few days each year. My studio is staying amazingly cool though, set back near a lot of trees and facing northwest. When its too hot I am useless so I am very grateful for how well designed this little building is.