Category Archives: still life

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.

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.

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?

Lucky Red 2

Lucky Red 2 - final.  18 x 24, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle

Lucky Red 2 – final. 18 x 24, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle

In keeping with the red and good luck symbols, I created this still life after the first one.  There are a couple of common elements to Lucky Red the first, such as, the bamboo plant and the small fish glass paperweight.

Here you see a large jade dragon signifying the year of the Dragon and a jade/silver/gold bracelet with the I-Ch’ing symbolizing Ta Yu or number 14.  Unfortunately the bracelet wasn’t so lucky as it was damaged in a bike wreck.  Humph!  I also have a sleeping cat from Provence suggesting my name – and the cat sleeps with one eye open.  The gold cup is from my mother and the tea is Yogi brand (Detox).  I always like to incorporate a sense of humor or irony in my work if I can do it very subtly.  The seashell doesn’t represent anything in particular; I just like it.  And the red cloths for the background – one a kind of orangey-red batik and the other a medium dark red.

Lucky Red 2 - initial still life set up.  Notice the peach gel to diffuse the light.

Lucky Red 2 – initial still life set up. Notice the peach gel to diffuse the light.

Lucky Red 2, initial drawing on the canvas

Lucky Red 2, initial drawing on the canvas

Lucky Red 2 - first washes

Lucky Red 2 – first washes

Lucky Red 2 - more blocking in major colors

Lucky Red 2 – more blocking in major colors

Lucky Red 2 - adding more colors

Lucky Red 2 – adding more colors

Lucky Red 2 - step 6, adding more details, color corrections

Lucky Red 2 – step 6, adding more details, color corrections

Lucky Red 2 - adding more details.  This is the 85% mark when all that is left is to tweak the details.

Lucky Red 2 – adding more details. This is the 85% mark when all that is left is to tweak the details.

A view of the painting with the still life set up behind it.

A view of the painting with the still life set up behind it.

Lucky Red 2 - cup detail.  Notice how abstractly this gold cup is painted.

Lucky Red 2 – cup detail. Notice how abstractly this gold cup is painted.

Lucky Red 2 - detail of shell.  Notice how loose the brush strokes are.  It is a real accomplishment to get the effect with just one pass.

Lucky Red 2 – detail of shell. Notice how loose the brush strokes are. It is a real accomplishment to get the effect with just one pass.

Lucky Red 2 - detail, sleeping cat

Lucky Red 2 – detail, sleeping cat

Lucky Red 2 - final.  18 x 24, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle

Lucky Red 2 – final. 18 x 24, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle

Real or illusion?

Many years ago I read that when Andrew Wyeth was complimented on the realism of his paintings that he responded, “All realistic art is an optical illusion.  You’re taking paint, applying it to a two-dimensional surface and tricking the eye into believing that they’re seeing a real object.” Although this didn’t quite sink in at the time, over the years I’ve come to understand what he was saying.

When I paint a subject in a realistic manner, I am literally fooling the eye.  My son was looking at the painting, Lucky Red, and went up close to examine it.  After a while, he commented that there really wasn’t much there.  I just laughed.  “You’re right,” I said.  “It’s all an optical illusion.”

While I admire artists who have the tenacity to paint every little hair on a rabbit, I really wonder why they are doing that.  Isn’t the entire object of the painting to convey the mood and feeling of the artist?  Personally I believe in letting the viewer become part of the painting by bringing their own knowledge and imagination to the work.  The hard edges certainly define some critical points, but soft edges let one area slide into another, creating a cohesiveness that cannot be obtained photo realism.  My personal opinion, anyway.

Go back and look at some of the original paintings that I’ve posted on here – Lucky Red, Grand Canyon at Moran Point, and Blue Bottles with Lemons.  Then look at these close-up.

Detail - Lucky Red.  Notice how abstractly the fish and seaweed are painted in this glass paperweight.

Detail – Lucky Red. Notice how abstractly the fish and seaweed are painted in this glass paperweight.

The golden Buddha is also painted very loosely.  Notice the sparkles of the ribbon, too.

The golden Buddha is also painted very loosely. Notice the sparkles of the ribbon, too.

This Mediterranean glass paperweight is a mash of swirling colors.  Again, the sparkles on the blue ribbon.

This Mediterranean glass paperweight is a mash of swirling colors. Again, the sparkles on the blue ribbon.

Notice the lost edges of this paperweight blending into the folds of the cloth.

Notice the lost edges of this paperweight blending into the folds of the cloth.

This tree in Grand Canyon at Moran Point is very loosely painted when viewed in detail.

This tree in Grand Canyon at Moran Point is very loosely painted when viewed in detail.

Again, the viewer's eye is blending the colors in this yellow lemon.

Again, the viewer’s eye is blending the colors in this yellow lemon.

Lucky Red

I don’t know quite why I started this painting but it’s something that has been rolling around in my head for awhile.  Sometimes I’ll think about a work for years before I get around to painting it.

Lucky Red is a challenge of red on red on red.  Shiny and soft.  Clear objects, reflective, see-through.  Some of the symbols are pretty obvious.  The lucky Buddha, three Chinese coins, a WINNING lottery ticket.  Some are less obvious.  The lucky bamboo plant.  Two of the glass paperweights have fish swimming in them.  Fish are a lucky Chinese symbol.  And swirling throughout the still life is a lucky blue ribbon that I won at a holiday party.  (Thank you, Joan!) Topping the set up off is another glass paperweight called Mediterranean which celebrated the completion of a bike ride through France several years ago.

We all have lucky symbols in our lives.  What are yours?

Lucky Red - the initial still life set up

Lucky Red – the initial still life set up

First step, drawing on the canvas

First step, drawing on the canvas

Second stage, blocking in major shapes

Second stage, blocking in major shapes

Third step, laying in base colors of the objects

Third step, laying in base colors of the objects

Fourth stage.  Almost finished.

Fourth stage. Almost finished.

What my palette looks like with a variety of reds.  Using black to tone some of them down.

What my palette looks like with a variety of reds. Using black to tone some of them down.

The painting compared with the still life.  Notice the gel I have taped over the light.

The painting compared with the still life. Notice the gel I have taped over the light.

Lucky Red, final.  Oil on canvas, 18 x 24, Kit Miracle

Lucky Red, final. Oil on canvas, 18 x 24, Kit Miracle

Silver on Grey – Oil Painting

Last week I posted my silver teapot find from the flea market.  I just completed this oil painting to demonstrate the fun of dealing with reflections of shiny objects.  This will probably become a favorite still life subject in the future.

Silver on Grey still life set up

Silver on Grey still life set up

Silver on Grey, oil on canvas 12 x 16, Kit Miracle

Silver on Grey, oil on canvas 12 x 16, Kit Miracle

Tips for Setting Up A Still Life

A flea market find, this silver teapot and sugar bowl cost less than $10.

A flea market find, this silver teapot and sugar bowl cost less than $10.

I just purchased this silver-plated teapot and sugar bowl at a flea market for $10.  It was heavily tarnished and wouldn’t be anything I would want to actually use, but it will make a great addition to my arsenal of items for still life set ups.  To check out more recommendations, from how to set up, objects to consider, to my large cupboard of items, visit my page for Tips for Setting Up A Still Life.