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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Plein Air Experiment, Part 1

Sunday, June 26th, I'll be painting in the Plein Air contest at the San Diego County Fair in Del Mar, California. I decided I'd better get a little practice in, and have done a plein air painting a day for the last few days (hoping to get a full week in by Sunday).

I haven't done much plein air-- usually it's hard to find time where I can go outside interrupted for an hour or so. I've been lucky these last few days, beginning with Sunday. It was still a little foggy, but I went out anyway, dragging my not so stable box of pastels, a board with paper taped to it, and a chair.

Walking around for a few minutes, my basic impression was that we certainly need to spend some time cleaning up outside. Luckily, we have nice views, and I settled down in a chair to paint the view west of my house, which is a grove next door. It got wiped out in the 2007 fire (like ours), and has since been replanted. There's a small building there, so I chose that as the focal point and got started.

The session went relatively smoothly, and the result follows:
"Next Door" (9 x 12 chalk pastel on paper)
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The next day, the fog burned off a little earlier, so I thought I would try again. It took me longer to find a subject (I wasn't as jazzed up as I was the day before), so I headed further down the property and again turned west. An hour later, I was sore, irritated by bugs, and ready to stop when I heard a car pull up along our property line. It was a large SUV, complete with a u-haul, dogs who had to pee, and a screaming toddler (whose mother screamed back so loud I had to walk up and make sure that's all she was doing to the poor kid). They finally left, and I headed back down to clean up my mess. Somewhere along the way my pastel box had taken a dive into the weeds. I picked as many pieces of chalk out as I could, finished my work, and headed back up to the house. I was pleasantly surprised when I took a glance at the piece later (I was sure it would be as big a mess as my painting session had been).

"Neighbors" (9 x 12 chalk pastel on paper)
Click here to purchase

And finally, I got to try an afternoon painting session while the little one slept in the shade. It wasn't planned, so I had to dig some oil pastels out of my art box in the shed and set up shop. This time I opted for a more comfortable chair (made a HUGE difference), a lightweight table, and a hat (sadly, my daughter's beach hat-- all I had in the car). I never thought I would be one of those painting ladies sitting outside in a floppy hat, but it was hot out and I knew I wouldn't survive without it. I had to stay close to the baby, and concentrated on the blooming cactus plants on our bank:
"Cactus" (4 x 6 oil pastel on paper)

So far, I'm feeling comfortable with the whole plein air style. Among all the visitors I've had come up to observe me (lizards, rabbits, hummingbirds, hawks, BUGS), there's one I haven't dealt with yet that I know will be a factor Sunday: people! I'll be sharing the next few days' works, along with the final experiment-- painting at the fair.

To see more of my works inspired by local scenery, click here:

Click here to view original works for sale:

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Relaxing Beachscape

"Horseshoe Bay" 8.5 x 12 in chalk pastel on paper
Click here to buy print (cards start under $3):

This painting is a special one... 11 years ago this time of year, my husband and I went to Bermuda. We visited two beautiful beaches, and one of them was Horseshoe Bay.

Horseshoe Bay is famous for its pink sand, but I also remember the calm turquoise waters, rocky hills, and, unfortunately, the $25 cab ride!!! We did have a fun conversation with the cab driver though, who told us that the teenagers on the island have to be careful when they start dating and make sure they aren't related to each other, because the island is so small.

Bermuda is not a cheap date, but it's a beautiful, unique place. It's fun to see the architecture of the old buildings, and a little harrowing to watch out for tourists zipping around on their vespas. It has a European feel (visiting a grocery market actually made me homesick for Germany) and some of the men really do wear real Bermuda shorts!

For this painting, I used black Canson Mi-Teintes paper. It didn't take long, but I let it sit a couple of days to make sure I was happy with the clouds. I enjoyed using the dark paper under the bright colors, as it gave the painting the brightly lit beach feel I remembered.

I'm still having camera issues, so I'll only be posting works small enough to fit on the scanner (I'm not that advanced with scanning and stitching in photoshop.) This is surprisingly freeing, so once I get a new camera cord, I'll be able to pick and choose which of the larger works I want to share online.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Worn Down by Time

"Visage" 5 x 7in Chalk Pastel on Paper
Click here to buy print:

This piece was based on a reference photo of a stone carving, which appeared flat on the back, with the face rising out of the stone front.

It started as a 15 minute daily painting, and ended up taking a bit longer (as most do) because I wanted to add depth to the piece. It was finished fairly quickly though, because I had been contemplating the photo off and on for the last week, visualizing colors and composition. I find that when I keep an idea on the burner a little longer, and revisit if frequently, it gives me a much stronger guide when the time comes to actually create the piece.

I think I like painting ancient things because they have been stripped down by time, and leave much to the imagination. In our high definition world, there is little room to imagine how things might look if their colors or shapes were altered. This piece probably had strong markings and a bright coat of paint at one time, but I prefer the basic core of the piece: the part that's left after time and atmosphere have worn it down.

I'm still not sure why I prefer Egyptian artifacts to those in other parts of the world, but I think it has something to do with the mathematical structure of the pieces. I also prefer the mystery of Ancient Egyptian culture. It gives me an extra little connection to what I'm painting.

This latest piece also looks nice next to the previous Egyptian piece, as they were painted on the same brand and tone of paper (Canson Mi-Teintes):

"Visage " (5 x7) "Vessels" (5 x 9.5)

To see more of my pieces inspired by the Ancient Egyptians, click here:

To see original works for sale, click here:

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Art of Tenacity

"Flowers" 9 x 12in Chalk Pastel on Paper
Click here to purchase original

We've all heard that saying:
"Art is 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration"

When something comes naturally to you, it's hard to put the work into it. I've noticed this in my years of teaching; the students who were "brightest" often got the most frustrated when something didn't come easily to them. I've found that the painting itself is not necessarily the hardest part. It's making time to paint, and then, once it's completed, sharing that piece with others.

The piece above was an example of all of the outside work I have to put into a painting. Exhausted, I found myself strangely awake at 4 a.m. The house was quiet, so I thought, "Why not?" and got up to tape some pastel paper to a board. I didn't feel like painting much of anything, but I sifted through some recent photos and decided on a bright bunch of flowers from the spa at Glen Ivy Hot Springs. I figured I could paint nice and loose, and focus on color.

An hour later, bleary-eyed and unsure of what had happened, I had a completed painting. About halfway through I had hit that panic moment, where the painting felt like it was drowning, and was tempted to put it away for later. I knew, though, that I wouldn't find my way back to it if I did so. I pressed on, and finished the piece. These late night (or early morning) painting sessions usually end with me placing the piece somewhere I can see it when I first get up, so I can decide if I like the piece or not.

The next day, I was thrilled to see how the piece had turned out. I wanted to post it, but ran into a myriad of technical difficulties: a lost camera cord, another camera with the button missing (rendering it useless), a frazzled computer cord, a bad scan (came up yellow on one third?) and a missing flash drive, making it hard for me to transfer the piece from one computer to the next. I took a deep breath, found an old flash drive, cleared some memory, and managed to get the thing scanned in.

At some point, most rational people would have given up. I figured this was one of those times where my devotion to the work was being tested, and kept going. If you're one of those people who creates things, you probably know that it really is the perspiration that makes your art happen, and the inspiration is just that little kick in the butt that pushes you in the right direction. In other words, tenacity wins.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Clearing the Palette

"Vessels" 5 x 9.5in Chalk Pastel on Paper
Click here to buy print:

Sometimes you have to start fresh...

I printed out a bunch of new pictures, but I wasn't in the mood to paint them. It had been several days since I started a new painting, and I was trying to figure out why. Looking around my work space, I decided that my problem came from all of the already completed work sitting around me.

I have a little ritual I complete at the end of every month: I take all of the work I completed in that time period, and carefully pack it away. This is my way of saying goodbye to it, knowing it will be safe and waiting for the time when I need it again, either for a show or a sale. Sifting through my work and organizing it this way gives me time to reflect on it, but also allows me to move on to new things. I hadn't gotten much done in April, and by the end of May, all of that work had piled up and was blocking me from starting something new.

I finally went through all of my April and May pieces, and cleared my workspace. Once that was done, I felt free to take out paper and start a new piece. I still wasn't terribly motivated, so to clear my mind I decided to go back to basics and focus on shape, value, and minimal color in the above piece. It was soothing to stick to a simple composition with simple subjects, and put me back in the frame of mind to paint again. So, not only do I need my morning ritual of coffee, I need my monthly ritual of packing away my work.