Monday, July 17, 2017

"To Draw Like Da Vinci"

"Roses & Blue Vase"
Graphite 20"x16"

Do you draw? Do you play? Do you make mistakes? Do you have favorite quotes?

A Couple of Favorite Quotes

To draw like Da Vinci, you need to follow his advice. “Train your visual mind to understand the shapes of forms and spaces, to recognize angles and directions of lines, to appreciate proportion, to understand perspective, to recognize gradations in tone and, above all, to be inspired by imagination. Without these, all the technical skills in the world will not produce a work of art.”

this one I keep by my easel!

“If you aren’t willing to make mistakes, you will never do anything creative!”

I love the first one, but the one just above is one of my favorite quotes to tell my students. It teaches me what I don’t want to do, and I remember it much better than if someone told me not to do a certain thing. Learning by making the mistake remains in the mind so much better than what someone tells you!

A pastel I brushed off part!
When working in pastel, the mistake … or let’s call it a path that I decide is not going to work … just gets brushed off with a stiff bristle brush that I cut the bristles down about halfway and at a slight angle. This leaves a ghost image but gets rid of the excess pastel on the board and allows me to add more layers of pastel. So, a little about a technique here, but this is to explain something very important about being an artist.

Being an artist is not totally about mastery of your medium. Medium means what the tools are you use to create your art. It could be anything from painting or drawing, in any of the “mediums” such as oil, acrylic, pastel, watercolor, etc. It could be that you are a sculptor, a mixed media specialist, builder of three-dimensional art, fine art craftsman building furniture or found object art … many ways of using that creative spirit of yours … being an artistic person with a vision. I believe that is being an artist! And, if we make mistakes, it is part of the process of learning, so why not embrace that part as well as all the other tools we use?

I heard a young man a few days ago mention he did art. I said, “so you are an artist?” He answered not he was not an artist. I tried to tell him that being an artist is doing something creative, no matter your level of experience. There are artists that are beginners, intermediate, advanced and professional. So if he does something creative, and he showed me a couple of his paintings, then he should say he is an artist. It would be okay to say he is a beginner … to clarify the statement.

So, make those mistakes, and try again. And, if you are doing something creative that could possibly be called art, then call yourself an artist. I do believe it might make you “own” the title and try a little harder to be an authentic you, an artist!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Being an Artist!

What is it like to be an artist?

Demonstration - IAPS Convention
Part of being an artist ... besides doing artwork ... is attending association meetings, doing research into what you want to paint (if painting is the kind of art you do), accumulating the art supplies, reading books and magazines on your art, attending workshops, conventions, etc. And, what do you do with the artwork you create? Sell it by putting it in a gallery or shows? Marketing is a large part of what you do if you are selling. If it is a hobby, then you are probably giving them to friends and family.

I am in the process of writing a book about "Being an Artist" ... which is my working title. So the ideal of what it is like to be an artist is the gist of the book. I hope to address many of the issues of the life of an artist, not necessarily techniques for painting, but the day to day things we deal with. There is such a misconception about being an artist and how carefree we are. I probably work well over 40 hours a week doing what I do for my art. Yes, our schedule can be flexible, but if not careful, your time gets frittered away before you know it. Respect for what we do, and thinking of it as a job.... yes a pleasurable one ... is a key element in being successful.

So this is just a small snippet of some of what will be in the book. This post is about the most recent attendance at the pastel convention known as IAPS! 

The beginning of the above waterfall! 14"x11"

Attending the IAPS Convention!

This June 2017, my husband and I went to the IAPS convention (International Assoc. of Pastel Societies) in Albuquerque NM. I think this was my eighth convention for IAPS. We love going and Haywood helps out in the Terry Ludwig Pastel booth in the vendor market... so he keeps occupied while I do my networking (meeting with my friends) and demonstrations in the vendor market for Terry Ludwig and Ampersand Pastelbords. In years past, I would go to different sessions, so it was a good thing he was occupied and not just bored and sitting around waiting on me. 

Above you can see the waterfall painting the way it was when I stopped. And, you can see the small number of pastels in the Strada Easel, that I used for the painting. The photograph is in the upper right, but has a glare on it. 

I probably won't do anything more to this painting.... it has charm just the way I left it! And, to the left you can see how I started the laying in of pastel on a grey Ampersand Pastelbord. You can see the simplicity of the dark and light pattern to the painting... which is a wonderful way to see if the composition will work out well.

I was at the Ampersand booth demonstrating the use of their boards! I did this for the three days of the convention's vendor market. I also had on a Terry Ludwig apron, and talked a lot to attendees about the use of his pastels as well as the boards. His booth, a double booth, was just a couple away from me. 

I did four more demonstration paintings over the three days, but I think I'll break up this post into a couple more so it won't become so long. Here is an image of just this painting as I stopped that day.

How I stopped for the day!


Sunday, June 25, 2017

What is it like to be an Artist?

Maybe Being Able to Paint a Meaningful Painting!

"Not Enough Green!" Pastel 16"x12"
The post title, "What is it like to be an Artist?" could have so many different answers. To me it is the joy I feel when I can produce something that is worthy of a frame, and truly means something to me and maybe to someone else. It means there is joy in the viewing of the painting by others! The painting I am showing at the top is one of those.

A Little History

I started painting ... or I should say, learning to paint ... 45 years ago with oil paint. My Mother brought me her tubes of oil paint from when she painted, and that was when I was a baby. I had just given birth to my daughter several months before and was staying home to raise her. Mom thought I needed something to do! Was she kidding? I had a newborn and had loads of stuff to do!

Well, anyway, that is the start of me trying to paint. And, I had a best friend that was painting and taking lessons, so she encouraged me to do the same. I did find a lady that gave lessons at her home about twice a month on a Tuesday (I think) evening. I probably took about 6 months worth. She had us painting from her own paintings. But, she did allow me after the first one to paint from a photograph I had found in an inspirational publication. I still have that first and second painting, and I am rather proud of what I was able to do!

Along the way my Mom brought me a set of pastels ... Rembrandt .... that she found at a yard sale. Wow, all those colors, and so quick to use. Again, I was off on another adventure. I think that event came about 2 or 3 years after she brought me her oil paint tubes. I also took only two workshops and no other lessons for about 25 of those first years. Both of those were 5-day plein air workshops, one in oil paint, and one in acrylic.

Fast Forward Many Years!

I painted my little heart out and learned loads of stuff from doing so, and from voracious reading of art books, magazines and studying other artists. I made loads of mistakes along the way, but those taught me what not to do. And, it gave me permission to keep trying different techniques, different mediums, and I made lots of artist friends that helped me along the way.

I started framing some work, showing in a couple of local small gallery/frame shops, and started selling about 10 years into my journey. Ah! Reminds me of my favorite saying... "It's the journey, not the destination!" But, I digress. I decided to join the Atlanta Art Center, took on a few volunteer jobs and kept learning. Nineteen years ago, I took my next workshop from a legend in the Atlanta area, Elsie Dresch. This was a pastel workshop, and I took everything she said to heart, and my work seemed to just take off. Elsie, my first mentor, is the one of the reasons I really fell in love with pastels.

But, you know how opportunity comes knocking loudly sometimes? Around that time I started teaching workshops and lessons. I was being asked to teach some of my friends, so I thought it would be a good thing to do. And it kept me learning so I could keep ahead of my students, right? I participated on a website called "WetCanvas" and meet many wonderful giving artists there! One of those made the most important impact on me, my art and my career!

Now We Get to the Answer for the Above Painting!

The person in this painting is truly like no other artist I have met. The plot thickens ... he was on that website, and I had participated for awhile in conversations on the forums about pastels, painting and teaching. He got in touch with me and said something to the effect of, "I know you are teaching classes and workshops, so would you like some samples of my pastels?" Well... that wonderful man was the master colorologist, Terry Ludwig! My answer? Of course, it was a resounding yes. I had heard of his pastels.

Not long after, not to bore you with all the history of it, he came to visit me in the Atlanta area to teach a portrait workshop at the Atlanta Artist Center. Since he was staying with me, we went out to paint plein air, and it being an August morning, it was humid.... and very green! I came around the barn and took this photo, as he was painting. It was a wonderful memory and  I have wanted to paint it for years. I had it taped to one of my cabinets for that eventuality. I did so just a few months ago finally. I framed it and carried it with me to the IAPS (International Association of Pastel Societies) Convention in Albuquerque NM this month (June, 2017). The Terry Ludwig "candy store" booth had it hanging behind the workers that helped attendees pick pastels to purchase and take home with them.

I  painted this memory for Terry and his wife, Marie... and it is now hanging in their living room as a gift from me. We create joy when we paint, and some of the best memories when painting, learning, teaching, visiting galleries and museums, attending events, and best of all ... making artist friends! All these things are joyful if you let them be.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Doldrums? Need to Change?

"Healing Waters" Pastel 14" x 11"

Here are a few items you might want to try!

I was reading a blog post by John Weiss that are along the lines I am discussing here about making a change. He gave a list like I have below, but I made my own list with the help of his. And, in the article, he also said, "The question is, must art become commercially successful and widely recognized to be powerful? To fulfill the artist's creative vision? To elicit joy in others? .... Doing the work is enough." I did leave out some of what he said before that last sentence because what I read spoke to me just the way I have presented it here to you.

Make sure to listen to your heart! Change should only be about a passion or an intriguing idea that just won't go away. This might be a great clue as to a direction worth exploring.

So.... what should you do?

1. Identify why you feel you are stymied or need something new, or you are stuck in the doldrums.

2. Visualize what could be .... what intrigues you.

3. Write down your thoughts, or what you would like to change. Do some research into the things you are thinking need work.

4. Make a list of steps that might help you accomplish the change you wish to make. Have a plan of study, or practice... which helps you figure out where to go.

5. Create some reminders of what you want to accomplish .... your goal. Stick them up where you will see them every day. Practice with purpose these things that are change or different from your normal way.

6. And maybe you need to change your routine so it will be easier to not fall back on your old methods. Move your supplies, have a different order, change the supplies, put on different music.... anything that will signify something new is about to happen!

Remember ... you might encounter these types of feelings, or the need to change something, many different times during your lifetime or career. This is normal and a realization that it is time for growth or learning something new! You can't grow if you keep doing the same thing all the time.

Farm On a Hill (working title) Pastel 11"x14"
 I have a quote taped up right beside my easel which says, "If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything creative!" I think about it more now that I see this quote beside me. It helps!

The two paintings in this blog are part of my change from the past three or four years of trying to "simplify" which really led me down a road that was not working for me. So, part of my change was going back to who I really am, and what I love to paint ... use what I have learned in those years to make my work better!

So ..... sometimes change might be revisiting who you really are, using things you have learned, and understanding what "success" means to you.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Rocks Are Fun To Paint!

River Run, Pastel 20"x16"

Painting with pastels is so much fun with rocks. You get to choose a stick of pastel and make a beautiful angular shaped stroke... and that first stroke just looks like a rock! How cool is that? Use that broad side of the pastel stick. I break all my pastels in half and it is just the right size to make that mark.

Beginning Shapes

My Method of Breaking the Shapes Down:
  1. Be sure to squint to look at your reference so you can see the dark and the light shapes of the large mass of rocks. When you open your eyes, quickly think: "Is the dark a warm or cool dark?" This will help you decide to use that temperature when you pick your dark color. This means the light rocks will be the opposite temperature. So, if you decide the dark is warm, then the light part of the rock will be cool, and vice versa! Does that make sense?
  2. Break the large shape of all the rocks down into a dark mass with no reference to small rocks, just the large dark shape. Choose a dark pastel that is a couple of values lighter than black... this could be referenced as a "middle" dark. Stroke it on the complete dark shape, lightly caressing it on the surface.
  3. This leaves the part of the large shape of all the rocks that you have determined is the light mass. So, choose a light pastel that is a couple of values from white... this would be referenced as a "middle" light. Now, you can caress that shape with this lighter pastel on your surface.
  4. Make sure you have touched the dark mass to the light mass, and by this I mean don't leave the surface showing to create a "halo" effect around or between your dark and your light. You want them butted up against each other. If you leave the surface showing, you have in essence a third value!
At this point, you can use a wet under-painting method if you wish, or you can leave it dry. It really does not matter, and is only a personal preference. Sometimes I do one, and others I don't.

The Second Layer of Pastels

As you start layering other pastel colors onto those first two, the dark and the light, you will start breaking down the large mass of each. Important point to remember at this stage is to not introduce anything from the light half of the value scale into your dark area, or dark into your light area. You have four values you can use from each half of the value scale, saving the lightest light and the darkest dark for the end as your accent and highlight marks. And, make sure you use that pastel stick in such a way as to look like the angles in rocks... no potatoes please! :)

 Here is my progression of these rocks:

Breaking up the Light Shape

Breaking up the Dark Shape

I have added details to the dark shapes with warms and cools, but with all those being in the dark half of the value scale. This gives interest to the rocks without making them look too spotty... and of course the same thing was done with the light shapes. All of my marks until the end, are done with a "light hand" instead of a heavy-handed stroke. This is just me. Play around with different pressures of making your mark. Find what works best for you. Sometimes it will be light, and sometimes heavy as the "feeling" of what you want to give the viewer will come through. Also make sure some marks are larger, some middle and smaller and move in different directions or angles. Variety is what we see in rocks!

Adjusting the Greenery and
Creating Interest in the Rock

To make it look three-dimensional, I have made sure the part of the rock moving down and inward under the bottom is a little darker, but never as dark as black. The same has been done for the top of the rocks... highlights on a few as if the sun was just touching it. Remember too, the light of the sky will reflect onto the top and make it a little lighter than the angled sides of the rocks.

"River Run" won an Honorable Mention at the Southeastern Pastel Society's International Juried Exhibition this past Spring. It will be one of my paintings available at Taylor-Brawner "Park With Art Exhibition" in Smyrna GA. The event will run from Friday, Oct. 7th through Sun., Oct. 16th at Smyrna's historic Taylor-Brawner House. The exhibit will be open 6 - 9 pm on Friday for a Reception and meet the artists. The show will be open daily thereafter from 12 noon - 5 pm. On Tues. and Thurs. (11th and 13th) the time is extended to 8 pm.

Come see me at the Reception!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Creating From Your Memories

Valley (in progress name) 24"x30"
As it is before fresh eyes this morning!

There are many times I have a vision of a scene I want to create. I will go through some photos and plein air pieces to come up with some references that I can use to jog my memory. Crazy right? Well, this painting has been worked on for about three different days, with some days where I did not get to work. I have posted a few of the "in progress" shots on Instagram which then gets shared to my Facebook page. Several have made comments, and when I posted the first stage (which is coming up) I was asked to please show the progress shots. I will say there was a stage I was working on in the ravine/creek area that did not get a photo, before I scraped it out and stopped for the day to come back the next one and start again.

The beginning shots of laying in the idea! 

Step #1
Step #2
Step #1 drawing with pencil very lightly to give me a road map. And then a start with the distant plane... the mountains!

Step #2 Here I am adding colors in the pasture, creating the negative image of a tree, combining peach and ochre mixtures with light green mixture, so I could have a pasture with "character" and not a flat color.

Step #3 I have just moved down the canvas getting a layer of some colors and values and shapes. This helped create the stream bed, a slight ravine and the bushy stuff at the bottom... and the dark side of the tree.

Step #3
Step #4

I like using Ultramarine Blue and Permanent Alizarin Crimson as underpainting colors for my darks. The green tree actually started out with the Ultramarine Blue as its under color.

Step #4 I continue adding the pasture colors, and more greens into it as it progresses forward. My greens are a combination of Ultramarine Blue and either Cad. Yellow Med. or Cadmium Lemon. I adjust those, adding some modifying colors to knock them down a little. I'm also beginning to play with what are the trees and stuff coming toward us from the background. I introduced some trees that have a lavender in them... could be trees that are losing their foliage for some reason.
Step #5

Step #5 is trying to cover all the white of the canvas except the little barn in the distant middle ground. I added the sky colors, leaving a light section to become a cloud, and also put that sky color in the creek. I have the bank of "Georgia red clay" on the shadow side of the creek... a small ravine. And, I have added more to the tree and little bush, foreground foliage values and colors.

Step #6
Step #7 - grey scale
Step #6 This is the image after I had scraped off lots of "nit-picky" foliage in the ravine area of the creek. I had spent a lot of time on creating what you see growing down in those little creeks that snake their way through a pasture. Well, I didn't like it, so I used my palette knife and scraped! This is the image after that, but I have added more color to the little barn, and changed some of the colors in the pasture. I have also changed the distant course of the creek and the near part as it comes to the foreground foliage. And here, on the right, Step #7 is a grey scale ... values only with no color.

Step #8
Step #8 Here I have scraped out the middle distance... the barn and trees... adding the barn a little more forward and just slightly larger, and creating a bank of darker blue to build some trees on behind the barn. The right side I have changed those lavender trees to a larger shape and a little more forward. 

Step #9
Step #9 ... here I have added the colors to the trees behind the barn, worked on the pasture, and am changing the shape and direction of the creek again! And, I have moved the tree from the bottom on this side of the creek to the other bank... other side of the creek.

When you are not pleased, be fearless and make a change, even a significant change. I have developed a work method of "thinking" this is only me trying to learn, be a better more thoughtful painter even when deciding to scrap off! Why am I scraping off? Make decisions based on your knowledge when you are backed away and sitting on your stool. A mentor of mine, Duane Wakeham, ld me I needed to spend more time sitting on the stool, and a little less time painting... he knew I am prolific!

It still does not please me... so, Step #10, I have added to the middle trees, putting shadows under them, etc. I have changed the creek bank more, and worked in the foreground. So here is another photo after reading this long post and looking at all the progress shots... of the image at the top... where it stands as of writing this post. That does not mean I won't change it when I make it back to the studio this afternoon, or tomorrow.

Step #10
I hope you have enjoyed coming along with me on this journey of starting, changing, working, changing, and hopefully getting toward the end of a 24"x30" oil painting! Work some from your memory, have things sitting around that will inspire you, things that will give you ideas, etc. But, be creative and unafraid! One of my favorite sayings is, "Crash and Burn" if you need to do so. You might not be glad you did.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Why change an older painting?

Peace In the Valley, Oil 36"x48" painted in 2011
Sometimes we paint a piece of artwork that we love most aspects of, and decide it is a finished piece. I am a firm believer that paintings are really never finished, we just decide it is the best we can do at this time in our career. When trying to decide if it is finished, I always say:

"When you are backing away to make your decisions, be thoughtful. If you don't know anything more to do, that would make it perceptibly better, then don't do anything."

The painting above was painted in 2011, and is a 36"x48" oil on a gallery wrap canvas. I was trying to convey a morning with the sun low in the sky and reflecting on those clouds and the land and trees. This painting has been in my gallery in Marietta, GA, Frameworks Gallery, for most of that time. They have moved it around, placing it in many premier spots in the gallery and always getting good comments and rave reviews. But, it just had not met it's owner yet. I brought it home last week, and decided to work on it to see how I could improve on it. You know, we keep learning, and refining our thoughts on how best to present a feeling in a painting. So I stood and thought about what kind of feeling did I want to change this one to?

Bottom of the painting redone

My first thought was change some of the colors in the field to a more traditional green, and then maybe with highlights of taller grasses in the middle ground ... those we see that have seed heads on them making the color a little more on the neutral side, or maybe on a light warm beige or wheat color. These could have bits of peach or pink in them... along with a light green. This was something I was seeing in my mind's eye.  I knew it needed something else! I also wanted to lead the viewer into the painting... so next thought, "how about a pathway or road!"

The top third of the painting with cloud changed
And, if I am changing the colors of the land, then I need to change the colors showing in the cloud to be consistent with the colors of the land. The light will still be morning light and low in the sky. But, I'm not sure this is the finish of the clouds... I need to refine the shape of the cloud. Right now it does not look believable to me.

The middle third of the painting still needs work!

And, the middle portion of the painting might need some color changes too. It is still a little too yellow for my taste. The middle and distant grasses of the painting have been changed a couple of times. Mix a little different color for that distance, and make sure as I change that cloud, the land mass reflects the same kind of light.

But, do be aware that my grasses aren't that yellow, and greens in the trees are not really the color you are seeing, but much darker. I do think the photo is not showing correctly... the grasses in the distance are more yellow in the photo. This photo of the total painting was done inside even though I changed the color cast in Photoshop Elements to be more natural, and less like the yellow light we find inside. The final one will be done in natural light outdoors and the colors will be more true.

The redo as it stands from last week's work... ready to start again!

Still some sitting on my stool and thinking about what do I want to convey, and how best to do so. Wish me luck!