Tuesday, June 6, 2017

What's on my Easel - June 6, 2017

I've been slacking off pretty hard in the last year or so. I'm working much less at the "Day Job" with the plan being to do a lot more painting, blogging, and video making! Ha! Best laid plans and all that. I've spent much more time sleeping in and staring out the window!

But with the spring comes new resolve :) The plan is to create a new full length video course each month, a "Small Talk" short video each week, and a "Studio Update" a couple of times a week. I've even got a weekly calendar complete with color coding!

I'm feeling optimistic and energized these days. I don't know about you, but whenever I'm pumped up about a new plan I tend to wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning and my mind is racing with all the exciting possibilities! Some of which lose a lot of their shine in the cold light of day, but they do succeed in robbing me of sleep :) It's worth it though, to feel in the "flow" with ideas streaming through me. I love it!

So, I hope you will hold me to my new plan, don't give me any slack!

This week in the Studio:

Personal Painting - I've been working on a series of paintings of colorful houses in my neighborhood - you can see some of them in my "Next Door Beauty" Post

The series is all color. So I'm working on simplifying my shapes, editing out detail, keeping my brushstrokes loose. It doesn't come easily for me! I'm always finding myself getting lost in the reference and rendering all the details.

One solution I've been working with is to take my reference photo into PhotoShop and manipulate the image there before I start to paint. Getting rid of detail, adjusting color, moving things around.

So here is how that works:

This is the reference for my current painting:

This looks like a house in the country, right? Actually this is in my neighborhood in Portland, Oregon! Families are allowed to keep chickens in their yards in the city limits (no roosters, thankfully!) Growing produce in raised beds is also very common. I love it!

I especially love the vivid blue on the house. There is actually an old pickup truck that lives here too that is almost the same color as the house! I thought about adding it to the photo, but decided it would be too much going on.

So, after PhotoShopping - I came up with this

I'm still on the fence about some things. I couldn't decide between yellow and red-orange for the accent colors and ended up with both. Hmmm. Still not sure if it's too much.

I love bringing all the flowers into bloom. Sometimes a house just seems to be begging me to give it a makeover :)

I got rid of the fences and added a stepping stone path to make things more inviting

The final thing I'm not sure about is the way the corn and the chairs on the porch kind of  make that area too busy. Especially since for it to really read "corn" I would probably have to make it taller and add some tassels - which would cover up the chairs entirely.

but I love having seating on the porch! Just makes me want to grab a beverage and relax there! I'm thinking about changing the corn to tomatoes. I can keep them lower and I'd have that nice pop of red there, too. Hmmmm.

I'll probably add one more chicken as well. It just seems nicer to have three. Did you notice I had to add a head to the one on the right? Haha, it was turning or some such thing and doesn't have a head in the photo.

Overall I can't decide if I want to dial back on the number of colors in general. It's pretty much a rainbow now!

So far I've just done the block in. I like to block in with regular acrylics, then come back with Open Acrylics for the final layer. They dry slowly and give me more time to blend....

What I focus on at this stage is getting my values right. I think I'm pretty happy there. I've shifted the blue toward the red a bit though and I don't think that is working for me. This is the time to change things like that! Stay tuned for the update!

What is on My Calendar for today though is working on a new full length Video Course for My Online School

I think I'll be painting a version of this painting - and talking a lot about shadows and dappled light... I just did a blog about it - focusing on the use of greens and painting park settings

Learning to paint shadows successfully is so rewarding! Ha, I'm inspiring myself here! Off I go to work on it! :)

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Painting That Man Made Park

A friend was just was just mentioning that she is going to be doing a plein air event this year in a park that is mostly green grass and green trees, and did I have any suggestions! I thought a few of you might be interested in this topic as well.

First of all - I know how she feels about the green grass and green trees scenes! Everything feels flat and mechanical and uninteresting. But sometimes that is what we have to work with! I've come up with a couple of strategies.

Artistic License: Don't feel like you have to capture the scene exactly! Use your creativity. Look for the elements that you love, use that as your focal point, and then use the rules of composition to create an interesting painting and tell your story. Move mountains and trees! Change the colors! It's your world!

Light and Shadow: I think the biggest thing is to look for light and shadow patterns. Which is tough when you are painting plein air because they move! The trick is to paint them in quickly when you see the pattern you like - just get the shapes and values in there - and then don't change them! You can always refine the area, change color. But just leave those shadow patterns alone! I can't tell you how many hours I've spent and realized I was just repainting the shadows as they moved! Alternatively, you can always make them up! Just be careful to be consistent, identify the direction of your light and stick to it! When you have only a few elements to work with - grass and trees - light becomes very important.

What if?: The best question to ask yourself to liven up a scene. What if I added a path? What if I added some flowers in this focal area? What if I moved this awkward tree to a better location? What if I added some distant mountains?

Color: I often just push the season in the focal area, maybe a touch of autumn color or spring blossoms. Also try to find an area where you have some distance view, even if it is just more trees. Then you can make those much bluer. Or make up some distance! A peak through the break you created in the trees. Trunks and branches are a great place to add some browns, reds, oranges, purples, blues. Trunks in light and in shadow bring in different colors - warm and cool shades. Dead leaves! More opportunities for color. Dry grass areas. Also, don't forget, there are many many shades of green. Subtle variations in both hue, saturation and value can really make a huge difference. Light, dark, dull, bright, warm, cool.

Think of how you can make a grayscale painting, or a monochromatic painting and it can be very impactful! Value and composition first.

Here's one I did in just such a park. All grass and trees, but in one little area I found this footpath through a little grove with the sun brightly lighting up the field behind...

You can see I've simplified the background, taking out the buildings in the distance, just leaving some neutral blue greens back there. I pushed the color in the midground field to be greener and prettier. I played up the light and shadow patterns and added some flowers.

Here's a more extreme take. Again, a fairly boring grass and trees park, though this time there was a building housing the bathrooms!

As you can see, this one was truly just inspired by the scene! Ha! I added lots of flowers, added more dappled, turned the potty into a little house. Changed the direction of the path to lead into the painting instead of out and made it dirt instead of asphalt! Fun stuff :) Hmmm, maybe I needed a wizard or an elf walking the path with a tall ornate walking stick!

Well I hope this gives you some good ideas! Have fun painting out this summer!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Something I've Learned from Painting

Living for the joy of living.

Something painting has taught me is to turn off my inner critic when I'm painting. Let go of the need to judge what I'm doing. Is it good? Am I good? Should I give it up?

I didn't know how to get in that frame of mind before. But I had to or I would never have continued. I never would have learned how awesome it is to just quit JUDGING! First with painting, and then in all areas of my life. Judging just gets in the way of living joyfully.

Judging is a survival technique. We have to decide right away if we are in danger or safe. It's an instinct that has kept our species alive. So far!

But art is something else. It's going beyond instinct. Being in a creative mode is in itself the reward and the joy. What we produce, well it is what it is! The key is to focus on the joy.

I'm not saying don't practice your skills. All that time at the easel needs to be done without judgement, you don't have to get somewhere. You are there! Every time you pick up the brush! And the more you do it, the more your skills will grow. It's inevitable!

If you are in a state of worry, judgement, criticism, self consciousness, embarrassment - you will never learn the amazing joy of painting!

This lesson has filtered into every part of my life. It has taught me to throw myself whole heartedly into everything I do and turn off the judgement. It's so much more fun to live this way! Thank you painting!

Do I look sillier to others now? Probably. Do I care? NOPE! :)

Whenever I feel that creative urge to do something different, out of the ordinary, whenever that familiar excitement starts to rise, I don't judge it anymore, I just do it! And never let the words "what will people think" or "I'm too old" or "I don't have any talent" into your mind! Pshaw! You have no power here!!

Haha. So. One of the things that I'm doing now because of what I learned painting - I'm playing the drums! :D

I always had an image in my head of getting together with family and friends to make music together. And I've always loved drums. My husband plays the bass, my daughter sings, and our friend Dan plays a mean lead guitar. And they are letting me bang along with them!

I'm having so much fun. And I'm leaving the critic out in the cold. He doesn't want us to enjoy living. I guess he is miserable so he wants everyone else to be!

So I'm sharing this little video of our little band hoping to inspire you to try something without judging yourself. When you paint - leave the critic out in the cold. Feel the amazing feeling of spreading paint on a canvas. Really feel it. Feel the movement of your hands, jump right into what you are painting and notice every part of it. Breath deep, relax, move, enjoy. :)

And let me know! What are you able to do now that you've left the Critic out in the cold?