Sunday, March 27, 2011

Let the Color Begin

The color is slowly trickling into the painting. I am having a lot of fun too! I do love to experiment and I enjoyed spending time playing with every combination of every red and blue on my palette to get the colors in the fabric. Well, almost every combination. I did try to keep the color temperatures separate so that I had a nice range of cool purples and warm purples to play with. I am slowly darkening the background and am still getting the first layer of color over the entire painting.
I must admit this painting is a little more involved than I had intended. In addition, the progress has been slow  because I also work on studies both in painting and drawing to continue to build my skills. I will be working on several short color study/still lifes that are much simpler. The studies are pretty mundane but I will post a few of them next week as part of my purpose with this blog is to show the progression of a beginning artist. I want to show that an artist must build skills as much as any other profession. So many people I talk to assume that art is a talent that one is born with. Ha! Talk to a well established, seasoned, successful artist and they will be the first to tell you that it takes blood, sweat, and tears, not to mention endless practice. Of course, all of that work is deeply joyful and highly satisfying. It has been so far for me.
The studies I do such as gesture sketches over and over are like practicing scales on a piano or any other musical instrument. Not glamorous but necessary for true mastery.
Today I spent a dark and stormy morning at the local life drawing session. Not a bad way to pass the time!
We have some beloved guests coming on Friday to spend a few days with us. I am hoping to have my friend hold a few poses that I can recreate with my manikin in addition to a few quick gesture sketches. I am also expecting an early birthday present that will be a big help in getting around with my plein air easel and sketchbook. If it arrives in time, I will have some fun pictures to show.
Here is hoping that Spring will show her beautiful warm face soon!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Final Grisaille and Animal-Free Art Materials

I was planning to post some of this information last week but was interrupted by the need to write about our experience with the tsunami and being prepared. So, to start with here is the previous picture of the grisaille and the most recent one (bottom).

Basically I continued to balance out the tone and "pushed" the tall pitcher further into the back. I also continued to refine shapes. I decided that I am going to go into color at this point. I realized I was starting to get too detailed and fussy and it is too early to do that at this stage. I haven't done this for very long so I am still learning how far to take a grisaille along with all the other skills. I am having a lot of fun though! By the way, the second picture was taken outside (between rainstorms) on a bright cloudy diffused day. Thanks to Karen Martin Sampson for reminding me of the technique.
I have been doing a bit of research along the way into animal-free art supplies. I thought I had done a pretty good job at avoiding art materials that contain animal byproducts but found a few surprises when I started doing a bit of research. There are several artists who have gone before me but most of what I found on various blogs were materials I pretty much knew about. Supplies such as paint brushes of course, certain colors of paint, rabbit hide sizing in some canvas preparations, etc. The main thing that caught me by surprise was the amount of art papers that use gelatin in their sizing process. It turns out that one of the papers that was on my school supply list is one of these. I had been using Canson's Mi Tientes for charcoal drawing. This paper uses gelatin. I will be finding a different paper for charcoal drawing.
So I jumped into research, looking specifically at the art supplies I use. There are a few wonderful companies out there that are quite open with the ingredients they use. I use Gamblin oil paints and solvents for that, and a few other reasons. I use their chromatic black instead of ivory black. Not that I use black a lot, but ivory black contains animal bone. Information about the ingredients of each color is at their website. Fabriano Artistico papers states on their website that their papers are animal-free as does Strathmore. Derwent colored-pencils also state that they are animal-free. A few companies I contacted for more information. I got a response from Prismacolor that their Verithin colored pencils are animal-free. I contacted Legion Papers to inquire about their Stonehenge paper but haven't had a response at this time.
Some of the products I looked into are on my supply list for the Rob Liberace workshop I will take in August. We need to prepare papers a special way to be able to achieve certain effects with the Verithin colored pencils. The list calls for a watercolor wash on watercolor paper and topped with diluted shellac. Many water colors contain ox-gall but Holbien brand does not. The same issue with certain colors in oil paints apply to watercolor paints.
The paper that was recommended was Twinrocker which is handmade in the U.S. but it is sized in gelatin. I will try the Fabriano. Instead of shellac, which contains animal byproducts, I am going to try Gamlin's PVA size. I love to experiment so it is a fun challenge for me to come up with a good working alternative and hopefully achieve the same effect. I will keep you posted on the progress.
While looking around at various blogs, websites, and art forums, I came across another lovely blog, Katherine Kean. I also listed her in my links list. Please do take a look! She paints stunning pictures of our natural world. Her skies and marine paintings are inspiring. She also strives to use animal-free art materials to produce her work. So many wonderful artists and so little time to read everything.
Happy Equinox to all. Spring is here at last!

Monday, March 14, 2011

In Case of an Emergency, Grab Your Go Bag!

By now most, if not all have heard the tragic news out of Japan. The images are rather gut-wrenching to watch and it will be a long road for the people of Japan to recovery. While the disaster seems to be ongoing with aftershocks on the level of what we would consider severe earthquakes, continued tsunami warnings, and of course the worsening nuclear reactor situation, a bit of attention has turned to just how prepared we, as a country are. Personally, I have also been looking at how prepared we ourselves, and our neighbors and fellow citizens are.
We had our own test with the same tsunami that devastated parts of Japan. At 2:00 am Friday, we were awakened by our neighbor, who is the emergency block captain, pounding on our front door. That was the first news we had of the earthquake in Japan and the tsunami which was now headed our way. Now, I wish I could say we were 100% prepared for an emergency evacuation but to be honest. we were only partially prepared. Fortunately for us, we had a lot of warning. I had the car packed with emergency supplies for us and our dog within an hour.
We live four blocks from the ocean but the area we live in is mountainous. We are up a hill. Our house is on the very edge of the inundation zone. We would only have to go a short block or two uphill to be in what is considered a safe area. Not all towns on the Oregon coast are in hilly areas so we are fortunate. The town has emergency plans and my husband had just completed training for the local C.E.R.T. (community emergency response team). He made sure I was OK and had a plan while he went to the meeting place to help with evacuation. He left at 4:30 am after helping our block captain notify the neighbors and the first tsunami siren went off at 5:00 am. We have heard the siren tests every month. Hearing the siren for real in the dark was eerie.
I had the television on while I was packing and loading the car and was able to watch the tsunami hit Hawaii, where my family live. They always show the area that is a few blocks down the street from where my mother lives so I would be able to see, live, what is happening to her neighborhood. I relaxed when the event was over and knew then that we would be OK staying at home, and indeed they downgraded the evacuation to voluntary instead of mandatory. Folks in the zone closer to the ocean did continue to evacuate.
While I was getting things packed up, my poor dog, who I swear is telepathic at times, was highly stressed. She was at my heels panting away and looking worried. I made a point to slow down, speak calmly, and take breaks (when I knew I had the luxury) to get her to relax a bit. The shelters don't officially take pets which is why we packed the car. If we had to go to the shelter our dog would be snug in the car. We might not always have that option but we did this time. Later I heard that people did indeed bring their dogs and cats to the shelter. Honestly, most pet owners I know would never leave their beloved pets behind. I think it is a bit unrealistic to expect people to do so.
My husband arrived back from his duties well before the first wave was due to hit. We would have had plenty of time to get to shelter if we needed to go. We stayed put and watched the waves hit the local area on TV. We were told to stay off the beaches for the rest of the day. I did go down a few blocks later in the afternoon to look at the ocean from a safe distance. It was a weird brown color with many rip tides.
All of this excitement has been a good opportunity for us to evaluate our preparedness. I would give us a C grade at this time. We would be OK given the circumstances we experienced. If we were hit with something like Japan got hit with, which our officials tell us could very well happen, we would be a bit more at risk. That is something we will be working on.
Up until Friday, I had been working hard in the studio. I made a lot of progress on the grisaille, and have been working on some color studies and, ironically given the news, wave studies. I plan to do a lot more plein air when the weather warms up a bit. We have been pretty tired with all the excitement and sleep disruption. Changing over to daylight savings and some rather stormy nights here haven't helped matters. I spent the weekend and today trying to catch up. Tomorrow should find me back in the studio hard at work.
So, I will leave you with the promise of pictures and progress to be posted next week as well as information on art supplies that do not use animal byproducts.
In addition, I urge everyone to take this horrible tragedy and learn what we can from it, including how to be prepared for an emergency. Here is a great (USA government) website to start: Googling "emergency preparedness" will also give you a wealth of information. The trick is then to actually get all of this together. I have been making lists based on my own recent experience.
Thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Japan.
Until next week, -Renee

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Tiny Bit of Progress

First I have to say, I know this is not a good photo of the painting. I had a heck of a time getting a decent shot. I will eventually have to get some sort of set up to take decent photos of my paintings. There is quite a bit of glare and I tried taking it in all kinds of light at all kinds of angles, etc. I even tried to play with it a bit in Photoshop but to no avail. The general idea is there. Things are in place and, in spite of what it looks like in the photo, the general tones are almost balanced. In fact, now that I look at it again, the photo has distorted the tonal balance quite a bit. The two pitchers are darker in the painting. The bit of white in the mix really reflects the light. Well, I guess you all will have to trust me on that.
Last post I was trying to decide whether or not to continue on to color on this one. I decided to go ahead. I am going to set up a better and simpler color study this week though. After looking at the float set up for a while I decided it did not fit the kind of study I was looking for so I will take it down. The floats will be used in future pictures.
So, I have finalized my plans on the workshop I hinted at last week. I will be taking a workshop from Rob Liberace on The Dynamic Figure: A Classical Approach. The workshop will be held in late August on Whidbey Island, Washington at Whidbey Island Fine Art Studio (WIFAS). The link to the workshop and venue is here. I will also post a link to the art studio in my links page as well as the web site for Rob Liberace. Needless to say, I am very excited about the workshop and I have my work cut out for me getting my skills to the best they can be going into it.
A bit about my thoughts on workshops. I don't take them very often. I think workshops are great for improving skills one already has, for learning new approaches for these skills, or to sample new mediums and techniques. I don't think workshops are the best place to learn completely new skills. Classes and longer term instruction are best for that. It can be easy to become a workshop junkie (or it would be if they weren't so expensive!). I think most people would agree that it takes consistent work behind the easel to develop skills. That said, I am looking forward to adding to my figure drawing skills. I feel I am ready for a bit more knowledge and instruction.
Whidbey Island is near where I lived, before moving to Oregon, for 23 years or so. It is a beautiful place and we have many friends in the area that I hope to be able to see in between class times. I also hope to do a little plein air painting of one of my favorite spots (it is around the Ebey Landing area for those who know the island). I have a story to tell about a certain spot there and this will be my chance to get some oil sketches in, weather permitting. I will have an extra day there outside of the workshop to do this. The weather is also usually quite lovely that time of the year too.
Speaking of Whidbey Island, I have added a new link to a wonderful artist who lives there. Please check out the art work of Sandy Byers. I have to fix the link on my side bar but will do that right away. She is doing what I will be doing with my work, using her work to support animal causes. I found her blog and web site very inspiring.
I am all set to work hard this week. I am changing a few things around to organize my study time in the studio. Until then, here is hoping spring will give us a peek soon!
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