Saturday, January 3, 2009

Castle painting update (excerpt from 1000 Markets blog)

At this stage I've finally got the whole figure and Harley blocked in, close to the end values I'll want. The building I believe to be the coach house is also blocked in, along with the road and walled edge. There is going to be more value change on the road but it has to wait until the paint is dry. Technically this would be called an underpainting, but it's a little more developed than most underpaintings because there are so many different things for the eye to look at that I have to constantly adjust to make sure the eye will go where I want it to in the end. Usually most of the detail goes in the foreground, but even though the bike is closest, I'm abstracting it somewhat to keep the eye on the figure and middle ground. So you'll see stronger colors and contrast on and around the figure. Backgrounds are usually cooled down and softened so they'll fade into the distance. One issue I'm running into with the castle is the various color changes. It looks like the coach house and front entrance wall are the most recent additions and from a different quarry than the road cobblestones. The castle itself looks to have gotten quite a few additions over the centuries, some walls are very weathered and others have been completely mortared over. I've decided to essentially paint what is there and decide as I go how it gels as a painting. Since this painting is for a show that is supposed to deconstruct fairy tales it might just work if it's not the Disney version of a castle :) It's also funny/ironic that when you go to paint something as involved as this you tend to think some parts will be a killer and others a piece of cake. But so far the things I thought would be hard have just flowed out of me like I've done them a million times. It's the easy parts that are killing me lol The face is less than an inch long and it's very difficult to block in the reference is a snapshot taken of me coming out of a tunnel near Jemez, New Mexico and it's maybe 1/2 the size of the figure and bike I'm painting. I keep telling myself that I can make a lot of refinements when I put the final touches on the painting at the end. So far I have about 13 hours into the painting portion and only have about a sixth of the canvas covered...hope you like a long story!


Friday, January 2, 2009

A good day to be inside creating (excerpt from 1000 Markets blog)

I did work on my painting today, but there's no way I can get a decent photo of the progress. Instead I'm showing the view outside. Just an hour ago almost all the area except for the strip by the hedge was down to bare lawn and it was raining steady. Temps were in the 40's. Just 3 days ago everything was solid white and as deep as 5 foot in places. The rain knocked down about 3 feet of snow. Now the snow is flying and the temperature has dropped 10 degrees. The road is a slushy mess. A cold front is following this snow in, going to be close to zero tonight and not out of the teens at all over the weekend. I'm afraid the roads will be like a skating rink as soon as it gets dark. So far my cold hasn't gotten worse and luckily I don't have to venture outside until Sunday, but my husband has to make it home, and we have a pretty steep hill to get up here from town. Four wheel drive helps, but not on sheer ice. Am hoping the city gets some gravel down soon. But despite the poor light I've been able to get some progress done on my painting. I can use supplemental light to work with, but not to photograph with. There's something very satisfying about being able to cozy up and create on a day like this, maybe it's just in the appreciation of being warm and dry :)


Thursday, January 1, 2009

Beginning of the painting stage...figure on bike

Most artists understand that the first stages of a painting are not 'pretty'.  At this point all I am trying to do is get a mid-tone range of values. I will go back in after things dry and punch up the darks and highlights, but there will probably be another stage of corrections before that. Right now it is at a very abstract stage and I have a better reference for details once the bike and myself are all blocked in.

When I paint I keep in mind that the optimal distance for viewing is 3 times the width of the canvas, which is right about at 5 foot. So what may appear abstract in a close up view will gel quite differently at that distance.  The view you are seeing in this photo is from about two feet away. The background is also not quite the stark white as it is in real life, it's a little easier on the eyes grayed out a bit. 

I'd hoped to get the whole bike blocked in today but it seems the new year has brought a cold to me (I'm still functional, Chopper is laid out with his) and I didn't want to push it. I'm hoping I feel up to another session tomorrow. Just keep in mind that there will be a lot of changes between this and the final painting :)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Line Drawing done for newest Oil Painting

Line Drawing for newest Oil Painting:

Well, 12 hours later, 4 inches of pencil shorter, and with crossed eyes, I can finally say I've finished the drawing for my painting. I don't know if I mentioned that the size of this is 16 inches x 20 inches. Not very big on a gallery wall but pretty big for a line drawing. The combination of my gesso coat and the cotton weave of the canvas just wore my pencil to a stub.

This is the most ambitious perspective drawing I have ever attempted. The castle is a wee wonky to begin with, mostly in the roof lines, am thinking that the braces for the spires may have warped a bit over the centuries :D And I never saw so many different vanishing points in my life...I thought my brain would vanish before I was done! I did my best, checking and rechecking angles and I'm pretty satisfied with it, overall.

It's times like this that I wish I wasn't such a purist in wanting to do my own drawings...I could have cut the time to an hour if I used a photo enlarger. I try to tell myself that it's just a tool and it's not that I can't draw but I just can't get past the thought that it would be 'cheating'. Sigh.

I've decided to cover the drawing with a very translucent wash of gesso. Because of the rough texture I had to go back over and strengthen the lines and I don't want the graphite to migrate into the oils, and the retouch varnish I had planned to use may not quite do the trick. I took the photo now, because that will really lighten the lines.

I'm afraid that's all I'll get done tomorrow as I have company coming in the afternoon. But it's good to take a little breather so I can step back and think about my color palette and work out my plan of attack :D A line drawing doesn't catch any of the nuances of light and depth, so that's all got to be worked out in my head ahead of time.

I also think I'm going to approach the painting aspect a bit differently than normal. Usually on portraits I do the background first but I think I'll start with the focal point of the bike, then do the castle and bring in the background last. I have three reasons for this...first, I won't lose the edges I need for my perspective; secondly, when I put the background behind it I will be able to lose some of those hard edges and give it a sense of soft distance and last but not least, landscape is not my forte' and a little procrastination will warm up my courage and technique. 

Thanks for following along, am not sure when I'll be updating this...depends on how ugly the beginning stages are :D


Monday, December 29, 2008

First drawing for newest painting

This is just part of the drawing for my next painting. I realize that it's hard to see, it's drawn very lightly in pencil on a textured gessoed canvas. Line drawings are not very pretty anyways but I need to do them on anything that has to be kept in perfect perspective. It is just a guideline for the painting, you can't really just fill in the lines with paint :)

I had hoped to get the whole drawing done, but I'd forgotten that I wanted to put a light coat of new gesso on the canvas. I've found that when you buy gessoed canvas it is rather slick, the new layer gives the paint a better bite. I've learned you have to let it dry very well so I lost a couple hours waiting for it to dry.

For those of you who have never done a grid drawing, here's how it works. I put together a ref in photoshop (actually Gimp), sizing the whole piece to be 8x10 print size. I then combine different references as layers, moving them around until I'm happy with the composition and print it. I then grid the print into one inch squares. Then I draw out a grid of two inch squares on the canvas. I use the squares as guidelines for positioning as I draw. I can and have free hand drawn other paintings, but it is way too easy to get off on angles when doing mechanical work. 

Once I get done with the drawing I will erase any unnecessary lines with an elastic type eraser. I then coat the drawing with a layer of retouch varnish. This seals the graphite in place so that it can never migrate into the paint. I could also use an almost clear coat of gesso, but I draw fairly light and that can obscure some key points. 

If you follow along on this WIP you will be amazed at the changes it goes through before the final touches. All that the line drawing really does is save me some work positioning things later, I can paint a bit more freely once I have a map in place. 

So, are you wondering what this is? If you can see it good enough (I tried to up the contrast a bit) you'll see that it is a girl (me!) riding a Harley (1200 Sporty to be exact). You can probably see a bit of an odd shaped building behind me and a curved wall to the left of the bike. That is the beginning stages of a walled road that leads to a castle. The small building is probably a coach house that sits across the lane from the main building. 

I don't usually do paintings specifically for gallery shows but the concept for this particular show intrigued me and I immediately saw my interpretation in my head. The show will be at the University of Idaho during March, National Women's History Month. The Woman's Studies Program at the University puts on a yearly show. I had a piece in it two years ago but was not painting last March. 

The theme for the show is: "From Cinderella to Fiona: Reconstructing Fairy Tales from a Feminist Point of View:. It is supposed to be an original and innovative way to teach girls and young women about what it really means to be a woman.

I grew up in an era when women were expected to fill a certain role. Nothing wrong with that role if a woman chooses it, but there really weren't places for women to step out into other fields.  It didn't take much for me to figure out that this was not fair...I knew for a fact that I could out think, out run and out dare any boy I knew, so no one was telling me that they were better than I and therefore should have more opportunities. 

I've always had a bit of rebel in me and yet like any girl I loved to lose myself in fairy tales. The funny thing is that as a tomboy, I did not see myself as the fairy princess, no, I rather liked the idea of riding my own white horse off into the sunset (maybe I'm mixing up fairy tales and westerns here lol). I also had noted that women throughout history had not always played the expected role either. Amelia flew off into history, Susan B. Anthony had her home in the town I grew up in and Cleopatra may have been a queen but she didn't really fit the stereotype either.

I wondered for a split second how they broke the mold others made for them and it came to me...they just decided they were going to do something and never let anything or anyone stop them. Stubbornness is one of my character traits, so I decided that that was just how I would do whatever I wanted in life, even if others said I couldn't. I worked construction when it was pretty much a man's domain and I got my own Harley despite the common belief that I belonged on the back and not in the front. Oh, I took a little crap, but I gave back as good as I got and I earned my respect along the way. They have a saying that a woman has to work twice as hard as a man to prove themselves but I found that all you have to do is get your scoot to the next traffic light twice as fast  :D

Anyways, this is what I'm drawing on for this painting. It is going to be titled with my own favorite private saying...'I am, therefore I can" It will show me riding out of that really-not-so-fairy-tale castle on my own damn steed, grinning bigger than the Cheshire Cat. :D 

For me that's always been it...I've always known that I can ride off into the sunset any time I want. It doesn't mean I have to leave responsibility behind but it's me that gets to decide where I should be, because it's nobody's life but my own. 

Now I just have to get my fairly realist painting to convey all that without words lol


(Just for cuteness sake I've thrown in a photo of Boots playing in the snow below)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Introducing my New Art Gallery of Paintings to 1000 Markets

I've painted seriously for almost 15 years, but I have recently been on hiatus due to health issues. Luckily, and unexpectedly, the muse has returned and now that I'm working on a new painting I've decided to add a collection of my paintings to my existing Nine Dragons Sculpture Art store on 1000 Markets.

The painting above is titled The Sultress. It was featured along with another of my paintings on a full back cover ad for Shiva paintstiks in the Pastel Journal. It's a favorite of my husbands and he's been reluctant to part with it but the time has come for her to find a forever home :)

The painting I'm working on now is for entry into a gallery show at the University of Idaho. The theme is deconstructing fairy tales to show a feminist point of view....right up my alley teehee! Tomorrow I'll start a base drawing and hopefully put oil to canvas the day after.

I'm really looking forward to painting again. I know I'll have to make a lot of adjustments in how I work so that I can handle the long hours but I think it'll be worth it. Because I paint with oils there is a lot of down time while I wait for the oil to dry between layers., so I plan on keeping up with my sculptures and jewelry during those times.

It's really exciting to put up a new art gallery of my paintings and it's an awesome way to artistically greet the upcoming New Year! Woohoo!