Monday, January 31, 2011

Exploring--Unique Shop and Linda Blondheim's Painting Loft

On Friday, Mark and I drove inland to Gainesville, Florida, home of the University of Florida and of Paddiwhack Gallery, a unique treasure trove of art, furniture and accessories for the home as well as jewelry, wearable fabric art, and so much more. Our primary reason for the drive was to visit Linda Blondheim, my dear friend and painting teacher and mentor, in her new loft overlooking this large gallery/shop. Linda greets clients and friends there four afternoons a week in a warm, homey space full of her gorgeous central north Florida landscape paintings. Linda brewed us excellent coffee, offered us comfy chairs, and we enjoyed a long chat about a variety of topics. After awhile, Mark brought up our cooler with a nice bottle of Chardonnay. He had also found rolls from an excellent bakery in the same shopping area and mixed nuts from the Fresh Market next door to Paddiwhack.
What a lovely afternoon! If you are ever near Gainesville, don't miss the experience of spending time with Linda, who manages to combine the best of southern hospitality and a welcoming down-to-earth warmth with a lively mind and a sincere interest in her visitors. Two of the photos show Linda's loft (one with the artist herself seated at a table); the third photo is a small glimpse of Paddiwhack Gallery showing a nook in the front of this large, goodie-packed shop.
Come May and June, I will be the featured artist with paintings in this nook, which is just to the right of the front door as people enter. Of course, I am excited and honored to have this opportunity. Since I had not seen the shop before, you can imagine my delight in getting a look at the space where my work will hang and an opportunity to meet the owner and his knowledgeable staff. They answered my questions and offered advice that will help me prepare my exhibit.
Question of the day: What would make a perfect day's outing for you?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Savoring--Completed Landscape Painting--"A Sunday Afternoon in May"

"A Sunday Afternoon in May" has proven to be a satisfying project. Last post, I showed you some aspects of the planning process, beginning with the reference photo, which is posted again here so that you can see the ways in which I have changed the original scene to create an effective composition for a landscape painting. The St. Johns River actually flows behind the bushes in the photo, but was not visible from that point of view. However, I wanted to use the point of view in the photo because of the lovely patterns the foreground shadows made--as well as the interesting verticals of the tree trunks.
Rather than go on about the painting process from last post's sketches through to completion, I will just let you join me in this delightful park-like spot on a private school campus in Jacksonville, Florida. I built the bench just for you.
Question of the day: Wouldn't it be fascinating to time-travel to scenes painted by the Old Masters and compare the actual location to their interpretation of it?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Growing--Planning a Painting Composition--Jacksonville Park Scene

A new 18" x 24" landscape painting on gallery wrapped canvas is nearing completion. I am pleased with the way this scene is turning out and will show you the final version soon. In the meantime, here are the original reference photo, an early line sketch on the canvas, and the first painting stage--blocking in the darkest areas.
As we explore our wonderful coastal North Florida scenery, I take a variety of reference photos for landscape painting. Some photos, like this one, comprise an overall view of a place I might paint in the future. Others record odd bits of information: everything from close-ups of particular tree trunks, to interesting cloud formations, to ripple patterns on our rivers or ponds. One wise word of advice for landscape painting I have heard from more than one instructor is, "Don't make it up." Of course, we do use artistic license to move elements around or to add, say, an appropriate water bird to one of its favorite habitats. However, for me at least, it is crucial to see and photograph the actual water bird or examples of a particular variety of tree in order to paint them convincingly.
While studying reference photos, I make rough sketches of possible compositions based on that location. I try the horizon fairly high, then lower; place only a few tree trunks in the scene, then sketch it with more trunks in a different pattern. In the sketches (often with 5 different grey to black values of markers on cheap paper), I also vary the values, placing the darks, mid-tones, and lights differently each time. A composition with equally distributed values is usually much less interesting than a composition with mostly one value, some of another, and just a bit of the third main value.
For the scene in this photo, I decided to leave out some of the bushes behind the grassy area to reveal the river running behind them. A bench or chair would appear near the riverbank to invite the viewer to enter the scene and rest awhile. Choosing what seemed the most promising small sketch, I outlined the major shapes on the canvas with vine charcoal, which rubs off easily later and which acrylic paint covers well. In some compositions, I begin by "sketching" with a brush and paints in the family of colors I plan to use (more about the palette chosen for this piece in the next post), but for this one, the balance and rhythm of the lines seemed important to place first.
In the top photo, you see a beginning placement of some of the values, especially some of the darkest areas. The foreground shadows first attracted me to the scene and will provide a visual path to the focal point (the bench and its surroundings). The other darkest elements will be some of the tree trunks and the hanging branches at the top of the canvas. Unlike some paintings, this one was pleasing even in the early stages; the composition and value "map" felt right.
Question of the day: As in other creative pursuits, including problem-solving in work and daily life, we are all very different regarding the degree to which we plan ahead. Clearly, I am a planner--how about you?