"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

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Over the Underpaint

I am painting without concern for "accuracy" here. Most of the underpainting is now done so once it dries it is time to building up the layers and tweaking as I go. The light cast a semi
greenish tone to her skin, especially being next to apple leaves so right now she is looking like something from the undead.  And good news, Samanda has agreed to sit for a from life painting this summer when she has some time.  I can think about a full figure piece I think and a great outfit.  Painting from life is much more energizing than from photos.
Two shows are opening next week that I am in. Receptions are both on the same evening. If the weather is ok I'll try for the Campbell River opening. I quite often stay home for these things but my little self promotion angel/demon is whispering in my ear that staying home means less interest in who did my stuff and therefore less danger of becoming successful and maybe making a bit of cash. And we all know what success could mean...you are expected to do it again! That's way too much pressure...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Another Face Behind Leaves

Faces surrounded by leaves, flowers, etc. seems to be a theme I keep returning to. With some time I am sure I could come up with some philosophic and psychological reasons for why I do.  The underlying motivations don't really interest me though so I push on and just try to keep my hand in. I am mulling over some other things I might paint but haven't formed those ideas enough to make that happen so I began this today as a sort of exercise.  Trying to treat the photo reference as if is a subject actually in front of me, not on a two dimensional surface. No careful drawing or variations on composition, just starting right in on canvas which is what I do when I work from life.  My Torrit Grey underpainting was not totally dry in a few places which I didn't realize until I started drawing with the Burnt Umber.  Makes for a muddy start but I can fix that. I WILL have to let this thoroughly dry first though. I am including part of another photo I took at this session where her hand is holding the branch. I want to avoid the "floating head" syndrome. This may end up going nowhere.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Working From Life

               life sketch of Heather, 1/2 hour    pastel   14"x18"

There is nothing I enjoy more than working from life. If all I ever wanted to do was paint or draw still life & landscapes this would not be a problem but I was born seemingly preprogramed to be mainly interested in the human face and form and they are my favorite subject to work with. This presents the problem of finding models. Who is willing to pose endlessly for hours and days, maybe weeks or months? Professional models will. For money. It adds up to a lot of money which I don't possess.  I have already used up the good graces of many friends and family members by making them pose and most find excuses not to. Plus now I live in the middle of nowhere so I don't even see many people I can even ask in the first place. Samanda has been great but her time is limited up here so I took photos. Children like to pose, or think they like to until they actually have to, then they get squirmy. So I take photos.
People who commission me for portraits and have the money to pay for them do not have the time to pose, so I take photos. Working from photos, while ok and perfectly valid, is just not the same as working from life. The living, breathing person has an essence that cannot be captured in a photo. The skin tones look different, the movement of the diaphragm causes subtle changes in the pose which can be painted in over time and add a life to the image that a static photo does not possess. It is one reason why life drawing sessions are so valuable. I have considered the use of mannikins but they are stiff and can't be placed in many of the poses that a living person can manage. I have actually been thinking about making a soft sculpture mannikin to try, which I could pose and drape and light but I suspect the resulting work would only look like a soft sculpture mannikin posed and draped and lit.  I'm afraid it has to be the real thing.  I bet if some of you lived near me you'd do it.  My husband has already said "No."

Friday, February 18, 2011

Moving on...

                                            Grapes in Purple Bowl     oil    12"x12"

Moving on and finished with my mini rant from previous post. Sorry about that. I won't do it again. Meanwhile I decided to enter another show, this one is the David A. Leffel Award for Excellence in Painting competition. The category is Still Life. An artist friend of mine bought this from me but if it is accepted it won't be necessary to send it in. They will want a high resolution jpeg for use in art magazines. It is always nice, too, when a friend purchases a piece because I can always go visit it if I want. I am also trying to think about what I want to start next and I have a couple of ideas. Nothing will happen for a few days though as tomorrow I am delivering work to two different galleries for members exhibits. That means traveling an hour an a half south on the island and we have more snow. The mountain road will be slow and treacherous possibly in places but I know how to be careful. With the other errands I will need to do while down there it will be a long, tiring day. I probably won't get home until after dark and then I will look forward to a relaxing couple of days, reading, catching up on light housework, and allowing myself to not even think about art for a bit. 

I am also concerned because a dear friend back in Nova Scotia, whom I have only gotten to know on FB has had a stroke and I am very worried about him. He paints also and we have had a wonderful few months communicating about our various projects. At 74 he has so much vitality and interest in life...I am hoping this doesn't set him back too far. I just received word from a mutual friend that he has feeling back in his arms and legs...good news! Get Well, Harvey! 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Perhaps I am being way off-base here and there might even be a teeny weeny smidgeon of sour grapes going on, but I like to think of myself as more magnanimous than that. Normally I accept rejection with good grace, take off for the nearest den to lick my wounds, and come out to cheerfully congratulate the winners - and actually mean it!  Last year I entered the Blossom Art Competition which has an amazing $25000 top prize and several very nice paying smaller prizes. It is open to anyone world wide so I didn't truly expect to be a winner but I thought I had a good chance of being accepted. When my rejection notice came it was sad but it was ok. I moved on. Then today I found out the winning entries.  You can see them for yourself at 

To say I was underwhelmed is an understatement. The winning work is quite beautiful, lovely, competent, and serenely elegant...and to my mind, ho hum.  I feel I have seen this same sort of painting dozens of times. It would look good in anybody's home. It would look good in my home. I hesitated to state my opinion so publicly but I want some other opinions. If I am being snooty, off-base, and curmudgeonly let me know. I congratulate the winner...I have looked at his site and everything he does is carefully elegant and lovely. 

Above are my two entries to that show. The addition of figures or other elements was allowed as long as the primary focus was flowers.  Perhaps my portraits are taking too much of the attention. As I said, that is fine, I accept the judges ruling regarding my work.  I just was so hoping to see really incredible, phenomenal stuff when they announced the accepted works. I expected to be inspired and wowed. I am the first to admit when I LOVE the work of another artist and there are many of you out there who humble me with your talent. Somehow I feel the judges for this show missed the boat. If you think I am wrong tell me. I can take it. I'm a big girl. I won't cry in front of you...too much.

Now I would like to go to my living room and sit with a bucket of Ben & Jerry's Wavy Gravy except they don't seem to make that anymore and anyway, I'm trying to go vegan. Somehow soy yogurt is not going to do it for me.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Time to refocus

Here is the final painting. The top image is from before I softened the feathers on the edge of Chica...it is correct in the full length image.  The tail feathers are not cropped off in the original either but my camera distorts a bit when trying to photograph a long, thin object like this canvas shape. I cropped out the wavy edge, but you get the idea. If I have to start editing my editing in this blog it will cease to be fun and I'll stop doing it.  I have emotionally already moved on from this painting. I don't know, yet, what is next, but I have several good options.  I'll be cleaning the studio and getting this and other paintings ready to take for exhibit next weekend. I have to get mat board and cut new mats for several life drawings that I'm framing for a show in March. 
  I have several books to get back to reading. I generally read for a while every day, mornings and later at night, but lately I haven't put in much time doing that. I have eclectic taste and hop back and forth from psychology, philosophy, ecology, mysteries, humour, historical, and biographies. I don't retain much of the specific details but the general feel of a book stays with me. I once had an excellent memory but I need to rely on clues now to remind me of things. It's irritating but has to be accepted. I do try to use visualization to remember people's names but it often doesn't work because I forget what objects I visualized. Ban Ki-moon is a case in point that did work - finally. I visualized a tube of Ban roll-on deodorant, a key, and the moon. I did the same to remember Kofi Annan by thinking, coffee and Queen Anne. I am getting good at remembering who UN Secretary Generals are but I need to move on to remembering people I actually meet.  At least if I should ever run in to Ban or Kofi I'm all set to not embarrass myself by asking "...and you are?"   

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Cooking at last

Today's session brought the painting to a "boil" so to speak. It is coming near to completion and standing back from it this afternoon I realized that it has a "wow" factor...I don't feel I get that often. The treatment of the fringe is turning out better than expected and I really like the intense red at the bottom and sides...I think I may just fade out the fabric pattern to allow a lot of that red to show. It helps to drive the eye upward also being out of focus. I need to get a new photo of Chica to work with...have to get those tail feathers right - they got cropped out of my original photos.  I'm happy!

One of my followers wrote to ask me about the line of the face meeting with the line of the parrot's head, edge to edge. It was bothering him. I think I posted some early drawings when I started this describing my decision to not have a space between the two heads and not to overlap the bird in front of the girl. Mary Cassatt, a favorite of mine, sometimes lined up edges of subjects in her work and I always was fascinated by the tension that caused. It breaks the "rule" of placement but aren't they meant to be broken sometimes? This is a case where it seemed the right option, at least to me.  Much as I have been willing to repaint and repaint, I am NOT going to reposition Chica.  I could go on about the relationship of Samanda to the bird and the joining of souls, whatever, but I was never good at second guessing my reasons for my choices. It just is.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Putting off the vague parts

After deciding to mute the background pattern a bit (still working on that...waiting for it to dry), I turned my attention to the left side of the shawl and the fringe. I have had only a vague notion of how I wanted to handle this part. I have considered allowing the lower section to be out-of-focus, drippy, misty, and fading. Now that I have begun to finally address all this fringe I am finding it more interesting than expected and will probably take it to a more finished look. The fabric pattern is intended to continue down both sides of the whole figure. Realizing how many ways this painting could go, even more so than most of my paintings, I am again struck by the tyranny of decision making that can keep me awake nights and hold my daytime thoughts while I make the bed, do the dishes, wash clothes, clean floors and interact with my other half.  The fringe is off white but with the lighting and bouncing of that light it picks up many other colours and values and I will have to work at not allowing it to take too much of the focus (as I almost did with the patterned background) away from the face and the bird. I have a week and a half to finish this and I'm still not even sure which show I will place it in. A lot could still go wrong, of course...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Am I Having Fun Yet?

Paint, repaint. That seems to be the theme of this piece. Starting to work on the background, which is a piece of drapery fabric I have had for eons and always wanted to use in a painting. I am loving the way I painted it so far, but I have to admit it is too distracting from the portrait area. I have to tone down the colours of all those writhing leaves. Too bad. It represents some pretty awesome painting if I do say so myself! That happens though and I learned long ago to be brave enough to paint over even that which is well painted if it doesn't work with the total...the total being worth more than the sum of its parts. Sigh. (I do a lot of that).

Friday, February 4, 2011

Before and After

The second painting of Samanda's face is completed and I can get back to the rest of the painting with an easy mind. I only have a couple of weeks left to complete it if I want to submit it for one of two shows next month. I lost almost a week here with this redo but it had to be done. I might spend more time in the studio painting if it weren't so dark every day! I prefer
natural light and there hasn't been much of that lately. By 4pm I can barely see in here. The colour corrected light definitely helps but it has a negative impact on my "looking" sense. I guess I should get over it. Meanwhile, I am struggling to finish up tax forms since Bob wants
to send his in soon and he is mostly done with his except for the part about my income and expenses, etc. I consider myself a reasonably intelligent person but income tax forms make me glaze right over. It's stupid, it's psychological, and it's my little way of protesting...all to my own detriment. 
I am already anxious to move on from this painting. I can see so many flaws in the composition and the concept. I should stop looking at the work of other artists whose work is better than mine...except I still want to learn. It's a bit galling that these other artists I admire are about 1/3 century younger than I am. Then I realized that there is positive regard again for the realist schools and old masters ways of painting, which wasn't the case when I went to art school in the mid 60's. Then the NY School of Abstract Expressionism was God with acolytes following the headliners and the newer schools of Pop, Op, and Conceptual. I leaned toward Pop in order not to be completely ostracized but my heart was with Magic Realism, Art Nouveau, and Pre Raphaelites.  I drank up Holbein, Van Eyck, and Botticelli. I took Graphic Design and Illustration rather than Painting Techniques (had to be practical) and over the years painted my own things struggling to find that which I could only know when I saw it. Suddenly there is a whole new school of fabulous young painters out there painting the things I envisioned (but vaguely) and had no encouragement for. Now at 65 I think I am just opening up to what has been inside all this time. Better late than never I guess.

Here are some of my favorite young painters: