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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Is that Seagull Sick? (Playing with Color)

"Gull Talk" 9 x 12 Chalk Pastel on Paper
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Another late night painting, when I had no business being awake. Since I was (barely), I thought I would break out the chalk, hoping to ease that anxiety that builds up when I haven't made a complete painting in a day or two. I had no idea what to paint, but I knew I wanted to use those extra soft pastels with the hot colors. I went for a combination of blue-green and yellow-orange, with a little red-orange for emphasis in the middle ground.

I ran into the same problem I always do when I choose to focus on color: a flat painting without any real areas that were clearly defined. I know I'm not a painter who can go entirely without some value (lights and darks) to define my subjects, so I added just a touch of black pastel to give the birds, pipe, rocks, and fire pit a little more definition. The painting wasn't working at first, but once I started to add some of those bright highlights to the birds and the water, it came together.

When I save a photo of a painting for prints or the web, my goal is to make sure it is as close to the real life painting as possible, which usually means just cropping and sharpening. I do like to push the contrast up out of curiosity though, before I bring it back to normal and save the photo. I like the way the pictures look with the almost flourescent coloring when that contrast is really high, and creating this painting was kind of a natural way of achieving that exaggerated contrast while still being able to create with my hands.

I used a reference photo I took on a quiet afternoon at the beach in Oceanside, California. It wasn't a terribly exciting picture, but the position of the seagulls made it a moment worth capturing. To see more pieces inspired by California scenery, click here:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Oh no, not the umlaut! (Painting a German cathedral)

One of the reasons I never really made the transition to typing much in German was the difficulty of figuring out how to get the German characters from the keyboard. After trying all the shortcuts, I finally resorted to using the character map, which is, shall we say, a pain in the Arsch.

I know how to spell words the long way without using the umlaut, but it doesn't look right to me. And this piece, painted from a city I loved visiting and hope to see again, just doesn't look right with an English title. "Cologne Cathedral" sounds like something in my bathroom closet, as compared to "Kölner Dom."

"Kölner Dom" 9 x 12 chalk pastel on paper
Click here to buy print:

If there is one thing I could do over on my year in Germany, it would have been to take more pictures! I stopped at most of the obligatory spots and took some, but at the time, I was a 17 year-old who was more interested in experiencing my year abroad rather than recording it. Of course, that was back when you had to get your film developed rather have instant access to your pictures.

I was lucky enough to visit the city of Cologne twice (or Köln, as it's pronounced in German). The first visit lasted about a week, as it was a class trip (much better than any field trips back home!) It was my favorite German city, because it had everything I found interesting: beautiful buildings, the Rhine River, street performers, cafes and beer gardens, and beautiful weather in the fall. We actually climbed the narrow, winding staircases to the top of the cathedral, which led to a beautiful view of the Altstadt and the sparkling Rhine. We even got to see an American pop art exhibit next door to the cathedral, which at the time I found funny (my German classmates thought I would really connect with that, being an American. I didn't.)

I honestly don't know what got into me when I painted this piece, but between looking at those pictures and the scent of fresh bread I got when I opened my cupboard this morning, I'm having an awful lot of Heimweh for my second homeland. Time to break out the Nutella!

Click here to see more works inspired by places I've visited:

"Be Mine, Street Mime"
12 x 12 chalk pastel on paper
Click here to buy print:

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Lil' Orange Tree (painting Fallbrook scenery)

"Lil' Orange Tree" 9 x 12 chalk pastel on paper
Click here to buy print:

When I opened the windows yesterday, I caught the scent of spring. I know it's not technically anywhere close to spring, but every year there comes a time where the scent of it makes an appearance on the breeze, reminding me that summer will eventually be coming back. Even though I've grown to dislike the heat of summer, that scent still puts a little happy feeling in my heart, because summer has always equalled one big bonus: no school!

I consider this the perfect time of year to be in Fallbrook. There's plenty of winter greenery, but the flowers are starting to make an appearance. The days are warm, but not oppressive. There's not much to worry about in the way of fire season, and the air is clear and clean.

The little orange tree in this painting is one of my mom's. The oranges are sweet, and the tree seems to be bursting with fruit, as though it's offering it to passersby. I wanted to keep the painting simple, planning to focus on three things: the shadows, the lights, and the bold shapes of the oranges. I didn't add a background, opting instead to let the warm-toned Canson Mi-Teintes paper provide the backdrop for this little tree. The painting didn't take long, which I think was because I started with a clear goal in mind. Of course, it helps that I look at these little orange trees every day, and have a clear impression of them in mind as I work.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Sweet Bunch of Lemons

"Limones" 9 x 12 chalk pastel on Canson Mi-Teintes paper

This little bunch of lemons was growing on a small, young tree. It's the time of year when the trees in Fallbrook are loaded with citrus fruit, and this tree was no exception. Since the fire in 2007 wiped out so many avocado trees, many people are replanting different types of fruit, such as lemons.

I used a lot of darks in the background, so I could emphasize the bunch of lemons. I also did very little smearing, except to blend the core shadows of the fruit.

I've been focusing more on local scenery in my paintings, since it's been so nice outside. Fallbrook is full of beautiful views, both up close and in the distance. The nice thing about finding inspiration so close to home is that I know how things look in all the different types of lighting throughout the day, and can choose when to take reference photos that I think will make good paintings (I would love to sit and paint plein aire, but that won't be an option until the little one gets older or the days get longer).

It's also a great way for me to share the little things that inspire me each day-- things I often take for granted, but appreciate once I take a few minutes to stop and look at them. When we first moved to this area, I would sit outside for hours, drinking in the view and watching the wildlife. Now that I'm so pressed for time, I enjoy expressing my admiration for all of the things outside.