Monday, October 21, 2013

Launching the Cow......

The 2014 American Society of Aviation Artists forum is scheduled for April. Since we usually meet in June, this means all deadlines have been bumped up two months, including the Call for Entries for the exhibition. If I want to have anything reasonable to show for my time, it was apparent that I'd better get busy.

But what to take off my full plate? I decided to take a two month leave from singing with my chorus to get some work done. This hiatus, although short, would still be filled with projects, including private music lessons, but without the amount of administrative functions I'd allowed myself to take on. It would be an opportunity to dust off some of the "great painting ideas" that had been shoved aside the past couple of years. The first folder to emerge from the dusty file pile contained sketches of a JN4 (Jenny) in a field of cows. I contacted my long time friend and mentor, Charles Thompson, and announced that it was time to launch the cow- again.

The original idea was to tell the story of a pilot ready to take off from a field only to be hindered by cows. This was eventually sketched out to include one cow, obviously in the way. I sent off the sketches which were promptly returned via email by Charles with his ever useful advice on composition and values.

He also suggested that the cow and the pilot make some sort of eye contact. Hmmm. Not being sure of how a cow could reasonably look up at a pilot in a cockpit, I ventured off to the local pasture the following morning to do some research.

The closest cow population is fed at 0730 when the farmer comes with hay on a flatbed truck. Since I walk daily at 0700, this was not a stretch for timing. I poured a cup of coffee, walked down to the pasture and waited. The cows languished lazily, some lying down, some standing. After awhile one wandered away. No farmer yet, though. Soon another and another wandered away from the fence and sauntered toward the farther fence. Still no farmer. They weren't worried. I wanted another cup of coffee. Patience, I thought.

Eventually they all began strolling lazily toward the far fence. Then I heard the sound of the truck- the farmer cometh. Empty. He went right past the field- and me- and after awhile came back loaded with hay, driving around the corner and down the other road to where the cows were waiting. By the south gate!!! I hoofed it around the corner as his farm hand unlocked the gate to let the truck in. The farmer drove along through the pasture while the hand tossed hay from the back of the truck with cows ambling along behind, unconcerned and yet confident that their breakfast would be served in due time.

Patience. It occurred to me that my normal Tigger mentality was hindering not only my previously way too full schedule, but also the composition of the painting. Instead of doing a painting of a hurried pilot locking eyes with a cow, why not a hurried pilot with a cow that doesn't give a rip?

I went home and sketched out a new composition with the cow in an "I don't give a rip" stance which I sent off to Charles for review. We'll see. I'm feeling better about having a little time to shift focus and complete some tasks in a less hurried manner, perhaps with an even more bovine mentality......

Monday, October 7, 2013

Brain Waves!

Talk about the brain swinging to and fro on a pendulum!

Being a working artist has its perks, but it was time to get away to a workshop again. To my delight I found two happening in the same weekend at Cole Gallery in Edmonds! Denise Cole manages to get the most energetic and interesting instructors, so I really looked forward to some time to play with art.

Friday night was a three hour session with the whimsical and contemporary acrylics of Jennifer Bowman. As a rule, I shy away from acrylics, preferring to work in watercolor (as a purist) and oil. But a getaway is just that- getting away from the norm and trying something new.

We started with wine and refreshments. Now THERE'S a way to start painting. Relax, Jennifer encouraged us! Although her work is contemporary (to some, that may mean abstract),we never deviated from the basics- the color wheel, composition, line, value, chiaroscuro, or the use of light against dark/dark against light. A  toned matboard provided the surface for a free hand drawn pear and some free-wheeling paint application, taking into consideration light source, shadow location and value to achieve drama and interest.

Then we got to throw paint. Yikes!

Next project, also drawn free hand, was a wine bottle. How to achieve a festive look was created with more paint spatters and squiggles.

Those of you who know me and how left brained I am can imagine how foreign this was. But the results were fun and imaginative, and yes, I learned something. It's okay to loosen up. Well, a little, anyway.

Saturday and Sunday's session with Eileen Sorg was more in my ballpark. Traditional, although equally whimsical,  we were given a predrawn image to transfer to hot press watercolor paper. Like acrylic, I shy away from hot press paper since it has a mind of its own and doesn't accept washes as well as cold press. But.....with the right instructor giving the tips and tools of the trade, I was amazed at how well we could get the hot press paper to behave. Plus, in order to accept the colored pencil accents, the paper needs to be smooth. A bumpy paper won't allow the detail she wanted us to achieve. We were also encouraged to try some of the granulating watercolors - something else I'd been leery of. In painting traditional watercolors, particularly skies, one of the things I try to avoid is granulation. But apparently it has its place.

Saturday, transfer the drawing. Ink in the darks. Apply watercolor backgrounds. Sunday, add the details and highlights with colored pencil. Found myself humming, "Heaven, I'm in heaven!"

The results on everyone's pieces were nothing short of awesome! Planning to try these techniques on some of my upcoming work and have already spent the morning going through reference material.

Get away, step out of your comfort zone, and have some fun. As I sign off all of my education articles for ASAA, Ancoro Imparo- I am still learning. (Michelangelo)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Okay! I'm hooked on plein air painting!

Well how cool was THAT!!!

Arrived at Camaraderie Cellars for the "Quick Draw" event at about 0830 this morning. We had two hours exactly- from 9-11 AM- to do a painting on the grounds of the winery. Finished pieces were to be delivered and checked in at the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center by noon.

I chose to do a watercolor/pen & ink in the journaling style that would incorporate the morning's activity. Featured were some of the artists painting along with the owner's dog, who manages to be an integral part of all dynamics on the premises. If you are local and haven't been to Camaraderie yet, do make it a point to go out and sample the fine wines, enjoy the scenery and just relax! It was a great two hours!

Adding to the wonderful time painting and enjoying time with other artists, my little "quick draw" piece sold!

Since we had to pick up any unsold work at 4 PM, I decided to stay in Port Angeles, have some lunch and visit with the other artists. I met some really incredible and inspiring talent! Learned a lot, too.

1) I don't have to work so hard- keep it simple.
2) No need to do so many paintings- although entering juried exhibitions is a lot like cooking spaghetti where you throw pasta onto the wall and see what sticks. One never knows what a judge will accept, much less give an award to.
3) Jurying is subjective. The judge said so- and I suspected this all along. He said he could come back tomorrow and have a different perspective.
4) Therefore, the main objective is paint what's in your heart and have fun!

Oh- and another shout out to the Joyce General Store- that painting sold, too! Whoop!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Nike logo says, "Just Do It!"

A different weather forecast every day! Friday turned out to be what I call a "Kodiak Day." Fog to the deck for most of the day- and a far cry from partly sunny Wednesday and the thunderstorms of Thursday! Took my watercolors out to a friend's place with the intention of doing a painting of her mountain view- which can be pretty spectacular- but ended up drinking coffee and just relaxing. Last night's reception at Camaraderie Cellars gave us all a chance to scope out the Quick Draw location for Sunday.

As unused as I am to painting on location, I'm even more unused to framing wet oil paintings! But without frames, they can't reasonably be handled. I managed to get the frames, wires and labels on all of the paintings and delivered them this  morning.

Next time, I tell myself, things will be done differently. Since all work had to be presented framed, I was limited to the materials on hand. Last week I hung 30 pieces at Bank of America in Sequim, thus my inventory of available smaller frames was severely curtailed. My friend Susan Spar said "You need to invest in some plein air frames." In other words. some standard sizes just for this kind of thing. Well, the first annual anything always leaves room for discussion on how to do things "next time." Susan's advice is well received, so a selection of plein air frames is on the shopping list!

The body of work - one watercolor/pen & ink in the intrepid journal style of my idol, The Seattle Sketcher, along with four oils, three of which are larger than I would have normally come up with, are done, and my initial efforts were worth the time and experience. Hopefully I'm getting the hang of it.

 (Joyce General Store, University of Joyce, Reflections (at the marina) After the Storm (on Port Williams Road) and Lightning Over the Straits- all done in  two days!)
Ancora Imparo= I am still learning.  (Michelangelo)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Plein Air Painting- Yes, me!!

 So many of my friends are plein air painters. Perhaps it's my many years of living in Alaska, specifically Kodiak where the average number of sunny/partly sunny days comes to about 130, is why it never occurred to me to do much painting outdoors. Frankly, I think there are fewer than 130 sunny days in Kodiak, but I can't argue with statistics. That doesn't take into account the windy days and the cold days. But we're here now, in sunny Sequim, Washington, where we have a LOT of sunny days.

So when the Peninsula Fine Arts Center of Port Angeles came up with Paint the Peninsula, I thought, why not?

Participants have to have all of their substrates stamped for the event, meaning every canvas, every board, every watercolor needs to say "Paint the Peninsula" on the back. We have September 4, 5, 6 to paint plein air, and turn in our work for jurying on Saturday, September 7, one of which will be accepted into the show/sale that will be held Saturday night. Sunday is an added opportunity with a Quick Draw (timed two hour painting session) at Camaraderie Cellars. By Sunday I will really be needing a glass of wine. (Actually, I needed one last night, and will most likely follow suit tonight!)

Here's how it's going so far:
Yesterday my husband and I drove 30 miles to a town called Joyce, Washington, since it was on the list of recommended places to paint. We stopped at the Joyce General Store, Est 1911. If you can't find what you're looking for in there you probably don't need it. Two things I forgot to bring- an eraser (I know, I know. But it's a security thing.) which they had a fishbowl full of at 10 cents each, and oil painting medium. No art supplies in the general store, but I bought a small bottle of olive oil. Extra virgin. Five bucks. Works fine.

While I was remembering how to untangle the easel, my husband struck up a conversation with Leonard, the store's owner. Leonard's wife's grandfather built the store as a mercantile for the loggers. Leonard is 81 years old. He knows a lot.

While I painted away, finding not much satisfaction in my work, I might add, there were numerous people who stopped by to chat, ask questions, or just look. The day was overcast, so there was little in the way of contrasting values to add interest to my painting. But I found the most interest to be in the people- people who are fiercely proud of their town, their store and their history. Leonard was sporting a sweatshirt which he designed that read "University of Joyce- Mea Culpa Non." That's Latin for "Not my fault." I had to buy a sweatshirt. With it comes a document -signed by Leonard- that is a "Degree in Insignificance." Too many people, he said, put credence in their degrees. When he was in the working world, outside of Joyce, the only reason they looked at degrees for potential employees was if they made it through college, they probably had the tenacity to get a job done. If their transcripts showed good grades, then chances are they had good enough attendance and paid attention.

I told Leonard I attended the School of Hard Knocks and majored in Situational Awareness. He liked that.

After four hours of painting, I did a small sketch in the journaling style which took about a half hour, and we headed for lunch at the Blackberry Cafe where Roxanne makes the best blackberry pie we'd ever tasted! She has a bunch of first place ribbons from the Clallam County Fair to prove it, too.

As we drove out of town, we crossed bridges sporting signs that read "Itsa Creek" and "Uppa Creek."

The people of Joyce are pretty cool.

Forecast for thunderstorms. Swell. Started out seeing lightning over the Olympic Mountains. Counted "one chimpanzee, two chimpanzee, etc." Got to 10 or 12 before the thunderclaps made me jump. But....I paid my entry fee, so let's saddle up and go!

First to a farm out Port Williams Road about 10 minutes from home. Found a way to set up with the easel protected under the hatch of the minivan and painted the field, the mountains, the clouds. Life is good. Canada geese are on the move everywhere this time of year, but since it's plein air, they go by too fast to be in the paintings. (When I do some studio work from photos later on, the geese will be featured.) In between rain showers, things worked pretty well.

Next stop, John Wayne Marina to work on a little sailboat with a picturesque reflection in the still water. The "in between rain showers" was the drive from point A to point B. The actual painting session was plagued with thunder, lightning, pouring rain, and feeling good about being close to home where I know the paramedics.

Third stop, 3 Crabs Road, which dead ends at the water's edge where I could see the Dungeness Lighthouse in the distance, and lightning strikes out over the Straits. This painting turned out to be one quick study, since I was finally getting the hang of working on location, what to bring, how to set up the vehicle for efficiency and get the most out of this new experience.

More progress tomorrow......Additional images to come later!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


So where have I been? Probably too much Facebook and not enough blogging, perhaps.It's easy to get into the trap of doing the thing that is the quickest, and logging onto FB with a quick sentence eliminates the need to really think about a blog post. But there have been a number of new paintings that I'm preparing to send off to my illustrious webmaster to include on the website.

This leaves me to think about the prospect of summer. As in summer vacation. Not. The past spring was filled with activities from painting, to public speaking to singing to finding time to just relax. My next travel adventure will be to Baltimore toward the end of June to attend the American Society of Aviation Artists annual Forum. We meet in a different location every year, and it's always an amazing spark of enthusiasm to get together and share ideas, catch up with friends and talk about what our plans are for the upcoming year. We look forward to it every year.

Meantime, studio work keeps me occupied. A recently completed painting of a mother and her children at the beach will be on the website for sale soon.