Tag Archives: Norfolk VA

A Portrait of the Poser as a Young Tree / mixed media

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Not to disrespect the tree, but why am I calling it a poser? The true identity of the tree is below.

This is another try at sketching  with oil paint sticks. They’re like big oily crayons, so it’s impossible to draw a skinny line or a small texture with them. They force me to draw fast and loose. One good thing about taking my oil paint sticks out to sketch in Plein air is that I don’t need to take my pallet, turpentine and brushes along. The bad thing is that I have to make do with the colors I have and can’t mix the colors as well on the paper as I would like to.

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This is an older tree of the same family. They’re called, Hitoki Falsecypress. The one I sketched is about 4 feet tall. So I’d tell the small tree,” There’s no need to feel bad about not being a real cypress tree, little poser. Some day you will be as big and respectable as your beautiful neighbor.”

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Holly Receptors In The Brain Of Your Plein Air Artist / mixed media

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I could have titled this, “Deciduous Holly” but then the art viewer would dismiss it as just another drawing of a twisted bush. Allow me to interpret it for you.

A few years ago my daughter lived in Atlanta GA. and when I visited her one time we saw a show called “Bodies” at the Atlantic Center. These Chinese mad scientists had taken some John Doe bodies in China and dissected them in unique ways. They injected bright dye into the nervous system then eliminated all the rest of the body’s tissues so all that was left was the neon nervous system in 3D body shaped plexiglass.  They did the same thing to the blood veins. Imagine a clear body where the whole nervous system is visible. I found it a little disturbing. One display had an arm sliced across sections and spread out so you could see the bones, muscles and other guts of the arm going down the extended length of it. I thought if I had a few of those arm cross sections I could use them as coasters since they were in plexiglass and colored so nicely with no smell of death.

Coincidentally, they were running ads on TV for a pill that supposedly stopped the “nicotine receptors” in a smoker’s brain from working. If you wanted to quit smoking, you could take the pill and quit the habit / addiction of smoking. I wondered what the nicotine receptors looked like. I doubt there are really nicotine receptors in the brain at all. I guess if an artist challenged a mad scientist to show the nicotine receptors the scientist would slap a brain out of a jar of formaldehyde onto a plate and make some cuts into the gray matter and say, “There are your nicotine receptors”. Then later, I heard of opium receptors or some other bad kind of receptors in your brain. It seems like there are receptors for all kinds of things in your brain. Everyone started jumping on the brain receptor band wagon. Then there must be receptors for other things that give the brain pleasure, like eating hard shell crabs, or looking at a pretty bush in the winter.

These days, a lot of times I draw trees with bare twisted branches and it reminds me of the neural network of the brain. And when I stood in front of this bush to draw it, those holly receptors went off in my brain giving me a feeling of pleasure. The red dots on my sketch are the holly receptors. The art viewer might see the red dots as merely berries and be bored with the sketch, because that person wants to see not only a tree, but the suffering of the artist depicted in the sketch, or some story illustrated through the art. They would never know this is an illustration of the holly receptors in my brain if I didn’t tell them. This is where you, my WordPress friends, have an advantage over the other art viewers out there. Because now you know some of the things that went through my mind when I worked on this drawing, but if I frame it or use this sketch to do a painting, others won’t see the receptors.

Torch Lilies / mixed media

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Look what’s blooming like crazy in Jan! It’s so bright I used my florescent oil paint sticks. They have a big clump of these Torch Lilies at Norfolk Botanical Garden. A gardener told me they started to show buds a month ago then last week they really opened up!

It’s so nice to stand there sketching and take in the colors on a gray day like today, and tomorrow it’s supposed to rain, so I’m glad I got this sketch today. I did the watercolor background when I got home.

silk scarf painting workshop #2 / inspiration

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I haven’t mastered it yet, but this is FUN! I’ll take the class again. The teacher, Meryl Ann is a great help and showed me how to correct a mistake.

The oil paint sticks work nicely on silk. The paint doesn’t affect the drape of the fabric. They cost around $10 each color, so it’s worth the class just for that one reason. She has a lot of colors. But I made a mess of it and you can’t lift the color off if you put it in the wrong place or smear it. The thing to do is cover it with another design, then the mistake isn’t noticeable.IMG_2155

This photo looks a little out of focus, but I’m not a real photographer, so I don’t care.

Now I want to make my own templates. I have some good ideas. There’s a product like glue you can use to draw on a piece of cardboard to make your own template.

Also, the ladies in the class are very supportive of each other. It’s nice to hang around with other artists because art is mostly a solitary activity and this is getting me in friendly company.

silk scarf painting workshop

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I took a class this morning at Ocean View Arts where we painted on fabric with oil paint sticks. It was something I always wanted to try but didn’t know how to do it. The class was a lot of fun!

This photo shows my two practice pieces. You use templates with a raised surface, tape the template down and tape the fabric on top of it, then lightly rub the paint stick on top of the fabric and it picks up the design of the template.

The teacher, Meryl Ann, explains the process and gives you as many practice pieces as you want to do before you start on your silk scarf. I used an op art template and got a 3D effect on the black fabric. IMG_2153

This photo shows the template and my start on painting the scarf. I didn’t finish the scarf today but luckily there’s another class tomorrow night that I signed up for. I ordered 3 scarfs so I can give them to my mom and daughter for Christmas presents and have one for myself.

One nice thing about taking the class is the paint is included in the price of the class. The oil paint sticks are expensive. It was real nice to hang around with other artists and they are very welcoming to their group.

I’ll post pix of my finished scarfs in a couple days.

Eastern Redbud / charcoal chalk and pastel / with photos

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Here’s a strappy young redbud for you, appropriately planted in the childrens garden. It looks like it had a growth spurt last year but didn’t fill in yet.

I filled in the background with pastel on this study because I had some smears that wouldn’t erase all the way, and also to make the light on the tree show up more on the light paper.

It’s fun to spot these redbuds when you’re driving. They’re out there by the side of the road all wild and crazy. They don’t get very big but they’re bright and cheery when they bloom. Then when the flowers are down they blend back into the underbrush and you can’t see them again until next spring.

Some other trees of interest are in the photos below.IMG_2020

This tree has roots that have been formed into a circular bench all the way around  for people to sit on or kids to climb on. I wonder how they got the roots to take that shape.IMG_2021

Can you see in this photo how they criss-crossed the stems of these crepe myrtles to make xs? I like the window pane effect of it. And some of the trees look like they merged together into one at the places where the stems cross. Isn’t that a cool thing to do with crepe myrtles?

Norfolk Port Authority / oil / feat oysters

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Does this look convincing to you? I can’t tell. I’ve looked at it too long, and I had a devil of a time trying to figure out how to paint this.  I was never there when it looked like this. I winged it on the sky, by observing bright sunsets from my balcony and mixing colors. I went over my sky again and again until I thought it was ok. Then I had no idea how to paint the water. I can’t even remember how many layers of paint I totally wiped off because later I thought,” meh. that’s not good.” I sometimes waited for my paint to dry and started over. In all, I figure this took me about 2 months to paint, so considering how much paint and time is in it, if it doesn’t look good, it’s an epic failure. (no halfass failures for me)  But if it worked out, I finally did 2 things I’ve wanted to do for years, a panoramic view and a bright winter sky.

This painting is going to the window of Jerry’s Artarama when it dries. I love Jerry’s for giving the free space to me and other artists, and not taking a commission if there’s a sale. Thanks for supporting artists, Jerry.IMG_1976

When I mixed my colors I sat on this bulkhead at the Hermitage, where you can see this beautiful view of the Port Authority. All along it are tons of oysters. My daughter, Sarah told me the Chesapeake Bay Foundation gives baby oysters to people who live next to the water. They come on a clump in a mesh bag. You drop it in the water and they grow up. They are natures little water filters. Sarah doubted they would be good to eat, but she told me the water is much less polluted than it was 20 years ago, so maybe. But, I’ll buy my oysters at the store, because they look real sharp. If I wanted to climb down there and get some, it wouldn’t be easy, and probably verboten anyway.

Norfolk Port Authority / unfinished masking fluid on oil paint experiment

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This would be easy if I knew what I was doing.  But it’s driving me insane!! The weather isn’t cooperating either, so it’s taking weeks just to make a little progress.

I thought about how to paint a big bright winter sky. Winter skies have the brightest colors of the year, I think, with the orange sunlight coming through the atmosphere on a long slant.  From this view, the sun would set close to the center of my painting, which isn’t good. When I was in art school one of our teachers said, “Never paint a blazing sunset.”  I’m not sure if he said that because a bright red sun is what they called “the red circle trick” at the Academy. It’s bad for a composition because the eye goes to the red circle and stops there. It makes  a static composition. The eye doesn’t go around the painting to any other focal points.  That’s how the stores get you to go to the sale items, by placing a red circle over them. Or maybe his objection to painting a blazing sunset was that it’s impossible to duplicate the beauty of the colors. Or maybe he thought it was a cliché, because I remember he said never paint a barn. He said barns are a cliche and it’s true. A lot of jurors will reject a barn painting no matter how beautiful the painting is, just because they’re tired of barns. I’ve painted barns anyway.

So, an afternoon sky is what I’m shooting for here, and I glazed over it on 3 or 4 different days, trying to make a good blend from orange to blue. Then if I see the kind of clouds I like, I’ll have a background of sky ready.

Meanwhile, one day when I had a glaze down on my sky, I sketched in the Port Authority with gray paint. It’s just a skinny strip of land going way out there with rigs far away and some closer. My paint lines weren’t straight or even enough since I did them freehand outside, but I planned to use masking fluid on this painting. When my gray paint was dry I went over the rigs with the masking fluid and sharpened up my lines. Then continued to do sky glazes on top of the masked off rigs. IMG_1964

This close up shows my layers of sky glazes on top of the masked off rigs and strip of land. I’d really like to take the masking fluid off it today because it’s raining and snowing here again. The paint is dry and I’m tired of waiting for nice clouds to add. After I take the masking fluid off, I’ll go over the rigs again. This masking fluid step, if it does work out, was to sharpen up my drawing a little, since it seems easier to paint a straight skinny line with masking fluid than with oil paint. I hope you can see what I’m trying to get with this experiment.

And I have another experiment started, which will be dry in a few days. I could call this sky finished. Forget about winter clouds. It would be great to finally finish it after looking at it unfinished for weeks and waiting for good weather, or for my paint to dry.

If you think you have the patience to try this technique, I’ll post instructions for masking fluid on oil paint soon. I’d like to see what another artist would do with it. But, waiting for oil paint to dry does take patience sometimes.

I have a plan. / Port Authority Norfolk

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A couple days ago I bought some supplies at Jerry’s Artarama. They had a sign about putting your art in the store window, so I asked about it. They want to hide the back of the display racks facing out the windows, so they are making canvases in the sizes to fit the windows. You buy an odd size canvas from them, but they will put the painting in the window and not ask any commission if someone wants to buy it. I decided to give it a try. An artist has to take advantage of free space. I’m glad Jerry’s Artarama is doing it.

So I got this 19 x 38 canvas, and thought it might be fun to use it for a panoramic scene. The place that came to mind was the view from the Hermitage Museum in Norfolk. It’s the Port Authority all the way across the Elizabeth River.

Imagine the canvas covered by sky and river with a thin strip of land breaking it up far away. The strip of land has rigs they use to load and unload ships. They’re moving giant  ships in and out every day and they have huge stacks of cargo containers too. I’ll have to paint the rigs small because they’re far away, but they’re quite large constructions.  I might use my secret masking fluid on oil paint technique for this.

That’a my charcoal sketch taped to the canvas. Since I sketched it in plein air and it wasn’t too difficult to get my drawing close to natural visual perspective, I’m pretty sure I can make it work when I paint it.

We’ve had a few cloudy rainy days which is boring for your plein air artist because there’s no shadows. I have 2 other paintings planned, but it’s good for me to go out and sketch even if it is cloudy and chilly. They are predicting more of the same dreary weather for a couple days. As soon as the sun comes out I’m going to work on my painting at Pleasure House Point. I don’t care how cold it is or if it’s windy. I’m going out to paint.

When I was at the Hermitage doing this sketch it was kind of gray blue over there in the sky and water. It makes me feel like tinting this canvas with a peachy color because that’s the complimentary color of the cold steel gray I saw out there today. Won’t that be funny to paint this scene on a peach tinted canvas? Wouldn’t it be great if I could get the bright winter sunset colors in the sky and water? Maybe I could let some of the peach tint show through. I don’t know, it’s just an idea at this point.

It might take me a few weeks to finish this, because I’m going to wait for a real pretty winter sky after I get my land and rigs roughed in on the peach color.

Whitehurst Lake in Nov. / oil

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See the photos below, stripping off the layers of glazes all the way back to my underpainting.

As I was working on this, I read a science fiction story my daughter wrote. She had a real good idea, STOPPING TIME. That’s the illusion I’d like to put into my viewers’ heads.

I often think about modern Impressionists when I’m taking my sweet time finishing a painting. The Impressionists feel like they have to rush. Their goal is to capture a moment. To me, that sounds impossible. Like a Kodak moment, like the shutter on a camera. Click, and you have the image in an instant.

It’s true, they complain because the light changes so fast. They don’t take the time to work the paint by mixing colors with a palette knife. They squirt the paint out of the tube and stick the brush right in it, mixing the colors with the brush on the canvas. That is why they have to worry about muddy colors.

Impressionists, what’s the rush? You can go to your scene a little early for the best light and mix some colors to the shade you need. You can put a glaze on the painting thinking it’s close to right. Then when you go back the next day at the same time, the light will be the same as the day before, and you can easily make corrections since the paint has partially dried overnight. You can put another glaze right over top of the previous one without smudging the colors together creating mud. You can go warmer or cooler, lighter or darker so easily. Then the eye of the viewer blends the colors and you get depth in your shadows. And the lightest and brightest colors are on top in thicker paint.

Sometimes people tell me that what I’m doing looks like magic. They see me in the same place day after day with my painting slowly evolving. I always tell them, it’s not magic. It’s an illusion. I started thinking, maybe I can make the viewer think I can stop time.

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This is my painting with one layer of glazes covering the whole canvas.

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This is my underpainting in gray on a violet tinted canvas.

A  few years ago I bought a tube of violet so I could paint some purple flowers. The violet in a tube is brighter than a violet I can mix with any red and blue. But I rarely paint purple flowers so that tube didn’t get used. I decided to tint my canvas violet instead of gray, as I did before, just to use my violet paint before it dried up.

When I tint a canvas, I thin the paint with odorless Turpenoid so it’s like a wash. It makes the pigment not bind with the Gesso. The purple pigment is kind of powdery on the canvas and rubs off even when it’s dry.  When I do my underpainting, I’m using neutral grays but the violet lifts and changes the gray. Then, I get the feeling the paint is sitting a tiny fraction of an inch off the canvas. After I put some glazes on top of my underpainting, I think they are sitting on top too, like the violet makes everything lift, visually. So, the violet is kind of fun to work on.

The underpainting is a necessary first step in this way of painting. I estimated I had 8 hours in it at this point, because first I sketched it with charcoal on paper. Then I sketched it with charcoal on the violet canvas before I started to do the underpainting.

I have to take the time to do these steps. I doubt I’ll ever learn to paint fast. I have the time to go back to the beautiful place any day and stay as long as I like. So this way of painting that was pushed on me when I was young at York Academy of Art, actually suits me fine, now, but when I was in art school, I rebelled against the Academy. hahaha