Sunday, May 31, 2009

Learning Curve

We added a new element to our figure drawing this week in my class with Kitty Wallis. Watercolor. Three colors: yellow ochre, burnt sienna, and black. The object was to use these three colors to indicate form. The lightest shades for the parts of the figure that are closest to me, and darker as the forms move away from me.

This has nothing to do with the actual lighting on the figure, but everything to do with indicating form.

These three photos show my learning curve with this new idea.

The bottom photo shows my first attempt. Yikes! Ten minutes and all I got on the paper was a yellow ochre blob! A very little amount of weak burnt sienna and then PING, the time was up and model moved.

The middle photo shows a little promise in that I got all three colors on the page. My brains seem to get scrambled with the whole idea of ignoring the actual light pattern across the figure and translating distance into color. Ten minutes was over too fast.

The top photo shows my final attempt with this new idea. The pose was longer, too, about 20 minutes, so I had more time to consider the shapes and how the body related to me in terms of distance. Kitty kept telling me that I had the arms drawn too curvy when the pose was more straight. But, I saw the model's curves and droops and folds more than I saw the straight bones beneath.

I look forward to trying this again next week. There is nothing so challenging as drawing the human form, nor anything as rewarding.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Iris Gardens -- Day Two

My goals were more realistic on day two. I started with an architectural piece, this time a white barn I could paint from a shady spot.

Then, back into the gardens to paint the yellow irises. While I painted them, a dear woman came over and asked me if I painted there regularly. For the last four years, I told her. It seems that she remembered me from a couple of years ago and I enjoyed spending some time talking with her. Actually, she recited two original poems and sang a song she had written herself a number of years ago. You never know what might happen when you paint en plein air.

Steve Schreiner, a member of the family who owns and runs the iris gardens, talked about how the lupine had reseeded in such a way that this year they seemed more dominant than the irises. My last painting was an attempt to capture the riot of colors and textures of ornamental poppies, lupine, and iris.

I drank more water on day two and didn't develop a headache. But two days of hard painting wore me out. I think that if I want to do four paintings per day, I will consider painting smaller (maybe 12 x 16). I will look at some books I have of architecture in plein air paintings and study that more carefully. I feel like those pieces (with the barns) are not as strong as I would like.

Plein air painting is a lot of work. Besides the painting, there's a lot of work planning and packing, hauling art supplies to the site, challenges of heat, sun, bugs, people, and other distractions. And the light is changing all the time! Yes, it is a lot of work. But, the benefits are worth the effort.

I'm in it for the long haul.

Two days at the Iris Gardens -- Day One

I planned two days at Schreiner's Iris Gardens on a painting retreat. Several artists from my group, the Portland Plein Air and Studio Painters, came to paint also.

Before I went, I thought about my goals for my painting days. First, I thought I would paint four 18" x 24" paintings per day and try to capture some architecture at different times of day. Maybe I could capture the changing light on the buildings, I thought. But, my first attempt at the red barn did not go well and I was not happy painting the irises from such a distance.

The days were hot and sunny. I didn't drink enough water on Day One and had a headache. I couldn't seem to drink enough to replace what I had lost.

But, I powered through the second painting, done in an isolated small garden. The third painting was the hardest because I was so tired. I sat down on a bench to paint that one. I couldn't imagine painting a fourth painting.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I painted three artists painting the flowers. Flowers are easier to paint because they don't move around. The artists moved and eventually moved to different locations so I stopped painting long before I was finished.

My first blog featured these lovely gardens last year, and the Red Hat Society ladies. They are like flowers among the blooms. Aren't the lupine great?!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day!

Happy Memorial Day!

I am remembering my grandmothers today. And Uncle Bob and Aunt Nancy. I miss them all.

As I sat on the wet ground of a little cemetery to think and paint, I watched as people came to place flowers at the grave sites and to clean headstones and place flags nearby. The day is not only for remembering my special loved ones, but for thinking on all who are gone, especially those who have served our country. Thank you.

It's good to be thoughtful on Memorial Day.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sunday, May 17, 2009

No Ride!

No Ride!
24 x 18, pastel

This painting provided many challenges for me. The shape of the cable car, several figures relating to one another, and a desire to keep it loose and somewhat abstracted. I don't expect every painting to be a success (it would indicate I wasn't trying hard at challenging myself) but I can usually find something that went well even in the worst painting.

I will do better next time.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Self Portrait

Self Portrait
18 X 12, pastel

Many artists paint self portraits. Art schools require them. Models are expensive and self portraits are economic. Self portraits allow the artist a chance to express something about themselves.

At the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco, I saw a self portrait of Rembrandt. He did several self portraits in the course of his lifetime, some of which you can see if you click here.

At the Weinstein Gallery I saw Odd Nerdrum's "Self Portrait in a Tree Trunk". This painting fascinated me and I was moved by its naked truth.

Put these ingredients into my brain and shake. I have been thinking hard about what I might say about myself in a self portrait besides somewhat representing my physical likeness. I intentionally did not paint myself attractive, but plain.

What do you think I am expressing about myself in this self portrait?

Monday, May 11, 2009

San Francisco Sketches

Lots of people to sketch during my trip to San Francisco. After spending several hours at the Legion of Honor Museum, it was only natural to sketch the folks on the bus on our trip back to our hotel on Union Square. Breakfast at the Buena Vista on Fisherman's Wharf and a chance to sketch the irises on the table.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Traveling South!

I'll be back, but first a little birthday trip with girlfriends. Tony Bennett aside, we'll come back with our hearts intact! At least in our hand luggage.

526 Tulips in Crystal

Tulips in Crystal
24 x 18, pastel

Monday, May 4, 2009

Cat Tails: Making it my own

Cat Tails
12 x 18, pastel on Wallis Museum

Today I felt quiet in the studio as I painted and my subject came from my beloved Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. I sketched and observed the wind on the cat tails for a long time last week. I sketched them, looked at them again, looked at the color, took a photo or two, looked at others. Some side-lit, some back-lit, some in full sun, others in shadow.

Today, a quiet painting. Still applying the design ideas, but making them my own.

I've known for a long time that I will paint cat tails, but Marc Hanson's painting, "Fluff," pushed me from 'will paint' to 'must paint.'

Sunday, May 3, 2009

May Bouquet from Abstract Principles -- final

May Bouquet
24 x 18, pastel over underpainting on Wallis paper

May Bouquet from Abstract Principles II

You can see that I have started to put pastel over the underpainting. Tried to keep the light shapes irregular, interesting, oblique and in shades of light that are interesting.

So much to think of!

As the light heated the tulips, they began to open more, which changed their shapes!!

May Bouquet from Abstract Principles

I took the principles from the abstract paintings and applied them to a floral painting today.

Create an interesting white shape. Establish dark shape. Use a variety of shapes, blocky and organic. Establish dominance of shape, temperature, size.

Here is the underpainting, a "start."

Abstract 3

Abstract 3
24 x 18, watermedia on Arches

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Friday, May 1, 2009


We had a great model this week! She was a joy to draw.