Enjoy life now... it has an expiration date.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Maine Cove

A couple of years ago we vacationed in Maine. Wow...what a take-your-breath-away gorgeous place! (Would love to live there provided I had a reliable heating system, a snow blower and a home office/studio!). I took lots of photos to use as references for paintings.... but this is the first painting of Maine that I've done.

I used the Artisan oils again and imposed two conditions on myself for this mini painting (it's an ACEO):

1. Spend no more than 30 minutes on the painting from initial sketch to last stroke of paint

2. No re-doing.... for any reason whatsoever

I actually managed to abide by both conditions. I do see some things I'd like to change (no surprise there :-), but I left it alone and will try to keep those things in mind on the next painting.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Newspaper column for April 2009

The Cure for Sea Fever

Sea-Fever by John Masefield

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a gray mist on the sea’s face and a gray dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again to the vagrant gypsy life.
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And a quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

I had a nagging case of sea fever; possibly caused by the confinement of winter months, or perhaps by the siren song of spring that beckoned me to like a child begging an adult to "come and see what I made". And so, ignoring the disapproval of chores that needed to be done, errands that waited to be run and a dozen other "should-do’s" that snatched greedily at my time, I turned a deaf ear and listened instead to the call of the sea.

A light picnic was packed to suffice as an evening meal and mid-afternoon the hubby and I took off for the beach. It was the right decision. A lovely spring day awaited us with storybook blue skies and scudding white clouds. On the ride down, I turned my head from side to side, looking, unwilling to miss anything. Dogwoods, tulip trees, early azaleas, late narcissus and clusters of little wildflowers all bloomed exuberantly and I silently applauded their show.

Arriving at the beach, we climbed steps that rose over a dune, and at the top, stood still. After winter's pale stillness, there’s magic in that first glance at the lilting sea, resplendent in myriad shades of blue and green and capped with white at the shoreline. I took a deep, slow breath, reveling in the salty air and the sound of the sea. My eyes followed the waves that curled, crested and then, relaxed, rolled gently onto the beach. Time fell away, the "should-do’s" ceased to exist, and a peaceful feeling of belonging seeped in.

There were few beach-goers this early in April. I was glad. Glad to listen only to the lulling waves and cries of the gulls. Life at the shore is reduced to simpler elements, and simpler felt good, felt lighter. Like losing ten pounds; not in body, but in spirit.

I had brought a heavy jacket, expecting a cold and cutting wind. But the day was benevolent and I was comfortable wearing jeans and a shirt. Spring’s gentle sun dropped sparkling highlights on the waves and shimmered on the wet sand. Along the tideline the sand was studded with shells; mostly broken, but still beautiful in their variety and color. Wet, they glistened, jewels against a velvet cloth, and I picked up the gems I thought beautiful and dropped them safely into a bag. A good subject for a painting, perhaps.

The hubby loves to feed the sea gulls, so we came prepared with a whole loaf of bread. After the quiet months of winter the gulls were cautious. As the season wore on they would once again accustom themselves to the beach crowds that annually invade their realm. But at the moment they were skittish. The small bread chunks thrown out to them rolled to a standstill where they lay untouched as the gulls, tempted, stared, started forward, then thought better of it and stepped back. So the hubby threw the bread farther out and finally the boldest among them claimed his prize. Then another stepped forward, and another, until soon we were surrounded by a gaggle of gulls all vying for the morsels flying across the sand. They were comical, reminding me of children squabbling and scuffling for the best piece of candy. When one grabbed a piece of bread, another one close by would squawk loudly in protest. Sometimes two or three gulls dived after the same bit of bread and when one caught it, the unsuccessful gulls set off a clamorous chorus of disgruntled and envious complaining. We spent several minutes watching and enjoying the gulls while they enjoyed the food. Eventually, the bread was gone and we expected them to leave immediately. Instead they stood around, looking at us expectantly as if to say, "We’re waiting". They were quiet now, and their fears allayed by the food, had come within a few feet of us. They stood regarding us with an open and patient gaze. We started walking back to the steps over the dune and for a few feet we had company. Then, realizing that meal time was over, one by one the gulls left, circling out over the sea in search of more food.

It was a good evening. There was time to be quiet, time to talk, time to rest. We wondered why we didn’t do this more often. There wasn’t any reason not to. It didn’t require a week, or even a whole day. Just a couple of hours at the beach had gone a long way to curing sea fever. The wind and waves had done their work - as I knew they would. And that night I slept the quiet sleep with the sweet dreams of those who go down to the seas.

Friday, April 17, 2009

New Paints! ... Artisan Oils

(2.5 x 3.5 on gesso primed canvas paper)

I spent about an hour and a half trying out my new Artisan Oil Paints. They're made by Winsor & Newton and are water mixable. I was curious to see if the fumes bothered me, as traditional oils do. So far, no fume problems!

The subject is a Roundhouse in Cornwall, England - and it was LOTS of fun to paint! I think I'll like these paints (I'm hoping that fume problems won't develop later down the line) and plan to work with them again.

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Flowergirl WIP 4

More work done on the little flowergirl. I think I've finished the dress (will have to let it sit a while to find out for sure) and started on the background.

As always, constructive criticism welcome!

Updates on Flowergirl

The fates have conspired against me in trying to post this week! I was caregiver for an invalid parent (MIL) on Monday, and Tuesday we had severe thunderstorms on and off most of the day... and I usually unplug my computer just to be on the safe side. So today we have two WIPs! Lighting on photos not too good - sorry - natural lighting was low yesterday due to the storms and I didn't want to use a flash and blow out the details.

I'm fairly pleased with how the flowergirl is coming along, although I guess I'm never really satisfied. Not too many re-do's- thanks mostly to keeping a light touch and deciding ahead of time what I'm trying to accomplish BEFORE I put color down! I once read that Sargeant would dip his brush in paint and then hold it above his canvas, hovering, while he considered the effect the next brush stroke would have. If Sargeant hovered, then I'm quite sure I need to get into the habit of hovering too!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Flowergirl - A New Work

Where do the days fly away to? Seems like there's never enough hours in the day or days in the week to get everything accomplished!

Ah well, today is not the day for such serious musings as the brevity of our days. I've started a new project that I'm really excited about. I'm excited because I think some of my experimenting and ongoing study of art is beginning to pay off, and because I have a vision in my head of where I want to go with this portrait - and I hope that I can keep that vision fresh and constant until I'm finished. (Reference from Wet Canvas RIL - thank you to the generous person who posted this gorgeous photo).

I decided to start with the face first this time. In the past I've waited to do the face until last. Not really sure why - possibly because I'm impatient to jump in with all those yummy colors and like to get warmed up on the less important parts of a picture. But this time I wanted to get the face in first and see how that affected the work process.

I'm working lighter, both in terms of pencil pressure and color. I'm using lighter colors and darkening ever-so-gradually to avoid re-do's. I'm trying to abdicate the throne as The Queen of Re-do. One title up for grabs... any takers? ;-)

I'm posting a couple of WIP's - sorry, not great pics. The first one is the pencil sketch and it's so light that, except for the face, it may not show up on the monitor. On the second WIP I've started on the face, getting the basics in and working gradually on modeling the features. I've found two things that have helped me a lot: first is to work as far away from the paper as is comfortable. Since cp is done on a desk (as opposed to an oil painter standing in front of an easel) it's all too easy to pore over the piece, working very close to it. For me this is not good - I tend to bog down in minor detail and lose sight of the big picture. It works better for me to get up close for critical features such as eyes, mouth and nose; and then sit back and put a little distance between me and the paper. The distance helps me to more clearly see the masses, shapes and tonal ranges and when working on the face it's easier to keep in mind the entire facial expression, not just one feature. The second thing that helps a lot is..... walk away! Take a coffee break, put a load of laundry in the washer, go for a walk, catch up on your blogging (I'm on a painting break to do this post). It's amazing how the errors jump out at you when you've been away for a little while, and it's nice to catch problems early... before there are several layers of color to remove in order to correct something.

As an aside, after being gently but persistently nudged by Jeanne and Jo's dedicated sketching habits I decided if you can't beat 'em, join 'em! So, I purchased a sketchbook (a size that's easy to carry - I had several of the large sketchbooks but they're too big to carry around) and have started sketching somewhat regularly. I have also purchased (credit for this purchase also goes to Jo - see her posts here using this medium) a beginner set of the Winsor & Newton Artisan water mixable oil paints. It's little box of five tubes of paint... but enough for me to find out if I can tolerate these oils. I hope I can - I love oil paint but can't stand the nauseating fumes. So - this should be interesting!

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