Monday, July 21, 2014

Furry and Feathered "Helpers"

I live on a partial hobby farm. It's partial because the only farm animals we have are chickens and turkeys. I think we should have a cow, horse, pigs, goats, or sheep to make it an "official" hobby farm. We also have two cats and two dogs. (I like animals.) They're great to have around except when I'm trying to paint or photograph paintings outside.
  My painting backpack makes a comfortable resting spot. The cat's contribution is leaving a furry interior that needs a thorough cleaning before I can use it again.

 This is "Turk" who thinks he should be living in the house with the rest of the humans. He's flown onto my open painting box a couple of times causing havoc as I try to save the painting from his feathers. Here, he's simply showing off.

This looks like a perfectly innocent cat ignoring a painting, but a few seconds before he was rubbing his body against it leaving static-charged hairs. He also knocked a couple of paintings off the stand. If you look to the left of the painting, there's a tall sidelight window by the door. Peeking through the window is one of the dogs.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Painting Sequence - Red Hollyhocks

One of my favorite things to see on an artist's blog are photos that shows how he/she created a painting. Here's a recent 16 x 20 oil painting of hollyhocks.

I toned my canvas with Cadmium Lemon Yellow acrylic paint. The gessoed board is from Richeson and acrylic primed. If your canvas is oil primed, don't use acrylic paint over it because the two don't adhere to each other. The general shapes were drawn with Rembrandt's red oxide oil paint. I painted the hollyhocks first because I wanted them to be the focus of the painting and make sure that the composition was interesting.

The leaves have a blue cast to them so I used a blue-gray mix to block in the leaf groupings and then added warmer greens to give them definition.

The leaves are starting to take shape. Added darker values in the flowers.

Pine trees are in the background but I wanted to keep the focus on the flowers so the background shapes were simplified into patterns of color and value. 

Added highlights to the flowers and continued developing the painting. 

Red Hollyhocks, 16 x 20, oil on board

At the end of the painting, I toned down the background greens and added variety to the gray/purple areas to give it depth and interest. This painting was a joy to paint with its bright colors and big brush strokes.
*The painting was in a Floral Show at the Richeson School of Art and Gallery and received an honorable mention.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

August Plein Air...continued

This is the beautiful home that we stayed in during the event. We each gave the hosts a painting to thank them for their generosity.

"Let's Party" 6x8 oil
From the nocturne competition. The house had a long string of colorful Chinese lanterns hanging off the front porch which gave it a festive atmosphere.

"Where the Road Goes" 16x20 oil.

The event concluded with paintings for sale/exhibit. Satisfied with having 10 paintings to show for my efforts.
It was a great learning experience and I'm looking forward to doing it again next year!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Let the Summer Insanity Begin...

It's amusing to hear about summer reading lists, places to vacation, and comments about "kicking back"  during the summer months. For me, it's high anxiety time and this year is no exception. However, I wouldn't have it any other way. Summer means lots of plein air painting, art events, and running kids to soccer practices and theater classes.
This year, the craziness began in early May with the 10-day Augusta, Missouri plein air competition/event. Each day was a new competition at a specific location which ended with one artist receiving a purchase prize award of $500. There were 150 artists participating in some or all of the days. I was one of the crazy ones who participated every day. It was awesome! All the artists were friendly even though we were competing for prizes, the event was well organized, and I had a lovely home to live in with 5 other artists.

The dogwood and red bud trees were in full bloom. "It's Springtime!" 8x10 oil

We spent one day at Daniel Boone's farm. "Boone's Garden" 11x14 oil

""Flowers and Peeps" 11x14 oil

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Country Living

For me, one of the perks of living in the country is the readily available subject matter. Today, I carefully walked through an alfalfa field and set up my easel to paint the scene from the west side of our house. We live on a hill and there's a beautiful view of the lower area with a road that enhances the appearance of depth. (The road is also handy for driving on and not simply an artist's tool.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Painting Donation

This is a 6x6 oil painting of water lilies that I donated to the Fox Valley Christian School for their fundraising gala. It was great fun to attend but I always end up spending too much money on the silent auction. Have to leave the checkbook and credit card at home next year.
6x6, oil, Water Lilies, Sold

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Disappointment and "Life Goes On"

Home of Tadpoles and Turtles, oil on board, 16" x 20"

Today I received the notice that my painting didn't get juried into the Oil Painters of America national show. And, while it's disappointing, it won't stop me from working to improve and entering shows. When a painting doesn't get into a show, I allow myself a couple of days to feel bad about it, even question whether I should ever paint again, and then get back to work. Picking up the brush and painting is the best therapy for disappointment.

It's important to remember that just because a painting doesn't get into a show doesn't mean it was poorly painted. There are millions of reasons why a painting does or doesn't get in. Think about the times you've looked at the "winners" of a show and questioned the judge's sanity in choosing those paintings. I've heard one judge comment that on a different day, he probably would have chosen completely different paintings.

Finally, I know it's petty but I feel better when I read that other artists who are amazing painters didn't get into the show. Not saying I'm amazing but feel like I'm in good company.

....Oh, and I still get brownie points for trying.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Photographing an Oil Painting

I have spent hundreds of hours trying to get good photos of my oil paintings. It seems so little to ask...all I want is a high quality photo that accurately represents my painting. I've tried photographing them outside, in the shade, on the north side of the house, shooting them indoors using various types of lights, different angles, different distances, bounced light off of white panels, no panels...well you get the idea. Then it's downloaded into my computer where a whole new set of challenges pop up with Photoshop Elements.

A fellow artist, Jeff Hargreaves, took pity on me and offered to show me how he does it. It was very helpful and I want to pass on the favor by sharing with you what I learned. *Please visit Jeff's website at to see his beautiful still life oil paintings and drawings. They're gorgeous.

Jeff uses a digital camera that has all the "bells and whistles" on it. It's best to have a camera where you can adjust the settings instead of a point-and-shoot camera. This was mounted on a tripod to keep it steady. The light bulbs were photo flood, 500 watt and 3200 kelvin which defines how warm or cool the light is. I have a problem with glare on my paintings so a polarizing lens was placed over the camera lens and polarizing film was hung in front of each light. The lights were positioned about 6 feet away from the painting at a 45 degree angle with the camera slightly further back.

A gray-scale card was placed above the painting and will be used to correct color discrepancies when it's downloaded into the computer. Gray-scale cards can be purchased at a photo supply store. The setting on the camera was 200 ASA which I believe is the "film" speed but don't hold me to any of this technical stuff. I'm just looking for a procedure to follow when I photograph paintings.

These were measured so they were equal to each other: the distance of the lights from the painting, the height from the floor to the center of the painting and the height of the lights so they were lighting the center of the painting. Using a level, he made sure the painting was vertical to avoid any distortion in the photograph.

When Jeff was taking the photo, he kept a section of the area surrounding the painting visible in the photograph to include the gray card as a reference. As a side note, don't photograph your painting in its frame or with a glass cover. He shot the photo with an aperture setting of 11 but I know he uses a variety of aperture settings when photographing his paintings. Try several. I've found it makes a difference in how light or dark your photograph looks and it's nice to have a selection.

Here's the difference between what Jeff photographed and my original one. There have been adjustments in Photoshop on both to tweak it to be closer to the painting...not improve it. I'm sure you can see the difference. To my defense and detriment, I use a HP laptop screen to gauge the color and value to the painting. Jeff uses a nice Samsung monitor with his Apple computer. My next big purchase will be a new monitor and maybe computer. (I'm almost embarrassed to show the difference but, hey, this blog is intended to help everyone.)

My Photo

Jeff's Photo
In a future post, I will discuss polarizing filters and a few lessons I learned about Photoshop Elements.

So, was this helpful? What has been your experience?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Summer in the Middle of Winter

Heidi's Garden, 8"x10" Oil - Sold

One of the great things about being an artist is being able to create images that remind you of warmer weather. Living in Wisconsin, it gets really cold (we're talking -20 degrees with a -45 degree windchill on bad days) and you begin to think winter will never end. This little painting was started in August when it was hot, humid and required a thorough coating of bug spray to stand outside to paint. I painted for about three hours and quit when the elements and bugs became too much. Had most of the elements in but still some details to add. A couple of weeks ago I pulled this out to finish it and as I painted, I could feel the warmth of the sun and inhale the flower's fragrance.