End of May visitors


Appropriate Placement

“Society may not need you,strictly speaking, but some sort of use can usually be found.”

from Billy Flynn’s Long Half-Time Walk by Ben Fountain

Back to the Studio- Values

Values are how bright or dark a color is. Think of those color strips that you find at the paint store which have samples of a paint color running from darkest to lightest. Still, I find this description a bit confusing. It is easier for me to think of values as what a color looks like in full sun versus in the shade.

For this lesson, our photo reference was two women under a parasol in a yard. The sun is beating down on them and they are wearing light colored clothes. We were also restricted in our palette, either paint with the three primary colors (red, blue, yellow) or paint with only complementary colors (I chose yellow and purple for my first one) or choose colors next to each other on the color wheel (purple, red and green for the second one).

The paintings aren’t pretty, but I did feel I learned something.

yellow and purple value study                  oil                        8 x 10

I’m struggling with edges in this piece. Particularly in the background, my edges are too sharp (around that wall). Fuzzy edges push the front figures forward.

Parasol Nocturne                       oil                    9 x 12

While I think this second one is better designed (the composition is more interesting) the colors came out very wacky. Why are those women so red? What’s the deal with the weird blue and green highlights? But….this did give me some ideas for how a Nocturne (night) painting could work.

So, in the remaining time with too much paint left on my palette, I whipped out this one based on a photo reference of my husband and sons taking a break in the shade after a long day of palace sight seeing. The photo I took is not the best, but you get the idea.

trio study                                               oil                                           9 x 12

Everyone in class thought it looked like they were sitting around a campfire- those orange highlights will do that!

That is one thing that art class has taught me- reflected light and the colors of shadows. Newsflash: shadows have a color and it isn’t black. It is a darker value of whatever they are cast against. Pay attention next time you see some shadows! Light gets reflected onto other things even if those things don’t seem particularly ‘reflective’. If you don’t believe me, play the dandelion flower game. Take a yellow dandelion flower and hold it under someone’s chin and you will see the skin under their chin reflected yellow. At this point you can say, “You like butter!”

Back to the Studio-Greens

Ah, painting with GREEN. You’d think it would be easy, just squeeze it out of the tube. But straight out of the tube has a plasticky- chemical taint, nothing in nature looks quite that way unless you’ve dunked it in a vat of toxic waste ala Batman’s Joker. So, you have to mix- and in lieu of toning down a color with white (which can make your painting look milky) or black (residues of red or blue, highly unpredictable), the teacher wants us to use the complement of green which is RED.

Underpainting- this is taking your canvas and putting a watered down color so you don’t have plain white underneath. Different underpaintings have an effect if you are using oils because some of it will come through.In a lot of portraits, the artists use red as the underpainting. For the canvas I chose, it had a reddish-orange underpainting, and I think that’s what makes this painting ‘vibrate’ more.

Note, sometimes I randomly throw paint on canvas and call that underpainting. Some days it is relaxing to just spread the color around on a board. Therapeutic.

This is the first painting, taken from a photo reference of the Morton Arboretum.

May Meadow                        oil                                               11 x 14

My teacher liked the background of this painting, but thought I lost control of it at the foreground. I will have to wait for the painting to dry before I  go back and attempt to fix it. There is too much paint glopped on there at the moment.

We still had time remaining in class and I had a bunch of paint on my palette that I didn’t want to waste (ah! That Puritan ‘waste not want not’ ethic!), so I pulled out another canvas (no underpainting) and worked on this formal rose garden from a photo we took this past summer at Murnau.

Murnau garden                                  oil                                11 x 14

My teacher didn’t like this one so much, particularly the yellow sky. Also, I was letting the camera dictate to me and one way cameras lie (they lie in soooo many ways, I have learned this through painting) is that straight edges get curved. My geometric formal garden should have nice right angles to everything and instead it is getting rather goldfish bowl.

Re-entry tool

A few days ago I was in my typical Existential time out: woe is me, the futility of my efforts, brooding on my many failures, my non-existent legacy to the world.

To re-enter the land of the living I watched a 2001 movie about the work of Andy Goldsworthy, Rivers and Tides: Working with Time.  Goldsworthy is an artist who works with materials in the environment to create artwork that is meant to be destroyed. He makes sculpture out of icicles, sticks, wool, stones, leaves, dandelions, and much more. It is crazy stuff, but it is also beautiful, clever, and transcendent. What he says about sheep is an eye-opener! Yes, he does record all his artwork and takes photos so he can think about it so there is a photographic record, but the original work is often nonexistent by the time he is looking at the films, similar to graffiti art.

By the end of the movie, I had a feeling of calm equanimity. Everything tumbles to dust, even the mountains, and that is ok. That is how it is meant to be. In the meantime, there is great beauty to be enjoyed in the moment.

Back to the Studio

I started an art class a few weeks ago to force myself to paint again. Seems like I had been finding way too many excuses to avoid going into my basement to paint. Hoping the class, which will force me to put in some paint time, will get me motivated to paint more.

For the first class, we had to paint a still life: vase of red poppies with two blue (wooden) pears. We were instructed to make a value study (brights and darks), then move onto a color study AND limit our brushwork to 30 strokes. To limit the brushwork this way, you have to load your paintbrush with paint and then make BIG, LONG streaks across the canvas.

It forces you to stay  ‘loose’.

Black and White Still Life Study I                       oil                                  8 x 10

Ok, maybe a little TOO loose.

Black and White Still Life Study II                                           oil                       8 x 10

Maybe too much fun.

I opt for a vertical composition.

Poppies and Pears                  oil                   11 x 14

It is still on the loosey-goosey side- but hey! I had fun!

Can you tell what direction the light is coming from?

Age Discrepancy

I have been taking an art class for the past few weeks to try and get myself back into painting (I’ll take photos of my work once I get a nice, sunny day. Lately, we’ve been having May showers…for the June flowers?).

Anyhow, the latest assignment was self-portrait. My teacher says that many times the people you paint end up looking like self portraits because we are most familiar with the face we see in the mirror! There is a life lesson in that observation.

When I finished my first attempt, my family members all told me “You painted yourself way too old. You are not that old. That is you in maybe, 10 years.”

My husband said of the painting, “It looks like someone who has consistently made poor career choices and is unhappy about it. It looks like a Hyderabadi woman married to a Punjabi man.”