Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Painting Moon Snails in a Limited Palette

On the sixth day, God created the artist, realizing no doubt that He had far from exhausted
the uses of color.
                                                                                                     ~ Robert Brault

Moon Snails with Coral - 5" x 7" oil on canvas

I've mentioned a few times over the years that I really enjoy working with limited palettes. Certainly I am often tempted to augment my colors when I see all the gorgeous paint choices at the art supply store, but I've managed to keep my palette hovering around 6 colors plus white for a while now. Generally I use a warm and a cool red, a warm and a cool yellow, and a warm and a cool blue to mix all the rest of my colors from. I've found that this method gives me nice color harmony in my work, with the added advantage of not having to dig through piles of tubes of paint trying to find a specialty color. I suppose I could also say I'm lazy in that with fewer colors, I don't have to remember as many combinations of which colors play nicely when mixed together and which tend to make mud.

Blocking in the shapes and values.

In this painting I only used 3 colors plus white to mix all my other colors from: alizarin crimson, winsor yellow, and ultramarine blue. This is certainly not a painting with a lot of flashy color; it's much more low chroma, but I like the subtlety. I plan on painting this set-up a few times, playing with different combinations of primaries to see how they affect the mood of the scene.

Detail from painting

Moon snails (a carnivorous gastropod with a craving for clams) are found around the world, but the particular species in my painting live along the Atlantic coast. These two shells are from wintertime visits to the New Jersey coast with dear friends of ours. We love beachcombing in winter. The heat and the throngs of people are gone, leaving us a wild and beautiful expanse of sand to explore.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Life Happens. Keep Painting.

If you want creative workers, give them enough time to play.
                                                                            ~ John Cleese

The Bell - 6" x 6" oil on canvas panel

Things are rather chaotic here at the moment while repairs are being made to our kitchen. It's amazing what you take for granted until you don't have it anymore. We have a mini kitchen (microwave, toaster, and dorm-sized fridge) set up in our utility room to get us through, but oh how I wish we had a sink in there!

Aqua Glass Insulator - 6" x 6" oil on canvas 

Because I work from home, I'm the default on-site go-to person, so I squeeze art and creative play in whenever there are a few seconds of peace and quiet. This means I don't have time to set up elaborate still life paintings if I want to get anything done. Plop an interesting item down, adjust the lighting, and go!

3 Dollars - 6" x 6" oil on canvas

The other night I was painting some sand dollars on a plate and stopped in surprise when I realized that instead of my typical cautionary inner voice guiding my painting ("Not sure you should do that. It might wreck the painting."), a much more curious and carefree voice was at the helm ("Let's see what happens if..."). I think the daily creative play may be influencing my more "serious" art work!

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

My Orange Phase

To stimulate creativity, one must develop the childlike inclination for play...
                                                                                                            ~ Albert Einstein
Bonus quote today!
I don't grow up. In me is the small child of my early days.
                                                                                                                ~ M.C. Escher

Conch shell in orange - 6" x 6" oil on canvas

I am now on Day 12 of incorporating creative play into my daily life. A few days ago I realized my definition of creative play was much too narrow. I was still trying to keep it "practical", and in doing so I was putting myself on the path of early burn-out. My creative play doesn't always have to be in a 2 dimensional form and doesn't always have to be limited to visual art-related projects. Ideally it should engage more of my senses than just seeing, and get me into a child-like state of fun and non-judgement (Fingerpainting with chocolate pudding, anyone?) It's amazing -and kind of sad- that we have to re-learn how to play.

One day after this realization, I made sculptures out of the geometric-shaped cardboard pieces packed in an Ikea furniture box. Today I sorted through stacks of my reference photos and gathered together a bunch of images of orange things, including the painting above that I recently did, and the items below:

(Can you tell I was that kid who had all the crayons organized by color?)

Speaking of being a kid, I'm finding that one integral part of my creative play is thinking about what I loved to do as a child. Tapping into my memories has not only reminded me of some really fun things to do, but has also helped me to overcome my adult tendency to dismiss the importance of play to my art practice. When my adult mind is grumbling that my time would be better spent taking care of the dishes that need to be washed, I just pull up the memory of spending hours happily building little houses for the chipmunks and toads in my backyard, complete with acorn-cap plates and twig fences. My resolve to be "practical" dissolves pretty fast after that.

What did you do as a child that brought you hours of fun? As an adult, what do you do to get back to that state of creative joy?

If you want to see an artist really playing with a painting, check out this video of Duane Keiser painting an ice cream cone. What delicious fun!