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.