Gansett Gingerbread Towers – RI Christmas Card Series

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Where I live, there is a famous Victorian era building called The Narragansett Towers.

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It’s right along one of our prettiest beaches so every Rhode Islander passes along its way at least once each summer.

I thought it would be fun to convert our landmark into a gingerbread house. If only we could eat it!

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I’m wondering your thoughts on a card with a black background.  Is it too menacing for the Christmas holiday?  I keep flip-flopping on which to print; black, white or go back to the drawing board.      ….hmm….. choices….

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For Santa – RI Christmas Card Series

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I’ve had a lot of fun designing Christmas cards that are very unique to where I live.  They call Rhode Island “The Quirky State” and this is for so many reasons…

Here is a link to favorite foods, locations and traditions of Rhode Island: 48 Cool, Hidden, and Unusual Things to Do in Rhode Island This way, you will be able to understand why people might find my cards funny.

Some local faves are coffee milk and famous Allies Donuts.  So here I have offered them up for Santa instead of those regular old cookies and milk.

In the next few days I will send images of each card in the series. I am also playing with different editing software to try to decide what I want the final cards to look like… Luckily I have plenty of time.  I won’t be offering these until next year :)

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              I hope you are all enjoying the things that make your region special.

Tis’ the Season!

Painting People

 

I don’t know about you, but I find painting images of people scary and intimidating.  One wrong stroke and whoever you were trying to represent is instead someone no one can recognize.  It could be the smirk in a smile.  An eye being 1/16″ of an inch off… you name it, it’s hard.

As an artist trying to sell work, here’s another dilemma.  No one wants pictures of your kids, aunts or even your dog!  They are highly personal.  I hate to say it, but with images of people who someone doesn’t know, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  There’s a good chance you think you have the most beautiful grandchild in the world.  But that can’t be, because the woman right next to you has the most beautiful grandchild in the world.  You catch my drift?

So in my watercolor class I wanted to address adding people to a painting.  However, I wanted to add the “essence” of people without getting too specific.  Here in RI, we are also very familiar with the beach. So why not do an impressionistic painting of people on the beach?

Before each class, I scour the internet finding more than one way to do a painting technique.  I know how I would do it, but is there another way?  A better way?  I came across this tutorial and fell in love with the technique.  If you are at all interested in painting people, give this a view:

Here’s another thing.  If I have learned anything about painting, it’s that there are tricks to everything.  And I want to know what they are!  When you have 50 people in an image, it would take a month to draw each person to scale like in the diagram above.  The diagram above is how a masterpiece should be created, but a quick watercolor study?  There has to be an easier way…

I found this tutorial and I love its simple concept (click on the image above).

RECTANGLE CARROT

In an impressionistic image, you can create a human by first creating a rectangle for the torso and then making a carrot shape for the legs.  A head of course is round, but either way it works!

In my class, we sketched some quick human figures and then got to painting.  The video tutorial I included above teaches how to create human figures using blue watercolor paint that you drop human skin tones into. So you in essence start with a blue man.  We worked on all spectra of skin color, how to add clothing and how to allow the drops of pigment to bleed together giving you simply the “impression” of a person.  While all of this is happening, the blue paint that you begin with, gets pushed to the exterior of the figure.  Can you see the essence of blue as a halo around the figure?  It makes for a more colorful and in-depth image.

I’m not going to lie, painting people is just as difficult as I thought it would be.  But that’s all the more reason to push through the fear and give it a try.  I’m the teacher, and I learned a lot!  I am going to continue practicing.  and maybe next time, I won’t be so afraid to put a person in my painting (and maybe my pet in hope that no one is noticing ;)

Teaching Atmospheric Perspective

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Did you know that mountains look grayish-purple in the far distance?  Do you know why? 

I always knew to paint the objects in the far distance lighter and more purple/gray, but I don’t know that I ever invested in finding out the why.  For my painting class, I scoured the internet and figured it out.

On a cloudy day, objects far away simply look lighter.  This is because of all of the natural gasses and pollution in the atmosphere. However, on a sunny day with blue skies, the objects far away do indeed have a purplish cast.  This is because the blue sky is actually reflected in the atmosphere and smog.  Who knew?

So as a painter, keep this in mind:  If your landscape is cloudy just make the distance lighter in value, but if there are blue skies in your landscape, make the scenery far away purplish and lighter.

Here’s the tutorials I dug up from the web to give to my students:

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Here are the two demos from the project we did in class:

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When working with watercolor, there is no white paint.  You simply do not paint where you want something white.  You use the white of the paper.  This image with the mountains lighter in the distance as well as fog rolling through the hills is a wonderful opportunity to figure out how to use the white of your paper.  The trick is a ton of water.  You apply to the paper clean water and then you ever so slightly add some pigment and let it bleed through the area.  If you put paint on one side of the water-soaked area it will be dark on that side, but on the opposite side, the plain water side, it will still be mostly white paper and water.  This creates an ombre effect.  A graduation from dark to light.  There are so many instances to use this in watercolor.  It’s agreat thing to know how to do.

When your out on the highway looking at a large expanse of land, check it out for yourself.  The rule should hold true!

Water Color Teacher

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Did I mention I have been teaching adult art classes?

This is new to me.  I have taught art to kids for over twenty years, but adults,  I always kind of shied away from.

The painting teacher at my local guild was retiring after twenty years and they needed someone to take over.  Now seemed like as good a time as any.

This past semester I taught a beginners watercolor class in the evening and an Intermediate all-media painting class Thursday mornings.

It was a bit scary because I had to fill someone else’s shoes. But I am slowly making my way and trying to figure out how to best serve this community.

In the next couple days I will share some of our class lessons.

The class sessions are only two hours.  This means we can’t spend the class drawing, because the point of the class is painting.  So I provide basic break-downs of the shapes of the images. This way we can get right down to it.

The flower shapes here, provide a great opportunity for practicing shadow and depth.  You really have to load the color in to create the illusion.

My lessons on watercolor focus on using tons of water to allow the pigments to bleed together (wet-on-wet technique).  The rest of the time you are lifting paint out to make things lighter and translucent while simultaneously adding more pigment to other areas to darken them.  It’s a dance between adding and removing paint.

Thus far, I have found a few differences between adult and kid students.  Kids just dive in with no concerns, while adults tend to be afraid of two things:  Using too much water and using too much paint.  The water is easy, it’s a fear of losing control.  As adults we cannot predict where that water will go and what it will do which is scary.  The paint on the other hand, is maybe a money thing?  Us adults pay for these expensive high quality paints.  Kids could care less how the paint got there and who paid for it.  I find a lot of adults afraid to really load up their brushes and use a lot of paint.   Where one would want to use a smudge of paint the size of a quarter, some will use the size of a popcorn kernel!  It cracks me up.  I can remember these similar sensations.  It’s hard to be an adult.  We work so hard to not screw up all day, that trying something new can be hard.  Failed experiments can simply feel like a fail, yet it’s the only way to learn.   So this will be my focus.  Loosening people up and helping them to see failed attempts as experiments, not failed works of art.  This will be good for me, because even though I have been painting longer than many. I too am super afraid of failure.  I think showing I am not perfect and am constantly still learning myself is a good thing to share.

I have been researching a different topic for each week.  That usually entails scouring books and web pages for theories.  Boy, there really are all different ways to reach the same conclusion.  I find my own practices have been different from other painters.  This has been great.  I am obtaining a tremendous amount of knowledge on painting simply for myself.  I can now say “here are three different ways of tackling this problem” as opposed to only having “this is what I would do”.  So I am trying new things myself.  New applications keep me young and fresh and excited to continue painting. I’ll pass on some of what I’ve learned in up coming posts.

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I do demos during the classes.  So I have been coming out with two paintings of the same subject.  I thought I’d share, because they never come out the same twice.  That’s the human aspect of art.  The best part.  Being human.

OK.  I have to run… this week we will be learning glazing techniques while painting images of roosters.

  I’ll let you know how it turns out!

Apples at ArtLab

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EVERYTHING HAS A SHADOW.

This watercolor project is a terrific way to teach this principle.

Do you see the black arrow attached with tape in the image above?   Each kid had to choose where the sunlight would be coming from in their picture and then make sure every single object in the picture plane reacted with a shadow accordingly.

First, we talked about why we block our paper.  This is the act of taping watercolor paper to a board, wetting the paper and then letting the paper dry.  Blocking stretches and shrinks the paper.  When working with watercolor, a tremendous amount of water gets applied to the paper.  The paper absorbs the water and stretches itself to its max.  This causes waving and rippling. Normally, a piece of paper would stay in this state but a blocked paper has already encountered water in a controlled setting. It’s taped down tight with no room to warp and has been forced to stretch tight preventing the rippling. It’s a great artist practice and there’s even a little science behind it.

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Next, we started with the backgrounds. I had the kids take their pencil, follow their arrow and run it across the paper pretending it was a flashlight.  What part of the bowl will the flashlight hit first?  Following your arrow of light, where will the flashlight hit each apple? The rule of a shadow is that the shadow falls in the complete opposite direction of the light. So, the pencil pretending to be a flashlight really hits home the front and back of each object.  Many people do not notice that every single item be it a nose on a face or a pencil on a desk, has a shadow.

The third step was creating shadows in the bowl.  The deepest part of something with depth is the darkest. The shallowest part of a bowl has access to light, therefore its lighter.  The kids worked from a very dark center to a light outer ring. Hoping to convey depth.

 

 

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The finale culminated with the painting of the apples.  We filled each apple with clean water on the paper and then allowed the colors of an apple to bleed into one another.  Red, green and yellow were used and a little bit of purple to denote the shadow of the apple itself.

Watercolor is a tough medium to learn.  You are always adding paint and water as well as trying to take away paint and water.  It’s a tricky balance.

The only bummer is that I couldn’t show the kids the difference between expensive paints and cheap ones. Boy is there a big difference!  Of course we had the “affordable” paints.  With them, red looks like pink, green a faded yellow and black a light grey.  Cheap paint just doesn’t posses the pigments needed to obtain gorgeous colors.  Yeah, the kids catch the gist, but not the magic of amazing paints…

I guess that’s the prize of keeping with the arts and investing as you go along… I know my first watercolors were Crayola.  It was enough to wet my appetite for more.  I hope the same for this new generation coming up!

 

#I SURVIVED – I Thought this Painting was Going to Kill Me!

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I think I may have overdone the amount of objects in my still life because this one seriously almost killed me!  It took me practically 4 weeks to finish.  I don’t even want to count how many hours that would be… (Don’t think… don’t think…don’t think about that!)

Here is a progression of photos depicting how I chose to tackle it.

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Fruits of My Gardenwatercolor 22×30

Here are some of my favorite areas of the painting.  In a way it’s like 4 different paintings in one.

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I think half the reason the painting took so long is because the paper was terrible.

It is totally my fault.  I went to the RISD store to buy some good paper and when I saw the beautiful pieces for $20-$50 each, I cheaped-out and bought the $5 sheets.  YES.  YES. YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.  A good sheet of paper is like cotton.  You drip some watercolor onto it and it sucks it up and spreads like a plant drinking water.  A crap piece of paper is a whole ‘nother ballgame.  You puddle some water on it, add the paint and the paint goes – um… NOWHERE.  It just sits on the surface never becoming one with the paper.

Another horrible feature of this paper comes from the fact that a big part of water-coloring is the ability to lift, blot, rub and remove paint from the surface.  This is how you get the areas of reflection and sunlight.  When I rubbed the surface of the cheap paper, it literally crumbled and created holes.  A quality paper is tough like fabric.  It can take everything you throw at it. Look back at how many areas of sunlight there are in this painting and just consider how many battles I had with deteriorating paper. Oh yeah, I got what I paid for all right.  A complete and total nightmare! 

And I’m just too darn stubborn to walk away.  I did work with the crappy paper and I have a few more sheets of it too.   I’ll probably cheap out and use it “because I already paid for it” even though what I should really do is THROW IT IN MY CAMPFIRE!

What I really need to do is hand my credit card over to a trusted love one, have them enter the store without me, ask for the best paper in the joint, buy it and promise to never tell me how much it cost.  Hmm… I should take this advice! Mom? Husband?

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On the pottery front I just started making these jugs.  I will have to admit that most of my good ideas come from 100% selfish motives.   I hope these will be out in time to fill them with all the flowers about to burst in my garden. I’ll keep you posted on how they turn out.

OK. When I hit the publish button on this post, I will have officially earned my “clean slate”.  Now, to figure out what I want to do next…

woo-hoo.

Bowled Over

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I have quite a few good-sized bowls coming out. Thought I’d share.

I’m also plugging away at another big watercolor.  They take a ridiculous amount of time…I’m trying not to ask the question if they are quantifiably “worth it”.  If I were to be paid by the hour, these paintings would be incredibly expensive (like Trump might hang them up next to his golden toilet expensive).  Whether I get paid at all is the hard part of justifying why I do what I do -ever.

I just have to quiet my mind and say “don’t think… don’t quit… this was the gift God gave you.  God didn’t give you accounting skills, corporate feistiness or amazing memorization… All you can do is show up everyday and use what God gave you… have faith… have faith… Listen to your inner voice… there has to be a reason you intuitively know how to do all things artsy… don’t quit… don’t quit…

Yes. Yes I do.  I talk to myself all day.  You don’t?

I also tell myself to shut-up all day too…  What, you don’t?

Ha.  OK.  On with the show…

Here are some pieces that came out of the kiln this week.

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As I look at these, I am reminded I should make some more of my own stamps.  I like how soft and non-mechanized they look.  They make my work more personal. Note to self – make more stamps…

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Here is the new painting I am working on.  I challenged myself to quite a funky perspective.  I am looking down on the subject matter.  I hope I can pull it off… still so much to fill in/block off… boy that’s going to take A LOT of time…

It’s been cold and wet for well over a week.  I find it so hard to motivate myself. I am going to have  to revert back to talking to myself just to get myself out of this chair.

…Get up.  You don’t have that much time…If you don’t work on this thing you’ll never finish it…   No.  sitting on the couch wrapped up in a blanket bingeing Netflix is totally out of the question…You’re an adult right?  Adults do responsible things all day?  Go do something “responsible”…

What? Oh come on. You do talk to yourself too right?

I thought so. Totally normal ;)

Oh Happy Day

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I am so excited to be done with this painting!  I have no idea why it took so long, but it took the majority of three weeks.

I don’t know… is it bright enough? lol

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I LOVE working large.  Seeing all that color gives me a burst of energy.  I think my favorite part is the leaves, well, close second is the sunflower.

I just got my mulch delivered.  I get so psyched this time of year.  It’s like I get to move from paper and canvas to earth’s canvas.  All the flowers in this painting, I helped bring into this earth. I planted them from seed, weeded, watered, nurtured and then you get to watch their beauty unfold.

Painting and gardening are very much the same thing.  Nurturing something until you can bring its beauty out.

ok. I’m officially done…  I can’t wait to start again!

Out of Time

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Out of time I am.

I’ve been working on this watercolor this week and now the week is over.  Headed out on a much anticipated vacation next week, so I thought I’d check in before I disappear for a while.

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This watercolor is 22 x 30.  I love giant sheets of watercolor paper. I feel like painting everyday objects larger than real life opens them up to a bit of abstraction.  objects become color blocks.

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I’m wondering what you guys think of the drawing.  I went REALLY loose.  Dare I say to the point of considering it a contour drawing.  Objects wind up looking a little less realistic.  They tend to wiggle and move giving everything a little more personality.  I  think I like it.  The last painting I did was a little more calculated and measured.

Being alone all day painting, I wind up looking at things way too closely and for way too long.  Because of this I can’t be very objective.  So help me out, what do you think.  Drawings:  Go tight or keep it loose?

I’m looking forward to seeing this one done. Oh well, guess it’s going to have to wait :)