Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas Paintings

Winter Scene, 5 x 7 oil on panel

Christmas Girl, 7 x 5, oil on copper leaf on panel

This year I had the opportunity to create and donate several paintings to Christmas Auctions that benefit local charities. The challenge was to paint a "Christmas Card" image. I haven't heard yet about the opening night but I am hopeful that all the cards sell. The various approaches in different mediums was very inspiring - these could really make great gifts any time of the year.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Studio Lights

new fixture replacing old florescent

My studio is in a spare bedroom in my house - a common situation for many painters - and the standard ceiling lighting is inadequate. A few years ago I replaced the ceiling fixture with a florescent fixture, which flooded the room with bright light but made it difficult to accurately judge color. I added a fixture above the west-facing window and used a floor lamp in one corner, but these fixes still did not give me the lighting I desired.

A month ago I decided to research studio lighting and discovered that many experts suggest a variety of lighting sources and types. I've included links to some of those sites at the end of this post. I understood the obstacles to lighting that I had: West and North facing windows, a ceiling fixture, a room about 11 x 11, and not wanting a major lighting project that would make it difficult to convert the space back into a bedroom if the need arose.

The research I did led me to conclude that I needed multiple light sources that I could control, a way to avoid glare and, conversely, shadows by diffusing the light. I needed task lighting that I could direct down on my work space, and I needed lighting that could work for me both in daylight and at night.

I ended up with a compromise in what I could do. First, I replaced the ceiling florescent fixture with one from the home improvement store that allows me to direct the light. This fixture uses 50 watt GU10 bulbs and the light does have a yellow cast.

Using this light alone I can create a wash of light on the wall and my easel.

But I needed a way to countermand the cast shadows created by this light source. I decided to use floor lamps that direct the light upward to wash across the ceiling. These lights are slightly more blue/white.
One lamp in one corner, another lamp in the opposite corner. The newer lamp uses a 3-way natural light bulb, I'm not sure what is in the other lamp. Above the window I have an adjustable fixture, plus a clamp on light with a GE 50 watt Reveal daylight bulb

I use another clamp on light with a 50 watt Reveal bulb to light my palette and control cast shadows. I also use an Ott Lite above the easel.

While not the ideal if I were planning my dream studio, I find this assortment of lighting sources to be far more flexible than the single wash of light from the florescent fixture. I can control the light and direct it where I want, or increase or decrease the illumination, and it was quite affordable. I would eventually like to purchase a floor stand and a solux light bulb, too.

The above photos were taken at night, with each source "on it's own" - but with all the lights the working environment is comfortable. During the day, when I do most of my work, the ambient light is brighter, more neutral, and yet with all the flexibility I desired.

Useful Links:

An Artists Network PDF on Studio Lighting

A Blog Post From Pastel Artist Daniel Wise

Utrecht Art Fixtures

Solux Fixtures

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More from the Copper Leaf Paintings

Ancestor Series
oil on copper leaf on panel

I was asked to share more information on my process with these copper leaf paintings. I may have talked about it before, but here is the information again.

I stumbled on this idea a few years ago. I was creating paintings on 3" deep canvases and was unhappy with the way the painted sides looked. I had some copper leaf I'd purchased but never used. So I applied it to the canvases, and now, 3 years later, the sides look as great as when I did them, so I'm confident as to what I'm doing.

Now I start with a gessoed panel. I brush on GAC (an acrylic product) in small areas and then lift and apply small pieces of the copper leaf, available commercially in craft stores. It comes in thin sheets and can be a little frustrating to apply. I either tear or cut small pieces between 1 and 2 inches and gently lay them on the GAC, brushing into place. You will end up with a less than smooth surface, but these wrinkles are what I want for my surface. When the entire panel is covered, I brush it again with a thin, even coat of the GAC and allow to dry.

Next, I use burnt umber acrylic paint and a thick paper towel. I put a bit of thinned paint right onto the paper towel, and using my finger, rub it across the surface. The acrylic paint also lets the oil paint bond to the surface of the copper leaf. When the acrylic layer is dry, the panel is ready to be painted.

I sketch in the "landmarks" for my faces with charcoal, and I use a limited palette of colors. I've also created still life paintings using this process. The copper works with you or against when it comes to values, but if you think of it as a mid-value range and push a lot darker and a lot lighter, it's fine. The small size of the panels I'm using right now means I can finish a painting in about 2 hours - if the faces come. They aren't always cooperative.

When I am happy with the oil painting, I allow that to dry and then coat the entire surface with galkyd. This prevents the copper from tarnishing, although there is no guarantee that some areas won't react to all the materials applied. I have panels I painted more than 3 years ago, where I embedded copper leaf in galkyd. Some copper turned dark, but most of it is as bright as it was when I used it.

Keep in mind that the surface is rough, so fine detail is hard to achieve. I use the beautiful warm color of the copper as a value.


This is the painting I donated to the NAWA fundraiser. I went back in and added detail to her eyes with one of my smallest brushes, and I'm pleased with the result. I hope it sells.

Monday, September 7, 2009

New From the Ancestor Series

Sibyl #2
oil on copper leaf

It's the end of a busy summer. The weather is starting to cool down and I think everyone is starting to get back to business. I hope you had as much fun these past few months as I did.

The image above is a small painting I did for the National Association of Women Artists. They are hosting an art sale a fundraiser at a Tea Party, October 15 and 15. If the artwork doesn't sell at the event it will be included in an online sale. When I get the information I will pass along the link.

It's difficult for me to fully participate in all the great NAWA events since I live on the west coast and the events all happen in New York City. But at least I can send this small painting. Hopefully it will sell for a good cause.

humm...maybe I need to touch up that right eye...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

New Ancestors Series

The Ancestor Series, oil, graphite on panel @the artist, 2009

I've started a new series called The Ancestors. I'd like to say it was initially inspired by the Toltec idea of the naguals - "women and men of knowledge," but it wasn't until I started reading "The Four Agreements" by modern nagual Don Miguel Ruiz, that I made a connection as to where these "faces" might be coming from.

I originally thought of them them as "faces hidden in the grounds" - meaning that first I textured my surfaces and then began an exploration using graphite, sandpaper, and eventually oil paint as the faces emerged. Now I'd like to think of them as The Ancient Ones, keepers of knowledge on how best to follow a spiritual path.

These are painted on some beautiful 6" x 6" cradled panels that I purchased from Deborah Paris's company, Mountains Edge Frames . I'd ordered a variety of panels with a totally different project in mind, but sometimes the Muse has her own mind made up and I just go along for the ride.

As for the birch painting panels, I highly recommend them. Beautiful finish, light-weight, and the depth of the cradle seems just right for my purposes. I have used other commercial products and I think Mountains Edge is one of my favorites.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Green Onions

Green Onions
16 x 20, oil on linen on panel
@the artist

I haven't been painting the small daily paintings for weeks, now - first, because my work hours increased (which is good) leaving me precious little time to paint ( which is bad). And secondly, I realized that by concentrating only on the small format, I risked losing compositional skills necessary for larger works.

"Green Onions" is on one of the linen panels I documented in an earlier post titled "How To Make Your Own Painting Panels." I really enjoy working on the oil ground, although it takes getting used to - it's not as absorbent as the acrylic grounds. At first I had a hard time with the "brushy" aspect of the first layers of paint, but I've been studying an excellent book by Bob Rohm, titled "The Painterly Approach," and I'm starting to understand how to use the surface to my advantage.

This painting underwent several major changes as I went along, including scraping off several red onions from the foreground. It will probably never venture out of my studio, but I enjoyed the learning process and will most likely paint a version of this composition again.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Copper Leaf Paintings in Oil

oil on copper leaf, 7 x 5

"Sibyl" - semilegendary women of the ancient world, who possessed prophetic powers.

Where has the time gone? Here it is May and I haven't posted to this blog in over three weeks!

"Sibyl" was a request from a client who had looked at one of my copper leaf ladies over at Etsy, and when she decided to buy, it had already been sold. After several nudges from her I painted another face, showed it to her while it was still wet, and she loved it.

I have a few more panels that are now covered with copper leaf, and I'm trying to fit time in to finish them.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Studio Tip for April

home-made brush washer

I'm probably the only person I know who can get excited about punching holes in the bottom of an empty butter tub, but I've always wanted a brush washer and finally made my own.

I use an empty coffee can for OMS to clean my brushes. The gunk in the bottom adds up and it was always hard for me to get the bristles really clean. So, being the *thrifty* artist I am (meaning I prefer to put my money into really good paints and canvases) I was quite happy when I came up with this idea. The best part - it works!

Take one empty, large butter container. Punch holes in the bottom. Take a utility knife and cut the /\ slots. Fold those pieces up - they are perfect for sliding between the bristles of your brushes for a good cleaning. Put the container upside down in your turp can. Works like a charm. When the turps get too dirty, I pour them off into decanting jars and clean out the sludge for disposal. With my decanting jars, I let the remaining solids settle out of the liquid, then pour off the clear part into a second jar. If necessary, I repeat this process two or three times before the liquid is clean enough to use again in my brush washer.

Note: I have been learning more about wiping my brushes rather than swishing them, and using one brush for each color/value. I've read where other artists are using baby oil for cleaning and then washing with dish washing soap. There are many ways to care for your brushes and I have noticed I rely less and less on the OMS to clean between color changes. The additional tip about cleaning with baby oil (which I do use to clean paint from my skin) is to dip the brush into the oil, then push it down on the palette several times, working the excess paint out of the brush.

Please share your own tips on what works best for you.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Spanish Rose

Spanish Rose
6 x 6, original oil on gessoed hardwood panel
At Auction - you can bid here

I really love to paint from life, taking time to set up a still life that reflects the emotional experience, looking at textures, colors, and the suggestion of a place and time. I was drawn to the light - as always, and the way the cool morning affected the warmth of the flower and reflected on the hand-thrown pot.

Whenever possible, I find my still life props from the work of other artists. I think we have lost touch with something very elemental through our reliance on machine made reproductions. I find great pleasure in running my fingers over a hand-crafted surface, feeling the grooves that the artist made, connecting in a physical, mystical way. This pot was thrown by an artist who lives about 15 miles
from my studio. I use it often as one of the subjects in my paintings.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tangerine Tango (small)

Tangerine Tango (small)
6 x 6, oil on panel


I've added this little painting to the auction at eBay. Most of you have followed along with the creation of this small painting, leading to the larger one. I hope you like it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Copper Pot with Plum Tree Branch

6 x 6, oil on gessoed hardboard panel

at auction

I love the reflected light along the inner rim of this ceramic pot, flowing and reflecting up on the underside of the copper pot.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Building Painting Supports from Scratch

Building Painting Supports from Scratch

Prepared panel, linen, and brayer.

This week I have been building my own painting supports. I am working on two versions: linen on hardboard panel, and stretched linen (as well as cotton canvas) on wooden stretchers. The process is sort of like making cookies at Christmas - you get out a huge bowl, a dozen cookie sheets, and don't stop until they're all done.

I started with the panels I ordered from Ampersand. I followed the recommendation found on their website and coated both sides as well as the edges with GAC100. When that was dry, I was ready to mix the glue. I precut my linen, and followed the instructions on the package of rabbit skin glue from Utrecht.

Here is the glue in an old Tupperware container, and my first attempt at attaching the linen to the panel.

It gradually became apparent that the glue was not holding. This may have been because I either mis-measured the granules and/or the water, or the water was too hot. I was following the instructions provided with the package, which were slightly different from instructions I've read from other sources.

So, I went back to Ampersand's instructions. They recommended attaching the linen using a slightly thinned acrylic gel medium. This worked well - except that I discovered I'd cut the linen too small if I wanted to fold over the edges. Back to the drawing board.

Here I am working on a larger panel. Plenty of overhang here. After smoothing out the linen using my Speedball brayer, I flipped the board and worked on the corners.

This took some careful folding, and after I finished I put the panel into a frame to make sure the corners would fit. Those that were too bulky were refolded. I decided to fold over the linen instead of cutting it flush to the edge because, for me, the corners are most prone to damage, loosening canvas, or breaking.

This is one of the stretched canvases with the rabbit skin glue on half of it.

After 24 hours, I lightly sanded the surfaces and got ready to the second application of glue.

I noticed that on one panel, the linen hadn't completely adhered, and I was a little concerned with the outcome. So I was particularly careful as I mixed the glue - in a smaller batch because I certainly hadn't needed the amount that I mixed on the first day. I cut the recipe in half and allowed the water to cool a little longer before adding the granules. That worked. After the second application of glue dried, everything was tight as a drum.

If you are stretching linen, staple it loosely to the stretchers. Do not fold in the corners yet, but staple close enough to keep the linen in place. Lightly spritz with water and wipe gently with a damp sponge. The linen will tighten up nicely. The glue makes it tighten further, which is why you don't want to start as tight as you think. It's the same for the cotton canvas, although the canvas- while wet - appeared to sag more than the linen, but again, when everything was dry, both the canvas and the linen are tight enough to work on.

Remember, leave the corners loose at this point. You will be putting on the oil ground next and want to coat everything before folding the corners.

Today I applied the first layer of the oil painting ground from Utrecht. Here is the step-down knife I ordered. The idea is to apply a thin layer to fill in the spaces between the fibers. You can also use a brush for this - which I did eventually reach for when doing the edges. My eventual technique involved brushing on the mixture, then scraping it back with the step-down knife.

I mixed the painting ground with odorless mineral spirits according to the instructions. I used a glass plate, and after I finished, I was able to scrape the excess back into the can to use another day.

The tools. You can see the thinner areas - brushed on, the thicker areas, using the knife, sort of like frosting a cake but very, very thinly.

I also dug out a little squeegee that worked very well to scrape back the surface. The goal is to prevent any ridges from forming - from brush marks, or your spreading tools. From my research, the goal is two thin coats instead of one thick coat.

I will be adding the second coat within 48 hours, then letting the panels and canvases cure for 3 weeks.

I won't know until then how I like this painting surface, but I definitely enjoyed the process. I have always liked exploring the materials and processes used in creating art, from start to finish. It seems to connect me to the traditions that have existed through the centuries. No, I'm sure I won't give up my favorite oil primed canvases and panels, but if this is an affordable alternative, then I will continue to make my own.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Red Pears on a Plate


Red Pears on a Plate
6 x 6, oil on panel
@Sue Smith 2009

I really like this painting.

The still life paintings have been very popular, the landscapes, not so much. That's okay. Paint and learn.

I started buying from artists on eBay, too, finding small pieces that I like. I'm not ready to trust the *genuine artifact, authenticated old Roman pottery shard for $5.00* claims on some things, although if they were genuine, that would be neat. Maybe.

If you are thinking about selling on eBay, spend time looking at what is available, what people are actually bidding on, and what you can do that would work. I've learned that small is good. Good art is good. Free shipping is good (necessary!) Low prices are good, although there are a few artists selling LARGE (what exactly is large?) paintings. I have to wonder though if they are making any money after materials and shipping. Some probably are making it in volume and there are a few artists who really can command prices over $100.

I'm not there yet - over $100. Mine sell between $30 and $60.

But I intend to be.

Consistency. Finding what works. Regular posting. Building a following. The right pricing.

This is what seems to work.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Studio Tip for March

I missed posting a studio tip for February, so you get double the tips today.

Do you ever buy those small, individual servings of applesauce or fruit for your kids or yourself? I save the little plastic cup afterward, wash it thoroughly, and use it in my studio. It's perfect to hold small amounts of medium, odorless thinner, or, if you work in watermedia or collage, things like your GAC or clean water. After a while it's time to pitch them, but if you clean the cup after using it by wiping out with a paper towel, these little things last a long time. Yogurt cups work as well, but are a little too deep for what I do, so I generally recycle them.

Here are some of my favorite oil painting surfaces right now:

  • Masterpiece Vincent Masterwrap stretched canvas. This is an oil primed linen canvas, with a surface that I absolutely love. There is virtually no brush drag. The paint sits on the surface and the colors retain their intensity, rather than sinking into the gesso.
  • Pintura Cotton Medium Grain , double primed good for oils, acrylics, and gouache. This is also a beautiful surface, and not as high end as the Vincent Masterwrap. I like that there are brass tacks holding the canvas along the sides of the stretchers, with a few staples on the reverse, plus wooden keys already inserted. There's a wonder mystique about this canvas that I really enjoy.
I would like to try Charvin's stretched linen canvases, and Raphael's stretched linen in the future. Of course I do love Ampersand's gessobord panels, although their recommended method of attaching the cradled panels doesn't seem to work for me. I will be picking up two large assemblages next week because there seems to be either shrinking or - over time - torque has created some gaps. I will need to come up with a framing solution and I'm working on that.

I also just ordered some materials recommended by a fellow artist - far more accomplished than I - Margret Short...some canvas scrapers, a priming knife, Rabbit Skin glue and Utrecht oil priming material. This is the first time I've ordered from Utrecht, so I'm curious to try out their products. I also ordered some hardboard flats. I have several yards of fine linen which I was going to stretch onto a rather large set of stretchers. I've since decided not to do that, and instead try my hand at adhering linen to a hardboard surface, which I think would not only be fun to do but also open the door for more options regarding my painting surfaces. I've discovered many good instructional sites regarding how to do this, so I will keep you informed of my success...or failures...I guess rabbit skin glue can be a little tricky, but I'm optimistic about the process.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Pear and Roses

"Pear and Roses"
6 x 6
oil on Panel
@ Sue Smith 2009

I go through cycles - there is the thinking cycle where I spend most of my time doing "busy" work and otherwise distracting myself from the actual work of painting. Then there's the "preparing" part where I start to get motivated and gather together new subjects to paint. And then the actual "painting" part of the cycle. For the past week or so I've been caught up in the painting part and hadn't really wanted to stop long enough to photograph anything to post to this blog. Sorry :.(

But this is a funny story, here, so I'm happy that you're still reading along. My husband had asked me the other day what paintings were selling the best, and I said "Pears and Roses." So he pointed at this little painting drying on the table with that look, "Covering your bases?"

Duh...yes, even though the colors and shapes DO look good together, better than the tangerines and roses, which was another "base covering" idea...hey, when they want chocolate you're wise to give them chocolate and not offer broccoli instead, as the marketing guru's would say.

So my question is...does this count as a "formula" painting? Because according to all the uproar a few months ago over on Ancient Artist, formula paintings are "A Fate Worse Than Death!"

Still...I think it's a pretty little painting. I've found that for me and the way my eye/hand works best, with flowers I will paint the value form first, checking with my hand mirror to make sure it reads the way I intended, and finish with a few gestural strokes using a small palette knife. The key for me is not to think about it too deeply, just "draw" with color, one or two quick marks, following the direction that the paint gives. If I try to be too exact and purposeful with this step I ruin it.

When this is dry, it's destined for ebay. Wish me luck.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

From the Totally Unrelated File

This is from the Totally Unrelated File : by opting to get our home electricity from a Wind Farm, I powered my home studio ( well, actually my entire home) from a renewable energy source which avoided the release of 9,183 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions into the air, or the environmental benefit of not driving 9,313 miles. While using Wind power is slightly more expensive than hydro-generated power, the cost on our monthly bill is negligible and so, no, I don't feel guilty about driving my car. Now if they can just come up with wind-generated cars...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Yellow Rose

Yellow Rose
6 x 6, oil on panel

I bought a dozen of these yellow roses and kept them in a cool room for a week while I got up my courage to attempt this painting...or rather, the painting I was going to do - four or five roses in a vase, maybe on a white cloth.

However, after long consideration, I decided that this small format was more suited to just one rose. It was a wise choice. The task of capturing this image took me longer than expected. Several of the flowers had to give up their little yellow petaled lives during the process, for which I am grateful. Although I do feel awful about it. The flowers, I mean. Spending their last moments under hot lights without benefit of water...it is a cruel life we lead.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Red Mum

Red Mum
oil on panel
click here to bid

Okay, so maybe this painting says Fall rather than Spring. I've been exploring flowers - which I've discovered can be complex forms - but I'm not of the right temperament to render a photographic image. Rather, I try to communicate the essence of what being a flower is all about. I was particularly happy with this mum - I used a palette knife for the final few strokes to get that element of fresh immediacy into the flower.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


5 x 7, oil on panel

This is another of the Daily Paintings that I posted to eBay. I was thrilled when someone bought it immediately.

Several months ago I bought one of those three tiered wire carts from the Big Box Hardware/Everything stores - when I was on an organizing kick and trying to be space efficient. The cart is on casters, which makes it easy to move around. I keep all my paints and supplies on the lower shelves - and it works great for this.

Once I decided to paint still lives, I realized I needed more space again. The cart came to my rescue... I moved my palette to the table in front of the easel and set up my still life arrangements on the top. This cart is high enough that I can place something at slightly below eye level, as in the painting above, and also stack up a box and an old painting panel to lift the arrangement up to eye level. For lights I sometimes use a cheap, goose neck desk lamp with a 60 watt bulb. Low tech to be sure, but it works.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Copper Pot with Lemons, Before and After

Katherine Tyrrell has an interesting post today about how artists learn their craft. It seems that artists aren't all that different from each other, or anyone else for that matter, as we all learn by a relatively simple variation of the same idea - learning to see what we have created, comparing that to what we wanted to create, and then discovering the techniques, approaches, or materials that will bring those two ideas closer together.

I am constantly learning, and while I one day would love to be able to take workshops from artists I admire, right now I have to find alternatives. One of the most effective methods for me has been to purchase instructional dvd's. I purchase rather than rent because, one, the artist benefits from the sale, and two, I can watch it over and over, when it's convenient for me. And because, since there is so much information provided, I may not realize I need to understand a certain concept until much later, so it's wonderful to be able to go back to watch something again when I'm not concerned with questions like "what color is he using."

However, not every dvd has information of value to me, so I have had to be more selective. Many of the dvd's made more than a few years ago have a different approach (more basic instruction) from those made more recently( mid to experienced artist ). My most recent additions include "In the Studio With...Sherrie McGraw."

This is one of the first still life paintings I did last year, when I decided to try something new. I liked it well enough. I thought the drawing was good and the overall composition pleased me. But I felt that the painting lacked weight, or presence, or...artistic craft. There. I said it. The painting kind of sucked.

So, after I watched Sherrie McGraw, I realized that I could take a second shot at this painting. McGraw had mentioned that she loved the actual painting process - as do I - and sometimes worked on a painting for several weeks until she was satisfied.

This was a form of "permission" to me, to let go of my fear of "overworking" - that dreaded comment so frequently thrown out to beginners at critiques. I decided that the painting would never see the light of day as it was, so why not? Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I took a palette knife and scraped back the paint and started again.

As you can see, I added the lovely branches in the pot, with their dried berries. I scattered a few leaves into the foreground because I realized that I needed interest there to move the eye. I also knew I could suggest the forms and paint abstractly as a compliment to the lemons. I worked on the movement of light across and into the forms. I discovered new approaches to applying the paint. When I was nearly finished, but still stuck on how to best describe the light flowing over the copper pot, I stumbled on a solution. I turned off the overhead lights in my studio and painted using only the north light, with my spotlight on the still life set-up. Suddenly I could clearly see the play of light and shadow.

I am a lot happier with this improved version of Copper Pot with Lemons. I learned additional techniques, I discovered some strengths I hadn't full appreciated, and I can see progress. All in all, it was a good day.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Amber Pears

Amber Pears
6 x 6, oil on gessoed panel
On eBay with a starting bid of $30.00

This is a beautiful little painting. It's the preliminary study for the larger pear paintings on the damask cloth, where I was working out ideas about color and texture. I am particularly thrilled with the soft violet glow in the shadows and the way it works so well with the golden yellow color.
My pricing on eBay includes the shipping, and it usually takes 2 - 3 days to get to you. I have also added a buy it now price of $35.00. The painting that sold today started at the same terms but the bidding went higher than the $35.00 so I was thrilled, but I wonder if the buyer isn't kicking themselves for not grabbing it at the lower price. Well...that painting was also gorgeous! The buyer should be very happy anyway.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Orange Sunshine

No Title Yet
16 x 20, oil on canvas
@Sue Favinger Smith

I haven't named this painting yet. It's been so cold and dark here in Oregon that I think I have been trying to paint sunshine. This is the second still life I set up on this gold damask cloth, because I love the challenge I find in capturing the weave. I wanted to push myself beyond using white - which is basically easy to paint, or stripes, or an abstracted version of cloth. I also wanted to see if I could realistically recreate the lovely blue cast shadow from the blue glass plate. There were a lot of subtleties where the light moving through the glass changed in color and how the shadow also changed. Plus it was an important element to indicate the table edge.

If you want to try painting a cloth with a definite pattern, such as a jacquard or a damask, this is what I discovered:

I use color temperatures and not values to define the weave. I started with a cool neutral tending toward blue and loosely scrubbed in the pattern. Look very closely at your own setup and you will notice that in the "light" side of the cloth, the raised pattern is one value and the lower pattern is another value, but on the "shadow" side of the cloth this seemed to be reversed. I had to really concentrate on what light side I was painting when approaching this. Then the warmer tone was applied to tell us the local color and have it read "damask cloth."

It also was very important to paint this wet-in-wet so that I could "push" some of the paint around. Then find a few light highlights on the weave and to direct the eye. The tangerines are a favorite of mine to paint right now, and the "pot" behind them usually holds my brushes.

I have also noticed that I usually end up with a "contemporary" approach to my division of space which I'm sure comes from years of painting abstractedly, but I'm happy enough with it so I guess it's just my "style." It's part of what I like right now about my version of the still life - I admit, I usually find traditional still life a little stodgy and boring. So I guess we'll see whether anyone else likes these paintings.

I submitted two similar still life paintings to the OPA's national show - somewhat foolishly optimistic on my part, I know, since this show will feature the top oil painters in the US, but my rational is that just submitting something I can feel good about is the goal and maybe someday something will come of it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Blue Funk Day

According to Katherine Tyrrell on Making a Mark, today is considered to be the most depressing day of the year, and it certainly was a blue funk day in the studio. I started and stopped, painted and wiped off. All of my still life "props" had softened to the point of near rotting - except for the onion - and it was too cold and frosty to go out to the market for more.

Three Pears on A White Plate
16 x 20, Oil on Linen

The above painting is one I set aside more than a month ago thinking it was finished, but I wasn't happy with it and finally took it out and tried working on the colors of the pears and the edges. I really prefer to paint wet-in-wet and finish a painting in one setting, maybe two if I haven't used a medium and the paint stays workable. But I've only recently started painting still life and I'm learning with every painting. I wish I'd been more knowledgeable with my edges on this painting, but the newer work is much better and one day I might do another like this because I like the composition.

Vietnamese Pot Tied With String
22 x 28, Oil on Linen

This painting is the large studio version of the small sketch I posted here a few weeks ago. I did this after I painted the Three Pears painting, and I am much happier with the edges in this painting. I never thought I would enjoy doing still life, but I'm finding them so much easier than the struggles I constantly have with the landscape. I know that it's because I am actually painting from life with these paintings, and if I ever expect to push my landscapes to a higher level I will have to do the same with them and stop relying on photo references. Oh...but that means going out in the cold...maybe I'll think about that in the spring.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Studio Tip for January

Keeping my studio neat and clean is always a challenge: there are aspects of painting that just demand mess, and I'd rather spend most of my time messing around in the stuff than cleaning it up.

But there are some useful strategies that I use consistently.

Here is an image of my painting set-up - and no, it isn't really slanted, I'm just photo challenged at times. I recently arranged my easel and palette in this configuration because, well, I think I saw where some really famous artist painted this way so I thought if I did, too, some of the creative talent would rub off...I digress....

I decided to try painting with my palette in front of me and between my body and my easel. I have a tendency to get too close to my painting surface and not step back enough, so I logically concluded that by putting a barrier here that would cure me.

I actually like the set-up now that I'm used to it. I discovered that with my still life setups, I am able to maintain proper perspective instead of looking from one position and then trying to paint and compare from another position. Maybe Cezanne would have sympathy for this predicament.

My studio tip, though, has nothing to do with all the above. I'm just feeling chatty today and writing about perfectly inane things.

There's the tip, actually two tips:

to cover my black table (seen here beneath my palette) I use adhesive, clear shelf paper. I pull it off when the surface gets too grungy and put on a fresh piece. Sometimes the left-over adhesive - from when I pull the old piece off -- remains on the surface but I clean that off with some Simple Green and careful use of a razor blade. I really don't know if it matters whether you use clear or solid shelf paper, I just like the black table to show through because it helps me with values.

On my watercolor tables (which I use for flat work) I cover them with freezer paper, shiny side face up, taped down. I use the clear packing tape because artist's blue tape doesn't hold very well on the shiny surface, and I like this side up because it cleans easily and keeps stuff from sinking in to the paper. Then whenever I want a clean workspace, I replace my papers.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

paintings From the Oregon Outback: Strawberry Lake

Strawberry Lake
5 x 7, oil on gessoed hardwood panel

This painting is from the When Space Could Breathe series of landscapes, featuring places in Oregon once populated by ancient civilizations, explorers, trappers and bandits.

Strawberry Lake was formed a thousand years ago when a landslide blocked an alpine valley in the Blue Mountains. The lake now releases excess water through a "whirlpool" that emerges as a creek from beneath the giant rocks.

Click here to bid on this painting

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Peachy Keen

Had to paint these two peaches just before I ate them. Yum.

just posted at auction for 7 days. Click here to bid.

A portion of my sales goes to Kiva.org, a micro-funding organization for entrepreneurs in the far reaches of the globe.