Showing posts from December, 2010

Technical Difficulties

After storms, computer problems, and camera problems, I sometimes wonder why and how humans made it to the top of the food chain. I think it must have been due to sheer perseverance.
One of my favorite teacher memories is trying to figure out a lock on a large storage container to get some equipment-- the teacher who was helping me couldn't figure it out either. After what seemed like a long period of trying, he stood up and pounded his chest like a gorilla and made the accompanying noises. We both started laughing, tried again, and eventually got it open. Sometimes you just have to stop and take a breather, remember that you're only a human, then laugh and start over.
So, after a few of those moments, here are the latest paintings:
"Arranged" 12 x 18 Chalk Pastel on Canson Watercolor Paper Click here to buy print: Click here to see more pieces inspired by the Ancient Egyptians: http://artbynikih…

Why I Don't Paint Snow

It's winter time, and after about five straight days of rain, it's tempting to look for something "winter-like" to paint. I see all of the beautiful holiday art, with snow covered cabins and silent forests, and wonder why I have no inclination to paint such things. I think my family and friends could probably explain it. Anyone who's known me for a period of time knows "Niki hates snow!"

For the record, I think snow on distant mountains is pretty. Even that lost its appeal for a while; as a teacher at a school in a wind corridor beneath the San Bernardino Mountains, I spent many a miserable recess period out on playground duty, freezing as the wind whipped down from the cold snowy mountains. Snow to me means miserable wet and cold and the opportunity to fall on my butt-- and that's about it.

I did try to paint a winter scene in an art class, and it looked like a bad attempt at a Thomas Kinkade imitation. I may try one again in the future, but for now …

Dark toned Strathmore: a striking backdrop

I've gotten pretty fond of my Strathmore plum-toned pastel paper. When I first began using chalk pastels, I was afraid of the darker-toned papers. I knew that I would have to keep a cool head while using them, because the whole point of dark paper is to add striking lights to create your painting while leaving the tone of the paper as one of the values. This means using restraint, which is not something that comes naturally to me.

Since I've had trouble concentrating lately, forcing myself to stick to a simple subject with limited use of color gives me a good set of guidelines as I work. This is why I turn again and again to Ancient Egyptian pottery-- I can focus on shapes, lights, and darks, without getting too emotionally attached to what I'm painting. Art should be emotional, right? For me, not always. Painting with my head rather than my heart is good discipline, and usually produces a nice result.

I called this piece "Majestic," because this particular pot had…

Discovering Fingerpainting

"Pretties for Kat" 8 x 11 Watercolor and Pastel on Paper

We started with the usual materials... taped down paper, watercolors, a tiny bit of water and a couple of brushes. I've been thinking lately about why I don't use the paints and brushes as often anymore, and it's most likely that for me, the brushes get between the direct connection between medium and paper. My toddler made this discovery last night.

I began to swirl the paint around the paper, blocking in some floral shapes. My daughter made a couple of her own swipes with the brush, but lost interest quickly. She began to dip her fingers in the paint itself, and spent the rest of the time happily dipping and dotting, trying out each color for herself. Normally, clings to my side, but this time she was so absorbed in her painting that I was able to walk away and let her finish up on her own.

So, I finished the work by myself, letting the watercolors dry and blocking in some bright chalk pastels later. I was…

Another Big Flower...

"Reaching Out" 12 x 18 Pastel (oil and chalk) on Paper
Click here to buy print:

Another big flower... another mixture of oil and chalk...

Same subject, different day? How is it that painting in a series can be comforting, yet challenging? And is it still considered a series if you take a break and paint something different for a while?

I'm not sure I would call anything I paint a "series," except maybe my Egyptian-inspired pieces. Yet, these large flowers call to me often, as does the need to paint them in oil and chalk. I'm not sure it's the subject matter and medium I crave in these cases, though. I think it's the escape into painting without having to plan too much, or worry about perspective and straight lines, or about capturing a likeness. It's the freedom of painting loose, with a general destination in mind, but absolute freedom in how I reach it-- and absolute c…

Canson Watercolor Paper-- Still Haven't Used it for Watercolors!

"Winter Meeting" 12 x 18 Chalk Pastel on Paper
Click here to buy print:

Click here to see more of my animal themed art:

I tried this subject earlier on a small piece of paper, and between the tiny size of the paper and the bluntness of the pastels (I don't use the pencils too often), there just wasn't enough room. I've always liked this idea though-- birds at sunset in Oceanside, California, on one of those winter days when there are more birds than people on the beach. So, I decided to give it another try with large Canson watercolor paper and "winter" colors, which for me are gold and purple (at least at the beach!)

Instead of trying to realistically copy the photo, I went for a looser approach, and did only a little smearing at the end. I tried to keep the colors in the water broken, with harder edges, and the fore…

Painting Fast and Loose with Pastel (Egyptian Jug)

"Egyptian Jug" (9 x 10.5 Chalk Pastel on Paper)
Click here to buy print:

There are three big reasons I love using chalk pastels: bright colors, versatility, and convenience. I've been having trouble getting myself to the paint board lately, and when I do, I have trouble liking what I see when the work is finished. I'm finding that the more difficult and complicated life gets, the more stripped down and simple the subjects I am painting...

For this piece, I took a piece of lightly toned Canson Mi Teintes paper (9 x 12) and made a light sketch of the shapes I wanted. In order to focus on what I was painting, I turned the reference photo and paper upside down, offering my right brain a chance to take over. I don't like to get too dependent on this trick, but I figured it would take my mind off the barrage of problems I've been worried about. It worked, and I got the basic shape down wit…