Monday, June 27, 2011

Echoing in eternity

I tackled major tasks this week-end:

Continued my ridiculously frustrating (uncooperative weather) deck refinishing project. No, it is STILL not done but the end is in sight.

Took some great photos of the Centennial Trail (here are a couple of them).

Went on a 5 mile neighborhood run which ends with not one but TWO killer hills (which I have named Grendel and Grendel's Mother), that I ATTACKED! By the end of the second hill my face was so wet from sweat and a newly acquired allergy that results in water literally streaming from my eyes, that I didn't notice a dribble of drool coming out one corner of my mouth. I am a picture of loveliness when I exercise. For those of you who are reluctant to exercise because you are worried about what you will look like, fear not. You simply cannot top me.

I'm working to keep in mind the example of Maxiumus. I highly recommend this post by Steve Kamb on NerdFitness. Fantastic article not only about exercise, but about life and not making excuses - working hard every day to take it to the next level. It has given me serious thought about what it means to live a life of excellence. What we do - every choice we make echos in eternity.

Playing with color and technique in the studio. Trying to take my art, my health, my worship, everything I do to the next level.

Thanks for being on the journey with me!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

All quiet on the western front

Quiet - but not unproductive.

Here's a glimpse of things I'm working on in the studio right now:

A Centennial Trail value study. Running this time of year is a reminder of how momentary some things are and how lasting others can be. Those momentary things can be splashes of great beauty while the lasting things are more mundane. Yet the mundane outlasts the momentary and exhibits a grace that is visible when you look past its outer shell.

Wildflowers are in riotous color right now, quickly here then just as quickly gone. If I don't grab my camera immediately they might have faded by the time I return. I love their wild abandon of color and form. As soon as they are gone, a different vision appears in another location all vying for attention.

Yet I was struck by the old gnarly tree standing in marked contrast to the wild daisies, then later blue flowers. It has stood for how many years? It has seen the youthful abandon of the wildflowers come and go. It has weathered the seasons and remains. I'd like my painting to capture that contrast.

Wild iris study. These are also from the trail. I'm playing with some very large paintings - almost abstract in nature, focusing on form and color.

Through all this, studio dog is my faithful companion.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Channeling Norman Bates

You're a heart breaker,
dream maker,
love taker,
don't you mess around with me

This song, recorded by Pat Benatar, should be watercolor's theme song - at least in my opinion.

Sometimes I wonder why I work in watercolor. It goes like this:
You begin a painting. It can go one of two ways.
1. It can
look - maybe - wonderful (you think as you're painting)
fantastic - yes - this is it!
Then - what's happening?
I'm losing it. I'm losing it.
It's gone.
Just as you crest that wave of painting success, you crash in watercolor wipe out.

2. It can
look - like - absolute - garbage
(I was thinking of another word here but edited for the sake of unknown sensitive readers).
You give up on it,
but then-
(think of the shower scene from Psycho here, cue the scary staccato violin music),
you take your paintbrush and viciously hack and slap a wash of paint over the entire painting (scary music, arm raised again and again, paint brush violently connecting with painting),
WAIT - what's happening?
It looks better - can I save it?!!!
Quick - painting CPR - lift paint here - darken values here
Doctor, we can save this patient!!!

Watercolor - noun, synonym - heart breaker
Case in point -

This was a negative painting I was working on. I've shared before that I like to have a negative painting around to work on since it is not my natural style. It was one of those frustrating paintings that started well and became disappointing. Irritated, I mixed a wash of Thalo blue and casually slapped paint over the whole thing. It actually started to look better! I focused a bit more, lifted some of the Thalo off the lightest values, let it dry, and added some detail. While certainly not great, it improved.

Maybe I should channel Norman Bates more often.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Add killer bunnies to the list

I've been running on the trail earlier this week due to transportation issues. It's been a little scary running that early. The trail is pretty deserted, especially on colder, cloudy mornings, which we seem to STILL be experiencing this June. I feel a bit isolated and look carefully around especially as I go under overpasses (I watch too many crime shows). The real source of danger that early hasn't been from menacing human beings.

It's the killer bunnies.

And some ground squirrels - even a marmot.

Here's the scenario: Super Sprecka and I are running at our break-neck speed down the trail. A bunny darts across the trail, startling Sprecka, who clearly goes through a string of split second thought bursts:

must chase the bunny, kill the bunny, no, no, attached to this stupid leash, run back to the lady, no, no, mustn't trip the lady (been there, done that, and while the excitement of her falling and breaking her face was highly entertaining, we didn't get to run again for weeks and weeks), sit down and think, no, no, we're running, get going!

The bunny, having reached the other side of the trail, high fives a waiting companion, who then runs back across the trail starting the whole thing over again. For variety, a ground squirrel joins the relay, darting toward us, sticking out its tongue to tempt Sprecka, shakes its furry tail and scampers into the brush, snickering. A slow moving marmot even decides to join in (apparently we don't run at a break-neck speed and he has plenty of time to taunt Sprecka and waddle to the other side of the trail).

I'm a worrier. They say that worrying is pointless because the things you worry about don't usually happen; it's the things you never even think to worry about that get you. Like killer bunnies.

Doesn't mean I will take anything off the worry plate; I'll just add one more thing to watch out for. Ah well, such is life. I'm in the mood for a little Monty Python. You bring the popcorn.

Monday, June 6, 2011

I'd rather be a weed than a hot house flower

Have you ever fought weeds in your yard?

We put in an entire new yard last fall, tearing out the old and putting in the new which included installing a weed fabric and a layer of rock. Guess what?

We have weeds.

Despite vigorous opposition, weeds have managed to grow. We will pull them, spray them with poison and stab them with appropriate yard weapons. But they will be back and they will keep on coming. As much as I hate them, I have to admire their sheer tenacity. I want to cultivate more of that quality of persistence within myself.

I am afraid that I am too much like a hot house flower. At the first sign of frost, when I don't have enough people responding to my work, I want to curl up and die. When the searing heat of criticism and disdain beats down upon me, I shrivel and wilt. If I don't receive fertilizer, the encouragement of kind words, my growth falters.

Weeds don't care what the other plants think. They don't compare themselves to their beautiful cousins and declare themselves unworthy. Every hand is raised against them but they stay the course. They do what they were created to do.

They grow.

And so will I.

Note: This painting was based on a photo from the Centennial Trail. I had noticed this flower/weed for months during the summer and never thought it worthy of painting. However, by the end of November, it was the last blooming plant on the trail so I decided it was indeed, worthy. You can see a print of it in my shop here.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Dragon evolution

"How does a drawing of a dragonfly evolve into a painting?", you might ask.

Or you might not.

Regardless, I thought it would be fun to do a step-by-step again to show you the process in watercolor. If you were not here for an earlier post, I did this awhile ago for a complete painting:

It is amazing to start with a blank sheet of paper and create something.

It all starts with a line drawing (you can click on any photo to zoom in):

Then the first wash:

Second wash, adding slightly darker values to create the form:

Third wash, deeper values and some details:

Add a few more details, deepen any values that need it, throw in a background, and voila:

Fly away little dragon!

Have a wonderful week-end.

P.S. The third dragon has been sighted in my studio. Here is the brief glimpse. (If you're not sure what I am talking about, read here.) More details to follow.