Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Inventing, and Different Strokes from Different Folks

Pennsylvania Country / 6x9 / Oil on Canvas Panel

This is my latest entry for Different Strokes from Different Folks. I struggled with this one. Not only is it difficult to invent color, it's difficult to invent a foreground and/or background. Often we wind up doing more inventing than we should. I think you have to be careful with that, but in almost every painting I wind up inventing something. Hey, it's painting, not photography. When I decided to turn this into a 6x9 I knew I would have to invent some sort of foreground in addition to the color. There are several things to think about when you do this.

First, knowledge of your subject helps. What do farms typically look like? From the air we often refer to them as "patchwork quilts," so I decided to divide up the space with rows of shrubs/trees. As I was creating "trees" on my little painting, my husband walked into the studio. "No way would a farmer do that," he said. "How would you get your tractor into the field?" He grew up on a farm in South Dakota, and I grew up near San Francisco. What did I know?

The non-existent farmer in me knew nothing, but the artist in me knew that I needed those trees not only to divide up the foreground into unequal parcels, but also to lead your eye to the focal point. So another method of inventing is to use all those rules of composition, etc. you've been learning. My husband's tractor movement comment was compelling, though, so I scraped and "planted" trees at least six different times. It's best if you can use your knowledge of your subject and art rules, but this time the art rules won and I came back to my original design. Sometimes art just isn't logical, or probably I didn't have enough knowledge of the subject to be able to create an artistically logical solution to the problem.

Inventing some color for the scene was a bit easier since the values were in the black and white photo. But once again, it's art. Do you want a high key painting? Do you want to make it more dramatic and use the entire value scale? What's the mood that you're trying to convey?

It's hard work making all of these decisions, but every time you make a decision and try it out you learn something new to add to your painter's tool kit. Artists refer to this as "problem solving." Typically your non-painter friends refer to this as how much fun you must have getting to paint all day. I usually judge my fun-level by how the painting turns out and today was not too much fun. But I must have learned something, right???

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Daniel Sprick and Backlighting

The Artist / 8x8 / Oil on Panel

I was quite fortunate to attend a two day workshop last weekend with Daniel Sprick. The first morning was spent with a slideshow and lecture as well as a drawing demo, and the rest of the time was spent painting from the model. In addition to helping people with their paintings, Daniel also began a painting of our model with backlighting. This was just beautiful, and I learned so much not only watching him paint but also seeing how he mixed his colors and used various mediums. When he put the rim light on the figure I knew I had to try my own backlit painting. The 8x8 painting above is a study for a larger version I hope to finish soon.

Hope you are having a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ken Caryl Valley 8x10

Ken Caryl Valley 8x10

I am fortunate to live quite near this lovely valley in Colorado, and this painting is the result of an early summer morning's plein air experience. The spring green created by the sunlight shining on those distant trees is hard to imagine.

This valley is full of beautiful red rock outcroppings and has been inhabited for a very long time. In fact, if you started digging on the southwest side of any of the larger rock formations, you would be amazed at what you would find. For many years I taught anthropology to high school Seniors, and I always brought my classes to a dig site very near here that was being worked by the Colorado Archeological Society. We'd spend several Saturdays carefully
digging in the dirt, learning all the ins and outs of what it meant to be an archeologist.

The students never failed to find artifacts, and over the years as the digging got lower and lower the objects got older and older. The look on their faces as they held their newly-found object was full of pride and amazement, and I remember one student saying of his artifact, "I'm the first person to hold this in 1500 years." Many of my students became hooked by this experience and went on to study anthropology and archeology in college.

So this is a very special place to me for many reasons--lots of good memories, beautiful scenery, and much pondering about the people who lived here so very long ago. You should come and visit sometime.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Spring Bulbs and Quang Ho's Still Life DVD

Spring Bulbs / 9x12 / Oil on Linen Panel

OK, I know in my last post I said I was going to do more landscapes and cityscapes, but I guess I lied. I spent lots of $$ and several hours last fall planting new spring bulbs, and they finally started blooming about a week ago. I simply couldn't resist painting them. I'm not sure if this is finished or not--I always have to look at it a few days later--but for now I think it's done.

If any of you are interested in learning how to set-up, light and paint still life, I would highly recommend purchasing Quang Ho's latest DVD "Painting the Still Life." I just got my copy on Saturday and have already watched it a couple of times. I'm a sucker for art instruction DVDs and I own a lot of them. This one has lots of good information and is appropriate for beginner through advanced. It is well worth the price.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Windmills at Kinderdijk, the Netherlands

Windmills at Kinderdijk / 6x9 / Oil on Panel

Yesterday I tried to channel my inner Ken Auster and paint the New York Taxi challenge for Different Strokes from Different Folks. Today I was "working" on Mike Workman and trying to create more of a tonal landscape. Even though the sky is overcast, I wanted a feeling of warmth and light coming up through that grass, so this one has a yellow ochre underpainting.

When I started this blog I was getting a little tired of painting traditional still life, and so my original purpose was to give myself a chance to experiment with different subjects and styles of painting in order to choose the one I liked best. So far what I've found is that I like them all, but for right now I've decided to focus more on landscape/cityscape paintings.

For the past two years I've been doing a lot of plein air painting, and although I think that's the hardest kind of painting there is--think bugs, quick moving light, wind, people looking over your shoulder, etc.--I also think that's the best way to learn. You're painting from life and you have to move quick. No slow-pokes in that arena! You're constantly trying to judge values and mix color, pick it up on your brush and plop it in the correct place. Not an easy feat, and when I went out last week I actually had someone standing behind me snapping photos while I painted. At first it really bothered me, but then I decided that it was forcing me to focus only on the painting. Yet another learning experience...

So my current goal is to continue to paint looser and work on landscape/cityscape paintings that convey a sense of place and (hopefully) a definite mood or emotion. Stay tuned, though, because I'm also taking a bunch of figurative workshops in the next few months.

Finally, I truly appreciate all your positive and kind comments about my art work. You are all so talented that it means a lot to me that you even look at my work, let alone take the time to comment. But if there's something you notice that you think could be better, please don't hesitate to make a suggestion or two for improvement. I'm all ears, and I'm here to learn.