Monday, March 18, 2019

Am I Done or Should I Do More?

A few light flakes were falling at 7 a.m. and it was only 21 degrees with a predicted day’s high of 35. The sky looked light, more so towards the east. I figured once the sun was higher, it would burn through any overcast and be sunny – and it was.

Once more there are decisions to make on the day’s projects: write, paint, chores, take photos … Lately, I tend to go with whatever I’m feeling in the moment.

Monday is laundry and after the first load was in the dryer and second in the washer, I went out to unblock the dryer vent. I prop a brick against the little door to stop rodents from getting inside.

While outside, I took photos of the brook. It’s fascinating this time of year because the snow, ice, and water flow is always changing, and the formations are intriguing.

 I now have four days of brook photos to edit and post. I’m falling behind on photo editing. I used to do photos every day, but lately, writing and pastel painting are taking my time – along with newspaper work.

I didn’t get in the studio until late yesterday. I’m still deciding if the painting is finished. Of course, I can’t leave it alone and I pick at it here and there. Too often I don’t like the tweaking and end up fixing the changes Sometimes I wish I hadn’t touched it.

The photo used for inspiration was taken on a rainy day and I’d hoped to capture the raindrops. I’ve been doing some practice, but the raindrops on the blossoms are small. It’s hard to get the right look.

The verdict is still out whether I’m finished, although I did sign the painting. I like it a lot and can’t wait for it to find a new home. I’m ready to move on to the next one.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Great Start to the Day

I go out to open the dryer vent and take photos. Odd tracks on the deck caught my attention earlier and I want a closer look. Some looked four-toed and others five. In the melting snow, the tracks are a bit muddled. I can’t see tell-tale hind foot tracks. When I let Leo out earlier, he stopped just outside the slider and sniffed at the tracks for a long time before venturing down the deck. I can’t see tell-tale hind foot tracks. A fat gray squirrel down by the brook watches me hang a couple of feeders on the deck hooks. The tracks on the deck are too big to be from her.

At 36 degrees, it feels warm after the days of bone-chilling cold. Instead of hurrying back inside, I stand at the railing letting my senses take in the beauty around me. A couple of tiny ice crystals land on the rail. I breathe deeply the fresh air. The morning is so peaceful! No human neighborhood noises. The only sounds are the whispers in the trees. The scene looking from the back deck is beautiful. I drink it all in. (And take lots of photos.)

Bright snow clings to bare limbs, angled tree trunks, and hemlock boughs. The brook is totally snowed in but for one or two places. The white puffs piled high on top of the layers of an ice-covered rock look to be 18-24 inches deep (as does the snow on my roof). Tracks through the snow leading to the bottoms of trees and circling around old vegetation sticking out of the snow mingle with other depressions in the snow created from clumps dropping from the trees.

A pale sun pushes white through the overcast as the sky begins to clear. Chickadees call, “Phoeeeebeee” in the trees. This is how I want life. Peaceful, with nature, and all the beauty Mother Nature has to offer.

Oh, if every morning could start this way … but there’s laundry to do, writing to get done, and a painting to finish. Oh, and the kitties want play time.  However, I am going to do my best to make each day be as glorious as this morning!

My intent was to get in the studio and finish today, but I also knew that was wishful thinking. I spent about 45 minutes picking at it. I’m close. I almost signed it. There are still things to tweak, though. I’ll have to look at it for a couple days more.

I touched up almost everything and practiced adding raindrops. Not sure how to do those and I just made notes for touch ups the next time I’m in the studio after looking at this progress photo.

What it would look like cropped.

Now I’m also debating whether to leave it this size or crop it. I like the leaves on the left, but is it too much background? And, the thing is, here I’m looking at it close-up, but standing five or more feet away, it looks pretty darn good.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Stealing Moments Here and There to Paint

Friday rolled around and although it was an editing day, I found a little time to get in the studio. I added more leaves on the left side and some woody background stems. Those need some work and I need to figure out how to tackle that.

I pretty-much finished the first flower except for highlighting the rain drops. I’ll probably save those for last. I started work on the next flower down. I had taken a couple notes from the in-process photo I’d taken after the work on Wednesday.  The in-process photos show me elements that I don’t notice on the actual painting. The photo shows me where to touch up.

It’s nice to have options in viewing. I realize, too, I’m still lacking in the purple department and green. I have a lot of greens, but sometimes I just don’t have the right shade. It’s still coming along, and I’m pleased with the progress.

The Muse had me by the throat on Saturday, however, by the time I had my work done and could spend time in the studio, she was gone. I stood at the easel for about 15 minutes, made a couple of hen-scratches, but my heart and head weren’t in it.

Today was one of those days when I was talking to Carol on the phone while painting … or rather, I painted while talking. These times are interesting because my hand just moves while my mind is preoccupied with the conversation. Working like this, I don’t overthink what I’m doing. (Which is a good thing because my overthinking brain can send me into confusion.)

I added lighter color, more highlights and more leaves. I changed the shape of the top right flower (blossom 3) because it didn’t look right. It’s much better now.

The purple and blue-violet pastels I have are not the exact color of the photos, but it doesn’t matter. The painting is not about being an exact match. No one will know unless they see the photo. And it still won’t matter.

There’s lots to do, yet. I need to soften dark lines in the blossom 2, but I’m pleased with how it’s coming along. I’m enjoying this one. Maybe this means I should do more florals.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Challenges in the Latest Pastel Painting

Rose of Sharon, 10 3/4 x 14 on BF Rives print paper

At the end of January, I felt the need to do another floral. I’m not good at getting the right perspective, contours, and depths of flowers, so on Jan. 30, I printed 5 x 7 photos of a couple of rose of Sharon pictures I took last year.  I laid a sheet of BF Rives paper on the kitchen counter (it had the bigger, cleaner space), got out the transfer paper and, using two photos, traced the flowers onto the paper creating a new scene.

I put the sketch on the big easel on Feb. 1 after removing the finished painting and cleaning up. I took measurements, labeled it 19-005 unsure what to use for an actual title. I started laying in the underlayer with pan pastels. I realized I didn’t have the right color blue-violet for the flowers. That entailed placing an order to Blick.

I returned to Rose O’ on March 3. I wiped away the wrong color on the flowers and added other colors. I know I was done the background and leaves which are under the flowers, but adding some subject colors helps me see determine how to proceed and gives me a semblance of how the painting will come out.

I added browns to the background scruffing up the colors to create a textured look. I’m not following the photos closely. I’m eager to get farther along, but there’s still a lot of background to build.

I was back in the studio this morning. I intended to start a pastel for the cover design of my poetry book now that I have a vision of what the cover should look like. However, instead I walked over to Rose O’ and began working on that. I didn’t even stop to put on a mask … but I did turn on the air purifier.

I added some background, then began adding definition to leaves. I concentrated on the area around the first flower in the upper left. It’s hard because there are overlapping leaves and I can’t tell with the photos where one leaf ends and another begins.

I moved on to the flower itself. Now that the leaves are in, I can make the petals overlap. I tend to lay the soft pastels in a little thick which creates a challenge when I want to put in detail lines which is best with pastel pencil. Unfortunately, pencils are usually harder which only pushes a groove in the soft pastel without adding the pencil color.

I try using edges of broken pastels, but I have difficulty telling where the point/edge is and end up getting the line in the wrong place. Some work better that others. What works best is a soft charcoal pencil. I’ll soften the line using a pastel tool.

For the most part, I’m happy with the first blossom, but work is still needed on the right side. I have an idea for the next time I’m in the studio. I also need to do the stamen (the yellow part).

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Finished … Again?

The last day of February at 7 a.m. and new snow lies in puffy coverings over the landscape. At the moment, it only measures 2 inches, but it looks like more. The radio called it leaf-blower snow. (IE: you can use your leaf blower on it.)

The heated birdbath with the snow on the rim
kind of reminded me of a margarita 
Snow continues to lightly fall and the layers on tree branches and evergreen limbs create a magical atmosphere in the grayness of the morn. The fluffiness also rims the heated birdbath like salt on the rim of a margarita glass (not that I’ve ever had a Margarita). The turquoise color of the bowl a bright spot of color in the lack of color scene.

I pick up the camera and take a few pictures of some of what I see from my seat. It’s only 12 degrees out there. I wear an extra sweater and have a blanket over my lap. I’ll wait a few hours before going out to shovel. Now it’s time to buckle down to my morning writings. 

I went in the studio around 9:30 a.m. intending to work on the rose of Sharon pastel painting. Instead, I stood in front of “Between the Dunes” and picked up a paper towel and began wiping the horizon line. All the while my mind was spinning as to whether I could pull this off.

"Between the Dunes" original
I had a lot of self-doubts, plus, hadn’t I spent enough time on this? But my hand kept moving. I picked up pastels, tried different colors, different types of pastels. Is the horizon and sky now OK?

"Between the Dunes" final finish?
I moved down onto the land adding more textures to the grasses. (The color in the photo isn’t the same as the original painting. There’s actually more yellow in the grasses on the left.) I worked more on the fence line and ground. Finally, finally, I think I’m done.

Is it worthy to be framed? Not sure, yet.                

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

There’s Always Things to Change

 4:30 p.m.

The skies are gray and there’s a hint of snow flurries starting with a prediction of 3-4 inches overnight. The winds the past couple of days were fierce and with the frigid temperatures last night, the deck snapped and popped occasionally making me jump. I expected to look out this morning to see a downed tree or, at least, a big limb on the deck. Nothing. Just expanding and contracting, I guess.

The last few days were spent revamping my pastel tray drawers. A few years ago, I purchased three two-drawer units. Each drawer tray has four divided section with one skinny section in the middle. The dividers between sections were glued in. I purchased two more units as my pastel inventory grew.

The drawers didn’t slide easily. Online reviews suggested rubbing soap on the sides and bottoms. It helped but needed to be applied often. I noticed the dividers were slightly higher than the sides of the drawers and caught on the top of the unit. I mentioned it to a neighbor the other day and he came over, carefully wiggled the dividers out and planed them down. One tray he sanded the sides and now all drawers work easily.

I have the units on a microwave cart on wheels so I can move the pastels closer to whichever easel I'm working at. I put Velcro between the three units and to the table so they wouldn't slide when I opened and closed the drawers. I used Velcro in case I decide to move them later. I reorganized the pastels and I’m ready to get back to pastel painting.

Called "Between the Dunes" finished 12/18
I was cleaning up and setting up a new project to work on. I had an older painting taped to the closet door “finished but unframed.” Something about it bothered me. The end of last year I had done a few that were approximately 12 x 19 inches. I don’t really like working that big.

Cut down to 11 x 14

So, I’m looking at this painting and decided I could remove strips from three sides and make it look better. The verdict is out. 

I need to do some work on it, especially along the horizon. I may shorten the height more.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Planning a New Pastel Painting

I haven’t set up the easel board for this painting, yet, although I had chosen the photo a couple weeks ago. I printed an original and one lightened to better see detail, and, for once, I already have a title, "Martha's Sunset." It has a nice ring and I received permission to use the photo from Martha von Redlich. (Thank you, Martha.) 

Martha's original photo
Last night, while watching TV, I  attempted at a thumbnail sketch. (I don’t know why they call them thumbnails because to do something that small, wouldn’t show anything.) I have to draw a at least about a 4 x 6-inch size.

Because this is a sunset picture, there are a lot of darks. While sketching, I couldn’t make out a dark blob on the left edge. It didn’t seem like a natural shape. So, just now, I went to PhotoScape and cropped the lightened photo. One, I wanted to see what that blob is, and two, I wanted to change the orientation/perspective.

cropped to better see horizon detail

I discovered that blob was something atop the post in the foreground. I cropped out most of the driveway because it’s messy and I want to focus on the sky. Cropping also took out that foreground post that messes with the background. However, it also took out the tree on the far left which I’ll want to add back in.

how much sky to show vs the landscape
I printed the two cropped versions of the photo and made notes. There’s something about cropping that changes perspectives and allows me to notice other details. I’m now not only intrigued by the amazing sunset sky, but I’m fascinated by the curve of the fence line versus the curve of the driveway.

This will be another painting where artistic license will play a big part as I'll use all three of these photos to create a stunning pastel painting. I can’t wait to get started, but first I’ll have to finish reorganizing all the pastel trays.