Thursday, November 28, 2013

Art or Cartoons?

When we were children, my sister and I watched a TV show that taught kids how to draw cartoons (Tom Hatten), and I got pretty good. All my life, I drew cartoons, for fun, to entertain children,  to pass the time in long meetings. When I started painting, it felt like a criticism if my paintings were compared to cartoons. But after a few years, I began to think, well, that's what I'm good at so I might as well go with it. Recently, I did cartoons of unicorns and rainbows all over an 8 foot piece of butcher paper for my granddaughter's "Rainbow Unicorn Birthday" party, as a table cloth the children could color. I did all of this free hand with a magic marker:

After seeing the work of Milton Avery, I felt encouraged to go ahead and do cartoon-like paintings. Now in critiques, the teachers warn me not to get too "cartoony." There are some ways to reduce the cartoon look -- mute the colors and make the heads small. In the oil painting below, I muted the colors and eliminated the heads.

It has also been pointed out that figures in motion look more cartoony than still figures. Since I love to paint dancers, this problem presents a challenge -- how to paint cartoonish dancers that are not TOO cartoony. The oil painting below is not finished, but it is an attempt to paint wonky dancers that are not too cartoony. 

Well, I think it's too cartoony, but I like it anyway. Still have to paint the hair, spotlights, and shoes. Not sure what color to make the shoes. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Two New Oil Paintings

A few days ago, I took the washed off canvas board from the last post and painted a much better painting on it with water mixable oils:

The Trek 5

Today I tried another, titled "There Used to Be Birds," to express my concerns about the deterioration of our environment and the loss of birds and other wildlife. What kind of empty, silent world are we leaving our grandchldren?

There Used to Be Birds

Not sure I like the green sea and may change it.

Notes on technique: I got some of the Winsor Newton Artisan brushes that were supposedly designed specifically for use with water mixable oils, and I have to admit that they work better than any of my other brushes. Today, between colors, I rinsed the paint off the brush in a bucket of water and then squeezed it dry with a paper towel. Used a lot fewer brushes that way, and the technique seemed to work fine.

Friday, July 12, 2013

More Experiments with Water Mixable Oils

Today I tried another thought I had -- what would happen if I put a layer of white water mixable oil paint down first and then mixed colors into it directly onto the paper? After all, white is the most commonly added color to oil paints, so I could save a lot of mixing. Well, not a good idea! There was no way to get a real dark (that one dark was done without the white layer) and no way to control the color I wanted. Still, it's fun to experiment, even if the results aren't that great. Here's the painting:

In addition to color problems, the two figures are too similar in shape and they are too similar in size, so the painting is not interesting. It was an experiment, so what the heck, I decided to scrape off the woman's head and start over:

Maybe I improved it a bit:

And to report the results of prior experiments -- the masking tape that I used to tape the oil paper to the board came off fine after the paint dried to the touch. Freezing the left over paint, as recommended by Bernard Fallon, worked just fine, too. After defrosting, the paint was like new. Some experiments work!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Second Oil Painting

My second experiment with water mixable oil paint is small (8 x 10) like the first one. I did not mix in any watercolor this time, just all oil. Between colors, I wiped the brush off with a paper towel (did not clean it in water) and found I needed a different brush for each color family. When I was done, I remembered that at a Huntington Beach Art League demo Bernard Fallon said to save partly used oil paint by putting it in the freezer, so I scraped up all the paint off the paper palette and put it in a plastic container in the freezer. We'll see if it stays usable. I taped the oil paper to a board, and this time I will let the paint dry to the touch before removing it. We'll see how that works.

The Trek 4
Clean-up was a snap: Throw away the scraped off paper palette and wash the brushes with soap and water! 

I was influenced by Milton Avery in this painting. The colors are more grayed than they show on my computer screen. It is based on my reddish-haired grandson Sam.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Painting with Grandchildren Again

One of my greatest pleasures is painting with my grandchildren. I cut up paintings I don't like so they can paint on the back (they paint fast and can really go through the paper!). I will sometimes take a piece of an old painting and paint on it just to disguise the fact that I am supervising. And sometimes I am rewarded with a small painting I kind of like, such as this one:

The Young Guitarist

Friday, July 5, 2013

Results of Experimenting with Water Mixable Oil Paints

The oil painting in my last post took 72 hours to dry to the touch, whereas others have found that the water mixable oils take 48 hours to dry to the touch. I live by the beach, where it is a bit humid, and perhaps that causes the difference in drying time. The parts of the painting that had watercolor paint mixed in with the oils dried faster. Those parts also had a matte finish, while the pure water mixable oil parts had a slightly glossy finish. If anyone minds these differences in finish, some water mixable varnish can create a consistent finish. There seemed to be no difference between the parts of the painting done with an oil-watercolor mix and pure water mixable oil in terms of adherence to the surface (which was Arches oil paper) and flexibility (I bent and rolled the paper). I conclude that it is indeed OK to mix watercolor paints with water mixable oil paints. Now the only remaining question is: Is my painting considered an oil or a mixed media work?

Sunday, June 30, 2013

My First Oil Painting

Because it stays workable for quite a long time and it's easy to blur edges with it, I have been thinking about oil paint lately. I finally broke down and bought myself 10 sheets of Arches "huile" paper for oil paints and five tubes of Winsor & Newton Artisan water mixable oil paint, yellow, red, blue, white, and black. Since I use bristle brushes for watercolor, I had plenty of brushes appropriate for oil. Today I decided to experiment!

On a small (8 x 10) sheet of paper taped to a piece of plexi-glass, I quickly drew a picture similar to the one I did in my last post. I mixed some colors on a paper palette, and I also tried mixing some colors right on the huile paper as I painted. I remembered that with oil, you paint dark to light, the opposite of watercolor, but I ignored that rule. I experimented with various brush strokes and even finger applications of paint.

The really big experiment was combining watercolor paint with the oil paint. I searched the web for any information about doing this, but found almost nothing, other than the rather obvious advice of not painting watercolor on top of an oil painting. My guess was that if you can add water to these paints, then you could also add watercolor, if you mixed it in, instead of or with water. I had not bought any burnt umber Artisan paint, so I tried adding my burnt umber watercolor to the Artisan white. And since I had bought a warm red (cadmium hue), I could not make a proper violet, and so I mixed some mineral violet into the Artisan white, too. We'll see what happens as the painting dries. And here it is:

The Trek 2

Compare this one to the painting in the previous post. And p.s., I just read that bristle brushes don't do well with water mixable paint, because they get mushy when wet. I didn't notice that, but it was a small painting. Winsor & Newton recommends a special synthetic bristle brush that they make. Hmmmmmm.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Painting after Dark

In the past, I have avoided painting in the evenings, after dark, because of vision difficulties. No matter the amount of artificial light, the next day my paintings simply did not look like I had painted them -- the colors were always slightly off. But one can only watch so many re-runs or read so many books, so I decided to paint after dinner last night, thinking that maybe my new paint application method would work OK in artificial light. I was right! This morning, this painting looked just the way I had painted it:

The Trek

However, this photo of it does not show the colors accurately -- in reality it is somewhat more muted. There are problems with this painting anyway, and maybe I will try it again. For now, it's an homage to Nathan Oliveira.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Trying an Interior

Some artists like to paint the insides of homes or buildings, also known as interiors. Vincent Van Gogh famously painted his bedroom, and the first place winner at Watercolor West last year depicted a hallway with a view out a screen door. I have never painted an interior. 

As I was hanging out in my daughter's apartment last week while dog sitting, I noticed that the shapes of receding walls with different types of light on them would make an interesting painting, so I decided to make my own attempt at an interior. The resulting painting is also an homage to Richard Diebenkorn. Not sure I like it, but maybe it has potential for a do-over.

Secrets 4

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Finished a Painting Today

One graduation, one wedding, and one week of dog-sitting (so married couple could go on their honeymoon) are now done! (One more wedding to go.) Time to paint! Today I completed a painting I began at ISS, and here it is:

Secrets 3

I used the new paint application method I developed at ISS, and I lost a few more edges than usual. It feels good to apply what I learned and to like the results.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

"New" Painting Methods

Here's a painting I did using the new (for me) paint application method I developed at the Intensive Studies Seminar along with an increase in lost edges as was recommended there. I actually really like it, and as art teachers have said, it's important to be able to say positive things about one's own paintings. I call it "Secrets."

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Intensive Studies Seminar, Taos, New Mexico

Am surprised to realize that I haven't yet posted about the fabulous time I had at the Intensive Studies Seminar at the end of April this year. Four instructors (Katherine Chang Liu, Fran Larsen, William Lawrence, Christopher Schink) and eight days of painting in a great studio space in a gorgeous part of the country. It was artist heaven! While there, I focused on the figure, and I painted 16 paintings of which 3 or 4 have potential. I feel I made progress in losing edges and developing a textural style of applying paint, sort of the way oil paint is applied. Here are some of the works I did there:

With four different instructors working with small groups of us on different days, we were warned that we would get contradictory advice at times. One person said the baby's foot above was key to that painting's success, while another said it had to go. One person thought the dancer with the green shoe below was my least effective painting, while another thought it was the most effective. In a way, this sort of contradictory feedback forced us to commit to our own ideas -- I love the baby's foot and I don't think that dancer picture is very good.

Then, just to try something different, I did a nonobjective painting, below. One instructor liked it and another exclaimed, "That's not you!" I enjoyed painting it, but it's not me.

Then, just for fun, I decided to do a couple of whimsical bird portraits, after seeing a slide show of people portraits by Rufino Tamayo. There were nesting magpies near the hotel, and mockingbirds and many other birds to watch.

Tamayo Magpie
Tamayo Mockingbird
I brought home a couple of unfinished paintings, and they will get me started painting again after all the upcoming life events (birthdays, graduations, weddings) that will keep me from it for a while. I feel extremely fortunate and grateful that I got to go to ISS this year.

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Most Enjoyable Workshop

Just returned from a wonderful three-day painting workshop on expressive color with my favorite art teacher, Christopher Schink, at Sylvia Megerdichian's lovely Art Box Studio in Upland.  After helpful reviews of our work and between informative and inspiring slide shows and entertaining demonstrations, we worked on our own paintings in different color schemes. We were urged to try colors outside of our comfort zone.

As an exercise, we divided our paper into fourths or sixths and painted the same subject with all different color combinations. Here is my exercise:

Next I chose to do a painting based on hue contrasts, in the Post-Impressionist 2 color scheme: all pure hues, with a little black. Showing the class this painting, Toph said, "This is how grandfathers feel about grandchildren."

Then I did a painting based on contrasts in intensity, in a "Turner" or "Milton Avery" color scheme: tints, tones, and grays. Showing the class this painting, Toph said, "And this is how grandmothers feel about grandchildren."

This workshop was so much fun and I learned so much that the only problem is that now I am sad that it is over. But there is the Intensive Studies Seminar in Taos to look forward to in April!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Painting Again!

After not having painted for over three months -- had a show and taught a workshop, got that respiratory thing going around, adult kids moved back in, a new grandchild was born -- I decided today to get myself warmed up and back into the swing of painting by just playing and doing a nonobjective painting. That was fun and got me going, so I tried a Linda Kemp negatively painted landscape and then a negatively  painted nature study. Just completing three paintings today makes me feel much more like a human being, though none of them are that great.

"The Mountain Gave Birth to Peace and Harmony"

"Pond Trees"

"Grape Vines"

Monday, January 21, 2013

I Haven't Painted for TWO Months!

Having just read Patti Smith’s touching memoir, “Just Kids,” about her early years with Robert Mapplethorpe in the 1960s and 1970s, I was interested to see that even artists as committed as they were (enduring poverty and hunger to make art) sometimes doubt the point and value of what they are doing. They also struggled with the tension between painting for yourself and for the joy of creating versus painting for your viewers. And apparently viewers are essential. If no one sees it, is it art? Is enjoying doing it sufficient justification for all the time and money one spends on it? Is enjoying doing it sufficient justification for the loss of other experiences one passes up? Or something more worthwhile one could be doing?

And I guess all artists hope to create something original and breathtaking, something that makes a positive difference in the world. Is that too grandiose? Is cheering up one person enough of a positive difference? Maybe cheering up oneself by painting is enough. I do know that when I am prevented from painting for a month or two by life events, I get quite crabby.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

People versus Landscapes

After a review of all the paintings I have sold, I noticed that the majority were landscapes, florals, or animals. Paintings with people in them did not sell very well. Recently I signed up for a photography site and put up 3 landscape photos and 2 people ones. The 3 landscapes immediately got several likes, while the people ones got none. I am not sure what this means.

Do people in general prefer landscapes to humans? Or is it me -- my paintings and photos of landscapes are better than those of people? In either case, why?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

2012 in Review

Life has overwhelmed art for me recently, so I will pause to note what I accomplished in 2012. My friend Carrol Wolf and I had a two person show, "Two Broads with Brushes," at the Corner Gallery for the month of September, and I sold 17 paintings over the year. Two paintings were accepted into National Watercolor Society shows, and I won two honorable mentions, a first place, and a best of show in art league shows. The workshop on negative painting that I taught for Watercolor West and the City of Brea Art Gallery seems to have been a great success. So, a pretty good year!

"Fecundity" juried into
NWS 2012 Donor Exhibition.

"At Last" juried into
NWS 2012 Member Exhibition.

"Aunts at a Picnic"
First Place in Mixed Media
HBAL March 2012 Meeting, Ron Journeay, judge.

My photographer husband, Dan Kee, also did a review of his excellent year, and it can be seen by clicking here.
Here's to more creativity in 2013!