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.

the Cow is OK / pastel

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Dang, This is hard to see. My lap top is acting all crazy, still working but the flashing horizontal lines are on it. I think dirt got between the display and the keyboard. It might go away. It did before.

This is another old favorite that did not get stolen. The skull is a souvenir from my 1st solo adventure driving across country in 2002. I drove rt.66 from Springfield MO. to Santa Monica. At Flag Staff I took a detour to go to the Grand Canyon for one night. I bought a bag of carrots in Flagstaff because I was hoping to get on the mule ride but they were all booked up so I went back to 66 and headed West. In Arizona I was looking for wild burros but didn’t see any until I got to Kingman. The burros were all there and smelled the carrots in my car. They had their snotty faces all over my car before I could park it. I barely got out of the car and they mobbed me for the carrots. It was a scream! Then I shopped and bought this skull. It rode on my backseat the rest of the trip because it was too big to fit in the trunk.

When I got home I drew the skull about 6 times in different combinations of pastel colors.

Then I saw a funny article in the weird news section of a magazine I was reading. The story goes like this:

In Fla. there was a flood and a cow was just standing there in the water. Drivers were slowing down to look at the cow and it caused a traffic jam. So many people were calling 911 to rescue the cow that they contacted the farmer who told them the cow is ok. Then DOT took a big sign out there and put it by the side of the road saying, “The cow is ok”. Then the cow moved on and the sign was still there causing a traffic jam because people were looking for the cow.

My daughter, Sarah and I got on a laughing jag over the story. She insisted I call my skull drawings the cow is ok.

Now I’m having a little problem with my computer. I think it might fix itself because it did before. If I miss something don’t worry about me. I’m in a hotel with a good view. I’d like to ride out the crazy right here. I don’t know.

 

Angel watching over me.

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This is another one  of my favorites that didn’t get stolen. Now it represents my angels on wordpress who I never met but actually care. Thanks everyone for your understanding and support. It means so much to me.

About the drawing: When I first started drawing in Plein air, 2006 I think, I went into Hollywood cemetery looking for a good view and the sad stone angels grabbed me! Hollywood Cemetery is still burying people but it’s a tourist attraction in Richmond because of all the famous dead guys there. It was a real rough time in my life and the cemetery was my refuge. I practiced figure drawing there for a few years. The grave diggers called me the angel lady.

This statue is missing the hand holding the wreath. Vandals took it. After I improved on figure drawing I was able to draw the missing hand. I considered it a major accomplishment.

I have so much to do today and tomorrow that I might not keep up as well with likes and comments, so don’t worry if I miss something.

Thanks again my friends. This angel is you.

Self Portrait / collage

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You might think I look like Venus. It’s me. I’m left handed. hahahah

After my art folders and favorite paintings got stolen a couple days ago I wondered what was missing and what I still have. I still have one big cardboard folder with some things I was really glad to see. This is one of them. That’s me painting in the nude under the weeping cherry.

I also have a bunch of oil paintings that I’ll try to keep.

I just got ROBBED!

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Crap. I got the keys to my new apt and they were sticking in the lock. I hauled my 3 favorite paintings up the steps with 4 or 5 big flat cardboard folders full of drawings and pastels and watercolors on paper. There was a lot of art paper in the folders too. I couldn’t open the door or get my key out of the lock so I ran back to the office which is only about 50 yards but they were closed. It was 5:00. so I went back to my apt and my stuff was gone! I left it leaning against the door because it was so heavy to lug back down. I was only gone 5 min. tops. One of my new neighbors robbed me. The magnolia painting is gone.

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The swamp painting I worked on for months is gone. I filed a police report and called the apt. maintenance guy and told him to look for my paintings when he goes into the apts. Technically it’s larceny not robbery.

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The Chinese paper bush painting is gone and all the best drawings I did for so many years are gone.

They can’t sell that stuff.

I’ll keep driving over there in case they change their mind and put it back out by my door. but damn. Just when I thought I was so lucky.

cypress knee sketch w. swamp pix

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You can find all of my cypress knee models in the photos below.

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This is my latest place to hang around sketching. Look how tiny the knees are in this picture. I could never see them well enough to draw them if I had to copy a photo. Maybe if I was a better photographer…

You can see the pollen on the water but it’s not swirling so nicely any more since it rained. A slight breeze is keeping the pollen moving and changing designs all the time.

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. This is the tree I drew last but it was cloudy that day. If you compare this photo to my sketch you’ll see I didn’t draw all of the sticks around the base of the tree.

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I think this tree is pretty because it has Spanish moss in the branches and another kind of moss is going up the trunk.

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This photo shows a knee I didn’t sketch and pollen clumping up at the water’s edge.

Next week I might go back to the botanical garden to draw. I’m missing some spring  flowers. The knees will be the same all year.

This spring I have a new attitude. Every day I feel so lucky. I’m so thankful for my good health and every day I’m glad I ain’t dead yet. I used to take it all for granted. Does that mean I’m getting old or is this the new “normal”?

It seems so ironic to me that I’ve lived like a hermit for years and finally got used to it. Now, I wish I could help the society that rejected me. I can’t hurt it because there’s no one around for me to infect even if I was an unknowing carrier of a deadly virus, but I’m sure I’m not. Society rejected me. We don’t need to go into all that.  That’s why I’m an artist. It’s ironic because once I took a personality test that said I’m an  extrovert and here I am reclusive. I don’t see myself as an introvert or an extrovert but dead center between the two. I like people, I’m just not trying to be with them. That’s working out for me now.

ok.  enough philosophizing, back to the important job of moving.

wild wisteria rainy day

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The wisteria is growing on the trees next to the end of the highway. One side of the parking lot has a few spaces where you can see it so I sat in my car to sketch this. It’s raining but I had to get out of here for a few minutes. Plus, these are my last few days here and I might not get another chance to sketch this clump of wisteria.

Now I can’t wait to get out of here. This morning there was a fire in one of the apartments undergoing renovations. The renovations are loud, then the smoke alarm will wake the dead, sirens and fire trucks.

Some guys were coming over to get a sofa I’m giving away and couldn’t get in for a little while. So now that’s gone and I have room for more boxes.

Normally I’m as cool as a cucumber but I think a little case of nerves in showing up in this sketch. Good thing I did the sketch. I got the nerves on the paper, now I can get back to packing. That’s how art therapy works for me.

cypress tree w. pollen swirling on water

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If I hadn’t told you that was pollen you might not guess. I’ll try to remember to take my camera along next time I sketch there. The pollen is making some interesting designs on top of the black water.

I think the swirly shapes on still water with the tree represents uncertain times and something not being affected. (me) And nature isn’t affected either but unlike the tree, I can easily uproot myself and getthehelloutofdodge if a situation becomes intolerable.  Since the crisis started my life hasn’t changed. I’m not joining the mass hysteria.  I’m not afraid to go out and last night on the news they showed some surfers and the anchor talked about how getting out and getting some exercise is a great stress buster. So that was encouraging. The state parks are open and busy. They’re not talking about martial law. It’ll never happen here. And I’m not going to catch corona. Stay tuned, you’ll see.

Cypress knees with fingers / pastel sketches

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They make spooky moody subjects. One of my good blogging friends, Nadine, who writes on Bloomwords. WordPress,  told me they represent the underworld in Greek myth, which does seem appropriate. I can picture them on the river Styx. And now streams of yellow pollen are swirling in the wind on the surface of the water making it look even weirder. It’s a good day for a photographer out there too.

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I imagine if I tried to walk in the swamp the fingers would grab me and might KILL me. hahahah

It was fun to draw them with pastel. I can represent the lichens better with  pastel than I can with charcoal and chalk. They’re tinted light green.

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I’m so thankful they’re keeping the state parks open in spite of the current  Corona apocalypse. It seems like many more people than average are there walking, running and biking. If they couldn’t go there they’d be out on the street, including me. I’m not sick. They’re not sick. Why stay home? I’m  not worried someone I pass on the trail will give me the virus. Sick people are staying home.

I didn’t hoard supplies or toilet paper but as soon as this is over I think I’ll start slowly stocking up for the next apocalypse.

 

Cypress trees and knees / charcoal and chalk

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Is social distancing driving you crazy? I’m ok. That’s the story of my life. It’s not what I’d have chosen for myself because I enjoy the company of people who like to talk. It’s just the way it worked out and it took some time to get used to. Now I feel ok with isolation. It can be liberating. My daughter isn’t too far away and I see her some times.

I’m not worried about catching Corona.  I know it could kill me but I rarely ever catch a cold. Do I live a real healthy lifestyle? Nope. The thing that keeps me immune is my lack of exposure to viruses. The main thing I’m worried about is how this panic will affect the economy. That will recover too, but meanwhile a lot of people have serious problems because of it.

If isolation is getting you down the best thing you can do for yourself is go outside. Any activity you enjoy makes social distancing tolerable if you can get out in the fresh air and sunshine.

I really enjoyed sketching in the swamp today. The weather is great! It’s a good thing I got there when I did because when I left the parking lot was slam packed and cars were lined up at the gate to get in.

About the sketch : I decided to stop working on it and I didn’t do any reflections on the water. I might be able to use this sketch in a painting eventually but the reflections are a problem I don’t have to face until I actually get into the paint.

Redbud tree / pastel and charcoal

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Redbuds are native here and I love to see them in the woods when I’m driving. Suddenly you see a slash of purple by the road and the other trees aren’t leafed out yet. Then they go back into hiding and are indistinguishable from the underbrush until they bloom again.

This one is in the botanical garden and I saw a couple more over there. As soon as the weather clears up I’ll go back and get another sketch. Last year I got an ok  sketch, if I can find it. I need one more and I can start planning a painting.

I’ll need another big canvas so they’re not crowded. This paper is 11 x 14 and too small. I haven’t decided on what to use as the background or if I want to put other spring flowers in the painting. This painting might not happen until next year, I don’t know. I’m kind of distracted this week and it’s cloudy and rainy too, so, maybe in a couple weeks after I get settled in my next apartment, and some other things are settled… By then they’ll be done blooming though.

That’s one problem of this artist, life’s distractions can stop me from drawing and painting.  (temporarily) The simpler my life is, the easier it is to concentrate on art. When things get complicated it isn’t as easy to do. I can still get out and sketch for a few hours on nice days but working on a finished painting won’t happen for a few weeks.