Saturday, October 14, 2017

I Have A Lot To Learn

I have a lot to learn. I don't say this as a bad thing. It's actually quite a good thing. I am trying to think more before I do, to pay more attention while I am doing, and to engage the editor rather than the critic. The critic in my head frequently tells me that this or that photo would be too hard for me to paint. That kept me from trying to paint a picture of Minnehaha Falls that I took last year. As a way to push back, I plan to have two paintings going at one time. One is more in my comfort zone and one is not. Minnehaha Falls is not in my comfort zone.

Another change is that I am starting each day out by painting. Most mornings that means five minutes, but that is enough time to dash downstairs, paint a few strokes, clean my brush, and start on the other morning routines. This is a much better use of time than scrolling on social media. This new habit started on Tuesday morning, my first day back from the cabin and the first day back at work. Between the happy feelings from the cabin and taking a few minutes to paint, it was a good morning and that carried through most of the day. This morning, I started to sketch out a new painting, so it's not always about picking up the paint brush.

This is the painting that I started on Tuesday morning. I finished it last night. One of my goals was patience. I tend to get overwhelmed and in a hurry with a more complicated scene.

The result after several mornings shows the pool of water unconnected to the falls above. I'm not good at seeing this type of thing on the fly, so having a break is good. Even with this problem, I was pleased with the different values in the water, especially the bright white. Up until this point, I'thought that I could get a bright white color by adding more and more white to a brush that was already loaded with another color (especially if that other color was light in value). Not so! I tried this many, many times and it never worked. Slowing down gave the editor in my head a chance to come forward and recognize a truth. If you want bright white or ever-so-slightly off white color, you have to clean your brush first. Mini-breakthrough.

This shows the painting further along and look! The falls and the pool of water are attached to each other.  

I finished this painting last night. When I look at it, I can see that I need to develop a better vocabulary of brush strokes. I'm not sure how to represent all of the undergrowth, trees, and shrubbery. The green parts near the falls could also use better texture or something. While I could go back and continue to fuss with it, I'm  done. I learned what I could and I'd rather try it again at a later date. 

#149 - Minnehaha Falls - 8 x 10 on paper - palette 1
While I'm not sure the completed painting is a success, the experience was. I tried some new things and learned a lot.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Two Fresh Palettes At The Same Time - Urgh!!

We returned from the cabin today.  As I was putting away my painting stuff, I realized that I wore through the paper in the palette with my standard colors.  It's been a long, long time, since I've done that.  The paper in the Masterson's Sta Wet Palette is tough.  Plus, I think I used to mostly rub my paint through the paper rather than get it picked up in my brush.  Anyway, I had to set up palette 1 with fresh paint. In addition, palette 2 with the alternative blue paint is also really fresh.  A fresh palette is annoying.  Looking down at the white color of a fresh palette is unsettling, plus color mixing is easier when the palette has been used.  Lastly, it takes me a bit to get the right amount of moisture when I set up a new palette.

I finished the following painting up at the cabin, using palette number 2.  Since this palette is still too wet, my paints were runny and I needed extra layers of paint to build up the colors.  This is the first completed painting using the alternative blue paint.  It made mixing grays more challenging and I had trouble getting a neutral gray.  I'm not complaining.  It was fun!  It seems as though the ultramarine blue is not as powerful a color as the phthalo blue red shade.

#148 - Ella (8 x 8 using alternative blue)
I feel like I'm exaggerating the different values, but I'm not really.  It just seems that way, especially when the lightest values are really light.  When I'm painting them, they seem harsh, wrong, and way too light, but after a short time I can see how important this is.  I used to do this with my knitting at times.  I'd try to compensate my love of bright colors by sometimes picking colors where the values were too close.  It's taken a long time to recognize this habit.  Hopefully, I'm on the road to conquering it.  

I was going to post this one yesterday, but decided to wait.  I had to add back a tiny bit of black gesso to the eyes. 

Sunday, October 8, 2017


I was treated to a late-in-the-year visit to the family cabin of my friend.  It is a magical place and I have been fortunate to be able to come here for 20 plus years for a visit in the summer with a big group of my friends.  This time, it was my friend, my hubby, and me.  It's quiet and peaceful.  Since work has been so busy and crazy, it was a welcome time to relax and watch the leaves change color.

There is a wonderful, old, metal flashlight at the cabin.  When I was here last summer, I tried to draw the flashlight head on and I just could not do it.  Last night, I grabbed it and and gave it another try.  I did a warm up sketch first.  The body was way too long.  Especially when I look at an object straight on, I still can't eyeball this, so I did a quick measurement and a second, quick sketch.

I could have done another sketch of two to refine things, but didn't feel the need to do so.  I felt like I could see the front of the flashlight in a way that I couldn't 1 1/4 years ago and that my drawing vocabulary is slowly expanding.  That was enough.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Hummingbird At The Cabin

When I was at the family cabin of a friend this summer, I managed to get a photo of a hummingbird in the phlox. The resident hummingbirds feed from the hummingbird feeder, so it was surprising seeing one feeding from the flowers. My photo was a bit blurry, but still I was lucky to get a picture at all. These little birds move so fast.

147 - Hummingbird At The Cabin
The flowers required capturing a bunch of fussy, little details, which also means that there are a lot of decisions to make. I knew I couldn't do this in one sitting. Even with working on it 3 separate times, I still need more stamina. My brain just gets tired. This is an 8 x 10 and was painted with my standard colors.

This painting looks better at a distance, plus the photo looks better than the actual painting. I will give this one another try. Now that I'm looking at the above photo as a type up this post, I especially like the flower directly above the bird's head. It has some depth to it and captures the light.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Six Months Of A Twelve Month Series

I worked at the Minnesota State Fair Foundation, so it was time to tackle a drawing of the historic bust on the front porch of the building. Each month, I spend 10 to 20 minutes on a quick sketch. This time I used a very different tool. Last week, I purchased a Pental Pocket Brush Pen, so I decided to use it for today's sketch. Even though it's new to me, I love it. The ink flows out of the pen so freely. I can see why Roz Stendahl gushes about this pen.

I am 6 months into this and my sketches have only the tiniest resemblance to the actual subject. That's okay. On a micro level, I don't warm up and it's the end of the work day. Sometimes, this is the only time that I try to tackle facial features in the month. On a macro level, it is still miraculous to me to be developing the skills to draw something like this. While there's still a lot to learn, it wasn't that long ago that I was petrified to put a line on a piece of paper. 

Month 6
My plan is to post my sketches on a quarterly basis, so here is the one from the beginning of September. I was a little uptight with this one and did some erasing, which leads to more erasing. Generally, I try to avoid that. It makes me start to doubt any line that I've put on a page.

Month 5
This one is from the beginning of August.

Month 4
Oh heck, I might as well post the first three sketches as well.

Month 3

Month 2
This is the one that started it all. I did this sketch while I was taking the on-line drawing class. The subject matter was so far out of my league, but I was really pleased with myself for giving it a try at the time. From there, I thought the once a month sketch would be an interesting way to see what changes in my sketches. I may just keep doing this for as long as I do work at this client.

Month 1

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Feeling Good

I have been thinking about how to better use the time that I have to paint and why I procrastinate. Two problems are deciding what to paint and trying to paint after I've either had a "breakthrough" or finished something that I really like. The worst is when both of these things happen at the same time. I realized that my own behavior makes this happen more than necessary, since I frequently will push to finish up a painting in the evening. That leaves me with nothing in process the next day, which can start the procrastination cycle. Last month deciding to paint cats, cats, and more cats made the decision making easier and I found that I painted more.

The solution is to never finish a piece at the end of my "art time" on any given day. If I do finish, I need to leave enough time to choose the next subject and start drawing it. I've been trying this the last several days and it feels good. It feeds into the ideal that painting is a process. There is no true beginning or end and any work on any given day does not matter. Continuing the process and feeding it is what matters.

I really enjoyed painting cats last month, but have felt the need to stretch myself this month. My current plan is to have two paintings going at the same time. One will be complicated, such as a landscape or which contains multiple objects, and one will be simple.

I've also decided to branch out and test drive several new colors. I made myself a little crazy, since it felt like I was being unfaithful to my existing colors, especially since I like my palette. They are good paint colors and I'm learning how to use them. I use the following Golden Heavy Body Acrylics:

  • Titanium White #1380
  • Quinacridone Magenta #1305
  • Phthalo Blue (Green Shade) #1255
  • Phthalo Blue (Red Shade) #1260
  • Primary Yellow #1530
Still, I thought it would be fun to experiment with several new colors. While Wet Paint had my brand on sale, I decided to buy a small tube of:

  • Hansa Yellow Opaque #1191
  • Ultramarine Blue #1400

Since I have two of the same palette, I'm keeping my original colors in one palette. In the other palette, I swapped out the Phthalo Blue (Red Shade) for the Ultramarine Blue. I'm marking my paintings so I know which palette I used. Plus, I am going to use this as an excuse to paint some of the same things twice, (which I frequently do anyway) using the two different palettes. At some point, I will change the second palette back to the Phthalo Blue (Red Shade) and substitute Primary Yellow for Hansa Yellow Opaque. Way, way down the road, depending on what I learn, I might set up the second palette with both of the alternative colors.

Here is what I finished today. After I was done, I decided on my next complicated subject and easy subject and started the drawing for both.

Original palette

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Sometimes My Brain Operates At The Same Level As A Fruit Fly

I have been known to tell people, "sometimes, I'm smart, but sometimes I'm that other way". I asked Google, "what creature has the smallest brain" because I was so mad at myself for how I started this painting. After deciding that I was going to slow down at the start, be deliberate about my goals for all new paintings, and document what I hoped to accomplish before picking up a paint brush, I found myself well into this painting before I remembered all of those good intentions.

Guess what? This painting started out poorly. I ended up covering up most of it with gesso and putting it away for a day. When I returned, I thought about what I wanted to accomplish, documented it, and mostly started over. For my last painting, everything just worked and I never felt as though I was fighting myself or the painting. I never got to that place with this one. In fact at times, I think I was trying to paint a cat, rather than paint shapes and values. However, starting again and setting intentions made for a better outcome than I expected given this one's rocky beginning.

Other than remember to start effectively, my takeaway from this one is is seeing and painting the rounded triangle of the inside lower part of each eye.

It's the end of the month of painting cats. For the next month, I need to mix it up and step outside my kitty, comfort zone. It was a good month. The painting notebook should help me going forward. I saw improvement in painting cat eyes. I worked on making my values more distinct (thanks to the Ipad and Value Viewer). I made some discoveries in mixing paint colors.