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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Blue Moods

"Harbor Reflections" 12 x 16 Mixed Media on Paper
Click here to purchase original
No surprise here: when feeling discouraged, I turn to the color blue! The painting above was done mostly from imagination, although I did flip through a few reference photos of boats at the harbor in Oceanside, CA for inspiration. I am enjoying the process of adding thick acrylic with a palette knife to structure a piece, and layering in pastel to finish it. I did have to use some gesso, having run out of white acrylic. The gesso worked nicely as a base for some of the chalk, and I'm tempted to stick with that instead of buying more white for a while. I wanted to capture the effect of bright sunlight, which deepens the blues and highlights the stark whites when the weather is at its finest down in Oceanside.

For my next piece, I went to another familiar theme: cats.

"Now What?" 9 x 12 Chalk Pastel on Flat Canvas
Click here to view Etsy listing

This particular cat appeared while we were having lunch in Carlsbad, CA. She showed up just as the food arrived (we were sitting on a patio), and hung around as long as my husband continued giving her bites of chicken. She grudgingly turned around to stare at me so I could ge a photo; she seemed to know that I was vegetarian and didn' have anything to offer her. Once she had her fill, she moved on to another table.

I normally don't use fixative for my pastels; however, this piece was different in that I only used dry chalk on the flat canvas, and needed something to make it stay in place a little better. The fixative actually worked quite well, and I may end up buying a new can after all (I've been keeping the same spray can around for years, always disappointed in the results when I try it).

"Canopic Blue" 9 x 12 Chalk Pastel on Flat Canvas
Email nicolehilsabeck@yahoo.com if interested in purchasing


 For the final piece, I revisited a reference photo I had painted previously but didn't like when it was finished. I thought I would try it in a more monochromatic tone, choosing cool blues to give the canopic jars a peaceful feel. I used water to blend the pastels onto the flat canvas, and enjoyed the "watercolor" effect this had.

If you like this piece, see more of my Egyptian-inspired art here:
http://artbynikihilsabeck.blogspot.com/p/tomb-egyptian-inspired-art.html

Click below to visit my Etsy store and see additionl mixed media works:
http://www.etsy.com/shop/nikihilsabeck

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The End of the Continent

"End of the Continent" 9 x 12 Chalk Pastel on Paper
Click here to purchase original

Whenever I paint a location, I try to capture the essence of the place by setting the mood with color. This painting was done from a reference photo taken in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

I took a trip to Massachusetts a few years back, and my mom and I thought it would be interesting to drive up the cape to the first place the pilgrims landed before settling in at Plymouth. Being a California native, I'm pretty familiar with beautiful coastlines; however, I was stunned at how striking the cape was in this particular area. It was a cold, windy fall day when I took this photo (so cold and windy I had to keep my hood over my face and snap quickly!)

Looking out across the marshes and ocean, it felt like I was at the end of the world. I've kept the photo out all these years, hoping to make a painting of it with the right combination of color and medium. Using chalk pastel on watercolor paper and brushing it with water worked great for this piece, as it allowed me to layer in the deeper colors and balance them with the neutral lights.

My camera didn't function so well on this trip (especially in Salem--spooky!) I only got about 30 photos from the whole week, so I guess that means I'll have to return some day and take more with a different one. Better yet, maybe I'll get the chance to paint plein air there one day.

To see more paintings from places I visit (or see every day), click here:
http://artbynikihilsabeck.blogspot.com/p/merry-weather-places.html

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Southern California Scenes


"Last Light"
9 x 12 Chalk Pastel, Water, and Red Wine on Flat Canvas
(Original not for sale)
Click here to view print choices:
http://www.redbubble.com/people/nikihilsabeck/works/8290572-last-light-pastel

One of the benefits of painting familiar things is the freedom to strip them down into their basic elements. In these paintings, I chose to focus on forms, as the strong directional shapes were what inspired me to paint them. I am one of those people who finds comfort in familiar surroundings, which means I spend lots of time studying the things I see every day and looking for patterns and characteristics to help me paint with ease.

For "Last Light," I used a photo taken on my phone at sunset in Oceanside, California as a loose reference. I often get distant photos of people along the water and use their forms in my paintings. I get lots of sunset photos, because I'm not an early morning person. This translates into paintings that typically have a lot of light in the water and heavily shadowed people. The "cruciform" pose of the figure above was the initial inspiration for the piece. I brushed the pastels with a bit of water, and used a little red wine to give that brown tint to the wet sand.

The painting below is a familiar view for me: palm trees and a power pole in front of my neighbor's house. Every time I look out the kitchen window, I just want to paint those trunks! Palm trees are all over the place here in Southern California, and they make frequent appearances in my work. I'm always amazed by their resilience in the face of some of our furious winds. They may lose some fronds, but they don't fall over and break. I also love the sound of wind brushing through them, or the way the greener parts glitter in the midday sun.

On the day I painted these palms, it was fairly cold outside, and a few residual clouds from a recent storm drifted low in the distance. There isn't much in the way of clouds to paint now: it's a dry 91 degrees outside, in the first week of January! What a great way to start the year.


"Neighboring Palms" 9 x 12 Chalk Pastel on Paper


Click here to view print choices: