Friday, February 27, 2009

It's All About The Lesson Learned

Today's lesson, boys and girls, is don't be so attached to what you want to express from your inspiration photo that you forget about good design. Or maybe the lesson is don't feel like you have to be true to the photo, even if it is of a particular place, if it doesn't work as a composition.
I was dealing with both of those things today because the photo is from a friend's yard and I wanted to be true to the surroundings. Plus, the reason I chose that particular photo to work from is how the dappled light made the sky and the background very abstract and interesting.
However, once you start down that path, you may as well forget about the subject because there's always going to be conflict for the viewer (and painter) if the design has your eye going in too many directions and you can't tell what it is that you're looking at.
While it's okay to have the background vague, it's not okay for just *some* of it to be vague and other parts understandable. If you're the kind of viewer who takes in all the details, you're going to focus on that blob because it just doesn't fit with the rest of the background.
So, this is an amaryllis from a friend's backyard. I think it looks like an amaryllis in a backyard and, since I'm sick of it, I'm just about done with this backyard amaryllis. It's not moving, not inspiring, just a pretty flower...with a huge lesson attached to it. Do you think, if I named it, "The Teacher", that would be too confusing? Haha! I won't, but will forevermore think of it that way.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

There Are No Original Thoughts...Or So I Thought

When I got to painting studio last night, and Noel glanced at my amaryllis painting, he said, "That looks like a Daniel Sprick painting!". I was dumbstruck with dismay. After having copied a Cezanne painting twice and having it bought up right away, I swore never to copy another artist's work. It just isn't why I paint.
So, to have him immediately jump on the subject matter as being dirivitive of another artist's work made me so unhappy that I was unable to get started on anything for a good half hour.
Now that I've seen the amaryllis in question, the only thing I can say is that it's an amaryllis. I don't think that anyone would mistake my composition or style for anything resembling Daniel Sprick's work, phew!
So, once I'd squeezed out some paint colors on my palette, I spent more time than I wanted looking at two photographs that I'd brought, in hopes that being in a different location would help me decide which one was worthy of a painting.
The one I chose is a sunset over Florence that my friend, Lynda, took while visiting her daughter last summer. Even the tiny thumbnail photo of it grabbed my eye, so I knew that it would make a good composition. Noel agreed and said the words I've been looking for...he said that if I work it right, this painting will sing! Not only that, this feels so much more original than anything I've done in a while, so I'm super stoked to have this challenge ahead of me. Stay tuned.
I thought I'd share the blocking in with you. Initially, I started with way too much detail, which is a big flaw of mine. Noel was sitting across the room and suggested that I just block in the two big shapes and get the values right, before moving on to the detail. What I managed to paint last night was what I could see in the thumbnail, so I know I'm on my way! Woot!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Pressure's On

I go to painting studio every Tuesday night at Noel Robbins'. And every month there is a day where I panic because I don't have my next great painting all lined up. It's weird that the wonderful inspirational photos that I've been collecting for the past 3 years are doing nothing for me. I look them over, wander around the house and the yard, go online, look over my daughter's and husband's photos and nothing is singing to me lately. Nothing has sung to me since "Pierre".
But, I have painted something like 7 paintings and all those market bags and Valentines since "Pierre", so I can paint without being deeply moved by my subject. I'm just wishing that I could go back to that feeling that *this is it* when I see a photo. I've had three paintings that hit me that way: "Mining Ruin", "Canyon Waterfall", and "Pierre et Ballon de Football".
The closest I have come, is the "Thrill Before The Storm", but that one was rife with problems, decisions that had to be changed, issues with using a published photograph. All that kind of spoiled the joy of getting to do that painting.
I guess what I'm looking for is some joy. This amaryllis comes close. It's only 9x12, and hard as hell to use a palette knife on. So...I'm thinking that, if I can't get behind one of the inspiration photos I'm taking to studio tonight, I might just do this amaryllis on a larger canvas. And, no, that's not an original idea with me.
I'm skimming my new book, "I'd Rather Be In The Studio" by Alyson B. Stanfield and she quotes an artist who says that he paints small paintings to give away and a larger version to sell. Another take on that idea is what I came up with on my own: paint one that you think your commissioner would like and another one that is all your own style. Both ideas have a lot of merit and will leave you with a piece that you can sell in the end.
I've taken a photograph of my progress on the Amaryllis and am nearing the end. A few tweaks and I'll sign it and varnish it. Hopefully, I can get to it tomorrow and it'll be dry enough to varnish and give to my friend on Thursday because I just realized that she does volunteer work on Fridays and won't be at Jazzercise. Ah well. There's always next week.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Signed Painting and Work in Progress

Here's the signed "Bikes". Lesson learned here was how to render leaves on the ground without getting specific with each one. The other lesson was about how hard it is to use a palette knife to do bicycle wheels. An accurate rounded shape is tough! Should have learned that lesson with the "Grapes"!
This other painting is still really rough. I don't have the proper colors down on the flowers but just wanted to see some red on the canvas before calling it a day on Friday. I'd worked primarily on the drawing and background for part of 2 days and just did some smears of reds in about half an hour, to describe the flowers. I hope to work on it today and pretty much finish it. I also hope to give it to the friend whose photo I'm using for the inspiration. She doesn't know it, though, so don't tell;-)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I Just Need To Sign It and Name It!

Maybe it's Spring Fever. It's been a lovely 82 degree sunny day with nary a cloud in the sky and I have been worthless today. Well, to be fair, I did sit outside and read and that is worth something when you're used to working indoors all the time. Still, I can't stop the little nagging voice that said, "Get your paints out and PAINT outside".
I couldn't stop the other nagging going on in my head that said, "Just paint something...anything!" And since it's not too late, I may just go smear some paint on a canvas and play with color. Lots of good things happen when I do that.
So, I could call it Spring Fever, but I'm wondering if it's just the let down that happens when I finish a painting and think I've decided on the next one but am not totally enamoured of the original thought. I thought I wanted to paint a sailboat with sails unfurled. It sounded romantic and a chance to really do something interesting with white. But, I'm not chomping at the bit to get to it. A classic sign with me that I'm pushing too hard for an idea that's not working.
I have a new book about figure drawing and am not getting very far with that, either. So, what to do? Clean the studio? It's not in need of any cleaning. Look at art books? Not all that interested. I think tomorrow I will go to the Blanton and look at art in person. Sometimes that is the only way to get things going. Looking at really, really good art makes me want to be a better painter, better designer. It often inspires me to try a different way of looking at my subject, different color palette, even a different style. Something without bicycles.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Play's The Thing

I have had a ball playing with paint the past couple of days. I had it in my head that I wanted to make some heart paintings and maybe make some of them into Valentines for special someones in my life, but I also had two special girlfriends with birthdays who I thought needed a heart painting. In no way was this supposed to be "important" like the thought of a gallery painting engenders, and because of the play aspect of it, I was able to have fun and learn quite a bit about paints at the same time. If I didn't like the compliments I was trying to put together, I could scrape it off. No harm done. In fact, the many layers from some good and bad decisions gave each piece more depth. I know that for a fact, because I was tempted to stop with the second layer on the second group of hearts I was working on; they looked fine with their underpainting of gold acrylic and purple acrylic. But, if I'd stopped, it would have meant that I was giving up on the idea of play and giving in to the idea of playing it safe. And when I stopped thinking of them in the Hallmark card genre, and started mixing the paints around, I think they turned out a hellova lot better for the play. Each one is 6x8 canvas. I bought a little sampler tablet of different canvases, 2 of each kind. Some are linen, some are cotton duck and all fascinating to work with. I learned that linen is really too smooth to use a palette knife with in the manner I'm used to. The paint just slides away with no resistance from the weave. My two most favorite I will give to my daughter and husband as Valentine cards and then ask them if I can mount them on boards to hang. That will be an interesting activity to learn about. What glues and what woods or other hard surface to mount them? This play has become quite the learning experience! Happy Valentine's Day!!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


When I got up this morning, the sun was low in the morning sky but still very bright, shining its intense light all the way through the kitchen to the diningroom at the front of the house where this painting was sitting on the easel I have placed there to look at my work anytime I'm passing through.
I realized that the bright light really showed up the detail in the painting. I also realized that I should have better lights in the diningroom if I plan on using it as my space for viewing works in progress.

I read somewhere that you can show a lot more texture in your paintings and reduce some of the glare if you set your painting at an angle from the light. It is so wonderful to have a good, bright light from our Springtime sun shining at around noon to 2 p.m. now. Makes it much more convenient for me to photograph what I'm working on. I took photos at two different angles and chose this as the good one for showing the texture and giving it some depth. Digital photography flattens the image otherwise.

Next step is to put in some suggestion of leaves blown up against surfaces and maybe brighten the bike colors some more, because that is what prompted me to paint this picture in the first place.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Signed and I'm Keeping It

"Flower" copyright 2009 30x30 on 1 1/2" gallery wrapped canvas.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Great Grape Giveaway!

I was happy to have finished this in time for Nancy's birthday party last evening. She'd sent me two photographs last week and I really doubted that I could do them justice in just that short amount of time. But, fortunately, I chose a much smaller canvas (14x18) than I'm used to working on and I think that helped me get it done in time. I brought it to the party, still wet, and was pleased with her reaction. She said that she took some time selecting photos that had a lot of color in them. Unfortunately, the main color in the photo was green, so I had to fudge it a little by bringing out color and tones that weren't really there because of the bright light. Anyway, I'm glad to have it done so I can concentrate on the next great thing, haha! Well, you wouldn't say the next mediocre thing or the next not so wonderful but I'm trying thing, right? Gotta think positive (ly). I was also happy, that same evening, to take a painting off the wall and hand it to a friend who'd come to pick us up. He'd mentioned loving my first plein air painting (done at Inks Lake), so I was thrilled to let his wife and him have it for their own. Turns out they were equally thrilled to have one of *my* paintings. Aw, shucks. I am messing with the template and adding things, looking forward to some good instruction from Kate on how to work this bloomin' blog shtuff. Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

A Little of This, A Little of That

I started the day with good intentions. It was going to be a painting day and then this evening go with a friend to Austin's West End for First Thursday Gallery Night. But.....
As with any good intention, you have to decide how important it is when faced with the decision of following through by any means possible or going with the flow. I chose to go with the flow and it's only now that I'm home from seeing other people's art that I realize it was for the best that I did not paint today.
Because...what has bothered me about this piece is that it really isn't very Connie-like. I have enjoyed painting my medium to large canvases with a palette knife in great swooshes of color, picking up the layers underneath and developing texture and depth. But this smallish (for me) canvas is not all that much fun to work on with a palette knife. In fact, if I could go back in time, I would have used a brush. But, since that's not an option at this point, I took it as a signal tonight when I saw lots of different work from artists I know and others I'm just getting to know, that I should at least be REAL with what I'm doing. What I mean is, just because I'm using a palette knife on this painting doesn't mean that it is my "voice" in this piece. It's almost just a gimmick. What I need the palette knife to do is what I do with the large canvases, mix those paints around. Give it motion.
Because this is a piece from a friend's photo and I'm giving it to her, I think I attempted to play it safe. I am so disappointed in myself for that. I know I am learning a hard lesson here and dearly hope that I can right enough wrongs for me to value this painting in the end.
I can't wait to get to the grapes tomorrow and give them some volume with the use of light. Hopefully no one will need me tomorrow.
I did want to share my excitement about my next intentions. I just got the book, "Henry Yan's Figure Drawing, techniques and tips" and can't wait to learn his methods for producing such luscious, full of energy drawings. In reading a number of art blogs, it seems that there is a growing trend toward drawing, sketching, getting the image down in your head before starting a painting. I did my first "best" painting using that method when I took a course from Noel Robbins at AMOA. And, just a year ago, I started going to his studio just so we could work on drawing. I don't know why I didn't stick with the drawing part. I did it for one painting and then I guess I forgot? Maybe I was just so excited about painting?
So, anyway, now I'm fixing to get back to drawing and sketching. I think that will help me work up my nerve to go to paint outs with the Plein Air Austin group, too. My issue is a strange one: I joined PAA last year, with every intention of taking my brand new easel and backpack out to paint outs. In March I had the worst episode of herniated lumbar disc I've had in years, right after using my backpack at a painting session with Austin Figurative Gallery and was laid up with muscle relaxants and pain meds for 5 days. So now I can't help but associate back pain with my wonderful backpack.
One of the sweet PAA people suggested that I just bring a sketchbook to our paint outs and I think she deserves an award for creative problem solving. Why I did not think of that is beyond me. Guess I was too focused on what I couldn't do to figure out what I could!
Two photos of two things I'm working on. After the Blogging 101 workshop I'm taking 3 weeks from now, I should be able to put captions under photos, create paragraphs and post blogs that I follow. I'm not a total idiot, but I do tend to give up if it looks like I'm going to be at it for hours problem solving.