Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Painting of a Jade Plant

Journal Entry: March 6, 2015

Today was a teaching day but the class was small so I was able to do some work on the piece.  The cloth is starting to come together and I'm finding great satisfaction in the way it's evolving. I can see where it will take on more dimension and feel once I start to add some compliments and some blue as well to the lights and shadows. I've been experimenting with this as I go along. I'm not an impressionist but I do love the way color can enliven a traditional painting when added in the right place. One of my favorite painters is Howard Terpning. His use of color is pure magic and I'd like to add some of that to my work. The metallic threads in the cloth are fun to do as well. The use of tiny pieces of white along with yellow ochre and cad yellow in certain places really work to bring these out. One of my students accused me of using metallic paint! Ha! Overall, very satisfied with the progress today. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Painting of a Jade Plant

Journal Entry, March 2, 2015

I spent the better part of the morning contemplating this possible disaster and trying to decide where to go next. The plant itself didn't take long to get a first pass in a few days ago but I can see that the fabric will be more of a challenge. The light in the studio is best now around 2:00 PM. It wafts softly onto the setup and the shadows are deeper and warmer at that hour. But the light soon fades after that and I'm back to artificial light. I can't wait half a day for one hour's easel time. I can see that I'll have to work on this problem before my next piece. It's never been this much of an issue before. Why am I so focused on it now?                                                           

In tackling the tapestry, I considered painting it alla prima or working flatly and then describing the lights and shadows with glazes and scumbles. I decided on a combination of the latter. It's a challenge because the shadows are rather shallow and poorly described in the morning hours. By working it in glazes, I have the option of darkening and brightening selective passages when the light is right. (An apology to my readers about the easel light which blows out the plant.) I worked the darks and lights on the areas of cloth that didn't have design on them and left the design relatively flat. Much of that will have to be described later.

My container looks sick and lopsided. I can hardly stand to look at it. Definitely a lesson in getting the drawing right before starting work. I covered a lot of canvas today, but the real meat of the work still lies ahead. 

Monday, March 09, 2015

The Painting of a Jade Plant

I usually reserve step by step explanations of paintings for my teaching blog (www.musensbysusan.blogspot.com), however I haven't been working that blog in some time and I thought this blog would be a better platform because this is a not so much a step by step lesson but more an insight into the mind and heart of what this artist is thinking from the inspiration and inception of a painting, through its stages of growth and into its final and painful birth. So join me for awhile as I share with you entries from my journal as the painting emerges. As I'm already quite a ways into the piece, I'll be putting down here the first few stages and corresponding entries in one shot. I'll break it into two separate blog entries bringing it to where it is today and then further developments will be shared as they take place.

Journal Entry, February 24, 2015

The inspiration for this piece came as a whispered prayer from the Jade plant itself which has been growing patiently in the foyer of my home under the soft, filtered light from my northern skylight. The plant loves it there I think. I can tell by the way the stems reach straight up toward the light. I fear that the painting may be taking too long and that the poor thing regrets its request and wishes to return to the sanctity of that quiet false rain forest atmosphere where it has been for a very long time. It is, after all, rather gloomy in my studio. I turn the set up directly to the light of my over large studio window when I'm not at work. The race is on now to finish before the plant suffers for its vanity.

I thought for a long time about how I wanted to do this painting. Should I work in pastels or Oils? I decided on oils and then I took another month to consider my concept. After all, I have always taught and been taught to have a concept. How else will I know when I'm done? When I have fulfilled my concept, the work is done. Or so I've come to believe.  Though I do have a concept in mind, I've decided to honor the request of the Jade and ask the painting what it requires instead. It seems to call for a background that would speak of it's ancestry or at the very least lend some viability to its name. Hence, the Asian wallpaper in the background. Now, mind you, I don't know that Jade plants are at all descended from Asian ancestry. But who am I to question a plant after all? While I wanted to honor this request, I had to consider the how of it all. I'm really not very good at calligraphy and, for that matter, my own handwriting is terrible. I settled on some paper that had Korean writing on it and scanned that into my computer, printing it out through the magic of Photoshop onto archival paper. This was affixed to canvas - which had some problems of its own. Won't go into that here, but I've learned a lot about this kind of application since. Being a classical painter and having had the importance of archival materials beat into my head, I struggled with this whole idea of mixed media for another couple of weeks. A call to Golden relieved my anxiety and I moved forward. (Please comment on the blog if you have any questions about how I proceeded here.)

Journal Entry, February 26, 2015

I transferred the drawing this past Sunday and spent the better part that day just getting some glazing down. I used combinations of burnt sienna, burnt umber and permanent alizarin crimson to lay in the color. Today, I felt that I could start in on the container or is it a vase? It doesn't seem quite the right word. I was a bit stymied by the light. The cool light coming in from my north facing window just doesn't seem to set it off right. I was definitely frustrated over this unexpected conundrum. I changed the temperature of an additional light bulb several times. I'm still not happy. The plant wants natural light. I can hear that and obviously it needs it to survive this process as well. I can easily see this painting taking a month or more. Just artificial light won't do and besides, I dislike working from it. I settled on a combination but can see that I'll need to use my internal vision more than my physical sight to get the quality of light I envision. But the whole trial and error thing took the better part of the day. Sigh. I didn't get far, but at least I made a start. 

Journal Entry, February 27, 2015

Well, things are moving ahead although I can't say I'm completely satisfied. I struggle to integrate the background with the foreground. The leaves of the plant are trickier than I thought, and as is the manner of plants, it keeps changing as it endeavors to turn toward the light. Still, the plant is dictating this painting. It thinks it's the client and has commissioned the work. So I have to deal. The under painting could have been done better but the ground on which I'm working has its own challenges and so I made do with a very basic wash in and allowed myself to forego the usual detailed grissaille. I hope none of my fellow graduates from Georgetown Atelier see this once I post it. The container is off a bit and this first pass is not what I was aiming for.  But the Jade is taking shape. I've experimented a bit with some broken yellow/green in the background and think I'll keep it. So much still to do.

Stay tuned for the next installment.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Oil Painting of Crystalline Glaze Tea Pot and Eggs

"Two for Tea"
Oil on Board, 9" x 12"

Hot off the easel. I just finished this little piece. Usually I paint by the north light that comes in from the large arched window in the studio. I started this under north light, however, here in Washington in the winter, the light fades fast and with so many overcast or rainy days, the light fades even faster in my studio. I like to paint in all day sessions but the fact that by 2:00, it's too dark, put a damper on my work day. So I added some artificial light to supplement. It did warm things up a bit and made it possible to work through the day, but I'm not entirely happy with the cast the light put on my set up. The shadows turned rather cool in response to the warmer light and the work just didn't have the same feel. I'm thinking that in the future, I'll either paint entirely in warm artificial light or just wait out the weather. Your comments are always welcome.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Oil Painting of Magnolias in a Red Vase

"The Red Vase"

Oil on Linen

I finished this piece some time ago and it is hanging in Gallery 9.  Somehow, though, it never got posted here. It's a small but unassuming piece and yet I like it because of the strong shapes and the bright red vase which pops the piece.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Oil Painting of the Virgin Mary

Madonna in Moonlight
16" x 20", Oil on Linen

A commission for the virgin was my Christmas project. She's kept me busy for some time but was worth the fun and challenge. The composition is a traditional triangle which also represents the Holy Trinity and lends stability to the painting. Mary is painted in moonlight and has a soft halo around her head. The background is stark and rather simplified to bring attention to Mary and represents the world before Christ came into it. Unlike more traditional paintings of the Virgin, Mary is depicted alone, engaged with her unborn child. Her expression has a slightly sad but sweet smile prompting the viewer to wonder at her thoughts.

This piece was very difficult to do as the subject is in moonlight. Under normal conditions at night, the cones in the eye shut down leaving the rods, which depict light and only the colors of blue and green, to do the work. This generally renders the landscape in tones of blue and green. Reds show up as black. Obviously, one can't paint a figure in all blues, greens and black. She'd look like the daughter of Dracula. So I needed to take a lesson from the masters on this and used mostly cool variations of skin tones with cool reds to warm the features. Depending on your monitor, she will either appear a bit cool or a bit too warm. In person, she looks neither. On my monitor the painting appears a bit bright, but she is resting in a dim environment.

I have prints and cards available of this painting. Email me to inquire.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to one and all!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Trompe L'oeil


Oil on Linen, 9" x 12"

About ten years ago, I was primarily a pastel artist. It was about that time that I became interested in still life, having worked primarily on landscape. My early forays into this genre were mainly trompe l'oeil or "fool the eye" kinds of things. I thought I'd try my hand at it in oil. Depending on your screen the colors may or may not look convincing. The screen can do nasty things to color temperature which in a piece like this makes all the difference.  Do wish you could see this in person. It's more fun. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Oil Painting of a Rose in Cut Glass Vase

"Red Rose in Cut Glass"

9" x 12", Oil on Linen Panel

Time for a little alla prima piece. While polished realist pieces offer a challenge in terms of bringing a painting to convincing finish, alla prima painting (painting in one sitting), offers a freshness and immediacy that's hard to accomplish over several sittings. I try to keep my hand in alla prima painting because I learn more about color and paint handling by doing them. It also allows me to complete more paintings in a given amount of time, thereby increasing my practice. While viewing my two kinds of work may be sometimes confusing to a patron, I think that my personal handwriting manages to show through in both. What can I say. I have Gemini on my midhaven. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Oil Painting of Sea Shell

"Sea Gift"
Oil on Linen, 6" x 8"

A class mate at Georgetown Atelier, created a very large beautiful still life of a huge conch shell the year we graduated. Of course, I've never forgotten that shell and the work that Holly put into it.  This can't hold a candle and it's quite small to boot. But I'm still happy with it.  I framed it in a beautiful arched frame that looks spectacular with it and will be hanging it at Gallery 9 this September. I plan to do a series of these small paintings in arched frames. Eventually, I should have enough to do a whole show of them. Fun!

Friday, August 08, 2014

Floral Oil Still Life

"Summer Medley"Oil on Linen, 24 1/2" x 20"

It's been a beautiful summer up here in the great Northwest. And though I haven't posted (my bad), I've been busy. Although I'm noted among my friends for having a black thumb and I have trouble growing them, I still love to paint flowers.This one took a while between family visits and other things - among them plumbing woes.

I'm proud to announce that I am a new artist at Gallery 9 in Port Townsend, WA. I showed for the first time this past Saturday for the Port Townsend Gallery Walk. If you get out that way, come and visit. It's a beautiful gallery with a great stable of fine artists. 

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Oil on Linen Mounted on Board

Oil study of Asian woman

Jen models for my Monday life drawing group. This time around she wore a white satin wedding kimono but dropped it off her shoulders. The little painting is only 6" X 8" but it carries a bigger impact. To check out the auction at www.dailypaintworks.com, click here.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Nude Study

"Study of Jen"

Oil on Linen

When working toward a more polished piece, I fall back on training and work out a couple of color studies first.  I wanted to get a general sense of the skin tones for this painting of a nude, and so turned out this study today. I'll more than likely do a couple of more of just her head and then a few of her feet before I'm satisfied that I have the color where I want it. But I liked the way this one came out today so I'm posting it. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Female Nude

"What Dreams May Come"
Oil on Linen Panel, 8" x 6"

The figure is my favorite subject. I never tire of painting the nudes or even costumed models. Once a week I sponsor a figure drawing group at my studio and together we pay for 2 1/2 hours of a model's time. This model in particular is a dream to work with. I knocked out this little study the other day. She's for sale. To view the auction or bid, click here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Painting of Asparagus

"The Great Escape"
Oil on Linen Board, 6" x 8"

Painting asparagus proved to be more of a challenge than I thought they would be. I wanted to get detailed enough to get the little devils to look like themselves, but not too detailed. As it was, a painting that I intended to spend only a couple of hours on, turned into a five day fiasco. Now, you ask, "what possibly could have taken her so long to do?" Well, actually, the painting time wasn't all that much. But because of numerous interruptions and emergencies, I ended up having to abandon the piece time after time while the asparagus continued to wither on the stand. One of the drawbacks of painting food from life is that you have to get the little devils done in a day. These actually started to grow and twist. One of them actually grew about eight inches long; right off the corner of the painting! One of the rubber bands broke (still don't know where it went) and they started turning a bit orangey brown. Definitely not the painting I had in mind. I think the title fits. Not only did one of the asparagus escape it's confines, I finally finished and escaped the studio and all the asparagus escaped getting eaten.