Thursday, November 5, 2015

Following the Rules

What can I say? Trying to be edgy, I broke a cardinal painting rule and found my brain fighting it as well as my delight flagging as I slogged through this painting. The rule that I broke? The rule of thirds. I divided my canvas in half horizontally by the large vase rather than placing it to one side or the other. Granted, it's not a cosmic mandate; it's just a matter of how our minds interpret information and symbols. The division of a painting into two roughly equal halves is, quite frankly, boring; it makes the eye linger like the period at the end of a sentence, rather than a question mark that makes you search for more answers. And yet I'm hopeful that I created an energetic triangle of movement, bringing the viewer into the painting with the eye, then upwards to the tall vase, then to the right hand jug, finishing at the horizontal bell. Composition is my weakness, obviously. I'm also still learning how to compose and paint in natural light without supplemental lighting. This is a learning curve as well. 

One more painting before I can move on. It takes at least three attempts for me to solve the problems of any given challenge. So, I'll set this one quickly aside and begin again, hopefully with a fresh eye. And try to follow the rules. There is a freedom in that. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Not Every Step is Forward

I'm going to call this one done. It's got a lot of things about it that I like, and quite a few I don't. I'm not terribly invested in it, in other words, it's more of an exercise than a personal statement. Judging from that criteria, it has value: I have learned a good bit.

This is the first thing I have painted since April (? I think.). This past six months have been consumed with the move from Saint Charles, downsizing from a 4000 sq. ft. house that Tim and I had lived in for 17 years, to a 1300 sq. ft. St. Louis townhouse. And here I am, a mere six months later, sitting in my new studio, evaluating my first piece and deciding on where to go with my next. 

The last few paintings in Saint Charles were painted in a blacked out room, one light bulb over my set up and one over my painting, trying to get one clean source of light, no fill, spill, or indirect light. I was searching for the lost edges and subtle variations of color in near darkness. And really, I am as pleased with those as anything I have done in a long time. 

So, in my beautiful new north light studio, I am able to paint from the consistent lighting that changes little in color or intensity for hours a day with no supplemental source of lighting. This first composition actually surprised me, in that I was able to achieve those same lost edges in such a light filled environment. The conclusion is that the edges are "lost" in the contrast of light, not the lack of it. 

I love this new environment. First of all, I'm not working in a basement. Secondly, my big arched window looks out onto a lovely urban park that is now in the throws of autumnal transformation. However, as in my last home, my studio is placed conveniently where I can grab coffee, let the dogs out, toss in a load of clothes or even make lunch, without feeling as if I have to change gears or disconnect from painting.  In fact, it's an advantage.  I don't know how you work, but for me, I need to pull away from the canvas several times an hour, sometimes for an extended time. If not, I lose perspective, become overly focused or just get excessively tired. And I am the worst at "changing gears." This feels natural and effective, and I don't feel torn.  Granted, sometimes I do like to fool around too much, but hey, I'm not working on commission right now. I can afford to have fun with the process as, I hope, the result! 


Wednesday, March 4, 2015


I agree with Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes) when he said: "an artist's statement says far more than his work ever could." Not being a "trained" artist makes me pretty insecure about making any statements at all. But sometimes I think people really want to know what makes an artist tick, to understand what catches their fancy and motivates them to create something. 

I hated and avoided painting still life for years and now I think I finally understand why:  I'm accustomed to painting portraits and figures which are interesting in and of themselves. This requires posing and lighting, certainly. But those things come pretty naturally to me and I'm lazy. It takes thought and effort and introspection to set up a good still life composition. So, now that I've worked on still life composition consistently for awhile, I'm beginning to see things differently and hopeful to be composing interesting and pleasing still lifes. 

It takes me a long while to set up. I change my lighting and textiles and objects over and over until I find something worth painting. This time, I didn't actually know what was right about the composition until I started work on it; I just knew that I liked it. The studio was so dark that I was able to achieve "lost edges," where the edges of the forms melt into the background. I love the repetition of the shapes of the two jugs, which contrast in value. And lastly, the angular wooden butter press sharply contrasts with the rounded shapes of the jugs. I am especially pleased with the handles...they define the painting for me. I hope this has been entertaining or informative to you. I may not even be using the right artsy terminology but I doubt that matters to those who are truly interested in how things are made!!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Creating Cosmos from Chaos

I have been painting.  I can sense small changes and little breakthroughs in my work. The most important thing has been busily being about my work, just doing it. One day last week I only had a short amount of time so I pulled out a still life I had earlier rubbed out and set aside. Without a reference photo or set up, I completed it. It was loose and suggestive and scumbly and I loved it! So I immediately pulled out a toned canvas and quickly painted, in under an hour, an eye portrait of my grandson Caleb. I painted directly, very little drawing, just diving in and doing it. I also love this painting. 

Friday, August 29, 2014


Amanda 3  8 X 10 in  oil on canvas panel
Amanda 4  8 X 10 in   oil on canvas panel
If you believe in "The Muse" who enables and inspires you to create works of art, then you operate under the assumption that this personal muse visits you at his pleasure and not always when you summon. If you believe, as I do, that the creative spirit is nurtured from within, then WHY oh WHY does it just vanish for days at a time? I am not referring to having little or no inspiration, but days in which I know not how to pick up a brush, to make a meaningful brush stroke! For instance, I had a very bad, terrible, rotten no-good afternoon two days ago. It was a verbal, conflicting, anxiety-producing kind of day, all things that block my ability to paint. I ended up wiping out two paintings which had started well but ended as pure dribble. I spat and fumed all night long, grumpy, frustrated and resentful. Yesterday I tucked my chin, hunkered-down and re-painted the two that I had wiped out, painting long into the night. And today I finished a third from that series. I wish I could blame it on my muse, but knowing better, seriously pleased that I worked my way through the blockage to produce these nice little eye portraits. Hope you enjoy them.
Caleb 3  8 X 10  oil on canvas panel

Friday, June 20, 2014

A Closer Look

The other day I was taking photos of something on my easel and as I was lowering my iPad to place it on my lap I noticed the camera had focused on the paint tray of the easel.  I snapped three or four images and chose one to paint.  This old easel is one that Lindenwood's art department "recycled" when they remodeled their painting studio a few years ago.  I claimed it and have loved it for all it's crusty sturdiness.  It's huge, bulky and difficult to crank!  But the best part of the photo was the years of accumulated paint, ink and who knows what else.   Anyway, it was a joy to paint this and I hope you enjoy it.
 A Closer Look  
18 X 24 in   oil on canvas

Monday, April 14, 2014


Introversion   5 X 5 ft  oil on canvas
The definition of introversion that works best for me is this: despite the fact that I love people, the energy I expend in talking to and being with them is limited and does not get refilled until I am alone and pursuing other goals. Usually all that is necessary to recharge my battery is a quick nap or an hour in the garden.  But recently I feel like I've been zapped, drained, depleted.  It's as if I need to "prime the pump," pull out the choke and flood my engine.... something to push me over the red line.  Nothing is wrong in my life.... nothing. In fact, seeking to find a "reason" is self-indulgent and narcissistic and doesn't help one little bit. Have you ever tried to water a houseplant when its soil has gotten completely dry?  The water runs right through the soil into the saucer.  It seems contradictory, but to get dry soil to absorb water you have to moisten the soil first.   I feel just like that.... my soil has gone too dry and all the good things in my life seem to flow right through me without being absorbed.  And I don't know what is needed to do that pre-moisturizing of my soul.  This painting is an exercise in pure expressionism, a stream of consciousness that reflects some of the subjects I have painted over the last year.   It is a dark story told in passionate calligraphic strokes, intensely personal and mysterious, even to me.  I do not feel primed.  Yet.  I will continue to search through all means, including paint.  I hope you enjoy it.