Saturday, July 24, 2010

The weather here in the past few weeks hasn’t been inviting enough to make me want to paint outside.  The sun is hot and strong and it’s also been suffocating-ly humid, day after day without much of a break.  When we had rain, it came with a thunder, lightening and wind storm that was terrifying and destructive.  I’ve been staying home a lot, near the air-conditioner, watching movies and working on old paintings.

I spent the storm on the porch in Millerton, until I realized that wasn’t a safe place to be from lightening so went inside until it passed.  As I drove home, I was following the storm, so drove through much rain, saw many fallen trees, limbs, leaves from trees and even a telephone pole on fire, like a torch.

So, back to the old/unfinished paintings....

When I do a Still Life for my on-going series, I work the painting to a point where I don’t know what to do next and then I put it aside and start a new painting.  When the pile of unfinished paintings reaches Critical Mass, I take them out and start the work of finishing.  This is a good time to be doing this work, when I need to be contained in a small space.  I also do this kind of work in the dead of winter, when I need to be close to my space heater.


I thought I’d finish a painting or two for the President’s Show at the Kent Art Association, but that didn’t happen.  I want to finish more paintings to post on my website, but it seems that isn’t happening, either.  I started out working on 4 large paintings, to a place where I didn’t know what to do next so put them aside and gathered up a few more.  I worked on those, put them aside, gathered a few more....  (Hmmmmm, I think I’m seeing a pattern here)

I’ve been doing a lot of work washing out spots in paintings with Q-tips and bits of sponge or paper towel and then re-working – painting –  those spots more to my satisfaction.  It’s taking hours.  I’ve been doing a lot of glazing, in thin layers, as if varnish.  That’s quite time-consuming, too.  I’ve been thinking a great deal about Tone and how I use color and learning the advantages of making grays out of complementary colors.


On a few of the paintings, I’ve resorted to painting out patches with thin, very watery layers of Acrylic Titanium White, as if White-Out.  The layers of white acrylic are very thin because I want the paint surface to be somewhat porous, so I can paint over it in watercolor and hide the patch.  

In many ways, this is more like a wood-working project.  Sometimes tedious, which is why I like to watch movies as I work.  It’s been a peaceful time and a valuable learning experience.


I’ve more or less put aside any plans to start a new series, as much as I’d rather.  It seems that the important thing at the moment is to finish these paintings, to catalogue more of my present work on my website and put everything neatly away before I start anything new.  I’ll be planning, though, in my mind and notebooks and enjoying small watercolor and pencil sketches for fun in the meantime.

My next Painting Outside! Class at the Litchfield Community Center begins on September 10.  I’m taking August off to work on these paintings and make plans for the next class.  Happy August to all!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Artist Date -- Outdoor Band Concert

For many years I've been a somewhat faithful devotee of The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron.  I  follow some of the disciplines I found from my reading and practice of her principles, one of those being the Artist Date.   I also refer to this book quite often for a variety of reasons (feeling stuck, for one) and highly recommend it to all who hear the call from their own Inner Artist.

“An Artist Date is a block of time...especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist.”

I put in a long day at work yesterday plus a lot of driving.  I felt drained when I finally got home, around 5.  For a few days, I’d been planning to go to a band concert on the Litchfield Green and practice drawing people.  After I got home, I thought to cop to exhaustion but after some rest and thought decided that rather sink into lethargy and wilt in the heat, I’d get up and go.

Dan and I had a tradition of attending every Litchfield Band Concert on the Green for many years.   We’d take a picnic supper and go early so we could talk and people-watch.  Out of respect for his wanting attention and to talk, I always left my sketchbook at home.  When I’m sketching or painting, I tend to drop out and he wasn’t comfortable with my being there but not there.  Since Dan died, almost 2 years ago, I’ve been to 3 band concerts; 2 last year and the one last night.  At one of last summer’s band concerts, I was wishing I had thought to bring my sketch book.  So last night, I brought closure to that thought and showed up for my Artist Date,  a little after the concert started, toting my lawn chair and sketch book.

Before I left home, I needed to decide which sketch book and what medium and after much thought, decided on the ‘sketchbook with the bright paper’ and a Pilot Sharpie Fine Point.  I also brought one BIC mechanical pencil in case the Sharpie ran out of ink.   I limited myself to as few art supplies as possible.  I chose that particular sketchbook and pen because I like the bright paper in the book and the pen and ink possibilities of the Sharpie.  Pen and Ink is one of my first and earliest loves; a Pilot Sharpie is a great alternative for a bottle of ink and a dip-pen.  


I enjoyed the sketching and the memories of all those past band concerts with Dan and a host of others.  There was no one there I recognized.  I stayed for a little more than an hour.  Sketching was quite a challenge because people move so much, even in repose.  I think that my brain enjoyed the challenge.  It’s been a long time since I’ve used my people drawing skills and even though I felt quite rusty, I also felt invigorated & hopeful. 


The band consisted of 2 young women with guitars who had great voices and a wonderful repertoire.  After an hour of sketching my brain felt like my legs after a half hour of vigorous walking on the treadmill, so I put my sketchbook away,  got out my camera and took a long video shot of the scene from where I sat.    While I shot my video, the band and the audience were singing ‘Good Morning America’ a song I love to hear, love to sing.    The video in this post is my Internet singing debut.  As I was shooting and singing, I also noticed that the sky looked as if it intended to speak rain & soon, so a little before the song ended, I packed up and left.  
The 3rd sketch, the one of 2 women, I did the other night when I was with a group of people.  I enjoyed that sketch, too.  I am interested in, amazed by, enjoying the whatever that got me to make these sketches in the first place.  Doing them was fun and a nice break from the ordinary. 

"Every child is an artist; the problem is how to remain an artist once he/she has grown up." 
Pablo Picasso

Sunday, July 11, 2010

I spent a good part of this morning watching a dvd on my computer and doing thumbnail sketches in my notebook.  I’m feeling in a bad-head,  low frame of mind; thumbnail sketches help keep me focused, work things out.  With the exception of one, all the above sketches were done with black ball point pens that are a lot like India Ink.  One sketch was done with soft pencil.

In mid-afternoon, I decided to go work out at the gym.  I also decided that before I went to the gym I’d drive around down-town Torrington a bit and try to find Center Cemetery, which I saw last year for the 1st time from the back lawn of the Historical Society.  I’ve wanted to look at it more closely but have never made the effort to go back – until today.  I started out by going east on 202, then took a quick left on the first side street to the north.  I found the cemetery.  But it was in a section that was fenced with chain-link, so I kept driving around the block and tried a few more streets, one from east to west, one from north to south and at the end of both streets, found the cemetery as well as the fence. Finally I found the Main Gate – open – on a side street off Main St, from west to east, with City Hall on the corner.  I should be able to find my way back.

I decided that for today, I’d just step inside the main gate and do a sketch of the dirt roadway etched into the grass that led to then disappeared into the dark beyond the huge maples at the edge of the large grave yard, filled with all manner of carved stones.  It was a very quiet and peaceful cemetery yet around the edges, over the trees,  I could see parts of downtown.  Today is a beautiful summer day and quite beautiful there with green lawns, huge and lush maples, an incredible blue sky filled with poetry clouds.  I’d like to walk through the cemetery, look around, but have decided I’ll save that for another day.  I purposely took only pen and paper as I planned to spend no more than a half hour on the sketch.  I didn’t take my camera because I didn’t want to be distracted from sketching.  It was a peaceful and quiet a half hour for me, almost as peaceful and quiet as the Green in Milton this past Friday.  The high chain-link fence around the cemetery made me feel a little apprehensive about wandering around by myself.  There was also a sign at the entrance warning that Loiterers would be arrested which somewhat validated my apprehension.  I was content to sit and sketch at the entrance and will have to see what the future brings as far as any return trips.


I’m glad I made the effort to find the cemetery and do the sketch, though.  It was a change in my day, my routine, gave me pleasure, helped take me out of my bad head.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Yesterday’s Painting Outside! Session was held on the Green, in Milton, CT.

Some people refer to Milton as Brigadoon, a mythical lost town in Scotland, title of a hit Musical....  The first time I came upon Milton was many years ago, on a foggy early spring day enjoying a mystery-ride with a friend, looking for a shortcut from Cornwall to Litchfield.  I can well understand why people refer to Milton as Brigadoon as that was what I was reminded of when my friend and I drove through heavy mist and forest until we came to a clearing and stopped the car.  We were stopped on the Green where we marveled at the old time-y look and feel of the center of Milton with its 2 old churches (one 1700's, the other mid 1800's, I think), old schoolhouse, town hall and the large Green in the center of all these buildings.  There used to be a building that had been a store and another that was, perhaps, a small hotel but which are now private dwellings.

Until the sun got high yesterday and lit-up all our shade, the Green in Milton was a great place to spend a morning working on a study.  It wasn’t exactly cool, but the weather was starting to shift and the worst of the humidity was out of the air.  We even had a few specklings of rain, but nothing where we needed to run for cover or even stop our work.  Everyone in the class did a similar study, from slightly different angles and everyone did a worthy painting.  Even those who may personally think they did not....

The amount of possible subject matter just from where we sat was almost overwhelming.  A person could commit to painting there and only there and never run out of material.

I’ve enjoyed this group of women enormously.  We had great conversations and discussions about Painting and also about our lives.  We’ve had pleasant painting adventures in a variety of places and made lots of memories.  I was sorry to see the session end, sorry the group is breaking up, really glad we all came together in this space of time to paint together and  hope we see each other again, in the Future.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Just for Fun; A Corner of my Room

I haven’t minded the present heat wave because I have AC in my bedroom, which I’ve never had before and love.  I’m trying to use it frugally, to satisfy my conscience in regards to the environment and my checking account.  I’ve enjoyed the time spent sitting-out the heat wave in my semi-darkened room, working on paintings, watching/listening to movies on my computer and the drone of the AC.  I’ve enjoyed keeping so cool and with dryer air, I’ve enjoyed working on unfinished paintings and amusing myself with a few sketches and small paintings of corners of the room.

I’ve always loved Vincent van Gogh’s painting of his bedroom in Arles.  Many years ago, I read the entire collection of his letters to his brother.  As I recall, Vincent was very happy when he made this painting.  He was anticipating the arrival of Paul Gaugin, who was coming to live with him for awhile.  (Of course, what happens during Gaugin’s visit is whole other story...)

I was thinking of Vincent and his painting yesterday when I did this small sketch of a corner of my room with bed, bedside table, lamp and book.


I decided to start another sketch this morning, another corner of my bedroom.  In this corner, a small chest of drawers, a carved wooden sunflower on top, as well as a rectangular pottery dish with a candle inside, the wall behind and two framed paintings on the wall hung close to the chair rail separating the wall from the paneling.  In yesterday’s small sketch, I used a burnt sienna colored charcoal pencil; in today’s painting, I drew first with a BIC mechanical pencil, then outlined the drawing with pen and thin ultramarine blue watercolor.

Here’s the sketch with the 1st layer of paint.  The paint was washy, thin.  I did the wall in pure (but thin, thin, thin...) Yellow Ochre; the paneling was done with slightly grayed Ultramarine Blue, also applied thin, thin thin....  Where paint had been applied to the chair rail, I wiped the brush dry and lifted off the paint I’d just applied.  There was enough paint left to make the chair rail appear lighter.  I used the same thin UB mixture to do the painting –but not the frame–  behind the sunflower.  The frame was given a light application of thin (thin thin) black.  The tiny mirror with the very wide frame was given 2 applications of blue/red; the mirror part was left white, as I’m not sure what to do with it, yet.

The reason I painted the chest and sunflower with the red is that the chest is actually green as are parts of the sunflower.  When I eventually paint the bureau so that it appears to be green, the red (complement of green) will be a good base coat and keep the green dull, dark, in perspective....  I’m pleased with the result, so far and think I’ve put down a very good base coat.

Before I apply another layer of paint throughout, I’m taking a lunch and wash-the-dishes-from- last-night-and-this-morning break.

 This painting was done on 6"x8" 80# Strathmore Drawing paper, that comes in a pad of 24 sheets in a spiral binder.  I love this paper for sketches such as these.

The 2nd layer had been applied and after that,  a few glazing layers.  I was thinking to make this painting a little darker because it’s a gray day and the curtains in this room are drawn.  So what light is coming through makes things appear even more gray.  But, I do have an electric light turned on so I can see while I work and I think that’s causing a bit of conflict in the lighting theme.

I think that the application of Green over the red on the bureau and sunflower stem worked well.  I started by mixing the green and then separated the mix into 2 separate puddles.  I added a bit more blue and some gray to one of the puddles, thinned it down w/water a bit and then starting from the back, graded it out to the edge, ending with more water than paint.  I added a little yellow to the other puddle of green and did the front of the chest.  What I applied to the edge of the top, I lifted with a clean and dryish brush.  The shadows under the top edge and the drawer, I did with the blue/green I used on the top.  When it was dry, I made a line across the top of the drawer with the same blue/green to add even more depth, as I saw it, anyhow.

It’s finished.  That’s all the time I have today for this kind of fun.  I strongly suggest this kind of sketch and painting for all those I know who love to paint.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Litchfield Green, July 2, ‘10

This past Friday’s Painting Outside! session was held at the Litchfield Green.  It was somewhat chilly and windy, but still a lovely day.  It was also somewhat noisy because of what seemed to be heavier than normal traffic on Rt 202, probably because of the 4th of July holiday, with more people traveling in cars & motorcycles or arriving from NYC for the weekend, more deliveries by big trucks to local markets, more landscaping and re-modeling & equipment hauled by big trucks, etc.

Photo #1 is the result of my morning’s painting when it was time to quit and leave.  I felt that I had enough information in my mind from the morning’s work to bring it further along, so I did that in the past hour.

Following the ‘light to dark’ theory, I started out by covering the picture surface with a light application of gray that I mixed from UB, CR and CY.  After the light coating, and as the wet surface dried, I put in thicker applications of the gray – which I picked up from the puddle of gray I’d mixed to begin the painting – into areas I wanted to be darker.  So, a light application of paint mixed with water leaving me a rough indication of where I want my lights and darks to go, then a gradual building of color and tone until the end of the session and the results as seen above.


What I did this morning was to re-work some of the spots that needed to be strengthened.  The only surface of the painting I didn’t re-work was the roof of the building.

I started out with the red of the building and to get the red, I mixed CR with UB and CY; wanted something that was more red.  I thought of the mix this way; the hue of the shadow section of the building was red, but a cool red because it’s in the shadow.  So I started with red, then added blue because blue (a receding hue)  is a cool color (as opposed to a warm color).  I then added a tiny bit of CY, the complement to red/blue,  to dull down the red/blue a little, to edge the color more toward a gray than leave it a violet.  This mix of paint was thicker than the mixes in the previous layer.  The consistency was closer to somewhat thinned nail polish/enamel.  Somewhat watery but thick enough to be spread over the area representing shadow area.  I went around the stone facings and trim on the building, left it as it was when I finished phase 1.  I used some of the red/blue/yellow mix with a bit more blue added for the shadow under the roof on the far side, the same mix with more blue (cool, color, brighter) added to the shadow on the near side.  

After that, I mixed a cool green from UB and CY and a tiny bit of red, the paint thicker than the previous layer, did the large area of tree leaves behind the building and to the left, in the painting.  After that, I added in a bit more CY (for light) and went over the tree area again.  I used the same green mix with varying amounts of additions of UB and CY as the area I worked on got closer to the area I’d designated as where the sun was hitting each.  I used quite a bit of mostly blue/yellow in the area of tree that’s up against the Light side of the building.  When the green was dry, I glazed the Light side of the building with a medium consistency value of CY.  The highest concentration of CY was at the corner with the 2nd highest concentration of CY bleeding out from the corner under the roof and going down the side of the building.  I graded the yellow out to thin into the orange that was already there.  The center of the orange spot is untouched and is the deepest orange.  I grayed-out the area behind the bush and building on the left side of the painting, used the most color (blue) in the shadow behind the bush.  I left the pale yellow area as it was, as it represented a part of the house that was in Light to the left of and behind this building.

I then re-touched the sky area.  I did this with a minuscule amount of neutral gray to which I added a minuscule amount of yellow and approx 3 times blue.  I applied this paint starting from the top, in a semi-watery layer and doing a graded wash until it was more water than paint by the time I reached the roofline of building.  As it dried, I applied a thicker layer of paint, grading it down the same as I’d done the previous layer.  While the top of the painting was still wet, I added in a little of the thickening blue/sky mix across the top, just a little, near the edge, enough to run into and blend into the wet.

I’m satisfied with this painting as a sketch and know I’ll look back on it as a fond, happy memory.

Our next session will be -- Weather Permitting! -- in Milton, on the Green.  I’m looking forward to this as I’ve never painted here.  Also, looking forward to spending time with artists in the pursuit of a painting.

White's Woods, June 25, '10

The above is my painted sketch from Painting Outside! in White’s Woods on Friday, Jun 25, ‘10.

I can tell by the B&W copy that my initial value pattern worked well as every element – woods in the near background, pine forest in the far, back field in the middle ground, large trunk and foliage, with picnic table on the far side of the foreground, behind the tree shadow and the field in the near foreground between the bottom edge of the paper to the near edge of the cast tree shadow.   The color scheme of UB, CR and CY doesn’t work too well for me in this painting as I feel that it’s overall, too yellow; I remember the day as being cooler, more blue/green.  It was a warm day, the sky was an opaque and dull blue.  A day of Medium Tone.  As I recall, the shadow appeared to be very cool, while the shadow in this painting seems to me too warm and light.  The picnic table, shadow and bulk of the trunk and foliage are 3 of the elements that to me, gave drama to a scene of Serenity.  The picnic table barely shows in the color version and not much better in the B&W.


I decided, rather than re-work the original sketch, I’d begin a complete new painting copied from the original Thumbnail except this time I’d do it in Prussian Blue (PB), Alizarin Crimson (AC), and Aureolin Yellow (AU), instead of the Ultramarine Blue (UB), Cadmium Red (CR) and Cadmium Yellow (CY) I used in the original painted sketch I did that day.  

On the painting I did on the spot, I demonstrated how white chalk can set up a masking barrier when I used it on the white horizontal line under the tree representing ‘picnic table top.’  In this painting, I used liquid frisket.

Of the 2 paintings, I’m happier with the 2nd as representative of my perceptions as to how I viewed that scene that day.  It’s difficult to actually see the picnic table but it is there, after the eye casts about the painting & identifies it.  In the glare of the sun that day, I also found it hard to see but when I recognized it, felt it belonged in the scene to complete the sense of serenity and brightness of the day.  It wasn’t so much about ‘picnic table’ as it was about an element that completed the story of lawn, huge tree and shadow, background forests and pines,  and made the scene inviting, to a person seeking a picnic spot and to artists who see such things as having importance, a human value, a beauty worth recording.