I have no artwork to post today... well, I could dig something up from days gone by, but I actually just feel like writing.
I was at the studio this afternoon and got working on the larger version of "Lit" which felt really good. I'm excited that I actually feel a bit motivated to get some work underway. The four days of plein air painting last week seemed to be just what I needed. It has turned cold again, but I'm okay with being back in the studio because I know this cold spell won't last forever and Spring truly is on the way.
Anyway, I had my four plein air paintings set out on my table at the studio and two other artists that were working in their spaces came over to say they liked what I did last week... but then an impromptu critique ensued! It started with one of them saying I needed to be careful when doing the horizon line of a river or body of water- it should be level and not on an incline because water doesn't flow like that. The painting she was referring to was "River Thawing" and I was quite confused at the time, but I think I am starting to understand what she meant. When I painted it I was looking down the river (not straight across to the other bank) and my eye saw an angle, but maybe in the painting it reads like there is a slope to the river which, of course, is not the way rivers run unless they are going over some sort of water fall. This is where things got interesting, if not a little heated! The other artist piped up and said that this angle didn't bother her, she felt it made the composition more dynamic. My head was going back and forth between them as if I was watching a tennis match! What bothered her was that the water and the grayer edge of the ice were about the same size making it look like two equal bands running across the width of the painting and as a result this section was quite boring. Humph and how about that?!! I can see that point too! How does a person miss these things when they are painting? I caught it on "Ice, Water, Snow, Frost", but missed it on this one. I actually really like "River Thawing", but maybe with these suggestions I can make it even better. I'm thinking if I drop the left side of the bank down a bit to reduce the angle of the horizon line then maybe that will help the flow of the water look more natural. After that maybe I will tweak the grayer edge of the ice so it differs from the size of the water itself. Lots to think about. I am thankful for constructive critiques... if done right, I can really learn something.
Speaking of which, I feel I have so much to learn that I am overwhelmed most days! This is possibly one of the reasons why I have had a hard time getting back at it after our car accident. During the couple of months I was in too much pain and too uncomfortable to go in and work at the studio, I kept looking at and finding all kinds of art blogs. I've thought it before, but in these months it really sunk in.... I know very little about what I am doing in this art world! All these amazing artists can write about their knowledge... values, temperature of colour; warm and cool, how light works, etc., and although I get the gist of what they are saying, I don't think I have the full understanding so as to put it into practice- especially where colour mixing is concerned. I don't mean to make it sound like I don't think I have any clue at all and oh, poor me, but I have realized that when I paint I am not relying on a whole lot of theory! Right now I am painting, I guess, from my gut- what I like, what I don't like... my choices are intuitive rather than, well... informed! I don't necessarily think this is entirely a bad thing, but the unfortunate result of this self awareness is that I am feeling like a bit of a sham! I don't think there will ever be a day that I think I know enough about art. Therefore this desire, passion and quest of mine will be lifelong. But I can think of worse things! :o)
Thanks to all of you who take the time to leave wonderful, supportive comments as you watch me climb this learning curve. It is a steep one and I'm happy to have you join me on this journey!
March 26 from 3-6 p.m.: I will have a painting in the biennial art auction in support of the Sexual Health Centre Saskatoon. Learn more about the auction and how to get tickets here.
November 10, 2016: I was interviewed by Daily Paintworks as their Spotlight Artist for a week! Read my interview on the DPW News blog!
Ongoing: my 8x8" original oil paintings are available exclusively at Darrell Bell Gallery in Saskatoon. For a limited time several of my large oil paintings are also available at their new street front gallery on 21st Street (formally Lifestyles By Darrell Bell Gallery).
Ongoing: a selection of my larger work is available at The Black Spruce Gallery at Northside on Highway 2 just before the turn to Christopher Lake.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Sunday, March 21, 2010
acrylic on canvas
This was my fourth and final plein air painting of the week... done on Wednesday and then the weather turned on me. I woke early this morning to unforeseen and uncontrollable snoring next to me, so I decided to get up and have a more productive Sunday morning than usual. I swung by Timmie's and got a coffee (I rolled up my rim and won a coffee!) then headed to the studio. I put the finishing touches on this little number which I feel quite pleased with- especially the rocks. They turned out better than I expected. Next I started the under-painting for a 20x20 forest scene. This new one will be based on the photo reference I used to paint "Lit" which you can see here (it's the one in the middle). It's a painting I loved doing and I want to try it on a larger scale.. maybe even using oils! I want to explore the light and shadows more and experiment with the tree that looks as if a spotlight is on it.
So occasionally I like to share little bits and pieces of my life and today I have a couple of gems.
Last night before bed I was snuggling Tommy (5) on the couch and he said sincerely, "Mommy, you are bery beautiful. You have chubby cheeks and that is what makes you so special." Ah-hahahahahahaha! Well, it's a compliment, I guess, so I'll take it. (And he has been saying "bery" instead of "very" for quite sometime now. Someday that little quirk will be gone and I will miss it).
The other day (Friday) the kids and I were off track.... things were not going well. Tommy had bad dreams the night before, so neither he or I got a decent sleep. And I don't know what what going on with Sam, but he was really off his game,which is unusual because he has a pretty even temperament. I was exhausted and things seemed to go from bad to worse after school. Both kids ended up in their rooms and received individual talks and then were given some time to regroup. When Sammy eventually came out of his room he gave me a huge hug and presented me with a ring he had fashioned out of white sticky tack and a Lego jewel. As soon as Tommy came out and got wind of this idea he disappeared and came back with his version which was also a ring, but made from blue sticky tack and a Lego flame. Now I have never been a huge one for glitz and glamour, diamonds and pearls... as you can see I just have a wedding band... but I will take Lego jewelry any day of the week!!! And in case you are wondering, the rest of the night was much more manageable.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Ice, Water, Snow, Frost
acrylic on canvas
© Nicki Ault, 2012
© Nicki Ault, 2012
This is Tuesday's plein air effort. I did a bit of tweaking on it this morning while my little partner tried his hand at a bit of acrylic painting... with the addition of stickers. I had taken a photo of this one, but upon seeing it on the computer screen I realized that the land, water and foreground ice were all equally a third of the painting. It just looked way too orderly and contrived, so I dropped the water down and made some adjustments to the land. I'm much happier with this, compositionally speaking anyway.
Even though it was unbelievably windy, I went down to the river to paint yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon when the boys were at school. In the next day or two I will hopefully be able to post the piece I worked on but in the meantime I will have to finish it in the studio... the temperature really dropped last night, so I won't be venturing outside to paint. This one features a rock covered far bank and I don't know if I can pull it off. At any rate it definitely needs more time spent on it.
Also, to the Irish out there, I wanted to say a belated Happy St. Patrick's Day! My grandmother came to Canada from Belfast, Ireland when she was 4 years old. She was always so proud of her heritage and would wear a "Kiss me I'm Irish" button on March 17 every year. In honour of the day I made green scrambled eggs for lunch and put green food colouring in the toilet water! The kids enjoyed the fun, but in the end I was the only one who ate the eggs. Can't imagine why.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
acrylic on canvas
It was another great day out painting yesterday afternoon and I really like how this painting turned out. It was a bit windier than on Sunday, but a with blanket wrapped around my legs, full body long johns under jeans and a sweatshirt, as well as a fleece and windbreaker I was kept comfortable for the two hours I had to get this little one done. Oh yes, and I can't forget to give credit to the Tim Horton's coffee that helped keep me warm! Mmmmmm. The whole setting was so perfect and seemed so right.... I really thought that when I "rolled up my rim" I just might win*! Even if it was just another coffee. But alas, I revealed the ever-so-polite "Please Try Again" message. Of course it is in Tim's best interest for me to buy another coffee and "try again" (which I did today), but in the bigger, more philosophical side of things it is also in my best interest to try again. I'm not talking about where coffee cup games are concerned, of course, but with my painting. Even in this funk I need to keep trying. And I know that if I do keep trying, keep plodding along, I will suddenly find myself "onto something". Smart little paper coffee cup.
As a side note, last night I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to figure out how to add a slide show of my paintings to the right hand side of my blog. Good lordy, for a non-computer type like myself it was quite an ordeal. I am happy to say that I seem to have it up and running... and I am now on Flickr as a result ( I don't really even know what that means). Please have a look if you have a bit of extra time.
*Tim Horton's is a Canadian coffee/donut company that runs a contest at least once a year where you roll up the rim of your paper coffee cup to find out if you've won a prize. You are most likely to win another coffee or a donut, but there are grand prizes like $10,000 or RAV-4 vehicles.
Monday, March 15, 2010
acrylic on canvas
Yesterday when my husband got home form hockey he suggested I head to the studio to paint. He and the boys were just going to chill at home, so I decided to take him up on the offer. The problem being that I have felt a bit stale and uninspired these days, so I was concerned I would just be wasting this awesome gift of time. Then it dawned on me.... it is beautiful outside! We are having a beautiful month of March here on the prairies and I got thinking that maybe, just maybe, I could lift my painting funk if I changed my surroundings. Voila! A plein air painting excursion was born! I went down to a park by the river where I like to take the kids to play in the summer and I found a shady, protected spot under a tree. I did this little study out in the fresh crisp spring air and it felt great. The river that runs through our city does not freeze on the west side so in the winter there is a beautiful frozen sheet over most of the surface, but you can see the icy green/blue water rushing by the bank on the west side. The water looked soooo cold. I think I may use this study to make a larger painting.
Here are a few more shots of my adventure. The birds were chirping, people were out walking their dogs, and some folks were even trying to ride their bikes! It was glorious and such a treat. There is no way last year on March 14th I could have been painting outside. I think the high yesterday afternoon was +9 degrees Celcius, but by the time I packed up around 5:00 or so it was cooling off a bit more- the paint started to freeze up on the brush! It was a new experience as I am used to painting en plein air in July or August. I enjoyed it so much I went back out this afternoon when the boys were at school. I'll post that painting tomorrow.
Many thanks to everyone who left such supportive comments on my previous post. I'll try another portrait soon... well,... someday..... later...
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
The Small Cowper Madonna (detail)
oil on paper
Well, here it is. Whew. Very nerve wracking posting this. So not in my comfort zone, but that is good, right?
I have been talking about attempting portraits because they fascinate me, but I have just not been able to motivate myself. I have really been struggling, since our rotten stinkin' car accident, to get my head in the game again, but I have been only moderately successful. I just can't seem to get a clear focus. As well, there have been other distractions (child related) that have definitely kept my head space cloudy. If I could just get away from drama I would be a happy gal. Anyways, while I flounder around waiting for focus to return, I thought it would be a great time to try an online challenge. When I saw the Following The Masters blog for the first time a few weeks ago I thought that it might be something I could get interested in depending what the next challenge was. Sure enough, when Michelle (the FTM blog creator) announced that the inspiration for Challenge #11 was The Italian Renaissance I knew I could find something to work with. I loved this period when I studied Art History many moons ago. And my favorite artist for a long time was Raphael. So I pulled out some gorgeous old textbooks that I kept from my studies and chose this beautiful Madonna. I decided to only work on a detail of the actual painting for a few reasons: 1) I haven't done a portrait since first year university, so I didn't want to make my comfort zone even less comfortable by having to paint two portraits! And b) I didn't want to commit a crazy amount of time to the project. (Humph, upon reading that back, maybe my lack of motivation really has more to do with laziness! I guess I have something to think about!)
As much as I know it does not look like the face of Raphael's Madonna, I am excited I tried this challenge and I learned a lot in the process. And I used oils for this, not acrylics! I definitely have lots to learn about colour mixing and, where oil paint is concerned, how to keep the colours looking clear and not muddy. So while I tread water in artistic No Man's Land waiting for focus to return, maybe I will try to follow a few other portrait masters like Fred Varley or John Singer Sargent and get some learnin' done.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Over The Point
oil on canvas
This is a calmer cloud painting with a gentler atmosphere than the last few I have posted. I finished it last week and liked it when I left the studio, but while I was away from it I got thinking that maybe it was boring. So when I went back to the studio I planned to change it, but then seeing in person I liked it again and left it alone. Over the weekend, however, I went through the same thing in my mind because it is so different from my other little skies. I got thinking this one didn't have enough substance. But yesterday I got to the studio and liked it again, so I decided to leave it. Oh, the indecision! In the end, I have decided I do like it. I like it's simplicity, I like how calm it feels, I like the feel of those soft clouds rolling in over the point (of Fairy Island at Emma Lake). I like that there is colour in these clouds, but much more subdued than in the previous cloud paintings. And I like the little wispy cloud on the top left. So there you have it. It will be left as it was originally painted.
A bit of news... I am in the process of taking part in my first online challenge! I hope to post the little painting very soon, maybe in the next day or two. The subject I chose is very different for me and it is something I have been wanting to try... a portrait! But it is not what you think... and it has been a great learning exercise for me. Hopefully after a bit more tweaking this afternoon it will be ready to submit and then show to you!
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Rain Is Coming
oil on paper
I went to the studio this afternoon and decided to create another cloud painting- it was just too fun last week and luckily it was fun again today. Now that I have uploaded this image I realize that it is likely a bit darker than in real life. The land at the bottom actually has more dark green to it. Here it looks quite black. Anyhoo, I like how it looks. I like the stormy moodiness of it. I am finding it a smidge of a challenge to work with such a limited palette; 12 oil colours including Titanium white. I have to start somewhere though, right? I was poking around online and found a great sale on a brand called "Shiva Signature Oil Paint" that has been around for a really long time. If anyone knows anything about them please leave me a comment- as good as the deal sounds, it won't be a good deal if they are low quality.
I've been thinking about the way I paint, especially since I have been playing with oils. When the artists at the studio saw my the sky/clouds I painted last week they offered positive feedback and then made a comment that they kind of reminded them of Degen's work (her gallery link is "not found"). Of course I took that as a compliment, but I got worried that maybe it seemed like I was copying. I took a step back and contemplated. My final judgment was that, in fact, these skies were very different than the kind she would paint, but maybe my handling of the paint had been influenced by her. Some parts of the clouds were painted without much mixing and that is something she would do. When you admire work of other artists I think you can really learn by studying their techniques, their colour choices, the way they set up their compositions, and then use what you've learned when you go to paint your interpretation of the world. I find the idea of creating a mood or atmosphere in clouds by using unexpected colours quite fascinating. I am a huge admirer of a local artist named Greg Hardy. Now here is someone with a real point of view. The scale of his work is impressive and I can't get enough of how he expresses and interprets his subjects. Click here to view his portfolio of recent exhibitions... especially take the time to click on the Michael Gibson Gallery and the Nicholas Metivier Gallery to see Mr. Hardy's skies and clouds. They are breathtaking and like none other.
I feel like with every piece of art I am drawn to, I am gathering information, I am making mental notes, I am absorbing. Maybe I am all the art I have ever admired. Maybe this next stage of my life is going to be me taking this internalized knowledge and letting it out on canvas. In my own way. Finding my own point of view.
Monday, March 1, 2010
oil on paper
I clearly remember the first assignment from Robert Christie in my one and only University studio class many (sigh) years ago and that was to drape a piece of white fabric in some appealing way and paint what we saw (with oil paint). Actually it was the first of several assignments we were given along those same lines, with something new added each time. I knew nothing about oil paint and didn't even gesso the paper! I also recall that I left the whitest highlights of the fabric as bare paper. It stunk. With a few tips the next assignment went a bit better, as did the next and the next. Studying the whites was a good lesson in values and using fabric as the subject was a good way to learn how to see soft and subtle differences. I'm going to look to see if I kept those early assignments, it would be fun to post them! With those early assignments in mind I put together this little study.
After playing with oils last Monday and Tuesday I was flying high with excitement of the possibilities. It was so fun to blend and move the paint around even after a half hour or more had passed. That is just not something that can happen with acrylics. They just dry too quickly. As it turned out, this very thing I was loving about oils those first two days was the very thing that made me mental on Wednesday when I started working on this little white study! I kept forgetting that the paint was wet and I would try to add a nice white highlight somewhere and the paint would just smudge together. Turns out the quick drying aspect of acrylics has it's place. And I kept wondering how people paint with oils en plein air! I was such a mess sitting in one spot in my studio, I can't imagine trying to transport them (but I probably will try someday)! And layering colours as I do in my reflections would take weeks and weeks and weeks. I'm not sure I have the patience or stamina.
This little study is okay. I can already see some things I would tweak, but I likely won't. It is what it is. It was just an exercise and I will do more of them as I learn this new medium. And I will try to be brave enough to share the results... good or bad.