Monday, February 28, 2011

Do you know your values?

I painted a couple of value studies this last week and I was struck again by how much I love doing them. In some ways I enjoy painting them more than full color versions. (Both of these paintings are from photos we took along the trail a couple of weeks ago.)

A different view of three islands

Value studies are when you paint a subject in one color, usually a very dark gray-black like Payne's Gray, concentrating on the darks and lights.

Maybe the reason I like value studies so much is because the the course is so clear: I must stay true to the values of the subject, reproducing those values accurately if I am to be successful. Yes, there are still mistakes to be made, technical and compositional blunders waiting to happen. But the interesting thing is that if I stay true to the values of the piece, it can overcome other errors.

Isn't that a little like life? There are so many decisions to make that it can be overwhelming. What if I make a wrong choice? What if I screw up somehow? I don't think it matters as much as we think it does, as long as we're staying true to our values. Of course, that presupposes that we know what our values are, that we've thought about them, studied them, held them up to other values to see if they hold true.

Geese on the sandbar - a cropped version of a photo we took along the trail

I wonder how many people have consciously thought about defining their values. There is responsibility that goes along with knowing your values. If you don't live according to them, you suffer. Maybe people think it's easier to just "go with the flow" and not give it a lot of thought.

I think, in the long run, they're wrong. It is sure easier to navigate life if you have a clear set of values. I'm not saying it is easy. You can still make mistakes and life WILL put rocks in your path and gale force winds in your face, but it sure helps to know the cut of your sail.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

You're invited!

Mark your calendar if you live in the Spokane area. (If you don't, use this as an opportunity to come visit!)

A framed K.B. Carpenter limited edition, signed print will be one of the auction items at the:

Friends of the Centennial Trail

3rd annual auction

You will have a wonderful evening and at the same time support this priceless gift to the community.

On the Trail

"On the Trail" will be just one of many great items available. You can check out the Friends of the Centennial Trail website for more prizes.

Here's the basic information:
Date: March 25th, 2011
Time: 5:30pm
Location: Northern Quest Resort and Casino

Silent Auction begins at 5:30pm
Dinner 6:30pm
Live Auction 7:30pm
Dinner - no host bar
Door Prizes
Admission: $45 per person

For tickets and information, contact

I hope to see you there. Please come, and while you're there, bid on my print!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


No. This short blog post is not going to be about perspective in art (well, maybe a little), but rather how our perspective changes depending upon our situation.

Sprecka and I and the end of our 4 mile run

This week-end provided a wonderful, if chilly opportunity to run on the Centennial Trail. As Sprecka and I ran, I kept thinking, "I can't wait to be in the sun, I can't wait to be in the sun", as we ran through the shady sections. During the summer my mantra is "I can't wait to be in the shade, I can't wait to be in the shade" and I dread the long expanses of unrelenting sun. I wonder sometimes how much our attitude about things that happen in our life would change if we could just change how we view it - work to put it in a different perspective.

Not matter what, it's always a blessing to be able to run along this stunning trail. Norm took a few pictures offering different perspectives of scenes that we've seen before:

A different view of the three islands

A wonderfully rebuilt Cliff House. I will paint this at some point.

In the studio this week I'm playing with insects. Sometimes you just need to have a little fun. I love drawing insects so I thought I would experiment with Daniel Smith's Luminescent Watercolors. (If you missed my blog about my love affair with Daniel Smith, read here). I got some samples and have been looking for a project to use them on.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Pushing Daisies

I've been painting daisies in the studio this week.

There's a look I'm looking for...but I'm not finding it. I'm ready to bury them.

But I'll keep working at it and I'm hoping that I will find the look I am looking for.

Oh well. Back to the drawing board (or the watercolor board).

On a totally unrelated note, there is a payoff for cleaning and organizing. While going through my son's closet (the son who has graduated from college and moved away), I found a few old CD cases. Most were empty, but a couple of them had treasure: Bad Company and Aerosmith! They have taken me back to my high school days, listening to music senior year with my best bud when we should have been doing more productive things (like attending class).

You can even see me dancing in the studio if you pass by. My studio faces the road. The studio dog and I spend lovely moments watching the world. Actually, she's on patrol (here she is on duty next to one of the dead and buried daisy paintings).

Enjoy your week-end.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Waiting for Spring

One of the wonderful things our children bring to us is an introduction to the different places they live.

We loved Columbia, Missouri, where our daughter attended the University of Missouri (college town atmosphere, wonderful people), and Missoula, Montana, where our son attended the University of Montana (outdoors, outdoors, outdoors). Each location offered different positives. This spring we get to visit our son in Pittsburgh, and we have enjoyed our daughter's soon to be ending time in Pocatello, Idaho.

I can't get enough of Pocatello's winter scenes, particularly the white mountains against achingly blue, blue skies and the yellows, greens, and browns of the sagebrush. This painting is based on several photos my daughter took.

Waiting for Spring (click to see details)

I wanted to capture the textures of the sagebrush, the snow, and the track of trail. I was particularly drawn to the blues of the sky and the bicycle, so I decided to feature them together, linking them with the lone figure on foot. I liked creating the idea that the walker, the land, maybe even the bicycle are waiting for the melting of the snow, the warming of the earth...time to ride again!

I know I am.

Friday, February 11, 2011

More cat tails and cat tales

Another scene from Turnbull Wildlife Refuge. I was especially drawn to this scene because of all of the murky reflections in the pond, and because of the cat tails. They're very fun to paint.

Speaking of cats...the art studio cat has been at work again. Not painting this time but stealthily stealing water. I say stealthy because I don't think it's particularly healthy to drink dirty paint water. Of course, I provide perfectly good clean water in the pet dish, but apparently that doesn't appeal to her as much as diluted ultramarine blue. While manufacturers have worked to eliminate toxicity in paints, it's probably still not good to drink it. The cat knows that I don't want her drinking the water, so she waits until I'm not looking. Here she is looking to see if I'm watching, and then drinking the forbidden water.

As if that's not annoying enough, she's been printing at night when she's sure we're sleeping. Really? Printing? Yes, really. As I lay there sleeping, I hear her walking on the table, apparently walking on the printer, and stepping on the print button. I come into the studio in the morning to find the printer jammed. This is after she has pushed tubes of paint on the floor, carried off natural sponges and who knows what else.

Yes, I know the obvious solution is to close the door to the studio but during the day this is not practical and I often forget at night.

Oh well. She enjoys herself in the studio almost as much as I do.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Step by step

I've been working on scenes from Turnbull Wildlife Refuge this week. (This painting is fairly large so you can click on it to see details.)

Big Sky - Turnbull Wildlife Refuge

It occurred to me that you might enjoy seeing a painting develop from the original thumbnail sketch to the finished creation. I've only included a few steps along the way for you to see. As you can see, it is a long process.

Thumbnail: I was drawn to the color of this scene and the way the majority of the sky was not actually in the scene, but rather reflected in the water. I knew that I would have to keep large areas of light in the river area which would also help draw the viewer into the painting.

First wash: Since the sky was the star of the show, I started there, flooding the same colors into the areas that would be the river. I won't worry about the reflections of the reeds until after I've painted them. (I've masked the foreground cat tails/reeds to protect them.)

Second wash: I'm starting to lay in the background. I wanted that clear band of light grass in the distance - again because it draws the viewer back and then around again.

Third wash: Now the reeds/grasses/bushes go in. As I add color, I mirror the color in the water where the reflections will be.

Fourth wash: Details added to help with definition and depth. Details in the reflections are added.

Fifth wash: Time for more detail in the water to give it depth and movement.

The last details are the cat tails and reeds in the immediate foreground.

Finished painting.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Coming home

Thank God!

I mean it. Literally.

I got to run on the Centennial Trail yesterday for the first time in three months (I don't run in snow and ice) and it hit me like a kick in the gut. But a good kick in the gut. Can that be possible?

It was like coming home, an overwhelming sense of "God is in heaven and all is right with the world", kind of feeling. The weight of living is still there (budget woes, unrest in the middle east, and most heart rending, a dying much beloved dog friend), but it is balanced with a sense of peace. Not a rest peace. More like a living, breathing, creating give and and the universe, the universe and me. Sounds kind of pretentious, but I truly believe that each one of us is that important.

Do you ever have that feeling of coming home? I think it is most clear when you brush up against it after having been wandering far from it for a long, long, time. It's that kick in the gut, that feeling of realizing the loss you have been living under without it. The world steals bits and pieces of us slowly, so slowly that we don't even realize how far from home we are, how far from ourselves we have allowed ourselves to stray.

For me, hiking has always taken me home. Feeling the breeze, smelling the pine trees and feeling the sun on my face, being far from man made things helps me to feel a connection that I can't explain but that powers my soul. I don't think I am unique in this. I have heard from many people that being out in nature helps them to find a sense of peace. Running on the trail allows me that same feeling without having to go very far. It is why it is SO important to have these islands of nature in an urban setting. The runners, walkers, and bikers that shared the trail with me yesterday all had smiles on their faces.

Music takes me home. I will hear a song or be at a concert and feel tears come to my eyes, feeling that sense of "Where have you been? I have missed you". Somehow during the day to day living I have not allowed time for it. We don't allow time for so many things that are important.

Here I am with Super Sprecka

So I thank God for those things that take me home and I've finally written a check to support "The Friends of the Centennial Trail" organization. I am embarrassed to say that it has taken me this long. Our budget is tight since I no longer have a steady paycheck, but I cannot NOT support this organization any longer. I have included a link especially for those of you in the Spokane area if you are inclined to take a look and also support this worthy organization.

So, what takes you home?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My first print

I am excited to tell you that I have sold my first print!

It is officially called a Giclee (pronounced "zhee-clay") print, which really just means that it is a copy of an original watercolor painting, printed on watercolor paper. The result is really quite impressive. It is difficult to tell the difference between the original painting and the print.

I had been wanting to look into this process for awhile, but the opportunity presented itself when a customer wanted another painting just like "Walkers on the Beach". Rather than painting the exact same thing, I suggested a print. We are fortunate to have a high quality art printing store nearby, so I took an electronic photo of the original painting and they printed it for me. The only downside is that I no longer had the original painting, so it was difficult to match the colors perfectly. Ideally the printing company does the scanning (at a cost, of course), perfects the colors and creates the print.

While the process is not as inexpensive as Kinkos for example, it does open new possibilities for getting my work to more people, which is always a good thing.

I've been playing with my new watercolors this week in the studio. While we don't have the horrible weather that the Midwest and East Coast is experiencing, it is clear but VERY cold. The art studio cat has been enjoying lounging in the sun that shines through the windows. It looks deceptively warm. The former art studio dogs (traitors!) have been staying on their warm pillows.

Hope you're staying warm.