Monday, January 5, 2015

First Painting of the New Year--Many Lessons Learned

In the past year, due to family health issues and needed support, my time in the studio has been limited to an afternoon here, a morning there, and a painting always waiting for the next step. I am not the most patient painter. I like the spontaneity of creating with plenty of surprise elements to keep me interested.

However, I also paint ideas, which has been a good thing for this period of time. Why? When I paint with spontaneity,  in the problem solving mode, the 2-month long painting (such as the one I'm writing about today) would find me confused every time I got to the studio to paint. I would waste precious time trying to get back into the painting, trying to figure out where it was going.

This latest painting was definitely inspired by ideas, both in its content and execution. I took a fresh start on a similar painting that recently sold. I had a few ideas of how to execute the same subject matter in a different way.

Step one (which was many steps) :  In the previous painting I used black gouache to create a dark and dramatic background. In this painting, I wanted to create a dark background using transparent washes, rather than an opaque black, so I consulted with a couple of painting pals who do this sort of thing on a regular basis. I used clear contact paper to cover all the area I wanted to remain white and used frisket/mask to protect the edges because color will seep under the contact paper. I then proceeded to make a very heavily pigmented wash of very transparent watercolors to apply with a sponge. I used mostly blues, but some red, yellow and green in other layers to get a more interesting depth of color. I must have repeated this process 8 to 10 times over as many days since the paper must be completely dry to put on the next wash.

The things I learned in this process:

  • The repeated wetting of the paper creates a lot of buckling on 140 lb Arches paper. I'm not a fan of stretching and stapling paper, so I would use 300 lb. next time. After several sessions, I began to place the damp sheet of paper under weight to flatten it for the next round.
  • Some paints pick up each time you apply the next coat, so I consulted with another friend to get recommendations for a better paint choice.
  • My very last application was done with a mouth atomizer, which really made the most consistant covering of the dark.
  • Rome wasn't built in a day and neither is an almost black background!
  • Even with the most careful masking and protecting of the paper, there will be some seepage which will need careful lifting.
Step two: In painting the rocks under the fish, I used many different colors, mostly wet into wet, and sprinkled salt to create texture. After the salt and colors were dry, I used a credit card to remove all the crystals. Next I began a process of disguising the "gimmicky" salt look to the rocks, while leaving a very textured appearance.

What I learned:
  • Be sparing with the salt and only apply it on individual rocks rather than a sprinkling.
  • Apply the salt onto very damp paint.
  • Let is all dry before removing the remaining salt crystals carefully with a credit card or other scraper.
  • Rewet and apply more opaque paints to calm down the texturing.
Step three: Carefully place the hatching salmon eggs among the rocks.

After placing the very "living" eggs among the rocks, the rocks looked "dead." I've peered over a raft often enough to know that rocks look very animated in the river with motion and reflecting light.

What I learned:
  • Using a small scrubber I could bring interest into the rocks.

Step four: Paint the group of salmon swimming through the water and over the rocks and eggs. 

I had to figure out how to make the background fish recede without looking muddy or faded out.
  • To tone down the colors, I started with a light blue wash, rather than washing over at the end.
  • I had to add color. As the paint dried, I saw that the first application of blue toned things down more than I expected.
  • To make the entire painting more color harmonious, I added more purple and violet to the rocks to repeat some of the colors that developed in the fish.
  • In the end, I also came back to the eggs with more red/orange to make them pop.

And here is the finished piece. I'd love to hear what you think!

Life Cycle Imperitive #6
30 x 22
Watercolor on paper

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A December to Remember (Thus Far)

UUCE Exhibit
Although the month is not over, it has certainly been memorable. On December 1, I took down an exhibit of my paintings that had hung for a month in the Unitarian Universal Church Eugene.

Although the viewers of such a show is limited, it was a lovely space and rewarding for me to see so much of my work hung together. Thank you to my sister Janice, who is a member of the congregation, for arranging this event for me.

Life Cycle Imperitive #5

Janice relayed many positive comments regarding my artwork and I was pleasantly surprised to sell a painting. Someone is going to be very surprised and happy to find this under the Christmas tree!

After taking down the show, the first week of the month flew by, as we prepared for the send-off of the Carter family to Arizona. After Mike and I were the primary caretakers for Rachel and two of her three children for the months of February through May, then having Rach and all 3 children live next door to us for the following six months as Rachel recovered, we were restless and at a bit of a loss for how to get ready for their departure.
Hannah making muffins

Marin with her wreah
I used some of the time doing the rewarding and fun things with the grand-kids. Hannah and I made muffins and all three kids made their own Christmas wreaths for their new house.

Knowing that the move would interfere with many of the Carter Family's own traditions, Mike and I tried to fit as many things as we could into their last few days with us, including decorating our Christmas tree.

The Carter children decorating the Blue River tree.

Finally, the departure date arrived. In the early morning of Friday, December 5, with a car chuck-a-block; Rachel, 3 children, a cat and a dog drove out our driveway. Destination: Gilbert, Arizona.
But wait: there's more . . .

Noah, Hannah, Rachel and Marin ready to load up!
We got a call from our older daughter Meg, letting us know that she had an immediate need for abdominal surgery scheduled for December ninth. Since Mike had a minor surgery scheduled on his hand, I was the obvious choice for going to Camas, WA to support her and granddaughter Angelica through this period. (Are you laughing yet? Not at the surgeries, but at the irony of life!)

Meg before surgery
Meg heading home.
I spent December 8 through 19 in Camas. Meg had her surgery, Angelica continued to go to school, and I bounced back and forth between the hospital and Meg and Angelica's Camas home for 3 days until Meg was released from the hospital.

While Meg was in the hospital, I got the word that two of my paintings had been accepted into two different  national shows. "Herons' Winter Dreams" will be in the 6th annual Signature American Watermedia Exhibition at the Fallbrook Art Center, Juror Stephen Quiller. "Taken Under the Wing" will be in the 31st Annual Juried National Painting Show 2015 in  Redding, CA, Juror Vinita Pappas.
Herons" Winter Dreams
Taken Under the Wing
Now I am back in Blue River scurrying around preparing for Christmas. Most of my shopping is done. Meg (with a healing incision)  and I managed to shop, package and ship gifts to Arizona before Angelica was out of school for Christmas vacation. I am finishing the decorating of the house and looking forward to a lovely Christmas Eve gathering with our friends and family.

Since the first part of December reads like an entire year in review Christmas letter, I wonder . . .
what will the last 10 days of December bring?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Morning of Making Snakes

Could you say no to this little guy?

Last spring, when Mike and I were traveling back and forth between home and Seattle, trading off grandparent duties, I did a lot of crafts with Hannah (4) and Noah (6). We saved toilet paper rolls to make animals. We cut up and colored shapes out of milk jugs. We made spring blossoms out of popcorn. Pretty much anything that could be done by both a 4 and 6-year-old was on my radar.

However, late May brought wonderful weather. Rachel (Mom) came home, big sister, Marin, and Josh (Dad) all gathered next door to us in Blue River. The days of crafting went by the wayside.

I did make a promise to Noah, way back when, that we would make a stuffed animal , and as you probably know, kids never forget anything.

After assessing my age group, 4 to 10 years, I thought snakes would be pretty easy. I needed to get some fabric and stuffing in town and quickly eliminated the idea of buying a stuffed animal pattern at the price of $17. I found a really easy idea on the internet: I'm pretty sure I could have done this on my own, but it was really easy to just follow someone else's idea.

We used some wide craft pattern to make our pattern. Marin was old enough to cut out her own snake pieces.

Both Noah and Marin got a little bit of sewing machine experience. The stuffing of the snakes was perfect for all the ages. Marin continued to learn more about sewing making scarves out of the scraps.

Of course, everyone can play with a snake--at least these stuffed ones!

My guilt has been assuaged, since I eventually followed through with my promise. Believe it or not, all three snakes were done in 3 hours and the cost was under $20.

This was a great way to spend a Saturday and I love that it created wonderful memories. Marin said it was one of her favorite days ever!

We only have 2 1/2 weeks until Rachel and her clan move to Arizona!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Pele Reaches Into My Blog

As many of you know, my husband and I lived in Hawaii for two years several years back.  I painted many pieces about the volcano we were living near, Kilauea. My abstracted landscapes were an important part of my artistic development. At that time the lava was actively flowing into the ocean, making for some very dramatic scenes, which I'd photograph and later use as inspirations for my art.

I was fortunate to be represented by the Volcano Arts Center in the Kilauea National Park, where my art sold quite well. But when we moved away, I closed my connection with the gallery, as well as ended my volcano series.

Back in 2010, an elementary art teacher who has her own blog, featured my blog post as a reference for teaching art using a volcano theme: Over the years I have noticed quite a few blog hits on my blogspot through her site. but since the latest eruption is heading toward a town on the Big Island, the traffic has greatly increased.

Recently, Pele has changed the route of the lava flow, endangering Puna and the small town of Pahoa, Hawaii. Interest in teaching about volcanoes has increased, consequently, there has been a lot more activity looking at my 2010 post.

I am fascinated by what this says about our internet interconnection. I have had so many people looking at my art and my words, indeed my life, through this connection with Holly B., art teacher in Maryland.  I love knowing that my blog and Holly's blog are still active and I hope all these wonderful teachers are inspiring students to weave science and social studies with art.

I still have a number of my Volcano Series paintings. Contact me if you would like a little Pele on your wall!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

More Small Works on Paper

Yesterday my good friend, Ruth Armitage posted a link to to a book "Daily Painting: Paint Small and Often to Become a More Creative, Productive, and Successful Artist." You know how something said, or an article you read, or (in this case) a book title is just what you need to spur you on?

Seeing that book title was a good reminder to me that I don't always have to go to the studio and create a masterpiece. Sometimes it is just a wonderful thing to experiment and paint for the fun of it. The idea of having fun with some small works on papers really appealed to me. As I was searching through my file drawers, I came across some pieces that had not been successful, but already had paint and collage on them.

Sometimes I find it easier to work on "stuff" rather than start with white paper. So I tried to capture some more successful parts of these 12 x 15 inch papers.

Old Work

So this was reduced to

Cropped Old Work

Ponds #2,5 x 7 inches
Which became this finished small work on paper.

Ponds #3, 5 x 7 inches
Here are a couple more examples of the small works on paper I did today.
Ponds #1, 8 x 8 inches
I'd love to hear your comments about these works on paper!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

No More Denying--Fall Is Here

Hannah, Queen of the Hay
There are a few things that emphasize the fact that the season has changed from summer to fall. One is getting over to the Eastside of Oregon to bring home hay before the rain starts. Early this week the weather predictions stated that we could expect rain on Tuesday, continuing through the week. So on Monday morning, Mike hitched up our raft trailer to go over the mountains to get hay.

We've been going to the same farm between Sisters and Redmond for the last few years, so one call gave us the thumbs up for picking up a ton of good Eastside hay for Little Bit.

Mike was back home in the early afternoon, ready to hoist the bales into the barn loft. In years past, we would use a horse to pull the bales up (true horse power). But this year Rachel stepped up offering to do the pulling.

Here is where I have to add a note that one year ago Rach would not have had the stamina, strength or coordination to do this task. It was just a year ago that Rachel and her husband, Josh, along with Mike traveled to Chicago to try to get into a stem cell transplant study for Multiple Sclerosis patients being done there. After the rejection from Chicago, she eventually was accepted into the program being done in Seattle. 

Now, just 6 months after treatment, she is so much better, and the recovery will continue for the next 6 to 18 months. How fortunate that she was given this treatment and the outcome is simply hard to believe! Dare I use the word "miracle?"

With Mike in the loft stacking the hay bales, me on the trailer pushing the bales to Rachel, and Hannah cheering us on, we had the whole task done well before dinnertime.

The loveliest part to the day was getting the gorgeous vine maple leaves into a vase on the mantle. Mike never forgets to bring me some!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Artwork on Paper--Making it Small

Artwork on Paper--Small vs Large

I recently attended the Watercolor Society of Oregon's Fall Convention which is a wonderful way to connect with other artists, get inspired by other's artwork, and have a weekend of fun. Although I did not have a piece in the show, it is a great showcase for Oregon artists and the larger artwork usually stands out. Because I like to enter my art into competitions and I find it very comfortable to paint on a full sheet (30 x 22 inches), I most often paint large.

However, when I got home from the conference I learned that one of my small paintings had sold at Excelsior Inn Ristorante. I currently have a group of framed 7 x7 inch pieces, so I wanted to replace it with the same sized work. It seemed like a great opportunity to continue my salmon life cycle series and see what I could do with a small square.

Salmon's Journey
7 x 7 inches
Artwork on Paper
There are several neat things about doing a small piece.
  • I can use it as a study for a larger piece
  • I can hone my skills with acrylic
  • It is easy to use fixative (varnish) and mount without mat or glass
This painting will be framed, placed on the wall Friday and sell at Excelsior for under $100--affordable artwork on paper!