Thursday, April 16, 2015

Ice season

Spring Break
12" x 36"
oil on gallery canvas
Contact the artist to purchase

At last spring has come and the snow is retreating.  Of course it does it in its own sweet time.  One day pleasant and sunny, the next snow flurries or cold rain, but it is here.

The ocean has its own spring rituals as slob ice breaks up.  This can play havoc with shipping and has done so this year with the worst sea ice in 30 years.  It delays ferry crossings for passengers and freight and as trucked in food and goods are the norm, it can leave some supermarket shelves looking a little sparse at times.

Ice even becomes an industry, with ice breakers and harvesting of icebergs in season to make water and vodka.  Yes, bizarre I know, but true.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Making studies

24" x 30" oil, masonite panel  (on hold)

Nearly every large painting that I produce has had a study done of it before I dive in to the final painting.

Now I know that not everyone likes to do studies.  They consider it a waste of time and want to jump right in and paint.  But studies can save you a lot of time and frustration on your final piece.  They don't have to be large or complex.  They are designed to work out ideas for composition, colour, values on a small scale before investing time and supplies discovering the same things on a large scale.  Great if you like your experiment on the large scale.  Not so great if you don't.

Study for Queen's- pen and ink/watercolour in sketchbook
I look on studies as similar to guage swatches in knitting.  Bear with me if you're not a knitter, but a guage swatch is a measurement tool that shows how many stitches per inch a particular yarn and needles provide, how loose or tight your knitting is and provides a pretty accurate idea about how your final knitted piece will turn out.  If you avoid it, you end up with a sweater that has arms well suited to a gorilla.  Yep, been there...fine yarn too.  The knitters will be sagely nodding at this last statement.

Colour studies and sketches are the same.  They are the test for shapes and colours and 30 minutes to an hour of your time devoted to a sketch and colour study can save you a lot of heartache later on.  I can safely tell you this because I've avoided studies in the past and dissolved in a fit of frustration and annoyance at myself when a large scale piece goes in the completely opposite direction to where I wanted it to go.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Hangin' WIP

Its quite common to start a painting and not finish it.  There are many reasons.  It may not be working out as you imagined it; you may lose interest in the subject; you may not have time or other projects are more pressing.  

This was the case for this piece. I  started it quite awhile ago using brushes on canvas and it wasn't quite doing what I wanted so I put it aside.   While cleaning up the studio today, I found it again and thought it was time to revitalize it using palette knives and to change the background for more contrast.  You can see my progress on the first two toys today as well as the background change from the pale blue to the darker greens.  I think the contrast gives more impact to the pastel toys and the texture of the knife should provide a more realistic look of fur.

I don't toss a lot of paintings, but the ones that I do put aside are usually returned to and reworked at a later date.  And that date can be years later.  I think I must hold the record for not returning to a portrait for over 20 years!  Unless I plan to completely rehaul the painting, I don't gesso over it, but simply oil out (if using oil paints) and make my changes.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Getting to grips with reflections

6" x 8" oil on panel

Whether its water, metal or glass, its the reflections that interest me.  Many people believe that painting or drawing reflections is difficult, but its all down to close observation of shapes and colours.  And of course magic. Joking!  There's no magic in art, there's lots of looking, lots of thinking and lots of practice.

So how to get to grips with reflections? 

1. Slow down.  Take time to really observe what is in front of you.  Our brains like to rush us past things; we take in the overview but never really see the detail.  The detail is what makes or breaks reflections.

2.Look at the environment.  Reflections pick up colour or shapes from objects nearby or the environment surrounding them. 

3. Highlights aren't all white.  The very brightest highlights where light hits the object straight on are often white, but even they have a tinge of another colour in many cases.  Subtle value changes in the same or complimentary colours show how light wraps around a subject by changing from lighter to darker values.

4. Look at shapes.  The shapes of light and dark areas, not just the subject is what reflects light.  Plan your underdrawing to include the shapes of all areas where light changes.  It becomes your guide for placement in painting.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Life drawing

Years ago I would attend a life drawing class weekly, but with work and altered scheduled, there just was not time to do so or sessions were not available when I was.  

Now that I'm not tied to a 9 - 5 job anymore, the world of life drawing has reopened and this week I attended two sessions, one with a clothed model the other unclothed.   I forgot how good it is to draw from life in a group setting.  The slight movements and changes in pose, light changes and atmosphere all contribute to the challenge.  From one minute poses to more substantial 30 minute poses, it was good to flex that muscle again.

One minute sketches

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Messy or Organized?

There is a theory which states that disorder promotes creativity.

From LifeHacker:
Recently, a study conducted by the University of Minnesota found that people with a messy desk were more prone to creativity and risk taking, while people at cleaner desks tended to follow strict rules and were less likely to try new things or take risks. Dr. Vohs and her co-authors conclude in the study, "Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights."
There are many proponents of disorder leading to creativity, like A.A. Milne, the creator of Winnie the Pooh: “One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.”

Or Albert Einstein:  “If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind,” he said, “then what are we to think of an empty desk?”

There is the opposite of course in being too organized.  The person who spends all their time reading books about art technique, buying supplies and organizing papers or paints in alphabetical order can be at risk of becoming frozen by process and never actually creating art.  Of course, I do like order, but when it comes to my studio, disorder often reigns.  There  are paints all over the place, pencils, pens, palette knife, watercolour sets, containers of water, name it.  But I know just where everything is!  And I know its close to hand when an idea strikes.  Finding the perfect balance between mess and organization is a fine line to not let one overtake the other.

Its a bit like doing ironing for me.  I don't mind ironing, but the thought of getting out the iron, setting up the board, hauling the basket of clothes to the utility room, ironing, folding, putting away, etc. makes me procrastinate.   Its similar when all my painting or drawing tools are put away neatly.   I may want to paint something, but the thought of finding the colours, setting up the palette, priming the canvas, etc. etc. can sometimes make me put it off. 

I think I could happily create in a four foot space with everything at hand.  I believe that is what keeps my studio in disorder - the ability to just "do" at a moment's notice without having to think much about it.  So is that lazy or creative?  If other creatives before me and within my peer groups accept that and acknowledge that they do the same, I'm happy with it.  Unfortunately, society loves to label those who do not conform to certain standards. Two-thirds of people feel guilty about their messiness.  Half judge others who they see as disorganized or messy. Which is why not many people ever get to see inside my working studio.

The sketch at the top of this post shows what was in front of me on the table that houses my computer in my studio on  March 21st.  Believe me, you don't want to see what's behind me.  The contents haven't changed much in a day, aside from moving some tools around for use.

Okay, confession time.  Are you organized or messy?  I promise I won't judge.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

When oranges came in...

5" x 7" oil on panel

 “When oranges came in, a curious proceeding was gone through. Miss Jenkyns did not like to cut the fruit, for, as she observed, the juice all ran out nobody knew where, sucking [only I think she used some more recondite word] was in fact the only way of enjoying oranges; but then there was the unpleasant association with a ceremony frequently gone through by little babies; and so, after dessert, in orange season, Miss Jenkyns and Miss Matty used to rise up, possess themselves each of an orange in silence, and withdraw to the privacy of their own rooms to indulge in sucking oranges.”
― Elizabeth Gaskell, Cranford 

Globe - SOLD
7" x 9"   Oil on panel

I just like the colour orange.  I can't help it.

In the winter, when light is low and snow continues to make a presence, oranges make me think of sun and warmth and light.  So I keep painting them.  And people keep wanting them.   The painting at the top of this post, Single, is the newest offering.

Peeled  - SOLD
6" x 6"   Oil on panel