Saturday, December 13, 2014

Blog Hop, Part II--My Creative Process

A great blue heron, seen at  Jacksonville's Hanna Park
Somewhere in Michigan (a scene from memories)

     Thanks again to Mary Paquet for the invitation to contribute to the blog hop project by responding to four questions. I continue here with the two last questions (see my previous post for Part I). And don't miss Jo Castillo's post on Monday, Dec. 15; I "tagged" her to be next in the blog hop and know that you will enjoy her lively creative sense and fine art works.

3) Why do I create what I do?

     I have always enjoyed sewing, knitting, and crocheting, but did not believe I had any talent for the visual arts I so admired. My love for color and for the beauty of the natural world kept tugging me toward giving landscape work a try.
Castaway Preserve Cedar
Castaway Preserve Palms

     Finally, about 11 years ago, I signed up for a week-long class in acrylic painting at the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina--expecting to enjoy playing with color and making creative messes, then to toss them and return home renewed and relaxed. Well, with an excellent teacher and time to practice and learn, I painted pieces that I really liked. No tossing occurred, and I was hooked! Now, with more workshops and lots more practice behind me, some pieces even sell. More importantly, I find continued delight in creating acrylic landscapes and learning more all the time. Another Folk School class this year started me in silk painting as well--a fluid, often unpredictable medium that gives me additional pleasure. Creating art is a whole new world for me and a rewarding pursuit in semi-retirement.
Jacksonville Beach
Jacksonville Beach

4) How does my creative process work?

     While considering this question, I used the little search box at the top of my blog and entered "painting process". Oh, my--I have written many posts that include discussion of the creative process in general and of the particular processes involved in individual paintings or silk scarves.
An early work--A favorite retreat near Warwick, NY

Silk scarf (using resist)
Silk scarf (natural blending--no resist)
     So, what are the common threads in varying processes for individual pieces? For processes in making the silk scarves, please see recent posts on that topic.
     Nearly all landscape paintings begin with a photo or a cluster of reference photos. Since I am endlessly fascinated with coastal North Florida scenes and want to convey the beauty and serenity I find in exploring out-of-the-way places in this area, I study angles of light, color (how to capture the incredible range of greens?!), and take notes to accompany the photos I take from various angles and distances.

     In the studio, the next considerations are composition (including tonal balance--the lights and darks) and color palette. In our area, good composition almost always involves leaving out some of the lush growth and sometimes other elements. Sketching--very roughly--a few possible versions of a scene, sometimes moving the point of view or focal point, helps me decide on a final version. Here are some previous posts that discuss composition.

     Choosing a limited number of colors helps both in unifying a painting and still gives an incredible range of possible hues. I don't try to match the actual scene so much as try to capture a feeling while staying in a realistic color range. Sometimes I go for low contrast and cool serenity, sometimes warmer, lively vistas. Again, here are some previous posts with more about color and palette for interested readers.

      Revision is the other most crucial piece of my process. The beauty of acrylics (especially for a learner like me) is that they dry quickly and cover well. I can paint over an area that does not please me, take out a superfluous bush, or whatever. Sometimes before a major change, I try it out by cutting a shape out of construction paper that approximates the change, tape it to the canvas, and squint to judge the effect on the composition.

     When wrestling with a piece that is not cooperating, it helps to remind myself that any work is a valuable learning experience (taking myself too seriously is fatal). At times, I put a painting away for a time and work on something else. A fresh look later on often yields a solution.

Question of the day: Do you enjoy hearing about the creative process or watching artists work? Or would you rather simply experience the art for yourself with no background or explanation given?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Around the World Blog Hop Entry--My Creative Process

Outside a back yard at Jacksonville Beach, FL
I was invited to join an Around the World Blog Hop (google that and be amazed!) by fellow artist Mary Paquet, whose work and blog I always enjoy and admire. Please visit Mary Paquet's blog to see for yourselves and for her Blog Hop entry on December 1. In turn, I have invited Jo Castillo, a delightful, talented artist and prolific blogger to post on Monday, December 15. All the past blog hop entries I have visited are fascinating as a variety of artists each answer four questions about their work and creative process.

     The invitation is welcome both because 1) I am a relatively new artist and 2) my blog is a mix of posts about both acrylic landscape painting and silk scarf painting AND lots of other aspects of creative living, including travel, cooking, exploring coastal North Florida, and more. I am honored that more established artists with more art-focused blogs to include mine. Thank you, Mary Paquet. My thoughts on the questions appear below (and, to spare you a truly endless post this time, will continue in a second post in a few days). Here and there a link will take interested readers to related posts on this blog. 

1) What am I working on? After a break from art due to travel, time with family and, well, the rest of life, I have several projects going now:
Matanzas River Bend
  • finishing touches on a gift for a friend--a 12" x 6" piece picturing a Matanzas River scene, just off the Atlantic Ocean. My friend has always loved the Matanzas Inlet area, near St. Augustine, Florida.
  • deciding what's next on a half-finished silk scarf with a purple iris motif; it needs more tonal contrast and/or some other revision (not pictured--stay tuned).
  • designing and making a scarf for a friend who wants it as a Christmas gift for someone special to her. She has a color scheme idea, and is trusting me for the rest. How scary is that?
  • A favorite scarf, painted in March
  • Finally, something new for me, planning a couple of paintings based on photos and memories of a recent time in Tuscany. Normally, I interpret scenes here in coastal North Florida because I know this area in depth. Can I capture the essence of a place only visited? Perhaps not, but I am hoping to convey my own impressions and appreciation of its beauty.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? Most bloggers, including me, regard this question as a stumper--hard to answer for oneself. Even some relative strangers have said that once they see a landscape I've painted, they recognize others as being my style, so the work does have distinctive elements. However, defining those elements is difficult. I'll mention a few common threads in most of the landscapes. Making scarves is simply too new for me to have developed a personal style; "experimenting" is the current mode in silk painting. (See posts on the week-long "art camp" silk painting class I enjoyed).  My landscape paintings usually include:
Another silk scarf favorite

  • A realistic style--although I "edit" actual scenes for good composition; they are far from photographic.
  • Many portray out-of-the way places that most people would pass without noticing. Prowling back roads, urban pocket parks, and nature preserves with my camera, I find quiet charm and beauty--painting ideas abound.
  • Water appears in a fair number of works. Here in Jacksonville, Florida, we enjoy the Atlantic Ocean (from a surprising variety of beaches), the mighty St. Johns River and a number of other rivers, quirky creeks (some of which would be called rivers in other regions--they are wide!), still ponds, and our bewitching, ever-changing salt marshes. I love both being near natural bodies of water and the challenge of painting water.
  • Marsh in Fort Caroline Preserve
  • Finally, the works reflect an effort to establish a clear focal point and visual path for the viewer.
Clear focal point, "Summer Reflections" 
3) Why do I create what I do?

4) How does my creating process work?

This post is long enough, so--hoping the blog hop police won't mind--I will post again in a few days with consideration of the last two questions.

   Don't forget to visit the delightful blog of fine artist Jo Castillo, who has agreed to be "tagged" as the next Monday blogger in this creative chain. Don't miss her post on December 15! 

Again, I am truly thankful to Mary Paquet for providing this opportunity. Given the many incredible blogs I have discovered following the chain from one creator to another, it took real self-discipline to stop browsing and post on time :).

Question of the Day: What are some delightful discoveries of people/ideas/visuals/blogs you have encountered recently as you browse the web?