Saturday, July 31, 2010

Albala Workshop - Foggy Mornings

Mitch Albala demo in the fog on Thursday, Conway

Painters on the dike, in the thick Conway fog.
Tedd Chilles painting in the fog.
View of the field, Conway.
Fog in the Slough. 8 x 10. Oil on Twinrocker paper. Lisa McShane
Fog in the Slough. 6 x 8. Oil on Panel. Lisa McShane
It was foggy until afternoon from Wednesday through Friday. Friday was especially thick and magical. We painted at a small park in Conway, working on small paintings. The fog lifted quickly. One moment I looked down for more paint and when I looked up, I could see all the trees.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Albala Workshop Day 3 - Fog!

It was a foggy day in Skagit County - I love painting in the fog! This is a picture of 2 artists painting the value changes in the fog. A great morning for painting.

After we painted we stopped for lunch and then had a group critique. We each put 2 paintings out and used these to discuss bigger issues of painting, such as value, hue, texture and composition. I'm really enjoying my fellow artists in the workshop with me!

And after the critique we took a break. Most people are staying nearby but since I live 40 minutes away, I find ways to entertain myself. Generally that involves painting! Here's a photo I shot on my easel (I'll take a better one later, but no time this week!) of the quick painting I did during today's break:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Albala Workshop Day 2 - Skagit Wheat Fields

Skagit Wheat. Oil on Linen Panel. 9x12.

This is the first painting I've completed in the workshop, of the view south towards poplar trees and a wheat field.

Here's my easel with my subject to my left.

And here's the view to the east and the North Cascades that I also wanted to paint! You can't see it in this poor, grainy photo but there's a peak in the notched valley just to the right of the middle. I'm certain I'll need to go back to this spot another time. It's stunning. We saw great views today!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mitchell Albala Workshop Day 1

Here's a shot of Mitch doing a demo in our morning session at a Skagit County farm. Our first task was to tone our surface, wipe that down and then, using the same 1 or 2 pigments, create an underpainting focused on values and shape.

There are 12 of us in the class and slightly more than half stayed in this area to paint the barn and trees.

On the other side of the barn was a field, a cottage and then a wheat field with poplars in the distance. Yes, a wheat field with poplars! Those are the best things in the world to paint, no? Naturally that's where I set up shop. We'll be back there first thing in the morning and I'll take a shot of my subject and completed painting.

Skagit Workshop w/ Mitchell Albala

This morning - bright and early - is the start of a week-long painting workshop w/ Mitchell Albala. We'll be in Skagit County near Dodge Valley, one of the most beautiful areas in the Pacific Northwest.

Here's Mitchell Albala w/ his new and exceptional book on Landscape Painting.

I'll try to post what I've learned in the workshop during the week but the schedule is grueling - 7:45 to 6:30 every day. I'll be commuting from my home, about 45 minutes away. The weather report? Sunshine!

Boy will I be tired.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Meanwhile the World

Meanwhile the World. 9 x 12. Oil on Linen Panel.

I've always loved poetry. As a child and a teenager, I wrote a lot of poems. We had books of poetry and I entertained my family by memorizing and reciting back long poems. I recited The Mountain Whippoorwil by Benet in a Forensic Tournament in Germany. In High School I'd go to the city library to read poetry. I copied down what I loved best and at home I'd type them up on onionskin paper and put them in a notebook. I still have my poetry notebook. It's full of wonderful, meaningful and beautiful poetry.

In May I went to Texas for a workshop at Deborah Paris' studio. Deborah reads a lot of poetry and read a poem to us. It was beautiful. When I left Texas I went to Colorado to visit my daughter and ran across a volume of Mary Oliver's poetry in a local bookstore. I bought it. 

This past few weeks I've been reading Mary Oliver over and over and over again in my studio. I copied out poems and pinned them to the wall. This painting is inspired by a phrase from her poem Wild Geese

Mary's poems are like prayers. And like a landscape, they are grounded in place: the rural northeast. That's not my place but through her poetry, I can picture it. 

Friday, July 23, 2010

High in the Clean Blue Air

High in the Clean Blue Air. 12" x 16". Oil on Linen Panel. 

Wild Geese
     by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good. 
You do not have to walk on your knees 
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. 
You only have to let the soft animal of your body 
love what it loves. 
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. 
Meanwhile the world goes on. 
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain 
are moving across the landscapes, 
over the prairies and the deep trees, 
the mountains and the rivers. 
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, 
are heading home again. 
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, 
the world offers itself to your imagination, 
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place 
in the family of things.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Do you date your paintings?

David's Kitchen Paintings - with dates!

Last week a got an email from a local frame shop. A buyer had dropped off 6 of my daily paintings of fruits and vegetables for framing and asked if I'd put dates on the paintings near my signature.

Of course! So I matched paint and put dates on 4 of them. 2 needed new varnish (lint!) so I scrubbed off the retouch varnish and then put dates on. One had a couple of funny yellow spots on the white background that weren't in the varnish layer so I painted over those and hope they don't return. I'll put a thin layer of Gamvar on all of them since they are finally, mostly, nearly done drying.

I'd recently had a conversation with the collector about dates because he owns a lot of amazing art and really enjoys seeing the dates on the paintings. It helps place them in context: of the time, of the artist's career and of the buyers life.

He had a point. A very good point. In museums I notice if a painting is dated and I use that date to track the development and see the evolution of style. Since our conversation I've been painting my signature - L McShane - AND the year.

But I'm curious: do you put dates on the front of your paintings?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bruegel & Auden & Icarus

Peter Bruegel the Elder (1525-69) - 
Landscape with the Fall of Icarus 

Musee des Beaux Arts
 -- W.H. Auden

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Brueghel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.
Note from me: I've been sorting through my Poetry Notebook to add poems to my studio. This is one I typed up and added when I was 16. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Stretching & Sizing Linen

I love making progress on the tasks. This weekend I stretched 3 canvases and this morning scrubbed the sizing onto them.

On the top is a closeup of the Best Pro stretcher bar, stretched and sized (note the clean corners!). The Best system is essentially an aluminum frame with wood for stapling and wrapping the fabric. It was easy to put together (except the pilot holes for the corner pieces aren't large enough for the screws they provide.) It's a little pricey but it's for a 26" x 36"commissioned  painting that will be shipped to Arkansas. I've had a little trouble lately with warping and there's some humidity down there so this is my insurance.

After I stretch the linen so that it's as tight as a drum*, I scrub the size into the fabric with a large bristle brush. I use Gamblin's PVA for this and scrub it on front, back and on the sides.

Tomorrow I start applying the oil primer.

Notes on materials:
The oil priming brush that I'm using is currently on sale at Utrecht for about $10. It's a great brush, I plan to pick up another one. This is 144 linen, a medium smooth texture, also from Utrecht. I've not used it before so I hope I love it!

*I used heavy duty canvas pliers (don't buy the lightweight ones - they just don't work) for the stretching AND I've been using hand weights. You have to have strong arms and hands for larger paintings.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Burn Pile or Sale Bin?

If you've been painting for any length of time you've made bad paintings. In fact, there are those who maintain that the better you are as a painter, the more bad paintings you'll produce simply because you'll produce more paintings overall.

I agree.

I also agree that as a painter I should paint everyday in order to get better. And I learn from my mistakes. And if I was a songwriter I'd tear up bad songs. And if I was a baker, I wouldn't sell burnt bread for a lower price.

So, that brings me to the growing pile of mediocrity in my basement. When I sort through paintings the bad ones are tossed on a pile in the basement so that I can tear off the canvas and re-use the wood bars. I don't paint over old paintings. I could say it's because it's not archival (generally true) but the truth is that I love a fresh, smooth start.

A couple of weeks ago I was giving someone a studio tour and she was appalled to hear that a painting leaning against the wall was destined to be ripped off it's stretcher bars and thrown away. She was even more shocked to hear about the growing pile in the basement. Because she was young and just out of college, and because the painting was OK and not embarrassing, I let her take it with her.

In the last couple of weeks I've been pondering the pile. It's getting bigger. I know some artists sell bad work at a low price to get rid of it and bring in a little cash. I've always been inclined to destroy the evidence.

What do you do with your unsuccessful paintings?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Update on those great brushes

My favorite Rosemary Brushes all lined up

I've posted before - here - about the very exciting/super affordable brushes from Rosemary & Co. It's been several months and two orders and it's high time I provided a real review. Lately, nearly all my painting has been with 4 or 5 of the Rosemary and Co brushes.

Mongoose Long Filbert, series 278, in size 8. For larger areas of painting and glazing with soft edges, this is my favorite. It's thick enough in the belly to hold up with thick paints. Is amazing for glazing. Soft, soft edges to this one. It's the top one in the photo and I'm ordering the size 12 next.

Ebony Short Flat in size 8. This is a great brush for laying in an underpainting and for glazing areas on small to medium paintings. Why so great? Because it's soft but holds it's own with the paint, doesn't collapse or splay and is thick enough to really handle well. You can scrub in areas with this, scumble, glaze, draw. The works. I'm ordering a bigger size for bigger glazing.

Ivory Filbert in size 6. This brush holds a sharp edge with oil paint and in my experience, never splays. I also have the filbert in size 4 and the short flat in a couple of sizes. All are good and really, really affordable.

2011 update: all of my Ivory brushes are leaving my studio. They splay with oil paints loaded with medium. Very annoying. But good news: Rosemary's Chunking bristle brushes are awesome.

Mongoose Long Flat, series 279 in size 6. This one is simply lovely for stroking on a scumble or floating a glaze over paint layers. It doesn't hold up well with heavier paints but is good for glazing.

Red Sable Blend 1" Series 767 with beaver tail handle. I use this a lot but still don't love it. But when I'm glazing a field on a 48" wide painting, it's what I've got because it's my largest brush for glazing. At some point it will splay and the glaze will be a bit streaky but until I find a better, thicker wide brush for glazing I keep turning to this one.

Mongoose Long Flat, series 279 in size 12. Yes, this is a big mongoose brush but at that width and length, it's a bit whispy. I think if it were thicker in the belly or if I'd gotten the short flat I'd like this better. I use it for some glazing but it can't handle thick paint and splays out right away with a liquin glaze. But yet I use it from time to time.

Getting Rid Of
Shiraz Flat. For oils it splays. Like a big fat floppy comb. I plan to give this to a friend who paints with acrylics because it just doesn't hold up with oils.

Note: the catalog is still free! Click here to order it. The photos are life size so you know what  you're getting.

PS: the brush on the bottom is another favorite black sable brush by Da Vinci. It's a great size - 14. About the same size as the Rosemary Ebony Short Flat in 8, right next to it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Edison, Smith and Vallee and Todd Horton

Todd Horton painting on the front porch of the Smith & Vallee Gallery in Edison

Todd Horton is an artist in Bow who paints wonderful paintings of animals and landscapes. I covet his enigmatic paintings of owls, deer and fox. Friday afternoon I stopped by the Smith and Valley Gallery with my friend Kristin to see the current show and Todd was there manning the place. He was working on a painting for an upcoming group show, 'Birds', and as he was painting, a chickadee was flying around. Perfect.

Smith & Vallee Gallery is one of my favorites in this region. They bring in strong artists for exceptional shows in a beautiful, light-filled space. What's not to love about that?

Open gallery night in Edison is the first Saturday of the month and it's always fun. There are two galleries, two amazing bakeries, several restaurants and one great saloon with a lot of motorcycles in front. For gallery night the small town fills with an eclectic assortment of art lovers from Seattle, Skagit County and Bellingham. There's nothing quite like it. A window booth at the Longhorn Saloon between the two galleries provides some of the best people watching I know. And I'm a semi-pro at people watching.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

La Conner, Loriann and the Skagit Light

Loriann Signorelli and me in La Conner

There's something about the light in Skagit County. Over the past year or so I've paid close attention to the quality of light wherever I am and it seems different in Skagit County. I don't live far away - just to the north - but for some reason Skagit County seems bathed in a more golden atmosphere as if it sits under a dome of light. Whatcom County, where I live, is noticeably bluer and crisper.

This is me (on the left) with artist Loriann Signori. You can see her blog with her wonderful pastel and oil paintings here. She's in Skagit County this week at a workshop and we met up for a bite to eat and a lot of water in La Conner. It was a treat to spend time with her and get to know her a bit. I read her blog everyday: Loriann has been painting at dawn every day for three years now. That's a wonderful accomplishment and such a good artistic discipline.

I'd been in Edison for lunch and galleries with my friend Kristin. She had been up at dawn to paint on Whidbey Island and after our late afternoon dinner, I think she went out again.

Not me. It was my birthday and I was on my way home for mussels, salmon, breadfarm bread and a lovely glass of wine.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Dusk Falls

Dusk Falls on Rattlesnake and Red. Oil on Canvas. 22" x 44"

This is an area of eastern Washington just south of where I grew up. As you're viewing it, the Yakima River is at your feet, the Horse Heaven Hills at your back. The Columbia River is both to the south and to the north.

This is the region of Washington where the great red wine grapes are grown. In some areas the lower slopes have orchards but here it's the shrub steppe. Those are the things I'm thinking about when painting landscapes.

You can see an earlier study of this on my blog here.

It's been a week since I've posted. I've been hard at work painting and priming. It takes me about 4 to 6 weeks to finish a painting and about 4 to 6 weeks ago I had troubles with my new computer that took up my time. Hence a slight slowdown!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Edits and the Joy of Jpegs

Spring Comes to the Valley. 22 x 30. Oil on Canvas. 

I posted this painting on my blog a few weeks ago, here. After looking at it in it's little scale I decided the lines on the right were slipping downwards, pulling it off the edge. Since then I've reworked it just slightly. Some of the color is a bit more saturated and the hills on the right are either level or move diagonally towards the center.

Small things sometimes, these edits, but now I'm feel that it's finished. I like this one.