Saturday, December 26, 2009

Learning--Winter Beach Painting--Patterns in the Sand

Not too long ago, I posted an entry about winter walks on the beach. This painting, Tide Pool Patterns, evolved from photos on a winter walk several years ago. That day, the Atlantic was in a rare indigo mood (the water color is never exactly the same from day to day, changing sometimes subtly, sometimes quite dramatically), and the waves were crashing very white. The receding tide had left shallow pools and interesting patterns and ridges in the sand. I think the earlier hours had been fairly windy, because the beach was more stirred up than sometimes. The view was interesting to me almost in an abstract sense, and I hoped to create a very simple, somewhat empty (if that's the right word) scene where the tonal contrasts, some strong, some subtle, and the abstract design would be the focus.
As in many paintings, this one did not look right for quite awhile. When I painted the wavy patterns in the sand as they actually appeared, it did not work on the canvas because they slanted so sharply that they gave the impression of going steeply downhill. Not wanting to lose the texture and diagonal interest and yet needing a more realistic look, I fought the angles and patterns for several painting sessions until the sand appeared flatter. In the foreground, I sprinkled salt on the wet paint to create some sparkly dimension on a few of the ridges of sand. Even clicking on the detail photo probably doesn't show you that texture, but it's kind of nice. I feel fairly pleased with the final result, which I hope conveys a feeling of peace contrasted with the energy of the background waves.
Question of the day: Isn't it interesting what makes for visual interest and how central a part different kinds of contrasts play in what is pleasing to the eye?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Learning--Romanticized Creek Painting--Color Mixing and a Cerulean Blue Palette

Looking back, I realized that I had never posted this painting for you. Creek Bend Fantasy, painted several years ago, is a personal favorite--not completely sure why--just like it, that's all. As with many of my landscapes, the reference scene is a humble place that many people would pass without giving it much notice. We look from a small bridge over Hogan Road toward a bend in Little Pottsburg Creek, not far from our home. The piece is 18" X 24", acrylic on gallery wrap canvas.
The painting developed in an interesting way. The original intention was for something more direct and realistic. The resulting composition still builds on the actual scene, but is romanticized somewhat. As the painting developed in early stages, through block-in and then the truly ugly stage many pieces experience, I somewhat wildly stroked in what were intended as base colors and movement in the creek and then didn't want to completely cover them. The dark woodsy area on the left seemed sort of mysterious and fairy-like, and I also hated to lose that feeling with too much detailed development. So the result blends realism and fantasy.
The palette was based on cerulean blue and cadmium red deep, an unlikely pairing that produces some very interesting neutral purply tones. The rest of the palette consists of sap green, burnt sienna, white, and black, with very minor touches of yellow ochre and ultramarine blue. Except for brilliant flowers, I seldom use the intense colors of acrylic paints straight out of the tube. They are especially unsuitable for landscapes without some modification. Besides, mixing colors is such fun and can produce such gorgeous and surprising results. I have a number of pieces of paper and card stock on which I have played with color mixing in a whole range of palettes. Here in North Florida, we have an amazing range of colors and tones in the sky, the ocean, marshes, creeks, rivers, forests, and meadows, constantly changing with the seasons and our changeable weather. So, as long as I remember to label the paint colors I used for each set of mixes, they form a valuable reference bank for a variety of paintings.
Question of the day: Where would we be without color?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Savoring the Holiday Season--Easy Entertaining and Hummus Recipe

Once again I am repeating an older post for the sake of newer readers--and truthfully, to keep the blog going when I don't have time to write an entire new post. I hope you enjoy it.

What is better than laid-back time with friends? Here Maggie, our shih-tzu, enjoys having a couple of buddies over.

My husband and I also enjoy entertaining friends at home. It can be relaxing and budget-friendly. However, since I enjoy digging through recipes and planning special dishes, I sometimes make too much work of entertaining. That has its place and time, but can get in the way of fun and spontaneity. We also have some favorite, well-worn, quick and easy recipes. During the holiday season, especially, we rely on these favorites to make getting together easy.

The first step is a well-stocked kitchen, I think. Who wants to hunt store shelves for obscure ingredients just to have an informal gathering? All Maggie needs are a few milk bones and a big bowl of water, and she is ready to party. For us, homemade hummus is a favorite snack, so I keep the ingredients on hand. It is simple, healthier than cheese, and feels festive to me.

Instead of dinner, sometimes we invite people for wine and snacks (plus maybe beer and/or iced tea or soda, depending on their preferences). Late Sunday afternoon is a good time to hang out and graze. Among the easy snacks on the coffee table would be roasted almonds, fresh pears, apples or grapes, and homemade hummus with raw vegetables and grainy crackers (or pita, if it happens to be around). We are seldom without baby carrots and bell peppers--jicama sticks are also yummy with hummus.

My friend, Sarah Bayley, wins the prize for best quick hummus recipe, and I almost always serve hers--sometimes with a different twist, depending on my mood or what is in the kitchen or herb garden. You can either prepare it ahead or serve it immediately. Thank you, Sarah, for sharing your recipe with all of us.

1 can garbanzo beans (chick peas), drained & rinsed

3 - 4 green onions, in two or three pieces

2 small cloves garlic, in big chunks

1/4 cup olive oil*

2 Tblsp. bottled lemon juice

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

a few shakes of hot sauce

For extra flavor, add either

1/4 cup fresh cilantro or

2 Tblsp sun-dried tomato pesto or

2 Tblsp. sun-dried tomatoes, cut in chunks, plus a couple of fresh basil leaves

*I use sun-dried tomatoes in herb & garlic flavored oil and add 1 Tblsp. or so of the oil from the jar in place of some of the plain olive oil.

Puree all in a food processor until creamy. If the mixture is too thick & stiff, you can add a small amount of water (a tsp. or so at a time). Careful--it should be about as firm as a spread.

That's it--instant party--and people always love it, even when we have served it to them a number of times before.

Question of the day: What snack or appetizer do you rely on for informal entertaining?

Monday, December 14, 2009

We Have a Winner!--Update on Purple Iris Painting

I am personally very happy that the winning bid for this painting, including free shipping was submitted by a wonderful regular reader of this blog, Autumn Leaves. She is a delightful person, a great encouragement to me and many others, and writes a fun blog. Congratulations, Autumn!
Thank you all for your interest.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Exploring--Our North Florida Winter Beach Plus Bidding Update

I wish you all a very joy-filled holiday season. Although we try to keep our Christmas season low key and focused on what really matters, it is still a fairly busy time. Because of that, our little Shih-Tzu, Maggie, and I have not been to the beach in the last few weeks. Missing the wide sweep of sand with timeless waves rolling in, I decided to post a few Jacksonville Beach photos with today's greetings.
These are early winter shots, taken on two different November days, quite late in the day. The sun setting behind homes and buildings casts long shadows on the sand. The beach in one photo is littered with broken shells, kelp and other marine vegetation, tossed up by wind-driven waves at high tide on a stormy day. Looking up the beach, you may be able to see the Jacksonville Beach Pier in the distance.
Now, a month later, fewer people would be wading in the cooling water, and the only swimmers would be visitors from Canada or Minnesota or someplace like that. They've come al the way to Florida for the warm weather, and by golly, they're going to jump in that ocean even though both the air and North Florida's Atlantic waters are chilly.
OK, I've talked myself into it. Instead of missing the beach, I promise myself to walk there sometime this week, even for a short visit. It will be good for my peace of mind and spiritual center.
Question of the day: If this is a busy time for you, what quiet, centering moments do you plan to include in the next few weeks?
Bidding for the 9" x 12" original painting, Purple Iris Solitaire, remains at zero, so it looks like a low bid will take it. Deadline for bidding is noon on Monday, December 14. Bidding starts at $12; a bid of $20 or more will win you free shipping in the US and $5 off international shipping. Scroll down for more details and a photo of the painting.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Savoring--An Unexpected Gift--Idea for Stress-free Holiday Giving--Plus, Bidding Update

A lovely, unexpected gift from an artist who works in iron prompted an idea for stress-free holiday giving. If you celebrate Christmas, or any other holiday which calls for a number of gifts all at the same time, I have a radical proposal for a no-stress alternative.
But first, the gift we received a couple of weeks ago: the amazing hummingbird pictured here. In a recent post about our backyard flowers, I showed you an iron obelisk, a garden sculpture our mandevilla vine happily climbed. In that post, I mentioned and provided a link to the iron worker who created the piece, Scott Hornbaker of Hunt Country Iron in St. Mary's Georgia. After I shot him a quick email to let him know that I was in the process of making him world-famous, he wrote back with gratitude. Would we please come to the Riverside Art Market here in Jacksonville, Florida one Saturday to pick up a thank-you gift he had for us? As you can see, the gift is amazing. In case you are wondering, he creates his work in wrought iron with the intention that it will oxidize, as it does quite quickly in our climate. For customers who want to retain the black finish, he can advise them on methods to achieve the look they want.
One of the delights of this beautiful gift is that it was completely unexpected--which led to a thought about simplifying the Christmas season. We could agree with certain family members or friends to skip exchanging gifts during the holiday season. Rather, we would send or bring each person a gift at some random time--wrapped as a Merry Christmas surprise when least expected. Maybe that's a little wacky, but could be fun. The unexpected gift might come when the recipient is feeling a bit low or when an expression of love is especially welcome. Other advantages of starting such a tradition include easing the financial burden of buying multiple gifts all at one time.
Question of the day: Do you have any unusual, creative gift giving traditions or ideas for your holiday celebrations?
Update on bidding for Purple Iris Solitaire painting from previous post:
There are no bids on this painting so far. Given that blog traffic falls off sharply this time of the year, it may not be the best time for me to run this offer. However, the lack of bids so far means that someone might be able to win this 9" x 12" painting for a very low price, well below retail!!
To clarify the shipping part of the offer: If the winning bid is between $12 and $19.99, I will ship it for $4.95 flat rate Priority Mail (at real cost with no additional charges) anywhere in the US. I will ship at the lowest possible cost for an international purchaser, by mutual agreement as to method and cost. However, if the winning bid is $20 or more, I will ship free anywhere in the US and will give an international purchaser $5 off the shipping charge.
This is a great offer for a nicely stylized floral painting. Get in on the bidding now; it will close at noon on Monday, December 14, 2009.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Growing--Floral Painting Up for Bid--Limited Time Offer

Although I do not normally use this blog as a marketing tool, some of you have emailed to ask if the paintings I post are for sale. The answer is yes, and one of my growth areas will be in online marketing. I hope to begin a website or other internet outlet early in the new year.
In the meantime, I thought it might be fun to take bids on this 9" x 12" floral painting, Purple Iris Solitaire. It is an acrylic on canvas board, coated with a clear medium. Quality acrylics are non-toxic and durable, do not fade, and can be cleaned with a damp cloth. They will last literally for generations--something to hand down as well as to enjoy now. The journey involved in creating this piece is described in my September 13 post.
I will take bids of $12 or more via email at; if the highest bidder offers $20 or more, I will include free shipping within the US via USPS priority mail. As always, I offer an unconditional money-back guarantee on paintings returned within 10 days in original condition--no questions asked. If you are not satisfied, the painting will go to the second highest bidder. So this is a no-risk opportunity to purchase one-of-a-kind, original art (I do not make copies or prints of any of my paintings) for yourself or as a holiday gift. I sell works unframed in order to keep prices down and so that you can choose your own framing style. This painting will fit any standard 9" x 12" frame, can be custom-framed, or can be displayed as is on a small easel.
On Wednesday, December 9, and again on Saturday, the 12th, I will post the current highest bid for your information. Then, the following Monday, December 14, the winner will be announced (remaining anonymous is an option). The painting will be shipped as soon as the winner's payment clears.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Growing--New Landscape Painting--Tranquil Creek Bend

This is one of my newest paintings, completed just in time for the Open Studio Reception. Two photos show portions of the painting for more detail (and as always, you can click on a photo to enlarge it). Once again, the location is a spot that many people would walk by without stopping to look. A small bridge on Hogan Road crosses Little Pottsburg Creek near our home on the south side of Jacksonville, Florida. On the lookout for scenes with water features, I pulled over to explore and was especially taken with the view in one direction, where the creek widened and curved out of sight around a bend. A thickly wooded bank on one side was countered by oddly charming, spindly trees rising above bushes on the other. The trees reminded me of children experiencing a sudden growth spurt practicing in dance class, somehow combining awkwardness and grace.
This is the second painting to emerge from photos taken that day. I decided to push myself away from my favorite palette and began with a pinkish sky. Although the sky was actually a pale overcast grey, the pink tones somehow captured the bright, warm haze of that morning--the kind of light that requires sunglasses in spite of pervasive cloud cover. One painting goal was to let the sky set a certain mood and to continue experimenting with a limited palette of ultramarine blue, cerulean blue, Paynes grey, cadmium red deep, burnt sienna, yellow ochre, and white. All greens, browns, and blackish tones are mixed from these colors. The second painting goal was to try to evoke the tranquility of the moment and the feeling of mystery as the creek glided around a bend and out of sight. The reflections in the water seemed central to portraying the stillness of the scene.
As usual, pursuing the goals of this piece gave me fits along the way, and it was even more difficult than usual to decide when to stop revising and to declare the painting finished. For some reason, I continued to tinker with small details, to wish it looked a bit different (but not knowing precisely what to change), and to put it away repeatedly to pull out days later for more tinkering. Of course, this can be the ruin of a decent creation, and I finally had to exert some self-discipline and just STOP. Have you seen news features about chimps, elephants, or other non-human animals who paint amazing abstracts? One commentator remarked that the unseen co-artist is the person who pulls their work away and gives them a fresh canvas. Left to themselves, they would happily continue slapping on more and more paint--producing, presumably, a less interesting result. I can definitely relate to the chimps who might not be the best judges of when to stop painting. However this piece, now signed and finished with a light coat of medium, has been declared officially complete and has hung on our bedroom wall for a few weeks. And, as it catches my eye in lamplight or as morning brightens, it has definitely grown on me.
Question: What experiences have you had with the art of knowing when to stop?