Wednesday, September 21, 2011

DWP Challenge... sort of...

Ever since discovering the Daily Paintworks website and their weekly challenges. I have really wanted to try one. The Zippo Challenge is the one I most wanted to try first. You use only titanium white, ultramarine blue and burnt sienna on your palette and nothing else. To be frank, I had to force myself into my studio. And after only a few brushstrokes, I wiped the entire canvas board clear.

I've been in a horribly depressed state for the past few weeks. 6 months of chronic pain and exhaustion and the return of my mother's cancer? Not exactly what I'd call conducive to happiness and joy. I was wandering about the house aimlessly. My appetite all but vanished. I spent many of my days feeling close to tears. I'd love to say I snapped myself out of it. I'd love to say that prayer and positive thinking is what did it. But I broke down and asked my therapist for anti-depressants. Since my breakdown two years ago, I had been on a variety of anti-anxiety and anti-depressant drugs but was weaned off of them in the spring shortly after my illness began. In retrospect, it probably was not the best timing to come off of them. But I was holding my own until a few weeks ago. The great thing about the medication I'm on now is that it begins to work almost immediately. I've only been on the stuff for two days and I can already feel my spirits lifting.

And they lifted enough for me to begin painting again. I probably should have gone back to the Zippo Challenge but I decided to do something harder. I went for The 10 minute challenge. 10 minutes is not a long time especially when you're caught up in painting. And I knew that it would not be long enough for me to complete anything I'd be happy with. I pulled a lemon out of my fridge, I figured it would be the simplest object, and then modified the time allotment.

The top three versions were done in 20 minutes. It was immediately clear to me that 20 minutes was too long. I felt as if I was able to more leisurely futz with things and make minor corrections. Even though I knew I had extended the time limit too much, I completed the other two anyway. I do feel that I improved what I was able to fit into those 20 minutes.

For the bottom row I decided to shave off 5 minutes from the time allotment. Now, I felt like I was racing the clock. I was surprised how fast those 15 minutes flew by in my first attempt. I felt like I was in an episode of Iron Chef. I was more prepared for my second attempt and managed to fit more in. But, again, the time beeped there were still things unfinished. The last attempt I got too comfortable. I felt like I had the time management down but I actually didn't. I think the bottom middle is the best effort.

I plan on doing more of these so that I can get it down into the 10 minutes. All in all I found this to be an excellent exercise in simplification. I am always bogged down in the details. A great learning experience!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Back to the easel

With my mother safely at home and out of the hospital, I more than felt the need to decompress. I'm still worried as hell for her but I know that it's just way too much medical knowledge floating around in my head. I knew exactly what I needed to force myself to do today. I needed to get back in front of my easel.

When I was a teenager my parents bought me an easel. It's a simple A-frame easel that probably ran them a few hundred dollars back in the 90's. It's a great little easel. To be honest, I have no idea why they bought it. I never painted at home. Ever. But, being the pack rats they are, they never threw the thing away. So now it's over 20 years later and here I am back into painting and here it is in use again! The down side? (Other than the fact that they'll use this as an excuse to hold onto everything)

This type of easel was not designed for small panels and boards. It's meant to hold stretched canvases and not small canvases either. While wandering around many of the blogs I've found on Daily Paintworks, I came across the Altereasel! What a dream come true! Before I was wedging the board between the rims of the easel slots. Push the brush too hard? The board would pop out like a cork. This easel has completely changed all that. I love it, love it, love it!

My father is an avid gardener. He always has been. I was raised on organic produce before anyone knew what the hell that was. These are two giant beefsteak tomatoes straight from his garden. Although, I think he originally intended me to eat them.

These things have been an excellent exercise in squinting. The rubbery skins and red color make discerning value difficult. In the past, I would constantly mix color with my brushes. I'd mix enough for a couple of brush strokes and then have to remix. It didn't seem to matter much when I was a kid, but it seems like a waste of effort now. So this time, since I knew the predominant color of this painting, I mixed my colors in four values. It took a lot of testing before I got the hues to my liking. In fact, I painted the whole damned tomatoes four times. I am so proud of myself for wiping away this painting as many times as I have.

It's something valuable I learned in my recent art class... you can wipe it away. So that's what I kept doing. I drew in the tomatoes and I didn't like how high they were on the panel. I wiped it away. I redrew them but something wasn't right about the left tomato. I wiped it away. I redrew the left one, something was wrong again on the right. I wiped the whole thing and started again. I mixed up 4 colors, a dark, a light and two mid-tones. I painted the two tomatoes with it. I really liked the red color. I thought they looked beautiful and red and something was wrong. The red was too cool. I stared good and hard at them. I realized, I was trying to paint what I knew. I knew the color on my palette was red and tomatoes are red. Right? Wrong. I took a good solid look at the mid-tones and realized these tomatoes are slightly under ripe. They're leaning more towards orange and yellow and even a green tinge in some spots. It took three remixes of my colors until I got this result. I think the color is spot on now. There is still much to be done with this painting and I wouldn't consider it done yet. But I am very very happy with it so far!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Frying pan. Fire.

My Mom's not doing so great. Another setback, she's developed clots in her lungs. They've got her back in hospital and on blood thinners. I don't think I've been so scared.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


I'm taking a break from just about everything now that Mom's gotten sick. She's home and recovering from surgery. She's picked up a bit of a head cold and I'm trying not to let her or my father even know how much that terrifies me or how dangerous it is.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Last Class

Even though I didn't get any sleep last night, I decided to go to my art class. It was the last class with the model posing. After ever single class with the model, I was amazed at how different it is painting with her instead of my reference photos. I know that I've been taking poor photographs but you never really realize just how bad they are until you're back in front of the live person.

There are still quite a few subtle problems. There's something wrong with the eye that I can't quite make out. There's also some problems in the mouth area. Unfortunately I don't really know what's wrong all I know is that something is wrong. I'm very happy with the painting from the neck down though. The dress is wonderful. The shadowed flesh of the back is also wonderful. I hadn't put the small shadow that fell between the shoulder blades before and she was starting to look humpbacked. The addition of that small shadow has made her appear slimmer. I'm also very happy with the hair as well. My teacher was pointing out that something was wrong with the ear's tone but, actually, I don't really see anything really wrong with it. I don't want it to really stand out.

My teacher was pointing out my lack of color in my mid-tones and my over usage of brown in the shadows without enriching the flesh tone that was making the painting appear not really dull and lifeless. I spent a lot of time correcting the flesh tones and enriching the shadows. The eye was giving me a great deal of trouble. She almost looks startled now.

I'm not sure whether or not I'll continue with it or not. I guess it depends on how well I can get the reference photos to come up on my laptop. One of the websites I've been reading mentioned that they always paint from a monitor when they use digital reference photos. And the explanation was very valid. Printing it is sort of like making a copy of a copy. You're becoming even one more degree removed from the best subject which is life. So instead of printing my reference photos I'm going to start dragging my laptop into my studio. If the photos work out well, I may continue with the minor corrections.

Tomorrow, I also plan on cleaning and organizing my studio. Again, a website I read said that a cluttered and chaotic space is not conducive to creativity. And of course, it seems very obvious, and it's very correct. I really want to organize it better and get rid of some things that don't belong there. I also have a decent sized collection of bottles and other still life subjects. They need to be put into one spot together. Right now they're all over the place. I also think I need to rearrange the studio so that I can more easily step back from my easel and so that I'm standing far enough away from my subject so that the lighting for my canvas and palette isn't interfering the subject's lighting. It's a very small room though so I'm not sure how much wiggle room I'll have.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Safe and sound

I didn't really sleep Saturday night. The rain and the wind was so loud I have no idea how my husband slept through it. It sound like a herd of elephants were river dancing on our roof. As if that wasn't bad enough there was this pervasive constant roar of the wind. I fell asleep around 5:30 when the rain finally died down enough to make it quieter. In my latest insomnia news, I have a feeling that what doctors have been telling me about caffeine is right. Ever since I stopped working my intake of caffeine has decreased a great deal. And on the weeks when I'm consuming literally zero coffee, I'm actually sleeping better. Well, not really sleeping better. I'm waking up better. I wake up far less groggy. I'm very not happy about that. I do love my coffee in the morning. Actually I just love coffee.

One of our neighbor's trees fell down about 3 houses down the street. That seemed to be the only major damage I could see from the yard. I'm sure other trees came down but Chris and I didn't really drive around looking at the damage. Most of what was littered everywhere was leaves and small branches. All in all, not bad.

The only real inconvenience was the loss of electricity. It went out around 5AM and didn't come back on until 10PM. Again, not really all that bad. There are quite a few people, like Chris's friend Steve, who don't have power and the power company doesn't expect them to have it back on until Friday or later.

I still haven't done any painting. I am in the middle of creating some shadow boxes so I can control the light on my still lives better. Basically I've spray painted the inside of some cardboard boxes black. I'm really trying to minimize the amount of light bouncing around. I need to do more web searching to see if there are some other ideas I can use.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Down with the Oak

In preparation for Hurricane Irene, Chris and I decided to bite the bullet and take down a diseased tree in our yard sooner than we anticipated. We have no idea where we're going to get the money for it but we figured it was better than leaving the tree up and having it come down on our kitchen or our neighbor's house. Although it coming down on our house probably wouldn't be so bad, I'd get a new kitchen :)

They were here at 6AM to take down most of the branches and that's 2 hours earlier than they usually start. They left a good portion of the trunk in place and then they had to go off to do another job. I really do appreciate the fitting this job in the way they are. I feel bad for the noise so early in the morning but, well, it's got to come down now. The left pretty early but they're back now to remove the rest of the trunk and grind down the stump.

I set up a lovely still life today with a red onion and a coffee glass. I don't think I'm going to paint it though because I love the composition and I really wanted it to be on a larger board and right now all I have are 5x5's. I'd really rather it be on a 6x6 at the smallest or even better an 8x8 but I just don't have those on hand right now. I have cheap crappy canvas boards but I want this one to go onto something better.