Thursday, December 21, 2017

Agave Grisaille, Finished

And- this is complete.  I think.  After it sits for the weekend, I should be able to know if I want more darks than I've put in so far.  In the meantime, I enjoyed this process and will use grisaille again.  It was fascinating.
The finished piece, 20" x 14"
Before the color was added, grisaille finished

Here's what I've learned:  The ink makes the paper less absorbent, so whatever color is added over makes interesting effects.  The pigment stayed on top of the paper longer wherever there was ink and so even a stainer like Phthalo blue acted more like a sedimentary color.  I liked it, but if you're going for a smooth look, be aware.  Also, having all of the white obscured in parts of the picture plane makes the remaining white underneath the colors all the more luminous.  Cool possibilities.  So, experiment complete.  Now I can concentrate on a sweet Christmas holiday.  I hope yours is wonderful.

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Glazing Begins

So, tonight opened up so I could spend some time on my project, woot woot!  I needed some quiet time.  Here's the progress so far in laying color over the dry ink.  It's going down pretty easily without lifting any ink back up.
I left some of the shapes grey on purpose for this photo to show what a dramatic difference the color glazes are making.  

Hopefully tomorrow will bring enough time to get this finished, but whether it does or not, this evening has been lovely.  Just Miles Davis (here to play some lovely music for my listening pleasure) and I, hanging out in the studio.  Ahhh, good times!

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Grisaille, a Sneak Peak

It is time to shake things up in my studio.  All those little bushes on my last painting kind of freaked my eyes out and I need something new to think about.  After doing a little research and thinking about it a bit, I decided to see what the technique- called grisaille- would look like under an agave with watercolor.  Might be a disaster, might be wildly successful, who knows?  At this point, all I can say for sure is my waterproof ink, Higgins "Black Magic," is a pain in the neck.  Wet on dry, wet into wet, getting a smooth gradation is tricky.  As you can see.
Wanting a chiaroscuro effect, I decided to go all out with a black ink underpainting.  

However, it's fun.  I like the stark look of it.  Playing around with value without the added thought process of color is interesting.  The black may totally kill the color when I glaze over it later, but for now it's pretty cool.

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Leaning On Talent, A BIG FAT MISTAKE

How far can the talents we are born with take us?  I guess that depends on how badly we want to go.  Lately it seems that I don't really want to go anywhere much, at least it looks that way if you were to judge by what I have accomplished in the studio.  Balancing real life as it is right now, today, against what I'd like it to be is a tricky juggle.  So how do I get where I want to be?  
If you look closely at the brush shapes in the foreground, you can see how hard I fought this painting, or maybe how hard it fought me.  

Well, after I posted a photograph of my latest painting on social media, I got quite a few, "You're so talented" comments.  If you've been reading this blog much, you KNOW that the idea people have that someone is able to make art just because of talent bothers me.  However, this time in addition to sarcastic answer that instantly, as usual, came to my mind, the comments took me aback somewhat because they made me a bit uncomfortable as well. Don't you hate when that happens?
Good reminder here...
The past three years I've worked 2 jobs with steep learning curves, jobs that demanded the majority of my attention and focus. (Because, evidently, I am an idiot) Each time I figured I'd get them under my belt then pick my art back up where I left off.  Here's the part that made me squirm a bit; I assumed that my abilities would still be here when I got back!  I presumed that what I had learned was still learned and an inherent part of my skill set.  You know, like a talent that is part of me just like brown eyes or hair.  Isn't that what this understanding of talent is?  That art is just something that I can do without effort?
I used to practice regularly.  Now I go to work instead.  Clearly it's time for some adjustments.

My moral superiority of "hard work trumps talent" was gone like a popped balloon.  Rats.  I've been doing it, too.  To answer the above question -how to get where I want to be- I guess if I'm totally honest with myself (harder to do than you'd think) I have to admit that to get where I want to be I have to keep moving forward.  Neglecting my skill sets and assuming I can just pick up where I left off is moving backwards, not to mention arrogant.  There is no holding still. And, here's the clincher- could this explain the difficulty of the last painting and my reaction to finishing it? That thing kicked my butt. Sigh...  

Thanks for stopping by- Alice


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Above the Little Colorado

Above the Grand Canyon, the Little Colorado River has cut some tall, narrow canyons of its own that are as spectacular in their own way as the G.C. itself.  Further south in Arizona, this river is more like a stream, sometimes dry and always little.  However, the canyon it has cut into the high desert is truly impressive and one of our favorite spots to be.  There is a small, frail guardrail in one place, so one stands at the edge of the chasm and feels the age and majesty of this place with no barrier to the experience.  It is a wild place.    
I've put so much paint and water into this paper, even at a 300 lb. weight, it has buckled.  I've had to pin it down to so it can begin to flatten out again.

 Above the Little Colorado
22" x 30"

After weeks of work, I finally finished this yesterday evening.  I don't know why some paintings flow out of the end of the brush and others have to be squeezed out bit by bit, but that does seem to be the way of it now and then.  Last night when I was finally satisfied and ready to set it aside, I actually felt a sense of relief and then for about 20 minutes just sat in my chair and shook.  I've never had such a strong, physical reaction to finishing a piece before.  I was drained.  Perhaps I'll understand why one of these days.

Thanks for stopping by!  Alice

Friday, December 8, 2017

Autodesk's Sketchbook

A few years ago I played around with sketching on my iPad, and enjoyed it but didn't do a whole lot with it.  What little time I had I preferred to work with real paint.  However, recently I was waiting around for a new grand baby to be born and started playing around with the Sketchbook app from Autodesk.  It's an Android app and is pretty great to work with once you get the hang of it.
Kind of a fun logo, makes me want to draw.  Huh, probably what they had in mind! 

I'm still fascinated by the demolition of the old cotton gin in our valley and thought I'd try another sketch of it to learn the app.  I did a watercolor sketch of it in one of my travel sketchbooks with Copics a few weeks ago and imported that photo into the app.

Drawn with a stylus on Autodesk's Sketchbook App, this was fun to make.  It's a pretty great art app for on the go.
Because you can create layers, you can draw the cheater's way, which is what I did.  Putting the photo on the bottom layer, I traced the angles of the building with my stylus and then deleted the photo and- presto chango!- I had an accurate drawing.  From there it was a matter of mixing up the colors I wanted in the app and using the paintbrush/pen tools to create the finished piece.  It was fun and lighthearted to do and killed some time waiting around without having to pull out a whole pile of art supplies. If you have an Android, you ought to give it a tryout. 

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Looking Backwards

It was at this hectic time of year in 2014 that I was getting my work hung for my senior art show and finishing up finals so I could graduate from college.  I had no idea of what was ahead for me, but it couldn't be crazier than school, right?  Right??  Guys?   
Me, with the show hung and ready to open.  

It was chaotic, it was difficult, but it was very worth the trouble.  Whether I've been teaching school or running a library I've known very firmly who and what I am, what I want to accomplish and that I am, in my inner-most heart, an artist.  I can take a few years on these side roads I've had to travel, but they don't change the basic nature of me.  In fact, they've just added to my collection of skills. 
One of the paintings I did for the show, "The Sentinal."  All of the paintings I did for that show have been sold or gifted, but each of them taught me more about painting, watercolor and myself.  

So, here I am, 3 years later and that many years older, still becoming.  Still learning and growing and still very much a watercolor painter.  As I hope I will always be.

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Monday, December 4, 2017

Copics For a Travel Journal

One of the fun parts of traveling for me is journaling.  We went to South Dakota recently and of course I dragged along a travel kit.  Except this time, it wasn't a watercolor painter's kit.  It was a Copic Sketch Marker kit and a 5" x 7" Bristol Board sketchbook, and I enjoyed it immensely.

The coolest, most inspiring place we visited along the way was Bent's Old Fort in Colorado.  The adobe walls and handmade, authentic furnishings made me fairly ache with the desire to pioneer somewhere.  

The kit was made up of only 24 colors, which in marker-land is only a few, and a handful of drawing pens.  The markers were much easier to use as we drove than a cup of water, paintbrush and palette.  I had to improvise for colors I hadn't brought, which was pretty fun, and it felt playful and creative.  No pressure to create mini-masterpieces.  For me, that's a biggie.
This was fun to do as we went through different states, highlighting things that struck me about each area.
When I began playing with the Copics, I couldn't find many examples of them as "sketching" tools for art (or journaling), although that's what they are billed as.  However, there are thousands of examples of them used for manga illustration-type stuff, fashion design, architectural design and fantasy works.  I'm just using them a little differently than most, I guess.
Although I would like to add Mt. Rushmore on the left side, I haven't had a chance to yet.  I'll remember this trip with my little sketches much better than I would with a piece of stuff to own from a gift shop.  Fun times, great memories.  
The kit was portable and lightweight, as well.  Sitting in the car, at a table or outside, it was easy to use and easier to cleanup.  I will use them like this again.  Big win in my book.  Yay, Copic!

Thanks for stopping by- Alice

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Cotton Gin Prep

The old cotton gin in our area is being taken apart, piece by piece.  Nobody grows cotton here anymore.  It has been fascinating to watch the deconstruction each day as I drive past it on my way to work.  I've noticed it more since it began to die than I did before, and the light and shadow patterns it creates are wonderful. 

This past weekend I sat next to it, walked all around it and looked at it up close and personal.  I took photos and sat again and sketched it out in my travel watercolor book.  It's time to do a large painting of it and playing around with the colors helped me see beyond the blue/gray of the skin and begin to get involved with it in a deeper way.  This study has been a good process for me as I start to think about how to present the old gin on canvas.  Hopefully I can capture some of what I feel.  Hopefully, I can find time to begin! 

Thanks for stopping by- Alice

Monday, October 9, 2017

One of These Days

A day off is almost unheard of in my life lately.  I find myself in "hurry mode" so often it has become the normal for me.  Today, however, is a day off of work, a glorious southwestern New Mexico day off.  Just in time, too.  I was needing it.
Crows above the Playa- they made me laugh, as though arguing over which direction to take.

There is a dry lakebed along I-10, around here called a "playa," that captures rain water and holds it on the surface for weeks.  The dirt is alkali and makes terrible dust storms when it's dry, but when wet fascinates me.  Waterfowl rest there as they migrate and the reflections of the sky in the water mixed with the clumps of grass create a strange landscape all the way to the distant hills.  Every morning I pass it on my way to work and tell myself that I'm going to stop and soak it in "one of these days."
The Playa in October

One of these days..  One of these days I'll be dead.  I decided that today I would go take a long look at the playa.  So I did.  And it was lovely.  There's a painting lurking among the water and the grasses and I think that one of these days......  Sigh

Thanks for stopping by!  Alice

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Let's See

If you are a creative person, I'll bet that sometimes you look at your work and wonder if it's any good.  It's hard to be objective when looking at something you've just made.  I "see" differently after I've just finished a piece.  It's like I can't see it anymore.  Actually, I've found that if I put something away for awhile, I can see the strengths and mistakes when I pull it back out that I couldn't distinguish right after I had finished it.
Calvin at 5
Copic marker of Bristol Board
20" x 16"

Recently we visited our daughter, Katie Kellogg and her fabulous family.  She had a Copic drawing in her studio that was headed for the trash because all she could see when she looked at it was a mess.  The flaws she knew were there were so big and upsetting that she felt it was a failure.  I found it charming.  I was even jealous of her ability to handle her Copic markers so well.  In fact, the drawing is framed and hanging in my house.  I rescued it.  I suspect that one day she will visit me and "see" it and be able to enjoy it in a whole new light.  It's important to remember that what we think are not our best works may still touch something in someone else.  Don't throw that piece out, hang on to it and preserve the record of your work.  You may look back at it someday and find a treasure.

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Cloud Shadows

One of the things I like to do sometimes is make another version of a painting I've already done.  This past weekend I actually finished a watercolor, which you can see here.  Although I liked it well enough, I wanted to try the clouds in a different way.  The distant hills were drawn larger than life so that I could emphasize the shadows a bit more, as well.  It was fun, but it was also clear to me that I've gotten out of practice and have ground to gain.
Cloud Shadows
Watercolor on paper
16" x 20"

Using the same color palette as last time, I mixed the colors less graying down.  Just for fun.  Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre, Manganese Blue, Phthalo Blue and Alizarin Crimson, with a touch of Sepia for darker darks.  Nothing new or amazing; it was amazing enough to do two pieces in less than 4 days! I think I'm about ready to take on something exciting.  Just thinking about it gets me giggly.

Thanks for stopping by- Alice

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Autumn Arrives

Evidently it takes about 10 months to adjust to being a library director, because here I am- 10 months in to the project and finally able to begin to contemplate eating, drinking and breathing something other than the library.  Thank heaven.  Why do I take things like this on, anyway?  Never mind, don't answer.  I probably don't want to know.

Yesterday I spent an entire, whole and complete day messing around in the studio.  I tidied, I puttered and finally picked up my brushes and paint and began!  It's hard to begin again after a long absence, but it sure felt nice once I got going.  The palette I used for this is pretty much my standard, yellow ochre, manganese blue, pthalo blue, burnt sienna, sepia and some unidentified mud from the bottom of my palette.  The colors of the desert as it dries out from the monsoons.
14" x 20" on 140 lb. cold pressed Arches Paper
"Autumn Arrives"

I drew this a couple of weeks ago, but had been putting it off.  Too tired after work, too much stress, too whatever.  The point is, I did it.  Whether it's a masterpiece or not doesn't matter at this juncture of my life.  What does matter is I'm still in here, under this librarian suit still beats the heart of a painter.

Thanks for stopping by!  Alice

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Autumn On Lunt's Ranch

What a learning experience!  Copic markers are very fun to use, have great color saturation and blending properties and make drawing with color a delight.  And nobody is even paying me to say this!  
Autumn on the Old Lunt Ranch
Copic markers on cardstock
8.5" x 11"
One downside of these markers was pointed out by Rhonda in the comments on my last post- they are not lightfast.  There are no markers with lightfast properties as of yet.  That's okay, though because what I plan to make with the Copics will be digitized.  This piece is muted because this old house is muted, almost as though it has grown into the earth.  I am looking forward to letting the colors of the Copics go wild one of these days, but the limited nature of the palette I used here was a challenge I enjoyed.  The values get to be the stars.  Until next time-

Thanks for stopping by! Alice   

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Copic Project, Day 2

An hour here, an hour there- this project is slowly coming to life. Still loving the Copic Markers!  The earthy tones may get too dull, but that's something that will show up sooner or later.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Copic Markers, Part II or How I Use These Remarkable Tools

In looking for tutorials on how to use Copic Sketch Markers, all I could find were videos of cutsie stuff or manga art.  Not that there's anything wrong with that style of work, but I wanted to see if anyone is trying fine art with them to get a few pointers.  No luck.  So, I decided to see if I can to make them do what I want them to do.  And it's fun.  Very fun.  
Using only grays and earth tones, this piece is turning out very low key and quiet, so far. 

A few days ago, I drew this building from a photo in my archives (since I haven't had time to get out into any cool places for months) and let it sit around for awhile.  It just had to stew in the back of my brain for a few days.  Tonight I began to execute my plan- using only neutral grays and earth tones just to see if I can pull it off.   This is my stopping place for now, but it'll be fun to get back after it tomorrow!

Thanks for stopping by- Alice

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Copic Markers

Just what I needed during this stupid dry spell I've been in- something fun.  My daughter, Katie Kellogg, has been making some wonderful art with her Copic markers and, after seeing some of her pieces, (which I'll show as soon as I can con her into sending me images of them) I knew I had to give them a go.  The cotton gin which has stood in this valley for decades is being torn down and I've been wanting to capture some images of it before it's gone.  I figured this would be the ideal subject to try the markers with.  
This photo was taken at night in my studio, thus the yellow tone of it.  I got the perspective wrong on the lower edge of the main building, a fact that I couldn't see till I'd photographed it.  
The basic tenant of these is to mix color and create value ranges with graduating hues and saturation levels that are provided for in separate markers.  Unlike paints, where one usually mixes colors on the palette, these are to be mixed on the paper.  They stay vibrant and don't tend to go muddy like watercolors can when too many colors are layered.  I enjoyed this first project am anxious to mess around with them some more.
Taken in morning light, the colors of this are more accurate.  I tried to correct the mistake I made last night with increased shadow along that line and it worked, to some extent.  
The down-sides of Copics are their price ($5.00 + a marker!) and the fact that they are not light-fast.  Yet.  However, for work that is going to be digitized, they are perfect.  Journals are also a natural fit for their properties since their pages won't be exposed to long hours of sunlight.  I've used many different kinds of markers over the years and always been frustrated by the intensity of their colors.  With the graduated hues of these, I can get a more painterly look with them.  So, I'm willing to spend the money and plan to use them often.  I just can't resist!   

Thanks for stopping by- Alice

Friday, February 24, 2017

Noodlers Ahab Flex Pen

Every now and then I've seen reference to pens called "Noodlers Flex" pens.  They seem to be made for calligraphers and fountain pen enthusiasts, but artists refer to them as well.  I finally decided to take a look at one for myself.  Looking on Youtube and various artist blogs really got my curiosity piqued so I ordered one for myself.  Fountain pens are notoriously finicky and often in need of adjustment and maintenance, but I figured it was worth a go.  It came today.
For lettering, this pen does pretty neat work.  I'm not expert at when to flex the nib and when to let up, but the possibilities are pretty amazing.
 The pen is beautiful.  It did indeed take some fiddling and adjusting, but worked the first shot out of the box.  My ink-stained hands are witnesses to my amateur status, but the lines glided onto the paper like a dream, notwithstanding my lack of experience in "fountain-pen-ese."  I think I can get the hang of this with more practice.  I want to, and that's half the battle.  I won't go into the technicalities of it here as there are dozens of well qualified demonstrators on Youtube.  If you're intrigued, you won't have any trouble finding plenty of information to answer your questions.  This pen model is well loved by pen people.
I had to add a page to my journal record of favorite tools.  This one is a winner!

Even though I spent most of the evening making lines and letters, it draws beautifully.  In fact, the flex bit is what attracted me in the first place.  The nib of the pen is split, allowing a thin line with light pressure and thicker ones with heavier pressure.  It flexes as you press down and the nib splits apart, making a wider line.  Pretty cool.  Although I won't haul this pen anywhere until I get it adjusted right- due to my worries about leaking ink- I will use it in the studio till I really get the hang of it.  All in all, a very useful tool.

Thanks for stopping by!  Alice

Monday, February 20, 2017

Making Change

The Lordsburg Hidalgo County Library, built in 1937 by the WPA.  Built of adobe, this historical building is an architectural treasure.
You know what I did?  Something drastic- I quit teaching school mid-year and took the job of my dreams.  Life is looking up for this old lady, although not without a twinge of guilt now and then for leaving my students.  However, when I walk into my new workplace, smell it, feel it and look all around me, the guilt fades substantially.  

Every work morning I walk in the door and look up at the foyer ceiling.  What a great start to the day.

Lucky, lucky me- as the new director of the local library I go to work looking forward to the challenges of the day with ideas flowing for how to grow the programs and services.  As the plans unfold in my head for the library, the creative ideas for studio work are beginning to happen again, too.  They seem to be happening in tandem as the stress of the past two years subsides.  There is joy inside of me!  While it hasn’t resulted in a finished studio piece yet, I know it will, and the knowing is easy in my mind.

Looking at photos today, working to generate inspiration for a new painting

Today I am spending time taking a new look at photos from my files, working to see them and their patterns in a fresh way.  As I look I ask myself what attracted me to each view in the first place, what stirred me there and why does it stir me still?  As I change them from color to black and white I notice the value patterns and the shapes contained in them.  It is as though my sight is awakening and beginning to cause me to think like a painter again and it feels like fresh air blowing through my mind. 

The old churches of New Mexico stir my creative imagination right up!
There are lessons in the past two-year struggle, lessons I hope I remember in the future.  One of those is, I can do a good job of a really stressful task, but not without a substantial cost to the creative part of me.  Another lesson: I don’t have to take every challenge and wrestle it to the ground.  (Could this be maturity??  We can only hope) These lessons are sweet now that they are behind me; I’ve often found that growth is painful.  But not today, this day is good. And I am happy.

Thanks for stopping by! Alice