Tuesday, August 31, 2010

trusting the process

"Eliminating things from a composition is the best way to get to the essential statement. We become attached to whatever appears in our creations." "Rubbing out and painting over are essential techniques for every artist." Excerpts from the book Trust the Process by Shaun McNiff.

I unframed an old pastel landscape painting, washed most of the pastel off, turned the painting upside down and while it was still wet, brushed red watercolor around. There. I eliminated that composition. I'm excited to see what happens next.

Monday, August 30, 2010

reading and reviewing

I'm reading Trust the Process: An Artist's Guide to Letting Go by Shaun McNiff. So many of Mr. McNiff's words ring true with me that I sent him an email asking permission to quote from the book and he agreed. So, you'll be hearing bits and pieces of it on this blog as I work my way through. "Emanation is a process of one thing emerging from another, and this quality of creation reinforces the importance of working in a series." Last spring I painted a series of four 5 x 7 scenes of sand dunes. Then, a series of four landscapes, then recently, four more. Here they are, all together. Click on the image to enlarge.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

my experiment

I've been doing a lot of thinking about process vs product. If I give myself as much information as possible in the planning stages of a painting (careful sketch on my painting surface, careful underpainting to guide me) there is a better chance that I'll have a successful painting/product. However, I don't enjoy that process as much as doing an interesting oil wash with color and texture that merely suggests my scene. So, I thought I'd try my previous painting again. Above is my loose oil wash - that was fun.

For Summer Sojourn 2, I looked at the reference photo but didn't look at the first painting (posted August 16th). My lighter application of pastel left more of the foundation showing to become part of the painting. My favorite area is the upper right corner (click to enlarge). All in all, I ended up with a similar painting, but without careful planning, this time I had to work harder and talk to myself more about what and why. It was a more challenging and engaging process for me. I find this interpretation to be more lively and I believe I have given the viewer more to think about.

Monday, August 16, 2010

dancing marks

 With Mr. Handell's words whispering around my brain, I began my first painting since the workshop. I want to be careful like he is. And, my graphite sketch was. I was precise with the form of the trees and bushes; I indicated in graphite where my darkest values would be. Next, I put the painting on my easel and began a line drawing in a dark green oil paint wash. The first few strokes were careful. Then, I just went crazy turning my careful lines into dancing marks. Happy, I went to bed. Every time I awoke in the night (it is too hot to sleep), I remembered my marks and was excited to get back to the painting...and that is how it should be!

I wanted my first painting after the workshop to reflect Mr. Handell's wisdom and recommendations. "When you aren't sure what to do, do nothing. Walk away. Turn the painting to the wall for a while if you have to. Be more patient." I really did try to follow his advice.  I don't know if this painting looks any different from those of my pre-Handell days but I do know that with more careful planning, it wasn't ever in danger of being washed off and I am pleased with the result.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

new friends and third place award

One of the nicest things about the internet is contact with other artists. Recently, Jim and Lynne Babcock emailed me in support of my work. Turns out they live not far from Auburn, CA, the location of the current Pastel Society of the West Coast Member Show.  They were very kind to take time to visit the show and send me this photo of Jim with my painting "Foreseeable Future." They also let me know that it received a Third Place Award in the Associates category! Jim is an accomplished painter; take a look at his website.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

overcast and windy

I'm letting the Albert Handell workshop sink in by scrubbing floors, cleaning the studio and gardening. When the time is right, I'll start painting again but I just found this little plein air piece that was done the day before I left for the workshop in Oregon. I was in a pasture in Cle Elum, WA, at the end of an airfield landing strip. It was overcast and very windy - so much wind that I finally gave up trying to paint and watched people fly kites instead. Of course, this painting contains my favorite yellowy-green which has now been identified as Terry Ludwig G360. Love it!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

look in the lower left corner

Just got home from Oregon. While going through the mail I was surprised to find my work included on the show card for The Pastel Society of the West Coast Membership show, August 12 - October 2, 2010 in Auburn, CA. That's me...the tiny image in the lower left corner (click to enlarge). This painting, "Foreseeable Future" is also my Facebook profile image. My other painting in the show is "River Walk" and is shown in the sidebar of this blog.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Day 5 with Mr. Handell

Mr. Handell's tree painting demo this morning began later than originally scheduled because we were all at the workshop until nearly 11 PM last night having one-on-one critiques with him followed by a stunning 60-slide presentation of his work.
This morning, his drawing of this tree was s-l-o-w (and careful) which gave me time to ponder my critique feedback from last night and, in doing that while watching him draw, I had an epiphany about myself and my work. In short, I'm tired of making "pretty pictures." (This may be one of the reasons I have been experimenting with abstracting - and that's a good thing.)  Ever since I broke away from the precise colored pencil of my past, I took joy in making imprecise marks and fully expect all marks I make with pastel to WORK. Many times they do and I complete another pretty picture. When they don't, I hose it off and start again. I now realize that if I am to make art that is MORE than a pretty picture, I need to spend much more time in the foundation/bones stage. S-L-O-W DOWN. Well, that's the short version of my breakthrough. My thanks to Mr. Handell for the part he played in my revelation.

After the demo and lunch, students caravanned to a new location: old farmhouse and out buildings, meadows wild with Queen Anne's lace and weathered fruit and filbert trees. Reminded me very much of the farm on Vashon Island where I raised my children. With every step around the acreage there was another emotion-filled scene for me and I took 103 reference photos for future paintings. Other students were setting up to paint for a couple hours, but I was spent. That's when I came upon this rose. "You look like I feel," I said to the rose. Talking to roses; time to quit.
As I write this, I am in my motel room for the evening. Tomorrow, after delivering art to Attic Gallery in Portland, I'll head back to my studio and what is forecast to be a rainy weekend. Sounds great!

If you would like to read more about this Albert Handell workshop, visit the blog of my new acquaintance and fellow artist, Brenda Boylan. She has many photos and notes from the workshop to share as well as beautiful work. Also, thanks to Susan, Amanda, Jan and all the friendly and supportive artists I met this week.

Day 4 with Mr. Handell

This morning Mr. Handell demonstrated oil painting. What exciting work! After lunch we all took off to various spots for an afternoon of independent painting. I went back to the walnut grove, this time to paint the scene along the edge of the grove.

 Jan Wall and Amanda Houston painting in the walnut grove.

 Jan trying the garden hose method on a painting that was bugging her.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Day 3 with Mr. Handell

The morning of Day 3 was a watercolor-foundation pastel painting demo by Mr. Handell. Spectacular! In the afternoon we painted in a huge walnut grove. My painting is mostly just watercolor foundation. After waiting for the Wallis paper to dry, I applied pastel to the trunk and main branches. His advice was to keep on going and I do have reference photos but this painting may not ever be resolved. It might end up being the foundation for something new. Students here are amazing, many finished their paintings on site.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Day 2 with Mr. Handell

Day two with Mr. Handell, shown here with my two plein air paintings at the end-of-day critique. See each painting and his suggestions below. Students are having a great time and everyone is improving under his guidance and through watching him paint today. He is very careful and thoughtful in his work.

This is my 8 - 11:00 AM painting of wild grasses. Skies were overcast so no cast shadows. A lovely gentle area in the morning. Later, in the strong afternoon sun the grasses appeared harsh and brittle. Mr. Handell suggested added value in the right foreground to keep the area from floating away. Click on image to enlarge and look closely to see his marks made with charcoal.

Afternoon painting from 2 - 4 PM is meadow/pasture land with wheat fields in the background. The vast stubble areas of recently harvested wheat are overwhelming in the hot afternoon sun. Simplification was my goal...so much so that Mr. Handell suggested more grass detail work in the foreground. When I get back to the studio next week I'll work on these paintings and post them when they have been resolved.

Monday, August 2, 2010

painting with Mr. Handell

I'm in Oregon at an Albert Handell workshop. Hot. Fun. Exhausting. This is today's first plein air effort. Mr. Handell suggested touches of Unison G-10 to enliven the tree at the left. The color in this shot isn't correct. I should have brought my Kodak color bar/gray scale with me! I'll post it again after I get home. Having a good time with 20 other students, all doing good work. Back at it tomorrow at 8 AM.