Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘painting’

Sunrise = Sunset

Have you ever noticed that sunrises and sunsets look alike? Sometimes you only see sunsets (as I do), or sometimes you only see sunrises (as a friend of a friend who lives in Brooklyn does). But when you look at the photos we take, you can’t tell which is which. (Ditto for the paintings I create based on those photos.) It all depends on which way your windows face. Mine face west, his face east. Sunrise = sunset. They look the same.

And here are some examples. If you don’t look at the titles, would you know which was which?

Sunrise Sunset

Sicilian Sunset

Sara’s Sunset (actually, this was a sunrise)

Palisades Sunset

Winter Sunset II

There are more, but I rest my case. Sunrise = Sunset.

It’s talking to me …

Any artist worth her salt will say the painting “talks” to her. No beginning artist really understands. “Talks?” But it’s true and I have a current example. It’s talking to me …

I have a photo taken in Antigua which I love. I’ve wanted to paint it for years: the shadows on the path, the light shining through the trees … It’s a very complex landscape so I decided to do a sketch to try and avoid some of the pitfalls. Here’s the cropped and greatly simplified sketch.

Without thinking about it too much (my first mistake), I sketched it very lightly on a 18×14 piece of raw canvas taped down to a larger piece of foamcore. Using fluid acrylic only slightly thinned with water, I started to paint the land next to the path and noticed that getting hard edges was going to be difficult. Well, duh. The painting was already starting to “talk” to me.

But I was committed, so I started on the trees with fluid acrylic thinned with a lot more water, since I wanted it to be fairly light to start. I would make it darker with additional layers of paint. By now the painting is fairly “screaming” at me.

What should have been nice smooth edges simply weren’t. Taking a deep breath, I decided to “listen.” I stopped and let it dry.

Background: I paint on raw canvas with thinned fluid acrylic because I like the soft- (in some cases non-) edges, the atmospheric effect. And because I wanted that effect for the leafy part of the trees, I ignored the difficulty I was going to have with the branches and tree trunks, the ground and path, and the shadows.

So this isn’t a made-for-tv story with a happy ending … at least not yet. I confess I kinda like this jagged edges effect and I certainly right now have no idea how I’m going to make this work. I could continue as is with all the edges being jagged, and see how that turns out. Or I can try to “fix” the edges, but that involves matte medium and a lot of work. It’s going to take a lot of thought (what I should have done at the beginning, since I know how unforgiving raw canvas is and how hard it is to correct mistakes).

So I’ll think about it over the weekend and then decide. It certainly would have been better/easier if I’d “listened” to the painting at the beginning.

Shows you what I know …

Back in November, I thought I’d finally finished a fiery painting prompted by the California wildfires and a recent visit to Sicily: Afterglow. There were hours and hours of painting reds, and blues, and Payne’s Gray. And then I finally added many more layers of gray and white to make the mist. I liked it. I thought it worked. It hadn’t turned out as I originally intended, but that’s often the case. I thought it was done. Shows you what I know!

Here’s the original painting.

Afterglow 24×30 Acrylic on raw canvas

I took a picture of it and posted it on my website. But every time I looked at it, something was bothering me. I couldn’t figure out what it was. Plus I was really tired of working on it. So I shrugged and put it away. And started working on the next painting: Misty Morning.

Whenever I come back from a vacation trip I always return with hundreds (thousands?) of photographs and lots of ideas for new paintings. My recent trip to Sicily was no exception and the slopes of Mt. Etna were inspirational. Misty Morning was started. I liked the colors in an earlier Mt. Etna painting (Before the Rain) so I decided to repeat them (sorta). The slopes of Mt. Etna were a purplish black with patches of drying yellow oxide grasses showing through. In Misty Morning, the black and yellow oxide were more evenly balanced and hard edged. And therein lay the problem: it didn’t look like something in nature; it looked like a graphic poster, too stylized. I tried softening some of the edges, but I couldn’t seem to make a dent in the overall effect. (Have I mentioned recently that watered down acrylic on raw canvas is very unforgiving?)

The only solution I could think of was to intensify the mist to soften most of the edges. (BTW, I’ve spent many hours studying the mist that often partly obscures the Palisades Cliffs outside my window in the morning.) And, many many layers of watered down titanium white later, it worked.

Misty Morning 24×30 Acrylic on raw canvas

Now that’s what one of Etna’s slopes looked like on a misty morning. Success!

But that success made me go back and rethink my previous painting, Afterglow. And I suddenly knew what I had to do: make the smoke more prominent, more like the mist in Misty Morning.

Easier said than done, of course. But many layers of thinned titanium white later, the smoke in Afterglow pulls it all together. Whew.

Afterglow 24×30 Acrylic on raw canvas

And I had thought it looked finished before. … Actually, I’m not sure it’s finished now. Shows you what I know.

Waste Not Want Not

This is a “waste not want not” story with a vengeance. Not only am I sporadically trying to use up the gessoed canvases I bought long ago before I became enamored with raw canvas, but I actually grabbed a canvas that an unknown artist at the Art Students League had thrown out (it sat next to the garbage bin for hours). Somehow I just couldn’t let it go to waste.

At home, I gessoed over the other artist’s work (it was pretty bad, so I understood why it had been tossed) and decided to paint something so it wouldn’t go to waste (and also so I wouldn’t have yet another white gessoed canvas with nothing on it to look at).

So the “gift” canvas painting turned into a memory of white water rafting down a fast moving river with a lot of big rocks. Fun. Scary, Exhilarating. I miss that carefree adrenalin rush.

Perilous Acrylic 16×20

I was on a roll, so I decided to tackle another gessoed canvas, one of my own raw canvas paintings I had hated and decided to gesso over so it didn’t get wasted. This time, I was reminiscing about my recent California trip to see my new grandson over Thanksgiving and the summers I spent on Fire Island. (There really is a connection: the balmy California weather made me think of summer on Fire Island, and the weather reports from New York of snowfall added snow to the beach scene.)

First Snow Acrylic 20×20

In both paintings, I use tube acrylic and fluid acrylic with a bristle brush to convey the wind. What started as an experiment at the beginning of the Pandemic is now almost my usual approach to painting, at least when I am home, working on gessoed canvas. It always takes me a little time to shift gears from working with watered down acrylic paint on raw canvas (at the Art Students League) to painting with a bristle brush on gessoed canvas (at home).

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 …

Gold 4×6 Acrylic on cardstock

Storm Song 5×7 Acrylic on cardstock

By now you’re starting to figure out what tubes of paint I had left at home …

Returning Sun 5×7 Acrylic on cardstock

Maybe waste not want not isn’t such a bad idea. And who says everything always has to be where you want it?

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.

Chatham Sunset 10×20 Acrylic

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 …

Sky

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.

Collage to Painting

Okay, while waiting for some raw canvases to arrive from Amazon, I had done a collage version (an artistic rough draft) of my favorite view: the sunset over the Palisades and the Hudson River. Now it was time to try and convert that into a painting. Collage to painting: easier said than done.

My collage had been all about flat color and hard edges (see my previous post). I decided to try to create a watercolor version, which would be all about soft edges (or no edges) and fluid color changes. Still an experiment though, since I wanted the final painting (which I could see in my mind’s eye) to be acrylic on raw canvas. Watercolor would allow me to test and practice the shift from collage to painting.

I ended up with three attempts (it’s been a long time since I worked with watercolor) and one of them gave me the idea I was looking for:

wc sunset

Lord knows, it wasn’t anything I wanted to brag about, or even really acknowledge, but it was the start I needed.

So I moved to acrylic on raw canvas backed with gesso. [Technical aside: you can buy canvas pads which are gessoed only on one side. I simply opt to paint on the back, or raw canvas, side.] It’s not the same as working on stretched raw canvas, which is NOT gessoed on the back, but it IS the next best thing.

So ended up with two versons of my sunset on canvas, only one of which I will post:

Acrylic canvas pad sunset

Now we’re getting somewhere. Not my final destination, but closer.

Next step: wait for delivery of the stretched raw canvas and then tackle the painting. Depending on how long that takes, I may do a few more canvas pad versions. To be continued …

I’m losing it …

It’s a month since I last posted something and … I’m losing it. When asked (not often), I say I’m doing fine. And I mean it. I’m not severely depressed or suicidal. I’m home with my husband and neither of us is sick. We argue about the small stuff, but agree on all the big stuff: how ridiculous Trump is but how hillarious Sara Cooper on Twitter is, what program to watch on Netflix, what to eat for dinner. After checking our phones, we even agree on what day of the week it is.

And there is some really wonderful news: at our advanced age we have become grandparents. Our son and his wife have just had a beautiful baby boy. We couldn’t be happier, unless we were actually there to hug him/them.

My painting is coming along. I’ve painted a couple which I like:

.

and

Hwange Sunset Acrylic on raw canvas 24×30

I’ve gessoed over three canvases which I didn’t like (from earlier, not painted since Covid19).

And I’ve started another African Skies sunset, similar to Hwange Sunset, which I think I’m gonna like.

But the excitement isn’t there. I used to rush to the League, eager to start on the next painting. Now, I spend as much time avoiding painting as I do actually putting paint on canvas. I still spend time thinking and planning what I’m going to do next, but the tingle, the oomph, just isn’t there.

And it doesn’t look like it’s going to change anytime soon. All this talk about everything opening up (and I really can’t wait to get back to the League) is music to my ears, but I’d have to figure out how to get there. It’s way too far to walk and I’m not getting on the NYC subway for the foreseeable future. And assuming I could get there, masks and gloves would not be a problem. But safely social distancing in otherwise crowded studios is hard to imagine.

My husband says, “If this is retirement, it’s not so bad.” And it’s not. It’s just not great either.

My new site is live

My new website (same URL: http://www.ruthhurd.com) is now live.  Halleluia!  You don’t want to know how long I’ve been working on it.

But I got serious about it last year when I screwed up an update to my old site. I found a friend, Jessica, who really helped me get the new site organized and on track and then a professional, Eric, put the Shop in place, etc.

It’s going to complicate my life in the future because the new site uses Wix but I am continuing my blog on WordPress.  I’ll have to learn (probably the hard way), how to create a blog post for a new painting and have it also appear on my wix site.

As my art making grows and develops, I’ll also have to figure out what that means for the structure of my site.

Anyway, for now it’s a big sigh of relief and a glass (or two) of wine to celebrate.

Hope you like the new site.  Let me know your reaction(s).