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.

Crazy Cypress Knee Party and Tree Fell Down but Refuses to Die? / photos

They don’t move when you look at them but when the people go home they get rowdy!

The water is low because its been dry. Normally you can’t walk in there without sinking in.

This tree must have fallen down across the path but I don’t see where it broke or was uprooted. Then there’s three more trees growing out of the stump! This view looks uphill on an ancient sand dune that got covered with trees. I heard of trees on sand dunes growing roots back into the sand from branches that touch the ground but I never saw a tree stump with trees growing out of it. And the stump doesn’t look rotten.

This is where the lower end of the stump goes down into the sand and you have to step over it as you walk on the path. No root ball? No broken tree in the swamp? I should investigate further.

This is looking up the first new tree growing out of the stump. I don’t know what kind of tree it is but some leaves are hanging on.

Tide Pool painting update

I’m not even finished with the underpainting but the figures hung me up for a while. I used my sketches and worked at home using my palette knife. I drew the figures again with charcoal on the canvas paper trying to get them a good size for the painting. Then I had to decide on the colors which is much easier if I have a live model. Drawing small is harder than large to me.

I’m going to try masking fluid on acrylic next. I think it will work. If I block out the figure with masking fluid I can paint sand or water color right over top of the figure and when the paint is dry peel off the masking fluid to show the figures as I painted them here. It might be easier than painting the sand or water color right up to the edge of the figure evenly.

Little boy building a sand castle.

I’ll paint over the figures again but it will be the last step.

The boy is sitting on wet sand. That’s what my charcoal shading represents.

You can still see some of my charcoal outline of the figure but that will go away with water colored paint.

If this works my 3 figures will be focal points. I tried adding a small figure into a scene as the last step one time when I was using oil paints a few years ago and didn’t think the figure showed up enough from the background so this time I’m getting the figures under painted first. Sometimes I stop working on a painting and lean it up next to the wall where I can see it and it might take me a long time to decide on how to proceed but I already have a lot of time in this so I would rather take the time to decide and it will have a better chance to work out.

Theory of the Origin of the Universe / acrylic abstract

I read this somewhere and was thinking about it so I’d like to hear your views. Did you hear of this before?

Some physicist wrote a paper that said our universe did start with a Big Bang. First there was another universe with a black hole and you know how a black hole will suck everything into it, right? Well this black hole sucked the other universe through! Our universe was like a giant explosion in a toilet of nothingness out of the other universe’s butt! hahaha I’m not making this up. That’s why our universe is spinning. It’s being flushed.

The black hole has so much gravity everything got crushed and killed but some life got through and started again where it could.

The bang was so loud it was heard from even more universes and they came to see what happened. They come here on vacation now, beings from other universes.

After I read the scientific paper I thought, that explains a few things.

Flowers Dreaming / acrylic glaze experiment

A couple days ago I did some mono prints on black paper with blue and violet mixed together and gold and red mixed together. That’s the first layer of color underneath.

This experiment is for the painting I’m working on of the tide pool. The opposite bank of the inlet often has some haze so I wanted to try acrylic medium the same way I use oil paint by spreading a layer of medium on the dry first layer of paint then painting a thin layer of white on top of the medium and wiping it off.. That’s the top half of this. Then I mixed some thin white paint with some thin medium and scraped a few clouds on top of my first thin glaze. I’m using my palette knife.

On the bottom half I scraped some thin white paint mixed with thin medium on the dry mono print and blotted some off. When it was drying I used the same blue, violet, gold and red and made a few new flowers on top of the glaze by mono printing. Some flowers are below the glaze and some on top.

So that might work to give my new painting some aerial perspective but I’m not really ready for the glaze step because I didn’t finish the underpainting yet. Thursday looks like my next chance to work on it in Plein air but I need to work on my drawings of the kids for the scene at home too.

The difficult parts get me hung up sometimes. I can’t rush. I need a good plan first.

Very thin white glaze showing black paper.

I guess white is working ok. I don’t need to mix gray.

New violet dots and new red and gold on top of thin white glaze that is showing the veins in the gold paint underneath.

The white glaze is collecting on the texture of the previous mono print.

sketches of kids for my painting of the tide pool

Boy making sand castle

This is close to the size I need. I have 2 more figures that are too large but I can draw them smaller then I’ll have 4 for the painting.

I should probably paint them before I paint the sand so they don’t look weak. A couple years ago I tried to paint a man on top of an already painted background in a scene and I thought the man didn’t look strong enough, like he was an after thought.

Boy throwing sand

Yesterday it was windy and rainy all day from the left overs of the latest hurricane / tropical storm. Today it’s so nice out! Kids were playing in the water! Tonight rain. Tomorrow will be cloudy in the morning and cooler. they say. I might go back to First Landing and work on my painting again if it clears up early enough.

My Mother in Law Dancing on a Table at the Cotton Club / mixed media abstract

Yeah, she danced on a table at the Cotton Club and was a real scandal. That was long ago. One thing she liked about me is that I’ll get up and dance when no one else is dancing. We had something in common with our outrageous behavior.

When my husband’s company had their Christmas parties the next day I’d tell her I made a fool out of myself dancing like crazy and she’d say,” No fools no fun.” And they weren’t just talking about me the next day. Some other fools always acted up. hahahahahah

This is an acrylic mono print with green oil pastel.

I’m planning an acrylic experiment to see if I can do a thin glaze with acrylics like I do with oil paint. A thin glaze on my new painting of the tide pool might help to give the illusion of atmosphere. I’ve been working on the tide pool painting on and off but progress is slow and I can only get out a couple days a week to paint lately. It’s going to take a while to finish.

my invention for electric cars

A couple days ago I saw this beautiful new Cadillac. It looks futuristic. This might not be the exact model I saw on the street but close enough. I looked them up and since I’m not 100% sure of the model I can’t be sure of the price but I think they are over $38,000. I want one. Maybe some day. (sigh)

The main thing that would stop me from buying an electric car is that the charge only lasts for a couple hundred miles and then you have to stop and wait for a half hour to charge it. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on these things. And the car knows where the places are to charge the battery but they need to make a lot more charging places before I’d take a road trip in an electric car.

This is my invention. If you know how to make it you can take my idea, Cadillac. We need cars that can gather wind power as we’re driving to keep the battery charged so I put a pinwheel on top of the car. You figure out how to rig it up.

Did I just ruin the sleek lines of this beautiful machine with a pinwheel?

Energy should be free since it’s so extremely abundant in nature. I know the cost is going up at this point in time but someone will make an invention like this that will pay for itself then energy will be free.

pix from my new hang out

This is a popular dead tree. I sat on it to do my drawings for the painting I’m working on. I was about 5 feet down from the root and leaned my drawing board on that second broken branch. It wasn’t too bad for balancing the drawing board and sitting there.

I knew it would be crowded today and I didn’t take my painting and supplies but I walked on the path with my camera a little. Lucky I found a parking spot. A lot of people were on the beach.

A boy around 6 climbed onto the trunk and walked all the way up to the roots and then climbed through the roots to the top and had his own recliner up there on top. He was talking to his Dad the whole time. I didn’t ask if I could take his picture up there because I was afraid the answer would be no.

When I was there working on my painting it was sunny and I sat on the sand under the big pine on the right of this photo in the shade. Big black ants were crawling on my legs. The kind of ants that eat wood. They don’t bite and I kept brushing them off but I must have been right on the ant trail. Then the shade moved so I moved around the tree to stay in the shade and the ants didn’t follow me. Ants, a problem for your Plein air artist.

This is the scene I’m trying to paint. My drawing doesn’t look like this. Oh well. My photo doesn’t do the scene justice. If I worked from a boring photo to start with my painting might be boring too. A pro photographer might be able to get a better shot.

I was thinking of painting some kids in the scene but didn’t sketch any so far. Except I have some sketches of kids I did over the summer at the beach I might use. They’re so tiny in this pic I don’t know if I can use these kids.

The water is warm because it’s flowing out of the marsh which is on the left out of the picture.

Tide Pool redrawn on canvas paper with charcoal

This canvas paper is tinted with acrylic from some time ago when I mixed paint colors together that were left over from another project. It’s uneven but that will be ok. You might not see it when the paint goes on top of this.

A bunch of little kids were playing in the water. It’s November! but nice and warm. I was getting too much sun so I didn’t start painting. This took me a couple hours to draw again. I wished I had my sketchbook so I could sketch the kids. Maybe they’ll go back tomorrow. Kids in the water and I’m getting sunburned in Nov! Tomorrow I’ll wear shorts and sandals!

It is a slow process. This is the third time I’m sketching with charcoal. Third time I drove over there for this painting and walked down a trail with my art supplies. I need to do all the preliminary steps and not skip the sketching because it gives me a better chance of making a good composition for my painting. Most Plein air artists take a small canvas and start painting right away. It will take me a half hour or more to mix a few colors for my underpainting. Then when that dries mix more and more colors and build up some layers of paint. I don’t think I can do the whole underpainting in one trip since I usually stay for two hours or so, sometimes less than two and sometimes more, but after that my concentration ends and it’s time to go. A little at a time gets ‘er done when it’s a big complicated plan.