Imperative

Sometimes a story demands to be told, a photo begs to be taken, a painting insists on being created.

About a year ago I painted a few decorative items, just gifts, of a colourful village – my Gaudy Hamlet.

They were pretty and colourful, the flip side depicting a different season of the year.  So I thought why not paint a progression on a canvas, through the seasons of the year.  And so was born, A Year in a Gaudy Hamlet.

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But you would need to know a little about this place I live…The Rock…The Easternmost Province of Canada…This Island in the Atlantic.  We are known for our colourful houses, and most famously for Jellybean Row in St. John’s.  Check out the link for some lovely photos and explanations.

Many of the houses in the small towns outside the city (the smallest, clinging to the shores of the island, called Outports) are made up of Higglety-Pigglety houses that sprung up as sons and daughters built by their parents over the 600 years of our existence.  (Yes we are the oldest inhabited place in North America.)  Usually not as colourful as “Sin Jawn’s”, there were more white houses with green or blue or black trim, or brick red houses with yellow ochre, or yellow houses with white.

I loved my whimsical work, with it’s bright colours and comical fir trees.  The apple tree was one of the few fruit trees traditionally planted here.  Occasionally someone had luck with pear.  And my friends and family loved it too.  I don’t paint to sell, but people wanted prints of this one!  However it talked to me.  “There’s more to the story,” it whispered.  I told my husband, who said, “Why would you want to paint something that isn’t happy?”  And so I left it alone for about 8 months.  But it wouldn’t leave me alone.

You see, Newfoundland and Labrador has seen a constant move from rural to urban.  Outports were isolated, often with no roadway to reach them and transport by boat alone.  This made services and supplies difficult to access.  There was a natural drive to move to where these things were available, but in the 1950’s the government began to initiate moves, because health care and municipal services were so difficult to provide.  People were paid to move.  Some floated their homes across the bays.  Hearts were torn out of families as communities were abandoned.  There are many internet sites that deal with resettlement but here is one to give you a taste.  Resettlement

Shortly before Christmas the whispering got too loud and I started on Resettlement in a Gaudy Hamlet.  The first houses are still inhabited, but soon there is no one to mow the lawns, or rake the leaves, or clear the rocks off the road.  The houses are shocked and surprised.  Why is it quiet?  Where are the lives that once filled them?  Why is there no one to close the doors?  To fix the shingles?  To paint their greying clapboard?  It is sad, as glass breaks and timbers rot.  But it is not ugly, nor without hope.  The trees that were once cut for firewood grow up.  The flowers, wild and gone wild colour the fields.

resettlement These are hidden places, and I have come upon them myself over the years.  Coves where the only indications that someone once lived there, are the square mounds of rocks that were the foundation of homes.  Where the furrows on the hill denote a garden that once held drills of potato and carrot.

“This is the land of dreamings, a land of wide horizons and secret places.  The first people, our ancestors, created this country in the culture that binds us to it.”

~Hetti Perkins

Stories or Statements

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Waiting to Launch – one of the first pieces I painted from a photo I took.

I am not an accomplished artist, nor am I seeking renown.  This will not be a career for me.  This art exploration I am on is following its own meandering path, and a year and a half ago, the path diverged from decorative painting, to exploring subjects in more detail.

You seek, and get a lot of advice when you start this.  Youtube has been a font of tutorials, but I don’t want to slavishly copy them (as they advise you not to) because that is not my work.

The biggest and best advice – “You learn by doing.”  But after that it gets confusing.  Copy old masters; Don’t copy old masters; Paint from reference photos; Don’t paint from reference photos; It’s ok to trace  your reference sketch/photo; It’s not ok to trace  your reference sketch/photo.  You get the picture.

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Frozen Ghost – combines three of my photos to tell a story.

Some of my favourite pieces come from photos I have taken.  Notice I say, “come from”.  I consider it my right to modify as necessary, or not.  And being a new painter, each time I tackle a photo, there is a challenge to present something on the support that I have not done before.  Each time, I am learning something that I can use in future paintings.  But when I showed some of my pieces to an artist and art teacher, who has had a decades long career and whom I respect, I was told that my work, while nice, lacked emotion.  That has niggled in my heart for months now.  There are all kinds of criticisms that I would have expected (on brushwork or perspective, colour or composition), but not that one.  And I have a problem with it.

Each painting I do from my photos evokes a memory for me, and/or tells a story.  Obviously, someone else will lack the frame of reference for the story, but I hope that the viewer can get some sense of it.  Perhaps one day I will evolve to the point of making strong statements with a brush, but at the moment I am giving more of a recitation.  And that is OK.

So if you are struggling with what should be the “right” way to paint – stop struggling.

If it speaks to you, that is the most important thing as you grow.  And try things outside your comfort zone, but not all the time.  Remember, you should be enjoying yourself.

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First Freeze – an ATC I did from my photo of the pond where I live.  The challenge was to learn how to do ice.  But the story is of a particularly beautiful sunset in the place I grew up.  A moment in time that evokes the peace of this place when I was a child.  In this light you don’t see a lot of the changes “progress” has wrought.

 

Another Art Adventure

When we drove to our summer place this weekend, I didn’t expect to begin experimenting with a different medium.  I knew there was a garage sale nearby, of stock from an art shop.  I had never seen the art shop, but had to drop by.  watermarked-cliCC1F

Well the last time I had been to the cabin, I had painted my first Plein Air, of the new house just beyond us in the cove.

Acrylic on 9 x 12 Acrylic Paper.

It was the HOTTEST day, and there was a wind.  (I won’t say breeze – to anyone other than Newfoundlanders it’s a wind.)  The paint was drying before I managed to bring brush to paper.  I was spritzing and on a wet pallette and using blending gel!!!  What a torture!  That was when I decided that I needed to try either different acrylics, or a different medium.

Last week Laura at Create Art Every Day enticed me to try watercolour.  It was not as stress-filled as I expected.  Inspired by a Visitor.  I enjoyed it and will try it again.

20160725_131759This weekend, my random garage sale, netted me some Holbein Duo Aqua water-soluble oil paints.  I didn’t want to come home with a truck-load.  It could have been so.  There were wagon loads of equipment and supplies (literally).  I limited myself to a yellow (Marigold), red (Madder), two blues (Navy and Turquoise), Ivory Black
and a grey (Monochrome 1).  She didn’t have any white, so that grey was as close as I could get. watermarked-SculpinRock Oil.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

Voila, my first foray into oils.

This is on a 4 inch square of gessoed cereal box cardboard.  The view from my window.  Didn’t paint outside as it was raining, but it was enough to allow me to experience the texture of the paint.  It is a different process than painting wet into wet acrylic, and you have to remind yourself that it doesn’t dry.  But the rich, buttery texture of the paint is luscious.  And the colours have great depth and intermix beautifully.  And yes, they clean up with soap and water.

I’m quite pleased with it, other than the clouds in my sky.  I realize, looking at the photo, that they are all far too similar.  But in terms of the medium, I’m definitely impressed and will experiment more.

I have to keep reminding myself to “just play.”  I have a failing in that everything I do is looked at as a task with a goal or a product.  I have to let that go.

Enjoy your day, everyone.  And go play.

Inspired by a Visitor

I didn’t expect to post today.crabsi

 
This is a surprise but I was inspired by nature, and by a visitor to my blog.  Yesterday, when I was coming home from the grocery store, an unusual guest was inspecting my peony.  SHE is a Goldenrod Crab Spider and has a fascinating life history.  Most particularly, she doesn’t spin webs, but is a hunter.  She sits in wait and grabs her insect prey with those large forelegs.  And as if that’s not badass enough; she can CHANGE COLOUR.

 

 

 

Today, when I went out to check on her:  Voila!

crabspiderNow she’s white, and she has prey!!  Not exactly small fry either.

I apologize to the arachnophobes

but you have to admit she is cool!

 

 

“But what does this have to do with creativity,” you say?  Well, one of the nice people to come and visit my recent incarnation of this blog is Laura, Create Art Every Day.  You have to drop by and see her daily explorations.  This month it is particularly watercolour art.  I am so trepidatious over watercolour as it appears to be so unforgiving.  But it is also extremely tempting because of its portability and the applications for journaling.  Laura encouraged me to check out Cathy Johnson as further inspiration.  Great lady who is so good at instruction and is a fabulous art journalist.  The end result was that I pulled out my limited watercolour equipment and sat on my front step to “play.”

The result is an ATC of my Insect Interloper.  20160720_185302 Certainly not the detail I would expect of myself with acrylics (because you can paint over stuff), but she’s captured.  The petals were done with a red, a purple and a black watercolour pencil.  The spider is yellow and red, toned with a little orange and black.  These are my materials.

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Yes, those are really Crayola watercolour pencils.  (I told you I don’t do watercolour. )  The water brushes were purchased from Curry’s, on a whim.  The black handled brush I’ve had for 37 years.  I bought it to clean my contact lenses and used it for that for 10 years.  The water cup is from the Dollar Store.  As long as you make sure you’ve opened it all the way, it doesn’t leak.

I had fun today.  Thank you Laura.

And the rest of you, get out there and enjoy.

 

Portability

If I’m going somewhere that I might paint, I don’t want to spend hours packing gear, so I spend more time than I should collecting painting travel packs.  That does not presuppose that I am actually “painting mobile.”  I just have this need to be prepared.  And acrylics do not really make for easy travel sketching.  (I am secretly envious of watercolour artists and that is the one thing that may make me overcome my fear of watercolours.)  Acrylics are more of a plonk and paint situation.

We have a summer place, and I have painted there for many years.  I started doing the doors, because I didn’t want to have plain white or off-white doors.  The summer place is more of a place to play.  I keep my paints in a small suitcase, because we cannot leave them there in the winter.  The heat is turned off, and paints don’t take freezing well.  It is easy to carry about and then you only need your support and your source of water. The compact rolling table and stools were purchased from Canadian Tire many years ago.

But when that kit is at the cabin, what to do when you are travelling from home?  There is no shortage of supplies at my place.  20160712_200452Of the two dark wood French easels, the larger is my daughter’s.  A gift from a previous employer who appreciated her creative and organizational skills.  She is away now, so it is included in my supplies, but I have always been hesitant to use it.  (Not really mine to dirty up.)

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My Daughter’s Easel

The smaller French easel (open below) is mine.  I found it on Kijiji for $25 and quite love it, although I haven’t used it much as I paint at my drafting table most often.20160718_093355

The shopping bag contains a paint box easel and wash caddy, towels and gear.20160718_092822

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It is what I would take when a friend invited me to come to her paint group.  I didn’t stay with them, but it was convenient so I’ve kept it together.  Sometimes I visit my neighbour and we paint together.  (The plastic chocolate box is my wet palette.)

Then there is the blue bag, 20160718_092452which I have put together most recently.
It contains the paints, wash can, cup and boards that I intend to use when I get my act together to Plein Air paint.  I can grab it and my French easel and I’m ready to go.

The organizer holds basic sets of Golden Open paints, Windsor and Newton Artisan water mixable oils, and some cheap watercolours.  All these are things I have been collecting for about a year and I want to try for Plein Air.  My last experience with “partial” Plein Air was impeded by the struggle with drying time.

But that is the subject for another post.

I would love to hear about your experience with being “mobile” with acrylics.

Struggling with Workflow

Does anyone else struggle with workflow?  I so often feel like I’m fighting my paint and supplies and organization.  Do I paint flat on my drafting table, or do I paint on the table easel?  Or do I paint at the French easel?  Do I set the clean brushes to the left  and the paint to the right or vice versa.
Right now the table looks a bit messier
than the photo in20160712_200323 yesterday’s post (which dated from February).  Paint and water to the right of me, and brushes and rags to the left of me.  Light over my left shoulder.  When I paint on paper I tape it to the hard-surfaced placemat, scored at Pipers for $1.
20160712_201109I watch many artists on Youtube and always pay attention to their workflow.  Clive uses large buckets of water, Nagualero uses a small washpot, Cinnamon uses a beer cup, Jane uses a pickle jar.  (There are links to all these people in yesterday’s post.)  I like my brushes clean so I use a jar for prewash and a commercial wash container with two sections for further wash and super clean water.  See – I’m a clean brush fanatic.  And I have a pad of paper towel with an absorbent pad beneath to dry off the brush right away.
 Acrylics carry the challenge of drying quickly, so I’ve tried all sorts of pallettes.
Plain disposable paper pallets. tin foil, peel off acrylic pallettes, wet pallets, well pallettes with paint I have “globalized” according to a method by David Jansen (no I didn’t use their products).  Globalizing has real potential, and is essentially adding a retarder to the paint.  I’ve used home made wet pallettes and commercial ones.  Didn’t find that there was much difference, although the commercial paper that goes in the top of a wet pallette is less prone to wrinkling than wax paper or parchment paper.  None of it really has felt comfortable to me.  I always seem to feel I’m fighting the paints.  Don’t mist and they dry, mist and some get runny.  And all of this results in me wasting time messing with the workflow when I want to be painting.  I just can’t seem to settle.
I would like a pallette where I can globalize my most commonly used paints and keep them stored, and sealed, but have a flat, damp surface so I can blend and add less commonly 20160712_201021used colours.  The watercolour pallette on the left has potential, It is my newest acquisition (thank you 50% off coupon at Michaels).  Perhaps it will be my solution, but it is rather small and the blending surface is smooth but not damp.  I had such hopes for the round well pallette, which was a gift from my husband when I started this journey, but there is no mixing and blending space.  Perhaps some day I’ll design my own with a sealable set of wells (6 – 8) and a wet pallette space all in one.
That’s my grumbling for today.  I would love to hear about your experiences, and your suggestions would be welcome.
Next time, let’s talk about portability.

 

A Year in the Making

It was February, and I was sitting here with my morning coffee, looking at a pile of snow outside and being thankful.
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Teachers may not realize what a creative pursuit their job is, but they are always building lesson plans, creating teaching resources, writing lectures, crafting responses, and presenting those to a captive audience, to whom they must adjust instantly and constantly.  That is creative.  When I retired, that outlet disappeared, and a few months into my retirement I was looking for a new avenue.  I had dabbled in One-Stroke Painting, developed by the generous Donna Dewberry, for many years.  It was something I did with my mother, that gave a form of instant gratification.  But I wanted something more, so I spent some of my new-found time on the internet and discovered Youtube Tutorials!!!
At first I just watched, but one lady caught my eye, and my ear.11037482_10153125320891668_4409469571222735558_n  Her tutorials were detailed and well paced for me, and I had all the materials at hand.  And she was a Newfoundlander!!  Allison Prior made painting a picture so accessible that I just dove in.  The scenes were familiar, from our surroundings, and so my first pictures came to be.  This was my very first from Allison.  Through her I gained the confidence to push on.  I was even lucky enough to have an afternoon with her in person as she lives not far from me.
But there were others out there on Youtube and I continued to explore, finding Clive Powell of Clive5Art  with his many tutorials, tips and tricks to make acrylic painting accessible, and his love of Bob Ross, whom I had been watching since the 80s.  He spends remarkable amounts of time on connecting with his art family, through his many videos and his social media efforts.  Then came Len Hend from Australia, whose style is so loose and free (so different from my tight hand) and in whose online course at OpenLearning I continue to participate.  More recently I’ve watched the work of the Art Sherpa, Ginger Cook, Painting with Jane, and Nagualero.  What all these people have in common is their keen and sincere desire to help others unlock their artistic abilities and video tutorials are fabulous because you can paint along, pausing as needed, or watch repeatedly without trying the patience of the instructor.  And many of them will respond should you have a question.  I know, I’ve done it.  And there is a lovely lady, Shirley, who is half a country away, with whom I correspond privately, who is trying to expand my knowledge of colour theory and fine art methods.
20150820_140305Eventually it is time to move beyond slavishly reproducing the lesson.  That’s where I started, in February 2015, but it’s no longer what I do, and that tells me that I’m growing into my own talent.  I don’t yet think I have a “style” (there is so much out there to be explored) but I am bringing myself to my work now.  And that’s a little daunting.  The horizons (and the amount there is to learn) are endless.