Showing posts from July, 2011

Collage: As Fun As It Looks!

"La Chatte Orange" 12 x 16 Mixed Media on Paper
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This piece isn't too much different from my mixed media works, except for the text. It was adding the text, however, that made this piece an official collage for me.

It was originally just a little mixed media cat, but I wasn't too excited about the finished look. Layering tissue paper, acrylic (including some metallic gold paint), and chalk pastel, I thought the piece would have more punch when it was finished. I gave it the title "Chat Orange," which got me thinking about what influenced the piece in the first place.

Toulouse Lautrec has always been one of my favorite painters, and the "Chat Noir" prints have been regulars in home decor and greeting cards in my family. I was disappointed to learn as an adult that the Chat Noir was actually a bar, not a character that would appear in more of his pictures.

When I started my "Chatte Orange," the initial sketch…

Simplifying Subject Matter

"Oak" 4 x 6 in. chalk pastel on paper

Another afternoon at home, another quick plein aire session with the pastels. The above painting was done in about 20 minutes. There are two things that help me complete a quick daily painting like this: working small and keeping the painting simple.

We have many scrub oak trees on the property, and there is one that sits somewhat by itself in the driveway. I've always liked this tree, because it differs from the others in that it is taller and always has a dramatic shadow.

I sat on the ground to paint this, and chose to keep the composition simple, focusing on the tree and its shadow. The view behind the tree actually has hills and flowers in it, but I knew that those would complicate the process and take away from the bold position of the tree. So, I filled the background in with sky instead.

Some artists use a viewfinder to help narrow down a composition outside. I find it more helpful to pick one focal point to refer to, and rel…

More Plein Aire Close to Home

"Californa Cottage"
9 x 12 chalk pastel on paper
Original Sold
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I have neighbors with beautiful houses; we jokingly say we're the poor folks on the block. Buildings have always presented a challenge for me, though, so I've been a little shy about painting houses in general. Still, I'm getting pretty comfortable with plein aire, which makes it easier to take risks.

One thing I tried to share with my students who were intimidated by drawing and painting buildings: keep it simple. I've found that if I limit the details that require perspective, I can focus on the things I enjoy most: value, shape, and color. I would love to be one of those artists with a knack for technical prowess and accuracy, but that would mean giving up my impressionistic style. So, I'll just stick to simple representations of structures and admire the more …

Bromeliads! Fun with Color...

"Bromeliads!" 12 x 18 Chalk Pastel on Paper

While out with my sister, I spotted a peculiar looking bunch of plants. My sister had to identify them for me: bromeliads! I thought it was a funny name to go with a funny-looking flower, and took several photos for a future painting.

These particular bromeliads were orange, and stood out among all the green surroundings. When deciding on colors for the painting, I was in the middle of a green, purple, and orange streak (also known as "secondary colors"), and began blocking in the shapes on orange-toned Canson Mi-Teintes paper.

I always run into the struggle between color and value, and emphasizing one or the other. For this piece, I stuck to the original color inspiration, which slightly flattens the image. I particularly enjoyed highlighting the pottery, and felt that the color scheme gave it a twist on a typical floral painting.

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A Workshop, Plein Air, and a Little Fun With Media

"Bolsa Chica Grebe" 16 x 20 Acrylic on Canvas
Original Photo "Reflected Dreams" by Bunny Clarke
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A year ago, I would have been afraid to tackle a workshop like this: Solo Exhibition's Sojie 12, where artists
translate photographs posted by fellow group members. I've never worked on a collaboration like this before, and wanted to select a piece I had a genuine interest in so I could give it my best.

I took a class in wildlife painting a few years back, and although I loved it, I never focused too much of my art on painting wildlife in the traditional style (i.e. realistic!) I loved the reflections in this painting, and thought it would give me a good challenge: painting wildlife in acrylic, a medium I've been out of touch with for a while. Acrylic doe…

Plen Aire at the Fair: No Sissies Allowed!

"Flower Power" 18 x 22 in Chalk Pastel on Paper
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Sunday, June 26th: one of the most anxiety-inducing, exhilarating days of my life. It was plein aire day at the San Diego County Fair in Del Mar.

After a peaceful drive, a slight snag with the parking permit, and about a half hour of perusing the fairgrounds for a spot to paint, I trotted my "cart" with my supplies to the farm area in the children's section of the fair.

This was my first experience painting plein aire in a public place, and I thought it would be best to get my feet wet in a quieter area. I found inspiration in an exhibit titled "Race to the Farm" (the theme for the year was "Race to the Fair"). It was a VW Bug, parked in the middle of the edible plants exhibit, filled with plants and complete with a ladybug driver. I've never made a painting focused on a car before, so to…

Plein Air Experiment, Part 2 (Afternoon)

"Pomegranate Bushes" 9 x 12 chalk pastel on paper

One of the challenges I worried about with painting plein air was light. The first couple of days, I waited in the morning until the fog burned off, so there would be enough light. Of course, once the light made an appearance, so did the bugs.

The next few days (leading up to June 26th), the timing was better for me to paint in the afternoon (or dusk). The piece above, "Pomegranate Bushes," was painted in the late afternoon, as the sun was setting to the west.

I happen to have a soft spot for these bushes. I've eaten their fruit and shared it with friends, I've taken pictures with my dogs by them, and I was relieved to see them recover quickly after the 2007 wildfire. They thrive on their own, and house many of the birds I love to listen to throughout the day. As I painted them, I tried to focus on their basic core shape and the effect of the setting sun …