Sunday, November 19, 2017

A Fingerpainting in Oil: Offering to Apollo

The beautiful and radiant sunflower (helianthus L.,  is from the Greek Helios meaning sun, and the Greek anthus meaning plant) is a member of a genus of species comprised of about 70 plants.

Artists, dreamers, and gardeners have been enchanted by the bright and cheerful disposition of the majestic sunflower--painting, writing about, being inspired by and growing them. They are so lovely when planted in groupings with the taller golden ones in the back and the vermillion types in the front. Such groupings are never rigid though. The rebellious ones turn their backs on the sun. And some sunflower heads are so laden, they droop.

"Garden at Vetheuil"
Claude Monet

A few weeks ago, in October, my family and I traveled to Fausett Sunflower Farms in the Appalachian foothills of Dawsonville, Georgia just to see the sunflower fields. Well, for me to see the sunflowers. Ha!

We stayed in nearby Dahlonega, a busy-but-not-too-busy college town. Dahlonega is gorgeous and clean, and I highly recommend you visit. Lodge at one of the bed and breakfast inns downtown; there's a lot to do all within walking distance.

We headed out on Saturday morning to Dawsonville. It was amazing to see golden yellow undulating across fields before we reached the entrance to the farm. We knew we were in the right place!

The late morning sky was cobalt and clear. There was a slight breeze which was welcome as it was humid and in the 80s. Orange butterflies skittered from big yellow flower to big yellow flower. Bumblebees were industrious, crawling across the heads and then vanishing.  A few blue morning glories curled their way up the trunks of the helianthus. Wild purple asters and blue chicory blanketed the earth next to a small stream. We all took some lovely photos, bought some honey, and lotion bars. We would have left with some freshly cut sunflowers but there was nowhere to store them for the remainder of our trip.

Several weeks later and I have finally gotten around to painting sunflowers. I worked in oil using my fingers. I have found this is the best way for me to achieve the impressionistic look I so dearly love.

"Offering to Apollo"
24 x 30, fingerpainting in oil

Finger painting naturally evolved. One day, I had cleaned all of my brushes but saw an area I wanted to correct. I did so with my fingers. And then another stroke. Yet another. The look was exactly what I had wanted to achieve...the little taches. The paint is thick and juicy, sensuous. It glows and there's tremendous depth.

Detail . This portion makes another great composition which I am going to paint. Always look for compositions within compositions.

I work with cadmium, cobalt and lead paints, so I do wear gloves. Would you consider finger painting?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Touch of Tâche: the Heart of Impressionism, and a New Painting

Johan Barthold Jongkind (3 June 1819 – 9 February 1891) was a Dutch painter and printmaker who exhibited in the Paris salons. He painted in a "free" style, that is, he was unencumbered by the rigid rules of academic painting, and was a forerunner of French Impressionism. In fact, he was a mentor to Claude Monet; Monet is one of Impressionism's strongest forces, along with Degas, Renoir, Pissaro, Sisley, et al.

Johan Jongkind

The tâche (pronounced "tash") in French means spot or dab. The Impressionists, following in the footsteps of Jongkind, created their canvases with dabs and spots of colors that seemed to vibrate.

The Impressionists may have been influenced by the work of the French chemist, Michel Eugene Chevreul. Chevreul  had an important influence on the art world. He became director of the dye works at the Gobelins Manufactory in Paris and one task was to solve color problems. For instance, some colors did not separate visually. If you have a purple and a black of near value (tone) next to one another, the colors are going to meld into one color optically. The solution is to lay red and blue next to one another to create a combination that from a distance reads as purple. This is known as divisionism or pointillism.

The Neo-impressionists were more lkely to have used divisionism in a theoretical way as laid out by Chevreul. However, I can say with absolute truth that the eye can be trained to see the tâche in nature. Monet alluded to the reality of color division when he made this statement on the process of painting, "Merely think, here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow, and paint it..." The tâche is the heart of Impressionism.

Spectral photography has proven that Monet did not strictly employ Chevreul's scientific theory as formerly thought (unfortunately, it continues to be parroted that the Impressionists used color theory in a scientific manner). The blues and yellows to create the green grass in a Monet painting were shadows and lights, respectively. Any impressionist en plein air painter has probably observed this same phenomenon, especially in more southern latitudes. If you observe light and shadow on a  Texas sidewalk, you will note a very strong violet shadow, depending on the time of day. Further north, the shadow will likely be blue. We certainly can employ color theory when needed however.

My latest painting uses thousands of tâches. I was inspired by an upcoming theme for a show entitled, "Homeward Bound." The piece below is from my imagination. The house is a loose rendering of the Davenport House in Savannah, GA. I am thankful that snow is a rare thing here. I'd love to paint more nocturnes. I have always loved the night.

"Going Home"
18 x 24, oil on canvas

Detail of sky with strokes of color that read as atmosphere

Detail of german shepherd with many dabs while maintaining looseness

Next: I am beginning work on a sunflower painting. In October, my family and I traveled to Dawsonville, GA to visit Faucett Sunflower Farm, home to over 900,000 sunflowers. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Dynamic Plein Air Sketching

I like to fly by the seat of my pants. Without a thumbnail sketch or drawing preparation, I usually hit my canvas or board with some wild colors when painting en plein air. I might mark the center and approximate the Golden Mean before beginning. One or two construction lines if I'm feeling like it.

I experimented the other day with a value sketch. I grabbed a gessoed bristol sheet taped to a clipboard and some drawing supplies. My cellphone was hidden in the pocket of my jeans. And my wild paints remained at home.

I wandered (carefully, vipers everywhere) through my beautiful forest, anticipating the golden sunlight moving rapidly from one plant to the next. Sunlight moves quick in the wooded wetlands, something most people will never see. Even plein artists might be surprised; the light moves so fast that you can't paint it at the moment you see it. You have to rely on memory and/or take a photo.

The entire forest was backlit as far as I could see. Green leaves became citrine, emerald and lemon. Scarlet and purple foliage glowed amber and ruby. Bedazzlement. No wonder I love fall so much.

Then I saw my focal point. A forest plant embraced by a dark pine sparkled as if lit from within. I took a photo and went to work with a mechanical pencil. I added the darks with a 6B. I had a pretty darn good value sketch when finished, considering the furious pace.

When I had returned home, I used burnt umber watercolor and white gouache to complete a value plan. Once dry, I painted into the sketch with a limited oil palette, one I use for classical portraits plus two extra colors.

The color study turned out excellent and I received a lot of good feedback from Facebook friends and in art forums.

Color Study: "Sunlit Wetlands"
6 x  8

My next step is to complete a larger painting from this little study but using my "wild" colors, my impressionist palette. I've learned to see in full color. It's almost like seeing pixels at times. No LSD has been conumed, thanks.

Right. A classical palette is not for this fly-by-her-seat-of-her-pants-girl. What classical work has taught me, however, is to work within a smaller range of colors (you know, color schemes) for a particular painting for a more pleasing look. And I have always loved chiaroscuro, intense dark versus light, so that is a no-brainer.

Will I continue with these value sketches? We'll see how my larger painting of "Sunlit Wetlands" turns out. If I can keep it loose and fresh, yes I will continue with the value sketches (in boring colors--well, maybe not).

It is likely, I will create new paintings inspired by my little sketches. That makes them jewels in and of themselves. After all, no photo can ever capture what I see or what I dream.

Next: My latest painting, "Going Home"

Monday, November 6, 2017

Creative Genius, Divine Will, and Pointillism

If I had to choose a favorite painter, it would be the French neoimpressionist painter, Paul Signac. His paintings scintillate in ways that other paintings of his time cannot.

Palais de Papes Avignon
Paul Signac

Signac was a genius, not just knowledgeable of the science of color.put forth by the French chemist, Michel Eugene Chevreul. Signac would have employed his great creative intelligence to formulate the color arrangements and compositions of his paintings.

I do not seek to emulate Signac. His paintings have a graphical nature that is a bit off putting to me. I like more soft edges, even diaphanous ones.

I always engage my own creativity when painting. I never just copy from life. More often than not, my paintings are from my imagination. There is nothing wrong with copying directly from nature, and that, too, takes talent. But if I have been gifted with creative intelligence (genius level IQ -- IQ is ability to learn but some traits/strengths are inborn), I need to nurture and share that gift, no matter how late to the party. One might say I am in accord with Divine will.

I used to think that artists who proclaimed their creative ability was a gift from God (the Divine, Collective Unconscious, etc.} were arrogant. Then I realized that we all have gifts that can enrich humanity.

I have found that all styles of painting feel comfortable to me. But pointillism, or little taches of color, is the most natural form of expression for me. It certainly is the most challenging. I am working within a structure of the classical atelier however. One can never draw too much. And the learning never ceases. Nor does the overall difficulty. It is true that the human figure is very difficult. And this is why we see few portrait artists. To draw the figure takes hard work, a lot of time, and...talent.

I am currently work on a piece I will entitle, "Going Home." Once this piece is complete, I will post. Here is a detail. You can see my taches of color:

Detail of "Going Home"

Until next time...

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

From There to Here to There

My husband collected our family german shepherd, Merlin, and myself. After a long 14-hour drive, we arrived home at 6:00 am on New Year's Eve  2015. It had been a long 5 months since I'd seen my daughter. And this was the first time I'd seen our beautiul new home. My husband had an art studio built for me on the second floor. French doors, a big window, a lovely ceiling fan, ventilation for toxic fumes, a full sink in the studio proper, and a half bath.

Entrance to My Studio

In southeast Georgia, our traditional home lies in a wooded wetlands (swamp). While I love the Appalachians, this flat coastal region has its own beauty. The tall loblolly pines are reminiscent of my original home in the Great Dismal Swamp of southeast Virginia, also on the coast.

I had many paranormal  experiences in those childhood woods, including what I later learned was a will-o-the-wisp, and spotting the translucent vaporous forms one would call spirits, or perhaps ghosts.

Our Road (too narrow for two cars to pass in some places)

As a young child I remained in trouble for daydreaming during class. While other children dutifully listened to our teacher, I was out of my body, outside of the building. You see, there were trees outside our windows. And they had a lot to say.  I was in communion with nature, the Divine.

I'm not quite sure how I learned anything as I missed most of the homework assignments. I managed to move into accelerated courses despite distractions. I was even one year younger than my peers and was informed I could graduate high school a year early.

For certain, the constant daydreaming, out-of-the-body experiences, and fantasizing did three things for me, 1) I can visualize like no one's business, 2) I am extremely creative, and 3) I can go into trance anytime I desire.

One of Two Wisteria Sconces (I love stained glass)

Speaking of education, I've never had lessons in drawing nor painting. I often think if I had had the right mentor, I would have progressed faster. I must remind myself that is not actually true. It has been of the greatest importance for me to dabble in most art media, genres, and styles to round out my art education.

And I am still evolving with my art. I've moved from the colorful palette of full-color-seeing impressionism to a limited palette and more traditional painting. Maybe that doesn't sound exciting to some; I assure you no drab paintings shall escape my brush whatsoever. I know that my world is going to explode into dazzling light wedded to satin darkness. Chiaroscuro dreams of moonlight. Oh yes, I have a series planned.

Next: something along the line of God, IQ, and Talent

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Becoming a Master Painter

Mastery of drawing and painting is achieved by daily effort over a long period of time, likely 10 to 20 years. One does not necessarily need a live mentor but one must have structure at some point. Short of attending a classical atelier, the right materials and a superhuman work ethic will take you where you want to go.

The desire has to burn so deeply that one will dismiss all other distractions other than those that support the Path. One's focus must be very narrow and pointed, while including a vast and varied array of important study materials covering many art subjects.

One must first learn basic skills: composition (how shapes relate to one another), value relationships (the darkness or lightness of tones), linear perspective, atmospheric (or aerial) perspective, and volume. There is so much good information online that one is not required to purchase instructional materials in the beginning of the journey.

Sadly, if one pursues an art degree in many universities today, they may not learn the basic skills needed to become a successful or highly-skilled artist. Mastery doesn't happen at the doctorate level either. Often, the attitude is, "do what you want." If a dentist or lawyer took that attitude, he or she would not be very successful.

I've been painting for a long time, jumping from one subject to another, painting in different styles.  Save for teaching myself the basics, I've meandered quite a bit. I wish I had had a mentor 30 years ago.

My copy of  "Girl with a Pearl Earring" by Johannes Vermeer

I now know where I want to go and I have the structure to get there. In my heart, I was aware of what I really wanted. And I knew it would be a solo path.  If I win the lottery, I won't hesitate to move to Florence, Italy and study 10 years in an atelier however.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

International Giveaway Coming

I had a national US giveaway recently and I had promised one for my international friends. So, the international giveaway is coming soon.

I would ask that you be a Facebook friend. Friend me here:

To make you eligible, I will ask you to either share a blogspot post from here or either a a Facebook post when I decide what the heck I'm going to do.

The way this works is I write down the name of each friend who has shared my post on a slip of paper. My husband draws the name. It was a lot of fun the last time. I only wish that everyone could have won. If I were wealthy enough, I'd give everyone a painting or a print. That would be a dream come true for me.

Doing Dad Stuff