Friday, April 30, 2010

Rick the Model

graphite on paper

The other day I ran down to the art supply store to get a tube of paint and a few canvases (I have my first official commission for 3 - 7x7 paintings!). Depending where I park I have to walk past one of our city's commercial galleries, Rouge Gallery, to get to the store and on this day that is exactly what happened. I decided to stop in really quick even though I was dressed in my painting clothes and definitely not looking like I had money to spend on any of the art in the place. As it turned out I am so glad I did because the featured show was by an artist named Rick Pilling. Eleven years ago when I began taking the odd drawing class he was one of our models! At the time he was a Fine Art student and began to pose for studio classes, likely to make a bit of extra income, but also to understand what it required to be a model... and yes, he was nude which made this all very admirable in my eyes. He did a great job for us and really seemed like a great guy. Since then he has obtained both a Bachelor and Master of Fine Arts and his work has taken off. I am thrilled for him and the success he has found. Please click on his name above to see his work at the Rouge Gallery. Take note that in his portfolio there is a beautiful portrait of Degen Lindner who is also represented by Rouge Gallery and who has been a mentor to me. 

I found this unfinished sketch of him from a night class when he was our model... a decade ago!

As a side note, my dear Sammy turned eight today! I can't believe it. In another eight years he will be driving!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Atmospheric Pressure- A New Challenge

Atmospheric Pressure (unfinished)
oil on canvas paper

I painted this cloudy atmosphere while under the pressure of time constraints... hence the title.

I found this new blog called Twenty Minute Challenge and thought the concept offered a great exercise. The idea is to get all set up and then begin painting for twenty minutes and no longer. You must stop at that point whether you are done or not. Well, when I was at the studio on Monday I really wasn't in the right mood to tackle the large canvas (40x30") I prepared last week. That became clear as I puttered around the studio tweaking things, tidying my space, painting edges of canvases and visiting... pure stalling techniques- possibly picked up from exposure to my children at their bedtime! At about 2:40 p.m. I remembered about this challenge and decided to do it. I would be picking the kids up from school soon, so I had no choice but to work quickly and not (dishonestly) go over the 20 minute limit. : o) 

I got set up: paints ready, paper taped to board, palette set to go, and with my eye on the clock, off I went! Twenty minutes goes fast! It certainly kept me loose and moving at all times. I can see how doing this exercise on a regular basis could really keep me focused on the essentials of my subject and help to keep me from getting hung up on details. This isn't finished, but that's okay. This exercise was all about the painting and not about the end result. Very liberating.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Three Dreams Gone

Three Dreams Gone
acrylic on canvas
(Note: This painting doesn't exist anymore! I painted over it!)

I started this at the studio on Friday and finished it today. I used a photo and a bit of memory to do this one. Memory of the day I painted a similar piece last summer and a photo to incorporate three little dead trees that I found near the water's edge on Fairy Island at Emma Lake. I don't mind this one but I think the way the original idea was painted was much more expressive and loose. Here you can see the one I am talking about called "They'll Never Meet". Maybe these paintings are a good illustration of the spontaneous feel you can get from plein air painting as compared to the more thought out approach that occurs in the controlled environment of the studio. Or else I was just in a different mood! 

I also got the groundwork done on a big canvas last Friday, but managed to distract myself enough today that I didn't try to tackle it. Maybe tomorrow... 

Friday, April 23, 2010

Spring Day On Janzen Road

Spring Day on Janzen Road
acrylic on canvas

Well, this is the other piece I did while out in the country last weekend. It was a clear spring day with these soft, wispy clouds scattered through the sky. (Hey Deb, if you are reading this... I was thinking of you while I painted this and the story about the art teacher who told you there was no such thing as wispy clouds!) A fox ran through the field as I was setting up and there must have been a pond somewhere behind me on the other side of the road because the geese or ducks were making all kinds of noise. I sat in the shade of the truck, no music (giggle), and pushed paint around for about 90 minutes. Things didn't gel as well as they did the first day I went out, but it was still such a peaceful and relaxing afternoon so I am certainly not complaining. 

I brought this painting home with the field section incomplete and, quite frankly, looking very wishy-washy. It was pale yellow and uninteresting with a few golden stripey marks suggesting grass. Lame. I stared at it in the studio and got some input from another artist. She really liked the brush strokes in the other prairie painting and wondered if I could make something like that work in this one. At the same time, though, I needed the brush strokes to make sense with what I had happening in the sky. We pulled out a couple of books on Van Gogh to see how he handle his fields and yowzie, was that a humbling lesson! He was one wild and crazy guy! He really just went for it, didn't he? That thick, rich oil paint; the movement and expression in each and every mark he made; the mastery of colour. We "ooohed" and "aaahed" with the turning of every page. Then I glanced over at my "effort" and had to chuckle. However, looking at his work gave me that small push I needed to take a chance and try something with my piece that I never would have thought of... I ended up putting some lavenders and soft blues in the field as a compliment to all of the shades of yellows. They are subtle, but they are there (and more noticeable in person). And I added more movement to the field as well as incorporated a version of that texture found in "Out on Valley Road". I then needed to beef up the wispy clouds after the field became a bit more committed to the cause! I should have taken a before picture and I might have if I knew just how much it was going to change.

Anyhoo, it was an exercise and I learned some stuff, plus I had a great painting afternoon with no embarrassing mishaps! Doesn't get much better. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Out On Valley Road

Out on Valley Road
acrylic on canvas 
private collection

I'm back and I had a great weekend! Just what the doctor ordered. I left Friday afternoon and headed out to the country for my scrapbooking retreat. It was strange driving off by myself because the other two years I have gone I had my pal Nancy with me. It was a gorgeous day and I thoroughly enjoyed the prairie landscape as I drove out. Many people think this part of Canada is so boring because it is such a flat area, but if you actually stop and use your eyes you will see that the shapes and colours in the fields are quite beautiful. And every time you drive into the country the land looks different. It's never the same. In a few months time there will be spectacular bright yellow fields of canola and mustard, or maybe you will see the soft periwinkle of flax blanketing the landscape. And then there are the skies- especially the stormy ones. They can go on forever. Sunrises and sunsets that could bring tears to your eyes. Yup, I'm a prairie girl! 

I took my paints with me and since I woke up early on Saturday morning I decided that I may as well start the day with a plein air excursion. I headed out and made a few turns on the nearby grid roads until I came across a field with a pool of water that had accumulated in a low spot. We had just had a lot of rain so water was everywhere. It really was so pretty- pale yellow fields cut short from the season before; some areas almost looked bleached, and then these pools of water reflecting the blue, blue sky. I parked, got set up, and turned on the music... Michael Buble... then painted for about an hour or so just sitting in the back of the truck, hatch up and enjoying the solitude. All thoughts left my brain except those relating to the landscape, the palette and the canvas in front of me..... until the music started to sound a bit wonky! I kept wondering what was wrong with this relatively new CD. Then a light bulb moment struck! The battery was dying in the truck! It was being drained by the music and because the hatch was up of course the lights were on inside the truck, also draining the battery! When I realized what was happening I think I actually said out loud, "Well this isn't good." The painting zone I was in came crashing to a halt as I tried to figure out what I was going to do out on this grid road. Not one person had gone by the entire time I was painting and I had no phone numbers of any of the people at the scrappin' retreat. I finally came to the realization that I was going to have to start walking, but the grid roads would have taken a long time. I figured if I cut across a field I would be able to make more of a straight line out of my trek... except that I couldn't exactly see the buildings of the retreat. Nothin' like an early morning gamble, so I left the certainty of the road and ventured out into the field. It took me about 15 minutes before I could see the buildings and knew I was on the right track. I had a few cows look at me funny- couldn't blame them really. It took me about 15 more minutes to reach the retreat and then I had to deal with the embarrassment of asking someone to drive me to my truck and give me a boost. I didn't tell anyone about this when I got home, but I guess some of my friends will know now! I don't think my husband looks at this blog so I don't have to worry about him giving me a hard time!

Anyway, the above is what I produced while the music was playing and while I was in the zone. It is a pretty limited palette for me and joins the very few paintings I have ever done without using any green at all. I like the simplicity of it and the blue pool in the field. It might be a sketch for a larger piece someday.

Friday, April 16, 2010


acrylic on canvas
(tweaked and reposted 04/21/10)

This is the larger canvas I have been working on a the studio and it is postable at this point, but still may not be finished. I am not sure the tree in the sun looks bright enough. That, or maybe the surrounding area needs to be a bit darker. I'm relatively happy with it so at least that feels great. I want it to look like there is a spotlight on that dead tree and the moss bed around it..

I am off to a weekend scrapbooking retreat and I am taking my paints with me, so maybe I will even be able to do a little plein air painting in the countryside. I used to scrapbook on a regular basis (mainly photos of the kids) but in the last two years I all but stopped. However, in the last two years I attended this weekend "scrapfest" with my good pal, Nancy. It is great to have a chunk of time to focus and feel like something was getting  accomplished. Unfortunately Nancy isn't going this year, but in the end I decided to grab one of the last two open spots, so I am going by myself! I may know some people when I get there anyway, but if I don't I am happy to get a little me time. It will be nice not to have to be a referee for two days or say things like "Eat your food. Come on, this is taking too long" or "Enough with the poop jokes" or "Yes you have to brush your teeth" or "I don't care who started it...". Sigh. You get the idea and the list could go on. I love being a stay-at-home-mom, but it is so hard not to get a mental break from that stuff. Funny thing is that I am going, in part, to get a break from the people, but really I will be staring at photos of them all weekend as I scrapbook memories!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Painting Makes Me Happy

Elevated Blues
oil on canvas
I was at the studio again this afternoon and first thing I did was tweak the painting I posted yesterday. I think I am much happier with it now. Initially I lightened the diagonal space between the clouds and lightened the sky above the right hand clouds (thanks Don, for your eyes). After I did that I still felt like it needed something so I added a puff of cloud in that space as well. I am happier with the overall effect now, although I may make the top of the new puffy cloud a bit whiter. Or not. We'll see.

I am hoping if I can get to the studio tomorrow that I will be able to finish my forest scene and post it. It is getting very close. I really want it to look like there is a spotlight on this one tree and section of moss, but it is hard to find the correct colour of the lit up tree. In my photo reference it just looks kind of white and overexposed so it isn't helping me much. I'll figure it out. As long as the whole thing doesn't look garish (my biggest fear with acrylics). Stay tuned... I'll be posting it soon for opinions.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Painting...Finally!

Elevated Blues
oil on canvas
I went to the studio today! Yay! It felt great. My goal was to get something done so I could actually post some artwork. I pulled out this 7x7" canvas, did a quick base coat of cobalt violet (never tried that before) in acrylic and then painted some sumptuous clouds in oil over top. You can especially see some of the cobalt violet above the left cloud at the edge of the painting. So much fun. I think if you click on the image you will get a really large close-up of the colours and brush strokes in the clouds. I think this is done, however, after seeing it on the screen I am not sure about the diagonal line of sky between the clouds. Feedback is always appreciated if anyone sees a problem zone.

After I finished playing with this one I worked on the large canvas I started awhile ago which I am doing in acrylics. What an entirely different sensation going immediately from oils. I actually think it caused me to treat the acrylics in a more loose manner. I think the layers of this painting are starting to come together and by the time I left today I think there was a real sense of depth happening in my two-dimensional forest. And I listened to a disc I haven't heard in awhile... it was greatest hits by Simply Red. I loved that band back in the day. Hmmm...Mick Hucknall- not a conventional singer to have a crush on, but I did. I see from their website they are doing a farewell tour that would be pretty fantastic to see, but it doesn't look like they are coming to Canada. They have pumped out some great music in their time.

Although I was away from the studio, my creative spirit was in full gear the last couple of weeks, albeit in an entirely different way than usual. As I mentioned the other day it was Tommy's 6th birthday and for months now he has asked if he could have an Indiana Jones party. I thought that was so funny because he has never seen the show, but he knows about  the Lego toys and we saw the stunt show at Disney Hollywood Studios when we took the kids last year. I had the goal that for the first 6 years I would do parties for them at home as opposed to going out somewhere. Until they were about three the parties usually just involved family and maybe a litttle playmate, but for birthdays 4, 5 and 6 they have always had a theme and more friends. Although they have not been particularly expensive to do, they have been about putting our imaginations to use and as a result the planning and execution of them has been time consuming! So Tommy's request for an Indiana Jones party felt like the last "kick at the cat" so-to-speak. Tommy is six and this is the last creatively intense party I will do. It was bitter-sweet. 

Here is the low-down (just so you don't think I completely slacked off on my blogger vacation):
The invitation (which was made by my brother-in-law) set the whole thing was Tommy's face photo-shopped onto an image of Indy with all of the details about the party, which was called "Indiana Ault and the Quest for the Black Widow's Cave".
A clue was included with the invitation and the kids had to bring it with them to the party. When they arrived we went to Barnett College (our basement) to see "Indiana Ault's" office (our desk area jazzed up with maps artifacts, and worldly postcards- thanks Auntie Karen) and do a scavenger hunt for things they would need on their adventure. They found things like a satchel, a piece of a map, markers/stakes for the archeological dig they were going to do, a flashlight, Indy's whip, a container of "bow darts",etc. We also put all the clues together that they brought with them which spelled "Black Widow's Cave" and that got them excited. 
Next stop was base camp which was set up on our deck in the back yard. That's where they found the big map that had the missing piece which they found on the scavenger hunt. From there we did the "adventures"  coming back to base camp after each one.  They had to:

1) swing over Snake River:
2) do an archeological dig for copper (rolls of pennies which became part of the loot bags) and mark where they found their treasure:
 3) shoot blow darts at Mola Ram (Q-tips with one end dipped in paint and then put in the end of a straw and blown at a poster):
 4) knock over a Tiki tribe (aluminum cans covered in paper with tiki heads drawn on) with the whip:
5) Retrieve the golden Buddha from the Temple of Doom (fort with green crepe paper strewn about for vines) and try to escape the boulder (exercise ball rolling down the slide after them):

6) discover the Black Widow's Cave (Little Tike's house covered in camo tarp with Halloween spider stuff around) where the final treasure would be found (loot bags):

After that it was cake, presents and playtime! Speaking of cake... thank you Auntie Jannie for your fantastic creation:

I was super stressed last week wondering why I put myself through all of this...especially a party that is so dependant on decent weather... and we had a crazy gale force sleet storm on Friday, two days before the party. However, it all came together in the end, even the weather, and it was sooo worth it. Tommy and Sam loved it. I hope these parties will be a source of great childhood memories. If the boys don't completely remember them I hope they will still enjoy the photos and scrapbook pages I will make of these memories. Like I said, it was not an expensive party to put on (thank you Dollarama)... it was really dependent on creative use of things I already had, imagination, the power of play and the rare commodity of time to plan and execute it... plus a bit of help from family!

And now that I am done tootin' my own horn I will make a disclaimer for any die-hard Indy fans that may read this... I realize this party in no way followed the true Indy adventures.... this is where the imagination thing came in! :) 

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Six Years Ago

Happy Birthday to my precious, smiley Tommy! He is six today and I can't believe it. It was a great day. He slept over at Gram and Gramp's last night. When he woke up he told his auntie, "I'm six! I think my tooth is wiggly!" He is the most amazing little personality guy and his smile has been able to light up a room since day one. These are a couple of my favorite baby pictures of him... there are many so it was a bit hard to choose.

More art coming soon... I promise...

Sunday, April 4, 2010

More About Me

I haven't written for awhile, in fact, this is the longest I have gone between posts. I guess you could say that I imposed a blogger vacation on myself. I just needed to step away for a bit- I was getting a bit crazy with looking around at other blogs and comparing myself with other artists, which of course ended up with me being super critical of myself. Is this human nature or my nature? I have never thought of myself as a competitive person, but there I was even comparing the number of followers I have to other artists.... who had more, how long had they been blogging in comparison to me, etc. Ridiculous! So crazy! I am taking a deep breath and coming clean with the full reasons for my blogger vacation. I needed to regroup. I feel better now. And I learned a bit about myself while I stepped back which, in the end, is one of the reasons I started this blog (see here for more).

What did I learn during this short blog break?  Well, it turns out I really care what other people think... maybe too much. And maybe this need (for approval? or support?) is holding me back. I think it is certainly preventing me from taking risks- in art and in life. I really want people to like me, what I do, what I say, what I create. Of course who doesn't, right? But I realized over the last little bit that I am caring about these things more than I would like for myself. I want people to follow me and yet I have not gotten into following others because I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings if I don't follow them back! Oh my gosh, I am making my own self crazy just reading this! How insane am I???? How Canadian is that of me? Jeez. The awesome part of this revelation is that now that I know this about myself, I can work on it! I can work on not caring... or at least not as much as I have been. Me thinks there is freedom somewhere in this discovery.

And now it is time to join my family for supper...

to those who celebrate it...

HAPPY EASTER everyone!