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Mystic Ruins -- "Canyon de Chelly: Spirit of Land and Light"


Mystic Ruins 14x18 O/C

 

I wonder how many people realize how much thought and time and work goes into creating a single artwork.  I know I really never did.  It's not always about sitting in front of an easel with a paintbrush in your hand.  There are so many facets to it:

  • You need to go on location to get impressions, sketches, small paintings, photos, gather feelings and notes about the place.
  • You need to pour through all of that to decide which sketches, notes, or impressions to use if you're going to create a studio piece.
  • You need to decide on what you want to feeling of the piece to be... the story.
  • You need to decide what size it will be -- what aspect (horizontal or vertical).
  • Will you sketch it out or will you let the final image emerge as you paint? 
  • Will your painting be more about the paint or more about the scene?
  • Will your painting be imaginative??  If so, in what way will you push it?   (pushing color, adding clouds, not including shapes which don't add to the story... )
  • How can your painting escape the mundane... stand out?
  • Are your values right?   Are the colors playful and interesting?  Do your edges help the painting read?  And what does the brushwork say about you?
  • Can you have a painting that is about the scene but still be mysterious, painterly and playful?
  • How will you frame it?   Where will you get the frames?
  • Where will you show the work?
  • How will you market or advertise the work?

Seriously, those of you that are painters know these things, so I'm sure you could add many, many more thoughts to it.  Actually I'd love it if you'd add some of the things I've left off.

 

I've been working hard to get paintings ready for our upcoming show, "Canyon de Chelly: Spirit of Land and Light" which will open on October 11th at Segil Art Source Gallery in Monrovia.  It is a culmination of the work of the six artists called the PAC6 Painters who traveled to Canyon de Chelly to paint last April.  We all have different styles and visions and we know it will be a great show.  I would love it if you would come!

 

Canyon de Chelly: Spirit of Land and Light
October 11-November 8 2014
Segil Art Source, Monrovia, CA

 


"Mystic Ruins" is one of 14 or 15 pieces I have painted for the show.  I wanted to include at least one painting depicting the ancient Anasazi ruins which still remain in the canyon.  We were able to see them from the canyon edge as well as closer up when we rode into the canyon.  The Navajo, on whose reservation the canyon sits, are proud of their heritage and our guide, Irene, told many stories about the People (The Dine') who lived and struggled to survive in these lands.

 

If you are in the area, please put this show on your calendar.  I'd love to meet you and share all of our work.

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Malibu Moonrise (Working On The Night Moves)


Malibu Moonrise 9x12 O/L


Diane Nelson-Gold
and I headed out to paint the August Super Moon as it rose over the coast.  We headed up over the Santa Monica Mountains, but as we neared the coast all we could see was a thick blanket of fog.  So we decided to paint the moonrise over the Malibu hills off of Mulholland Highway.  We got there while it was still light and weren't really sure where the moon would rise. 

 

It was sure beautiful when it began to peak out over the top of the mountain!

I got my block in and then realized I was standing on an ant hill.  As I slapped my legs and stomped my feet, Diane came over to help and what did she see?  --a scorpion at my feet!   It hadn't bitten me, but it certainly was worse for wear after the fright it gave us.

 

Such is the life a a plein air painter!

**********

I've been working on several low light painting...  evening, like this one where the values are very close together.  I haven't been really satisfied with my efforts, but I really do know that the more often I work at it, the more likely it will be that I WILL be satisfied with how it comes out.  Sometimes painting is just a struggle.  I think that's true especially when you are trying something new or different. 

 

Sadly, I think I'm a pretty slow learner.   I do, however, seem to keep at it and I'm ever-hopeful that, like the tortoise, I will cross the "finish" line a winner.

 

Actually I've come to the conclusion that just BEING ON THIS JOURNEY of learning and growing as an artist makes me a winner.

 

In addition to my Venice nocturne from my last blog post, here are a few other nocturnes/ moon rises  I've attempted lately (and one from a while back that I've always liked).

 

Malibu Moonrise   9x12     O/L                     July Moonrise   8x10  O/L                  
                   

 

  Good Night, Moon  12x12  O/L                 San Pedro Evening Sky     9x12     O/L

 

                   

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Salute A Notte (One of several experimental nocturnes)


Salute A Notte 11x14 O/L $600

 

 

Experimenting

When my brother-in-law last visited from Italy, he suggested that I should paint pictures of Venice.  He told me he could sell them easily when he returned back home.  Well, I didn't jump on it for quite a while and I'm still not convinced that it's a good idea for any number of reasons.

  • The first reason is that there are a lot of bad paintings of Venice and I didn't want MY work to be among them.
  • Those paintings I HAVE done of Venice have seemed stiff and not where I want to go with my work.  I've gotten some awards for them, but... most just weren't "me".
  • The next reason I've hesitated is that I think of myself as an outdoor painter first.  I haven't been to Venice in a while.  (Lately Gastone goes alone so that he can spend more time with his Mom and Dad who are in their 80s.)  So if I paint, I have to rely on my old photos not current field studies.
  • Finally... well.... Venice is a city... and that involves architecture which I haven't painted much.  I'm trying to work looser and I fear I'd get tighter rather than looser if I focused on an architecture-rich environment.

Inspirations

The other day I decided to try a Venice painting anyway.   I've been experimenting with nocturnes and low light paintings for a month or so now ...-sadly rather unsuccessfully.. and I decided to try a Venice painting inspired by a photo I took about 10 years ago across the basin of Santa Maria della Salute at night.  I researched so many artists' work:

 

Of course there is John Singer Sargent:

 

    

 

And Claude Monet:

 

 

 

 

 

       

 

Then I found some contemporary artists' work I liked... some on Facebook (Michael Anfinogenov) and another artwork I really by Andrew Gifford, ("Southbank Towards the City")

      

 

 

 

 

At first when I painted the scene it was awful.  The colors had too much blue.  There was no subtlety and no interest.  When I saw this last painting, I tried to paint the Venice nocturne of the Salute in the spirit of it.  It's so beautifully full of color, but there is no real line.  The buildings emerge out of light and shade.  I love it. 

 

I will keep working on my own paintings to achieve that loose "nothing" where you know exactly what is being painted without being "told".

 

In the meantime, I did have a bit of fun with my "Salute a Notte"

 

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Beach Play


Beach Play 10x10

Another fun day at Mondos Beach.

 

 


 

I have mentioned many times before that I take a regular weekly class from artist, David Gallup.  I always enjoy the critiques, the many challenges he throws our way, his demos and his advice.  I started studying with him years ago during a weekly plein air class which I loved.  However, because of conflicts with my schedule and several changes in his schedule, I moved to his Master class.

 

One of the other students in the class, Julie, always brings in the most interesting questions complete with photos and research.  Because David had started doing his plein air class at Mondos, I learned about the surfing classes for Tyler.  David's emphasis at Mondos had been to challenge us all to add figures to our work.  This is not an easy thing to do en plein air when people are moving all over -- the interesting ones are always moving.  After several questions from Julie and an ensuing class discussion, it becomes clear that the key element is composition.  Finding a pattern of light and dark that attracts you.  Manipulating the scene, -- the placement -- the values and the color to create a pleasing story.

 

After my first attempt, I wanted to go back and try it again.  Tyler, however, was off at camp.  But I decided to go anyway and join the group.  It was a gorgeous day... bright and sunny and lovely.  I'm glad I went.  We all had a nice time painting.  Mondos is just past Ventura and so after I packed up, I drove up to Santa Barbara to visit with my daughter and her family.   -- A perfect day, I think!

 

The plein air sketch had some good bones, but as I said, everyone moved, so after I got home, I used the photo reference to clean up and jazz it up a bit.  (I was initially drawn to the light on the back of the girl's leg and the way it pointed at the light on the forearm of the little girl sitting in the water.  I hadn't even remembered the red of her wet suit or the way the turquoise in the other wet suit blended into the water.  Then when I looked at it at home, I realized that the foam had formed a bit of a heart around the children...  I hadn't consciously noticed that, but I liked it so I kept it.)

 

Hope you like my little plein air piece,

"Beach Play"

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First Light


First Light 20x20x2 Oil/Canvas

 

A few posts back I wrote about how I wanted to paint a larger version of scene I had done while I was in Canyon de Chelly.  It was a fairly hilarious scene.  We got there when it was still pitch black and it was quite the comedy to see us trying to set up our tripods and pochade boxes in a hurry to get set up before the sun came up.

 

I don't know what I expected, but it was pretty hard to get anything down that resembled a sunrise.  I did a little 8x6 just to put some notes down before the sun was high in the sky.  I definitely need to practice more nocturnes as well as sunrises and sunsets. 

Painting at dawn

 

Since I'd had several disappointing efforts making paintings with dark foregrounds, I had decided to do a small study of a dawn painting before creating a larger version.  I wrote about it in a earlier post which I called "DAWN".

 

I was very happy with my little 8x8 study called "Dawn". 

 

I shared the post on Facebook and several of my friends reminded me that making a larger painting is entirely different than painting a small one.  Brushwork isn't the same... scale is different... nothing is really the same.

 

That's one of the reasons it took me a bit of time to even begin the larger painting.  - I was afraid I couldn't.  But I finally realized that it wasn't supposed to be the SAME painting.  I wanted to paint the dawn over the canyon.  I had created a nice practice painting.  I had learned by doing the smaller painter. 

 

So I started playing with color and paint and had a great time.  It may not be totally finished....  I'll let it sit for a while to "rest".

 

I hope you like my larger painting "First Light".

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Surfing At Mondos


Surfing At Mondos 8x8 O/L

Tyler went surfing at Mondos.  He had a blast!
While he surfed, I painted a few of the kids on the beach in front of me.
It was a fun day.

 


 

INFLUENCES

 
There is an exhibition of some of the body of work of Joaquin Sorolla, who has long been among my favorite artists.  I never learned about him in school.  Frankly my art education was rather dismal.  I learned of Sorolla's work after I began taking classes from John Paul Thornton at Mission Renaissance about 12 years ago.  John Paul taught me the basics -- drawing, values, and oil and helped me learn to love painting and art history.  I owe him an immense debt of gratitude.

 

If possible, I plan to go several times to see this wonderful exhibit down in San Diego.  Sorolla's work is an inspiration to me.   Joaquin Sorolla's work is masterful in catching light and color and freshness.  It is joyful, enriching and influential.

 

Children On The Beach   1917

 

 

Sorolla and America

Now through August 26, 2014

The story of Sorolla and America begins in 1893, with Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida's prize-winning submission to the World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago.

 

                                                                                                             Sewing The Sail  1896

 

 

Many of my favorite artists were influenced by Sorolla and I have been too.  Those that immediately come to mind are John Asaro and Dan McCaw's early work.  Here are some examples:

 

   On the left is "Watchful Eye" by Dan McCaw



   On the right is "Sisters" by John Asaro

 

Both of these artists have moved on and are exploring somewhat different styles, but it is clear that Sorolla's work tremendously influenced both artists.

 

And I am hoping all three will influence me.  I know I was thinking of their work as I did my plein air sketch at Mondos.  I was there watching Tyler on his first attempt at surfing.  He did a GREAT job.  I am hoping to go back and paint at the beach again... always with the beautiful work of Sorolla in my mind and heart.

 

I enjoyed painting Tyler and his friends at the beach a while back.  (It was called "Boys At The Beach" )   Perhaps after I've done several plein air sketches like this one and the other one, I'll try a studio piece with Asaro, McCaw and Sorolla as my muses.


"Surfing At Mondos"

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Dawn


Dawn 8x8 O/L

Dawn at Tsegi Overlook in Canyon de Chelly.

 


 

 

I had decided that I might want to paint the dawn over Tsegi Overlook in a larger format studio painting.   First, however, I thought I'd better work out some of the issues by doing a smaller piece.  As I mentioned in my last post, I often have trouble dealing with the low values and close differences in value inherent in sunsets and dawn foregrounds.

 

I used my original 8x6 study and several bracketed photos of the scene.  One showed the sunrise and another showed the canyon more clearly.  (Still trying to avoid the "black" foregrounds that David Gallup always tells me are indicative of using photos.)   I was also inspired by several low light sunset paintings... one by Jennifer Moses and another by Stephen Mirich.  You can see some of those inspirations (among others) beside my 3 value block in of my little painting on the easel in the photo you see on the right.  The original plein air sketch is above, the canyon image on my iPad is on the left and a photo of a moonrise by Steve Mirich is on the right.

 

Because I was attempting to put color into what might have been a black foreground, I layed out an array of mixed secondaries.  You can see the palette in the next photo.  This is what David Gallup often demonstrates for us.  I was hoping to introduce playful color into the darks.


 

I layed in the color of the canyon, leaving the sunrise for later.  That would prove to be a mistake.  When I finished adding in the sky, the canyon looked way too bright.   I needed color in the darks, but I had put in too much chroma.  It just looked wrong.  I was frustrated.

 

After giving it a lot of thought and a bit of time, I decided to glaze over the canyon over to bring the bright colors down.... Keeping the color, but dulling them.

It was a lot better after I dulled down the canyon.  (I forgot to photograph that one... sorry.)

However, then I took it in to class and David did what he so often does with the work I bring in.  He decided he wanted to paint the scene for himself as a demo.  This is always helpful to me, of course, and the other students seem to feel it helps them as well.

I asked David why he so often does this with the work I bring in.  He told me it was because my work always had so much potential.   (I'm taking that in a positive way to indicate that I'm on the right track.)

Anyway, after watching him create his own beautiful demo, I came home and made a few changes to my own painting.... not many... but a few.  What I mainly changed were the clouds... (lightening them) .  I also bent the river a bit more as he had and built up the way the light shown down from the rising sun to hightlight spots along the river.   

 

I think I learned a lot doing this little version of     

"Dawn".  

 

I also made more changes to the painting in the last post.   I took it in to class and when David was gone, asked the class what they thought.  We all agreed it was still too dark, so I brought it home and worked on it some more, lightening it up quite a bit in the foreground.  I like it a lot better now.   Here is the latest version of     

"Blue Mesa Sunset".

 

It's always a great thing when you have colleagues you trust who can critique your work honestly -- telling you what they think works and what doesn't.  Then you can take what you agree with and leave what you don't.

 

 

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Experimenting -- It's How We Learn


Blue Mesa Sunset

One night we went up on a hillside near the Tsegi Overlook.  A beautiful sunset was our reward. 

I think we were all so surprised to see that the color of the mesa on the far side of Chinle was a brilliant cobalt blue.

 

 


 

For a while, now I've been experimenting with trying to get different sky and land effects when painting sunrises and sunsets.   I had been really, really pleased with this painting I'm doing for the upcoming show at Segil Gallery which I called "Blue Mesa Sunset".  

 

Then I took it in to my master class with David Gallup.  

 

One of the most useful, essential parts of every class is when we all bring in work for critique.  David always makes us share what we think about it... the parts we like best, what worked what didn't  -- what we think might be changed.  I think it has helped me to learn how to better evaluate my own work.   It also helps me see what I don't see.  -- And it helps me see in a different way.

 

 

When I started to tell David about this one,  there wasn't much I didn't like about it.  For the most part, David liked it too (especially the sky), but then he said those deadly words, "It looks like you painted it from a photograph."    David doesn't like us to use photos.  And when we do, he doesn't want us to "copy" photos... he'd much rather have us interpret -- make changes which make it a painterly painting.

 

Of course, once he said it, I realized that the painting did look like I painted it from a photo because my foreground was almost all black.  I have often struggled with knowing that photos don't show color in the darks, but not really knowing how to deal with it -- especially when my mind tells me it WAS dark... so the value should be dark.  Apparently I still haven't learned to deal with this.

 

Anyhow, I went back in to this painting when I returned home and tried to introduce color into the darks.  I'm not even sure you can see what I did with it by comparing this photo of the original painting with the one on my website.  Can you?  I think it's better, but as I look at it again right now, I'm thinking I need to make all of the values lighter.  I added color, but the values seem too dark   SIGH. 

 

My next post will deal with another canyon scene and a little study I did in the studio to help work out some issues before trying to paint the scene with a larger canvas.    Because of what I just did on this one, I wanted to see if I could use a plein air sketch of a sunrise in the canyon, plus a few photos and some pictures of other artists' work ... influences to help me experiment and figure out how to make my painting work better.

 

....And if I lighten the values on this one -- Blue Mesa Sunset -- , I'll share it again.

 

About a year ago I read a book called "Steal Like An Artist" by Austin Kleon.   In it he refers to all creatives and uses himself - a writer - as an example.  He writes about the importance of influences -- many influences.   A person who only has one influence is a copyist.  A person who has many influences can take those parts of each influence which most attracts him or her and combine them in order to make their own original work.  The ideas in that book really resonated with me.  Although I saw some chatter on Facebook saying that it was awful to encourage "stealing other people's work", I don't really think that those people understood what he was trying to say.  I'm reading his current book called "Show Your Work" and I am reminded of the importance of sharing what you are learning and what you know in order to "cement" your own understanding and to create yourself as an artist. 

To that end, I thought I'd share some of the hurdles I am trying to overcome as I learn to paint scenes with low light and close values.  I hope you enjoy reading about my experiments.  I'd love to hear your thoughts too.

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Picnic Spot - Boquet Creek (Leaving the Publisher's Invitational)


Picnic Spot - Boquet Creek 8x10 O/L

 

Leaving for home usually invokes a mixed feeling.  I'm always happy to return home, but usually not ready to end an adventure.  On the last day of the Publisher's Invitational, we all joined together as usual for breakfast and to make a sack lunch.  Eric Rhoads had a few announcements and thanked us all for coming.  (Of course he reminded us all of the special deals he was offering on next year's return trip and for the Plein Air Convention in the spring.  Eric is fun.  Eric is a painter.  And, of course, Eric is a salesman!  LOL)

 

Mary and Lynne and I all packed up, said goodbye to new friends and headed out.  Our plan was to find a great spot to paint where we hadn't been before on the way home.  We stopped at several spots and explored,  but none of them was "just right".    It was almost like Goldilocks testing all of the beds of the three bears.  We did, however, see lots of beautiful scenery.

 

Finally we arrived at a spot we all agreed was perfect.  It was a beautiful creek which we initially thought was part of the Ausable River.  We later found out it was called Boquet Creek.  It had shade, almost no other people and someplace private we could pee.  After we each saw to our needs, we hauled our painting gear in. (Mary pointed out where the poison ivy was... egad... all week I hadn't known what it looked like!!) 

 

We set up, started eating and painting and spent a lovely mid-morning painting by the stream.  When we left, we discovered we were almost to the freeway.  It was a good thing we found our perfect spot when we did or we wouldn't have been able to paint!

 

The drive home was uneventful.  I didn't fly out until the next afternoon, but I spent my morning blogging and looking at my photos.  I finally arrived home late at night.  Home was empty.  My husband had flown to Seattle and Tyler had gone to Oklahoma.  I was home alone.  I picked up my boys a different airports on different days later that week.

 

In the meantime, I had lots of art club business and painting clean up to catch up on.  I also connected with some of my new painter friends on FB.  It was a good week.

 

These are the paintings I did on my trip.  Some are pretty good, others -not so much.  But all will remain as good memories of a nice time.

 

Day 1          Heron Marsh                      From The Bridge At The Vic

Day 2          Cloud Study                        Lower St. Regis Lake

Day 3          Heaven Hills Irises          Above The Flume

Day 4          Monument Falls                Gabriel's

Day 5          Picnic Spot - Boquet Creek

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Heaven Hills Irises -- Almost Wrapped Up - Publisher's Invitational Paint Out - Adirondacks


Heaven Hill Irises 8x6 O/L $200

 

During the Publisher's Invitational Paint Out in the Adirondacks, NY, we went to many different sites.  One of them was a farm which is available to non-profit groups.  The whole group was invited -- all 100 plus of us.

We drove out there and got out to paint but when I looked around I really didn't see anything which struck my fancy.  It was basically a green stripe of grasses/farmland then a green stripe of trees and a blue stripe of mountains and blue sky.  Since then, of course, I have looked at the photos I took and I realize I could have painted something with a bit more composition than four stripes, but at the time I was unmotivated.

Instead I sat in a wind-protected area on a chair and painted a little picture of some of the beautiful flowers growing near the huge farmhouse.  It was a rather nice, unhurried morning.  Afterwards, we ate lunch then drove on to a new paintings spot -- The Flume.

I didn't paint well at the Flume, (it was worse than a "frisbee") but it was a beautiful spot

and I'd really love to return next year.  I also missed High Falls because Mary Burkhardt, the friend I made while rafting down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, and who picked me up in Albany and drove me up to the event was afraid her knees weren't up to the climb down.  Next year I'll go alone and also back to the Flume.  They are "not to be missed" sites and I'm hoping I'll be able to capture them in paint.

 

On day four we went back to The Flume.  Mary had lost her camera case and was hoping it would still be there.  Eureka!  It was!  We walked around to another side from where we had painted previously.  That is one magnificent waterfall!   We decided to drive back a bit to Monument Falls and that is where we stayed for the morning to paint.  Happily, this painting was a bit more successful than my painting at the Flume.

 

After lunch we drove to a farm because our other car-mate, Lynn Fleming, wanted to paint a barn.  Of course I fell in love with the field of flowers.  What a breathtaking site.  The wildflowers all over this country are just amazing!  The range from giant lupines to tiny little yellow flowers and bright orange flames with everything in between.

We painted until we were about to drop and then headed back.

 

That night Eric Rhoads invited the entire group over to his home.  What a beautiful "camp"!!    The camp is unique and huge and totally awesome.  Despite the fact that I'm not really good in big crowds or in trying to be super social, I had a really nice time.  I thank Eric and his wife and his triplets for hosting this fun event designed to help us all get to know one another better. 

 

    

 

 

 

         

 

 

All these are various views of the Rhoads "camp".   It was great fun.  Thank you to entire Rhoads family!

Oh...... and to the fabulous muscian/artists who had so much fun jamming and playing wonderful music for all of us.

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