Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Oh, The Weather Outside Is Frightful

Okay, maybe not frightful, but it's fraught with the type of frigid cold that usually assaults the Chicago area in the middle of January, not the beginning of December. I believe it's Mother Nature way of ordering me to stay inside and goof off.  Who am I to argue with the perfect excuse to toss some tinsel and trim the tree?

Whilst tossing and trimming, I came upon my most favorite ornament of them all:  a tiny penguin that's so cute that merely gazing upon him has been known to completely thaw the very coldest of grinchy hearts.

See what I mean?

More unpacking turned up more penguins (albeit not quite as cute), so a tinsel time-out was taken to do a little fun sketching and experiment with a recently acquired set of Cretacolor AquaStics (oil pastels that are water soluble. Woo-hoo, I'm all over anything that can be construed as watermedia!).

In this sketch, the AquaStic was applied to the paper, and then gone over with a wet brush.  Not bad, but unless the pastel was applied heavily, the tooth of the Canson Acrylic paper was pretty evident, as seen on his textured, ample belly.

This time the wet brush was rubbed across the Aquastic first, and then applied to the paper, creating a smoother, looser watercolor look.

The Aquastics certainly bear more experimentation.  I can see them being a useful, easily portable plein aire tool.  And for weather wussies like me, that means plein aire-ing when the sun is shining, the birds are singing, the temperature is balmy, and your water container doesn't freeze solid before you've even had the chance to dip your brush into it.

Back to tossing and trimming.  Time to find a special spot on the tree to hang the cute little penguin.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sitting On The Fence with a Broken Heart

I'm back from my self-imposed hiatus, my dears, and I have missed you all terribly.  I have oodles of blogs to read and much to catch up on.  Life, once again, reared it's ugly head and demanded time for other things besides art and blogging.

I actually have been dabbling in art the past month, just not in the form that you're used to seeing.  Some of the wood fence that surrounds our patio needed replacing, so we started researching options.  I wasn't happy with the flimsy examples exhibited at the big box home-improvement stores, and was even less happy with the gaggle of estimates gleaned from several fencing companies.  Being a Custom Kinda Gal, it was time to take matters into my own hands.

We have an affinity for the Craftsman style of architecture, signified by simple, elegant designs using natural materials.  Of course, trying to incorporate this refined style into a 50's tract ranch is sort of like putting perfume on a pig,'s our pig, and it's smelling a little sweeter with every project we do.

Lots of internet research turned up the Gamble House, an extraordinary example of the style by Arts and Crafts architects Greene and Greene.  One particular detail in the house caught my eye: the angled pieces in the upper parts of the windows that are said to simulate the rays of the rising sun.

Well, we can all use a little more sunshine in our lives, right?  With this detail in mind, I sat down to design and build a fence.  (Yes, stand back...I have power tools and I'm not afraid to use them.)

A few sketched plans and several lumber purchases later....

... a fence began to take shape.

After a couple of weekends of work, I had my sturdy, custom-built fence at a fraction of the cost of having a fence company build it, a money-saving strategy that would make my penny-pinching Scottish ancestors proud.

In between jobs and fences and holiday get-togethers, we were caring for one of our kitties who was recently diagnosed with cancer.  Yesterday, we chose to end Maxxine's battle, and she is now at peace.

Maxxine was 16 years old.  I found her and two sisters in a hollow log when they were about two weeks old.  I took the kittens home, bottle raised them, and of course couldn't part with them and kept all three. Samantha passed away several years ago, and Gracie is still fat, happy and healthy.

Maxxine definitely wasn't the smartest sister, but what she lacked in cerebral abilities she more than made up for in cuddliness.  She had a raucous meow that she used frequently, and had a purr that was so loud and deep that you felt it in your bones.  If you closed you eyes, you would swear that you had a cat-sized motorboat sitting in your lap.  With Maxx gone, the house just seems too quiet.

Queen Maxxine Jean the Jellybean
1994 - 2010
Thank you for sharing our lives these past sixteen years.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Kinda Likable Oops

In between pressing winterizing tasks around the house (it got into the 20's here last night...brrrrrrr.  I was all set to complain about it, but the poor folks in northern Indiana got several inches of snow, so I'll just shut up), I was determined to fit in just a bit of art.  So I did a quick giraffe sketch (gotta go with what you love), and then for a change of pace, quickly outlined the sketch in India ink. 

As I began to fill in the form with some acrylic ink, the India ink began to run into my nice, clean colors, giving the giraffe an undesirable muddy skin condition.  In my haste, I had grabbed the water soluble India ink, rather than the waterproof one.    Oh well.  I had already begun, so might as well go with the flow, so to speak.  After that, ink was just brushed on with abandon.

After all was said and done, I rather liked this girl, if for nothing else than for her spontaneity, looseness and complete lack of an over-calculated attempt at control.   She's fresh, if a tad mucky, and was a blessed half an hour of just devil-may-care painting.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tonight, the part of the Blogger will be played by....

Hello all.  Furry Critic here,  filling in for Mom who is over in the corner babbling something incoherent.  I think she's having some sort of existential artistic crisis.

She's walking around mumbling things like 'textured lights' and 'limited palette' and 'cohesive body of work'.     I don't quite understand what that means, but it's keeping her busy in that stoo-dee-oo.  Not to worry, I take her out for walks and make her play ball in the yard.  But if she keeps babbling, I may need to take her to the vet.

So in the meantime, we wish you all a safe and happy Halloween.   Now if you'll excuse me,  I see a pirate, a princess, and a cute little Chilean miner coming up the front walk, and I simply must go complement them on their costumes.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cones of Learning

These are a few studies based on the self-assignment "Make Something Interesting Out Of A Not So Interesting Photo".  Just like the farmhouse studies, the photo was reduced to a four value, black and white image so I couldn't possibly cheat.  All of the colors and values had to be dredged up from the imaginative depths of Right Brain.

Funny what happens when you have to throw away the safety nets and are forced to dust off an atrophied imagination.  I wouldn't have thought twice about this exercise when I was a kid; I would have happily applied a rainbow of color without a second thought.  Now as an adult, the idea is met with a bit of trepidation, and a feeling of floundering around, looking for a lifeline.  I wonder when I lost that devil-may-care creative childhood spark.  Oh well.  Best not to test the water, just jump in with both feet and start splashing around.

Just like doing the Zentangle Polar Bear, these studies became a little freer and easier as I went along.  I could just picture my decrepit Imagination, slowly getting up out of a rocking chair, slightly bent over, joints creaking, then stretching a bit and loosening up.  I hope for the day when, just like in childhood, my Imagination is dancing a jig. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Drawing the Line

Well, one of the assignments I gave myself was to start sketching on a regular basis.  Since I know myself to be a stern taskmistress, and I didn't want to get a detention from myself, a quick jaunt to the art store produced a small sketchbook that I could carry around and use frequently.  It's being put to good use around the house, and here are some of the results:

Cheyenne in her favorite "watch the world go by" spot:  the front picture window.

Maxxine sitting by the same window indulging in her favorite autumn passtime:  stalking the falling leaves.

A maniacally merry mouse sculpture.

There are certainly more than enough of these lying around the yard, I can take one or two in to be sketched.

Whaddaya know...this is quite a bit of fun, and a nifty way to get a quick art fix when sitting down and unpacking all the art supplies just isn't feasible.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Down on the Farm

Let's have a little fun and do a value experiment today.  I wanted to take a fairly simple subject, reduce it to four values, assign color to the values, and go from there.

Wading through the massive photo collection on my hard drive, I unearthed some photos that brought back fond memories.

When I fledged from the parental nest at 18, my first rented domicile was this farmhouse. The house, barns, other various buildings, and the surrounding 55 acres belonged to a friend's parents, who had retired from the farming life.  Although it appears to be in a bucolic rural setting, this farm was the last tract of open land in a busy, sprawling suburban setting.  It was bordered on the east by a six-lane expressway, on the south by an apartment complex, on the north by a strip mall, and on the west by neighborhoods of cookie-cutter suburban housing.  Not wanting to see their former home plowed under by development, my friends parents chose to rent the house and lease the land, while spending their golden years in a smaller, more comfortable, and less drafty abode that required much less upkeep and maintenance.

Although a bit run down, the house was gorgeous.  It boasted the large country kitchen of houses of the era, beautiful, hand-crafted wood trim and floors, and an incredible panel of stained glass that topped the living room window.  (It was also haunted by the benevolent spirit of Aunt Marge, but that is a story for a later post).  It was so large that I didn't need to make use of any of the five upstairs bedrooms, having more than enough room to comfortably live on the main floor.

I resided here for almost three years, loving the house and the space, exploring the remnants of farming life that were stored in the barns, and throwing spectacular Halloween parties.  I probably would have lived there much longer, but in those years both of my friend's parents passed away, and the family chose to sell the land.  The photo above was one of the last ones taken of the house before the bulldozers arrived.  The area now boasts 55 acres of townhomes.  Ain't progress grand?  To this day, I carry a soft spot in my heart for old farm houses.

I chose a photo of the south face of the house, taken on that last day.  (The photos are black and white because I was taking a photography class at the time, and we were learning to develop b&w film.)

Then I ran it through Photoshop, reducing it to four values.

Next, I resurrected my set of colored pencils, figuring it would be easier pick ready-made colors.  I matched four of my warm greys to the greys of the value photo, and laid a thick line of each down on the paper.  Then patches of selected colors were placed next to the lines to determine the value of each color.  Two versions of the house were tried, one more of a warm-dominant, the other a cool-dominant. 

Obviously modulating intensity wasn't a concern; just putting mostly pure color down based on it's value.  A fun and intriguing first experiment, but I think I need to find an even simpler subject that has less of an emotional connection.  Like maybe a tree.  In a field.  By itself. 'Nuff said.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Giving Up Those Nagging Artistic Addictions, or A Tale of Two Brains

In an effort to push my basic skills up a notch or two, it's time to start heaving aside the artistic crutches I've been relying on, and make my brain actually think about what to do when applying medium to substrate. 

The first crutch to be examined is "Elements of Working From Photographs".  Here's what I find myself clinging to that needs to be flung aside:
  1. Having to have a 'wow' photo to start with.  When working from photos, a good artist should be able to take the most mundane photo and turn it into something interesting to look at.  If a photo is that spectacular, just take it and frame it...don't bother to paint it.  Assignment: Find some simple, unassuming photos, and make something appealing out of them.
  2. Having to directly transfer the photo in order to duplicate it exactly.  If you're not painting a realistic portrait, then does exactness really matter?  Does a landscape painting fail because it's not an exact copy of said landscape?  Nope.  Get creative.  Add stuff.  Move stuff.  Make the painting better than the photo.  Time to work on those atrophied drawing skills!  Assignment: Transfer the photo subject to the substrate by freehand sketch.  And start carrying a sketchbook around, and get in the habit of sketching for fun.
  3. Letting the colors of the photo dictate the colors that are painted.  I spend far too much time trying to duplicate the colors of a photo.  Time to start making hue, value, temperature and intensity decisions on my own.  Orange trees?  Great!  Blue dogs?  Why not!  Assignment:  Work from black and white photos.
  4. Painting only from photos.  All of the above indicates I'm in a "Copy Rut', and it restricts putting any of my own twists and feeling into a piece.  Assignment:  Start painting from real life.  Or better yet, from pure imagination!
Even though some issues have been identified and solutions proposed, I'm finding myself in a somewhat suspended stasis, vaguely yearning for specific instruction and direction.  Whatever could be the reason?  Why, it's my snarky Left Brain demanding a step-by-step learning syllabus before embarking on anything different.

Aarruugghh!  Great, another crutch.  Left Brain is now insisting on wasting incredible amounts of time scouring the Interweb, researching and investigating, planning and assigning, ordering and cataloging, until it comes up with a suitable linear synopsis to follow exactly.  Phooey.  That's the reason there's a lack of feeling or spontaneity in my work.  Left Brain insisted on literal copies and exact colors, and things being just so, which basically is the antithesis of any creativity.

Time to let Right Brain have some free reign.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Bug Zapped

Sorry to have been away, but some nasty little germs went all Rambo on my poor bodily defenses and took no prisoners in the process.

Thankfully, with the aid of  much chicken soup, a comfy couch, a dog who will happily lay on my feet and keep them warm, endless old movie reruns, and more than a few days of being in a feverish semi-vegetative state, the germy little monsters have finally waved their victory flag and are off to decimate their next victim.  I'm just beginning to be able to breathe somewhat normally again, after ingesting what had to be a tanker truck full of antihistamines.

Inhale.  Exhale.  Repeat as necessary.

The blog is still a work in progress, but I didn't dare to attempt any changes while in a state of quasi-delirium.  Many of you have mentioned the lack of a colorful header - fear not! - one will be designed after a final decision is made about the template.

On the art front, I learned that my Jasiri painting did not make it into the Cincinnati Art Club's Viewpoint show.  It's a little disappointing, but it just means that I'll have to work harder, learn more, and put a better foot (brush?) forward for next year.  Congratulations to the 70 artists that made it into the show, and a big thanks to all the folks who work so hard to put the event together.

Now that I've managed an update, the wooziness is taking over again.  Back to the couch....

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Blog Rolling

I'm working hard on this blog reconstruction.  Really I am.

I think I like this template a bit better, but I lose some customization ability (and ah'm all about custom-I-zation, baby....ah should call this post 'Pimp My Blog').

There has to be a 12-step program for Blog ADD.  If not, I think I'll start one when I finally finish tweaking this one.  Ironically, it's the ADD that will prolong the time until the final tweak.

Along with another episode of Extreme Blog Makeover, there is actually some art to be seen here.  This is a quick study that will hopefully grow up to be a painting someday.

Tiger study
Acrylic ink on watercolor paper

I loved this photo reference for two reasons:
  1. There's a great abstract quality to it.
  2. It's a shining example of 'Cat-itude'.
Felines of all ilks have seemingly perfected this pose of 'nonchalant disdain'.  They feign indifference by turning their back on you, yet one ear is continually pointed in your direction like a furry radar dish, making sure you are still hovering in the area, ready to spring forth and grant their every whim.  

They've got it made.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Blog Fog

This little blog redesign is a definite work in progress.  I'll be trying on templates like a soon-to-be bride tries on dresses. 

I'm shooting for a light neutral post background that will not compete with the artwork colors,  with dark lettering (apparently easier to read).  As always, I'd love your opinions on the various stages of remodeling, since you're the one who has to look at it to read it.  Bad fonts?  Silly colors?  Annoying backgrounds?  Can't read the darn thing because it hurts your eyes?  Please let me know.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Pair O' Bison

Recently, we took some friends up on their offer to spend some time at their place in the Wisconsin heartland.  While perusing the local newspaper over breakfast one morning (all three pages of it), we came upon an ad for tours of the local bison farm, and decided "why not?"  We finished our eggs, and off we went.

The farm was beautiful, and the tour was quite interesting.  After being guided through the various barns and corrals, our little handful of tour-goers climbed onto a tractor-pulled wagon, and were driven out into one of the pastures to commune with one of the bison herds.  While other wagoneers fed ears of corn to interested herd members, I was busy snapping pictures of some of the more photogenic bison.  One that particularly caught my eye was one of the large bulls in the herd, stoically keeping an eye on the proceedings.  His head looked to be approximately the size of a Volkswagon Beetle, and his coat was starting to thicken up prior to the inevitable arrival of winter.  He was gorgeous, and patrolled the herd with the self assured air of the 'Big Man on Campus.

Big Man on Campus
Acrylic Ink on Bristol board

And just for some loosening-up fun, I did a wet-into-wet, high key version.

Big Man 2
Acrylic Ink on Bristol board

The dog portrait is temporarily on hold right now.  Did you ever have trouble 'seeing' where you're going with a painting, and aren't sure of the next step?  Now every time I go into the studio, it stares at me from the easel, seemingly mocking my Artistic Brain Freeze.  I am hoping doing some quick studies, like the bison, will thaw out my creative neuropathways.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Dog Daze

Critters, critters everywhere.  The next entrant in our creature parade is Payton, the beloved dog of a friend.

As photo references go, this one isn't going to be easy.  It's a head on shot of a black dog, with no discernible light source.  Another photo taken in late afternoon light was provided, so I'm going to try to recreate those colors on this reference

Here's the sketch on a black gessoed panel, complete with annoying glare.

The first layer of underpainting.

Additional underpainting....

There's going to have to be a lot of subtle coloration done in those darks, otherwise he's going to look as flat as a blackboard.  

More work will be done on him a bit later...Woe is me, I have to spend this absolutely gorgeous day outside catching up on gardening chores (picture me with the back of one hand pressed against my forehead, the other patting my heart)  It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it.  :-D

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Psychedelic Giraffe and Blog Repair

After a few days of frantically trying to catch up on everything I let lapse around here, it's time once again to sit down and catch up on what's going on in the blog world.

Here's the continuation and completion of the giraffe:

The first layer of the background was filled in, and the salient spots were chalked in on her face.

The first colors were blocked in.

 Several layers and glazes were added.

And here is the final result:

24" x 12", acrylic on hardboard
© 2010, Lisa Walsh

I submitted this to the Cincinnati Art Club's Viewpoint Show.  I have my fingers and paintbrushes crossed that it gets accepted into the show.  If it does, that'll be a big first in my fledgling art career.

There was a submission deadline for the show, and I didn't leave myself enough 'comfort time' to get her done.  You think I would have learned by now, but I cut my time too short, and wound up doing marathon painting sessions to finish her by deadline.  Now I see at least a dozen things that I would change, but it's too late.  I need some 'simmer' time to take a break from a piece and come back to look at it with fresh eyes.  Lesson learned.

And another lesson learned...I had the yen to clean up the Picasa account that Google so happily supplies when a Blogger account is created.  I went through what was there, sorting and organizing, and deleting the things that somehow seemed to multiply on their own, or no longer seemed useful or pertinent.

You know when you go to delete something, and a little dialogue box pops up and says "Are you sure you want to do that?", and you just mindlessly click "Yes, of course I want to do that, why do you keep asking me, you're really getting to be an annoying little dialogue box."  Well, I failed to completely read the annoying little dialogue box.  If I had, I would have realized that the annoying little dialogue box was telling me that whatever I deleted from Picasa was also simultaneously being deleted from this Blog. 


I had wiped out about three quarters of the blog photos before I realized the swath of destruction I was creating, and there was no way to undo it.

Well, there were a lot of bloggy-type things I needed to catch up on.  Add 'replace photos' to the list.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Enough Lollygagging, Back to Work!

With the bears now in the rear view mirror, another creature calls out to be painted.  Only one of these is planned, the thought of one hundred of anything else right now makes me woozy. 

A 12" x 24" board was gessoed, and a thin layer of Fiber Paste was applied.

A favorite creature of choice, the enigmatic giraffe, was sketched on the board. This particular giraffe is of the Reticulated variety, and her name is Jasiri.

Another layer of Fiber Paste was applied with palette knives, sculpting the giraffe, and starting to 'raise' her from the background.  Parts of her anatomy, like the nose, are getting thicker paste layers to 'force' the perspective a bit.

Two more layers of paste trowled on.  I'm going to need a cement truck full of Fiber Paste at this rate.  I wonder if they sell it by the tanker full.

And since I like working on a black background to create a somewhat 'batik' look.....

Her raised outline is my guide now.  Tomorrow I'll chalk in some more guidelines.