Monday, December 31, 2007
Though I knew there would be little detail in the painting, I wanted the attitude and relationships between the birds to be accurate. When I got home, I went online, and found a video showing a flock of birds interacting in a similar environment. It was lovely: I could pause the video and do a quick study of the patterns of movement. Here are a few of those sketches.
The thing that intrigued me most when I paused the video was that the images of flying birds became transparent-- I could see the background through them. This is not merely an artifact of the video-- it is actually how our brains perceive the images sent by the eye, and is the reason film and video work. Then our brain fills in the blanks, as it were, so that we think we perceive solid objects (because we are programmed to "know" they are solid).
We all experience what we think of as an ordinary transparency effect of fast motion (think of fans, or hummingbird wings). Yet we also experience other kinds of transparency, all the time. Birds flying suddenly by are good at this, and so on occasion are cats who are determined to be on that side of the door and not this. If we notice it, we think it is because it was so sudden that we weren't focusing. But that's not it. It was so sudden that the brain didn't have time to stitch it together in a seamless solid. (There are a few unfortunate people who experience this all the time, because the "stitching together" part of their brain doesn't work.)
But imagine what fun painters can have with this. If we let it happen, we can experience a lot of things this way. And paint them.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Driving home from my daughter's late on Christmas day, I watched a snow storm moving in over the mountains, and a batch of crows feeding on something in an iced over wetland in the Otter Valley. It is amazing to me how many colors ice can have. I stopped and took some photos and did some sketches, and a day or so later made this painting.
The keepers of such things tell us that December was a record-breaker for snowiest December in a lot of the Northeast. It sure was here. It snowed every day but one. That day it rained, and rained hard. That day, of course, was the day before Christmas. The only reason we woke to a white Christmas was because there was so much snow to start with.
Christmas Day it snowed just enough to refresh the landscape. Then it all melted. Then it flooded. Then it snowed again. But we are used to that. We are now solidly in the January thaw, with snow predicted for tonight (the flood warning is still in effect).
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Framing and hanging it was an act of letting go for me, and at the same time a gift of memory to my daughter. It is where it is supposed to be.
My Christmas plans got somewhat rearranged. The week before Christmas, the town plow pushed mounds of snow into my property (illegally). I was completely blocked in , with no way to get out, and unable to move the heavy, compacted snow. No shopping, no tree. no preparations for Christmas eve dinner. The town came and looked, but did nothing but make more promises.
Two days before Christmas I finally found someone who had the time to plow me out (the town will get the bill).
My daughter hosted Christmas eve dinner, and cooked the goose. I arrived bearing boxes filled with home-made dinner rolls, my own cranberry-orange relish, pumpkin pie made with almond milk for the lactose intolerant among us, fixings for dressing to go with the goose, and a large pan of my special oozy cinnamon walnut rolls to eat while opening presents the next day.
We have sort of an ecumenical family that includes a semi-lapsed Catholic, a pagan, a devout Wiccan, and a practicing Buddhist. Some of the others we are not sure about, but there they are. The nice thing about this holiday is that it truly is an trans-cultural holiday, whose original purpose kind of threads everything else together: the day that the sun lets us know it is returning northward, and that the cycle of life is beginning again. A time of sharing and community.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Somebody like me can only do that sort of thing for so long. I needed to get back to my easel. Some artist friends are having fun doing mini landscapes. So this is my entry: early spring in the basin and range country of the American west, from a photo I took long ago in another lifetime. I much prefer this pared down approach to painting landscape.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Sunday, October 28, 2007
14x18.5 cm (5.5x7.25 in.)
Saturday, October 20, 2007
I have no idea what the style I am developing might be called, so I am calling it "abstract realism". I think this is a stylistic trend that has been part of my art in all the media I've used. This is not impressionism, which is realism at its most literal: a rendering of what the artist's senses actually percieve in the most literal way, uninterpreted by the mind. In a sense, though, every painting, any art object is an abstraction, because the artist is selecting the information that conveys what he or she is perceiving.
A scene, a set of objects, a face, all are composed of many levels of information: color, shape, light and shadow, relationships between elements. The more the result resembles the expectations of the viewer, the more realistic we say the painting is. When it seems to resemble nothing objective at all, it is usually referred to as abstract-- though as long as I'm talking terminology here, I'd say that a painting (or other art object) that is not based on something objective isn't abstract at all, but expressionistic. It is not abstracted from the sensory perception of the artist, but expresses some interior process. There is likely some of both in abstract realism as I am using it. There is a real scene, a real object, a real person, but my tendency as an artist is to pare away as much as possible to some essence of my perception and experience of my subject.
I am experimenting with different surfaces for my paintings, and was given some good-sized samples of a sanded paper called UART. I dislike most sanded papers I've tried, because they eat pastels and are difficult to blend. But this one (which comes in several grit sizes) may have promise. This painting is done on the 400, which I swore would not work for my way of working. I'm still up in the air on that, but was pleasantly surprised at its responsiveness. Nice for this kind of loose, informal approach.
By the way, the middle pear was breakfast yesterday, not long after I laid out the composition. The pear on the right is next.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Lunch, then back to the framing room...
Monday, October 15, 2007
Canson watercolor on heavyweight sketch paper, 15x9 cm (6x3.6in)
Then this evening, I used them as subject of a quick little pastel painting, using a much looser style than I usually do.
Soft pastel on Tiziano, brown background under pumice ground, 11x11cm (4.25x4.25 in)
In a bit of a slump for a while, but getting going again. Only doing sketches until I finish getting some paintings framed and ready to hang for a gallery jurying. There are only two 2D slots open and stiff competition, but I'm still excited and pleased to have been invited. The small ones were easy to frame, but I am re-doing a larger one. Today I took it all apart and redid it, and like the way it looks much better. Tomorrow I will finish it up. I hope. The glass feels a bit long, and the only way to remove a small amount of glass safely is by grinding. And I only have hand tools...
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Friday, September 7, 2007
I decided to convert a photo to black and white, increase the contrast, and reduce the density. What is left are the dimensions and some of the "landmark" detail. Then print it directly onto the paper. For the experiment, I selected a photo of someone I do know, my beautiful Aunt Myrt, who is 90 years now. Because she lives on the other coast, I see her only rarely, which I consider deprivation, as I am extremely fond of her. This way, not only will I be able to see if the painting looks like the photo, but I will know if it looks like her, that essence that is more than just likeness. I hope that will inform the process when I do the other portrait.
This is a small study, done quickly, and is a bit rough. Actually, it is the second version-- I brushed out all but the face on the first and started over again. But I am pleased with the overall result, and now I think I'll also do a larger painting of my aunt!
Aunt Myrt at age 88
Soft pastel on paper, 12x12 cm (4.75x4.75 in)
Thursday, August 30, 2007
watercolor on sketch paper, 15x7cm (6x3.5 in)
I missed posting a couple of my little watercolors earlier, so here are those, too. Um, food, of course....
This one from August 10:
Okay, so I ate the end of the loaf first. Wouldn't you?
And another from just a couple of days ago: a few things from my garden arranged on a plate with a slice from a more recent loaf of bread. I did this one very quickly because my matting supplies had just come and I was eager to get set up!
Monday, August 27, 2007
I'm still working out how to approach the work meant for the sanded indigo paper (the BIG piece of sanded indigo paper!). So I decided to do something in a more familiar zone to kind of loosen myself up. Ha. A nice piece of pearl (in this case, that means pale grey) Fabriano Tiziano, unsanded, about 9x12, horizontal. A photo of a simple scene: the windowsill in a kitchen I once had. I forgot that the simple ones are the hardest to do. (How did I forget something so fundamental?)
1: Basic layout of composition with first layer of color for wall under window. You can see a bit of my reference photo in the upper left.
Usually once I've worked out a painting, it takes me a day or so to do, and then I let myself live with it for a while so I can fine-tune it. Not this one.
2: Setting up the shadows on the old fashioned wide blinds, outlining the window ledge and frame, and building up the reflected light and shadows on the wall under the windowledge. I did not color correct this photo, which was taken in light that makes the painting seem just a bit more orangey than it actually was.
I worked on this one for 3 days. Not all the time, of course, but having to just walk away from it for long periods and not even look at it. Already I can feel something wrong, but I can't pin it down.
3. Finishing shading the shadows on the blind, giving the window sash some depth and a little shadow, and (finally) setting the tomato and peppers in place.
This is actually number 4. I didn't take a picture of number 3. For that, you have to imagine this with the orangey wall in number 2 above. I was too busy trying to capture the glowing highlights and shadows that so appealed to me to see the problem; I just knew something was off. This is always the worst part of doing a painting for me!
I normally go right to sleep, but last night, there the painting was, drifting across my mind. I kept meditating past it, and then there it would be again. I finally drifted off. When Mona the Magnificent woke me to crawl under the covers for her morning purr, what I needed to do was in my head.
I went straight to the easel in my nightgown, and got out one of my brand-new Terry Ludwig darks (chortle), in the same blue as the darkest in the blinds. I scumbled lightly over the orange, and run a dark band along the base of the window surround. I still have the warmth of the wall, but now the painting is unified by the shadow color.
Now the finetuning: I'll use some of those warm colors when I do the drawstrings, and a touch to warm up the cold looking outside shadows a bit too. Not so you'd notice, but enough so that the whole looks like it belongs together. Then I'll tape it the wall and live with it for a while until I am enough distant from it to know what else needs to be done.
Maybe then I'll be ready to work on that big piece of sanded indigo paper.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
What was I thinking of? I have been planning a large pastel, and decided to use a dark paper with a sanded ground added. Because the ground will be heavier than I am used to, I decided to do a test piece using colors like those I probably will use in the larger piece, to feel the way the pastels handle on the surface and against the dark ground.
Rummaging through my photos, I came across one taken from my daughter's backyard of the hillside opposite, during a particularly colorful autumn. Perfect! Except that I wasn't thinking about the fact that I was using a 14x14 cm piece of paper. All those teeny, weeny strokes! But it worked well as a study, and I like the way all those bits of color express the New England fall. At least that one: it was one of our good ones, where the trees are like a tapestry.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Friday, August 17, 2007
I've never explained the "rules" I set out for myself in doing these simple sketches. The rules are simply a way to provide a simple structure within which to work, and have no particular significance:
I focus on something in my immediate surroundings, and keep it intimate: what I can take in at a glance. I allow myself to arrange things, as the main focus is always composition, both space and color, but not to fuss over it. I keep the time to under half an hour, and often find I spend less than that. But above all, I enjoy doing them. These are not a test, or an exercise so much as they are a way for me to bring my mind and my eye to the present moment. It is a peaceful way to end the day.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Doing these little ink and watercolor sketches are fun. Even if they are simple little things, I learn something from them, and it is a great way to relax in the evening. Especially after realizing that now I will be dedicating yet more space in my house to art: the matting and framing area.
I joked to a fellow artist that I live in a studio with a sitting area in one corner, and an attached kitchen, bath, and sleeping room.
All of which desperately need refurbishing. Which is a polite way of putting it. I can't bring myself to order plasterboard and skimcoat, but I can spend the same amount of money on art supplies. Ah, priorities. But winter is coming and it would be nice to have real walls instead of lath in my bedroom, and real cupboards in the kitchen.
Instead, I am planning my next large painting, and waiting for my framing supplies...
Monday, August 13, 2007
watercolor on heavyweight sketch paper, 15x9cm (6x3.5 in)
Sunday, August 12, 2007
This sort of thing wears me out and ends up paralyzing me. I finally decided to keep things simple, prioritize, and to let the details wait. Decide which to frame first, get what I need to get them in frames. Then deal with the rest. So (deep breath)... here I go. Order going in tomorrow.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
Friday, August 3, 2007
Since this is a sketch, it does not have a background: the grey shading is due to the fact that I took the photo as a thunderstorm began to move in, changing the character of the light. Bah. But perhaps it will cool down, and I did get two new roses planted. One to go.
Watercolor on heavyweight archival sketch paper, 20x30 cm (approx. 9x12 in)
In time, I will also have a web gallery-- you'll be the first to know!
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Canson watercolors and india ink on heavyweight sketch paper, 9x11 cm (3.5x5.5 in.)
Friday, July 27, 2007
I am proud to introduce my barn. A small old carriage house, actually, still outfitted with the horse stall, saddle block, tack hooks, and even a space for chickens to share space with the horse. A loft for hay, still with shreds of hay drooping from the spaces in the floor boards. Sadly, I have no chickens, nor a horse.
It pleases me no end to own such a barn, though. And to run a clothesline from the barn to the house on hooks that clearly were meant for that purpose.
I am not sure I am finished with this yet. But it is close. I have been working on it a little at a time over the last two weeks: time to let it out.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
The tiny little watercolor sketches that I've been doing in the evening help ease the frustration of dealing with the noise. As casual as the little paintings are, I feel as if I've accomplished something. And, I have. I go to bed reminded of the small beauties I am surrounded with. This one, an informal bouquet from my garden, in an old olive oil jar on my table.
Canson watercolor on heavyweight sketch paper, 9x15 cm (3.5x6 in)
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Soft pastel on Tiziano with sanded ground, 15x20 cm (6x8 in.)
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Canson watercolor and india ink on 93# sketchbook paper, 14.5x7 cm. (5.5x2.75 in.)
Monday, July 16, 2007
Canson watercolor and india ink on heavy sketchbook paper, 9x15 cm. (3.5x6 in.)
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Pastels and colored pencils on Tiziano cream, 11x11 cm. (4.25x4.25 in.)
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
For the last week the weather here in New England has been hot and horridly humid, with thunderstorms and heavy downpours every day. I sorted through the photos my sister-and-law and I had taken during my visit to the NW in May, and a photo of this rocky outcrop caught my eye. This is at Bayview Park, west of the Anacortes ferry landing. When I lived in Washington, this was a favorite place of mine.
Though the painting is a conventional landscape, I like the peaceful feeling and memories it carries. Painting it gave me a chance to work at retrieving some lost skills and practice a few new ones, while pretending I was still there, with a cool ocean breeze in my face.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Soft pastel on Tiziano cream, 10x12 cm (4x4.75 in)
Tuesday, July 3, 2007
pastel on Tiziano sage, 10x10 cm. (4x4 in)
Monday, July 2, 2007
Saturday, June 30, 2007
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Almost a mandala. It is amazing to watch a sunflower open up. Other flowers seem to unfold or to emerge from the bud. A sunflower literally turns itself inside out as the flowerets enlarge from the outside rim inward to the center. This one is just starting to open, the "petals" starting to take on a yellow tinge. I found it more of a challenge to paint than I expected.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Pastel on Tiziano pearl, 8x11 cm (3x3.4 in)
Friday, June 22, 2007
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Saturday, June 9, 2007
The tulips were in full bloom when I left, and I should have just clipped them. By the time I got back I had nearly mature seed cases. Not good for the bulbs, but they are intriguing and interesting against the later flowers, so I decided to try capturing their beauty. At least that's what this started as, and they are still there, in a different way.
The first try looked muddy, so I scumbled it a bit, tried again, realized that the vision I had in mind was not going to happen, so I just went for the color. It was fun and spontaneous, and I think somehow caught a little more of the feeling of the seed pods than the refined version I had in mind. This is more how I experience the seeing of things. Guess being mentally fried made me cut through all the conventions that usually take me a while to let go of.
A friend of mine saw it and had a hard time putting it down. So now it's hers. And I have a beautiful monoprint of hers hanging next to my computer where I can see it every day.
Monday, May 14, 2007
Friday, May 11, 2007
Pastel on Tiziano, 11x11cm (4.25x4.25 in)
Sunday, May 6, 2007
Watercolor on Arches 300 gr cold-pressed, 11x12cm (4.25x4.75in)
Saturday, April 28, 2007
I put paper on my easel, and just sat and looked at it, as if that part of my brain had disconnected. And it had. The first thing I did was so awful I destroyed it. Then I put a tiny piece of paper up, and did the first thing I saw, just to make my hands and eyes and brain engage. Then I went outside. The daffodils are blooming, at last. Yellow!
Soft pastel on Arches white, 300gsm, 10x10cm (4x4 in)
Saturday, March 10, 2007
pastel on Tiziano cream, 13x18cm (5x7 in.)