As a wanna-be oil landscape artist, I imagine I'll have all number of pretty landscape pictures.  Some I may even do more than once.  I tend to like single-word names because I like to challenge myself.  But ultimately, I may just name my paintings by numbers.

Anyway.  I take lots of pictures of pretty views.  Seeing pretty views is one thing.  Seeing one that's worthy of a composition and some paint is a whole other thing.

My first finished painting will be from a photograph I took from near the northern end of the Black Canyon trail in Arizona.  I was attempting a 60K for the third time on this trail, and for the 2nd time I was coming off an illness.  I did not finish.  Once I realized I wasn't going to finish, I simply relaxed and took some pictures.  This is one of them.  

I started out by toning my canvas, and I think this may be the secret for me.   I love the way the color peeks through, here and there.

 My first pass was colors that seem GREEN.  like, jarringly green.  I puzzled over this, and the fact that sky seems weirdly blue.  This is because they are next to the toned canvas color.  

But I like the toned canvas because there are tiny hints and teeny bursts of color.   In the desert it's hard to show that without making it look like Andy Warhol does Landscapes.  

My next pass over is to tone down the greens a bit.  


 Now now after adding some darks, it seems a bit dark.  The the sparse nature of the high desert is lost in all of the sage that I painted in.  And, I've lost the perspective of the foreground, which doesn't show any transition heading down the trail. 

My mentor made some suggestions, and demonstrated how I could put in some highlights, showing the sun peeking through the clouds, and here's where it is now, after I added some highlights earlier today.

I'll post the final version when it's done.  



Colors aren't colors all by them selves, I've learned.

I have to say it's exciting learning that you're wrong, especially when 'wrong' refers to completely skipping over something because you might not enjoy it.  For me, that's like oil painting.  

After listening to me kvetch about how I never have time to attend classes, and knowing that I want to be a landscape artist, husband found one to mentor me.  Technically speaking, he's actually teaching me since I've never had a class in beginning painting.  And. he's an oil painter.

I had, early on, discounted the idea of oil painting, assuming that it was 1) messy, 2) would trigger huge asthma attacks, 3) was messy, and 4) I can't paint wet-on-wet.  

I'm amazed to find that it's not smelly, especially since there's something called "odorless paint thinner," and since I wear gloves and a smock, it's not messy at all.  In face, it's easier to clean up because it doesn't dry in 30 seconds, like acrylics, ruining whatever it touches.  Including, for instance, brushes.  

Required reading is John Carlson and Kevin McPherson.  My teacher, Tom Blazier, has so much knowledge to teach me that it makes my brain hurt.  But so it is, that at some point, I had to actually put paintbrush to canvas.  

This is the picture.  

This was taken during the 20-miler at Old Cascadia Trail Run, at approximately the third hump in this elevation profile.

Step 1: Shapes and values.  Here's my sketch.

I took the liberty of changing up this picture, making clumps of pine trees rather than a single wall; there will be something done in the foreground to create a path for the eye to move through towards the opening in the trees.

Next step was to mix some values and hues.  Now, this is an iphone picture, so the color isn't exactly on point...as well, I had already gone in and put in some relief in the distant mountains.

Now what is that weird wall between the first two mountains?  Oh, that has to go.  

This one is still in progress.

So while working on another painting, I also had another "a-ha" moment, at least for me: things are not just the color they are.  They are the color they are relative to the color next to them.  

My oil painting mentor has been trying to teach this to me but I just haven't been getting it, until I started on my next painting. 



Life Reboot.

I had decided to take a year off art school because I'd been under so much stress, and had so many health issues.  However, I'm feeling GREAT these days--I've had some changes occur in my life that have simultaneously relieved my stress and energized me.  But how to get my mojo back?

First, I looked online for some sources, searching under "art and drawing prompts" to get me back into the flow of creating, and I found this:

I'm pretty excited, in particular, with this course for beginning.  I put together my beginning kit:

 In case you're wondering what's in there other than the immediately visible, it contains the usual drawing supplies (conte pencils, art gum, prismacolor ebony drawing pencils, sharpener, chamois, micro pens) along with:
Derwent watercolor pencils
Couple tubes of Liquitex heavy body
spray bottle
glue stick
W&N water colour markers
scissors, xacto knife, razor
several water brush pens
metal French curve, eraser shield, flexible ruler (from my math teaching days)
prismacolor colored pencils
yes - that is a W&N cotman mini kit.

My journal is a hard-backed watercolor journal, 400 series by Strathmore.  

#1 is a doodle on a napkin.  I doodled a self-portrait.

#2 is self explanatory. I used a combination of Derwent wc pencils, W&N wc markers, and a brush pen.  After it dried, I used colors from my Cotman field box and a toothbrush.


#3 was perhaps the one I most looked forward to doing.  In this exercise involved "SECRET".  I chose to take pictures of my secret, cut them up, make a collage, and paint over them with some Liquitex heavy body paint.  I used titanium white, mixing white, umber, and hunter's green.  

I'm looking forward to exploring this site and all it has to offer.  I've never been a mixed-media person and have always envied people who were.  As time goes buy I hope to become more comfortable in creating this type of art.



A step back.

It's been a while since I've written here - I'm taking some time off this semester to work on health and fitness.  I'm not going into detail about health stuff.  Suffice to say that at one time not too long ago, I was a decent, mid-pack ultrarunner.  Since then, I've added nearly 2 hours to my marathon, 20 lbs to my frame, and lost some of my mojo.  I'm working on getting it back.

I've gotten a handle on some health issues with the help of a good endocrinology specialist.  Next up: an otolaryngologist, or ear, nose, and throat specialist.

I'm also doing my psychotherapy for first-responders, in particular their children.  That keeps me busy.  I'm still sketching some, but I keep reminding myself: health first.  Then I'll be back.


a brief sojourn

Art school is so very different from taking community art classes.

Community art: Hi, I'm your teacher, and I want you to come up here and watch me do this thing or technique....Now, here's a list of art supplies.  Don't spend too much, just go to Hobby Lobby or Michael's and get whatever is on sale.  Get student paints, like the ones Liquitex makes.  They're cheapest. Oh, and bring in some photos of what you'd like to paint!  What's that? How many? Oh gosh, that's up to you.  How many paintings do you want to do in our six weeks together? We're going to have such fun!!

Art School: Hi, I'm your art instructor.  Now watch what I do, and this is how you should do it too.  I'm not saying you have to do it this way...just saying that if your art instructor says to do it, then do it.  Also, here's a list of supplies you'll need DO NOT LET ME SEE A SINGLE TUBE OF LIQUITEX BASICS IN THIS ROOM you need to get quality art supplies to do quality work, and cheap paint has no pigment and you just end up using more.  
Here's the syllabus.  This is what you'll do, and you'll like it.  
After each work of art, I want two to three pages, typed and double spaced, of what you did, how you did it, why you did it that way, and how it felt doing it.  All of these projects are due on the due date.  or the end of class.  
Oh, and there's readings, and discussion questions, for each project.  You'll frequently be working on several projects at once.  Ready? GO!

Of course, the result is that you do more complex things, and think in more complex ways.  This semester, I took Art Practices I, the foundational course that was apparently devised by the University of New Mexico.  It used to be that art students foundational courses were 2-D design, and then 3-D design, as well as drawing 1 and 2.  Now there's another option and I honestly do not know if I'm supposed to take them all.

I thouroughly enjoyed this.  At one point my instructor gently scolded me for turning in work late, to which I replied, "oh no, now I won't be able to get a job!"  She accepted this in good humor.

And yes.  I was the oldest person in the room.

I won't bother posting all the things we worked on.  But of course...there is the ubiquitous color wheel.  Which I received an A- on.  That's not a screw up in my painting below; that's a shadow.

Next, the "chaos and control" project.  

Next, we did shadow puppets and a performance.  

There are not enough words to describe my hatred for this project. 

I am not a performer. (images by shutterstock, colorax, and another company I can't remember.)

Finally, we did a "personality painting" on a 15 x 15 wooden panel.  

At this point, I considered it finished.  My art instructor did not.  She felt that the lower left lacked something.

So I added something.

It was a little crazy, but I learned about glazing and composition from this.  

The very last project was a text installation project.   We were to choose a word or phrase, create letters, using a font of our choice, out of cardboard. 

Then we were to paint them or otherwise embellish them and finally, "install" them somewhere and photograph them.

 At one point I just got bored and took pictures of the fish in our pond.

Once I had the pictures I wanted, I edited them, using filters for the contrast and light.

The final submission:

SOJOURN is a good word for the break I'm taking right now to work on my health and fitness.  I'm working 2 jobs, going to art school, and I'm in my 50s....so my health isn't the greatest.  I'm taking a brief break from IRL classes to take a couple of online classes and focus on my health for a while.  

This class, overall, helped me think and do art in ways that I might not have before. I tend towards a "painterly" type of work, and by forcing me to complete other works, I feel like I've grown as an artist.  



suffering and the art of the suck

i think the most important lesson I've learned so far in the past 12 months is that sometimes art, in its process, looks really, really, really crappy.  shitty even.  until it doesn't.  until that happens, i tolerate the awful until it become unbearable. then i close up my paints, clean out my brushes, and walk away for a while.

it always looks horrible close up during.  i finally know why paint brushes can come in such long lengths - so you can back up as far as possible from a painting which, for me, looks really, just, well, awful close up.

case and point: the current work.  a friend send me a link to a fundraiser to end homelessness.  a local nonprofit invites local artists to submit works to be auctioned off.  "we respectfully ask that the work be worth at least $25"

the theme is to be, what makes home home?  

i had just recently been moved one morning to photograph my bad right after i got out of it, and i thought i'd try to paint this.

first the underpainting:

gaa! underpainting is THE big awful.  on the other hand, it does have a kind of modernist feel to it.  
or maybe just a tacky 70s/80s feel.  
blacklight poster, anyone?
i also have learned that once i do my initial sketch from a photograph, put that photograph the f*** away, or i'll make myself crazy trying to catch every single detail. 

several passes later, i'm at this point, working in values, 
"pushing and pulling" the values, as it were.  

third pass.  okay.  those are actually starting to look like sheet wrinkles.  
next steps: i need those sheets to be a bit lighter in value.
 and i need the quilt at the foot of the bed to look less fuzzy and more quilty.
some tones mixed with zinc white should help.  
now i need that fan to look more like a fan.  And, I think I need a shadow on the side of the bed where the nightstand blocks the light.  It's early morning, and the sun is lower, so there needs to be more shadow overall.  

Gaa!  That's too dark.  But I'm happy with the depth of the top of the nightstand.

Okay, now the wrinkles are starting to look like whitecaps.  

Now I think I'm finally happy with the bed.  I think the shadow on the side of the bed, and the directionality of the light, is clearer.  
Next plans:  make the dresser a little darker and more neutral (brown) and fix the fan.  Also, the shadow next to the window frame is a bit too dramatic.  

and now I think it's done.  even though the fan is crooked and off center.  



prickly stuff

I have fallen behind on my blogging because blogger isn't terribly mac friendly.  I tried downloading an app called "Blogo" on the mac.  It sucks.  I wrote the developers and told them so.  There's a decent little IOS app on my iPhone, but I suck on those tiny little keyboards.  Don't even get me started on the autocorrect debacle.  

Seriously?  Acrid lickers? No, autocorrect, clearly I meant acrylics.  Dude.  Seriously.  

Now, for a while I've had an idea in my head of something I wanted to create.  A canvas divided into fourths, with a closeup of a cactus in each.  This past week I finally started working on it.

I have no shortage of cactus pictures, or pictures of things close up - it's one of my favorite subjects.  

Internal questions: 

1) I'd like to line between the quarters to be sharper.

2) What will go in the fourth quarter?

2) The cholla flowers need to be pinker.  

In unrelated news that you don't care about, I'm signed up for a 10K today.  It's in an hour.  It's 103 degrees outside.  F*** that.  I'm going to stay in, where it's cool, and paint  

(Later) Finished work:



small metals

I'm taking a class in small metals, which includes making jewelry.

Project 1: "Cold Connections" project.  We were to design, make a model of, and build an item using metal.  Cold Connections refers to the lack of soldering, mainly.  It involves rivets and tabs.  

My project is a little decorative/artsy item that will have a small spinner inside it.  The spinner can be turned to indicate the weather outside.  

After my initial model, I spent more time working on the design, including sketches.  I decided to do away with the tabs holding on the top piece, and include it in the spacers and rivets.  I had to design the axis on which the weather elements will turn - it will include  

Sawing, let me tell you, is a bitch.  Behind, a saw blade:

I broke about ten of these little bastards while cutting out my pieces. 


After cutting out the pieces, my next step was to drill holes.  This involes a drill and hopefully, not turning your piece into a ninja star as it catches on the bit and begins spinning wildly with it.  

then filing.  Lots of filing.

And then sand.  And sand.  And sand.  

Next, I started drawing in some design for the pieces - they'll be painted with an etching solution that does not react to the sharpie--it will etch around it.  

So what have I learned so far?

1) Small metals and jewelry making requires a precision that doesn't come naturally to me . I'm an impressionist.  

2) Maybe I can be really good at making myself some trinkets, and gifts for others.

3) It's hard physical work.  Trying not to break those tiny, thin saw blades is a nightmare.

4) I do feel pretty badass handling an acetylene torch.  

Maybe I need to use more organic forms in my work.  When I said 'circles are hard' out loud several veterans laughed.  Apparently, they're hard for everyone.  



In April and May, I took a portrait class.  I feel like I made some really good progress.

Here are my beginning portraits, prior to and at the very start of class:


Here are my portraits at the end of class:

You can see more of my portrait work here.