Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Painting Myself Out Of a Corner

As the year draws to a close, the challenge for the Different Strokes blog was a portrait.  Not a self-portrait, but a portrait of another artist. This year, 180 artists participated in this annual Artist Portrait Swap for Karin Jurick's blog, where artists send in a photo of themselves, and another artist gets the photo to paint.

True confession time, here.  I don't do portraits.  I don't like to do portraits.  I normally wouldn't touch a portrait with a ten-foot paintbrush.

But that's what challenges are all about, right?  Stretching your artistic boundaries?  Climbing every mountain?  Boldly going where you haven't gone, and never wanted to go, before?   So once I pressed the little 'send' button on my email, and my photo went off into Karin's mailbox, I had no choice but to climb the mountain.

7" X 5", acrylic on gessoed acrylic paper
© 2009, Lisa Walsh

Meet Elisha Fields, one of the artists that participated in the challenge. 

Normally a painting this size would take me a few hours.  I agonized over this one for two days.  I mixed and tried I-don't-know-how-many batches of "skin" color; as a result she went from looking like she was seasick one minute to looking like a Cirque du Soleil acrobat the next.  When I finally got the poor woman to the point where she didn't appear to be suffering from some rare eight-syllable skin disease, I moved on. Then there were several wardrobe color changes, each worse than the last, until a nice, muted, complementary ensemble seemed to do the trick.  Finally a nice, cool background, and it was time to put the brush down and back away from the easel.

Would I do this again next year?  You betcha.  Hopefully I'll learn a few things in the next 365 days, making the trip into unknown artistic territory a little easier.

What artistic challenges have you taken on?

A very safe and Happy New Year to everyone!

My Muse is breathing a sigh of relief.  To unfamiliarity, and beyond!

Friday, December 25, 2009

To all of you....

...from all of us.

May your day be Merry and Bright, Happy and Joyous, Peaceful and Calm, Safe and Sound.

My Muse is decorating cookies.  To festivity, and beyond!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Crawling From the Wreckage

I'm baaaaaack.  Thanks to everyone who kept checking in during my self-imposed Oh My Gawd I Have To Get These Paintings Done Right Now I Have No Time To Do Anything Else hiatus from this blog.  I was ensconced in marathon painting sessions, which seemed to be akin to extended sessions in an isolation tank, trying to finish two works before the party deadline.  I did.  The results were bloodshot eyes, a sore back, having an image of the seat of my office chair nearly permanently imprinted on my backside, and a stiffened right hand that still appears to be holding an invisible brush.

The other results were these:

Hungry Eyes
14" X 11", acrylic on cradled hardboard panel
©2009, Lisa Walsh

24" X 18", acrylic on cradled hardboard panel
© 2009, Lisa Walsh

I dipped into the 80's pop charts to name these, hits by Eric Carmen and Fleetwood Mac seemed appropriate if not very imaginative titles.  Both pieces gave me fits for various reasons.   I went through a massive bout of Hue Schizophrenia with the elephant; painting a layer, not liking the color, then repainting the layer, not liking the color...etc., etc., etc.  I won't even bother to post progress would take another whole blog to do so.  When all was said and done, I was satisfied with the way they turned out.  Not thrilled. Not even particularly happy.  I think I was much happier that I was able to get them done, so I could release myself from my ten-day personal exile in the studio.  Don't get me wrong, I love Studio Exile time.  But every once in a while it's good to get out and interact with the world at large.

And the best result of all?  After seeing my work at the party, one of the elephant keepers actually wants to buy the elephant painting.



OMG, wow!

That's what it's all about, isn't it?  Using your heart and mind and talents to create something, and then someone else comes along, and it speaks to them, and they like it so much they want to have it for their very own.

Huh.  Whaddaya know.  Maybe I can actually do this artist thing.  For real. 

I hope, I hope, I hope, I hope......

My Muse can't stop smiling.  To believability, and beyond!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Artistic and Physical Steps

A quick update from the art front:

Another layer of color, and another isolation coat.

And from the canine front:

My dear 'FrankenDog' is able to shuffle around with our assistance and the aid of a  supportive sling.  At times I feel like I have a very large, mostly furry, and definitely indignant purse hanging from the straps over my arm as we stroll around the yard.

My Muse is putting one foot in front of the other.  To increased mobility, and beyond!

Saturday, December 5, 2009


See?  There was a Snow leopard under there.

I want a deep, refractive look to this piece, especially the eyes, so I'm doing several thin isolation coats between layers.  It's a beautiful effect, but it means waiting for the isolation coat to dry.  So while that's going on, I'm prepping the second painting I want to complete for the party, and tending to my recovering dog.  Kie's home and resting, albeit not so comfortably.  Back surgery's a bitch, I can personally attest to that.  Right now I have to hold onto the belief that 'Time heals all wounds', and that she'll feel better quickly.   I feel like a pinball, bouncing back and forth from one painting, to another painting, to being Kie's nurse and physical therapist.  She is giving her best, doing everything she is physically capable of doing at this point, despite the pain.  I admire her grit and heart.  We both have lots more to do.

My Muse is task scheduling.  To tenacity, and beyond.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Lions and Tigers and Bears (and leopards and dogs), Oh My!

Snow Leopards, in this case.  Several years ago, I took a photograph of a Snow Leopard that I really liked.  I have painted several renditions of it, none of which I will post here, for fear of being laughed right off of Blogger.  Hopefully I've learned a thing or two since then, so I'll make another attempt, this time publicly.  Come on along and see how this turns out.

Here's the initial sketch.  It's a direct transfer onto black gessoed hardboard.  I was trying to outline large value changes in what was a mass of small value changes.  It was like trying to outline single drops of water in an ocean.  Yes, I know it looks like I threw spaghetti onto a black background.  There's a Snow leopard in there me.

Snows are absolutely beautiful cats, covered in lush, oh-so-soft warm grey fur.  Grey?  Bah!  I'm shooting for an analogous complementary color scheme, with burnt sienna on one side, and a range from purple to blue to teal on the other.

I'd like to complete two paintings before the party on the 16th.  Two things are going to make that goal a little hard to accomplish.  One is a malevolent little cold virus that's making my head feel like a brick.  I'm trying desparately not to cough while I'm painting, lest the leopard develop stripes instead of it's usual spots.  You should probably disinfect your computer screen after reading this.

The second thing is, well, breaking my heart.  My beautiful, beloved ten-year old English Shepherd, Kieran, had to undergo spinal surgery.  She's coming home today, and will require constant care.  Every inch of our tile and hardwood floors are now covered with carpet remnants, throw rugs and spare bath mats so she will be able to get around, with assistance, without having her rear legs slide out from under her.  The next six weeks will determine whether she is able to fully recover.

If the only thing I accomplish in the next two weeks is helping her start to walk again, I will be overjoyed.  Some things in life are just more important.  Please send some hopes and good doggie wishes, willya?  We all would appreciate it.

My Muse is fluffing up the dog beds.  To mobility, and beyond!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Carbohydrate Overload

I really intended to get this finished yesterday, before the start of the bacchanalian feast known here in the U.S. as "Thanksgiving".  It's our day to surround ourselves with loved ones (or family, as the case may be), give thanks for what we have (or gripe about what we don't), and eat to the point where we collapse on the couch in a self-induced coma of gluttony.   It's also the annual economic boon to turkey farmers, wineries, and antacid manufacturers everywhere.

I have much to be thankful for, far too many things to list here without making your eyes glaze over, and making your index finger click the 'back' button on your browser.  To be succinct, I am eternally grateful for Net, my ever supportive "partner in crime", our health, our wonderful friends and family, our cuddly and adorable pets, and a place to call home.  Im also eternally grateful and thankful for the people who chose to read, follow, and comment on this blog, your support and interaction is invaluable to me.  And to the fellow artists I've had the priveledge to get to know the past year, both in person, on the blogs, and on the forums, you are an inspiration, and your encouragement helps keep this little art dream alive.  'Nuff said.

So as you can see,  Right Brain won out, and another Chuck piece was the result.  I'm not confident enough yet to put down thick strokes of pure color.  I'm also quite nearsighted, so I have a habit of sitting way too close to the easel, even with my glasses on.  The colors look quite individual when your nose is mere inches away from the canvas, but back up a little, and it all blends in together.  Another bad habit I'm going to have to overcome.

Ground Chuck
7" X 5", acrylic on Canson paper
©2009, Lisa Walsh

Now I need to shift gears a bit.  At our annual Zoo Holiday party this year, my co-workers and I have the chance to display our artistic side. It may be paintings, drawings, stories, poems, crafts, or whatever creative bent we may have.  For me, it'll be paintings of wildlife, and the occasion to have my art publicly viewed.  In person.  For the first time.  I'm not freaking out about this.  Yet.

My Muse is putting away the Chucks.  To opportunity, and beyond!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Skipping Out On My Own Class

My impatience (maybe it's ADD?) kicked in again.  I was fully planning on doing more timed exercises....really I was.  But I've had that 'California colorist' palette simmering in the back of my brain for days now, and, as it is for most of my obsessive thoughts, it won't go away and leave me alone until I do something with it.  So I spent several days studying the paintings of Beverly Wilson, because I really like her palette and painting style.  What colors does she use (hmmm...looks like cad yellow, cad orange, ultramarine blue, magenta....darn, I don't have any magenta, pyrrole crimson will have to do), how does she use them, where does she use them in relation to other colors, etc., etc., etc.  Armed with just enough information to make myself think I could try it, I photographed my trusty chili-red Converse All Star shoe, and got to work.

Colorist Chuck
7" X 5', acrylic on Canson paper
©2009, Lisa Walsh

It was a bit mind boggling to try and switch from painting based mainly on color value to painting based more on color temperature.  I think I nearly gave myself a cerebral hemorrhage.  By the time I finished the shoe, and began doing the shadow, my brain cells curled into a ball and gave up.  At that point, I really didn't have a clue as to what to use for the shadow colors, so I splashed on some of the colors I used in the shoe, put down my brush and backed slowly away from the easel.  Fear not, no shoes were harmed in the making of this painting. 

My left brain says I should be a responsible adult, buckle down and get back to the timed painting exercises.  My right brain is stuck on the Chucks.  Stay tuned to see who wins.

My Muse is holding a kitchen timer in one hand, and a chili-red Chuck in the other.  To immaturity, and beyond!

Friday, November 20, 2009


After a brief hiatus, enjoying sun, sand, surf and Scuba in the Florida Keys, I decided that when I got home, I was going to quit whining and procrastinating, and challenge myself.  (Is it legal to put that many commas in a single sentence?)  I based it on Katharine Cartwright's Twenty Minute Challenge.  I won't be submitting this one to the challenge, however, because...well.....I cheated.  Usually I get lost in a painting;  planning, drawing, painting then painting again, tweaking and fussing, doing and re-doing.  I never put myself under a time restraint before, so I decided to give myself some wiggle room on the first one. I did do a starting sketch, rather than just jumping into the painting (I don't trust my drawing skills to produce something recognizable in that short a period of time), and I gave myself thirty minutes instead of twenty to complete the painting.

The time constraint really made me think about what I was going to do before I put brush to paper.  Plan the colors, plan the procedure (ok...background first, then foreground, then shadow, then shoe, and finally the laces), get ready, get set.....GO!

I wasn't going to name these little exercise pieces, but I couldn't help being a smart aleck with the title. :-P

Up Chuck
7" X 5", acrylic on Canson paper
© 2009, Lisa Walsh

I gotta admit, it was fun.  The paint had to go on quick, thick and opaque to cover the black gesso background.  No muss, no fuss, no smoothing or blending or glazing, just lots o' paint from palette to paper, as fast as my little half-inch brush could pick it up.  Under normal circumstances, would I still be fiddling with this?  You betcha.  But I'm liking the lessons learned from this little study, so there will be more in the coming days.

My Muse is wiping sweat from my brow.  To brevity, and beyond!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Walk This Way

This is my latest entry into Karin Jurick's Different Strokes challenge.  I loved the overhead perspective which created an abstract feel to the figures.

Walking in Rhythm
10" x 8", acrylic on Canson Acrylic paper
©2009 by Lisa Walsh

I tend to have total brain blocks when trying to name a painting.  I'll think, and ponder, and finally agonize, hoping that a witty and appropriate title will suddenly pop into my head.  I usually wind up disappointed, with a splitting headache.   To make this ever so much easier on myself (and since I'm running low on Aleve), I decided to use popular song titles to name the works.  'Walking In Rhythm' was a 1975 hit by The Blackbyrds.

My Muse is out for a stroll.  To musicality, and beyond!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wheel of (mis)Fortune

Does anyone else here collect color wheels?



Am I alone in this obsession?

As I stumble along trying to teach myself the many nuances of color use and theory, I have amassed a fairly sizeable collection of color wheels: The Quiller Wheel, the Artell Wheel, Nita Leland's Color Wheel, Harley Brown and Margaret Kessler's versions of the Munsell Color Wheel, Bruce MacEvoy's Handprint Color Wheel, just to name a few.

And. Every. Single. One. Is. Different.

Some slightly different.  Some majorly different.  And it initially drove me crazy.  Why wasn't there ONE darn color wheel?

When I first started this little artistic expedition, I was turning out little works that couldn't possibly be called art that even the dogs refused to look at.  I knew I needed help, and lots of it, and I wanted to find some answers.  Being impatient when it comes to these things, I wanted sinple, straightforward answers on how to improve my artwork.  I wanted to create good art NOW.   I wanted to find a book or a class that would say "Here.  Here's everything you need to know.  Here's the steps you take to create the perfect composition.  Here's the colors you should use on your palette, and how you should use them.  Here's how to create great art.  Start at Step 1, and go on from there."

Phooey.  I never did find that book, and never will, but I read many, many good ones in the interim.   It's taken a few years just to start figuring out some of the answers to some of the questions.  Just figuring out the difference between the typical triadic color wheel, and the Munsell version of the color wheel gives me a small personal thrill.  So I read, and I research, and I study, and I practice, and I busily collect the basic tools and rules, and file them away under "Things I Think I've Figgered Out".

A lot if it is about how very personal art is.  How we do it.  How we view it.  Our preference of mediums, supports, subjects, and styles.  Some painters use the three primary colors and white as their palette, some use more than fifty different colors.  Even if we all used the exact same palette in the exact same medium, our art would still be individual. It's whatever works for each artist, however they get there, whatever diverse and different paths they take. With every piece, a little bit of each artist is transformed into the physical world. Understanding this, and seeing that little bit of each artist makes the viewing that much more interesting. I always thought it would be interesting to be a traditional animation artist. Wouldn't it be fascinating to see characters you've drawn on paper actually come to life on a screen, complete with voices and personalities, lives and adventures?  It has a certain draw to it (no pun intended).

OK, I'm done waxing philosophic.  While exploring the Interwebs, I came upon two artists who use their respective palettes brilliantly. Mario Mirkovich creates incredible, classically composed landscapes with beautiful colors. Beverly Wilson also creates incredible landscapes and figures, in the style of the "California Colorists".  What fabulous stuff!  Give me a few seconds to put my eyes back in my skull and stop drooling all over my keyboard.  I would love to experiment with the "California Colorist" colors, it's a beautifully luminous palette.

Another favorite artist, Katharine Cartwright (check out her "Eggshell" series) is starting a new blog called "The Twenty Minute Challenge".  In this challenge, you start with a blank piece of paper, set a timer for twenty minutes, and draw or paint something in your surroundings.  It has to be painted from life, and when the timer goes off, it's done.  No going back.  Sounds like a great exercise for those of us who have short attention spans, and need to learn how to make every brushstroke count.  I know that doing "exercises" like these could help me tremendously, but I find myself whining and making excuses not to do them.  Time to suck it up, take twenty minutes, and maybe even learn a thing or two.

My Muse is digging through the kitchen junk drawer trying to find the timer.  To achievability, and beyond!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

What? Again? Srsly, get a new subject.

Well, I wasn't able to maintain the frenzied and feverish paint-and-post-a-day pace that I kept up for TWO WHOLE DAYS, but I was able to paint enough that another post is warranted at this time.  Yes, it's another dog painting (or shall I say a painting OF one of my dogs, not that one of my dogs suddenly picked up a brush and became a Canine Caravaggio.  If that was the case, THE DOG would be the one doing the painting, and writing the blog, and I would be the one napping on the dog bed.  Of course, this little arrangement would garner national attention, and then you'd see us on the Today show or something, maybe even Oprah, and then we'd be wrangling book deals and a contract for a reality show, and maybe a line of art supplies....:sigh:...although, come to think of it, all of that adds up to nothing but a boatload of stress, and who needs that?  I'll keep the dogs away from the easel.  They would probably show me up, anyway.)  And yes, it's Hailey again.  Can I help it if she's so darn photogenic?

There were two things in particular I liked about the photo source.  One was the high point of view, which led to an unusual but workable composition. The second was the light.  And the ability to do a great complementary color scheme.  OK, three things.  And they all seemed to work together pretty well.

More layers and glazing,
and finally...

"Sun Dog"
10" X 8", acrylic on Canson paper
©2009, Lisa Walsh

The Burnt Sienna-ish/Cobalt Turquoise-ish complementary color scheme is one of my absolute favorites.  It just strikes a happy little color chord in my brain.  Sidney Carter uses it to beautiful effect in many of his paintings, which is one of the myriad of reasons he is one of my favorite artists.

My Muse is off diligently photographing new subject matter.  To diversity, and beyond!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

On A Roll

Two posts in two days...if I don't watch it I might start to get downright prolific, and THEN WHAT? (cue scary music) The dust bunnies will proliferate (actually in this house they're dust hippos, with multiple dogs continually shedding every spare hair on their I'm actually happy they're only hippo sized)...(the dust bunnies, not the dogs); the myriad of tools laying around the house because we just set them down after a job won't get organized; the pallet of landscaping bricks that didn't get used for landscaping this year won't get removed from the garage so we can actually park a vehicle inside....

::deep breath::

...but I digress. And I can live with those things for the immediate future.

So for now, I'm merrily ensconced in my studio (a.k.a. the second bedroom, the office, the room that all the superfluous household junk gets thrown into) happily splashing paint onto gessoed paper. The cell phone is off. No one is expected at the door. My Better Half is at a class. The dogs have managed to wade through the dust bunnies, and are snoozing on the couch.

Ahh...peace and quiet. On with the painting.

I think musical instruments are things of beauty in and of themselves, a fabulous marriage of form and function. Paul Jackson, who is an exceptional watercolorist, has done some incredible paintings of various instruments, definitely well worth the look. This painting was based on a photo from the Reference Image Library on Wet Canvas.

7.5" X 5.5"
Acrylic on Canson paper

I'm trying to achieve a more painterly feel in the works I'm doing lately, but it didn't feel like that method would have done justice to the violin itself, so I settled for painting more loosely in the background only. The violin itself just begged for a smooth surface, so there are many, many, oh so many layers of glazing on the violin body. I wanted that sucker to shine, to glow. The highlight above the S hole was giving me fits, and I'm still not happy with it, and the chin rest leaves a bit of a black hole in the lower right corner, but I really like the overall feel of the painting. I may just do a larger version of it someday, if I ever again get the chance to blockade myself in the studio for several days.

My Muse is sliding dinner under the door. To non-accessiblilty, and beyond!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Back to the Easel

There are many talented artists out there who are productive enough to have blogs titled "Daily Paintings" or "A Painting A Day". Some seem to produce enough to have a blog called "A Painting Every Five Minutes". Given what's been going on around here lately, this blog should be titled "A Painting in between Fixing The Leaky Pipe in the Basement, Cleaning Out the Closets, Removing the Remains of the Tomato Plants That Didn't Do Well This Year, and Tending to A Sick Dog" blog, although I don't thing that would fit in the title bar. Now that the To-Do list has been mostly To-Done for now, I'm sitting myself down at the easel and kicking myself squarely in the behind (not a physically easy thing to do) so I get some painting done.

First thing is my latest entry into the Different Strokes From Different Folks blog challenge. This time the challenge was a photo taken of the rooftops in San Francisco. I have to admit, I would probably never have taken the photo in the first place, and even if I did, I would not have looked at it as something interesting to paint. That's part of what makes these challenges so fun and interesting; they make you see things with different eyes, and take you out of your comfort zone.

"Up On The Roof"
(not an original or imaginitive title, but it fits,
and my mind refuses to think of another)
8 X 10
Acrylic on Canson paper

Because the subject matter basically boils down to abstract shapes, it became more of an exercise in color experimentation. I like violet as a shadow color, but I'm not sure it works here. It may have worked better if the color in the far buildings were more saturated. Right now this piece seems to be suffering from a split personality; intense color up front, dull color in the back. They say an artist has to paint three hundred paintings before they even start to grasp all the intricacies of what they are doing. Woo-hoo, only about two hundred ninety five to go!

My Muse is prepping the next canvas. To productivity, and beyond!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Mug shot

Life has gotten in the way of blogging, so in an effort not to let this blog go completely stale, I'll post a quick study I did of my dog, Hailey. She was sitting in the living room with the window behind her, the afternoon sun lighting her up from behind, and a smile on her face. Thankfully my camera is an almost permanently attached appendage, I got a great photo of her, and based this piece on that.

No lines, no major prep...just an exercise in getting color on canvas. Looking at it now, I'd mute those front canine teeth somewhat, as she looks a bit like a vampire. Do dogs sparkle? And since I'm not a 'Twilight" fan, what the hell does that mean, anyway?

My Muse is off somewhere working on an Around-The-House-To-Do list. To responsibility, and beyond.

Monday, September 21, 2009

You Ain't Nothin' But A....

This somewhat stoic Basset hound was a challenge on one of the Wet Canvas forums. I loved the look on his face, so "basset-ish". I decided I wanted to do a close crop of the photo, lots of graphic black lines, a complementary color scheme, and as much direct painting and as little glazing as possible.

I did a direct transfer of the photo onto black gessoed acrylic paper, the placement of lines being based on value changes. Then the lines get wiped lightly with a sponge to dull them a bit. Clinical trials have shown that staring at bright white lines on black paper can quite possibly etch the image permanently on your corneas. At least that's what it feels like while you're staring at them for any length of time.

I painted around all of the little black lines with Red Oxide, a great paint for this because it's warm, muted, and about as opaque as a brick. It will cover anything. At this point, my eyes were already beginning to cross, and I was beginning to question the sanity of this method. I suppose I could have toned the paper with Red Oxide first, then added the outlines, but a stubborn little part of my brain insists that the black lines have to be behind the rest of the paint. Common Sense wasn't able to overpower Stubborn Part. Stubborn wins...for now.

When this stage is dry, the white chalk outline is completely wiped off. This is actually a favorite stage of the painting for me; with the chalk gone, the black outlines reveal themselves, and the contrast becomes beautifully apparent. Now I know why Stubborn Part won this round.

Onward. Not only do I have to underpaint around all of the little black lines, but then I have to paint around them too. *sigh* I'll admit, it gets bit annoying, especially when you have the perfect mixture of paint on the brush, and you just want to slap it on with gleeful abandon. The larger parts, particularly the ear, allowed me to slap paint on with glee, just not with abandon.

I can certainly see this method working well in a much larger format painting. This guy is just 5" X 10", and I'm only working with a 1/2" bright brush to keep a painterly feel. If I pick up a smaller brush, I'll start getting lost in the minutiae, and I don't want to do that.

Finished painting, and I'll say I'm pretty happy with it. The process created an interesting "stained glass" look and feel to the piece, which could have been enhanced with multiple glazes. I might have to try that next time.

I haven't been able to come up with a good title for this ol' boy, so for now he's just:

"Unnamed Basset"
5" X 10"
Acrylic on Canson Acrylic paper

My Muse is throwing her support behind Stubborn Part. To adaptability, and beyond.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Zoned Out

Multitasking is not my cup of tea. I'm definitely a singular focus type of gal, particularly when it comes to art. When I have an idea in my head, it's almost like I have to get it out and down on a substrate before it poofs off into the nether reaches of my brain, never to be seen or heard from again. When I'm painting, as it is for many artists, the focus is sometimes so strong that nothing else exists besides the idea in the mind, the hand holding the brush, and the canvas. A triangle impenetrable by any outside stimuli. is (let's all say it together in hushed reverence):

"The Zone"

And I get downright cranky when things like life's little affairs, appointments, chores, and responsibilities pull me out of "The Zone".

So I'm somewhat miffed right now. I have a piece I'd really like to be working on, but there are things to see, places to do, and people to go. Or something like that. Given the time crunch, I'll simply post a quick, fun little piece done as my latest entry for Karin Jurick's Different Strokes blog.

"Chance of Sprinkles"
5" X 7"
Acrylic on Canson Montval Acrylic paper

Hate to leave, but there is much to do, and fun to be had beyond the easel.

My Muse is brewing me up a cup of calming herbal tea. To irritability, and beyond.

All from one

One of my favorite artists, Karin Jurick, holds a bi-weekly painting challenge on her Different Strokes From Different Folks blog. She posts a photo, and artists create works based on the photo, and submit it to the blog. It's so interesting to see the myriad of different crops, colors, styles, media, and each artist's personal take on a single subject, all in one convenient place. I've found artists that I really like who have submitted work to the blog. Back in June, Karin posted a pic of a plate of fresh Georgia veggies. This was my submission.

"Veg Out"
8" X 8" on Canson Montval Acrylic paper

It was a really fun exercise. I could have probably muted the shadows a bit, but I must confess that I'm obsessed with shadows and what can be done with them. Shadows are colorful. Shadows are expressive. Shadows are just plain fun to paint. Hmmmm...I can see a series somewhere in the future based just on shadows.

My Muse is checking the weather report for sunny days. To commonality, and beyond.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Notions...both physical and mental

Okay, okay, I have to admit something here. I love whimsy. Absolutely love it. I love it when you take something mundane and ordinary, and make it totally kooky and fun. I love cartoons. I love animation. I love goofy cartoon dragons. I love furniture that leans in odd ways (on purpose, of course). The comics is the first section of the Sunday paper that I read. If I had my way, I'd live here:

I do believe that the Powers That Be at the Uber-Disney-Mega-Corporate-Conglomeration would probably frown upon having a non-Toon resident in Toon Town. Seeing that I can't live there, I'd like to live in this house, or at least have our 1950's tract ranch look something like this:

but I'm sure that if I presented these plans to the zoning board, I'd be stymied by the Local Powers That Be, who have about as much imagination as a soap dish.

Since I can't (currently) reside in the Whimsical Abode of My Dreams, I have to make do with a little whimsical home decorating.

These two adorable dragons reside on top of the entertainment center. You can light an incense cone and place it inside them, so they really do exhale smoke. Well, not the guy on the left, actually...he has his hands (paws? feet? talons? What DO dragons have?) over his nose, so the smoke comes out of his ears. You get the idea.

This trio has a home on top of the piano. They don't necessarily help my piano playing, but they don't criticize either, for which I am thankful.
Didn't I say I have a thing for goofy dragons?

This loony bird keeps watch over the kitchen. Why do we have a fake bird in the kitchen, you ask? Why, because we don't want a real one in the kitchen. Or anywhere else. Seriously. There are more than enough critters in this house as it is. 'Nuff said. get the idea from this small sampling of home decor wackiness. So it naturally follows that I like and am inspired by art and artists that are a little, lets say, off the beaten path of photo realism. Not that I am knocking photorealist artists, mind you, so please save the scathing comments and appalled emails. I admire the work of many of these artists, probably moreso because I know I don't have the eye or the patience to do anything like that. I tried, and drove myself crazy when the result didn't exactly match the subject. It gave me headaches. It made my eye twitch. I think I almost gave myself a cerebral hemorrage once. It wasn't me. So a style based more on folly and lightheartedness started looking better and better, and probably wouldn't require prescription medication to get through painting a piece.

One of my absolute favorite artists is Don Tiller. He is a Washington artist who does fabulous, fun, colorful landscapes of rural and urban scenes. Look at the blue trees, and the orange fields, and the funky absolute feast for my eyes! I saw his work for the first time in The Artist's Magazine. It was one of those instances where your eyes casually move over something, then your brain suddenly sits up and takes notice, and immediately informs your eyes to go back to take a closer look. I did. I was hooked. I would love to have one of his landscapes gracing a piece of wall in my home. This is one of his works titled "Mid-season"

Another favorite artist is Daniel Ng. I first saw his work at the Old Town Art Fair in Chicago. I was drawn to his work for the same reasons I was drawn to Tiller's: the primary colors, the funk, the fun. Another element that catches my eye is the thin black lines that outline the forms giving the paintings a nice graphic quality. Another interesting feature of Ng's work, which is more apparent in his paintings of interiors, is the distorted perspective that makes it appear like you're looking at the scene through a fish eye lens. Yet another layer of whimsy! Love it! This is one of Ng's works titled "Mt. Tam"

There are many other incredible artists whose work I love and that inspire elements that I am trying to incorporate into my work. I want my art to be more colorful, more graphic, more, dare I say it again...whimsical. I'm not shooting for Over the Top Whimsy With a Capital W, but I would like to inject a little Small W whimsy. I don't think it's humanly or artistically possible to go right from doing Rigid Realism to Wild Whimsy. There has to be a 12-step program involved in there somewhere.

So...Step 1: go for a more graphic look, and boost the color a bit.

Result: a painting of my Australian Shepherd, Cheyenne, titled "Bossy Aussie" (which, if you know Aussies, you know that this is an apt description for the breed in general). It's 11 X 14, acrylic on black gessoed Ampersand Hardbord. Overall, I was pretty happy with this piece; the crop was nice and close, the colors were intensified, and it looks like her (well...mostly...if she fell into a vat of melted crayons).

I like this direction. I think I'll continue down this road.

My Muse has the GPS device out and is charting a course. To frivolity, and beyond.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Gettin' organized

One of the myriad of things I need to learn to do in all of simply take a deep breath and relax and enjoy the painting process. Far too often I have found myself sitting at my easel with an underlying smoldering sense of urgency and panic, a little voice telling me that everything I produce must be done quickly, and be a masterpiece, and if it's not, I'm kidding myself and need to chuck the easel right out of the window. Many times I started painting with little more than an idea, and nary a plan, and because of this, produced works that were suitable only for lining the bottom of a bird cage, much to the chagrin of the bird. Self-Doubt and Unreal Expectations can be an insidious little duo of parasites in an artist's mind. I needed to create an internal spray can of Mind Raid to shut said parasites up and kill them dead.

One of the ingredients in that can of Mind Raid was to develop a set of "guidelines" to follow when the urge hit to just sit down at the easel and slap paint on canvas; a way to slow myself down and actually think about what I was doing, rather than just doing it blindly and creating lots of birdcage liners. I don't necessarily follow it to the letter, it is just a set of abridged guidelines, but it has the benefit of giving the left brain something to do while the right brain is having all the fun.

  • Start with what inspires you. You. Not anyone else.
  • Identify the emotion you want to convey about the subject. Is it peaceful? funny? moody?
  • Pick the size and shape of the canvas. Or paper. Or panel. Or whatever substrate that has caught your interest at the moment.
  • Select a value theme. Light, middle, or dark toned? The selected value should occupy more than half of the image.
  • Select a color temperature. Warm or cool?
  • Select a color intensity. Bright or dull.
  • Choose a dominant color.
  • Select a color scheme. Primary. Secondary. Intermediate. Analogous. Complementary. Split complementary. Monochromatic. Complementary with discords.
  • Build a composition. Start with your inspiration, and sketch simple shapes in only three values until you find an arrangement you like. Divide the space into unequal proportions. Create movement with flowing patterns. Look for contrast opportunities.
  • Incorporate good design principles into the composition. Balance. Dominance. Unity. Harmony. Repetition. Rhythm. Gradation. Contrast.
  • Establish a format. "S" format. "L" format. Tunnel format. Triangle format. Pattern format. Asymmetrical balance. Radiating Line. etc., etc.
  • Communicate your inspiration. Choose a dominant focus.
  • Establish the center of interest (focal point).
  • Use design elements to help portray your inspiration. Line, shape, direction, size, texture, value, and color.
Take a good look. What can be exaggerated, eliminated, or enhanced?

My Muse is taking notes. To utility, and beyond.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I started this what?

Lets start at the very beginning.....ahh...I'm apparently channeling my inner Julie Andrews. I have had an art Muse for as long as I can recall, although this usually benign Muse sometimes got me into trouble. As a kid, if paper wasn't within easy reach, any flat surface would work as a canvas for my inspirations: the walls, blank book pages, even the underside of the family room coffee table. I had quite the Sistine Chapel-ish mural of a farm going on under that table until I was caught at it one day.

I had the typical girlish obsession with Anything Equine, which started at birth and continues to this day. I had at my personal disposal, thanks to my sisters who had come before me, quite the grade school reading level library of horse books. My very favorite was the Illustrated Junior Library's version of Anna Sewell's Black Beauty, with wonderful illustrations by Fritz Eichenberg. I worshipped that book. I memorized that book and the illustrations. And among it's blank pages, you would find this:

Horse, age 3 (my age, not the horse)

Apparently this particular horse had a glandular problem, but you get the idea. From there, I went on to the unbridled creativity of Paint by Numbers (horses of course. Although I do remember taking a creative leap and painting a deer....once). After dabbling in these for a time, I took yet another creative leap, burst from the restraints of Paint by Numbers, and began to create works like these:

Horse, age 6 (my age, not....oh, you get the idea)

Note that it looks suspiciously like a Paint by Number horse (sans outlines and numbers), but we all have to draw our inspirations from somewhere, don't we? From then on, the sky was the limit! Finally forgoing the equine theme, I discovered landscapes at around age 10:

On canvas, no less! And even forays into other media, like scratchboard:

Okay, we're back to the animal theme, but at least it's not a horse. And from there, you ask? Numerous other works, continued artistic advances, study at an illustrious art school, graduation, a career that feeds the soul of my little art Muse?


During this formative juncture, the powers that be kept insinuating that art was no way to Make A Living. And that you had to Go Into Business if you were to make any sort of decent livable wage. And I bought into that particular theory, even though I humored my Muse by looking into the programs at the School of the Art Institute and the American Academy of Art, and by taking some drawing and commercial art classes at the local community college. But that's as far as it went. By this point, I think my Muse had had enough of this nonsense, packed her bags and took off on a long vacation.

So I Went Into Business. And after being an uninspired office worker for several years, I swore my brain was turning into an unintelligible lump of mush and slowly leaking out of my ears. To stem the flow before my cranium was devoid of any gray matter whatsoever, a change of career was in order. Remember the animal-themed art? Well, I followed that particular thread of interest, gave up my computer and desk for a uniform and a shovel, and became a zookeeper. And what were the first animals under my care? Why, horses, of course! Go figure.

That career choice continues to this day. After settling into the routine for several years, I found that my Muse had finally returned from her state of self-exile, and was bitching about being ignored for so long. Taking the hint, I once again picked up my art supplies, found inspiration in the creatures around me, and produced works like this:

and this:

While being technically accurate for the most part, they still had the aura of Paint by Numbers. This needed to stop. So I began to haunt the local library, borrow a few art books, and browse through them casually. The Color Wheel? Bah. A value plan? Who needs it. Hue and intensity, warm and cool color relationships, simultaneous contrast? Just a lot of hooey. wrong I was. Anything produced during this period of artistic denial was so foul it would burn the retinas out of your eyes if you were to even glimpse it. I could clearly picture my Muse putting her face in her hands, shaking her head and sighing.

Enter the Interwebs. What did we do before it? What a fabulous way to discover some incredible artists! Like Karin Jurick and Carol Marine, who can take the most everyday things and scenes, and turn them into a feast for the eyes. The beautiful still lifes of Jeffrey Hayes, the delightful whimsy of Brenda York, and soooo many others. Ahhhh, Inspiration! I had found nirvana. My Muse sat up and poured herself a cup of coffee.

And we finally arrive at the Here And Now. For about the last year I have buried myself in art books, magazines, materials, websites, artist's demonstrations, and anything else I could get my greedy little paws on . I'm starting to get it now. Value plans. Color schemes. Composition. Warm and cool. I find it fascinating. A pat on the head from my Muse. But the more I know, the less I know, if you know what I mean.

I really have not developed an Overall Self-Teaching Plan as of yet, and because of this, this blog may at times seem like artistic schizophrenia. I believe that will just add to the fun. I'll probably go with what strikes my fancy at the moment... an idea, concept, method.. learn by doing, and post what happens. Hopefully the results won't have you covering your eyes or reaching for the Mind Bleach. That said, artistic pointers, comments and constructive criticism are always welcome.

My Muse is amused. To creativity, and beyond!