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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Getting high without drugs


The Shed
oil on masonite 10x8

I started "The Shed"  during a plein air workshop and framed it last night.  Being new to oils and battling the heat of the summer day, I wanted to quit before I even started but then I might miss an opportunity to get "high".  Sometimes when I pick up a paintbrush and everything flows, I get into what artists call "the zone."  A feeling of elation comes over me and stays with me even if the painting doesn't turn out.  I remember feeling that as I was painting this old shed.  If others only knew of this high I know there would be more artists and less drugs.  I wish I felt it every time I paint but I don't.  Sometimes I feel like I've never painted before and that a child could do better than I can.  Fortunately it's the memory of times that I've been in the zone that keeps me going.  Who knows, maybe the next brush stroke will bring on that same feeling and there aren't too many things in life that can compete with the experience of being in "the zone."    So as the old year closes and the new year begins, I paint expectantly, hoping to get high once again.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What is good art?


Budding Artist
watercolor 15x22


Just Doodling
watercolor 15x22

I did these paintings in watercolor a little white ago and thought they were good.  I entered them into two different shows but the didn't get in either.  I know that doesn't mean they are bad paintings but sometimes I wonder what is a good painting and what isn't.  In the top one I made the doodling look exactly like crayon.  I was so proud of myself but now I try to look at these with a more critical eye but I'm still not sure what is working with them and what isn't.  As I write this a little voice in my head says when it doubt, it's value.  So maybe that's it.  Not enough contrast in the paintings.  But where does "high key" paintings come into play?  Oh so much to think about.  Fortunately whether it works or not, painting brings me a joy that I find hard to describe.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

To gift or not to gift

There is a debate amongst my artist friends as to whether to gift friends and family with paintings we've done.  I know one artist who has given each of her children one painting that they picked out themselves.  Any others they had to pay for and she never gave any of her paintings as gifts to friends or other family members.  When asked why she said there were too many times in the past that she gave paintings to friends or family that were never hung or she felt they hung them only out of kindness to her.  One artist lamented that a gift she had given someone ended up being hung behind the door in that person's bathroom.  I don't know what the answer is other than I give from my heart with hopefully no expectation as to what happens to it after it leaves my hands.  I just noticed I said "hopefully."  Interesting.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Never Say Never



Wellsville Barn
watercolor 11" x 15"

When I started painting I swore I would never paint barns.  It's not because I don't like barns.  I do.  I have loads of photos of barns and I can't avoid them living in an agricultural valley. Everywhere I look there is another barn.   I didn't like to paint barns because I struggled with them.  The perspective would be off of if I got that right, the colors wouldn't work.  Last summer something changed.  I didn't give up and  I found barns actually fun to paint.  I'd like to do this one in the different seasons.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Never Stop Learning


Asian Man
watercolor 14 x 11

Although I don't have a formal art education, I try to learn from as many places as I can. Last summer I went to art camp or at least it felt like art camp.  Two weeks away from family and daily responsibilities and being totally immersed in watercolor painting.  Carl Purcell was the instructor and he taught from 9-4. Many of us would stay way into the evening painting and encouraging each other. This Asian Man was first demonstrated by Carl, then we painted it from a slide he had projected onto the wall.  I learned so much during those two weeks.

Every day I try to learn something new.  I study photographs of paintings that are online.  I visit other artists blog pages.  I read from my many art instruction books or watch snipets of painting demonstrations found through YouTube, Yahoo Video or from dvd's I've rented online (www.smartflix.com)   The best teacher, though, is doing it yourself.  It takes dedication making the time to actually paint each day.  It's easy finding other things to do but I am finding that taking the time to paint is feeding my internal spirit in ways I only wish I could describe.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Snuggling down to watch and wait



Watching and Waiting
watercolor 15x11

I wonder if other artists feel like hermits?  There are days and sometimes weeks especially in winter where I don't want to leave my nest not in a depressing kind of way but a more satisfied and comfortable way.  It's easier to be a hermit in the winter.  Maybe that's what I love about the shortened days.  It's an excuse to get comfortable early, grab a warm cup of herbal tea and just BE.  It is a time of watching and waiting and turning away from the world and going inside.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Driving while taking photos


Summer Sky
oil on panel 12x16

As we get closer to Christmas I'm finding it harder to make the time to paint.  Although this year has been the simplest yet when it comes to decorating and preparing for Christmas the days still seem to fill up.  Today was another "fiddling" day.  I can never leave a painting totally alone.  It seems I always want to add a little more here and a little more there.

The inspiration for the above painting came during a drive home from the Denver area.  My husband is used to my driving with a camera in my hand.  I don't look at what I'm shooting, I just drive and shoot usually out the side window.  It is amazing how many photos actually do come out.

Monday, December 21, 2009

So that's what it's for


Lake O'Hara
oil on masonite 8x10

I'm having fun playing around with my palette knife.  Lake O'Hara is on the back side of Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies.   A few years ago my friend Linda arranged for us to spend the night in the warden's cabin right on the lake.  John Singer Sargent was known to have painted there and they even named the lakeshore in front of the cabin, "Sargent's Point."  I painted this painting today from one of the photos I took while there.

I feel gifted but not in the way you think

It is hard for me not to compare myself with others especially when it comes to painting.  It was a long time before I would allow anyone to see my work.  Five years ago, just before moving from Portland, a friend came for a visit and noticed I had not framed anything.  When asked why, I replied that I was waiting to get good.  That was only part of the reason the other was my own insecurity. I only had to walk into a gallery or museum to have proof that my work wasn’t “as good” as some.   My insecurity wouldn’t allow me to see that at times it was better than others.  “I” didn’t want to get rejected.

My insecurities roared its head on Sunday. I had donated to my church the painting I did during the previous Sunday’s service and it is to be auctioned off silently over the next four weeks.  Shirley Dickenson wasn’t able to make it through the snow that day did her painting at home and brought it in and she also donated it to the church for auction.  Our paintings did not compare.  Hers was amazing.    Why was my first reaction to grab my painting and find the first dark closet to hide in? I took that question to bed with me last night.  I awoke this morning with no solid answers but with a few insights.

I had confused the painter (me) with the painting. I didn’t want to be rejected.  It was my ego that wanted to find a closet. It was my ego that feared no one would bid on my painting.   I love Wayne Dyer’s definition of ego as being when we Edge God Out - E.G.O.  When I set my ego aside and let God in I found I can enjoy that I loved painting on that snowy Sunday morning. I loved being able to paint during a church service as a reminder that God has given us many gifts including his son whose birth we were about to celebrate.   I loved being surrounded by good people and good music.  I loved that I felt such a peace flow over me while I was painting.  I also love that although she couldn’t be with us that Sunday morning, Shirley felt connected enough to paint at home and share her gift with us later.  I love how connected I feel to Shirley, to Amy and the others at church, to God and to you.  I really do feel gifted in so many ways.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Early Snow




Early Snow 
watercolor 11x15

I did this painting last week during our church service and have donated it to be auctioned silently.  It was a unique experience painting during the service and I blogged about this earlier. I had one hour to paint and since I paint both watercolors  and oils with my easel totally upright, people in the church could watch what I was doing.   Before I started I was very nervous but as soon as I put my brush in the water a calmness came over me and the hour flew by.  Amy, the artist next to me shared that she had the same experience.  Maybe we've discovered the perfect solution to "artist block" - paint in church.

I even dream in paint


Weathered Barn 
 (oil on masonite 11x14)

I know this sounds crazy but I find myself dreaming of painting.  Sometimes it will be changes I need to make to a painting but most often it is compositions and ideas for new paintings.  I definitely dream in color.  No doubt about it because there are time in my dream I have difficulty mixing the right color.  I'm not sure if my dreams mimic my life or the other way around.

All of these paintings so far are in oil but I will need to put the final touches on a watercolor I did in church last Sunday.  I'm donating the painting to the church for a silent auction and want to get it matted before tomorrow. I'll post that painting later today.

I'd appreciate your comments.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Knowing When to Stop



Girl With Red Hair
oil on linen board 20x16


I took an oil painting workshop from Michael Malm last May. I was new to oils and also new to painting  directly from a live model although I did a few practice sessions with a model using watercolors before Mike's workshop.  Mike would do a demonstration in the morning and we would paint in the afternoon.  I didn't get very far in my three hour session so I took some photos hoping to finish my paintings after I got home.  This girl was one of the paintings I started in the workshop.  I got it out again this  last week and worked a little more on it today.   Painting from a model is so much easier than from photos.  You can see color variations that  the camera doesn't pick up.

I often don't know when to stop.  I also got the painting of Trooper out again today and did some more fiddling with that, too.  At this rate it will never dry and my brother might not receive this gift until next Christmas if I don't stop this.

Starting a Painting and Ruining It - All in One Day


Start of Pike Market Fish Monger

This is brave of me to post a photo of a beginning of a painting.  What if this doesn't turn out?   If I didn't post this "painting start"  no one would be the wiser.  I could scape it off and start another painting but then I wouldn't be honest and this wouldn't really be my journal.  It would only be postings of what I thought were successful paintings.  To be truthful I need to post the good and the bad.  So I begin and whether this turns out or not, I will have learned something in the process so nothing is really lost.

I just discovered that oil paint does eventually clean off from the surface of my MacBook.  While painting I get into a "zone" and lose all awareness of what's around me.  That's helpful unless you have just put your whole hand into the wet paints on your palette and proceeded to get the paint on everything BUT the painting.  My laptop - my clothes - my painting table - the floor - you name it and it was covered in paint.  Grrrrrrhhhhhh.  Thank you Winsor Newton for Barrier Cream.  It helped my hands clean up.  I wish they'd make a protective barrier cream for my computer equipment.

By the time I cleaned up my mess I no longer had an interest in finishing the fish monger painting.  I'll set it aside and maybe come back to it another time.  I don't think I want to capture the energy I'm feeling right now.  I need to get out for a walk.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Inspiration All Around




Arches
oil on masonite 10x8

I began the process of painting every day about two weeks ago so already have some finished.  This painting was among the first I did in this marathon of painting.  I'm posting early as I'll be Christmas shopping today.  Yes, I know I'm late AGAIN but better now than the week after Christmas when everything is really picked over.  I do plan on painting later today so might add to this post after that.

Thank you for the wonderful comments I have been getting through email from many of you.  Someone recently asked me how blogging would help my creative process.  What a thought provoking question.  Right now I'd answer that I find I have this blog in the back of my mind so my senses are heightened to what's around me even more than usual looking for good painting subjects.  What I am finding is there is inspiration all around me from the most simple subject to the vast landscape.  My dream is to paint a variety of things until I naturally find what I want to paint the most.  So, over the weeks and months ahead it might seem like I am jumping around but that is intentional.

It is amazing how vulnerable blogging makes me feel.  Painting on its own makes me feel vulnerable because I open myself so much in the process.  Now to invite the world to look at what I've been holding in the privacy of my own home is really going out on a limb.  I trust your comments will be constructive yet kind.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wait Before Posting

I am going to put a sign on my easel that reminds me to wait before I post a painting.  Two days ago I posted three paintings that I had just done of dogs.  My usual practice is to put paintings up on easels and sit with them awhile before I consider them finished.  I didn't do much of that with these three paintings.  Wouldn't you know it, I looked at the Trooper painting and realized that it not only looked flat in the photo, it looked flat in person, too.  So up onto the easel it went.

This is always a scary prospect but I figure "nothing ventured - nothing gained."  I started slapping new paint on the board.  A little ways into it I tried to avoid hitting the panic button thinking I had ruined it.  Oh no, I had already sent a photo of the painting to my brother and family and they loved it.  WHAT WAS I DOING??


Trooper
oil on panel 16x12

I've spent all day fiddling and I think it is an improvement over the original.  I think the first looked like a photo that had paint on it and this version looks more like a painting.  What do you think?  Much of a difference?



Since I didn't get to paint yesterday I decided to double up today.  Actually I couldn't wait to get started on my next painting.  After seeing the paintings I did for my brother and sister, Sara asked if she could commission me to paint Helen, her wonderful cocker spaniel.  The title of today's post is not to put anything on that was not totally finished but as my family will tell you, I'm not one to listen to my own advice.  Tomorrow I may kick myself but here's Helen before I fiddle with her.



Helen
oil on masonite 10x8


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Best of both worlds

Ok - so this is going backwards a day but Sunday was a new experience for me.  The focus this month at my church in addition to the obvious focus of the gift of the birth of Jesus, is the other gifts that we receive and give to God.  Members throughout the month were invited to share their gifts during the service.  Some shared their gift of music such as Aaron is.


Some took part in a dramatic reading as Serena did.


And others were invited to paint during the service. Yes, that's me near the window.


I will put a few finishing touches to the painting this week and donate it to the church for a silent auction.  It really was the best of both worlds.  Spending a quiet morning in a beautiful setting, among good people, waiting for the "son's" arrival and sharing with others some of the gifts we have received.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Going to the Dogs



Trooper
oil on panel 16x12

I have only painted a horse before and that was from a distance.  This painting is of Trooper, my brother Bob's dog.  Trooper passed away after having gotten a disease from a raccoon that ventured too close.  I wanted to give my brother and family a meaningful Christmas gift and thought a painting of Trooper appropriate.  Now after looking at this painting for a few days, I have decided to continue developing it.  I pray I don't ruin it but realize if I've painted it once, I can paint it again.


Ruggie
oil on masonite 8x10

I also wanted to give my sister, Dottie, and her husband a painting of their two dogs.  This is Ruggie. I thought I was done with this but again after looking at it for awhile, went back in and added a little blue to the background color.



Daisy
oil on masonite 10x8


Let me introduce Daisy.  Did I mention that my sister had two dogs?  Daisy is an American Staffordshire better known as a pit bull.  Although I've not met Daisy in person, is there anyone who cannot fall in love with that sweet face?  All three of these dog paintings were done in oil.