Monday, December 27, 2010

A Bear

This is the bear for Wilderness Art Challenge. I've wanted to try painting a bear for a long time. Before that, I wanted to purchase a painting of a bear. I was especially fond of bears by Scott Switzer. My particular interest in bear images dates back to our family trip to Alaska, where my two sons and I had a pretty close encounter with a bear. Not a grizzly but a black bear. We were taking a nature walk watching the salmon swim up to spawn and everything else wonderful. When this bear lumbered onto the path right in front of my older son. Behind him was my other son, then me, followed by a little boy who belonged to someone else. The bear stopped and seemed to be watching us. In perhaps my least maternal move ever, I started to slowly back away. I don't think abandonment was my plan, but the facts are as I tell. Well, the bear didn't eat my sons, or the other little boy either. It moved along and splashed into the water. After his pulse recovered, my son regretted not getting a picture. He bought a little toy bear at the gift store, and it became his totem. And we reenacted our adventure for my husband and others. I was not the hero.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Card and a Thought

I wanted to create something with an idea, rather than render life or some other source material. So really I'm rather proud of this, although I don't know if it works to convey the idea. It's a thought bubble, with a light bulb to represent an idea, only instead of an ordinary light bulb, it's a Christmas light bulb. Because the idea is about Christmas. The idea is let's celebrate; let's decorate; let us adorn our trees, our houses and our food. Let us be demonstrative in our affection. Let us be generous in our giving and effusive in our thanks. Let us sing loud and be merry. Let us be reflections of our Creator who gave us this magnificent world and our brilliant lives and the sweet gift of a baby born on Christmas morning.

As a painting, it is a little disappointing. I wasn't really sure if I wanted the background as an even wash. One thought was even to make it a forest. But I think what I have is a little messy and indecisive, and it has the ghost of an eraser mark. I think If I'd experimented more with placement, I might have found a better composition. I do like the light bulb though, and it's running watercolor glow.

I'm submitting this for the Calypso Moon Artist Movement challenge. But of course, it's for you too. Merry Christmas, from the bottom of my John Pike palette and my heart.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Cookies are served. I had plenty of help baking and decorating, so I can take little credit for the artistry. My creative passion was poured into the mulled wine.

Interesting editing blunder. Too difficult to sort out. Perhaps too much mulled wine. href="">
Because I haven't received any blogoversary cards (broadly hinting) I borrowed a birthday card I made for my spouse. I haven't told him I borrowed it, which makes it somewhat like stealing. You can wish him a happy birthday, although it would be 17 months late.

He asked me if I knew how many hits the blog had received in a year. I said yes in fact I do. 3,802. Impressive, he said. Not so, said I. It's mostly me.

But to the rest of you, who have become my friends, and those who always were: thank you for making this such an excellent adventure.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Past

From the time I was in my teens up until my thirties, I made Christmas cards every year. I'd do a design and then get several printed and mail them to friends near and far. I didn't stop when I had children, but it became more sporadic, in fact rather rare. Also, I had an interfaith family, which called for interfaith holiday cards. That wasn't too big a challenge. There are consistent themes of peace, light, miracles, and the enormous abundant generosity of God. Or I could do a collage with pictures of my beautiful children and the pets. It wasn't so much that children took up all my time; I think it was just that my holiday celebration priorities changed. Being Santa Claus was a very challenging job. These are a couple of old card designs, on slightly yellowed paper. I may try to find some more of these. I have a suspicion about where they are. These two are among my favorites. Sometimes when I look older artwork of mine, I'm struck by the difference between then and now. I think I may be a more proficient draftsman; I'm certain my materials are better. But the old stuff seems more imaginative, more creative. I think the reason may be that I've needed to become much more practical and all the extra capacity that requires of my brain has pushed my imagination out of the way. I'm going to try to exercise my imagination more. I'm not sure how to exercise an imagination, so let me know if you have any ideas.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

In My Own Backyard

Today the paint-out location was my backyard. It was a beautiful day. I'm pleased with my painting. This is the view looking beyond the yard to the north. It's uncanny how much it really looks like this. It was very interesting and fun to see other painters' takes on my yard. I'm kicking myself for not taking photographs.

Life on the moon? I thought that's what it looks like. Really, I just very desperately need to clear out the porch light.

Finally here's green lynx spider with its egg sack. Life is wonderful. I have fallen a bit behind on the Christmas preparations.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

What I Learned

I completed my oil painting class with Timothy Tien. Here are my remaining paintings from the class, and notes from my recollection of what I learned. In the order they popped into my head. I need to practice with oils, but I think the class was very helpful. I am more aware now when I look at things and when I paint them. I will continue to make the same mistakes, but I will recognize them and learn from them, until good design and painting principles are like breathing.

Design and composition are most important. It doesn't matter what the painting is. It may be an abstract, and the same principles will apply.
A triangle is a good design - if lines and shapes in the painting make a triangle, it will help it be a good design.
There should not be big solid unvaried shapes, unless you want them to be the most important thing in the painting.
Shapes can be broken by variations in value and temperature as well as lines.

The painter should relocate elements to improve the design.
Know why you place elements where you place them and what affect it has on the composition.
Patterns of dark and light are important because they are most visible. Squint your eyes and lay them in first.
Artists draw shapes with straight lines because it helps to give them direction and locate the planes for light and shadow areas and highlights.

Contrasts are important - light & dark, warm & cool, large & small, horizontal & vertical.
Things in the painting should not be equal.
It doesn't matter what your subject is. What you paint won't always interest you; it is your job to make it interesting.
You should know what the most important thing in your painting is. It might be an object or a group of objects or a shadow or the foreground. It is what you want the viewer to look at. It is the story that your painting is about.
Colors have the most intensity when you look directly into them. If they are in the periphery of your view, they will seem less intense. The important thing in the painting should have the most intense color.

You are limited by the paint on your palette. You can't paint anything lighter than white or more intense than your pure color.
Start finding your colors with the most intense color; everything else will key off of that.
It is the relationship between the colors rather than the individual colors that you are painting. Look at the interplay between your colors, even as you mix them on the palette; try them next to each other.
Test the background color in different parts of the painting. It should make objects appear to come forward. The background and background objects define the edges of the objects in front.
It is oil paint. You can cover anything.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

In a Canyon

The painting conditions were good yesterday. Mostly it was cool and still, with moments where the wind picked up and bit my bare hands and made idle threats of rain. It was a California Art Club paint-out and I also directed my small group of Saturday painters to Eaton Canyon. I met new painters - new to me that is; I'm sure some of them have been painting for a long time. It was a fine time. By the way, if any of my art blogger friends want to paint out with me, because you are close by or stopping through the Los Angeles/Pasadena, CA area on a Saturday, let me know. How great would that be?

I painted a scene with a sycamore tree and rocks. I go back and forth on this painting. I think it has some good technique, but also some obvious blunders. It's challenging to paint layers of trees and shrubs and grasses. Shapes are amorphous and colors undifferentiated. I'm going to spend some time looking at successful watercolor landscapes for new ideas on how to attack it. I'm also going to go back to using the oils sometimes, having completed my oil painting class. More on that later.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


I found this picture this week along with other stuff from my student days. I have a few paintings old and new to photograph and post. This I thought would be good for a post called reflections. But in fact I'm not sure I'm reflecting now. Really I'm thinking of what to do next. What to do with my painting, my free time, my life, what is left of my evening.

This is me, from the knees down, in the bathtub of my youth. I spent a lot of hours there, observing the still water with its pale aqua color (not shown here), and the remarkable reflection that appeared to double the number of my toes.