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Plein air painting – oil and acrylics, tips and tricks Part III

Plein air painting on the rim of the Grand Canyon. Duck on a Rock is the name of the formation. It was very, very windy that morning so I had to secure the easel.

My last post about plein air painting addressed how to do watercolors.  In this final post, I will address how to do oils and / or acrylics.

There are many similarities with painting plein air in oil or acrylics. Same supports – panels or canvasses, same (similar) brushes, same easel, etc.  The biggest difference is that oils take a long time to dry and use some volatile chemicals, such as, mineral spirits.  Acrylics are painted with water and dry in less than fifteen minutes.  This makes a big difference if you are transporting the canvasses.  Oil painting will smear and get everywhere, whereas, acrylic paintings will dry quickly and be ready to transport within minutes.

Although I painted in oils for over a decade, now I do plein air painting almost exclusively in acrylics.  Mostly for the ease of transport and quick drying times.

This is a typical French easel. It is a wooden carry box and easel all together. These have been around for over 100 years. There is also another smaller French easel called a half-easel. Both weigh quite a bit and, in my opinion, not too comfortable to lug around.

As always, my main concern in plein air painting is weight and ease of transport.  There are many wonderful easels but the most common is the French easel which has been around for over 100 years.  There is also the half-box easel and new aluminum easels which help a bit with the weight.  Another option is the pochade box, either homemade or purchased.  It seems everyone is trying to get smaller and smaller.  I have a pochade box which is a beautiful piece of art furniture, but not really practical for my needs.  I never want to get it messed up!

This is a beautiful little pochade box, similar to the one that I have. It is so exquisitely made that I hate to get it dirty. One needs to use a camera tripod to attach to the bottom as it doesn’t come with legs. However, you can just set it on a table or bench to use. The one that I have will hold a canvas up to 16 x 20 but that is not very practical for this size.

As usual, my main concerns are with weight and portability.  I use another light weight aluminum easel (Stanrite 100) this one with spikes which fold out, but the whole thing collapses to about 25 inches.  That I carry in the same homemade carrier as my watercolor easel.  And another backpack devoted to acrylic (oil) painting.  For some reason, Stanrite quit making these easels but I expect that is mostly because they last so long.  You can probably find them on Ebay or one of the resale sites.

The typical gear that I take with me for acrylic painting. Backpack, selection of brushes and paints. portable travel palette, sketch book, panels and canvasses, gloves, water. Not shown would be a container for water. For oil paint, there would be two containers of mineral spirits and a portable oil paint palette.

Many of the items that I carry with me are the same, but some are devoted to acrylic painting.  Paints, types of brushes, larger water jar, rags, etc.  For oils that would be oil paints, brushes, and two jars of mineral spirits (one for cleaning brushes and one clean).  Backpacks are cheap so just keep one packed for each of the type of work you wish to do.  I have made separate lists for each type of plein air art activities that I do to remind myself what to take.

Easel

Chair / stool

Umbrella / bungees

Bag

Paper

Support

Clips

Acrylic travel palette (Mijello)

Or…oil travel palette

Brushes -assorted

Paints – assorted

Water and cup

Or Mineral spirits (two jars)

Spray bottle

Pencils/pens

Sketch book

Tape / clips

Multi-tool / pliers

Paper towels / cloth rags

Sponge

Bug spray

Sunscreen

Hat

Camera / cell phone

Apron

Scissors / knife

Snacks

Business cards

Some folding green stuff (money)

Bandaids

 

My backpack will hold canvasses or panels up to 11 x 14 inches.  Larger canvasses will have to be hand carried or strapped onto your pack.  When I travel, I will keep a plastic bin to contain all my canvasses.

These are the reminder cards that I keep in my kits. They remind me of what I need to take. I’ve used these kinds of cards for many things, vacations, camping, etc.

Most of the other equipment is the same as listed in my previous post about watercolor painting.  Bug spray is a must to ward off mosquitoes or biting flies.  I once had a guy who was hauling manure and (I think) deliberately let some out near where I was painting.  Bungees help to anchor your easel or attach an umbrella.  Very disappointing to return to your easel only to discover it face down in the weeds.  Oh, well, such is the life of the artist.

And, yes, it is OK to tweak your painting when you return to your studio. Yes, there are some purists who think that is awful, but, hey, it’s your art and you can do what you like!

The main thing is to relax, enjoy yourself and have fun. It’s not a competition; it’s an adventure.

This is what can happen when you don’t anchor your easel on a windy day.

Using my beautiful little pochade box.

On a bluff overlooking the White River in Loogootee, Indiana.

Plein air painting in watercolor – tips and tricks, part II

Plein air at Patoka Lake.

It’s a great time to get outside and do a little plein air painting as the season turns from spring to summer here in the Northern hemisphere.  It’s also a great way to socialize while keeping socially distant in this challenging time.  Not to mention getting some fresh air and just enjoying the great outdoors.

In my last post, I discussed some of the background of plein air painting and some general tips.  Today I’m going to elaborate on how to do plein air painting in watercolor.

This is my old Stanrite watercolor easel. The legs are adjustable and it will collapse to a pretty small package. The top tilts which is handy for watercolor since most painting is done horizontally. And it has two adjustable clips to secure your board. I’m not sure if this is made any more but grab one if you see it. This one is at least twenty years old and has proven to be very sturdy and reliable. Stanrite No 5, Watercolor

Plein air painting equipment can be as elaborate or as simple as you wish to make it.  I tend to lean toward simple and light weight.  Instead of using a French easel (which I find heavy and cumbersome), I like to use an aluminum watercolor easel (by Stanright).  The easel has legs which expand to various heights and a top section which tilts to many angles.  The top also has two clips for securing my watercolor board.

My favorite watercolor paper is d’Arches 140 pound cold press.  For ease of transport, I cut the 22 x 30 inch sheets into quarters and attach them to a luan board which is a little larger.  I find trying to paint outdoors on full size sheets of paper to be awkward but that is just my preference.  Since the smaller paper is only about 11 x 15, it can easily be attached to the board by painter’s tape or clips and does not need to be stretched to prevent buckling.

Plein air watercolor equipment that I keep in my bag. See the list in the body of the post.

I usually keep a bag packed with items just for watercolor painting.  I find this helps speed up the process of packing when I’m ready to get out of the house.  The bag I use is a multi-pocket computer bag which I bought for $5 at a resale shop.  It has a nice shoulder strap which is very comfortable and plenty of zippered compartments. I removed the extra padding.

The used computer bag that I use as a plein air bag for watercolor. I love the many zippered pockets and the comfortable, adjustable strap. I paid $5 for this at a resale shop. Then removed the foam padding.

A very big help to me is that I have color-coded index cards for each type of plein air painting that I do.  This helps to remind me what I need to take just in case I have removed something from my bag.

My list of items to take in my watercolor bag are:

Easel

Chair / stool

Umbrella / bungees

Bag

Paper

Support

Clips

Watercolor travel palette (Mijello)

Brushes -assorted

Paints – assorted

Water and collapsible  cup

Spray bottle

Pencils/pens

Sketch book

Tape / clips

Multi-tool / pliers

Paper towels / cloth rags

Sponge

Bug spray

Sunscreen

Hat

Camera / cell phone

Apron

Scissors / knife

Snacks

Business cards

Some folding green stuff (money)

Band-aids

 

Even with my list, I have forgotten items before.  Once I forgot my collapsible water cup so I cut a spare water bottle in half.  The bug spray will be really welcome if the mosquitoes or flies find you.

Various layers of clothing might be warranted if the weather is likely to change, as is a poncho, etc.  I always keep a travel blanket in the car which I have found handy to wrap up in on particularly windy or chilly days.  The bungees can be attached to your bag and easel to prevent it from flying away, or used to secure your umbrella to your chair for shade.

I usually use a small sketchbook to make thumbnail sketches but sometimes I’ll paint in a watercolor notebook.  It’s important to be flexible and not get bummed out if you forget something.  I have a friend who paints with sticks (and the results are amazing).

Depending upon where I’m painting, I might even take my Square-card reader…just in case a passerby decides that they must have that painting right then and there.  Be prepared, I always say.

All in all, the whole kit – bag, easel, chair, etc., weighs about twenty pounds or less.  Although I’ll throw some things into the car, I don’t always  lug everything out.  For instance, a rock, bench, log or wall might be the perfect seat so I can leave the chair.  Maybe it’s too windy for an umbrella so that stays in the car, too.  But I do like to have these things with me, just in case.

I have even been able to organize all my equipment into a couple of panniers for my bicycle.  Then I can really tool around without even looking for a place to park.

Bike with panniers and equipment for plein air painting. I don’t do much of this anymore but I put thousands of miles on my bikes. With the distraction of cell phone usage now, it’s a little too scary to bike regular roads.

https://www.jerrysartarama.com/mijello-fusion-air-tight-watercolor-palettes

https://www.jerrysartarama.com/faber-castell-clic-and-go-cups-brushes

I can’t find the Stanrite No.5 Watercolor easel anywhere but there are some other makes available.  I would opt for the light-weight aluminum over the wood.  You might also be able to find a used one on Ebay.

Front Page!

Annie’s Room, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 30. Kit Miracle

Woo Hoo!  I made the front page of the current edition of ArtistsCreating, A bi-monthly e-magazine for artists in southern Indiana.  There’s a feature article about  me inside, too.  Check it out here.

Download the FREE e-zine to see what else is happening in the area arts.  http://www.itsallart.com/AC.AprilMay.2020.pdf

A week of new and old

A typical country road with a little stream, one of many that we saw on our drive.

Well, how has your week been going?  Have you been a dynamo, rushing about getting all those long put off projects done or tackling spring cleaning?  (I hate you.)  Or have you been sitting around in your pajamas all day watching game shows and reruns of golf?

I’ll admit, I’m somewhere in the middle.  Certainly not accomplishing all I had laid out a week ago. (I always make a weekly plan.) Spending way too much time on social media and watching official news conferences.  But I find they just make me anxious and there really isn’t much I can do about the current crisis but what I’m doing already. I have enjoyed, however, the many creative ways that friends are entertaining their children at home.  One guy created a Hogwarts School, complete with costumes and characters, and posted daily videos.  (He was exhausted by the end of the week.)  Others are tackling nature in the backyard or nearby parks.  Wonderfully creative art projects abound with photos to prove all the fun people are having.  Some moms may be hitting the wine bottle a little earlier than normal but, hey, wine is a food, is it not?

St. Patrick’s day was celebrated by my little leprechaun friends going outside to see the spring flowers.

I did get some spring yard work done.  Being outdoors improves my spirits.  And spent some time in the studio but not as much as I should have or usually do.  I’ve talked by phone to my family and friends more than normally.  It just feels right to keep in touch, especially since so many people are isolated right now.

I’ve got several books started but only finished one.  Well, there’s always next week.

We discovered this quaint little foot bridge over a small stream. I am sure I’ll have to go back to paint this scene.

After a few days of rain, my husband and I took a nice drive on country roads to look at spring emerging in little corners here and there.  Then we went over to the lake; he fished and I sketched.  And then picked up take-out dinner at a nearby restaurant.  Nice to eat someone else’s cooking for a change.

A quiet cove at the lake. This was a good place to sit out of the wind while I sketched.

Since the stores in this area seem to be out of bread, I reposted the link to the Crusty Artisan Bread recipe that I posted on my blog a couple of years ago.  Several people have tried it and found it surprisingly easy and yummy.

Anyway, whatever your situation is, I hope you are safe and healthy.  I’d love to hear what you’re doing with your days.  May we all look back on this trying time in years to come and say, “remember when….”

Pine tree. One of several sketches I made while at the lake.

Fame and Fortune. What is your legacy?

Raspberries and oatmeal. Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 16, Kit Miracle.

I was being interviewed for a magazine article earlier this week when the interviewer asked me, “ Do you hope to be famous with your artwork?”

This question gave me pause.  I don’t think I’ve thought about being famous before.  I’m pretty competitive but famous?  Hummmm.

Maybe when I first began painting I had visions of being the next Georgia O’Keeffe or Janet Fish.  But you don’t have to be in the art business very long to know what a long shot this is.  And there have been many years when I was churning out production work to make some money.  Do enough art fairs and you’ll become pretty mercenary.

You don’t have to be famous or rich to have fun making art.  Just as every guitarist knows that his/her chance of becoming a famous rock star is pretty slim, but that doesn’t stop him/her from enjoying noodling on the instrument for the entertainment of friends and family.

These days I like the challenge of entering competitions for fun.  And selling enough artwork to make back my expenses and support my bad habits.

However, I do think about my legacy sometimes.  When I run across a picture of a painting that I may have completed years ago, I wonder where it is now.  Who is enjoying it?  I think of all the paintings that I’ve done over the years, where they are, and how they’re holding up.  That is my legacy.  A little bit of me spread across the globe.

A free holiday gift for you

I know everyone is busy this time of year, but I thought I’d share a little holiday cheer with you.  This is a free download screen saver for you. (Just right click and save to your computer images.  Then select for personalized screen images.)

Thanks for following my blog and all your delightful and insightful comments.  Happy holidays to you and yours.

Snowman holiday screen saver

Digital frustrations

 

Apologies for such a late post.  I have been working on some other things recently.  Including updating my main website.

I have had a WordPress blog for over six years, plus a couple of other previous blogs.  Have been creating or managing websites since the mid 1990s, too.  Back when one had to write code.  (Don’t bother yourself about that one.)  I know just enough to change fonts and colors but that is no longer needed.

And a couple of Etsy shops.  Pretty easy to manage and upload.

So recently, I decided to update my main website.  I have a LOT of work to put up.  I just redid the entire site last year and have updated a few times since then.  Adding a few more paintings, products, etc. Watching YouTube videos hasn’t helped much this time.  Might have to look for another host.

Frankly, lots of irritation.  I would rather paint than be a computer wiz.  But we do what we have to do.

So, not much to report today except some digital frustration.  But….it will get better.  I’m nothing if not persistent.

Grateful for small things

A few years’ worth of thankful journals. These are not expensive but they mean a lot to me.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  The holiday of gluttony and naps.  I love it!  Can’t wait for people to show up, to entertain them, hoping they’ll enjoy the company of friends and family, and leave with full bellies and happy thoughts.

For those of you who follow my blog and who are not from the United States, this is a national holiday of giving thanks.  Celebrated the fourth Thursday of November, the myth is that the Indians (native Americans) welcomed the Pilgrims to the land with a bounty of food and company.  However much of that story may or may not be true, it is still a holiday of celebration.  I like it because I can invite anyone I choose, feed them to exhaustion, and then send them on their way with containers of turkey and gravy, stuffing and cranberry relish, and maybe a piece of pie, too!

But giving thanks and being grateful should be every day, not just on a special holiday.

I’ve kept a journal for years and years, some hand-written and some digital, but these often end up a litany of worries or complaints or what I did that day. But I do manage to take the time to reflect at the end of each day on something special that happened that day.  I try to find at least three things but sometimes it’s more…and sometimes it’s less.

These are not big things.  They probably wouldn’t even register with most people.  Maybe it’s a sunrise or the strike of the sunlight on a hill.  Maybe it’s spotting a red-tailed hawk on a wire.  Or hugging a grandchild.

Sometimes I draw a little sketch to help me remember what I actually saw.

I find throughout my day that I actually look for things to write down.  The bird’s nest that  I spot outside my hotel window.  A phone call from a friend.  Even just a yummy supper.  Sometimes it’s just the tiniest thing but it’s special to me.

Another small sketch. Just a memory jog.

I urge you that at this time of giving thanks, that you reflect not only the big things but each small thing that might make you happy, that makes others happy.  Let us take the time to reflect on the small blessings of every day.  Hope you all have a wonderful day of Thanksgiving this week and enjoy spending time with friends and family.

Painting the Snake River

Final, Snake River painting. The final step is to use some pen and ink to add some details but be careful not to add too much. I suggest that you zoom in on the image so you can get a better idea of what I’ve done. It’s really just a lot of scribbling and very loose calligraphy.

I mentioned last week that I’m teaching a watercolor landscape painting class. I let the class choose which subject they wanted to paint and they selected the colorful sunset.  Well, it seemed easy but was a little more difficult than they thought.   I’ve painted that scene three times and none of them have turned out exactly the same.

So, I thought I would try to find something a little easier for the class.  One of my selections is this scene from a trip we took out West several years ago. This is the Snake River in Idaho near Palisades Reservoir.  Such beautiful country out there.

Snake River, original photo upon which the painting was based. As you can see, I eliminated many of the shrubs in the foreground to better draw attention to the river and the mountain.

This is a classic landscape valley with pretty clouds and blue sky, a nice piney mountain, a river, and some trees up front leading us into the scene.  I only used eight colors for this painting,  three brushes, and my fade-proof ink pen.  The paper is Arches, French-made of 100% cotton rag.  The painting time was about two hours.

To see a step-by-step view of the process, click here or go to Artworks and scroll down to Snake River Landscape.

The Art Fair Circuit

The beautiful fountain at the center of St. James Court. It’s beauty is somewhat dimmed by all the lovely art booths. The line at the Bloody Mary booth quickly formed when the fair opened.

I attended the St. James Court Art Fair in Louisville this past Friday.  I’m not sure if I ever mentioned this before in my blog, but I did art fairs for about twenty-five years.  The memories came flooding back, some good and some not so pleasant.

Love this giant dinosaur at St. James.

Traveling around the country to attend art fairs is like being part of a big family, something like being in a circus, I imagine. If you spend a few days next to someone, you quickly make friends.  Sometimes you start a conversation in May and end it in October.  Your friendships may carry on for years.

Mr.and Mrs. Huiying Lee in their bonsai booth at St. James. I always love to stop by. Not so successful with keeping a bonsai alive but it’s still a dream.

Brandon King, a young man from Jonesboro, Arkansas stands in front of his beautiful display. This is only his second year of exhibiting at art fairs.

Most of the time I would travel to the fairs alone but for some of the bigger ones I would take help, usually hiring a high school student or one of my boys when they got older.  I think I only did at most about twenty shows a year but pretty well traveled throughout the Midwest.  Some artists I know did the art fair circuit in the northern states in the summer and then went south to cover the southern states in the winter.  I knew several artists who lived and created totally in their campers.  Another couple I knew floated around in the Gulf of Mexico in the winter on their boat, stopping at ports to collect mail.  Of course, now all that is done on the internet and with e-mail, but this was quite a few years ago.

I love these colorful glass garden flowers I saw at St. James.

So this past Friday I decided to take a trip to Louisville to visit the fair at St. James Court, one which I had exhibited at for about twelve years.  The weather had finally broken and the day was cool and sunny.  I got there very early as I am aware of the difficulties of snagging a parking space as the crowds arrive.  The early bird, etc., etc.  As I made my way onto the fair site, the first thing is that I was met with the smell of cooking onions…at 9:30 in the morning.  But the aisles were uncrowded as the artists put the final touches on their booths.

Last year St. James as blistering hot.  But some years when I exhibited, it was so cold and rainy that we kept buying cups of hot cider just to keep our hands warm.  It’s all part of the job.

I only recognized a few artists that I knew in the past. I guess many of my contemporaries are retired now, too.  I made my way to some of my favorite booths.  I love the couple that sells bonsai.  Looked for the glass artist with the special paperweights but he wasn’t there this year.  Spent some time talking with a nice young man from Arkansas about his beautiful paintings.  So much to see.  After a couple of hours, the crowds were packing in and I was getting tired.  Time to leave while my feet could still move.

Over the years, I’ve had people approach me and say, “I would like to do this.”  They have NO idea, I would think.  The months of preparation, creating enough inventory, the application process, booth fees, traveling expenses, dealing with the weather, bugs, etc. Not to mention the physical toll of hauling your stuff all around.  Sheesh!

Me and my art fair family at Ann Arbor. I’m the one waving.

I have had many wonderful experiences over the years but a few stand out.  There was the singing garbage man in Ann Arbor.  And the time I had a water main leak IN my booth….at St. James, of course.  The time a big storm was coming and I had packed up my artwork and had just taken the weights off my tent when a wind tipped it up and over….while I was standing in the booth!  The time a couple consulted and bought my show piece (largest painting).  The little boy who would attend the fair every year just to talk to a real artist; I watched him grow up over the years.  The couple who invited a few of us artists to their home at the end of the day for a home-cooked meal. That was very welcomed.

So next time you’re at an art fair, take some time to talk with the artists. You might be surprised what they have to say.

This is what the street looks like at 6:30 in the morning on the day of set up at Ann Arbor. This is one of the top ten art fairs in the country, with three fairs going on simultaneously. Plus every merchant has a sidewalk sale and everyone with a front yard is selling something. That is the student union in the background.

Early morning, road is clear. Wait until this afternoon.

The Art Guild crew laying out the booth spaces before we can set up.

It’s mid-morning. The booths on the sidewalk side set up first.

Mid-afternoon, most of the booths in the interior are set up by now.