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 guy.
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.
One of the most frequent questions that artists get is, How long did it take to paint this painting? I’m not quite sure why people ask this question. Are they trying to gage how much per hour that I’m charging based on the price of the painting? Maybe. Is it worth more if it takes more time? I don’t know.
My flippant answer is, Thirty years and a week. No artist reaches a professional level without a lot of work. This is actually true for most professions. Some people may have a little extra edge in a skill, maybe eye/hand coordination, color discernment, perfect pitch, but most people get where they are by plain hard work. I think this is true for athletes, musicians, artists, chefs, frankly nearly everyone.
I painted this painting After the Dinner Party in my Breaking Bread series pretty much in one day. But that number is deceiving. There was a whole lot of work required before I even began painting.
First there was the canvas prep. I purchased the gallery-wrapped 24 x 30 canvas. Then sanded it, applied two coats of gesso allowing for drying and sanding in between. I like a textured canvas so you will notice that in some of the photos. All of the canvasses in this series are primed with a greyish/greenish color.
Then there was the time to sort through the hundreds (thousands) of photos that I had to select the one that I wanted to use. Then to decide what I wanted to keep in and what to take out or move or change. I did two small NOTAN (black and white) sketches, two large charcoal sketches, and a preliminary watercolor painting. I noodled around with the idea of placing a bouquet of flowers in the background. Which lead me to paint two possible floral candidates. In the end, I did not use them as I thought they didn’t add anything to the painting set up. Finally, I sketched the full painting on the primed canvas.
THEN….I could begin the actual painting part.
I started in the morning with the colored outlines and painted in the larger areas first. I pretty much worked all day until late evening. Once I’m on a roll, I’m on a roll.
It takes time to achieve a certain level of skill in nearly anything. Larry Bird shot 200 hoops before school every day and was known throughout the NBA for the hours he dedicated to conditioning. Even after decades of success, Norman Rockwell agonized over the details of his paintings. How many hours a day do you think Yo-Yo Ma practices his cello? (He estimates over 10,000 hours every five years which is five hours every day.)
Next time you admire someone’s artistic skill (or other skill), keep in mind that the final product is just the tip of the iceberg of work behind the scene. You can do it, too. If you wish to work at it.
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.
I’ve been taking a break for the past several weeks from working on my current series of paintings Intimate Spaces: Breaking Bread. Although I tend to be pretty disciplined when I’m working on a big project, sometimes I need a respite. Recently I’ve returned to some old themes, particularly western scenes and my travels. Culling through a couple of decades’ worth of old photos, scenes that I may have skipped previously, now draw me in. It doesn’t always have to be the entire picture, just a small portion of it. And I always feel free to change things around.
Atrium at Longwood Gardens, du Pont estate, Pennsylvania. Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20, impressionistic style, Kit Miracle
Here are a couple of my most recent paintings from my travels. The first one is of the Atrium at Longwood Gardens on the du Pont estate in Pennsylvania. Although I visited in March of that year, it was still beautiful. The gardens under glass were particularly impressive. Touted as the most beautiful garden in America, I couldn’t disagree.
Garden Cherub, acrylic on canvas, 20 x 16. Pittsburgh, PA Kit Miracle
The second painting is from a different trip to Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh to be exact. One of our favorite places to visit is The Strip District, a multi-block area of food shops and restaurants, fish markets and collectibles. This particular shop had some very enticing items in the front of the shop, but as I walked through the store to the back, they had a garden shop with rusty gates and ironwork, birdbaths and outdoor trellises. I loved this little garden cherub. Now I wish I had purchased him but at least I could capture him in paint.
Both of these paintings are painted on red-toned canvases which peeks through, adding another layer of liveliness to the scenes.
In case you are interested, these are both available in my Etsy shop KitMiracleArt. AND….I’m having a 20% off Labor Day sale through Monday. Free shipping, too.
This painting depicts two girls having a snack after school. I assumed that they were in band or cheerleaders as they were dressed alike. I was attracted to the silhouette shape of the figures. Despite the high contrast of the figures against the light background, the painting itself actually has a lot of color. Notice the distinctive color outlines. These are painted before the rest of the painting, however, sometimes I go back and reemphasize the colors.
The background is painted very loosely and doesn’t really include any details except the umbrella. It’s always as important to know what to leave out as well as what to include. More details, parking lot, would not have added anything to the painting, just more distraction.
This is another painting in my Intimate Spaces: Breaking Bread series.
After School, detail 1. Acrylic on canvas.
After School, detail 2
The painting is currently on exhibit at the Indiana State Museum. The exhibit opens tomorrow, Saturday, August 29th with free admission. It runs through October 25th. You can find the Indiana State Museum at 650 W Washington St, Indianapolis. There is so much to see at the museum it’s certainly worth the trip. A great outing for kids and adults. And it’s right next door the the Eiteljorge Museum of Native American and Western Art, too!
If you can’t visit the museum in person, here is a link to the exhibit online. All the works are for sale, of course.
Bread, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20. The Food We Eat Series. Kit Miracle This series is all about food. We’re all a little bit obsessed, I think. But what is better than fresh made bread, still warm from the oven? Ah, the aroma. The crunch of the crust when it is cut.
Who doesn’t love the aroma of fresh bread? The crunch of the crust and soft texture of the body?
This week as I was waiting for more canvases to be delivered for my latest series, I spent some time doing some smaller paintings. This is another painting for The Food We Eat series. I guess since we’re all isolated at present, my thoughts return to food. Must be an animal thing.
My husband makes this lovely, crusty bread. I’ve posted the recipe in a previous post. It is very easy and so so delicious. It makes great toast and bruschettas. I think he’s making French toast for breakfast this morning with the last of this loaf. https://my90acres.com/2018/03/28/crusty-artisan-bread/
Bread, detail. It is often difficult to convey in the pictures that I post the brushwork and the texture of the paint. Just click on the picture and expand it to see. You will notice that I actually use very loose brush strokes for much of the painting. Again, as mentioned in my last post, the viewer’s eye fills in many details.
As I was waiting for a frame to arrive for a painting which needed to be delivered this week, I painted this and three other smaller pieces. One plein air and two landscapes. The frame never arrived, due to delays at the factory due to COVID. So I had a good friend make a frame but that’s a story for another day.
Anyway, if you’re not doing anything today and you’d like to surprise your family, or just yourself, try your hand at some homemade bread. You won’t be sorry.
Posted onJune 14, 2020|Comments Off on Italian Eating Italian: Intimate Spaces, Breaking Bread Series
Italian Eating Italian – Intimate Spaces, Breaking Bread Series. Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30. Kit Miracle
Painting a portrait head on is a bit challenging. However, the distinct lighting of this portrait helps define the features. The painting has a very robust feeling; a man eating a piece of bread and drinking some vino.
Italian Eating Italian, detail, chin. Notice the reflective light on the chin and neck. Also notice that I rarely use a direct white paint. Most of my whites are mixed to add more vibrancy.
If you look carefully at the closeups, you can see that although I paint in a loose impressionistic style, the brush strokes are sure and vibrant. I’ve been working with some colorful and contrasting lines which add a bit of spark to the painting. The colorful outlines are not always related to the painting as far as contrasts go, but sometimes they are.
Italian Eating Italian, detail, hand and glass of wine. Here you see the wine glass, slight angle, gripped by the hand but all loosely painted.
Italian Eating Italian, detail. Hand with piece of bread. The challenge here was to paint a piece of rustic white bread against a white shirt.
This is another painting in the Intimate Spaces – Breaking Bread Series.
Alone. Intimate Spaces – Breaking Bread series. Acrylic on canvas. 30 x 24. Kit Miracle
A few weeks ago I showed some of the NOTAN studies for my next series of paintings. If you recall, this is where the artist breaks the composition down to black and white abstract shapes. This is the first painting in that new series.
Intimate Spaces, Breaking Bread is a rather ironic title for the series considering the times we are currently living in. However, this series was planned out in December, long before we knew what the pandemic would do to our socializing. No more public meals, family gatherings, etc.
So it only appropriate that the first painting is titled Alone. The lone figure, distanced in the deserted restaurant. The hard back lighting and reflections on the tables and chairs. The even more ironic title of the sign inviting him to “Join” the team. The painting evokes the feeling of loneliness, being alone, as in Hopper’s Nighthawks and some of his other paintings of solitary figures. Even though there are some quite bright colors in the painting, the main palette is subdued, echoing the feeling of being alone.
Alone, NOTAN study. Although I don’t usually add middle tones to the NOTAN study, I did here to add more body to the image.
Alone. Charcoal sketch 24 x 18, Kit Miracle. Here I have added middle tones but it still keeps true to the basic NOTAN study.
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:
Raspberries and Oatmeal
Breakfast with Oranges
Lunch in Santa Fe
Good Lunch, Bad Lunch
Hot Soup on a Cold Day
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.
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!