My husband gave in to my request to plant sunflowers this year. We bought a couple different varieties plus we had some come up last year from the bird seed. A couple of these flowers are almost a foot in diameter. I chopped off a few smaller ones, put them in one of my ceramic pitchers and made a painting. These flowers are messy. They lose dusty orange pollen every day, but they do hold up fairly well over a period of 2-3 days if you don't get a chance to paint them right away.
You may be wondering what exercise has to do with art. I've put some thought into this and I have come to the conclusion that it's a lot easier to paint if you are in good physical condition. Plein air, especially, can be taxing. It is not easy to stand for several hours a day and lug your painting gear around when you attend these plein air events. I've tried sitting and that just make my back hurt. I make a point of exercising three times a week, I lift weights and whenever possible I do aerobics. I feel better, the easel is a lot lighter and I have more energy.
It's just as important to exercise your mind. I'm interested in the world and what's going on. I don't watch the news because it's pretty unfair and unbalanced, despite what some networks want you to believe. The days of honesty died with Walter Cronkite. I tend to read a lot and use a lot of different sources to disseminate material. I rarely watch television, but I do listen to public radio. When you're actively engaged in what is happening around the world, you tend to be more appreciative of your own world and what you have. Every day I think of people in Syria and Afghanistan, and numerous other countries who have been bombed out of their homes. Our homeland is a paradise compared to most of the places on earth and I treasure it.
I had a conversation a few days ago with my son, who is an avid runner and basketball player. We lamented the millions of Americans who sit passively in their armchairs and watch sports every day. I am not one of them, and neither is he. I would rather be doing anything than watching TV, and that has a lot to do with why I started painting. There is a limited amount of free time available to each of us. We can waste it watching others have fun or we can use it to have fun ourselves. This correlates to painting as well: it is much more interesting and challenging to attempt to create a piece of art than it is to watch a Seinfeld rerun for the 16th time. Your life is what you make it.
I painted the piece above in a an hour as the light changed and I chased it. It was done at the end of the day and I was pretty tired but the scene was calling me.
This past weekend I spent an exhausting three days at the annual Lakeside Plein Air Festival in Lakeside, Ohio. Friday was unbelievably warm and humid, Saturday was a bit better except that it rained intermittently all day. Sunday was a great day to paint but we had to wrap u early to put our paintings up for sale in the park. I sold three pieces at the festival, one before the festival and will paint two more commissioned pieces.
There seemed to be a few more artists participating this year and the crowds were bigger. One piece I sold was a painting of a cottage named the Rainbow Cottage. I was standing under a tree and I was quite thirsty when a lady who was cleaning the cottage offered me a bottled water. She turned out to be the owner of the cottage so when she asked me to give her a good deal on it I didn't hesitate. The piece will mean a lot more to her than it will to anyone else.
It bothers me to think about the cuts in arts and music that our public schools are being forced to make in order to meet their budgets. I think of all the little artists who won't get the opportunity to learn about creativity and freedom of expression. I can't help but think it will affect the next generation in a negative way. Study after study has proven that early exposure to the fine arts boosts a child's creativity and imagination.
According to John Ninnemann, principal of the Keys School, "young children are naturally expressive.
They have a strong sense of composition and come to school with the innate urge and ability to create and perform. It’s little wonder then that ﬁne arts education delights our students. But an education in the arts does far more than that. Most researchers now consider arts “The Fourth R,” an intellectual discipline as essential as reading, writing and arithmetic, integrally linked to basic learning and key to children’s social and emotional development.
An obvious source of joy and wonder for children, the arts are vital in their own right. Music, drama, visual arts, dance – each offers children another way to communicate and comprehend the world around them. Arts inspire imagination and creativity, promote individuality and self-expression, and teach tolerance
and open-mindedness. Research backs up what teachers know intuitively and witness every day in their classrooms – involvement in the arts clearly boosts students’ self-conﬁdence and self-esteem."
While my daughter and I spent a rainy weekend at Lakeside, Ohio in early July, I sat on the porch and painted some local scenery. A few people were curious and stopped over to take a peek at what I was painting. One couple asked me to paint their son's cottage so they could give the piece to him for Christmas. I have discovered that most people who buy paintings for personal reasons learned the value of art at an early age. These are different than investors, who buy art because they think it will be worth more down the road.
Sue Kish told me about her father, who was a plein air painter in the fifties and sixties. He took all of his children outside and tried to teach them to paint the landscape from life. Sue said she never really became good at it but she did develop an appreciation for art. She wanted me to paint the house en plain air after the her son's family left for the weekend. When I told her this would depend on the weather she understood. There was a small window of sun that weekend so I ended up riding my bike over to the cottage, making a small sketch of the house and taking a few photographs. Then it rained again. The painting was completed at home and mailed to the client.
This is a different kind of painting for me: more impressionistic and less detailed. I started it at a 2 day workshop with Mark Gingrich on "impressionism and plein air". Shana posed at the table reading a book. If the setting doesn't work it's my fault because Mark is a pretty easygoing guy and he told me to set his wife up anywhere on the porch.
It was a challenge to keep everything loose. I had to really lose a lot more edges than I am normally comfortable with and think in a non-linear style. The railing posts especially were a challenge. I had too many hard edges and they were detracting from the focal point- the model. A successful workshop IMO because I learned a few things.
The painting itself had to be completed at home because 90 mile winds and a strong thunderstorm interrupted our session. On the plus side, it did cool off a bit after the storm went through and we had a beautiful day to paint the following day.
Jennifer posed for our portrait group when she was eight months pregnant. I decided to just do a portrait but quite a few of the artists showed the baby bump and did a full-figure piece.
I love painting redheads-- or "gingers" as they're now known- courtesy of the TV show "Glee", I guess. Somehow I ended up with a good position too; I was right in front of the model. That never happens. Great model and fun to paint.
This is a slightly larger oil painting I did while sitting on the porch where we were staying. It was a rainy weekend but there were a few periods of sunshine that allowed me to take a picture and go back into the painting and add some shadows and sunlight when we got home. I think it captures the spirit of the morning when I painted. The only other thing I might consider adding is a couple bikers or a dog walker. Never underestimate the power of "people" to add depth to a painting.
I told myself this. "You need a vacation". I have been without a kitchen for the past four weeks and spend every weekend and every evening after work repairing drywall, painting walls, sweeping up sawdust and doing all the other inconvenient jobs that go along with living inside a home undergoing a major remodel. This past weekend, I still could not stop thinking about all the work that needed to be done at home while I stayed at this quaint little bed and breakfast at Lakeside, Ohio.
I painted this piece on a pleasant Sunday evening when the sun was low in the sky. Hordes of quivering mayflies hugged the buildings near the beach and occasionally one of the more desperate insects invaded my paint palette and floundered helplessly until I launched him into the sky with my palette knife.