Thursday, August 28, 2014

Alaska Travel Journal

Alaska is amazing.  I'd always heard that, now I've seen it for myself.  There wasn't as much time to journal as I had hoped, but I did get some pages done.  I'll work more on it the next couple of days before my memory leaks it all away.  The little sketches I brought home are my keepsake of the journey and hopefully, references for future paintings.

Some of the pages:

Fun tunnel in Ketchikan, AK

This just grabbed my fancy..

This is a hotel/boat.  Totally charming.

Amazing mountains and glaciers along much of the way.

Miles and miles of mountains and little tiny islands

I brought 4 different blues with me; I could have used more!  A whole new kind of light and atmosphere.

There was a lighthouse on this treacherous rock, a tiny white dot in the distance.

A fun story goes with this one.  I was sitting on the deck of the ferry in a quiet place painting the scenery we were passing and not paying any attention to anything around me.  Suddenly, someone started playing bagpipes next to me!  I nearly fell off of my seat, dripping a big, juicy brush full of paint onto the sky area.  Scared me silly.  A man, who's name I later learned was Peter, serenaded me for several songs.  That was a new experience.  First time I ever painted to live bagpipe music; I kinda hope it's the last!

Bellingham, WA harbor

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

An Illustrated Journey

Soon, we will be going to Alaska for our son's wedding.  Part of that trip will be on the Alaska Marine Ferry system, part will be by train.  I've been fretting about what art supplies to take, how to set up to paint on a busy ferry and worrying that I won't be able to paint water right, of all things.  The trip is exciting to contemplate, but this one little detail has been causing considerable stress.  I know, silly, but there it is.

Enter the book, An Illustrated Journey.  Looking for a read to enjoy while we are in airports, I happened upon a new book by one of my favorite artists, Danny Gregory.  (His book, Creative License is one of my favorite possessions.)  Gregory's books are like taking a fresh, cool drink of water after a hot day.  No snobbery or pressure, just fresh energy bound into a book.  Of course, I bought it.  Not being willing to wait for Amazon to get it to me in two days, I bought the Kindle version.  I'm a "now" kind of woman!  I am also thankful I cheated and began reading before we leave, because the answer was right there, waiting for me.
Even the cover invites me to come inside

This is a page that was particularly delicious to me, I love these sketches.  Danny Gregory, An Illustrated Journey
I used to art journal, back before I started college and ran out of spare time.  I loved it.  I mean, I LOVED it.  My journal became one of my favored things, going everywhere I went.  When we traveled, I sketched and instead of wanting to bring home some "thing" to remember my trip by, I have my little, wonky sketches.  I had forgotten how I felt about this.  Busy making grades and deadlines, I somehow forgot.  Gregory's book brought it all back.  Pages of pictures from the travel journals of artists, text about what they carry for supplies and how journaling affects their lives- all eye candy to me.  Gregory has hit another home run.  No tutorials or rules, just a book pulsing with creative energy and inspiration.

My little ink bottle, immortalized in my journal.
Yesterday I dug out my old sketch books and read through them.  They're now stacked on my desk in my studio and I lightly touch the pile whenever I walk past.  Something stirs in me as I think about it.

This page gave me sanity in a tough time in our lives.  Journaling does that, calms the spirit and helps one work through difficulties.

Drawing where I go imprints the place, day, smells and sounds into memories.  I still remember this day and even how I was feeling being there that day.

In a journal there is no pressure to impress anyone.  These little works are only for who I say may see them. (including you!)  I can experiment and try new things, like playing with bright colors I would never had dared use on expensive paper.

This one was drawn after the trip from a photograph.  Sometimes there isn't time to finish a piece on the spot, but the memory is intact when I draw it.  There are no words here to say where this was, but I can still tell you and remember the ride we went on that day.

Drawing the mundane not only practices the hand/eye, but it also helps me to see my surroundings in a new way.  I can appreciate what I have better when I draw it.

Other pictures from other days bled onto this little sketch, but I like it even more with the colors on it.  Part of the charm is the wear and tear the book gets as it goes where I go.  It's a record of my life.

Here is the answer to my art supply needs for the trip.  I don't need a big art kit, nor do I need to come home with something I might want to frame.  I need to take a pen, some color and a little notebook to make notes into, sketch what I see and carry in my pocket.  I know I will slip my hand into my pocket and feel the little book when I'm not using it, anticipating what I will put into it next.  Just like I used to do.  Just like I had forgotten about.  Thanks, Danny.

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Good Idea, Gone Wrong

What a disappointment when you want to try out an idea and it doesn't work out so great.  Sometimes new ideas turn out to be winners, but not today.

I wanted to express the desert monsoon clouds and the shadows they cast across the land.  Out here in New Mexico, we  can see for 50 miles or so.  This makes it possible to see two or three weather events in one scene.  It's gorgeous when the clouds start to pile up high, but pretty tough to capture in a watercolor.

This is part of the view outside my studio.


I read somewhere to paint the cloud details in first, and decided to give that a shot in this piece.

Painting the sky color after the cloud details are put in gives the whole thing definition.

As I started the back ground hills, I liked what I was getting.

The middle-ground was in the wrong place for the composition, although that's where it was sitting in real life!  

Detail of the middle section and the squall going in the background.

And… where things went wrong.  I wanted the foreground to be in shadow.  It's like I took a different painting and stuck it over the top of this one.  Oh well, live and learn!

By cropping this, it might be a bit more interesting.  I'll have to get mats out tomorrow and see what can be done.  


Even though this turned out disappointing, there are parts to it that I like and learned from.  I'll start over and do another one and one of these days, there'll be one that reaches the goal I can see in my head!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Creative Block, a Remedy

Recently I saw a beautiful painting by a watercolor artist who declared that she had only kept it by accident, in fact she stated that she'd thrown most of her bad work away.  I was horrified, not because I am a hoarder, in fact I love throwing things away, but because I have learned so much from my past work.  She also said that she hadn't painted in a long time and in her words indicated what sounded like a real creative block.  I believe that keeping our work is an important key in keeping the creative energy flowing.

The benefits of saving your work can't be overstated.  Being able to see where you've been artistically and comparing it to where you are now can be a major help when you've hit a wall with your work.  When artists get discouraged and feel like their work isn't where they'd like it to be, taking a look at past pieces helps keep that feeling in perspective.  Discouragement is a major block to creativity; looking back can be useful in keeping that channel open. Below I've included photos of some of my older work and some insights I've gained in reviewing them recently.

In the painting below I can see that I didn't really understand atmospheric perspective.  I was trying, but were I to paint the same scene today, I would know how to make my main subject stand out, the middle ground more believable and make the background be a supporting element instead of a competing one.  


Watercolor, 12" x 16", 2006


In this piece, I can see how much I've learned about contrasting elements.  Every element of this painting is as strong as the others.  There are no main players or supporting players, only one flat plane of subject.  Contrast would have helped this be a more successful piece.  


Pastel, 18" x 24", 2007

In the next picture a still life expresses the beginning of my understanding of color.  I can see that I had used layers of colors here and that at this stage of my development I was experimenting with building up the colors instead of using them straight from the tube or stick.  Comparing it to another still life done recently helps me to see how much I've learned about color.

Pastel, 18" x 24, 2009


This scene shows how I was handling my brushes early on in my watercolor journey.  I can look at it and compare it to something I've done recently and see that my skill with the brushes is greatly improved.  Being able to utilize my tools has improved my work in recent years.  


Watercolor, 12" x 16", 2007


I still have so much to learn.  When I sell or give away a painting I keep a careful digital record of it and keep it in a file. The rest of it goes into a flat file cabinet.  In a few more years I hope I will look at what I did in 2013-2014 and be able to see where more changes in my style began, or where I improved my technique and knowledge.  When I see work from my past I can keep times of creative blockage in perspective.  Instead of getting totally de-railed by those periods, I can get back to work fairly quickly and move on when I look back at where I've been.  


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Making Adjustments

Here is a good illustration of how watercolor paints lighten as they dry.  I painted this bluff a couple of weeks ago and put it away so that I could get a fresh look at it later.  After looking at a painting intently for several days, it's hard to really "see" it anymore.  Today I decided to take it out and decide what do to with it.  This is how it looked when I pulled it out of the drawer:

Just not quite as dramatic as it should be..

This piece really needed something to make it pop out.  It just looked unfinished and anemic.  Mixing up a strong puddle of Alizarin Crimson and Ultramarine Blue, I decided to see if I could make the sun light on the rock faces stand out more with deeper shadows.  

Using dark paint mixtures helped give the finished piece the punch it needed.

After the shadows were darker, I could see that the foreground needed to get deeper in value as it came forward, so I darkened it and added a bit more vegetation.  I think it helped to keep the eye on the bluff area instead of letting it stray off of the bottom edge of the painting.  It has been a great reminder to me that painting with watercolor requires painting your shapes darker than you want the finished piece to be.  

Friday, July 25, 2014

Messes..

The truth of the matter is, I make messes.  I can't make a mess in a messy studio, no, it must be clean before I can mess it up.  This cycle seems to be a major barrier to my creative process, as you can imagine.  If I come to the studio with a great new idea, either I look around at the last mess I made out here and go bake something I don't need, or I get industrious and clean it all up.  Cleaning it all up is a great thing because when it's clean I get out paper and get to work trashing my studio.


Simple right?  Clean the studio, make great art.  I wish.  If I could bottle will power, I would get rich just off of others like me who love the creative work, hate the getting ready to work, work.  Not to mention parents who want their kids to move away, school teachers with reluctant students or those who want to abolish their credit cards.  What is will power, anyway?  I don't know, but if I had it, I would have cleaned this place up Monday when I told myself it was time.  I even bought a special dark chocolate bar with sea salt as a bribe.  It's still in the cupboard, so I must have some power of will. I ate the other one I bought instead.


So now, half-way through the job on Friday, I've told myself I'll just get Pandora to play me some nice, busy day music and finish the job.  Here I am, blogging about it instead.  However, the floor is clean and all that I have to do now is dust and put away my travel bag.  And then that chocolate bar is mine!


This cycle I'm in is ridiculous, but it seems to be the way my world turns.  I have to go now.  I can feel the enthusiasm for a project starting to creep in and I have a mess to make.  As soon as I've cleaned up this mess...



Friday, July 18, 2014

The Rug, Part 2

I've been spending a couple of hours each day this week on the rug.  While the tension isn't perfect, it's still working!  You can see how wonky it is as it goes up the warp, but I'm learning and the next one will be better.  Hopefully, by the time I've made a few, I'll be a pro.

I have to concentrate on painting next week, but I'll keep adding to this as much as I can each day. My goal is to have it done by the end of August.  We shall see….

By Thursday evening...

Close-up of the design.  Wonky white area, getting straighter now as I go..

Today's progress.  1/8" left of the red square, which was my goal for the week; have to finish before I can go to bed!  

This is the back side of the piece.  Not as wonky from the back as the front.  I'll probably hang it this way!  The random design between the brown and white is fun to do.