Sunday, January 30, 2011

Growing Into a Palette

I am going to take a small side path here for this post. The still life set up I showed last week is winding up. I did a monochromatic thumbnail oil sketch of the set up and then decided to do a full size graphite sketch before starting the painting. The thumbnail only took an hour and it was approximately 5"x7". It gave me a sense of the lights and darks , proportions, and angles of the set up. After doing the oil sketch I felt I needed to do the graphite sketch as well to help me get the proportions right. The set up is more complex than I am used to doing. The sketch is not intended to be finished at all. It is a process tool for me. I will be moving on to the actual painting this coming week.
Last post Theresa commented on the placement of the lemon. I realized a bit later that I forgot to mention that I did not take the photo from the same vantage point that I will be painting. I had to use a tripod for the camera to take the picture and could not get it in the same place where I will be standing to paint. I appreciated the comment though. It made me take another look from a different viewpoint. The lemon stays where it is, which looks closer to the other objects from my viewpoint.
I have also set up a very much simpler still life to work on which I will talk about next post. This will allow me to trade off between the two paintings and give my poor mind and eye a break from the more complex one. 
So, a bit about my paint palette.  I am using the paint color list that my former school has us use. As you can see in the following picture, there are a lot of colors (the ones positioned around the left and top edges):

For some reason this is the only picture I have on hand so sorry for the mess in the middle. At this time I use Gamblin paints, mediums, and solvents with a couple of exceptions. I also have Windsor and Newton Permanent Rose, Bloxx's Capucine Yellow (an absolutely seductive transparent goldy pink that I wouldn't mind having for a lipgloss, and I don't wear lipgloss!), and Williamsburg Courbet Green. I mostly use Gamblin's Flake White Replacement but also have Titanium White. I have Gamblin's Chromatic Black but haven't really found the need to use it. I like the life in the blacks that I mix on my own better than what comes out of the tube.
I should mention at this point, I love color. For those of you who have read my Renee Weaves! blog (currently in mothballs but can still read archives) you know I love color and had a great time playing with Earthues Dyes one fine summer.
There are different schools of thought on how many colors one should have on one's palette. There are some who feel a limited palette is the best to start with and stay with. Personally, no matter how skilled the artist or how wonderful the painting, I just don't like the looks of a painting done with a limited palette, and I can always tell. I am at a slight disadvantage from my former classmates as I didn't get to the color part of my education before the school moved. Fortunately, I do know a lot about color and color theory from working in textiles and playing with dyes. Some of that carries over nicely.
I love having all these colors. I enjoy playing with different mixtures and problem solving. Does it always work out? Heck no! However, I learn a lot. At this point, because I have so much to learn, it takes me a bit longer to work than it will eventually. I hope!
The actual palette itself is made of wood. I might be changing that sometime in the future. I keep it in a Masterson's Palette keeper and store it, well wrapped, in the freezer to extend the life of the paint.
While I am at it I might as well touch on the brushes I currently use. I ordered a handful of brushes in the same size and shape from different companies. I find I really like Silver's Black Pearl which is synthetic. I should mention that all my brushes are synthetic fiber due to my personal beliefs. I also like Royal Langnickle's Bourdeaux and Isabey Isacryl. I will try a few others as my budget allows and welcome any suggestions.
As the title of the post suggests, I am still experimenting and learning what will work for me and my eventual subjects and style. I have already made some minor changes and noticed that I have dipped into every color on the palette but I definitely use some more than others.
OK, I am sure some of you are starting to glaze over and nod off so I will stop here. Next week should bring some progress on the still life painting.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Still Life and Slow Life

It has been a quiet week in Manzanita, to borrow the opening phrase from Garrison Keillor and adding a local twist. It feels like I have been slogging through mud in the studio. I decided that my first formal challenge painting would be a still life. It makes sense as it is winter and getting out to paint en plein air is iffy. I have at least two goals when setting a still life up. I need to make it something that will push my learning. I also need to make it something that may potentially sell as that is part of the challenge too. Not always the best combination as sometimes a learning still life isn't terribly exciting. I gave this set up a lot of thought and am working with what I have. I am acquiring an interesting collection of still life objects and have a good starter selection. As space is a consideration, most of the objects have to have some sort of meaning. So, here is what I set up:
The lighting is not quite so bright on the plaster cast in reality but the general idea is there. I quickly ran into to studio challenges. I just cannot cram this set up in on the smaller canvases I have. I decided to order larger ones, 18"x24" to be exact. I realized that this is the size we used to do our charcoal drawings so that is probably why it feels more comfortable to me than a 9x12" canvas. It is a lot of canvas to cover though and rather large for what I would consider a study. It will be a good challenge.
The other issue I ran into was lighting. I lit the still life and really liked what I saw. The problem was I hadn't lit my easel. No matter where I put the easel light it affected the lighting on the still life in a way I didn't like. After trying a few different light bulbs with different light specs, I finally settled on a full spectrum bulb from Ott light. I had to pin a fabric drape and put a piece of foam core behind my easel to prevent as much of the light as possible from washing out the still life. The new canvas, which I got on sale from Dick Blick came yesterday so I am finally ready to start painting...on Tuesday . Tomorrow I have appointments and errands to run. I might be able to get in and do a thumbnail painting of the still life but I kind of doubt it. I do plan to do a thumbnail or two before starting.
All of this fussing around sort of reminds me when I put my first warp on my big AVL loom. I had never made a warp before and it took a few days to get it on and it was full of errors. After putting on and weaving off several warps, I had it down to a few hours (I like fine warps) with an error showing up on only an occasional warp. I have a feeling that this will be like that. By the end of the challenge year I hope it will be a much smoother, and quicker process. After my summer of dyeing all day every day (see my Renee Weaves! blog archives) a couple of years ago I could get a dyepot going in about two minutes flat from scratch. There is hope!
Speaking of hope, the weather forecast for this week shows that we will be having a couple of warm sunny days. Could get as high as 60 degrees F! That means, if the tides are right, I will be able to get out and do some more plein air. Have to make hay, or paint, while the sun shines here. Actually, I have seen some incredibly beautiful paintings done on overcast or foggy days but I don't think I can take the cold at this time of the year.
I did get to enjoy a life drawing session today. I really, really miss that part of school. Frequent access to models, and the high quality instruction and standard, were quite a luxury. I am hoping to eventually make enough money through various enterprises to be able to hire my own models.
Well, I will have progress to show next week so please stay tuned!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Plein Air Interlude

The title almost sounds like a song played on the clarinet! We had a brief and very cold break in the weather last week. I could not resist the gorgeous light and little to no wind. I have been wanting to paint this house that sits on the road looking over the ocean. We call it the "birdhouse" because, well, it looks like a giant bird house. Wait, I will show you:
 The road is between the house and the dune grasses. This house faces the ocean, which out here, is due west. That hill behind it means that it mainly gets afternoon light. That is fine with me as I love the afternoon light. The challenge is that this time of the year the afternoon light is really brief this far north. Still, I have been wanting to paint this since I first saw it on my daily walks.
I now have my plein air gear in a special pack pretty much ready to go. I still need to get paint tubes to keep in the pack too but that is a pricey proposition at this time so I "share" the paint between my studio and the plein air pack. I grabbed my gear, bundled up and went out to about this spot on the beach. Now before you look, I have to remind you that this is only my second attempt at plein air. As the weather improves and the days lengthen, I will be getting more in. Here was the result after about an hour and a half of painting:

The tide was just at its lowest point so I had plenty of room to move back and not worry about turning my back on the ocean. The sneaker or rogue waves here are startling at times, they travel quite a distance from the surf line. I have had to occasionally run all out to avoid being drenched.
I plan to go back several times and paint this. I would like to turn this into a studio piece. I am still fumbling for the colors and since time is of the essence, I don't always get them right. I had to exaggerate a few to get them to read properly. I guess that is part of the process. I didn't have time to get the dune grasses in properly but was able to hint at the driftwood logs on the beach.
So far people have been respectful and have kept their distance from me when I am painting. I am grateful for that at this point! As I get more comfortable with the process it will be easier for me to interact with any curious onlookers. On thing I definitely learned, it is really easy to get into that zone where you are not aware of time passing or what is going on around you. After the hour and a half, I suddenly realized that the light was gone and I was painfully cold! I haven't been that cold in a while. I could barely get my gear packed up. It was a good thing to observe. I really need to make sure the ocean can't reach me when I do these paintings and take precautions! Normally I am quite aware and even if I am not looking can tell by the change in sound when a sneaker wave is coming.
When I got home I spent the evening cozied up to the fire sipping hot cider and tea. As I mentioned, I want to do a few more plein air paintings of this house and then use the sketches as reference to paint a formal piece in the studio. That will be a fun addition to the challenge!
Finally, I am going to leave you with an important piece of my vision board. A tiny bit of background first. Years before I became a weaver and now a painter, I knew(sort of) what I wanted to do and started the journey to get here. Long before it was feasible to do this, I found this picture in a magazine that summed up what I wanted my life and house to look like. I kept it all these years and had forgotten about it. It recently resurfaced in a file when I was cleaning out stuff. I put it on my vision board. I was surprised to see that I have come a long way toward achieving this. I am not quite there yet but very, very close. Weavers, note the loom in the background. That is still part of my vision even though I currently don't have the room to set up my big loom.

It looks lie this studio is facing southwest. I would definitely want west facing windows but would also want large north facing windows for that beautiful cool north light and blackout curtains for when I need them on the west windows. But, I love this picture. I had no idea when I saved it I would be making my life like this picture. The power of visions! Now it is up on my vision board where I see it daily. I have to say, I believe I have a better loom and easel than what is in the picture but, this is what I want in my life,  painting, weaving, and a beautiful studio by the sea...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sketchbook Project Bonus Companion Video!

On a beach by the Pacific Ocean, how much garbage can a person collect in 10 minutes?
I finished the video! It is up on YouTube as well as on the side bar of the blog. This is a bonus companion video to my Sketchbook. 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Going Beyond the Challenge Boundaries

The first week of the new year has been a very interesting week. I completed my sketchbook for The Sketchbook Project. The cover picture might look a little familiar. I used a cropped version of my "Root" painting for the front cover. After getting the sketchbook finished and sent off I spent a bit of time putting together a nice slide show with music and all and getting my pictures posted here and there. Unfortunately the really nice slide show I put together did not have very good resolution once I got it on youtube. I put together another one that is now on the side-bar of the blog. You can also view pictures of the pages here. The video I made to go along with the sketchbook will be coming soon.
I have a profile page on the Sketchbook Project website as well and it can be viewed here. To be honest though, you will be able to see a lot more here on the blog.
My theme for my sketchbook (we were able to pick from several themes) is "Down Your Street." I planned to paint oil sketches of the ocean which is just down my street, about four blocks. The more I thought about it the more I realized that the sea is down everyone's street, even if they live in the middle of the continent. What happens to the ocean, happens to us, all of us, whether we realize it or not. I have always loved the sea and have always been involved one way or another in environmental causes since I was a small child. What started out as a simple sketchbook of small paintings of the sea turned into something a bit more...
I walk or run on the beach daily, no matter what the weather. It is different everyday which utterly fascinates me. It is always breathtakingly beautiful. However there are also things that are not beautiful. A lot of plastic pollution washes up with the tide. I started researching this. I honestly didn't think that all the pollution was from visitors to the beach. Much of the plastic is in tiny little pieces and some of the garbage is obviously not from beach lovers. Turns out I was right. The pollution is from all of us! My sketchbook evolved into showing the beauty of the beach and sea that thrills me juxtaposed against photos of the plastic pollution that alarms me. It went beyond the boundaries that I foresaw. The book contains just a couple of resources and some quotes. I wanted the pictures and paintings to speak for themselves.
I am not going to go into the alarming state of our oceans here on this blog. If you are curious and would like more info check out the Plastic Pollution Coalition and Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ocean Futures Society. There are also wonderful talks on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch at
One of the valuable things I learned from participating in this project was the strong desire I have to link my work to causes that are important to me. These causes focus on women, animal rights and protection, and our environment, particularly our oceans. These are the areas that I will be donating a portion of the proceeds from any sale of my work. I also plan to become involved in other ways as well but again, that is for another post.
So it has been a good project. Not only did it give me a chance to experiment and improve my skills but gave me much more than I envisioned to think about and grow. It also gave me new friends! I have met three other wonderful and interesting women here locally who also are participating in this project.
Now, onto the next challenge. I got the studio cleaned, reorganized, and ready to go for my Mid-Century Challenge starting tomorrow. For fun, I put a countdown gadget in the sidebar of the blog. It seems like a long time doesn't it? I am sure this time next year I will be moaning about how fast the time went.
I wonder where this challenge will take me?
Deep breath. Here...we...go...

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Visual Words and Wordy Visions

Happy New Year everyone! As I have said before, I believe 2011 will be an outstanding year. I just have a feeling... Of course, that doesn't mean I won't have to work really, really hard to make that happen. The past three or four years have been ones of great change for me personally. I believe the only major life stress I didn't experience was, by some miracle, divorce! So when asked what my "word" for 2011 was by several people, I searched my mind and heart and easily came up with 'Root." I knew we would like it here in our little beach town as the ocean is in my blood going back several generations. I have to say though, we love it here. I in particular have fallen quite hard for this area. It is the first place I have lived in all my adult life that feels like home. It isn't an easy place to live in but the beauty of the area and the wonderful, colorful people that make up this village community are incomparable.  Here is where I want to put down roots. So, on that level root is a good word. It is also a word that branches out, so to speak!
When I gave my word for 2011 to Dr. Robyn McKay, she upped the ante by daring us to express that visually. I had already been toying with that idea so I took the dare and painted my word. That is the picture above. It was a larger painting than I should probably do at this point as it is roughly 14"X18". I recycled an older canvas that someone didn't want to keep. It took a bit longer than I had intended because I have been finishing up the Sketchbook Project which is nearly done.
I am also working on a vision board this year. I usually like to do it sometime between the Solstice and the New Year. This year, due to a couple of projects, and a new challenge, I am a little late but it will be done soon. I decided to spare you the wordy visions and will just post a visual, with a few words, when it is finished.
Finally, I have a surprise, which was very much a surprise to me too! One of the many authors I read and highly recommend is Daniel Pink. He has written Drive and A Whole New Mind. One of the exercises in Drive was to create a sentence that sums up what you have brought, or want to bring, to this world. He put a challenge out to make a video of that exercise and send it to him. Weeeelll, I thought it a good exercise and made my video but almost didn't send it. It is a little out of my comfort zone to do that. But, because it is a little out of my comfort zone to to that, I did it. He had hundreds of submissions and could only pick a few to put into this video. I had forgotten about it. Imagine my surprise the other day when the video was sent out and I found myself staring at me in the video! There was a problem with my name though. It isn't correct but that is actually ok with me. A sort of pen name, or perhaps I should say, screen name. Here it is! My first attempt at adding a video to my blog.
 Next week I will be in the next challenge and will have the Sketchbook Project pictures and hopefully video to go with that too!
So, dear people, what is your sentence?
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