Saturday, January 29, 2011

Chromatastic Camellias

Matisse once advised: Seek the strongest color effect possible.. The content is of no importance.
This week one of my highest energy watercolor students Janet (who is also some 80 years young) wanted to play with one of my favorite watercolor techniques--a contour oil pastel drawing combined with saturated bold, wet in water watercolor painting. This technique works for florals, abstracts, figures, still lifes--any subject matter really.

Janet's inspiration was two pictures of mostly white camellia blossoms (one close up and some in a vase). For those of you who might think watercolor can't pack a color punch, take a look at Janet's amazing interpretation. No color fear as you can see. Don't you love shapes (notice how she varies them for interest) and her super saturated yellows, greens, oranges, and reds? I think Matisse would be proud.

For those you interested Janet used a convenient and affordable 12 color Yarka watercolors pan set, which I saw online for an amazing under $5 price at Dick Blick.  I've not tried the Yarka line myself, but Janet tells me she enjoys how long they last and how bright the colors stay. Plus she doesn't have to fuss with those pesky tiny tubes and caps. Her paper here is Arches 140 RP.  

Taking the evening off for some Wii bowling (yes, I'm pro level), but back in the studio tomorrow...Have a great weekend everyone and thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Love Birds

For several years I've donated a heart themed painting (usually abstract) to the Denver's AIGA Heart Art Auction which will be on February 10 this year. It's a benefit for Project Angel Heart and I often incorporate heart symbols into my abstract work anyway so a fun match for me to paint.

This year I decided to combine birds with the hearts using acrylics on gallery wrapped canvas. While I have a few finishing touches--may add some touches of writing and build up some texture to help frame the heart--but overall I'm very happy with it. I really like the warm red with the cool charcoal gray. I also love balancing my representational work with my abstract work as I think each endeavor strengthens the other. 

Today one of my students did an amazing painting where we first poured the very bright clean acrylics (yellow, magenta, blue) over a canvas (drying in between colors). Then she created a negative painting around the interesting poured shapes letting the poured layer show through in some spots. I just love the movement and texture the pouring creates in the under painting. This is a really exciting technique to try.

Speaking of acrylics and their versatility, this week bought two sampler set of the new GOLDEN Open Acrylics and am looking forward to trying them in the next week or so. According to the literature, these paints stay open (workable) for up to 10 times regular tube acrylics. As always, if you have any questions about my art or painting classes please contact me or visit me on Teach Street (search Scarlet Owl).

Sunday, January 23, 2011

31 Art Sparks

For some time now, I've wanted to display and organize unframed paintings for extra studio inspiration. Yesterday I finally added some nice clean and contemporary white floating shelves I found at The Container Store.

These shelves (which also come in black) were perfect for displaying art because they are not too deep (just a few inches) and have a little front lip to keep your unframed pieces from sliding off. Plus, they are sturdy enough to hold a few small framed pieces. 

Seeing a collection of my pieces (as well some student work) gave me the idea to put together a quick list of art painting projects or painting challenges. Here are some quick ideas for the next time you wander into your art space thinking...Hmm, what the heck should I paint today? Enjoy!

1.    High key (very light) large landscape—snow, spring trees…
2.    Low key (very dark) still life—eggplants, black objects, rusty things…
3.    Still life with something inside something else (jar of marbles, etc.)
4.    Base your painting off of one key pigment that you don’t typically use on your palette
5.    Start your painting with a complementary outline for your subjects (blue line for an orange object, etc.)
6.    Paint from a photo (landscape, figure, floral, etc.) upside down
7.    Use a tool you’ve never used before for entire painting—palette knife, credit card…
8.    Paint a master copy of an artist you’re less familiar with (i.e. you’ll need to do some research, review their body of work, etc.)
9.    Pick a strong emotion—such as “Jealousy” and create an abstract painting about it
10.    Recycle (or complete) an old painting from the basement, studio closet, etc.
11.    Stretch your own unprimed canvas and leave some raw canvas showing for texture
12.    Something with stripes or another strong repetitive pattern
13.    A toy, board game, keepsake or something that evokes strong memories
14.    A multiple collection of something (stamps, coins, rocks, etc.)
15.    Something with letters, words, or numbers
16.    Add a figure to an existing painting (abstract, representational) for a new focal area
17.    Paint in order of the color wheel from red, to red orange, to orange, etc. Use every color somewhere.
18.    Mostly white subject(s) with a very dark background (or vice versa)
19.    Take a favorite painting and repaint it with a different composition
20.    Something borrowed before you return it
21.    Speed paint an abstract in 60 minutes (or less) with larges brush, no planning, etc. Just paint!
22.    Something with an interesting label or strong graphics (cereal box, etc.)
23.    Crumple, fold, mutilate large piece of heavy paper (black or white)—all those folds make for great value practice
24.    “Hide” at least 2 personal and secret visual symbols in your painting 
25.    Paint something very modern in a classical style (e.g. Rembrandt paints an iPod)
26.    Something or someplace that represents the state or town you grew up in
27.    Take inspiration from one of your favorite song titles
28.    Paint a new cover for one of your favorite books (classical or contemporary)
29.    Other than art, honor another unrelated passion or hobby in your art
30.    Your favorite food or snack next to your least favorite
31.     In an artist under the gun “Iron Chef” like way have a friend or family member bring or pick out a “mystery” object or photo for you. Paint this in under an hour.

Need more art sparks? Here are a few others I found online:
About's Monthly Painting Projects
A Day Not Wasted Painting Challenge
Red Bubble Acrylic Challenges 
Monthly Painting Challenge
Artists Helping Artists Monthly Challenge

Thanks as always for stopping by, please feel free to Contact Me if you have any questions about painting or my classes. Creative joy and happiness from my studio to yours!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My Favorite Art Books in the Studio

As my art instruction book collection has grown over the years I find myself going back to certain books over and over particularly on a cold reading by the fire day like today. So I thought I'd post my "Island Studio Must Have Art Book List--Part One. "

Here are six of my favorite art books--in no particular preference or order. I'll post a few more in the next few weeks since I realize that I've neglected watercolor altogether here. Happy reading and painting everyone!

Oil Painting
At the time I discovered this book, most of my painting classes employed traditional earthy palettes-- Umber...It's like something Scrooge would say.  Thus, I felt an instant and thrilling connection to Ms. Sarback’s sunny Californian landscapes and still life paintings. I breathed an artistic sigh of relief gazing at the orange, green and turquoise shadows. Finally, I remember thinking, this is how I tend to see and how I’d personally prefer to paint. Who knew painting colored blocks with a palette knife could be both affirming and life changing? 

Oil Painting
I’m guessing if you polled most oil painters they would likely mention one or both of these books by Mr. McPherson as favorites. His books are tried and true oil painting reference books that reinforce all the basics. From his dazzling, but “no nonsense” limited palette to the wonderful landscape compositions, I never tire of re-reading these practical, working artist books. Plus, they are great teaching tools for all levels of painters.   

Oil Painting
I received this Mr. McCaw's book as a birthday gift and have loved it ever since. It's one of those books where you think now I'd be very happy for the rest of my life if I could paint like that. I'm always motivated and energized this artist's dazzling color sense, vigorous brush work, bold lighting, etc. I rarely splurge on art materials but I had a student once ask me if I thought it was worth the almost $200 out of print price on Amazon and I said yes--no hesitation. 

Acrylic/Mixed Media
Where to begin? First, I can’t imagine my studio (or life) without my little bottles of Golden Fluid Acrylics or Quin. Gold for that matter. I’ve seen this book referred to as a “workshop in a book” and I have to agree. I think I’ve tried just about every technique demonstrated in the book at least a few times. When I switch from representational painting to abstract work this is usually the first book I go to. Ms. Beam's process helps me get back in that world of pure creativity and exploration. I’ve also won a few awards for my paintings employing some or several of the techniques shown--so hey that's always a bonus.   

Oil Painting/Still Life
Ms. Shorr is a representational contemporary still-life painter and I believe a painting professor as well. Because my art brain sometimes thrives on busy and but well organized paintings her expansive “slice of life” high key paintings (reminiscent of Janet Fish who I also admire) really struck a chord. Best of all, you can usually find this colorful little book used on Amazon for just a few dollars.    

Art Materials/Color Theory
Yes, years later, some of this info might be outdated with so many new pigments and new manufacturer and you can’t frown upon Opera Pink in my book. But, when I first read these detailed pigment and color reference books I suspect I wasn’t the only artist who had a few major “Aha!” or even “Yikes!” moments. For example, weren’t we always a bit confused by that mysterious Cobalt “Hue” label? Let me put it this way, before I read this book, I bought Parisian French Ultramarine Blue (Extra Deep)—today I buy PB29. 

Finally, speaking of painting and books, I recently came across a Toronto based oil painter named Holly Farrell recently and am crazy about her paintings of vintage books. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Rosy Winter

Hi Everyone--happy Wednesday! This little 8 x10 oil painting fresh off the easel was inspired by a snowy day and having "paint a floral in oils" on my studio to do list for the week. These are my roses and a few marigolds for pops of cadmium yellow. I'd like to take credit for growing them but frankly, as I think I've noted before,  I'm not much of a gardener. I just love to paint flowers. Thankfully, the previous home owner had a small rose garden that continues to flourish despite my thorny inheritance. 

The dark vase has an almost metallic navy glaze which was a fun challenge to capture in paint and was created by a wonderful potter in my neighborhood. I snapped this picture back in early October and put it away for a snowy, less colorful day just like today.

This painting was also inspired by watching and episode of Passport and Palette on Create TV the other day with Kevin MacPherson. If you enjoy plein air painting, or just want to get a sense of it while staying warm on your sofa, I highly recommend the program. 

In this particular episode, Kevin painted a wonderful landscape study of a snowy river bank near Taos over an older canvas he'd previously employed as a palette. In the process, he let the old, scraped off colors work for him in the new painting as interesting and unexpected pops of color. I've used this "method" before, but not recently, so this morning thought it would be a perfect technique for a floral study like this one.

Hi to all my fantastic new January students--It's been great to meet you and see what you're working on and what you aspire to. I hope you will all enjoy painting for the rest of your life as I do. And many thanks to everyone who has contacted me recently about classes--I know my teaching schedule is getting very full this time of year, so I appreciate your patience and I promise we'll get you in the studio soon!

Finally, as many of you know, this is also the time of year that the blog community likes to share goals for the upcoming year. So, speaking of plein air painting, one of my 2011 art goals is to paint at least once a month outside. Can't promise I'll venture out in January, but hopefully we'll have a more temperate day before the end of the month. And if not, I will at least head out with my camera for lots of snowy landscape reference photos when I'm painting this July.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Happy New Year!

"Eleven Eleven"
20 x 24 oil on panel
I hope everyone enjoyed a happy and creative holiday season. It was nice to take a painting break, spend time with my family, do some shopping, etc. but I'm thrilled to back in the studio painting, reading my new art books, and working with my students this week.

Before I look ahead to 2011, I want to send a sincere thanks out to all my art supporters last year including my friends and family, of course, but most of all my students. I can't believe only a year ago I did not know many of you and today I have an almost a full teaching calendar. I'm honored to work with all of you and watch you grow. 

Everyday you inspire and motivate me with your variety of fun and challenging subject matter--from napping bulldogs to towering Masai warriors!  But I also enjoy our exchange of art information whether it's a favorite book, new art tool, great website, etc. Students really help expand my own art knowledge well beyond the studio and so again, I thank you all!

In fact, today's painting (which is still wet and not quite done, but almost) was in part inspired by three of my talented oil students (thanks Dallas, Mike and Deb S.) who love oil painting, particularly landscapes, as much as I do. I met lots of new faces and am so excited to continue to work with you in  2011.

Speaking of landscapes, today's artist to check out (sent to me by one of my students--thanks Dallas) is contemporary British painter James Naughton. On a recent snowy day, I watched a remake of Wuthering Heights and was immediately reminded of these sweeping and haunting landscapes. 

While today's "favorite art tool" comes from Ron, one of my watercolor students. I noticed while he had a wealth of very nice supplies, he tended (as we often do) to favor a particular black and red round brush for most of his work. It's a wonderful (and very reasonable) synthetic brush--the Loew Cornell Ultra Round Series 7020. I ordered and tried the #12 over the holiday season and it's a treat to paint with.   

Finally, for those of you who paint small studies, you may want to try out this "Leslie and Dreama" Artist's Helping Artists special deal at King of Frame. As I've mentioned before, I love the front load floater frame for my 6x6 studies. I can't wait to meet the over dozen new students who are starting their lessons and have made painting and art a resolution for the upcoming year. See you soon in the studio!