Monthly Archives: July 2017

Studio visit – where the magic happens!

My studio is the old summer kitchen surrounded by herbs, flowers and giant maple trees.

I love to visit the studios of other artists, to nose around and see how they work, what materials they use, how they store materials and artwork.  Sometimes I get great ideas but it’s just wonderful to see what the other artists do.

So I’m inviting you to visit my studio.

Over thirty years ago, my husband and I decided to leave the corporate world and purchased a small farm in Southern Indiana.  This was always a dream of mine so he mostly came along for the ride.  If you are not familiar with this part of the country, it is totally beautiful with woods and fields, gently rolling hills, lakes and streams. And not too many people.  I like to say it’s like New England without the crowds.

We live in a 150 year old farm house with a large garden, a couple of orchards, and plenty of the aforementioned woods and fields and streams.  We raised two sons here and have enjoyed living in a county that doesn’t even have one stoplight…and we’re proud of it.

My studio is the old summer kitchen so my commute is about 30 feet from the back door.  For those of you who are not familiar with this term, summer kitchens were popular in the days of wood-fired stoves to keep the heat out of the house…in the summer!  They are very common on old homesteads in the midwest and south.  And it’s very nice for me to have an area to keep my art separate both physically and mentally from the rest of the house.

Thanks so much for stopping by.  Don’t forget to visit my art website at kgmiracle.com  or my Etsy shop.

My Blue Door Studio,the old summer kitchen is about 30 feet from my back door. The blue is Electric Blue, a lucky southwest color. Hey, why not?

View from the front door through the studio. It is a two-room space.

View from my artist chair to the front door of the studio.

A broader view of the front room of the studio. This used to be the dining room for the field hands during the summer.

It may looks a bit haphazard but I know where everything is…usually.

Broader view from the back room into the front room.

This large pantry in the back room of the studio is where I store many objects for still lifes. The old wood cook stove was back here, too. I can’t imagine how many meals were fixed here, as well as all the canning that was done.

Storage is always a premium for artists. Where does one PUT all this art?

This is where the magic happens. The easel for oil painting. The flat table for watercolor and some drawing. Everything I need within a hand’s reach.

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Will your artwork last?

One thing that has concerned me since I first became a professional painter (over 35 years now) is the quality of the materials that I use and how to make sure my art lasts.  This is important to me not because of my ego but to ensure that my customers can expect a painting to last for years, even decades or centuries with proper handling.  I educated myself early on about the greatest causes for deteriorating artwork, especially works on paper.

Some of the greatest causes for paintings to fade or change are:

  • Sunlight! Yes, while the sun is great for so many things, it is not good for paints or papers.  Even over a long period of time, it will fade the colors and break down the fibers of the paper or canvas.  Sun will even fade wood over time.
  • Damp enviroments invite mold and organic changes to the supports.
  • Insect damage. Those little silverfish love to eat paper.
  • Using cheap materials. This is my personal pet peeve.  Why put all the time and effort into creating a work of art and use cheap materials?  Doesn’t make any sense to me.

What can you do as an artist or art owner?

  • Always choose the best materials you can afford. For instance, if you’re an artist, use artist-grade paints rather than studio or student-grade paints.  The artist-grade paints contain more pigment and better quality.
  • If you’re creating works on paper, use 100% rag, linen, or cotton fiber. These will hold up decades longer than  pulp papers.  Wood pulp contains chemicals which deteriorate almost immediately.  Remember that pile of yellowed newspapers in the garage?
  • Ensure that the matting and framing is archival or museum-grade. I always use museum rag mats and archival backing.  If the work is under glass, you can help prevent sun damage by using UV filtering glass.

So, if you are an artist, take pride in your work and make it with the best materials you can afford.  If you are an art collector, ask the artist or gallery about the materials or framing.  If it isn’t framed, have your framing shop frame it archivally.

My personal experiment.

Many years ago I decided to test my materials by putting samples in a south-facing window of my studio.  Both of the samples shown are on 100% cotton rag paper.

This was the test. Two pieces of Arches 100% cotton rag with ink and paint samples in a south facing window

I was testing four things.

  • How well the paper withstood the direct sunlight.
  • How the watercolor paints held up.
  • If there was fading to the computer printed color paints.
  • If any of the commercially available inks and ink pens held up to the sun.

The time frame for this experiment has been about fifteen years.  I folded the art pieces over and they have just been sitting in the window for that long.

This is the outside of the mini watercolor painting. I was surprised that the red didn’t fade over 15 years. It is usually pretty fugitive.

Each piece was folded over with part of the experiment covered by the fold. In this case, it was an old mini painting. As you can see, the actual watercolor paint held up pretty well.

On the inside of this piece, I tested several commercially available pens as well as the standard India ink. Some faded totally away while some others held up surprisingly well.

As you can see, there is some small damage to the paper along the edges.  I attribute this mostly due to water damage from condensation of the window, not to direct sun.

The watercolor paints (Winsor and Newton) held up surprisingly well.  I was somewhat surprised that the reds held because that is a color that has a great tendency to fade.

And the pen inks.  What can I say?  Some, like the Zeb Roller Ink totally faded.  But others, like the old standby India ink and newer Vision Elite haven’t changed at all.  That is good news.  I’m now testing a carbon ink from Japan and have high expectations for that.

In this test piece, I printed color ink from my computer onto rag paper. Pretty faded, eh?

The fading is even more noticeable when the covered part is revealed. Note to self: don’t use standard office printers for original artwork.

The computer printed paper totally faded. So much for archival inks. My experience has been that the black computer ink will last but not the colors, however, inks may have changed over the years.  And I’m sure that commercial-grade printers and ink will fare better.  But best to ask if you are purchasing a print.

The takeaway is to use or buy quality art materials and frame them in a way that will prevent damage, particularly from sunlight.

Please note:  I am not a scientist so this was just a personal experiment.  Use your own judgement in the end.  Check out this article from scientists who are actually fixing old artwork.  https://www.livescience.com/13536-winslow-homer-van-gogh-fugitive-art.html

You Can’t Go Home Again…or Can you?

Thomas Wolfe wrote, “You Can’t Go Home Again” but I think you can.  I had the opportunity to visit my hometown, Richmond, Indiana, last weekend on a plein air painting adventure with Indiana Plein Air Painters.  I hadn’t been back for at least 15 years and did not have high expectations due to some economic problems that I’d heard about.  I don’t know about that but the town sure looked pretty to me.

Richmond sits on the Indiana – Ohio border in the eastern center of the state.  It is an old town with lots of Quaker settlement as well as many other religions.  Since the late 1800s, they’ve embraced quite an art scene including one of the few in-school art museums at the local high school. I grew up thinking that everyone passed famous paintings on the way to class.  Little did I know.

Richmond known for it’s beautiful Glen Miller Park and Millionaire’s row, along with some of the most exquisite old houses and varied architectural styles.  I could find many subjects for painting there!

The pond at the beautiful Glen Miller park, adjacent to Millionaires Row

Typical houses in old Richmond, Indiana

The event was only one day so I decided to visit my old alma mater of Earlham College and paint Stout Meeting House.  The weather was perfect with a slight breeze and a very peaceful campus due to summer break.

Plein air painting at Stout Meeting House on the campus of Earlham College

Stout Meeting House, Earlham College, Watercolor/pen and ink, 11×14, Kit Miracle

Later I took some time to visit my great-grandma’s house, one of the oldest log cabins in Wayne County.  I was so pleased to see that it had been lovingly restored and looked better than when my great-grandmother lived there.  No one was home but I promised myself to stop by on my next visit.

Great grandma’s house, Richmond, Indiana

And I had forgotten how many beautiful churches Richmond boasts.  It seems as if there is another church on every corner.

Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Indiana

So, although you can’t go home again, you can visit it.  Your hometown just might surprise you.  I’ll be back soon and longer.

One hour painting challenge

Painting in plein air is a great time to challenge yourself with a limited time to complete a work.  Usually you’re painting quickly anyway due to the changing light and conditions.  In this piece, I decided to limit myself to one hour.  I even set a timer.

Wild daylilies

Orange daylilies grow wild here in southern Indiana and can be found along nearly any country road in June.  They’re so beautiful and hardy.  This patch of flowers I actually dug up along the road since, surprisingly, our farm had zero of these elegant and lively flowers.

One morning I noticed the light pouring through the trees which seemed to spotlight this flowerbed.  I also loved the dark background of the bushes behind the flowers which seemed to make them stand out even more.

Wild daylilies plein air, Kit Miracle

I decided to work in acrylic which is not my strongest medium to work with.  The pochade box is a Sienna which is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship in itself.  As an aside, I will say that I was not prepared for this painting venture; I had to keep returning to my studio for supplies that I had forgotten. (Note to self:  make a list of supplies for each medium and keep everything together.) I also limited my palette to four colors plus white.  I could have eliminated the green and just stuck with the primary colors.  I would also have used an acrylic paint retarder medium as the paint kept drying too quickly.

When I set the timer, I dove into the work by doing a quick sketch and using larger brushes.  I tend to cover large amounts of canvas for the initial lay in, going back to add details and tweak things.  That’s my method but you may work differently.  The whole point of the timer and this exercise was to force me to make decisions more quickly and not get overly fussy.  Having too much time is not always beneficial.

Wild daylilies, Kit Miracle, acrylic on canvas, 9 x 12

Shooting for bright colors and the contrajour light, I think I accomplished my task.  What are your thoughts?