Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Did She Really Say That?

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I cannot be the only one who plays back conversations in their mind. I often know after the fact, EXACTLY what could have been said in reply. But how many of us play back what the other person said and wonder what they truly meant?

I am talking about taking classes and workshops. I have read too many books about art to list here. Lots of positive self-help stuff, because as most artists, I am plagued by wondering if anyone really appreciates what goes into painting. Especially plein air which I liken to painting on steroids, or the Olympics of painting, for the sheer effort that sometimes can be required. I have read what not to take into the field, but figure there’s a reason why I drive an SUV. I am not a backpacker, hiker or any of those young buff type advocates. I am looking at the looming end of my sixties with a real appreciation of being able to do this at all. Physical things take longer to bounce back from. Heck I don’t think I bounce at all anymore.

But I do take classes and workshops. I truly try to grasp with both hands what the teacher is getting at. I will try anything, go anywhere, if I think there might be a breakthrough at the end. There’s lots to learn and my time to learn it does not stretch out limitlessly. Nobody’s does. So even if it’s well after the notes have been taken and reread, that when I am standing in the shower, soaping up my head (or whatever), that when a revelation hits, I stop and think. Gosh I’ve even gotten goosebumps standing there all wet. But I have come to realize that not all of it sinks in. It’s often like watching runoff after a drenching rain. The earth is parched, but the water runs off. Likewise, my mind is hungry, but only able to take in and digest what it is ready for. But there are times when you are ready… times that stand out as that AHA, I’ve finally gotten it, moment.
  • Do Thumbnails – Yes I mean you! At least three variations.
  • Use a limited palette – That means learning EVERYTHING that primary colors can do.
  • How many greens can you mix? How many variations and temperatures are there in one color family?
  • Tone your board with an overall tone – NOT brilliant orange
Twisted Oak Winery, Sunkissed

That’s what happened when I took my first Kathleen Dunphy workshop this past April/May. I saw how wise counsel, trying it all, and saying “what the heck” can get you. It’s not the vast number of paintings I did (I only did three, and of those would only show two). Rather, it’s the willingness to fail, to throw caution to the wind and try everything she suggested, that brought me the best return. Everything she said I had heard before, read somewhere before and never really accepted.  I figured if it works for her, what the heck? I am so glad that I left my stubbornness at home and really listened. I feel that there is real substance in this approach for me. I am going to give it a good try for a while and just see if there is a difference at all in my work.

Soul Refllections
Here’s to growth. It’s not just for kids you know.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Winter In New Mexico - Southern Part

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This February has been more like Tucson than Silver City. We are so very much higher, and cooler. So it is with surprise that we experienced 72 degree days this month!
Perfect for plein air painting! And no snakes yet!

My friend Gay and I went 'sploring on down the road in the Mimbres Valley, just East of Silver City. What we found was an area whose accessibility was determined by the rate of flow of the Mimbres River. Many people live on the far side of that river and rely on four wheel drive, lifted vehicles. Some leave a car on the city side to get out and do routine things like shop or get gas. We didn't have one of the aforementioned vehicles, so we stayed on the tame side. But we still had views that were varied and just downright gorgeous.

The motif

I started my piece by rubbing a tone of a violet all over the board. (I have been watching Shana Kuntz" new video). Its great for making you think and start a little different from your normal starting point and method. Its that thinking differently gives you different results thing. I love the friendship of violet and greens, not to mention the love of yellows for violets, resulting in some of the most rich offsprings possible. We were at riverside and the water was so noisy that we couldn't hear each other talk unless we yelled. Somehow that just was gauche.

The block in

Locals drove their monster tired trucks by ever so slowly so as not to dust us. Who says locals are indifferent to their surroundings? Its so nice to have such a kind and thoughtful welcome.
We painted until we got the sense that we were both starting to dink around with it. For me that is the moment that I think " I can make it better if I just do this", and then the last stroke kills all sense of immediacy - it kills the " I am there" moment. I wish I had a guardian angel who could break my arm before I do that.

In The Shadow Of Cooke's Peak

This was what resulted from one of the nicest days in the sun, with a lovely breeze and friendly people. Mimbres Valley is rapidly becoming one of my favorite places to paint.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

He Did Not Have The Time

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The air blew out of my sails this morning. Somebody I knew, though not as well as I would have liked, is gone. Saim Caglayan posted this morning that Ken Auster is no longer with us. Click here to see his work.

About 15 years ago, I called Ken in his Southern Ca studio just to tell him how happy his paintings made me. I could not, nor did I think I would ever be able to afford one, but just seeing them made me happy.  When I told him how I had a visceral reaction to the paint quality in his work and the simple happiness of being alive in his lighting, he was absolutely tickled. The man was gracious to a fault as I interrupted him that foggy morning. I could feel the smile in his words.

Due to the fact that I was working over 50 hours a week, keeping a house going and watching over my aging mom who was living with us, taking a workshop was not going to happen. So I talked to him and bought his first DVD. It was one of the first art lessons on disk I had ever bought. I have watched that lesson over and over. I tried a month of using his limited palette, and could not figure for the life of me how that alizarin crimson got onto my skivvies! The fact that he used an ironing board and wax paper for a palette was typical of somebody who painted with passion, who could not afford being distracted by the small stuff. That small stuff just got rolled up and stashed in the bin. There’s a lesson there. I told myself I had time. After all, he was younger than me and I knew where he was.

Seeing Ken at the PACE conventions made talking to him very easy. He remembered who I was, that crazy artist lady who lived in San Diego County and loved his work, and who tried to paint. I asked him why he had not done a DVD on painting cities, streets, buildings. I had emailed him requesting one too. He replied that he had said all he had to say, and he smiled. Not true. In the past two years, Streamline released the second of his DVDs. Subject, city streets. When I saw Ken after that, I told him that I was thrilled. For someone who cannot get to a workshop for either time or money constraints, a DVD is the next best thing. I could do that, after all, I still had time to get to his studio and take a workshop. 

This morning brought home the fact that we do not have a promised tomorrow. We have today. So to my artist friends I say, take that workshop. Go the distance.

It never occurred to me that Ken did not have the time.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Time To Take Stock

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This is the time of year to take stock in what we have.

I have my health (relatively speaking). As Fonzy would say, “Eh, you aren’t twenty any more ya know”. I have family and friends, and I have my painting. My mental health depends on that last one. If I could not paint, I would feel oh so sorry for my husband.  He tolerates a lot and supports me by cutting boards that I prepare for painting, coming to openings he could care less about and to receptions where he feels about as necessary as lipstick and a tutu on a biker. Yeah he’s a keeper and for that I am thankful.

And I am still gobsmacked when I get up in the morning and find what we got last night. Snow.  This was our first here in Southern NM, this year.  Wow! Transformation!  Our move five years ago for this part of the country was so very right for us both.  I have missed the change of seasons for many years.  Now it is more pronounced than it was during our time in San Diego county, a visual cue to me of the transitory nature of our lives.  It makes me want to grab those I love with both hands and not let them go.  It reminds me that we have today. Tomorrow is not promised to any of us. 

So after throwing on my clothes, and getting my first of several cups of coffee, I painted this little 9x12.  I call it “Towards Tyrone”, mostly because this is the southern view from our property, towards Tyrone NM.  The sheer beauty of this place takes my breath away.  Some days you think “if heaven isn’t this pretty I ain’t going”. Really.  I can understand how the indigenous people hated seeing us all coming in and taking over this land. We would have tried to defend it too.  I think when a body paints the landscape, farms it, hunts it and protects it, you develop a reverence for it.

This is painted on prepared board, one that has been gessoed and sanded, sealed on all sides.  I did not tone the board, figuring who cared if there was white peaking through? Its snow after all.  It peeks through everywhere when it falls anyway.

I am thankful. For lots of things, most of which you cannot touch except with your heart.  I truly hope your Thanksgiving is as heartfelt and profound as ours is this year.  

Monday, September 28, 2015

A Question From Left Field

A little bit ago, I was asked to put some answers up on my blog from the Patience Brewster websitePatience, if you’re not already familiar with her work, is the artist behind her self named company that designs and produces handmade Christmas ornaments and other fun gifts.
That was interesting. Never before had I had that type of request.
People ask you questions, but I figure they promptly forget the answers and go on to the next important thing in their day. So sometimes I answer facetiously, with answers that would stop you in your tracks, obviously made up and sometimes quite funny.
But I am being serious here, today, for about fifteen minutes.

1. As a child, do you recall a significant moment when you felt truly affected or inspired by any particular artwork or artist?
Yes, by my grandmother who did lovely pen and ink bird drawings, with light color washes on paper that today has disintegrated and been lost. (Note to self, use good materials). She taught me to draw atop her kitchen table, telling me to feel the item with my eyes, then put down that feeling onto the paper. Best teacher ever.

2. As an artist, what do you hope to convey with your work?
I find that when I am working there is a mind shift, and I try to imitate what I see, feel and experience, a true synthesis of the moment. I hope to convey the respect for light and life, and a Higher Power, no matter what the name you use for that Being.

3. What memorable responses have you had to your work? 
"My kid paints." Un hunh. Once I had painted peonies and that person wanted the piece so badly. Peonies were her mom's favorite and the day she saw it was the anniversary of her mom's passing.

4. What is your dream project?
A year in a motorhome, stopping wherever, painting whenever and meeting new friends along the way.

5. What artists, of any medium, do you admire? (Famous or not!)
This list could go on until tomorrow. There is so much to be excited about. A total command of medium and virtuosity is mindblowing to me.  So in no particular order, Len Chmiel, Ken Auster, Irby Brown, Don Demers, and such stalwarts as Monet, Degas, Celia Beaux, Bougereau, and Van Gogh. Standing in front of a Turner has brought me to tears, as has viewing a Sargent. Life is not long enough to list them all. They continue to give us gifts beyond measure and I believe a teeny glimpse into God's mind's eye.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

New Painting, New Title

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Sometimes the titles of my paintings elude me, like a tiny flower under leaves along a forest path. Would that they were more forthcoming.

Take this painting of a Pinos Altos house allowed to go to ruin. I do not know if anyone owns It. Clearly nobody is currently tending it. It looks as though someone once took pains building a rock wall that is now with overgrown weeds and grasses. The rock wall looks like it will outlast the wooden building. But the house had windows that were nice and large at a time when transporting them was costly and probably pretty precarious. It was probably fairly snug for a house of its time. 

I hesitated to get into those tall grasses as I really do not like snaky surprises. So I painted her from the road.

Not too many people were about in Pinos Altos that morning. There was a honey truck, one person walking her dog and someone who must have been late for work. Most everyone took long looks at the weird painter under the blue umbrella. But nobody interrupted.

I called this painting Pinos Altos Dowager, mostly because she seemed to have seen better days. I can relate. But upon reflection, she might have been better named "Keeping Secrets", the way the entrance was so overgrown, with fallen down tree branches. Is she hiding something, or simply keeping close a time that was happier and more promising?

Keeping Secrets, or, Pinos Altos Dowager?

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Its Not A Pig!

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Some days painting en plein air are just plain weird.

Painting buddy Gay Scheibl and I decided to take a quickie road trip up to Lake Roberts and paint. I kept telling her how pretty it was with greenery around the lake and pink cliffs above. So we went as she had never been.

They had drained the lake.

It was a puddle. It was teeny. The fishing pier (brand new) was 50 feet or more from the water. You’d really have to cast to get to them thar fish.

So we decided to go to Upper Mimbres Valley and hunt down a goat ranch we had seen with lots of goats in a lovely sunlit pasture. We found it and partially unpacked. Almost together, we heard at least 5 shots from a gun. At which point Gay, (the decidedly brighter of us two) said “This doesn’t sound like such a good idea”. And I had wanted to drive up and ask to paint on their property! Like I said, one of us is smart.

Run away! Run away! Run away! Sounds like Monty Python doesn’t it?

We ran on down the road and found a beautiful pasture bordered by red /pink cliffs and habited by three horses. A lady was walking her afghan hound and we asked if we could paint on the property. She said yes and we opened the rope gate, closed it to not let out the horses and proceeded to paint. It was beautiful! It was great!

But I can tell you, if you think boats are hard to paint, try horses. They walk away. They pose for two minutes, look at you, figure you’ve almost got them and they saunter on off around the far side of the buildings. They do it on purpose. So here is my painting of Lake Roberts (just kidding). Here is Munching Out in Mimbres Valley, with a bit of a glare for which I apologize. Complete. I don’t usually paint animals. I find them non-cooperative. You wildlife artists are amazing. I just am happy if my horses don’t look like pigs.