The stories I tell

About a year ago I went out to the Woodburn Tulip festival with my family. We had a good time, but they wanted to do more shopping than I did, so I staked out a nice shady spot and people watched for a while.

People watching is a delightful sport. It’s a lot like watching clouds for shapes or the waves for horses; the stories are only limited by your imagination.

DSCN0177During this period my imagination was captured by this couple and their dog. I particularly liked the dog who showed various levels of contempt for all the lounging about by his humans, but stretched out under the bench for a good nap.

I took some reference shots and then concocted a story.

In my (imaginary) story the man and woman were in a new relationship and the dog was disgruntled because of all the attention his human paid to the new hotsy-totsy girl.

I started to wonder… could I portray this story visually?

My first attempt got distracted by the tulips, which initially were the most interesting thing to paint. Once I realized that I was more interested in the tulips than my story, and that neither was coming together, I abandoned the attempt. Unfortunately, I cannot find the abandoned painting to show you.

DSCN0180After taking Beth Verhayden’s class I was inspired again to try to paint the story in my head.

For this attempt I abandoned the tulips and started with a neutral-to-green base, thinking that green with jealously might be the way to go.

I’ve labored long and hard over this painting and there are things about it I like. I like the background. I’m pleased with the tenderness I see between the couple. I love the jeans and shoes on the man.

But the story hasn’t emerged for me. I could live with this, but I find myself also disliking the painting for its morbid tone. I’m more used to painting bright colors and this painting feels subdued to the point of death.

"That Sunday" - 2014 - To be destroyed.

“That Sunday” – 2014 – On the shelf for further evaluation.

One thing I didn’t do that I wish I had is that I painted my background over everything instead of saving certain areas for purer color. The result is definitely a certain color consistency, but it’s also a result that doesn’t match what’s in my head.

I’m ready to accept this painting as a failure, but I’ll put it on the shelf for a few months and then take another look. Occasionally things change with time, but usually when I’m this unhappy the only real solution is to start over.

I’m not sure I have the strength. This just may be a story that goes untold.

I’m trying to console myself that I did the best I could and that I was trying something new with this painting.

Art Talk

Last Saturday (a week ago) I went to “Art Talk” with Patricia Schmidt. This is a new series of classes that Patricia has designed, intended to help artists like me move to the next level with guided critique and analysis of our paintings.

I brought two paintings: “Sizing Up the Competition” and “Delight” (title possibly to be revised). After all the various critiques last week, I really thought “SUtC” was finished, and “Delight” had been sitting on my drafting board so long with no changes that I assumed it had finished.

I should have known better.

Sizing Up the Competition

Patricia is an award winning artist whose works have appeared in the Splash series. She worked for years as an illustrator before moving into fine art. Her works (I can’t show you, you need to follow the link) are incredibly detailed and thought-out. While I have no aspirations to paint in her style, I find her analysis to be thought provoking.

"Sizing Up the Competition" - 2014 (after critique adjustments)

“Sizing Up the Competition” – 2014 (after WSO critique adjustments)

I started with “SUtC”. The first comment came from one of the other attendees; this person asked “what is that white thing up there” (meaning the area above the grey’s ear.) I had studied that myself, wondering if it was too much contrast for a low-impact part of the painting. This comment settled that!

Patty then suggested a variety of other very subtle changes:

  • Darkening the white reign that leads out of the picture.
  • Darkening the chin of the grey
  • Lightening (or possibility) the brown behind the chestnut’s mane (to create more impact and depth of field)
  • Darkening the interior corner of the shadow role on the bay.
  • Adding a suggestion of body definition to the lower part of the bay (similar to the chestnut).

I also decided to add a little definition to the chestnut’s ears.

"Sizing Up the Competition" - 2014 - after Patty's critique

“Sizing Up the Competition” – 2014 – after Patty’s critique

These changes took less than 10 minutes; but the result is an even better painting. In fact, Patty complimented me on the intensity of the horses’ eyes.

Delight

After everyone took a turn, I brought out “Delight”. For six weeks this painting has sat on my drafting board and I haven’t found a thing to critique. I almost didn’t bring the painting. I’m sure glad I did.

Patty, who does a lot of flowers herself, immediately suggested bringing up the drama by adding a dash more darkness to the interior curves. The outer tipped petals on the right back would be better with a little more red wash. The left-most dark petal needs a dark wash on the bottom to increase the intensity.

Again, these changes took less than 5 minutes, but the results are stunning. Patty also suggested a final cropping mat the resolves the lingering tension of the outer tipped petals.

I’ll order my mats for these this week. I truly believe that this time we’re done and they are ready to make their debuts.

Saturday in the life of an artist

Today was too rainy and windy to spent much time outdoors. I was going to title this post “Random Saturday” because that is what it has been; however, I have done a lot of arty things, so this title does seem apt.

Video Watching

At the WSO convention a few weeks ago I checked out two videos which are due back to the WSO library on Monday. I had already watched “Water Media Collage Workshop” by Carrie Burns Brown (and even written a short review for our newseltter.) I still needed to watch “A Designed Approach to Abraction” by John Salminen produced by Creative Catalyst Productions.

John came to WSO as our juror the convention before I joined, and his influence as a teacher is still felt; he’s that good. In the WSO workshop he apparently did an abstract workshop as well, and those who took it mention what are clearly his trademark phrases even after seven years.

In the video, John demonstrates creating the basic outline for an abstract, choosing the designs, and then spends most of the video manipulating the values to create a painting. I was a little disappointed when he added a little collage and acrylic in the end, but that is because I prefer true transparent.

It gave me a lot of ideas to try (I’m always saying I’m going to do more abstracts) but what I truly admired was his deliberate shape creation. He’s fearless.

With these videos watched, I headed out to the post office and to run some errands.

Booth Prep

With the Open Studios of Beavercreek event in about six weeks, I am working hard to make sure I am fully prepared. Last evening I placed an order to frame and mat eight new paintings. Today I worked on making decisions about booth display.

I’ve been spending FAR too much time on Pinterest looking at booth examples. Today I set up my pop-up tent in my garage and made a list of the items I need to find.

While I’ve been to events before, I’ve always gone pretty casual. This will be my first event where I’m really doing some marketing. I want to make sure I’m preparred.

As a trial run, I’ve decided to go to the Sound Equine Options Ride to Provide event (May 3-4) as a vendor. It should help me identify any flaws in  my booth and develop a checklist. It’s an additional level of deadline to meet.

After setting up my tent I went to several thrift stores and craft stores looking for either bargains on what I need or ideas. Nothing popped, so I may end up buying through ebay.

Second Video

Upon arriving home again, I headed to the DVR to watching another art video. Each week I record Robert Wyland’s show on PBS. Though he works in acrylics, which are the opposite (process-wise) of watercolors, I’m always inspired and threaten to work on my own water paintings. This week was the sea lions swimming through the kelp forests which I really liked.

A little weeding

The wind and rain broke, so I decided to run outside and weed. If the rain hit, I wanted to be okay leaving it, so I did the flower beds in the back yard. I’m proud to say I got them done.

While this is certainly satisfying, I also accomplished another goal in this process.

Last week I won a iPod Nano and a Nike Fuel from a work promotion raffle about fitness. Last evening I tested the pedometer function on the iPod at Canemah and discovered my little hike is 1.5 miles and 3000 steps. Today was the first day I wore the Fuel; I set it up with the recommended first fitness “goal” and the weeding has put me well over my daily goal.

A friend of mine asked me if I wanted to be her Weight Watcher buddy at Thursday Knit` Night. That added to my winning of these fitness gadgets, I’m feeling like the universe is giving me a nudge.

Final Section (Photo Essay)

I will finish with this post with a gallery of the Canemah wildflowers. I went down Wednesday and Friday evening this week and it’s gorgeous! The camas are in full bloom, and there are still the last trillium, first rosy plectis, and new false Solomon’s seal. A recent article in Portland Monthly named the eight best wildflower hikes in the Northwest; Canemah didn’t make the list. I disagree!

 

 

 

Trash Artist

Last Friday I went for a quick walk at lunch. On my way back to the office, a piece of pink surveyor’s tape lodge in the branches of a tree caught my attention.

bling2I thought the sheer pink tape blowing in the wind was pretty and had a flight of fancy where I imagined the tree deliberately catching the object and adorning its branches with it… like a 6-year-old wearing her tutu to church.

In a split second I wondered if I could paint this story. So I spent 10 minutes trying to get a good reference shot with my kindle camera.

I had a good time in this endeavor, partially because I was amused by the non-looks of passer-by. Downtown Portland is full of… unique individuals and suddenly I had become one of them as I danced around the tree with my kindle up in the air trying to get a picture of trash. People walked past, studiously ignoring my wild antics.

bling1This got me wondering about my identity as an artist.

Most days (we’ll overlook Mondays) I have some creative burst. It’s usually damped by my pesky job or other commitments. But I do think of myself as an artist and most times even admit it.

A lot has been written about artistic confidence and why artists should be proud to identify themselves as such. Artists work just as hard at their profession as the average banker or doctor, often with less remuneration. But often we’ll dismiss our works: “I just do watercolor.”

Over the years I have learned to take a compliment. When someone compliments my art, I try to say “thank you.” I am still learning to take criticism… but you’ve heard about that.

Still, an identity as an artist where I do bizarre things such as twirl around a tree to get a picture of a piece of trash is a little new. Usually I say “I paint watercolors” or “I paint horses.” I don’t generally admit that I wander the streets of Portland in search of trash to photograph.

Maybe I should?

Walking through an edible landscape

I talk about Canemah a lot. It is right down the road from my house and offers a wealth of what an artist friend of mine once called “salient detail.” It’s also gorgeous. This is the time of year when Canemah really shows off with flowers and bloom.

But I think it’s also the time when its history is most evident.

An Oregonian article from several years ago gives me an idea that Canemah was something of a meeting place. With the obstacle of Willamette Falls, preventing easy navigation (but providing good fishing) I can see the area being something of a rest stop.

Canemah comes from “canim” or “canoe” in Chinook. Situated just upstream of the rushing Willamette Falls, the riverside area of Canemah is where hundreds of generations of Native Americans beached their canoes to portage around the falls. – Metro website

I’ve done a little research to improve my knowledge of Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest; like all cultures, Native Americans have dramatic cultural shifts from one region to another. My immediate area is where four major tribes and bands called home. I love to research stories and know the landmarks they are referring to.

For example. this story about the Kalapuyas:

One day Crow entered the house of a poor family, according to an old Tualatin, Kalapuya story. He told the woman, “make and sharpen a stick at the end and dig a hole. Get these camas, and get these potatoes and get wild carrots, and all these edible things in the ground so that they may be eaten,” because, he explained, “you will be well off.”

camas1

First days o the camas bloom. In about three days the whole field will be purple.

With camas, a flower that was dug in the fall for its tubers and eaten like potatoes, in abundant supply I can visualize families setting up here to rest and stock up on stores. While camas are abundant in our area, this is the only place where I have seen an entire field covered in them.

The oak savannah of Canemah is pretty rare for Oregon as well, but treasured because it is evidence of a lifestyle.

They slash burned just to make the country an open pasture. To make the habitat more conducive to elk, deer, camas, tarweed and hazelnuts,” says Zenk. “The way they managed their land is something they had to work at. They were almost like a pre-agricultural society.” This rare pre-agricultural land management not only ensured that lush meadows would attract, game and produce traditional plant foods every spring. According to Hudson, “When they burned the land they burned the grasshoppers. And the women gathered up the grasshoppers, and they ate those grasshoppers, it is said.” Similarly, Zenk adds that the freshly burnt fields left camas seeds loosened from their pods and ready for harvest. “The women would go out into the fields and use seed fan (baskets) to beat the seeds from the parched pods.

 

Wild strawberries putting out bloom

Wild strawberries putting out bloom

In the spring you will see wild strawberries and salmon berries, as well as other edibles like miner’s lettuce and bracken, even I can dream up a gourmet meal featuring spring Chinook.

It’s this kind of mood that makes me want to do a series of paintings inspired by the Native Americans of my region. The closest I have dared come is my painting “Thunderbird.” But I do dream about it.

 Resources

Metro – http://www.oregonmetro.gov/index.cfm/go/by.web/id/42533

Willamette River Trail – http://willamettewatertrail.org/map/canemah/

Clackamas Native American History –

What will I do this summer?

One interesting thing about starting this blog has been that I am actually reading more blogs and paying more attention to what others are doing to market their art (or other business). The downfall is that I now have even more things to distract me.

A few days ago I found a blog called Art Biz Blog. As I was perusing this site, deciding if it was worth my while to follow, I came across a post about what the site and author were trying to accomplish. The advice for using the site suggested the following steps:

  1. Decide what you need
  2. Ignore what you don’t: “BSOS” (Bright Shiny Object Syndrome)
  3. Pace yourself
  4. Trust yourself

This is good advice for a lot reasons and especially applies to deciding my summer schedule.

Summer is not my favorite time of year for a variety of reasons.

  1. Summer is my busy time at my real job (the thing that pays the bills).
  2. Summer is hot. I am not a fan of hot. Over 65 is hot. Over 75 is really hot.
  3. Summer has grass. My allergies object to this.
  4. Did I mention it was hot?

Therefore, it is my feeling that summer needs a plan. It is supposed to be a time of enjoyment. A plan could help with that.

Summer is when a lot of art events happen. Shows can happen outdoors and most people are tempted to leave the house instead of sitting on a couch wearing layers of wool or driving from mall to mall in a frenzy of holiday-related despair. (I love the winter. I don’t shop and just sit on the couch knitting. Good times.)

At the beginning of the year when I sat down and determined a few goals, one was this website. So far, I’ll give myself two thumbs up. I am enjoying the process of blogging and I think I’ve been positively impacted by putting up my work in an organized fashion; at least I feel like I know what kinds of things I focus on.

Other goals:

  1. Beavercreek Open Studios event
  2. WSO show acceptance (still can try for fall show)
  3. Equine Art Show
  4. Oregon Society of Artists / Rose Society show
  5. One summer event

Last week I was definitely notified that I will be in the Open Studios of Beavercreek sale June 6-8. I will have to invest in some booth signage, new business cards, and a hanging system of some sort. This will translate well the First City Celebration Event in Oregon City. This event is scheduled from 11am-9pm; the last day made me hesitate, but they just announced an option for a 7pm pack up.

I also just sent in my free to be a vendor at the have my eye on being a vendor at the Sound Equine Options show in May to possibly get some more portrait business.

There are artists who spend all of the traditional summer weekends at shows. These artists look on summer as their time to make some sales, attract customers, and add to their mailing list so when the holidays roll around customers know where to find them. I’m not there yet. but I do want to add a few items to my artistic agenda.

New Theme

I have been getting various reports about the theme not working correctly. As well, I had problems viewing the site in Internet Explorer. So… I’ve changed!

P.S. I’ve now just spent two hours updating all my social media stuff. The world is too much! So small but so big!

Agnize

agnize
[‘ trans. To recognize or acknowledge in some capacity. With simple object, also object and for, as, to be, or noun complement. Obs.’]
Etymology: <  classical Latin agnōscere, adgnōscere to recognize, to acknowledge, to discern, realize, in post-classical Latin also to learn (4th cent.; <  ad- ad- prefix + gnōscere to know: see know v.), after recognize v.1 (beside recogn̄oscere: see note); compare -ize suffix. Compare earlier agnition n. and later agnite v.
Unlike recognize v.1, the present word does not seem to show borrowing immediately < a French verb with an extended stem in -iss-: no such verb appears to be attested. Compare similarly later cognize v.

Last evening I went to painting class. Several of the students, as well as Angie, had been to the conference this weekend, so there was much discussion about what had been seen, heard, and done.

I had already spoken to one of my fellow students about my thoughts about the Saturday juror critique and knew that reactions to his style of speaking had been mixed (to say the least).

Fortunately for me, Angie had attended the same critique I did and had (apparently) done a better job of listening to the juror’s critique. She said the juror had really liked my work, and the comments that I had taken as dismissive (“You can’t go wrong with primaries”) were really complimentary; she knew this because she had seen him juror the show for the awards.

She was also able to explain that what the juror had meant by “too pretty” had to do with the horses’ eyes.

"Sizing Up the Competition" - 2014 (final adjusted version)

“Sizing Up the Competition” – 2014 (before critique)

When my image flashed up on the HUGE screen in the critique room I dimly remember a flinch at the long, curved eyelashes on the horses. I very vaguely remember thinking to myself I should fix that (horses actually have eyelashes that are very straight, think, and downward.) In the excitement of everything else I forgot about this.

Angie translated his comments and helped take emotion and a little sting out of the critique. And so I changed the painting.

The changes are very subtle. If I didn’t have a before and after, I’m not sure I could prove I did anything.

"Sizing Up the Competition" - 2014 (after critique adjustments)

“Sizing Up the Competition” – 2014 (after critique adjustments)

As artists we try to paint with emotion. We take an idea and labor over it, putting all our skill and drive into the execution. But at some point an artist has to take a step back and evaluate. It’s difficult. I don’t know how many times I have heard, “But in the photograph it was like this.” It doesn’t matter. Each painting is new, completely separate from any reference photos. As an artist I am not trying to show off how closely I can copy a photo; I’m trying to share an experience with a viewer who I potentially know nothing about.

Angie often says that photographs can do things that paintings cannot. A photograph only shows what was there at particular point in time. Photographers can manipulate many things to effect composition, light, and subject; this effects mood and what the viewer perceives. Painters have to create everything; we can be just as manipulative as photographers, but viewers will look at each thing in a painting and understand that the artist put it there. They are less forgiving of the occasional piece of mis-information; when was the last time you saw a power plug in a painting, but so many photographs might have the edge of this common item in a corner.

I heard last year’s spring juror, Mary Ann Beckworth, say this: “Even if its right, it’s wrong.” Paintings have to be correct for the viewer.

I really thought I had taken Burridge’s critique well, but after listening to Angie last evening I agnized that I had only heard how he said what he said, not what he said.

I still have a ways to go with accepting criticism.

Process, series, and message

Today I went back to the WSO convention. The final day is always an interesting mix. There is a business meeting followed by the juror’s demo.

creative At the business meeting I won a door prize (I guess I can’t say I never win anything…) I have checked this book out a couple of times at the library, but never followed it, so it’s a great addition to my personal library!

After the business meeting, juror Robert Burridge gave a demo illustrating part of his daily painting process and talking more about his philosophy of “loosening up” and having fun with painting.

Because I had heard part of this at yesterday’s critique, I decided to leave early to take care of some errands and take Finn for a walk.

Hike

Today I walked down to the Clackamas River Trail in hopes of seeing a pair of osprey that have nested there for the last two years. I saw one, but not too. I suspect it’s the male who arrives a few weeks before the female. I heard him calling and watched him on the hunt for a while.

Then my favorite model, Finn, posed for a portrait.

Finn: At 12 he's getting a little gray, but he's still the cutest dog in the world!

Finn: At 12 he’s getting a little gray, but he’s still the cutest dog in the world!

Thoughts

During my walk I thought about the overarching theme of this convention. More than any other convention I can remember, I heard a lot about process.

Several different artists emphasized working in a series.

Both Burridge and Klien talked about their process getting started each time they paint.

As well, Burridge talked about the painting every day, and how he warms up with a particular word and some small paintings.

I once read about an artist who painting a white bowl for an entire year. She painted it in different lights and at different times of day. She painted it empty and full. She painted it upside down and on its side. She painted it near flower, under trees, and on furniture. At the end of the year, she knew this bowl intimately.

Last year I saw an exhibition of “sky scarves.” A sky scarf is a scarf that a knitter will add a row to each day for an entire year. In this exhibition, one artist did the color of sky that day (the most traditional). Another artist did her scarf at a particular time each day, the time of her mother’s death. Another artist added beads for rain or snow and occasionally would add a bead for a big life event. I loved that show.

Pile of notebooks...

Pile of notebooks…

I have this enormous stack of notebooks waiting to be filled. Additionally I have a big workshop coming up. Maybe the universe is trying to tell me something…

Conventions & Critiques

This weekend is the Watercolor Society of Oregon‘s Spring Watermedia Convention. If you live in anywhere in the Portland, Oregon area, I highly recommend it. The 80 paintings (of over 300) that made it into the show will having for the next month at the Hillsboro Public Library before the 20 award winners begin a tour of the state.

The juror of this convention is renounced painter Robert Burridge, one of the most prolific, awards, and profitable painters today.

WSO hires two jurors a year to come out and do the following:

  1. Jury the show (pick the 80 paintings)
  2. Attend a meet and greet on Friday
  3. Do two critique sessions on Saturday for participants
  4. Give a demo on Sunday
  5. Teach a workshop the week after the convention

As you can imagine, the subject of “who’s the juror” is hotly debated and anticipated. And all decisions (his or really anyone else’s) are subject to “discussion.”

I thought about taking the juror’s workshop, but decided against it. Burridge works a lot in acrylics and his style, while enjoyable, is not a style that I strive to emulate. Additionally, I have spent my art money for the year on my upcoming Kentucky workshop.

Even without the workshop, the WSO convention is still one of my learning highlights of the year. It’s two days of learning new techniques, talking with peers, and art supply shopping.

I was lazy last night and didn’t fight my way across town for the Friday night juror meet and greet (I am sure those of you familiar with my wild party ways are SHOCKED by this.)

JURIED IN! Again

This morning I was up bright and early and at the convention for the 9am session “JURIED IN! Again!” moderated by Geoffrey McCormack. Geoffrey assembled a panel of some of our most talented and awarded WSO members to talk a little about their artistic process and a lot about getting into shows.

My key take-aways:

  • Paint for yourself (not the juror)
  • Big format painting are more likely to win awards (if less likely to get sold)
  • If you believe in a painting, if at first you don’t succeed, try again
  • Fed-Ex may be better for shipping paintings

Juror Critique – C

20 artists put up their paintings for a juror criique. BRAVE!

20 artists put up their paintings for a juror critique. BRAVE!

When we sign up for the convention, we have an opportunity to have a have the juror critique our painting. Spaces fill up pretty quickly, but not everyone wants to do this because the juror will be critiquing your painting in front of about 100 other people.

Still, I like the experience. I’d like to know what the juror thinks could make my painting stronger. And from past experience, I know that I’ll be in good company. Some of the strongest painters in WSO routinely sign up for this free opinion.

There is nothing worse than a critique that your painting is “nice” and Robert had been asked give his honest opinion. Robert took us up on the offer, apologized in advance for any toes he stepped on, and wadded in.

Over all I have mixed reviews of the critique, mine in particular and others. While Robert is a good speaker, humorous and capable of entertaining his audience, I wasn’t convinced that he was very thoughtful and often seemed to be going for the easy laugh as opposed to a genuine comment.

"Sizing Up the Competition" - 2014 (final adjusted version)

“Sizing Up the Competition” – 2014 (final adjusted version)

On my painting in particular he seemed to like the color (“You can’t go wrong with primaries”), the composition (the diagonal “is one of the twelve in my book”), and the technique (he commented on how well the noses were done, though did point out the bit in the grey’s mouth needed some work). However, what put me off was that he thought the horses were “too pretty.”

Simplifying a City Scene

I was most excited about taking this class because it shows techniques that I think will be very applicable to  my fall Keeneland workshop. I wasn’t disappointed.

I would really like to take classes from Steve Klier, but he teaches mostly on weekdays (why is is always weekdays?) This is the first opportunity I have had to take a class from him.

Steve didn’t disappoint, taking a photo of a street scene from start to finish in 2.5 hours. His quick techniques for perspective, figure, and simplification will hopefully help me a lot come the fall.

The Show

My last stop of the day was the Hillsboro Library (it’s HUGE) and the show. (Yes, shocking–I’m skipping the evening awards banquet (another social engagement)!)

WSO is known for providing great paintings for a strong show, and this was no exception. In spite of my reservations about the juror, I enjoyed his award winners and was inspired that he put so many animal paintings in the show.

Usually, in shows, it is obvious that jurors are looking for great composition, strong technique, and uniqueness. This show had all that, but it was also clear just how heavily juror taste can shape a show.

Burridge is a strong colorist, but his top painting was a black-and-white piece. Overall, I thought there were fewer abstracts and more representational painting than in other shows.

Conclusion

All in all, if I had to do a summary of the day, it would be that I learned a lot. Some of it was worth keeping… and some not.

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