Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Style verses Substance

Style verses Substance... what exactly does that mean? Sometimes it means you put aside the actual reality of what you're viewing and dramatize what is ethereal and poetic (to you) about your subject. It's no secret that I enjoy painting FRUIT AND VEGETABLES. I've done so many different versions of pears and garlic and tomatoes-- you name it, that I feel compelled to change it up now and then. I like to ask myself, "What if?" In this instance I wondered what would happen to the roma tomatoes if I used a trowel of a palette knife to lay the color on. I paint differently when I use the knife. It makes my strokes a bit more intentional and keeps me from becoming too invested in detail--which can quickly lead to the death of a painting.

I found that using my cadmium red light straight form the tube really captured the glowing red of these tomatoes. A simple grouping of similar objects arranged artfully and painted with a heavy hand. But I really like it that way.

Roma Tomatoes
oil on Gessobord™


Friday, September 21, 2012

Mixed Greens, or "Why I Don't Put Green on My Palette"

My basic palette consists of cadmium yellow light, cadmium yellow deep, cadmium red light, raw umber, rose madder, yellow ocher, ultramarine blue and cobalt blue. Sometimes I will add a color to experiment with here and there. I tried 'hydrangea blue' --made by Shin Han, on this expedition, and I found it a strong mixer (probably some pthalo in there) but also a beautiful color that creates deep mysterious greens as well as subtle golden greens. You can't always get a brilliant green from ultramarine so it's definitely a color I'll keep in the paintbox, if not on the palette.

September on the Miami
14" x 11"
oil on canvas

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Exciting Weekend!!

Tomorrow night is the opening reception for my juried show at The Parkwood Gallery in Toledo. The show runs through Sept. 28 and also includes the large abstracted paintings of Mike Huffman and there is a great deal of contrast between our works so it should be interesting. This is a really nice gallery located across the street from the Toledo Art Museum at 1838 Parkwood St.. It is funded through a grant by the Ohio Arts Council and I had to apply to the Toledo Area Arts Commission last year for consideration. I found out last December that my application had been accepted so I have been saving many of my better landscape paintings for this show. Not all-- I'm still listing a few on eBay and Etsy, but when this show is over I will have some inventory of whatever doesn't sell.

I should mention that only landscapes will be included in this show, and 90% of them are plein air landscapes. I'm saving the still life pieces and figurative work for another show. :)

On Saturday, Sept. 22, Charlotte Loetz and I will be selling our artwork in Waterville at The Roche de Boef Festival. Show hours are 10:00 AM-5:00 PM. I will have plenty of sports prints available to purchase.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Another Plein Air Painting --Down by the River

Sometimes these paintings practically paint themselves. A cool sunny day with no breeze and no bugs, unless you count some tiny red beetles that apparently decided to hatch right beneath the sycamore tree where I was standing. They didn't bite so I wasn't terribly worried.

I wish they were all this easy. Looking downriver this painting was easy to compose. Foreground--rocks, Midground--sandbar, Background-- distant trees. A really lovely location and an equally lovely day spent painting.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

September Breeze

When the month of September finally arrives I have usually done enough plein air paintings throughout the summer months that I have become 'accustomed' to the haphazard life of an outdoor painter. Not this year! It's been so danged hot that I have languished in the studio painting fruit or people for the most part. Now that the temperatures have finally dropped I am enjoying the late summer breeze.

A visit to the river over the weekend sparked this plein air painting.

16" x 16" oil on canvas

Friday, September 14, 2012

Wildflowers in a Vase

I planted some wildflowers in May and they are starting to look a bit droopy so I picked some of the better ones this morning. After I arranged them in a small vase I took them outside and proceeded to paint. The lovely yellow daisies look awesome contrasted with the lovely violet specimens. The dark shadow behind them is our white shed, in deep cast shadow. I'll miss my flowers when they're gone but I have this little painting to remind me that spring will be here again in April.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Second Soldier Portrait, Marine Lance Corporal Steven P. Stevens II

Another fallen soldier, gone too early. These portraits make me sad but I know they will provide comfort to the families and will e treasured more than most paintings I do. Stevens, age, 23, of Tallahassee, Fla.; was assigned to 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.;  he died June 22, 2012 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. The 23-year-old U.S. Marine had yet to meet his infant son born after his deployment to Afghanistan when he died Friday.

We will present this portrait, along with the one of Joseph Lilley, at the annual Blue Star/Gold Star program Oct. 7, 2012 at the VFW in Wauseon.

Private First Class Steven Stevens grew up in Detroit and went to Afghanistan on March 21—just days before his son was born March 29, family members said. He is survived by his wife, Monique, of Florida and his parents, Steve and Lois Stevens, of Detroit.

“I’m sorry that he never got a chance to see his son,” said his grandmother Dorothy Atkins, 85. “I wish he could have had that blessing." The officers who told Stevens’ family about his death said the preliminary report showed he was hit with shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade, said Dwight Atkins, Steven’s uncle. “He's going to be sadly missed,” Atkins said. “But like my mother used to tell me, his work on Earth was done, and God called him home.”

Stevens grew up in northwest Detroit, attended Detroit Technology High School and went to Florida A & M on a swimming scholarship, his uncle said. As a baby, Stevens had asthma, so the doctor suggested finding a sport that would help him breathe, relatives recalled. Stevens’ mother put him in the swimming pool and he had been a swimmer since.“He took to the water like a fish,” his uncle said. After two years of college, he joined the Marines to serve his country. Family members say the thought of traveling the world and studying abroad was enticing to him.

“He quit college in order to join,” his grandmother said. “I guess he had the calling because he just went and joined.” Stevens was good in art, wanted to be an architect, loved to laugh and was a jokester who was good at imitations, his family recalled.

“People who know him know he was a very funny guy,” Dwight Atkins said.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sgt. Joe Lilly, Posthumous Portrait

This is the final version of one of the portraits we'll present at the Gold Star Ceremony, October 7th, followed by his obituary. I am so tired of this undeclared war and the deaths of these young men and women. When will it be over?


Army Sgt. Joseph M. Lilly, 25, of Flint, Mich., died June 14, 2012, in Panjway, Afghanistan, of wounds caused by an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. 

A combat engineer from Flint who died two days after being wounded in an insurgent attack in Afghanistan believed so strongly in the Army’s mission that he volunteered to serve his latest tour there, his aunt said June 18. “This is what he loved. He loved being a U.S. Army soldier,” Martha Alexander said of her nephew, Sgt. Joseph Lilly. The 25-year-old was injured June 12 by an improvised explosive device in Kandahar province and died two days later, the Pentagon said. Another member of his unit from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., Spc. Trevor Pinnick, 20, of Lawrenceville, Ill., also was killed.

Alexander — the sister of Lilly’s mother, who died 13 years ago — recalled a recent conversation the two shared via Skype. In it, Lilly told his aunt, “I’m going to sound weird, but I enjoy it.” Alexander responded: “Not everybody gets to do what they wanted to do. You’re very lucky.”  Lilly was hit by a sniper’s bullet only weeks before his death, resulting in a wound on his chin that required a few stitches, Alexander said. “He was just upset that he was sidelined,” she said.

Lilly was a 2005 Carman-Ainsworth High School graduate, where he was active in stage crew. As a soldier, he also served in Iraq and in South Korea. He is survived by wife Katrina and their son Alexander, 3. Michael Lilly, 55, said he was proud of his son’s choice to fight for his country and said his son’s ideals have much to teach. “Joe knew what the consequence was,” the elder Lilly told Mlive.com. “It was worth it to him because he believed in what he was doing. He was trying to keep us free out of the clutches of terrorism. He accepted the risk. That right there is someone who has a lot of guts.”

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Sweet Girl from our Portrait Group

Lexus' parents named her after the car. She doesn't mind the name and it seems to suit her. She is a very classy and adult-looking 14 year old. Painted at the Hyter Group in Toledo. We meet on Saturday mornings to paint or draw from the live model at the corner of Hill and Holland Sylvania in a former school building.
12" x 9" oil on linen

Friday, September 07, 2012

On My Easel This Week: Honoring Those Who Fight For Us

There's precious little a person like me can do when to defend herself, let alone her country, so I have great respect for the brave men and women who serve in  our military. Especially now, when the world is a more dangerous place than it has been since the attacks on 9-11.

Every year a division of the local VFW Auxiliary chooses to honor local families by presenting the families of those serving in the military with blue starts. The mothers of soldiers who have died get a gold star. The ceremony is meaningful; filled with bagpipe music, tearful ballads and an honor guard.

I do oil paintings of the deceased soldiers and I present them at the end of the ceremony. These are tough paintings to do. You have to divorce yourself from the circumstances while you look at the reference photos of smiling young men who are hugging their girlfriends or hiking up a mountain with their favorite dog. The trouble is you know these young men will never hike or hug again and it's hard to accept that. As hard as it is for you to accept it's a thousand times harder on their family and friends.

So I try to create a painting that honors the soldier and will provide some sort of comfort to the family. Oil portraits last hundreds of years so the painting is likely to become an heirloom. The soldier whose life too early will become a legend in the history of his family. He's a hero, and while we don't worship our heroes we do recognize their valor and the courage it takes to put yourself out there in harm's way.

This year we are honoring two soldiers. I started the under-paintings this week and I hope to finish the paintings next week.

Joseph Lilly and Steven Stevens

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Composition and Simple Subjects

I teach a few art classes and workshops every year so I am always trying to come up with "easy" ways to approach simple subjects. I use these exercises for the first class to give everyone a bit of confidence. It's my firm opinion that a painter with confidence and a big brush will create a better painting than a hesitant painter with a small brush (or any size brush).

Fruits and other organic subjects are deceptively simple subjects. I still have these pears because we haven't munched our way through them yet and I never get tired of doing still life paintings. So I set up another composition using my favorite fruit and did a quick 45 minute study this morning. It was important to be able to paint this quickly because I want the students to be able to start and finish their piece in one 2 hour session. I usually give them a photograph of the finished painting so they can see how my version turned out and a choice of photographs of the still life set up. I begin the class with a 15 minute demonstration on how to approach the painting, leaving them with a couple hours to do their piece.

The first class in this session starts Tuesday, October 2 at the Bryan Community Center on Buffalo Road in Bryan, Ohio. Classes will be held from 6-8:30 PM for four consecutive Tuesdays. Contact Cindy Rau at crau@cityofbryan.net to register for the classes or obtain more information. This is an oil or acrylic class and there is a $30 supply fee payable to me the first night of class.

Perfect Pears
6" x 6"

Sometimes I will check the composition using the "THRESHOLD" function
in Photoshop, which reduces the values to black and white and creates a simulated ink drawing.
If the black areas match my initial block in I know I have
remained faithful to the initial concept. I was pretty close with this one.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Channeling Kincade

Channeling Thomas Kincade...OK, maybe not exactly, but whenever I am presented with painting something as pretty as Carol's house and gardens, I think of Kincade. I don't dislike the recently deceased and seemingly troubled artist, as so many artists profess to. I actually liked a lot of his earlier pieces and I have a plein air book written by him that was given to me by my cousin. It has some extraordinary work in it. He started out doing plein air and painting from life. This is why his fantasy garden paintings have so much depth and realism in them. I mean, you know they can't be THAT pretty, but they're still realistic to the point where they COULD be! It's the whole commercialism and "painted reproductions" that left me shaking my head in disgust. People were fooled into thinking they had an original when it was just a printed canvas with some paint added to it. His death just proved another theory of mine I like to think is true: great wealth acquired too easily does not buy happiness. I would rather paint 100 paintings and sell them for $100 each than spend one week managing a business venture that offered copie of my paintings on clocks, teacups, toilet seats etc. You get the picture. The fun is in the doing.

Carol commissioned me to paint her house and surrounding area. It's a non-traditional painting in the sense that it is the BACK of her house. She has a pool, which can be seen with that tiny bit of blue beyond the entrance. She has flowers and statues and lovely trees. It was a challenge to find a place to stand that could really take in everything.

I began with a plein air painting in the late afternoon and took lots of photographs of the plants and architecture because I knew I couldn't finish it in one session and I would need the references to add the detail. The tree is right in the middle of the yard and it's right in the middle of my painting too so it was a challenge to break that unwritten rule of composition and make it work. But I think I did OK.

Carol's Paradise

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Painting Pears Again

I had a few minutes this morning so I decided to paint some more pears. They are a favorite around here. (Both to paint and to eat).

I try to limit the time to an hour for these small pieces, both as a challenge for myself and to keep from overworking them.

Pears with  Dutch Pitcher