Well I can't believe how long it has been since I have entered a blog post. September was my last entry! After an extremely busy Summer and Fall, I find myself preparing at the very last minute for my next show....a show I booked a year ago! But over the course of a year, a lot can happen.
As I had said the summer was busy. I was teaching a little bit here and there...I guess the here would be in the CNY area, so that would be the art camps I taught at Stone Quarry Hill Art Park in Cazenovia; and there would be the North Country...specifically Thousand Islands Arts Center in Clayton. I am also one of the members of the Bay House Artisans Co-op, which meant working at least 3 times per month in Alexandria Bay, and I exhibited in Sacket's Harbor as well. So I spent a lot of time at camp, which was nice, and also inspirational for painting.
Fall was also a busy time wrapping up obligations up in the North Country and preparing for a trip to Ireland. The trip was magnificent and I have already started a series of paintings based on the dramatic West Coast of Ireland.
I had started putting together the theme for the art show at the Y Arts Community Gallery, which is "Camp",.... and what space could be more appropriate than the YMCA especially as they begin registering for camp in January. Unfortunately I was not able to put together a marketing plan with the Y, which leaves me on my own here to publicize the show. I had a grand plan to start sending out PR in November. Unfortunately, my brother who had been sick for close to 3 1/2 years was hospitalized, and died 11 days later. I spent most of November at the hospital and later making arrangements for his funeral, cleaning out his house etc. And then I got sick...with bronchitis. Between illness and mind-numbing grief I got nothing done. So, that was the month of November.
And now it's December and Christmas season...yeah just a little busy here.
But, I am FINALLY back to blogging and even better, back in the Studio. The "Camp" show will be on display in the Y Arts Gallery, 200 Towne Drive Fayetteville, NY, during the months of January and February.
And for those of you who are saying "Camp" show???? HUH??? The theme comes from my attempt to capture those timeless and intimate moments shared by all who live life in the outdoors. I am continuously inspired by the land, sky and water. It is my hope that this show will bring back memories of what it was like to be a kid at camp: splashing your canoe paddles in the water, canon-balling off the dock into the lake, running through the grass to catch fireflies and staying up late to roast marshmallows around the campfire while re-hashing the day's escapes.
I hope I bring back a few memories of the good old days at camp, whether they were 10 years ago, 50 years ago or just last summer.
As I am getting ready to teach a class in collage, I am looking through old files and photos of collages created over the last few years. I came across the Dance series for which I had not only created 4 visual pieces, but also a text to go with each one. So....I decided to post it on my blog.
The Dance Series started with a pile of discarded sheet music found in a wastepaper basket at Cultural Resources Council, now known as CNY Arts. I was immediately intrigued by the endless possibilities presented by contrasting the music with all of its obvious implications, with abstractions; color, shapes, and patterns. Whether or not the abstractions related in any way to music was not important initially, however as my idea began to take shape, music again became important as the driving force behind each piece which represents a different style of Dance.
The series consists of four pieces White Ballet (Ballet), Nairobi Night (African Dance), Guts and Grace (NIA) and Steppin’ at the BB (Irish Step Dance).
White Ballet: The term for traditional ballet, graceful, flowing, uplifted and ethereal, all fluffy white and pink tutus.
Nairobi Night: African Dance, earthy and grounded, fiery colors, movements driven by the insistent drumbeat.
Guts and Grace NIA: or neuromuscular integrative action is a fusion of modern dance, martial arts and the healing arts and a study in contrasts. Complimentary colors, positive and negative shapes, linear and rounded, flowing and staccato all at once.
Steppin’ at the BB: Irish step dance. Linear, uplifted movement, the staccato beat of hardshoes on wooden floor all represented by the straight edge of the watercolor abstractions. The torn side, edged in gold, a representation of the soft side,ghillies and intricate patterns across the floor.
Keeping a Lookout was painted over two consecutive weekends at camp. I started out by lightly sketching the herons (mother and babies) and several of the sticks which make up the nest, then covering them with masking fluid. My plan was to use the poured method for applying background color and since this method can yield rather random results as colors blend I didn't want the birds and nest to be influenced by whatever color ended up underneath.
After pouring my some green, yellow, blue and red over various parts of the painting and letting the colors mix, I decided that what I really needed was more texture. I wanted to give a sense of the wilderness surrounding the nest without actually painting it. And I didn't want to detract from my focal point. So I placed a crumpled plastic bag over the wet colors and let the paint pool around the folds and wrinkles of the bag. After the paint dried I removed the bag to find a series of wonderful but subtle lines networking across the background.
I left the painting in progress and all art supplies for the following weekend. Throughout the week I gave some thought to how I was going to handle the colors for the birds and nest. Both would call for lots of grays and browns, colors I usually make from mixing complementary colors.
When I returned to camp the next weekend my first order of business was to check on my painting. I had peeled off the masking fluid and was ready to paint!
Taking my cue from the very yellowy undertones in the green background, I selected yellow and its complement, purple to mix to create the various browns and grays. I used yellow ochre, cadmium yellow, purple and rose in various combinations to achieve what appears to be neutrals, but are actually full of color. A bit of Payne's Gray was mixed with purple to create some of the dark shaded areas in between the branches of the nest. I used a small pointed brush to paint the added sticks jutting out of the nest.
The herons and nest were all painted in the wet on dry method. The background was painted in the wet on wet method; very runny color over very wet paper. I like the contrast in styles in this piece. I also like the branches arching out of the nest and into the wilderness, perhaps pointing the way for the baby herons when they eventually leave the nest.
Today is the one year anniversary of my mother's death. After she passed I received many cards, email condolences, flowers and dish gardens from family, friends and co-workers. And one very unexpected gift, a small potted Rose of Sharon to plant in my garden in my mother's memory. In the days after the funeral the plant sat in its pot on my deck, showing off its beautiful purple flowers. I named it Betty in honor of my mom. But as days passed into weeks and the flowers died I began to wonder where in the world I was going to plant it. November was approaching, the weather turned cold and the plant needed a home, a place to put its roots down. Literally. Now my house is 23 years old; we had it built for us on a windy hill (hence the name of my studio) where there is absolutely no topsoil to speak of. For the first few years we had very little grass, no shrubs that would last through the cold windy winter. We were grateful for anything that was green and would grow. Over the years I have learned the hard way what will grow and what will not thrive in that poor soil. And when something did grow...I just let it go because at least it was green! So, 23 years later we have a yard full of some really nice plants and some things that we just let grow because at least they are green! The challenge was finding an empty space in our very overcrowded (and green!) yard. I finally found a place for Betty, next to a very aggressive Pussy Willow which we have been hacking away at for several years. I planted Betty in mid-November and hoped for the best.
After the winter and spring passed, and summer rolled around we finally saw some life in Betty. (Rose of Sharons never really look too good till the end of July or early August). Betty bloomed in August with beautiful pinkish purple flowers. I hacked away at the pussy willow to give Betty some more light and space to grow. I'm happy to report that on the one year anniversary Betty looks wonderful and has held her own against that aggressive pussy willow. Well, my mom never did like cats anyway.
I got the idea for using the poured watercolor technique after seeing a few posts and video tutorials on Facebook. The videos gave step by step instructions and it looked like a lot of fun, so I thought I would give it a try.
We have a very recognizable group of trees on one of the islands at the lake. They stand like sentinels guarding a small thin strip of an island that contains nothing more than the remains of a dock and a fire pit and of course the trees. The trees are the scraggly type of pitch pines that grow in the Indian River Lakes Region and the Thousand Islands. I love their silhouettes and thought they would look great against a soft ethereal background. The poured watercolor technique just about begged to be used to help achieve this effect.
I lightly sketched in the silhouettes of the trees and the shape of the island. I didn't mask the trees or land because I planned on letting the poured color become part of the final color of those area. I was thinking of the colors of the morning sky, yellows, pinks, purples and dashes of blue. After mixing a few colors and lots of water in Dixie cups, then getting my paper nice and wet, I poured the colors onto the paper, and let them run, mix and form new colors. I blotted up excess color and then left the painting to dry.
A few hours later I came back to the studio to look at the painting. I was very pleased with the soft veils of color, pinks and purples layered over one another and the yellows shooting through like the morning sun just breaking over the horizon.
The trees and land received a few more coats of paint to make them stand out against the background. A soft line of trees, more implied than actually seen stretch across the background adding to the illusion of depth.
Every time I look at this painting I think of what a privilege it is to wake up at the lake. Seeing the mist lifting slowly off the water, hearing the loon's call in the distance as a lone fisherman casts his line into water so still, barely making a ripple. We are so lucky to have this privilege. And with this privilege comes a responsibility to insure that it will be there for future generations. Does the lake belong to us or do we belong to the lake? When we first bought our camp, I felt that the lake belonged to us. Right now I feel that I belong to the lake. And each morning that I wake up at the lake the privilege is renewed.
I began this painting as a demonstration piece for an Acrylics Class I was teaching at the Thousand Islands Arts Center in Clayton. In this class I was teaching a method of creating radiant color by beginning with an under-painting of complementary colors. Although many people think of acrylic paints as thick and rather plasticky, and apply the paint in that same way, I prefer to use my colors a little thinner and use the under-painting to build up layers of transparent color. Allowing successive layers of color to build up lends a fuller, richer look to your acrylics.
The process can be a bit tricky especially when trying to find just the right complement for your under-painting. A color wheel is helpful if you have trouble remembering where the colors lie on the color wheel and how they are made. And of course which colors are complements: Red/Green, Blue/Orange, and Yellow/Purple.
The red/green, blue/orange and yellow/purple relationships are pretty easy to figure out, but it's important to take into account the temperature of the colors. Red is considered a warm color, but reds like Alizarin Crimson can be cool in temperature, and Cadmium Red is a warm red. We can find these relationships in all of our colors. So when we are looking for just the right red to under-paint an area that will be ultimately green, we need to decide if we are looking at a warm green (toward yellow) or a cool green (toward blue)and use a corresponding red, warm or cool.
But what about brown, tan, beige, gray, black or white? I usually think of the browns, tans etc. as a darker version of orange and under-paint with very subtle, smoky blues. Orange over blue under-painting makes a fabulous brown and you can lighten the color a bit with white or an off-white paint.
When I need to create grays I usually rely on mixing a few complementary color combinations (red and green work well). I also try to find the underlying color in the gray...is it rather like a cool blue? or a warm purple? and add bits of that color in too. Again you can use white to lighten.
And as far as black goes: I never use it. I prefer to mix a combination of Alizarin Crimson, dark green...usually Hooker's Green or Pthalo Green and Ultramarine Blue. So, how do I under-paint that? I look for the underlying color or temperature, paint that layer first, then add my red/blue/green combination. You can vary the amounts of each of those colors to create warm or cool "blacks". Lots of Red will give you a warmer "black", lots of blue a cooler "black".
One of the challenges in painting Red, White and Beauties was finding the color for the background wall. The building itself was a beige tone, but had an almost bluish cast in the photograph. The shadows were a darker blue. I was attracted to the shadows on the wall and the reflected colors on the window, as well as the colorful floral arrangement and flag spilling out of the basket. I wanted the wall and window to be as colorful and lively as the flowers in the foreground, but a bit more subdued so that they didn't fight with the focal point. So I under-painted the wall in vivid shades of orange, then later added a layer of blue applied in a thin scratchy manner to let plenty of the warm orange tones show through. The shadows were painted a darker blue, especially the one underneath the basket.
All of the colors used in the treatment of the flowers and flag were mixed together later in various combinations to make the more neutral dark tones used in the basket. In fact even the less neutral tones in the background window reflections and wall were made with the reds, blues, greens and yellows used to paint the flowers. Using the same colors to mix new neutrals adds to the cohesiveness of the composition.
Throughout the composition I distributed touches of bright red, especially in the basket, to counterbalance the red in the flowers and in the flag. I did the same with the white paint to balance the white stars and stripes. I had to subdue the white of the stars and the stripes because the stark white was drawing immediate attention to the flag and not allowing the viewer's eyes to travel around the painting. So I glazed blue and purple over most of the white to de-emphasize the color.
After the painting was finished I applied a coat of gloss medium to add extra depth and shine to the painting.
Every painting is a journey for the artist and the viewer. Never the same journey though.
As I was working on this painting I was dealing with the imminent death of my dear friend Yolanda. The painting didn't start out to be about Yolanda. In fact the painting was started as a demo piece for my Monday night painting students at the Y. I was initially drawn to the imagery. The play of light and shadows across the empty bench, surrounded by Fall blossoms begged to be painted. And the fact that I would need to subdue the overly busy background in the photograph would provide me with some really good teaching points.
So I began the painting with one intent and ended with something entirely different.
As I painted I found my mind wandering often to Yolanda, to her family and the pain they were going through. But I thought often too of all of the good times I had shared with Yolanda. We were involved in a number of art organizations and spent numerous hours involved in planning events and solving problems. And after we were done with all of the "art issues", we always talked about our families and especially the kids. Great memories, usually accompanied by a good cup of coffee or a nice glass of wine, depending on the time of day.
I realized at one point as I blended colors, working wet on wet on my canvas that I was painting away my anger at the loss of my friend. I was painting from the heart. Later, I urged my students to do the same "don't be so concerned with getting a color just right, just paint!" And of course I immediately realized that painting from the heart doesn't usually happen in an Intro to Painting class. I hoped they would store that thought away for future reference.
I had nearly completed the painting, when I thought of one thing that I wanted to add; something to let the viewer know that there had been someone in the picture earlier and had perhaps just stepped away. On the bench I painted a copy of The Healing Muse. For many years Yolanda and I had been strong supporters of this literary and visual journal from Upstate Medical. We had both contributed artwork and Yolanda had also written an eloquent piece about her struggle with cancer. It seemed fitting that the Muse be part of the painting.
The piece was finished in time for the Central New York Branch of the National League of American Pen Women show. And although I felt that Yolanda was the inspiration behind the piece, I mentioned it to no one, preferring to keep that thought to myself.
We hung the show and had a wonderful reception the next evening. At the reception I noticed a gentleman looking intently at the painting, and I wondered if he could sense the emotions I felt as I painted. I remember thinking "gosh I hope not! I would like him to see a peaceful garden, not the emotional turmoil of an artist coming to terms with a friend's illness and death."
I later learned that he had purchased the painting as a surprise for his wife; an anniversary gift. So evidently he saw the peaceful garden.
Every painting is a journey for the artist and the viewer. Never the same journey though.
This post is meant for my Monday night Learn to Draw class at the Y. At our last class, (which seems like ages ago, due to the Memorial Day Holiday), I brought in a partially completed drawing based on a still life which I had set up in my home studio. I had chosen a few objects specifically for their color, or should I say, lack of color. The two eggs and the plate are both white, but each has a different value (comparative lightness or darkness of color). The spoon, salt shaker and hour glass were all chosen for their reflective qualities.
Those of you who attended the last class might remember that I had shown a series of thumbnail sketches which I used in helping me to determine the best composition. I had made about 3 sketches and chosen the one which I felt worked best: a close-up view of the eggs, spoon and plate. The salt shaker and hourglass have been cropped.
I had also had a partially visible "rule of thirds" grid on the paper to help me with my composition. The grid was also used in my thumbnail sketches.
I completed the drawing this week and would like to share some thoughts and observations with you.
In working with very light colored or white objects we often leave them without color/shading. But when several of the objects in the composition are white, we need to decide how to treat the white areas. When we work in graphite we translate color into various shades of gray and black and white. We decide on how dark or light a shade of gray might be by comparing the values of colors to each other. Even colors that are the same, like identical reds, will have variations due to how the light might be hitting it.
So, in a still life which contains a few white objects we need to look at the value of the color. Usually one is slightly darker than the other. In this case the plate was a bit darker and due to the way the light was hitting it a nice shadow had cast itself over the surface. The rim of the plate was catching the light, so that remained an untouched surface or pure white, which was the color of the paper. The eggs have a very soft shadow on them created by smudging the pencil shading and picking out highlights with the kneaded eraser. The shadow on the eggs reinforces the illusion of volume. The pencil strokes used to create the shadow on the eggs were curved, which reinforces the shape of the eggs.
The still life is sitting on a place mat which I have elected to treat in a more abstract way, as a contrast to the realism of the rest of the composition. The place mat has a floral pattern which emphasizes stylized flowers. I left the flowers white, with just a bit of stylized detail. The white of the flowers echoes the white in the eggs and in the highlights on the metallic objects.
The spoon is a hard metal object, so the reflections are made with hard solid lines. It is quite a bit darker than the eggs in value, so it is nearly black in some areas.
The salt shaker is very old and in need of some TLC. It does not have much of a luster, so the reflections are softer and more diffused.
The hourglass is plastic, so not quite as reflective as glass would be. Smudging the shading and using the kneaded eraser to pick out highlights created the illusion of a reflective object.
After I had finished shading and detailing the picture, I checked to see which areas might need to be a bit lighter or darker and adjusted them accordingly. I darkened the grains of sand in the hourglass to balance the darkness of the spoon. I also darkened the shadow at the bottom of the salt shaker and in a few places on the place mat like under the plate to distribute the very dark values around the composition. If there was only one area with a very dark value, then our eyes would go directly to it and not move around the composition.
And when I was done with the picture, I ate the eggs...of course.
"Adirondack Still Life" is the only painting in this show done in pastels, and the only painting based on Adirondack imagery. The inspiration was Boy Scout Camp Sabattis, located near Long Lake, NY. The painting was based on a photo taken by my husband when he spent a few days at BS Camp with one of our sons. But, the colors are all mine! I loved working with the dark purples blues and reds in the shadows. This is still one of my favorite paintings.
One of my memories from youth is of a little boat trip that I took with my dad and my brother. My Dad always had an old boat motor tucked into the corner of our garage. It was an old black Evinrude; I have no idea what the horsepower was and it doesn't matter, because the motor never really went anywhere.
My dad had inherited the motor from his dad, who probably had a buddy with a boat. (hey, I've got a boat, you've got a motor, let's go fishin') Well, my dad didn't have a buddy with a boat, so the motor basically sat in a corner of the garage gathering dust.
One year we rented a camp on Tully Lake. As luck would have it, the camp came with a rowboat, but no motor. So my dad brought the motor to camp for the week, attached it to the boat and after several attempts to start it (accompanied by streams of colorful words that I shouldn't use here....) the boat started. We made a couple of trips around the lake and then decided to explore a little. There was another very small lake accessible by a very narrow, weedy channel which we were dying to get a look at.
The channel was rather shallow and my dad had to pull the motor up out of the water so it wouldn't get caught in the weeds. We floated through and took a quick look, not much to see, so we turned around to head back to camp. Now the fun begins. We had floated easily through the channel on our way in, but seemed to have much more trouble on our way out. I guess there must have been a small current working against us.
Aside from the channel being weedy and narrow, there was also a bridge of some sort spanning over it. The bridge was very low, adding to the overall claustrophobic feel. We couldn't rely on the motor, the water was much too shallow and weedy. So my dad planned to use the oars to paddle us through, which would have been a great idea if the channel hadn't been so narrow. The oars in the extended position for rowing were much wider than the channel, so my dad decided that he would stand up and use the oars to pole us through. Well, that would have been a good idea if the bridge had been about 2 feet higher. There wasn't enough room for my dad to stand up, but plenty of room for a 9 year old and a 5 year old, so...you guessed it, my brother and I stood up, and poled us through the channel, all of us laughing like crazy over our big adventure!
This painting brings me back to that day so long ago. The red cushions on the seat are based on the old boat cushions we used. A few years ago, I found the old cushions in the basement of my parents' house. They were really old and smelled musty, but I brought the cushions up to my camp, I guess just for a sense of continuity.
This was one of the first paintings done from the lake. Down in the narrows, we have several places where boats lie gracefully at rest, waiting for their next trip to that oh so secret spot, where all the big fish hide. Each time I paddle through with my kayak the boats are sitting in a slightly different arrangement, so they must be giving the fish a run for their money...or maybe vice-versa.
I loved painting this scene on the large canvas. The area is very wooded, so the surrounding water is as green as the landscape. I underpainted in warm reds, letting quite a bit of the underpainting show through to add a dynamic quality to the overall piece. The scene is tranquil, but the colors are vibrant.
This is the third painting I have done from this vantage point. The text below is taken from a previous post describing the inspiration for the painting Grass Lake Still Life, a painting that I sold several months ago. Since the subject matter and vantage point are the same, I thought I would just revisit those words.
While hiking along one of the Indian River Lakes Conservancy Trails, I came upon an absolutely beautiful, and totally unknown to me, view of Grass Lake. I think the scene took me by surprise. I usually photograph and/or paint the lake from the vantage point of my kayak or canoe, or from our dock. My husband and I have explored the various little bays and fingers of the lake, the islands, and the shallow weedy areas at the very end of the lake where the loons nest... at least as far back as we were able to kayak. But exploring the lake from the trails above, and at the end of November when so much of the vegetation has died gives one a whole new perspective on the lake. The stillness was extraordinary. The leaves were gone, the summer wildlife had fled to warmer climates or burrowed into warm winter nests. The scene before me seemed to be of a peaceful wilderness, getting ready for its winter nap.
I later created this watercolor based on the photos I had taken that day and the memory of the peaceful stillness.
"Heading for the River" was the subject of a tutorial which I used with my acrylic painting students this past winter. Often I begin a painting in class to demonstrate a specific technique, and then bring the painting home to my studio. Often during the course of the week I finish the painting so that when I see my students again, the painting has been completed. Unfortunately, when I do this the students miss several of the steps along the way. Creating a step-by-step tutorial helps the students see the changes that take place as a painting evolves. The tutorial ended up being about 12 pages long, with lots of photos interspersed throughout. I printed the pages and mounted the whole tutorial on a display board. I also emailed a pdf of the tutorial to each student so that they can refer to it when needed.
This painting is based on a photo taken in October, late in the afternoon near the St. Lawrence River. I was intrigued by the shapes created by the clouds in the sky and shadows on the land.
This is a "guest post" from a fellow Penwomen, Rachael Ikins. Rachael is a writer and an artist. You can read an excerpt from her book below and see some samples of art work as well. The Owl design on the cover of the book and on the mug is by Rachael; the painting of the barn was done by Rachael's mother.
From the chapter entitled "The Messenger" from the upcoming book to be released, " The Complete Tales from the Edge of the Woods" (Icarus Aloft: SLM Bookworks, Selkirk, NY) by Rachael Ikins:
".....Next to their cottage stood a weather-beaten barn. It sheltered Merthwyn’s workshop, a dozen hens led by a majestic striped rooster who went by the name of Papi and a black pot bellied pig named Pucky. His nose disc sported a pink dot and his hooves, four white socks....."
The oil painting illustration is by RoseMarie S. Langley. She happens to be 88, previously unpublished though she majored in art at Syracuse University in the 1940s. She is my mother. With her, I combed the woods and fields of my childhood at our summer camp 10 miles out West Lake Road in Skaneateles, 60 acres of pristine forest, field and lake shore ever in search of faeries, witches and other magical creatures. The barn in her college painting stood up next to our driveway. Once we drove past that barn, station wagon crammed full of pets, kids, food, suitcases and dreams for a summer of 8 weeks in the wild, we knew we'd almost arrived.
Many of the protagonists in The Complete Tales are elder members of a society. The above quote is from the chapter, also published by Aurora Wolf Literary Journal in 2010 and a winner of a third place award in that year's Rebecca Eddy Memorial Writing Contest , as short fiction, introduces us to one of the book's most entertaining individuals, Gabriella. She is a retired messenger dragon troubled with myopia or nearsightedness. She lives a depressed and lonely life on the far side of Fire Mountains in her cold, messy cave. Constantly she removes her goggles, which were made to help her see better, and sets them down on piles of stuff. Only to find herself bleary eyed and desperately searching for the very goggles she cannot see to find.
Against all odds, as can happen to any of us on any given day, she awakens one morning to a surprise: the desperate ultrasonic and magical broadcast "SAVE THE BABIES! SAVE THEM NOW!" She imagines some young dragon rocketing off a cliff to rescue whoever these babies might be. Still the message blares on. Her head aches with the noise. She wonders will nobody respond? Is there no dragon out there to answer it? And then, and then... she realizes something she had long ago forgotten. The dragon who hears the message is the one who is to answer the call.
Stiff and clumsy, wings floppy from disuse, none the less, Gabriella musters herself to fly. She stuffs her mail pouch, which is on the front of her belly like a kangaroo's, with sweet Timothy grass to keep the babies warm, once she has them safely inside it. Goggles jump into her paws for once, and heart pounding as she teeters on the lip of her cave in the sunset, ready to vault into the clouds and stars, she marvels at the beauty detailed beneath her. She harbors tiny bit of doubt and anxiety that she will get lost and confused. among once familiar constellations and skyways, because it has truly been a very long time.
But then, on faith, she unfurls her great gorgeous wings and thinks to herself, "I may fail, but at least I will go out trying if I do."
April 30, Tuesday evening at 7:00 p.m. come to Canastota Public Library to hear Rachael read from The Complete Tales, to meet both author and publisher. To share tasty treats, fine literature and maybe to find out what happens next, to learn how the barn enters Gabriella's story...
"Sittin' in the Shade"
This painting was inspired by a relatively quiet moment at YMCA Camp Iroquois. At the end of each summer the camp becomes ART CAMP. Campers have the opportunity to experience drawing, painting, clay and music...sometimes even drama, as well as swimming, boating etc. It's always a high energy week for kids and the teachers too!
Well, when I snapped the picture for this scene everyone had left for the day. I walked down to the waterfront and spotted the canoes resting up for the night in anticipation of another busy day tomorrow. The rowboat which always seems to be resting on the other side of the lake at its' narrowest point was nicely framed by the canoes and the trees in the foreground. When I took the picture I was intrigued by the serenity of the sun-dappled scene. Later transferring the scene to canvas, I enjoyed "finding" the color in the neutral areas like the ground and the aluminum canoes. Areas that usually are just brown or just grayish present so many opportunities to play with color, as a means to try to achieve the value needed, but not necessarily the actual local color.
There is nothing like the Fall in the North Country! The colors are stunning! And because we know we are in for a long, cold winter we appreciate the vibrant colors, the crisp air and the hint of a woodstove taking the chill off an October morning.
In this painting the Fall colors are at their peak. I was using this as a demo piece in one of my acrylic painting classes. The lesson for that day was in painting skies and water and of course reflections in the water. I had great fun creating the abstractions made by the ripples in the water.
In preparation for my show "Time Stands Still" I have been gathering my artwork into a corner of my basement and my blog posts into a printable file on my computer. Since many of my posts have to deal with the paintings, I thought it would be a logical step to include the posts in the show to accompany the artwork. The show after all is being held in a library...so we must have some readers there!
Over the past few years my blog has evolved into a teaching device which I use with my adult students in the YMCA Arts Studio in Fayetteville. Many of the posts will deal with the elements and principles of design; others will offer a glimpse of what motivated me to paint the picture.
The paintings in this exhibit all deal with nature. The places we return to year after year where time seems to have stood still: the lakes, the rivers, the mountains and the woods; the much needed refuges from modern life. Here we are provided with a sense of peace and tranquility. The daily pressures disappear and we stop moving long enough to feel the heartbeat of nature and the cycle of the seasons. We find that indeed time has not stood still, but finally we have.
The more time spent in the company of nature the more we grow to be part of it. And as we become more a part of nature, the more protective we become of our resources.
In 2007, my husband and I bought a camp in the Indian Rivers Lakes Region. Time spent at camp and in the nearby Thousand Islands has provided an endless source of inspiration for my artwork. And also a sense of ownership and responsibility for the resources in the region. It is wise to remember the Native American proverb "Treat the earth well. It was not given to you by your parents,it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children". It is my hope that in each of these paintings I have captured a moment where time has stood still, at least long enough for us to appreciate the natural beauty of our area and to insure that it remains as beautiful for future generations.
"Time Stands Still"
April 2 - 30
Petit Library, 105 Victoria Place
Opening reception April 6, 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
This painting is based on some photos taken on a winter hike with the Indian River Lakes Conservancy in January 2012. I began the painting a few weeks after the hike intending to use it as a demo for my Acrylic Painting class at the Y last winter. I never really finished the piece and it kept getting moved farther and farther back into my storage space in the studio. Finally one day I pulled it out of the storage space. By then it was winter again, and I was again teaching acrylics, so I figured it was time to finish the painting, especially when I realized that I had already gone on the 2013 Winter Hike with the Conservancy. High time to finish that painting from 2012 and starts this year's scene!
I just framed the painting yesterday with a nice dark brown frame which really brings out the color of the trees in the foreground. And incidentally, those trees have very little actual brown in them; they are mostly combinations of several colors which "read" as brown.
I have been fascinated with the ruins of an old mill or factory in the town of Rossie. The remains of the building exist on both sides of the Indian River. I have painted the ruins twice in watercolor and just recently in acrylic paint. The two watercolors have more of a landscape feel, with the land, sky and river, and full of autumn colors. The acrylic painting features the ruins up close and from the vantage point of someone looking up at the remains of the brick walls against the sky. Autumn foliage is in the foreground. I photographed the ruins on a beautiful Sunday morning in October, when the fall colors were at peak in the North Country. (See blog post "Along Cottage Hill Road").
I feel that the dramatic lighting and angle help to give this painting a timeless quality.
This is one of the watercolors of the ruins. I enjoyed painting this, especially letting my watercolors flow to create the sky and treeline in the background. I tried to keep a light touch with this, playing more with the fall colors and shapes and not as concerned with creating depth.
It has been a couple of weeks since our last class and in the time in between I have finished the painting Winter Morning, framed it and delivered it to the Painting the Winter show at the Thousand Islands Arts Center in Clayton.
I had been planning on speaking to the class on a few points concerning color mixing with a limited palette. The painting would have been great for the demo, but I really needed to get it finished and off to the show. So, we will use the blog as a way to finish this particular lesson.
The intent for this painting was to portray the effect of early morning light on the snow covered ground. Using a photo as a starting point I sketched the main parts of the painting, which also happens to be the focal point. The group of 3 or 4 trees in the foreground is my focal point. I have a secondary focal point, which are the logs in the lower right corner. They are considered a secondary focal point because they help lead our eyes to the main grouping of trees. Most of the trees in the background were not sketched except for a few of the more prominent trees.
After underpainting in complementary colors I began to work toward bringing my colors closer to the real or local color.
The snow had a warm yellow and orange underpainting which helped with conveying the idea of sunlight on the snow. I used titanium white combined with a touch of soft blues and purples to bring my snow closer to conventional snow colors.
When it was time to paint the long shadows stretching across the snow I chose deeper versions of the same blues and purples, but kept my lines soft and diffused so that the shadows appeared to fall across a soft new-fallen snow, rather than a hard surface.
The trees in the background are implied with a series of vertical strokes rather than carefully painted, so as not to detract from the focal point.
A combination of lighter and darker colors was used to create a sense of depth. The trees in the foreground have the appearance of being painted in various shades of brown, but no real brown was on the palette. Instead, a "brown" was created by mixing the blues and purples already on the palette with a warm cadmium red. Those three colors in various combinations made up most of the colors in the trees in the foreground and in the backgound. A touch of white here and there was used to lighten the colors.
Creating new colors, especially those neutrals, can be done very effectively by using the colors on your palette, those colors that are already in your painting. This creates a type of color harmony, which re-inforces composition. Using color in this way can also "save" a weak composition.
All finishing touches, like the small snow covered twigs and branches was done last, after the color adjustments on the background, middleground and foreground were done.
Before finishing touches are applied it is important to step away from your painting for a bit, then come back to look at it with fresh eyes. This is the time to make color adjustments on the large background surfaces especially. When color temperature (warm/cool)and harmony are adjusted, then finishing touches can be applied.
When I think of painting the winter landscape I think of snow sparkling in the sunlight and long purple and blue shadows stretching across the snow covered ground. Unfortunately here in Central New York we seldom see the bright side of winter. We hardly ever get to ski with the sun on our backs. Instead we have low hanging gray clouds or no clouds at all just a dull sky and dead white snow. If we do see the sun, it is usually accompanied by frigid temperatures. Today is one of those sunny days and true to form, it is about 11 degrees, and the colors are glorious! I have just finished a painting based on another one of those cold glorious days, and just in time for the "Painting the Winter" show at the Thousand Islands Arts Center. The scene is from our backyard at camp. I woke up one morning to find a North Country winter wonderland of new fallen snow sparkling in the early morning sunlight. The painting is titled Winter Morning.
"Winter" by Greta Crosby
Let us not wish away the winter.
It is a season in itself,
Not simply the way to spring.
When trees rest, growing no leaves, gathering no light,
They let in sky and trace themselves delicately against dawns and sunsets.
I have always loved those words by Greta Crosby. Winter here in Central New York tends to be long, dull and very gray and can be a bit depressing until you learn to embrace winter for what it is. The skiers and ice skaters have already figured that out! Cold, snow and gray skies don't bother them; dressed for the weather, they rush outside to seize the moment, to play in the snow.
But winter also invites us inside; sometimes to the warmth of the fire, other times inside ourselves to introspection. That is where I find myself these days as I embrace winter at Windy Hill Studio. For many years my artwork has been squeezed in around family, home and work obligations. Most of my artist friends are doing the same balancing act. We don't find time for art, we make time for art, because it is our passion. But now my balancing act has shifted in favor of Windy Hill Studio. Family obligations have lessened a bit and I am working less hours than I was last year. I had been wearing two hats at the Y Arts Studio, I was the Studio Coordinator(part time) and one of the Art Instructors. My coordinator's position ended at the end of September, but I am still teaching at least 3 or 4 classes per week. Of course, my paycheck is considerably smaller as a result of the loss of one job.
So with all of these hours freed up I am making the most of my time in the studio...finally. I say finally because it took a while before I was able to structure a day in the studio without the constraints of meetings and deadlines. I was so used to working on the artwork under the pressure of squeezing it in around EVERYTHING else, that I was totally lost when given a "free day". I knew I would need to give myself structure in order to get anything done. So with the New Year comes resolutions, calendars and schedules! And even deadlines!!! Since many of the galleries and shops where I show and sell my artwork are seasonal (May - December) I can use the winter as my time to create new paintings, have prints made etc. Also a good time to try some experimental work and of course write lesson plans for my classes. I am enjoying the winter as my time to refresh and rejuvenate. I currently have 3 paintings underway, one of them an experimental piece on silk. I have scheduled a couple of solo art shows, and started making plans for a studio expansion at Windy Hill Studio North, AKA camp. Although it's not such a big expansion given that the studio at camp is in a corner of one of the bedrooms, there is a skylight! And room for a storage cabinet. The lake and woods provide the inspiration, so I guess that's all I will need.
And, I won't be spending all of my winter indoors in my studio. I just heard that there are $8 lift tickets this Sunday night at Labrador, and we have a snowshoe hike planned with the Indian River Lakes Conservancy in a couple of weeks, ice skating at Clinton Square, cross country skiing at Highland Forest. And the colors of the sunlight on the snow ...amazing! Gotta paint it. Overcast sky??? That's why we have Payne's Gray.
I plan on enjoying this "downtime" as much as I can.
And here is Winter, by Greta Crosby in its entirety.
Let us not wish away the winter.
It is a season in itself,
Not simply the way to spring.
When trees rest, growing no leaves, gathering no light,
They let in sky and trace themselves delicately against dawns and sunsets.
The clarity and brilliance of the winter sky delight.
The loom of fog softens edges, lulls the eyes and ears of the quiet,
Awakens by risk the unquiet.
A low dark sky can snow, emblem of individuality, liberality, and aggregate power.
Snow invites to contemplation and to sport.
Winter is a table set with ice and starlight.
Winter dark tends to warm light: fire and candle;
Winter cold to hugs and huddles; winter want to gifts and sharing;
Winter danger to visions, plans, and common endeavoring --
And the zest of narrow escapes; winter tedium to merrymaking.
Let us therefore praise winter,
Rich in beauty, challenge, and pregnant negativities.