Sunday, February 28, 2010

20-minute challenge

(Kilimanjaro paper, 7x8)
I've been wanting, needing to paint something for Katharine Cartwright's blog, Twenty Minute Challenge. If you haven't yet, visit--it's inspiring and a great boost if you're stuck or constrained for time.
I had a teacher several years back who would have us set up a two- or three-object still life on our desks; paint it in five minutes; then pass the objects to the person next to us and paint their objects ... musical still life. People in the class always groaned about it, but I loved that exercise, just as, in life drawing, the two- to five-minute poses were always my favorite: those short poses yielded some of my best work in the classes.

It's amazing how much you can learn in twenty minutes; the time really goes rather slowly. As I drew it I became worried that this subject was too complicated or detailed and almost abandoned it, but I decided just to push through the next nineteen minutes and see what I got. Without meaning to, I painted very wet and so lost a lot of the details I had planned to try to keep, like the pollen inside the crocuses (those purple blobs are crocuses) or the turnings of the dogwood petals ... Turns out, I don't miss them.
Next time perhaps I'll set something up with fewer objects, but here I'm pleased with how the wetness--which, in twenty minutes, you don't have time to work with, compensate for--solved the overcomplication problem.
I spent about one minute drawing and the last five minutes looking for things to "fix." I was tempted to soften the line on the jar at right, but my alarm had sounded, so I resisted.
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Thursday, February 18, 2010


Another painting from a black-and-white photo found online. Hats make such wonderful props.
In this one, as I painted, I tried to concentrate on connecting the shapes, and on letting the paint flow.
I generally, especially when I'm painting just to get something done, to keep my hand in when I have too many other things to do, like now, work small. Smaller paintings are easier to complete--and I like to complete things (I can never decide if it's a virtue or a vice).
But it finally occurred to me while painting this that if you want to let the paint flow and see what it does, you should perhaps use a larger piece of paper to get the best effect, or more of the best effect.

Thanks for all the comments on yesterday's post; there was such a variety of opinion and they all gave me something to think about.
I should note here--it's part of my disorganization--that I have different "names" and profile pictures on different sites, which can be confusing ... even to me: I routinely forget passwords and open new accounts. Maybe next time I'm snowed in I'll work on having only one online presence, so as not to confuse people when I contact them on other sites. (Sorry, Carol!)
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I wanted to try the little girl again, and I wouldn't say this is finished, but I can see I've made the same decisions I made last time ... probably because I've felt stuck and unsure where to go with color choices. What is it they say about doing the same thing and expecting different reults? Uh-huh.
I do prefer the way the girl is back farther in the first attempt, and when I do it again, I'll put her back; also, I see that in my second drawing, I did not really capture what I liked so much about the first one, her contrapposto.
I had a teacher, Bonnie, who noted that often, when you redo a subject, you lose something, some energy, in the retelling: I think that's what happened here.


I've been spending a little time the last couple of days setting up a page for my paintings on FlickR. I've used up all the space they allow you for free, and will add more when I upgrade. I've been amazed, while I was doing this, at how really unorganized I am! I need a manager.
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Monday, February 15, 2010

how do they do it?


Have you ever seen those watercolor paintings where a setting (or rising) sun obliterates the edges of things on the horizon and leaves only a dazzling light behind?
How do watercolorists achieve that gorgeous effect?
I think I've maybe done it once or twice accidentally (note to self: pay more attention to accidents!); here I tried for it, but missed.
I painted the horizon with the colors of the sky and kept some edges soft, but the effect looks clunky. Also, the reflections in the water aren't dark enough ... so perhaps I'll think of this as the underpainting.

By the way, if you'd like to find out more about contrapposto--a term I remembered from way back when I started college as an art history major!--Wikipedia has a good article on it, which begins with this definition: "Contrapposto is an Italian term used in the visual arts to describe a human figure standing with most of its weight on one foot so that its shoulders and arms twist off-axis from the hips and legs. This gives the figure a more dynamic, or alternatively relaxed appearance. It can also encompass the tension as a figure changes from resting on a given leg to walking or running upon it (so-called ponderation). Contrapposto is less emphasized than the more sinuous S Curve."

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Sunday, February 14, 2010



I got off on the wrong foot with this painting from an old black-and-white photo I found online.
My plan was to identify three values--lightest, middle, darkest--and paint them. Everyone says values make the painting, but I have a hard time identifying or sticking to a value plan, even when I make a value sketch: color distracts me.
Here, trying to think "value," I chose the wrong colors: starting out with burnt sienna and ultramarine blue ... It was too dark, flat. I was going to chuck it, but having nothing to lose, I started floating brighter colors over top--gamboge, quinacridone pink, manganese blue. The paper got very wet and the colors a bit tired-looking, but it's an improvement.
Time to try again, because I really love this image; the little girl is in perfect contrapposto.

I've been thinking a lot recently about what makes a good relationship, and here's my distillation: A little empathy and understanding, reasonable expectations, and a whole lot of knowing when to keep your mouth shut. (That last one sounds cynical, but I really just mean stopping to ask if it's worth it to introduce that note of discord.)
My Valentine is 250 miles away today, working. We knew we wouldn't be together and yesterday I kept wondering if a floral delivery truck would pull up to my house. It didn't--and it really was no surprise: Peter doesn't like to send, or bring, flowers. I know that and have accepted it and I'm really not disappointed ("reasonable expectations").
Today, instead, I'm remembering one time when I was very angry at him for some now-forgotten reason, and I thought, even though I knew how unlikely it was, When he comes walking up my front path, he better be carrying a bouquet ... And, when he came, he was! He had an armful of roses. Add "Timing" to the list.

Re Comments
I've been getting a few spam comments (in Chinese; I can only assume they're spam) and have changed the settings for commenting on my blog to try to eliminate them. (Thanks to Autumn Leaves for pointing this problem out to me!)
If you experience problems commenting, please email me, and I'll review/adjust the settings.
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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

another san francisco fire escape

(Fabriano 5x7)

I started another fire escape scene last night. In the misfire below I used miskit/masque to block out the whites, but when I removed the miskit I thought 1) that I'd painted too much and 2) that, as usual, I was unhappy with the effect ... I could soften the hard edges I suppose, but I'd rather begin over.
Which I did, painting the scene above by painting around the whites. It's not very "readable" at the moment, but I think I'll wait and think about what to do: whatever I do I feel it shouldn't be much.
(Fabriano 7x10)
I was surfing around and looking at paintings of coconuts and realized all the ones I liked were closeups, so I cropped a photo of a painting I did a few months back ... I think it could be cropped even more!

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Monday, February 08, 2010

old photos

(drawings on Fabriano paper, 5x7 each)
Charles Reid likes to draw and paint from old photos, so I'm trying to gather some for my September workshop with him. Problem is, none of my photos go back much further than 1970 (which is old, but not enough).
I found a great site, Old Pictures, and a related blog, Old Picture of the Day.
The drawing of a little girl on the left is from Old Pictures; on the right is poet Anna Akhmatova--great profile!
Both of these photos were in black and white, which gives me pause when begin to think of painting them ...

The large still life that I mentioned I was setting up a few days back is still not quite gelling, so I pulled out this unfinished full sheet still life that I began about two years ago but have never summoned the commitment to finish. Every once in a while I pull it out and dab at it a bit.



Thanks to Annie and Susan for explaining to me how my new waterbrushes work! And to Cristina for the link to instructions on the brushes' use (you can buy the pens individually or in sets here too). They work fine--once some kind person explains how to get the water in them!
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Sunday, February 07, 2010

feb. virtual paint out: san francisco

(Fabriano 7x10)
Close-up of a San Francisco building from Google Street View.
I couldn't sort out, even looking at the photograph (I took a photo of the computer screen since I haven't figured out how capture a page in Street View), the shadows from the fire escape and tried not to angst over making it accurate (if I had I never would have finishesd, or even attempted, it). I just liked the lines and busyness of one side against the blank balance of the other side.
I think now I could have simplified and unified the right side with a wash--not over the whole thing; maybe just the top half ... it's a bit too crazy! I may give it another go.

(where I stopped last night)

The view from my studio today. It's sunny and calm out, but I haven't gone walking; I spent a couple of exhausting sessions trying to dig out my car: the snow's up to the handles, and, under the soft top layer, is hard and densely packed, making for some futile banging away with my plastic "back-saver" (ha) shovel. I wonder how many days it'll take me--at this rate, I'd say four!

I ordered these waterbrushes from Amazon because, unlike the Niji waterbrushes, which are all synthetic, these are a mix of synthetic and natural hairs, so I thought I'd try them out. Unfortunately, and this is embarrassing to admit, but I can't figure out how to open them to get the water in! The three places where I think the barrel may open are tightly sealed. I'm baffled ... and the instructions are in Chinese.
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Saturday, February 06, 2010

cape snow!

It's now been snowing here, nonstop, for 24 hours: I've never seen so much snow here, or maybe anywhere. My Beetle has been completely obscured by snowdrifts!
I went out to shovel my mercifully short walk again an hour ago and took this picture of Itchy, and tried to get one of the front yard: but as you can see, it's still coming down.
Which, as long as the electricity and the roof hold, is great.

Above is the view from my studio around 3 p.m., and below from the kitchen window, also around 3.

Tomorrow I want to go out for more pictures. I'd like to get to the Delaware Bay, but it's about half a mile away, and I'm not sure if, with my mid-calf-high boots, I'll be able to make it so far in this mid-thigh-high snowfall.
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Friday, February 05, 2010

jan. virtual paint out: corsica

The Virtual Paint Out site for January was Corsica, and I spent a lot of time searching Google Street View, finding beautiful scenes, but not leaving myself enough time to paint them before the end of the month.


The location for February is San Francisco and I've selected a few scenes: now I just have to paint them.
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Thursday, February 04, 2010

I set up a largish still life the other day full of things in all the colors I always go for: turquoise, purple, orange. Instead of just plunging in as I usually would, I picked a little corner to quickly try out. I did the larger one first, the small one second, spending about 20 minutes on each.
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Monday, February 01, 2010

thalassic rocks

Red Rocks, Fat Hog Bay, Tortola (6x8 Kilimanjaro)

The Indians (6x8 Kilimanjaro)
A couple of small paintings from my photos of the BVI.
I'm going through one of those phases familiar to many art bloggers of not feeling committed to or very interested in what or how I'm painting; I'm floundering a bit. Which means, I think, that I need to stretch myself ... but I'm not quite sure how to! (It could also be that I'm about to begin a long and difficult job of work and am feeling some anxiety about how it may take over my life.)
Unfortunately there aren't any classes or groups to join; I'm not in a position to start one either, not now. So I'll just stumble along until I figure something out!

Has anyone else used Kilimanjaro paper? I'm finding it a bit frustrating: I like paper that lets the paint sit on top and flow; this paper seems "soft"--the paint is hard to push around and the paper stays damp for what seems tome a long time.
I began this painting of two young men salvaging a boat at Trellis Bay but felt I was fighting the paper; maybe I'll set it aside and go back in a few days.

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