Monday, July 27, 2009

Painting 18 - Mule Deer

I had hoped to have this completed last night - three paintings in one weekend would have been great - but this turned out a bit more complex than I had anticipated. I find mammals a challenge - particularly their faces; something about the shape of the snout and the way their eyes are set. In the end, I'm fairly pleased with this one, though.

Mule deer are found throughout western North America. If you've never seen a mule deer before, their ears are much bigger than a white-tailed deer's. In this painting, the ear on the right is accurate, but I should have made the one on the left bigger!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Paintings 16 & 17

With a vacation and some freelance design projects lately, I've been falling a little behind with my painting schedule this month, so I rocked out two paintings yesterday. They both gave me a workout on laying down watercolor washes!

This scenic is from my imagination, but based on Glacier National Park and a trillium I've used in a previous painting. There are parts of the park where the trees are so thick that it is very dark in the understory, but wherever there's a break in the trees above your head, you can see the mountains towering over everything. Oftentimes the mountains are much closer than I show in this painting. They are omnipresent. Glacier is one of my very favorite places anywhere in the world (especially in the off-season when you basically have the park to yourself!).

The feather study was based on a specimen I had stowed in a box of bits and pieces of nature that I keep on hand for inspiration. The fuzzy bits (called the afterfeather apparently) were tricky to create with shadows on a colored background. I wish I could've gotten the feather a bit crisper, but I was doing a fair amount of pulling off color, since I didn't use any masking this time. I don't know what bird the feather is from. I found it in our yard a few years ago. It is a fairly small feather, so I'm thinking maybe it is a chickadee feather. If anyone recognizes it, please let me know what it is!

I also totally cleaned out my studio area yesterday and reorganized everything. Now I have space to paint! It is amazing what a difference that makes. I put up two small decorative "floating" shelves and put some little things I find inspirational on them (including a photograph of Georgia O'Keefe!) to increase the calm and beauty quotient in the space I paint in. I just have to make a concerted effort to keep it this way now!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Painting 15 - Shell

Or perhaps a better title would have been "What Was I Thinking???". Wow. This one was a challenge! The only way I got through it was to keep promising myself I could quit painting, quit art even, if I just did one more brush stroke. I guess maybe marathon runners make similar promises to get to the finish line, I don't know. I certainly didn't get any runner's high from this project.
I have a jar full of beautiful sea shells in our bathroom; shells I have collected from years of beachcombing. This one is one of my favorites and I mistakenly thought it was a fairly simple shape to paint. However, as soon as I set it up to be my model I discovered that the angle of the shell, the rings, ridges and knobs all combined to create quite a perspective mess for the eye and brain to work out. I tried all the tricks I knew - closing one eye and holding out the edge of my pencil to check angles, drawing an axis line to help keep all those dang rings at the top stacked properly, etc., but alas the angle is still off and those top rings sort of bend back towards us rather than away. I think I could draw this thing 100 times and not get it right. But at least my admiration for the creatures that form these shells increased along with my frustration.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

My Muse is Out for a Drink

Ugh, I hate weekends like this - where you've got a ton of free time to do anything you want but nothing inspires, nothing motivates, nothing seems interesting or worthwhile. You listlessly stare at your paint tubes, occasionally picking up a paintbrush and then putting it back down again with a big sigh. You go through your stacks and piles and boxes of reference photos and nothing jumps out and says "Paint me!". On top of that, you get stung by a #%!* yellow jacket when you venture outside for inspiration.

So I present you with this to ponder, instead of a painting:

We are a proud town of dumpster-divers, found object artists, and the best way to get rid of something - anything - is to put it out by the curb; it will disappear in seconds. Guaranteed.

However, this item remained stubbornly affixed to the curb. But why? This is a piece of Fine Furniture. And to sweeten the deal, the owner thoughtfully spray-painted the word "FREE" across the front, figuring this would expedite the process. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a Bargain with a capital B! I'm sure the owner was just scratching his head, day after day, wondering why his sofa was still there, wondering how anyone could resist this treasure he had so generously donated to the cause.

It brought me endless amusement.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Painting 14 - Yellow-Headed Blackbird

(The preliminary sketch - sorry about that evil eye. Eew!)
Today I felt like doing something a little different, a little looser, a little more spontaneous for my painting. This past weekend, Paul and I slipped down to Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge for another dose of nature. The yellow-headed blackbirds were still in control of the cattails. Many of this spring's chicks had fledged, sporting a hint of next year's brilliant plumage. They joined the bright yellow males on the reeds. Yellow-headed blackbirds are one of my favorites (is there a bird that isn't a favorite!?) and their images in my mind were just begging to be painted.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Oregon - The Head at Hug Point

The Oregon coast is rugged and beautiful, with scenic treasures around every turn. All along Highway 101 are scattered lots of view points, state parks, and other opportunities to get out and explore. One little gem we discovered just south of Cannon Beach was a little park called "Hug Point", with beach access. The four of us had had our fill of seafood that evening and needed to stretch our legs, so we popped off the road for a quick stroll along the beach. It was low tide, exposing large stretches of the sand and also access to two other coves that would have been cut off at high tide. The cliffs were riddled with caves as well. We were like a bunch of kids discovering a new land. We excitedly went exploring, checking out the caves and looking for shells, or tidepools or whatever we might come across. What we discovered in the cliffs was not what we expected!

Denise spotted it first and called the rest of us over. If you look at the upper left of this photo, you'll see what we saw peering down at us from the cliff. Kinda cool, kinda creepy. I decided to zoom in on the face with my camera, since often the viewing distance is what causes the illusion. However, it seemed like this illusion held up pretty well even in close view. It was as if someone had placed a doll's head up in that niche and it had become weathered and coated with sand. And that eye - creepy!

We have since been scouring the internet, trying to see if anyone else had noticed the head or if there was a legend about it or anything, but we haven't found any references to it yet. Could it be that we are the only ones who have ever seen The Head at Hug Point...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Painting 13 - Magpie

You may have noticed a lack of posts this past week. Paul and I met up with our dear friends Denise and her hubby for some R&R on the Oregon coast. Doing a few posts ahead of time and then scheduling them to publish while I was away was on my to-do list, but I only managed to get one ready. Pre-trip insanity reigned supreme. The kind that makes you wonder why you bother going away in the first place because it is so stressful trying to get everything taken care of for while you are away. And this thought runs through your head at 1 am as you lay wide awake knowing you have to get up in 4 hours to start a 10 hour drive so you really, really need to get some shut-eye or you'll fall asleep at the wheel and truly ruin your vacation, but you also know you just aren't going to be able to relax enough to get any sleep. But of course it was worth it in the end, and the post-trip insanity was thankfully at a minimum (although I haven't been back to work, so maybe I shouldn't say anything yet...) I will post about some of our seaside adventures once I sort through the photos.

Anyway, I am very proud that I've been home for less than 24 hours and I've already managed to complete another painting in between loads of laundry, grocery shopping, and gently prying the cat off of me while reassuring her that we did not abandon her and that we love her and remain her devoted servants.

I did this one on a brand new block of Arches hot pressed watercolor paper that my wonderful husband picked up for me. I've been working on Canson cold pressed for most of the paintings I've done so far in the 100 Painting challenge, and the difference between the two surfaces is amazing. I much prefer the smooth surface of the hot pressed. I feel like I can control the paint, and it dries so fast that I can do layers of color in half the time. I don't tend to work very wet anyway, so a rough surface doesn't really contribute to my painting technique. Arches is much more expensive than Canson, but is probably worth it.

I really wanted to avoid using pure black on the magpie and instead just have it read as black against that background. The black is made up of a mixture of the orange background color (grumbacher red and cadmium yellow pale hue, with just a touch of paynes grey) and ultramarine blue. I'm very pleased with the results.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Lazy Birding

I am not a heat and humidity person. When I step outside and it is as if I never toweled off from showering, I wither and get grumpy. I'm just not into my clothes sticking to me. Sure my skin looks terrific and my hair curls beautifully (with a little help from some anti-frizz product) but I don't want to do anything but sit around in the AC feeling sorry for myself. So why in the world would I willingly go to Florida in the summer??? Simple - it's for the birds.

Florida has a lot of big birds that really don't seem to care much about flight distance. Pelicans, great blue herons, great egrets and vultures - they are all much more interested in any possible food source you may have than worrying about skedaddling. This means that I can get pretty close to them to sketch and take reference photos. Of course when they realize I'm not going to feed them, they give me a dirty look and wander off, but by that point I've gotten what I wanted out of the deal. And the birds such as sandhill cranes, pileated woodpeckers and anhingas that do tend to avoid close proximity to humans are still big enough to be easily observed from a comfortable distance. So for lazy birding, I'll put up with the heat and humidity. Plus there's some amazing BBQ and seafood to be eaten, in air conditioned comfort of course.

Florida Scrub Jay


Roseate Spoonbill

Black and Turkey Vultures

Green Heron

Snowy Egret

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Painting 12 - Meadowlark

I got to a point with this painting and wasn't sure exactly how to proceed. So slap on a shadow and call it finished! The lighting on this was tricky - there was a strong shadow across the back of the bird, and strong light in front, but it also had a lot of dark and light markings all over, so it was tricky getting it to "read" correctly. Also because of the lighting, the eye was pretty much just a black circle in my reference photo. In hindsight, I think this is the type of situation where an artist needs to use a little creative license and not paint literally. Another lesson learned!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Beginnings of Painting 12

I've begun to lay in the basic shading and coloring and a little bit of pattern on a western meadowlark painting based on a bird that I saw this past weekend. Western meadowlarks are one of my all time favorite birds. They have the most wonderful call that I once heard someone describe as "liquid sunrise" and that description has stuck with me. Paul and I used to camp regularly at Badlands National Park in South Dakota and the meadowlarks would wake me every morning with their beautiful song. The sun would rise over the prairie, casting its fresh golden light over everything and the wildflowers and grasses would blow gently in the breeze. I have wonderful memories of that place.

I'm not exactly sure where this painting is going. I didn't plan a real route for this one. It may end up to be more of a study than a full painting type, or who knows what will happen. We'll just have to see where this takes me.