Sunday, November 22, 2015

Painting of an Egret

"Silent Stalker"
     The painting, "Silent Stalker", shows an egret in one of our neighborhood ponds standing motionless waiting for a frog or small fish to come within striking distance. It had been wading very slowly and (fortunately for me and my camera) then waited in utter stillness for quite some time. Unfortunately, I could not stay long enough to see it actually spear prey.

     After preliminary decisions about the composition and palette, this 12" x 16" acrylic piece on gallery wrapped canvas moved along fairly quickly whenever I worked on it. However, due to several interruptions--especially time spent working on a large sunrise painting for our son and his wife--the egret piece was set aside a couple of times.

     In some ways, it is less refined than most of my work, and I anticipated at least several more hours of work when I put it back on the easel to give myself a break from the large piece. However, after some adjustment of the shading in the egret's feathers and subtle increases in the contrast of lights and darks in the foreground, it was pleasing as it was. It hung in the studio for a few days for me to look at now and then--and still it seemed right just the way it was. Sometimes it is very difficult for me to decide when a painting is done and to avoid the temptation of refining the life out of it trying to make it "perfect". For once, deciding to stop was not too hard. 

Main reference photo
     The main reference photo reveals the minor simplifying changes I made to the composition as well as greater changes made to enhance the colors. This represents a very common scene all over our coastal North Florida region. We love our beautiful, graceful wading birds.

Question of the day: Are you ever tempted to "overdo" or to be too perfectionistic in a project of some kind?

Friday, October 30, 2015

Favorite Paintings--When to Keep, When to Sell

"Summer Reflections" 18" x 24" in acrylic
     Every painting is a valuable learning experience, but some emerge as personal favorites. (Note that each photo caption is a link to earlier blog posts about that painting if you are interested in more background on any piece.) 

     Since we have down-sized our home in retirement and already have some treasured wall art, we have limited space for new pieces. If none of my babies left home, they would pile up under the bed and beyond, even though I am a slow painter with limited output. So, it has been delightful for me to connect with people who value a particular piece enough to purchase it. I have also enjoyed giving paintings as gifts--something I do carefully and only when I know for certain the recipient likes the work. 
"Castaway Island Cedars" 9" x 12" in acrylic

     However, a few particular paintings would be difficult to part with. They are not necessarily my best work; in fact some represent a creative struggle with a composition that stubbornly refused to come together for a time. Others feel like markers of growth and may have flaws or elements I would do differently now. My wonderful mentor, Linda Blondheim, taught me to value them all--from the earliest, awkward efforts on--because they represent the best I could create at the time.

"Look to the Hills, I" 18" x 24" in acrylic
     In a recent post, I showed you a painting called, "Hanna Park Heron", which found a wonderful home, but which I miss at times. Today's works are (at least for now) definitely not for sale. 

     Other artists (including the real professionals) seem to have varied viewpoints on keeping versus selling artwork. I have heard some say that "everything is for sale" and that it's foolish to hang on to anything, while others treasure certain works in what is often called "the collection of the artist". Of course, I am a simple hobbyist (though a serious one) and am fortunate not to have to make a living through my art (which would be a pitiful living, indeed!). That leaves me freer to choose what and when to sell.

     Why these three? The first is from 2014 and just pleases me no end; I particularly like the clear focal point, feeling of depth, and optimistic mood. The second is from a walk in a favorite preserve and feels serene and very typical of North Florida. The third is an earlier work, inspired by our 2006 revisiting of a lovely retreat center in New York and the memorable time we spent there with precious friends.

Question of the day: What special objects are your "keepers"--whether or not you made them?


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Feeling Grateful and Ready to Get Back to Work

      I am grateful to be getting back to normal after a second hip replacement (on the other side). The surgery and recovery have both gone very well. Physical therapy is not always fun, but truly does work wonders.

     I regret my absence from the blogging community and have missed the enriching experience of creating paintings and silk scarves for awhile. The last couple of weeks, it has begun to be possible to stand at the easel or silk work table for a period of time, and I hope to have something to show you before too long. It feels as though I am just beginning to flex those "muscles", too.

Question of the day: How are all of you?


Saturday, August 29, 2015

Hanna Park Heron painting

The Painting
This post is repeated from 2010 as I feel nostalgic today for this particular painting. Although I was thrilled that it sold to people who love it, both for itself and for its power to remind them of family outings to Hanna Park over the years, I still miss it at times.

The reference photo for this painting was a quick, drive-by snapshot of a great blue heron at Hanna Park Lake here in Jacksonville, Florida. As I studied that photo and others taken that day of the heron, the lake, and the surrounding trees, I knew that I could base a painting on them. But, just how should I compose the painting? Unlike some scenes, the focal point in this one chose itself. In spite of the appeal of dark, shimmering water, tall palm trunks, and jungle-like vegetation, the heron clearly draws the eye of the viewer. I felt certain, in fact, that the heron itself knew that he (or possibly she) had no competition for the starring role in this little tableau.
Reference Photo

In preliminary sketches, the main issues I worked on concerned how to arrange the elements--how much yellowed grass in the foreground? where to place the major horizontal elements? how much vegetation area in comparison to the water? And of course, just where to place the heron? In the photo, it is too near the center and is looking out of the scene--clearly unsatisfactory. Some of the other elements could stay more or less as they were in the photo.

The major change from the photo to the painting may not be immediately obvious. I decided to move the sun. The relatively short time we spent at the lake that day gave me no choice about the lighting, and I took photos with a bright overhead sun. However, I wanted more dramatic shadows in the painting and moved the sun, first to a point low in the sky behind the background trees and palmettos. Then, halfway through the painting, I moved it again--higher in the sky to the viewer's right. What fun! There is such power in creative projects--I can move the sun itself. However, the fact that I changed the light source as I worked caused a fair amount of readjustment in the painting along the way, as you artist readers can well imagine. Luckily, working in acrylics allows me to paint over nearly anything, which saves me and my paintings every time.

You will notice other differences from the reference photo. The background vegetation gradually took on a life of its own and became a sort of jungle fantasy instead of a literal rendering of what I had seen. Also, I realized late in the process that the varied greens in the background, despite touches of blue, yellow, and rusty browns, needed to be broken up by some other color. Given that there were winter-bare branches and dead trees nearby, I felt free to add a few fallen branches and to import a pair of dead trees from another scene. They help the overall composition in more than one way, I think, as they also echo the grey tones of the heron and add one other distinct vertical.  
Question of the day: When you pursue a creative endeavor, do you normally begin with a clear vision of the final outcome and then create that? Or do your creations change along the way? Are you comfortable and flexible if your original vision changes as you work?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Creating a Painting to Match a Room's Decor

September sun fully risen over the Atlantic
     I have not yet planned a landscape painting specifically to match a room's decor. However, I do not necessarily try to duplicate the hues I see in a scene either. Since I sometimes determine a painting's color palette in advance for my own creative reasons, having an "assigned palette" may not be too different. So, when a beloved daughter-in-law asked for a painting to blend with the warm tones of the remodeled master bedroom in their Jacksonville Beach home, I was honored by her request and started planning. The room is painted a rich, warm yellow with bedding that quietly introduces orange and a soft sea-foam green, and Ashley wanted warm tones like orange and yellow to predominate in the painting.
About 15 minutes before sunrise

     So, blue sky and lush green vegetation are out--an Atlantic Coast sunrise is in. Why a sunrise rather than a sunset? Because here in Jacksonville, Florida, the sun rises over the ocean and sets over land. Although I have some nice ocean view photos taken around sunset, they lack rich, warm reflections in the water because the sun is setting behind the viewer over the land. 

Before sunrise looking north, showing morning mist
     Creating this painting does scare me because sunrise and sunset paintings seem quite difficult. They can either be gorgeous or can be so dramatic as to look phony, and I have avoided trying one so far. The other scary part is that this painting will be the largest I have undertaken to this point--in other words, a true learning experience lies ahead. I claim to love learning experiences, right?!?
Before sunrise, looking into heavier mist to the south

     These photos are of a sunrise we saw from a beach house weekend a little south of Jacksonville Beach. I plan to (carefully) intensify the warm colors somewhat, maybe with more clouds and more reflections in the water. A Google search for images of Jacksonville Beach, Florida sunrises has offered some possible modifications of the sunrise I personally saw and photographed. Of course, I would never paint directly from someone else's photos--just gather a few possible ideas to enhance my own original composition. As slowly as I paint (and given that I have a couple of other smaller projects in the works), you may not see the finished painting for a number of months. But I would love your suggestions for meeting the challenges of painting a sunrise. Please share!

     By the way, I know that many artists reject the very idea of creating or choosing a painting in colors to match decor. At home, I personally hang paintings or other wall art that we love, whatever the color scheme; landscapes in particular look fine anywhere in my view. However, I completely understand that many people like to complement or match a room's color scheme and will enjoy giving the challenge a try--especially for our fine son and his wonderful wife.

Question of the day: How do you feel about choosing art works to match the colors of the decor in a room?  


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Two Hand-painted Silk Scarves

     I have completed two more hand-painted silk scarves, each 22" square, one in shades of turquoise, blue, and purple and the other deep rose with purple and pearl white. Each has been a learning experience, especially the rose colored scarf. Since I have not made many scarves (other scarf posts here). since my class last year, it is still a trial and error process. But, no complaints--I enjoy both what I learn from the errors and the challenge of making things work anyway.

     The blue blend scarf went fairly quickly (not counting the steam setting of the dyes and the chemical removal of the lines of resist). I blended blue and green to a pleasing shade and quickly covered the entire scarf using a wide foam brush--intentionally varying the shading. Once that dried, I used gutta resist to block off a wavy border and a corner feature of tear-drop shapes. The free-form border blend of colors came next (after the gutta had completely dried) followed by filling in the tear drops. Going over some of the areas again deepened the color--or using a different shade, changed the color subtly. Sorry there is no photo of the entire scarf--am in a rush, and it is too wrinkled to look decent laid out flat (how lazy is that?).

     I'll spare you the tortured tale of trial and error on the rose scarf, but again, I started by painting the entire scarf--this time in a rose color blend, both to serve as a background and to ensure that the later gutta outlining would not be stark white. Since it turned out darker than desired, I "lifted" some color with a wide brush filled with water. Then: let it dry, gutta outlines for the leaves and iris flowers, let it dry, paint layers of purple, and several different green shades in the leaves and flowers, and make a narrow purple border. Finally, I made the lily of the valley flowers with Jacquard Luminere pearlescent fabric paint (which comes in small bottles and can be squeezed directly onto fabric from the bottle tip). Keeping a toothpick in the other hand, I quickly pulled the paint up twice each time I made a flower "drop" to form the little pointed petals (as always, click on any photo to enlarge it and see more detail). The alcohol spray spots and little random whats-its on the scarf were attempts to camouflage drops of dye and other oopsies. I also wanted the variation in texture of the alcohol spotting. Overall, not bad. The color is so lovely, it's hard to hate the result.

Question of the day: What would we do without color?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Art and Fun of Photography

Marching turtles on a creek near our home
     I enjoy taking photographs, but am by no means an artist at photography. Many of my photos are to preserve memories such as family events, large and small, and travel scenes and experiences. Many others serve as reference material for landscape painting. I have a great admiration for artistic photos, however, and sometimes wish I were more accomplished. Truly artful photography can be charming, brutally honest, breath-taking, and more.
A view of the creek
An extreme close-up of the creek and reflections

     A teen family member named Alex reminded us in December that artistic photography is a wonderful hobby and a rewarding pursuit. Visiting here in Coastal North Florida from inland southern California, Alex had no age peers during his visit but made the most of his time with us. Fortunately, he is passionate about photography--a wonderfully portable pursuit. When we asked what he would like to see or do in Jacksonville, he said--only partly joking--that he wanted to "find art". What a wonderful way to express his joy in finding interesting photo subjects and unique angles from which to make pictures!

     So, Alex took us all on several adventures to find art. My husband, Mark, showed him a nearby creek that he always enjoys on morning walks. I have used various views of this creek, viewed from a little bridge on an ordinary two-lane local road, in several paintings. It is just the sort of small treasure most people would pass by that inspires many of my scenes. Alex loved it and took a number of creative photos.
Just two of the many branches of the Treaty Oak
Alex meeting us at the south end of the Main Street Bridge

     Then we visited a truly amazing live oak tree, called the Treaty Oak (yelp has some photos), which stands in its own little urban park in Jacksonville. All of us had a great time there, and then Alex expressed an interest in one of the major bridges over the mighty St. Johns River. We dropped him off on the north end, and he walked over the bridge taking a number of photos on the way.

     I wish I could show you some of Alex's photos, but I do not have any. A few of my snapshots, though not "art", will show you the local locations we enjoyed together while on Alex's quest.

Question of the day:  What non-touristy spots would you show Alex near your home?

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Handmade Dangling Earrings with Apatite Gemstones

     These earrings spark wonderful memories of a creative time shared with a good friend. Some time ago, we visited dear friends in the Cumming, GA area and enjoyed some sight-seeing together. One rainy day, Lenna asked if I would be interested in going to a bead store with her. The store owner was holding a super sale as she prepared to close her brick and mortar location to focus on her increasingly profitable on-line shop.

     My jewelry-making friend suggested that we make some jewelry together with our "finds" from the clearance sale, offering me the use of her specialized tools and providing whatever fittings I needed from her stock. What a treat! I had been taken with the rich color of the apatite stones on sale; only four were left in the diamond shape. So, I worked with them to make these earrings. My favorite jewelry accessory has always been an interesting pair of earrings (often, special earrings are a treasured souvenir of the trips we take).

     The reason I took photos now is that my husband's sister, who is very interested in and very knowledgable about gemstones and semi-precious stones, expressed a wish to see the earrings. Since she had forgotten to ask about them during their recent visit, I took a few photos for her. The penny helps show the size of the stones. I hope you enjoy seeing these apatite earrings, too. They are fun to wear and remind me of an enjoyable afternoon with a good friend.

Question of the day: Do you remember the fun of making crafts with friends as a child? Do you ever pursue crafts or art projects together with others as an adult?

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Brand New Grand-daughter

     I cannot resist showing you a few photos of Ruby Dylan, whom we visited for several days (as well as her proud parents, naturally) in Georgia just after her birth. We, of course, think she is the sweetest, most beautiful newborn ever! She is just a few days old in these pictures, one with her absolutely thrilled grandmother (that would be me) in the little handmade outfit I showed you in the previous post.

     Up to this point, I have not used the blog for family news or pictures and promise not to make a habit of it. We are just so thankful and happy that one exception to the rule seemed allowable.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Crocheted Cuddle Cocoon for a Newborn

     I crocheted this wee cuddle cocoon for a our grand baby, due any day now. We are beyond thrilled to be expecting this precious child and will head up to Georgia soon after her birth. Her California grandma is already there to be with our daughter-in-law and son for a few weeks.
     Since we had a number of hand made blankets and a quilt to share from when our each of our sons was born, I hunted for a simple pattern other than a blanket. As she grows, I may work on sweaters for upcoming winters, but this little outfit brought swaddling clothes to mind and seemed perfect for her first month or so while the weather can still be

quite chilly in the Atlanta area. The design is one of five in a book called Cuddle Cocoons by Sandy Powers, available at Jo Ann stores or from this web site. Powers has written at least one other book of cuddle cocoon designs. All are adorable.

     The baby's mom and I both enjoy a slight departure from tradition in baby colors (like pink for girls), but I still wanted to keep the colors and textures soft for this outfit. The aqua yarn called to both of us right away, and the grey seemed a nice complement and more practical than pure white for the trim. The aqua yarn we loved was perfect for a different design in the book, but our daughter-in-law liked this tasseled outfit best. Since this pattern was written for a thinner yarn, I needed to make adjustments in the instructions. Good thing it's a simple sack shape--after a bit of a challenge in the shaping of the gradual increases, it was a straight shot to the top.

     I was excited to send this gift recently, and they were thrilled to receive it and love the design and colors. What a joyful time!

Question of the day: Do you enjoy sewing, knitting, crocheting, or similar creative pursuits? Isn't it wonderful that some young people still take up these crafts? 

Friday, February 20, 2015

October Travel in Tuscany, Part II

     Yes, I know October is some time ago, but I can't resist recalling and describing a few more of my very favorite places in Tuscany. See the first post about this trip here.

     The first four photos show the ruins of the 12th century San Galgano Abbey a little southwest of Siena. When we made a quick "comfort" stop in a cafe across from the abbey on our way to the medieval hilltop town of Massa Marittima, the abbey was so charming it was hard to leave. However, the weather steadily brightened, and by the time we returned for a more extended tour later that day, the abbey and its grounds glowed in the golden Tuscan sun. It stands in a quiet field and evokes deep peace and a truly spiritual atmosphere. I was thankful we were not rushed away after the guide's presentation because our time there was very meaningful to me. Although I enjoy revisiting the photos, they are not necessary for me; I can bring the scene and its serenity to mind anytime. It is among the pictures in my mind (saved up from a lifetime of experiences) that can calm me anytime.

     The other three photos depict a gorgeous family winery and vineyards where we revelled in an informative tour and very classy wine tasting. The Castello di Monsanto winery is the keeper of the largest reserve of Chianti Classico in the region. Prime Tuscan Chianti is in another category entirely from the straw-wrapped bottles that accompanied budget spaghetti meals early in our marriage! We could all imagine ourselves on the set of a movie or participating in the wedding of Italian nobility as we sipped and strolled the lovely grounds. As always, you can click on any photo for a larger view.

     Since I had been determined to travel as lightly as possible (see my post on packing for two weeks in Italy in one carry on plus a small backpack here), these photos were taken with my small Canon Power Shot A530. My newer, heavier camera did not make the cut. However, the photos this faithful workhorse of a camera produces are still pleasing to me.

Question of the day: What travel dream brightens your winter days?