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Monday, January 28, 2013

An "Omenous" Morning

"Down the Hill" 9 x 12 Chalk pastel on flat canvas
Click here to view large or purchase  
I'm not a superstitious person, although I was as a child.  In fact, I probably would have been considered an obsessive-compulsive, as I believed that if I wore certain things, or lined my dolls up a certain way, good or bad things might happen.  Thankfully, I've grown out of that stuff.

We live in a rural area, although we are close to civilization.  This means that once the freeway sounds die down at night, we get to hear an abundance of owls.  My mom once informed me that hearing an owl means that someone is going to die.  I explained to her that we hear them every night, and we were still here.  If anything, the owls were a blessing because they helped keep the mouse population down, and less mice hopefully means less rattlesnakes.  This is typically my reaction to such beliefs.

I'm not above the occasional attack of foreboding, though.  Our usual favorite market was out of bread yesterday, so I went around the corner to a market I'd never shopped at to see if they had any.  They did, but the market was so dark and full of unsavory-looking items, I had a claustrophobic reaction and had to get the heck out of there, fast.  This left me feeling jumpy the rest of the day, especially since I tend to panic in larger stores rather than small ones (if you want to torture me, take me to a Wal-Mart!)

Fast-forward to this morning, when I cracked open a couple of eggs for breakfast.  Two yolks slid out of one of the eggs, prompting an immediate internet search for whether or not the egg was safe to eat (I'm already a pretty squeamish vegetarian when it comes to eggs).  Of course, there are plenty of superstitions about a double-yolked egg: anywhere from imminent death in the family to marriage to good fortune in the form of double blessings.  Since I'm already married and don't want anyone to die, I'm going to accept the double yolk as a sign of good things to come. 

I already feel quite fortunate in my painting journey these days.  The painting above was done with chalk pastel dipped directly in water and layered with dry chalk, and I am finding this method to be perfectly suited to my current painting needs (dries quickly, little to no dust, can pick it up at any time and fix mistakes with a little water). 

I don't know if the double-yolk superstition includes anything about eating the egg, since I do have to be careful with cholesterol I gave the extra yolk to the pets, who quite enjoyed it.

If you'd like to see more of my latest works, visit my fine art website.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Time to Play!


"Afternoon in the Park"
9 x 12 Chalk pastel on flat canvas
 
I'm looking for new homes for some daily paintings, so I can make room for new ones!  Stop in and view my ebay listings. 

I've been reading a lot of blog posts on marketing, and there seems to be a constant tension for artists between staying within a defined style and experimenting. 

I agree that it's important to find your own voice as an artist, and that your collectors will appreciate  your recognizable style.  That said, the thing I enjoy most about painting is trying new things, so it's hard for me to personally stick with one style, technique, or subject matter for too long.

The painting above was created in a day, and was an experiment with chalk pastels and water on flat canvas.  If I'm going to mix chalk and water, I usually block in my drawings with pastel first and then begin working in the water to blend the lights and darks.  I wanted to try something different this time, and made my drawing by dipping the pastel sticks in the water and then applying them to the canvas.  This method progressed into a complete underpainting, which was loose and shimmery with great darks. 

After letting the water dry, I went back over with dry pastel, adding the lights and middle values.  One challenge with this technique is to make sure the canvas is covered, as the white texture tends to peek through.  I'm going to try to remember to tone the canvas with watercolor next time to see if that makes for a smoother look.

Here are some more works from photos I took at Irvine Park:
Along the Water
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"Irvine Tree"
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To see more California Scenery, visit my California Scenes gallery!
 

Monday, January 14, 2013

It's Definitely Work.

"Oorah!" 9 x 12 Chalk pastel on flat canvas
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I got a little carried away with this one, and it's on fairly small canvas-- a painting of a boat that we used to walk by quite often at the harbor in Oceanside, California.   Oceanside Harbor is right next to Camp Pendleton.   If you live anywhere near a military base that houses marines, you know what "Oorah!" means.

I began the piece with a blue chalk sketch on a piece of flat canvas, and blended the chalk with water to give it a bit of a watercolor feel.  Water helps stick the chalk to the canvas, eliminating some of that annoying dust and also replacing the potent can of fixative I sometimes break out in case of emergency.  It's best to use a watercolor brush and have a paper towel handy if you want to lift out some extra highlights, and keep the canvas absolutely flat as it dries.

I meant to go for a more secondary color scheme with greens, purples, and a bit of orange, but the blue dominated the painting (as it did the reference photo), so I kept the colors down to more of a blue, purple, and white palette.  I almost didn't add the flag simply because I wasn't sure how to balance out that red, but my three year-old insisted that I include the flag.  She was right, as the boat wouldn't have felt right without it.  I added bits of red to some of the other areas to balance out those scarlet stripes waving from the boat.

It probably would have been easier to make this a dry pastel on paper or even an acrylic (not that I get much time for that anymore), because the canvas tends to eat up the pastel if you get too many layers on it.  I did have to call in the can of fixative toward the end, which darkened up some areas and gave it a little more contrast.  I like to use canvas as a surface because I enjoy the grainy texture it gives the pastel, and it's much easier to make changes early on with this combination-- you can always go back and use the water to erase or re-blend as needed in the beginning.

So, after finishing this piece up I  thought about why we call paintings "artwork" or "works of art," and realized that paintings may start out as fun, exciting ideas, but they often require quite a bit of work to reach their potential.

If you like this piece, visit my Nautical and Beach gallery!


If you want to see more pieces for sale, view my current ebay listings or visit my website.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Hot Mess of Water Lilies!

"Balboa Water Lilies"
9 x 12 Chalk Pastel on Paper
Click here to view large or purchase
So, every time I take great photos to paint later it turns into a learning experience for me.

We took a little day trip in September down to Balboa Park in San Diego, California.  There wasn't much left of the water lilies after some recent vandalism (a bunch of geniuses decided to have a water gun fight and ended up destroying the lilypond).  It was a strangely hot day for downtown San Diego-- part of a series of heat waves that dogged me throughout the last months of my pregnancy.  I was thrilled to get some pretty photos while down there, particularly of the lilypads and turtles.

I love to paint water, but I forget how time consuming it can be.  There are lots of layers involved, and I ended up using fixative as I layered in the lights and darks in this piece.  I also didn't anticipate how difficult it is to depict those peaceful, floating lilypads.  After a couple of overhauls and many tweaks, the final result eventually emerged. 

One of the things that helped was looking back at some of Claude Monet's water lily paintings.  After studying a few, I realized that I was having difficulty because I was focusing too much on each individual lilypad, rather than the floating mass they created as a group.  Much like it makes sense to step back and paint a whole tree rather than just each individual branch and leaf, it helps to step back and focus on the lilypads as a group rather than individual pieces.

Here's another piece inspired by a lilypond and influenced by Monet:

"Reflection"
18 x 24 Chalk pastel on paper (framed)
Email nicolehilsabeck@yahoo.com if interested in purchasing

If you like garden-themed art, visit my Botanical and Garden gallery!