• Category Archives For Artists
  • Winter Wonderland Paintings

    To Everything there is a Season

    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.

    Two little bunnies play in the snow near two outdoor Christmas trees, while a lone skater glides over the pond in the distance. 5x7 acrylic on canvas by V.J.Maheu
    Two little bunnies play in the snow near two outdoor Christmas trees, while a lone skater glides over the pond in the distance. 5×7 acrylic on canvas by V.J.Maheu

     

    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.

    Creating some atmospheric perspective by having the trees start out very pale in the background, and become increasingly darker and more visible as they get closer.
    Creating some atmospheric perspective by having the trees start out very pale in the background, and become increasingly darker and more visible as they get closer.

     

    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.

    You can see that in this layer I added a much more clearly defined layer of trees, with clearly visible snow on the branches. I also added hints of snow in some of the trees from previous layers. Then, decided I needed a little cabin sitting among mounds of snowdrifts. I also began the outline of what would be a little river running through my painting.
    You can see that in this layer I added a much more clearly defined layer of trees, with clearly visible snow on the branches. I also added hints of snow in some of the trees from previous layers, I added in some underbrush in the background as well.  Then, decided I needed a little cabin sitting among mounds of snowdrifts. I also began the outline of what would be a little river running through my painting.

     

    At this point I once again allowed everything to dry, and then moved on to the next stage.

    Here I worked on shading the snowdrifts a little more, and I added in some texture, highlights and and darker areas in the river.
    Here I worked on shading the snowdrifts a little more, and I added in some texture, highlights and darker areas in the river.

     

    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.

    I added more detail on the far bank of the river, painting in some exposed mud at the point where the water and snow meet, and I added in more background brush on the left side of the canvas. Built up the snow near snowbank, and added in the foreground tree with snow sticking all over its bark. Then I added the shadowy reflection of the tree on the surface of the water, and added in some more highlights opposite the shadow.
    I added more detail on the far bank of the river, painting in some exposed mud at the point where the water and snow meet, and I added in more background brush on the left side of the canvas. Built up the snow near snow bank, and added in the foreground tree with snow sticking all over its bark. Then I added the shadowy reflection of the tree on the surface of the water, and added in some more highlights opposite the shadow.  I also added in the light coming out of the windows of the little cabin.

    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.

    Here you can see the finished painting. A bare snow covered tree on the bank of a river at dusk in the middle of winter. On the other side of the bank, a quaint little cabin offers a cozy refuge from the cold. The first stars are just becoming visible in the darkening sky.
    Here you can see the finished painting. A bare snow-covered tree on the bank of a river at dusk in the middle of winter. On the other side of the bank, a quaint little cabin offers a cozy refuge from the cold.
    The first stars are just becoming visible in the darkening sky.

     


  • The Hindrance to Realistic Painting

    Why Can’t I Paint Realistically?

    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:

    A cartoon-ish, childish fox I drew on MS Paint, in order to demonstrate my point.
    A cartoon-ish, childish fox I drew on MS Paint, in order to demonstrate my point.

    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:

    Just a circle... not a ball
    Just a circle… not a ball

    To this:

    Not just a circle, a ball, or sphere.
    Not just a circle, a ball, or sphere.

     

    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 still good 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.

     


  • Finally, a Chance to Breathe… and Paint!

    Life Intrudes on Art and Vice Versa

    I’ve often heard the saying, “Art imitates life”, and I’ve also heard the opposite stated, “Life imitates art”.  However, what has been true where I’m concerned is that life does not imitate art and art does not imitate life, but rather, life intrudes on art and art on life.  A constant tug of war goes on until finally one thing yields to another.  Sometimes, the mundane tasks of daily life win out, and art is put aside in favor of sweeping a floor, or making dinner, or washing some dishes.  Other times, art wins out and I find myself at my kitchen table, painting while ignoring the ever growing stack of dirty dishes behind me.

    Seeking a Balance

    Ideally of course, I’d strike a balance that gets all the chores done, makes it to the gym to work out, spends time with my husband and kids, visits with my grandchild, makes time for friends, and still gets artwork done.  As of yet though, I haven’t found that balance.  I come close at times, but then I get lost in a painting and fall behind of everything else.

    Speaking of Getting Lost in a Painting…

    Speaking of getting lost in what I’m doing, I’ve been working here and there on lots of different art, even though I haven’t posted all of it yet.  For quite some time I was lost in the painting of Sphinx Dude.

    The first Sphinx Dude painting came about almost by accident.  I was preparing a little mini canvas for doing an abstract, and I was laying on texture with a palette knife.  I set the painting aside to dry the background, and when I picked it up, my eyes saw, in the random texture patterns, a picture!  I saw a Sphinx with wild curly hair, then I saw a shape like a dragon, or a seahorse coming out of the sphinx’s mouth.  The abstract was forgotten as I painted in what my mind saw in the patterns.

    Below is a picture of that background, can you see the Sphinx Dude?

    Sphinx Dude comes alive
    This was a random background, until I saw something in it.

    In case you couldn’t make it out, I have another photo that I opened in MS paint, and quickly outlined what I saw.  So now you can compare the two photos:

    Sphinx Dude begins to take form
    So I outlined the shapes I saw with purple. Can you see them now?

    So, long story short, I had to paint this!
    Spinx dude regular 2

    So with that, Sphinx Dude was born, but I had the nagging desire to further develop the concept.

    Sphinx Dude Grows Up

    So, I started another painting, this time, not a mini canvas, so I would be able to let Sphinx Dude develop and mature.  In the process of maturing, Sphinx Dude grew wings and took on more natural coloration.  I titled this second piece, “Sphinx Dude’s World”.

    Sphinx Dude Space painting dragon
    Sphinx Dude’s World THIS PIECE HAS SINCE SOLD

    Both of the Sphinx Dude paintings have sold, but I have plans for a third.  I am trying to decide between two possibilities for further adventures of Sphinx Dude.

     

    Growing as an Artist

    Sphinx Dude isn’t the only one who has been growing.  I’ve been experimenting with different techniques and mediums in order to grow as an artist.  Sphinx Dude was born out of my palette knife painting experiments.  Here is another painting done completely with a palette knife, the only thing I used a brush on was the signature.

    Cherry Blossom palette knife paitning
    Cherry Blossom painting completed with a palette knife.

    In addition to playing with palette knife techniques, I’ve been trying watercolors as well, but more on that next time.


  • Weeding

    Sometimes for an artist, as with any other profession or lifestyle, one finds it necessary to do some gardening.

    What do I mean by that?

    Well, as any gardener knows, a weed is really just a plant that is growing where you don’t want it to.  There is nothing inherently wrong with this plant, many weeds are beautiful wildflowers, and many are useful to humans and animals alike.  However, if you have a plan for a garden that calls for tomatoes to grow in this particular patch of earth, and instead you find dandelions and grass, you decide to take action.



    That is the place I found myself in today.  I belonged to artist group on Facebook that was supposed to help artists figure out how to market their work.  However, the group was generally not that helpful.  Several times I posted links to my website asking for advice on the appearance and structure of the website, and found myself not only not getting helpful answers, but also having it implied that I was just trying to promote myself on the group.

    Well, why would I promote myself to other artists who are all trying to market their own art?  I was simply asking for help, which was the stated purpose of the group, help with marketing.

    If today’s incidents had been the first problems, I would have shrugged it off, apologized for my “mistake”, and moved on.  But it’s happened before, it seems like any attempt to share any part of your own experience on that group is viewed as self promotion and is against the rules.  I am not one to make trouble, and I am not one to knowingly violate the rules, but with this group I just seemed to not be able to understand how they wanted things done.  I grew weary of innocent requests for help being removed from the group wall, and I began to wonder what was the point of belonging to the group if I couldn’t ask for help.

    I decided that trying to figure out what was allowed and not allowed on the group was simply more a cause of stress to me than it was a help.

    In the garden of my life, unnecessary stress is a dandelion in my tomato patch.

     

    So, like any smart gardener, I decided to tend my garden and pull that weed.  Now, I don’t have any hard feelings toward the group or the administrator.  Like a dandelion, which is beautiful at the right time, and in the right place, and can be useful for certain purposes, this group is good for some people in some circumstances.  But also like a dandelion, you don’t want it in your tomato patch.

    Right now in my life, this dandelion was growing in my tomatoes.  So I left the group.

    Hopefully, nobody there thinks I have anything against them, I’m just busy growing tomatoes!


  • Tell Me Why… Art Blog Part 2

    Synopsis of part 1:  My dear husband and I discussed what a blog was in general. I also began explaining what an art blog was specifically.  The conversation ended with him asking why I needed a blog specifically for art, which I didn’t answer at that time.  I answer that question here, not just for him, but for anyone who wants to read.

    So decided it would be good to explain here the “why” of having a blog for art.  Obviously, the first reason is to share my art.  I mean most artists don’t create art in the hopes that nobody ever lays  eyes on it, we create it to share.  We want others to see it, we hope they will like it, we hope they will get pleasure from it, or understand the message we tried to convey with it.  Even if they don’t care for it, we hope they will see it and come away with a little more understanding of what we were trying to say.

    So an art blog provides the artist with a way to share their art, but this answer begs the question, “Why a blog specifically for art?  Why not just a general blog, or sharing to Facebook or other social media?”

    There are a few answers to this.  First, not everyone has, or wants, a personal blog.  Many artists don’t feel any particular inclination to write, and especially not about their personal lives.  However, making a blog with the primary purpose of sharing art is something that benefits the artist, without requiring that they pour out details about the happenings of their day.

    A second answer is  that many who have a personal blog share more on it than they want the average stranger to read.  They only share their blog with a selection of people.  A blog specifically for art can be  shared with the general public.  The artist only shares those parts of their lives that directly impacts their art.   This means that people who are really only interested in the art don’t have to be bored with the story of what aunt Martha bought the kids for Christmas. It also means that the readers of the personal blog can receive  an abbreviated tale of the art related stuff, along with a link to the art blog if they want to know more.

    Third, the art blog is a place to offer art for sale, while the personal one is a place for friends.  The readers of the art blog can get to know the artist in a limited way that relates to art, and they don’t need to know every single detail.  For an artist who sells their art, it is a business as well as a passion and hobby.  Like any business, there needs to be some separation between the business and the personal life.  How would you feel if your friend sold cars and every time you saw them they started a sales pitch about the newest great deal on their lot?  How would you feel if your doctor came into the exam room and started telling you about his marital problems?  No, there needs to a separation, and when there isn’t it makes the business person look unprofessional and the friend look fake and pushy.

    Another example of this need of separation is politics.  On my personal blog I often state my political points of view.  If I am trying sell art, I want to avoid alienating potential customers because they may hold a different view than I do. On my art blog, I don’t post about politics, unless one of my pieces of art touches on a political issue, which most do not.

    As for Facebook and other social media, they have their place, but it is limited.  Its actually against Facebook policy to constantly use your personal account to sell things.  If you open a “Fan Page” for your art, Facebook’s new post guidelines hide much of what you post unless you pay to promote those posts.  Facebook also has terms of use that actually gives away some of the rights to what you post.  You don’t lose your copyright completely, you can still sell your art, both originals, prints, and downloads, but you do give up some control over anything you upload on Facebook.  You agree to let Facebook use your images, and that includes in advertising that doesn’t benefit you in any way.  Contrary to what some think, posting a status or statement revoking that permission has no legal standing.  By having an art blog, you can link to your art content without actually uploading that content to Facebook.  This allows you to retain legal control over your art.

    Now, that isn’t to say that I never post any images of my art to Facebook, I have, but when I do I am aware that people can download it, copy it, print it, even use it in ads, and legally I can’t really do anything about it, because when I agreed to Facebook’s terms of service, I agreed that Facebook could do whatever they wanted with pictures I uploaded.  I have guidelines over what and how I upload things to Facebook, which I’ll share sometime in another article.  For now I’ll just say that Facebook isn’t the best place to upload your art if you want to be able to sell or license that art yourself.  So, Facebook can be good place to post links to your blog, and to develop some interest in your work, but its best if as a professional you have your own space, where you control what is posted, what is shared, and who is invited.

    An art blog can also be tied to your art website, such as this one is.  I blog about my experiences with and thoughts about art on the blogging tab, but I have a landing page with a slideshow of some of my art, and a gallery tab where people can buy the art.  This website is still under construction, so I haven’t added anywhere near all of my art, and I plan to add more tabs also, such as a “contact the artist” tab, and perhaps a “commissions order” tab.

    On an art blog you can also run contests, post how to videos, and almost anything else you want to do related to your art, while with social media you are limited by their terms.  I would like to add though, that if you use a free blogging service sometimes you are limited to their terms as well. In general, the free blogging sites aren’t as restrictive as the social media sites though, and they can be a good place to start your blogging experience.  However, free sites do have their limits, and eventually you may find that its best to move to your own website, with your own domain name and hosting service.

    A fourth reason for an art blog is that it allows the art collector, or potential art collector, to connect with the artist.  It allows the collector to feel that they know the artist as a person, while still keeping enough distance to feel professional.

    So to recap, the reasons for an art blog are:

    1. To have a place to share your art.

    2. To help keep business and personal life separate.

    3. An art blog can be your virtual “storefront” where you sell your creations while still maintaining legal control of them.

    4. An art blog lets a collector connect to the artist, but in a way that is limited enough to still remain professional.

    There might be other reasons as well, that I haven’t thought of, but these are the reasons that stand out to me most, and that I’ll share with my husband the next time we speak of this.

    Copyright Vicki Maheu, all rights reserved.
    Visitor to the Backyard Pond
    By V.J. Maheu

  • A What? Art Blog.. Part One*

    “You started a what?”  He asked, looking confused, then turned his attention back to his cup of coffee.

    “Another blog.” I said, wondering why it seemed like I was always repeating myself.

    “Since when do you have a blog, and why do need another one, and what exactly is a blog anyway?”

    “Well, a blog is kind of like a journal, except it’s on the internet, and usually anyone can read it.  It comes from the words “web” and “log”, you know web, as in the world-wide web, and log… as in…”

    “Captains log, Stardate  41855.2…”  he interrupted in his best Captain Picard voice,  “I know what a log is!”

    At this point in the conversation, I felt like this:
    picard facepalm

    But I didn’t remark on that.  Instead I continued.

    “Okay, so a blog is a log on the internet, and I’ve had one for a couple of years, where have you been?  Anyway, I need another one because my first one is a personal blog, in it I tell about homeschooling, trying to lose weight, what I’m making for dinner, or where we went on a date.  The new blog I started is an Art Blog.”

    “Don’t you post your art on your personal blog?”

    “Well yes, but this blog will just be for art, and art related stuff.”

    “Oh, Okay.  Why?”

    At this point in the conversation, my husband and I looked a little like this:

    crusherdata

    So I decided it was best to continue the conversation another time.

    *The preceding conversation is  fictional, but is being used to convey true facts, I had to say that or my husband would object!

     

    Thank you for reading! If you liked what you see, please consider following this blog by entering your email address at the bottom of the page,  or follow me on Google+ by clicking HERE.  I welcome your suggestions on how to make this blog more interesting to you!

    Fine Art America is the place to go for unsigned Prints of all my Paintings.

     

    My Etsy shop is the place to go to buy my originals that I haven’t added to this site yet, I sell a few select prints there also, and there you can choose if you’d like me to  sign them before shipping!  Eventually I’ll move all of my fine art products to this page, and leave only crafts on Etsy, but for now my art is in both places.