Category Archives: art

Art and Fear

Art and Fear, a small book with a powerful message.

The only work really worth doing – the only work you can do convincingly – is the work that focuses on the things you care about.  To not focus on those issues is to deny the constants in your life.

I just finished reading for the umpteenth time one of my very favorite inspirational art books, Art and Fear: Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of ARTMAKING by David Bayles and Ted Orland.  This small but mighty book has been in print since it was first published in 1994.  It always ranks high on the lists of books on art making.  So why is it so difficult to describe, except to say read it?

I think it’s because the authors address the secret, deep down challenges of art making.  Whether you are a visual artist or musician, writer or dancer, they seem to be able to tap into those questions that we raise in our souls.  What are we doing?  Are we any good?  Who says?  Does anyone really care but us?  What makes a serious artist?  Do we actually need talent or is just plain perseverance and hard work enough?

The authors portend that these questions only really have arisen in the past couple of centuries.  Before that, artists knew their role and their expected work, whether working for the church or their clan.  Few artists had the luxury of just creating for themselves.  You joined the guild that your father belonged to and that was that.  You accepted that you would carve stone for the rest of your life, doing the best that you could.

Now we have so many options available, that we’re often left blowing in the wind, twisting from one attraction to another.  If you do settle on one or two outlets for your creative efforts, you will still probably be working alone (excepting for those artists who are part of  larger group projects.) Maybe even after you’ve put hours, days, weeks, years into your project, you are still faced with the fact that no matter how skilled you may be, someone will come along, probably younger and glitzier, who will garner all the accolades for the next new thing.  Maybe they whip up a frenzy over their spray painted graffiti turned art or that they’ve stuck a bunch of miscellaneous objects together with snot and string (and I’m not saying that those things aren’t art), and you’re looking at your studio stocked full of precision master drawings or paintings, and wondering, Was all my effort worth it?  Doesn’t anyone appreciate real art?

In the end, art is hard work.  You have to keep after it, often (usually) for very little reward.  You work long hours, usually alone, for …what?

That ultimately is the question that this book – answers is not the right word, maybe explores. It will make you think. There are so many quotable quotes in this small tome.  The battered, used copy that I purchased years ago has underlines from at least two other readers (who the heck uses red for underlining?), plus a name label in the front.  Plus my own stars and underlines.  What the other readers thought was important may not be what I focus on.  Or maybe I do now at a different time of my life.

Whatever your art making form and wherever you are in your art making journey, I highly recommend this book as a great prompt for deep thoughts that you will want to return to often.

Exodus

Exodus, Intimate Spaces – Beach Series, acrylic on linen, 50 x 34, Kit Miracle

When I first planned this series of paintings back in January, it was in order to drill down and challenge myself to sticking with a theme.  In this case, Intimate Spaces – Beach Series, was meant to depict how people seem to stake out their territories at the beach, and then to presume that they are invisible to the outside world.  They aren’t, of course.  The Artist’s eye is one of observation, especially of the human animal, and how we go about our lives in public spaces.

There are sixteen paintings planned in this series.  I planned each one back in January, including doing preliminary drawings, NOTAN studies, and approximate sizes.  Some are fun or humorous, some relay my quirky sense of humor in observation, but some are more serious.

I am painting each work in the order that I’ve planned them.  However, as I drew closer to working on the painting Exodus, it seemed as if my thoughts turned to more serious matters.  That is due in part to the turmoil that our country has faced in recent months regarding the influx of people seeking sanctuary here.  This led me to reflect upon the Bible and the story of the flight of the Israelites from Egypt. (Exodus is the second book of the Bible.) Even up to the past few centuries when our country was populated by people seeking a better life than where they were from.  My mother immigrated to the United States when she was only nineteen.  I can’t begin to imagine the courage it took to leave everything and everyone she had ever known for the promise of a better life.  It still gives me pause to think about.

Exodus – Intimate Spaces, Beach Series, detail 1, Kit Miracle

So while this painting actually depicts a family leaving the beach at the end of a long day of sun and surf, with the young boy looking back wistfully at the ocean, it seems to hold so much more meaning.

Exodus – Intimate Spaces, Beach Series, detail 2, Kit Miracle

The actual painting is 50 x 34, the largest of the series.  No faces are revealed except that of the young boy.  And the family seems to be marching off into the sunset.

The sky ended up with multiple layers and the beach sand is heavily textured.  However, the figures are meticulously painted in a manner reminiscent of Renaissance religious paintings.  Even the children have slight halos.  I haven’t totally examined all my reasons for choosing such a method of painting but I’m sure it will dawn on me later.

To actually view the step-by-step painting of this piece, click on this link or go to the tab marked Artwork and scroll down to Exodus.

Thanks for stopping by.  Your comments are always welcome.

Western Landscape Paintings

Arches Vista II, watercolor, pen and ink, 13.5 x 9.5 inches, Kit Miracle

Since we returned from our big adventure out west a few weeks ago, I have been taking a break from the beach series of paintings that I’ve been working on.  It has been fun painting several landscape impressions in watercolor with pen and ink overlay.  I just can’t get away from this subject.

These paintings are very loose with bright colors.  I have probably done more paintings in this medium than any other over my artistic lifetime.  And I still find them fun as well as challenging.  Of course, they’re all for sale in my Etsy shop.

Arches Vista I, watercolor, pen and ink, 13.5 x 9.5 inches, Kit Miracle

Zion Vista II, watercolor, pen and ink, 13.5 x 9.5 inches, Kit Miracle

Zion Vista I, watercolor, pen and ink, 13.5 x 9.5 inches, Kit Miracle

Grand Canyon Vista III, watercolor, pen and ink, 13.5 x 9.5, Kit Miracle

Zion Vista III with Virgin River, watercolor, pen and ink, 13.5 x 9.5 inches, Kit Miracle

10 states, 4,435 miles, four national parks, 16 days

Duck on a Rock, Grand Canyon, plein air sketch, 12 x 16 Kit Miracle

Part I

Ten states (plus three of them twice).  Indiana, Illinois, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, and back through Illinois and Indiana.  Lots of different terrain and climates.

4,435 miles.  Not really too bad.

4 National Parks – Carlsbad Caverns, Grand Canyon, Zion, and Arches.  Plus, you can’t be in the area without stopping at Roswell to see the alien museum.  It’s not exactly on the way to anywhere.  Even their streetlights are painted like aliens.

16 days – we left a day early and returned a day early.

Whew!

Earlier this month we drove down to Texas to pick up our granddaughter for the summer.  Then we went of a big adventure.

I like to keep a journal of my travels with notes and musings, small sketches, mileage, and even sometimes the label from that chocolate shop in Paris which I never can remember.  These travel journals are always fun to revisit later, long after my memories have faded and gotten fuzzy.  They instantly transport me back to the place and time, allowing me to experience the trip all over again.  They’re, of course, nothing so monumental as the Lewis and Clark journals, but they work for me.

Sun breaking through the clouds over Arkansas, sketch, Kit Miracle

After months of planning and preparation, making reservations at the big stops (didn’t realize it was the Grand Canyon’s 100th anniversary until afterwards), we lit out on June 2nd, a day earlier than planned.  We were concerned about the flooding in the Midwest and decided to skirt along the Mississippi to Arkansas and then take the southwestern route to Texas.

Flooded Arkansas River in Little Rock, sketch Kit Miracle

Fortunately, the only flooding we saw on the way out was the Arkansas River in Little Rock but that didn’t affect the drive.

Driving west on 87, sketch, Kit Miracle

After we picked up the granddaughter, we headed west through the Texas hill country (beautiful), to the flatter and dryer areas of west Texas.  Just a delight to be on the road again, away from the daily maintenance of the homestead.

Longhorns resting in shade (from memory), sketch, Kit Miracle

Abandoned House, Texas sketch, Kit Miracle

We negotiated miles of roadwork through the oil fields of west Texas and New Mexico to land at our first national park, Carlsbad Caverns.  My husband and granddaughter had never been in a cave, and even though I have, this was a truly fascinating experience.  The vistas outside were gorgeous, and inside the cave was even more so.  We elected to take the elevator down (700+ feet) rather than walk.  The National Park Service has done such a wonderful job of making this site accessible and interesting.  We took a self-guided tour of the great room which still took an hour and a half. Although many other areas remained to be viewed, that was enough for us.  We didn’t stay for the bat exodus at sundown  either.  Just too tired and road-weary and ready for a meal and bed.

Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico, sketch, Kit Miracle

Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico, sketch, Kit Miracle

Carlsbad is probably typical of any town in the oil field area with lots of traffic, overpriced rooms, and not much scenery.  As we were waiting at a restaurant for dinner, we spoke with a lady who was a local who said it was always this way during boom times.  People renting a room in their homes for $1200 or more.  And getting it.

Sample sketchbook – journal with alien streetlight, sketch, Kit Miracle

Our stop the next morning heading north was Roswell, NM.  You have to stop if you’re in the area as it’s not exactly on the way to anywhere.  We visited the alien museum built in a former movie house.  It was pretty much as I expected.  A mix of history, facts and lots of speculation.  (I hesitate to use the term cheesy but you get the idea.)  Of course, had to buy the T-shirts and trinkets as I don’t expect to get down this way again.  The whole town has gone alien nuts; even the streetlamps are painted as aliens.  The annual UFO festival this year is July 5-7, 2019.  I expect it will be a sight.

Butte, New Mexico, sketch, Kit Miracle

We continued on down the road towards Gallup where we spent the night.  My granddaughter’s major requirement for a hotel was a pool (she’s nine).  After a quick stop in the morning at Walmart, we stocked up on food for our stay at the Grand Canyon.

The further west we drove, the more interesting the landscape became with the big mountain in Flagstaff calling us (Humphrey’s Peak).  It still had snow on the top.  After a roadside picnic lunch (sure got tired of fast food in a hurry), we headed north to the east entrance of the GC National Park.  I’d been there before but the others had not so I couldn’t wait to introduce them to “my” canyon.

We drove through sparsely populated reservation territories.  Some beautiful scenery but appeared to be struggling.

Finally, we arrived at the East entrance of the Grand Canyon. I want to insert here that every park employee that I have met has been terrific.  They’ve always been so polite and helpful.  This is true for every park we have visited.  And I also want to emphasize that our National Parks are one of the greatest assets the American people have.  People from all over the world travel to see our lands and it makes me just want to bust with pride.

Duck on Rock, Grand Canyon, sketch, Kit Miracle

Duck on Rock, Grand Canyon, sketch, Kit Miracle

My granddaughter and I got up early and went out plein air painting.  Well, I painted and she checked out the rocks and vegetation.  The first day was very windy, but after that, it eased up.  My husband was really affected by altitude sickness but we all had a great time.

Next week I’ll post Part II of the remainder of the trip, parks and scenery

Hopi House, Grand Canyon Village, sketch, Kit Miracle

Family at the Beach

Intimate Spaces Series – Family at the Beach, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 30, Kit Miracle

This is the twelfth painting in the Intimate Spaces Series.  Family Day at the Beach reminds me of the many beach scenes by Sargent, Sorolla, and even Mary Cassatt.  There is nothing really extraordinary about the scene and that is what I like about it.

If you look closely at the mother in the painting (click to zoom in), you will notice that she is very pregnant.  The son will soon have a sibling.  Dad is painted with a slight paunch.  Not all scenery at the beach is magazine perfect. This is real life.

Family at the Beach, detail. Notice how abstract the sand is painted. Layer upon layer.

Again, another detail of the sand in the foreground.  This is painted very abstractly.  There are many layers but the whole point is that the focus should be on the family and not necessarily anything else in the painting.

Settling In

Intimate Spaces Series – Settling In, acrylic on canvas, 28 x 38, Kit Miracle

This painting is number seven in the Intimate Spaces Series.  It is titled Settling In which is where the beach-goers begin to stake out their territories.  In this case, the woman in red is being helped by the beach attendant.

Intimate Spaces Series – Settling In detail 1, Kit Miracle

I was attracted to the complexity of the chairs and umbrellas, to the figures and the contrast with the brilliant blue sky.

Intimate Space Series – Settling In, detail 2, Kit Miracle This detail shows the abstract brush strokes I have used for the sand.

As you can see in the detail photo, I have painted the wet sand in a very abstract manner.  It is important to not be concerned about trying to depict every little detail, but to let the viewer’s eyes fill in the details.  The entire painting is a study in contrasts, between details and abstracts, light and dark, near and far.

More series, Intimate Spaces – Beach Series

Go! Number 11 in the Intimate Spaces – Beach Series. Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 16. Kit Miracle

I completed the twelfth painting in my Intimate Spaces series this week.  My thoughts behind painting this series of beach paintings is that when people go to the beach, they carve out their little spaces, arrange their belongings, and then seem to act as if they are invisible within their own little territories.  They’re not.

Maybe I’m just a voyeur, or just have an artist’s eye for observing, but I have always been drawn to people-watching.  The beach, of course, is a great place to be an observer of the human animal, but there are many other places to do that, too.  More thoughts for future series.

Many artists have created series of paintings around themes in the past century and a half.  Most notably are Monet and his haystack paintings or Van Gogh and his sunflowers.  Some artists work the same theme for their entire lives like still life painter Gorgio Morandi who essentially painted the same objects over and over.

And what is the point of painting the same thing over and over? you might ask. For some artists, like Monet, it’s to study the object or scene in different lighting conditions.  For instance, he would often have several canvases at different points of completion, and then work on them when the same lighting and conditions presented themselves.  Most notably, his Rouen Cathedral series, but he was known for this throughout his life.

For me, it is the challenge to drill down into the subject. I like to paint the human figure in situ, or it’s natural, unposed state.  How do people interact when they think no one is watching them?  With each other, or with their surroundings?

My series of beach paintings, I have sixteen planned in all, does exactly that.  Children, families, individuals, seagulls, the landscape – all of the interactions within a limited scope of place.  If it were a different beach or place, there would be different subjects and activities.

But I am surely getting tired of painting sand and sea and sky.  Not doing the beach for the next series, for sure but I already have ideas rolling around.  First, however, will be a little plein air painting for a change of pace.

Stolen artwork

I’ll admit to a somewhat maudlin fascination of stories about stolen artwork.  The number of books and movies out about the subject indicates that other people have the same interest.  Did you see The Monuments Men about the hidden masterpieces and recovery after WWII?  Or Woman in Gold?  Both were based on true stories.  Or Priceless by Robert K. Wittman or Stealing Rembrandts by Anthony Amore?  Or The Rockwell Heist by Bruce Rubenstein?  Again, true stories.  Of course, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is a fictionalized account of an art theft but immensely popular.

Most of us will never encounter a circumstance of art theft.  As a director of a gallery and art center for many years, we never had an issue with stolen artwork although we weren’t displaying Rembrandts either.

However, this is a tale about a real art theft.  Or two or three.  All involving myself.

Scareboy. Watercolor on paper, 29.5 x 19.5, Kit Miracle. Stolen artwork.

The first painting I had stolen was from a public building in 1994.  I had an exhibit in the Chamber of Commerce building in downtown Indianapolis.  This was the second time that I had exhibited there. So you can imagine my surprise when I got up one morning and found a message from a Sargent somebody or other from the Indianapolis Police Department with a request to call him back about some stolen artwork. Of course, he was off duty when I called so I called the organizers of the exhibit at the Chamber.  I had a few dozen paintings there so I thought it was probably one of the smaller pieces.  To my surprise, I learned that it was the largest piece I had in the show.

Later that evening, the Sargent called me back.  After we discussed the theft – I never saw the exhibit on display since I just dropped it off at the loading dock and picked it up a month later – I asked how someone could steal such a large painting, through a revolving door no less!  Didn’t the security guard run after the thief?  The Sargent chuckled and remarked that the guard probably wasn’t running too many marathons.  (The building was open at night because the lobby held an ATM.)

The painting, Scareboy, was an amusing watercolor painting of the scarecrow that I had created out of my son’s Doctor Denton’s with a Mickey Mouse hat.  I guess someone really liked it, just not enough to pay for it.  (The Chamber did reimburse my loss.)

Set of framed vegetable paintings, originals, watercolor, pen and ink. Kit Miracle. Two of these paintings were stolen at the Broad Ripple Art Fair.

Another case of stolen artwork was at the Broad Ripple Art Fair, also in Indianapolis.  This was a very nice fair with a fence and security.  The theft occurred as a mother and her son distracted me by asking a question about a painting in the back of my booth.  When I went back into the booth, two paintings were missing.  These were small vegetable works in watercolor with pen and ink.  At the time, I was offering about forty-five different fruits and vegetables.  (And still do in my Etsy shop.)  They were very popular, all original, not prints. Apparently a partner was snatching the work while I was being distracted.  To add injury to insult, when I tried to report this to the fair officials, I was directed to the phone in the office to file a police report (this was before cellphones.)  And I later got blackballed from the fair since I had left my booth early to make the phone call. Humph!

The team working to distract the artist or booth operator is not a novel operation.  I had a couple use their dog (the guy practically pushed it into my face for me to pet) while the gal was shoving packaged cards into the pockets of her coat.  Sigh.

The interesting thing is, that artwork is such a personal thing.  People either like it or they don’t. At my level, I’m hardly a superstar in the art scene and my paintings are modestly priced.  But for famous artists, thieves often forget to think ahead about what they will actually do with the masterpieces after they steal them.  A famous painting is very hot and not easily sold on the open market.  Some are held for ransom.  Some are sold to the underworld/undercover market.  Eventually they come to surface somewhere.

But, hey, if anyone out there sees my Scareboy, just know that he belongs at home.

The importance of preliminary work

Green and Yellow, 20 x 20, acrylic, Kit Miracle. Intimate Spaces series

I recently posted a step-by-step outline of my painting A Day at the Beach (4-10-2019). A critical part of creating a significant panting is the preliminary work. I sincerely believe that the more thought I put into the piece at the beginning, the more I can work out the problems ahead of time, and the better the final result will be.  Well, that’s my theory anyway.

Green and Yellow, detail.

This is another painting in my series Intimate Spaces, all about the territory that people carve out when they visit the beach.  In this painting, I was sitting behind a couple who staked out their space early in the day with two chairs and an umbrella.  They didn’t show up until mid-afternoon.

NOTAN sketches for Green and Yellow. This is where I work out basic shapes and composition. As you can see, initially I intended this to be a rectangle shape but then changed it to a square shape.

I liked the near silhouette of the couple with the contrast of the kids playing in the surf in front of them. Maybe they were grandma and grandpa.  I don’t know and never did figure it out.

Large graphite sketch of the main characters for Green and Yellow.

As with most of my paintings, I begin with a NOTAN sketch, just hard contrast of black and white to get a feel for the composition.  Then I did a large graphite sketch of the couple.  I didn’t feel a need to sketch the kids as they’re just notes really.  They were painted directly.

NOTAN sketches of past couple of paintings. Working in black and white allows me to focus on the shapes and composition.

Here are a few more examples of NOTAN sketches.  You’ll notice the one from my last post of A Day at the Beach and how I was focusing on the interlocking umbrella shapes.

More NOTAN sketches from Jump.

And the two pages of NOTAN of Jump which I created in February.  With some of the bigger pieces, I’ll also do a color sketch but not always.

The final conclusion is that no matter what style of art you create, you will often have better results if you put in more thought and work into the beginning of your work than having to correct problems later.  Indeed, sometimes you may discover that the scene or piece doesn’t merit following through.  Or you may decide to attack it from a different direction.

A little inspiration for artists

OK, I will admit it.  I’ve been goofing off this week.  Well, not really but kind of.  The weather has finally turned gorgeous.  Spring is here in force.  Flowers popping out all over.  Just checked the fruit trees and they’re ready to put on a show real soon.

I cruised Home Depot this week as I had some time between meetings in town.  Of course, the garden center attracted me like a magnet.  Which meant that I spent some time this morning planting pansies.  They’re always so cheerful.

What I’m trying to say is that I really don’t have a real post for you today.  Yes, I’m working on a big project in the studio but am not ready to reveal it yet.

What I am going to share are a few of my favorite quotes, all about art.  Be forewarned; I love quotes and have collected hundreds over the years.  They often provide me inspiration or at the very least, food for thought.  I hope they’ll inspire you, too.

More than anything, plein air is an event. It’s an event where a sporting mind can sort things out–free of town-clutter and obligation, where judgment can take as long as it takes–look three times, think twice, paint once. Leave your strokes alone. Fix that colour. Level that horizon. Stop now, stupid, she’s on the hook, pull ‘er in, put ‘er in the creel. You will live to cast again.

Robert Genn

Once you fly, you will walk with your eyes skyward. For there you have been and there you will go again.

Leonardo da Vinci

Be careful that you do not write or paint anything that is not your own, that you don’t know in your own soul.

Emily Carr

A good painting to me has always been like a friend. It keeps me company, comforts and inspires.
Hedy Lamarr

A man paints with his brains and not with his hands.
Michelangelo

All art is autobiographical. The pearl is the oyster’s autobiography.

Federico Fellini

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.
Thomas Merton

Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.
Twyla Tharp

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.
Scott Adams

Every artist was first an amateur.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

A picture is a poem without words
Horace