Friday, January 31, 2014

#12: By the Sea

12"x 16" canvas


Inspiration for the painting:
One morning, while sipping coffee, I tired of the local news show and began looking for something more uplifting to watch on TV. As I pressed the channel “Up” button, I happened upon another local channel, but this one was airing a painting show. Right up my alley! I watched the show, taking a few pictures of the TV screen, and writing some notes. The show was called, “Paint with Kevin” and was aired by Troy University. In the show, Kevin demonstrated how to paint a sea scape. Although I am guessing he was using oil paints, based on information on his Web site, what he demonstrated could work just as well with acrylic paints. 

 Kevin's painting: (apologies for the lack of clarity)

What I like about the painting:
  • I like the way the color darkens on either side of the painting.
  • The central part of the smaller wave, and the right side of the wave in the foreground came out well. I can sense movement in them.
  • Kevin had only a hint of a second line of waves, I decided to make that more prominent, and I am pleased with the result.
  • I find some of the cloudy areas pleasing to look at, but I think the opening is a bit fake. 
  • I like the orange sky far better than Kevin’s yellow sky.
  • I am glad I persevered. I did not like my painting, and was ready to move on. But, I went back and worked a bit more on the water and waves.
What I might do differently
  • Since the sun is brightest near the horizon, I think the ‘silver lining’ of the clouds  toward the top of the picture should be less prominent. I changed this, after Mr. Dreamy pointed out how unreal it looked, and I'm happier with the revision.
  • I do not care for the rock on the left side, which (to me) looks like something the dog left behind. 
What I learned:
  • Kevin reminded his viewers to take a 6 foot view of their paintings often. It really looks quite different when you remove yourself in that way.
  • I am becoming more confident about using the brushes. My favorite brush, for the moment, is a 3/8" Lunar Blender by Princeton. It has a filbert shape with short, stiff bristles. I use it a lot in softening lines, like in the clouds.
  • Kevin showed how to use the palette knife for painting. I used it for the small background waves, but forgot to try using it in the foreground for the small wavelets in the sand and the rocks.
  • I missed the beginning of the video lesson, but found that after Kevin completed the sky, he pulled a piece of tape off the canvas that he used to created a flat horizon line. It was a great way to create that line.
Colors I used:
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Cadmium Yellow (Light)
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Cerulean Blue Hue
  • Cadmium Red (Medium)
  • Mars Black
  • Titanium White

Monday, January 27, 2014

#11: Tulips

#11: Tulips

10" x 12" canvas board

Inspiration for the painting:

My sister-in-law brought me a pot of tulips. I enjoyed watching them emerge, one by one. I decided to keep them alive by painting them. I also had another motive - I had read about using glazes. One artist used leaves of a plant as one of the examples. I decided the tulips would be a good test subject for glazing. While reading more about glazing, I found a Web site showing blue and yellow used as the base color for glazing with water colors. I decided that would work with acrylics and glazing medium with the leaves of my tulips. So, I sketched the tulips, used colored pencils to help me ‘see’ the areas that needed lighter and darker green, and colored them in the yellow and light blue demonstrated on the Web site. I traced that sketch and recreated the coloring on my canvas board.

What I like about the painting:
  • The glazing worked. I like the way the variation of colors came out, without using different greens, per se. 
  • I was pleased with the dimensionality of the tulips.
  • Although I don’t care for the color of the background, I like the soft mottling I created.
  • I wasn’t sure how to treat the bottom of the painting. Since the tulips were potted, if I recreated them in their entirety I would have had to make them smaller in order to put the pot in the picture. Also, I didn’t think just painting the foil covering of the pot would look right. So, I ‘cut’ the tulips I was actually quite pleased with how the cuts looked.
What I might do differently:
  • I would use a different color for the background. I was playing around with a triad on the color wheel. The third color really should have had more yellow in it. I think that would also have been more reminiscent of a beautiful spring day and would have added more warmth to the painting.
What I learned:
  • How yellow and blue can be used under a glaze to create variations of color in leaves.
  • Up to this point I knew that some paints are transparent, while others are opaque. However, I didn't realize that Liquitex includes that information on their tubes of paint. 
  • The paint tube also indicates whether the paint is a single or mixed pigment. The watercolor Web site indicated that single pigments should be used for glazing.
  • While preparing this post I decided I wanted to find out what the different series (listed on the label) meant. I discovered that paints in the lower series are less expensive to make than those in the upper series. That explains the variation in prices I noticed at the store. 
  • My tulips went through many iterations with many layers of paint. I began the process by using glazes to add layers and to get deeper tones, but the tulips looked flat. I was very disappointed in them. Then, I went back and looked at the picture I had taken, and looked at another acrylic painting of tulips. I realized I needed to use color more effectively to delineate each petal, and to add some shadow for depth. 
  • I think with more care in beginning my base layers of blue and yellow, and using more variation in the tones of those colors, I could have used fewer layers of green to create better definition of the leaves. 
Paints used:
  • Cadmium Yellow, light
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Quinacridone Blue Violet
  • Titanium White

Sunday, January 26, 2014

You Don't Need an Excuse to Paint - Ghost Blogger

I was contacted by Claire to see if she could write a piece for my blog as a ghost writer. I was a bit reluctant, at first, knowing that she would be linking to other sites. However, I acquiesced after reading her post. As a teacher, and a mom, I like her take on creativity.

You Don't Need An Excuse To Paint (But Here Are Some Good Ones)
First things first: there’s no question that modern life requires we have some kind of reason to do the things that make us happy, beyond the obvious answer of “it makes me happy”. The internet is full of lists justifying why the best things in life - chocolate, wine, art, and much more - are good for us, but it’s enough to say that it makes our hearts lighter and our lives brighter. That said, making art is good for us. Forget self help books and self-improvement courses; picking up a paint brush (or even just using our hands, little kids understand the important things) is nearly as useful as trundling down to a therapist’s office. The idea of art as therapy is a little cliched at this point, but there are solid reasons behind why that is, and they also provide interesting insights on why the act of creating art feels so good.
Actual Creativity
Creativity has become a bit of a buzzword. Advertising is creative, athletes are artists, and job ads for banks look for “creative thinkers”. The problem is, throwing the word around so often makes us forget what it means: relying on our imagination to solve our problems, rather than pure experience. Art gives us the chance to practice that skill, which is sorely lacking in most people’s day-to-day lives. We hit an imaginative rut, mostly out of lack of opportunity - each day builds on the last, and it’s difficult to find places where we’re not constrained by everyday life. With paint, it’s possible to actually flex our imagination and bring creativity back into play.
If there’s anyone out there who doubts that painting practice - replicating a photograph or existing painting - engages creativity, it’s worth thinking about poets. There’s a reason why many poets still turn to highly defined poetic structures like haikus and villanelles, and that’s because restraints actually allow us to be more creative. Solving the “problem” of a blank page doesn’t take much creativity if we can do whatever we want, but as the “problems” pile up - it has to be this shape, these colours, this technique - things get more difficult, and we can really feel the achievement of discovering something new in ourselves.
Actual Therapy
Traumatized children, people with addictions, and those with psychological problems: some of the hardest people to treat are turning to art therapy as a way to feel better about themselves and the world. Take people struggling with addictions, for example. Not only do they have to suffer through the symptoms of getting clean, but they also have to find a way to change their habits, social skills, and often their entire self image. The latter can be the reason why many people go back to their addiction, and art can make a huge difference in this area. When we don’t feel as though we have much worth, the act of creating something - even if it’s not technically perfect - can remind us of what we’re capable of. We can express difficult emotions, communicate without words, and find a moment of peace in-between the brush strokes. All of these effects are available to anyone who creates art, whether or not they’re in an actual art therapy program; after all, who doesn’t struggle with their self image at times?
Actual Selfishness
Here’s another thought: when was the last time you finished something you’re proud of that was purely for yourself? Not a gift, or a project at work, or a dinner to be shared? Many people, particularly women, have a lot of trouble doing things simply for themselves, but painting is inherently selfish in the best of ways. Sure, you may hope that your friends or family might admire the picture later, but the heart of painting, particularly trying to improve yourself, is self-centered. You want to do better than you did before, not to earn a raise or praise, but for the pure sake of the accomplishment. Like many “selfish” choices, this benefits others in the long run - people who can admire your work - but it’s something you can do for yourself with no shame. You matter, you’ve created something, and you’re an artist. It’s important to take care of yourself, and you don’t need a list of reasons why to prove it.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

#10: Amelia River

I find myself looking at things a bit differently because of my painting challenge. Sometimes I catch myself thinking about the colors I see, or the play of the shadows, or the composition of what I am seeing. Many times I think that maybe I should try to paint what I am seeing. In fact, there are so many times that I have wished I had my camera out while driving down the road that I have challenged myself to try to sketch what I am seeing. Since drawing is not my strong point, and is so integral to painting, this can only help in the long run.  Who knows? Maybe someday I'll have a collection of works that were "scene from the road"!

Inspiration for the painting:  the riverfront campground at Ft. Clinch State Park looks across to the mainland along the northern point of Fernandina Beach. 

I decided this might be a good subject for a painting. I took a few pictures of the view. This painting is an amalgam of several of the shots. While driving one day we saw some beautiful clouds in a stormy layer. I decided to add those to my painting of the river.
Additionally, my son gave me some paints for Christmas and I wanted to use them, almost exclusively in painting a scene. 

#10 Amelia River

8" x 10" canvas board

What I Like About the Painting:

  • The clouds went through a few iterations (I so love that I can paint over my mistakes!) I was attempting to use the technique demonstrated by Darrell Crow but failed miserably! However, despite those shortcomings, I was pleased with the dimensionality that I see in the sky.  
  • I was also pleased with the navigation buoy. The real buoy was green, but it got lost in the water, so my apologies to any boat captains for swapping your markers around!

What I Might do Differently:
  • I am of the opinion that the growth seen on the far shore is too colorful and too dark.  I feel I should have softened the colors to create a feeling of further distance. 
  • My tree has way too much Spanish moss on it, and it is also too colorful.  I think I was trying to use the moss to disguise a lousy tree!

What I learned:
  • I really need to spend more time and take care when painting the objects in the foreground. The grasses show quite a bit of detail, but that care was not extended to the tree. 
  • When I first completed the painting I was wishing I could crop the canvas. I was not pleased with the composition. Later I expanded the height of the clouds and added the tree to rescue the painting. I realize I really need to to a better job of sketching out my image before painting.