This old grain mill is located about a half hour from my home n the banks of the Maumee River. I have wanted to paint it for a few years but never had the opportunity. I was passing by the small town of Grand Rapids last Monday when I decided to stop. It was a seasonably cold March day and it's always a bit colder near water. I had to hold the small easel I keep in my trunk down a few times as a gust of wind threatened to blow the thing over. This was a moment when my sturdy French easel would have been very welcome. My hands were freezing by the time I finished and I had to paint the windows in when I got home but all in all I was happy with this plein air piece.
To be honest, I have never really gotten into fishing. The few times I have tried it I have been grossed out by the worms and unable to even attach one to my hook. When I did get a fish on the line it almost always managed to escape. If I had to live on what I caught from the lake or the river I woudl starve.
Young boys, however, are naturals at this sport. I watched this child repeatedly toss his stick into the water and tease the fish with his bait. He didn't seem to care that he wasn't catching anything or that he didn't have a fancy rod and reel. He was engrossed in the idea of fishing.
When we become adults we are too often driven by the results. How far can I throw that ball? How many minutes will it take to run that 5K? If I buy that new program will I be able to get my work done quicker? When I began painting I had to lose that attitude. The paintings were not going to be perfect every time. Many of them would have to be redone or tossed if I wanted them to resemble reality. I soon became intrigued by the process, just as the boy is more interested in the action of fishing. Sure, he wants to catch a fish, but it's OK if he doesn't. And yes, I want my painting to be awesome, but it's OK if I just had a good time creating it.
Their mom commissioned me to paint a "fun" painting of each of them for their grandmother's birthday. I wanted the paintings to look nice hanging beside each other but also apart. The colorful quilt-like background ties the portraits together and also emphasizes their youth. Children's portraits always take longer for me to do than an adult portrait. Their skin is so delicate and their hair is so fine it's just hard to translate into paint.
It was unbelievably warm for Northwest Ohio this week! I hope this is not a prelude for the summer months, but I'm enjoying it now. My friend and I went out early and were done with our paintings by noon. I have painted this barn before. It's 100 years old and in remarkable condition for its age. This viewpoint is from farther away and I will pick the bug out when it sets up a bit.
For the past few years I have attended a paint out in July at Lakeside, Ohio. The paintout usually lasts 2-3 days and there is a wet paint sale on Sunday, which coincides with the annual Lakeside Wooden Boat show. I love going to this picturesque little community to paint because there are flowers and flags surrounding all the quaint cottages and it's like taking a step back in time to the 1950's. I entered a poster contest sponsored by the Lakeside Association in February and I found out last week that I had won. The premise was to create a painting that "captures the excitement and activity of the event." The painting will be featured on promotional materials they use to advertise the event. So that is exciting news and maybe having my signature piece on some posters will help me sell more paintings! It's worth a try anyway.
This is a studio painting, done from a series of photographs. The colors are accurate because I have painted outside enough to know what they really look like, as opposed to how they look in a photo (blue and a bit dull). You may be wondering if it was really necessary to put myself right there in the center of the painting. To this I answer, "NO!" But it was the only place left after I put in all the other interesting painters I wanted to include. :)
So this is the remaining pear, which I have placed behind a "pair" of plums! The violet color of the plums makes the (now even more) yellow of the pear really pop. Composition is important in this painting and I honestly had a lot of fun with it, mostly because I have never painted plums. So it was interesting to experiment with color and try to get that blueish haze that is so characteristic of this great tasting fruit.
This was another occasion where I had less than an hour to paint before I had to leave for work. You really have to think quickly and not "overthink" the painting when there is a limited amount of time to get it done. At least overworking is not an option. :)
What will I do when I retire and I have all the time in the world to paint? Well... maybe I just won't... it might make me lazy.This is my favorite of the entire series of March fruit paintings. They are a welcome relief as I struggle to paint two children's portraits from photos. Kids are not easy to paint- at least for me. Their skin is so delicate, their eyes so luminous and their hair so fine. I am almost at the point where I will send mom an image to view. Painting the subtle transitions in color of fruit is also great practice for painting human skin tones, so while it may seem like I'm just procrastinating, I am actually getting in some quality education time.
One pear became a snack so I had two of them left and an hour to play with my paint. This was the result. I have dozens of these small 6"x6" gessoed masonite panels in the studio. They are great for quick studies and also for miniatures. I kept the whole piece on the warm side and when I look at it beside the earlier painting I can see how much the color of the fruit has changed and turned more yellow in just two days.
As an artist, we realize there are numerous ways to present a picture or design of the image we want to share. A photographer has the option of changing f-stops and adjusting the white balance or shutter speed. A painter can easily move a tree, leave a figure out or even change the scene from fall to winter. It just takes a bit of thinking and the knowledge of how light changes as it falls on your subject.
I was recently asked to re-paint this scene of my friend Becca watering her plant. The client missed the opportunity to purchase the original because he waited too long. That one sold within a week of placing it in my on-line store. Initially, I refused, explaining to him that it's not very interesting to me to repaint a scene exactly as I have in the past and it's actually a bit boring. He then wrote me again a few weeks ago and asked if I might not reconsider. He had fallen in love with the image and he didn't want a print of the painting- he wanted an original. If I wanted to change some things and make it better that was OK with him.
So I agreed to do a "rework" under those conditions and I'm actually glad I did. This painting is the same size as the original: 11" x 14", but it differs in a few key ways. It is a cooler palette, with cobalt violet and ultramarine blue in the shadow areas instead of alizarin and ultramarine. I used a slightly cooler underpainting of asphaltum as well and the result is a quiet, harmonious painting with lovely golds and violets. I changed her arm so that she is pulling out a dead flower and raised her head slightly. The background is a made up assortment of interesting foliage that stays where it belongs-- in the background.
The last time I posted pear paintings on the blog I had a couple emails from people asking me about my palette and what colors I use. It's hard to say after the fact because I don't have more than 5-6 favorites and I am constantly adding different ones to make mixes more interesting. But there are certain colors that are just "standard" for me. I mean I can always depend on them and they are always in my paint box even if I don't use them.
Those colors are cad yellow light, cadmium scarlet or cadmium red light, yellow ocher, ultramarine blue and alizarin permanent or rose madder. (Notice there is only one earth color on that list and I don't really need it because I could mix it- it;s more of a convenience color.) Many times I will substitute a different color for one of these just to experiment because after all an artist can never have too much paint or experiment with color too much. That's what makes it more interesting for me and keeps me engaged.
Green pears are easier to paint than the brown ones (Bosc) that I love to snack on. I'm not sure why this is so, but it's true. Every pear is individual as well: the one on the left seemed a bit more green and the one on the right had a bit of red in it. Closely observing the differences and playing with those characteristics is what really makes the painting beautiful. I allowed myself an hour to do this piece this morning. The background is a piece of fabric I picked up at a sale somewhere. I love the earthy tones and abstract shapes in it. In this instance I immediately saw the shapes echoed the pear stems so I played that up a bit.
I've included a picture of my limited palette, which included mars black, yellow ocher, cadmium orange, cadmium yellow lemon, raw sienna, cadmium scarlet and viridian. As you can see it's possible to get a full range of color from just a few paints, and the color harmony is definitely nicer looking.
This guy posed for our portrait group last week. He has really interesting facial hair and it was fun to use the palette knife to add texture to the beard. Although he's an artist himself he looks almost like an old time ship's captain.
A look through old vacation images produced a photograph from when we stayed at a Michigan cottage. I wanted to paint something that says, "Spring"! The texture of the wooden door and the bricks proved to be a great contrast for the lovely aquas in the tulip plants. The challenge was to make the red tulips stand out against the red brick. In my humble opinion, a painting with no challenge is not a fun painting!
Complimentary color choices can really make a piece sing so it's important to make a decision about what you want to say with the painting in the early stages. This kind of alla prima painting does not work as well with a layered approach, where the artist builds color layer by layer over a period of time. In a wet on wet approach I like to keep the colors pure and use the brush and knife together to create the textures and harmony.