I took photography in college but now I mostly snap pics on my IPhone. I can compose my shots in the camera giving me good reference to paint from later. Painting outdoors is great, but as I’m painting one thing I see a dozen more things around me I want to paint.
I have friends who are photographers and who are generous enough to allow me to use their photos from time to time as reference for my paintings. They have more patience than I do to get some fantastic shots. This “White Iris” was shot by my friend, Deb Drew Brown, which I turned into paint.
I grew up in the suburbs and I enjoy drive in the country, but I was born in the city. I only lived in Detroit for 4 years but we visited my grandmother there for years.
And I went to art school downtown right behind the Art Institute.
Maybe I’ve read too many novels or seen too many movies. When I’m in a large downtown I get a feeling of mystery. I want to know everyone’s story. Especially on a gloomy day the intrigue seems intensified. A perfect time for a painting of an urban landscape.
My birdfeeders in my city neighborhood attract a lot of brown Sparrows with a few Blue Jays, Cardinals, Woodpeckers, and when I’m lucky, the brilliant yellow Goldfinch.
My photographer friend, Deb Drew Brown has a backyard that is much more woodsy that attracts a larger variety of birds. She has given me permission to paint from some of her photos including this Baltimore Oriole snacking on an orange on the railing of her deck. This is a brilliant delight against the neutral background of the Michigan winters.
I took photography in college so I know how to compose in the camera, which is an advantage when gathering photo references for my painting. I also am skilled on the computer so I can crop and make adjustments when necessary to enhance the photos.
Guest photos can also be delightful.
My cousin took a photo of 3 baby birds demanding to be fed and posted it on Facebook. I immediately asked her for permission to use it for a painting. I think I smiled the entire time I was painting.
Webster defines patron as “a person who gives money and support to and artist, organization, etc.” and patronize as “to give money or support to (someone or something)” OR “to talk to (someone) in a way that shows you believe you are more intelligent or better than other people.”
My niece came over to buy a painting of mine (what higher compliment is there than a relative parting with their hard earned money to buy my art?) she saw on Facebook and as she was leaving I said, “Thank you for patronizing me.” Y e a h…somehow it didn’t sound quite right. We just laughed.
Now the holidays are over, that rush of relatives is warm memory, Michigan grayness settles back in and its time for a cup of tea. Maybe today a bit of honey and lemon will be just fine.
I was driving home from the artists’ breakfast that we have every Saturday morning and in my neighborhood the sun was hitting this tree in full fall colors. I got a couple blocks down and knew I had to go back and snap some photos with my iPhone. I went home and began painting. It’s not often I get to use Cadmium orange and Cadmium yellow right out of the tube. I must say I did get too thick too fast though. I guess I was too excited. It was going so well and then it wasn’t! I was getting picky—painting every leave. So I wiped out the tree and began again, slowly layering the paint. Much happier with the results.
The neighborhood is full of trees in all stages of color and falling leaves. I had a plethora of streets to shoot my photos. This one with its deep shadows complimenting that fiery color activated my “OH!” factor.
One of the biggest challenges for plein air painters (painting outdoors) is the vastness of what we are looking at. Trying to get the huge outdoors and fit it on our teeny, tiny, little canvas can stop an artist in our tracks so to speak.
All the advice, tips, and rules I hear from experienced painters seem to leave me when I am out there enjoying the wonders of nature. “Paint what you love.” “Look for the big shapes.” “See the darks and lights.”
Ever since I saw my first Monet painting I wanted to paint water lilies. We were at a beautiful garden with a pond with the most perfect water lilies you can imagine. I was so excited.
By the end of my painting session I was so disappointed. I had wanted to paint water lilies. Here is a sketch of what I did. I went home and scraped it off.
Luckily I took lots of photos and when I enlarged the photo and painted in my studio, I actually painted water lilies.
I was listening to a podcast by the Savvy Painter, Antrese Wood, where she interviews successful artists (http://www.savvypainter.com), and the artist was saying he works on 40 to 50 canvases at a time.
Well my studio isn’t big enough to do that, but I’ve been working on one piece at a time. Working small and in oil, wet on wet, it generally requires finishing a painting in one session.
Lately though, some of the techniques I want to use haven’t been working and it would seem the paint needs to dry before I apply the next layer. So working on more than one piece would be beneficial.
Also, a fellow artist point out to me that if you are having a problem with a painting and getting frustrated, setting it aside and working on another can 1) build your confidence back up, and 2) going back to the first painting later you may see the problem in a new light and it has solved itself.
Indeed it seems to be working. I started this tulip painting, and then started a beach scene. Came back and finished the tulips and started 2 more beach scenes. Solving problems in one saves time with the next and letting areas dry for a certain texture is working well. I like it.
We got a bonus lesson in week 6, one last photo to paint and to learn the methods of our instructor. I was feeling pretty confident with most of it, applying the techniques I’ve been learning throughout the course.
Then I got to this mass of greenery from the overhanging tree.
First my strokes were too blocky. Wiped that out. Then they were too spikey. Wiped that out. Third time’s the charm? I am happy with the result now. Hey, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.
Here is my “pots on a ledge” bonus painting. #DreamLovePaint
The course is over. Now I have to find something new to paint—out there on my own again.
Week 4 of my eCourse and I feel like I’m getting the hang of it. Start out with thin paint, bold and bright, massing in the shapes. Then redefine the drawing with this handy tool, the Kemper wipe out tool. It has a pointy rubber tip on one end and a chiseled rubber tip on the other; it removes the paint from the surface.
Moving on to thicker more opaque paint with lively brushtrokes and a variety of colors allowing some of the layer below to show through.
If I fuss too much in one area, instead of blending it starts getting mushy, losing that lively quality, paint builds up, and it gets muddy.
The Kemper tool comes in handy here. I can wipe out a whole area back to the surface and start over. Oil paint stays wet for a long time allowing me to do that. Put back in the brights and be more attentive to the opaques. Way better than wiping out on a surf board.
Here is my blue chair painting from week 4. #DreamLovePaint