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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Playing with Texture (Mixed Media Madness)

These paintings have taken a while to complete. They were done in multiple layers, over sporadic sessions. The first one began with an acrylic knife painting on Canson Canva-paper, and was inspired by a photo of the plants at a butterfly exhibit near San Diego, CA:

"Indoor Garden" 12 x 16 Mixed Media on Paper
Click here to purchase original
I finished the painting by adding layers of chalk pastel and a bit more acrylic. It was so heavily textured, I had to knock some of the pastel back to soften the center of the piece. I wanted to show how alive the plants were: flowers swaying from the ceiling, blossoms bursting out of pots and bushes, and leaves sprouting all over the background. The large black pot and green beams help anchor all the plant life, reminding the viewers that they are experiencing an indoor garden, rather than a lush jungle.

In contrast to all this vibrant growth, the next piece was inspired by the comforting forms of a pair of pitchers:

"Big Pitcher, Little Pitcher" 8 x 10 Acrylic and Chalk Pastel on Flat Canvas
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I started this piece months earlier, in a spontaneous still life session that began with acrylic paint and a palette knife. I layered the paint on in a thick, impasto style, shaping the dollops of paint into forms with the flat part of the knife. The idea was originally to make a green and red painting; however, purple and peach tones ended up creeping into the work once I added chalk pastel. These pitchers are two of my favorite kitchen pieces. The larger was a gift when I was a newlywed; the smaller has been in the family for generations. I finally decided on the chalk pastel for the added texture because of the cracked look it gave the painting, giving it a timeworn feel.

On the other side of the spectrum, here is a mixed media piece painted from imagination:
"Coast" 9 x 12 Mixed Media on Flat Canvas
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This piece started as an oil pastel painting, but ended up with a watercolor wash and a bit of chalk pastel to blend it. It was inspired by a recent trip up north in California, and the beautiful coastal views available along the way.

My mixed media pieces usually take a bit longer to complete, mostly because I am playing with new formulas and working from less specific reference material. There's usually lots of drying time involved in these works, so it gives me time to think about each step before continuing. I tend to focus more on the process than the end result when I work with mixed media. Once the piece has been finished and is ready to sell, I can look back at the piece and have a visual record of an artistic journey I've taken with my materials.

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Monday, December 12, 2011

A Long, Cold Day

"Maurice Car'rie Barn" 9 x 12 Chalk Pastel on Paper
Original sold
Click here to view print choices

It was not the best day to set up a tent outside a winery to sell paintings. The cold was bearable at first, until the wind kicked up. My booth held steady in the wind (my tables, not so much). There were some great views from my spot, though, so I decided to make the most of it and work on some pastel paintings.

Painting plein air has become quite comforting to me now. I've learned to tune out most distractions and concentrate on what it is I'm painting, which is a difficult thing to do at first. I'm even learning to appreciate the conversations that happen as a result of painting in front of strangers. I had a particularly funny conversation with a young child (they always find me-- teacher radar I suppose) about painting.

He wanted to know if I was trying to copy something, and I said no, if I want to copy things I take photos. He wanted to know how long it takes to become a painter, and I explained that if you start learning as soon as you're interested, you'll get better and better each day you practice.

He gave me some feedback on my pricing as well. There was one particular piece he liked, but he was quite put off by the $60 price tag (he muttered that he would have preferred something more along the line of $5). My husband and I had a good giggle over that when I got home.

So, in addition to finishing two plein air paintings, I had some good conversation with people about my work. That's not something I get when painting at home, or even at busier venues. Despite needing several hours to recover from such a cold, windy day, I was quite satisfied with what I got out of the experience. Which, to me, is the most helpful way to look at things that don't go as planned-- especially where art is concerned.

Incidentally, the barn is actually white in real life. Unfortunately, I stepped on the last of my white chalk while rescuing a fallen table, and was only left with a few crumbs to highlight the barn. Another of those "keep calm and carry on" moments of plein air painting...

"Vineyard View" 4.5 x 6 in Chalk Pastel on Paper
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To see more of my local plein air works, click here