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.

Dune painting color rough and dune pix

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I painted this at home and took it to the beach to compare it to real life. I didn’t paint nearly enough greenery but you might not notice it’s missing until you see the photos below. The dead trees need sunlight and I just painted them solid gray here. I was trying to make it easier for myself, now I know I have to paint the light on the trees. I guess I’ll have to go there to work on my big paintings after all. I miss too much working from my charcoal sketches at home. Plus, painting at home is boring when you get used to painting in plein air. One good thing about the dunes is that the foliage doesn’t change much over months so I can still take my time finishing my big panorama plan.

 

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Gosh darn it, my computer’s acting up again. I thought these would never load.

 

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I bought  a sunflower at the farm stand on Sandbridge Rd. And I got some scallops, a stuffed clam and a tomato. I might try to sketch the sunflower later. The lady told me it would last 7 to 10 days if I don’t put more than an inch or so of water in every day. Too much water rots the stem.

This is a busy week at the beach but I got out this morning before it got too hot and crowded with heavy traffic.

great carrot cake recipe

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Scored me some big points with my son in law!

This carrot cake has pineapple, coconut and nuts, a glaze and cream cheese icing with pineapple juice. It’s real moist. If you don’t like coconut or can’t eat nuts it works without either one of those.

2 cups flour

2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3 eggs

3/4 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup buttermilk

1 cup sugar  (the original recipe calls for 2 cups of sugar, but I thought that was too much)

2 tsp vanilla extract

8 oz coconut

1 cup chopped nuts

2 cups shredded carrots

1 small can crushed pineapple  (drain the juice and save it for the glaze)

mix all the above together and bake in a 9 x 12 pan at 350 for 55 min.

 

glaze

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup buttermilk

4 tbsps butter

1 tsp vanilla

mix above ingredients except vanilla and heat in a small sauce pan. When cake comes out of the oven add the vanilla to the glaze mixture and pour over the hot cake

 

icing

8 oz cream cheese

4 tbsps butter

1 lb 10x sugar

3 to 6 tbsps pineapple juice ( I used 6 tbsps pineapple juice)

 

I forget where this recipe came from but my daughter remembered how good it is  and asked for it.

 

 

Dunes Sea and Sky / try try again

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Yesterday I slept too late for the best light. It was 9 when I got to the overlook. I decided not to take all my plein air supplies with me because I knew it would be crowded. I only took my color rough from the day before,  my color charts and a pencil to make notes.

When I compared my rough to nature the first thing I noticed is that there’s not enough greenery. Otherwise, not too bad, I thought. So I decided to do another  color sketch. Also, the ocean wasn’t sparkly at 9 like it is at 8 so that solves the problem of painting the sparkles. That wasn’t working out in my trials and I decided to forget about it until some time in the future. I might have to use oils to paint the sparkly water.

I came to another important decision. I decided to paint the panoramic scene at home. I might mess up the paper outside and can’t fix it with watercolors like I can fix a mistake  with oil paint.  There’s less chance of the paper picking up a smudge in the wrong place if I paint it at home as opposed to lugging all my stuff out there in my beach cart. After I get more experience with watercolors I’ll know exactly what I need to take along to paint in plein air and it will be a lighter load than taking oil paints.

If I do another rough sketch of a different area of the panorama and it looks ok compared to nature I’ll feel like I can paint it at home with more confidence. Just one more rough. I think I almost have it all worked out. I want to try to paint the thicker foliage first. This is a challenge and I want it to come out right. That’s why I’m doing so much preliminary work, the sketches, the color roughs, taking my time when making the decisions, etc.

It’s nice to have the luxury of taking my time when doing something difficult, and it’s nice to go there and walk even if I’m not working on an art project.

Dune painting update

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This is a color rough for my panoramic dune paintings in the works. Some other color dots are in the sky. I don’t know where it came from. I tried to lift it but couldn’t. Oh well, it’s only a rough. I’ll be mad if I mess up the sky on my good paper. Good thing I did the rough, now I know I have to figure out a way to wrap my papers to take them out to the beach.

It’s a big job. first I had to buy 3 pieces of plywood and cut them to fit half sheets of watercolor paper. I used my son in law’s battery powered saw. That went ok but stapling the paper to the boards was a problem because the staples I ordered weren’t the Duo Fast brand like I asked for and gave the stock number for. They got stuck in the stapler and I had to pry them out with a pliers. I had to use the staples I had which were too long and stuck out the back of the boards. I covered them by taping cotton cord on the back over the points so I wouldn’t scratch myself.

Then transferring my sketches to the paper took a long time. My hand gets tired holding a pencil to draw. Charcoal doesn’t make my hand tired but pencil is best on watercolor paper. That part of the job took days because I had to rest my hand.

We had a whole week of rain and I didn’t care. I also had to try to mix some colors and do a few color roughs at home before I go back to the beach and paint on my good paper.

This is my 4th try on the ocean. I want to make it sparkly, can’t tell if that’s working. It’s my 3rd try on sky and second try on dune colors. First I used yellow ochre for the dune color but thought it was too yellow so I tried again with burnt umber. This looks better but I need to take this along to the beach and compare it to nature.

Hopefully, tomorrow I can get out of here early and go back to the overlook. The light is best early and it’s easier to be there before it gets hot.

I knew this would be a big difficult job for me so I had to take my time and figure everything out first, do the drawings in detail, transfer everything, do my color roughs, mix colors at home, work out as many bugs as I can before I try to paint on the stretched papers. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to finish it. If I do all that first there’s a better chance it will work out. If I can’t concentrate on it I’ll just put it off until I can and the weather improves.

That’s a lot of bronze

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photo lifted from stock

This is just one of many in question. Do they have any plans for all the statues? I have an idea.

Why not open a contest to artists for plans for new statues? I think the metal can be recycled. Is that possible? Would it make it less expensive to make new statues if they could recycle the bronze? Is anyone going to the public meetings on the fate of the statues? I’m not going, but if you’re going to the meetings, maybe you could suggest it.

I’d work up a small clay model of something non offensive and enter the contest if there was no charge to enter.  Like a dragon, that would be cool, or a mermaid because I live at the beach.

They should make the contest free to enter and let the public decide what they want on the pedestals. That would be fair. The public arts commission shouldn’t be trusted to make the decision because they have really bad taste sometimes and might give us something lame because one of their friends entered it and they need to return a favor.   In fact, maybe the public arts commission should be disbanded for letting the monuments stay there until they got torn down. I mean, how out of touch can they get?

If some old confederate wants to buy the monuments and would pay the cities for them. that would be fair too. Then the buyer  could keep the bronze.

Hey, I’m a damn Yankee, I always knew they’d have to come down some day and the confederate generals are not my heroes either. You can ask my friends in Richmond. I told them there would be a big problem and no one could take any responsibility for doing something about it. That would be proactive. It would never happen.

buncha funny memes from WordPress #funny stolen just for you

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They never gave me a gun and I’m getting old here, but at least I never needed one.

 

 

 

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I wonder what happened to his nose in that one pic.

 

 

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ok, I’ve been a little distracted here lately, no need to go into all that. I’ll get back on my big watercolor adventure tomorrow, for sure. Meanwhile, these are making me laugh so I hope you enjoy them too.

plan for dune paintings panorama

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I don’t know if you can see it well enough in this photo. As I was working on these separate pieces of sketch paper I was putting the others in my bag loosely and the charcoal and chalk was rubbing off inside the bag. No big deal, these are only sketches that I’ll never frame. They got messed up with sweaty fingerprints too. This is 4 pieces of sketch paper each 11″ x 14″ with a 4″ piece of a gray paper added to either side because I need 64″ across for my panorama but I ran out of the tan paper.

The watercolor papers are 15″ x 22.5″ so if I deduct a few inches from 3 x 22.5″ because I’ll staple them to boards, then when it’s all finished I’ll have to trim off the staple holes, I’m figuring roughly 64″. I’ll transfer this to the watercolor paper tomorrow and I might have to redraw at the beach a little before I start painting, but the hardest part of the planning stage is under control now.

I made some notes of colors I think I’ll need. And I want to do a couple practices for that little triangle of ocean showing between the dunes on the left.  The ocean looks gray and it has sparkles. It’s far away but still sparkly.

The chance of rain goes up over the next few days. I’m hoping for a blue sky with light clouds. That will be the first step in the painting. If the weather cooperates, it might not take long to paint my 3 pieces of the triptych, or it could take weeks.

the path to the beach

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That’s the ocean in the background.

I bought two big sheets of watercolor paper for my dunes now that I have a few sketches I can use. I’m planning a triptych. I want to show more sky in the watercolors than is showing in my sketches and it would be great if I could make the three paintings of the triptych  look connected. The watercolor paper is larger than my sketchbook so I’ll be able to extend my sketches on both sides a little.

I’ll have to haul my watercolors supplies down a path but not real far, I/4 mile or so, I guess. I can use my beach cart. I’m not sure if I can take all three pieces out with the paper stretched on boards, or if it would be better to work on one at the beach and the other two at home. The three watercolors will be a big job for me. I’m not sure how to paint that little bit of ocean and I’ll have to decide how to do the sky.

The bugs were after me this morning. Now I’ll have to start taking bug spray along too.

This plan seems like a lot of work but I think it will be worth it. Just hanging around there is worth the drive.

sketch of dunes / charcoal and chalk

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The earlier I can get to Back Bay the better when it’s hot. Today I got to my overlook around 8:30 and it was great! Not many people were there either.

I could get at least two more sketches from this one spot. It’s pretty 360* around and a place where I can see a little ocean between dunes. I could do a series of dune paintings in a row to give the panoramic feel of it.

Walking on the beach is nice exercise after sketching. The dunes get my heart rate up for a few minutes. The waves were small again this morning. In another week or so the tides will be all different from this week and I might be able to do some wave studies.

Between Two Dunes / charcoal and chalk

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There’s not much shade down there but I found some and sat in it to sketch. It was uncomfortable but better than standing in the sun. By the time I got to my overlook at 10 this morning I already had enough sun.

Yesterday was cloudy and cool. Then, on my way home at 11:30 today I passed a long line of cars waiting to get into the public parking lot at Sandbridge. If I had to wait in that line I’d just turn around and go somewhere else.

The past two times I walked on the beach at Back Bay the waves were small. That’s why I’m getting into the dunes even though I really need the practice drawing and painting waves.

I’d also like to sketch more at Pleasure House Point, so depending on the weather I might go back over there. It’s closer than Back Bay. I need to check the tide charts again.

I’ll try to get out earlier so it’s not so hot and I can sketch the better views in the better light.