Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Layers of Inspiration

We traveled to Palo Duro Canyon last weekend, a place I had often heard of but never visited. The landscapes were easy to appreciate. Not as deep or rocky as the Grand Canyon, but the place was peaceful and welcoming. We stayed in a little rock cabin on the canyon rim and I took 150+ photos.

This sight appealed to me because, among other qualities, the striations in the hill were so beautiful.

Yesterday, I worked with my small class on torn paper collages. This is how mine turned out:

Just one more example of how the beauty in our environment can inspire us to express in art!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Analogous Love..

Well, color always does it for me. The brighter the color, the bigger the charge I get. And if the color combo is unexpected, that's the biggest charge of all. Take a look at these cousins, a claret cup, or hedgehog cactus and its first cousin, a strawberry hedgehog, growing right together. Evidently they like the same kind of soil!

The pink ones are strawberry hedgehog, and the red are claret cup or hedgehog cactus

Here's my first little sketch, just a quickie on a 5X7 piece of paper. I used dark colors to pop out the brights. Although I think the brights are good, I don't like the character the dark lends, so decided to do it again.
"Pink and Red," version 1

And try #2 - I zoomed in and used lighter, sunnier colors. I think this one looks much warmer and more feminine. Adding the sticks was a good idea for the texture. I may want to keep trying...
"Pink and Red," version 2

Thursday, June 25, 2015

An unexpected source of inspiration

My mom, Ruth Hanson, passed away yesterday. If someone had asked me initially about any influence she may have had on my art, I might have said, "not much." But some hours have passed and I've thought more about my experiences with her. Mom and I shared some interests: history, culture, literature, and perhaps best of all, birds and flowers. Mom taught me the names of birds, plants and flowers, beginning at an early age. I learned to "look up" anything I saw but didn't know the name of. I learned to observe my environment. And I can't think of a single quality more important for an artist.

This one's for you, Mom: "Prickly Beauty."

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Steps to Creating from a Photo

Very often, an inspiring sight or idea presents itself when we are far from the studio. We may not even be thinking “painting” when the gorgeous, jaw-dropping sight appears. Our only option might be taking a quickie with the cell phone camera. Probably, any photo we get won’t be studio quality, won’t be composed well, wouldn’t make a great painting just by copying it. So what do we do, when we finally return to the studio and have only that not-so-great digital photo for reference?

The double rainbow that appeared over the Organ Mountains last night was mind-blowing.
But the photo I took with the cell phone is only a reminder of the moment. It couldn't record
the ozone smell in the air, the glowing colors in the rainbow, the gasps I heard from other 
rainbow watchers! There are elements I probably wouldn't want in a painting (like the light pole)
and I wouldn't want to copy the scene directly from the photo - I'll have to think about
what would make a strong composition and how to communicate the excitement I felt at the scene.

  • The first thing to do is to look at the photo or photos taken, review them, take yourself back to the moment you touched the photo icon. Remember the surprise, the wonder, the smells, the colors, everything you can dredge up about that moment. What was it about the scene that grabbed you? What made you gasp? Why were you compelled to take a photo? Talk to yourself about the moment. Write down some words, if that helps you solidify your ideas. Mostly, identify what about that scene made you want to paint it? The more you can put this into words, the more you review your emotions, the better you’ll be able to describe it with paint.
  •  Second step: Review your photo(s) again for information that supports and describes your exciting idea. What needs to remain? What are the elements that made you gasp?
  •  Three: What should be cropped out or discarded? Some things may be obvious: light poles, stop signs, pickup trucks – some of these might be better left out of a landscape painting. It’s all up to you, there is no right or wrong. Only what supports your idea and what does not. You have to put thought into this.
  •  Four: How can you arrange those necessary items from step two to make a strong composition? Here’s where the sketch book comes in. You don’t have to get tight and “realistic” with the sketch. I’ve been known to do my sketches with a ball point pen on a napkin or the back side of an envelope. The idea is to get your concept in front of you, move the items around so that they make a strong composition, based on what you’ve learned about composition. Indicate only the main shapes and values.
  •  Five: Try out your idea with paint, experimenting with colors and values. Don’t worry yet about details. If you need to make half a dozen little color and value studies, that’s fine. You’ll figure out what works.
  •  Six: If you are a “tight” painter, do your drawing and transfer it to the paper. If you’re a looser painter, dive right in. Having done the five steps above, you’ll be much better prepared to get your exciting idea on paper in a way you will be proud to share.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Imbibing Color, Texture and Surface!

Yesterday I decided to try painting on Aquabord again, and I think I'm completely SOLD on it now. My first intro was in a Robin L. Makowski workshop last year, where we painted quite realistically. Below is one of the pieces I did in that workshop - "Love of My Life," a portrait of our Nicodemus, who passed away in 2013.

Love of My Life

While I enjoyed the subject very much, I'm not too interested in the tight, realistic style. So when I decided to paint claret cup cactus on a piece of Aquabord yesterday, I thought I'd try a looser style that is more similar to how I generally paint.

Claret Cup
So in this case, not only the vibrant color of the claret cup (also known as hedgehog) cactus blossoms and the prickly texture of spines and other sticker-y stuff engaged me. I also was inspired to try a different painting surface. I think I like it and will be doing more on Aquabord.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

More Desert Beauties

It's April, it's spring and I'm being inspired by the gorgeous spring beauties around me. One of the biggest surprises here when I first saw it was the desert willow flower. Chilopsis linearis to be exact, a member of the catalpa family! Desert willows come in several varieties, some "wilder," some benefiting from a little domestication. This particular one came up voluntarily, next to the walk in front of our house. My husband thought it was too close, so I tried to move it. Of course that didn't work, but surprise! It came up again the next spring, same place. We decided to leave it, and it grew into the most gorgeous little tree that shaded the walk.  Last year, I took photos of the flowers that remind me of little orchids:

chilopsis linearis
Then last week, when I was looking for flower pix to paint from, I was stopped by this one.

Here's the quickie painting I did:

Desert Willow

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Joy in the Morning

There's something -- actually, a lot of somethings -- about morning that just makes me smile. Sitting on the patio with my green tea, listening to the sights and sounds, being awed and entertained by all creation around me, I can't keep from smiling to myself. This morning, I had to run for the camera, thinking how inspiration for paintings was all around.

steel raven sculpture, yucca in bloom and acrobatic grackle (on street light)

The simplest things can make me smile when I am in that so-grateful-to-be-alive mode. If one looks at the details in his environment, inspiration just follows.

baby tomato plant, enjoying the morning sun
(it was a volunteer!)
white winged dove, warming himself in the sun
(look at those toes!)