Thursday, March 24, 2011

Across the Fields

Across the Fields. ©2011 Lisa McShane. Oil on Linen. 16" x 20."
Just back from a quick trip to eastern Washington where the sun and light were - as they often are - amazing. I drove up to the top of McBee road in the Horse Heaven Hills to see dawn on the face of Rattlesnake Mountain.

But it was good to be back in the studio and put the last glaze on the grasses of this painting of Skagit county, looking west late in the afternoon.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Burnt Sienna and Sanford Gifford

Closeup of Rattlesnake and the River with burnt sienna ground.

This winter I read in several sources that Sanford Gifford first stained his surface with burnt sienna. 

I first read about this on Philip Koch's great blog in a post titled Bold Power Hiding in Subtle Colors. And of course the next day an artist friend, James Lourie, forwarded me the link to Philip's post knowing how I'd love it!

Loriann Signori wrote about it on her blog here, saying "Sanford Gifford stained his white canvas with burnt sienna, drew in white chalk and then glazed more rapidly. He would paint non-stop from sunrise to sunset when he began the color part of his painting. He had already worked out his color idea in his oil sketches. Gifford kept working and blending his glazed layers while they were wet. "

David Dunlop, in a blog post titled Luminous Skies has a great, brief explanation along with images. (BTW: his blog is great, deep with information and his own work is inspiring. Check it out people!)

So I immediately tried it on two paintings, Rattlesnake and the River, and the Road North

The Road North was a straightforward direct painting with some glazing. Not at all what Gifford would have done. Rattlesnake and the River follows his approach more closely: opaque underpainting for the sky with the foreground crafted by extensive semi-transparent and transparent glazing. The foreground has areas of thick, built-up surface next to areas of bare burnt sienna linen. 

The sky - and this to me is the most important part of this painting - was much more interesting and frustrating to paint with the burnt sienna base. I painted three layers of titanium-zinc white mixed with a touch of indian yellow over the base using broad vertical strokes. Even after three layers the burnt sienna sang loudly through. So I decided to work with that and began painting the dawn colors I sought over that burnt sienna/pale yellow base. There were times I thought the painting just wouldn't work out but in the end, I'm very pleased with the results.

Monday, March 21, 2011

My Facebook experiment still in progress

In progress - Rattlesnake dusk.
This past few weeks I've been trying something out on Facebook: posting an image each day of the progress of a painting. I started with just the sketch and at the end of my day in the studio I pull out my camera and tripod and snap a shot.

You can join the crazy fun by clicking here and then 'liking' my page on Facebook.

As it turns out, it really doesn't influence my process. I don't paint differently because I take a photo each day. But I don't know that it's really all that interesting for those who follow me on Facebook. The nature of Facebook is that an image pops up randomly in their feed and they may see one every few days but without context unless they click on it.

At the end I think I'll take each image and put them together in a quick slideshow. What I'd like is a 'flipbook' or 'time lapse' approach to quickly see the changes take place. If you know what program will work to make that happen, please let me know.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Now it's finished

Rattlesnake and River. ©2011. Lisa McShane. Oil on Linen. 16" x 36".
Now it's finished. Just a little more work on the sky.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Rosemary Brushes, Part 3

A new shipment of mongoose and chungking bristle Rosemary brushes
Yesterday I arrived home to find a wonderful little box leaning against my front door: a new shipment of Rosemary brushes. It's been awhile since I've written about brushes, and my Rosemary brushes have clocked several miles of strokes, so I thought I'd narrow down my list of what I like and don't.

I think the mongoose and the chungking bristles are amazing. The prices are shockingly low, the quality exceptional. Buy these.

At first I liked the ivory line - a synthetic bristle brush - but now they seem to splay when loaded with paint and the splay is not for me. I think these would be good for acrylic painters but for oil, I think natural bristle just performs better.

The ebony brushes are good but they do turn into a sort of crazy mop, like the bad perm I had in 1st grade, and no matter what I try I can't seem to persuade them to go back to looking like the brush I ordered. It could be my cleaning style but...this doesn't happen with the mongoose. The ebony bristles also seem a little more brittle to me than the mongoose. I do see small pieces of bristle break off usually when I use a paper towel to wipe the paint off.

But the mongoose are fantastic. They clean easily, hold up great and do what I want them to do. I can use them for more opaque heavy paints (although they smooth the surface more than I like) and they are rock stars for glazing. My favorites are the basic flats, series 274. I have the long flats and those are nice for a long stroke, but I prefer a stubbier brush. As you can see in the photo above, I just ordered two of the short filberts (I also have and love the long filberts) and can't wait to try them out.

Similarly the Chungking bristle brushes are wonderful. Soft but they hold their shape without splaying. After washing, they go right back to shape. They are my favorite for laying down opaque paint for skies and more texture in the foreground. But I've even used them for glazing and blending - they are that soft. I love the filberts.

And a note on Rosemary & Co's wonderful customer service. Last fall one of my ebony flat brushes started to dissolve. Bristles came out each time I touched it. I wasn't sure if I'd been too rough or if something was wrong with the brush. So I sent Rosemary & Co an email telling them what was happening and a minute later Rosemary replied :

Oh dear ! 
Sounds like one slipped through the net - the glue probably hasn't penetrated to the centre.Please let me know which shape and your zip then I can send another out to you.
sorry for inconvenience.
Kind regards

So yes, wonderful brushes, well-priced, handmade in England backed up by exceptional service. Order them here:

My past blog posts on brushes here and here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Rattlesnake and the River

Rattlesnake and the River. ©2011. Lisa McShane. Oil on Linen. 16" x 36".

I'm sure 99.9% of the artists who blog and who post paintings online wait until the painting is finished before they post the image.

I'm not in that camp.

Sometimes - and this may be one of those times - I post the image so that I can see how it looks at a distance, in a different format, from a different angle and at a tiny size. Yes, it's wet and I'm still trying to decide whether or not I want to add clouds.

Clouds in a landscape are such an integral part of the composition that they will be in my original sketch and then I add them in during the underpainting. But with this painting, I've just been uncertain. No need for feedback, I'll just be thinking about this.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Update on Art Inventory Systems

Update on Art Inventory Systems for 2011

2014 Update
It seems worthwhile letting you know that about 3 years ago I switched to a cloud-based system - Artwork Archive - and have stuck with that since then. Artwork Archive.

You can read my new write-up about it here.

2011 Update Below

Since I wrote the post on Art Inventory Systems a year ago I've changed up my own inventory system and thought I'd report in and let you know how that's going.

First I made the full switch to eArtist and it was working great. But then my 2-year old Dell Vostro laptop decided life wasn't worth living and died. So I bought an iMac (which is a fairly major change!) and began the big switch.
I contacted eArtist to find out if I could use the same license for Mac software. I heard back right away that yes, the license key is independent of downloading the software so just download the Mac version. The eArtist switch to the Mac was seamless for the software but less so for my files. My Mozy online backup works great for those who own a Mac and backup to a new Mac or who own a PC and backup to a PC. But it was very, very difficult to get files off the cloud that were saved as PC files and put them on the Mac. This was not the fault of eArtist! My art inventory files fell into that category so many things had to be reentered. But it didn't take long and it's been working fine ever since.

No database system is perfect and I do have 2 complaints with eArtist. One is that there is no category for 'Destroyed.' There are paintings that I enter into the database only to decide later that they need to be removed from inventory. I need to be able to mark them as destroyed in the database, rather than just deleting them. That would provide me a record of my mistakes and since I learn from those, it's useful. The other is that the process of tracking gallery inventory is clunky. Exhibitions are tracked very well in this program - it's probably the best out there for that - but the loan/consignment system to a gallery isn't ideal. I'd like to have a category for galleries where they aren't simply a constituent.
A friend of mine recently went with Art Tracker because the price was so appealing. I've looked at it and at $45 that's what I'd go with too. It looks very useful and seems to track gallery inventory well. If you are an artist who doesn't do shows outside of gallery shows, this could be a good one for you.  I'd try this one out for you if they allowed a trial without purchase. They don't, but they do refund your money if you're not satisfied.
The folks from GYST have revamped their software and I dutifully downloaded and tried it out. It seems to work fine. Similar to eArtist. So that remains a top option.

GYST provides a significant amount of other informational resources which can be helpful. For instance, they have information on how to write a press release which you may need. There are also many ideas for exhibition space outside of a traditional gallery system and that's helpful. For those who send work off to various exhibition opportunities and might lose track of when to expect things back, the calendar system reminds you as long as you've put the return date in.

But for some of us, all that information might be too much and could get in the way of just getting in, adding inventory and getting out.

What is your experience?

This is the most read portion of my blog. If you have other ideas and experiences, I know other artists would be really interested to hear about it. Please feel free to share your experience with art inventory systems in the comments below so we can all learn from each other.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Road North

The Road North. © 2011 Lisa McShane. Oil on Linen. 16" x 20".
My studio faces west toward the alley in an old Victorian era neighborhood in Bellingham, Washington. I'm about a mile from Bellingham Bay on a slight hill so I can see over the houses behind me. Northwest Washington tends to be cloudy and a day of solid blue is very rare. It tends to be breezy to windy here. When I ready about hurricane force winds elsewhere I think pffft - pansies - can't they take a breeze? That's just the same old, same old winter storm.

The enormous benefit of all of that to me is that I can just look up from my easel and out the glass wall of my studio to see clouds. I spend a lot of time looking at those clouds.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Rublev Paints

Rublev Paints in their box
Antica Green Earth and Nicosia Green thinned out
Last month I finished a painting of wheat fields in August afternoon sunshine. That sensation of pale gold is hard to capture in paint and I'd spent a few months moving back and forth between glazes and laying opaque ochre mixtures into the glazes. It's easy to make the field too yellow and thus, lacking in depth and visual interest.

A couple of weeks ago I was telling Deborah Paris of my difficulties with the wheat fields. She suggested I try several experiments (which I'm doing) and asked if I had Rublev's Yellow Ochre Light. (Why no I did not!) So the next day I had 6 tubes of Rublev paints headed my way.

They are lovely and more than that - seriously interesting for an oil painter/art history buff/married to a geologist. They are more fully called: Rublev Colours Artists' Oils, "Oil Paints from Natural Mineral, Organic and Historical Pigments for Fine Artists." These are single pigment, often granular because they are ground pigments, not synthetic and not ground to a consistent texture across their line of paints. They have a great range of transparent to opaque and clearly state what is what and where it's from. I like knowing that.

The top photo is of the pristine paints in the box. So clean, no drips or dried paint clogging the top. And the bottom photo are two transparent greens I wanted to tell you about. The top, blue green one is Nicosia Green Earth and I know this about it from the Rublev website: 

"Rublev Colours Nicosia Green Earth is a transparent deep green with yellow undertones, medium grained and low tinting strength. Our Nicosia green earth is from glauconite deposits in Cyprus.
The color of glauconite, a mineral of hydrated iron potassium silicate, varies considerably from pale green to dark green and from bluish-green to olive-green, depending upon its constituent elements.
Natural green earths, such as Nicosia green, are transparent and are absolutely permanent in oil. Most oil colors labeled "green earth" from artists' paint manufacturers do not actually contain the natural mineral, but rather is a mixture of synthetic chromium oxide green and sometimes barium sulfate with either a natural yellow ochre or yellow iron oxide. Rublev Oil Colours Nicosia Green earth contains only the actual mineral and linseed oil.
Green earth was used in verdaccio--a style of underpainting that uses green-grey colors to establish values for later layers of paint. Verdaccio is renowned for being particularly effective when painting flesh tones. It was popular amongst Italian Renaissance artists, such as Leonardo da Vinci who used verdaccio underpainting in his masterpiece, the Mona Lisa.

The one on the bottom right is fantastic. It's Antica Green Earth from deposits in Prun, in the Verona region of Italy. It's an incredible transparent green with a nice earthy texture that brushes out transparent. Yesterday, as you can see from the palette, I was working with a mix of Antica Green Earth and the Nocosia green. To the right is a little yellow ochre mixed in. Yes, you should buy these. They are seriously great to work with.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

East Fields at Dusk

East Fields at Dusk. ©2011 Lisa McShane. Oil on Linen Panel. 12 x 24".
The wide open fields of eastern Washington, looking west towards the Cascade Mountains at dusk. This is just north of my family's wheat farm in an area that's simple and stark. The interplay of light, clouds and fields have a subtle beauty.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Blanchard Dusk

Blanchard Dusk. ©2011 Lisa McShane. Oil on Canvas. 30" x 40".
Looking east across Samish Bay at dusk with the toe of Blanchard Mountain on the right and flooded fields in the foreground.

Blanchard Mountain is a special place. It's the only place along the coast where the Cascades reach the sea. From the top of Blanchard Mountain you can see the entire San Juan archipelago to the east and to the west, Mt. Baker and the Twin Sisters.