Friday, July 13, 2012

July Journaling

Painting outdoors has been a challenge, because of the extremely hot weather. On July 2nd, we met at the Art House. Students could either paint indoors, where I had still lives set up, or in the garden. The Chicago Fire day lilies were blooming by the sitting area, where Sue sat next to the small Japanese Maple tree.

July 9th, we found a lovely place to paint in the Memorial Garden at the Historic Village in Vicksburg. We sat under some beautiful old trees, which provided shade all morning.

The first rule for painting outdoors is to find a comfortable place to sit, and then to find a subject to paint.

I gave a lesson on how to draw the gazebo, and how to compose the page in a pleasing way. Everyone found an intriguing subject, whether it was the gazebo, or something else that caught their eye. After Emma painted a scene of the garden, she finished a journal entry that she began while on vacation. She is using a small moleskin watercolor book, which is a great size to keep with you all the time.

One of the challenges to working in a journal, is that you must consider the placement of the "ditch" of the book, so that it does not disrupt the composition.

The next journaling class (July 26th) will meet the same place, so that we can finish the paintings we began. Check back in a few weeks to see more of our paintings!

Monday, June 25, 2012

What an Artist Does on Vacation

So what does an artist do on their week off?

I painted!

The first two days, I looked at photos, choosing the absolute best ones, and printed several versions of each. I adjusted the levels (the balance of values) on Photoshop, as well as the saturation. If the image had interesting shapes, but looked rather dreary, I adjusted it so that it would look more like the scene that I saw when I took the photograph. Every table in my studio was littered with photographs. What would make the best subject? I wanted to explore a looser style of painting that was less photo-realistic than my other works. As I cleaned my studio on Wednesday (further procrastinating the moment that I would have to face the blank sheet of paper), I noticed a pile of small frames that I purchased several weeks ago. The sizes ranged from 2 ½" x 3 ½" to 8" x 10". I could paint a lot of little paintings, experimenting with style, to fill these frames! I dug out additional photographs from my notebooks, shamelessly choosing images that would look good in the frames. Finally, I began to paint. Starting with the smallest painting, I created three Michigan landscapes.

 On Thursday, I painted a single 8" x 10" image of a harbor scene.

 On Friday. I painted a single 8" x 6" image of a boat sailing.

Saturday, I drove to a farm in Grand Rapids to join other painters with the Plein Air Artists of West Michigan and the Great Lakes Pastel Society. I just did a few little watercolor sketches in my journal, but had a great time interacting with the other artists.

What did I accomplish with a week off?

I learned to paint simple scenes quickly. I love the harbor scene that I painted on Thursday, and hope to carry this style through to the next painting. I read books. I took naps. I spent time getting to know other artists. I went to a book club meeting and ate hot sticky marshmallows by the fire. I took photos inside a barn with the light streaming through the cracks in the wood. I visited with my family and watched a polar bear blow bubbles under water.  I began a quilt. I stopped to smell the daisies in my garden.

Now, if I can just overlook the weeds.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

June Journaling Outings

Each summer, I take students on mini-outings to sketch in their journals. The classes meet for three hours, either on a Monday or Thursday morning. The students work in watercolor, ink, graphite, or colored pencil. I always do a short demonstration, and then everyone has a few hours to work in their own journals. The journals are like diaries with images. Sometimes the sketches turn out great, while at other times, all that we can say is that we had a good time and learned more about the spirit of the place.
Our first class met at Apple Knockers in Vicksburg. Our theme for the summer is "Gardens". Almost all of the nearby gardens seemed to be resting after a burst of colorful peonies and irises, but I found this little oasis right in the village of Vicksburg. Apple Knockers has lovely planters and beds, and also a patio on the east side of the building where we could sit and sketch.

This is my painting kit. I hand-bound my own journal, and use a Winsor Newton Field box. I sewed the rest of the kit together, so that I can pull my supplies out of my handbag at a moment's notice, and be ready to paint.

Afterwards, we had a nice meal on the patio. Unfortunately, I didn’t save room for ice cream.
Our next outing was to Rawson’s King Mill in Leonidas. Dave often works in black and white, but is slowly rediscovering color in his smaller sketches. He thought he might need yellow paint, but he managed quite nicely with his limited palette.

Dark clouds loomed overhead all morning, but it didn’t rain until we were on our way back to Vicksburg. The park is a wonderful place to paint.

The roses were beautiful, and the sound of the waterfall was so refreshing.

Sharon enjoyed the roses, but everyone who painted them agreed that they were difficult to paint.

 A tiny spider built a web on me, and a friendly cat took a nap under the roses while we worked.

We had so much fun, and I did not see a single mosquito!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Porch Light

I just finished this pastel painting "Porch Light". I have been working on it for several months and am excited to finally call it finished. It is always hard to declare a painting finished, because as long as it is not complete, it has the potential of being really wonderful. Once you say "it is finished", you must admit that it is what it is. It may have turned out even better than you had hoped when you first began, but more often than not, it falls short of what you imagined. Fortunately, one of my students offered to take the painting with her to Traverse City, to have it photographed at Vada Color. I had a delivery deadline of 6 p.m. last Friday. I finished it at 5 p.m., because my time was up.

I found this old house while on a painting trip last fall in Rockland Maine. I loved the way the late afternoon sun illuminated the white columns and the peeling paint. Instead of painting the entire house or a street scene with several houses, I selected a close view of just a portion of the porch. This allowed a greater emphasis on the peeling paint and the beautiful architectural details.

The colors of the reference photograph  intrigued me: ranging from yellow highlights, to blue shadows, with lots of unusual green colors in the mid-value range (see detail of the painting below).

 At first, I was concerned about how to paint the rich texture and color of the peeling paint without becoming bogged down in photo-realistic detail. Fortunately, it turned out to be much easier than I had feared. I began by dragging several different colors of the same value of soft pastel sticks over the surface of the Wallis sanded paper.Then I used slightly darker colors to indicate the places where the siding showed through the paint. Rather than following the reference photograph closely, I simply let the pastel pigment jump and skip over the surface of the paper, by dragging the side of the pastel stick very lightly over the paper. Finally, I created the feeling of dark shadows below the peeling paint, and highlights on the edges of the curling paint with pastel pencils or really soft pastels.

Now that "Porch Light" is complete, my easel is empty and ready for a new project. I have several pastel  projects underway: a sketch for a pastel painting of an anchor and thumbnail sketches of an abandoned house.I also have several watercolor demonstrations that are partially complete, and a new group project to begin this week for the watercolor class.