Thursday, November 27, 2008

Chocolate Trio

I mixed my own browns for these miniature oils (2x2) using a nice warm orangy cadmium red light, with either Pthalo blue, or French Ultramarine. The background is pure cad. red medium. Shiny candy foil is certainly a challenge to paint and I ended up using more color in it than I had expected.

Monday, November 24, 2008

What to paint?

I finally settled on a tube of watercolor paint. I'd love to paint a whole pile of these. I was looking at my art table this morning and there are so many possibilities there.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

An Afternoon with Vincent Van Gogh

Friday evening I attended an art exhibit at The Jaffrey Civic Center in New Hampshire. I went early because about a year ago I was receiving exhibit entries in their library and saw three volumes of Van Goghs letters, with his letter sketches included. I told myself I would come back to spend some time with them. I own a copy of Letters to Theo, but I had never seen most of these sketches. They are amazing! And it always does one good to reread his letters. The following passage gives me the determination to keep painting and try to have faith that I will improve. Above all though, to have a little patience with myself:

... I can tell you that dissatisfaction with bad work, the failure of things, the difficulties of technique, can make one dreadfully melancholy. I can assure you that I am sometimes terribly discouraged when I think of Millet, Israels, Breton, Debroux, so many others... one only knows what these fellows really are when on is at work oneself. And then to swallow this despair and melancholy; to be patient with oneself as one is - not in order to sit down and rest , but to struggle on notwithstanding thousands of shortcomings and faults and the uncertainty of conquering them - all these things are the reason why a painter is unhappy too.

Of course, this being Vincent, he adds:

The struggle with oneself, the trying to improve onself, the renewal of one's energy- all this is complicated by material difficulties.

He did manage at one point to purchase a portable paint box which he badly needed; however he wrote some time later that he had to spend more money having it repaired, as it was damaged when he had to suddenly jump down a bluff to avoid an escaped out of control horse. And I complain about the mosquitoes!

A bit of interesting information for plein air painters: Vincent wrote that he heard of a method Corot used for judging values when painting out of doors. Corot evidently was in the habit of bringing along a square of white linen, and another of black velvet which he would throw on the ground in front of him.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

brown pear

I set up this pear on some white linen. The cloth is both lovely to paint, and to paint on. I have had little experience with rendering cloth and am finding it very difficult. The edge of this fabric forms the prettiest little ripples when you gather it and that is enough incentive for me to keep trying.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Baking with lemons

4.5" x 10" oil on linen panel.
Hubby brought home lemons this morning with plans to make a lemon/cornmeal pound cake. Luckily he did not use them all because I had my eye on this one. It took almost the whole lemon to get a satisfactory peel because I couldn't get it to hang down right. I almost gave up, but I really wanted to paint a lemon this way.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Please tell me that this oil painting looks like a pomegranate and not a Christmas ornament. I went shopping the other day for subject matter. This is the only time I will enter a grocery store and not crab about it. I bought a beautifully shaped long brown pear, and two smaller green pears. When I passed a display of pomegranates, I remembered that last year at the annual holiday arts and crafts festival, a regular customer of mine asked if I had any paintings of pomegranates. Regretfully, I only had apples and pears. So I went ahead and bought one and painted it today since I don't know how long pomegranates last. I also have no idea how to eat it. But I do love painting fruit!
This is done on a 5x7 linen panel that I prepared myself. At the fabric store, I bought two kinds of lovely linen, one fine and the other a little coarser. I glue it onto a board, and when dry, I apply the gesso. For the painting, I used a technique described by a very talented and friendly artist named Ann who I met at the Manchester Art Gallery this week.
It involves using a large brush to apply a dark background (paint mixed with pale drying oil) then using a rag to work subtractively which is useful for blocking in the composition and helping to create the values as the painting progresses. I used opaque paint sparingly and let the beautiful linen texture show through. This technique is lots of fun and I can't wait to use it again.
Reality changes: There was a strong highlight below the stem but it looked too much like the previously mentioned ornament, so I had to tone it down. The tiny brown stem spikes were curled under but I rendered them as sticking straight up after googling the fruit to see stem variations. This helps prevent the shape of the fruit from being too round. Now that I have painted my first pomegranate, I am curious to find out how other artists handle this tricky fruit. Maybe tomorrow I'll slice it open and paint the interior.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Monument etching

I recently gave a presentation for one of the art associations to which I belong and a friend wanted me to tell the audience what I did for a living, as she knew the artists would find my daily work interesting and unusual. No one had ever met a monument etcher before so I had a few questions to answer. It's hard to describe what an etching looks like so here are a couple of examples. The motorcycle monument was custom cut on the sides to accomodate the wheels, and it's one of my favorites. My job was to produce a drawing (using reference photos) to be approved by the customer, then to transfer the drawing onto the monument and finally engrave the image into the granite. My tool is a dremel with a diamond tip, and it cuts very finely into the granite with a high speed stippling motion. Over the summer, I etched the angel as a sample for the show room at one monument shop. The image is taken from a statue. I have been etching since about 1997 and I still love my job. I am very lucky to have steady work as an artist, and at the same time be able to dictate my own hours so that I am free to go out and paint whenever I like.
Here is a conundrum: why is it that I refuse to work in watercolors because "I'm afraid I'll mess up and won't be able to fix it", yet I etch on granite everyday. It's a mystery to me.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

On Halloween Day, I painted with two friends in a field. I was drawn to several strong horizontal shadows from the trees, but they were taking attention away from the water, so I scrubbed them out. Another major change from reality was that after finally deciding to include the tree line, I pushed it back allowing a little sky to show. I like that a subtle version of the blue water hue is repeated in the sky. I was a little distracted while painting this because the fall colors are really brilliant and I wanted to put them all in. I am getting better at realizing that what is good for nature isn't necessarily good for my painting.

My friends and I have been painting once a week and are hoping that the local art association will decide to add a plein air category to the annual show.