King of the world

Today I recovered from workshop hangover by taking Finn for a hike at Canemah and running some errands. The hike was by far more fun.

I'm king of the world!

I’m king of the world!

Everyone at Canemah was announcing that they were open for breeding. I heard four Anna’s hummingbirds (only saw two) and was nearly deafened by the frog chorus.

I took a short video with my camera to show you how loud the frogs were, but I can’t upload it. You’ll just have to imagine!

Two steps forward, one step back

It has been an exciting week for me with ups and downs that kept me on the edge of my seat. I had signed up to take a workshop from Beth Verheyden called “Let’s Get E-Motion-Al” and had been wait-listed. I found out Tuesday I got in and was very excited.

Then Thursday, just before I was to leave for my workshop, I found out that two of my paintings sold from the TRAG gallery. Talk about being excited!

With a happy heart I headed south to Brownsville to take the workshop (about a 1.5 hour drive). I drove back and forth each day and there were some great sunsets!

Friday's sunset

Friday’s sunset

On the downside, Friday I found out I didn’t get into the WSO show. I can’t say that I was entirely surprised; it’s a competitive show and both paintings had technical flaws that prevented them from getting in. But I was still disappointed.

***

Beth’s class was well worth my wait. Thursday evening I drove down to Brownsville and we had a later evening lecture on color theory. My first watercolor teacher, Melissa Gannon, is a vibrant and fearless colorist. She introduced me to the works of Stephen Quiller; his book “Color Choices” is the favorite art book in my collection.

For this class, Beth’s take on color was a little more intellectual. She spent a great deal of time outlining specific colors linking to specific emotions. While Quiller’s focus has been color intensity, Beth urged us to think about the mood we were trying to invoke.

Sheep!

Sheep!

Foggy Saturday morning view.

Foggy Saturday morning view.

Saturday dawned with a quick drive (through sheep country!) to the subject of the day’s drawing: the Crawfordsville Bridge.

Crawfordsville Bridge

Crawfordsville Bridge

From there, we headed back to the Brownsville Art Center to start our paintings.

Beth had a great hand-out card that we filled out for each painting indicating some of the key decisions we were to make about color, line, and direction dominance. A criticism I would make is that while Beth had some great examples of “pushing” line and direction, she was light on the instruction of this part. When she demoed, we again got some good ideas, but this is such a difficult topic I got confused about it.

I am a pretty prolific painter; I also tend to overwork my paintings if working on only one. Because of this started two paintings on Saturday and another two on Sunday. For each, I tried to create a different mood. I think I did well with the mood part, but the execution left a lot to be desired. [Click on the image to see the full painting.]

***

Taking a workshop is hard work. I suspect most artists are used to “being the best” in childhood art classes; but as an adult in a serious learning environment, I rarely have that experience anymore. I don’t know about anyone else, but the workshops I take, EVERYONE’s painting is always better than mine.

Additionally, I really pushed myself in this workshop, knowing  that I wouldn’t get the best results (and thinking I was prepared for it.) Red is a hard color for me, and I generally like peaceful and happy paintings more than angry and sad ones. Also, four paintings might have been too ambitious.

Also, I hate painting bridges/houses/man-made structures. I already knew that, but it’s a good reminder. Still, my resolution for this year is to do more listening in my classes, so I did four (okay, 3.5) paintings of bridges.

Possibly the most challenging aspect, for me, of a workshop is the other humans. As the internet meme goes, “There are no stupid questions, but there are a LOT of inquisitive idiots.” (I’m sure I’m occasionally one of them). Also, there is an undeniably social element to these things that is more than a little confusing for me. We’re there to paint, so why are we talking about your latest surgery/grandchild/trip? I have to constantly tell myself to allow the world to be unorganized.

For me, workshops are a crucible where I feel every artistic and personal flaw. But maybe that’s the point? I need to look at where I need to improve before I can get better. After all, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results…

What’s that color?

A couple of weeks ago I stayed home sick (I had a little fever and was achy.) I slept a lot and took the dog for a walk, but mostly I knit and watched recorded items on my DVR.

One of those items was the movie “Girl with a Pearl Earring”. While I don’t recommend it, it does have some great scenes about art, particularly one scene where the artist Vermeer asks the serving girl who sits for the title painting, “What color are clouds?”

"Girl with a Pearl Earring" by Johannes Vermeer (1665)

“Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Johannes Vermeer (1665)

The movie was interesting enough that I went and looked up Vermeer on Wikipedia and learned a lot.

I do not paint oils; oils are the opposite of watercolor in that the process is dark to light. But I was fascinated to learn that glazing is a technique used in both mediums to create color intensity.

In the 18th century, George Stubbs brought the idea of equestrian portraits to the fore. Prior to Stubbs, portraits had been only of humans, perhaps seated on a favorite mount, but not just the horse.

"Whistlejacket" by George Stubbs (1762)

“Whistlejacket” by George Stubbs (1762)

When I saw this portrait in the National Gallery in London, it was a great experience. It was a piece I had never really cared for, but when I saw it in person I realized what Stubbs was really trying to do; he was trying to preserve an animal as brilliant as a flame and just as etherial forever. A background would have just ruined it.

One of my favorite books of all time is “The Color of Horses” by Ben K. Green (illustrated by Darol Dickinson.) In it, I learned all horses are the same color (the only actual pigment in hair is an amber color); the only difference is the arrangement of the pigment.

This weekend I am taking a workshop entitled “Let’s Get E-Motion-Al”. For the first day, we talked about color theory. It made me realize that while I like to paint pink donkeys and purple horses, then put a “realistic” glaze over it, there is a lot I could do to bring some more emotion to my painting.

It’s not enough to ask “What color is it” or to underpaint to provide some personality… color is one of the biggest clues to what the artist is wanting you to feel.

Something to consider for tomorrow.

Philopatric

Late 2011 through 2012 will forever be known as my “Année terrible”. I was in a car accident; I was laid off; my dad had heart surgery; my aunt died; I had pneumonia twice.
September 2011 car accident: rear-ended at 45 mph.

September 2011 car accident: rear-ended at 45 mph.

About the only thing I had going for me in this year of horrors was my house. I bought it from my parents and I got a good deal on it. So while everything else was going wrong, I at least had a place to hang my hat.
In 2013 I accepted my current position which is an hour and 15 minutes each way from my house. I said that if I survived a year, I’d consider moving. In the meantime, I’d spent the year getting my house either ready to be shown or to be worry free.
My house... before and after!

My house… before and after!

I’ve passed my year and my self-imposed deadline (April 1) is approaching and I’m nearing a meltdown. In the last week I’ve changed my mind once a day about whether to sell or not. It’s exhausting in every possible way.

For this long weekend, I finished the last project on my list and repainted the back bedroom. It was a bittersweet experience because I remember my mom and I painting that bedroom (sponge painting) and laughing about it. It was so pretty when it was finished. But it doesn’t fit my current decorating scheme.
This weekend, while waiting for paint to dry, I went to look at a few places listed at RMLS.com. At the end of that I felt panicked, so I decided to just table the whole thing until something like a sign came along.
So today, I got news that I got into a workshop that I had been wait-listed on. Then I got news about my fall Keenland workshop.
In summary: When I settled down and focused on the present, good things happened. So I think another Oxford English word of the day may suite me–
philopatric, adj.: “Of an animal or species: tending to return to or remain near a particular site, esp. the place of origin.”

Bling and Birding

Today, at the end of a busy 3-day weekend, I finally got out of the house for a hike. The snow has all melted and we have been getting huge amounts of rain (more typical for us), so it was a pretty soggy hike.

A section of the Canemah trail

A section of the Canemah trail

It has been an unusually dry winter here, though, so it was nice to feel like we were finally hydrated again.

Additionally, the water provided a little “bling” to the landscape and made even the boring browns of fallen leaves rather poetic.

A puddle covered these oak leaves

A puddle covered these oak leaves

I saw a bald eagle gliding along the cliffs as I drove by earlier in the day, but I didn’t see him along my hike. I did meet a new resident: the brown creeper. This is a TERRIBLE name for this all-together charming bird. I had always wondered who was making the “tsee” noise but I could never figure it out. Today, however, when I looked up I finally caught a movement. And you needed movement to find him.

Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper

He looked like a moving piece of bark as he worked the tree. As I moved in for a better look (and hopefully a picture) I admire him work his way up the tree, then systematically move to the bottom of the next and work up again. At one point he was so close I was afraid he would start to work me!

As we ended our hike, I spotted an acorn woodpecker. I always admire the way this family (Downy, Acorn, Sapsucker, Pilated) are built alike. This one posed for a while before flying away.

Acorn Woodpecker

Acorn Woodpecker

Spring is definitely coming… as I drove away I noticed a pair of red tail hawks circling… they aren’t ready to mate yet, but they are scoping out the territory.

Ice Painting (Again)

In Portland we get a lot of rain, but not a lot of snow. Even a slight whiff of snow can send us into a panic. Getting six inches inside of 24 hours… well, we’re calling it “Snowmagedon.”

"Snowmagedon" backyard

“Snowmagedon” backyard

I had the day off due to the weather, but after refilling my bird feeders and settling on a hummingbird feeder warming rotation, I decided to try my hand once again at “ice painting.” My last post generated a lot of questions (okay… a lot might be relative) and today seemed like the perfect day to try again.

To reprise, ice painting is using cold temperatures to “dry” your water media paintings and, hopefully, get a lot of texture.

For my last (first) attempt in December, I used watercolor paints and got some nice results, but was ultimately disappointed with the textures I got; a more experience friend told me I needed to be using acrylics.

28° and just getting started

28° and just getting started

So today, with three inches of snow and a temperature of 28°F, I gave it another shot with acrylics.

painting02

Blank watercolor paper on board

The first part of the process is mixing my colors. It’s important to mix a high-intensity color when doing any kind of pouring because you lose so much intensity during the drying process. The directions usually say “the consistency of 2% milk.” From experience I also know to try to get the mixture thoroughly mixed or when you pour pure paints will glop out onto the paper.

My colors, mixed up and ready to pour

My colors, mixed up and ready to pour

I’m not one to give up, so I started with another watercolor try. I had some unused paint mixed from my last attempt and I wanted to make sure that any differences in results were due to the acrylic rather than the temperature.

First attempt - watercolor

First attempt – watercolor; it always feels like Napthol red taxes over

Next I moved onto the acrylics. I have some concerns that my paint consistency was whole milk as opposed to 2%; but indeed, I did get more of the texture I was looking for.

Two acrylics "drying" in the snow

Paintings “drying” in the snow

Detail of "ice painting"

Detail of “ice painting”

As I was letting the paintings “dry” it started snowing. I got out there after just a little had settled, but it was enough that they had to be moved into the garage (still cold, but not freezing.) Once the snow melted, they came into the house to finish drying.

Oops... drying time mushed into snow time

Oops… drying time mushed into snow time

And the results… Indeed, acrylic does produce a better result. But the colors I used this time (and I only have a few gathered from yard sales for under $5 total) were a little vivid and under-mixed. They are a good start for some abstracts, but I think I will try again tomorrow with today’s results as a guideline.

Green and blue

On Saturday I went out to Sound Equine Options (SEO) to muck stalls. There are seven residents at this barn (I know that SEO has about 50 horses in total in their care, but most are in foster homes) and I do half the stalls any given day.

When I enter the barn I love seeing the heads come out and a few of the horses know me well enough that I get a “food wicker” of greeting. I always walk down the line before beginning, giving alfalfa cubes to the crew.

My current favorite resident is an older mare named Lucy. She’s a 19-year-old chestnut quarter horse that reminds me of several of my past companions.

On Saturday, Lucy finished her term and was adopted. I didn’t know it was her pick-up day and so I cleaned her stall first. While I did that I let her in the arena where she rolled (always amusing). When she got up there was a chestnut “angel” from all her hair. I gave her a good groom, then back in her stall. Just a few minutes later Lucy’s new owner came to pick her up. I will really miss Lucy, but I’m glad she has her own person now and wish them the best.

Next I went to Secret’s stall. She’s a 7-year-old paint mare and we got off to a difficult start when I first started at SEO a few months ago. She seemed shy to me and didn’t take treats. but now, she’s among my favorites and does take treats (I confess I trained her to eat them using molasses.) Now when she seems me she gives me the “food look.” I’m a sucker for it.

Secret also got arena time and rolled, then a good groom. And many cookies, of course.

For my third stall, I choose a small little 5-year-old chestnut gelding named Jolly. Jolly came in just before Christmas as part of the “Christmas 6.” I’ve met three of this group in person and I can’t believe how small and starved they look. I hadn’t worked with him before and he seemed a little stand-offish, but he’s pretty cute.

So I went in his stall and he wanted nothing to do with me. I eventually haltered him, but I was worried enough about re-catching him that I put him in the round pen instead of the arena. He proceeded to call like he was abandoned.

I finished his stalls, then went over to play with him. When I offered him cookies, he looked interested, but clearly didn’t know what was up. So, I dripped molasses over them and tried that. He looked even more interested, but still unsure. So I grabbed a pan and worked with him that way. He liked the molasses part, but wasn’t sure about the rest. I’ll try to do more treat introduction when I see him next.

Since he was already in the round pen, I decided to work with him. I’ve never worked with a horse that green. We only did one exercise (rope over back) but it took him SO long to settle just on the withers. When I went to his off side, it took even longer. He didn’t understand leading on the off side and played “out” yo-yo, but not “in” very well. He’s clearly very sweet, but so green. I’m gonna try to spend a little time with him.

But I’ve spend the weekend worrying about little Jolly. A 5-year-old 14-hand chestnut gelding with a roman nose. Who would breed such an animal? What chance does he have at getting adopted?

While I know that helping and donating money does help, sometimes I really feel inadequate. Horses, dogs… humans.
There seems to be so many lives out there to save.

 

Mary Cassat, Ansel Adams, and philhippic

Today’s post is brought to you by the seemingly random powers that rule the internet.

Random event 1

A couple days ago I liked a Facebook post that had a nice piece of art in it. This was apparently a foolish move, because I have become embroiled in a plot to “occupy Facebook with art” and was assigned an artist to post about: Mary Cassat.

While not my favorite impressionist (Monet with Renoir a tight second) she’s in a nose-to-nose race with Degas (I love Degas’ racehorses, but hate his misogyny) for third.

Like Renoir, Cassat specialized in painting people, specifically women and children in intimate, home-centered environments. Because of her subject matter, she did not achieve the same recognition as other Impressionists, though that has largely changed in recent history.

"Little Girl in a blue chair" by Mary Cassat

“Little Girl in a blue chair” by Mary Cassat

Arguably my favorite painting of Cassat’s is “Little Girl in a Blue Armchair.” I love the evocative pose of the little girl, the curled up dog, and the startling blue of the armchairs. This painting shows something both innocent and frustrated.

Random event 2

Each day I get a word from the Oxford English Dictionary Online Word of the Day:

paysagist, n.
[‘ A landscape artist.’]
Pronunciation: Brit. /ˈpeɪzədʒɪst/,  U.S. /ˈpeɪzədʒəst/, /ˌpeɪ(i)zɑˈʒist/

This definition was followed by several key usages, one of which mentioned Ansel Adams.

“Ansel Easton Adams (February 20, 1902 – April 22, 1984) was an American photographer and environmentalist. His black-and-white landscape photographs of the American West, especially Yosemite National Park, have been widely reproduced on calendars, posters, and in books.[1]” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ansel_Adams

I think there are few people who have viewed Ansel Adams work that aren’t moved by it.

"The Tetons - Snake River," Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming; From the series Ansel Adams Photographs of National Parks and Monuments, compiled 1941 - 1942, documenting the period ca. 1933 - 1942.

“The Tetons – Snake River,” Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming;
From the series Ansel Adams Photographs of National Parks and Monuments, compiled 1941 – 1942, documenting the period ca. 1933 – 1942.

What’s unique about Adams is that, like the Impressionists, he was taking a 90 degree turn from what everyone else was doing at the time. While other photographers were concentrating on capturing images of humans, Adams documented the landscape; and he did it so well that he changed the world.

He changed the world just by documenting was what around him that he liked.

Random event 3

Today I got another word from OED:

philhippic, adj.
[‘ Fond of or interested in horses.’]

If this word was a tattoo, I would have immediately run for the nearest needle. I have attached myself to this word because, well, IT’S SO ME!

As I merrily contemplated ways to bring this word more into my life, I got to thinking about Mary Cassat and Ansel Adams. Did they have a word they associated with this strongly?

That got me to thinking about how much art (and everything else) has to do with what you are thinking about and paying attention to.

As an emerging artist, I’m still trying to decide what I am going to pay attention to. But based on how strongly I tuned into this word, I am reminded that horses will figure prominently.

Mercury is in Retrograde?

The last few days have seemed to have a theme, summed up by a passing comment from a guy on the elevator: “Mercury is in retrograde, man.” Not 100% true (retrograde starts Feb. 6 if you are interested in that) (I’m not, but I decided to check it out to see if I really could explain anything: http://www.almanac.com/content/mercury-retrograde), but you get the idea.

“When Mercury is retrograde, remain flexible, allow time for extra travel, and avoid signing contracts. Review projects and plans at these times, but wait until Mercury is direct again to make any final decisions.” – 2014 Farmer’s Almanac

Without going into the messier aspects of the last few days, last night when I started a new painting I had an unexpected thing happen. It was easy. The last few months of my painting have felt like nothing was going right. That isn’t to say that I’m not pleased, but it has felt like it takes endless tweaking to get anywhere.

Two hours into "Sizing up the Competition"

Two hours into “Sizing up the Competition”

As sketched out my work, chose colors, and quickly applied paint last evening I felt a deep suspicion about what was going on. Why was this moving so quickly?

There are a couple reasons the painting is going fast at this stage: it’s realistic (no existential decisions) and it has big shapes. When I get to the details, things will slow down. But I think there is something else going on.

I went to a training this morning on “conflict resolution in the workplace.”  At the top of the first handout, this quote appears:

“We all are of two minds about conflict. We say that conflict is natural, inevitable, necessary and normal, and that the problem is not the existence of conflict but how we handle it. But we are also loath to admit that we are in the midst of conflict.” – Berhard Mayer, PhD

As an emerging artist, conflict has a place in my work. I get to a certain stage in my work and I don’t know what I want. I try new things to discover my style, voice, and needs. Sometimes I do what the teacher says, sometimes I go my own way.

The last few months have been filled with (most successful) experiments: Abstracts, Tissue Pouring, Ice Painting, and Yupo. All of these required learning techniques.

With this painting I’m returning to straight watercolor. Those experiments will help me in a future work; they may even help me in this work. But for right now, I’ll keep it straightforward…. because you just can’t trust that Mercury.

 

A New Direction

It’s been a productive day. I slept in a little, filled up the birdfeeders, then got up and took Finn for a hike at Canemah.

A children's moon over Canemah

A children’s moon over Canemah

It was cold and frosty but bright. A great day. As we crested the first hill, a “children’s moon” greeted us.

I liked the way the front was receding just after the shadow disappeared. You can really see that in this photo.

I liked the way the front was receding just after the shadow disappeared. You can really see that in this photo.

Inspired by this, I took our usual loop in the opposite direction (clockwise instead of counter-clockwise). It’s amazing how much such a simple change makes everything change.

Light through salal leaves.

Light through salal leaves.

I hope a similar approach may help me get into the spring WSO show. For the first time, I’m entering an abstract as well as a representational piece. It feels a little like cheating, but I do like the piece and I’m proud of it. Fingers crossed!

In the meantime, I added my two entered paintings on the painting pages and two more than I have deemed “finished.” I hope you’ll check them out.

So, in summary, on this productive day I hiked, painted, entered paintings in the show, updated my website, and even did a little weeding. I need a nap.

I don't know the name of this plant, but it blooms white in the summer, inspiring my name for it, wedding lace plant. In the winter it ages and I think of it as an antique wedding veil.

I don’t know the name of this plant, but it blooms white in the summer, inspiring my name for it, wedding lace plant. In the winter it ages and I think of it as an antique wedding veil.

P.S. Finn and I dislike litter bugs.

Don't litter!

Don’t litter!

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