Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Back on track for 2011

A belated happy New Year to everyone!  Despite the fact we got back on New Year's eve from our 9-day holiday trip, and theoretically had plenty of time to work both in my studio, or write up a post reflecting back on 2010 and outlining goals for 2011, it just didn't happen.   Instead, because of the sporadic and limited time I had internet access during our trip, I simply slummed it around the house and caught up on blogging and other reading.

I actually did finally start working on a new piece - a large pastel of the local area - for a specific project, and it ended up being a dud right out of the blocks, and after spending one evening and part of yesterday morning on it, I decided to put it aside.  I'll probably toss it, but perhaps if I look at it later with a fresher attitude, I'll have the energy to rework and perhaps salvage it.   The other productive thing I managed to do yesterday was to finally construct a drying/storage rack for my paintings; I'll post pictures and a description of the tools and materials I used in another post.

I've given some thought to the direction I'd like to go with my art, as well as the blog, this year.  I will keep working in oils, definitely, and I'd like to work on some still lifes, which will be a good way to work from life when it's too cold to paint outside.   I also had another idea for a series of small paintings, based on a subject that is near and dear to my heart:  my beloved cat.  I also want, or need, actually, to dedicate more time to drawing.  Despite what some artists will say, I absolutely believe that good paintings come from good draftsmanship.  One can get away with limited drawing skills when painting landscapes, but there is little room for error when doing still lifes, and essentially none when doing portraiture.  And, finally, I'd like to resume playing with clay again; I've had ideas bouncing around in my head for both bas-relief pieces and some full sculptures.  I know myself well enough not to commit 100% to any of these, thus these are not "resolutions", but more of a mental "to-do" list.

I keep editing the layout of my blog, both adding, removing and changing elements there.  I'm sure I'll continue to do so, all to make it more streamlined and adding new links as I come across them.  As a primarily "self-taught" artist, I spend a great deal of time reading.  This includes instructional and technique-oriented books and articles, as well as those profiling specific artists.  As I always enjoy reading such information that other bloggers share, I will probably start incorporating more of these sources of information and inspiration in some blog posts.   I hope readers will get something out of the shared information as well.  I'm currently reading a book on Sargent from our library, so that will perhaps be my first discussion topic.

In the meantime, I finally sat down and painted in earnest today, going back to some of the 9x12 panels I prepared.  I'm not sure how many more in this Southwest Sky series I'll do, but I'm probably over half done.  I was drawn to the reference photo for this because of the sweeping gesture of the center cloud - its drama contrasts with that of the land, which like much of the region along Hwy 491, has a wide-spanning and grass-covered foreground with distal plateaus and mesas.  I really don't tire of this landscape.  Due to poor weather, we took the same route down during our Christmas trip, and I enjoyed seeing the locations of the paintings I've done thus far, and with a new perspective.

Towards the Heavens
9x12 - oil on board

As is usually the case, I always see things I could change when I look at the photo:  a few awkward shapes in the clouds, primarily.  The color correction is a bit off in this; it's a tad too green, and the colors within the clouds aren't as apparent as they are in the actual painting.  I'm still confounded by working alla prima and trying to keep those sky/cloud edges from becoming messy.  

Another experiment here was replacing ultramarine blue with phthalo blue.  One of the stores we went into while in Bisbee had some Van Gogh paint 1/2 off, including a tube each of cobalt and phthalo blues, and I ask you:  who could resist buying art supplies on clearance?  Not me, and I bought them both!  This brand is quite chromatic, a strong tinter, and very much leans towards turquoise, but I loved it.   It will be part of my permanent palette for sure.  I used a limited palette here of the phthalo, yellow ochre, Indian red and purple lake.

I am hoping that this now fires up my energy in the studio to resume daily paintings, and a productive year.  

And, here are two photos from yesterday afternoon.  Temperatures have just recently warmed to above freezing for the day, so the 1' of snow that fell last week is slow to melt.

Altocumulus over Smelter Mtn. and Perins Pk.

Smelter with winter tree silhouette


  1. The limited palette work (here and above) seems to be working out great!
    You are brave to use pthalo. It takes over when I try to use it.
    I'm super curious to see some of your equestrian sculpture work--want to post some pics here for people (incl. me) to see?
    I love the bottom photo.

  2. Thanks, Jala :). The palette at least seems to be effective for producing the colors i'm wanting to in these pieces. No need for any cadmiums!

    The pthalo is probably the most intense tinting color I've worked with, so I see how it could take over; I can only keep it under control by graying it down with the rest of the colors. But, I couldn't match those equally intense and turquoise-y skies I was wanting with UB mixtures.

    I'll dig around and find some photos of the mixed media bas-relief pieces I did. They are small (~4"), and I only did 3. Some are on my website, which needs a complete overhaul one of these days.


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