Friday, November 26, 2010

Wildlife Sketches

Sorry to disappoint, but these were not drawn from life. I'm still tied up with contract work, but I'll kill two birds with one stone and post some pencil drawings I had to do for work. It felt great to get off the computer a bit and into some old-school, down-to-earth pencil drawings. They're concept sketches for art that will be redrawn in a digital format.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Painting Metaphor

I have many new paintings from a recent workshop to post, but this week has been really busy with freelance work. For now I'm going to post a musing on plein air painting that passed through my head yesterday while I was watching the wind blow in the back yard. (Yeah, that's what I do when I'm busy.)

When you paint en plein air, you're fighting nature. You're forcing the moving sun to stand deathly still on your canvas. You're taming a flock of shaking leaves into a few swipes of bristles. You're crashing through nature's defenses, striving to own and control a being that is guarded, haughty, and independent, like a beautiful woman being wooed by a man. But sometimes the man, despite all his flailing efforts, can touch on a core of need within the woman, just as somewhere in all the sweat and strain of painting, the painter can find the essence of the scene before him, and nature suddenly acquiesces and beams back at him from the canvas.

Well, maybe I'm speaking for myself as far as the flailing and straining. But if this were easy, I probably wouldn't feel as drawn back to it as I am!

click here for flailing men

(the song is fantastic ... thanks for sharing, Taz!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Passing Photographers

This post is to showcase the work of some talented photographers who were passing by while I painted at Radnor Lake.

A photographer named Oleg Volk took this candid picture of me as I painted "Sun Stain" at Radnor Lake. I'm really impressed–it looks magazine quality! Here's a link to more of his work:

click to enlarge

Another photographer, Terra Forest, took these pictures of me at Radnor Lake–also great quality. Wow, now I see how, um, eccentric I look as I paint plein air. 

Since I'm posting photos, I think I'll include these two photos of my dog posing as art critic.

I asked Capone to help me with touch-ups.

But soon I tired of his insulting attitude.

Lyle Teague Moulding Company, and results of Radnor Show

I found a new place to get my frames: a wholesale company called Lyle Teague Moulding Company. Thank you for the recommendation, Bitsy King! A customer needs to have a sales tax ID number before making any purchases. There are plenty of frame choices in stock, and Lyle and Stanley Teague are super nice to work with! Here is "Brazen Morning" all glazed up and placed in a handsome frame from from Lyle Teague's.

Here's some news from the show...I entered 7 Radnor Lake paintings and one barn painting. All of the Radnor Lake paintings sold.  "Weathered Memories," a barn painting from Triple L Ranch, is still available (8x10). 45% of the proceeds of all sales go toward preservation of the lake and surrounding area. I'm happy to contribute, along with all the other artists and Radnor sponsors who made the show happen.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Wrapping up the Radnor show series

The weather was better by Wednesday, so I was back to the lake. 

On the painting just below, I added the power-walking woman using my camera LCD screen as a reference, while still at the lake. I added the dapper gentleman using my computer screen as a reference after I got home. I wasn't quick or brave enough to paint passers-by in real time! I know many painters have done it, and I eventually plan to try this myself.

"Promenade" 8x10

Painting a sunset in real time is almost as hard as painting moving people! The color blocks morph and shrink faster and faster, the later it gets. But it's during that fleeting time when the colors become the most dramatic and incredible. I enjoy the adrenaline of the mad dash, the high-risk gamble, of attempting to capture that Olympian drama with my mundane paintbrush.

"Surface Gems" 6x8

"Sun Stain" 5x7

Cherry Moon

The last photo of this moon painting was taken in the dark, on location, and was pretty blurry. I posted a better photo below. (I had originally commented that my sky and water were too light...but on a later viewing, I was happy with the contrast.) I entitled this painting "Cherry Moon" because I was painting with a cherry Coke and a cherry moon pie in my stomach, and also because the moon was surrounded by pink tones in the sky. 

"Cherry Moon" 6x8

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tornado Weather Today

The weather has been cloudy and rainy since Sunday. Today was particularly bad. This morning I could tell as soon as I looked out the window that it was a "blustery" day. I went out walking with the dog to enjoy the wind, not knowing at first that tornadic weather was on the way. Orange leaves were whirling across the streets and spiraling up to the treetops. I saw a house with a strip of aluminum hanging off roof, beating the side of the house in the wind. Countless inflatable Halloween decorations were tossing violently against their tethers.

I went to the bank around 11:30 am today. Look at those storm clouds...looks like multiple funnel clouds getting ready to descend! I was wondering if I should stay at the bank and hope we could hide in the vaults if tornados started plowing through. Luckily the storm cell passed over my immediate area without major incident. There are still warnings ongoing around middle TN right now.

Here are two short videos from Suntrust Bank in Hermitage. One of the videos has some incongruously languid jazz music in the background.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fun with Backlighting

I decided to do a morning painting today so I could catch backlighting on the foreground trees. Backlit fall leaves create intensely saturated oranges and yellows. I walked up and down the walkway on the dam until I found a scene that included a suitable clump of backlit leaves, with a softly glowing hillside in the background.

The water was doing interesting things today. During the first 15 minutes I was scouting for a scene, foamy, undulating patterns of duckweed covered the entire lake. The sun reflected so harshly off the cloudy film that when I squinted down, there appeared to be ice on the lake. Not good for painting...I could imagine how confusing the result would be. The wind was blowing hard, and before long, all the scummy duckweed was cleared away, and the water was corrugated with sparkling ripples. This is definitely not a good day for painting reflections...the wind-chopped surface was a leaden blue, not picking up any of the fall colors. This is just as well, because in the scene I picked out, there were enough golden leaves breaking up the surface of the lake, that reflections would only add chaos to the mix.

So, here's the result. Next time I work with a large amount of backlit leaves like this, I think I should "mass" more. That will probably bring out the feel of illumination; breaking up the masses introduces more darkness than what I would like to see.

 Windy Morning - 8x10

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Nocturnal Painting

"Many demons are in woods, in waters, in wildernesses, and in dark poolly places..." –Martin Luther

Amped up on a cherry Coke and a cherry moon pie, I went out to Radnor Lake to do my second ever moon painting. (Only now is it occurring to me that I had a moon  My first moon painting, completed about 2 years ago, turned out to be a turquoise and fuchsia disaster upon indoor viewing. But I love being at the lake at night, so that alone was incentive to try it again.

I started out with a twilight moon scene, which seemed less daunting than full night. The last red stains of sunset had just disappeared from the hilltops when I started painting, and it was pitch black when I finished. Here's a blurry photo, on location, of the result:

Twilight Moon - 6x8

The values look accurate in this nighttime photo, but indoors, the sky and water are way too light. I'll have to pump the values down a bit.

Then I painted the moon on its upward journey through the branches. I noticed things about moonlight I've never noticed before. It does have an orangey hue in real life, not just in Halloween cartoons (or is it just pollution?). Also, the moon creates a thin, sharp, white glow along the edges of nearby branches, which are black except for this razor edge of white.

Upward Journey - 5x7

One reason my moon paintings came out better this year is that I'm using good lighting. You can see my nocturnal set-up here ... the little light on my easel is a book light purchased at Barnes & Noble.

Being outdoors tonight was wonderful. I saw and heard otters swimming in the water and crashing through the brush along the shore. I didn't need my iPod because I had bickering geese, screeching owls, and a ghostly, unidentified forest sound to keep me company the whole time. That last sound was either an owl or a distant, howling dog...a very sad, eerie sound. I can completely understand why people at one time believed the woods were filled with demons.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fall at Radnor Lake

This painting is from my trip to Radnor Lake this past Saturday. I also went Sunday, and plan to go again today. I feel so lucky to be out in this dry, cool weather and enjoying the incredible views. Middle Tennesseans have to enjoy this weather while it lasts ... it comes and goes so quickly.

"Autumn Intensity" 8x10 - Radnor Lake

This is the place to go for intense fall colors. The colors shift from green to gold to orange almost before your eyes as the sun moves by. The reflections deepen the colors of the hills, and stretch the molten hues brilliantly across the lake surface. I took a photo at the height of this amazing performance of light:

Click to enlarge

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Painting outdoors brings out some strange behavior

My last few days of painting at Radnor Lake attracted some interesting characters.

"Brazen Morning"  6x8 - Radnor Lake

• I'm painting with Kevin Menck. A teenage boy walks up to him and says over and over, "I give you five peanuts if you paint my picture."

• A guy asks his girlfriend to take a picture of him posing with me in front of my easel. 

• Another guy walks up and asks if he can stand in front of me for a few minutes so people will think he's getting his portrait painted.

• A guy starts talking to me enthusiastically in an Asian language. I feel compelled to say "thank you," but I can't assume he's being positive. Then he walks on.

Blue Moon 2010

I was in the Once in a Blue Moon 10 art show earlier this month. The Blue Moon fundraiser supports the Tennessee Land Trust, which protects natural landscapes from getting developed. I entered 7 plein air paintings and one painted from a photo. I have posted the plein air pieces below. I sold everything below except the barn. I'm happy to support a great cause that allows Middle Tennessee to continue enjoying this beautiful land.

"Hidden Cove Vista" 8x10 - near Sewanee

"Weathered Memories" 8x10 - Triple L Ranch - Fernvale

"Traveler Grazing" 6x8 - Hunter's Hill Farm - Hermitage

"Bathing Beauties I" 5x7 - Triple L Ranch - Fernvale

"Bathing Beauties II" 5x7 - Triple L Ranch - Fernvale

"Summer at Glen Leven I" 6x8 - Nashville

"Summer at Glen Leven II" 6x8 - Nashville

"Harvest Fields" 8x10 - Fernvale
photo reference by Kevin Menck

Colorado trip 2010

I went to Colorado for a week this past September. (My third painting trip to Colorado, Kevin have some catching up to do.) I spent half of that week in Boulder doing city things, so I had very little time to paint. I still cranked out 5 paintings, but I only feel like posting one.

This was a gorgeous little area in Rocky Mountain National Park, near Estes Park. The next day, this area was flooded with a herd of about 25 elk, mostly females. Two bull elks were locking antlers over all the lady elk. (so I heard...I was busy "trying" to paint a sunset)

"Sunny Day in the Valley" 8x10 - near Estes Park, CO

I had better luck with photography: (click to enlarge)

A nuthatch, high above timberline, in sprinkling rain.

A lone fisherman.

A close-up of a bull elk...I was about 50 ft away.

Dream Lake ... appropriately named!

A picture taken by my dad.

Let's Forget About Catch-up

One of the things hanging me up in the blog is all the catch-up I have to do. I have over a year's worth of painting and drawing activity not yet updated. Yet time keeps moving keeps cranking out...and I get more and more behind. Forget the catch-up...the time is now.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Summer 2009 - Farm Animals

I painted all of these on the same day...these animals had me on a roll! They belong to Karen Guy, owner of a farm in Hermitage. Fortunately for me, I also live in Hermitage, and Karen has welcomed me to come paint on her land from time to time. 

Karen loved this painting of her horse Traveller; she thought it looked exactly like him. I gave her this 3x4 inch portrait to keep. I was able to paint Traveller from life by tantalizing him with a bag of pretzels the whole time, and feeding him one if he seemed to start losing interest. Now you know what a hungry horse looks like.

Karen recognized this horse from the painting. He is her other horse, Odie. She said she would know that big ole jughead anywhere! I eventually gave her this painting, too.

Here is a mother-daughter duo. The calf is Mayflower, so named because she was born in May, and the mother is Squirm. Squirm is an undersized cow that Karen had originally feared would not survive to adulthood. Now she's so fond of Squirm, the lucky cow is now a permanent resident of the farm, not to be sold. I'm not sure Mayflower is also a pet...I hope so! I love the way their tails swished as they ate.

These are the "peaboys," also having a meal. I was enchanted by the iridescent (and impossible to paint) neck feathers, which fluctuated between royal blue, turquoise, and sea green.

Summer 2009 - Pets on the Porch

These are all on 3x4 stretched canvas, painted from life on my back porch. I loved going outside in the summer heat, sitting on a lawn chair, and paint sketching my animal friends. Ember is the cat, better known as "Kee," and Capone is the dog, a boxer. You can see on the lattice and board where my boyfriend (at the time) and I ran out of stain while painting the deck.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Summer 2009 Nashville Area Plein Air

I'm posting today not out of any conscientious effort to update. I'm doing this simply to stay awake. I pulled an all-nighter to meet an illustration deadline, and I'm finding it really hard to keep going. I knew that posting some paintings and talking about them would wake me up.

Going back to last summer, I practiced painting outdoors several times a week. So far I have posted paintings from my immediate neighborhood. Now I'm posting pieces from other Nashville areas. I hope I can look back on this later with a new understanding of how to paint better plein air works. 

Here is a 5x7 of Percy Priest Lake. This the only painting in this post that I feel somewhat pleased with. I had a slightly easier time with this one because there's so little green in it...I've mentioned before how the endless variety of greens in Tennessee can be overwhelming.

I painted this 5x7 of a hayfield while out painting with Kevin Menck. Wow, that was one sweltering day, even in the shade. Kevin's feel-no-pain enthusiasm helped me keep my spirits up! During this excursion he told me about Plein Air Nashville, which became a regular part of my painting activities ever since.
Here's a 6x8 of Percy Priest Lake, painted the same day as the 5x7. I hate the dull, muddy grass and trees.
Here's a painting I did on Memorial Day at Natchez Trace at sunset. I like the soft feel and the daring of attempting a sunset, but overall this has some serious value issues. I painted this one on a 3x4 inch stretched canvas.

This is the first painting I did with Plein Air Nashville. We painted the Cumberland River from a bridge near the Opry Mills area. Apparently I was having an epic struggle that day, because almost a year later Kevin remembered how I was so covered with paint that he almost didn't recognize me.

This is Nashville's iconic "Batman Building," or to be more mundane, a Bellsouth building. I painted this with Plein Air Nashville from the downtown walking bridge. 

Now for some meandering about my progress as a painter. As I have mentioned before, plein air is the hardest type of painting I have tried. Out in the sunlight, even with my canvas and palette properly shaded, I feel like I can't truly judge what colors I'm seeing in my paint mixes. My color choices seem to be bright and saturated enough when I view them outside, but when I bring them indoors I'm always alarmed by the dreadful dullness. I haven't painted much plein air since last fall, but I have been reading Schmid's Alla Prima and studying/painting with Kevin Menck and Jason Saunders since then. This continuing education makes me aware that there's a lot more going wrong that just getting befuddled by the glaring sunlight. Even if the sun really is throwing off my absolute sense of color, I still should be aware of whether my relative values and temperature are correct. If I could get this balance correct, at least in a relative sense, I think my paintings will look less muddy when I bring them indoors, even if the absolute colors may not be accurate. With time, I can probably learn to compensate for sun-induced confusion by exaggerating color saturation. But until I learn to do that, I need to be more meticulous about nailing the relative values and temperature. The hardest part about plein air is that I will need to achieve that level of accuracy within 30 minutes to an hour. 

Hey, my plan worked! I feel more awake after racking my brain to comment about painting. Now I can get back to my sleep-deprived illustrating.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mini Fruit and Vegetable Studies

It's still spring/summer 2009, and the mini routine continued indoors and outdoors. I was painting every day or almost every day, some weeks. The practice of ritualistically cranking out a painting a day was comforting. I didn't have to think too hard ... no worries about wasting a large amount of paint and canvas ... not a huge time commitment ... just shut up and do it. I knew with each one I would gain a little more experience. This sense of decisiveness and hope pulled me out of a painting slump that had gone on for years.

These two oranges sold at an art show in February, 2010. I was sorry to see them go! At least the buyer seemed really delighted with them. The oranges and the banana are my favorites of this series. They seem bright and cheerful ... and tasty. Those three are all on 5x6 stretched canvas.

Here's a tomato/sweet potato duo. I was especially drawn to the subtle tones in the sweet potato skin. One thing that bothers me is how the tomato is in sharper, brighter focus than the potato.
I had the HARDEST time with the temperature changes in the strawberry flesh. In order to get the values I thought I was seeing, I deepened the shadows with probably way too much French ultramarine. But at the time I felt I had no other choice to get the value dark enough. The brighter red areas also seem too cool. I do like the drawing, at least. 
I like how the fuzz created a soft, cool glow on the darker peach. I'm not sure why this painting turned out more dim than the oranges and banana, which I had painted before the peaches. (These peaches were delicious, by the way!)
I included the crude, chunky painting below because this is the first one I painted when I resolved to start painting minis. The tomatoes are outside on a wooden bench; I painted this batch just around sunset. They came from a produce stand on Lebanon Pike in Hermitage. I highly recommend their tomatoes! The delicious peaches shown above also came from this stand.