Saturday, January 29, 2011

I once took a painting class taught by a man who packed as much of his vast experience as he could share in a 6 week class of  6 or 7 students.  I studied with him for 12 weeks and often think back to what I learned in that time.

We painted outside at night; it was a wonderful experience.

We also wrote an artist mission statement every week to share in class.  The mission statement was to be written as if for our next show, in answer to a few questions, as briefly, honestly, appropriately as possible. 

Who am I as an Artist Today?  What am I working on?  Where do I want to go with my work?

I’ve learned that these are good questions to ask myself every morning when I show up for work.

Process is our most important product.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bird sightings at or near the farm have been exciting and many.  On this snowy day in Litchfield County, stuck here in my chair next to the heater (‘for the duration’ which seems to be days and days...),  I’m savoring the memories.  The flock of bluebirds gleaning in the apple orchard on a warm October day, Swallows swooping over the green pastures or lining up on the telephone wires this past August, watching the migrating hawks drifting overhead in a warm September sky, a barn owl in a tree a month ago....

I’m pleased with this painting in many ways.  It illustrates a bird-sighting that impressed itself on my memory and where I just happened to be with my camera.  It was on a Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago.  I’d just left my mother’s after lunch and was on my way back home.  It was very cold and everything covered with snow because of recent storms.  It was good to be out that day having lunch with my mom.  Litchfield County was experiencing a break in the weather after several snow storms; everyone was out that day taking advantage of the good weather;  visiting, socializing, & stocking up for the next storm at the grocery store.  Another storm was forecast that Saturday night into Sunday.  That afternoon, the sky was somewhat dark for mid-day and the light filtered through many layers of cloud cover.  I stopped to take a photo of the snow covered apple trees branches.  When I closed my car door, the sound startled what seemed like hundreds of crows that shot up from the trees and circled over the fields between me and the apple storage barn, cawing, making much noise.  There were so many crows – like a Crow Convention!  I wondered if the crows had all gathered together to socialize/re-connect and stock up on supplies  during the break in the weather, before going back to wherever they shelter during the storms.  The moment itself was uplifting.  All was quiet except for the sound of the crows calling out and my camera snapping photos.  The calligraphy of the crows against the field inspired me to do this painting.  The vision reminds me of the deep quiet.  Having been there and having a few photos with the shapes of the crows has been most useful to this painting.

In this painting I used Sepia, Cerulean Blue, Burnt Sienna and Yellow Ochre to mix near and far grays.  After the middle ground mid-tone gray was dried, I used masking fluid on a few roof shapes & areas representing snow-covered branches; in the foreground, on the apple tree branches, over a tint of the paint I used in the middle ground.   Using Sepia with Cerulean Blue to create the depth of the tone was quite interesting to me.  I usually use Burnt Sienna and noticed immediately that the Sepia gave me greater depth as well as the dull light of the day I felt I needed to express/explain the light.     

In the end, to make the closer crows stand out from each other and against the tint of yellow in the fields, I applied a somewhat thick glaze of Blue Violet to the crows in the foreground.    


Sunday, January 23, 2011

January 23, ‘11

Orchard 1
Orchard 2

I haven’t stopped to sketch or draw at the farm in recent weeks because of terrible weather but I’ve been there – passing by on my way to my mother’s for lunch –  every Saturday.  Most times,  I stop to take photos.

My task as an artist/painter throughout this past Holiday Season has been to photograph snow scenes from the farm and make paintings from the images.  It's a long, drawn-out process, a lot like this long, drawn-out Winter & Holiday Season.  Overall, I’m pleased with my studies.  They're keeping me busy and are a good antidote to Cabin Fever and what's going on Outside.

The weather here in northwest CT is bitter and cold; 5○’s at 9am EST.  A SEVERE WEATHER WARNING for Extreme Cold and Dangerous Wind has been posted for this area on the Internet.  

I feel that these paintings will make me feel a chill 6 months from now, that I'll look at each one and feel the cold, remember these blanket-wrapped, heavily bundled days, hunkered down, resigned to Endurance.  I don’t usually recommend painting from a photo, but in these extreme winter circumstances & since I took the photos that I'm using as sketches, I’ve changed my mind.  In recent weeks, I learned a lot about painting outside from a photo and feel that I’ve enhanced my experience.  As I sit in my chair next to the heater, I’ve enjoyed the thinking and planning and finally, the painting as I watch one episode of Desperate Housewives –  one after the other....

My experience of painting images of the farm is on many levels, the memories are many and my gratitude that I’m here now to do this thing, is immense.

These 2 paintings are 7 ½" x 5 ½", on #140 Arches Hot Press.  I'm working small so I can experiment more.  On each painting, I’ve used liquid frisket, applied with the walnut drawing tool I’ve discussed in earlier blogs.  I’ve also used pen and ink technique with a metal nib loaded with watercolor paint.  On one of the paintings I did the sketch with a water soluble colored pencil, on the other, I outlined the main elements of the composition in pen and watercolor and erased the pencil marks I put down as a guide.  Not exactly 'wild experimentation', but definitely 'out of the box', for me.  I’m working my images on a Landscape format as opposed to my preferred Portrait.  I’ve added 4 or 5 calligraphy tools to my jar of brushes.  My mind is intrigued by myriad possibilities....

My pallet for Orchard 1 was Cerulean Blue, Burnt Sienna and Yellow Ochre.  My pallet for Orchard 2 was Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Umber and Yellow Ochre.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Law of Simultaneous Contrast by Vincent van Gogh

I think back to these words whenever I’m thinking about color or mixing color.  The quote is from the letters of Vincent van Gogh.   The pages are from a calligraphy class I took many years ago.  The object of this example was  to create a model for a book in a matter of a few hours.

I’m aware of and apologize for all spelling and other errors.  There’s no SpellCheck in Calligraphy.  And in this class, no Do-overs. 

Remembering this quote when I paint has served me well, which is why I’m sharing it here, in hopes it will help simplify color theory for someone else.

Mistakes and all – The Law of Simultaneous Contrast from the Letters of Vincent van Gogh.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Happy New Year!

Today is cold and windy but the sun is shining.  I’m working in my living room for a few hours – as long as it’s warmed by the sun.  It’s a pleasant change from my corner in the kitchen, where I’ve spent much time because of arctic cold and then 2 snow storms.  I’m listening to The Doors –  C’mon Baby, Light my Fire – and to the wind rattling the windowpanes.    I’ve barely painted at all in the last few weeks.  It’s been too cold outside & I’ve also been so  busy with Holidays I don’t think of taking  a moment to  sit in my car & do a sketch or 2.   My bad. I feel as if I’ve been on Hiatus and now it’s time to get back to work.

I haven’t taken the time to stop and sketch at the farm but I have taken photos every week and have done a few sketches from the photos.   I’ve mostly  been reading,  The Complete Guide to Watercolor Painting  by Edgar A. Whitney, which I re-discovered this past fall after a talk with Tony Connor, which  has inspired me greatly, like going to a familiar place and feeling excited, curious, interested -- as if for  the first time.  My 'new' watercolor bible.

I think that the appeal to me in reading this book is that it validates much of my watercolor painting experience as well as makes it clear that I have so much to learn….

On my Resolution list for the New Year; more sketching,  more color mixing, more designing my composition from photos and memory, more study….

Happy New Year to All.