Rereading favorite books

Just a small portion of my personal book addiction. I should also mention that I have library cards from two counties!

Winter is a time of forced indoor activities, or at least, that’s my excuse.

I’ve been culling some of my many books for donation and have come across some of my favorites, probably too tattered to donate.  I was thinking about if I could only have ten books to read, maybe on that proverbial deserted island, what would they be?  That actually led me to contemplating rereading some of my favorites.  Books that may (or probably not) end up in the donation pile.

These are just some of my favorites, most read many times but at least twice…or more.  These days I cheat a little and will get the recorded book from the library to listen to while I’m in my studio, but they’re still on my list.

In no particular order:

Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams and The Bean Trees.  Plus, just about anything else she has written.  I love her observations and narrative.  She has introduced me to different ways of life, different ways of living, that I never knew existed.

Louisa May Alcott, Little Women and Little Men.  I always thought Laurie was a sap and Amy was a spoiled brat.  But I actually like Little Men much better.  I haven’t seen any of the recent movie remakes but will probably catch them on TV later.  My imagination is always better than the movie.

Robert McCammon, Boy’s Life.  This was a gift from my father many years ago and has nothing to do with the magazine of that name.  It’s a delightful coming of age tale with so many twists and plot threads that it’s often difficult to keep up with.  I’ve read it several times including once aloud to my sons when they were young.  One of them recently borrowed it again.

Jean M. Auel, Clan of the Cave Bear and Valley of Horses.  I’ve read these several times and recently pulled them off the shelves again.  I even read them to the boys, skipping the juicy parts, and they have borrowed them again.  I didn’t care for some of the later books in the series but these were still thought-provoking.

Niven and Pournelle, Lucifer’s Hammer.  I first read this on vacation in Florida many years ago and it has been a hit with the family since then.

Shel Silverstein, all.  Love every book of his and am now reading them to the grandchildren. Just the irreverent attitude and silly poems and puns. And who doesn’t love The Giving Tree?

Raymond Jones, The Alien.  First read this back in high school when I was in my aliens and outer space period and a few times since. Might have to reread this again.

Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking.  I read this when I was very young and I think it has an effect on my life ever since.  It gave me the idea that with enough effort, I could pretty much be whatever I wanted to be.  Looking back now, it seems a little simplistic, but it was a good push at a young age.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit.  A major inspiration for artists and probably on lots of studio bookshelves.

Bayles and Orland, Art and Fear.  I reviewed this book not long ago and have read it several times.  I find something new in it every single time.  Another great inspiration.

David Lynch, Catching the Big Fish.  This book has prompted me to look at life with new eyes and an open attitude.  Another inspirational book for artists, writers and any creative person.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Flow and Creativity.  I particularly liked his research on flow, that feeling of being one with whatever you’re doing, whether that is painting, gardening, biking, whatever.  You get so involved with what you’re doing that you just go away in your head for awhile and return to the results a few hours later.  This really works for me and other people that I’ve talked to.  It might be likened to a creative meditation trance.  For me, at least.

Johanna Spyri, Heidi.  And her other books.  I’ll admit that I read this many times when I was young but when I tried to read it to my granddaughter, it just wasn’t the same.  Probably dated, by now.

Anna Sewell, Black Beauty.  Another children’s book that is getting pretty dated now, but still, most girls love horses, so there’s that.

Agatha Christie, any, all.  I think I have the complete works of Agatha Christie in various book forms.  Used to love these books and would reread them endlessly.  I loved the England of the era of Miss Marple but those days are gone now.  Might be time to donate this collection.

I remember the time when my best friend Mary and I would always have a mystery or sci-fi book tucked into our purses for those moments when we had to wait after school for someone to pick us up, or on road trips or vacations.  I wonder if teens still do this?  I know my granddaughter is happy to take a bag of reading material with her on vacation.  I still do.  But I also am as likely to read a book on my phone at the hairdresser or while waiting for a meeting to begin as with a physical books.

What do you think?  What favorites have you reread or are still rereading?  Are any of these books on your list, too?

Making temporary fixes to a painting

Far Horizons, original painting, acrylic on toned canvas, 20 x 24, Kit Miracle This is the original painting with portions of the toned canvas (raw sienna mostly) showing through as well as the original charcoal sketch on the canvas.

A few weeks ago I posted about changing the background of a painting.  I took a standard flower painting from a traditional dark background to a colorful reddish-orange background to a mixed background.  Someone asked me if I made the changes on the actual painting.  Yes, I did.  I like the painting but I’ve long passed the point of where every one is precious to me.  As the artiste, I feel it is my right to paint how I wish and what I wish.

However, I’m going to show you a neat little trick which will allow you to make temporary changes to a painting.  Here you can try out new ideas, new approaches without making permanent changes.

I have a large roll of acetate film which I used to use for wrapping large matted but not framed paintings, particularly watercolors.  This kept the paintings clean and protected them from fingerprint smudges and other dirt.  Great to use in art bins or wherever you want to display your work in public. You can buy acetate in rolls or sheets.

The painting that I’m demonstrating with is titled Far Horizons.  It shows my granddaughter looking out over the Grand Canyon. Not only does the painting depict the distant views of the Grand Canyon, but the deeper meaning of a young girl looking out to the future.

Although I love the composition of the painting, it somehow didn’t seem to give the impression of really far horizons, as anyone who has visited the great canyon can attest.  So I wanted to try to lighten the background as a test.

Far Horizons, 1st step. A clear acetate sheet has been taped over the canvas. No painting has been done on the acetate yet.

First, I cut a large piece of acetate and taped it to the painting.  Then just started loosely painting over the acetate with acrylic.  I lightened both the distant sky, and made many changes to the rocks with lighter colors.  I even added some more highlights to the girl’s hair and jacket.

Far Horizons, 2nd step. Here you see that I started with the sky and have been painting directly on the acetate sheet. The whole idea is to test out some lighter background colors in order to push it back.

Detail of step 2 showing some loose strokes of lighter colors.

Far Horizons, final step of the acetate painting over the original painting. I even touched up the highlights of the girl’s hair and jacket.

This is the actual painting on the acetate. I’ve put a plain piece of toned paper behind it to better show you the actual painting.

I plan to set the painting aside in order to evaluate whether I want to make any of these changes permanent.  If not, I haven’t done any damage to the original painting and can leave it just the way it is.

This technique works well for both acrylic and oil painting.

Painting in 3D

I recently had some work in an exhibit which was limited to works 8  by 8 inches.  That is pretty small.  So I decided to challenge myself by adding another twist.  I ordered three canvasses 8 x 8 by 2.5 depth.  It was almost like painting on boxes.

I’ve painted edges of canvasses before but this deep was extra challenging.

Kit Miracle – White Dahlia 3D, acrylic, 8 x 8

White Dahlia, left side

The first two paintings were of flowers, of course.  I paint a fair amount of flowers as you know.  Here it was fun to plan what part to focus on and which parts to wrap around with the painting.

Kit Miracle – Sunflowers 3D, acrylic, 8 x 8

Sunflowers 3D, left side. You can see where the flowers were carried around the edge of the deep canvas.

Sunflowers 3D, right side.

The final painting was really outside of my normal subject matter.  A goldfish bowl with a couple of fish swimming around.  I actually had great fun with it, especially carrying the fish bowl around the sides, top and bottom.

Kit Miracle, Goldfish Bowl 3D, acrylic on canvas, 8 x 8 I love the way the fish on the right is looking directly at you. Or so it seems.

Goldfish Bowl left side

Goldfish Bowl 3D, right side

Goldfish Bowl, top

Kit Miracle – Goldfish Bowl 3D – bottom

I guess some artists are more comfortable painting the same thing time after time, but I find that I like the challenge of trying something different.  What do you think?

Matting works on paper

Did you receive any artwork for the holidays and are a bit confused about how best to mat and frame them?  This post specifically addresses matting works on paper.  This includes watercolors, pastels, drawings, etc.

These are the simple matting tools that I use for fixing a painting to a mat. (Cutting a mat requires different and specialized mat cutting tools, not addressed here.)

The first point to remember is don’t do anything that could damage your artwork or that can’t be undone.  Do not use scotch tape or other such adhesive products as these can bleed into your art.

Works on paper are typically framed under glass to protect them from moisture, air pollution and other environmental conditions which could harm the art.  They are usually framed with a mat so they are not pressed right up against the glass.  Some exceptions are if the framer uses spacers to keep the artwork from touching the glass but I am not going to address that option today.

Mats can be purchased at art supply and craft stores and even online.  These will usually be standard sizes unless you cut your own or have the store cut one for you.  (This is one of the benefits of using standard sizes.  Check out this link to an earlier post.)  Since I use standard sizes for my smaller work, I purchase museum-grade mats  in volume from an online retailer.

The key with matting a work on paper is that it should only be hinged at the top of the artwork.  This will allow it to “float” in the frame.  Paper is sensitive to humidity and needs to be able to expand and contract.  If you stick it down on all sides, the art will buckle at times.  Certainly not the look you want, I’m sure.

A small painting with a ready-cut mat and backing. The painting has a border around it to allow some flexibility in situating it within the mat.

Small work hinged. I have hinged it all the way across the top.

In this small snowman painting, you can see that I’ve hinged the mat all the way across at the top.  I use my thumbnail to press down on the framer’s tape.  To remove the tape, apply a little heat from a hair dryer.

Snowman, final matting

The second example is a larger painting with an individually cut mat.  Here I have created hinges with vertical strips, then horizontal strips holding the vertical strips.  To help keep the artwork in place while I’m working on it, I use a couple of pieces of removable painter’s tape.  Remember to remove it after you place the hinges.

Matting a larger work. Here you see the border I have left which allows me to situate the painting behind the mat before I begin to work on it.

Use some removable painter’s tape at the bottom to hold the painting in place while you work on the hinges at the top. Remember to remove this tape after you are finished with the hinges.

Large work with first set of vertical hinges.

Large work, second set of hinges. The horizontal hinges hold the vertical hinges in place but do not actually go on the painting.

You can buy framer’s tape at most art supply websites or framer’s stores.  A roll is relatively inexpensive and will last for years.

Large work completed mat. Remember, it is only hinged at the top of the painting which will allow the painting to “float” in the mat.

Mulberry paper is very fibrous and strong. It makes a good alternative to tape for making hinges. However, you will need a separate type of adhesive, usually something like Elmer’s school paste.

A final way to hinge your painting to a mat is to use mulberry paper.  As you can see, this paper is very fibrous and strong.  Just cut hinges in the shape and size as the tape demonstration above.  I used this method extensively at the beginning of my art career.  With larger paintings, such as full size watercolor paintings, you may need to use four or five sets of hinges across.  Then use Elmer’s paste to adhere the hinges to both the artwork and the mat.  Remember, do no harm and be able to undo your actions if you need to.

I hope this helps you to get your new artwork up on the wall. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions.

Useful links:

Jerry’s Artarama framing tapes

Dick Blick framing tape

What a difference a background makes

Lilies with brown background. Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20. Kit Miracle

I often treat myself to a bouquet of fresh flowers when I’m at the grocery.  They just make me feel good and remind me that spring will be here soon (another three months).  This week’s selection included some beautiful lilies and other flowers.  Of course, everything becomes a subject for painting to an artist.

I started this painting yesterday and worked on it some more today.  Although the first image with the dark background is pretty classic, it was nice but didn’t move me.

Lilies with orange background. Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20. Kit Miracle (Apologies for the glare from my easel light.)

So…..I decided to try some different backgrounds.  First I painted a bright, orangey-red background. This really added some pop to the painting.  But it seemed very flat to me which is probably what I didn’t like about the first painting background.

Lilies with blue and orange background. Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20. Kit Miracle

Then I added some variegated shades of blue to the background, leaving the orange at the bottom. Much better and it ties in with the blue vase.  (I have many cobalt blue vases of various shapes and sizes which I’ve collected over the years.  This is why you see them in so many paintings.)

The flowers are essentially the same although I may have touched them up here and there. So, which background do you like best?  Dark brown, orangey-red, or blue and orange?  They each bring something different to the painting.

Hummmm….I wonder what a lime yellow-green would look like?

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.