Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Background on Trees

These are the sketches, 2 stages of underpaintings and final image for Trees, posted yesterday. I really like seeing the steps and stages of a painting when other artists share their photos so I've decided to take more of those shots and share them too.

You can see that the layers of glazing that went on after the underpainting really softened the edges of everything. You can also see that nothing changed substantially after those first decisions were made. That's the nature of indirect painting: you carry it all through to the end.

What that means is that I think through the composition and detail more carefully at the beginning than I would with direct painting. While the subsequent layers of color in the glazes can surprise me towards the end when the painting starts to really 'glow', there cannot be big changes in layout. As a result, I do a great deal more sketching before I begin: no more diving in, loaded paintbrush in hand. Lots and lots of sketches and editing.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

New Page on Art Materials!

Look up again! Yes, just above these words. You'll see a new page with my thoughts on my endless experiments with art materials.

These are just my opinions, based on my slightly compulsive need to research everything in great detail. Since I'm a little compulsive AND I paint a lot I go through a lot of all kinds of materials. I can try things out, use them up and try out something different.


Trees. Oil on Linen Panel. 12" x 9".

This last couple of weeks I've been finishing paintings I started in January while learning indirect painting but hadn't yet finished. This is one of the first I started and one I hadn't planned to finish. But each day for the past two weeks I've added a layer of glazing to this painting until it began to glow.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

My new Rosemary & Co brushes

My new Rosemary & Co brushes!

Last month I read a post on Matthew Innis' Underpaintings blog about Rosemary & Co's mongoose brushes. Saturday my order of brushes arrived and I've been painting with them the past few days.

They are lovely. They have shed 1 hair. Collectively.

Rosemary & Co brushes are handmade in England. Sounds expensive, I know. Thing is, they're not. Go to their website, order the free catalog, and check out the prices. Remember that 17.5% VAT will be deducted as VAT is not charged on items shipped to the US. Shipping is just 5 pounds which today is about $7.50.

I ordered 7 brushes. With shipping the total was around $87. I ordered a 1" sable/nylon brush for glazing and tried it today. Perfect. No splaying, it held an even and soft stroke. Yesterday I used the Ebony Filbert, size 4 and it was wonderful, soft, yet held the paint. The Ebony Flat size 8 is great for glazing smaller areas.

The prize may be the mongoose. I now have the size 8 filbert and the size 6 round. I'd tried the Raphael Kevrin mongoose last month and do like it, but the Rosemary & Co are even better. Handmade, lose no bristles, great prices.

I ordered the Shiraz, long flat, size 7. I used it for a background to stroke in thick white paint on a small still life and it worked just fine. It's a nylon brush for heavy bodied paint. I tried it for glazing and it splayed, so that might not be the right use for this brush.

I'll be ordering more.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

In the studio!

This is me in the studio, working on the larger of my canoe paintings. I've got about 7 layers or so on this painting and it's crazy fun to work on! There will be many, many more layers of glaze before this baby is done.

I'm applying for the Whatcom Open Studio Tour that happens in October and they recommended a shot of you at work in the studio. This is mine. As you can see, the natural light in my studio is lovely. To the left are my drying shelves for the small panel paintings. Larger canvases hang on the walls behind the camera. If you look close you can see the remote to my Nikon's shutter release on my easel tray.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

House in the Fog & more on my never-ending experiment on surfaces

House in the Fog. Oil on Linen. 20" x 16".

So! Yesterday I asked whether or not I should craft better titles for my paintings and decided to title this one, House in the Fog, rather than Alger Fog 2. (Why yes, there's an Alger Fog 1, see it here.)

Yes, titles!

This is a painting I began in January but struggled with it a bit. So I hung it on the studio wall and started the smaller Alger Fog 1. This is clearly an image I wanted to tackle and work through. I'm happy with Alger Fog 1 and it sold quickly at the '4 Women, 4 Seasons' show at the Blue Horse Gallery. My struggle with this one was with the surface. I was using one of Utrecht's acrylic primed stretched linens and it has a couple of issues: it has some bristles stuck in the primer and it is very, very, very absorbent. I was so annoyed with it that I wrote about it here.

But you know, once there's a certain number of layers of glaze and scumbling, that all falls by the wayside. Now that it's finished, the surface is simply lovely with just a bit of the irregular linen texture coming through. In the end, I'm happy with the surface.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What do you think: should I have better titles?

Samish Dawn 3. Oil on Canvas. 18" x 28".

Isn't this lovely? It makes me happy to look at this one. Early dawn spreading over Lake Samish. Full of hope and promise.

I sent this one out in my weekly email last Thursday and a dear friend pointed out that with Samish Dawn 1, 2 and now 3, perhaps I could come up with more creative titles!

Point taken! I'd love to hear from you: what are your thoughts on titles? Do titles help engage the viewer or do they intrude into your interpretation?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

New Art Marketing Page!

Look up, check out my new page with my favorite Art Marketing links!

These are all the articles that I've found super useful in thinking through my approach to marketing, twitter, my blog, my website, and my overall approach to being a small business owner. I'll be adding to this often, but these are my top fav's.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Padden Dawn

Padden Dawn 1. Oil on Linen Panel. 9" x 12".

Lake Padden at dawn, with the light coming up on the left. And a duck. This is the lake I know better than any other lake. We've had our wonderful dog Sam for 10 years now and this is where we like to walk.

I was hesitant to paint it at first because a local artist who I admire, Donna Auer, does the most wonderful large pastels of Lake Padden. But I finally dove in. Figuratively, never literally. Although Sam occasionally chases sticks into the water.

But the painting: to me these lakes that surround me (Padden, Samish, Whatcom) are exceptional examples of northern lakes. The light, the surface and the trees and foothills that surround them, speak of cold, northern, glacial lakes.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Works in Progress: Canoe 1 & 2 Underpaintings

Canoe 1, underpainting. Oil on Linen Panel. 9" x 12".

Canoe 2 Underpainting. Oil on Linen. 30" x 22".

These are the underpaintings for 2 new paintings of a canoe at Lake Padden. I'm entranced by these 2 paintings this week.

Last week I was walking with a friend at Lake Padden right around dusk. We had our dogs with us. It was cool and cloudy and there was a lone red canoe on the otherwise still lake.

It reminded me of wonderful paintings by Peter Doig of a canoe on a lake and I couldn't wait to get home and start a painting. So I started two.

Samish Dawn 2

Samish Dawn 2. Oil on Linen Panel. 8" x 10".

I'm really enjoying painting the lake dawns. Partly because they're soft and lovely, with colors that are fun to layer. The trees and reflections are a delight and I've been focusing on getting the edges just so.

Click here to see an earlier version of this same painting.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Two Nocturnes; Two surfaces

Blaine Nocturne 1. Oil on Linen Panel. 6" x 8". $110.
Blaine Nocturne 2. Oil on #359 Linen Panel. 6" x 8". $110.

Great art show at Loomis Hall in Blaine on Friday night! The building was completely cool - really the nicest building in Whatcom County these days - and the view from the roof breathtaking.

Nocturnes were the province of Whistler. He did them first and it's not possible to take up a nocturne painting without thinking about him out on the Thames in a rowboat. He was an oil painter and preferred an absorbent surface for painting so that the paint soaked in - no brush strokes visible - and only the weave of the cloth showed, 'like breath on glass.'

Yesterday I worked on a nocturne of the view from the roof of Loomis Hall and it turned into two paintings. Note: the following will be keenly interesting only to oil painters.

So, here's the deal: I've been using these great panels from Windriverarts in Texas. Nice people, lovely linen panels. I started out on a small panel, oil primed w/ linen C13 but it wasn't working out. The surface was rough but non-absorbent and so the paint wasn't covering very well. Every brush stroke was visible, the darks were too thin. So I picked up a different panel, alkyd primed, w/ linen 359 and the darks soaked right in. Lovely. Thing is, so did the lights. It soaked up my lights. A nocturne without points of light is a little dull and the Blaine harbor below Loomis Hall was full of light.

Today both paintings were dry and I took them up again. The non-absorbent one that looked terrible at the start, took the second coat in a beautiful build-up and the lights stayed right on top of the darks. I mixed the lights with the most opaque titanium/cad mix possible to help with that. The alkyd primed absorbent one, 359, soaked up the darks again, for a lovely matte look, and still soaked up some of the light, but the cad is managing to sit on the surface a bit.

In the end, just two coats, I'm very happy with both surfaces.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Winter Highway, Chuckanuts

Winter Highway, Chuckanuts. Oil on Linen. 18" x 24".

This is the interstate just south of Bellingham as it cuts through the Chuckanut range. The Chuckanuts are the only place along the coast where the Cascade mountains reach down to touch the sea. This small range cuts off Whatcom County from Washington state to the south. To the east we have the North Cascades, to the west, the Pacific Ocean and on our border to the north is British Columbia.

We're a little isolated. And that's part of what makes this a special place to live. I've always loved this drive through the mountains because it's lovely, remote, nearly always shrouded in fog and a clear demarcation that I'm almost home.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

On being a ditch digger: time and discipline

Last year I read an artist* who said he approached his studio time as if he was a ditch digger: rain or shine, well or ill, he went to work. A ditch digger doesn't have the luxury of staying home with a sore throat. If you're tired, you go to work. That idea rings in my head each day and is part of why I get myself to my studio regardless of everything else.

Art, like much of life, is about showing up, doing something and following through. By painting every day I train my hand, my eye, my brain to get better and better. I try things. I push at the limits of my skills every single day.

My greatest fear in returning to painting full-time was discipline. I was afraid that if I was left to my own devices I'd read novels all day. Nope. Turns out I transferred my passion for environmental and political work to this work. I'm in my studio by 7:30 or 8 every day. I paint all day.

*I wish I could remember where I read this - if you know, please let me know.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Loomis Hall opening tonight!

View of the 3rd floor gallery. My paintings will go on the wall on the right, you can see Anacortes Gap 2 on the floor ready to hang. Shirley Ericksen's fabulous Raven sculpture is visible.

Steve Satushek's cool paintings on metal on the left. More on his website here.

Loomis Hall's group exhibit, 'Olympic Small and Large' part 2 is opening tonight at 6:00. For hours and directions, click on the gallery here. Blaine's newspaper, the Northern Light, has a great article on this.
My apologies for the mediocre photos. Apparently if you don't recharge your Nikon batteries every once in a while you're stuck with the iPhone.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Samish Scrim

This is the start of a painting that I'm super excited about: Lake Samish seen through a scrim of alder trees.

Last summer in Philadelphia I saw a painting by Peter Doig that floored me. It was a wonderful large painting about a Canadian artist called "Figure in a Mountain Landscape." Brilliant. It was painted from a 1930's photo of the artist Franklin Carmichael. So as soon as I had computer access I looked him up. More wonderful paintings. My painting of Lake Samish is inspired by such Doig paintings as Concrete Cabin and Ravine.

Click here for a fun blog post with images of Doig's paintings and information about his process.

I hope to see more in person in the future because the textures Doig uses are exciting. I also love his compositions. He uses photographs and memory, abstracted somewhat, to create a sense of the past.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Lake Padden at Dawn (but not super early dawn)

Work in Progress: Lake Padden Dawn

This is Lake Padden on a still winter day, early in the morning. On my way home from Lake Samish I like to swing by Lake Padden just to see how the reflections are and always hoping for interesting fog patterns to study. Even this early there are runners and people with dogs. Go hardy people! (Brrrr.)

In addition to thinking constantly about the sky (what color is it now? And how about now?) I also think about water reflections. The morning I'm working on here, the reflections in the water were not as dark as the trees and low hills I saw. I think that's because with the light rising behind the hills, my eyes simply didn't read the value differences in the hills the way I was able to see the variation in the reflection. Not sure.

This painting has just started. This is just the first layer of color over an underpainting of shale and dark orange.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Memorizing Lake Samish

Work in Progress: Samish Dawn 2

Work in Progress: Samish Dawn 1
I've spent a lot of time lately studying the sky. Early dawn I like to go to Lake Samish and watch the pink spread across the sky from the left and thinking what colors of blue and yellow I need to mix to create the upper portion of the sky and the blue reflections in the lake. I sketch, I take notes, I take photos but mostly, I'm training my memory to retain the details of the visual information. On the way back I swing by Lake Padden and it's always much brighter there, since it's a good 10 minutes later.

Whistler painted wonderful nocturnes and landscapes and he made just rough sketches and notes. He spent a great deal of time, according to his colleagues, training himself to remember visual information: composition, color, the details. I've been working on better observation and on training my visual memory on these visits to Lake Samish.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Samish Dawn 1, Study

Samish Dawn 1, Study. Oil on Linen Board. 6" x 8".
$110, unframed.

The shelves and walls of my studio are lined with Lake Samish, early dawn and nocturne studies. Meanwhile, I'm continuing to study Whistler and the tonalists to better understand their techniques, approach and underlying philosophy of painting. And because my larger paintings are taking a little longer, and because I love to paint, I'm creating studies of my larger works to think through value and color relationships.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

4 Women 4 Seasons is up!

Blue Horse Gallery on March 2nd, 2010

Why yes, photos taken with an iPhone are generally terrible. But here's a shot of my paintings installed at the Blue Horse Gallery in preparation for Friday's 6 pm opening.

To the right, in the entry, are Ruthie V's paintings looking great, to the left are Mary Froderberg and Valerie Collymore's luscious paintings are farther to my left, out of the shot.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sizing up my linen and canvas

I'm trying a new approach to my supports: sizing and using an alkyd ground on my stretched linen and canvas. I just sized 7 large canvases and it feels like a great start!

The linen is from a roll I've had forever and the weave is somewhat open. I scrubbed in the size on both the front and the back. The heavy canvas soaked up a lot more of the size.

Since I delivered 8 framed paintings on Saturday, I needed something new. So I have 6 new paintings in progress, 3 are lake nocturnes and I think they have a lot of promise.