Monday, March 25, 2013

Maybe My Leaves Are Feathers

oil on hardboard

I'm having a hard time getting a good photo of this painting. The darks are really closing in—in real life there's more depth and color in the trees.

Also, when I set up the auction in DPW, I accidentally typed in a starting bid that is $20 less than it should be. I can't modify an existing auction, so someone will get a great deal :-)

This is a little bit of a departure for me, and I'm happy with the way it came out. I love the way palm trees look, but I don't think I've ever tried to paint them before. This super loose approach worked well for me. Here's my stages:

First I put down an unstructured background of Viridian Green, Magenta, and yellow. This is not meant to correspond in any way with the painting, it's to introduce an element of randomness. Then I sketched in the trees with some thinned Permanent Violet.

Next, I start putting in the dark masses of the trees. I'm using the Violet again, and Phthalo Green. You can see my brushstrokes going all over the place. I was just trying to paint loosely, but realized that actually works pretty well to shape the fronds.

Putting in color and highlights. There's a lot of paint on there; I've completely lost my random colored background. Oh well.

Then, shaping and refining the trees with the sky. You know, this photo taken with my phone looks closer to the original painting than my "good" shot! I might be better off just using the phone.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse

6"x8" oil
You can view or bid for this painting here.

I painted this for DPW's "Landmark" challenge. Technically, I don't live in Manteo, but it's the same state, so that's close enough.

This lighthouse is crazy symmetrical. After playing around with the composition forever, I decided to give in and go with it. Anything I tried in order to counteract the formality of the design just looked forced.

I've got lots of progress shots of this one. I'm probably the last person in the 21st century to get a smartphone, and the main feature I'm using is the camera. My old Flintstones-era flip phone didn't even have one. So far I've taken about 4 dozen photos of Igor (all blurry and badly lit), a dozen useless shots of random things (oh look, a bird!), 1 photo of my husband, and a gazillion progress shots of paintings.

Anyway, I went with a sort of Cape Cod approach of laying out the warm and cool (sun/shade) areas, then doing another couple passes with real color. Then a fourthly pass with details and adjustments. I'm pretty happy with it.

All those light areas are where I had to wipe out sketch mistakes.

Putting in the cool/shadow areas. I like the way the white building actually looks very glowy blue.

Sunlit areas, yellow and oranges, a pink for the sky because it's the coolest lit area.

I did the true-color version of the roof first because it is such an important feature.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Around the Neighborhood

8" x 10" oil on hardboard

You can view and purchase this painting here.

This is probably the last of the Vilnius series. I followed a road out into the country, and there were lots of little neighborhoods like this—4 or 5 houses together. The sky was fabulous. This is on a red ground, not the black gesso I've been using recently. I think I like it. And I avoided my recent obsession with telephone wires—there were some, but I didn't paint them in.

UPDATED: When I saw this painting on the front page of DPW, I noticed something weird: it looks like there's a circle drawn around that little house. It's just a freak coincidence of the dark trees and the curb shadow, but now it's really bugging me. I'm going to put this back on the easel and try to break that up a little. Weird.

UPDATED UPDATE: Okay, this is better. I softened up that shadow and where it turns the corner into the driveway, blurred the edge. While I was in there, also made that little yellow house wider. In real life it was a long, skinny house, very modern design, but in the painting it comes across as some sort of tool shed.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

50% sale

These two paintings are 50% off for this week only (March 18-24) on my Etsy shop.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Everyone Loves Raymond

I know, what a silly title. I couldn't come up with anything clever.

The recent DPW "The Amalgam" Challenge was to incorporate a DPW member's style into one's own painting. That cracked me up.  I've been trying to do that! I mean, if I could paint like Laurel Daniel, I'd be doing it already, even without the motivation of a Challenge :-) I would probably have already traveled to where she lives, kidnapped her and spirited her away to a remote location, created a clever disguise, and taken her place. I'm sure no one would notice.

Anyway. It was really hard to choose an artist. Mike Rooney is a fantastic artist and a great teacher (which doesn't always come in the same package), but I've taken several workshops with him and already try to paint like Mike.

Then there are Carol Schiff, Ken Devine, Kevin Inman, Mary Sheehan Winn, Marie Fox, Jeff Mahorney, Gringo Zero, Haidee-Jo Summers... obviously I could go on for paragraphs. I finally chose an artist whose work I always view with equal parts exhilaration and frustration—exhilaration because his work is so exciting, and frustration because I didn't come up with it myself:

Not only do I admire his painting, his blog is hilarious. I love reading about The Spawn and The Spousal Unit. Accordingly, I'm painting an old camera (ca 1970) in his style. My Spousal Unit has a lot of electronic and electrical equipment, including even older cameras, but there is a limit to how much I will dig through dusty boxes. The vintage Minolta will do.

Raymond (can I call you Raymond, Mr. Logan?) also paints landscapes/cityscapes, but it would be more of a stretch and learning experience for me to attempt a still life. The brilliant part of this exercise is that when I look at his artwork, I have no idea how he does it.  I don't even know where to start! I took a lot of progress photos to document my aimless thrashing about.

First I start with a red ground. Why? Because I already had a board primed with red. I do some grid work so I can sketch the camera reasonably accurately. I know—I know—the lens shape is going to be a giant pain in the neck, and I decide right from the start that I'm not going to freak out about it. Let the chips fall where they may. I block in the general direction of the light on the back wall. I'm using Geranium Lake, a paint I bought capriciously and have never used before.

Now I'm working on the camera itself. One of Raymond's signature, um, things that he does, is the gorgeous hints of turquoise blue sparkling here and there. I don't know how he does that—some sort of magic I guess—but I figure if I outline with blue, some of it will remain at the end. I'm stumped about how to lay in the camera body. Is he using black? Do I have any black paint? Yes. I have a tube of Ivory Black. I also discover the trouble I'm having layering so much paint—that pink area is supposed to be a light grayish-white, but the Geranium Lake is coming through.

Got the camera generally blocked in (lens looks awful as predicted) and when I start with the background, this is when I REALLY realize I have no idea how he does this. Where are all these colors and strokes coming from? Is he alternating brush and knife? Are some parts scraped off? Also, I can see that he puts on paint thicker than I spread peanut butter on a sandwich. It's very unnatural to me, but I kind of force myself to do it.

More detail on the camera, and trying to block in the foreground. I'm not really working in any planned, sensible way, just kind of dabbing here and there as the whim comes to me.

I make some more passes on the background and foreground. I'm actually getting kind of a cool result when I simply wipe the brush off on the painting instead of on a paper towel. But I feel like the background is unstructured and incoherent. Some more detail on the camera itself, including the brand "minolta." The lens is better than I expected, but still lumpy.

The final piece. I know I could keep going with it, adding little dabs and dashes, but feel like I'd better quit while I'm ahead, given that I don't have any planned approach. This picture was taken on the scanner. I'm not sure if the above photo (taken with my phone) isn't a better representation. They both have glare on them, in different ways. The actual dark/lightness is probably somewhere in-between these two.

5"x7" oil on hardboard


What I learned:
  • After four years of painting, I still don't know how to get wet paint to stick to wet paint.
  • Everything a person can look at is filled with (covered with?) reflections, reflected colors, reflected light, shadows, and reflections in the shadows. Nothing is "a" color.
  • Things that look random probably are not, and vice-versa.
  • I probably won't ever be able to paint like Raymond unless I eat his brain. Which is, in this country, strictly forbidden.


50% Sale

These two paintings are 50% off for this week only (March 11-17) on my Etsy shop.

Actually, one of them sold already...

Sunday, March 10, 2013


8" x 10" oil on hardboard

This is another scene from Vilnius. A rural area outside the city. I assume these are birch trees, but I'm no botanist, so I left the title vague. For that matter, I'm not sure what constitutes a "grove." I'll leave these technical details to the scientists.

Nice weather is approaching, so I'm hoping to get out of the studio and do more plein air work. I tried to go out to the arboretum Monday, but it was so cold and windy I gave up. One good thing about painting in the winter - the sun is always low, so you can go out almost any time of day and get nice light and shadows. This time of year that advantage is starting to dwindle, and I'll need to go earlier or later.  

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Plein Air Workshops

What to expect:

Plein air workshops run about 5 hours. We'll meet at the location*. You can leave your gear in your car, because I will first do a demo, running about 1 hour. Then you'll scout a location in the area, get your gear, and set up your easel. We'll paint for about an hour, and I'll periodically check in on everyone and answer questions/give advice. We'll take a break and gather to assess progress and critique what we've done so far. We'll paint for another 45 minutes to an hour, then break again to review our work. With the remaining 30 minutes or so you can make last finishing touches on your painting, and we'll finish up with a brief question/answer session.

*All locations will have restrooms and a parking lot reasonably close to the scenic areas.

What you'll need:

• An easel. There are many varieties of easel at different price ranges. Note that there are few sitting areas in plein air locations; you will either stand at your easel or you'll need to bring a chair. Just make sure you can carry whatever you bring.
These cost about $20.
Not a good long-term solution,
but it will work in a pinch.
A French easel, designed for plein air.
Very portable and lightweight;
priced between $80 and $400.
My easel / paintbox.
Ask for details if interested.

• A paintbox or palette, it it's not built in to your easel. You can also use the disposable palette pads.

• Paint. These are the paints I use. You don't have to use exactly what I use, but make sure you've got the primary colors plus white. Note that I paint in oils. You can use acrylics if you prefer, because the principles of painting are the same. However, I can't offer much guidance for paint-specific issues with acrylic.

• Brushes and palette knives. My favorite brush is Silver Bristlon flat, in sizes #2 and #6. You might also want a liner brush for fine work.

• Medium such as mineral spirits, if you use it. I use Liquin, a fast-drying medium. Make sure they are in plastic or metal containers; most parks don't allow glass.

• Either turpentine or vegetable oil for cleaning your brushes. No glass containers.

• A roll of paper towels.

Pony clip
• A trash bag.

• Two small canvases or panels. I usually paint on a 6"x8" board for plein air. I don't recommend going bigger than 9"x12". I tone them ahead of time with an acrylic wash of yellow ochre or cadmium orange.

• Canvas/panel holders for transporting your wet painting home. This is what I use. You can also just put a box in the backseat or trunk of your car.

• Several small clips—clothespins and/or pony clips.

• A hat, sunscreen, bug spray, and drinking water. Make sure you stay hydrated!

• Snacks/lunch. 
Painter's umbrella


A chair, if you wish to sit.

A painter's umbrella.

Roll of masking tape.

A bungee cord for hanging the paper towels.

A work table, such as a TV tray. I put all my stuff on the ground, on an old towel.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Cottage Lane

6" x 6"
oil on mDF

You can view or purchase this painting here.

The Virtual Paintout location for March is Vilnius, Lithuania. I had no preconceptions whatsoever about Vilnius—it turns out to be a really beautiful city. Wonderful architecture, both old and contemporary, churches and monuments all over the place, lots of parks, broad avenues... and best of all, mostly nice weather when the Googlecar drove through.

In 2010 or 2011, somewhere around there, they upgraded their cameras, and it's a HUGE difference. Go to this location in Charleston, South Carolina, and then click the "go forward" symbol (^) on the ground, and toggle back and forth. You'll be shocked at the enormous difference between the 2007 and the 2011 camera.

Anyway. I found this little house while cruising past the Bernadine Cemetery. There was a gorgeous, huge tree and a nice gateway, but the light wasn't great, so I headed up the street and found this little gem.
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