Thursday, December 8, 2011

Ideas for Hosting an Art Reception

As promised a few weeks ago, I will describe some of the planning and set-up details from the Open Studio Reception we held in early November (see photos in two earlier posts below). My studio is a small nook in (of all places) our master bathroom (this post shows the arrangement). People enjoy seeing such a novel and yet functional use of space. Also, it is surprising to me how many people are curious about how artists work and what our work space looks like. So, as we had two years ago, we invited a number of friends, neighbors, and acquaintances to join us on a Sunday afternoon from 2 - 5 to enjoy a party and see some paintings. UPDATE: I have now added an index to all blog posts about planning and holding an art reception. Access it here.

Our two receptions have been more elaborate than such events need to be. The main goal is to display artwork and, in a very casual and low-key way, to offer the pieces for sale. We wanted to make the occasion a fun party, too, so hired a piano player and offered beverages, appetizers, and small desserts each time. It's fun, but fairly expensive--and was a ton of work the first time before we acquired a catering daughter-in-law. In the future, I would like to try a reception with very simple food--maybe just cookies and punch, or cider with cheese and crackers.
I sent out postcard invitations to a wide list of people. The guest book information from the first reception was an invaluable source for the second. In order to encourage everyone to sign the guest book, I offer a prize drawing using the guest book signatures. Each entry is numbered, so late in the party, I simply put little numbered squares of cardboard (made in advance)--one for each actual guest book entry--into a bowl and draw the winners. A large poster board sign outside the front door read: "Please sign our guest book for a chance to win a prize." It listed prizes (this year, first prize was a $100 gift certificate toward any painting, second was a custom tote bag printed with an image of the same painting as on the postcard invitations). It gave the time of the drawing (4:15) and that you do not have to be present to win, which is an incentive to provide contact information in the guest book. This works very well; I am quite certain that every guest to both receptions not only signed the guest book, but provided an address and email and/or phone information.
Some of you might be interested in other details of the planning and set-up, but this post is long enough already. If you would like a description of my price and painting care information sheet and/or list of planning tasks essential to preparation for this kind of event, I will include that in a future post. Let me know. For now, I include photos of some recycled art bookmarks, an idea from Linda Blondheim, that guests enjoyed and purchased by the bunch. The process: After finishing the last couple paintings, I cleaned the palettes (always hate to waste paint) by stroking various leftover colors mixed with some white gesso in a sort of marbled pattern on the back of unneeded studies and a painting reject. Then, I cut them neatly into bookmark-sized strips, which creates interesting abstracts from the original paintings. These sold for $2 each, or 3 for $5. One photo shows the "fronts" and one the "backs" of the bookmarks.
Question of the day: In your area, do you see fewer people going to formal art galleries to purchase art? What are some other ways you see artists and craftspeople marketing their work?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Very Happy Thanksgiving!

I seldom show my family or post purely personal experiences, but felt like thanking God one more time with a few images from our holiday gathering. For both my husband and me, celebrating with a large extended family has not been possible for--well--for decades. Our siblings, nieces and nephews all live a distance away and are scattered in various eastern and Great Lakes states. Even our immediate family has not been able to gather very often, due to distance and other factors, until this past year. Our California son and his wife moved to the Atlanta, Georgia area a little over a year ago, and our other son and his wife live right here in Jacksonville, Florida.
We feel deeply grateful to have our four wonderful "kids" (have to count the amazing women the boys married as our own, too) fairly nearby. Last Thanksgiving the six of us celebrated in Jacksonville with a meal on Thanksgiving Friday so that one couple could gather with her side of the family on Thursday and to make travel simpler for the others. However, our Georgia daughter-in-law gave up considerable income to be with us on Friday and Saturday. So this year, we all met at their home south of Atlanta. None of us can stop talking about how terrific it was to be together again this year.
The photos show Sumry's beautiful table setting, the fantastic cooks (Ashley and Sumry--Husband, Mark did a lot of baking, too, and I made a dish, but had the easiest holiday ever), the expert clean-up crew (Dirk and Pete), and the guys watching the turkey deep fryer (until we moved south, I never would have believed that a fried turkey could be so juicy, non-greasy, and delicious--not to mention the under-an-hour cooking time). Extra points to readers who can untangle that ridiculous sentence! The pictures also show what gorgeous weather we enjoyed for the day.
This comes with prayers and hopes that all of you have enough of what really matters in life and that you live in thankfulness and peace.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Open Studio Reception -- a Great Party

Our daughter-in-law outdid herself catering our Open Studio Reception last week. All the food was absolutely delicious, and the table looked festive and appealing. The irresistible desserts looked lovely on a buffet on the side, and our guests certainly did them justice. A fine calligrapher, Ashley made little signs for each dish so that there was no mystery about the food. UPDATE: I have added an index to all blog posts about planning and holding an art reception. Access it here. 

I would have liked more photos of the whole scene and the guests interacting, but hosting and mingling (and attaching those wonderful "sold" stickers to some paintings) were much more important. We were fortunate with the weather; although it was cloudy, the afternoon steadily brightened and became milder, but not hot. You see a few of the guests enjoying the gentle breeze in the backyard.
For the artists among my readers--and anyone else interested--I will soon post more information about the reception details. Important features of the day like the guest book, door prizes, sales tax, receipts, and studio policies all needed to be considered, planned, and set up in advance. You may find ideas for your own parties and for art marketing.
Question of the day: Isn't it fantastic that we can share events and information through blogs?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Set-up for the Open Studio Reception

Our Open Studio Reception this past Sunday afternoon was a wonderful event in every way. It will take me a few posts to tell you all about it. The support of my rock (husband Mark), the incredible catering of our daughter-in-law, Ashley (with her able assistant, husband Pete), the classy piano music of our friend Greg, and the warmth and encouragement of many friends and neighbors made this possible. Given my shy, introverted nature, planning--even considering--this kind of event is extremely daunting. But my life has been enriched over and over by the times that I push myself way out of my comfort zone to achieve a new goal--like staging this event. UPDATE: I have now added an index to all blog posts about planning and holding an art reception. Access it here.

These photos were taken the afternoon before on a heavily clouded day. I had hoped for brighter weather on the day of the reception, but it stayed quite cloudy all day Sunday. Thus, some photos are too dark too show you, and none of them quite do justice to the display of paintings shown all around our home. In these, you see a pair of 5" x 7" marsh paintings atop a chest of drawers in our bedroom, scenes from two very different local beaches hanging in the guest bedroom (one 18" x 24" and the other 12" x 16"), and a 9" x 12" sanderling in the surf on a nightstand.
Altogether, I showcased 17 paintings of coastal North Florida scenes in various sizes and prices. I sold two immediately and have several people considering investing in some of the larger pieces. Last time we held an Open Studio Reception, two major paintings sold about two weeks later, once patrons had time to think it over. I always offer a full refund for any reason because it is important to give buyers a chance to try a piece out in their home or business to make sure it works well for them. All my artist friends tell me that selling even one piece at this kind of event is good, that giving people an opportunity to see the work is the main purpose. The first time we tried a reception like this, I was truly amazed to sell a total of 8 paintings (counting those sold later as a result of the showcase) and of course, did not expect a repeat of that.
Then, to my surprise, I sold a painting that was not for sale! A gentleman was asking about my earlier work and admiring a scene of dunes and sea that I had done on heavy art paper about 8 years ago--early in my painting career. I told him that it had never mounted properly and pointed out some air bubbles under the work. To encourage myself, I had framed it anyway because I liked the way it had turned out. However, I had never offered it for sale because of the mounting flaws. Undeterred, he made a fair offer for the piece--and I made a totally unexpected sale.
Question of the day: Don't you just love it when an unexpected bonus comes your way? I give thanks for even the very minor serendipities in life.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

New Small Painting of a Tropical Beach--Fantasy Get-away

Our week and weekend have been crazy--in a good way. I don't have much time right now to write a post, but don't see a better time in the next couple of days.
So, here's a quick post to show you a small new piece, painted on 5" x 7" gallery wrapped canvas, where the image wraps around the sides. I gave this tropical scene as a gift to friends for whom it has special meaning. In planning the composition, I used a blend of my imagination and reference photos from a very special vacation to Belize from some years ago and from a beach in the Dominican Republic. When we lived in the Atlanta area, our church sent groups to the DR for a number of years, bringing simple medical services and helping seed some small enterprises in mountain villages. I was fortunate to be able to go on several of those trips. Given the difficult drive down the mountain to the airport on the northern coast, we convinced ourselves that we really needed to go down the day before our morning flight back to the U.S. Thus, the group spent the final afternoon and evening of each trip at a small beach resort--not too hard to take :>).
So this is a departure from my usual focus on painting the beauty right here in coastal North Florida. Hope you enjoy it as a fantasy get-away; I added a hammock just for you.
Question of the day: What would make a perfect dream vacation for you?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Open Studio Reception Coming Soon

I am excited that we are again opening our home (and my little art studio) for a reception in a couple of weeks. Our local daughter-in-law, Ashley, will cater, which will make this event much, much simpler for me than the previous reception two years ago. She makes amazing party food and is a super hostess, too. Again, we are fortunate that our friend, Greg Spiess, a super party pianist, will provide music for the gathering. UPDATE: I have now added an index to all blog posts about planning and holding an art reception. Access it here.

A number of items on my planning list are checked off, leaving a task list that seems manageable. It was a wonderful feeling to put a big batch of postcard invitations in the mail this morning; a few more await completion once I locate addresses.
If you are reading this, you are definitely invited! What a treat it would be if blogging friends from far and near could be magically transported to our home in Jacksonville, Florida to join us. But perhaps some of you are nearby and as yet not personally known to me; if you are interested, come on down!
The postcard invitation, pictured here front and back, really looks great. On the advice of some artist friends, I order business cards, postcards, etc. from Vistaprint online and have been pleased with the results and the reasonable price. I even was able to order a nice tote bag imprinted with the same image, which will be one of the door prizes for the day. Now, to finish the last couple of smaller paintings which will be displayed (and for sale) all around the house.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Our Visit to Georgia and FDR's Warm Springs Home

We have returned from a delightful week with our Georgia son and his wife; they completely spoiled us while we were with them. Although we lived in the Atlanta area for about 9 years before moving to Jacksonville, Florida, visiting their home shows us a completely different side of the city from our old stomping grounds in the northern suburbs. Both areas are beautiful, with hills and gorgeous natural vegetation. But now we have an opportunity to be tourists again, taking drives (while they are at work) to places we have not seen before. Poking around wherever we are (including near home) adds a creative dimension to our lives.
This time, we drove to Warm Springs, GA, and toured the "Little White House", seeing the grounds and home of the modest retreat where Franklin Delano Roosevelt stayed whenever he "took the waters" to soothe the pain of his polio and to increase his mobility. The exhibits, short film, and personal possessions housed in the museum on the property fascinated us both. Seeing the personal side of this great man was more moving than we had expected. The cottage (seen in these photos) is charming and surprising in its simplicity. FDR unexpectedly died in this house; he felt ill while sitting for a portrait (now displayed in its unfinished form in the museum) and doing presidential paperwork. He retired to his bed and died within a few hours from a cerebral hemorrhage.
The historians have made every effort to keep the home and outbuildings unchanged from that day (except for welcome modifications, like air conditioning). The buildings just inside the gate housed Secret Service personnel and the few servants who cared for FDR, his family (when they came), and visiting dignitaries who sometimes stayed in two simple guest rooms in the rustic home. One photo shows a custom built 1940 Willys Roadster equipped with hand controls; a 1938 Ford convertible fitted with the hand controls Roosevelt himself designed is in the museum. He drove both for pleasure and to keep himself in touch with ordinary people, visiting and listening to the stories of both black and white rural Georgians whenever he was in residence. Another photo shows one of four Marine Corps Sentry Posts just off the corners of the cottage.
Here, we were reminded of the formidable challenges FDR faced as president of the United States through the Depression aftermath and World War II. But more striking to us was the vivid depiction of his personal pain and struggles and his daily courage as he continued to work at a punishing pace and to encourage the nation. FDR's nobility of spirit shines clear. We saw his heart for others and his generosity in establishing the nearby Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for disabled children and adults and in his work to remove the stigma and loneliness of polio and other disabling conditions and injuries. Our visit to the Little White House was memorable.
Question of the day: What historic site in the US would you recommend people visit (even those of us who are not history buffs)?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Painting of a Wooded Path

Here is the painting of a wooded path I showed you as a work-in-progress a couple of posts ago. Loosely based on a scene at our nearby Kingsley Plantation (which has appeared in a few previous posts and some other paintings), the piece is nearly finished. I have adjusted the light and shadow patterns on the path and have added some details in the upper right quadrant (the intended focal area). There will be a few more adjustments, but nothing that will be very noticeable in a snapshot. At least, that is my current thinking. Sometimes, I get a new insight after putting a nearly complete piece away for awhile.
However, I am wary of overworking a painting, a real temptation for a detail-oriented perfectionist like me. So, it's smart to stop before I feel that a piece is totally "there" and put it away for a time. I am much more likely to detract from a work by continuing to fiddle with it at this stage than to improve it much.
Given the sort of person I am, painting has been very good for me. Artistic pieces are never "perfect" or "correct" in the same sense that something like an algebra solution is. I am learning to enjoy the process above all and to let go of the need to keep trying to improve a painting that is "almost there". In art, there may be no "there" there--as someone said in another context. Looser work with some imperfection is often fresher, livelier, and easier for viewers to relate to. Stiff, overly fussy detailed work misses the mark in terms of communicating an artistic vision. Nature, after all, achieves its beauty in the variations, asymmetry, and yes, imperfections of living things and natural features of the landscape. So, for a representative landscape painter, letting go of perfectionism is the perfect approach.
Question of the day: What recent project or undertaking has proven to be a helpful corrective to your personal tendencies?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Early Autumn, North Florida Style

In North Florida, we do get distinctive seasonal change, which I truly enjoy--especially the coming of autumn. However, our autumn is quite different from the season I grew up with on Lake Michigan's shore. Although some of our trees change color, many are evergreen--or have leaves that just curl up and turn brown before they drop. Whatever "typical" autumn changes come this year, they are still a month or two away. I do miss the brilliant colors of autumn in places we have lived before. But even here, with the sun slanting at a lower angle and a softer hue in the sky, I still feel the same lift to my spirits as always. Some of you may find autumn a bit sad, a kind of ending. For me, it has always been enlivening. Maybe that's because I loved school and the beginning of the new school year. Brand new pencils, marching band practice, football mums from a special guy, and Orion rising in the night sky, are all a breath of fresh air. In fact, this is the time of year I am most likely to start a new venture, to renew my exercise program, and to make resolutions as the lifting of the heat provides me with newfound energy.
Here in coastal North Florida, late-blooming flowers are an early autumn bonus that comes with slightly cooler nights (and finally, sufficient rain). Our mandevilla vine waited even longer than usual to bloom this year, but has been lovely. Off and on for awhile, I have been working on a small painting of these brilliant blooms, but have not yet achieved the colors I want. It's frustrating. Florals can be much more difficult than you might think, and I am always impressed by the lovely paintings of accomplished floral artists. Maybe I'll need to be content with enjoying the real thing.
Question of the day: Have you lived in distinctly different climates at different times? How do you feel about the beginning of autumn?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Open Studio Class--A Creative Community

On Saturday, I again traveled over to Gainesville, Florida, for Linda Blondheim's Open Studio Class. For this class, we each bring our own works in progress (especially those that seem not to be progressing :>) to Linda's retail loft studio above the Paddiwhack shop. We work at tables or bring an easel and enjoy ample opportunity to ask for advice and direction as we plan or paint. Linda is an ideal art teacher; she respects each student's vision and style (never trying to push us to paint her way), yet offering keen insights and helpful suggestions to help us do our best work. I wish she were nearer, as the drive takes me over an hour and a half each way--but it's all well worth it whenever I can make the trip.
Six of us came to paint this time, so we had plenty of kind encouragement and the inspiration of participating in a creative community for a couple of hours. At her Art Notes blog, designed as a kind of on-line journal describing her work and thoughts, Linda has posted a photo of this delightful group with the pieces we worked on. In the photos here, you see several of us at work with Linda's guidance. In the background, you can see the amazing paintings Linda shows in her Paddiwhack loft. I include a photo (not the best shot, I fear) of my 16" x 20" woodland path "work in progress". The path itself needs the most work. Once that is in better form, I will spruce up other areas, especially the intended focal point in the top right quadrant, with a double trunk tree and some red-orange wildflowers catching the sunlight. Hopefully, I will have the final version to show you fairly soon, although I alternate working on this piece with several smaller paintings that are on a deadline, so it will take some time.
Question of the day: Under what circumstances do you prefer working alone on a project, and when do you prefer a creative community?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Painting Process--My Easel Set-up

Today, you see a typical set-up at my easel. For most paintings, I place an old piece of heavy poster board against the easel behind the canvas so that I can tape things to it for reference. Nearly all my landscape pieces are studio paintings based on actual scenes, so the main reference photos go up on the board first. Below, you see one of the marsh reference photos I am using for these small paintings. The other item you see in this easel photo is a sheet of paper with a couple of quick sketches and other notes. Many of you know that I am a planner, rather than painting completely spontaneously. However, the amount of advance planning varies for different paintings. This is a relatively simple example for a pair of 5" x 7" salt marsh paintings, currently in progress.
In the photo of the sheet of paper, you see that I have done minimal sketching for these pieces. Given their rocky progress to this point, I may have done better to prepare more detailed value studies, planning the balance of lights and darks--but I didn't this time. I also did less in the way of color studies than I might do for larger works, but I did explore some of the possible gold and buff mixes for the dry winter grasses. Notice (learned this the hard way) that I recorded the tube colors used for each mix and also wrote down the colors used for sky and water (though without a sample patch) and the list of tube colors for this particular limited palette. Some artists probably can do with less written down, but I often am working on several pieces at the same time, so one may be set aside for awhile. It definitely helps to have notes about color blends used when I return to a work in progress after some time has passed.
Linda Blondheim, my painting mentor, suggested this blog post topic when I journeyed over to Gainesville, Florida on Saturday for one of her Open Studio Classes. I am thrilled that she is offering this class again; she had stopped for a number of months, and I missed the guidance she offers painters with any work they bring to the gathering. When Linda saw this set-up, she felt that others might like a peek at my typical messy work board. You can find earlier posts on similar topics by entering "painting process" in the blog search box, top left of this blog. The June 28, 2010 post in particular shows the planning materials and easel set-up for a study of a shore bird--somewhat like this board. And, as always, you can click on a photo to enlarge it and see more detail.
Question of the day: What triggers, tools, or processes aid you in creative endeavors (whether "artistic " projects or creative problem solving and everyday living)?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Happy to Be Back Online and Back Home from Vacation

I am delighted to be blogging again on our brand-new IMac. Have missed all of you and hope to begin catching up on visits to your blogs as well.
Part of the reason it took awhile to post again is that Mark and I (and the intrepid Shih-Tzu traveler Magnolia) have been on the road for a couple of weeks to spend time with members of each of our families. After a rich time with people we love, we are happy to be home again--especially after putting over 3000 miles on the car. (Little known fact: if you try to type "miles" with your right hand on the wrong keys--due to ineptitude on a new style of keyboard--the result is "nukes". Glad nothing we did involved even one nuke, much less 3000!!!)
Our road trip took us from our North Florida home to Wisconsin via a visit in Tennessee. Oh no, here comes the "what she did on her summer vacation" part! Not to worry, friends, will keep it as brief and painless as possible. The photos show scenes from a hike to Cataract Falls in the beautiful Smoky Mountains where we enjoyed a weekend family reunion with my siblings and their families at a wonderful, affordable lodge just the right size for all of us. From there, we drove to Wisconsin to see Mark's siblings and their families--may show you a few photos from there in a later post.
Question of the day: Well, not really a question; a hope and prayer that all of you have loving, supportive friends or relatives in your lives.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Technical Difficulties--Will post again when I can

My beloved 7 1/2 year old IMac is in a coma, and I think I will let her go this time. So, I am typing from another computer, but don't have access to my photos, etc. I plan to take my time choosing another computer and will not be posting or visiting all your wonderful blogs for a few weeks. I look forward to communicating again later in the month.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Creative Refrigerator Cleaning--Summer Salad with Peas and Carrots

This refreshing summer salad is a repeat post from July 2010; we've enjoyed the tasty, nutritious cold version of traditional peas and carrots often since I originally "created" (i.e., adapted a recipe) it. Many readers have been using my recipes, so thought it might be of interest to any of you who did not see it before. By the way, given my previous entry, be assured that I have my permission to copy my own blog posts--others do not :>). Remember, too, that you can use the search box in the upper left corner of the blog home page to find entries on particular topics; just type in "recipe", "travel", "painting", etc.
Although I often plan meals carefully, some dishes and menus come about sort of accidentally. I hate to waste food, so track our fresh fruit and vegetable supply in order to serve foods as close to their peak of freshness as possible. A few weeks ago, a bag of fresh, peeled, petite carrots proved very disappointing--not very sweet or appealing. So, I had planned to lightly cook and season them, but cooked carrots did not fit well into the next few nights' meal plans. Planning to enjoy BLTs with some yummy tomatoes and a partial pack of bacon left from making something else, I went on-line to search for carrot salad recipes.
The most promising recipe, Pea and Carrot Salad with Shallot Vinaigrette sounded nice, but shallots aren't a staple in this refrigerator (and I had no intention of running to the store). After several other changes to the recipe, I came up with a salad Mark and I both enjoyed. The amounts are approximate and can be adjusted to your family's taste preferences. If you are interested in the original recipe or in the nutrition facts, go to www.foodfit.com.
Pea and Carrot Salad
2 cups raw baby carrots, chopped in 1/2" chunks
3 cups frozen petite green peas
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tblsp. lemon juice
2 Tblsp. red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. sugar
1/4 - 1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion
2 Tblsp. olive oil
1 Tblsp. snipped fresh parsley
dash of salt
generous grinding of black pepper
1. Steam (or boil) chopped carrots for about 3 minutes, until slightly tender, but still crisp. Stir peas into same pot of hot water just enough to thaw them and drain off water immediately (the peas will taste very fresh and sweet this way).
2. Whisk the mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, and sugar together. Stir in chopped onion, then whisk olive oil in, mixing well. Stir in snipped parsley and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
3. Gently toss the peas and carrots in the vinaigrette and serve at room temperature or chilled.
Question of the day: Do you tend to follow recipes, read and then adapt them, or make up your own dishes without a recipe?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Beware of a Known Art Pirate

On a recent visit to Susan Roux's lovely blog, I learned of a person who apparently steals and photoshops the original paintings of others and then markets the result as his own work. Very low behavior, indeed.
Susan has given me permission to provide a link so that my readers are also warned.
Please let me know what you think of her suggestion to "friend" this person on Facebook in order to see if any of my (or your) art work has been fraudulently used in this way. I hesitate to contact him in any way, in case that would make him aware of my paintings. And what action could I take if I did discover improper use of my images? Beyond that, he is unlikely to be the only internet art pirate out there. Life in this Brave New World is complicated.
Question of the day: This sort of piracy is beyond my level of expertise, and I am tempted to simply "play possum" about the whole thing. Yet I certainly do not want my hard work to be stolen. What do you (both artists and others) think?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Jacksonville Beach Painting Progress--Focus on Sky and Sea

It has finally been possible to get back to the Jacksonville Beach scene I began painting a few weeks ago, a small piece in a panoramic format, 6" X 12". Sky and sea were my main interest in this little study, which I worked to keep quick and minimal. Although the piece is not finished, I wanted to show you its present form. The birds are just quick-sketched in with white and grey tones and need some adjustment. There will be a few other refinements in the clouds, beach sand, and waves, but the basics are all here.
As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, working more quickly was a goal for this piece. I work slowly and include a great deal of detail in my larger paintings--perhaps too much at times. The point of this exercise was to help me fight a tendency to be too fussy and instead to take a breezy, minimal approach, intentionally working in shorter sessions.
The palette is very simple: ultramarine blue, cerulean blue, paynes grey, cad red light, a touch of burnt umber (a warm brown), and titanium white. The top photo shows the entire piece; the other is a detail shot. This has been a satisfying study, and I am looking forward to more exercises in a breezier style in the future as well as to planning some larger paintings in my more typical style.
Question of the day: Are you trying something at least a little new and different this summer?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Still Here

I am sorry for my absence from writing and visiting blogs for the last couple of weeks. It has been an extremely busy time--mostly in a good way.
I hope to have a more extensive new post ready for you soon, but wanted to say hello in the meantime. The photo shows a view of our beloved St. John's River, this time from the wide lawn of a Victorian home whose owners hosted one of Mark's Master Gardener events a couple of weeks ago. It is a lovely, characteristically Jacksonville, Florida view. Life is definitely too short for painting all the beauty in our area!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Creativity, Spontaneity, and Planning--Starting a Beach Painting

My regular readers (bless you, one and all!) know that I am a planner. Too a fault! Even in my creative endeavors, I plan. Previous posts have described my usual painting process (if you are interested, enter "painting process" as a search term in the box in the upper left corner of this blog). However, I know planning and taking care with things can be overdone--especially in projects like making a painting. You will chuckle to hear that this week, I am "working on spontaneity".
Since the flurry of finishing paintings for the exhibit at Paddiwhack, I have been working on a vertical piece showing a curving path. It has been moving ahead very slowly, and recently seemed as though the adjustments I made to try to improve it were making things worse. Some paintings are just very stubborn, even though they looked like a great idea in planning and sketching. The best response is sometimes to put it away for awhile and to begin a new piece.
This time, I decided to plunge into the new piece with minimal planning, no sketches, and no tonal studies. It seemed that I had become too careful, too picky over details--and, stuck. What appealed was to start a smallish piece in unusual proportions (12" x 6") with a fairly low horizon focusing on an interesting sky. With a few reference photos and four paint colors (so far), I forced myself to quickly lay in the first coat for the piece in about 20 minutes. It was fun!
Here are a couple of the reference photos--including one of our Shih-Tzu, Magnolia (aka Maggie) tearing down Jacksonville Beach--one of her favorite spots. The block-in of the painting is rough, but seems like a good start. The sky is a mix of cerulean blue and white near the horizon and ultramarine blue and white further up; the ocean uses the same colors, plus a bit of Paynes grey near the horizon. All blues are tempered with a bit of Cadmium red light to neutralize them (tube colors sometimes look phony in landscapes). The beach under-layer is mostly Cad red light and white. This will be adjusted, as our sand is actually somewhat grey-beige, but I want a warm tone present in both the sand and the clouds (which are yet to come).
Question of the day: Am I the only nut who sometimes needs to "work at spontaneity"? How do you overcome creative blocks?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

New Marketing Flyer for Gainesville, Florida Exhibit of Paintings

I am very pleased with the look of my new marketing flyer, prepared for the exhibit of my paintings at Paddiwhack in Gainesville, Florida. I think you can enlarge it by double-clicking on the image. A few posts ago, I showed you the grouping of paintings there and the Artist's Statement written for that show (it is framed and standing near the paintings). Both these publicity pieces will be useful in other contexts as well; I did not want to go to the time and expense of preparing and printing them just for this six week event.
I am grateful to painting mentor Linda Blondheim for excellent advice, generously shared, as I wrote and prepared these materials and to Lori Taylor of Trends Home Decor for layout assistance and low-cost printing for both pieces.
Whenever I visit other artists' shows, I pick up any well-done publicity pieces that are available. For one thing, I enjoy visiting their blogs and web sites and sometimes strike up an email correspondence with some artists, so like to have their contact information. The other reason I keep these materials on file is that they are helpful when I need to prepare my own publicity materials. Of course, I do not copy what another artist has to say. But, as you know, if you have tried to write any publicity piece from scratch, it can be very difficult. For me, it is doubly difficult to write about myself and my work--even though I enjoy sharing the works and their stories. I just feel blocked and shy about it. Viewing and reading the materials of others helps me get started.
So, I hope that others among you might find the ideas, layout, or other features in this flyer useful. Do not plagarize please :>), but feel free to use this or the artist's statement from the earlier post as a springboard for your own publicity materials. As I am inspired by all of you and your creativity (and I don't mean only the practicing "artists" among you, but all the bloggers who share thoughts and visuals), I hope that you find something stimulating or fun in this post.
Question of the day: Do you also find preparing publicity materials--or any necessary writing you are called to do--difficult, especially getting the process started?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Lovely Kanapaha Botanical Gardens In Gainesville, Florida

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that Mark and I had visited the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens in Gainesville, Florida for the first time after dropping some paintings off at Paddiwhack. The gardens are well-established and extensive without requiring miles of walking to see various types of gardens and natural environments. In fact, one can see most of the gardens with less than two miles of strolling. The natural features include a view out over a large lake, so lush with vegetation that it's hard to see, and the Kanapaha Prairie beyond it, in a long view from a high point (at least high for Florida :>) in one of the photos.
Other photos show the hummingbird garden, with gazebo and some bright red flowers and an interesting fallen tree that forms an archway over the path.
I am glad to be posting again after traveling to Charlotte, NC to help a friend who will be relocating there. When I returned and tried to sign in, Blogspot seemed to be experiencing difficulties. It took a couple of days and some work to reestablish and post on this blog. Soon, I will be visiting your blogs as well, now that we (I hope) are up and running again.
I hope all readers in the United States are enjoying a relaxing, yet meaningful, Memorial Day weekend as we honor and remember all those who have served us and our country in the past, as well as the many Americans currently serving us in military service. Our gratitude is sincere and profound.

Friday, May 20, 2011

New Painting Exhibit at Paddiwhack in Gainesville, Florida

I know I said that I would post my new flyer next, but couldn't resist showing you this lovely display of eight of my coastal North Florida landscape paintings. I am thrilled with the grouping the owner mounted Wednesday afternoon in the prime exhibit area of Paddiwhack in Gainesville, Florida. The photos (double click to enlarge) also give you a small glimpse of the wonderful, eclectic collection of goodies sold in this fine shop.
Mark and I dropped the paintings off early Wednesday afternoon, then had a glorious, fresh, well-seasoned lunch (we LOVE breakfast-all-day places) at The Flying Biscuit Cafe a few doors down in the same strip mall. We spent a couple of fun hours at the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens--which I must show-and-tell about in another post soon.
As we had done in our visit a few months ago (see 1/31/11 post), we brought a chilled bottle of good wine in a cooler and purchased lovely cheese at The Fresh Market next door to Paddiwhack, a rosemary baguette and a couple of other goodies at the Upper Crust Bakery down the row. I'm telling you, this particular strip mall has terrific stores (feel so privileged to have my paintings in this popular Gainesville, Florida spot!). We joined my beloved painting mentor, Linda Blondheim, in her studio/showroom loft up in the back of Paddiwhack for wine, gourmet snacks, and good conversation.
By the time we returned to meet Linda, the owner had hung my paintings. They will show here for six weeks, through the end of June. The top photo shows six of the pieces on a side wall just to the right as customers enter the store. In the second photo, you can see a two more, one on a blue partial wall just before the large main section of the store, and the other on the back of a piece of furniture which faces into the shop. The small honey-colored frame standing on a chest in the corner displays the artist's statement I showed you last time with my business cards on a pottery stand next to it. The flyers I made for the occasion are on the highboy beneath the six pieces. This show is an amazing opportunity, for which I am very grateful.
Question of the day: Isn't life astonishing sometimes? How did I get here from taking a painting course just for fun not too many years ago?!?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

New Artist's Statement--Landscape Paintings in a Gainesville, Florida Shop

Tomorrow, we will deliver a collection of eight landscape paintings to Paddiwhack, a delightful shop in Gainesville, Florida. I have been working hard to prepare the pieces for the exhibit; they will hang in a featured nook in the front of the store for six weeks. Two new publicity pieces are also ready, a flyer for people to pick up, which I will show you in the next post, and this framed artist's statement. You should be able to click on it to make it larger.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Details of New Painting and More About the Painting Process

The Lyons Club Park Boardwalk painting got off to a decent start in terms of composition, but some other aspects of the process were unsatisfactory at first and required revision. For those of you interested in the painting process, that is the topic today. The photos are close-up detail shots of the new painting I showed you last time as well as a photo of the entire piece.
As I mentioned last post, I shifted the viewpoint a bit from the reference photo, but you could see that I retained the basic elements of the scene without radical change. I raised the horizon line, which often seems to land in the horizontal center of my photos, because a painting should (almost) never be cut in half by a major element or line. I made small, grey-tone sketches of several possible compositions to consider and gridded over them horizontally and vertically into thirds (resulting in nine smaller rectangles). I try to place my focal point near the intersection of two of these lines, which is pleasing to the eye (these are sometimes called "sweet spots"). In this piece, I regard the center of interest as the area in the upper left third where a single tree stands and the boardwalk comes to a point and makes a sharp turn to follow the river bank. That is such a compelling angle that the viewer's eye is inevitably led there. But I include a path over to the right and then visual paths up, down, and around so that the viewer's eye will naturally move through the entire composition and find other areas of visual interest as well.
I thought I had chosen a perfect palette for this painting, but needed to change it along the way. I use a limited palette for each work, meaning a selection of certain tube colors which will blend well to create the entire range of color variations for the scene. Even though the viewer may not notice the use of a limited palette, the result is more pleasing and harmonious than using many randomly chosen colors would be. The palette I choose varies with the subject, weather, and season. This painting has no tube green at all; greens are blended from blues and yellows, and modified with red, purple and grey. After one change, the final palette consisted of cerulean blue, cobalt blue, paynes grey, dioxizine purple, cadmium yellow light, yellow ochre, cadmium red light, buff, and white. Although the photo is almost entirely in greens and blues, I wanted a livelier scene and added shades of purple in the water. Then, I used burnt sienna (a favorite color) to add a range of tones in the marsh grasses. This was a mistake, in my opinion. The burnt sienna did not blend well with the blues and purples I had used, so I put it back in the drawer and experimented with other shades for the grass. Some of our North Florida marsh areas include a sort of brownish burgundy grass that seemed likely to fit in, so I worked that into various spots in the grass along with some buff and greenish blends. This particular burgundy is a blend of cad red light, paynes grey, and a little purple (used with care--the purple is strong).
This painting came together a bit more quickly than sometimes (I am a sloooow painter). If you have any other questions about the painting process, please feel free to ask either in a comment or to email me (see profile for address). I enjoy sharing "shop talk" with interested readers.
Question of the day: What aspects of the painting process (if any) are of interest to you?