Monday, June 15, 2009

Plein Air Paintings from May 2008 - April 2009

Before I start posting the "mini series" I am working on, I'm going to recap the last year, dating back to late May 2008. Here is one painting from that month. This is my boyfriend Ronnie posing next to a river at a park in Ashland City, Tennessee.

In June of that year, I visited Colorado with my family for a couple of weeks. I painted about 10 plein air paintings, and a few of them are posted below. For more details on these paintings, you can visit this link and click the individual thumbnails.

I didn't do any plein air paintings I was happy with until the following spring 2009. After painting in Colorado, Tennessee seemed nearly impossible. I felt that I could "cheat" in Colorado, since there were obvious color differences to deal with, such as the white of  snow peaks and aspen trunks, the soft pastels of extreme distance, vivid blue lakes, and stark bare rock. In Tennessee, I struggled with the subtleties of a green spectrum that was beautiful before my eyes, but muddy and caked up with effort on my canvas. Even the water was green with algae and reflected foliage. I couldn't easily get the vantage points that gave me the soft palette of extreme distance. I relied on sunset lighting to get some rust-colored relief to the sea of green, but even then I seemed to only get harsh, glaring images. When spring came around again, I had my chance to "cheat" again. In mid-March, the pastel flowers and faint, forgiving greens rescued me from my monochrome miasma. 

Here are two of those early spring plein air paintings. They captured the hazy feel of afternoon rays glowing through the spring growth. I painted both of them in my front yard. They're both 8x10 canvases that were painted in about 2 hours.

The colors of early spring are fleeting. Once the season passed, I could have reverted back to my struggle with green overload–but in late April I had the opportunity to study with Jason Saunders. That point in time marks a break with my previous landscape efforts, so I will now end my recap of 2008-2009 plein air. If I'm brave, or in need of some public scorn, I might post some of the more grim-looking paintings from that time period. But for now I will move on with the recap of the last year's highlights.

My next post will be still life from 2008-2009, and after that one of my favorite subjects, figure and portrait. Following the people pictures will be another landscape series: plein air studies from the April workshop. Then I will move on to the process that got me started on this blog: my near-daily series of mini paintings (aka the mini-series). 

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Introduction, and thanks to those that helped me

The purpose of this blog is to document my growth as a traditional artist. (I say "traditional" because I am an artist with a facet that is more modern and illustrative–but from hereon I will just use the term artist.) I work to achieve several goals with my traditional art, including: harmonious composition, accurate draftsmanship, a sense of light and atmosphere, and the ethereal expressiveness of the subject. This last goal, expressiveness, is a peculiar quality because it is not tackled individually, but rather it seems to emerge on its own when all the prior goals are met. All airy ambitions aside, the "meat" of the matter is that paint must be applied to canvas. That brings me back to the reason for the blog: so that I can see a concrete progression of my work out in public space, which will give me a sense of accountability to myself, and to others if anyone takes an interest in my work. This sense of accountability will provide extra motivation to continue producing paintings and drawings. 

My work from the last few years can be seen at As you can see, I have many paintings and drawings under my belt, but I need to take my skills further. For about four years I painted by almost pure intuition, and initially I got results that were pleasing to me. For example, the painting at the top of this post was my sixth oil painting ever, on 24x30 canvas. That painting, from winter 2002, was one of a series of three figure paintings that seem to be just a ghost of the past. I have learned much more since then, but I have not been able to paint any figure with the completeness and glowing palette of that series again. I am in a new stage of the painting journey; we'll see what emerges as I lose an old style and gain a new one, hopefully more grounded in structure, value, and temperature.

My specific plan with this blog is to post paintings from a process I started in May: painting 5-7 paintings a week on mini canvases. I was initially inspired toward this goal by Jason Saunders' advice given during his April 2009 workshop. He made it clear that skill is heavily dependent on the sheer number of paintings created. I had always been told this, but for some reason the idea finally took hold during this workshop. I was also inspired by Elin Pendleton's video podcast of her daily paintings (available through iTunes). 

I may start with earlier paintings than my recent near-daily painting efforts. I'll probably go as far back as my first serious attempts at painting plein air in June 2008...if I'm brave I'll also post a few monsters that I painted between 2006 and present. But don't count on it! Once I get the pre-workshop plein airs posted, then I'll get started with the "mini series." I will also include my portrait, still life, and figurative work.

Before I end this post, I want to thank Kevin Menck for giving me the idea of starting a painting blog. I also want to thank him for taking me with him painting yesterday, and providing encouragement and advice. I also owe thanks to other Nashville artists that have provided support: Mitchell Chamberlain, Paul Proctor, Michael Shane Neal, and Alan Lequire. I can't leave out Samuel Lester, who hosted figure art sessions in his home, complete with excellent models, music, food, and camaraderie. Finally, I need to acknowledge my dad, a retired engineer and newly self-educated painter, for providing belief as well as financial help with the often expensive requirements of an art career. 

As I can see from my growing list of people to thank, art is not the lone pursuit it may seem to be at first glance. Many minds come together to create a single artist. The other part of the equation is the raw, manual effort of the individual, one painting at a time. That is what the focus of this blog will be.