Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Aachen Study - More Progress

The more I work on this study, the more I like what is going on here. Getting the values correct on Venus is very important because she is the focal point of this painting. Interestingly enough, the biggest value changes are on the other two figures. The biggest temperature changes are on Venus herself. When I do the grisaille, this is important to keep in mind. Venus will start out being the blandest of the three. The more I look at this, the more convinced I am that the layers are very very thin.

While looking at the lighter printout, I believe there was a wardrobe change done on Venus. There are traces of her robe behind her neck that you don't really see in the photo. When I did a light sketch of where those lines were going, it added bulk to her neck that probably didn't fit her delicate reputation. Hans von Aachen was an allegorical painter. From looking at his other paintings, he put a lot of thought into every element. I am not sure what the ball represents.

I packed my ankle and foot on ice last night and it is a lot smaller this morning. I still can't step flat on it, but it feels a lot better now that the bottom of my foot isn't swollen. I have to thank Jo for the pretty flowers.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Aachen Study

You can see the original artists painting HERE.

This is quite literally what is on my drawing board. I am doing this as a value study for a future painting. I am debating on if I want to stick true to what I see in the original on ARC or go for the lighter copy. (Or something between the two). I like this painting because there is some insane detail right next to flat areas. There are lots of great brush strokes and places where the paint looks polished in. The rounded faces are a bit sugar coated. I like comparing the old ideas about beauty to todays.

I forgot how slow graphite can be. Layers.. and layers.. and layers. In this case, that is a good thing because its like practicing for the actual painting. Rather than just make a toss away study, I am going to give this a good finish. This gives me time to really plot a course of action for each area.

Of course, the other reason I am doing a Graphite study is because I can do this sitting down. Just when my knee was starting to feel a lot better, I missed a step on our stairs and sprang my ankle. It is this marvelous combination of purple, green, blue and red. It looks like one of those fat little feet on a cherub, only adult sized! I almost assumed that God was giving me a new model to study, but then I thought maybe I better take the message to get off my feet before I need to be told again.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Story Sticks and other tips

My paintings have been ..

I wiped the last one because it would have made my wall of shame look like great art. Rather than scare anyone, I will post some quick tips and ideas instead.

On my regular visits to Wetcanvas, I have been awaiting a post by lotusguy about a story stick.

Well HERE it is. This could be so handy when doing master copies. You could also use this for sketches and any kind of reproductive work.

Here are some other tips.

  • Crystal Light comes in these wonderful little plastic cups that are the perfect size to put over oil paint on a palette. I just rub some oil around the rim and create a fairly decent seal. Each container has 6 of them. If you like Crystal light, its a double bonus.
  • I keep my palette knife that I mix paint with on a string and either hang it on the knob of my easel or tuck the end of it in the pocket in my pants. It makes it easy to find and the string is great for sight size measuring.
  • I always have a few bamboo skewers handy in my painting and drawing supplies. They are great for lots of uses. Using a single at arms length, I use them to measure and compare distances. Using two at arms length, I find angles. If you put a small covering of kneaded eraser over the tip, you can get into some pretty tight spots. They are great for making straight lines with paint or pencil. Now that I have the story stick idea, I may even use them for that on the smaller paintings.
  • Viva Paper towels feel like cotton cloth. The family gets generic. My art gets Viva. Its great for smearing charcoal and paint. It really absorbs well and can take a pretty good beating.
  • I use a foam floor mat in front of my easel to stand on when I paint. It is easy to wipe off and most of all, it really cushions my feet.
I am going to try painting sitting down today. I recently hurt my knee and I think I need to let it rest a bit before I demand that it support me for hours in front of an easel. I hate sitting. It just feels wrong unless I am on an art horse. Chris bought me a knee brace to wear. He also added some dark chocolate in the bag. If the brace doesn't work, I am positive the chocolate will!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Mom Look

The Mom Look
Graphite and White Pencil on paper

My husband named this. I guess this is what I look like when I am scolding the kids. I am thinking about framing this and sending it to college with my son. Then when he is thinking about doing something I wouldn't like, he can look at this and think twice.

I don't usually do a portrait study with my scar forward (above my eye). I don't try to hide it. It makes my eye shape a bit odd, so I have avoided it. I did this in natural light. I like the lighting. I forgot how much I really do like graphite. Something about the hatching is relaxing and refreshing.

I was going to paint, but my inspiration for the day was a self portrait in the Burnt Sienna, French Ultramarine and Titanium White. I decided I would do a quick pencil study to nail the shapes and such. Then once I got the general sketch in place, I couldn't resist shading it in. Of course, once I had the shadows in, I couldn't resist digging in the girls colored pencil to add highlights. .. and by the time that was all accomplished, it was dinner time. Go figure!

Maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Onions and Vases and Oil Disasters and My Fear of the Art Fairy

Onion with Vase
oil on panel
Raw Umber, Burnt Sienna, Titanium White

Sorry about the glare. In 6 pictures, this was the best, I swear.

I am pretty excited about this one. I finally painted an onion! It seems like everyone does onions and until today I was an onion painting virgin. I plan on tossing this particular onion out because I hate it when they sprout like this, so I can say that I put this onion to good use even though I won't cook with it. More importantly, I got some pretty good mileage out of the Raw Umber and Burnt Sienna.

I ended up doing a lot of wiping off on this to get those thin layers of sienna and umber. I discovered that if I wiped the paint off with a brush, I could get the slight streaks that an onion has. The sprouts should be green, I know, but I was pretty stubborn about sticking to my two colors, so they are approximately the same value. Since this is a study, I am not going to beat myself up about that.

I will share a huge mistake I made. When I put gesso on my last dozen panels, I used a sponge roller because my sponge brush was beyond dead. That left and incredibly bumpy surface that eats the first layer of paint like a kid eating ice cream. So this time, my genius self, decided to put a thin layer of oil on before I applied any paint and just wipe the excess off as I plotted out my shapes. HUGE mistake! The surface was slicker than snot and I ended up fighting that more than the gesso eating my first layer of paint. It works great in layers, but in direct painting, it is a mess. I am going to credit the fact that I cannot get a good picture to this as well.

So my lessons are:

  1. Do not gesso my panels with a sponge roller, because I don't like the bumps.
  2. Do not let myself run out of sponge brushes, because I am far too impatient to stop what I am doing and run to the store to get more.
  3. Do not put a layer of oil on the surface unless I want to see how oil paint works on a slip and slide.
It is time to switch up and pick another color set. I think I am going to try the Burnt Sienna and French Ultramarine next. I know it would be a lot easier and faster to do color charts, but I am a hard headed woman and I get more out of these studies than just color theory. I learn observation, brush control, sketching, composition and perspective practice. Since I don't expect these to be awesome paintings, I do all this without the pressure of having to be "Wallable". (Yes, I made that word up)

I almost feel like I am cheating the system. You know the one where you have to paint 300 bad paintings to get one good one. I am intentionally using up my first 100 or so in these kinds of studies. It kind of makes me afraid that the Art Fairy is going to come hunt me down and make me start all over with paintings that fail accidentally. Not that I am trying to make these fail, but, I don't expect them to be extremely successful for anything beyond learning material.

Art myths are so contradictory. You must pay your dues. You must do an awful lot of art that is unworthy of hanging. At the same time, you must be striving to put your message out there and give the world meaning and beauty with each piece. You can't do both. It isn't realistic.

My oldest son is an athlete. To get in shape he lifts weights and runs and stretches out year round. In our discussions we have decided that art is a lot more like being an athlete. If you don't use it, you lose it. In order to be prepared for the game/meet you must do a lot of boring drills and practices. To keep you motivated, you must track your progress and record silly things like lifting more, or getting more repetitions, or being able to paint in two colors. You can't expect a swimmer to beat a new record if he hasn't done any laps. You can't expect a football lineman to knock down his opponent if he hasn't lifted enough weights to be strong. You can't expect an artist to paint a great painting if they haven't figured out how to use their brush.

I am a lousy athlete and he is a lousy artist. Though we choose different outlets, our common ground is our drive and determination..

And we both think he is cute.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Book of Knowledge and Honing Your Craft

Book of Knowledge
oil on panel
Raw Umber, Burnt Sienna, Titanium White

Burnt Sienna next to Raw Umber mixed with white makes the Raw Umber appear almost blue. That is an interesting effect after doing a painting of French Ultramarine and Raw Umber. Yet another baby step in learning the effects of color. Without a yellow or a green, it is pretty hard to indicate metal. It is even harder to get any kind of detail on these tiny little studies. That is probably for the best. I simplified and let it be more of an indication.

Just between us, that is actually a picture frame on top of an encyclopedia, but I am playing with a "Book of Knowledge" theme. I think it needs straps and buckles to seem realistic. I would like to take this to the sketchbook and play with it a bit.

I was browsing through blogs yesterday and on Jo Castillo's Blog, she posted a link to the Outdoor Painting website about honing your craft. I found the whole website very interesting and read several past articles. The site is about outdoor painting, but the advice they give is great for any subject. I am going to give some of their exercises a try. I have gone ahead and added those links to my sidebar for easy access.

I have 10 more panels left. There is 24 days until my youngest 4 go to school and 31 days until the last one moves off to college. Not that I am counting...

I have been looking at a few different master copy candidates. I am also looking at ideas for a more surreal/illustrative piece. No matter which I choose to do first, I am looking forward to working on something a lot more exciting.

Still Life with Hand Blown Bottle

Still Life with Hand Blown Bottle
Oil on Panel
Raw Umber, French Ultramarine and Titanium White

I don't think this is nearly as cool dominated as it appears in this photo, but I am at a huge disadvantage as far as fixing it because I don't have any decent image editing programs on this computer. I believe the original is actually darker than it appears here, but that is hard to tell since the gamma on this computer is also much different than mine. With that being said, let me leave the excuses behind and move on.

Still playing with the same two colors plus white, I got a very different painting than before. I went ahead and let the blue be as cool as I could get on the lantern so I could make the lid on the little jar very warm in comparison. I had to sacrifice some warmth on the base of the lantern to show the warm on the lid. It would have been easier to just grab a warmer color and go for it, but that wasn't the point of this painting exercise.

Probably the most important breakthrough for me was leaving some of my brush strokes lay where they landed. I admit I fiddled. I just didn't fiddle as much and even though they are not as accurate, they are not the disaster mud pie I have created in the past.

I think I am going to swap colors next time and pick something besides the blue. These are not the most amazing paintings, but they are powerful learning tools. When I do return to a full color painting, I will have much more information on my belt when choosing colors.

Monday, July 16, 2007

What goes on behind the Easel

Chris's Smirk
Originally uploaded by shehaub
Chris on the lake



Toni on the lake


Sleeping Christian


Laura Ingalls run

Sweet and Innocent

Barefoot Boy with Fish

No Towels

Sometimes you just have to take time out to be with your family and enjoy the weekend. This is what goes on behind the easel. This is what inspires me, encourages me and drives me to be the best person I can be, including being an artist.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I've Been Through a Painting of a Book with No Name

Still Life with Votive
Oil on Panel
Raw Umber, French Ultramarine and Titanium White.

Pretty cool huh? No, I don't mean it is a great painting. I mean the overall colors are cool. Raw umber is just not warm enough to really warm up a painting. It is, after all, mostly a neutral color. The blue took over and dominated, even though there are places on this painting that I used no blue.

The original plan was to skew some letters on the computer and make a stencil to put on these books for titles and then my computer broke. !@#$! So I guess these are journals or maybe the contents are so secret that a label could not be used. I know that I am not good enough at lettering to wing it. I would rather leave them blank than fidget with the letters and ruin the painting. I learned my lesson in my Overworked and Underpaid post.

Incidentally, the reason this picture is skewed is because my computer broke and I don't have a way of correcting this currently. Hopefully my husband will get so sick of me using his computer that he fixes mine. That's the plan anyway.

The overall point of this particular study is two fold. First, I suck at perspective. I am consistently getting angles wrong and ellipses are the absolute worst for me. Books are basically boxes and a way to correct myself without just painting boring old boxes. Second, I want to understand more about how my paint is mixing and reacting and how putting one color next to another color works.

When I first started this, I sat and stared at it for a long time in this state:

Even though I am not right on the money, I am closer than I have been in the past. This also gave me an opportunity to see if my lights and darks were balanced. I like the transparency of the blue. It was fun to layer it over the umber in the background and see it take the effect I was hoping for. It kind of makes me wonder how the reverse would work.

This reminds me of an old ugly digital I once did of a wizards book on a table with objects of wizardry near it. I would like to do one of those again, only in oils, with better drawing skills and more lifelike objects. It is not the most original idea. No, I don't mean the still life, I mean redeeming oneself of old disasters.

I like the idea of playing with paint, two by two, to discover properties and values for myself. Reading is great and it gives me a starting point, but putting these theories into action has been a rather random act until I started doing this. I am not sure I am done with the blue and umber. I would like to try to get better warms out of the umber than I did this time. I don't expect a miracle, but it is worth a shot. Sometimes the best knowledge you can bring to the table is knowing what you cannot (or should not) do. Working under such limited conditions has caused me to be more creative in my solutions to problems and really think my way through obstacles. That can never be a bad thing.

Overworked and Underpaid

Monochrome Sugar Bowl and Vase
Oil on Panel
Raw Umber and Titanium White.

I ruined this. No, its not my worst, but I ruined it nonetheless. It was at its best at about 25-30 paint strokes before this picture. Since this is one of my babies, I am found myself looking at it pleading for forgiveness.

"Please forgive me, little one. I don't know why I couldn't stop fiddling. Then one fiddle caused another fiddle.. and the next thing I know I had fiddled you to death." I said as I hung my head in shame. The guilt washed over me and filled me like ooze draining down my spine.

"But my ellipses were pretty good for a while." The little study spoke back in breathy response. Even in its dying breath, encouragement was still the primary objective.

I took careful aim with my camera and hesitated for a moment as I took one more look with my own eyes before taking the last shot. "I don't want to remember you like this" I cried. "I never dreamed it would end up like this. I am so very very sorry"

"Take the shot." The study said firmly. "Take it and put me to rest. Then, one day you will come upon another study that is much like me and you will remember much more clearly how this should have ended. It is then, that you will become the hero you are meant to be. It is then that my own destiny shall be fulfilled."

I took sight again of the study leaning heavily against the drawing board. I aimed carefully and took the shot. As I pulled the body from the clips that were holding it to the board, I scanned the surface once more looking for the good strokes under all of those horrible life stealing strokes. There was no evidence. I carefully placed the study in the darkness of the chest and closed the lid softly as if it were sleeping.

"I will not let his death... No! I will not let his life be in vain!" I stated as I headed up the stairs to the kitchen door. In that moment I finally understood that my life's purpose was to avenge the death of this study and so many other studies before him. As I opened the door to the kitchen I heard myself mumble "These guys simply do not get paid enough for the work they do!"

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Monochromatic Vase

Monochromatic Vase
Oil on Panel
Raw Umber and Titanium White.

Playing with transparencies and the cool/warm effects of them on this. Raw umber all alone is warm. Raw Umber with a tiny bit of Titanium White is warm. Raw umber with a lot of Titanium White is cool and Titanium White all alone is cool. This all sounds pretty simple, but can be kind of tricky in practice. The real key is that if you really want a warm, you must put a cool next to it and vice versa.

I am on a quest to really learn the qualities of the paints I have at my disposal and the effects that they have in a painting. I don't think this is something that can be explained in mere words. I think this is something that has to be built into instinct. (then later claim it is pure talent and brag about my gene pool) Aaron Coberly posted some limited palette paintings on the Conceptart forums that are truly inspirational. CLICK HERE Although his are not the first I have been amazed by, his are a fantastic example of what can be achieved if you really know your tools.

On page 29 of Art and Fear the authors talk about a ceramics class that was split into two groups. One group was told to produce one perfect pot for their grade and the other was told their grade was dependent upon the quantity of pots they produced. As you can guess, the quantity group produced much better results. A little further in the book on page 35 it says "What you need to know about the next piece is contained in the last piece."

That is what is happening here. Every day I head out to my studio and look at the last piece and figure out how to manipulate what I learned the day before into the next piece. My vase is crooked and I am still off perspective. I kind of like the way I put more detail in the drapery. If I had it to do again, I would...

Wait.. I do have it to do again! Never mind, that is tomorrows post.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Monochromatic Sugar

Monochromatic Sugar
Oil on Panel
Raw Umber and Titanium White.

This is pretty much the mate to the previous painting. I got a little more into the drapery this time. I am not sure if that is a good thing or not. I am enjoying the monochromatic look. It gives me a chance to play with values and brush strokes. I haven't quite got it figured out how the transparency is working with this palette. I still want to play a bit and see what I can do with it. In some places where it looks warmest, there is just a very thin layer of raw umber wiped off. Where it looks coolest, there is titanium white mixed in the umber. It is an interesting effect that I did not take into consideration before I started painting.

I guess this means, I need to do another one.

Monochromatic Creamer

Monochromatic Creamer
Oil on Panel
Raw Umber and Titanium White.

I found this creamer while cleaning out the garage. It was with my salt and pepper shaker collection. There is a matching sugar bowl that is probably going to be todays painting. I think I am going to do a few mono chromatics and see what I can discover. I did a lot of playing in the paint on this. I put a stroke here and there and then wiped it out etc. It is a lot like drawing, only easier to erase.

I got my studio (art corner in the garage) pretty much set up and its just kind of nice to be surrounded by my stuff. It is funny how doing these studies seems a lot more genuine when I do them in a "studio" setting. It is completely a frame of mind, but its the frame of mind I have been hoping to get into since I started this quest to become a decent artist.

Tori-Girl is liking the studio as well. She came in and painted with her acrylics yesterday. It is nice to know that even though I have my own space, I don't have to be completely alone. I enjoy her company and she seems to enjoy our alone time. It is interesting how getting a space of my own could lead to a space for togetherness. I didn't imagine this when I first thought of claiming that space. It is a wonderful bonus.

Monday, July 02, 2007

My 4th of July Prayer

Dear God,

While I sit in my home and whine about my son leaving for college in August, there is a mother trying her best to hold back tears as her son or daughter prepares to go to Iraq. If it is possible to negotiate some "God" time, can I give my turn to her?

While I brag about my oldest daughter moving just 45 minutes from my home, there is a father counting the days until his son or daughter steps a foot back in our country. While I am so thankful for the safety for my child I have to ask that his child return to him just as safe.

It is hard to imagine when you are lacing up their tennis shoes that one day they might be lacing up a pair of military boots. We teach them to be team players. We teach them to be proud of their country. We teach them to do what is right. We never imagine that one day we might regret that they listened. God, please remind them that we said we loved them too. Don't forget to tell them we are proud of them while you are at it.

Thank you for this wonderful country. Thank you for my amazing family. Thank you for my beautiful home. On this day, at this time, I would like to give extra thanks for all of the young men and women who are doing their best to make sure that all I treasure so dearly remain safe. Thank you for the moms and dads who are over there wishing they could light a sparkler for their little one. Thank you for the grandfathers or grandmothers that are missing the hometown parade with their children and grandchildren. And God, if I missed anyone, most especially, thank you for them because I don't want to leave a single soldier out.

Please God, keep an eye on those of us who are remembering the ones that have fallen. If you can, please forgive us for being a little angry that our prayers to bring them home safely were not answered. While we all know their reasons for going and we are proud they they did what they believed was right, we miss them. Before they were soldiers, they were brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, aunts and uncles.. they were cousins. We just wish we could have given them one more hug before they left.

.. And God,

Please tell Tony I am sorry I smashed his sandcastles.

- Amen