“Looking Down the Road (near Ojai) – 5 x 7 study – oil on canvasboard
The end of a year is a time for taking a look at the road one has traveled, as well as the road ahead.
Today, a look back.
At the beginning of this year, I posted A list of resolutions which included a resolve to paint daily, to paint larger, to participate in activities of our local art association and to take a figure drawing class. The local studio that features figure drawing lost its lease, so that goal will be pushed into 2007.
Some highlights of my year …
I started with a period of intense sketchbook painting at Descanso Gardens. I must have returned to the Japanese gardens dozens of times to observe it in different seasons and lights.
Although I continued to draw, I pushed painting to the forefront, painted daily and read every book I could get my hands on – books by Frank Webb, Edgar Whitney, Kate Johnson, Charles Reid, Jan Kunz and others. I immersed myself in watercolors by JS Sargent, Homer, Turner, Constable and Delacroix.
I went on numerous sketchcrawls and discovered the fun of trying to do a painting – albeit a sketchbook painting – quickly and loosely. The experience helped me learn to look at color and value in the environment.
About that time I started doing some digital oil paintings in Corel Painter and Photoshop. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was starting to entertain the idea of painting in ‘real’ oils again – something I hadn’t done since I was a newlywed – a very long time ago. Probably I was toying with the notion before investing in the supplies!
Around June, I got out of my Aquabee sketchbook and started using 140 # watercolor paper, as I had some 20 years ago, and began to think more about composition. I was invited to join a plein air painting group, whose company I’ve enjoyed on a weekly basis.
In the second half of the year, I experimented with a variety of media: watercolor, pastel, acrylic and finally, in September, oil.
In watercolor I began painting on larger sheets, and although I haven’t tackled a 22 x 15 inch sheet yet, I’m feeling just fine with 11 x 15 and smaller. The experience of trying out these different media was liberating. In a way it was like being in college again, with the whole course catalog to choose from. I’m still very much in that experimental phase, and perhaps I always will be. I find it tremendously exciting to look at a subject and then to think about which medium I want to use to express it. Sometimes, this past year, I’ve done the same subject in different media, just to learn from the experience.
And I guess I’d have to say that’s the theme of the year for me: intensive learning.
Around October I decided to enter a juried competition with our local art association, and was pleased to have three things juried into the show, and to get a prize. Fortified by this happy experience, I entered another peer reviewed contest and was rewarded again.
With the constant encouragement of friends and family, I also decided to offer a few artworks for sale – and that has also been a very pleasant experience. (Thank you, everyone!)
In November-December I attended watercolor demo workshops every weekend, put on by Watercolor West and the National Watercolor Society. Seeing outstanding watercolorists at work is both inspiring and energizing. I can hardly wait until next year’s demo series.
In November I joined the cadre of Daily Painters at dailypainters.com and made the commitment to do a watercolor, oil or pastel painting daily (well, mostly, except for some of the holidays.) I plan to continue that indefinitely.
This year has brought new friends, new experiences, new challenges and new opportunities – almost all through the shared love of art. I couldn’t ask for more but to continue learning and growing as much as I can for as long as I can.
I thank my artistic boon companions – every single one of you – for accompanying me on this Creative Journey for this, and previous years. Especially , I’d like to thank my dear husband for his constant support of this rediscovered passion of mine. He shares my journey to new places to sketch or paint – a trail in the mountains, or a scroungy junkyard. He takes me to museums and brings his cameraman’s eye for composition and lighting, which enhances my experience through our lively conversation. And he’s the first one to suggest and implement ingenious solutions – whether it’s turning a paintbox and a tripod into a portable easel or rigging excellent lighting from pro movie lights for painting indoors. I am a very blessed woman, and I know it!
This is getting pretty long, so I’m going to break this into a few parts. Tomorrow I’ll probably post some of my favorite paintings of the year and what they represented to my Creative Journey at the time. And the day after that, I’ll talk about where I want to go from here. Subject to change without notice, of course!
Blessings of the season to everyone!
EDITED TO add the rest of the story (originally posted December 2005)
This image was painted entirely in Photoshop using the Liquify, smudge and other gooey tools. There was no paintbrushing in this, nor preset global filters. It was done entirely by pushing around pixels, a few at a time.
Last year, in late November, a long-time dear friend of mine was remodeling her home and put in a beautiful new front door with a beveled glass insert. We happened to stop by to visit her at a time of day when the afternoon light was streaming through the door, casting scattered golden patterns on her wall. I was entranced with the look of it, and, because I never go anywhere without my digital camera, I took about a dozen shots of it from different perspectives – close up, wide, high, low and so on.
A few days later I opened one of the photos in Photoshop and just started manipulating it using my Wacom pad. I tried several different experiments but this was the one that turned out the best. My friend is a devout Catholic and attributes her recovery from the very early stages of colon cancer, and her husband’s cancer survival in part to the protection of her guardian angel. So I created a representation of that “being of light” … literally … painted with the light that came in her own door every single day. She liked it a lot and I hope you will, too.
I get a lot of mail from people asking different questions, and because I love chatting about art, I try to answer every single one. One of the most frequent questions is “where do you find inspiration?” I think that this demonstrates the process very well. I just look at things and start asking myself “what would happen if I tried this? Or this?” Sometimes you end up with a silly looking bulldog. And every now and then, an angel.
The Water Long Gone – 8 x 10 – oil on canvas panel. SOLD
As December draws to a close, the dry season comes to an end, rough rocky creeks like this will soon be replaced by swiftly moving streams. Flash floods will occur throughout the mountains and deserts, restoring the native plants. This location is near Ojai, a little creek that passes under a bridge. I hope to return there in a few months after the waters start to flow.
“Santa Barbara Glow” – acrylic on 140# watercolor paper
7.5 x 11 inches
I wasn’t sure I’d have time to do an oil painting today, and to photograph it, color correct it and get it sent to eBay. So it occurred to me that maybe I should try this scene in acrylic instead. I did, and I’m pleased with the outcome, and I think I’ll be adding this medium as a nice crossover between the quick-drying benefits of watercolor and the opacity and painterly qualities of oil.
Most of all I loved the ability to paint over and correct some areas without muddying, which happens in both oils and watercolor, for different reasons. You can do that in pastel, of course, but at a certain point the paper loses it’s tooth and you can’t layer any more. Why didn’t I think of doing this sooner?
“Coat of Many Colors” – 7.5″ x 11″ watercolor on paper – Available
Out in the meadow that borders the northern part of the arroyo, there stood a willowy creature, pondering what she would wear. Shall it be the gold today? The yellow? The pale chartreuse? I’m done with the dark green … it’s SO last week. Perhaps the rust?
As storm winds rose, her garment slowly came undone, and I knew before long all her glory would lay at her feet.
“Power at Sunset” – 8 x 10 inches – oil on canvasboard
Last weekend we drove out to Palmdale on business and I rode along because I couldn’t resist the skies full of incredible clouds. On the way home, after the sun had already set, I saw a glowing building and asked my husband to pull over so I could investigate. I gathered from all the high voltage signs that this was some sort of power distribution center, and of course I took a bunch of photos – the strong contrasts of colors inside the building and the dramatic sky were just too tempting. One of these days I’m probably going to get busted for suspicious behavior. But sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.
“Two Old Poms” 5 x 7 oil painting on canvasboard – SOLD
When we were up in the Ojai area a week and a half ago, we drove by a cluster of bright yellow bushes, probably eight feet tall, that had bright red fruit on them. We overshot this sight, so we turned around and made a second pass, pulling over onto the rough shoulder of the road. I jumped out of the car with my camera to take a batch of paintings of ripe pomegranates, hanging on the tree. I wasn’t about to pinch any of the fruit off the bushes, but I did pick up two of the poms that had recently fallen into the ditch, and which had not broken open upon falling. No doubt they had recently come off the tree in the heavy winds.
So they’ve been sitting around the kitchen and today I decided to paint them by the light of my office window.
“Into the Morning” 8 x 10 oil on canvasboard
This last week I’ve been waking up dreaming of painting. Years ago, when I produced some shows on dreams for ABC’s 20/20, we learned from experts that ‘day residue’ forms a large part of the content of our dreams. So it’s not surprising that because I spend so much time thinking about painting, as well as painting, that it would slip into my night life as well. A few days ago, I dreamed about visiting a landscape not far from us that I hadn’t been to in maybe 10 years. So, that very morning, my husband and I walked up the trail and I took some reference photos to remember what the light was doing that time of day. No doubt I will return there again soon, to paint on location, now that I know what the place offers. (And I’ll hope no mountain lions will come calling!)
This painting is based on the photo and notes I made yesterday morning. I’ve been experimenting mixing different hues and learning the colors most common in our local hills.
Windy Grove – 9 in x 12 in – Oil on canvasboard
In spite of yesterday’s strong winds we found some paintable bits of rural agricultural life very close to Los Angeles.
This painting depicts a stand of protective eucalyptuses bordering a citrus grove. Eucs are commonly planted as windbreaks, to protect delicate oranges or lemons from damaging storms. The mighty eucs were working extra hard on Sunday – groaning and swaying in high winds that drove brush fires in Moorpark, in the Simi Valley.
I’m enjoying painting bits of rural life that are still left in California, in the spirit of the scene painters of the thirties. And I’m really looking forward to painting more of these graceful gum trees.
Based on reading I’ve been doing (Kevin McPherson) and suggestions from Laura Wambsgans and others, I painted this with only three colors and white: ultramarine blue, cadmium red deep, cadmium yellow pale and titanium white.
Now … back to the easel …
“Citrus Valley” – 9 x 12 sketchbook study
Between holidays and business, this week’s paintings may consist of quickie sketches in my sketchbooks. This study, painted in my Raffine book, represents a part of the landscape we visited last Sunday during some high windstorms. The area is near Ojai – inland from Ventura and west of the Interstate 5. Most of the area is agricultural with rolling hills covered with avocado and citrus groves, and many eucalptus windbreaks.
Small watercolor sketches like these (9 x 12) give me some ideas of what I might want to do (or not do) when I translate it into an oil painting.