Category Archives: art

The drudgery work behind the scenes of being an artist. Packing, framing and shipping.

This is the time of year which finds me packing, framing, and shipping.  My paintings travel from coast to coast, and even overseas!  It’s important to make sure they arrive safely.

Shipping unframed paintings in these shiny pink envelopes gives the customer a nice surprise. The painting is inserted in a clear plastic bag (to prevent water damage), secured between between two pieces of cardboard to give added support and inserted into the bubble envelope for even more protection.

My flat pieces generally are packed in my signature shiny pink envelopes.  I put them in a clear plastic bag, add the shipping information, secure them between stiff cardboard, and insert the whole deal into the envelope.  Larger paintings are wrapped similarly but put in boxes.

Framing a 16 x 20 into a standard size frame. Using Z-clips makes it very easy. I actually took another painting out of this frame which demonstrates the benefit of using standard sizes.

This is also the time of year to prepare paintings for exhibits.  One advantage of painting standard sizes is that I usually have standard sized frames available.  If not, I might slip another painting out of a frame to use.  This is also the benefit of using neutral frames.  In my case, usually black, white or gold with very simple profiles. It’s been a long time since I’ve selected special frames for each painting as it gets very expensive.

Alley, Belgravia Court, Louisville. Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20, Kit Miracle This is the painting I showed a few weeks ago. The simple frame is versatile and will suit many painting subjects.

Beginning arts professionals often don’t realize that they may spend about half of their time doing the mundane tasks behind the scenes – framing, preparing canvases, paperwork, shipping, delivery – than actually spent in front of the easel.  The final exhibit or sale is the icing on the cake.  I think this is probably true for any arts professional, not just visual artists.  Being a successful artist also means being a good business person.  Paying attention to procedures, cutting costs where you can, and making your customer happy it what it really takes to make a living in the arts.

Happy Birthday, Charlie Brown

Early books by Charles Schultz

Today we celebrate the birthday of Charles M. Schultz.  Few people of any age have never heard of him.  I came across these old Peanuts books in my collection.  I must have had them for about fifty years!  Yikes!  Few kids grew up without drawing a Peanuts cartoon, some simple drawings.  Even today, A Charlie Brown Christmas is still one of the most popular holiday shows there is.  I love the music and the sentiment.

Anyway, it’s a bit silly to wish a dead person happy birthday, but today I honor Charles Schultz and all the inspiration he’s given me and many others throughout the years.  Hope you all get to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas this season.

Alley 2, Belgravia Court

Alley 2, Belgravia Court, Louisville, KY, original painting, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20, Kit Miracle

I seem to be stuck on a theme of alleys these days.  This is another alley view from Belgravia Court in Louisville, similar to last week’s post but a different alley.  I’m not sure which one I like better, the horizontal or the vertical.  Both paintings are acrylic on canvas.  Now I need to find more alleys to paint.

This is, of course, for sale on my Etsy shop.

Alley View, Belgravia Court, Louisville, Kentucky, Acrylic on Canvas

Alley, Belgravia Court, St. James, Louisville, Kentucky, original acrylic painting, 20 x 16, Kit Miracle

Last month I visited the St. James Art Fair in Louisville, Kentucky.  This is one of the most prestigious art fairs in the country. I exhibited on Belgravia Court for many, many years when I was traveling and doing art fairs.  Although the day was very hot for early October, many years the weather is rainy and miserable.  This year, the crowds were out en masse.

One of my favorite parts of walking around on city streets is looking into alleyways.  I always think of this as the back doors of the inhabitants.  The alleys seem so much more interesting to me than the front facades.  This is true for large cities or small.

This is an acrylic painting on canvas, 20 x 16.  I switched to acrylic last winter as I felt the fumes from oil painting and the solvents were probably not good to breathe in a closed environment.  As you can see, I handle acrylics very much like I handle oil paints.  The good part (and bad part) about acrylics is that they dry so much quicker.  As I painted watercolors for over 25 years, I am used to working under the clock.  To slow the drying process, I will often use a retarder which makes the acrylic paint dry more slowly.  I also like the tactile quality of oil paints.  Painting in impasto, or thick paint, is fun but challenging. It is almost like sculpting in paint. For acyrlics, I use a flexible sculpting medium to add more body to the paint even though I use heavy body paint.  The flexible medium allows the paint and canvas to breathe and to be, well, flexible.  It shouldn’t flake off the canvas as a stiffer medium would. My ultimate aim is to capture the feel and results of painting in oils without the toxic fumes.

If you are interesting in learning more about this painting or making a purchase, check out my Etsy shop at KitMiracleArt.  Also, follow my Facebook page KitMiracleArt for special discount codes.

Trees at Alton, Indiana, on the Ohio River

Trees at Alton, Indiana, on the Ohio River. Plein air, 12 x 16, Kit Miracle

Yesterday I drove up to Indianapolis to drop off a couple of paintings at the Indiana Plein Art Painters Association annual member exhibit.  I haven’t entered this before, mostly because of the three hour drive.  But the day was a beautiful fall day, starting off with some fog in low-lying areas. The fall colors were breathtaking.  For those of you who think Indiana is represented by flat cornfields, nothing could be further from the truth.  The southern part consists of beautiful hills, rivers, and streams covered mostly by deciduous forests.  This time of year, the landscape is a panorama of golds and reds.  It was just a glorious day for a drive.

One of the two paintings I entered is Trees at Alton, Indiana, on the Ohio River.  I just painted this back in late September.  As you can see, the tall trees on the left are just beginning to show some color.  Alton is a tiny little collection of houses and has been flooded many times over the years. But the people who live here are passionate about living on the Ohio River so they always come back.  There is something mesmerizing about the big river with its barges and other river traffic.  I can just sit and watch the river for hours.

This scene is pretty classic.  Just some trees, a path leading into the picture, a river and some hills.  A very peaceful vista.

If you’re interested in seeing the whole exhibit, it is at the Hoosier Salon Gallery in Carmel, just north of Indianapolis.  The exhibit runs from November 10th  through  December 14th.  The reception is Saturday,, November 10th 5-9 pm.  There are many beautiful paintings of all parts of Indiana and most of the work is for sale. Take a gander at this exhibit and visit lovely downtown Carmel with its many arty and eclectic shops and eateries.  A great time for some holiday shopping.

The Studio Sale

The front of my blue door studio. This is an old summer kitchen and my commute is only 30 feet from my back door.

It was a beautiful weekend for my studio sale.  The weather was sunny and temperatures were in the 60s.  Fall colors are starting to appear on the trees.  Saturday was a bit breezy but Sunday was perfect.

I love to introduce people to my place of work and creativity.  It’s just my escape, a place to play and contemplate.

Initial set up in the front room during my studio sale. This lineup changed over the weekend as paintings were sold.

Initial set up in the back room.

Although setting up for the sale is a major endeavor, it looked really great by the time I was done.  Mostly from clearing out all the boxes which were moved to the greenhouse.

The wider view. Paintings on nearly every surface, bins of unframed paintings, more and more and more.

As I was pulling work from storage, bins and flat files, I came across many pieces that I’d totally forgotten about.

Good food and drink are always attractions. Homemade minestrone soup, herbed bread, cookies and biscotti, and plenty of other goodies. No one went home hungry.

And my many friends and supporters got some great deals, too.  All in all, I think everyone had a good time.

The fire pit. A perfect place to congregate on a beautiful fall day.

I’m still even getting some inquiries from the photos I posted on social media.  But, it will all be put away by the end of the week.

Time to make more paintings!  Until next year!

Look for the pink signs, I kept touting on social media.

Busy busy busy – part 2

Fall decorations on the farm. My husband’s old 1952 Allis-Chalmers tractor all gussied up for the studio sale this weekend. He even washed it! And this was his idea entirely.

I recently posted about all the arts activities I have going on lately so this is just a quick update.

My solo show at Oakland City University closed last Friday.  It was extended two more weeks which was fine with me.  We picked it up on Saturday.

Will Read and Sing for Food event. I expected about 15 people to show up on a Thursday night but they had about 60 people there!

Last week I was asked to exhibit some of my work at a Will Read and Sing for Food event.  This is a local group of volunteers who raise money for worthy causes and organizations.  This time they raised $650 for Mentors For Youth.  Singers, musicians, poets, and writers all donate their time and talent to the community.  How neat is that?!

Flower painting class. Students practicing making shades of green. Much more difficult than they thought.

Then I wrapped up my flower painting class on Monday this week.  I think everyone enjoyed it.  I haven’t taught a class for a long time so it was good to try that again.

And now I’m working hard to prepare for my Open Studio Sale this weekend.  This consists of inviting people out to my studio for a couple of fun days of art, food and friends.  I haven’t had a sale for four years and, boy, do I have a lot of work!.  Some of the paintings are at fire-sale prices.  In addition to cleaning out the studio and setting up the displays and artwork, my husband and I feed everyone.  Homemade minestrone soup, homemade herbed breadsticks, biscotti and other refreshments, including some adult beverages.

So, next week I’ll need a rest, for sure.  And to get back to painting.  The 90 degree temps are gone, the fall colors are out, and it’s a beautiful time of year to get outside.

Pen and ink, a test

I’m teaching a class next month for flower painting with watercolor and pen and ink.  I’ve been using this technique for about 35 years now so I might have learned a thing or two about the subject.

A few of the pens that I used in the most recent test. Top to bottom, India ink and a #4 quill dip pen, my favorite Platinum Carbon Ink pen, a Uniball Vision Elite, Lamy Safari, Shaeffer calligraphy, and a brush pen with ink.

In preparation for the class, I dragged out all of the accumulated pens that I’ve used over the years.  I first started with the old fashioned dip pens and India ink.  This is still a tried and true favorite.  I use a #4 quill and used to buy them by the dozen as I tend to wear them down. (Or a #102 crow quill.) I like the feel of the quill pen and the slight variance of the lines as I draw.  However, there’s often the problem of an errant drop of ink on the paper, which, being India ink, cannot be removed and is difficult to cover up.  Also, when I was doing house portraits and using a ruler for some straight lines, the ink would sometimes wick under the ruler, again, spoiling the painting.

Several years ago, I began exploring other pens.  I’ve tried many of the mechanical drawing pens but they were too difficult to clean.  Some commercial pens were nice but the ink faded over time.  I’ve actually done some tests in the south-facing window of my studio and some of the inks faded totally away!

My current favorite is the Platinum Carbon ink pen.  These are wonderful pens with cartridges, never seem to clog, and are very affordable.

Several others that I tested in this sample are the Lamy Safari, Faber Castell, a brush pen, and whatever else I had.

Samples of various pens and inks. The blurred samples are where I dragged a brush loaded with clear water to test the fastness of the ink. As you can see, they’re not all the same.

After drawing the test sections, I let them dry completely, and then passed a brush with clear water over the lines. As you can see, some of the inks are not waterproof at all.  This could be a problem for artists who do the ink drawing first before they add the watercolor.  In my case, it wouldn’t matter too much as I always start with a quick pencil sketch, paint the watercolor, then add the details loosely with the pen and ink.

This test paper has been in my window for 16 years. 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.

Anyway, if you’re interested in the class, there are still some openings but it’s filling quickly  Here is the link for the signup. Flower Painting Class.

search my blog for more posts about using pen and ink.

What’s in a name?

East Field in Evening, tetraptych, acrylic on canvas, Kit Miracle

This week I created a set of paintings but I’m not quite sure what to call them.  They are of our east field in the evening, showing the stretching shadows.

I started with one painting, the one on the far right, and that just lead to another and another and another.  Four in all…so far.  I’m actually working on a fifth one.

Since these are all painted from the same vantage point, it’s not quite a series which I consider to be more of the same subject but not necessarily from the same view.  This set of paintings creates one broad vista, each overlapping by a quarter to a third.  They don’t exactly match as far as horizon and it wasn’t my intention to do so.  But I did want to convey the same feel.  Although they work well together as a connected work of art, the individual paintings each stands alone as far as composition and technique.

My question is, what does one call four (soon to be five) paintings of the same larger subject but from the same vantage point?  If a diptych is two paintings, and a triptych is three, what is four or five?

The best information I can find is a polyptych or maybe a tetraptych or soon to be a pentaptych.  Doesn’t exactly fall off the tongue, does it?

What is your opinion?

East Field in Evening 1, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20, Kit Miracle

East Field in Evening 2, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20, Kit Miracle

East Field in Evening 3, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20, Kit Miracle

East Field in Evening 4, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20, Kit Miracle

 

“Whatever you eye falls on – for it will fall on what you love – will lead you to the questions of your life, the questions that are incumbent upon you to answer, because that is how the mind works in concert with the eye. The things of this world draw us where we need to go.” 
― Mary Rose O’ReilleyThe Barn at the End of the World: The Apprenticeship of a Quaker, Buddhist Shepherd

What makes a great painting?

Metropolitan Museum of Art

What makes a great painting?

The answer to this question is, of course, subjective and there are probably as many opinions as there are people who think about it. When I used to run the arts center and gallery, I was often asked this question.

My general reply is this:

  • Impact – when you walk into a gallery or museum, which artwork are you most drawn to? What is your initial reaction? Sometimes you may be attracted to beauty or color.  Sometimes you approach with curiosity.  Sometimes it is horror.  But what initial impact does the painting make on you?
  • Size – a wall-size painting is not always good art but it usually has impact. I have seen some pretty bad giant paintings but they usually get your attention, at least initially.  As an aside, young artists often want to create these very large pieces before they have any real talent or anything to say.  That makes them large bad paintings.  On the other hand, Monet created some huge murals of waterlilies which required a special museum to be built but that was towards the end of his life. And Picasso’s Guernica will only fit into spaces of a certain size. Size might matter but not always.

    Pollack’s iconic painting at the Met. Questions remain today about quality of workmanship but he certainly explored new territory in his time.

  • Composition – how does the painting flow? Although there are many rules of composition, the golden mean being one of the most well-known, I find it is more of a feeling of flow and balance.
  • Evokes a feeling – this is often related to composition but not necessarily. How do you feel when you view the painting?  Is it calming, exciting, emotionally disturbing?  What does your gut tell you? Does it touch the mind and soul of the viewer? Does it make you want to keep looking? It should be something beyond just wall decoration.
  • Originality – a great painting should provide something new to look at. Is it the same flower arrangement that dozens of other artists crank out or has the artist treated a common subject in a new way?  I think a great painting should explore new territory.

    Great paintings make you want to look closer.

  • Quality of workmanship – I admire quality of workmanship and appreciate how the artist actually handled the materials. An artist who cares for the process of the art will often care for the longevity of the art, too.
  • Memorable – will you remember this painting? Will it haunt you long after you have left the gallery or museum?  What will you remember about it?  This was a question that I often asked customers when I sold my work at art fairs long ago and they couldn’t make up their minds which painting to buy.  Which painting will you remember and regret not buying long after you’re gone?  And there usually was one piece more than the other.

As I said at the beginning of this post, this is a subjective list.  I’m sure there are many other opinions but most of these points would be generally agreed upon to answer the question, what makes a great painting.

What are your thoughts?  What do you think makes a great painting?