Fall gourds

I’m still been keeping an eye on my irises. They have managed to survive a couple of light frosts over the last week and continue to bloom. The colder air seems to slide right down the hill past them and perhaps they will last until we get a hard freeze.  I still have hopes that the buds on the second stalk will flower fully but you never know.  There must be over a dozen buds between the two.  The petunias are also still carrying on.  Such vivid colors so late in the year.  I like it.

Fall vegetables

After a full week of having to do other things, I finally was able to get back into the studio and work on the painting yesterday. Everything survived the wait except the carrots.   They have shriveled up quite badly and look like sad shadows of their former selves.  The humidity in the studio must be a lot lower than I thought.   I had been a little worried about the pepper lasting, but certainly not the carrots.  They look pretty sickly.

I think parts of the painting are okay, but it all still needs work.  I don’t like the back end of the carrots and the balance is off on the left.  I feel like I have to add something next to the gourds, just off of the middle.  I haven’t decided quite what to do, but I have a another small pepper I can use.  I guess I’ll try a few things out.  Perhaps a small onion.

The background came about in a funny way.  Lately, for some reason I have had trouble keeping my fingers out of the paint.  I noticed some red splotches on the upper right that came out of nowhere.  When I looked at my hands, I found that somehow I had brushed my nails into the red paint on the palette while I was loading another color onto the brush and then accidentally touched the watercolor board with them.  What a klutz I can be.  I tried to scrub it out but was unable erase it completely.  Ergo the swath off to the upper right.  It doesn’t look half bad but I would rather make those decisions on my own. 

I will probably let the painting sit for today and look at it with fresh eyes tomorrow.  I thought it looked off last night and still do today.  The photo only enhances the perception.  Decisions, decisions.

Unexpected pleasures – take them when you can

Sometimes things don’t go as planned, no matter how I try. I guess the trick is to let it go and deal with what the reality is.  I had picked out a drawing to do and was preparing to start it when my new watercolors arrived.  Naturally I had to see what I had really bought since all I had was the pictures on the website and a sheet of recommended colors to purchase.  I altered my plans and made a still life with the gourds I found a week or so ago.  I was able to spend a few hours setting up the layout (jeesh are gourds hard to pose attractively) and lay down some preliminary colors.  That is where the fun stopped.  Other considerations intervened and that is where the painting sits.  I guess it is a good thing gourds are durable and long-lasting because I think it will be the weekend before I can get back to it.  I must say I am happy so far with what colors I bought.  I might make a few additions but not too much yet.

My confused iris

On the better side, these days my studio smells like an herb garden.  I recently picked most of the last of the tomatoes, peppers and herbs before an expected light frost.  The tomatoes are in the garden window to ripen, but I spread out the herbs on a piece of newsprint on the studio table to let them dry.  I did this last year and it worked out well.  I turn them over every day or two and eventually it all is dry enough to put into containers.  The aroma is quite pungent for the first few days and increases again when I turn them over.  I got a little bit of a surprise, though, when I picked the produce.  I glanced over to where the herbs were to check on them and something caught the corner of my eye.  There was something odd about the irises.  I did a double take when I realized several of them had sent up flower stalks and were attempting to bloom again.  They had never fulfilled their advertised promise of reblooming due, I guess, to the drought.  When we finally got some rain and more moderate temperatures, they must had decided it was fine to try again.  I held my breath through several more cold nights, but you can see that they made it.  I don’t know how many of the buds will actually get to fully bloom, but I am so glad to have the ones that did.  And you can see the petunias also made a great recovery.  Who’d have thought all these flowers were possible at the very end of October.  Certainly not I.

What is artistic design?

Yesterday when my November copy of Professional Artist magazine arrived, I read a thought-provoking article by Matthew Daub entitled “Design is not a dirty word”.  He is a professor teaching Fine Art at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania.  What he had to say made me long to have had a teacher like him when I was in school.  He starts off by letting his newest students do an initial drawing from a still life he sets up, and then over the course of several classes, lets them discover the importance of composition and all of its components in their work.  He finds it is an ongoing proposition to get his students to think about a piece holistically rather than as pieces put together.  He doesn’t espouse the golden triangle or the rule of thirds, but seems to feel that we must find our own essential intuition that tells us when something is right .  As he says “composition is personal, not formulaic – not the product of do’s and don’ts, but the expression of the artist’s will  that, at its finest, can defy accepted norms and practice”.  He encourages his students to look at the compositional choices of what the overall shapes are, where the subjects are on a page, and even how much of an object is there to find their own clarity for a drawing.

I like this composition

He also seemed to have some of the same experiences academically that I did, albeit a few years earlier where the elements of composition were at best neglected and at worst scorned.  What happened for me in reading this article was that it made me smile.  It gave me encouragement that some of my hard-won artistic choices were heading in the right direction.  Leaving extra space around a preliminary drawing was a great idea which would allow me to alter the composition if I felt it needed it.  He said that 1/4″ was “absolutely important” which I thought funny considering I had just made that 1/4″ adjustment in my latest drawing (albeit inadvertently).  And changing the course of a drawing in midstream was fundamentally sound if I felt that was what the picture needed.  I now understand that  my trying to find the balance of positive and negative space in my work is merely the discernment of the elements of composition crucial for me to feel that a piece can stand on its own.  All of the stumbling and bumbling I did on my own was just finding out the truths about composition and design for myself.  And in some way I felt it supported my need to step away from a work to be able to “see” it again and judge it as a whole.  Perhaps this is why,  when I look at a piece a few months later,  I often have altered feelings about it.  I am seeing it  compositionally differently.  Maybe at some point it won’t take as much time to make these judgements.

Professor Daub seems to be a teacher who encourages his students to  discover for themselves the elements which will make their art great.  Successful composition seems to be a great leg up in the process.  So thank you Professor Daub.  I only wish I could have met you earlier.  I think it might have saved me a lot of angst over the years.

*These are my thoughts and interpretations of his article.  I would encourage everyone to read it on their own if they can.

What’s up next?

Fall on the lake

It is very windy outside today with wind gusts 30 to 40 mph.  If you look closely you can see the wind across the pond making little “whitecaps”.  Fortunately the temps are getting into the 70’s so it is not a cold day, at least when you’re in the sun.  I’m sure it will cool quickly as the sun goes down though.  The recent rains and winds have blown many of the leaves off of the trees so I don’t know how much longer we will have the fall colors.  At least some color developed after the rains finally came.  For a while it looked as though everything would just turn brown.  I am not, not, not looking forward to winter.  We saw a herd of deer last evening on our side of the lake, the first in quite a while.  It was too dark to tell if their coats had lost the ragged whiteness we had previously seen or if the buck was with them.  I hope it is just a temporary condition that the coming of the winter coats will resolve.

Today my workspace is covered with streetscape photos from Key West FL, Park City UT, and southern Indiana.  I pulled out everything I had to search for inspiration and have almost decided on what to do next.  I ordered some new watercolors this week , so the gourd still life will have to wait a little bit. With any luck the paints will get here quickly. I’m glad fall gourds are sturdy and should last quite a while. I plan to create a variety of the still lives from them, interspersed with architecturals.  I have found that I need a little variety in the subject matter to stay fresh and inspired.  I swear it’s the deciding what to do that is the hardest part of it all.  Once I get started on a piece, I can work it through to completion with little difficulty, but those initial choices can be quite trying.

Holiday aceos

I have been working on a few new aceos lately.  I thought I might do a set for holiday and Halloween use and make some digital copies.  I should just run up another watercolor blank that has blues and greens predominating so that there will be little more color variety.  It would be a good project when I am letting the architectural set.  It doesn’t take a lot of  time at each step, but the overall process is several days because of the drying time.

Back to the drawing board

I woke this morning to the sound of a gentle rain.  It was a straight down affair.  No wind-blown rain drops or crashing thunder; just a soft rustling as the raindrops fell through the dry fall leaves.  I think I could stand a week of this. I love the rain and have sorely missed it this summer.

Fall gourds

I have been awaiting the appearance of the fall gourds and when I went to the grocery store yesterday, I found a nice assortment all in one bag. They are not very large, but I liked the variety.  I still feel like painting something and I thought that the interesting shapes and colors of the gourds would combine into a lovely still life.  They are really quite textural.  And I have picked out a few new entryways and a street scene as possibilities to draw.  I’m leaning towards the street scene as a change of pace.  We’ll see what moves me when I actually sit down at the drafting table.  Pastel vs watercolor?  Decisions, decisions.

1 year and 100 posts later – who’d have guessed

Who would have guessed?  Certainly not me.  This is my 100th post and it’s hard to believe that I am coming up on 1 year of blogging on October 21st.  When I took the social media class for artists at the community college extension, I thought it would be the least of the things I did. Instead, it has turned out to be the most fun and rewarding of all. I have tried to post on Wednesdays and Sundays because I need to have some sort of schedule in order to get anything done and I felt that twice a week was something I could keep up with while maintaining a reasonable studio and online store schedule.

When I started, I feared I would have nothing interesting to say or show and that no one would care to visit.  There in an inherent trauma in going to your blog and seeing spam for your comments and little or no views.  No one who doesn’t blog can understand the joy of the first comment made by someone you don’t know and the appearance of the first subscriber.  Heady stuff you know.   At least for me.

Flowers to all of you

I have met so many wonderful people who encouraged me along the way this year, not the least of whom are Leslie and Linda, who were among my first visitors.  They kindly made wonderfully positive comments, so special thanks to them.  In the course of this year, I have seen some beautiful works of art created by this community as well as laughed myself silly over some FP blog.  I have enjoyed sharing not only my artwork, but stories of the wildlife that surrounds me (especially the coyote puppies on the porch  and the the deer stalking the heron) and the beautiful countryside where I live.  It is a journey I plan to continue and I hope you come along.  A bouquet of flowers to you all – past, present and future.

Sketching for practice

Sketch 1

A while back I bought a sketch journal to go along with Danny Gregory’s book, “Creative license”.  I had been wanting to try a daily or at least every other day sketching routine as a way to loosen up my style and creativity and got the book as a jumping off point.  I’m not too good at initiating these kinds of things myself and the structure to at least start an activity is beneficial.  I did well for a while, but it fell by the wayside when we went on a short trip and I forgot to take the journal with me.  We got very busy on the return and I never quite got back to it.

Sketch 2

Lately, I have been feeling the need to try it again.  I pulled out the old sketch book and found, low and behold, that the sketches had improved over time.  I think maybe they got bored being hidden and ignored for so long and rearranged themselves.   Anyway, I like them a little better than I did at the time and it gives me impetus to try again.  The question now is whether I should work on one side of a page only or on both.  As you can see there was some bleed through of the ink pen.  And I think I may want to use pen, at least for a while, since it won’t allow me to erase and get stuck obsessively on something.  

Sketch 3

These are a few of the sketches from around the house – wherever I could find a place to sit comfortably and look.  I’m starting to size up a few new things to work with  now.  I have some wooden shore birds on a beam that would be easy to draw and some dresser top items for small object work.  Then perhaps I’ll step outdoors while the weather is still mild.  Maybe in time I’ll feel inspired to add a little color too.

A frosty morning – with some steam

When we got up this morning, the outdoor thermometer said 38 degrees. There were a few patches of light frost in the lower areas but I am hoping that the tomato and herb plants survived.  They are on the side of the house on a slope, so I think that the colder air might have slid right past, down to the lake.

Steaming lake

The pond was steaming profusely, so I went and got the camera for a few pictures before it burned off.  Sure enough, if I had waited even half an hour, it would all have been gone.  While I am glad the excessive heat and dryness of the summer has passed, I hope we have a long, mild fall.  And a short, mild winter for a change.  The past few winters have been quite cold and snowy and I think we all could do with a break.  The wildlife seems to be hiding out lately.  I have seen only a few deer in the evening along with the usual squirrels.  Surprisingly we have a few mink living in the vicinity.  We see them on occasion, often just when I start to wonder if someone has illegally set traps here and gotten them.  They are so much fun to see – aways a surprise and never for long.  I usually see them on my way out along the drive and never when I have my camera.  They look like the ferrets in the pet store, only minky brown of course.

It hasn’t gotten cold enough in the house yet to to turn on the furnace and since it is supposed to get back up into the 70’s this week, I am determined not to turn it on yet.  It is supposed to be clear every day so the house should stay warm with the radiance of the sun, even without the furnace going on.