Sunday, April 27, 2008

Going Green with The Green Team - Belgians

On Friday I had what seemed like a somewhat panicky email from Mary at Horses In Art magazine wondering if I would "please" join the Equine Art Guild group ad in the summer issue since they had only three artists signed up. That issue will be going to The Draft Horse Classic in the fall, so I did a little quick mental figuring and decided that I could use The Green Team for the ad, even though it's not finished, and it would be appropriate for a show of all draft horses. The images in those ads are fairly small after all.

Yesterday morning I was supposed to go riding, visit with my barn friends and then come home to work on "the boys". Didn't happen. The arthritis had really kicked up, and I was hurting a lot. I had worried all night about our cat, Annie, because she hadn't seemed to feel well for the past couple of days. She has digestive system problems, and I wondered if she was taking a turn for the worse and wondered if I should take her to the vet. In the end, I decided to stay home, keep an eye on Annie, and catch up on some reading time after taking an Aleve. The thought of sitting on a moving horse or sitting at the easel held no appeal whatsoever.

By today, the pain had pretty much subsided, but time was short, so instead of laying on a heavier layer of paint, I opted to glaze green over the blue trailer in an attempt to build up some luminosity and depth of color. This time, remembering my difficulties with the Bard portrait a few days ago, I oiled out the canvas first, and the paint went on really smoothly.

After that, I set up the camera on a tripod, shot the painting and adjusted it in Photoshop. Just to be sure, I printed out the image in a nice big size with my Epson 2200 printer and was very pleased with the results. The image is now ready to send to Mary by tomorrow which is the deadline she gave me.

And, just in case you're wondering, Annie seems to be fine now. In fact, she stole a piece of cheese from my dinner not once but twice while I was watching 60 Minutes! It's a good thing that she's very lovable and cute!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Poor Bard Gets Ugly

The good news is that I was able to finish the underpainting stage of Bard's portrait yesterday. The bad news is that it's in the Ugly stage, as we artists call it. Every work of art seems to go through this stage at some point in its creation, so I'm not too concerned.

I did have some problems, however, getting the paint to go on the canvas smoothly. It just wouldn't happen, and I don't remember having that problem with the Belgian painting. But, then again, I did that underpainting so long ago that it's nothing more than a dim memory. This stage will be covered over with layers of paint, and the roughness will disappear as the layers build up, resulting in a glossy coated look for our boy, The Peppermint Kid.

And now that Spring is here and the horses are pretty well shed out, I can always run out to the barn with the painting if I need to check something, like accurate coat color. That could be risky, though, since no doubt his pasture mate, Cory, will be right in my face with nose to the canvas checking it out. And Bard will be looking for peppermints!

On second thought, maybe it would be safer to take a few tubes of paint or colored pencils and just do a quick sketch from outside the fence. Yeah, that'll work!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Gardening Season Arrives

Try as I might, I haven't been able to make much progress with Bard this week so far.

Over the weekend, I spent some time in the yard raking leaves and debris out of the flower beds and generally checking things over. The perennials are coming up rapidly now, so time was of the essence to prevent damaging tender young shoots. My husband also got out the gardening wagons for hauling things around and also some old fence that we didn't get down last fall. I'll use it to fence off the rest of the shrubs before the deer can munch off the new shoots and "prune" them in very undesirable ways.

My neighbor told me that the big doe which has been hanging around the area the past few years was hit by a car last winter. I confess that I secretly celebrated this fact since it meant that she would not be back to ravage my yard and steal our apples this year. I'm sorry that she had to suffer, but that's as far as it goes. Just call me heartless. She and her two yearling fawns did a lot of damage last year. So far, the two fawns have not shown up, but I'm taking no chances.

Then on Sunday I was hit by a spammer who used my email address to send out what must have been hundreds of thousands of spam emails. Over two thousand delivery failure notices were in my inbox Sunday morning, and close to another two thousand arrived during the day! It took a lot of time to go through all of them and delete them, call my web host to see if anything could be done about it (it can't) and generally obsess over how long this would go on. But, thankfully, by Monday morning the onslaught had waned and things are now back to normal. In my opinion, an exception should be made for the use of waterboarding for spammers who are caught.

And, yesterday I put the apple blossom painting back on the easel for one last time and painted the grass a lighter shade. I'm not quite sure that it's an improvement, but instinct tells me that I'd better not fuss with this painting again or it will go south in a hurry. There is definitely such a thing as too many tweaks when it comes to art as we artists are all aware.

I did manage to paint Bard's ears last night but didn't get any further.

Today was chopped up by this and that, but tomorrow I'm dedicating the whole day to studio time. Then I'll have art to show again.

The image above is of one of our forsythia shrubs which is now in bloom. Believe it or not, it's the best of the three and shows the results of deer pruning by its uneven shape. Ugly or not, the fences are staying around the shrubs until they get big enough that the deer can't damage them too badly. From a distance, you can't see them at all!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Back To The Bard

Yesterday I couldn't help myself and did work a little more on the apple blossoms painting to correct a couple of things that were still bothering me. Now I'm satisfied with it and even more satisfied that I was able to take a sharper photo of it. If you go back to the last blog entry and click on the thumbnail, you'll see the finally finished version in sharper detail and better color. Even so, there is much more detail in those blossoms than you can see here. It's one of those that has to be seen in person to fully appreciate.

So, today my art project du jour was getting back to Bard's portrait. Several days ago I toned a new canvas, and since it was dry enough to work on, I traced the image onto the canvas and then went over the lines with some paint to make sure that they don't get rubbed off or smudged. It was a small but important step. On Monday I'll do the value under painting that will be the backbone, so to speak, of the painting, and I will use my drawing as a guide for where all the lights and darks go. This is absolutely critical in the process of making the painting look like Bard and not just an oil painting of any Quarter Horse.

Tomorrow I need to work on filing those insurance papers because the accountant will be calling on Monday to discuss our financial situation. That means switching from right brain mode to left brain mode.

Bah! Humbug!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

"Apple Blossom Time" Finished

After some revisions this morning, I signed this painting and am calling it finished. Some paintings are just not worth spending a lot of time revising, and this is one of them. I learn something new with every painting, and this one has helped me get back into the habit of painting regularly again.

It's nice to cross it off the Paintings To Finish list and go on to the next one. But first I get to order some new oils because some of my tubes have gotten very old and stiff and difficult to work with. That gives me a chance to try some different brands which is something to look forward to.

Bard and the Belgians are up next on the schedule, and I will tackle them while waiting for the new paints to arrive.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

WIP - Just In Time for Apple Blossom Time

Part of my plan to get back to work in the studio is to finish some works in progress, or WIPs as we artists call them. The next one to go on the easel is one I started en plein air three Springs ago but never got back to. It's titled "Apple Blossom Time". Very original, don't you think?

The real apple blossom season won't arrive in these here parts for another month, but it's already Spring so that got me in the mood to work on this painting while waiting for a canvas to dry for The Peppermint Kid. I didn't think it would take me long, and it hasn't. But, I'm not entirely happy with it so it will go back on the easel today for some touchups. In the meantime, here it is to date. If you click on the image, it will take you to a page with the original plein air version and the current version.

A trick I learned in art school is to view your art with a reducing lens or in very small form in order to find what's wrong with it. Once I saw the thumbnail version of "Blossom" (I always give my paintings short studio names when speaking of them), it jumped out at me that the tree shape is too regular and round and the top of the tree is squashed by the top of the canvas. Now I know what needs to be fixed and can't wait to get back to it later today after appointments in the big city of Traverse City.

"Blossom" is 8 x 10 inches, oil on canvas. Stay tuned for the update.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

My Dirty Little Secret

Several of you emailed to let me know how you envied my neat and tidy studio, so I thought I'd let you in on my dirty little secret. I'm not one of those terminally obsessive neatniks by any stretch of the imagination. In the studio, I can stand messes up to a point, and then they distract me from art and I have to do something about them. The same "rule" doesn't apply to the rest of the house, however.

The first photo shows what I refer to as the library (what was supposed to be the family room but now there's no family at home so I took it over). You are looking at my flat files piled high with several years of unfiled insurance updates and policies, books, magazines that I've read but don't want to throw away and haven't found a place for, and some records that need to be sorted and shredded. Next to it is an old mahogany buffet also piled high with business papers that don't yet have a permanent home or are used regularly. You can also see a grocery bag of papers to be shredded on the left and behind that are boxes and boxes of unread magazines dating back several years. All are art, computer or horse magazines that I'm going to look through "some day".

On the wall is a pastel painting I did many years ago of my kids who fell asleep together in a chair. It needs to be revised "some day".

The photo above shows more clutter. In the center is the coffee table ladened down with boxes and boxes of more magazines of more recent vintage. The whole surface is covered with them! There is also some unopened mail piled on top. The book cases in the back hold mostly art books. One can never have too many of these, you know. The furniture, you may note, is all in the Mediterranean style that was so popular when we bought it in the early seventies and is still going strong. You may also note that I don't bother with such frivolities as window treatments.

So, now you know my dirty little secret - or secrets. I would never win a good housekeeper of the year award, but who cares??

Monday, April 7, 2008

Too Many Art Supplies; Not Enough Space!

Most artists would agree that it's impossible to have too many art supplies. We just can't resist all those luscious colors and tend to accumulate them until they seem to reproduce themselves, and then we run out of space to store them.

That's the situation I found myself in last week when I wanted to paint. The new acrylic sets that I bought for a mural project that I decided not to do after all were still sitting waiting to find a home in the studio. They were in the way. So, instead of painting I ended up going through drawers, clearing out junk, moving supplies to the supply closet or setting aside duplicates to take to our getaway place in the woods. As usual, that set off a chain reaction of moving on to more studio projects, like clearing off the top of the taboret next to my easel so that there would be room for the laptop to be used for viewing reference photos. To accomplish that I needed to move a plastic cabinet that was storing pastels. In its former life it had been a tooth cabinet for dentures in my husband's dental office, and the drawers were just the right size for storing pastels. The problem was that it was just too tall to fit anywhere else, so in the end, I decided that it, too, would go to the Atlanta house.

Moving that cabinet made a huge difference in my easel workspace. As you can see above, the laptop fits perfectly in that spot, the small fan now sits on a flat surface in front of the window, and my brushes are now within easy reach. Before I had to get up out of the chair and walk around behind the easel to get to them. (I sit to paint because back problems prevent me from standing for very long at a time)

As I was moving around doing all this, "stuff" was crunching on the floor under my feet because Molly Kitty had knocked a plant off the shelf in front of the window. So out came the vacuum cleaner to vacuum up the remnants of the mess. While it was out, I figured that it might as well be put to use to clean the rest of the studio which was very dusty. Out came the cleaning rags and the Pledge, and now I have not only a neat but a clean studio to work in.

Above you can see my easel set up for painting. On the easel is my next painting project, "Apple Blossom Time", a plein air painting that I started two Springs ago but never finished. Also on the easel is a print of the reference photo, and on the taboret is the laptop which is displaying that same photo. Also visible are cabinets which hold pastels; lots and lots of pastels! I don't use them much anymore, but I do like to look at the lovely colors.

One of these days when the studio is a little more tidy, I might give you a tour of my whole workspace, such as it is. It's small so every available space has been put to use, and it is now quite functional and pleasant. In the meantime, that apple tree painting awaits! I can almost hear the bees as they buzz around pollinating the flowers.