Have you ever noticed how you can see a shape from a distance and know exactly who or what it is? Even when most of the shape is in shadow, our beautiful minds interpret form and attach meaning to it from our reservoir of knowledge and experience. Recently I was privileged to attend a fantastic workshop with a focus on shape and a goal of capturing the gesture of that shape by limiting and controlling the values.
In drawing and painting, the term value refers to the relative light and darkness of the color/hue of an object. if you look at a sphere with the light source coming from one angle, you'll see a gradation of shading on the unlit side. The same goes for just about every single object; it is that combination of light and shadow that gives it form. It doesn't matter what color is used as long as the correct value of the color is in the proper placement. Then our eyes and mind will know what we are seeing.
Most inanimate objects do not typically express gesture. A chair, a rock, a shoe all have shape and volume, but are rarely affected by motion. The word animate, either a verb or adjective, is derived from Latin "give breath to, enliven, endow with spirit" and that is what we set out to learn to capture in our paintings during this class. Marjorie Hicks, our very talented, kind, and generous instructor (check out her website HERE) presented us with several photographs of her models in various model-y poses and demonstrated her process of painting in three values of warm gray hues. My painting of the two poses above shows how we start with a mid-value toned canvas. Once I got the drawing lines in, all I had to do was fill in the deepest shadow side with the darkest of my 3 values and then pop in the lightest value where the figure is sunlit. Easy-peasy! (sort of)
With another figure (photo provided by Marjorie) taken one step further, I added just a couple areas of color, making sure the value was the same as my tonal lay-in. It's a little hard to see here, but the man's cast shadow is a blue hue and there is a slightly lighter mid-tone value of yellow on the sand around his legs. I could continue to add color to his shirt, hat, etc, being very careful to keep the color value the same as the tonal value. That can be difficult because our eyes tend to trick us with color values.
This was so much fun to paint in this way that, for the next few days, I used my own photo references to practice what I learned. One side benefit is that it has really helped me with my drawing practice and given me hope that I can grow in that skill, too.
Thank you for reading my blog! And don't miss the new group of paintings in my fabulous Art Sale!! See them HERE!!
How many jokes and eye rolls can we do to ease the pain of this complicated year? Even good news seems overshadowed by the global trauma of the pandemic and unrest. Are you all readers of history? it seems to me that there is "nothing new under the sun'; people have forever been challenged with politics and economics and disease. Lately I am reading Hilary Mantel's third book about Thomas Cromwell and the disastrous era of King Henry VIII. They were facing unrest on all fronts, opposing points of view, rumors of war, lies and intrigue, not to mention, disease with no antibiotics and minimal comprehension of microbes. And we are still here five hundred years later dealing with similar problems. Something to ponder, eh?
Here is a sweet bit of light in this shadowy time: one good art show will go on as planned, with some Covid modifications:
The plein air artist group that I am a member of partners each year with at least one Nashville organization whose goals are to preserve natural and/or historic areas in Middle Tennessee. For the month of September we will have our paintings on display and for sale to benefit the Nashville Tree Conservation Corps and help to further their mission of preserving and protecting the tree canopy in our urban community. Many of the Chestnut Group artists have their amazing work in this show. It can be viewed online (HERE) or by visiting the Gordon Jewish Community Center in Nashville, 8-5 daily. These are my two paintings available in this art show:
Both paintings were done plein air at the lakeside across the street from where I live. It's a pretty popular spot; locally known as "Skinny Dip Cove" (...not sure why...?) These two days I had it to myself and was immersed in the beauty, if not the water.
And now I am happy to deliver on my previous blog post promise to offer the next batch of paintings in my Anniversary Sale! Click HERE to view and contact me through the website or my email: firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or wish to purchase. (which I hope you will because they need forever homes and I need more art supplies! haha!)
Thank you for reading my blog!!
It's always fun to celebrate and we humans find so many events to rejoice over: birthdays, graduations, weddings, and in this case, my anniversary. This month of July marks the tenth year that I have been painting seriously and intentionally. As many of you know, I had been a pediatric nurse for many years, in hospitals and home health, and was very fulfilled in helping little ones heal and have good starts in life. But a secret desire rumbled around in my heart: to be able to create a scene of some thing or some place that was special, beautiful, and meaningful. I wanted to learn to paint and be an artist. And now I am celebrating my 10 year anniversary of those early months of oil painting lessons. What better way to celebrate than to give a huge discount to all you faithful patrons, readers, appreciators, and friends!
Every few weeks I will be offering a few paintings at a time at significantly reduced prices. All the paintings will be $200 or less and no larger than 11x14. They are all original oil paintings from various points in my art journey. if you see one you like, please contact me either through the website contact page or directly at email@example.com.
I thought it would be fun to show some of my early paintings:
And follow it up with some of my more recent ones:
What a happy, challenging journey, and still a long way to go! Thanks for your support and for reading my blog!!
After spending four and a half hours times two traveling to and from Seattle this past weekend, I realized how many things a good book has in common with a good painting. My
Kindle had two novels downloaded from the library (if you don't have the Libby App yet, here's some info). I started the first book, expecting to become deeply immersed in a compelling, enjoyable read and, being the fair-minded person that I am, I gave it the entire 4 hour flight time to SeaTac before deciding it wasn't for me. On the trip back to Nashville, I turned to my second downloaded book and, even though it was a much slower start with much more initial information to wade through, I found myself drawn into and captured by the story. So, what are the elements that good writing and good painting have in common?
First of all, a really good book must have a solid structure that gives the reader a sense of form that this story will take them. My brother-in-law is an author and has taught me much about his writing process, which begins . Similarly with a painting, the first step is to create a structure that I will call The Composition. While I can't paint the "ending", I can make decisions of lines, shapes, orientation, and placement that create the bones of the painting and will take me where I want it to go. A sloppy composition has competing focal areas, redundant shapes, or uninteresting lines. Similarly, a sloppy story may have meandering threads, competing genres, or tedious dialogue within it.
A second element that books and paintings share is Clarity: how clear has the artist (writer or painter) communicated the "reason for the art"? After just a few pages you should have a sense of the author's theme and what she wants this book to teach or show you. Did you know that most people in art museums and galleries will only look at a painting for 15 to 30 seconds? So both writer and painter must be on their game to make clear the reason, main idea, and purpose of their work. A writer will do this through character development, story line, and themes; a painter through subject matter, values (darks and lights), and color use. A painting with highly saturated colors sends a completely different message than the one that is painted with muted, grayed down colors. Many successful paintings have a clear path (often a literal path) into and around the whole painting to keep the viewer engaged and interested in what it is saying.
I'm sure there are many other similarities that books and paintings share, but I want to end this short essay with this third element that I can only call the "It Factor". I found this definition: "the It Factor is very elusive as it refers to the hard-to-define quality that makes something special and outstanding." I'm certain that art competition judges can define what it is that makes a painting stand out, but for the rest of us it is more an intuitive resonance as we respond to a painting. And it is highly individual; one person loves impressionism and another prefers realism, etc. Of course, all the other technical elements must be in place, but the artists that charm me often have a style or a signature color or a type of brushstroke that connects with me. In a more universal sense, the It Factor tends to resonate across a large swath of folks...hence: book awards and blue ribbons. These are the artists and writers who rise to the top with best sellers and solo art shows.
Here is your take-away from this post: next time you are looking at a painting, linger just a little longer than 30 seconds and see if you can sense the structure, the message, and the thing that brings a thrill. Making art has helped me appreciate good art so much more and I hope that is what reading my blog will do for you!
Thank you!! Happy, healthy summer!! Share kindness...
Listening to an online sermon recently, I heard a good word about our current circumstances: while we all do need to ask for safety, what we ought to pray for more is Courage. I've thought and written about courage before, so it must be a theme that I'm needing to pay attention to personally.
You want to know what takes courage for a painter? A big commission; and by big I mean size-wise, as in really large: 3 feet by 4 feet of joyously blooming California Golden Poppies. The photo reference that my client had taken was of a small copse of poppies near an old 4x4 plank of timber. I could easily see how that scene had spoken to her and I wanted to capture the happy simplicity in this painting. I studied up on the structure and silhouette of golden poppies so my rendering, however impressionistic, would be believable.
The first step in any painting is always Composition. This is a 2-part process: first, how I want the painting to make the viewer feel (what is the reason for this painting?) and second, how can I arrange the components within the painting to achieve that feeling? In this case, the photo suggested a much more intimate scene rather than an expansive landscape view, so a vertical portrait layout would express that closeness, bringing you right into that cozy setting. Photos reflect exactly what is there, but a bit of rearranging by the artist can strengthen the scene. I felt that arranging the poppies to lead the eye into, through, and around the painting would keep the viewer engaged in the setting. The contrasting structural lines of the plank against the soft edges of the flowers added interest without distracting or dividing the painting too much. Flipping the photo horizontally let me develop a "compound curve" composition, with plenty of soft angles to lead the eye.
To get started on the work, I ordered a large stretched canvas and the oil colors that would happily mix together to yield bright, glowing hues so recognizable in these flowers. I found a way to support the big canvas on my medium sized easel and began with a wash of quick drying, warm transparent oxide orange, which would allow me to do the free-hand "wipe away" where I wanted the flowers to go and would also warmly glow through subsequent layers of paint. A cool green around the perimeter followed, creating a base for the long grasses that surrounded the poppies. The wood also received a first layer of grayed-down violet, the complement of the orange-yellows all around it. After that, it was off to the races as I started developing the flowers loosely, then with more detail and depth, always keeping in mind where I wanted the focal point: over the wood plank on the right upper right side, as the brightest and most developed of the poppies. That is the area where you will find the darkest of the darks and the brightest of the blooms.
As the "S" shaped composition developed, I also worked the outer areas of grasses, shadows, and the more distant blooms on the far side of the wood plank, keeping those edges and shapes softly indistinct. That helped to create depth and kept the sweet-spot (focal point) the "star of the show". I added more flowers on the outer areas of the composition lines to keep it random and interesting, as well as roughing up the wood and adding some cooler greens among the flowers. Here is the original reference photo and below is the finished painting, as well as two photos of it hanging: one on my wall during the drying process and one on my client's wall where she can be reminded of sunshine and beauty every day! Many thanks to her for commissioning me to recreate such a delightful image in oil paint!
Thank you for reading my blog! Stay safe AND courageous!
Fleeting and enchanting, here now but soon to be gone: Ephemera. Not sure what it is about paper creations, but they capture my heart. Take me to an art walk and I will stop in my tracks entranced by hundreds of paper doves hanging from the ceiling in a tiny studio. Recently I opened a used book and out fell an old map and a photograph. More ephemera! At a recent visit to a historic home I saw aged bookshelves filled with dusty volumes and all sorts of unformed, ephemeral thoughts swirled through my mind: all the minutes, hours, years spent creating unread and disintegrating books, all the aching hands that folded the dangling paper birds, all the people in the photographs long gone from this life.
The dictionary defines ephemera as things useful or important only for a brief time. Tickets, maps, brochures...all the things we used to paste into memory albums, now yellowed and curled. They speak of the fleeting nature of life and yet, paradoxically, the endurance of Being.
The Apostle Paul wrote in the book of 1 Corinthians that "all things will pass away" except for faith, hope, and love. You can see what remains and endures: the love, kindness, and goodness that pass down through to future generations. This is also what art does, whether it's writing, music, sculpture, or painting (or a host of other creative expressions.) Art captures and preserves, at least for a time, the fleeting thought, the vista, the form, long after the artist is gone. Maybe what fascinates me about all the ephemera is the artist's voice in its essence. While I paint, I'm pouring my attention and intention into the work and trusting the message of goodness and love come through. Using archival and 'best practices' in the studio gives me hope the painting will last much longer than the paper doves.
Thank you for reading my ephemeral words! Stay safe and be mindful of others' safety as well.
Those of a certain age will remember the 1960's bathroom tissue tv ads with the "moment of softness" slogan, accompanied by soft images of blossoms and clouds and linen cloth, helping us to associate their product with comfort and goodness. We certainly need those feelings now (as well as that particular product which seems in surprisingly low supply.) Every day brings new and shocking news of the Covid19 pandemic engulfing the entire globe and, meanwhile, outside my patio door I hear and see all the signs of Springtime showing up and showing off. Life. It inspires courage in me and I hope in you, too. We need courage and great love right now so that we aren't consumed by the dark of depression and fear.
Give love to yourself with self-care and self-compassion, knowing that the emotion of fear is normal to all human beings, but with courage you can choose wise actions that are good for yourself and others.
Give love to your neighbor by checking in and reassuring them that you are close by and available to help if needed. Have the courage to be selfless and sacrificial, which for most of us will mean staying home, social distancing, praying more, partying less (or none)
Give love to your community and world by being aware and responsive to the needs that will become more and more evident. There are many good suggestions of how to help those in need; have the courage to do the thing. "Look for the helpers" (Mr. Roger's mother), "watch to see where God is at work" (Experiencing God) and when you do find these places and people, have the courage AND love to find your part to play.
May you all remain healthy and strong!
A few months ago I started a blog topic about "Learning a new thing", the first installment covered setting the stage by addressing the anxiety that comes with unfamiliar territory. (Read it here) You know that unpleasant feeling of stress when you're heading into a new and alien environment, like an interview or an important meeting. You don't know what to expect and you'd rather be just about anywhere else and your amygdala is firing up all the responses so you can "fight or fly", which usually ends up being counterproductive. The rest of your brain is trying to say wait a minute, this dry mouth, these shaky hands are not helpful. Calm down now, take a breath!
And now you can feel yourself relaxing, more settled and it's time for curiosity and being present...Step Two. The best descriptor for step two is to be In the Moment. Let yourself become aware of your surroundings, the people you are with, and the information being presented. Keep your attention receptive and non judgmental. You may become aware of defensive feelings inside yourself. Let yourself notice and let them go for now, returning to the open focus you started with. If you're in a class or workshop, this is a good time to take quick notes while also staying attentive to the instructor.
There are several different learning styles and you may already know the best way you learn, so incorporate that to your circumstances. Some people learn by hearing, others by seeing or by doing, If you know you are a kinesthetic learner, you might want to position yourself where you can stand or move while in the learning mode.
So you are Relaxed. You are Receptive. You are focused and self-aware. And you are taking in all the new information auditorily, writing brief notes, moving around if you need to. The very best next thing to do when the break time comes is to write down a short summary of the material you are trying to learn. Include some of your impressions, too; they may help to jog your memory later. When you put down or even just talk about it in your own words, you are moving the information from one part of your brain into another and taking a giant step from short term memory to long term memory! Progress!
Thank you for reading my blog! I appreciate it!
instincts and watch things unfold on their own. But I know there is much value in having intentional goals to aim for!
This is going to be one crazy year for me: 2020 is "Wedding Year" and the planning is already in full swing. Our daughter is getting married to a wonderful guy in the fall and we couldn't be happier! So I guess one of my goals is to be a supportive mom and help in any way I can without being annoying. (I wonder how I'm going to assess for that?)
I also have some lofty travel plans, going somewhere almost every month until July, when I will need to stay home and clean everything for all the wonderful wedding guests. I do love the adventure of going places and experiencing new things and one of this year's forays is
an art-related trip in May to the Plein Air Convention in Denver! It's taking place just a couple miles from our son's apartment so I will get to see him as well, which is awesome. This is the first time attending for me and I've heard it's a dawn to dusk, non-stop painting experience...lots of fantastic speakers, demos, paint-outs, and camaraderie...and I'm both so excited and already exhausted. Here's a goal: blog about it! I probably can do that.
Many serious artists set a goal of painting or drawing every day and, actually, that is my goal, too. I took a workshop this fall with Calvin Liang and came face to face with my sad drawing skills. I kind of skipped that part when I started painting; it was too hard, too time consuming, not fun, and pretty discouraging. So I basically drew with my paintbrush and "carved" out whatever shape I was trying for as I developed the painting. Calvin said something to me that was very convicting and challenging: "you need to learn to draw; you will not be able to progress in your art unless you do" Well, fine! I will suck it up and get to work on that this year, too. Goal-setting will definitely be needed for this intention!
Many good wishes for a productive and rewarding New Year to all of you. Spread kindness this year...we all need it!! Thanks for reading my blog❤️
Just for fun I thought I would end this year by selecting my nine favorite paintings of the thirty-plus that I've finished in 2019. It's been a great year for learning, improving, showing, and selling. I'm feeling very blessed and looking forward to what 2020 will bring.
As always, thank you for reading my blog!!!
Hello! My name is Wendy and I am passionate about oil painting! Whether in the studio or out in Mother Nature, I get lost in the experience of capturing on canvas the moment and the feel of what I am painting. I pour my love and energy into every single piece of artwork and I hope it shows! This blog is a place where I can use words to talk about art, painting, life, faith, things that make me laugh, and things that inspire. I love every response, so don't be shy about leaving a comment...