Thursday, May 28, 2020

Color Control

A low key painting is one with dark elements--an extreme example would be a night scene. A high key painting has a softer feel with lighter, paler colors. If you follow my work, I am much more likely to produce a painting more low key with strong colors and more contrast. Frankly, I think a high key painting is trickier. As I found with this piece, The Constant Gardener. 

There is a story behind this painting. Ten years ago we returned to our home in Blue River after spending two years on the Big Island of Hawaii. We had house sitters in the home, but our acreage needed a lot of work to meet my goals. We hired a wonderful female gardener who worked hard and treated gardening like an art. As I worked with her, I took a lot of pictures of her weeding, pruning, and planting.

I had seen paintings with multiple figures and wanted to create such a piece. Remember, this was ten years ago! I started with an abstracted cruciform shape with delicate colors. I sketched three different shapes of our gardener in different poses and size. After struggling with what to do next, I stuck it in a drawer labeled starts, where it laid for, you got it, ten years.

During this time of Shelter at Home, I have gone back and forth between painting plein air on our property and digging through old work. So out came the beginnings of The Constant Gardener.
I found a certain charm to the soft colors and decided to see if I could make something out of this start. The first step was to put flesh tones into the faces and arms. Hmmm . . .

I then took a photo on my iPad and used Procreate ( a neat app for trying something out on a painting) to mess around with potential colors.

The next morning I began to work on the paper with light washes and glazes. I found putting a little color on at a time had its benefits. I could layer and wait. I could look and decide. It is probably easier to add a bit and not have to lift off when using too much color. 

And so the painting  continued with a delicacy I rarely shoot for.

After I developed the figures, I started gently applying glazes over the shapes of the background. I would think to myself "that's enough, don't overdo it."

For several days now, I have looked at this piece and decided that it was not quite enough. But today I feel like it might be just enough! And now I have a new series in mind--Shared Space.

The Constant Gardener

Michael Schlicting once told me in a workshop that sometimes you just aren't ready technically to paint an idea. So true!

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Forty-three Days of "Shelter in Place" Produces Twenty-eight Paintings

We are all living in challenging times--not just in our neighborhood, nor in our county, nor in our state or country. This has and is a global issue. Italians sing to their communities from their balconies. Every evening at 7:00 p.m., New York City residents open their windows to salute the city's medical workers with sound. The Blue Angels perform fly-overs. Neighborhoods are having happy hours from their driveways. 

Here in Blue River, Mike and I are living in our own 6 acres of paradise. We have spent some time being stewards of our land. I've pulled weeds, done some transplanting, mowed--Mike has worked on his raised beds, gotten out the weed-eater, and cleaning out the woods. Together, we reinvented a small portion of our backyard, removing plants that had taken over and sculpting a new rock feature where one can sit and ponder the pond.

Preparing meals, and watching "The Sopranos" almost every night has been our way of reconnecting at the end of the day. (Mike has gone back to making sour dough bread.)

I have never been a plein air painter, nor have I painted flowers or landscapes as a rule. But on March 31, 2020, looking at the unknown timeframe of an empty calendar, I decided to "paint my own backyard." Everyday for 30 years I have looked out my kitchen window at this captivating scene, and thought "Monet would paint this."

And so I finally put together a small tote of painting equipment and pledged to do a painting a day. Well, I didn't make it, but I did paint 28 paintings in the last 43 days. 

It has been a period of freedom and learning. Am I great at landscapes or flowers? No, but I've gotten better. Almost every day I've picked up a brush and forged ahead. I really renewed my joy of painting with transparent watercolors. There is a difference between painting an idea (my usual mode) to just putting paint to paper and trying to communicate what you see and feel--loving watching the colors bleed into one another. 

And really, I got better with time. Just the process of re-educating myself with the skills I began with and have put aside over the years. Some of the paintings have been improved by a trip to the studio. By lifting paint and using gouache paint on some, they have certainly gotten more pleasing to my eye.


An example of before and after the studio.

I hope not to bore you, but feel free to scroll down and see some of the paintings I have created over the last 43 days. All are my interpretation of places or flora around our property. 

Do you have a favorite? What have you been doing to keep from going crazy?