Saturday, January 30, 2010

Art Materials: Surfaces

I've given a lot of thought to art supplies this past year and have tried out a wide variety of all types of things to see what I like best. Most recently, I've experimented with surfaces.

Generally I stretch my own canvas and I'm usually happy with that. I use 3 coats of acrylic gesso - Utrecht Studio or Professional. While 3 coats of Professional is a little slick for the first layer of oil paint, I like how it feels under the brush. Here's a closeup of a current painting 'Alder Grove' on one of my home prepped canvasses:

But a couple of weeks ago I was in Seattle, feeling panicked about getting paintings done for some upcoming shows and so I stopped by Utrecht and bought some stretched linen on sale. What a mistake! It's got 3 coats of acrylic gesso on it, making in slick as glass, but it's glass covered with bristles! Yes, somehow when priming or drying thousands of little bristles embedded themselves in the surface. Here's how it looks with the underpainting on it:

How horrible is that? Very! Yuck! I'll be returning the rest.

But fortunately there's another good source for oil painting surfaces: Wind River Arts in Texas. It's a very small company, their prices are good and the quality is fantastic. I ordered and tried out a wide variety of the surfaces and gessos they offer just to see what worked best for me. My favorite so far is 359 - a linen primed with alkyd. The A600 is a finer linen primed with alkyd but for some reason it tends to pick up fuzz in my studio more than the 359. Or it shows up more on the A600, I don't know. I like the rougher texture of 359

I also ordered their lead primed linen. It's super smooth, a surface that could be just right for some artists, but wrong for me. I've tried 2 of the oil primed linens c66 & c13 and they're all right, but the dry time is longer for the underpainting. Here are some closeups of those surfaces:

This is the 359. Takes the paint well and has a lovely, lovely texture.

This is the lead primed linen above. Isn't it lovely? The sheen is fantastic, but too smooth for the landscape I'm working on. Could be perfect for something else.
A600 above. A little too smooth for me.
C66. I think I'll like it, but after 24 hours the underpainting rubbed off off the high points when I touched it.

I've also tried and like ArtBoards, but it's more expensive than Wind River Arts. I like Gessobord OK but it absorbs the paint too aggressively and sometimes my paintings end up with an odd pattern from drying. So I have to gesso the Gessobord and that's not quite the point of buying a ready to paint panel.

So for now I'm returning everything I bought at Utrecht and I have stretched canvas ready to gesso along with a large pile of stretcher bars and cut pieces of linen and canvas in my dining room. The assembly line is lined up, but the worker doesn't quite have the time or energy for all that stretching, stapling and messy gessoing!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

March Point at dusk

March Point at Dusk. Oil on Linen Panel. 9" x 12".

This is a view of March Point at dusk, looking across the frozen fields of Skagit County. For those of you from northwest Washington, this is a classic view. I've always found it to be beautiful.

I painted this while taking my class on Tonalism and it was created with many, many layers of thin glazes.

This is indirect painting with transparent glazes and I find it to much more challenging than direct painting with it's quicker, more vigorous (luscious! buttery!) opaque paint. These are layers of thin paint, barely tinted, that sit on the surface and after many layers, build up to a dark, simple yet deep paint. The smoke, lights and sky are scumbled with semi-opaque paint in order to give it the contrast I wanted.

You can see the earlier versions of this painting here and here.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

It's Eighties Day!

I begain painting full-time (again) November, 2008. Since then many people who've known me for years asked me this question: "how long have you been painting?!?"

The answer is all my life. I took painting lessons starting at age 12 from a German artist in Ramstein, Germany. I'd sit in his wonderfully large studio and paint. I painted in high school in Kennewick Washington and still regret selling my masterpiece called "The Bump", of a High School dance w/ kids bump dancing, years later at a garage sale in Palm Desert. Really, I move it 10 times then sell it for 5 bucks? How fun would it be to have that gem!

The two above were painted in the late 1980's. The top one is 48" x 60" and was painted from a small sketch I did while traveling in Mexico. I love that painting and sold it to a man named Jim Dorman, who I've since lost track of. That, by the way, is still my preferred method of painting: I sketch, then I paint from the sketch.

The bottom one is the view from my garage in Santa Rosa. Yes, the big white car was ours (a Mercury Montclair!), as was the volkswagen rabbit. We have many great stories starring those two cars. My Toyota Camry generates no adventure stories!

Last year I had my old slide portfolio digitized. I'll post them for fun over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Works in Progress Part 6

3 more paintings in progress, all from my ongoing class I'm taking from Deborah Paris on Tonalism. The top one is my first pass at color on the underpainting. It's of fog near Alger and the hill we see is Blanchard Mountain. I'm working to combine fog effects with the limited palette and approach I'm learning in my tonalism class. I've never looked so closely at fog before but love the abstracted patterns it makes on the hill.

The second is the painting March Point, nearing completion. I've posted this to my blog before here. Yesterday I painted the sky again and continued to darken the foreground. My next step is to add the lights and steam of March Point.

The bottom is also nearing completion and that's Similkameen Valley. This was also on my blog here and here where you can see the sketches and underpainting. Yesterday I repainted the sky and today softened the edges, especially at the horizon. I'll add a blue glaze to the hill on the right and then it may be finished!

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Yellow Pitcher

The Yellow Pitcher. Oil on Linen Panel. 8" x 6".

I love the colors on this. Naples yellow, manganese blue, titanium-zinc white, touch of Vasari slate. My current favorites.

I've had this pitcher for about 20 years. Some of my favorte things were tracked down in exotic, off-beat places and come with interesting stories. This? I found it on sale at Eddie Bauer. The shape and color are perfect.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Works in Progress Part 5

Three of my paintings making progress with glaze after glaze. They all still have a ways to go before they're complete. More color, more depth, all in transparent glazes. These are a few of the paintings I'm working on in my class on Tonalism.

Friday, January 22, 2010

First Hellebore

First Hellebore. Oil on Canvas. 7" x 5".

The weather has been amazing here in the Pacific Northwest. Yesterday I spent the day with my husband on, over and around Puget Sound. He did his geology work, I sketched trees. We caught the 3:30 ferry from Port Townsend and sat in the sun on the ferry. Really. Sun. The guy next to us saw grey whales spouting but I missed it.

Today my pink hellebores opened. Or at least 2 did. Anytime now the white hellebores will be fully open. Great, great weather.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Works in Progress Part 4

Alders, Cherry Point: sketches, underpainting and first layers

On Christmas Day my family took a hike to Cherry Point, along the coast in Whatcom County.

Cherry Point is a beautiful area just north of the refineries. There are still herring beds, purple starfish on the beach and heron and eagles roost in the trees on the bluff. Several years ago the local land trust asked for my help in approaching the landowner to allow it to be purchased for a park. I did, the landowner was kind enough to agree and the area is now a small county park that provides access to the shoreline.

It was sunny on Christmas and the winter shadows were just right. This is the start of a painting based on that day.

You can see the sketch of this and several other paintings. Then the underpainting, and now the start of the layers. The sky may be too dark and I'll go back over that a couple of times to lighten it.
I have several other works in progress from Christmas Day. It was a beautiful hike.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Works in Progress Part 3

Sketches and first steps for Similkameen Valley

Tonalism - this may not be the best painting to show you what I'm doing in the Tonalism Class but for me, this one is instructive. On the bottom you can see the sketch for this and several other paintings.

Then next, the first attempt at the underpainting. There wasn't enought information so I added more. The one on the top is after 2 coats of glazing.

I don't know yet how many layers this one will have. Given that I want the foreground to be fairly dark and the hills in the back sunlit from the early morning sun, it may take awhile.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Daily Painting: Blanchard Mountain

Blanchard Mountain. Oil on Linen Panel. 6" x 8".

This is a small study for a couple of larger paintings of Blanchard Mountain from the east side, near Alger, in the fog.

In this study I experimented primarily with the foreground - what would be in the lower part of the painting to lead the eye towards the mountain? How to convey the fog and how much of the mountain to expose? And the sky? And trees/no trees in the middle ground? If trees, how to simplify and keep your eye moving back?

You'll see what I thought worked in the larger paintings that will follow in the next few weeks.

Works in Progress Part 2

Sketches and Underpainting for 3 trees

This weekend the weather was fantastic. Really amazing. I've been wanting to capture good shots of the Chuckanuts in the fog for awhile and this weekend was able to do that.

When I got home I took the photos and rearranged and simplified through sketching. You can see the sketches of 3 Trees above. I then took the sketches and created an underpainting. I may add more information to the underpainting before I start to glaze it but this is where it's at right now.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Works in Progress Part 1

Studio Shelves in the afternoon light

It's been an exceptionally busy couple of weeks in my studio, what with the Daily Painting Challenge with Ruthie V., the class from Deborah Paris on Tonalism, and an upcoming show.

Yes! A show of Local Landscapes at the Blue Horse Gallery. Very excited about that.

So I thought I'd take a breath and show you what I've been working on. Because of the nature of indirect painting, I have many works in progress. Some are quite promising. Over the next few days I'll post some photos of my work so you can see what all I've been up to.

First up is a shot of my studio shelves, above. Yes it's not a great picture but you can see where I put all my many wet small panels and canvases. It's a mix of recent Daily Paintings and the panels in progress for the class. Yes, some are upside down, some are sideways, some are in front of others. But it's functional.

I love bosc pears

Bosc Pears 4. Oil on Linen Board. 5" x 7".

And still, I love bosc pears. Subtle lumps and color gradation. Interesting to look at closely and paint, separating out the various golden tones.

My brother-in-law manages orchards of both cherries and pears. They're a reliable source of the most beautiful fruits Yakima and Goldendale have to offer. I started painting cherries last July when my sister arrived for my birthday party (and yes, it was a very significant birthday) with a box of bing cherries from their orchard. I fell madly in love with painting cherries.

But back to bosc pears. I've struggled to paint boscs because the colors are subtle and the background colors matter more than with some still lives. Some have turned out well, one was thrown away. I think this combination works. It's pure Morandi, of course.

Speaking of Morandi, next up: pitchers.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Lake Padden

Study for Lake Padden Path. Oil on Linen Board. 5" x 7".

This is my favorite place to walk my dog. We park near here and head through the tunnel of alder trees to round the lake. The grass to the left is always green but ankle deep in water! This is a wet area.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Rose for Haiti

Rosa Moyesii 'Highdownensis'. Oil on Gessobord. 5" x 7".

This week we've all been dismayed by the earthquake in Haiti. Like me, I bet you've thought about how you can help.

I'm doing 2 things:

1. I'm donating this painting to the effort. That's right, it's for sale on ebay and 100% of the proceeds go to the Haiti Relief effort. Please consider bidding. This is Rosa Moyesii 'Highdownensis' - the flower that came before last week's winter rose hips. It's grows in tough places. An apt contribution to the enormous need in Haiti.

2. I'm participating in a worldwide art auction, 140 Hours for Haiti. This is a big effort that goes live on January 29th. So more later on that. If you're an artist - please visit the website to join this worldwide effort!

Please bid today - the reserve on this auction is just 99 cents - so dive right in and join with me in sending a donation to Haiti. That's right, you bid, we donate, and you get a lovely painting. It's unframed, varnished and measures 5" x 7".

The auction closes January 20, 2010 so bid soon!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Study for Lake Padden in the Fall

Study for Lake Padden in the Fall. Oil on Linen Board. 5" x 7".

This is one of several studies I worked on today for Lake Padden, a lovely recreational area near here. It's an area I like to walk with my dog, or with friends, or both. I've not painted in the area before because a friend does such lovely pastels. When I see Lake Padden I've always thought of her. But here's a painting.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bartlett Pears

Bartlett Pears. Oil on Linen Board. 6" x 8".

I love the color of these 2 pears. Really a lovely blush on the chartreuse pear. And perhaps it's the dark rain outside, but I especially like these pears against a gray background.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Cupcakes. Oil on Linen Board. 5" x 7".

Some of my favorite painting recommendations come from friends and family. For instance, my husband's red peppers, the pies my daughter and her friends made, or when my friend Tim asked, after a string of single type pear paintings, if I supported pear integration.

Yesterday my friend Anne-Marie, the Soap Queen, texted me to say she had cupcakes left over from filming her latest episode of Soap Queen TV. She dropped them off and I painted them.

I've never looked so closely at cupcakes before. Is there a more charming pastry?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Bartlett Pear

Bartlett Pear. Oil on Canvas. 5" x 7".

We still have great Washington State pears at the store. Lovely colors.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Gold Beets

Gold Beets. Oil on Canvas Board. 8 x 10.

Not everyone loves beets but I do. Gold are my favorite. Not just for the color but the sugar that carmelizes when they're sliced thin and sauteed.

January is the month of beginnings. January is also National Oatmeal and Hot Tea month according to Time Magazine. My son and I are way into oatmeal and hot tea this month! But back to beginnings: Ruthie V and I began a daily painting challenge on January 1st, focused on painting local. Turns out, it's an extra challenge to find local things to paint in January! Who knew? Well, we did. Really. But wine, beets, her cat, trees and rose hips, we're finding wonderful things to paint here in Whatcom County.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Underpainting of Alder Grove, Cherry Point

Underpainting of Alder Grove, Cherry Point. Oil on Canvas. 11 x 14.

This month I'm taking a fantastic class on Tonalism from Deborah Paris. It's an online class and at first I wasn't sure how it would work. It works great so far. We get assignments, post them on a blog, and get thoughtful, informed and helpful feedback.

At the same time I'm spending hours preparing sketches for my underpaintings then reading and staring at books of George Inness, the Luminists and Stephen Hannock.

So far I'm happy with this one. I can't wait to share the finished painting. But with indirect painting, it may be awhile!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Highdownensis Hips

Rosa moyesii 'Highdownensis' Hips. Oil on Linen Board. 5" x 7".

Rosa moyesii 'Highdownsis' is a massive shrub with a place of honor in my yard. And by shrub, I mean a 10' tall tree. It has tall, vertical canes, scary thick with dangerous thorns, and for 6 weeks in the summer covers itself completely with charming single red flowers with gold centers. Here's a painting of Rosa moyesii 'Highdownensis' from last summer.

It doesn't produce many hips - there were perhaps 15 on my shrub following about 1,000 flowers - but the ones it provides are fat and shiny. They were all perched at the end of the thorny 10' tall canes but I managed to cut off a few. 'Highdownensis' is feeling the end of winter as the growth buds were pushing out on the stems.

We had sunshine today and the yard was alive with robins, jays, little brown guys and some robinesque birds I totally plan to look up.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Dentelle de Bruges Hips

Dentelle de Bruges Hips. Oil on Linen Board. 5" x 7".

I have a crazy amount of rose bushes. It's true. My urban lot is tiny yet I have approximately 70 rose bushes. And trees, shrubs, grasses, perennials - all the elements of green chaos.

These hips are from a rose called Dentelle de Bruges that grows on our front picket fence. It's a huge brambly shrub that covers itself in small, sweetly scented white flowers in June. All winter we (and by we I mean my husband, the birds and me) enjoy these great multi-colored hips.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Dan's Red Peppers, Part 2

Dan's Birthday Peppers. Oil on Gessobord. 5" x 5".

As discussed earlier, I did not believe anyone - even my husband - could successfully grow red peppers in Bellingham Washington. When he planted red peppers, I had doubts. I especially did not expect a bumper crop.

Here they are, dried, still looking great. These are called Dan's Birthday Peppers because today is his birthday!

This painting is the second one of my Local Daily Painting Challenge, and also the second prize in my email painting contest from the Holidays. This painting is for Margaret Lyons.

Friday, January 1, 2010

My 5 Favorite Paintings of 2009, Part 5

Camille Pissarro. Jallais Hill, Pontoise. Oil on Canvas.
Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Let me just say that I've thought about my top 5 WAY too much! I've gone over and over the photos I took in New York, in Philadelphia, in DC, in LA... Anyway, I chose this one because it inspired one of my landscape paintings, After Pissarro: Yakima River, Prosser.

I love the way he handled the paint in this one. Love it. The light, the colors, the composition. Love it.

Happy New Year, 2010! Welcome to my Daily Painting Challenge.

Phil's Sweet Potato Pie. Oil on Gessobord. 5" x 7".

Happy New Year 2010! This is the first of my daily paintings for 2010 and Part 1 of a fun challenge with artist Ruthie V. We've challenged each other to a Local Painting a Day for 2010. Can you believe it? One a day, local content. Totally fun.

Why pie? Our daughter has been visiting us for the holidays and she and her friend Phil had a pie bake-off on Wednesday. This is Phil's delicious Sweet Potato Pie. It was/is delicious and this is the last slice. This also represents the closest thing to a fruit or a vegetable in my post-holiday kitchen right now. Time to get to the store!

And, because I have a lot to say about this little painting, my final note: this was the prize in a contest I held on my weekly email. Stephanie Twiford won this! I'll be doing more of these daily painting contests this year. To participate, just sign up for my email list.