Thursday, August 30, 2012

Plein Air at Around 100 Degrees

When the temps hover around a hundred, it’s too darned hot for painting outside. It’s August, so Southern New Mexico can be hot. Saturday the plein air painters in the area converged on a mini eco-system in the middle of the vast nothing that is south of I10 between Lordsburg and Deming. One of the Black Range Painters has a large ranch there and graciously opened her home to us to paint. Nestled under very large cottonwood trees, her home was protected from the onslaught of the sun, and populated by a group of friendly dogs that barked at cars, but proved to be very happy to have company. Temps were even cool under this natural umbrella.
Our painter friend has artifacts that have been found on her property by her family for the last hundred years and more. So the setup possibilities are varied and interesting. From Mimbres pottery bowls, to rusted old spurs to glass butter churns with wooden paddles, topped by the products of her gardens, and the output of her canning. And she had AIR CONDITIONING.
Velva's Window 16x20
Oil on canvas - Available, contact me please

With the sun streaming through her kitchen windows, her canning jars took on the clear jewel tones of a stained glass window. And when she added her depression glass oil lamp, what to paint was decided for me. The window and lamp and canning jars grouped with some fresh veggies suggested to me “Velva’s Window”.  It’s not my usual subject matter, and dear hubby does not know what to make of it. I am still undecided too.
This painting is large for a plein air (I painted it from direct observation) as a 16x20. A few adjustments still needed to be done in studio to add the final touches. But the streaming light was just too delicious to not paint. Very seldom can you use pure unadulterated pigment in plein air. Most colors are neutralized from the atmosphere and reflections.

Thanks Velva for an inside plein air experience. The carrot cake you made wasn’t bad either. Now that’s the way to plein air paint. I figure I deserve brownie points just for trying this piece.

Tomorrow I leave for Las Cruces, to be one of the artists at the Franciscan Art Festival, held at Holy Cross Retreat. There will be many artists and lots to 'oooooh' and 'aaaaah' over, so stop on by if you are in the area. (No 'pthaaaas' allowed!)

Fav quote:
"Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race." The difference between a winner and a quitter is that one has a strong will and the other has a strong won't. Never, ever give up.                                           (Calvin Coolidge)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Clean Out Those Corners

OK my studio is a wreck. And it’s gonna get worse. I have a big plein air show in Las Cruces to get ready for this week. I am leaving Friday to go and set up for Saturday morning. So that means an inventory that reflects what I am taking in paintings, packing those paintings and photographing them to have a visual record. Getting the tent and grid system/hangers in the car and ready to go, remembering the duct tape and sunscreen.  How can anyone have a show and forget the duct tape? Been there.
So here is my list for prep for the show.
  • Make inventory of products going to the show 
  • Gather like materials and put them by the door of the studio to facilitate packing the SUV
  • Make list of EVERYTHING I need to bring (do not forget undies, don’t ask)
  • Paint the donation painting It’s a wee one for the Holy Cross Retreat Center where the show is – they do not take a percentage of sales, just the donation painting

So I started by moving things about which meant sweeping the odd assortment of dead gnats and flies off the floor of the studio. I suddenly stopped and bent over to spy what I thought was a dead scorpion.  Yup. Scorpion. Dead? Not quite. So the next thing I did was make a mental note to not kick off my shoes as I often do and putter around here barefoot. Into the dust bin went the dying scorpion and I said a silent prayer to please protect me from things that scurry in the night, Lord. I hate scorpions. Now what ever possessed God to make those things? Them and mosquitoes. I don’t get it.
So the bottom line is to clean out the place more often, not just when I have a show to get ready for.  That, and tell the exterminator guy how much I value his work.
Here’s the painting that I did today for the donation painting. It’s called “Let The Monsoons Begin!” Actually we almost got 2 inches of rain in the last two days, and clouds are forming for later today.
Let The Monsoons Begin!
Oil on wood panel - Donation to Holy Cross
4.5x6 inches

This showing at outdoor venues is new to me. I hope it works to get more visibility for my work. I still do not have gallery representation. Hopefully the future holds that in store. I have been approached by a few, but they are not the ones I need and want my work to be in.
I am also finishing a very recent painting that I did down in the very dry and hot SW corner of New Mexico, on a lovely tree sheltered, over one-hundred year old ranch. Who says “aren’t you lucky you get to paint all day??” Yeah, you come and pack the car.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Dear, Guess What??

I have been painting a piece for the New Mexico Centennial celebration. On January 6th, 1912  we became part of the Union. 
I had thought about the heritage of New Mexico, wanting to put into a painting my thoughts on my new home state and its people. Being about as white bread as a body can get, and as much as I love the pottery and art of the native Americans of New Mexico, I did not want to infringe on what I felt was their personal history for this piece. 
Having such white heritage made me think, what would my reaction have been if I had lived here at that time? How would I have learned of it? There was no internet, nor TV, and the newspaper was only published once a week here in Silver City. The Enterprise was not non-partisan by any stretch of the imagination. Remember this is the part of the country where Randolph Hearst mined and where his money funded many enterprises. So the newspaper would have been my opinionated link to the greater goings on of the attempt to achieve statehood.
Off to the library I went to look up the actual newspaper front page. It was so early, that all the papers were still in microfiche. I had not used a machine of this type since I was in college researching for a paper of my own. There was no entry for that day that spoke of the new state. In fact for January 6th, it was a pretty much the same old local newspaper with ads, reports of a murder, and political wrangling,  much as we have today.
Back home I went to set up for a still life reminiscent of the time and news. I sent my long suffering husband to the store for a 'pretty red apple with irregular form and modulated colors'. (Picture eyes rolling in his head and a gentle "OK, but it better be right, I don't have your eyes").
He did a great job.
If I had been here, reading in the early evening I would have had an electric light, maybe wire rimmed glasses and genteelly been drinking a cup of tea or coffee when I read about the news. This is how I came to the idea. painted from a real life set up. It therefore qualifies for this blog, having been painted in real life. 
Controlling the light for the setup was the hardest part.
I blocked it in using my new love, the eggbert brush, and lived with the block in for a day to see if it 'felt right'. The newspaper was the biggest obstacle, as I am not a sign painter. I did that part in acrylic first, then put oil glazes over the paper to integrate into the rest of the painting. The front page is a near approximation of the Silver City Enterprise masthead and a truncated headline from the Albuquerque paper, which did carry the news that day. Oil over acrylic is a proven working method and allowed me to redo the front page several times until it wasn't too objectionable. The period teacup and lamp are loving contributions from a new friend. In the background is a New Mexican black on black pot, filled with ivy ( I just had to put one in for regional flavor, couldn't help myself) . This painting is an amalgamation of underlayment of acrylic on the newspaper, lots of glazes and some direct alla prima painting.
Here is the resultant painting is called "Dear, Guess What??" It has been accepted into the open New Mexico show in Pinos Altos, starting this October. I was striving for the essence of the time, a personal experience of the news. Did I succeed?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Celebrate Your Own Way

I celebrated today! No its not my birthday, yet. And heaven only knows what a milestone this year is. No, I washed brushes, in my studio, in my sink with hot water!!! Wow. No more freezing hands, out by the pipe, with the wind blowing it all back on me.
Even with a splinted finger, my wonderful husband connected the sink, the new faucet and today, the water heater. I am in heaven. No more moving drying brushes about the kitchen as I prepare dinner. 

But I was in there painting even without facilities, so to speak. I have been painting pieces for a couple of shows here in Silver. Most of the art shows here come in the fall and late summer. So for the last three weeks, I have been mostly in the studio painting. The pieces I wanted to do were larger and my pochade paint box does not allow for bigger pieces. That's what I tell myself. The fact that neighbors have been finding snakes and that they are pretty aggressive is the second and more real reason. 

Doing a studio piece is an exercise in trying to remember what got you excited about the view in the first place and then capturing and maintaining the quality you wanted to get. The show has the Gila River and the Gila area as it's theme. Great! My kinda thing!

When I am in the studio I approach things a little differently than when I am in the field looking around me for the errant bobcat or snake. I have all my materials in the studio, so I just do my prep photographically in Photoshop, cropping down to a workable composition, and then decide how I want to approach it. With this new piece, I had to stitch together two shots and then crop it. I did not have to do any levels or balancing. It was pretty much how I wanted it, but with a whole herd of cows. So I just mentally edited them out to a manageable three. I did remind my self I have never painted a cow before. I had visions of cows that looked like they should have gone "oink".

This first shot shows you that I underpainted a very basic compositional element and toned the linen board at one shot. This will give the piece a feeling of color unity, and allude to the intense heat of that day.

The second shows how I started at the top. Its hard to see, but I did the sky in broken color with a lot of pink breaking through.

This third example shows how differences in color temperatures help to push back the fields. Those cows do look like pink pigs at this stage.

Finally the cows are in, and the foreground has the most intense color, and biggest strokes. 
I wanted this piece to be very impressionistic. To do cows and to have to paint them realistically would have floored me. Title is "Gila AC". Wish me luck at the show.

Heaven only knows how I will celebrate when we put in the studio bathroom.

Fav quote:

"Exaggerate the essential; leave the obvious vague. "                                 (Vincent van Gogh)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Is This The Party To Whom I am Speaking?

When our new phone rings, its not always a wrong number. 
We have a new phone. One with a local area code. We found our old phone numbers with the California area code made locals not call us. Even local businesses didn't call us back after we had called for a service or purchase! So we capitulated and got a local number, retaining our cell numbers so that friends and family would not have to start remembering a string of new numbers.
How's the new number working you ask? Well if the gal who had had it originally would pay her bills, it would be just fine.
We get very early or late phone calls asking for "Mariette" (name changed to protect the guilty). I repeatedly and very distinctly stated time and again that Mariette no longer has this number. I can remember at 7:15 a.m. on a sleepy Saturday morning being very heated and not quite polite telling this person that we would pursue and prefer charges for harrassment. 
So when our phone rang on a Sunday evening, I was loaded for bear. But imagine my surprise when the president of the Black Range painters called to tell me that all three of my entries to the yearly show had won prizes! I had managed to steal away a first for a pastel "Afternoon at Holly's", 
Afternoon At Holly's
Pastel - Available

Teapot and Magnolias
Oil Glazes on Prepared Panel

 a third for an experimental oil, "Teapot and Magnolias", 

and an honorable mention for another pastel, "Nectarines and Sunflowers".
Nectarines and Sunflowers
Pastel - Available

 Now that is the kind of call I don't mind getting. 

Today is the award ceremony in Deming at the Arts Council. I plan on going and taking a new friend with me who wants to join. She is a watercolorist. And a darned good one. So on my way back from Deming, I might detour and show her City of Rocks. Its a local state park featuring monoliths and a rock outcropping that suddenly pops up off the floor of the plains. I have yet to paint it and plan on going there, paints in pack, as soon as the weather cools a bit. 

I guess that phone owed me a pleasant call after I have fried the wires with my anger for so long.

Fav quote:

"You have to deal with fear and frustration, you have to be persistent.  This is what passion and persistence is all about, the willingness to bear the pain in order to achieve your goal."                      (Dan McCaw)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Don’t Be A Lone Ranger

Plein air painting can be a lonely exercise, especially if there aren’t many others around you who share the same passion.  So what’s an artist to do? Fresh from the success of the San Diego group online, I tried the approach here in my new digs, but that just didn’t work. People were very enthusiastic as long as I was talking to them about it. But try to get someone to sign up on line, and then show up. It just wasn’t happening here. Most artists I talked to said “Oh yes, I paint plein air.” Did they show up? Un-huh. Nope. Lotsa lip service, coupled with little follow through. I tried different days, times and venues to no avail. There was always a reason why they couldn’t or didn’t show up.
After footing the bill for the meetup site for the last 18 months, I decided that I could use that money to get a new website for myself, or help fund the supply list. I certainly wasn’t getting any participation on the meetup front. This made me quite sad until I realized that I was marketing this all wrong. I mean come on, I use deodorant and soap. So that couldn’t be it.  Maybe the people I needed to reach were already plein air painters. Not novice painters who didn’t know what to bring or how to use it once there. I needed people who were hot to paint, and in some cases too hot to paint. Las Cruces has outdoor painters and so does Deming. Both places are much lower altitude and consistently hotter through the summer months. So I contacted both groups and proposed a paintout here in Wind Canyon.
Connie and Carlos discussing his painting of Wind Canyon Drive
We had almost 10 people show up here yesterday – a new paintout group record. For some it was a 120 plus mile trip. I told them it was cooler in the mountains and they could use the change of scenery. Thanks to our monsoons, we had green! - Not the dun color of yellow ochre so prevalent in the flatlands. Green there only occurs in the odd tilled, planted and liberally watered field. All my guests were thrilled with the change of local. We had time to paint, and they spread out looking for enticing views.
Linda Hagen and her painting of Wind Canyon Drive
 I paint our canyon every week and sometimes several times in a week. What they saw was my everyday scenery, but with fresh eyes. It helped to point out to me views that I had bypassed every day and not appreciated. So now I am thrilled to try new vantage points, views of the new old stuff I see every day. We had a lunch at my dining room table, and there were so many that hubby and I had to eat in the living room. And that was just fine. We are building a community – passionate, possessed painters who will travel over a hundred miles for a change of pace, a change of temperature (they thought it was cooler, I was dying from heat) and a safe place to paint. The bobcat and mountain lion stayed safely secluded yesterday. Good thing.
Carols and Linda painting side by side
I intend to return to their paintout sites and paint with them in Deming and Las Cruces, in the cooler part of the year. Stop on by Labor Day weekend to our plein air art show and sale in Las Cruces at the Franciscan Holy Cross Retreat. Here is the link for time and location information
 We learn from each other as much as from working alone. So don’t be a Lone Ranger. Find your Kemo Sabes and ride off to paint the sunset.

Fav quote:
Be so good, they can’t ignore you.                                                                    (Steve Martin)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Letting Go Of What's Holding You Back

If you are reading this, you most likely have an interest in art in some form or other. It could be painting, or tuba, or mountain climbing, or like my granddaughter Adriana, singing. There is a lesson that I have learned very late in life - it took me to 61 years to figure it out.
When you have a passion, sometimes you substitute other activities to appease that hunger. Often this is because circumstances don't leave you the time or opportunity to follow your dream. Substituting one activity for the one closest to your heart distracts you from following the true course of what you want to do.What you are meant to do. And sometimes that substitute seems to the casual observer to BE your passion, even when those who know you best know otherwise.
Afternoon at Holly's
Pastel - Available
1st place winner at Grant County Open New Mexico Show 2011
1st place winner at Black Range Painters Annual Show 2012
 I looked through my friends list on FB  this morning and came to a dear friend who simply by his smile reminded me of the cathartic time when I overthrew my substitute and decided to face failure and my fears. To follow my dream that had been subverted for years. Easy to do when you are raising a family.
You see I used to sew. I sewed a lot. Quilts, clothes, fancy stuff like fixing wedding dresses. If it could be constructed, I could sew it. Fabric took over one entire room of our house and I spent hours at the machine turning out Christmas gifts, things for grandkids and too many things to remember. I even created a Navy Chief's hat for a fat head to be used in an initiation.
Teapot and Magnolias
Oil Glazes on Board - Available
3rd Place Black Range Painters Annual Show 2012
But on that fateful day, I trundled bags and bags of fabric over to my friend's wife who belonged to some sewing circles and just gave it away. I wanted to let it own somebody else. It was almost like getting manacles removed.

I cannot describe the freedom I felt. 
What did I trade it for? 

Well I have days when I wonder what the heck am I thinking. Who told me I could paint? Will I ever paint anything that I am not in line first to criticize? The doubts are many and in my eyes the successes are few and far between. Oddly enough I seem to win some art shows here and do fairly well exhibiting. Am I a success? Yes and no. I still do not paint to the level I need to. I still can get sidetracked by home needs and other extraneous things that family and friends get you involved in. But that is good because painting is solitary.
I just won a first and a third at a show in Deming for the Black Range Painters. That was unexpected. And a nice surprise.  The area covers from Ruidoso to the southern border of NM, and East to West, from Lordsburg to El Paso.

Do I look longingly at fabrics, their bright colors arranged like a rainbow? Oddly enough, not any more at all. Now it's paint catalogs and swatches of bright pigment......what could I paint with that color??? So get rid of your shackes - embrace the uncertainty. Its way more of a fun ride. It has lows, but it has highs too, and they are worth it.

Favorite quote:

The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.                                                                  (Robert Hughes)