Friday, August 31, 2012

Plein Air Painting and (Another) Rant

The weather has been awesome this week so I have been outside painting after work and haven't had time to blog. Finally, after a summer where the average temperature seemed to hover around 95 degrees, we have some seasonal temps.

I am sharing a few paintings completed earlier in the week, when a friend and I drove to Putnam county to paint specifically for the 10th Anniversary Exhibition sponsored by the Ohio Plein Air Society. If you're wondering why we had to travel to Putnam County I am wondering right along with you. The rules of this exhibit state that the paintings must be done at specific locations around the state of Ohio. This leaves those of us who live a distance from these locations at a huge disadvantage. The choice was clear: make our displeasure known by not joining in the exhibit or just go with the flow and hope that the next exhibit has fewer rules and regulations. I chose the latter but quite a few artists decided not to enter anything. Let's face it, artists don't like rules. We love our freedoms, we are creative people and we do not like to be restricted! This is especially true when we are told what and where we have to paint. It is very difficult to be inspired to paint when you have to travel to a location you are not familiar with and figure out where interesting things are. I would hazard a guess that the person who organized this event does not understand how inhibiting rules like this can be to an artist.

Plein air painters, especially, are comfortable on their own turf. We want to show our best work and the way to do that is to show the places we have come to love to paint. Some artists live near the water and they excel at creating wonderful paintings of lakes and boats and docks. Others live near rolling hills and they have become experts at creating the atmospheric conditions that showcase their area.

The painters who live near or in the five "designated painting areas" have a distinct advantage in this exhibit and I suspect that this has caused some of the controversy surrounding the event. They are familiar with the area, they can paint many more pieces and choose the best ones. They don't have to spend money on gas and get time off work to travel to other areas. In other words-- they are in their comfort zone. It's difficult to do your best work after traveling and scouting locations in an area you're not familiar with. It's one thing to do it for a paint out, with no pressure. It's an entirely different situation when you must drive to your location, find a good place to paint and produce a quality painting -- all in one day. It's just not that easy for most of us, especially if we have day jobs and children to consider. I usually don't have the time or gas money to travel a distance to set up and paint. There are too many beautiful scenes right in my own backyard and these are vistas I am comfortable with and ones I would love to show the world.

I enjoy being a member of the OPAS organization and the opportunities it has provided me to paint and exhibit my work and I'm hopeful that the next exhibit they sponsor will allow artists to showcase their best work. That work will more than likely be comprised of paintings completed on  their own territory and under more relaxed circumstances.

These two pieces were done on the same day, near Pandora, Ohio and they really demonstrate how weather affects mood and atmosphere. I did the first one in the morning under a gazebo while it rained softly. The second painting was done at the same location but looking in a different direction in the afternoon. What a difference a few hours can make! 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Banana Peppers

I came home the other day with a lot of produce, courtesy of my friend, Sue. Her veggies look a lot better than mine. They taste better too. I had these banana peppers sitting in a bowl on my counter and last night I noticed that they were starting to turn from a pale yellow to a really nice shade of orange and even red in one case. I made up my mind to paint them. I set the alarm and painted them before I left for work this morning. They are painted about life size on the 6" x 6" piece of masonite.

Now I have to figure out what to make with them. The color change is probably a sign they are getting old.

Banana Pappers 
6" x 6" oil on masonite

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Albert family

I have been working on this painting for a couple weeks. It's a commissioned piece for a friend of Jamie Hurley's. Two years ago Jamie had me create a really illogical painting of her being rescued by her boyfriend, who was riding a white horse and being aided by a giant Michigan Wolverine. A dragon and a castle were also included in the mix. Later Jamie married her boyfriend and I like to think my painting had a lot to do with that. Perhaps not. :)

Anyway, that's how I came to do this painting, which is a lot more traditional and showcases the couple's lovely home and even more lovely child. Plus their two of which is paying attention and the other which is not.

18" x 24" oil on canvas

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Captain Ed

Sometimes you meet a person and you know right away that they have "that kind of face". What is "that kind of face", you're wondering. Well, it's the kind of face that launched a thousand ships. Not like Joan of Arc... no, this kind of face is craggy and sunburned and you get the feeling this face might have actually been out on the dock tying up the boat or throwing the anchor in. When I met Captain Ed I asked if it was all right with him if I took his picture. I'm glad he said yes.

14" x 11" oil on canvas

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Monica from our portrait group

Wow- this girl is only 14 years old. She looked a lot older to me and she was very good at holding her pose. Last week we were fortunate enough to have TWO models show up. Even though it was unexpected, it was great, because we weren't all crowded together. She did a great job.

Painted at the Hyter Portrait Group, corner of Hill and Holland-Sylvania in Toledo, Ohio

Email me if you are interested in learning more about this group and drawing and painting from the live model.

14" X 11" OIL ON LINEN

Saturday, August 11, 2012

I Wish I Could Grow Stuff Like This

We all have our own gifts, and gardening is not one of mine, although I sincerely wish it was. Scott and I grew some tomatoes in pots on our patio this year and our plants were doing fairly well until I noticed some black spot on the bottom of them. I looked this up on the internet and it's something called 'blossom rot', which develops when your soil doesn't have enough calcium. The article recommended a few Tums ground up and sprinkled into the soil as a remedy. I had nothing to lose by trying and it seemed to help -- for awhile. The blossom rot returned and alas... I am starting to realize my thumb will never be green.

This time of year I like to stop at produce stands and see what they have to offer. I'm not especially interested in eating the stuff I buy. I want to paint it. I found this really awesome red onion with a long root and some awesome green peppers just a mile down the road. What reallly drew me in was the gorgeous indigo colored eggplant.

I think natural fruits and veggies make great subjects and I do tend to paint a lot of them.The reason is that I can always find a buyer and the textures of fruit and vegetables are all so unique they are excellent practice subjects. People like paintings of food. They work well in the kitchen or the dining room and if you choose the right foods and arrange them in a pleasing composition I think they're as beautiful as flowers! And actually, a lot easier to paint IMO.

Green and violet are secondary colors and they harmonize nicely. I spotlit the scene on the table in my studio and had a compelling composition right away. It doesn't take much to make me interested in producing a painting. If the light and shadow are dramatic I am intrigued every time.

Eggplant with Veggies
10" x 8"

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Not your average cat

My daughter, who is 15 years old, is an artist too. Unlike me, she uses programs like Illustrator and Photoshop to create her masterpieces and is happy to follow her own individual artistic path. That's the way it should be. The child began drawing at age three and she has become really adept at caricaturing animals and she excels at creating fantastic mythical creations that don't really exist.

About a year ago she asked me when I was going to paint a picture of her cat. What she meant was: when was I going to turn her cat into a huge 24" x 18" wall painting, as I had done with the other two cats who live with us. I kept putting her off because her cat is not the most attractive animal in the world. I know it is to HER, but to me, it is a bit strange and I didn't really want to paint her. You see, Mooki is missing an eye. The poor cat had an ignominious beginning, as her mother abandoned her in our garage and she crawled up under our lawn tractor. For days we heard crying that would stop as soon as we opened the garage door and begin again when we closed it. We trapped the kitten with a bowl of milk and placed her in a dog cage until I was able to tame her by feeding her cat food on a fork. Eventually she was eating from my hand and not threatening to claw me.

My daughter grew very attached to this small gray cat and although it has never been particularly cuddly, it does enjoy human companionship and listens better than the other cats. When she was nine months old, Mooki's eye began swelling and the vet told us it was glaucoma. We had a few choices: we could put her down, we could pay a few thousand dollars and see if the eye could be saved or we could have it removed for $400. We had the eye removed and the cat has been fine ever since. Surprisingly enough, I've had a few people tell me they wouldn't have done it. "It's just a cat. You can always get another one," they say. How cold and heartless, and I would bet these are the same people who do not spay and neuter their animals, which is why we end up with homeless kittens living under our mower deck int he first place.

I am wondering a bit from my story. I promised Katie that I would do my large version of her one-eyed cat if she would create one of her caricatures featuring all six of our animals. Well, she fulfilled her part of the bargain and her creation was wonderful. I printed it and have it hanging in my living room. She captured the personality of each animal so well! I was amazed.

My turn! I finished her supersized cat over the weekend and I did struggle with how to present the one-eyed cat and make her beautiful. Ultimately, it was just a matter of being true to Mooki and emphasizing what is wonderful about her.
Digital Art

Mooki 18" x 24"
A Cat with Cattitude

Monday, August 06, 2012

Peachy Keen

This afternoon, I ran the dogs and gave them treats when we got back. I thought about going out and doing a plein air painting but after an hour of running I needed to relax. There sat the peaches I bought from a roadside stand a few days ago. My husband tried one and told me not to go there again. So I'm left with a container of peaches that need to be turned into a painting. Then I won't feel as if I wasted my hard-earned cash. This was a quick one hour painting and I used the palette knife exclusively until the very end when I softened a few edges. I like the organic quality of the base and the simplicity of the design.

With a basic subject like this you can often get away with using simple shapes and complementary colors.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Ashley from our Painting Group

Everyone at the Hyter Group was in love with Ashley's long wavy hair. I give the girl a lot of credit - she showed up dressed as a cowgirl or something. Straw hat, cowboy boots and cute denim vest. I brought my pastels with me so I could be sure to get done in one two hour session.

Not sure of the likeness but I like the slightly pensive look that came out of this.

18" x 19.5"

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Black Lab Puppy Painting

This is Ruby, a nine week old puppy. Ruby wasn't feeling too well when I snapped her picture. She was having an allergic reaction to something and had bumps around her eyes and on her belly. The miracle of paint is that I could easily ignore those bumps when I painted her portrait. I also changed her glance so she was looking toward me instead of at the fingers her owner was snapping to gain her attention. Painting puppies is similar to painting children. You have delicate unformed features and a certain softness that needs to be emphasized.

I liked the colors of the porch swing Ruby was relaxing on and her soft green blanket, so I changed the design a little and used them. The collar has an "M" on it and her owner thought that was nice because he works at a school that starts with that letter. It's good to get their input too and if it's not too difficult or doesn't interfere with the design I'll usually try to accommodate them.

11" x 14"