Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Marginal Way Color

It has been far too long since I posted. I have been painting as much as I can - but with lots of distractions.

I have a few paintings that I can post over the next week or so. Here is the first:

Marginal Way Color 1
8x8 Oil on Canvas

This is my first ocean/coast painting and it was a lot of fun to do. While I was painting it, I was focused on the color, shape and light rather than "here is a painting of rocks and water". That is the way you are supposed to paint :) but sometimes I find it hard to not focus on the object. If you do that, you end up painting what you think it should look like, rather than what it actually looks like. So if you're painting an apple, you know it is red and round, but if you focus on the shapes, colors and value of what is actually in front of you, your mind doesn't get in the way of what you are really seeing. It's taken me at least 2 years to figure that one out, even though it is in every painting book in the world.

This painting was inspired by a little oil painting by Judith Schuppien that I bought a couple of years ago. It is of a rock in the water, with wonderful, simple brush strokes. She painted it on an orange ground and used that orange for reflections and light. You can see that same use of the orange ground in her "Gloucester Harbor Study" in the link above. I did this painting on an orange ground, but didn't use it the way she did (because I couldn't figure it out) but I like the way the color set the mood for the whole painting.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Early Morning Mother and Son

Life is busy right now with house stuff, Zack stuff, work stuff and Lowell Open Studios so I have neglected this blog in a big way.I will try to start posting regularly again.

This is another painting inspired by my week in Ogunquit. I got up pretty early most mornings and walked or biked around town taking photos of everything. The ocean light is beautiful in the morning.

I'm going to paint out or tone down the strange pinkish squares in the upper right - what's up with those???

Early Morning in the Cove
Oil on 6x6 Panel

Thursday, September 2, 2010

City-Wide Lowell Open Studios Sept 25-26

The 10th Annual Lowell Open Studios is September 25-26 from 11am -5pm. It's a fun weekend where artists across the city open their doors so you can see where they work, view their art and, if you see something you like, buy it and take it home.Many of the artists have special events so you can plan your day around any events that interest you. The galleries are also open.

All kinds of artists participate: jewelers, photographers, painters, sculptors, fabric and more. Here's a peek at some of the people who are open so you can get an idea of what is available - and yes, I'm on there :).

I'm opening for the first time since last fall. I will have paintings for sale, goodies to eat, and wine to drink. Stop by!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Blue Table

Finally a painting. It's been a while. I was sick for a bit with bronchitis and was also struggling with my painting. I went on vacation last week and feel rejuvenated.

I was in Maine and didn't do any painting but took hundreds of photos (actually over a thousand but I deleted half after reviewing them all). My photography has really improved over the past year and I think it has to do with painting - both because I take thousands of photos now and because painting has made me more attuned to composition.

This is a painting inspired by the back patio at the cottage I stayed in. It was a sweet little cottage.

Blue Table
8x8 Oil on Canvas

Monday, July 26, 2010

When the going gets tough, the tough paint a bunch of stuff around it

When I first started painting, I did a lot of fruit. Fruit is plentiful and colorful so I focussed on fruit and veggies because there is an endless supply. But I find them pretty hard to paint.

I decided to see if it had gotten any easier. It hasn't. This time though, instead of wiping the whole thing off, I got silly instead. It was kind of fun to do.

It's a Pear Party
Oil on 12x16 deep canvas
I was hoping that I would be better at not overworking the painting. I'm not. Because a pear is a smooth object, with subtle variations in color and tone - I really struggle with finding just the right shade to lay down and end up redoing it over and over. I'm going to keep trying though - so be prepared to be inundated with more fruit.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Too Darn Hot

I haven't been to the studio in almost 2 weeks because its just too hot! I'm on the 5th floor of an old manufacturing building with no AC and it really is torture. I've been trying out watercolors at home which has been disastrous so far, but I'll keep trying. I'd like to make it work because I only have a little corner of the living room in which to work and oils are too messy and smelly and easily walked on by the cat.

I will try to get to the studio this weekend - it's also the 3 day Lowell Folk Festival so I'll have to figure out how to get both things in. If you haven't been to the Folk Festival it is WELL worth the trip to Lowell - free music from all over the world, good food, events for the kids, art, crafts and the best people watching north of Boston.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Flip flops again

I enjoyed painting the other flip flops so much that I painted another pair today. There is a bit of glare in the upper right because the paint is still wet.

I like the two paintings together. Is it a reflection on their personalities that Audrey places her flip flops neatly side by side and Olivia just leaves them where they fall?

Olivia's Flip Flops
Oil on 5x7 Panel

Friday, July 9, 2010

New look for the blog

I changed the look of my blog and I think I may have broken the feed. I don't think any emails are going out when I post. This is a test to see if the email subscription is working. I can't believe I didn't have myself in the feed, otherwise I would have figured it out earlier! I do now :)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Audrey at the Beach

I did this painting in May - the week before I went to Karin Jurick's workshop in NYC. I wanted to do a figure painting before I attended the workshop because I didn't want to go in there cold without ever doing a figure.

Audrey is a really great kid - she's so guileless and sweet and I hope she can hold on to some of that through all the crap life throws at us all. 

I liked that I was able to lay the paint down so that each brush stroke meant something. I have a big issue with the perspective on her arm and I really want to fix it but I am afraid I will ruin the painting.

I hadn't posted it earlier because I plan to give it to my brother and sister-in-law as a gift and I didn't want them to see it. But they aren't blog readers so I realized that I'm safe.

Audrey at the Beach
6x6 Oil on Panel

Monday, July 5, 2010

Symbols of Summer

I love summer - it is my favorite season. I don't know why I live in New England and not in a warmer climate. On the bright (?) side, suffering through endless winters and rainy springs does mean that I appreciate the gorgeous (and too few) days of summer. Wow - how's that for reaching for the positive?? Is that the best reason I can come up with?

Flip flops are all about the summer for me. I wear them all summer long (when I'm not at work) and have since I was a kid. These little yellow flip flops belong to my 8 year old niece Audrey.  They are so cheerful and cute - just like she is.

Audrey's Flip Flops
Oil on 5x7 Panel

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Self Portrait

I've been doing a lot of drawing lately. Trying to sketch everyday. Drawing was what I did almost daily for the first 21 years of life (ok maybe 18 - whatever age it was when I could pick up a crayon) before being an art major and therefore an "artist" which paralyzed me for decades. This morning as I was putting on make-up I noticed the lighting was good so I thought I'd try a self-portrait. I haven't done any since college. My mother has one of them - a charcoal drawing of me when I was 20 that I did an hour before class. I don't think there was a college assignment - whether it was for an art class, programming or literature - that I didn't wait until the absolute last possible moment to start. I've always wondered how I knew that it was in that PRECISE moment that I needed to start in order to get the assignment done on time.

This is this morning's sketch. In retrospect I could have given myself some graphite and kneaded-eraser botox, but that's me in all my jowly lined glory. Comments that I've gotten from my son - "Muuuum, you don't look like that, it makes you look too old" and my favorite (from a neighbor) - "When did Meg turn 80?"

That old self-portrait that my mother still has was a big bone of contention between she and I. It is huge and she loved it and had it framed. I thought it was totally depressing -big, scary, gloom woman peering out of the frame. I was pretty depressed when I drew it and it showed.  One day I came home from school and there it was, prominently displayed in the sunroom. I freaked and demanded it be taken down in the way that only an overly dramatic 20 year old can do.

The portrait sat in my mother's closet for the next 31 years. Funny thing is - she showed it to me a couple of months ago and I liked it. It was pretty good considering I did it in about 20 mins. I should take a picture of it and post it - just for curiosity sake.

Monday, June 14, 2010

It's the little things when drawing people...

The next thing I am starting to try is people. As a kid I spent a lot of time drawing people, and my favorite art class was life drawing. That was a looooong time ago and I need to spend time sketching again.

I didn't paint this weekend but I did draw. I'd like to paint my niece Olivia because she is just all around fantastic, so I have been drawing her a bit. The two drawings here are so-so, but I am trying to work out the issues before I start painting. It is incredibly hard to capture exactly what it is that makes a person's face THEIRS - it comes down to just one little line, angle, shadow...

This  drawing of Olivia looking up is problematic. Her eyes are too close - her nose is just not right at all - not even remotely like her nose, and the face is kind of long. I suppose it doesn't really matter if it doesn't look like her for the painting's sake, but if I was doing a real "portrait" of someone, it should actually look like the person.

I sketched it onto a canvas because I want to try painting a face and see what happens. But I really should do some more sketches first - although I think the eyes and nose are better on the canvas drawing.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


This is the second painting that I did at the workshop ( actually it is the 3rd, I wiped the second - day two didn't work out so well for me :) ). This painting went through some stages before it got here. I can't say that it follows Karin's style but I incorporated the amazing things that I learned from her into this painting - simplification, shapes, light and color. Halfway through I decided to experiment and  lay paint down without blending. That meant that every brush stroke resulted in a color that stayed there - no covering it with another stroke. So whatever I put down stuck.

I wish I had taken a photo when it was at that stage because it was kind of cool. I finally "got" the concept that laying down colors next to each other creates an optical illusion - your mind blends them. That is what the impressionists did. Simply stated it means that a yellow stroke next to a blue stroke causes your mind to see green. I didn't do anything that drastic, but I discovered that monochromatic variations next to each other create a very cool effect. The painting started to shimmer and move.

I didn't keep it that way because even though it was cool, and I really learned something big, it didn't work for this painting. Amy Stewart (a very talented artist at the workshop - check out this incredible painting she did on day two - same day I was in misery) said something about liking the distinct shapes of color and light of the man, and that it would be interesting if the shadows were more distinct shapes. As soon as she said it I understood exactly what she was saying and I simplified some more.

So here is my painting. Its called "Waiting". I don't think everyone will like this, but I really really do.
Oil on 8x8 Panel


Monday, May 31, 2010

New York...these streets will make you feel brand new...

Alicia Keys -  "Empire State of Mind" is a such a fabulous song. I could listen to it over and over again (and I do). I believe I have a girl-crush on Ms. Keys.

Just came back from 7 days in NYC. Fantastic in every way - even the annoying things were great. I love that city - the energy, the noise, the smells (sometimes really really bad), the lights, the traffic, the art, the endless supply of good food and fantastic restaurants, and above all, the people. I have been to the city maybe a dozen times total, and every time I go I am surprised by how different it is from Boston. People actually talk to you in NY and I am amazed at the humanity and kindness. That is counter to the stereotype of NY but I find Boston to be very cold and aloof, while NY is warm and engaged. Just don't piss them off.

I was there to take a painting workshop with Karin Jurick. I learned so much and I am re-energized. Karin is incredible, the art-changing thing that I took from the class is that I need to trust my instincts. Karin paints what she loves and in a way that makes sense to her. She is so completely honest in her approach to life and it permeates everything she does, including her painting. I found it unbelievably freeing. I have read so many books on painting and agonize over the "rules" to the point where they paralyze me. I used to be a bit of a rebel but I eventually succumbed to what I thought I was supposed to do. Conforming works ok for my day job but does not work for art and I need to get the freedom back if I want to be the kind of artist I hope to be.

I only painted two paintings at the workshop. Here is the first painting - I will post the second in a couple of days. We all painted the same subject - I like this a lot, and I was able to just place the paint down without agonizing. Of course it helped that I got to watch her paint first.  The second painting is completely different from anything I've ever painted - it feels like a bit of turning point. You'll have to wait and see - I guess you'll either love it or hate it.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Summer Shack

I am almost finished with the painting that I started two weekends ago. I worked on it last weekend a bit, and this weekend I only had one day to paint and I painted non-stop for 8 hours (after I did my required 1.5 hour procrastination). That is what is so great about painting - I get totally lost in what I'm doing and time goes by unnoticed. Impossible for me to think about anything but what I'm working on.

My So Called House
Oil on 9x12 Canvas

There are a few things I still want to do - break up the cast shadow in the foreground so it doesn't look like a big triangle, darken the front shadow on the house, straighten the basement door and do a couple of things on the trees in the upper left. I also think I'm going to connect the light sections of the leafy tree on the right. I may put the rungs in the porch railing - I needed it to dry a little so it didn't get all muddy.

Working from one side of the painting to the other worked well for me because I was able to keep control of the color and not get all confused like I usually do. I'm pretty excited about this painting because I finally "got" some stuff that I've been trying to do for so long - simplifying the color shapes, minimal blending, and capturing light.  I also left out stuff that I didn't think worked in the composition. That was one of the things my painting teacher kept telling me last year - just because its there, doesn't mean you have to paint it.

The giant palette was really fun - (in the previous post I talked about Karin Jurick's recommendations). My favorites were radiant lemon, radiant white, indigo blue, portland grey medium, violet grey, horizon blue - the coolest colors that really made a difference for me. Also used cobalt blue for the first time which is an awesome color and one that I see on lots of other artist's palettes.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A new approach - Karin Jurick style

I'm taking a workshop in May and I received the supply list a couple of weeks ago. The artist teaching the class, Karen Jurick, has a list of paints that must be at least 30 tubes. I was missing many of the colors she requires so I ordered a whole bunch of new paint that came on Friday - 24 tubes.

This weekend I decided to try to use some of the new, very cool colors. Colors like "radiant lemon" and "violet grey". I was nervous because normally I keep my palette very small so I don't get confused. For example last week's raft painting used only 5 colors and I mixed what I needed from those. I found a video where she lays out her palette and it is amazing how many colors she uses.

This is an example from her Painting a Day blog :

Everything she does breaks all the rules from all the books I've read, and from what I was taught in last year's painting class. Not only does almost every book say use a limited palette - red, blue, yellow, white - with 2 of each (warm and cool) and a couple of earth tones - I've also been taught that you should  work the entire painting evenly. The rule is to move all over the canvas and not focus in one area.

Karin breaks those rules. I found a demo of her painting technique .She sketched out her scene and then began filling it in. Her sense of color and light is incredible and she seems to just understand the value she needs automatically. If you're interested take a look at her from the link above- I love her brush work and color.

This weekend I used a big palette and tried her method of painting from one side of the canvas to the other. I didn't sketch out the whole composition first, I just focused on making sure that the cottage was accurately drawn because of the perspective challenge. I also didn't paint on a dark ground as she does - I'll try that on the next one.

So far so good. I thought all the colors and the method of painting from one side to the other would screw me up, but it is working out pretty well. This is a painting of my house and is about 9x12. I'm only half-way done but I like where its going. The only negative is that I wanted to keep painting and I have to go to work tomorrow! The photo makes the colors a little too yellow and the contrast is too severe,  but otherwise it is pretty accurate. I will finish covering the canvas and then I will go back to deal with the light and shadow.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Yellow Raft on Blue Water

Michael Dorris wrote a wonderful book "A Yellow Raft on Blue Water" that I read a long time ago. This painting makes me think of that, and it makes me sad. Michael Dorris was a great writer but a very tormented man - married to and then divorced from Louise Erdrich. He had a sad life - as a single guy he adopted Native American kids, and then learned they all had fetal alcohol syndrome. One was hit by a car and died. Later one of his other kids accused him of sexual abuse, and he killed himself in 1997.

So now that I've cheered you up with that lovely tale...

This is a painting of a raft on Long Sought For Pond (the greatest name for a pond EVER). It is another small one - 4x6 and painted on gessoed watercolor paper - and it was a quick one to warm up.   I may do another one on canvas and a bit bigger and see if I can do a better job on the water.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Teeny Tiny Paintings

This weekend was open studios at WAS. I don't open to sell anymore - or at least for the next 6 months or so. My door is open periodically throughout the day just so I don't seem completely anti-social but I do find the whole open studios thing incredibly distracting. It is busy and loud and its hard for me to focus so this weekend, instead of working on the big flower painting,  I painted 2 small paintings. And I mean really small - 2.5 x 3 inches. I took a picture with a pen as reference so you could see how small they really are.

 It was a lot of fun. I felt no pressure at all, I could do it with people milling around and talking and it was so satifying! I did one of the tulip vase and another of some peaches. The peach painting is a small version of one I did last fall.

That was Saturday, then today I did a couple of small paintings from my imagination so I could relax and enjoy the paint. So much fun!!

All and all it was great painting weekend. Which is bizarre to me, because I was not in a very good mood - the day job unfortunately was getting in the way.  But at the end of the weekend I remembered why I took the job in the first place and things were put back in perspective. Strange how the cosmos take care of you, isn't it?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Painting in Progress - Will It Survive the Wrath of the Frustrated Painter?

On my easel now. I started it a couple of Sundays ago and then put it down. The tulips are dead now of course. When you can only paint on weekends and maybe an occasional midweek-after-work-session, painting from "life" or at least "alive" is tough. I took a photo though - can't believe I remembered to do that - so I am now finishing it from the photo. I worked on it on Sunday afternoon and so far so good but who knows if it will survive to any kind of finished state.

Weekend only painting is a challenge. It takes a while to get warmed up to painting and I usually hit my stride Sunday afternoon just in time to wrap up for the weekend. Of course, having the attention span of a small child does tend to get in the way. My typical painting weekend day goes like this (aka, a day in the life of the ADD artist):
  • Midnight Friday night:  "I'm going to get up really early  tomorrow and get to the studio by 8:30".
  • 8:00 AM, roll out of bed, "Ok, grab something to eat and get to the studio"
  • 9:00 AM: Still on couch after reading the last of nine "Real Simple" magazine articles, reach for the laptop to check Facebook "for a minute".
  • 10:30 AM: After my 104th game of Bedazzled, my 15 year old son emerges from his dark, odoriferous cave and stumbles into the bathroom. I look at the clock and say "crap, I need to take a shower".
  • 11:15 AM: throw a load in the washer, and, while folding the wrinkled mess of a load that has been in the dryer since last Sunday,  look at the clock and say "crap, I need to take a shower".
  • 11:45 AM: back on my laptop. My son stumbles scowling through the living room on his way out of the shower, I look at the clock and say "crap, what the hell am I doing, I need to take a shower"
  • 1:00 PM: in the car finally, on my way to the studio and drive by the junk store that holds all the interesting junky future still life items so I "just stop in for a minute"
  • 1:45 PM: back in the car on my way to the studio after wandering aimlessly for 45 minutes in a store filled with ugly, useless junk and purchasing one plate for $3.
  • 1:55 PM: SUCCESS - actually pull into the studio parking lot.
  • 2:40 PM: only made it to the 3rd floor (I'm on the 5th) and in the third studio I've stopped into "for a minute" on my way to my studio.
  • 3:00 PM: SUCCESS #2 (have to grab these little successes) finally in my studio." *deep sigh* I LOVE this little studio".
  • 3:02 PM: Looking at the painting I left last Sunday and either thinking "Hmmm, this isn't so bad after all" or "OMG, what a piece of @#$@"
  • 4:05 PM: after deciding that the 5' high bookshelf really should be on the other side of the room, moving it without actually taking anything off of it because I know I can move it without anything falling off, and picking up the half-dead Christmas cactus and broken harlequin teacup that I've had since 1977 (teacup not plant) that fell of the bookcase while moving it, I begin putting paint on my palette.
  • 5:00 PM: Painting painting painting, painting, painting
  • 9:15 PM: "OMG - how did it get to be 9:15 already? I just got here. Damn, I just don't have enough time to paint". Clean my brushes, hang up my apron, close the door, descend the five flights, get in the car, go home, eat, have a glass of wine, watch DVR'd "One Life to Live".
  • Midnight Saturday night: "I'm going to get up really early tomorrow and get to the studio by 8:30".

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Summer Cottage

Here's another painting of the cottage I stayed in this summer in Maine. For some reason I find this cottage very "paintable", this is the third painting I've done from that vacation.  This is a small 6x6 painting that I did pretty quickly. I've started to time myself - the first day I only worked on it for an hour, and then another 2 hours yesterday. I'm trying to force myself to stop (I actually have a timer) because too often I just keep going until I ruin the painting or I get so frustrated that I wipe it off. I did that to the last painting I posted - the one of the little syrup pitcher - I ended up wiping the whole thing and then hurling it in the trash. Not the best painting day I've had.

I really liked this little cottage. Wouldn't it be great to have a spot like this to get away to? It was so cute and just the right size and I could walk to everything - the beach, dinner, coffee, shops. When I say 'get away' I don't mean some secluded spot in the woods where I take lots of long solitary walks communing with the flora and fauna,  I'd be bored out of my mind in about 15 minutes. My idea of vacation always includes good food, good wine, people watching, art, beach, funky shops, and a perfect spot like this to relax in.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Mistakes, Scrapes and Surprises

I'm back to trying new things and focusing on learning what styles and techniques I like. Painting on a bit larger canvas after doing a lot of small paintings. This is 9x12, not huge, but a lot different than painting on 6x8. This is a painting of a little glass syrup pitcher I bought at a junk store (I mean 'antique store') that I drive by on my way to the studio.

I spent a long time sketching the shape of the pitcher - it was surprisingly tough to get  the shape and proportions correct. My goal for this painting was to do the whole thing with just one large brush, thinking that it would help me not get all anal and detailed. It was going along just fine until I put some yucky color on the background which led me to scrape it off with a palette knife. I scraped and scraped and then realized I kind of liked what was happening. So after that I started using the knife to lay paint back down on the canvas and it started to get that multi-dimensional color that I love and have struggled to achieve.

This is a work in progress and I liked where it was going. And then I stopped by the studio on the way home from work tonight and proceeded to muck up the background so it doesn't look like this now.  Ended up wiping the whole background off. Unfortunate, but that's ok, the layers underneath that are dry stay there after you wipe the wet layers off. And that helps create those layers of colors that if you do it right, (which I haven't quite figured out yet) peek through the subsequent layers. I'll just keep going until I get back to where I want to be.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Summer Reading

There's something about these chairs that appeals to me. They were very hard to paint because of all the angles and I'm not really satisfied with the perspective. I based this on a photo I took last summer.

I like the painterliness (made up word) of it, but it looks like an illustration to me which is not what I wanted. The angle of the table top is off as well. But the light and composition are pretty good.

I might try to make the light on the chair on the left more pronounced and add some light to the flowers next to the house. The ones in the front should have more light on them.

I think I might, just might, be over my looooong slump.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Happy New Year and a Resolution

It's been a long time since my last post - months as a matter of fact. (sounds like confession :'bless me father for I have sinned, it has been 35 years since my last confession.' 'Go in peace my child and say 4,272 Hail Mary's').

Not sure what caused it. Could be that I opened my studio and sold some paintings and that freaked me out. I started thinking "will someone like this" while I was painting and that paralyzed me. Or it could be that work suddenly got incredibly busy and consuming and stressful. Painting - at least for me - takes a lot of energy and requires that I not be stressed out. Suddenly work got stressful.

I think it is a combination of insecurity, made up pressure and work stress. I lost sight of the fact that I am a new painter and my only mission for the next few years is to paint and paint some more. Not to sell paintings, not to be perfect, just to become the best painter I can be.

During this time I have been going to the studio and I have been painting. But in the past 2-3 months I have only painted ONE painting that I liked - this one. This is a little painting of my dog Sammy. I did it at home and I did it while she was sleeping on her bed. I had to move fast because animals don't sit still for long, even when they sleep. I really love this painting - it is Sammy all over. I like how loose it is, I like that I didn't use black (I don't even have black paint) and instead used blues, reds and greens to create her black, shiny coat. I like that I captured her beautiful face and her floppy ears and her fuzzy fur.

Other than this one, I've painted lots of things that I've hated. Its been 3 frustrating months of creating a lot of crap.

But...it's a new year and my New Year's resolution is to recommit to my priorities, which are, in order:

1) My son
2) Painting
3) My Health - hmm, not really sure where this should be - first? last? can't do much if you're not healthy - and hey, I'm not getting any younger.
4) My family
5) My friends
7) Work

Notice where work falls. I will figure out how to still be a good employee without working stupid amounts of hours that drain me. It can be done - I took this job specifically so I could do that. I have just finished a week and a half break from work and tomorrow I will return with a new attitude and work ethic. I will give them my all and then I go home. Radical, isn't it??