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Monday, April 26, 2010

Ten of Zen - Painting from Life

More than a few years ago, I was painting in Spain. A woman I had met on this trip told me about the 10 of Zen. Something recently triggered that memory, and I thought it time to revisit this way to approach a painting outdoors, or any time you are painting from life.

The essence of the 10 of Zen is to use all your senses for 10 minutes and write them down BEFORE you start to work. I didn't do this enough for it to become "habit" but subconsciously, I still make mental notes of what my senses are recording. When you are working with light, 10 minutes can be a luxury you don't always have. But when you get back to the studio and bring out your study or painting, it all comes back to you. I found some notes from over the years with my thumbnails and it is fun to look back; like a mini diary.

P.S. A note on shipping paintings. I heard from a few friends via email that ABEND Gallery will box and ship paintings very reasonably. I don't know what the definition of "reasonable" is, but I will check it out and let you know when next I need to ship a painting.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Getting Ready for Summer Art Market

In between working on the larger paintings I want to highlight at my opening that is fast approaching: May 7 at Bell Studio and Gallery, I have been working on resurrecting old paintings with the Summer Art Market in mind. Here are a few before and after’s:

This painting, an 8x10, is from my “plant portrait” phase of @2003. I had decided I wanted to grow orchids and I should paint them as well. This is a rather plain little portrait (I was lazy and afraid of backgrounds, relying instead on being “graphic.” It really did not need much. Keep it simple but tone down that garish orangey earth color that was competing with the magenta. That was a huge lifesaver. I then corrected the drawing of the flowers and the pot, changed the leathery leaves from a warm green to a cool green and then added more warmth to the background and also added some gradation to it. Not having any reference available, I long ago killed off my orchid collection; I just went from my memory.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A day in Marie's studio

Friday I drove up to Fraser to spend the day with Marie. I didn't get there until 11, and by the time we got around to painting it was almost 2! Marie showed me what she had been working on, including a nice little study of a new place she had found the day before. Our original plan was to go back there, but it was not to be. The clouds were playing with the light something fierce. I had brought up a few paintings I wanted to work on just in case, so I set up at one end of her studio and went to work. I started with this painting from last spring at the Iris Garden, a local business that is friendly to artists setting up and painting. I did not post my painting from this day, too embarrassed, but here is my blog post and the original painting, which is 9x12:

Wednesday night I had this painting critiqued and Drew suggested I warm up the shadow under the tree, which I did. I also made a pattern of light and darks through the iris, and pulled out some details in the iris's up front. I am not pleased with the ivy on the back fence, and I prefer the original painting of the top of the tree foliage. I think I will take it back to that.

Next, I pulled out this painting,Copper Penny Iris (and no, that is not the official name of these plants) also from a year ago, from my back yard. I love these coppery iris. Again, I did not post the original plein air study, which is below and is 10x16, as I wasn't quite happy with it. Looking at it now, I don't think is was as bad as I thought at the time. We are our own worst critics, after all. And I do like the original light green of the neighbors grass in this one better than what I did to it later in the studio.

There is a mid-rework of this painting that I did not photograph, as I can see when posting these together, that the brownish background worked fine, but I darkened it at some point. I did not touch the background on Friday. I worked on unifying (there is that word again!) the dark values in the iris plants and trying to weave the ground and ground cover in and around the flagstones (which are on the right hand side, as they sure don't "read" as flagstones). Those have not worked out too well YET. I reworked the chain link fence too. And since I am so unhappy with how the flagstone is working, I decided to see what happened if I cropped it to an 8x16 instead of a 10x 16 and I think that solved my problem area which is not to say I don't need to address what is left of it.
These iris are in my back yard and I am going to try this scene again. I do like the composition and the juxtaposition of elements.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Another Day in the Alley's of Platte Park

Saturday morning was a perfect gray, spring morning, threatening to rain. I like this kind of day as it provides a saturation of color that you don't get on a beautiful sunny day. I was able to be outside in just a light polar fleece. I added the faint "shadows" on the alley to break up that vast expanse of pavement. This study is 11x14 and it took me an hour to do. I am going to paint an 18x24 painting from it in the studio and keep it to this basic composition. More so than I did with the Harvard Gulch Alley and its study. I know the lovely dumpster is front and center, but it is a foil to guide you in and to play off of the truck and the flowering crabapple. The truck is parked in the back of Firestation 16.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Paintings and their Names

Look at everything as though you are seeing it for the first time, with eyes of a child, fresh with wonder.

~ Joseph Cornell

Ah, if only it were so easy. Our eyes are clouded with life experiences and knowledge we don’t want to let go of.

On that note, I want to add an addendum to the painting that is now with the Paint America Top 100 show. I always thought “High, Wide and Lonesome” was the epitome of the perfect title for a painting depicting Colorado. The painting had that title from its inception, which is rare for me. Titles of Paintings are the bane of my existence. NOT creative in that department at all. “High, Wide and Lonesome” is the title of a book I read back in my youth about growing up as a homesteader on the plains of Colorado. I read this book way before I ever thought I would be living in Colorado.

But a friend of mine has renamed this painting: “There is a reason the rearview mirror is smaller than the windshield.” (Dear friend of mine, please correct me if I haven't got it quite right) I can’t decide if I like if for this painting, as it certainly fits, or if it is the seed for another painting. Are my ego and my desperate wish to have finally picked a great name for one of my paintings getting in my way?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Business of Art part 2

It has been awhile since I have had to put on an art opening - almost 4 years. The mind is amazing in how it will block certain memories. It feels like I have never done an opening before and I had definitely forgotten how much work it takes. This weekend I finalized the press release and got it sent to two publications that have a minimum of 3 weeks prior to the event to submit. Friday afternoon, in my rush to get my files uploaded for the postcard inviation, I blew it in so many ways. First, I forgot to compress the file and then I sent them the wrong image format, even though I had prepped a copy correctly. I tried to contact the company to "fix" my errors, but no reply. I expect I will try again this morning. I had put my mailing list in a database program after my last opening but have yet to try to print labels from it - this is an adventure I have been putting off, and luckily, since I won't have the postcards for awhile, can put off a little longer. Next I will need to create an email inviation. I was able to make progress on one of the paintings I want to have at the opening this weekend, so I am starting to feel a little better about it all. Friday, I was a basket case.

The opening will be in conjunction with Old South Pearl Street First Friday Art Walk on May 7. I will be highlighted at Bell Studio and Gallery, 1573 South Pearl Street, Denver CO 80210. The Art Walk hours are 4 -8 p.m. and I will also be at the gallery all day on Saturday, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. I have a one month contract with Bell Studio and Gallery to see if I can manage working there one day a week as well as my "day" job and still get some painting in while not neglecting my family. It will be a juggling act, to be sure. I have yet to talk to my supervisor about this arrangement, so the feasability is still very tenuous.

I do like the fact that Bell Studio and Gallery is so close to my home, and that it is a neighborhood business. I am planning on making the opening exhibit a "local" show, with paintings from the neighborhood and the metro area. Maybe one or two paintings from France. I have limited space so I must be judicious in my choices. Any volunteers to keep me on the right track? We all know how hard it is for an artist to know what works of their own to highlight.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Not so fun part of Art

I am only writing today because I want to share with other Denver artists a lesson learned. Being new to the world of shipping paintings, the process is definitely an eye opener. And the paintings I have had to ship have been large paintings. Today I took the Alley Hollyhock painting to get it boxed and shipped to arrive in Scottsdale on Wednesday. Unfortunetly, it has a large thick frame on it, being 3" deep and 4.5" all the way around. It added a lot to the cost of shipping, I found out. I went to 4 shipping centers today, one refusing to even pack it, before I found Navis Pack and Ship. Navis is located on 2306 S. Colorado Blvd. The young man was helpful, pleasant, and was going to build the box for the painting to size, instead of fitting it in a too large of a standard size (UPS) for which I had to pay for the extra size and packing materials, of course. With insurance, Navis was about $100 less than what UPS quoted me. The other point was that I needed to include a return label in the event the painting doesn't sell. Navis will do that and charge me only if the label is used. UPS I have to pay up front and then submit paperwork to get reimbursed if the label is not used. In the defense of UPS, I did use them for my two prior art shipments and all arrived in good shape to the best of my knowledge. But if all goes well with this latest and largest painting, Navis will have my future business.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Alley Critique

The last Saturday of March, I brought in Harvard Gulch alley for critique. I have been working on it since. Kevin voiced much of what I had been thinking. It is interesting to note, that the one area he really liked he said I should repeat in the one area where it was weakest. That was all I needed to hear, as I knew what the weak link was – I just didn’t realize what the strong area was. He said he particularly liked the upper left hand corner; the trees and the light. Funny thing is, that was one of my major areas of trouble, so I finally got tired of trying to replicate the photo and went right into orchestration. Ie what did I want from it, and then I just went for it. Getting a rhythm going with movement and color which I then carried into the whole mass of trees that create the backdrop. So Now I had to Do That with the snow and melting snow on and around the alley…Snow is not my forte, but I have been studying it more intently while the past two storms went into melt mode. Not with paint, unfortunately, but going out and watching the play of light and shadow and seeing what the pavement looks like with wet snow in light and shadow which had gotten me stuck. Looking at the alley now, I may have overdone it, as is my wont. But at least I have it reading better and simplifying is becoming easier for me to do, once I have gone overboard first. I do love oil paint and its forgiving nature.

Another thing he told me was to unite the light by using a mother color, and do the same in the shadows. I thought I had done that in the shadows but I apparently went to far there as well. I do think the light is popping more now. I still have a few things to touch up, but I am just about there.

A note to those who receive an automatic email upon my posting - you must use the link in the email to come to the blog and respond here for the comments to post. Thank you.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Good Reminder

Reading a blog today on the destructive forces of envy and jealousy, I pulled this quote which is from from The Life and Work of Martha Graham.

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique.

And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it.

It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions.

It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. ...

No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."

I had been talking to an artist friend of mine yesterday who was somewhat discouraged by how well another artist's work sold. This betterl-selling artist does not paint anything I would want to own, but apparently her thick paint and bright colors appeal to the general public. It is important to not look at how "well" someone else is doing, and focus on what makes us who we are. This lesson came home to me personally not too long ago.It is important to remember not get caught up in it with all the push of the media, the pust to market, to write newsletters, to push, push, push our way up and out. Slow down, enjoy life!