Posts

Walking daily

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One good thing that has come out of this shelter-in-place is that I am walking daily. Previously, my exercise consisted of Body Pump at the gym three times a week. Sometimes I would walk right after, about 2 miles in the park (where I took photos of the man with the dog in the previous post). Once upon a time, a long time ago, I tried walking daily regardless of gym regimen. That didn't last.
Now I am walking daily, and lately, have been running and walking in alternate minutes to up the cardio. I find I am not sleeping very well - I am probably not tired enough since I don't have the usual runaround and drive-around that I do back-to-back when I am out and about. Now, I am mostly sitting in the day, aside from the hour of walk-and-run. And I am playing a great deal of online Scrabble - a new vice.
I keep taking pictures on my walk of the various flowers I see. Spring is here, and how! Everything is blooming, the sunlight kisses it and creates very paintworthy scenes, so I am …

Watching DVDs

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In this lockdown, I have decided to paint more on my own - be it going out for plein air (harder to do without a companion) or at home (harder to do anyway :-(  ). I cleaned up my desk after my last project and I put my tabletop easel on the wiped-down surface. Now, from across the room, I feel the tidiness invites me - the easel with a blank sheet of watercolor paper, a clean bowl of water, and paints and brushes set up on the right. Now I don't need to set up from scratch and only need to know what to paint.
Which isn't always easy.
Typically watching YouTube videos of artists I like inspires me to no end. Who better, then, than Charles Reid? My artist teacher-cum-friend Bill Dunn mailed me two DVDs from his personal collection to watch during this quiet time. One of them isn't available in any library, nor through Link+. It is Charles Reid's English Watercolour Sketchbook. I loved watching it, and was inspired to paint like him - alla prima - and not in layers. I di…

This complete moment

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Today's morning meditation and, in particular, a couple of lines, struck me:

Just as you breathe, and let the breath go, then the next one comes, in, out, let it go, let life's events come and go the same way. Don't hold on, just like you don't hold on to the breath.

I don't think about the breaths that have passed, nor do I think about the breaths that will come in an hour. Why, then, do I not paint the same way?
I find I focus a lot on the future - specifically getting into big shows - and I paint with that in mind. I also paint bigger with that in mind, and I don't think I am ready to be that big just yet. When I am not thinking of all that, I paint well, instinctively. When all that takes over, my instinct goes for a toss and I paint under various kinds of pressure.

If I could just focus on today, this moment, and focus on what there is to learn, what I am lacking in - then I could master that one task at a time, and trickle it to my paintings. When multiple…

COVID Plein Air

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It's been nearly a month since I blogged, and how much has happened in that one month! We are all under lockdown with strict social distancing rules. In this time, I think not of what I cannot do, but I'm thinking hard of what I can. What challenge can I set myself around these rules, and overcome something I've been scared to try?
One thing comes to mind - plein-airing on my own.
Pushing myself internally excites me. I feel so much power thinking of setting myself a restraint and having the willpower to see it through. I am reborn that way. I know I can do it.
Last week, I reached out to Jane and we went plein-airing in downtown Los Altos. We sat across an intersection from each other, and it made such a difference to me to know that she was there, painting away as well. A passer-by stopped by my chair on the sidewalk and thanked me for being normal.
At the end of that session, I said to Jane, "See you tomorrow, same time!" and suggested a place. We met there th…

Reversing the routine

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Typically, watercolor is painted in layers - lightest wash, then darker, then darkest darks. When I started watercolor, I had trouble breaking down the scene in layers and putting the lightest wash over everything (but whites). I couldn't see the scene that way.
Now I can.
It seems that when I've learned how to do that, something comes along to change it up!
I took Tim Saternow's workshop last week. His basic MO is to do a value study (grisaille) under the color painting. The color is just tints - sometimes darker, but the value study shines through. And it is the value study, the very bones of the painting, that have to be strong for the painting to be strong, and to be carried.
We started with the darkest darks - once those are laid down (as Charles Reid said: you then have your values set - darkest darks and lightest lights - white of paper - down first, everything else comes in between) the painting will never be weak.
Tim said that in judging the 1200+ entries of the …

S l o w

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For this past Thursday's paintsite, we went to UC Santa Cruz's lovely Arboretum, and I was instantly taken by this structure - this Japanese looking glass cube perched above the Succulent Garden. I found out later when I went up the steps to look inside it that it
- was called "Owl Observatory" - contained inside it a cracked concrete slab with two empty chairs facing each other - was a charming wood structure with what looked like a skylight inside, but instead of glass, had a wood panel on which was painted Saturn that (possibly) glows at night - contained an old framed black and white photograph of ITSELF - of the structure from the outside. ... a self-reflective device.  I did a small compositional study, though I had an idea in my mind of what the composition would be - vertical, with stairs leading up to this structure. I followed the whites/light areas as I looked at the scene, and made some things lighter than they were simply to keep my whites connected. I t…

Spark & Glow

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I feel I do my best work en plein air. There is a sense of urgency so I tend to be less fussy. I am more uncomfortable and want to be done with it. I am not using a photo and the light is changing. When I look at photos of the same subject later, they seem more drab. Of course I can use the photo and create my own composition, but I tend to want to do more of that in field, when the spark of inspiration is fresh. Often the photo will lose the sense of depth, and more things will be in a dark value silhouette than they actually are - the error of the camera. With my eye, I can bring that distant flag into focus and MAKE it my focus, which the camera may pick up like a toothpick. When I am wandering around looking for where to set up en plein air, I stop when I am inspired. I can modify the values and create my depth of field, modify the values and blur my edges to create my focus, and manipulate the composition to lead the eye there. In that moment of inspiration, all that theory comes…