Sunday, February 23, 2014

New WIP - Eastern Kingbird

"The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky,
from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider's web."
                                                                                                                ~ Pablo Picasso

5"x7" work in progress of an Eastern kingbird.

Started a new little painting this weekend. I'm a big fan of limited palettes, and the blues, grays and whites of this scene really appeal to me, especially after all the bright colors in the flamingo painting I'm (still) working on. 

Detail showing sun on feet and barbed wire.

This piece is also turning out to be a great exercise in values and temperature. Of course I don't use any pure white (even though the camera makes it look like I did). Titanium white mixed with a little yellow ochre and/or cadmium yellow light gives a nice sunlit effect for my brightest, warmest whites. Ultramarine blue, burnt umber and Payne's gray make a great dark, without resorting to pure black (I don't even own a tube of black paint). Then the mid-tones are all sorts of purpley-grays and brownish-grays - mostly warm in temperature because of all the reflected light. You can see some of the purplish tones in the detail shot of the bird's underbelly.

My next task will be to get the values right on the clouds and the sky. I've never painted a piece where the sky was so dominant. In my mind, I see the sky as going on forever. I hope I can somehow capture that feeling in paint, without competing with the bird. I wanted to wait to hone the sky until I had the bird's values pretty well set.

I might be cheerfully babbling on about color and value, but my old companion Self-doubt has been keeping me company a lot lately. I was on such a roll before the holidays, and then what with travel and family and festivities, I ended up not painting for about a month. Ever since I got back into the studio in mid-January, I've been struggling. It's as if I took years off, rather than just 30 days.

Then we had Chinese take-out the other night and this appeared in my fortune cookie:

 Does this mean there's hope for me yet?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Living Gem

"What is magic? In the deepest sense, magic is an experience. It's the experience of finding oneself alive within a world that is itself alive. It is the experience of contact and communication between oneself and something that is profoundly different from oneself: a swallow, a frog, a spider weaving its web..."
                                                                                                                        - David Abram

A tiny masterpiece of color and aerodynamics that eats mosquitoes! Can it get any better than that?

I can't say it much better than the David Abram quote above, but I often think about how much richer people's lives might be if they noticed things like the sun hitting the iridescent feathers on a violet-green swallow. There's magic all around us, if only we'd look.

My model was a photogenic violet-green swallow we chanced upon one day at Lake Como in the Bitterroot National Forest, when we still lived in Montana. (Yes, I miss Montana.)

Study of a violet-green swallow (6" x 6" acrylic on canvas board).

I finished this portrait of that swallow back in November, but didn't post it then as I wanted it to be a surprise Christmas present for dear friends.

What magic have you experienced lately?