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, September 23, 2016

The Gathering

Sometimes a moment just begs to be painted.
The minute you see the scene it is as if
it was put there just for the artists' eye, to be
captured and preserved forever in paint.

Such was the history behind this painting, "The Gathering."  I spent the morning at a friend's farm and after we gathered flowers I laid my basket down to run in and fetch something.  When I returned I paused, slowly I took in the scene before me: the garden in the distance, the old milk can, the peeling chair and my freshly cut flowers.  I savored it.  The smells, the sounds, the colors are with me to this day.  But before I moved on I reached in my back pocket and took a photo.  

Days later I remembered the photo and printed it out to see if I might be able to paint from it.  I really wanted to preserve that rustic yet fresh atmosphere and I knew I had a challenge before me.

I began with a gold and a gold/green wash on the white canvas and then lightly sketched out the chair using a piece of white chalk.  When I was fairly certain of my most important lines I used a brush and a liquidy-wash of burnt sienna to draw in my guide.

Then the painting fun began.  Apparently I was so engrossed I forgot to take photos.  I do remember telling my self to "slow down, slow down, slooooow down."  I wanted to leave some "raw-ness" to the rendering and I know my tendency to get bogged down in painting the details which, I think, tightens up the overall feel.

Paint, sit and look.  Walk around.  Paint.  Back off.  Mull.  Go away.  Come back.  Study.  Paint.

I am learning (or trying to learn) to think at least twice as long as paint.  Easier said than done.

The Gathering, oil, 24 x 20
(waiting for its frame)

So here is the result.  The flowers eventually found a vase and then died but the wonderful morning is still with me as I remember the air, the smells, the colors...and how the still life magically appeared and asked me to paint it.

Color Fully Yours,

Friday, September 16, 2016

Follow Up: Try, Try Again

I love reading your comments and reactions
to my posts.  And I take them to heart.
Little did I know that my blog on  "Far and Away," titled
elicit so much input.  So I shall follow up.

You may recall the experiment:

which I believed had failed.  Let me clarify: it failed to accomplish what I had hoped to achieve in paint.  It may not have failed to please your eye or failed to teach me something.  It was an effort, like homework, to practice a technique.

However the post resulted in some very interesting reactions!  One reader cautioned me against going too close to the "dark side," (the world of modern art.) Another said it was not a huge failure, just a "little one."  I also received a lecture on not telling my readers what they should or should not like and a fellow artist sent a cropped photo of the piece (which greatly improved it).  More feedback than I ever imagined and while I appreciated each, one motivated me.

Ellen Lindner, a renowned fabric artist, applauded my efforts and suggested a method she uses for  design.  "Tear up colored paper," she advised, "play around with that.  Tearing paper keeps you from being precise but forces you to color-think."


my square canvas, my inspiration photo and piles of color from magazines

next I began playing with a layout

eventually I have to commit, using Mod Podge for glue

It was fun choosing my colors from the paper pile and trying to tear out simple shapes.

from this detail you can see the variety of the patterns used, I tried to squint down
hard so that I mostly saw the overall value, not that I had onions
and asparagus in the swatch

one more detail so you can see the variety of magazine pages gathered to use

Far Away, 10 x 10 on canvas
torn paper collage
available, of course!

Ta da!  Done.  I knew when I started tearing pinhead-sized pieces I was getting too detailed (or just "licking" as we say when done with paint).  Time to cease and desist.

Now I'm going out on a limb here and state that I like this!  (feel free to disagree...) 

Tearing up paper made me think hard about the big shapes I wanted (not the detail) and using found colors, not mixing them, forced me to think about color values.  And I really like the little patterns that snuck in. 

What do you think?

(And BTW, I apologize that the link on the site to contact me is broken: work in progress.  If you receive this via an email feed just hit the reply button and I will get it.  I really do value what you say.)

Glued together,

Friday, September 9, 2016

Foraging a Garden

I take comfort in the numerous different styles
of Picasso, that he constantly found a new way to paint.
And I love that he said : 
Art is the elimination of the unnecessary.

I'm not a Picasso.  But if he can change his style and paint as the muse moves then why can't the rest of us?  I confess that I get restless painting in the same genre over and over again and often choose to play with a piece before I tackle it realistically.  Sometimes I like the "play" better than the "intentional." 

I have a supply of 12 x 16 black supports designated for "experiments." Color just seems to pop off the page when placed on black so I am having fun doing some simple pieces as I get familiar with my subject matter.  I can't wait to paint this foraging basket on an old chair in a more realistic manner but first I wanted to play as a way to get familiar with the lines and shapes of my subject.

chalk sketch of chair and basket

While this will result in a very simplistic painting, it actually involves a lot of pre-thinking.  To keep it simple I need to slow down and think about each color.  Using pre-mixed acrylics means I need to eliminate the unnecessary even before I touch a brush to the canvas.

step 2, the centerpiece

I start with the main focal point and eliminate everything else.  Where the chalk lines are will be a black outline, something I am trying hard to maintain.  There is no blending or shading of color; each segment is one color, forcing me to think about the shape of that color (something very useful in other applications).

Garden Forage, 16 x 12, acrylic

Here it is.  Part of the challenge with a colored support is to utilize that color in the composition.  Just like I did with the Angel Tree I wanted the black to play a major role in the subject matter.  I think it is very clear what we are looking at, no?

This is a great exercise.  It forces me to slow down and take the composition apart piece by piece and color-shape by color-shape.  It is almost meditative in its execution and a wonderful way to become very familiar with the subject at hand.  With an inexpensive support and fairly cheap paint I can play to my hearts content while learning more of the lessons that will show up in more complicated pieces.

Happily foraging,

Friday, September 2, 2016


that the world is full of ideas just waiting to be
remade (stolen) in another form.  
My summer play dates have given me permission to
do just that.

Remember when I wrote about the marvelous clay technique of Patti Conner-Greene and her dreamscapes?  Click here for a reminder.  Abandoning her pottery wheel briefly, she started playing with layers of design and texture, building a scene without regard to a realistic perspective.  They are beautiful pieces of art.  So, I have become a thief...herewith my confession:

My visits to Italy always result in a ton of photos featuring the beautiful patchworked countryside of olive trees, vineyards and other produce.  The rolling hills, the colors from striped plantings, the mountainous background....such classic views of Italy.  (sigh) Painting that perspective however continued to throw me a curve ball.  One day I decided to just enjoy the effort and paint as if I were in Patti's sandbox rolling out clay and stamping it with crazy texture.

Umbria, detail

I laid down texture, I played with color, I mixed up patterns and I threw caution to the wind where realistic perspective was concerned.  I wanted to capture that feeling I always had gotten of seeing the countryside as a beautiful, freeform quilt of flowing pattern.

detail 2

Of course it had to have the classic Italian cypress in the foreground.  And a low hanging sky.

Umbria, oil, 36 x 24, framed
available, Crossnore Gallery of Fine Art

Done!  Thank you Austin Kleon for permission to be a klepto and to Patti Conner-Greene, of Linville River Pottery for the inspiration.  Oh, and grazie to artist Kelly Medford whom I was traveling with when we stopped to paint at Arte Umbria for an entire week! Much inspiration came from all these gratitude is endless.


Friday, August 26, 2016

Ka-Boom (sound of a failed experiment)

I am trying to remind myself, as Edison expressed,
that experimentation is always a success.
Even when the outcome falls short of the desired,
we simply celebrate finding one more way
NOT to do something!

Buoyed by delight in my "quilting with paint" trial (The Angel Tree) I got a little bolder and amped up the restrictions.  This time I wanted all my "fabric" to be cut in differing sizes of rectangles with one notable exception.  Again, the idea was to study the colors (mostly the contrasts) to see how I could manipulate the overall affect with very little detail.

Don't worry: I do not expect you to like this piece.  Just try to understand the intent.  The photo I based this on was relatively simple: sky, mountains, a barn and background, middle ground and foreground.  Easy enough.

Far and Away, detail

The photo above shows the gist of the "assignment." The mountains are the only curving pieces sewn with the paint.  

note chalk marks

How easy it is to get confused with so much going on!  At this stage I was trying hard to stick to the program I laid out but feeling a draw towards "pointillism".  So I made some chalk marks on the piece to keep me in line.  (And, truthfully, at this stage I did consider trashing the plan.)

Far and Away, final, 24 x 24, acrylic

hmmm,...not really how I had imagined it all coming together.  At this point I realized it could be an endless project of correction, more hours, more paint and it was not ever going to get much more attractive.  So I propped it up across the room to contemplate while I ate lunch.  

The lessons I learned are not really visible but had a lot to do with shape and contrast -  two of the basics I was "teaching" my young students recently.  I also learned how to dive into a piece that I intrinsically held no value other than educational (something the students taught me).  So I cleaned the brushes, took another gander at it all and decided to celebrate:

"Yippee!  I demonstrated yet one more 
way of how NOT to paint a piece based on contrast."  

view from a distance is better

Undaunted, undeterred.  Inspired, invigorated.  Ready to begin again.  KA-BOOM!  the sound you hear is just another experiment gone astray.  Only 9,998 more to go.

Exploding in Color,

Friday, August 19, 2016

Teaching to Learn

I am not a teacher, have never qualified as one.
But I find that if I really, really want to 
LEARN something well, the best way is for me
to teach it to someone else.  

This precocious 12 year old spent a week of "Auntie Camp" with her twin brother in the mountains of NC.  On her docket was an art lesson with yours truly, a friend of the aunts.  My student listened intently as we went over the concepts of Shape, Contrast, and Color.  We did some continuous line drawing of simple objects as a warm-up and even put on the "magic glasses" to discuss contrast.

Local color (a green tree) versus imaginative color (maybe you prefer it blue?) wound up our prep lesson of basics.  Choosing to paint landscape, this eager student dug through my photos to choose one for her masterpiece.  We were both salivating as the paints and canvas came out on the table; there is always that thrill of anticipation, that lure of the magic, that total sense that something wonderful is about to happen.  I knew she felt this too.

We started by using the 'magic glasses' to identify the darkest passages in the composition and lay them in first.  She was fine with only a few pencil marks as I assured her that using acrylic paints let us make many corrections if needed.  (The oils are a bird of a different feather.) With no hesitation she dipped her brush in and went for it.

All of us tend to gravitate towards painting detail first so I explained to her we were building an icecream sundae and did not want to start with the whipped cream and the cherry.  She got it! Above are the large shapes we referred to as the bananas and ice cream: the basics, the structure, the foundation of what we were building.  Big shapes of the correct color.

And here is my happy camper complete with the whipped cream and finally (see the purple cone flowers?) the cherries on her sundae.  We were both so pleased with her results.  It was with great joy she signed her masterpiece and I dated it on the back.  

So what did the teacher learn in all this??  First, I got a recap of the basics in planning any composition, a review of a few simple elements that are the structure of any piece.  I know I, too, can be guilty of wanting to jump right into the whipped cream and cherries. 

Second, I had the pleasure of observing what sincerity in learning requires: an open mind (never did she argue with me about how she preferred to do something), a willingness to experiment (ok, no idea why you want a yellow blob there but I am going to trust you....oh gosh, it works), repetition of instructions (she had no qualms about talking out loud to herself throughout the process, reminding herself of things I'd said or asking herself what was next, it was a pacing, not a race)  and finally, a satisfaction in the outcome (she had no expectation of not liking her work, she was pleased with herself and enjoyed her result with enthusiasm).  Of course she wants to learn more but setting a bar that can't be met is a sure killer of future progress.

So as my adorable student heads off to art class in "real" school (no doubt repeating to herself: shape, contrast, color), I will go to the studio next week with a mind open to experimentation while I remind myself, out loud, of the basics. And, oh yes, I promise to be excited over the results.

Always Learning,