Azaleas and Daffodils / pastel sketches

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What I’m really looking for is Redbud trees. I thought it’s too early, then I saw a couple on my way home starting to bloom. They’re hard to spot if they’re not blooming because they’re small twisty trees. I’ll keep looking for the Redbuds but if I can’t find them I’ll draw other flowers.

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This paper isn’t great for pastel. It has no tooth, meaning it’s too smooth. I can’t build up layers of pastel as well as on better pastel paper. It’s ok for sketches though, because I can save these and use them as reference sketches in a painting next spring if I get a good idea worked out by then for daffodils or azaleas. I also need to find the best view of the flowers, see what would work for a background, etc.

Meanwhile, this is drawing practice. It doesn’t matter what the subject is for practice. The more you keep at it the better your eye gets for things like color and contrast, directions of lines or shapes, sizes of subjects for a finished painting and another million things an artist decides while working on a project. You make a lot of decisions without much thought, but other things take more and more sketching to come to a good plan. The more flower studies I do in advance the better.  Or I could just put these in the file and never use them. I don’t know for sure. It could be the first step of a painting or it could be nothing more than another sketch.

Bead Curtain Tree / Crab on Soft Pretzel

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I don’t know the correct name of the tree. I looked for the plaque but didn’t see it. The chalk is the bead like tiny flowers. They’re light green but starting to turn brown.

I was feeling so lucky today to be able to go out to draw in Plein air. It’s the best therapy for me and free. Even if I’m doing a sketch that I’ll never use for a painting. Over the past 15 years or so, drawing and painting in plein air has had a cumulative effect of healing my spirit. Think of the money I saved by not going to a shrink. Then what? I’d have got a prescription for happy pills and probably got hooked on them.

I’ve also been watching the lock up shows. I watched “60 Days In” on Hulu and often thought that could have been me under different circumstances. I imagine if a person is only slightly crazy and they commit a crime and get caught then go to jail, by the time they got out they’d be crazy for real.  I think that kind of stress could kill me. The next day when I go out the heavy traffic doesn’t even phase me and when I get in the zone of drawing I’m just fine.

If you want to draw in plein air you have to like people because they will talk to you. Today I saw an old couple looking at me so I said hi. The man said he thought I was a lego statue because I didn’t move. He saw me from the other side of the canal and walked over watching me the whole time and I never moved. I told him I’m sketching and he repeated that I never moved, so I laughed.IMG_2518

On the way home I stopped at Wegmans and bought this yummy thing. It’s a soft pretzel stuffed with crab meat. Now, I come from the land of soft pretzels (Lancaster Co. PA.) and fresh Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs, which I love to eat, but I never heard of a soft pretzel stuffed with crab meat before. Genius. It was $12. In the oven now!

E.T.s on their shiny pink world

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Do they look like E.T.s to you? They do to me.  They’re cypress knees.

It’s nice out today. The sun looked great on the knees but it was spotty and moved fast. I enjoyed sketching much more today than last time when it was cloudy and decided to finish today’s cypress knee study by working on the  reflections and adding a background color.

Last time I sketched them they reminded me of fingers pointing up but today I thought they looked like figures. They could be human if they were abstract but they could be nonhuman, aliens. If I titled this “cypress knee study” it wouldn’t be as much fun for the viewer because they might not think of E.T.s. Now you see them like I do, otherworldly.

On the way home from the swamp I decided to do a fun spring color in the background, not green, so that it would be easier to see them as something other than cypress knees.

It’s just a study for a painting I’ll do in the future. I need a lot more knee studies.

my needlepoint

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This is a needlepoint I did long ago but didn’t know how to finish it so I just put strips of bias tape around the edges and mounted it on a piece of burlap.  It’s my version of PA. Dutch folk art flowers.

I was repackaging a bunch of fabrics I haven’t used and saw this in there.  It would be neater for my moving guys if the fabrics were in a box instead of that big plastic bag. This goes in the box now, to be rediscovered if I die. hahahah

I should show you my attempt at quilting from long ago.

cypress knee sketch / other photos

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Yesterday was cloudy and cool. I was glad to get out and sketch because today it’s raining. There’s another great view of the swamp with a bench off the main trail where I’m planning to paint. The cypress knees have a lot of lichens and a lot of the knees look like fingers pointing up. This is only the first sketch. The painting might not happen until next winter, I don’t know. I also want to sketch Red Bud trees this spring and I’m packing to move. I’ll need around 30 cypress knees sketched in advance so I can arrange them in a swamp composition. This is only the first three. The chalk on this sketch is the lichens.

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Every time I move, which is pretty often, I give away or throw away paintings that I’m tired of looking at. Last year I put a painting on the bench at the elevator in my building with a sticker on it that said “free”. I was glad to see the painting got grabbed up quick. Then another day I left the building and noticed a 6 pack of Corona with two missing sitting on the bench. I left the beers there because I’m not a drinker of alcoholic beverages. The beer was still there when I got back later and I wondered if the person that took my painting wanted me to take the beer, so I took it. I did drink a couple of the Coronas when I moved and enjoyed them. I mean, I can drink, I’m just not really into it.

A year went by and now I’m moving again because the apt complex is clearing everyone out for renovations. Oh well. I still have this one beer and funny, it’s a Corona because now the Corona virus is on the news all the time. So, if I drink this, I’ll be immune, right? (just kidding) Are you worried about catching the Corona virus?  I don’t think I’ll get it. It seems like every year there’s some new health scare to worry us. I remember years ago when a lady at work got mad at me for saying there’s no chance I’d ever catch HIV. Then there was also bird flu, swine flu, SARS, Ebola, mad cow, etc. I don’t even get a flu vaccine, but I’m not exposed to many viruses, and only had a couple colds in the past 17 years.

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Since I finished my magnolia painting, I’ve been treating myself to the foods I love as a reward. I bought this little chocolate dome at Wegmans. It was worth the $5. It’s chocolate mousse on top of a soft chocolate cookie and covered in soft dark chocolate icing with a chocolate curl. That thing was delicious.

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This is rhubarb. My Dad used to make a great rhubarb custard pie that I always missed. Last year I found the recipe online and it was so good, way better than the rhubarb strawberry pies you can buy. Darn it, I’ve already packed my recipe box, but I think I can look  it up again.

 

Magnolias / oil

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This came out dramatic looking because I painted my flowers on a dark background. I think it’s feminine and bold.

It was hard to get a decent photo since it’s shiny from my Maroger medium but I figured out if I stand to the side a little I can get a shot without glare.IMG_2502

It was time consuming and the only thing I could do to help make it easier was to thin my paint with a few drops of terpenoid and pick up a little scoop with my palette knife. I hold the palette knife in one hand and the brush in the other when I’m standing at my easel, then I’m not reaching to my palette all the time. It saves a lot of movement over the course of the painting which makes it more efficient even if it’s still slow.IMG_2501

This shot shows a web of branches to look through. They’re making negative shapes. I like to do a finished background where my eyes can go to rest on something interesting. It gives the painting depth and keeps the interest of the viewer longer because the eye goes to the background, then to the foreground again.

I’ve been working on this at home all day for a few days. I don’t know how many hours I have in it because I started sketching for this last year. The tree doesn’t look like this very long, if ever. It blooms suddenly as soon as it warms up for a few days. Then it gets cold again and the flowers turn brown and fall off. It might do better farther South.

Now I have to get back to everything I’ve been neglecting since I’ve been working on this.

the Judgement of Paris

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This is a classical theme explored by a lot of great artists. It tells the story of the Greek myth that lead to the Trojan war. Paris got roped into judging  a beauty contest between the goddesses. I forget all the details, but one goddess offered him wealth if he named her the most beautiful. Then another goddess offered him wisdom. Then Venus offered him the love of the most beautiful woman in the world and he gave her the apple which was the prize. It happened that the most beautiful woman, Helen, was married to a king and she ran off with Paris. They made war over it. The gods and goddesses were all playing around with the mortals and taking sides in the war which made it much worse.

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I’d also like to illustrate this story some day. If I could paint it I’d like to have three little girls having a tea party under a weeping cherry tree. They’re playing dress up and all wearing sheets wrapped like togas with wreaths of flowers in their hair. One girl could have her favorite books on the table with her hand on them.  Another girl could have her jewelry box open and holding up some sparkly gems. The girl playing Venus would be holding her toga up which is falling down and reaching out for the apple. Paris could be leaning against the tree.José_Camarón_Boronat_-_The_Judgement_of_Paris

I had Chinese food the other day and my fortune cookie said “Your best work is yet to come.”  This judgement of Paris inspiration has been in the back of my mind for so many years. I think I can do it. I just need some young models.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep practicing with other drawing and painting projects. I’m still healthy, there’s no hurry. I’ll do it before I die.

magnolia painting / debriefing w details

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This gray branch is an underpainting for the magnolia with the bright pink and white petals, on top of the Southern magnolia background. I’ll underpaint the flowers in gray next. There’s no avoiding this step because the pink for the flowers is alizarin crimson which is a transparent red and I need the flowers to be opaque on top of the background. One coat of paint won’t do it. First I have to paint it in gray then the red will show up brighter.

To paint these branches I had to put a coat of Maroger medium over the dry canvas first, then paint the gray on top of the medium. That’s what they call “painting in the couch”. The medium couches the paint. I almost skipped the medium but then was glad I used it because I had to redraw my branches with paint a few times to make them graceful. With the Maroger medium on there I could easily wipe off the lines that didn’t go right. It’s easy to make corrections with Maroger medium. You don’t destroy the layers of paint underneath the medium when you wipe some of it off because those layers are dry.  And the medium dries enough over night that you can paint on top of it the next day. Plus, it smells great! (Not everyone likes the smell, it’s kind of strong for indoors, but I have a good air filter running and it’s ok for me.)IMG_2492

This little section could be a secondary focal point because the leaves and branches make a window for the viewer’s eye to go into the more heavily textured paint which is the mulch under the tree with sunlight and shadow.  The eye will compare that texture to the smoother leaves and the brush strokes of the tree. This area shows contrast from black to white which helps make it a focal point. A couple red buds will be coming in on the little branches, so the eye will also have the contrast of red and green in this spot.

The weather hasn’t been good to paint outside. I’m doing this at home, but that’s ok, I did my sketches and mixed my colors in Plein air so I think it will work.

Magnolia painting update

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This shot looks a little fuzzy. It’s hard to photograph because my Maroger medium makes it shiny, so I took this shot in the dark of my dining room without a flash. The shutter was open a long time. The other photos had a glare. This painting could be a challenge to get a good photo even for a pro photographer.

The background is finished but not the Southern magnolia in the middle ground. I worked on it at home a couple days since the weather wasn’t good to paint outside, but wasn’t happy with the green leaves. I knew I had to go back to the tree and do leaf studies. Today it’s nice out so I got some leaf practice in and mixed up a few leaf colors. I think I can improve on it before I put the bright pink flowers on top of this.IMG_2478

Today’s leaf studies, oil paint on watercolor paper.

The weather forecast for tomorrow is good then 3 days of rain. This might be enough leaf studies so that I can paint at home again, but I could go over to the garden tomorrow and do a few more leaves and mix up my pink flower colors to save for next week.

The cold took a toll on the flowers. They’re turning an orange brown and drooping. A few buds still look ok. The orange brown petals are pretty too. I’m undecided if I should paint some of the fading blooms or make all  my flowers fresh and pink.

My tree needs a lot more leaves before I paint the branch with the pink flowers. And I need to make my leaves better defined, more like this study.

I think my pink flowers will show up real bright on top of this dark background but I might have to go over them 3 times, the first time as a gray underpainting on top of this then 2 coats of pink and white.

No Camera Needed