As some readers may remember from some previous posts, not all of painting is done just for the sake of creating my own art. I also sometimes help paint sets for Kitsap Children’s Musical Theater.
Well, their next play is Aladdin, and so I am getting to paint some “Arabian themed” set elements.
Not as involved as before
One thing that is different this time around, is that I am much busier. With everything going on with Art Slam Studio, as well as finally getting serious about getting the purchasing pages of this website up and running, and synced up with my etsy shop, and working on that for about an hour each day, I just don’t have the time to be involved with KCMT as I once was. Still though, I don’t want to stop volunteering for them altogether. So, for this play, I committed to doing the “wing” panels for the stage. These are the panels that sit out on stage through the whole play, one on each side, to block the view of the edge of the backstage area, where actors frequently line up waiting for their cue to go on.
The Palace Gardens
For the Aladdin set, we wanted to wing panels to look like entrances to palace garden… So I had to first sketch out an entry way. I sketched it out, and my daughter helped me apply paint.
Soon we had two panels with the basic frame of an arched gateway, and then I added sky.
Now it was time to paint the garden. Here is where I made a mistake. I thought “garden”, but I didn’t really think much further than that.. so here is what my first garden looked like when it was partly finished.
Now at this point, the garden was about half done, but I kept feeling something was wrong, then it occurred to me, it didn’t look very “Arabian”, so I decided to stop, and wait for the person who is in charge of sets to tell me if I should change it.
I didn’t have to wait long, I didn’t even get a chance to ask before I received an email asking me to change it.
Apparently Arabian Palace Gardens, Didn’t have Cherry Trees.
So I needed to redo the panel, but not the whole thing. I needed to take out the trees and tulips, and add some more “Arabian” looking plants.
So today I painted over the trees with more sky, took out the tulips, and changed it to this:
Today I also got started on the second panel, but didn’t get finished with it, there is still a lot to do, probably at least 3 hours of work left on the second one, I won’t be able to work on it again until Wednesday though, because on Tuesday I am working a shift at Art Slam Studio.
Well, after that I continued to work. painting in the background elements first: Like this:
Adding some trees to the painting.
I a river and some foreground trees:
Added some leaves in on the tree, and added another tree on the left, plus some shadows.
Then I continued to add a few details, a few more leaves.
Now, at this point the painting is almost finished, I am going to add some more shadows on the leaves that are on the ground, and I’m going to sign it, and that’s it, it will be done. The next picture of this that I’ll post will be the finished, for sale image.
All in all, I think I managed to improve this quite a bit from the state it was in when I tossed in the back of the cabinet. I still see ways I could have done better, but I always do, with every painting, when its done I always look and think, “hmm… If I had only done this or that it would have looked even better.” So, I take mental note of it and try to make the next painting come out better than the last.
I am going to write today about the need for artistic metamorphosis, no, I am not talking about the artist’s need for personal growth. I am talking about those works the artist steps back and looks at, and thinks that the work itself needs to be transformed. I’ll explain…
Promising Beginnings before Apparent Ruin
Every artist has those works that started out with great promise, but which, during the process of creation, took a turn for the worse. You those works that started out great, and then at some point the artist steps back and thinks, “Oh… now look at that… I’ve completely ruined it.”
Most often, when this happens to me, I do one of two things. Either I’ll grab some gesso or some titanium white and paint out everything on the canvas so that I can use the canvas for something else. Or, I’ll toss the canvas into the back of a closet or cabinet, thinking, “Maybe someday I’ll I’ll figure out how to fix that, but for now I just don’t want anyone to see it!” If I choose the latter, the work usually sits in that closet or cabinet forever. It seems I never do pull them back out to rework, or almost never, sometimes there are exceptions.
The Diamond in the Pile of Coal
Occasionally, I’ll see something in the painting that I feel is worth salvaging, some element that I feel has enough potential to make it worth the extra effort of fixing the mistakes. A little diamond hidden in what is otherwise a pile of coal.
For example, there is this painting:
I started this painting during my first year of painting. I hadn’t yet learned many of the tricks to creating realism and depth in landscapes. I started with the covered bridge and did a really good job. I really liked what I saw with the bridge, especially inside the tunnel. I felt that it was really going somewhere. Then I started adding in fall trees in the foreground before I had done any background landscape, this caused the picture to look really odd in the places where you could see through the trees. So, I made the trees thicker, until you couldn’t see through them at all. This eliminated those odd looking spaces, but also gave everything but the bridge a strange one-dimensional appearance.
Not only that but I didn’t have any detail in the foreground trees. They would have looked fine off in the distance like that, but up close I felt I should have given at least a hint of definition in the leaves.
I tossed the painting in the cabinet, and left it until today. I got it out again and started looking at it. I still really liked the bridge, but now I noticed problems I hadn’t even noticed before. The road leading to the bridge seemed off, like the angle of the railings didn’t quite fit the perspective of the rest of the painting.
The Metamorphosis Begins
I decided to rework the painting, salvaging just the covered bridge, and redoing everything else.
The first step in doing that was to white out everything I wanted gone with titanium white, and then paint in the parts of the bridge that had been covered up with the leaves.
Later, I decided I needed to white out even more, and it now looks like this:
This is what the painting looks like so far. I will update as its metamorphosis continues, and we shall see if I can salvage the diamond from the coal mine, and make it into something worthy to be shown to others.
Being an Artist holds many challenges, one of which is that every season seems to demand a response from the artist. In spring we have blossoms, birds everywhere, rain showers, sun breaks, baby animals, rainbows. In summer, there are ocean side picnics, sand castles on the beach, sunsets over the ocean, children playing in the sprinkler, lazy afternoons under the tree in the yard. Then fall bursts onto the scene with its fiery colors, school buses full of children heading back to school, spooky skeletons, orange pumpkins, turkeys and pumpkin pie by the fire. Right around the corner from fall, comes winter, with its frozen ponds, snow blanketing the ground, Christmas lights, children building snowmen, dark skies, and colorfully decorated trees.
For the artist who wishes to sell their work, we must work at least one season ahead, so that our delightful scenes of blossoming branches and baby birds become available when people are just getting excited about spring and wanting to celebrate it. That means we have to remove ourselves mentally from the current season, and look to the next. In late winter we need to finish up our springtime paintings if we hope to sell them soon, rather than storing them for year before selling. Similarly, in summer when what we want to paint is the delightful scene of the beach in front of us, we also need to already be thinking about pumpkins, ghosts, brightly colored leaves, and the like. And while everyone else is celebrating the cool fall season, we need to think ahead to the snowy winter. Of course, we can also do our share of painting the current season, knowing that we most likely won’t sell that work for about a year, but that we can enjoy making it.
I tend to a mix of both, painting the scenes in front of me, while also trying to work in a few paintings that look ahead to the coming season. That means that this fall, I’ve done my share of fall images, but I’ve also been working on some winter scenes. I have two that I recently finished, which I feel would make lovely holiday gifts. They are so recently finished that I haven’t titled each of them yet, but I am calling the series my “Winter Wonderland” series. Not very original, but classic nonetheless.
Take a Walk in My Winter Wonderland
I invite you to enjoy these winter wonderland paintings for yourself. For the first one, I’ll just show you the finished product. Then for the next, I’ll let you see it unfold through photos the creation process. In this way, it will as if you are walking with through the painting as it progresses! I haven’t done a lot of winter scenes before this, so I started with a small painting, and after getting a better idea of what methods produced the results I wanted I started a second, larger painting.
Here is the first scene, it is a small painting, on 5 inches tall and 7 inches wide. I haven’t listed it in my etsy shop yet, but if anyone wants them right away, they are welcome to contact me. Sometime in the next few days, I will post the paintings on etsy.
The next work is similar, but I used a bigger canvas because I wanted to put in more detail. I didn’t just want to recreate the same scene larger though, I wanted to make a completely different scene, just using similar methods to accomplish it.
First, I painted in the sky, making loose brushstrokes, and graduating from a lot of white in one area, but getting more and more blue as I worked away from that area. Then I added trees, first a background layer of very light, faintly visible trees, then two more layers of trees getting progressively darker and more green. All of this was done wet on wet, which can be accomplished with acrylics by adding retarder medium to the paint and by working quickly.
After that backdrop was done, I let it dry. Up until this point I had been working wet on wet, so that the layers mixed slightly and didn’t have a lot definition, but at this point I wanted to let this backdrop dry, so that my next layer on the canvas could be more defined.
At this point I once again allowed everything to dry, and then moved on to the next stage.
The painting looked like it was nearing completion at this point, but I still had in mind the most detailed and upfront part of the scene.
At this point the painting was almost done, but I felt it needed more. Something to make the river stand out more from the background. I decided to use just a tiny amount of iridescent pearl on my painting, to add a bit of actual reflection to the water. Of course, in a photograph or a print, you lose some of that effect, but it makes the original even more special. You can still see some of the effect, even in a photo. I also worked on the snow a little more to make it look more “fluffy”, and added a few stars to the dusky sky.
My post today is not strictly about art, instead, it is about an awesome opportunity to both be a blessing, and to be blessed yourself, but I won’t ask to read all about it, because all you really have to do is watch:
Well, its been quite a while since my last post, and since then I’ve been very busy, I’ve created a lot of new paintings. I’ve also been quite busy with the Art Slam Studio, which I told all about in my last two posts, “Slam-Queen of the Mantis Flies Parts ONE and TWO“.
In those posts, I mentioned that the temporary pop-up gallery was going to evolve into a permanent co-op studio gallery, and over the summer, it has been slowly moving in that direction. The studio will now tentatively be opening on November 1st, for our artists to start working there and keeping regular hours, for our patrons and supporters to see what we’ve done , and for the public to start getting familiar with us and our vision, but we plan to have our big grand opening event on Black Friday. That will be the event that we advertise and promote, and where we will really be letting everyone know we are there and open for business.
Of course, all of these dates are tentative, the county has to come and inspect, the fire marshal has to let us know our maximum occupancy, and other details need ironing out. We are aiming for and hoping for those dates though.
I will be one of the resident artists there. By that I mean that I will be paying a portion of the rent in exchange for access to workspace whenever I want to paint, (as long as no class is being held at the time), and for a reserved spot on the wall to display and sell my work. I’ll also be getting the opportunity to teach classes if I choose. I think I’ll start with “paint along” types of classes, such a sip and paint class, but eventually I’d like to work through more structured curriculum for people who don’t want to just learn how to do one painting, but who want to learn skills and techniques that will let them paint whatever they want to paint, on their own, without having to follow along with someone else.
Along with helping where I can with the work of setting up the studio, I also did an art show over the summer with the studio. Now I didn’t sell anything at the show, but we used my canopy and display setup, and I had the privilege of seeing fellow artist Colleen Dobbin make her first ever sell. That is always an exciting event for an artist, and it is quite gratifying to witness as well!
Anyway, I don’t plan to give up this blog though, instead my plan is to start posting more often, and once the studio has wi-fi, I will probably blog from there when I am on staff there.
I am also continuing to build the purchasing section of this website, I have so many paintings and other artworks that haven’t been added yet, but I am trying to focus on adding one each day, five days a week, until I get caught up.
In Part One of this story, I explained all about the Art Slam at the Kitsap Mall, and how I obtained a mannequin to decorate.
In part two I will detail the process of decorating my mannequin.
A Queen Needs a Good Head on Her Shoulders
From the moment I had seen the mannequin, and realized it had no head, I had decided that I was going to give it a paper mache, non-human head. I thought over a few different options, but in the end decided on an insect head. I knew I needed to start the head first, so the paper mache could thoroughly dry while I worked on the rest of the mannequin. I protected the mannequin’s neck with plastic wrap, because I wanted to be able to remove the head, and I made a paper mache sleeve on the neck base that I would attach the head to, allowing it to slip easily off the mannequin when desired.
Sexy, But Dangerous Art
My first thought was that it would be a dragonfly head, and that I would craft dragon fly wings for it as well. However, I started looking at closeup pictures of different insect heads, and I decided that I liked the more dangerous look of the praying mantis head. The mating habits of female mantis, devouring the male during mating, along with the mannequins clearly female, clearly meant to be alluring body shape, it all seemed to work together too well. I just had to do it. In the end though, I didn’t do a pure mantis head or dragon fly head, I ended up mixing features of both.
The Art Queen, Coming of Age isn’t Always Pretty
Of course, in its early stages, it didn’t look like an insect at all, rather it looked like a certain aspect of the human anatomy, which I’ll let you figure out for yourself.
Now, my first effort at attaching this beginning structure for the head failed miserably, I found the head on the shed floor, the neck base still attached to the mannequin, but eventually I got it to stay. Even though it was attached better the second time, I added a neck brace fashioned from an oatmeal box, the mannequin wore the neck brace whenever I wasn’t with it, to give the head more support until it dried. Plus, as I added more structure to the head, the additional facial parts also added strength and more adhesion to the neck sleeve.
This Queen Needs Her Modesty
She looked funny wearing the neck brace, even funnier, an elderly friend visited one day and was so embarrassed by her undressed state that I had to start draping a table cloth on her when I wasn’t actually working with her.
I also took a few photos without the neck brace and table cloth. The head in the following photo is completely formed, but I did add a a few more layers of paper mache over this for strength. Once those layers were done, I would move the head into the sun each day, and put it away at night. If paper mache is painted while there is any moisture left in it, the sculpture will mold and rot from the inside out. Luckily, we had a solid week of temperatures in the upper 80’s and low 90’s.
The next photo shows the paper mache work on the arms, you can also see the neck brace a little.
After all the sculpting was done, I needed to begin painting her. First I coated her all in green, I had already started on one arm before, but then decided to finish the sculpting work first.
After giving her green “skin” I started painting on her clothes, much to the relief of my elderly friend.
I continued to add further details to her outfit. I also began putting some designs on her legs, first patches of gold glitter, and then little curly cues.
While this was happening, I was also forming her wings. When the wings were almost done, I wanted to make sure the head was dry all the way through, so even though it had already been in the sun in nearly 90 degree weather for days, I decided to put it in the oven at 150 degrees for about six hours. Then after that, it spent another day in the sun before I finally started painting it.
For the eyes, I used a hexagonal hole punch and some reflective scrap booking paper to make little “tiles” to put on the eyes.
So there are some progress photos. Next, the finished piece, I decided to call her Queen of the Mantis Flies, since she was kind of a cross between a human, a mantis, and a dragonfly. I looked up “mantis fly” and they actually do look rather like a cross between a dragonfly and a mantis.
The Queen in Her Glory
If you would like to see this, and the other “artequins” in person, stop by the Kitsap Mall in Silverdale Washington, from August 8th to the 12th 2015, they’ll be on display in center court, near the Barnes and Noble. Should you be interested in purchasing her, or any of the other artequins, there will be information about a silent auction while they are on display.
It would seem that as an artist and blogger, I tend to work in waves. First, I’ll have a wave of artistic creation that so consumes my time that I have none left for blogging. Then, I’ll have a wave of consistent blog posts, during which I may dabble with this or that artistically, but not really have any intense rushes of creativity.
Lately, I’ve been in the middle of a creative storm, including one very large project that started with a trip to my local mall. One day my husband and I took a trip to the Kitsap Mall, which is around 19 miles away from our house, because we wanted to check out a little gift shop that rents out space to local artists and craftspeople. Well, we found that the little shop was a bust, at least for now, they were closing up in two weeks though the woman running the shop did tell us that they opened seasonally, and would probably have some space available around the holidays.
We started to head back to our car, when I noticed a sign in front of the mall space that used to house Forever 21. The sign said, “ART”.
Well, obviously I needed to check this out. I went in, and to make a long story short, they were giving artists space, without charge, to display their work for two weeks, and I claimed the last available space, as long as I could get back with my artwork in two hours! Well, as I said before, the mall is about 19 miles away from my house, and a return trip wasn’t really in my plans that day, but how could I pass up the chance to display my art in the mall for two weeks, free of charge. We rushed home, threw everything we would need into our van, and then rushed all the way back.
The display at the mall was awesome. Even though they weren’t selling from the shop, they allowed us to pass out contact information so people could buy from us directly, away from the mall. This eliminated the mall’s legal responsibility for collecting sales tax or reporting income tax, and shifted it on the individual artist. I did make several sales during this time, but all were from my etsy shop, I’m not sure that the mall display contributed to those sales, but it may have, since the url to my etsy shop was part of the contact information I provided at the mall.
Another thing took place at the mall also, every artist who was part of the Art Slam was given the option to take home a Mannequin to paint or decorate however they saw fit, and then donate it back for a silent auction that would raise funds to start a permanent gallery at the mall after the temporary pop up gallery closed down. Of course, the artists who were part of the Art Slam pop up gallery would be top on the list for displaying their work at the permanent one when it opened.
So, I took home a mannequin. She Started out looking like this, now in this picture one arm is removed. That is because my dog had decided to chew up the arm, the damage was minimal, but unmistakably there. I left that arm off the picture while I was trying to decide how I would fix the damage. I was already planning on doing some paper mache work on the mannequin, so I was pretty sure that I would end up using that method to fix the damage done by puppy…
Be sure to check back for part two of this post to see the progress on the mannequin, and the finished work. Or, better yet subscribe to all future posts if you want to be sure not to miss it!
This is a common cry of would-be painters. They want what they are painting to actually look like what they are painting, but it doesn’t come out that way. It may come out looking like something completely different, or it may look like a childish version of what they are trying to portray, but realistic? No.
Here I will insert a disclaimer, I am not the most realistic painter in the world either, but I do feel that if I paint a fox, no one is going to look at it and mistake it for a rat or a possum. Its also unlikely they will think that a second grader painted the fox. I am most certainly not photo-realistic, but my paintings, for the most part, also do not look like caricatures of the subject at hand.
The biggest roadblock to realism in art.
Regardless of my own abilities in realistic painting, I do posses the knowledge of what the biggest roadblock to it is, and it is something that some painters do not want to hear.
The biggest roadblock to realistic painting is lack of skill development in drawing. Yes, I said drawing. With a pencil. I also said skill not talent. That is because, while certain parts of art are talent based, drawing is largely a skill developed through training and practice.
Yes, virtually anybody who can see at all can improve their drawing skill. We may not all posses the ability to become the next Dirk Dzimirsky, but we all can progress past stick figures and flat looking figures.
We can all learn to draw better than we do on just natural instincts alone. I would also say that probably 99% of us can learn to draw a more realistic fox than this:
But I Want to Learn to Paint, Not Draw!
If you made that objection, then I need to let you in a little secret. While certain types of abstract painting can be done without learning to draw, realistic painting is drawing, for the most part.
It is drawing with paint. All the rules of regular drawing apply, composition, proportion, perspective, shading… if you want to paint realistically, you must study drawing. Now by study I don’t mean you need to take a college class, there are many very good “learn to draw books” out there. A really good one to begin with is also a pretty old one, it is titled Learn to Draw with Jon Gnagy. As I said, it is a good starting point, after which you could probably learn the rest of what you need by practice and occasionally looking things up on the internet.
Basically in that book you will begin by taking your basic shapes, and learning how to turn them into your basic forms instead. In other words, if you are trying to draw a ball, you will how to go from this:
Then you learn how to take those basic forms (which are sphere, cone, cube, and cylinder) and find or “see” them in the objects around you. For example, that ice cream the child is holding. It is a sphere resting on top of an inverted cone, that dog’s head is basically a modified sphere, with a modified cone coming off of it, the ears are basically half cones… etc.
In the book though, you take this step by step, you learn to turn the cylinder into a bucket, the sphere into an apple, the cube into a stack of books, the cone into a ti-pi.
Then it moves on from there and teaches you the common mistakes in landscapes, you learn to draw a dog (great dane) using the basic forms and shapes already discussed, you learn to combine elements to make well composed drawings.
I did all that, but I still can’t Paint!
If you have learned the basics of drawing, but are having trouble translating them to the medium of paint, don’t despair. Every new medium has a learning curve.
Start out by going back through your drawing lessons again, this time using paint instead of pencil. At first, just do them in black and white paint, then later start adding color, make sure premix your colors so that you have a least four or five different values of each color. In other words, if you are going to be painting something blue, you want a nice dark blue, then one a little lighter, one medium tone, one just a little lighter than medium tone, and one that is almost white, just a slight hint of the blue in it. You will use these different values to create the shading in your painting.
Keep practicing your drawing skills, because it will translate into your painting in time. Even after you are painting well, you should still grab your pencil on a regular basis and draw.
Of course, after completing the Jon Gnagy book, and then repeating those lessons in paint, you’ll still want to learn more. Learning to draw complex things using a grid can really help you learn to draw what you see. Instructions on that method can be found HERE.
Of course there are also many other excellent drawing books besides the Jon Gnagy book, the main thing is to get one that will teach you to go from flat shapes to forms, and then turn those forms into realistic objects.
But I don’t care about realism!
If you don’t care to paint realistic objects, than you might not absolutely need to learn how to draw, but it is stillgood practice. In drawing you will still learn how to add dimension, which can help in some abstract painting. Of course, if you like to paint abstractly in a kind of “spatter” or “flow” pattern, and you have no interest in painting anything of a different style than that, you can probably skip the drawing lessons.