Join me....

I believe that art enriches and informs our lives everyday in many positive ways. Sharing those experiences, whether as an artist or as an appreciator, is part of the pleasure. I welcome your comments and hope you find something of value: a laugh, an insight, a new idea or just a happy moment. Enjoy art!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Vine Time

I've never thought about 
'painting for wine'
but I'd gladly barter this next piece for an
appropriate number of bottles if that's 
your choice!!

Vine Time, oil, framed, 20 x 24

More paintings have been ruined by over-painting than not!  It's really difficult when one becomes engrossed in the myriad details to stop and not render too much information. 

Thinking perhaps I had not gone far enough on this piece I asked some favorite collectors if they knew where this was.  "The vineyards in Napa?" they responded.  Well, good enough.  I pointed out the mountain horizon and they realized it was Grandfather Mountain in the background.  "Oh, that's here!" they exclaimed.  In all fairness, they had yet to spend an afternoon sipping vino at the nearby Grandfather Winery but at least they could call a growing vineyard from the info I provided.

This is a risky composition for me...a huge post front and off-center and everything else secondary.  I love the compliments of purple and orange together so that was an easy choice for me.  The rest was a push-pull on giving just enough info without painting every single leaf on every single vine.

Some local artists shy away from painting this iconic and very recognizable mountain range but I think it gives a sense of place to the scene.  Our area has several local vineyards experimenting with growing their own grapes and combining the fruit with that brought in from further west.  I do my best to support them...ahem.

I know that grapevines improve with age, the older, hardier stock produce better grapes and thus more full bodied wine so in a way I see the mountains, some of the oldest in our nation, encouraging the relative newbies to be strong, grow, flourish and stick around for the long haul.

Meanwhile, we locals will have to move over and give up our seats as welcome summer tourists pour onto the grounds to sip the wines and listen to local music.  It's a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.  If you have enjoyed a bottle with this view you know exactly what I am talking about.


Friday, June 8, 2018

Paint Flowers While the Sun Don't Shine

It's been a WET spring...
I try not to complain; but a long dark day in the studio 
when the calendar says SPRING....
well, sometimes a gal has to 
take things into her own hands.

So I decided to create my own spring...albeit fantasy and not at all accurate!  It would be colorful and fun.  Any time I confuse fun with easy I am taken aback and this was no exception.  I spent more time taking things out of this free form composition than I did putting them in.  But it felt cheerful to work with these colors (under artificial lights) while waiting for the torrents of water to cease.

Here is the assignment: create a bright, whimsical floral piece to close the gap between the lights above this "work in progress" bedroom.  

Here is the answer:

"Field of Dreams" acrylic, 24 x 36

I think it is asking for a broad gray/white frame or to be mounted on a larger white board?

It will accomplish the task of brightening and cheering up the space.  But easy? Oh my no.  First off I got way too many flowers on the piece and it was a jumbled mess.  As I culled the bunch I discovered I was leaving texture on the board that was not repeated elsewhere.

So of course I start adding some "fake" texture to even it all out.  Then I painted a silver fence in trying to give it more...more I don't know what.  So that had to come out.  And just as I was ready to cry 'uncle' I noticed that my stems and flowers now did not match up.  Just the thing to keep one busy while it rains outside.

I even worked on it upside down to figure out where all this was going to go.

close up

But all is said and done and I am ready to hang it.  No, whimsy is not really my playground but every now and again I have to stick my whole self in just so I remember that nothing is as easy as it looks.

Off to the framers.


Friday, June 1, 2018

Testing, testing...more testing

Last week I shared my enthusiasm for
attempting some "quick" oil sketches...pieces
that would take no longer than 2 sessions and
a couple hours total.  I think these
are becoming my version of the potters'
"test tiles."

In the pottery world test tiles are little experiments where glazes and temperatures are tested on various clays for the sole purpose of gathering data and information.  Almost like paint chips, each tile contains a vast amount of data for those who know what they are doing.  I've been puzzling over what the painters' version of such might be and I believe for me they are these 12 x 9 oil sketches I am doing.  Purposely not investing a lot of time in each, I am aiming to test composition, tone and technique with each.  Even when the results are yucky they hold important information for future use.

For instance:
Remember the odd start to a black cow last week?

Here she is finished.  There is a lot NOT to like about this piece, however I have made a valuable note never again to paint from an unclear photo (black on black cow or dog = trouble).  I also don't like the fact that the lighting was not definitive and thus not very interesting.  Trash the reference photos I took, lesson learned.  And learned before I invested a week's worth of time, a larger canvas and a lot more paint!

Here's another test tile:

I almost went too far on this "first pass."  I began to get caught up in the wood of the broken fence and almost forgot that what attracted me to take this photo was all the angles in the composition.  It really did not need to have each leaf and flower defined...I wanted to play with light and dark angles.

Next pass:

I'm stopping here.  And on the back I will make a note to remember that the background can be even less defined as long as the opposing angles show up in juxtaposition to the fence.  I think I will keep this reference, and this test and consider doing a larger fact, it would be real scholarly of me to jump up a size and paint it again  I should make additional notes and then move up to a very large canvas ...  masterpiece size.

 Because speed and simplicity is one of the defining factors of these trial runs I don't really spend a lot of time mulling over the colors.  I tend to start a palate and then "make do" noting where something more interesting might be good to try.  Below is one of the messes I got myself into by not clearing the colors between each sketch.

Last test tile for this week:

I picked this because the backlighting is always so beautiful but difficult to pull off.  I get nervous seeing that the first plane of the picture is so dark and ill defined.  So this was going to be a push if I went where it needed to go.  The first session was in acrylic as (you guessed it) the paints were out from something else.

Next day in oil:

And, even though I did not touch the tree trunks and the dark foliage could be even more massed in, I will leave it here.  I have enough info to make notes; things like 'a more interesting water body', handle 'trunk treatment' and indicate far shore line and foreground rocks.

Im not sure why I have resisted doing this more often in the past.  I think the key for me is having everything set up and ready to go the minute I enter the studio.  No delay and no deep thinking.  It is ok to stop even without a finished product, something I usually am hesitant to do.

Hopefully one of these test tiles will prove worthy of becoming a piece all on its own.  I hope so.

TESTING 1, 2, 3...

Friday, May 25, 2018

Sketching in Oil

After a winter that wouldn't quit, spring has finally arrived
 in the mountains of western North Carolina.  
Energy is evident everywhere and it's contagious!  I am 
out of the rabbit hole, back from western travels and...ready to paint!  
Thank you for traveling with me.  
Let's get back to the easel.

It's easy to use "spring cleaning" as a delay tactic when wondering just where to start on a new painting venture.  If I find myself dusting shelves or cleaning toilets I know I am sinking in that land called "procrastination."  So I gathered up a stack of 9 x 12 canvases, put them on the table of my studio with a paintbrush and pile of photos nearby.  This is my "warm up" station.  The theory is to tackle one photo and one canvas quickly....not agonizing over every little detail.  To get in, get out and be done in no more than 2 quick sessions.  Good or bad results don't matter; the deal is to get your hands dirty and your mind tuned stretching before a run.

I was so enthusiastic on my first day that I forgot to take early photos....I could hear the mental clock ticking and wanted to get my session in before I lost my steam.  So here is what the first swipe gave me:

Please don't recall that I once swore never to paint cows....after a week with grandchildren the expression on this calf made me giggle so I had to do him.  I let him dry, went on to bigger stuff and returned the next day to finish up.

Done.  Remember, it's an exercise....trying to draw in oil and work with what goes down.  Warming up.

So today while out sketching on a nearby farm I met another cow...this one had the cutest harlequin face with a white heart and a triangle just below it.  I tried so hard to photograph her and of course she would glance down as soon as the camera came out. But I wanted to try.

Now, if there is one thing harder than painting (or photographing) a black dog, it is a black cow!
Nothing shows up!

See what I mean?
But I'm going to try and this time I captured the rough stuff for you to see.

Really rough...but warming up.

Time to quit for today.
I may actually start using a timer so that I don't get overly involved in these warm-ups and defeat the purpose.  But for now this is fine.  I'm sure this baby will morph a bit when I return.

I hope spring has you contemplating new projects and ideas.  I have a feeling that flowers will be next up on my agenda...they are so incredibly gorgeous right now; and I think I remember saying that I would never paint flowers, so it is about time!

Warming up....literally, figuratively and colorfully,

Friday, May 18, 2018

Airstream Block Print Ready to Travel

Readers know I rarely use this blog as a sales 
platform - I much prefer to share art stories and insights,
HOWEVER this fun art story does end with a sales
pitch so beware; you are forewarned if you want to exit now.

Remember my little block print where I shared the carving and re-carving of a design I wanted to get right?  We were about to leave on a month long camping sojourn when I had an idea of what to do with this little jewel.

Matted in ecru, it fits perfectly in any 8 x 10 frame. I tucked a couple in our camper to take on the road.  My plan was to gift it to folks who were friendly and fun, enjoyed camping AND had an airstream.  (I'm not prejudiced but it is a take off on the airstream, see?).  I was going to take a chance, leave my comfort zone and meet some strangers.  

We were pulling out of Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Texas when I spotted a vintage Argosy camper (great history here), it was the shape of an AS but painted orange and cream...very cool.
We set up camp in Villa Nueva State Park in New Mexico and guess who pulls in?  Yep the beautiful Argosy with an adorable young couple and their gorgeous 3 little girls.  Bingo.  They had driven from CA to OK to acquire said RV and were just getting their feet wet.  They had an evolving plan to gut the piece and redo it.  Maybe a year of travel... We chatted a couple of times and they were sweet enough to stop by on their way out.  I thought they needed my little art piece and I hurried to retrieve my gift.  So sweet they were in receiving and...even better Momma (aka Melanie) is an interior designer!  Rave Interior Design  Can't wait to see where they hang it!  What a fun encounter - I'm anxious also to see how the Argosy evolves.

Feeling good about this beautiful encounter I was primed for my next recipient (at Ghost Ranch.)  We were in the campground when I spotted, not too far away, an older, shinier, larger model Airstream (I'm not up on knowing models and years).  Fairly soon a truck returned with a bike and a handsome young man.  I plotted and somehow we ended up in a really great conversation - he was leaving NYC and traveling (with all his worldly possessions) to CA where he might look for work.  James is a builder/designer and his airstream is also a work in progress.   You've got to check out his blog. He invited us in and as I looked around (think bachelor pad on wheels) I mentioned something was missing.  Without skipping a beat he answered, "yeah, a woman!"  Nah, I said "Art."  So I gifted him print #2.  His bio and his plans are as inspiring as Melanie's and her family's are.  Gee.  I wish them so much luck and good fortune.  

So the sales pitch:

I'm only going to mat 50 of these puppies and they are signed and numbered and ready for your recreational vehicle or to give to a friend.  Email me at and I will tell you how to pay via pay pal and get yours in the mail.  Oh, price: only $15.00 and $5.00 for shipping.  My husband declared me crazy but I do not want to eat these!  Fun to think where they might end up or who might check out my web and want a bigger painting.  (My first sale went to a really lovely photographer who had it Fed Ex'ed to her campsite in CA.) So there.  

Almost....I got a little carried away and you know I have a thing for "prayer flags."  Well a friend suggested the obvious so lookey here:

Camping prayer flags ready to bestow blessings far and wide.  The symbols represent the night, the plant growth, the camper folks, the critters and of course, the day.  Sending love and good vibrations across the land appropriate to each.

I am NOT making 50 of these and as colorful as they make my studio look it will be hard to part with any of them....hand printed, machine sewn, 15 feet of ribbon to hang....ready to age outdoors or in; pure joy!  Only $35.00 per set and $5.00 shipping which is about 5x more than you can buy imported, flimsy Tibetan prayer flags for.  But hey, this is art, each one lovingly handmade.

In fact, I can't wait to hang mine during our next trip out...can't imagine having anymore fun meeting folks than we did this round but you never know.


Friday, May 11, 2018

Georgia O'Keefe & Abiqui

“You paint from your subject, not what you see…I rarely paint anything I don’t know very well. It was surprising to me to see how many people separate the objective from the abstract. Objective painting is not good painting unless it is good in the abstract sense. A hill or tree cannot make a good painting just because it is a hill or a tree. It is lines and colors put together so that they say something. For me that is the very basis of painting. The abstraction is often the most definite form for the intangible thing in myself that I can only clarify in paint.” 
― Georgia O'Keeffe

Ponder that quote for a moment and then come with me to Abiqui, a small rural village 53 miles north of Sante Fe, part time home of Georgia O'Keefe from 1950 until two years before she died in 1986.  If you have read anything about this artist you will recognize my photos for she loved this home and her rare, late portraits were made here.

Abiqui is so small that my husband and I stumbled upon it thinking we had taken a wrong turn.  We didn't even know it was the O'keefe home until we returned several days later under the auspices of the Home Tour which loaded into a van at the Abiqui Inn on the highway.  To visit the house is to understand much of her work.  It took her a determined 10 years to wrestle the property away from the Catholic diocese and another 3 to restore it to her liking.  She wanted it in part because it had "water rights" which meant that (still today) every Monday for 2 hours water could flow in and through her property allowing her to have a garden which bore the fresh foods she craved.

Georgia was clearly ahead of her time as her kitchen still has the early yogurt makers, food dehydrators, juicers and fresh herbs she insisted were better for one's health.  Her furnishings were spartan but utilitarian.  Once again I felt I walked on hallowed ground as the docent brought the artist to life for us.

Well into her eighth decade O'keefe climbed the ladder to her roof (and bid guests do the same) to watch the sunset and gaze upon her mountains.

This is the (in)famous black door she painted (flatly) many times.  She drew little distinction in the shadows except she did accentuate the stepping stones you see along the side of the wall.

If you have seen the cover of an old Life magazine with a story about her, you will recognize this exact corner where she was photographed sitting under the antlers (which she said she received from a native American Indian friend.)

We were asked not to take photographs indoors, a pity because it was fascinating to see.  As we moved from space to space it became so real that I would not have been surprised to see Ms O'keefe perched in the next room.  

Once again we were treated to several comparisons of the scenes from which she painted.  Here we see the exact two cottonwood trees she rendered in the oft seen painting the docent is holding.Standing outside the resemblance was clear, the pair being only slightly larger from growth.

I had to take this shot as it tickled my fancy to know that Georgia and I shared a common love of rocks and that neither of us can resist picking them up.  She had several collections both inside and out and it did my heart good to know that I was not alone in my compulsion to gather and display.

So my patient husband turns to me in the middle of a long highway and asks a very pertinent question:
After all this Georgia O'Keefe immersion,
what are you taking away for your own work?
Right to the heart, huh?
So here is my answer:
1- Simply (then amplify) - She did not paint every single pebble and dimple in the landscape.  What is the jist here, she seemed to ask, paint it clearly.  She often flattened it all out in an abstract sense (see quote above).
2- Zero in on one area - She was adept at focusing on one small area of something (like the center of a flower) ignoring the surroundings.  Look intimately at one detail.
3- Paint the same thing over and over again.  Exploit the subject.  Try it again and again to wring every bit of nuance and meaning one can from that same object.
4- Consider that inanimate objects have personality.  What is the message or feeling of that pair of trees or that mountain top.  She seemed to treat them as alive and communicative.
5- Finally, paint whatever has meaning to you.  Not what sells, not trending colors but whatever it is that you are willing to spend hours thinking about and repeating.

Those were my lessons...and easier said than done.  But verbalizing them will help me to remember.  And if I need extra help I am certain I still have some of that magic red dust in my shoes and backpack just waiting to be sprinkled around the studio.