Tuesday, March 27, 2007

New Life Island Entrance

Last fall, I took a trip to New Life Island with the intention of painting some landscapes that will be auctioned off this coming fall to help the camp raise some much needed funds. I documented my daily NLI adventure on blogspot and also recorded the progress of each painting.

Because of weather and time, I had to leave the island with 3 completed and 3 incomplete paintings. At the beginning of this year, I began touching up the incomplete paintings so that they will be ready to display during the camp season this year.

Today I finished one of the paintings. This is the view from the entrance of the island. One of the boy's cabins can be seen on the left. The main road that runs the length of the island is followed closely by a fence whose posts we were hunting for in the woods after the first devastating flood.

Plein air painting (painting a landscape on location usually in one sitting) is very challenging, as there are many factors that change constantly while one is painting. The sun moves from one side of the sky to the other, changing light and shadow slowly sneakily before your very eyes. Clouds block the sun changing the intensity of your moving light and shadows, also changing the colors of the subject. And then there are the millions of blades of grass, twigs, leaves, and uncountable color and value changes that one cannot possibly record on canvas, but must fight ones own brain to simplify what one sees into paintable main shapes.

As difficult as it was to paint last fall on location, new challenges met me as I began to paint from poor reference photos in my studio. Much color is lost in a digital photograph, one is at the mercy of their printer to display a spectrum of color and light one can only take in with their own eyes.

Every challenge, however is an opportunity for growth. One more painting remains - the beautiful dining hall and the main piece of the collection. May my paintings reflect all that is good and meaningful about the camp.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Savory Cloves

've been enjoying the daily painter's movement - sort of watching from the sidelines unable to participate in the commitment of a painting each day. These little gems of spontaneous impressions are so much fun to look at, and I imagined it might even be more fun to actually paint a small piece.

I was inspired by one of my favorite daily painters, Carol Marine, as she doesn't shy away from color and bold strokes. I especially love her compositions and imaginative titles.

I usually place my subjects on white without thinking, so I decided, not today! Today I would splash my canvas with unrestrained color. I had a blast!

In 3 hours it was over, but what a rush. I only had time to be decisive and direct. I will definitely try my hand at small works in the future.

Daily painters can be found many places, but here are two links to get you started:

Friday, March 09, 2007

Cobalt and Petals

he sun was bright, so I decided it was a good day to get back into a painting that had been waiting for me to complete.

The roses were painted in early fall - right before the chill put our rose bush into hibernation. They died long ago, and I’m glad that I painted them first thinking ahead that I might not finish the entire scene before they shriveled.

The cobalt vase was my focus, today, and although the sun is shining directly into the studio for a longer period of time these days, it was not long before a shadow from the window moulding crept across the still life, thus forcing me to stop for the day.

I painted for less than an hour, but the basics were covered, and I will return on Monday with a set of fresh eyes ready to capture the inaccuracies of today’s painting session.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Studio Lighting ~ Q and A

One of my former classmates, the talented Lauren Pope, asked me some questions regarding studio lighting. Instead of answering her privately, I thought that I would take the time to post my answer as a blog for everyone. This also gives me the opportunity to open my studio up to you all with some more photographs.

Here are her three questions:

#1: Do you have shades or blinds for the windows?

I have no shades or blinds. I do have cute thin little curtains that mostly serve as decoration. I used to have shades before my landlady repainted the porch. She replaced the very old, yet useful shades with the shear curtains. The one good thing is that I can easily remove them if I need direct sunlight.

If I had my way, a large budget, and if the studio wasn't the main entrance to the house, (as it is actually our front sun porch - talk about a fish bowl) I would love to have black shades installed. I doubt that's a common practice, and I would probably have a hard time finding them, but it seems to me to be a perfect solution to controlling the lighting in this room. But until then, I am enslaved by the weather, ever changing light and shadow on my still lifes, and think of myself as an honorary plein air painter for that very reason.

It's been a challenge to learn how to set my still lifes up in relation to where I think the sun will be during my session. In the fall and winter I have roughly 3 hours of direct sunlight. I know when I can take my 15 minute break as the sun goes behind a telephone pole, where to set the still lifes up knowing the path of shadows from the window molding. All of this foreknowledge is important so I can set up early in order to maximize my painting time.

#2: Are you able to control the light?

About the only thing I can do to block out the sun is create some interesting contraptions with boxes, cardboard, and fabric. I've been known to kidnap our dining room table covers. They make great sun blockers and stand on their own with the three panels.

Again, it's not the best solution given that when people visit, which is often, they are greeted by my creative clutter.

To get around the need for controlled lighting, I have learned to have several still lifes set up for each lighting situation. One for night time painting (which I rarely get to, anymore), one for direct sun, and one for overcast days (this also works for morning painting as the sun is on the opposite side of the house).

#3 Do you have special lighting(bulbs) for cloudy days and nighttime painting?

I used to, but the ones that came with my nice lamp burnt out and I don't think I had a spare at the time, so I put in a regular bulb and have not seen a need to do otherwise. This is my currently neglected night-time setup. All of my friends know it well, I'm sure. As you see, here, I have a simple clamp lamp that has a fluorescent ring ( giving a blue/white light) and then a regular bulb (giving a warm light). For me that's all I need. I like to keep it simple, and it doesn't seem to be distorting my paintings.

For cloudy days, I use a simple night stand lamp, like something you'd find in Target or Walmart. I tip the shade, and it's just what I need.

Don't get me wrong, I love looking at art supply catalogs and dreaming, but right now window shopping will do just fine.

This information on my studio lighting practices and hopefully more than I've shared here, as well as other artist's methods, will be coming out in the October 2007 issue of The Artist's Magazine.

Thank you Lauren for your questions.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Letters of Art

Hand lettered envelopes and invitations bring a sense of time, age, and formality like no other craft that I know of.

This week, I began hand lettering addresses for a harp dealer who is announcing the grand opening of a new showroom. Those invited are prominent harp makers from around the world. I addressed the letters bound for Europe, today.

y pen nib is made of a very thin metal. It has a split running from the tip to the middle of the nip where there is a hole cut out that holds the ink allowing for multiple words to be written before another dip into the ink is needed. The split allows the ink to run down to the tip and onto the paper. The split also creates the opportunity for thick and thin lines. If I press just slightly, the tips spread and the ink spreads with it creating a thick line of ink. If I ease up on the pressure, the tips come back together giving me a hairline of ink.

Sometimes the needle-like tip catches on the texture of the paper and flecks of ink are splattered about. This inevitably happens on the last word of the address. Often tiny fragments of paper get trapped in the tip and eventually drag and spread the tip - making it impossible to get a fine line. The nib must be cleaned often.

Using a mixture of Copperplate script and Spencerian Script for my lettering, I pick and choose from each alphabet which letter versions I will use.

I am by no means a professional calligrapher, however I find great enjoyment and a calming effect as the slow graceful lines are drawn. One must not rush, one must not fret - even though this may be the last envelope in possession, and everything rests on getting this word right.

I fight the shaky hands and pounding heart as I hold my breath to begin the name. My pen nib is dipped into the ink, and I begin. No loud sounds, please. Oh, let the phone not ring in the middle of this curve. No stray thoughts, only thick and thin lines, subtle and strong curves.