A free holiday gift for you

I know everyone is busy this time of year, but I thought I’d share a little holiday cheer with you.  This is a free download screen saver for you. (Just right click and save to your computer images.  Then select for personalized screen images.)

Thanks for following my blog and all your delightful and insightful comments.  Happy holidays to you and yours.

Snowman holiday screen saver

Digital frustrations

 

Apologies for such a late post.  I have been working on some other things recently.  Including updating my main website.

I have had a WordPress blog for over six years, plus a couple of other previous blogs.  Have been creating or managing websites since the mid 1990s, too.  Back when one had to write code.  (Don’t bother yourself about that one.)  I know just enough to change fonts and colors but that is no longer needed.

And a couple of Etsy shops.  Pretty easy to manage and upload.

So recently, I decided to update my main website.  I have a LOT of work to put up.  I just redid the entire site last year and have updated a few times since then.  Adding a few more paintings, products, etc. Watching YouTube videos hasn’t helped much this time.  Might have to look for another host.

Frankly, lots of irritation.  I would rather paint than be a computer wiz.  But we do what we have to do.

So, not much to report today except some digital frustration.  But….it will get better.  I’m nothing if not persistent.

Grateful for small things

A few years’ worth of thankful journals. These are not expensive but they mean a lot to me.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  The holiday of gluttony and naps.  I love it!  Can’t wait for people to show up, to entertain them, hoping they’ll enjoy the company of friends and family, and leave with full bellies and happy thoughts.

For those of you who follow my blog and who are not from the United States, this is a national holiday of giving thanks.  Celebrated the fourth Thursday of November, the myth is that the Indians (native Americans) welcomed the Pilgrims to the land with a bounty of food and company.  However much of that story may or may not be true, it is still a holiday of celebration.  I like it because I can invite anyone I choose, feed them to exhaustion, and then send them on their way with containers of turkey and gravy, stuffing and cranberry relish, and maybe a piece of pie, too!

But giving thanks and being grateful should be every day, not just on a special holiday.

I’ve kept a journal for years and years, some hand-written and some digital, but these often end up a litany of worries or complaints or what I did that day. But I do manage to take the time to reflect at the end of each day on something special that happened that day.  I try to find at least three things but sometimes it’s more…and sometimes it’s less.

These are not big things.  They probably wouldn’t even register with most people.  Maybe it’s a sunrise or the strike of the sunlight on a hill.  Maybe it’s spotting a red-tailed hawk on a wire.  Or hugging a grandchild.

Sometimes I draw a little sketch to help me remember what I actually saw.

I find throughout my day that I actually look for things to write down.  The bird’s nest that  I spot outside my hotel window.  A phone call from a friend.  Even just a yummy supper.  Sometimes it’s just the tiniest thing but it’s special to me.

Another small sketch. Just a memory jog.

I urge you that at this time of giving thanks, that you reflect not only the big things but each small thing that might make you happy, that makes others happy.  Let us take the time to reflect on the small blessings of every day.  Hope you all have a wonderful day of Thanksgiving this week and enjoy spending time with friends and family.

Evolution of a painting

Barry, portrait in acrylic on linen, 28 x 34. Kit Miracle

Except for plein air painting and sketching, it’s pretty rare that I create a painting by just diving in and slapping some paint on canvas.  Yes, I know, movies and biopics of artists give that impression.  But really, it’s hard work and, for me at least, requires a lot of preliminary work.

When I’m doing a portrait, which is to me the most difficult to achieve, I always begin with some preliminary sketches.  Generally I begin with some charcoal sketches.  Sometimes one is enough but more often it’s several.

Barry, preliminary charcoal sketch. Kit Miracle

After that, I may try some color sketches on canvas paper or panels.

In this case, I had recently been gifted with some art supplies by a friend who was moving so I proceeded to a conte crayon study on pastel paper.

Barry, conte crayon. on pastel paper.

The next step was to do a larger oil stick pastel, also on pastel paper.

Barry, oil stick pastel on pastel paper. Kit Miracle

The final painting was created on a large stretched linen canvas 28 x 34.  I had already primed it some time ago with a dark neutral background and some splashes of color in the center.

I sketched in the main figure with charcoal.  Then, sanded the primary area and gessoed it again.  Then sketched over that again with charcoal.  A little spray fixative set the charcoal so the painting process would not pick it up.  I decided to leave the background unfinished with just the initial undercoats of paint.

The figure is painted in acrylic very loosely but with attention to detail in the face and hand.  The primary difference with painting a human portrait as opposed to painting a building or landscape is that if you’re off a brick or leaf in the landscape, no one will know. But if you’re off a quarter of an inch on a nose, you have totally missed the mark in capturing a portrait.   At least in my opinion.

What do you think?

More paintings from the Snake River

Snake River, Idaho, II, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Tomorrow (Veteran’s Day) is the final day of my landscape painting class.  We have been using watercolor with pen and ink added for details.  It’s been a great class but a little challenging for me.  I usually like to include something man-made in a landscape painting to give it that human touch, as well as to provide scale.

Most of the paintings we’ve done this class have been pure landscapes without any notion of a human in sight.

Tomorrow’s painting will involve a subject with a water feature.  Looking through some of my thousand of photographs, I decided to add a water feature since this is pretty common to landscape paintings.

Here are two simple compositions of the Snake River in the southeast area of Idaho.  The paintings are created with about five or six colors, but certainly less than eight.

Palisades Reservoir, Snake River, Idaho. Watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

One shows the reservoir lake as the viewer is looking into the sun. The other shows the Snake River with the sun at the back of the artist.  Both are relatively simple landscapes but should be challenging for a class of beginners to try.

Painting the Snake River

Final, Snake River painting. The final step is to use some pen and ink to add some details but be careful not to add too much. I suggest that you zoom in on the image so you can get a better idea of what I’ve done. It’s really just a lot of scribbling and very loose calligraphy.

I mentioned last week that I’m teaching a watercolor landscape painting class. I let the class choose which subject they wanted to paint and they selected the colorful sunset.  Well, it seemed easy but was a little more difficult than they thought.   I’ve painted that scene three times and none of them have turned out exactly the same.

So, I thought I would try to find something a little easier for the class.  One of my selections is this scene from a trip we took out West several years ago. This is the Snake River in Idaho near Palisades Reservoir.  Such beautiful country out there.

Snake River, original photo upon which the painting was based. As you can see, I eliminated many of the shrubs in the foreground to better draw attention to the river and the mountain.

This is a classic landscape valley with pretty clouds and blue sky, a nice piney mountain, a river, and some trees up front leading us into the scene.  I only used eight colors for this painting,  three brushes, and my fade-proof ink pen.  The paper is Arches, French-made of 100% cotton rag.  The painting time was about two hours.

To see a step-by-step view of the process, click here or go to Artworks and scroll down to Snake River Landscape.

Juicing up your painting colors

Bill’s Gate, Autumn, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

I’m teaching a class in landscape painting, watercolor with pen and ink. Last week I asked the students which picture they preferred, the regular photo or the one with the juiced up colors.  They all agreed that they liked the one with the brighter, more emphasized colors.

It is often a difficult choice for artists who paint in a realistic style, of whether to paint exactly what they see or to change things to suit themselves.  I tend to change things to suit me.  Personally, I like paintings with a little extra pop in color.  Not to go garish, but to just add an extra emphasis.

Below are some comparisons between the original photos, the juiced up photos, and the final paintings.

Which do you prefer?  Would love to hear your comments.

Autumn sunset photo before enhancement.

Autumn sunset with color saturation.

Autumn Sunset, painted with the enhanced colors. Watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

East field in fall, before enhancement.

East field in fall, after enhancement. I wanted to emphasize the warm autumn colors in the trees in the distance.

East Field in Autumn, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Florida Keys before color correction.

Florida Keys after photo saturation.

Florida Keys painted from the color saturated photo. The water down there is actually a turquoise color but it’s a great place to spend a morning in the shade.

Wickliffe Road without color enhancement.

Wickliffe Road, Watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

 

 

 

Why get an art critique?

My work table in my studio, finishing up the final painting in my Intimate Spaces series. This one is called Ogling.

I recently finished a series of paintings that I’ve been working on all year.  Intimate Spaces – Beach Series, focuses on my observation that beach goers often stake out their territories – putting up tents, setting up the umbrellas and lawn chairs, bring out the coolers – and then for some reason think that they are magically invisible if they’re in their little plot of sand.  They’re not, of course.  The artist / observer can see them.  Guess I’m somewhat of a voyeur.

I planned out this set of paintings in early January and have been diligently working on them throughout the year.  The smallest is 16 x 12 and the largest is 50 x 34.  By the end, I’ll admit to being pretty tired of painting sand and sun and sea.

So, now that they’re all done, I can sit back and relax, right?  Nope, now comes the proofing process, something akin to allowing bread dough to rise. I’ve been going through them one by one, looking for mistakes and omissions.  But this is the time ask a trusted colleague to view them and give me some feedback.  To get a critique.

Lest you shudder at the thought of someone criticizing your work, let’s be clear; there is a big difference between a critique and criticism.  A critique is designed to evaluate the attributes of the artwork, not the artist.  Criticism is often much more personal and tends to evaluate the artist.  A good critic knows the difference.

So what does a good critique do?

  1. It gives the artist an outside perspective, presumably in an objective manner.
  2. We are often too close to our work and can’t see glaring mistakes. A good critique will often point out flaws.  This could be in composition, execution, unclear passages, whatever. Some critics will make helpful suggestions but it’s up to you whether you wish to incorporate them into your artwork.
  3. Or a critique will evaluate that you’re hitting what you’re aiming for. Yay, you!
  4. Did you the you accomplish what you set out to do?
  5. Finally, distance yourself. You are not your artwork, no matter how much sweat and effort you have put into it. It is still up to you to decide whether or not to take any suggestions and make changes.

Many art schools and colleges will have group critiques, usually led by the instructors or the students themselves.  However, if you are beyond this, you should seek out someone whose opinion you value. We work alone so much that it’s helpful to touch get an objective, outside opinion. The whole point is to help you improve as an artist.

Does your high school have an art museum?

The impressive entrance to McGuire Hall. I wonder how much those giant blue vases weigh?

I had an opportunity to return to my hometown Richmond, Indiana this past week where I stopped in at my high school to visit beautiful McGuire Hall.  In addition to a lovely theatre space, this wing of the high school hosts one of the few in-school art museums in the country, Richmond Art Museum (RAM).

This is the entry hall for McGuire Hall. The wooden doors on the right lead into the theatre. It is so elegant that it’s difficult to believe this is a public high school.

The Tortoise fountain by Janet Scudder

I marveled at the marble floors and carved wood doors and trim, the Tortoise fountain by famous sculptor Janet Scudder, and the current exhibits.  They were featuring an exhibit of the works by local artist John Elwood Bundy (1853-1933). Famous for his many depictions of local scenes, especially the beeches and other sylvan scenes, at one time his work could be seen all over the area including libraries, businesses, restaurants and other locations, public and private.

Winter Landscape by John Elwood Bundy, one of the many paintings currently on exhibit at Richmond Art Museum.

Part of the exhibit by regional painter John Elwood Bundy including oils, watercolors and drawings.

The Richmond Art Museum (RAM) permanent collection is currently displaying a very nice collection of American Impressionists, regional artists and the famous Hoosier Group.  William Merritt Chase’s self-portrait is on prominent display as are other of his works.

This gallery displays some of the impressive paintings in the permanent collection.

More of the permanent collection on display.

William Merritt Chase, self-portrait.

As a student, I remember walking past these famous paintings on my way to art classes which were held in this wing.  I thought every high school had an art museum and only learned differently many years later. I remember being sent out of class to “draw something” and sitting on one of the marble staircases making my little watercolors.  I’m sure this influenced my choice of career in art making.

Richmond has a long history of support of the arts and they still have an active art scene.  There are many wonderful old homes in town and the city still holds much beauty, from the exquisite Whitewater River Valley, to Glen Miller Park, their rose garden, the famous Madonna of the Trails, and Earlham College.

Although regional art museums don’t get the same attention as do big city museums, if you’re in the area, I urge you to stop by the Richmond Art Museum which is open to the public.  I’m sure you’ll find this small gem a pleasant surprise.

The Art Fair Circuit

The beautiful fountain at the center of St. James Court. It’s beauty is somewhat dimmed by all the lovely art booths. The line at the Bloody Mary booth quickly formed when the fair opened.

I attended the St. James Court Art Fair in Louisville this past Friday.  I’m not sure if I ever mentioned this before in my blog, but I did art fairs for about twenty-five years.  The memories came flooding back, some good and some not so pleasant.

Love this giant dinosaur at St. James.

Traveling around the country to attend art fairs is like being part of a big family, something like being in a circus, I imagine. If you spend a few days next to someone, you quickly make friends.  Sometimes you start a conversation in May and end it in October.  Your friendships may carry on for years.

Mr.and Mrs. Huiying Lee in their bonsai booth at St. James. I always love to stop by. Not so successful with keeping a bonsai alive but it’s still a dream.

Brandon King, a young man from Jonesboro, Arkansas stands in front of his beautiful display. This is only his second year of exhibiting at art fairs.

Most of the time I would travel to the fairs alone but for some of the bigger ones I would take help, usually hiring a high school student or one of my boys when they got older.  I think I only did at most about twenty shows a year but pretty well traveled throughout the Midwest.  Some artists I know did the art fair circuit in the northern states in the summer and then went south to cover the southern states in the winter.  I knew several artists who lived and created totally in their campers.  Another couple I knew floated around in the Gulf of Mexico in the winter on their boat, stopping at ports to collect mail.  Of course, now all that is done on the internet and with e-mail, but this was quite a few years ago.

I love these colorful glass garden flowers I saw at St. James.

So this past Friday I decided to take a trip to Louisville to visit the fair at St. James Court, one which I had exhibited at for about twelve years.  The weather had finally broken and the day was cool and sunny.  I got there very early as I am aware of the difficulties of snagging a parking space as the crowds arrive.  The early bird, etc., etc.  As I made my way onto the fair site, the first thing is that I was met with the smell of cooking onions…at 9:30 in the morning.  But the aisles were uncrowded as the artists put the final touches on their booths.

Last year St. James as blistering hot.  But some years when I exhibited, it was so cold and rainy that we kept buying cups of hot cider just to keep our hands warm.  It’s all part of the job.

I only recognized a few artists that I knew in the past. I guess many of my contemporaries are retired now, too.  I made my way to some of my favorite booths.  I love the couple that sells bonsai.  Looked for the glass artist with the special paperweights but he wasn’t there this year.  Spent some time talking with a nice young man from Arkansas about his beautiful paintings.  So much to see.  After a couple of hours, the crowds were packing in and I was getting tired.  Time to leave while my feet could still move.

Over the years, I’ve had people approach me and say, “I would like to do this.”  They have NO idea, I would think.  The months of preparation, creating enough inventory, the application process, booth fees, traveling expenses, dealing with the weather, bugs, etc. Not to mention the physical toll of hauling your stuff all around.  Sheesh!

Me and my art fair family at Ann Arbor. I’m the one waving.

I have had many wonderful experiences over the years but a few stand out.  There was the singing garbage man in Ann Arbor.  And the time I had a water main leak IN my booth….at St. James, of course.  The time a big storm was coming and I had packed up my artwork and had just taken the weights off my tent when a wind tipped it up and over….while I was standing in the booth!  The time a couple consulted and bought my show piece (largest painting).  The little boy who would attend the fair every year just to talk to a real artist; I watched him grow up over the years.  The couple who invited a few of us artists to their home at the end of the day for a home-cooked meal. That was very welcomed.

So next time you’re at an art fair, take some time to talk with the artists. You might be surprised what they have to say.

This is what the street looks like at 6:30 in the morning on the day of set up at Ann Arbor. This is one of the top ten art fairs in the country, with three fairs going on simultaneously. Plus every merchant has a sidewalk sale and everyone with a front yard is selling something. That is the student union in the background.

Early morning, road is clear. Wait until this afternoon.

The Art Guild crew laying out the booth spaces before we can set up.

It’s mid-morning. The booths on the sidewalk side set up first.

Mid-afternoon, most of the booths in the interior are set up by now.