Category Archives: oil painting

Painting Marathon – Trying Something New

About a week ago, I decided to see how quickly I could paint ten paintings.  I’m not quite sure what the spark was.  Maybe I was bored, tired of the old style. Something I saw that reminded me of some yellow and blue paintings that I had done years ago.  Anyway, I decided to challenge myself, not only with the number of paintings, but stretching to a slightly different style.  In this case, my aim was to paint looser, faster, and more colorful.

Apple Jack, oil on board, 16 x 12, Kit Miracle

I chose my subject matter by going “shopping” through my house and refrigerator, and, of course, my prop cupboard in the back of my studio.  Hey, I didn’t even remember that I had martini glasses until I spotted them in the back of that cupboard!  And a shaker, too.  Must have been from a resale shop.

Two Lemons and a Martini Glass, oil on canvas board, 12 x 9, Kit Miracle

It was really great fun.  The miserable and damp weather meant that I didn’t feel any guilt at all about holing up in the studio instead of going outside for some fresh air.  I didn’t even want to come into the house to eat.  (And that never happens!)

Wait for Me!, cherry tomatoes in a dish, oil on canvas, 8 x 10, Kit Miracle

Although I wasn’t deliberately trying to emulate any particular style, I can see a lot of Cezanne and Janet Fish in these paintings.  And I’m really eager to try some more, perhaps larger or some landscapes in this style.  What do you think?  Thanks for stopping by.  Your feedback and comments are always welcome.

Oh, yes, all of these paintings are available at my Etsy shop, KitMiracleArt.  Check them out.

Three Tomatoes on a White Plate, oil on canvas, 8 x 10, Kit Miracle

Three Lemons in a Blue Bowl, oil on canvas, 8 x 10, Kit Miracle

Pine Sprigs in Antique Blue Bowl, Weller pottery, oil on board, 12 x 16, Kit Miracle

Lucky Four, green apples, oil on canvas, 12 x 16, Kit Miracle

Lemons on Blue Plate, oil on board, 12 x 16, Kit Miracle

Green Apples and Cut Glass Dish, oil on canvas board, 9 x 12, Kit Miracle

Adam and Eve, red apple and green apple, oil on board, 8 x 10, Kit Miracle

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The Huntress I and II, oil on canvas

The Huntress I – oil on canvas, 20 x 20, Kit Miracle

The Huntress II – oil on canvas, 20 x 20, Kit Miracle

The Huntress I and II are two paintings that I created earlier this year.  Although I have often created a series of paintings, this is the first time that I created a pair of paintings.  They each stand alone from a design view, but work better as a pair.

My aim here was to create a bit of mystery, to simplify the background and the figure, and to play off the high intensity light without adding a harshness to the scene

Check out the step-by-step page to learn more about how I made these beautiful pair. https://my90acres.com/artwork/the-huntress-i-and-ii-step-by-step/

Telling A Story with Your Art

Pumpkin Head – final painting, oil on linen, 29.25 x 36, Kit Miracle, Halloween theme, telling a story

I was talking with an artist friend recently and was lamenting that I couldn’t seem to find my style.  She was astounded and said that I definitely do have a style.  Upon reflection, I’ve had other people tell me that they can recognize my paintings immediately in a gallery full of artwork.  So, I guess maybe I do have a recognizable style.

But as we talked further, I said that the paintings that I’m most proud of are the ones that tell a story.  To me, storytelling is so much beyond just the skill of being able to render a still life or landscape.  This is not really a new thing. Artists have been telling stories through their art for centuries from the first caveman drawings (how to hunt) to relaying biblical scenes to recording street scenes.

Some of the things I think about when I’m creating one of these story paintings are:

  1. How can I engage the viewer?  How do I draw him in, step closer, stay awhile?
  2. I want the viewer to ask, What’s next? Is there a next?
  3. If I can, I want to insert an element of surprise. After the viewer stands in front of the painting, they notice the small things.  Maybe they have an Ah Ha
  4. I like to insert some emotional aspect.   Wonder.  Fear.  Danger.
  5. And it seems as if many of my story paintings exhibit some quality a little beyond reality.

The painting Pumpkin Head is such a painting.

The straight story here is that my son was carving some pumpkins for my granddaughter for Halloween.  When she asked for happy faces, he responded, No, they’re born as pumpkins and they die as scary Jack O’Lanterns! Kinda creepy if you ask me but it set the scene.

Many viewers have picked up on the element of danger here.  He really shouldn’t have been carving a pumpkin in his lap…but no blood was shed.

Pumpkin Head – detail, carving jack-o-lantern

And the element of surprise.  The viewer doesn’t really know if the child is a boy or girl with the gray outfit and dinosaur boots, until the pink bow is spotted peeking over the pumpkin she is holding.

Pumpkin Head – detail, child with jack-o-lantern

And, of course, there is humor.  It’s just a bit silly but something kids have done for years.

Finally, there’s an unreal quality about the painting.  Maybe it’s the October light or the impressionistic handling of the paint.  The moment in time.  The difficulty for me was to decide what to leave out of the painting.  I worked on this for two months with the last month taking the most time as I agonized what to change, what to emphasize.

I will make some future posts of other recent story paintings.  Meanwhile, think about the idea as you look at the work of Edward Hopper, Grant Wood, or Diego Rivera.  Good art is a lot more than just pretty decoration.

To view a step-by-step illustration of Pumpkin Head, visit this page.

Pumpkin Head is currently on exhibit in the annual Juried Show at the Krempp Gallery, Jasper Arts Center, Jasper, Indiana.

Studio Work

Like many artists in winter, I don’t have much time to get outdoors to paint. By the time I get home from work, it’s usually dark. However, I paint every week, often several evenings. These are some recent paintings from photos that I took this autumn.  One is from a trip to the Indiana Dunes in 2015.

As a contemporary impressionist, I try to capture the “feel” of the scene rather than every little detail.  It is often difficult to restrain myself.  I think in this day and age, with the benefit of photos, many artists often fall prey to the tendency of painting every detail which has been captured by the camera.  But that is not actually the way we see.  We see what is directly in front of us but the peripheral edges are often lost. The advent of modern photography continues to tempt us.  But that is not why we are artists. Anyone can take a photo but only the few can interpret their feelings in an artistic medium.

Indiana Dunes, 2015, oil on canvas board, 12 x 16, Kit Miracle

Indiana Dunes, 2015, oil on canvas board, 12 x 16, Kit Miracle

This first painting is from a trip that we made to the Indiana Dunes in 2015.  Surprising enough, this national park is set on the shore of Lake Michigan in northern Indiana.  It seems to have been carved from an industrial landscape but if you spend some quiet time here, you can imagine what the shore was like 100 years ago.  I wish I had painted this with a little warmer tones but that is in hindsight.  Love the sketchiness of the trees and the ever-moving sand.

Fall Walk, 16 x 20, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle

Fall Walk, 16 x 20, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle

This next painting is from a photo I took on a walk along my country road this autumn.  It is difficult to not go overboard with the bright colors which could lean to garishness.  I had to make a great effort to push back the far trees to add some atmosphere which enhanced the foreground trees and the lovely green of the cattle pasture to the right.

Frosty Field in Autumn, 12 x 16, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle

Frosty Field in Autumn, 12 x 16, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle

The final painting is just a glance out my bathroom window one frosty morning.  Love the early morning light catching the pine tree with the colorful woods behind.  Not so successful capturing the feeling of frost.  It looks more like a river or lake but there you have it.  As any experienced artist knows, not every painting turns out as we wish.  But we always learn something, even from our failures.

Clouds

A.J.'s Clouds, oil on canvas, 24 x 30, Kit Miracle

A.J.’s Clouds, oil on canvas, 24 x 30, Kit Miracle

Occasionally here in the Midwest we get some pretty fabulous cloud formations.  They’re probably not any different than anywhere else, it’s just that we actually have the space to see them.  This painting is from a photo that my son shared with me of some dramatic cumulonimbus clouds in August. Interestingly enough, I was taking photos of the same clouds from two miles away as was another friend who lives about 30 miles away.  That’s how impressive the formations were.  I decided to turn it into a painting for my son for Christmas. I don’t think he follows my blog or otherwise, this won’t be a surprise for him.

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.

How long does it take?

I have frequently posted paintings on here that are quick sketches, plein air or otherwise.  These usually only take an hour or two.  I have friends who can knock out four paintings a day, and darn good ones, too.

But…sometimes it is good to spend some time studying a subject.  These two paintings that I completed this month are examples of that philosophy.

Ginko, watercolor on paper.  19.5 x 27, Kit Miracle

Ginko, watercolor on paper. 19.5 x 27, Kit Miracle

Ginko is one that I’ve been rolling around in my head for a couple of years.  It is a full-size watercolor.  I haven’t done a watercolor of this size for several years so it was good to try my hand in it again.  (I painted watercolor for 25 years before switching to oils several years ago.)  Ginko is a study of the ordinary.  What is below your feet.  I saw this one day as I was leaving the post office.  The Postmaster later told me that many post offices in Indiana have ginko trees planted outside (males only).  I think he said it was some kind of Girl Scout project but I’m not sure about that.  I just loved the soothing shapes and colors.  The painting itself was a lesson in patience.  Why did I choose to paint all those rocks!?!

Generosity, oil on canvas, 20 x 16, Kit Miracle

Generosity, oil on canvas, 20 x 16, Kit Miracle

The second painting is an oil that I call Generosity.  It is from an very old black and white photo of a family member.  She was always so generous; you never left her house empty-handed.  I actually worked on the prep for this for several months, doing countless studies in pencil, charcoal, etc.  This painting may actually end up being a preliminary study itself as I was planning to do a much larger work.

So, the lesson here is to enjoy the fast painting, dashing off a sketch or plein air piece.  But sometimes you can be rewarded by taking your time and creating something really worthwhile.

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.