Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Mind is a Funny Thing

I'm always thinking about creating. My future starts when I wake up every morning... Every day I find something creative to do with my life.
                                                                                                                             ~ Miles Davis



Blue Sea Stuff - 6" x 7" oil on canvas

Because I'm still in the process of setting up my new studio after our move, there's not space for my easel yet, so I've been painting on my pochade box instead. I'm still trying to put into practice everything I learned from that recent color workshop I attended. I'm pretty pleased with this piece. Not the most elegant title though.

I'm now on my 6th day of daily creative play. You'd think it would be easy. What could be easier than playing? Especially when the play involves what you love. But the mind is a funny thing. As soon as you put a label on something - "you have to do this every day." - it can become just another item on the to-do list. Or the play becomes burdened with expectations. Judging sets in. It starts to feel forced, not fresh. I have to stay very aware of what's going on in my mind and keep my thoughts from heading in that direction!

Here are a few of the results from my creative play:


Creative play - ink & watercolor

This one I really had fun with:


Creative play - ink

I was googling about creativity and found some exercises designed to spark one's creative mind. One of the exercises involved pairing random adjectives, nouns, and verbs together and then illustrating the resulting phrase (I'm embarrassed to admit I don't remember the exact source/website for this exercise). My phrase was "Tall flower crying."

(During my online research on creativity, I also ran across this article, "The Creativity Crisis" from 2010 in Newsweek that talks about the need to teach creative thinking in school. Fascinating!)


Detail

Those mean little flowers! Even the bug is getting in on the teasing!


Creative play - monotype print

While I was looking for something else the other day, I found some of my printmaking supplies. Play time! 

I think my biggest challenge to sticking with this daily creative playtime is going to be getting over the idea that I'm not doing anything worthwhile. It is amazing to me how hard it is to break free of that ingrained work ethic and just allow myself to experiment and explore!


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The First Day of the Rest of My Life

A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.
~ George Bernard Shaw

Creative Play #1


Okay, so it's kind of a cheesy title for this post and not terribly original. There's a song, there's a movie, and who knows what else. But somehow it also felt appropriate for this post. Yesterday was my birthday, and it happens to be the year before the big mid-century mark. I had expected next year's birthday to be a bit of a cage-rattler, but turns out I got a preview this year. Woke up with a headache and it went downhill from there*. You know: the whole questioning what I've done with my life thus far thing.

I've been continuing to ruminate over what I talked about in my last post, and all of your comments have given me lots more food for thought. (Thank you so much!) Last week I also had an idea floating around in my head about wanting to have more creativity in my life. Not the serious "must paint something worthy" type of creativity, but more the kind I seemed to have an endless supply of when I was 13 or 14, before it became buried under the chaos of growing up. Remember creative play? Creating for the sheer joy of it? (artist Belinda Del Pasco just happened to talk about creative play in a very timely, beautifully articulated post last week on her blog here) Seems that we have to give ourselves permission to play as adults. So I'm giving myself permission. Every day. And I will be posting the results on the blog, perhaps not every single day, but certainly more often than I've been posting lately.

Detail

So this first play session, completed today, was simply a matter of asking "What if?". What if I put watercolor on Bristol paper instead of watercolor paper? What if I add some india ink? What if I scribble the paper with some clear wax first? What if I blow on the ink and watercolor before it dries? Some may say that it's a waste of time to play and this piece will never be fine art, but through playing and exploring I found effects I really like that I could recreate in a "serious" piece later. Plus, and much more importantly, I had fun and the world could sure use more fun.

Another detail

Hopefully after a year of play, when the big Five-O rolls around, I'll wake up that morning thinking 49 was the best year yet, and eager for more.

*I should note that my birthday was not a complete let-down. My husband took me out for dinner to one of my favorite restaurants and we tried their chocolate layer cake for the first time and oh wow! Gooey, chocolaty and huge; this thing should be illegal! I felt much better after that.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Bison Color Study and Thoughts About Blogging

I never met a color I didn't like.
                          ~ Dale Chihuly


Bridger Mountains as seen from Bozeman, MT at dusk

Oh dear, I have been neglecting my blog. Partly it is Life zooming along at breakneck speed, but also partly feeling less than inspired about what to post. Back in late April I attended a fantastic 4-day color workshop for oil painters in my beloved Montana, so you'd think that would give me some blog-worthy material to share with you, but the writer's block has remained stubbornly in place. We also moved across town to a new home, which has provided endless excuses for me to procrastinate.

My new studio space is clearly a work in progress.
Can you spot the cat sleeping peacefully amongst the chaos?

I've been feeling very restless artistically, and went through a couple of months of wondering what my artistic purpose/direction was. I don't know that I've really sorted that out yet, but at least I'm feeling more energized about art again. However, I'm still not clear on my focus for blogging. 

Back in 2006, I started a blog to be able to participate in Illustration Friday, and then in 2009 I used the blog to track the 100 Painting Challenge I undertook with support from Laure Ferlita over at Painted Thoughts. At that point the blog became the "Inner Artist", to reflect my journey in reclaiming my long-buried artistic soul. However, 6 years later and "Inner Artist" doesn't seem to fit me any more. I'm certainly not saying that I don't still struggle with self-confidence and fear, or that I've "made it" as an artist, but I think I've moved beyond the original intent of this blog. So now what?


Workshop color study with blue-violet and yellow-orange as my main colors. The middle column of color
is made up of the neutral shades that were mixed from those two complementary colors.

Blogging experts say that you should figure out your niche, what makes you unique amongst other bloggers and focus on that. I'm not sure exactly what my niche is, but one place to start is to consider what in this blog has been successful. What is it that people come to my blog for? Looking over my blog statistics, the most popular post of all time was about a weird rock formation I saw on the Oregon Coast. Had nothing to do with art.The other most popular posts were of some daily sketches early on and a few posts from the 100 Painting Challenge. Looking these over, I am not finding any clear cut niche that these posts reflect.

Okay, so maybe figuring out my niche is going to take some time. Perhaps I could think about this from another angle and consider why I blog. Certainly one of the reasons I blog and read other artists' blogs is to be inspired by and connect with other artists. Blogging is a wonderful way to participate in an artistic community for people like me who live far away from cultural centers and resources. I definitely want to continue to have an artistic community. However, with more and more demands on my artistic time, it is becoming very challenging to make a regular habit of commenting on other artists' blogs. This seems to be a common problem that a lot of artists are running into, so at least I don't feel like I'm the only one dropping the ball, but it is unfair and unrealistic to expect people to comment on my blog if I'm not commenting on theirs.

Workshop final project - Bison painting using new color knowledge

Ideally I also want to blog as a way to reach potential customers and direct them to my website or an internet shop where they can purchase my work. Again, living far away from cultural centers and resources means I have very limited options for trying to sell my work. The internet could be a lifeline for me, but again, what's my niche? What would make me stand out amongst the thousands and thousands of other artists out there? It gives me a headache to think about.

So if you are still with me on this long rambling post, thank you, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on all this. What brings you to my blog? What kinds of posts have been the most interesting or helpful here? If you are also a blogging artist, what have been your challenges with blogging? Did you figure out your niche and if yes, how? If you leave a comment to this post, I promise to be more conscientious and leave one on your blog, too.*

*Obviously obscene, mean, or spamming comments will be ignored.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Have Paints Will Travel - Part II

Among famous traitors of history one might mention the weather.
                                                                                      ~ Ilka Chase



Safety Tip: Wait to cut and glue the wine corks in place until you've sufficiently recovered from the wine.

At the end of the last post, I was contemplating the need to drink 4 bottles of wine. (I know, I know; you all feel very sorry for me.) The resulting 4 corks would be perfect for holding up the palette insert in my DIY pochade box. However, the idea of this DIY project* was to keep costs down and 4 bottles of wine could get a little spendy. Luckily friends of ours (who also happen to have excellent taste in wine) decided to throw a dinner party just in the nick of time and I was able to procure the 4 corks without undue strain on my budget or my health.

Through this project, I also discovered that you can use sandpaper on wine corks - even the synthetic ones - to smooth them down to a nice level surface.


I had a local glass company cut a piece of plexiglass to size, with a little notch in the corner for easy removal. The plexiglass sits on top of the 4 corks...

Shameless product placement.

...leaving just enough room underneath to store my tubes of paint, or a spare canvas panel.


Ready to go!

I added some Velcro dots to the inside lid of the box, and then corresponding dots to the back of my canvas panels to keep the panels in place while painting. I also used an S hook suspended from the notch in the plexiglass to hang my solvents from. Now I was ready to get out and paint on location!

Winter's not over 'til it's over.

However, the weather had other ideas. A wet messy snow was falling and the ground was muddy and I gave it up for another day.

* For more ideas on DIY pochade boxes, check out this inspirational round-up of designs on James Gurney's great blog "Gurney Journey".

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Have Paints Will Travel - Part I

Everything that is painted directly and on the spot has always a strength, a power, a vivacity of touch which one cannot recover in the studio... three strokes of a brush in front of nature are worth more than two days of work at the easel.
                                                                                                                        ~ Eugene Boudin

A hopeful sign of spring

Despite my resolution to get out and paint in the field this winter, I utterly failed to do so. However, I'm happy to say I've had a bit more success with my other goal; build an inexpensive compact pochade box. As the first day of spring approaches (at least according to the calendar) I'm putting the last finishing touches on my DIY pochade box and getting excited to take it out for a test-drive. Here's how I built my portable easel:





I found this wooden box at a second hand store. The inside of the lid can accommodate up to an 8" x 8" canvas panel, which is more than enough room since I typically work on 5" x 7" or 6" x 6" canvas boards in the field. I had looked into using a cigar box for this project, but the hinges and latches on the cigar boxes I found were very lightweight and would have needed to be replaced. This box had heavy duty hardware, which saved me a step.

I found the scrap wood in the shed, left over from some previous tenant's long-forgotten project.





I glued a strip of the scrap wood between the hinges for the top of the box to rest on while it is open.




Because the bottom of the box is made of fairly thin wood, I glued the bigger piece of scrap wood to the box to make something a little more substantial to bolt the tripod mount to.




To protect my tendonitis-prone wrist, my thoughtful husband stepped in at this point to drill through the bottom of the box and the piece of scrap wood and then attach the tripod mount to the box with a bolt. Now the whole box can be attached to a tripod, and my wrist is uninjured and ready to do some painting.

I'm so thrilled to see this looking like the perfect little pochade box for me, but I can't get out and paint yet. I still have all the inside details to complete. In Have Paints, Will Travel - Part II, I'll show you why I had to drink 4 bottles of wine in order to finish this project.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Once More With Feeling

You must aim high, not in what you are going to do at some future date, but in what you are going
to make yourself do today. Otherwise, working is just a waste of time.
                                                                                                                                  ~Edgar Degas



Laughing gulls watching the surf. Or are they waiting for a bus? 5" x 7" oil on canvas board.

I have two little paintings to share with you. I worked on this painting of two laughing gulls last week, but I'm not entirely happy with it. While I am pleased with how I captured the light, the painting's subject matter seems a little static. The gulls look like they're just standing around doing nothing, and that doesn't make for an interesting painting. Every time I look at it, it bugs me. Today I decided I needed to improve upon the theme.


This is MY beach. Go find your own. 7" x 5" oil on canvas board.

I'm much happier with this painting. I feel that the bird's pose is much more engaging than the previous painting. I'm also really pleased with the thicker paint application and more purposeful brush strokes (I've been trying to work on that). I just wish I'd made the bird a wee bit smaller, or had a wee bit more canvas at the bottom to give a little more room between the gull's feet and the end of the canvas. I was so focused on the painting process that I didn't pay attention to the placement of the bird. It's always something, isn't it?


Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Fun With Color Charts

"Take time learning new skills and principles... Knowledge acquired quickly, flies out the window. In art the tortoise wins.
                                                                                                                              ~ Harley Brown

Color chart using Napthol red as the base

I added a new color to my palette recently: Napthol red. I needed a warm, bright red to go along with my workhorse red, Alizarin crimson. To explore how this new color would interact with the rest of my colors, I painted a color chart for reference. Starting on the left, I used Napthol red mixed with Yellow Ochre and then added white in increasing amounts as the column goes down. I continued to do the same thing across the chart with my other colors: Azo Yellow, Chromium Oxide Green, Phthalo Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Raw Umber, and Burnt Sienna.

This particular type of color chart is based off of the color charts in Richard Schmid's book Alla Prima: Everything I Know About Painting. If you don't have the book, David Gray has a video on YouTube that will take you through the process. I know some people find making color charts boring and tedious, but for me it's like playing.

After I completed the color chart, I saw a lot of colors I was itching to use in a painting. I had a little antique Hall teapot - creamer? hot water? I've read a lot of different identities of this piece - that seemed the perfect subject to try out all these new red colors on. What fun!


Still Life with Hall China - 5" x 7" oil on canvas board

- Argh! I misspelled "naphthol" in this post. My apologies.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Summer Storm - Eastern Kingbird

"As practice makes perfect, I cannot but make progress; each drawing one makes, each study one paints, is a step forward."
                                                                                                                          ~ Vincent van Gogh

Summer Storm - 16" x 12" oil on canvas


I enjoy working on my little almost-daily 5" x 7" and 6" x 6" pieces as I continue to explore oil painting, but sometimes it is so satisfying to jump in the deep end and take on a bigger piece. I've used this bird in other paintings and drawings before, but it keeps inspiring me. It's from a photo I took a few years back at the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge in Stevensville, MT. Eastern kingbirds just say "summer" to me. They were such a common sight on barbed wire fences all over Montana, as were thunderstorms on summer afternoons. It's a nice memory to savor as we're slowly plodding along through February.


Friday, January 30, 2015

Philadelphia's Murals

"Art is a nation’s most precious heritage. For it is in our works of art that we reveal to ourselves and to others the inner vision which guides us as a nation. And where there is no vision, the people perish.”
                                                                                                                            ~ Lyndon Johnson

Independence Hall - Philadelphia, PA

I lived in Philadelphia for 19 years and I took a lot of things for granted when we lived there. Now I look forward to trips back and immersing myself in all of the cultural opportunities the City of Brotherly Love has to offer.

In the last couple of years, I've started to "collect" photos of the amazing murals that fill the city. Started in 1984 as a way to combat urban vandalism, the Mural Arts Program (the largest public arts program in the US) now boasts over 3,000 murals scattered throughout Philadelphia.

I'm not going to go into detail about the symbolism of these murals, or the collaborations between artists and neighborhoods that went into their creation, as you can find that information elsewhere (a good place to start is the Mural Arts Program website). I just wanted to share some of these beautiful works of art with you.


Building The City - Michael Webb
12th & Moravian Streets



Legacy - Joshua Sarantitis
707 Chestnut Street

Sometimes the shadows from surrounding buildings made photographs a bit tricky, which is a shame especially in this case because this mural was not painted - it's made of glass tiles!



A People's Progression Toward Equality - Jared Bader
S. 8th  & Ranstead Streets


Tree of Knowledge - Micheal Webb
N. 13th & Market Streets

So if you are planning a visit to Philly, along with trying a cheesesteak and seeing the Liberty Bell, check out the city's murals. There's even a two hour guided mural tour you can take. And let me know which murals were your favorites.

(In my research, I've sometimes found conflicting information about the exact location or the title or artist of these murals, so if you notice a mistake here, let me know in the comments.)

Monday, January 12, 2015

More Shell Paintings

"To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow..."
                                                                                                              ~ Kurt Vonnegut


Conch shell - oil 5" x 7"



Shells with ink bottle - oil 7" x 5"

My first post and first paintings for 2015. The shells are all from my father-in-law's collection, and the lovely antique ink bottle was a gift from a dear college friend. I just love that color blue.

Happy belated New Year, everyone!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

50 Ways to Paint A Nautilus

"She said to me 
The answer is easy if you 
Take it logically
I'd like to help you in your struggle 
To be free
There must be fifty ways..."
  ~ Paul Simon


An early attempt at a still life with nautilus.

Beautifully rendered paintings don't happen overnight. So many beginners (and some more advanced artists) give up on art because of the overwhelming frustration of not being able to produce what they see in their heads. It is incredibly discouraging when it doesn't go right, when you start to question why in the world you are torturing yourself like this. Good art takes practice, perseverance, and many many mistakes. Typically we don't get to see the mistakes of other artists though, only the final perfect piece which looks dishearteningly effortless. I think this adds to the unrealistic expectations we have of ourselves. So I'm going to share a whole series of abandoned and what I would consider sub-par paintings that I've done while attempting to render a particular subject to my liking.

You may remember my slight obsession with the seashells that my father-in-law gave me this summer, particularly a beautiful chambered nautilus. It sits in a place of honor in my studio and often calls me to draw and paint it. It turns out a nautilus is a challenging shape to render. It's not a circle, yet the brain - or at least my brain - keeps jumping to conclusions and I find myself constantly having to reevaluate the shape as I paint. This leads to overworking the painting and making the edges of the shell too hard; then the shell either ends up looking flat or like a cut-out.

Attempting the stripes on the shell

And then there are those darn stripes! The painting above had potential, but I got intimidated by the stripes and quit. The stripes have to follow the shape of the shell, not only in direction, but in value and color saturation to match the shell's curvature and shadow. If the shadow part of the stripe doesn't match the shadow part of the shell, it won't make sense to the eye. Eeek! I was so nervous about messing up the stripes that my hand was shaking as I tried to paint them.


Another attempt at a still life with nautilus.

Here's another try at the stripes. Before I added the stripes the nautilus shell itself had pretty good form, but I didn't get the values right on the stripes as they curve and go into shadow.  Too many attempts to fix the problem muddied the colors and created too many sharp edges and the shell ended up looking fairly flat.

I got some very helpful critiques from other artists and what they said made sense; I just couldn't seem to put their advice into practice. At that point, I just wanted to abandon painting the nautilus. I painted many other subjects in-between, but that nautilus mocked me every time I went into my studio. It would catch my eye as I painted other things. It fascinated me and called to me. I wanted to paint it so badly! Maybe I needed to take a deep breath and approach this in a different way; be logical about it, since I was so emotional about it. There's a reason all those Master painters did study after study of things, before they even started on a full-blown painting. And so I broke down and painted the nautilus again.

Nautilus study I
And again...

Nautilus study II
And again...

 
Nautilus study III

This last study, in which I took a deep breath and added the stripes, is the closest I've come to what I want, so far. I even managed to get that sense of mother-of-pearl on the interior of the shell. I now have hope that I can successfully include a nautilus in a painting after all. There are definitely things I can still do to improve it, but that thrill of accomplishment, the sense of victory after so many defeats, is a bit intoxicating and probably is what drives us to do this crazy thing called art in the first place.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sketching From Life

"It is only by drawing often, drawing everything, drawing incessantly, that one fine day you discover to your surprise that you have rendered something in its true character."
                                                                                                            ~ Camille Pissarro


5 minute sketches done with Pigma Micron brush pen

In the last six months or so, it seems like I've been suffering more from writer's block than artist's block. Occasionally inspiration will strike, but more often that not I sit down to blog and just stare at the screen wondering what to say. So this post is going to be made up of random thoughts about some sketching I've done recently.

Our local art center has a weekly live model session that I've been taking advantage of. I much prefer the quick sketches rather than the long poses. Having only a few minutes to draw helps to prioritize what to draw; I don't have time to become obsessive over picky little details.


5 minute and 20 minute sketches done with Pigma Micron brush pen




Watercolor sketches from the Tracy Aviary


I also love sketching at zoos, aquariums, and the like. It can be downright maddening when a place is crowded; people stepping in front of you or bumping into you, and the noise level can become distracting, but if you can find an area where you are mostly alone, it's great. I've also had some wonderful conversations with people who were brave enough to risk interrupting my work to talk to me. I especially enjoy talking to kids, hoping that my example will encourage them to do art. 


Watercolor sketches done at a coffee shop

There are plenty of opportunities for me to sketch in everyday situations, not just classes or special trips. Although I felt a little self-conscious at first, I've learned to really enjoy sketching at coffee shops. Easy access to sweet hot beverages + doing art = bliss. Bonus points if the coffee shop has interesting mugs or tea pots to draw, as the one above did. 

I hope you enjoyed this little tour of my sketchbooks while my writing muse is off doing something else for a while. Hopefully she'll return soon.



Friday, November 07, 2014

Getting Out of Your Own Way

"The longer you look at an object, the more abstract it becomes, and, ironically, the more real."
                                                                                                                              ~ Lucian Freud


My Apple Phase
(although a lot of them could get stand-in parts as red peppers.)

As many of you know, I switched from painting with acrylics to oils this summer and that I am over the moon in love with my new medium, but in these first giddy months of our relationship we're still learning a lot about each other. That's why I ordered Carol Marine's new book Daily Painting. (I should note that much of this book could apply to any medium, but I was partially motivated to get the book due to the author's medium being oil.) It arrived on Tuesday, and I spent the rest of the afternoon totally engrossed in it. Wednesday I had some other obligations so further reading had to wait, but on Thursday I woke up early in anticipation of being able to devote the day to Daily Painting.

I decided to do an exercise in the book called Ten Minute Apples, in which you paint an apple 8 times*, but you only have 10 minutes to do each painting. The idea is to concentrate on values and form, and not fuss over every little detail. I had a shiny apple (and I mean really shiny. How much wax did they coat it with???) ready to go. I set up my palette and my lighting, had some energetic tunes playing** and I dove into the exercise. Then some interesting things started to happen.

What many of you may not know is that my undergraduate degree is in Psychology. I wanted to get a BFA, but that was not considered "practical" so I went with my other interest - why our brains do what they do. (Don't get me started on how unpractical a BA in Psychology is, but it was more acceptable than a BFA, so I did it and just took as many fine art electives as I could and spent the next 20 years feeling like an artist wannabe. Thank goodness for getting older and not caring so much about what other people think anymore. But I digress.) So I noted my mental state and what was happening on my canvas during the exercise with interest.

After about the third apple painting, part of my brain started screaming with boredom. "It's an apple. I get it already. Do we have to paint 6 more?" Then a funny thing happened. As I continued with the exercise that part of my brain checked out. And when it checked out, suddenly I was painting much more intuitively, my apples started to look more apple-like in a painterly way, I was making interesting color choices and figured out problems that had been baffling me on the previous 3 paintings and I wasn't rushing to finish in 10 minutes. Then on the 9th painting that part of my brain checked back in. I guess it had been secretly keeping track and knew this was the last painting. Sure enough, that painting was one of my weaker ones and I didn't finish before the timer went off. Fascinating...


Apple #5 - or the apple that said "apple"


Apple #7 - or the apple in which I finally figured out that
the waxy sheen on the bottom half of the apple was light blue


Those of you who are familiar with Betty Edwards' book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain might find this scenario reminiscent of her descriptions about the shift from left brain to right brain. It sure reminded me of that. Whether or not that's truly what was happening in my brain I don't know, but I found the Ten Minute Apples exercise very useful. I feel more confident in my mixing and handling of oil paints. And although the stated purpose of this particular exercise itself did not include tapping into a more creative way of painting, the take-home message I got from the exercise (and from the whole book) is that a lot of the roadblocks I run into with painting can be solved by me just getting out of my own way and allowing myself to experiment, explore, and play without worrying about the results. I can definitely see myself doing this exercise over and over, although that one part of my brain may get pretty sick of apples. 

*My canvas divided up evenly for 9 paintings, so I did an extra one.

**I am rather partial to Rodrigo y Gabriela in the studio. Upbeat classical guitar with no lyrics to distract me. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Lessons from the Field

"I'm still learning that there are no mistakes, only discoveries."
                                                                                                    ~ Fernando Ferreira de Araujo



We've been blessed with a long, beautiful Fall this year and I am trying to get out and paint in the field as much as possible. Yesterday I packed up my supplies and headed to a state park near us and spent the day painting on location. I found that the park had thoughtfully supplied me with plenty of convenient picnic tables near scenic views. A good thing, since I have yet to get an outdoor easel. 

I spent the morning at this lovely spot next to the river. A single loon kept me company, floating and diving in the river right around my vicinity. It called once; that hauntingly beautiful wild call that nature sounds relaxation CDs have made so cliched. 




I also spotted a coyote wandering around in the rocks and scrubby junipers across the river from me (too far away for a picture). The paint flowed from my brush onto the canvas almost effortlessly. I was brimming with contentment. If only I could do this every day!

After lunch, I scouted out some other spots with painting potential and ended up being inspired by this group of boulders in the afternoon light. The rocks were a dream to paint, with delicious purples and rust colors. 


My models. They were wonderful at holding a pose for a long time.

As I drove home, I was so proud of the little paintings I had done and so filled with bliss from the day. I unloaded the car and put my pieces in a prominent spot where my husband couldn't miss them when he walked in the door. 

After I unpacked everything, I glanced at my paintings again and did a double take. They looked nothing like what I'd done in the field! The colors were very pale and washed out, the values in the boulder painting were flat. What the...? Oh, crushing disappointment! I was so tempted to hide the paintings, but I bravely showed them to my husband anyway. He was supportive (of course) and we discussed what might've gone wrong. Best we could figure, my eyes were tricked by the intensity of the light. After a little research on the internet, I found that this is a common problem for beginning plein air painters. Suggestions ranged from getting an umbrella, to turning so that your canvas and palette are in the shade, to toning your canvas so that you aren't staring at a blindingly white surface while trying to figure out colors and values. 


What happened to all the yellow ochre and earth tones I thought I used? Why is this SO green?

We also thought that perhaps wearing sunglasses had affected my perception of the scene, but last week I did another painting with sunglasses on and it came out just fine. Maybe I should name that piece "Beginner's Luck".


Beginner's luck

Today it is overcast and blustery, so I can stay inside with a cup of tea and contemplate the challenges of painting on location, as well as fritter away more time surfing the internet trying to decide which of the hundreds of plein air painting set-ups I should get. So many choices: Pochade box or French easel style? Traditional easel legs or tripod? The wooden set-ups are so beautiful, but also way more expensive. The metal ones seem more compact for carrying, and more rugged for outdoor terrain, but they are not lovely. The internet is also full of artists with DIY pochade box instructions (just google "make your own pochade box" and you'll see what I mean). If you have any experience with outdoor painting, please leave your opinion on a potential easel in the comments section for me. You can also tease me about my newbie mistakes in the field. Thanks!