Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Thoughts on Popularity of Plein Air, Updates posted (by others) on Peel Mansion Paint-out, Goals, Sun-Eden Watercolor Tripod

Well, unfortunately I never made it to Phoenix as I was not yet over my illness, but now am better and ready to re-group and get back to work. Was so sorry not to make it to my great-niece's graduation, but was able to talk to her that night and sounds like everyone had a great time. Hope you had a nice Memorial Day weekend. The weather was rainy here. My hubby finally got to grill his steaks yesterday but it started raining on him again just as he was finishing up. Umm, they were delish!

As for an update on the Peel Mansion Paint-out, I've posted a couple of links in the column on the left side of this blog under 'Recent and Upcoming Events in Arkansas' regarding how it went. Looks like it was very successful and I'm so happy as that means it will surely become an annual event. Hopefully, Heart of American Artists' Assoc. (founded by John Lasater and Todd Williams) and Peel Mansion have started the ball rolling as far as getting other organizations interested in sponsoring plein air events.

I don't know if it's just that I'm so aware of everything 'Plein Aire', but am I wrong in feeling lately that in the U.S., and maybe worldwide, Plein Air painting may be experiencing a renaissance similar to what happened with the popularity of gardening over the last 10-20 years? I know personally, I started my fascination with plein air back in the late '70's, but there was no internet to search the subject. Also, I was busy working and mothering at the time so my only connection to the art world was via books. But there weren't many on Plein Air painting like there are today, and certainly not the number of videos currently being made! Anyway, if it's truly going through a 'rebirth' I'm thrilled. I do feel that, as in gardening's comeback, it can be related to one's desire to get back in touch with our earth and with nature, especially in such times as being so disconnected due to technology, with global warming, and from a strictly artistic POV, that our greatest teacher is Mother Nature herself. What's your take on this thought?

I received my new Sun-Eden easel and I can't wait to try it out! The one I purchased was the 'Heavy-duty Plein Air Tripod'. I was concerned about the 'travel adaptor' (the part that holds your canvas/watercolor board) being plastic; not to worry, it seems strong enough to hold up even to pretty windy conditions. I am concerned though about the tripod. It's a bit bulky when folded up and at first I could have sworn it was heavier than my old tripod. But I went back and re-read the specs on both and even weighed each one on my postal scale and sure enough, the Sun-Eden tripod is slightly (every ounce is being counted!) lighter than my old one. I guess, because of it's bulkiness when folded, it visually appears heavier. Anyway, the bulkiness makes it a bit cumbersome so I'll just have to see. The plastic tray that holds one's palette, etc. is very nice too. I'll give an update on it after I use it.

My goals for this week:

  • Do some plein air painting with my new easel!
  • Prepare some pots for glazing; I've ordered some more ^6 'Buff' clay from Flint Hills Clay works.
  • I want to make some changes to my website i.e. colors, etc.
  • I've made a new goal to dedicate the equivalent of at least one hour a DAY in my yard / gardens. It's the only way I'm ever going to get my yard looking half-way decent or the way it should!
  • Although it's very time consuming, and I probably won't get the time to do it (such negativity, I should strike this!), I want to make a new 'winter to spring' video to replace the 'March' one for my blog.
Until my next post, happy painting, gardening, photographing, or whatever!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Peel Mansion Paint-Out

I was so excited about going to the Peel Mansion and Heart of America Artists' Assoc.'s Plein Air Rendevous, but became sick that first morning and had to miss the rest of the event! What are the odds? Bummer. Anyway, it looked like they had a great turn-out for their 1st one. I know there were 40 people pre-registered a few days before the event and people could also register the morning of the 1st day. It was a beautiful thing to see all the artists scattered across the lawn in front of the old house with their easels, going to work on their paintings. There were also other historical landmarks in Bentonville including Compton Gardens participating, so artists were in different areas. This was the first time for me to attend a plein air event so I was very disappointed to have to miss out, but just being there for that short time was very productive for me. I really enjoyed it while I was there and in that very short span of time, it's amazing how much I learned via my mistakes while painting that morning. My favorite quote for years has been "The more you know, the more you know you don't know" (Aristotle). My painting was a disaster, but I learned a LOT from every mistake I made like:

  • Don't for one second on my first attempt at a paint-out think I'm going to finish within the time allotted for myself. Mainly because people are everywhere; coming up to you to introduce themselves, take photos, etc., and being intimidated because painting around 'others' is so new to me, and not accustom to having someone/people looking over my shoulder, I would STOP, visit with them, and wait for them to meander on before swinging back into gear. Lost a lot of time, not to mention focused energy on the task at hand doing this, but closer to the end, I wasn't even looking at the person speaking to me; was so into my painting (and becoming aware of a sunburn) that I kept painting furiously, realizing I had gone over the 2 hours I had allowed myself by almost an hour. I should be used to this as it happened all the time in the studio classroom. But that's just the thing, it was a classroom, everyone knew each other, we were all in the same boat, and were not being viewed by the 'outside'. Now I AM on the outside and this very issue has been another hurdle for me to overcome painting en plein air. But now I've done it, it wasn't so bad, I can't worry what by-standers may say or think about my painting and I'm ready to move on!
  • Yes, I know what you were thinking when I mentioned 'sunburn'. Why did you set up where the sun would hit you? Don't you know to set up in the shade if you don't have an umbrella? And don't you want to take advantage of the cast shadows that would enhance the structure of the focal point? Well, my reason in doing so is because I wanted to paint the 'backlit' side of the house, like Zbukvic suggests, and I found a great view that no one else had chosen (can't imagine why). All the other painters were out on the front lawn. There were only three of us in the back, a guy over in a shaded corner, a very sweet looking older lady with an umbrella along the sidewalk, who looked like she had done this many times before; her painting of a water pump among the flowers was coming along nicely, and me, just outside a shaded area wishing it was closer. Oh yeah, along with a possum that had been captured overnight in a trap. A guy told me they were having 'squirrel problems', but of course they caught a possum instead. Felt sorry for the little guy, wanted to let him go. He looked sleepy, and he was in the nice cool shade of the house...I digress, anyway, I'll know next time that I'm too much of a novice to think I can paint faster than the sun. Actually, just so you don't think I'm a total idiot, several people that came by thought I had chosen a great view, even though it was eventually in the blazing sun. One lady that came by close to the end of my venture, when the sun was beating down on me said "Oh my, you out there in the full sun!" Then after coming over to my side and turning around to see my subject matter implied "I see now why you're here. This is a great view!" This was the view I chose to paint:
The dappled sunlight on the walkway and foreground grass was really nice, and the white of the banister patterns, columns, and porch ceiling was casting some beautiful pale blue shadows. The weather was perfect, nice and cool, until I was in the sun. I was planning to just make the corner of the banister and porch the focal point until the artist came along later and set up her easel. It made for a great painting. Will have to re-do this one for sure, but place the artist a little to the left. She's too dead-center don't you think? Actually, I think she looks best right where she is, think I'll leave her there. I definitely plan on returning to get in practice with my plein air painting.
  • As far as my actual painting went, I over-worked it, crossed the line of no return in watercolor, was getting sick, physically and emotionally, was sunburned and frustrated that I ruined a potentially decent painting (nothing new, I do that a lot), but I learned so much as I painted and have mentally gone over what I need to do differently next time I paint this scene.
And even more importantly, I met some new artists (another thing, I really need to get out more). There was also a group of painters from Ft. Smith there, and most importantly, got some new information on a Plein Air group in the area. That was probably the most productive thing I could have achieved for the whole event. I do wish I had taken some photos of the artists on the lawn, as one day that would have been a significant photo, being the 1st annual Plein Air Rendezous for Peel Mansion. And it would have been a great photo. I had planned on getting photos later, as I thought I would be back the next morning, however, I felt so bad by Fri. morning, went straight to the doctor, then home to bed where I stayed all weekend. Thanks to some strong antibiotics, I'm feeling much better now, and looking forward to more paint-outs in the near future. As soon as I find an update on the Peel Mansion/Mid-American Artist's Assoc. Paint-out with the winners etc., I'll post a link to it. I'll be out-of-pocket for a couple of weeks. I'm supposed to leave next week to Arizona for my great niece's high school graduation. CONGRATS SHANTE, and best wishes to a bright future (see you soon) !!!

Until then, the following is something dedicated to all mothers out there, with a special note to Shante's mother, Felicia, a great Mom indeed. Gertrude Kasebier is one of my favorite Master Artists and the first time I saw this photo, it had a profound affect on me. My youngest daughter had left the nest, and this photo said it all. It also reminded me of my oldest daughter's 1st day of school...

To Felicia, and all Mothers, I hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day!

Blessed Art Thou Among Women,
Gertrude Kasebier, c1899

Monday, May 4, 2009

Painting in the Hollow: The Pines, Zbukvic, and Results from the Cone 6 Glaze Fire

I'm later than usual with my posting, but I wanted to wait 'til I finished and photographed my painting of the Pines in the hollow as I had said I would in my last post. Also wanted to give a report on how my glaze firing went, so here it is:

Painted our pine tree logs that I allowed the 'tree guys' to roll down into a small ravine directly behind the house. Silly me, I was running around after the guys felled the pines hauling them to a place in the back yard to save so that I can later do 'something' with them, what just yet I don't know. And with each one I would pass up, it was as if it were saying 'pick me, I don't want to go!' (I'm weird like that). Well, as it turned out, the guys were having a problem with the city (a place has been designated for disposal of trees from the ice storm damage) accepting the pine lumber (so they said). So I was very content to allow the men to leave all the pine with us. I really did not want those beautiful logs hauled away. Pine breaks down quickly and it just seemed right that they stay here. Oh, and the oak trees? Well, we've got enough fire wood for years to come!

I touched up the pines and added some highlights here and there in the studio.

The Pines, wc, 9 1/8" x 12 7/8"
I was so frustrated with it while painting in the woods, but kept reminding myself of what Joseph Zbukvic says, to 'keep going' when painting your subject outdoors and 'never lose faith' because as soon as you do, you'll fail at your attempt. He is so right! I kept painting, and although I wasn't satisfied, I did feel the painting had some potential. After about an hour, I was getting stiff from sitting on the ground, and also felt I may be getting a tick or two (which I later discovered was true) so I lumbered back to to studio, untaped my painting, threw it around here and there trying to decide what to do with it. Toss it to the done that pile, or keep going? The logs were only partially painted, but that was really the only thing left unfinished, aside from adding a little detail to the foreground trees. I just didn't want to give up on this painting. It held a lot of meaning for me. The hollow represented the final resting place for Daddy's pines. They represent 30 years of our life here, the lives of our girls, our pets, and a constant reminder of my father and his love for nature...nope, it was worth trying to save because as I looked at it, I could feel the emotion I had while painting them. It may not be the greatest painting, but it enabled me to work through the emotional and physical process of losing 'the pines', and hopefully viewers can be reminded of similar things that matter to them also.
Well, unfortunately, I was not so satisfied with my glaze fire. None of my cups turned out like I wanted, as the patterns I slipped on them barely show. The firing also went to cone 7 on the middle shelf and probably on the bottom shelf too (didn't use a witness cone on the bottom). However, that only seemed to compromise the brightness of the blue slip on one of my jars, but it may also be the reason for my slip decoration not showing up on the cups. I really think though, that [the slip doesn't show up] because my glaze application was too thick and my slip was too thin.
But I did have a couple of pieces turn out pretty good, such as the blue and white facetted 'safe jar' seen in this picture. The one in the foreground is the one that the blue slip did not come out on. The blue slip used on the inside however, did fine (fired it with the lid on). I may re-fire this piece later, as I've had success with the blue colors working on re-fires. Don't like to re-fire though. Always afraid the piece will break and create a mess in the kiln. Luckily, this has not yet happened to me. If I do decide to refire, I will only take it to about cone 5.

And my 'grass' cups turned out good:

These are some of my pendants. I'm have fun making them. I love making small clay things because of the portability. I can just sit anywhere and work on them. I carry everything I need around in a little shallow cardboard box and put a small amount of clay in a ziplock bag to keep it moist as it dries out quickly and will lose it 'malleable' texture if exposed to the air too long. I use food freezer paper, the waxed side as my surface to work on (sometimes getting a shape started by using the palm of my hand) as it leaves no marks on the clay. I draw out my patterns 1st on newspaper, then trace them using a felt-tip/sharpy pen on plastic tops of margarine and 'Cool Whip' bowls. These become my templates.

One final note for all you die-hard Joseph Zbukvic fans (like me) out there. He FINALLY got an official website, and also his new video, Watercolour Impressions with Joseph Zbukvic, is now available in the US via The Artists' Place. I bought it and very pleased with it. I could watch that guy paint all day. Maybe, just maybe one of these days I'll be able to take one of his workshops.

Well, that's all for now. I'll be posting again next week on a paint-out. Oh, and I've ordered the Sun-Eden watercolor tripod set. Will let you know what I think of it. I just can't keep lugging that 11 lb. french easel around; and so much wasted space, not to mention it's killing me. My shoulders, back, and knees, Oh my! Now I'll have one less excuse for plein air painting, as every time I'd think about all that weight, I would talk myself out of going somewhere to paint. I also plan on posting about my new macro lens (was my Christmas present from Santa) sometime in the near future. Until, then, happy painting, potting, photographing, or whatever makes you happy!