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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Quirky Cats (still life with style)

"The Unfortunate Fish" 12 x 12 Chalk Pastel on Paper

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This is one of several works completed in the last few days...

I have a bad habit of collecting knick-knacks to paint. I try to keep most of them put away for just that purpose, so my house doesn't become a minefield of breakable items. These two cats however are regulars in my kitchen-- the smaller one is my grandmother's old salt shaker, and the larger is a wooden figurine from Thailand. The fish, sadly for him, is a cloth cat toy.

I set these three up late at night on the kitchen table (using the bottom of a small fountain as a base). The paper is Strathmore "Ridges" series paper, and I haven't had much luck with it in the past. I love its texture though, and have vowed to keep trying it out until I find success. Each time I use it the experience gets a little better, and this time I enjoyed working with the vertical lines and dark color of the paper to add to the quirkiness of the piece.

Two things it's important to remember for this particular paper (in this dark blue color): smearing doesn't look good, and light colors show up wonderfully. Sticking to these two basics helped me use the paper to its advantage this time. I also finished up the details with harder pastels, making lest dust to stick to the paper (it's difficult to get that dust off once it attaches to this specific surface!)

I wasn't sure if I should include this piece with my work, as it doesn't completely fit in. This may be a corner I'm turning in my art though, and I decided to go ahead and post it. I'll know in a few weeks if my work is changing styles or I was just in a quirky mood.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Not Quite Monet, But Still Fun...

"Reflection" 18 x 24 Chalk Pastel on Paper
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Started this one in March-- I don't usually get this abstract, but it was kind of like working on a puzzle.

It started with a photo of the lilies in the water at the Grand Tradition in Fallbrook, California. In this photo, the water with the reflection of the trees above was the real star. I chose dark, plum-toned Canson pastel paper, and began blocking in lights and darks, with a focus on big shapes.

Then, as sometimes happens, I got stuck. Or, as my toddler says, "Skuck!" I let the painting sit, and added bits here and there, but couldn't figure out how to fix it.

Finally, I realized that one big problem was the lilypads-- they went straight across the bottom of the page. So, I varied the height, so they were more at an angle. After that, it was on to the other problem: the piece looked like a big blur of pastel shades.

One thing I've learned over the last few months about painting on dark toned paper is that I still need to use dark pastel to define some of the lights. It started with painting palm trees at the spa-- the lights weren't quite as bright until I added in some dark strokes for contrast. I thought I would try the same approach with the reflected trees in the water for this work, and took some dark pastel to the piece. It looked much more defined, and began to take shape as a painting. It turned out fairly abstract, but if you look close, you can still make out the shapes of the lilypads. It was an experiment, and a good chance for me to reflect on the changes I was making over time, rather than painting in my usual fury.

To see original works for sale, click here:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Country Shadows (a quick landscape in pastel)

"Country Roads" 9 x 12 chalk pastel on paper
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This piece was inspired by a view from the tram at the San Diego Wild Animal Park (now known as the Safari Park), painted with chalk pastel on orange-toned Canson Mi-Teintes paper. It was a quick, furious painting session-- mainly to blow off some steam after an irritating phone conversation. I've heard many times about the calming nature of blue, so I thought I would use blue for some cold shadow in this piece.

The actual view of this area is much more full of objects, but I thought I would stick to the simple, back country view that is quite common in the hills of San Diego County. There are still plenty of serene areas within minutes of the freeways here that boast shadowed hills dotted with trees. There used to be much more; as a child, I remember going on "boring" drives through the country with my parents on the weekends. Once I bought my own convertible after college, I gained a new appreciation for driving though the open fields and majestic hills out here.

On one such drive, I missed the exit to Temecula and ended up driving past Mount Palomar and out to Lake Henshaw, before finally finding my way back onto Highway 79. I had a vague idea where I was, and it was a warm, pleasant day to drive, so I just kept going (following a bunch of people on motorcycles-- I figured they knew where they were going) until I reached a familiar road. What would have been a twenty minute drive turned into a two hour one, but it is one of my most pleasant memories.

Now that I'm a mommy with a toddler, the prospect of taking such a drive terrifies me. It'll be a few years before I have the time and the lack of fear to wander around the back roads in a convertible again. For now, I'm content to paint them instead.

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Monday, May 2, 2011

Postcard Perfect Inspiration

"Wish you Were Here" 12 x 18 chalk pastel on paper
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I'm finding that these spa scenes are quite relaxing to look at, and thought I would put a few together to show their consistency in colors and textures...

"Bathers," "Heavenly Pool," and "Bathers II" (all chalk pastel on paper)

The latest piece, "Wish You Were Here," was completed on olive-toned Canson Mi Teintes paper. It was a leftover piece from one of my art classes, and I thought I would try it for one of the spa pieces. I used to shy away from green tones (both in my house and in my art,) but I am learning to appreciate the subtle effects a green undertone has to offer in some of my works. I've always been taught that water should have a little green in it, so this has worked well for these spa pieces.

There were some figures in the original photo I used as a reference for "Wish You Were Here," but I left them out of the composition. I wanted to focus just on the place and how beckoning it looked. If you're like me, you find an empty pool area much more peaceful and inviting than a full one. I have a hard time tuning out conversations around me, and enjoy the time of day at the pool when most of the people have headed back inside.

Adding foliage to the foreground is always tricky for me-- I don't want it to overwhelm the painting or take away from the focal point. In this case, I wanted to capture the secluded feel of the two pools, so I added a hint of the palm trees in the foreground. Between the pools, gardens, buildings, and people at Glen Ivy Hot Springs, I feel like there is something worth painting in each place I stop to take a look. It has changed a lot over the years, but with every change, there seems to be something new and delightful to see.

Click here to see "Bathers" and other originals for sale: