Friday, February 29, 2008

A Taxing Week

For over a week now I've been working on tax issues and tax reports, all very left brain activities for an artist with poor math skills. It might seem odd for such a person to be "bookkeeper" for a business, but trust me, that's better than leaving it all to my husband who absolutely hates paperwork and anything having to do with taxes. So, I took on the job in order to keep us out of debtor's prison or at least in economic solvency. And of course, I have to do it all for my art business, too.

Doing the annual art sales tax form was particularly challenging this year because I had to refund a portrait deposit last year on which I'd paid sales tax in 2006. Because I owed less in sales tax this year than the refund in sales tax would be, I spent the better part of two days trying to fill out the form in various ways to get the figures to come out "correctly". No dice! So, in desperation I called the state and was told that I would have to file an amended form for 2006 rather than include the refund on the 2007 form. I dutifully proceeded to do just that only to discover that the refund would only amount to $1.89 because of the discount I got that year for filing on time. I figured that the state would probably spend upwards of $50 to refund me that dollar eighty nine, and realized that cash strapped Michigan needed the money more than I do. I didn't file the amended report.

Don't you just love tax season?

So, after dutifully rushing to the post office to mail the tax reports by the deadline, I switched to Right Brain mode and did some work on the portrait of Bard. Earlier in the week I had toned the canvas a really nice neutral gray using Torrit Gray from Gamblin. It's a gray that Gamblin makes once a year from all the leftover pigment of that year's paint production. For those of you non artists, mixing all the colors together is one way of producing a very nice gray. Every batch of Torrit Gray, according to Gamblin, is slightly different because it's made up of different proportions of pigments.

By yesterday the canvas was dry, so I proceeded to enlarge the drawing and prepare to trace it onto the canvas. That's when I realized that the canvas was badly warped and wobbled on the desktop like a teeter totter. I could get a whole finger under one corner with room to spare! Not only was the whole frame warped out of alignment, but one of the stretcher bars was also warped. This would definitely not do since the canvas would be impossible to fit into a frame properly. And, of course, I didn't have another one of the same size which means that Bard will have to wait until I can get another canvas. But, I did decide to use this canvas for testing colors for Bard and such and went ahead and traced the drawing onto it.

By the time a new canvas arrives, I should be about done preparing our income tax stuff to send to the accountant, and then I can give Bard the concentration that he deserves and my right brain craves.

Don't you just love tax season?

I've attached a detail from one of my last pastel horse portraits just so I have some art to show you today.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Winter Sunrise on Clam Lake

Shortly after I got up this morning, I was greeted by these views as the sun rose on our frozen lake. These are the views I see from my studio window, and this morning the trees were all blanketed with a coating of freshly fallen snow, looking just as if they'd been sprinkled with powdered sugar. The rising sun bathed them in a peachy glow that lasted only moments before the clouds rolled in and the breeze picked up to empty the branches of their white confection. 
It's very rare to have this set of circumstances all occur at the same time, and I was glad to have caught it. Today, my artwork came via the camera which fortunately was loaded and ready to "fire". 

I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I enjoyed the real thing. Tomorrow another storm is going to sock us in again, and there will be no Peach Dawn to look forward to. 

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Little Update

I couldn't help myself today. It was one of those days where I just can't seem to settle down to anything important and end up wasting most of it. I have a lot of those days. 

But one thing I did accomplish was spending another half hour on Easy Rider getting a little more of the horse finished. You can't see it very well, but I also worked on the arena markers. If I hadn't had to stop to fix dinner, I would have kept going even though I'm supposed to be working on tax stuff. Anything is better than working on taxes, right?!

I apologize for the poor quality of this photo. It was getting dark, and the light was uneven. I'm still trying to come up with a good way to photograph this drawing, and will try the tripod and cable release next time. 

There's really not much more to say except that it's SO nice to have something new to work on and to feel excited about it. Tomorrow I'll tone a canvas for The Peppermint Kid, and then I can start painting again! What better way to procrastinate some more?

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Easy Rider Survives Disaster!

I had a good week: rode my horse twice, exercised four days in a row and began work again on an old drawing I had started and abandoned two years ago. I managed to do some artwork every day, even if it was only 15 minutes. All put together, in fact, I had a spectacular week!

The drawing I'm now working on is "Easy Rider". I took the reference photo on a cloudy day at a dressage show, and although it doesn't depict some fancy dressage movement, I was attracted by the relaxed feel of both horse and rider and the beautiful blood bay color of the horse. The title immediately popped into mind and so it stayed. You can see the ref image above. 

When I started on this two years ago, the first thing I did was replace the background with one that was more interesting and less cluttered and then worked out the format in a small thumbnail. My intent was to do an oil painting from this image, but first I needed to work out a sunny day lighting situation with shadows and highlights in the right places, much as I had done with The Peppermint Kid. In a moment of what must have been temporary madness, I decided to do a large pencil version first. After tracing the enlarged drawing onto paper, the work was put aside  and gotten out from time to time, but I never quite got the time to start work on it again. 

During one of those sojourns on the drawing board last year is when the near disaster occurred. It was one of those rare occasions when I clean house, and I was gingerly vacuuming dust off the drawing table when the nozzle grabbed the drawing and pulled it up. Ack!! Horrors!! My heart sank to my toes as I flipped off the vacuum and rescued the drawing. It suffered a couple of creases and a stain of some sort, and I briefly thought it was ruined and almost threw it away. But, hating to let all my effort go to waste, I flattened it as best I could and put it back on the shelf to consider another day. 

There it stayed until this past week when I got it out again and decided to use it as a learning drawing if nothing else. Miraculously, the creases seem to have disappeared, but the slight stain still remains. My first challenge was to draw the trees on the left. Now, I'm pretty confident that I can paint believable trees, but drawing them is something else. I consulted my tree drawing books, but they were not much help. I went through my reference photos and found some close ups of a maple tree in our yard. They were just what I needed, and I set to work drawing the trees, experimenting as I went. The result isn't too bad. 

Today I allowed myself to shade the horse's face, and now the drawing looks as if it's getting somewhere. It'll be easy to work on it a little at a time in between painting sessions or on days when I don't have the time to get out and then clean up paints. I'll show you its progress from time to time as it takes form and comes more to life. 

This drawing is 11 x 14 inches on regular sketchbook paper. 

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Tweaking Stage

Bard has now gone through the tweaking stage as every work of art does. You think it's done and then you see little things that need changing. The tweaking stage could last forever if you don't put your foot down at some point and say, "Stop! Enough is enough. It's as good as it needs to be."

There also comes a point when you have to put the reference photos aside and ask yourself, "Now what does it need, artistically?" Maybe something in a reference photo just doesn't look right in the artwork or isn't working compositionally. That was another step I took today. I set aside the photos and went with what I know and what gave Bard more roundness and form. 

You may not be able to see any difference from the former version because the changes were mostly subtle. I did darken the inside of his ears, added more shading on his cheek and lower neck and reshaped his shoulder among other things. And, I'm calling it good unless my client requests any changes.

I did start back to work on an old drawing also today, but it isn't far enough along to show you yet. That's just a little tease to get you curious and coming back. It's a much larger pencil drawing of a dressage horse and rider. 

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Peppermint Kid

I've been working on Bard for the past two days and think I have him finished for now. Knowing the artist in me, I'll probably fool around a little more with this value study before proceeding to the painting. 

You should see a big difference in the larger image. I reworked his face again yesterday, using the laptop computer next to the drawing table, and that was a big help since I could access the reference photos without having to run between the studio and the computer room. His neck has been finished also giving him that unmistakable Quarter Horse look. 

Bard has tiny ears, a lovely head and just loves peppermints. His owner specifically wanted me to include that one unruly lock of mane which always falls to the wrong side of his neck. I'm really pleased to be able to progress to the painting stage next and finish the tribute that this horse deserves. 

Maybe I should title this painting "The Peppermint Kid".