All posts by chris ludke

I'm from Ephrata PA. I went to art school at York Academy of Art where I had classical training in the ways of the old masters. I live in Virginia Beach and I like to work in plein air. I find endless inspiration in nature. It's good for your health to draw and paint outside, and I think my skill is improving every year, because representing nature is always a challenge. I go to the same place at the same time of day and work on my painting for 2 or 3 hours. There's no need to rush to finish a painting. I finish them in weeks or months. I'm excited about what I'm working on. I don't use photos for reference. I draw freehand. Sometimes if the weather isn't good to paint outside, I work on figure drawing, collage, folk art or another genre of art. Here's a story from my youth about a teacher that greatly influenced me, but neither Fitzkee or I knew it at the time. The time I put a teacher to the test. Boy was he mad. I was raised to question authority. I'm a rebel against the establishment. I went to YAA mainly because they didn't require SAT scores, because I hated high school and never took the test. I was in the first class at YAA that could elect to major in fine arts. They also taught interior design, commercial art, illustration etc. Basically it was a trade school where you could earn an Associates degree. For every project we had a critique. Our teachers didn't care if they hurt a student's feelings. I was having so much fun at the time, no harsh critique made me upset. Around 1/3 of the students dropped out in the first year, though. Our teachers pushed us hard into drawing and painting in the ways of the old masters. The use of a photo for reference was strictly forbidden, since the old masters could draw without a photo. One project was to paint a still life. I didn't want to do it. I thought a still life would be boring. I was rebelling. I said, "I don't want to paint like an old master, I want to do sculpture." (when I think about those sculptures today, I can see how horrible they really were.) Fitzkee once again said no photos and I asked him why not. He said, "Because I'll know." which seemed like a lame reason to me, and I decided to find out if he would actually know. So I did my still life from a photo and he blasted my painting straight to hell in the critique. There was no point in lying about it, he really did know I cheated. This is some of the things he said. A camera is a tool for a photographer. For you it would be a crutch. A camera has 1 eye, you have 2 eyes. A camera distorts perspective and color. a photo is a little flat thing and if you work from a photo your paintings will come out flat. He said he didn't need a camera and neither do I. He went on and on, this is the basic part of it. He didn't have much hope for me ever being a very good artist. finally I said, "okokok, I won't do it no more!" One time our water color teacher, Faulkler, (not sure about the spelling) took us out to paint in plein air. I enjoyed it so much but didn't try again for another 25 years or so, since my time was tied up with the job, family, exercise etc. After the plein air class I thought I'd enjoy painting like an Impressionist. Who doesn't love the Impressionists? And I asked Fitzkee about painting wet in wet. That's what they called it back then. now it's alla prima (like something I had in an Italian restaurant.) So this is what Fitzkee said about painting wet in wet. We're teaching you how to paint like an old master, why do you want to paint like millions of artists? Fitzkee told me Monet had the same training I was getting. He told me artists like Monet, when they get commercially successful, they sell out the art world. When an artist paints the same thing hundreds of times they develop a formula. He said Monet did the art world a disservice by making it look fast and easy. He told me, "Don't even try." He said my colors would come out muddy. You can't paint detail into wet paint, so Impressionists can't paint detail. After my other experience questioning him, I said ok. I'll stick to painting like an old master. Little did I know that in the future I'd be EXCLUDED from the plein air group in Richmond because I'm not interested in painting like an Impressionist. (or maybe it's just because the group didn't like me personally, you never know in Richmond) Now I find that I like the slow pace of building up layers of glazes. Now when I see the impressionists rushing to finish a painting in one day, I think to myself that it looks like they're on an art treadmill. They worry too much about the changing light. I don't care about the changing light because I can go back tomorrow and for as many weeks or months as it takes me to finish a painting, and the light will be the same at the same time of day. Plein air doesn't mean you have to paint like an Impressionist. It doesn't mean you have to capture a moment. (remember the Kodak moment?) Plein air only means the artist is working outdoors in natural light. ok, I hope you enjoyed my story. Now you can see how I came by my attitude honestly.

new curtains finally up!

big waves on the valance, tie backs reversible.

I’d corkscrew it on there so you could see that look but I’m tired of going up the ladder. Hanging the rods was difficult for me but I got it done! YEA!

I’m letting it like the top photo for a while.

small waves top and bottom / same valance and tie backs

I like this look. It kind of reminds me of a key design.

This is a fun and flirty valance. I’d call it feminine. It’s out of style these days but it’s always been one of my favorites from the years I sewed curtains and slip covers for interior decorators. I made variations of this style a few different times for different places I lived.

I’ve been in this apartment for 6 months and normally I don’t make curtains for every apartment I take because I’ve been moving around so much, but I like this place and I might stay for a while. It’s quiet and no one bugs me.

a close up

If you want to make this style it’s easy. When you hang the valance you start in the center and twist the bottom to the top. Then you move out to either side and twist again and again trying to keep the same size waves.

I could fool around with this more but I need to return the step ladder I borrowed.

It might rain for a few days here. I’ll try to get out to draw but the weather can stop me from going out in plein air and I’ll have to find another project like sewing which is an art too. It’s something you can get creative with and it’s fun if you’re making something for yourself that you need and using your favorite colors.

3rd palette knife painting w. closeups

I have a plan for another subject using this technique.

This is the last time I’ll use my sketches of the butterfly ginger for the palette knife painting. The next thing I’d like to try it on is the spooky battery at Ft. Monroe which I started sketching a couple years ago and put on hold on account of the weird vibes I picked up at the fort. I want to try again to finish a painting of the battery which might or might not be haunted.

Since the palette knife makes it comes out all wavy I think it might give that big imposing scary piece of architecture a more moody look. It will be all different shades of gray, some warm grays and some cool grays.

This is a negative shape for the viewer’s eye to go into and rest.

I want to try making different textures with the palette knife. For the background on this painting I used the short flat edge of the odd shaped palette knife to scrape two shades of greenish gray in a thin layer with some peaks of the dark gray tint of the canvas showing through.

This technique uses up a lot of paint.

First I squirted a blob of Viridian green on my palette. It’s dark. I added terpenoid a few drops at a time until the paint was runny. I thought my big blob of paint would be enough to paint these dark green areas but I misjudged the amount of paint I needed and had to use more.

When I mixed my lighter greens I used big blobs of paint and still didn’t have enough mixed up. When mixing colors it’s better to have too much paint mixed that to not have enough and I usually mix the right amount for what I want to paint with only a small bit left over but with the palette knife it’s harder to estimate.

The last color I used was white and I put a huge blob of it on my palette then added so much more paint that I thought it looked like I’d be wasting paint but it was exactly the right amount to finish the flowers.

Now I have to buy more paint.

2nd palette knife painting w close ups

This one came out better than my first attempt.

I did the whole thing with palette knives and split it up over two different days letting the gray green background and the light gray of the flowers dry overnight. The paint was still wet the next day but only slightly dried which helped my brighter greens and white from mixing in as much. So I did layers but I don’t know if that’s how other artists do a palette knife painting.

It was fun and I’ll do another one.

The good thing about a palette knife painting is that you don’t have to clean brushes. The bad thing is that this will take months to dry. I can put it in my outside closet where it will be out of danger.

This time I went over the background twice to add more texture.

The dark green paint was soupy and it ran off my palette knife nicely. I thinned it with terpenoid.

It reminded me of my cake decorating days.

The white paint was like soft icing.

It’s practically impossible to keep the edges sharp.

The palette knife is harder to control than a paint brush. You have to be careful how you scrape up the paint off the palette so it’s on the knife in a good position to make a blob where you want the blob. Paint goes where you don’t want it to go. Most of the time I just let it there but a couple times I scraped up a big blob that fell in a bad place.

pastel studies of butterfly ginger

I changed my mind.

Doesn’t palette knife painting look like a lot of fun? Instead of watercolor, I think I’ll paint these flowers with my palette knife and not use a brush at all. I need to buy a palette knife set so I have a variety of shapes to work with.

I have 5 studies of these flowers now. That should be enough.

I’m not sure if artists that use the palette knife to paint prime their canvases or not. It might make it a little easier to scrape the paint across the canvas if the canvas is sanded and gessoed and sanded again. That makes it smooth. Then the canvas needs a coat of background color.

I can glom the paint on real thick and try to get it to go where I want it to go without a paintbrush. It will be a challenge making shapes and lines and textures and still making a flower out of it.

I’ll go back to the garden to mix some green colors then I can paint at home.

What is Intuitive Art? — DaNice D Marshall – Intuitive Art.

Intuitive art is seamlessly created. It begins with a moment of inception, when something is seen, as if for the very first time and my mind takes a snapshot. It could be as simple as a flight of stairs that lead into an old brick building, or looking at an ice cream truck. Ordinary, every […]

What is Intuitive Art? — DaNice D Marshall – Intuitive Art.

DaNice talks about her process. I love her paintings! check her out!

sewing project curtains, valance, tie backs

I tried to post this before. I don’t think it’s showing up right. I can see the first post but it’s not showing up on freshly pressed so I’m trying again.

This is the valance which will be all twisty and crazy on the rod because the line of cording won’t gather like the fabric will on the rod. I tried to explain it and I don’t think anyone can see the text. I’m not sure.

These are the reversible tie backs.

The curtains are blue with white lining. The job is unfinished because I’m waiting for a continental rod I ordered to come in.

The valance and tie backs are reversible. You can play around rearranging the valance and tie backs for a new look when you want a change. It’s a fun style window treatment. I can’t wait for the rod to arrive! I’ll post pix of it as soon as I get it hung.

Can you see just one post here or two?

sewing project details and explanations

these art the tie backs for my new curtains, on my ironing board.

I made the curtains out of the blue fabric and lined them with white but I didn’t sew the heading on the curtains yet because I want to get the rod hung first so I can be sure of the finished length. I tried to hang the rod myself and it isn’t working out. I tried to drill small holes in the places for my brackets and the dry wall chipped a little. No big deal, these are old apartments. I tried to avoid a previous hole that was patched.

I remember hanging curtain rods before but it’s been a long time. I remember using wall anchors and once had wall anchors that I could use and once I had some I couldn’t use. I guess I’ll have to call the office and ask if a maintenance guy can help me with the curtain rods. So the curtain job is on hold for now.

The tie backs and valance are reversible with blue on one side and peach on the other with cord top and bottom in another contrasting orange color.

This arty shot is the valance on my ironing board.

It’s 9 inches by 3 yards with a 3 inch rod pocket in the center and a 3 inch heading top and bottom. I figured approximately 2.5 or 3 to one on the fullness to come up with 3 yards. It gets hung on a 2.5 inch flat curtain rod with a 4 inch return to the wall so it will clear the curtains which have a 2 inch return. I had to order the rod. First I looked it up on amazon and it said 3 weeks for delivery! So I waited for the store here that makes custom window treatments to open and called them. They don’t have the rod in stock either. It should be here in a week. They call it a continental rod. The guy told me no one asks for them these days, which is a shame because this valance is so cute and you can fool around arranging it in different ways.

The fabric will gather on the rod but the cording won’t. Then you can arrange the line of cord at least 3 different ways that I know of. You could cork screw it around the rod, you could put it on the rod straight and then twist the bottom up to the top in waves all the way across, which would also show the contrasting lining, or you can put the valance on the rod straight and twist the top and bottom cords separately. I don’t know if you can visualize that, I’ll post pix as soon as I get it all hung.

If you want to sew this type of valance, it’s not difficult. One tip I can give is when sewing long strips of fabric together you can get a cumulative error that doesn’t show up till you’re all the way across. You might get an annoying twist because the layers don’t feed through at exactly the same rate. Unless you have a walking foot machine which I don’t.

The way to avoid the bias twist is to sew over your pins. I use T pins and don’t want to break needles because that’s hard on the machine. I sew up to the pin then walk the needle over the pin by turning the wheel by hand a few times. When you do that you make tiny tucks at the pins which take up the slack on the top piece of fabric. Can you see the tucks on my photo? It doesn’t matter if you have tucks on the valance since it’s gathered on the rod and it keeps it from going on the bias which might show up in the end or cause some twisting on the rod where you don’t want twisting.

This is another project that’s on hold for a week until the rod comes in. I’m excited to see it hung and play around with the valance. This will be a long week and it’s raining.

2 pastel studies of butterfly ginger

So many subjects I want to draw, so little time.

When I can’t decide on which subject I want to paint next I go out and do more sketches. It could take the rest of my life and I’ll never run out of interesting things I want to draw and paint around here. I’ll never get too much drawing practice. The more I sketch the better the chance my painting will work out.

I’d like to paint these flowers some time.

I’ll probably do a few more sketches of these flowers before I try to paint them. I’ll need at least 5 and I have 3 sketches. They’re big flowers so I will use a big piece of paper. This is a project I might be able to work on at home if I mix my greens in plein air because it’s a monochromatic color scheme, all green and white.

But, then again, I might put this project off until next year like I did with my magnolia painting. I started sketching magnolias one year and sketched more the next year then finally painted it.

It’s ok. I’m playing the long game. I have the patience and will probably live through the pandemic.