Only two more weeks to see my exhibit at the Thyen-Clark Cultural Center in Jasper, Indiana. It has been such an awesome and inspiring experience to show my contemporary impressionist paintings in this brand new facility.
The number of visitors and the flattering comments made in the guest books are humbling. As my son told me, Mom, although these paintings are large, this gallery makes them look small. That is just how beautiful and large the gallery spaces are.
The show closes on Friday, June 25th. If you haven’t had a chance to drop by, please plan to do it soon. I’ve met many friends and guests at the gallery for a private tour, not only of my show, but the entire facility. Just let me know if you’re going to be in town and I’ll be happy to meet you there.
We have been so busy with spring activities here on the ninety acres. The temperatures have exploded from the frost predictions earlier this month to near 90s this week. No rain so we’re doing lots of watering. Everything I planted last weekend – the entire garden pretty much – is up and looking healthy. I’ll post photos later when there’s more to see.
The air is a flood of beautiful scents, roses and peonies, honeysuckle, too. The locusts are about done. The strong perfume seems to be the only redeeming value of the multiflora roses and the wild honeysuckle, both which are fighting it out in the scent category.
The farmer who rents some of our fields has been working until way after dark these days. You can see by this monster disk how much time it takes to prepare the ground. Not counting that “other” natural odor that was spread on the fields. Well, that’s called soil improvement.
And the cicadas have emerged in ever-increasing numbers. They don’t bite or sting, just climb out of the ground and then hang onto anything they can while they emerge from their shells. They can’t climb on vinyl or metal but they do like wood or just about anything else they can attach to. My husband uses the leaf blower to blow them off the porch. I use the broom. And now they’re starting to sing to attracts mates. Not as loud as it will be but it’s already beginning to sound like that weird alien noise in a sci-fi movie. The birds and frogs and toads seem sated but I watched two little lizards stalking the same bug today. I think they both missed.
Of necessity due to the heat, studio time has been limited to afternoons. I did manage to finish the painting which I started as a demo a couple of weeks ago. The Reader is a lovely piece, not in any series of paintings but just because I like the subject. I’m already scouting around for the next topic.
After a week of final framing, I packed my exhibit of thirty paintings into two vehicles and delivered them to the new Cultural Center in Jasper on Friday. It’s always a little more difficult than one would think it should be. How to layer the paintings without them scratching each other, damaging the frames, or poking through. Also, so they won’t shift while driving.
The Visual Arts Coordinator, Emily Colucci Peak, helped unload and move the work into the gallery. We unwrapped everything and sat the paintings around. Then moved them into position for hanging later this week.
Wow, so exciting to be in this new space. I still can’t believe that the whole building is the final culmination of ten years of work by many many people.
So, for those of you who are interested, the show opens on Thursday, May 6th. Although there will be no reception due to COVID restrictions, the galleries are open to the public seven days a week. Free admission and plenty of free parking in the rear of the building.
I will also be doing a demonstration painting on Saturday, May 8th from 10 to 2.
If you’re in the area and would like a private tour, let me know and I will meet you there. But the staff is very helpful and each painting will have an explanation next to it.
This is the last painting in my Intimate Spaces: Breaking Bread series. I began planning this series in December 2019. I thought I had enough material. The theme was to observe people eating, either together or alone. Some were family members, others were people in the public – restaurants, picnics, etc.
I had a lot of ideas but unfortunately with the onset of the pandemic, my ability to observe was limited. I scoured through hundreds (thousands) of photos taken over about two decades. I laid out about a dozen paintings but towards the end I was running out of subject matter.
This painting is from a photo that I’d saved from several years ago. It was taken by a friend of mine at a special dinner, Thanksgiving I think. I’ve always loved this image but could never figure out quite how to capture the scene. So with his permission, I decided to add it to my series.
It made me think of several paintings of the impressionists who portrayed pets in their work. Even the formal setting seems reminiscent of that era. I thought, well, pets are often our dinner companions so it fits with the theme of the series.
The painting was so much fun to do that it almost painted itself. Some pieces are like that. I don’t usually paint animals but even the fur of the doggie was fun to paint. If you can zoom in on it, you will see that it contains many colors and perfectly captures this little girl.
So, it is with a big sigh that I’ve finished this series last month. Now just to do some framing and I’m all ready to go for my big show next month at the new Jasper Cultural Center. If you’re in the neighborhood, come check it out. More details to follow.
Let me preface this post by saying it is not to disparage the Easter holiday, religion, or bunnies. It is more a tale of bad painting.
I purchased this cute little Easter Bunny at an antique store. It’s not an antique but certainly a mid-century collectible. I’m always scouring thrift shops and antique stores for subjects for still lifes. I have a whole cupboard in my studio. You’ll often see the same items in more than one still life.
This little toy rabbit is vinyl, has lost its squeaker and most of its paint, and is a bit sticky. I guess it would be after 50 or 60 years. Well-loved, anyway.
I was taking a break this past winter from working on my big series paintings to paint some seasonal items. These are sold in my Etsy shops and a couple of local gift shops. They’re a good diversion from the “hard” work. So I thought this cute little bunny would be the perfect subject.
Unfortunately, things did not turn out the way I planned.
It seemed the more I worked on the painting, the worse he looked. Which just goes to show you that effort does not always equal success. I should know.
So I hid him away in my studio. But later showed him to my son who was visiting. He laughed and loved it. Said it has a demonic look to the eyes. (Whaaaaa???) And that the granddaughter would love it. She has his quirky sense of humor. Guess it runs in the family.
So a sincere Happy Easter to all my friends and fans out there. And for those of you who share an off-kilter sense of humor, I present this little Demonic Easter Bunny to you.
Posted onMarch 7, 2021|Comments Off on How to improve your art skills
I’m often asked, “How do I get better at my art?” Hummmm….well, I have several suggestions. They aren’t anything new but maybe they’re new to you. In no particular order.
Make a LOT of art! Studies have shown that students who create a lot of art eventually get better, especially compared to those who seek to create one perfect painting or poem or story or pot. Like almost anything else, the more you do, the better you get. This is the time to explore. Try new things, new styles, new subjects, new mediums. Just make a whole lot of it. Don’t worry if it’s any good yet. Just do it. The old adage that practice makes perfect applies here. While you are testing new things, your mind will begin to make connections and build on what you have done before.
Make it easy. Make it easy to make art. Do you have to clear the children’s homework from the dining table? Drag out all your equipment and easel every time you want to paint? Find a space where you can keep your materials at hand. Set up a corner in the bedroom to work. Use a portable screen if the clutter annoys you. Keep a sketchbook next to your TV chair. Or in your purse or pocket. I’ve often drawn mini-sketches while waiting for dinner or in the theater. If your materials are nearby, you’ll be more likely to use them.
Don’t worry if it’s any good. So many people worry about if their work is any good. Stop that right now! Refer to the first suggestion. Just do it. Do a lot of it. ALL artists make some really bad paintings. That’s Okay! That is what preliminary work is for. Try it out. Maybe it will be brilliant. Maybe it won’t. But you will have learned what works and what doesn’t.
Copy other artists. Yes, I recommend studying other artists, your favorites perhaps. Go to the museums or the library or even review their work online. What do you like about their work? What don’t you like? Try making a few copies in the style of the artist. How does that feel to you? Does it feel natural or awkward? Look at what attracts you most. Their subject matter? Style? Brushwork? But do NOT EVER try to pass off someone else’s work as your own. That is dishonest and plagerism. You won’t feel comfortable about it and you’ll be found out eventually.
Do a series. A series is a group of artwork of, perhaps, the same subject or style or theme. This helps you to dig deeper. Find out what attracts you to this subject. Van Gogh painted twelve sunflower paintings. I’ll bet that he got better at them towards the end. Monet painted thirty haystacks, 250 waterlillies, and over thirty of the Rouen Cathedral. Different angles, different times of day.
My concluding advice is just keep at it. Don’t let anyone discourage you. Only you know what you are learning. If you have tried it before, try it again. You’re in a different place and time. Perhaps you have more skills and knowledge now. Just keep moving forward. Good luck!
Impressionism is, without a doubt, one of the most continually popular painting styles of our times. But this has not always been so. It evolved in France in the 1860s to 1900s with a group of artists whose names you know well – Monet, Manet, Renoir, Cassatt, Degas, Pissarro, etc. In an act of rebellion against the strict styles of the time of realistic, classical-based story-telling, this group of artists burst onto the scene with a new style which emphasized the beauty of nature.
It is generally agreed that the invention of paints in tubes provided artists the freedom to begin painting outdoors. Before this time, paints were hand ground from pigments, mixed with oil and turpentine, and used only in the studio. There was a possibility of using paints stored in pig blatters or glass syringes, but the Winsor Newton company patented the metal tube and added a screw cap. This gave artists the portability of leaving the studio for the open fields and forests. In other words, they began painting en plein air (out of doors).
The freedom of painting outside allowed artists to capture a “snapshot” or impression of what they saw at the time they saw it. This new style was labeled impressionism after Claude Monet exhibited his painting, Impression Sunrise. The label was meant to be derisive but as fate would have it, it stuck. After the initial shock of the crude paintings by this group of rebels, in a short time the public’s tastes were changed to one of acceptance and regard. This big change was as revolutionary as going from classical music to rock and roll overnight.
American collectors were the first to embrace this style and began snapping up the paintings of the notable impressionsts and shipping them back to the United States. Even today, many French musems relegate the impressionist paintings to some dim, out of the way spot while they are often featured in American museums.
Impressionism continues to be one of the most popular painting styles both among collectors and painters. So how can you recognize what denotes an impressionist style? Here are a few guidelines.
Painters express feelings more than capturing a specific place or event. How does the sun feel? Can you see the glint off the water? Express the coolness of the shady trees?
Thick brush strokes are another indication of impressionism. The brush strokes are visible and the paint is not over-worked.
The colors are mixed with the eye, i.e., they are laid down next to each other instead of being mixed to death on the palette. If you look at an impressionist painting up close, it will often appear fuzzy and unclear. However, if you step back a few feet (or several) the bold strokes and colors come together to form the image. Think of Monet’s water lily paintings. The paintings are huge and up close they appear to only be a loose collection of swirls and paint blobs. However, from a distance of about ten feet, the whole painting comes together and the beauty of the scene is striking.
The subjects are often common place, found objects or still lifes. People in ordinary circumstances.
There is an asymetrical cropping of the paintings. Parts of the scene are allowed to go off the edge. Many times the scenes are captured exactly as they are found. Landscapes often have a very high or very low horizon line.
These are just a few of the main points defining impressionist style. It continues to be popular with both painters and viewers. However, there are now many finer branches of impressionism – contemporary, nouveau, outsider, open, etc. Some use very bold colors and others are more muted. Frankly, it’s all good.
If you would like to see more artwork, I suggest that you visit one of the many free museum exhibits online. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has a breathtaking collection of work by the impressionists. There are few things so humbling than sitting in a room full of Monets or VanGoghs. Especially if you calculate how many millions (billions) of dollars worth of paintings are just in that one room.
There are more than 6,000 books on the subject listed on Amazon and more than 600,000 links about impressionism listed on Google search. Yep, still pretty popular. Here are a few links to museums with online exhibits.
Finally, the new library is open at the cultural center. And, boy, is it magnificent! Better than anything I could have imagined, even when I was working on the project!
As mentioned earlier, this is a joint project combining the Jasper-Dubois County Public Library and the Jasper Arts Department (excluding the performing arts center). I posted photos of the new galleries earlier. I’ll add the classrooms, studio spaces, and the black box theater later.
Today’s photos feature the new library. After nearly two decades of planning, votes, fundraising, the doors were open this week. I took my granddaughter for our first visit afterschool on Tuesday. Then went back alone for a more thorough visit on Wednesday.
In speaking with the library director, she said that people have commented on all the new books. She’s replied, they haven’t added any new volumes; the old library was just that over-crowded. Now it has plenty of room for technology, including a maker space, a teen zone, genealogy room, lots of quiet nooks and meeting spaces. Plus…the books books books. It even has an outdoor balcony for those who like some fresh air while they read.
For now, the entire Cultural Center is open six days a week with plans to expand to seven days a week sometime later. If you come for a visit, don’t forget to save time to visit the nearby Schaeffer Barn, the old school house, the mill and the train depot, all set along the scenic Patoka River in downtown Jasper. Admission is free.
I was recently asked what is my favorite large painting that I’ve done over my career. Boy, that is a difficult question to answer, especially for someone with a career spanning over 35 years!
Just looking through files and folders of images spanning over three decades is a daunting task. First there were photographs, printed and filed. Then all the images collected on slides which was the only way we could apply for exhibits. This involved special film, tripods, 3200K lights, a whole set up which took hours to accomplish. And then I didn’t even know if I had captured the image correctly until the slides returned. Thank goodness those days are over.
Now, we take photos with a digital camera, the better the camera, the better the image. Of course, now every decent phone has a great camera. And I don’t bother with the lights anymore. I usually just hang the paintings on the outside of my studio on a cloudy day or on the north side. Photo imaging software can handle the rest.
My first couple of decades as an artist, I focused solely on watercolor or media on paper – pastel, charcoal, pen and ink. Watercolor paper is limiting by the size, standard sheet of 22 x 30. Although at times I have used rolled paper which can get very large, most paintings of this time were standard size or smaller.
The past few decades have been primarily devoted to oils and acrylics. Sizes vary here depending upon my design and are usually on canvas, canvas board, or even hard board.
Each painting has a story behind it. I remember what inspired me, where I was, even what music or recorded book I was listening to. These are just a few of my favorite large paintings from over the years. Certainly not all, but a few. As you can see, I am particularly attracted to stories with people. Although throughout the years, I ‘ve painted many still lifes and scenery of all kinds, I keep returning to the human element.
A few weeks ago I eagerly posted some preliminary photos of the new Jasper Cultural Center in Jasper, Indiana. Well, they weren’t quite ready for release yet so I took the post down. However, even though they’re still not quite ready, some of the portions of the Cultural Center are now open. So I’m giving you a preview of those parts.
The three galleries in the center are open to the public. These are really awesome galleries, very large with clearstory windows. They are located in the arts section of the Cultural Center. The idea is to have staggered two-month exhibits featuring local, regional and national artists. The first exhibits this year are John Mellencamp, Gerry Wubben, and a group show featuring local and regional artists. Let me just say, everything looks wonderful in these galleries and Emily Colluci-Peak, the Visual Arts Coordinator, has done a marvelous job of hanging the exhibits. If you have some time, take a drive out to see the exhibits.
They’re still finalizing the classroom spaces. The atrium between the library and the arts section has no furniture yet but it looks ready to go. And the library is waiting for some shelving which is on back order. But the whole shebang will be open in another few weeks. I’ll be sure to post some more updates then.
If you’re feeling housebound these days and looking for a place to go for a drive, I highly recommend that you plan a trip to Jasper in southern Indiana. The new cultural center is at 100 Third Avenue right in downtown Jasper, near the river and many other interesting places to visit. Plenty of parking in the rear of the building (turn north on Mill Street, then east on Fourth Street). And many fine restaurants and shopping areas to visit. Admission is free.
Jasper is a small Midwestern town of only about 15,000. But the whole town came together to build this wonderful site…after many years of planning. Initiated by a major challenge grant from some significant local donors, local businesses and private donors jumped in to help. A decade-long community project has been finally realized.
If you are an artist looking to exhibit in such a fine space, contact Emily Colluci-Peak at Jasper Arts Center. The submission deadline for 2022 is February 12th of this year. Check out this link here. Click here to take a virtual tour of the three exhibits.
I'm a professional artist, retired director of a performing arts center, bona fide book addict, and enjoy the quiet life...most of the time. I'd love to hear from you or get your ideas for future posts. Come back soon!