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)?