Category Archives: art

Lunch at the Museum

Lunch at the Museum, Kit Miracle, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 24.

This is the seventh painting in my Intimate Spaces: Breaking Bread series.  A bold, vertical portrait, this painting certainly grabs attention.  I’ve been noticing that in addition to telling a story, my portraits often include a wry sense of irony.  Yeah, I just now figured that out but looking back at much of my work, I can see what often attracted me to the scenes initially.  Maybe it’s my quirky sense of humor but hey, it’s my work and I can do what I want.

Anyway, this scene was when I took my granddaughter to the Carnegie Museum complex in Pittsburgh a few years ago.  All that walking around to see dinosaurs and artwork and more is hard work.  We stopped for lunch in the museum restaurant.

I guess that the first thing that strikes the viewer is, “What are those things coming out of her head?”  This, of course, as any photographer will tell you is a definite no no in composition.  You don’t want trees sprouting from your subject’s head.  But here with those globe-shaped lights, it works.  Some rules are made to be broken.

Lunch – detail 1. A sweet portrait but not saccharine.

There is a lot of vertical in this painting.  Not only the canvas but the stripes, the lights, the straw for the girl, the wood on the table.  The head is not quite in the center but everything leads to the face.

Lunch detail 5. Those squiggles become chairs and tables on the outdoor patio, viewed through the window of the restaurant.

Lunch detail 4. Up close, the people in the background look like beans, but again, from a distance, they come together.

I particularly like the balance between the warm and cool colors.  Even within the cool areas, you can see quite a bit of color if you look closely.  It’s about one third to two thirds ratio of warm to cool.

Lunch, detail 2. I captured this little still life even in a portrait.

Another little still life. The loosely painted silverware and napkin come together when viewed at a distance.

Some people like to see a photo realistic finish on paintings but that is not my style. (Been there, done that.)  As a contemporary impressionist, I look to convey the message with as few strokes as possible.  Looking at my paintings up close often reveals a jumble of bold brush strokes.  But stepping back about six to eight feet, it all comes together.  This is done to deliberately allow the viewer to become a participant in the experience by filling in the details with their own eyes where there may actually be none.

Canvas prep and under painting. This abstract painting doesn’t necessarily follow the composition of the painting but is designed to give a little guidance. Look closely to see my initial sketch of the subject before I begin to paint.

I also like to paint on a toned canvas, often with a rough gesso base to add texture.  One of my favorite colors is a reddish tone which adds sparkle where it peeks between the brush strokes.  This is particularly good for landscapes that have lots of green.  However, the tones on this series of paintings are more somber, greys with some splashes of color.  The subject is then drawn on top before I start painting.  When my husband saw all the prepped canvasses in my studio, he thought I was switching to abstract painting.  Well….not yet.

Back to the River

It’s still too early to do much planting although I have onions, snow peas, lettuce and kale growing. The garden is tilled but we have to wait another couple of weeks before planting the whole thing.  We’ve done some trimming and tidying of the flowerbeds.  The spring flowering shrubs are next.

Plein air painting along the Blue River in Southern Indiana. As you can see, my easel is actually sitting in the water. What we artists won’t do for our work!

Monday was beautiful and balmy.  A perfect day to return to the Blue River for some more adventures.  This time my husband brought his fishing gear and I brought my painting kit.  It was so peaceful and quiet.  A week since our last visit but I noticed changes.  The redbuds are waning and the dogwoods are coming out.

Blue River, plein air painting. Acrylic, 11 x 14. That spring green will only last for a few weeks.

Bridge over the Blue River. Watercolor / pen and ink. Kit Miracle Created from photos taken on our previous visit last week.

As you can see, I had to set my easel in the water to get the view that I wanted.  I nearly tipped in myself but this is the price an artist pays for the adventure of plein air painting.  My husband got his line wet but not much luck until right at the end when he caught a nice bass.  (He returned it to the river, of course.)

Fishing on the Blue River. My husband actually caught a nice bass but he released it. We peeled off our sweatshirts as the temps warmed up quickly. Spring is here!

Another wandering drive on the way home took us past a little greenhouse.  Of course we stopped.  Although we have some tomatoes and peppers started, I had to buy a few more.  Hey, it’s that time of year.  All you gardeners understand what I mean.  (BTW, I was the only one at the greenhouse wearing a mask!) Later in the week the mice in the greenhouse started nibbling the plants.  Dirty rottens!  I wouldn’t have thought they would like nightshade plants but now I know they do.

So, that’s pretty much my week.  Finished the plein air painting in the studio and did a watercolor/pen and ink of the bridge over the Blue.  Some gardening.  Reading.  Oh, and cleaning the attic of my studio but that’s another story.

February’s Art Production

February’s Art Production. The Food We Eat Series. Acrylic on canvas. Kit Miracle

I thought I’d do another post about a month’s art production.  I created ten food paintings for the series The Food We Eat.  I love the bright colors.  Most of the meals were at home but a few were while I was away. I really don’t eat out that often except when traveling.  Guess we like our own cooking best.

For those who may be interested, I am using my own photos for the paintings.  The pictures cover a span of over ten years so I have a good amount of inspiration.  They are not projected on the canvas but are drawn free-hand.  Dang, those circles and ellipses on the plates and glasses!  What a challenge!  And they’re all either 16 x 16 or 16 x 20 on canvas of 1.5 deep.

In addition to the food paintings, I did more tree drawings but they’re not shown here.

March will probably see some more food paintings but I think I’ll take a break.  I have other ideas rolling around.

The titles that you see here – reading top to bottom, left to right are:

  • Ahi Tuna
  • Raspberries and Oatmeal
  • Texas Tacos
  • Breakfast with Oranges
  • Lunch in Santa Fe
  • Leah’s Lunch
  • Good Lunch, Bad Lunch
  • Pie!
  • Hot Soup on a Cold Day
  • Holiday Meal

Each meal has a story which is on my website. Kitmiracle.com  You can click on the individual photos to see closeups of each painting.

Cultural Center Update

The latest view of the atrium in February. It’s really starting to take shape.

Last year I posted about the ground breaking for our new cultural center. (April 3, 2019)  It has been so exciting to watch the huge building going up this past year.  I’ve been stopping about once a month to take photos of this process.

Just to bring you up to date in case you haven’t been following this story, the Thyen-Clark Cultural Center is located in the center of Jasper, Indiana.  Jasper is a prosperous little German town in southern Indiana.  Although it only has about 15,000 citizens, in a county of only about 40,000 people, it boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state.  Many businesses are located here – Kimball, MasterBrand, OFS, Jasper Engines and Transmissions, and others.

The expansion of the arts began as a nugget of an idea back in 2006 when I first became Director of Jasper Community Arts.  We already had a decades long history of the arts and a very nice performing arts center. Unfortunately, the economic crisis of 2008 set everything back for years but in the end, we came up with a much better idea.

The new cultural center is a partnership of the arts and the library and will boast over 63,000 square feet of space, part arts, part library, and a central atrium for community events.  After many years of planning, public meetings, many design changes, getting a library referendum passed, our dream is finally coming to fruition.  With an amazing challenge grant from Jim and Pat Thyen, support from the city and the state, the local businesses jumped on board, seeing this as a wonderful recruiting tool, and private citizens have dug deep to help fund the project.

Although we were not able to save the old Hoosier Desk Building – it would have cost more to refurbish it than to build new – other old factory buildings in the area along the river have become apartments and condos. A new hotel has been erected and other businesses are moving in.  All in all, a wonderful development for a small town where people work together.

As my husband often reminds me when I say “we”, I don’t work for Jasper Arts any more.  But I’m still proud of all the hard work that has gone into making this dream a reality and will be so excited when it’s open to the public at the end of this year.

If you’d like to see the plans for the building, follow this link.  Or Google Jasper

Cultural Center photos for more images.

Jasper Cultural Center building progress, November 2019. In the background, most of the arts wing is framed in on the west and north sides.

Cultural center December 2019. The large part in the middle is the atrium and the part to the right is the new library wing.

Showing more of the library wing framing on the south side of the building.

The atrium of the cultural center is pretty much up except for the windows. It will be able to host special events with table seating up to 150.

View of the arts wing from the northwest corner. This will host three galleries, a small event space, classrooms and private studios. Plus offices for the staff and a sculpture garden.

Another view of the arts wing classroom space. Here it is being bricked already.

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?

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?

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?

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.