Sunday, March 31, 2013

I Get Some Sun

 "Looking Towards the Butte"
9 x 12 inches, oil on canvas

 Yesterday was an absolutely gorgeous day to be outside, and I was excited to tag along with my friend Patti on a plein-air expedition to Mt. Pisgah arboretum. Yes, there are some powerlines, and a few bugs - not all of them as cute as this curious ladybug - but look at that view! And I didn't even get a picture of the shimmering river curving its way through the foreground. Here's Patti, with her much-used and very efficient setup, and her finished painting, entitled "Farmland."

Mt. Pisgah is on the Southeastern edge of Eugene, and only about fifteen minutes from my house. the butte you see in the distance, and in my painting, is our most famous landmark, Spencer Butte. Here's a picture from a few weeks ago, of Jesse, Ellie and I at the top!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Spring Break Sketchbook Action

6 x 8 inches, oil on canvas
$50 auction start - click to bid

It's spring break here in College Town, Oregon. Spring break has its good points: no traffic, no wait for a table in any restaurant anywhere at any time of day, no what-not-to-wear parade of tiny shorts and Uggs everywhere you look....but the bad points are more onerous. No preschool, no Art Center figure painting, and no babysitters, since they're all off somewhere drinking on a houseboat. Or whatever it is they do.

I did manage to find a place to get my fix last night - Emerald Art Center in Springfield. Since it's basically a drawing session, the poses are shorter, but as long as they let me in with my paints, I can deal! The below was done in about an hour, after some sketchbook action - which I share with you only because I trust you deeply. I'm just not a draw-er these days. Rusty doesn't begin to describe it.

 A 5 minute sketch, in pencil:
And this morning, a quick pencil sketch of my precious studio assistant, Ellie. She's doing some art-book research for me. Or maybe just looking at the pictures.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Alas, Poor Leelou

"White Camellias with Skull"
12 x 12 inches, oil on canvas

When you have the rare luck to be leant a real human skull, it kind of becomes the only thing you want to paint.  Tearing my soul in two this week is the fact that it's also Camellia season. My favorite flower, and one I make sure to pilfer from the neighbors paint every year. Naturally, my only choice was to put them together, and why not? Makes for a classic Memento Mori.

Not that reminding you of your mortality is really what I'm all about.

Here's my progress. Contrary to my normal practice, I painted this one ALL WEEK. I only seemed to be able to snatch an hour here and there in the studio, so I think I did three or four different work sessions on this one. It wasn't as painful as my moaning and groaning (audible over twitter worldwide, I'm sure) might have lead you to believe.

What did you work on this weekend? Link it up in the comments - I'd love to see!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

New Portrait, New Paint

"Emily May" 
8 x 10 inches, oil on canvas

face detail - click to see it BIGGER!
 It's been *interesting* trying to get to a 9 am painting session for the past few months, but worth it. Many of you are mothers, fathers, grandparents, etc, and can relate to the challenges of getting a young child out of the house "on time," not to mention, a husband to work. I've been loving these portrait sessions, though, and with spring break next week and the decision of whether to continue on with them ahead of me, I'm feeling positive overall.
Our model this morning was the lovely Emily May, and because I'm lazy it's been awesome lately, I was Zorning it up. I even had to buy a very large tube of yellow ocher specifically for this new habit of mine!  You run through it awfully fast when it's your only yellow, believe me.
Here's my sketch after 45 minutes alongside the finish. I REALLY wanted to get her other hand in there, but, well, on an 8 x 10" canvas, there just wasn't going to be room if I wanted to do the face justice. And the pose was so eloquent that I didn't want to do only her face....I was torn over this one, such a beautiful pose, and I don't see this model enough.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Anders Zorn, I Presume?

"Bright Eyes"
16 x 20 inches, oil on canvas

Since this pose was set for three weeks, I decided to attempt a two-weeker after my first piece, or a six-hour painting, in the large-for-me size of 16x20 inches. And since simplicity is something I'll take where I can get it these days, I chose the charming Mr. Zorn as a painting partner:

Titanium White, Cad Red, Yellow Ocher, Ivory Black. The Zorn Palette
 Here is my progression from the first week, at 1, 2, and 3 hours roughly. I blended it a bit after I got home, and resolved to face my fear of painting "alla segundo" (the opposite of alla prima: Thanks, Joy, for that one, by the way), and work back into it.

God, I loved this piece after 45 minutes. I should have just left it that way, but you know, closure is good, too.

And now, some shots of my painting friends! Left to right, Farley Craig (or as I think of him, the font of knowledge), the lovely Joy, such a dedicated student, and Barbara, who finishes a powerfully expressive painting in the time it takes me to get my drawing down. Also a delicately rendered drawing by Lisa, a regular whose picture I didn't get to snap last night!)


 I would strongly encourage anyone who is interested in the arts, even in an amateur way, to seek out a group to paint or draw with. The camaraderie and interaction is so important. Contrary to popular belief, I say that art is not a solitary pursuit. It's a community of creation.

Monday, March 18, 2013

In Which I Have Fun. Also, a Skull Update.

"Patti, Smiling"
14 x 18 inches, oil on canvas

Remember last week when I sat for this lovely portrait? Well, this week it was Patti's turn in the spotlight. I had a blast - we chatted and laughed the whole time (as long as they keep their mouths shut at certain critical moments, I love my models to talk to me) about...oh I don't know, art stuff, this and that, bugs in your plein-air paintings, funny figure model moments, studio was pretty great. I really feel like I captured her innate liveliness and humor in this portrait, photographic evidence of which can be seen below:

I'm happy with the subtle blues, greens, and purples in the background. They remind me of the colors she often uses in her gorgeous landscape paintings

And for those of you curious to hear more about our very normal for an artist skull collections - Patti went home with my deer and cow skulls, which she's already nicknamed Rudolph and Bessie, and leant me the gem of her collection, Leelou, the REAL HUMAN SKULL. Also her favorite book about our boyfriend, JSS. Thanks for sitting for me, Patti! You rock.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Supermodel, Me

 First, a painting:
"Baby Bok Choy"
8 x 10 inches, oil on canvas

Second, a picture of me painting it:

And third, an explanation of why I suddenly have such GORGEOUSLY made photos on my blog instead of my usual crappy iphone pictures:

A while back, I got inspired by a collaboration I saw online between a running blogger and a photo blogger (don't ask, my blog-reading interests range far and wide), and so I hopped on Craig's List and put out a feeler. 

---  Perhaps I should say here that Craig's List found me my house, my husband his job, and is basically the reason for everything in the universe.  ---

I was pleasantly shocked to get a response almost immediately from a team of serious professionals whose work I've seen all over town - and they were excited about working with *me*!

Rob and Tracy Sydor of Digital Latte Photography really are artists. I enjoyed getting to see their massive warehouse studio at our first meeting, and then it was time for them to come to my studio.

The photo shoot was fun, if a little weird for someone who is usually the observer, not the observed. They made me feel totally comfortable, and I loved seeing the lights and all the equipment they brought.

Here are a couple of my favorites:

 Rob and Tracy also do this really cool boutique package for their clients - they dress you up, do your makeup and photograph you at the location of your choice. Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

Friday, March 15, 2013

I Get Romantic

"Springtime Romance" 
9 x 12 inches, oil on canvas

We've all heard of spring fever - and it's not just for Turkeys! I see this still life as a simple bouquet picked on a walk to the beloved's house - the pink paper a love note scrawled on an index card, read avidly by its intended, pressed quickly to their lips and put face down on the table, to be picked up and read again and again, while gazing abstractedly at the yellow flowers....

Are you feeling spring-like today?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

I Endorse the Scrape-Down, with Metaphors

"The Brown Beret"
8 x 10 inches, oil on canvas

I love this model, Jessica, because she always picks great outfits. Today I felt like she was a character from a movie set in some bygone era. Not sure quite which, but even her facial expression was dripping nostalgia. And on this 8 x 10 inch canvas, I had to capture that expression using my signing brush. It has like four hairs. I don't usually do that, but when I do, I make sure to have an extra cup of coffee so my hands feel like they're shaking the whole time. (Art tips!)

Here's a shot after the first 45 minute sitting next to the finished piece. I lengthened the torso and completely repainted the legs somewhere in between these two. I also scraped the face before the last 45 minutes, hence no middle picture.
I never go back and mess with my older paintings. I'd rather throw them out and start from scratch. During the process of making a painting, though, you have to be willing to edit, delete, spell check, carpet bomb, and decapitate to get what you want.

Monday, March 11, 2013

It Was All Yellow

 "The Gifts of Spring"
8 x 8 inches, oil on canvas

As a transplanted Midwesterner, I still have trouble getting my head around the concept of Spring coming in March, but I like it nonetheless. From now until December, I'll be painting off the land - surreptitiously snipping branches, blossoms, and fruit as I go about my daily business and bringing them back to the studio. So, lock up your flowers....or send me your address!

In an effort to save $ last time I was at the art store, I bought Daniel Smith brand Lemon Yellow. I should have known, but my innate thriftiness got the better of me. It's a very weak paint - a much weaker tinter than the Cadmium lemon I ran out of. Hunting for a solution (and not really feeling able to paint daffodils without lemon yellow, maybe a personal problem, I don't know), I found tubes of Azo and Hansa yellow in my box of randoms. The question of just what exactly the deal is with these two colors has been lurking for some time, so I decided to attack it scientifically:

 It seems to me that Hansa is closer to lemon and Azo is just a starving artist's poor man's Cadmium. Sure, I could google it, but that would rob me of my mixing fun. I ended up mixing the Hansa and the wimpy lemon together, and happily proceeded to paint my daffodils.

Wanted to share another gift of Spring I saw today: it's Wild Turkey mating season in my neighborhood. Always an impressive display.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Portraits All Around!

"The Small Smile"
8 x 10 inches, oil on canvas

Here's my work from yesterday morning at the Art Center. It was a treat getting to paint the same model twice this week. She has such a sweet personality, and always seems to be smiling while she poses. I toned the canvas, drew in the head, and rubbed out the light areas with a brush/rag before beginning to lay in color.

This morning, I took a turn on the other side of the canvas, and sat for my friend Patti McNutt. Patti is a fabulous landscape painter (Here I am with my very own piece of her work), and when she mentioned she was making a series of portraits of woman artists, I didn't hesitate to volunteer. It was a blast! I was very comfortable sitting still for the two hours she worked, and we chatted about our shared Ohio roots, the local art scene, and our mutual boyfriend - John Singer Sargent! 

(She claims to have had him first.)

Her studio is gorgeous. I mean, it has a greenhouse attached to it, hello! She keeps her skull collection out there, and she let me hold her Real. Human. Skull. I had a great morning.

Next week, Patti comes to my studio for her turn on the model stand. If she plays her cards right, I might even show her my skulls.

"Sarah Thinks About Art" ©Patti McNutt 24x36" oil on canvas

Thursday, March 7, 2013

All's Well That Ends Well

"Legs Elegantly Crossed"
9 x 12 inches, oil on canvas

This one started well. At least, I felt great. It had been a while since I'd painted, but my first strokes felt confident and successful. And they weren't. 
On the left, you see my toned canvas and initial sketch, moving from orange to alizarin to purple. Should have taken two steps back and seen that the head was too big, but moved on instead. I liked what I'd done with the face, but I gritted my teeth and decided I wanted to keep the whole body on the canvas. So it was off with her head. 

Very satisfying.

What I don't have pictures to show you is that shortly after repainting the head, I scraped the body down and repainted it, too.

All in all, it was a laborious night - but when I got home, I decided I liked the result. With a little tweaking today, I think I might love it. It's the journey, guys. And sometimes the end results are good too.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

I Break a Few Eggs

"Egg in a Dish"
 6 x 6 inches, oil on canvas

Monday was the last meeting of my "Painting: Fast and Fun" workshop. I was hoping to present some intimidating subject matter, and demonstrate that sometimes these things turn out to be easier than you'd think. Not sure I succeeded. We all struggled a little! 

I've had several really good experiences trying to paint subjects I had long dismissed as being too "hard." Onions, for example. Onions are SO satisfying to paint - and I feel the same way about eggs. I mean, what doesn't look like fun about this setup?

(Colored paper. I like it, too.)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Working on my Resolutions

"Path by the Lake"
8 x 8 inches, oil on canvas

On Saturday, Carol and I drove up to Salem to meet a group of artists from Portland and do some plein-air painting. If it had been my idea, I'd feel better about bragging that I'm finally making progress on my perpetual New Year's resolution, but this fun event was organized by Randall David Tipton (thanks, Randall!). I was honored to be invited.

"Tall Grass by the Lake"
8 x 8 inches, oil on canvas

Salem is not a town known around our state for it's charm (though conveniently located halfway between Portland and Eugene, hence its selection as our meeting spot), but Minto-Brown park was a picturesque spot, and the weather was quintessential Oregon. We get the greatest clouds.

Annie Salness, Carol Marine, and Celeste Bergin
 In a bit over three hours, I made two paintings. My new French easel worked very well, and I didn't embarrass myself by failing to set it up or take it down (this sometimes happens). When the wind picked up, we all headed into town for a delicious lunch and some great conversation. I love meeting new people, but meeting fellow artists is really special.

For more pictures of the day, visit Celeste Bergin's blog, or my Facebook page.