Category Archives: art

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.

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

Something Different

Times Square at Night, watercolor, India ink, Kit Miracle

The first month of retirement has been interesting.  Everyone keeps asking me, “How’s retirement?”  “I just feel like I’m on a long vacation,” I reply. And mostly that is true.  I’m starting to feel very relaxed.  Sleep better.  Crossing some things off the inevitable list.  This time of year there is so much to do in the country: finish the garden, planting, cleaning, etc.

However, I am still finding time to paint and spend in my studio.  I’ve been working on some larger figures in landscapes and have two drawn out.  I decided to take a break and work on this watercolor of Times Square at Night this week.  If you have ever been there, then you can appreciate how bright the lights are, no matter the time of day. Times Square is always awake, always exciting.  That is what I was trying to capture in this watercolor with India ink overlay.  Somewhat abstract for me but more detail would not have been beneficial.

Quick Draw and Plein Air Painting Event at Jasper, Indiana

I have only been into retirement about three weeks but, frankly, I have been sooooo busy!  I know, all retirees say that.  But it’s true.  It rained nearly the entire first week with some epic flooding in this area.  I spent much of that week just organizing the stuff I brought home from my office (too much after 17 years).  And making lists.  I’m a list maker and have always been one.  Just love checking off those items.

After awhile, however, I reminded myself that I didn’t want my entire retirement to be one big To Do list.  I want to have some fun!

So I signed up for the Quick Draw and Plein Air Painting event sponsored by Jasper Community Arts.  I have never been able to participate before since I am an employee so I was grateful for the opportunity this year.  It is also co-sponsored by another organization I belong to, RunawayArtists.com.

This two-day event was on the Friday and Saturday before Mother’s Day.  Friday predictions were for more rain so I tried to think of somewhere sheltered to paint.  I asked my friends at Green Thumb Nursery if they would mind if I painted there and they were delighted so that is where I began.  It was a very pleasant morning with the rain pattering on the roof and painting among all the flowers.  The most difficult part was to find the right corner where I wouldn’t be in the way of all the Mother’s Day shoppers. The angle wasn’t the most desirable as I couldn’t back up enough to gauge the proper perspective, but a lovely morning, all in all.

Plein Air Painting at Green Thumb on a rainy day. Kit Miracle

Plein Air Painting at the garden center. Oil on canvas, 12 x 16. Kit Miracle

Watching all the shoppers come in for holiday, I thought that I might stick with the flowers theme and went to the other side of town to paint in the Walmart garden center.  It was an awesome display of flowers!  Again, I found an out of the way spot to paint.  I was particularly enamored with the bright colors of the kayaks propped against the building contrasting with all the flowers.  You have to develop a pretty thick skin to paint in such a public and well-trafficked space but it didn’t bother me at all.  No one from the store came up and asked what I was doing but I did have a few customers asked if I worked there.  It must have been my painting apron.  Ha ha.

Painting at the garden center at Walmart on the day before Mother’s Day. Kit Miracle

The Garden Center at Walmart. Oil on canvas, 12 x 12, Kit Miracle

Finally, at the end of the afternoon, I participated in the Quick  Draw event at the Schaeffer Barn in downtown Jasper.  This old log barn was moved here and restored and has a beautiful garden space.  Always something interesting to paint.  This is a timed event and the artists only have two hours to complete a painting.  I came in third.  Yay!

Painting at the Schaeffer Barn, Quick Draw event.

Schaeffer Barn Quick Draw event. Oil on canvas, 12 x 12. Kit Miracle Third place winner!

The second day of the event I worked in the morning as a volunteer.  Later in the day I did some more plein air painting at a different garden center but nothing came of it.  Sometimes it works that way. I must have used all my creative juices the day before.  But that is alright.  I met some very nice artists and had a good time in the fresh air.

Capturing the Moment

After the Harvest 300dpi

After the Harvest, oil on canvas, 12 x 24, Kit Miracle

I do not ever text and drive and rarely speak on the phone while I’m driving, but I am guilty of another distraction.  I am frequently guilty of taking photos out the window as I drive.  Sometimes there is just one fleeting moment – a ray of light, a cloud formation, whatever – that I must capture.  The photos are usually not very good but they capture enough of the effect to jog my memory and be translated into paintings in the studio.

This is from a photo I took on my road (sparsely traveled) that I took last November.  It grabs the early morning light on the cornfield after the harvest.  I was attracted to the contrast of the golden cornfield, the patterns of the rows, the cast shadow of the valley and the darkening sky.  Rain is on the way.

Sunflowers in blue bowl

Sunflowers in blue bowl, 16 x 20, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle

Sunflowers in blue bowl, 16 x 20, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle

This is another example of a slow painting.  If you’ve followed my blog, you know that I like to paint en plein air.  The challenge of turning out a speedy painting in a couple of hours is fun.  However, some of my best work is when I create a studio painting which may take weeks or more.

This blue bowl of sunflower and zinnias presented its own challenges.  If you’ve ever painted live sunflowers, then you know that they keep up their rhythm of turning towards the sun.  This means every time you return to the studio, the darn flowers have rearranged themselves!

This is an oil on a toned canvas.  I spent about a week and a half on this painting.  I don’t know if the painting is actually done but I’m finished working on it.  The flowers were in pretty sad shape by the time I finished. I like the careful attention to detail but it is a real trick to not overwork a painting.  It should look effortless for best effect.  In my opinion.

Sometimes you’ve just got to paint

When pigs fly. Watercolor / pen and ink, 12 x 16. Kit Miracle

When pigs fly. Watercolor / pen and ink, 12 x 16. Kit Miracle

We’ve all heard the  admonishment that you need to create art every day.  But…life gets in the way.  Jobs, family, gardening, etc.  Sometimes I find all my  have-t0′s overwhelming my urge to create.  This weekend I just had to paint.

Yesterday, before I could get overly involved in the rest of the home tasks, I trucked my painting gear out to the front yard and painted this flowerbed which has been calling me for weeks.  It seems to be a symphony of purples, mauves, and yellows this time of year.  The heat was oppressive.  The humidity was drenching.  But I had a great time.

For you gardeners out there, you’re looking at purple cone flower, bee balm, weigela, daylilies, lambs ear, and a giant yucca.  The flying pig is a bit difficult to make out but he’s one of my favorite yard statues, as he bounces on his spring in a strong breeze.  Symbol of not-quite-lost causes.

Giant Moth Mullen Watercolor/ pen and ink, 16 x 12 Kit Miracle

Giant Moth Mullen Watercolor/ pen and ink, 16 x 12 Kit Miracle

Then, this morning I decided to capture this weed, Giant Moth Mullen.  It is already 5 feet tall and will probably top 6 or 7 feet.  It has fuzzy leaves, similar to lambs ear and the most interesting curly-type leaves and stalk.  It will eventually have a tall spike of yellow flowers which in turn, will produce seeds that the goldfinches love.  Probably how it came to be growing near my cellar door.  Majestic!

BTW, I was inspired by a blog challenge by James Gurney, who held a recent competition of people who paint weeds.  This painting is not entered as it is past date, but I thought it was a perfect subject.

Self-Portrait with Still Life

 

Self-portrait with still life (2)

Self-Portrait with Still Life, 24 x 30, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle

Most artists create a self-portrait every few years so I painted this one last month.  I had recently purchased this old mirror and thought it would be interesting to set it up as a still life.  My portrait isn’t really the first thing the viewer notices (I hope).  The challenges with this painting is that there are two light sources: one on the still life in the foreground and one me as I paint.  An additional challenge was to prevent other light sources so I had to black out the windows.  This meant I was literally painting in the dark.  Check out the step-by-step view of the painting process at this link. Self-portrait with Still Life – step by step

Gardening with Scottie

Gardening with Scottie, 20 x 20, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle

Gardening with Scottie, 20 x 20, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle

I recently completed this winter still life painting.  That is, when it’s cold outside, I usually paint inside.  The theme for this painting is planning my spring garden.  There were many challenges, especially all the circles and ellipticals as well as that dang ceramic dog.  I’m not sure I’m done with this yet as I keep tweaking it every time I walk past it in my studio.  Check out the demo for Gardening with Scottie.

Challenge Painting

HikinginCrawfordCounty30x30oiloncanvas

Hiking in Crawford County, 30 x 30, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle

Last year I decided to participate in a challenge art competition.  This was a local county exhibit with the county plus the eight surrounding counties.  The requirements were:  a box, fabric, a living or formerly living thing, a map and something representing my county.

This is the painting I finally came up with.  The box is the L.L.Bean shoe box.  Fabric background and tablecloth.  A deer skull and some bittersweet.  A map of a local park.  And some postcards of local scenes.  It sounds simple but it actually took me an entire day to set up the still life.

Many of the entrants created collage or 3-D sculptures.  Only two of us did paintings.  I was shooting for something that met the conditions of the challenge and also created a good painting.  Adding the lamp to the still life created its own special challenges as I had to paint much of the painting in a nearly dark studio.  I repainted that lamp four times and I’m still not totally happy with it but the judge really liked the way it seemed to glow on the canvas.  I won second place so I guess it was a success.  What do you think?