Tuesday, December 3, 2013

One Drawing Gives Birth to Several Paintings

When I sketched out this idea, I really didn't have an actual painting in mind. I didn't have a chosen pallet. What I loved was the placement of the herons low in the rectangle with the close-up of the one bird. That led me to a lot of creative license to come up with an abstract design in the upper area. I was mostly thinking shapes with some symbolic references to orbs in a sky, rocks, branches--things that a heron's eye has access to. Mostly I was trying to break up the rectangle into interesting shapes.

Once the sketch moved onto watercolor paper, I chose to use a full sheet, 30 x 22, because I wanted to work big. This felt like a big idea.

I surprised myself with my first interpretation of this pair of birds, which I wrote about in my last post. This painting really was a reaction rather than a planned out piece and I liked the dramatic effect of my first effort. As I studied it, I also saw some elements I wanted to change. So I painted a second version which included the addition of a third vertical element, adjusting the smaller heron to the right, and ramping up the colors. I used the same techniques with transparent watercolor, mouth atomizer, stamping, masking out areas, etc.

If Herons Dream, Watercolor, 30 x 22

Ancient Dreams, Watercolor, 30 x 22

I have to admit that a second painting so similar is never my favorite thing to do, but I really thought this one was worth the time and effort. The methods I used in creating both pieces were somewhat tedious and making a mistake was very hard to fix. Needless to say, I was ready to move on to a new project. But I wasn't done with the idea.

For the third painting, I moved on to painting with gouache (opaque watercolors) on a metallic gold gessoed piece of paper. (Gesso is a type of primer used on paper or canvas.) I was determined to just follow my instincts with this one and have fun creating patterns and stamping. This piece was much more relaxing to paint. I had no deadline or pressure to complete it. I just let my creative juices flow.
What do you think about these paintings? I'd love some feedback.

Winter Dream, Gouache, 30 x 22
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Monday, November 11, 2013

If Herons Dream

Sometimes I start a painting and am so surprised when it is finished that I am unable to claim it. It doesn't really feel like my work.

When I left this piece in the studio last night, I was thinking it would probably end up washed off or torn up, because I really couldn't recognize it as my own art. Also, I don't think I really understood all the levels of the painting. However, this morning when I stepped into my studio to view it with fresh eyes, I felt quite lured into the painting. There is a story here, one of mystery and outer-worldliness.

When I started this piece, it was all about design. I love high or low horizon lines, compressing a lot into a little space like when a photo or painting has 3/4 sky and 1/4 land or visa versa. So in my design, I put the herons down low even though they are the subjects of the painting, leaving a lot of space to play with above them. But then there is the dilemma of what one can do to make the large area interesting and tell more about the piece.

If Herons Dream
Transparent Watercolor, 30 x 22

As I worked on the painting yesterday, I saw the upper area as a backdrop to the life of these birds. The sky is their territory and this painting is about that. It is also about time and our predecessors in the Northwest both animal and human. As I added the stamps I've created after viewing pictographs and petroglyphs, my thoughts about this piece became deeper and almost mystical. I named the piece If Herons Dream, because I wanted the birds to have a collective consciousness allowing them to live both in the present and the past.

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

After the Hanging of Art

Getting a group of paintings done and prepared for hanging took a few of weeks of focused energy. Finally on Sunday afternoon with the generous help of my husband and sister, those paintings were hung at Pearl Street Cafe in Eugene. After attaching the art by wires, leveling and stabilizing each painting, then carefully placing the title/price tags and some informational tags about some pieces, I stepped back and was proud of the way the wall now vibrates with color.

Yesterday I felt a bit lost, without the drive of an immediate goal. As I cleaned up and organized my studio I started thinking about how much I hope to make some sales from this show. That led me to reflect on a post fellow artist Ruth Armitage wrote last week about the artist's ego. Obviously I have enough confidence in my work to think it is worth putting it out for the public to view. But will any of these pieces speak to a viewer and compel them to take it home to their own wall? And if, at the end of this month, nothing sells, what does that do to my ego?

And so it goes in my brain when I clean my studio instead of painting.

But I know I'm not alone in this web of healthy ego mixed with self-doubt. So many of us artist put in a lot of effort for little monetary reward. Whether it is setting up for an open studio, or hauling art to a festival, or putting together a cohesive set of paintings to hang on a cafe wall, we do the work, put our egos out there, and hope for positive feedback in the form of praise, sales, or inquiries.

Regardless of what happens with these paintings now on display, I will "show up" in my studio and paint because that is what keeps me centered and sane. I paint to express myself, constantly searching for even stronger messages as I have in my River Tapestry series.

And if anyone needs a nudge to buy, my daughter suggested a visual subliminal message.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Continuation of a Busy Week

Look who showed up at the end of my brush yesterday--The Collector.

The Collector
14 x 11, gouache on gessoed paper
I have spent time this week painting some of my favorite river creatures this week in order to have a wide price range for my exhibit at Pearl Street Cafe which I'll hang on Sunday. I was surprised to learn that two small paintings also sold at Excelsior Restaurant this week, so I realized I would need more small paintings than I previously thought.

So yesterday I went out to my studio without a plan, but looked through my empty frames to see what sizes I had. I found a nice antique gold simple 16 x 20 frame. Then I search for a clean mat that would fit the frame. (For those of you who live near shopping, you might go to the store. But for me, it's a two hour drive to go to town and get home. What I have on hand sometimes has to work.)

The gold frame led me to look in my flat files for a piece of paper prepared with gold gesso. Then I looked around at some of my reference photos and saw this raven I photographed in Yosemite last fall. He's appeared in one painting as the Yosemite Trickster, a small raven on a large painting. But here, in The Collector, he takes a starring role.

I can't say that it always works out as easily as it did yesterday, but I felt really happy with this painting.

Fellow artists, do you ever paint to a frame? How does it work out?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How Life Influences My Art--River Tapestry #4

In this new series of paintings, I wanted to find a way to incorporate all the fabric of the rivers I love into art. The water is the most obvious piece of the experience, but the river canyons are carved in rock. Plants and animals soften the harsh edges of the rocky canyons. On many of the Northwest rivers, we find petroglyphs and pictographs—the art and history of the Native people.
River Tapestry #4
14 x 20
These paintings are a combination of those threads of the river canyons creating a tapestry. The stamped patterns come from stamps I’ve made using Native American images I’ve seen on the canyon walls. I use many media including paints, pencils, collage, ink and gesso. By painting, stamping, and mark making; I intertwine the river with the other pieces of the canyon to create the whole.

I now realize these paintings also could be an analogy of my upbringing. My father was an outdoorsman, exposing me to the rivers, lakes and mountains of Oregon. My mother was a homemaker and seamstress. I can’t remember a time in my childhood that didn’t include fabrics, patterns and sewing. I can’t remember a time in my childhood that didn’t include camping, fishing and boating. I celebrate the weaving of my life into my art.

This painting and others in this series will be hanging in the Pearl Street Cafe, 842 Pearl Street, Eugene, Oregon November 4 through December 8.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Busy Week in the Studio

I finally ordered more cradles (wood panels) for framing my River Tapestry Series. I think this clean and contemporary style of framing really suits these paintings.

So some of the first part of this week has been spent finishing the sides by staining and top-coating with water based polyurethane.

Because I will be hanging art at Pearl Street Cafe (Full City Coffee) soon, I've put effort into some small creations. I have used these pieces to try out some techniques and ideas I might not use in larger paintings, but appeal to me as a way to connect to a critter and make an interesting backdrop. Learning to use acrylics with more skill is a benefit, too.

These varnished paintings will be framed in 7x7 inch traditional frames, no need for glass.

The script in the background is taken from a little poem about a frog jumping into a cup of tea.

Behind the bear are translations of many names given to bears by other cultures, including Native American tribes. The outer area is decorated with my take on a NA petroglyph bear paw symbol.

I love using stamps, so used my Man/Woman stamp which fits very nicely in the 7x7 inch frame.

I wanted to create something that speaks to my large paintings, but is more whimsical. I'd love to hear thoughts from my readers.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

New Painting--Stamping and Enhancing the Stamps

In my search for new paths of sharing my river experiences in my art, I've created a number of stamps based on the many petroglyphs and pictographs I've seen along our travels. This Man/Woman stamp is inspired by the pictographs we saw this summer on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho.

I had originally thought I would use it in the background of other pieces, but it turned out to be too demanding of attention. That led me to feature it as the centerpiece of a piece of art.

This image to the right shows the piece in it's middle stage. I've stamped a frame with another petroglyph inspired stamp, and used a similar stamp to create texture and interest in the background.

To finish this piece, I looked for the most interesting areas of the background to enhance with color and play with creating other areas of interest. To connect this piece to my River Tapestry series, I added threads to weave the painting together, top to bottom.

Rather than a traditional mat and frame, this painting will be mounted on a wooden cradle. How to Mount a Painting to a Cradle

River Tapestry #3 Man/Woman
11 x 14 inches

Monday, October 7, 2013

Awards--A Message to Continue On

As an artist, I am often looking for signs that I am on the right path in my own art journey. I am susceptible to self-doubt. I see another artist's beautiful work and achievements and wonder if I should be doing something different. Could I, should I change direction in my art and go faster and farther?

You would think it would be a simpler task to follow my instincts and paint what I know and love . . . but it isn't. Like all art forms, a painting is part of the artist, a child if you will; and the acceptance or rejection of that painting is, in a way, interpreted as an acceptance or rejection of me, the artist.

One way I can get indications that I am on the right path is getting awards in competitions. This past week-end my work was recognized in two large competitions. Blue Moon Heron II was given second place in the Watercolor Society of Oregon's Fall Exhibition--a representation of the best aqua-media artists in the state of Oregon. And Yosemite Trickster was given first place in watercolor at the Springfield Mayor's Art Show. My thanks to Juror Linda Doll at the WSO Show, and Ruth Armitage and Beth Verheyden who juried the Mayor's Art Show.

Blue Moon Heron II
23 x 18 inches

Yosemite Trickster
21 x 18

So for now, I have been given a "go ahead." What I am creating is personal, well painted and strong enough to stand out in a crowd. The Universe is not against me!

Monday, September 30, 2013

You Never Know Where or When a Painting Will Speak to Someone

In 2005, this painting of my husband rowing on the Rogue River was in a Watercolor Society of Oregon Exhibition in Roseburg, OR. I painted it quickly, the day after we returned from a raft trip down the Wild and Scenic portion of the Rogue. At the time, I felt it really expressed something about our appreciation of the scenic beauty of Oregon and our relationship with each other. I ended up donating this painting to a fundraiser for the Umpqua Valley Art Association, and never knew where it ended up until I got an email last September.

A woman had seen the painting "A Moment of Reflection" in a dental office and connected with it. She told me about her husband's devotion to fishing on the Umpqua River and that she would like to give him a painting as a gift. The problem was getting a good photo for me to work from. After a few email communications I didn't hear from her again until last month. She had finally gotten a good photo and was ready to send it to me.

I spent time last week working on her painting, being very particular about the figure and the boat, because I know how important a good likeness of her husband is to her and how important the accuracy of the boat will be to him. She loved the image I emailed her, expressing her appreciation of my style and overall presentation of the figure and boat in the landscape. Today I packaged it up and mailed it to her, very happy that I could successfully paint a commissioned piece.

Commissioned Work
11 x 15, Transparent Watercolor

Monday, September 16, 2013

Why Go to Critique Groups? Before and After

There is a conflict for me regarding getting other artist's opinion on a piece of art. On some days I feel that I should be able to look at my own paintings and make my own decisions regarding my own art. But I have learned over time, that, as the creator of a painting, I can be blind to a problematic part of a painting. A new set of eyes can see something that allows me an opportunity to improve a painting.

So thank you to my art friends who speak up at a critique and lead my eye to something in a painting that is a bit off.

Such is the case in the painting featured today: Catch, No Release.

Catch, No Release, Before
Catch, No Release, After

The obvious change is the dark strata above the heron, which enhances the upper wing of the bird, and makes a bolder statement. Thanks Ruth!

The other major change taught me something really important. Even in a piece like this, that is mostly abstract, the realistic part needs to me exactly that, realistic. A critique group pointed out that the legs disappearing behind the pile of rock was confusing. and worse than being confusing, the heron appeared to be at a different place in the water from the fish he had just caught.

When using mixed media, certain things cannot be changed. The collage pieces could not be removed easily, leaving nice paper underneath. But I could lift the paint creating the heron's legs and position him further out in the water. What a difference!

With a few more color additions, reds to create a bit of a strata separating the two dark stratas, and adding more color to the collage pieces to help them "pop," I think this piece is finished.

Catch, No Release, 22 x 17, Aquamedia
And THAT'S why I go to critique groups! My art friends teach me to be a better artist.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Transforming a Piece of Paper--River Tapestry #2, Step by Step

Every artist has them--paintings that just don't work. But the challenge and joy can be in transforming a painting like this into something creative and vastly more interesting.

Although I really liked the idea of the water painting (so much so that I did two of them), the results were not to my liking. I didn't toss these two paintings, but put them in a drawer. Occasionally I would pull them out and take a look, eventually seeing beautiful parts that led me to transform them into my new series, River Tapestry.

The first step was locating and isolating the parts of the water that I thought were beautiful. I then glued rice paper on to the painting leaving windows of the river painting. I painted the rice paper with acrylic paint.

Step two was choosing some more rice paper, this time pieces that I had painted previously, to collage on the new surface. This determined the accent color as well as the division of the rectangular shape of the paper

After adding both mauve and blue rice paper pieces, I used one of my stamps to put patterns on the piece. This is the beginning of the "tapestry."

Once the painting was at this point, the challenge was to incorporate all the elements into a flowing piece. I wanted to enhance the water flow across the painting, and create color harmony. I adjusted colors, neutralizing the blue with a grayer color. I added more orange in the water as a lovely contrast to the blues. I began to "weave" all the parts together. All of this part is just an intuitive process. I would do something to the piece, prop it up and step back. This way I would see a problem and solve it. Then another problem would draw my eye and I would resolve that. 

The final work was applying small lines using ink, colored pencils, acrylic paints applied with a small brush. My final step was adding the ghost-like figures of a heron and three fish, a very personal touch!

River Tapestry #2
Aquamedia 15 x 21

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Taking Time to Finishing a Piece

Over two years ago I painted Sing Me the Legends. I loved both the creation of this piece and the meaning it holds for me. It carries a personal message and has a lot of emotional content, which may or may not come across to the viewer.

Sing Me the Legends, Before
However, I have entered it in a number of competitions, yet it has never been accepted. This last spring, at a WSO conference, Juror Mary Ann Beckwith critiqued Sing Me the Legends. She gave me encouragement--she found it interesting with beautiful passages, but questioned why I hadn't finished the left edge of the painting. At first I didn't understand what she meant. I thought I had finished the edge and loved the painting so much I was reluctant to change it.

This weekend I returned home after two weeks away and became fearless in the studio. First I took Sing Me the Legends out of the drawer and looked at it with a fresh eye. I could see that the pale left edge lacked the same colorful and dramatic approach of the rest of the piece. As Mary Ann said, the edge needed to be finished.

Sing Me the Legends, After

Now when I look at this piece, my eye is carried into the white water in the upper area and around the rocks, which is really where the action is. Also, the petrogylph pieces coming down on the left sided are much more settled into the piece. All in all, the changes have made this pai so much stronger.

While I was on a roll, I took another piece out of the drawer, River Tapestry #1. I had liked the start and the concept, but knew it needed the finishing details to make it make sense to the viewer. (If you are interested in the start to finish of this painting, see a previous post Orange Juice or More Lemons? You Be the Judge

River Tapestry #1 Before
My idea had been to create a strong connection between the water theme and the fabric quality surrounding it, living up to the title, River Tapestry #1. When I placed this unfinished piece in my file cabinet, I knew it was a ways from finished, but it wasn't clear to me how to finish it. 

I went to work making the water flow through the piece, emphasizing the currents and white water. I added threads that I saw as remnants of the weaving of the tapestry. I reworked some of the colors to ensure the painting felt balanced.

River Tapestry #1 After
With the finishing touches, I have become quite enamored with this painting. I am preparing to mount it on a cradle, rather that a traditional mat and frame, giving it a contemporary presentation.

Do you see the improvement?

Do you connect with either of the paintings featured today? Comments are always welcome.

I am currently finishing River Tapestry #2--yet another blog post topic. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Painting Accepted: Blue Moon Heron II

Blue Moon Heron II
23 x 18
Transparent Watercolor

This painting was accepted into the Watercolor Society of Oregon's Fall Show by juror, Linda Doll. It will hang among 80 other paintings in Bandon, Oregon at the Southern Coos Hospital October 4 through December. I am very happy that my painting was selected and will be hanging at the convention where I will hand over the gavel to a new president of the WSO. 

Viewers may recognize this piece as being very similar to a previous painting, Blue Moon Heron, which was not a transparent watercolor painting, therefore ineligible for exhibitions which require a picture painted only using transparent paints. For non-painters, this is confusing, I know. There is a certain quality to a strictly transparent watercolor painting, that is both challenging to the painter and lovely on a piece of watercolor paper. Where other paints cover up the paper, transparent watercolors soak into the paper, leaving a jewel-like characteristic to the colors.

I hope many of you will see this and other paintings in person in Bandon. The Oregon Coast is a wonderful destination for a fall vacation.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Catch, No Release--a New Painting

A few months ago, perhaps as far back as January, I started this piece. Until a week or so ago, it sat waiting--a drawing with two strata of rice paper, one at the bottom, and one above the heron's wing. I chose this start after my struggle to finish two transparent watercolor pieces a couple of weeks ago. Why this one when I have a stack of painting starts in a drawer? I took this one to my table because I was confident about how I would complete it. That sure makes the studio time less stressful.

Borrowing ideas from previous paintings, I worked on the basic strata first, before beginning the detail of the Great Blue himself. 

At this stage of the painting, most of the paint has been applied, but it is waiting for the detail that will make a statement. The details will tell a viewer that it is one of mine, that it is an interpretation of what I see and feel on the river, that it is something I am passionate about.

Catch, No Release
22 x 17

As always, comments and critiques are welcome.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Continuing an Idea--What Eats What

Following along a food web theme, I just completed a new painting. This time I have included a second heron, and simplified the rocks, water and animals. I used my petroglyph stamps to create a depth to the background cliff. I like giving a nod to us humans, but use petroglyphs to symbolize humans. The animals are where the action is, for sure.

What Eats What
22 x 30

Here are two previous paintings along this theme. I'd love to get comments regarding the theme and opinions on the three paintings.

Food Web 
15 x 30


Food Chain
30 x 15 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Developing a Concept--Step by Step

Success is dangerous. One begins to copy oneself, and to copy 
oneself is more dangerous than to copy others. It leads to sterility. Pablo Picasso

I've been asked where I get my ideas for paintings. This one came to me while on our last raft trip. I kept seeing a stylized heron against a broken up spiral shape. I finally pulled a sketch book out of my dry bag and started a sketch. I tried out some ideas that would put it into a strata painting, which I've used a few times in my River Series.

This image stayed with me until I got home and out to my studio. As I began to map out the concept on a full sheet of watercolor paper, I made adjustments to my original idea. One heron became three, the fish moved to the bottom of the paper and the rings disappeared. As with so many of my paintings, the art develops on the paper. 

I wanted to create organic lines as I divided up the strata areas. Painting a truly random looking line is nearly impossible, so I started thinking of ways I might create a line without painting it. I ended up tearing a paper towel into strips to lay down (I taped the strip to keep it from moving) next to the edge of the first layer, letting the paint wick into the area.

I covered my spiral shape and the 3 heron bodies with contact paper. I anticipated imperfect edges and decided to deal with those once I'd gotten my washes on the paper.

After seeing my first wash and thinking about the imperfect edges I knew I was creating, I used my mouth atomizer to spray over the section and add splatters. I was creating more spontaneity in the piece.

The organic edge left by torn paper towel.

You can see the interesting edge that was revealed when I pulled off the tape and torn paper towel. I love the 3D effect it creates as well as the randomness of the edge.

My next step was to nail down a way to abstract pine branches for my upper panel of the strata. I practiced on a small scrap using torn paper towel circles to create an imperfect circular shape, then used line work to imply pine needles.

As I created the top layer, I decided to let go of the branches that I'd painted into my practice piece, leaving the images more imaginative and abstract. I don't have to explain my own symbolism, do I?

As I began the bottom layer, I chose to use the same circular torn paper towel pieces to create rocks under my fish. I used contact paper to protect my fish shapes as I worked on this panel. I liked sending the fish off in the opposite direction of the herons. I liked having a circular repetition in each panel, yet having very different organization of the shapes. The top is random, the middle is background, and the bottom is organized in a row.

As my focus switched to the main part of the painting, I began to embrace the idea of using the imperfections of the herons and spiral. I slowly enhanced those parts and used them to create interesting parts on each heron.

As each heron developed, I wanted to allow them to vary from somewhat developed to entirely detailed.

It was at this point that I sent my painting out to some artist friends. Their critiques led me to finishing the painting with much more impact and interesting details.

In finishing this piece, I added a dark background behind the herons to enhance their importance and create drama. I then used an exacto knife to scrape white into the legs and make the splashing water beneath the herons.
Transparent Watercolor
30 x 22