I had the opportunity today to participate in an art performance. Some of Austin's figure models posed for an audience while a small group of artists sketched. The models were the stars- they told stories, talked about body image, other aspects of their lives and what led them to posing, among other things. Some of it was quite moving and personal. And it's an interesting switch to have the models be the focus and the artists subordinate. After sitting for a hour and a half on a short stool quietly sketching, I certainly felt some sympathy for their physical endurance when posing.
The performance is staged by Paper Chairs at the Canopy. Shows continue through next weekend.
When in a funk, the best thing to do is go back to the basics. I haven't been very inspired lately and not able to dive into a full painting. And when faced with one of my own figure sessions, held in my own backyard, I had to slow down and work methodically, as if a beginner.
I first sketched the scene planning my composition and dark/light patterns. Once comfortable with that I began a light line drawing with the brush. Then I started to fill in. I worked thinly, kept palette rather neutral and didn't define small areas. It felt good and worked well enough that I didn't finish the day feeling like a hack!
More on my funk later. Oh joy!
$100 + $12 sh
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$300 + $12 sh
My friend Kathleen McElwaine and I were talking this past weekend and she mentioned to me that she likes my blog because I am honest about my struggles and the real behind the scenes stuff about being an artist. (thanks for your encouragement!)
If I am brutally honest now, I have to tell you that I've been struggling a lot lately. I can't seem to stop thinking about WHAT to paint. And basing that on what might sell. That is the wrong way to think. I can't let a market dictate my creativity, but it has been because my sales have slowed so much. I don't know if I need new markets or if my work is bad.
I feel like I am in awkward phase too. I know I want to do more with my work but don't know how or what. For example, likening fine art to the music industry... there are some musicians/singers that just really stand apart from the rest, they do unusual things, have a sound unlike any other (Florence & the Machine, Delta Rae, Pink Floyd etc.). And then there are the countless pop performers - top 40 one-hit-wonders that are indistinguishable. I fear I am in the pop music realm.
But then I have to remember that I am mid-career and I hope I have much time to grow and at least have staying power. ;-)
After a night of little sleep, first being fascinated by the night sounds and stars, and then being awakened by horses outside our tent, I pulled my cold body out of bed and painted a little of the morning light on a nearby rock outcropping. That isn't worth showing.
Later in the day we headed back down to the Rock Pile and painted there. I also did some "notan" sketches and then got interested in a tree.
Friday morning I loaded my things into Terri Wells' suv and off we went to the hill country for a painting retreat with Plein Air Austin. We had a nice lunch in Llano and got to the 1200+ acre ranch around 3 pm.
Thank goodness she had a 4wd vehicle because we needed it as we drove the mesquite and oak pastures, climbing rough hills and crossing sandy creek beds.
We came to "Rock Pile" - a large granite outcropping that is common in this area around the highland lakes. I climbed to the top of this pile and had an amazing view. And while I stood there enjoying the absolute quiet, taking in the views, my cell phone rang. AT&T apparently had good coverage out there. Hubster was worried about picking up daughter who was not where she was expected to be. So I had to make some calls - standing 1525 ft above the ranch overlooking Enchanted Rock.
That taken care of, I climbed down and painted the scene above. We drove back to camp and met the other artists who were all arriving and settled down for what turned out to be an interesting night. More on that tomorrow!
Lately, while I wait to pick up my daughter in the car rider line, I have done quick cloud studies. These are just under 15 minute studies done on 9x12 Arches oil paper.
In the late summer these beautiful, big clouds build in central Texas. When we can often see from horizon to horizon, these giant cloud shapes dominate our skies. I love them. And the blue of the Texas sky is my favorite color. Something between cerulean and royal blue.
I am not framing the large pieces now. I hope they are contemporary enough to float on their own and this way can fit into more interiors I think. And if someone wants a frame, then that is always an option they can decide on later.
It was most definitely easier to prepare the work for this show without all the framing. Still, I sanded the wood edges and waxed them to seal out moisture and protect the wood a little. I like the natural wood look so didn't want to paint or stain the edges.
Ampersand is the best product! I tried some cheaper cradled boards Jerry's started carrying, but they were cheaper for a reason. My husband had to fill corners and glue the board down to the wood frame in some cases. I want to put less money into my paintings, but not use inferior materials. Word to the wise.
Both the large gallery painting and the smaller sketch are available at Russell Collection Fine Art in Austin. The 3x3 (Three Women Three Visions) show opens Friday September 4.
Just got home late last night from New Orleans. It was a whirlwind trip with V....Vaughan. We got in just before sunset on Monday night and hit the streets with our cameras and sketchbooks. V.... created a couple of lovely sketches of a resident trumpeter. I saw him there and painted him two years ago. I had trouble getting my bearings.
I liken New Orleans to riding a horse with a hard mouth and strong will. It should be a pleasant experience, a thing of beauty, but you end up fighting with it and being frustrated and disappointed.
I had better success on Tuesday when we got up early, had beignets and beverages at the Cafe du Monde (they have the best of the three beignet places we tried btw.) We painted some sketches and listened to another musician serenade the crowds. Next we sat along the river front and sketched the mighty Mississippi river. It is truly an amazing river. So wide, such a strong current... carrying all our gew gaws in from China.
Tons more walking. Walked a quieter section, then along Bourbon, then back to our hotel area and got our car and drove to the Garden District. Unfortunately, the cemetery was closed. I had hoped to sketch the tombs in there. But we found a good view on Magazine street and settled in there. Then back to the business district for dinner at Luke. Luck favored me there... they sat us next to the kitchen! We watched the chefs hard at their craft and ate a good dinner and had a delicious cold beer. Much appreciated after the long day! Walked for dessert and then finally a shower and bed!!
I think we crammed three days of stuff into one. The heat wasn't bad really. The sun was too intense tho if you weren't in the shade working. And I probably should eat more than a beignet and a half for breakfast when setting out on such a day!
I think I found it stressful because every where we turned there were homeless people begging or street performers hawking. We were targets - sympathetic looking - and naive, unfortunately. I'm usually more savvy but these people are good at what they do and would have you roped before you knew what happened then you were "obliged" to "donate".
To be continued tomorrow while I put my feet up today. :-)
I continue to host the biweekly figure sessions on Saturday mornings at Joel's coffee shop. This has been a great endeavor. I can see a vast improvement in my color and brushwork since starting to regularly paint from life in March (see below).
I frequently just paint the figure and ignore background and am having trouble in other paintings reconciling backgrounds now too. Its always something, right? So I need to work on that. This session, I posed our model in front of one of V....Vaughan's paintings at Joels to give the illusion of a landscape behind her. Its my "Mona Lisa."
Sometimes the set up in the coffee shop isn't ideal. I have a light on a stand and try to mix it up with side, top or back lighting even. The light on my palette and canvas isn't great. But its still awesome to paint from life, to interact with other artists and the model. And enlighten patrons who come in for their coffee. I'd love to have a beautiful studio with space for all and a perfect set up for a model, but that isn't my life right now. And we can't let studio space or want of ideal situations limit our creativity!
Such a beautiful day here! I thought I'd go outside and play a little. Just wanted to practice brushwork and values.
The sun moved so fast on the first set up that I moved twice to avoid the shadow creeping across.
Probably will just scrape these so I can reuse the boards. The practice is what's important.
One of my new year resolves was to work more from life. To that end, and liking things my own way, I started a figure painting session and invited other Austin artists to join in. The turn out was great! :-)
I was very pleased Saturday morning to meet new friends and work together. I loved that everyone worked seriously, but enjoyed the breaks talking and laughing.
I'm so grateful to Joel's Coffee for allowing me to hold this session in their business. I dream of a great studio space but its just not feasible. Its nice that they are willing patrons of the arts!
I've been suffering a creative blockage lately and like to think that a beautiful studio space would help, but in truth its not where we work but that we DO the work. This figure session has sparked some new ideas for me already and I feel my drive returning. I can't wait for the next one. Every two weeks on Saturday mornings.
A Painter's Journal
Chasing the light. Capturing life.
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