It’s never where I want it
My first week back at the Art Students League and although I returned with a locker’s full of supplies, I still managed to forget a key paint color (or two). Now, back at home getting ready for a two week vacation to Sicily (getting Covid tests, deciding what to pack, packing, throwing out stuff I’d forgotten I had), I was getting twitchy because I wasn’t painting. All my stuff was at the League. Somehow, it’s never where I want it.
Except of course, for the tubes of paint and palette knives I’d left at home. Oh, and among the things I’d forgotten I had were some 4×6 and 5×7 blank cards left over from a long ago printer. Well, waste not want not. I decided to use what I had.
Three little minis later …
By now you’re starting to figure out what tubes of paint I had left at home …
Maybe waste not want not isn’t such a bad idea. And who says everything always has to be where you want it?
There’s really good news
There’s good news. Not only did our massive rainfall only last one day, not only did the flooding in our basement only come from ground run-off (not the City sewer system), not only were our elevators out for less than one day… There’s really good news: the Art Students League re-opens next week for Fall classes (Yay!), AND I’m back to painting on raw canvas (for awhile stretched raw canvas was hard to come by).
Of course, nothing is ever perfect, and it turns out that I had forgotten some hard fought lessons about how to paint on raw canvas. Basic lessons like always check the jar is tightly closed before shaking it up to thoroughly blend the paint and water mixture (mistakes are excrutiatingly hard to correct on raw canvas). Basic lessons like keep your canvas horizontal until the paint is completely dry (unless you DO want those drips).
I’d expected to have to remind myself how much water to use, how long to let it dry before adding the paint for wet-in-wet, and what to do when you do make a mistake. Ah well, if this were easy, anyone could do it.
So here are the two paintings…
Painting Peaceful was anything but peaceful. I propped what I thought was the final version on my easel to take a photograph, and then forgot that it was still wet. Hours later I had two dark blue drips that took many, many efforts to fix. And, of course, every time I looked at the latest version, something else had to be adjusted. But the end result does look peaceful and reminds me a lot of my early childhood winters in Canada. Whew!
Whenever I used to get on a plane, I’d try to take pictures of the clouds out the window. A few years ago I did a series of paintings of those clouds. This is the latest one. Unfortunately I ended up with a decent sized drop of Ultramarine Blue right where it didn’t belong. Blotting it up didn’t work, of course. And just painting over it was doomed to fail, though I did try. A thin layer of matte medium and then more paint did the trick, though I’m making it sound far simpler than it was.
But all’s well that end well, and next week I’ll be back at the League painting on raw canvas. That’s the really good news.
Not Flying High
Just as I was about to feel good about dodging another climate change bullet, a major storm hit our area: tornado warning, thunder and lightning, rain and wind buffeting our windows. AND, we just found out that for the second time in two months the city’s sewer system backed up, we have flooding in the basement and we have no elevator service (I am on the 16th floor). So, even though I just finished a painting (Flying High VI), we are decidedly NOT flying high. A once in 100 years massive rainfall in a very short time frame just hit us again.
There IS actually some good news: we don’t live in Louisiana (Hurricane Ida); we still have electricity; the new flooring (to replace what was damaged in the July flooding) has not yet been installed; and all my paintings had already been brought upstairs, so I won’t have any more damaged by the water. Yay!
So, just for the hell of it, here is my painting.
I’m glad I finished this painting today before the storm arrived. Otherwise it might have looked much different.
Shelly is a good friend who just happens to like photography and takes some very good pictures. A recent picture, Shelly’s Trees, provided the inspiration for two quick sketches, one on paper and one on canvasboard. Both small.
Sunset Tree, shows the three trees silhouetted against the sunset, with the sky showing through and some branches lit by the setting sun. The actual photograph was taken during the day; no sunset.
Another experiment using the same tree(s). I wanted to get away from everything being so horizontal. But I loved the colorful sky showing through the branches.
Sometime in the future, I may try a much bigger version of Shelly’s Tree.
It’s way too long
I don’t know what I was thinking, but sometime last year during the worst of the pandemic, I bought five 10×20 gessoed canvases online. Not only did I not need so many gessoed canvases (I had been painting on raw canvas and preferred that), but 10×20 was way too long. So it’s taken me a year to figure out what to do with what I’d bought.
Actually, it took a friend sending me a picture of a sunset he had taken in Chatham, MA.
It was a looong photo … and I finally knew what I could do with at least one of those long canvases. There was enough of a diagonal, that I didn’t mind the long straight-across horizon line. I took out a lot of the details in the foreground and enlarged the tree several times. I picked up the sky sunset colors in the middleground, even though it was more blue in the photo.
10×20 is still too long, and I have four left to go.
They’re throwbacks … sorta.
The past two weeks in California visiting my son, his wife and their new son, were wonderful. It was good to get out of my small NYC universe, travel by plane, and finally see my new grandson. I believe in traveling light, so the only art supplies I took were a tiny travel watercolor set, a few brushes, a small (5×7) watercolor sketch pad. Definitely minimal. That’s the good news. The bad (sorta) news is that I had to paint with watercolor, something I haven’t done in years. So the six paintings I produced, well, they’re throwbacks … sorta.
I won’t show the first ones at all, since they really just count as practice. Funny, when I was transitioning from watercolor to acrylic years ago, all I could think was: “This would be so much easier in watercolor.” The last two weeks, all I could think was: “This would be so much easier in acrylic.”
The first one was California skyline seen from a car on a highway on the way back from somewhere. I made a few artistic modifications here and there …
The California hills are very brown and dry looking (my son says they look like that most of the year), so that was the origin of my second painting.
Again some artistic license.
I liked these last two enough that I may try turning them into larger acrylic paintings. Which is what I sorta wanted to do while I was in California.
Now that we can start traveling again, I may have to get used to turning initial watercolor sketches into larger acrylic paintings.
I’ve been busy
I seem to go in spurts. It’s been almost a month since I last posted but it’s not like I haven’t done anything. Actually, I’ve been busy.
From an artist friend (who also happens to be a cousin), I accepted a 10-day challenge on facebook: post one image a day for 10 days, starting with the oldest and ending with the most recent. You would think that since I didn’t have to paint anything new for the challenge, it would be easy to do. But you would be wrong. Rather than just bragging about my best work, I decided to use the occasion to review my progress over the last 20+ years, and my conclusion: not bad. Starting with my very early watercolors, I gradually learned composition and technique. A little over 5 years ago I moved to acrylic and had to start all over with technique and learning the materials. Two major take-aways: my paintings kept getting better (although not always in a straight line); and no matter how happy I was with a painting, I would later always see some way in which it could be improved. So the 10-day challenge was both encouraging and sobering.
And I’ve done 7 paintings in the last month, most of them small sketches often on canvasboard, some in preparation for larger work later. During the Pandemic, I’ve mostly been painting on gessoed canvas or canvasboard (it’s what I had available), so my paintings have been experiments.
Lately, I’ve been focused on sunsets. They are beautiful and it’s what I see outside my window every night. Living in a high-rise apartment overlooking the Hudson River and the Palisades offers constant inspiration.
Just a few examples …
The process of creating the 10-day challenge has influenced how I look at my work. I’ve always been critical, but now I look for progress in a more specific, intensive way. The next time I paint this subject but larger, what do I have to change and how. Will I paint it on the same kind of surface or will I do something different, like going back to painting on raw canvas? Each painting has it’s own requirements and I’m still learning.
Spring’s last gasp
I know, it’s still April … so it’s still Spring. But I’m tired of trying to paint Spring paintings. So this is Spring’s last gasp, at least as far as my paintings go.
Finally, a Spring painting I really like. [You’d be amazed at how many of my paintings I don’t like. They get gessoed over.] These colors really speak to me of Spring.
So far, this is my 4th (and last) Spring painting. So I guess I’m not going to create a Spring series afterall.
I know, it’s Spring
The weather has been weird lately, warm then cold, then warm then very cold, then very warm (almost balmy), then … well, you get the picture. I know, it’s Spring.
So it’s definitely time for me to stop my Winter series and try something new. Maybe a Spring series? Well, so far I’ve done three mini 6×6 Spring paintings, but my heart is not in it. I don’t like the first one at all, so I’m going to gesso over it.
Spring 2 is the second of my Spring minis, acrylic with a palette knife on a 6×6 art panel. Not sure what to say about it.
And Spring 3 is the third (duh). Also acryllic with a palette knife on a 6×6 art panel. The yellow does make me think of forsythia, of which there is lots outside, but I’m not sure the rest of the colors are very spring-like. Somehow it’s much harder to paint “Spring.”
I may just have to move on to something else.
Winter series continues
Actually, although this is the 13th in my Winter series, there are only 12 paintings. I painted over two of my initial mini 6×6 paintings which I decided I didn’t like enough to keep. One I painted over, got confused with the numbering ( initially calling two different paintings each Winter 9) and then called it Winter 9B (to differentiate it from Winter 9). Are you confused too? It’s enough to know: my Winter series continues.
Even though there is no snow outside my window, my memories of snowy winters from my childhood in Canada continue to inspire me. And painting with a palette knife somehow makes it easier. No need to fuss over the details.