Monday, February 28, 2011

Sad Glads, A Color Study

Sad Glads are so named because they were getting a little tired and began folding in the middle, just giving up on standing tall. They were still so happy though, with their bright colors and sassy new blossoms! I had been wanting to catch them in their glory but, as often happens around here, more pressing matters were crowding the calendar. 
Still they stood, faithfully, hopefully~ making me long for them and silently offer passing promises as I zoomed by with my busyness.
Then, late in the afternoon, the low-set sun was streaming through the window, illuminating the flowers like pieces of stained glass, and that was that. It was too late to set up and paint them in the actual setting sun, it was too late to wait any longer on these tired stalks: it had to be now.
   I dropped what I was doing, scooped up the flowers and the bowl of fruit next to them, and off to the studio we went. I set them up with the light behind them, to reinact the effect of the setting sun. I mixed what colors I could see and was able to get most of the colors on the blooms from the five colors that you see on my palette: Cad Yellow, Cad Red, Pthalo Rose, Transparent Oxide Brown and Ultramarine Blue! I had other colors at the ready but really did not need them. Playing in piles of color is such a joy. Thanks for visiting my blog and I hope Sad Glads makes you happy today!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Calf's Kin

These are two little step-brothers who were born on our ranch outside Brenham, TX. They have the same daddy but different mommies. They were sticking pretty close to each other so they ended up in a painting together. They are very happy calves because, as the Blue Bell ice cream commercial will tell you, the cows think Brenham is heaven.
The title Calf's Kin is a play on the familiar "calfskin," which is the soft leather made from... not them, but maybe their cousins on the next ranch over.
This painting was juried into Randy Higbee's first 6"Squared show in California, along with the billy goats Gruff from yesterday. And they also, thanks to Mr Higbee, are nicely framed.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Goats Gruff

I found these billy goats in Wyoming and immediately, I could hear my own "story voice" in my head saying, "Who's that tripping and trapping across my bridge?" (the voice of the scary troll under the bridge, about to be outsmarted by the goats Gruff).
For this small painting, I started out with a black canvas, so that only the goats themselves would be sparkling on the painting; all else would be in the cool shadows. The goats are entirely in cool colors too, with the exception of the warm golden rim light that's dancing on their backs. 
The Goats Gruff got to be in Randy Higbee's first 6"Squared show in California, and they got framed up nicely for the event. Thanks, Mr Higbee!  

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Late Light

What a long road to get to this mountain!
I drove to Wyoming and painted this mountain on a piece of 10x8 canvas, drove it all the way back to Texas and waited for Kathryn Stats to come all the way from Utah to Texas.
Then I drove all the way to San Antonio with my sketch and a 16x12 canvas, and painted with her for a week, still on the long road to this painting.
The work in progress can be seen a couple of posts down; that's how it looked when I left Kathryn. Then, the long road back to Houston, where, at last, this painting was FINISHED. If you want to take a super-zoom look at it, click on the image and then click again. You will see my road up close!
I must say, if you're going to stay at a place for a long while, it should be a great place. It would take me a long time to get tired of these mountains, but I'll always only visit. You can take the girl out of Texas, but not for long!
Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Big Bend Sentinel

Here's something else I learned from Kathryn: if a painting's not working for you, don't try to live with it and don't give up on it. Fix it.
This painting was much larger and more involved but every time I looked at it, I mentally covered up the bottom.
Paint the Parks looked at this (the large version) and two other paintings and selected the other two for last year's show but not this one. Hmmmm.
So, I cut my losses, as it were, and made what I think is a much stronger painting.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Late Light in progress

I spent a week with Kathryn Stats, learning how to take a plein air sketch and turn it into a studio piece. She is the queen of that.
I confess to you that I brought 10 plein air paintings, 10 reference photos, and 10 blank canvases, planning to knock out 2 paintings a day for 5 days.  Haha.  I didn't quite finish even one.
The most valuable thing that Kathryn taught me is to trust myself. If I trust the photo or my sketch, the painting will be incomplete. If I think it needs more time, be patient and give it more time! 
I was pretty happy with my plein air painting when I started the larger piece, but as I calmly went about enlarging it, I grew to appreciate the scene even more than I did by painting it from life. From life, there are a million things going on and my decisions are made under at least a little duress. Having time to really think it through was so luxurious and nice. I like the new painting much better than the sketch, and I do think it's more like what I saw that evening in Wyoming.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Greetings from San Antonio!

I am painting this week with some wonderful artists, most of whom are from the San Antonio area.  Our focus: landscapes! 
All the clothes I packed are for the cold, cold temperatures that we in the south have been experiencing this month.  As my luck would have it, it's warmed up quite a bit!  I think I sweated off 5 pounds today, if a lady is allowed to do that.
I'm sorry no pics yet but perhaps tomorrow...

Friday, February 11, 2011

James' Game of Risk

Our middle son James was home for several days in January, taking care of some business. He was so gracious to consent to sit for me over a 3 day period, in his work jacket. I have never had a better model. He kept the pose perfectly, and even when I called out break time, he sat. I said, "Go ahead and take a break!" and he said, "I'll get up when you stop painting."
I left the final painting as a vignette and placed the game of Risk in the background, to symbolize where it feels like James is right now: just getting ready to graduate from college, breaking out, ready to conquer the world, and taking risks.
James' painting is going along with Rainy's to the Salon International this year. I'm picking out the frames right now and I think they'll both end up in something simple and brown.
I will be out of town until Monday after next so, unless I can post from where I'm staying, this may be my last post until then. Thank you so much for visiting my blog; I'll see you soon.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Rainy's Sense of Style

The lovely daughter of a painter in our Monday group, this is Rainy. The child really has a unique sense of style, with her fur vest, shell flower earrings, spangled bandana, and what you cannot see: her large necklace, yellow sequined mini dress with black and white pleated petticoats and polka dotted tennis shoes.
Despite her youth, she has a quiet, grown-up bearing; she struck such a sweet and regal pose for us that I think most of us fell in love with her. We were lucky enough to have her for two weeks in a row, so a lot of us got either two paintings or one 6-hour life painting. Not bad for $5 a day!
This painting has been selected to be in the Salon International this year, to be judged by the most honorable Daniel Greene. 
Young Rainy does not appear flapped at all by the news.  

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


This is the daughter of a friend of mine, just a head study. I won't tell you how many hours I painted on this little thing.
I always thought that once I was painting instead of drawing, I'd be whipping out paintings so fast! I have tried to time myself, to be done with "this much" by "this time," or to threaten myself that if it's not done on time, I have to stop anyway.
One day my husband, the Voice of Reason, said, "Why are you trying to paint so fast? You don't do anything else fast. Why try to do the thing you love the most fast?"
As I've studied with more people, I've discovered that all the fast painting that other artists are doing is mostly in my head! The people whose work I really love paint very slowly and carefully. 
I think there's a difference between a painting that's done quickly and a painting that's done briefly. A brief painting is one in which every stroke is carefully laid to convey as much information as possible. This is not easy to do well. What I was doing was looking at brief paintings and assuming that they were achieved quickly, so of course I expected to get faster and faster with experience.
I'm settled in now though to the idea that painting is a process to be savored and enjoyed, so don't ask me how long it took me to paint this. It took most of my life! But I really enjoyed it.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Horse Creek

I've been meeting a group of artists out in Wyoming for several years; we go to mostly the same places to paint every year. This last visit was different because for the first time, instead of flying in, I drove up from Texas with my husband, Russ (and dog!). It looked like the same schedule of events on paper but bringing my better half along ensured that it would be an entirely new and exciting experience. For example, I have crossed over this creek many times and painted it from different vantage points, but this time, I explored it with Russ. He's pretty fearless.
At one point he said, "Hey, you should go down there and paint: that's a real nice view of the creek!" as he pointed down the one-storey vertical drop to the creek bed. There was only the slightest bit of edge between the water and the wall and I was dubious. He did not hesitate, however, to begin preparations. He lowered me down the cliff by rope, then supplied me with my gear by the same method. Everywhere we painted that week he would set up a guard spot to protect us from bears, and he did so this time, too. That's him in the red lawn chair.

So, with one leg of my trusty soltek in the drink, I safely painted a vantage point of Horse Creek that may never have been painted before. None of the other artists knew I was there that day, so cleverly placed was I. The morning was happily painted on to this 8x10 panel, never to be forgotten.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Geyser Creek

I'm attaching 3 pictures today so that you can experience Geyser Creek in a somewhat greater context than just the painting alone. I would love to include pics of my husband on his lawn chair behind us, keeping guard, and the wonderful squadron of vintage planes that flew over us—but, for now, just the creek.

Geyser Creek twists and turns along the Wind River range. Bob and I were situated in the crook of a tight bend and there was a fairly steep wall of brick red rock on the other side of the creek. As we were pitching our gear, a mule deer scrambled up the sheer face of that wall to distract us (and our trusty watchdog, Abby) while his family took off in the other direction. I got some excellent shots of him silhouetted on the top, checking to make sure they were safe.

Painting with a friend out next to the cool, singing water while the hot sun bakes you in the thin air; it must be like a commercial for heaven. We worked very hard to capture the movement of the water and the abruptness of the red wall. For mine, I attacked the canvas with a palette knife to describe the wall, and splattered some paint over the brushstrokes to describe the energetic little waterfall action. I hope this small 8x10 conveys some of the grandeur.

Friday, February 4, 2011

EA Ranch WY

 One day of my Wyoming trip every year is devoted to mentoring a local art student and this year, my student was a really enthusiastic and personable young man named Eddie.
Eddie picked a nice view of a valley that cuts through EA Ranch for us to paint.
While we were painting, some strollers-by stopped and really complimented the block-in for this painting. An hour later they came back by and said, "Wow, that was such a strong block-in! It's amazing how a painting can get ruined in the last 10 minutes!"  Haha, how do you respond to a comment like that?

Eddie taught me some about his part of Wyoming, including that most of his generation was choosing to leave instead of work the land. He's staying. He told me that one day while he was driving to work, he saw the familiar sight of tourists pulled over on the side of the road taking pictures of nothing. Then, he said, he decided to pull over himself, to see what they were seeing. He said, "I saw how beautiful it is here, for the very first time." It was moving to listen to this teenager who absolutely knows what is valuable, and an honor to get to paint with him. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Late Light study

While in Wyoming, we were determined to do at least one sunset painting, preferably of the mountains. We were finally able to do that this day only by pulling over on the side of the road and setting up our gear. Yes, it was that hard to find an outstanding view.

On the left is my finished 10x8; on the right, the work in progress, as seen from the tailgate of our truck where I sat to avoid the wind and the wild mountain ants.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Johnny Ringo

One day while we were in Wyoming, several local cowboys came to pose for us. This cowboy's name is John Phelps, the father of Chance Phelps, about whom the movie Taking Chance was made, starring Kevin Bacon~ you should watch it. Chance gave his young life for us in Iraq. John also served our country in Vietnam; actually every member of this family is a hero. Chance's mom and sister WALKED from California to Wyoming to honor Chance, for example.
And John is a wonderful artist, plus he hand-tools most of his cowboy accoutrements and tells really great stories.
This day, he was on Lee Cable's horse. Lee is also an outstanding artist and horseman. I had quite a time trying to paint these two from life. The horse, while very good, moved a little bit over here, a little bit over there~ just enough to give me fits. So Lee strolls by and says he doesn't like my horse's feet and I just handed him my brush. He met the challenge and painted the bottom of the legs and the feet. We then both signed it and it sold for a pretty little penny at an auction later that week. I totally want a do-over though. It was a challenge that I think I'm better prepared for now. I wonder if I could find a cowboy here in Texas.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Twin Pines on Trail Lake

This is the small painting that I was working on while Bob was working on our duet. We had spent much time this day looking for petroglyphs and wild life. It was terrifically windy and cold so we didn't think we'd even be able to paint. We tried hiding behind boulders but any safe spot had no view, all good views had no safe spot. Eventually we found this little place, somewhat sheltered by the mountain just to our right. Well, we were facing south and it was late in the day so it doesn't take an Eagle Scout to figure out that we had to paint pretty fast to knock out these paintings while the sun was still shining!