Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving 2008

approx. 3" x 4"
turkey decoration
2B graphite in Canson Field Sketchbook

Happy Turkey Day to all who are celebrating!

Like many Americans, I will be spending the day with family, feasting on turkey and being thankful for all the blessings in my life. Of course, I count all of the support and friendship I receive here among those blessings.

Since the kids are off of school for the holiday, I am going to take a little holiday myself. For the next week or so things will be quiet here while I spend time with them and my hubby. I will also start getting organized for the next holiday, which will be here in a few short weeks! Perhaps a little organization now will save me from going nuts later.

(Get it? I said "going nuts"...a cashew is a nut...Oh never mind.)
approx. 1 1/4" x 7/8"
2B in Canson Field Sketchbook

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Autumn Tree - Nov VSD

I really loved this reference when it was posted. (Thanks Jeanette!) But it turned out that I couldn't get into the flow with it.

First I started it in graphite. I loved the strong shadows in the reference and how they worked against the brightly lit trunk. But once I had my line drawing done, I decided I didn't have the patience to build up the values in graphite.

graphite line drawing
6" x 9"

So I moved onto charcoal. Charcoal spoils me with its quick and easy darks. After drawing out the image again, I started my shading. But I felt I was fighting to get a smooth tone for the sky and good form for the trunk.

crop of charcoal WIP
crop approx. 7.5" x 9"

Being the fickle girl that I am, I set aside the charcoal with a whispered promise to come back later when I wasn't under a time crunch. And then I turned to my old stand-by... watercolor. I decided to try a limited palette of aureolin, quinacridone red and french ultramarine blue. Rather than draw the image a THIRD time, I transferred my graphite line drawing from my sketchbook to my watercolor paper.
watercolor on paper
crop approx 5" x 8"

I painted the sky first and it went down with no problem. I foolishly thought I was home-free. Next I moved onto the tree. I loved the neutral I mixed from my three primaries and how it separated some as it dried, but I ran into the same struggle over form that I had with the charcoal.

At this point I finally took some time to figure out why I was struggling. It was that strong light that was creating the fabulous leaf shadows. Since it comes from almost directly in front of the tree, the form of the trunk looked flattened. Now that I had identified my problem, I had ideas about how to resolve it, but -BUZZ - time was up. Oh well, win some and lose some.

And all was not lost, because I did learn some valuable lessons.

First, don't try to tackle any painting or drawing when distracted by other things. I never slowed down to focus on this reference and form a plan. I just kind of jumped in. Had I given the charcoal my full attention I wouldn't have jumped to watercolor so quickly.

Second, although I like dramatic lighting, this type of lighting brings with it it's own set of issues which must be skillfully dealt with. The knowledge I gained here will help me the next time I work with the combination of strong shadows against bright light.

And third, as much as I love dramatic lighting, I can't sacrifice the feeling of good 3D form for it. Turns out good form is pretty much at the top of my list of priorities. Who knew.

I really love how these challenges push me. They push me to try new subjects, to complete paintings under time constraints and to work around obstacles and learn new things. I can't wait for next month!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Artistic Style

approx. 7" x 5"
005 black Micron on Canson paper
a very slow WIP

I have recently seen a number of blog posts written on the topic of artistic style. I think it is interesting how often artists, including me, have questions about style. Do I have a style? Is it a good one? What defines my style? Should I change it? Is it even possible to consciously change it?

To my knowledge, most people never question their style of handwriting. They realize their handwriting is as unique as they are. Their letters may be big and loopy or small and straight, scrunched all together or spread out wide.

How many people question their style of speech? Should my words be formed slowly and thoughtfully, or should I let them race from my mouth in one long excited breath?

We don't question how we talk or write, but we do question our art. Is that because we think there is a "right way" and a "wrong way" to make art? I'm guessing we've all heard messages about right and wrong with concern to art so that may be part of it. But I also think it's because our art is much more important to us than our handwriting.

Like many artists, I am trying to get a handle on the specifics of my artistic style. I decided to enlist my family to help with this.

First I laid out all of my recent works in one room. Then I gave my hubby and kids each a piece of paper and pencil. I asked them to write down any thoughts they had regarding my style including similarities they see in my works, patterns, common subjects, recurring colors, repeated themes - basically anything they saw. I assured them there were no wrong answers. Then I grabbed a piece of paper for myself and did the exercise with them, trying to look at my own work with fresh eyes.

When everyone was done, I compiled the result. This is what I learned...
- I paint and draw in a realistic and detailed style.
- I use a full range of values in my work.
- I use saturated colors in my work, especially around the focal point.
- Most of my compositions have simple backgrounds or are close crops.
- I like to paint nature (flowers, leaves, vegetables & fruits) and everyday objects.

Thinking about these results, I realized that my subject and composition choices are my way of trying to get the viewer to stop and appreciate the "little things" in life and the beauty in the everyday. I want them to "stop and smell the roses" and feel happier for it. This is why I chose Stop and Draw the Roses for the title of this blog. It reflects not only my desire to slow down the pace of my life by creating art, but also my desire to help people who view my art slow down and appreciate their lives.

Asking my family for a style review was very interesting and helpful. Even my young children had something useful to add. If you are not comfortable enlisting your family, the exercise could be done with other artists. Repeating the style review with several different groups and comparing their answers would be interesting too.

If you are having trouble "seeing" your own style, give this exercise a try. I'd love to hear if you feel it was as valuable as I do.

Friday, November 14, 2008

November Sketch Date

approx. 4" x 7"
4B graphite in Canson Filed Sketchbook

The reference is now posted over on the Virtual Sketch Date blog. If you are interested in joining the challenge, be sure to read the guidelines posted here. Completed entries are due on Saturday November 22nd. Happy sketching everyone!

My sketch above is of a little battery operated lantern that I take with me while the children are in their various activities. It is not always worth running home during the activity, so the lantern allows me to read in the car on dull, dreary days.

As you can see from my construction lines, I had a heck of a time with the perspective on that curved top. It didn't help that it was getting darker by the second. And of course the lantern wasn't on when I started the drawing, so I didn't want to turn it on and change the lighting in the middle. Although in the end I ran out of light and time to complete the shading. Anyway, I thought I'd share this sketch, despite my problems, so that people new to sketching would see that not all sketches are beautiful.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sketch Blogs

Locally grown Fuji apple- YUM!
2" x 2.5" graphite sketch

I enjoying sketching and have tried to add more of it to my life. But I still dream of the year when I can sketch every day and capture the details that make life so rich. That way I could save them and take them out later when I need to smile, or laugh, or be inspired, or just remember.

Unfortunately, right now daily sketching is still a dream. I sketch sporadically and often it is a sketch of a random object I happen to have handy, not a juicy memento of the day.

Even though I don't sketch daily, I love to look at other people's sketches. I know someday the inspiration I get from this will build to a tipping point and I will no longer be able to resist starting my own journal.

Two of my new favorite sketch blogs are...
Urban Sketchers, which is a "community of artists around the world who draw the people and places of the cities where they live and travel to." There is incredible talent on this blog and when I read it I feel like I am traveling the world for free!

Karen Blados's sketch blog where she posts a sketch a day which chronicles her life and her children's childhood. Oh how I wish I had this idea when my kids were younger! Do you think she will come to my house and do this for my kids? It doesn't have to be every day. Maybe just three times a week...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Watercolor Onions

approx. 3 1/2" x 5" watercolor on paper

Another painting for my KMBW series. This time I painted onions.

I went grocery shopping today and had to buy a white onion for one of our meals. When I was putting it away I realized I had three different kinds of onions in the house. While this may not seem like a momentous occasion, I can assure you it rarely happens here. My mom used to by onions by the bag and potatoes five pounds at a shot. How in the world did she use them all before they went bad?

Anyway, I decided to take advantage of this unusual situation and used the onions for a still life set up. Luckily I didn't need that onion for tonight's meal!

My intention for this painting was to paint quick and loose with a lot of wet-in-wet. you can can see, I lost that intention somewhere along the line. And to be honest, I wasn't even that far along when I forgot about it.

I know so many artist who paint wonderful loose, washy watercolors, but man, that's just not me. People say I will loosen up at some point. I can't imagine it. And honestly I like my style. But I also like challenging myself so I keep learning.

Tonight I might have missed out on that challenge, but I was having too much fun to care.

I'm still thinking up a name for this one. I considered "Tearful Menagerie", but I think they look more cheerful than tearful. I'm taking suggestions if you have any.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

More Autumn Watercolor Sketches

autumn trees watercolor sketch

I made it out late this afternoon to do some quick watercolor sketches of a couple of trees in my neighborhood. I had to be quick because darkness was swiftly taking over the sky. And because I was afraid a neighbor would call the police about the "strange person sitting in her van in front of the house". Do you think the police would understand my need to capture the fall splendor before all the leaves were gone and winter was upon us? Luckily I didn't need to find out. No police officers came knocking at my van window during my sketching session.

I mentioned in my last post the slight panic that I feel as autumn turns to winter. I'm wondering if other artists feel the same way.

Fall would definitely be my favorite season if it wasn't followed by winter. The bright fall colors inspire me and call out to be painted. But the days pass quickly, and I don't always get to answer their call. So the days slip by and each morning more leaves are on the ground and fewer still cling to their branches. Then the blue sky gets replaced by gray days and I know that winter is just around the corner. I know that one day I will wake up and all the color will be gone. And it will be six long months until it returns in the Spring.

Winter does not inspire me to paint. Winter in this area is gray and cold. Winter inspires me to crawl under my blankets and hibernate. I get very little art done when I am hibernating under my cozy blankets.

But this year I am hatching a plan in an effort to stem the panic. I've been snapping all sorts of photographs over the last six months that I hope to use for inspiration when the world goes gray. I am also planning on joining the local art club for their winter figure painting sessions. How I hope the models wear brightly colored clothes!! And I know I can always head to the grocery store or florist to purchase some painting subjects.

Of course if it gets really bad, I can always try to convince hubby to take me somewhere warm and colorful in February. That sounds like the best plan of all!

How do you stay motivated during the winter months? Please feel free to share your tips in the comments.