Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

September garden update

Cherry tomatoes from just two bushes, picked mid September.

Normally this time of year, the garden starts slowing down. Not this year.  Despite the record-breaking temperatures and drought, our garden is still producing.

Dried cherry tomatoes. A jar of yummy deliciousness.

While most of the regular tomatoes have slowed down, the cherry tomatoes are still coming on strong.  We have a debate whether the best ones are Sweet 100s or Sweet One Million.  They’re both delicious.  I have been drying plenty of them in the dehydrator.  I found the best and quickest way to dry them is to cut them in half and then gently squeeze out the seeds.  They will dry much faster.  We love to put them in bread or just eat them straight for snacks.  Yummm.

Fresh green beans from the second crop planted in mid-July.

And the green beans which I replanted in July have been coming in.  Amazingly, they’re better than the first batch we planted last spring.  Big and juicy and practically bug free.  I love green beans!

A multitude of peppers. Jalapenos, Anaheim, and sweet yellow peppers.

The peppers haven’t given up either.  We have jalapeno, Anaheim and sweet peppers.  A few of the hot peppers go a long way so we’re always glad to share them with the neighbors.

Sweet potatoes cluster, all from one slip. Variety Puerto Rican vining.

My husband loves sweet potatoes.  This clump is from just one slip!  And he planted fifty slips!  And they’re still growing (the vines haven’t died back yet).

Although the squirrels are harvesting most of our walnuts, I always feel a kinship as I “squirrel” away our garden produce.  Apologies for the bad pun.

Asymmetrical composition

Beach Readers, Intimate Spaces series, acrylic on linen, 24 x 30, Kit Miracle The whole attraction of this subject was the irony of the two young women who are reading and totally ignoring the beautiful day at the beach. I also love the way the red beach chairs draw the viewer’s eye into the scene.

There are many rules of painting composition which I have discussed in previous blogs (search: composition).  These are usually conventional and are designed to lead the eye through the picture.  But one of my favorites is an asymmetrical composition, that is, not even or necessarily balanced.  I liken this somewhat to whether you are a candlesticks at each end of the fireplace mantle kind of person or you feel comfortable placing both candlesticks at one end (usually balanced by some other object at the other end.)  It’s just a matter of personal preference.

The painting above, Beach Readers in the Intimate Spaces series, is a good example of asymmetrical composition. The bright red chairs on the right lead the eye into the scene to the two girls who are reading.  Most of the other action is in that quadrant of the painting.  However, the small figure playing in the surf at the far left is able to balance the scene.  If you don’t believe me, cover the figure with your hand and see what a difference that makes to the feel of the painting.

Asymmetrical composition came into vogue in the 1880s and 1890s as the Impressionist artists were influenced by the import of Japanese prints.  These prints not only led to some experimentation in composition, but to flattened colors and situational composition.  This would be similar to a photograph that is just cut off at strange places.  This could include people looking out of the picture plane, cutting off the head or legs of horses, or even figures exiting the frame.

Below are several examples of paintings by Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas and Edouard Manet which illustrate this influence.  The first two artists collaborated for years with their printmaking but as you can see, the Japanese influence directly appeared in their work.

Mary Cassatt, Woman and Child in the Driving Seat.

Degas, more race horses running out of the picture plane. Lots of empty space but it works.

One of many Degas racing scenes. Notice how some people are only partially shown in the picture plane. This is a similar composition to my Beach Readers in that there is a big blank space in the lower left side of the painting, with the action on the right leading into the main subject.

Degas. Another very unusual composition of race horses and jockeys.

Degas, Place de la Concorde. Notice how everyone seems to be looking off in a different direction. And why are the little girls cut off at the waist?

Edouard Manet, Portrait of Gillaudin on a Horse. You can only infer the horse in this painting although the main subject is centered.

Part II, Western vacation

10 States, 4,435 miles, 4 National Parks, 16 days 

Grand Canyon Vista, plein air sketch, acrylic, 12 x 16, Kit Miracle

Grand Canyon Vista, plein air sketch, acrylic 12 x 16, Kit Miracle

After spending several days at the canyon – with elk roaming right outside our window – we were ready to head on down the road for the next park.  I will say right now that I could actually stay at the Grand Canyon for a year and still not run out of things to paint, but it was, after all, a family vacation.

Early Morning at the Canyon, plein air sketch, acrylic, 12 x 16, Kit Miracle

Early Morning at the Canyon, plein air sketch, acrylic 12 x 16, Kit Miracle

We headed back out the east entrance and north on 89 towards Zion national park.  Saw some amazing scenery that actually reminded us of the Badlands in South Dakota.  Crossed the tip of Lake Powell and entered Utah.

This was very different scenery.  The valleys were so lush and surrounded with red cliffs.  We picked up Utah 9 at Mt. Carmel which took us into Zion national park on our way to Springdale.  Spectacular scenery, even with a lot of traffic due to some road work.

Zion National Park, sketch, Kit Miracle

Zion National Park, sketch, Miracle

The town of Springdale reminded me a lot of Sedona, Arizona, as you’re looking up at the red rocks instead of down into a big hole as at the Grand Canyon.  Luckily, they have free buses (like the GC) which take you up and down the main road and back to the park.  There you get out, go into the park, and get on the free park buses.  All so organized.

The Virgin River runs right through the park and behind our hotel.  Pretty fast river and wouldn’t want to hang around during monsoon season.  The ride through the park was informative with many stops to get off and on.  The first day we just rode through but the second day we got off and did some hiking.  The dry air and lower altitude made for a very pleasant visit.

Utah scenery, sketch, Kit Miracle

Utah scenery, sketch, Kit Miracle

After a few days, we headed up the road towards Moab and our last stop at Arches National Park.  On the way, we had a huge breakfast in Hurricane, Utah at The Stagecoach Inn.  Then a little more shopping at the favorite big box store.

The scenery along the way was once again beautiful with many landscape features.  I kept running down the battery in my camera and phone.

I must say that we were not impressed with Moab.  It just seemed another tourist town with overpriced everything.  The motel we stayed at which touted scenic view rooms was rustic to be kind.  The view was of a chain link fence three feet from our window and the room was minuscule.  Just goes to show you not to believe everything you read on the internet when you’re making reservations.  In fact, we decided to leave a day early (they, of course, never refunded the second night).

After a quick breakfast the next morning, we left to auto-tour Arches.  Again, fantastic scenery. However, the granddaughter by that time was getting restless.  When we urged her to look at the views, she complained, “ just more rocks.”  Ha ha.  So glad that we got a very early start for the park that day as by the time we left, the line of cars to get into it was very long.

Snow Covered Rockies in Colorado, sketch, Kit Miracle

Snow covered Rockies in Colorado, sketch, Kit Miracle

Then home again, home again.  A long ride home on I-70.  Left Utah and started climbing the Rockies in Colorado.  Still snow in Vail and beyond.  The temperature dropped to 45 degrees.  Bumper to bumper traffic for miles.  Just people who had gone to the mountains for the weekend and were heading home on Sunday afternoon.  Our hotel room never felt so good.

Wind farm, Kansas, sketch, Kit Miracle

Wind farm, Kansas, sketch, Kit Miracle

Left early the next morning and ended up in Lawrence, Kansas.  Miles and miles of giant wind farms.  And the final day home where we caught I-64 in St. Louis. Crossed the swollen Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.

Interestingly enough, we had no rain at all until we reached the Indiana border.

It’s great to be home but we haven’t caught up with things on the farm.  Taming the garden, the lawn and weeds.  Repairing the drive which was in danger of washing away due to the torrential rains while we were gone. But we are left with many great memories to last a lifetime.

These are the stats.

Books read:

  • Colin Fletcher The Man Who Walked Through Time
  • John Steinbeck Travels with Charlie. I read this years ago so it was wonderful to revisit.
  • Edward Abbey Desert Solitare: A Season in the Wilderness. This gave me a different perspective on the national park, especially Arches.
  • Plus a few Kindle downloads for good measure.
  • Granddaughter read at least a dozen books. And husband was into westerns.

Best roads:  Utah and eastern Colorado.

Worst roads:  Oil fields of Texas and New Mexico

Best food:  just about everywhere but especially Sprindale, Utah.

Best parks:  ALL of them!  So great to see this wonderful country and what belongs to the American people.

Photos taken:  1500+, two phones and a camera

That’s it for now.  I may take a short break from my beach series of paintings and work on some Western paintings, while the scenery is still fresh.

Spring has finally arrived

I haven’t always had luck with tulips. They’re like candy to the deer. I planted these last fall right next to my studio. Mikey the dog will keep the critters at bay.

Spring has finally arrived in this part of Southern Indiana.  It’s so beautiful that it takes my breath away.  Remember that crayon you used to have in your box called Spring Green?  Well, it’s all over the place now. At this old homestead (over 130 years), there are many established flowers and trees.  Plus we’ve added many more in the three decades that we’ve lived here.

So I thought you’d just enjoy a walk in the country.  Some of these flowers and trees are already on the wain while others have yet to bloom, the redbuds and dogwoods are just coming out now.  Maybe another post about them later.

An in and out day with the scudding clouds chasing the sunshine. I love the spring greens.

Little pansies are so cheerful. These came from an early foray to the local garden center about a week ago. I couldn’t help myself.

A cheerful crab apple next to the garden. This is a start from the original which was a Mother’s Day present to me many years ago.

More tulips basking in the sunshine.

A friendly little toady emerging from the leftover leaves. He looks a little ragged. I expect he’d like a nice breakfast of some juicy bugs.

The east fields, still soggy from the night’s rain. More clouds and sun shadows.

Bluebells and narcissus. These have become naturalized in several spots of the yard and I have more plans to move some starts elsewhere this spring.

I love violets. They come in so many variations but these deep purple ones seem to be dominant.

The importance of preliminary work

Green and Yellow, 20 x 20, acrylic, Kit Miracle. Intimate Spaces series

I recently posted a step-by-step outline of my painting A Day at the Beach (4-10-2019). A critical part of creating a significant panting is the preliminary work. I sincerely believe that the more thought I put into the piece at the beginning, the more I can work out the problems ahead of time, and the better the final result will be.  Well, that’s my theory anyway.

Green and Yellow, detail.

This is another painting in my series Intimate Spaces, all about the territory that people carve out when they visit the beach.  In this painting, I was sitting behind a couple who staked out their space early in the day with two chairs and an umbrella.  They didn’t show up until mid-afternoon.

NOTAN sketches for Green and Yellow. This is where I work out basic shapes and composition. As you can see, initially I intended this to be a rectangle shape but then changed it to a square shape.

I liked the near silhouette of the couple with the contrast of the kids playing in the surf in front of them. Maybe they were grandma and grandpa.  I don’t know and never did figure it out.

Large graphite sketch of the main characters for Green and Yellow.

As with most of my paintings, I begin with a NOTAN sketch, just hard contrast of black and white to get a feel for the composition.  Then I did a large graphite sketch of the couple.  I didn’t feel a need to sketch the kids as they’re just notes really.  They were painted directly.

NOTAN sketches of past couple of paintings. Working in black and white allows me to focus on the shapes and composition.

Here are a few more examples of NOTAN sketches.  You’ll notice the one from my last post of A Day at the Beach and how I was focusing on the interlocking umbrella shapes.

More NOTAN sketches from Jump.

And the two pages of NOTAN of Jump which I created in February.  With some of the bigger pieces, I’ll also do a color sketch but not always.

The final conclusion is that no matter what style of art you create, you will often have better results if you put in more thought and work into the beginning of your work than having to correct problems later.  Indeed, sometimes you may discover that the scene or piece doesn’t merit following through.  Or you may decide to attack it from a different direction.

A Day at the Beach – Painting a Series

A Day at the Beach, final. 24 x 36, acrylic on canvas, Kit Miracle

As a working artist for over three decades, I find keeping interested in painting involves challenging myself. Sometimes this means new subject matter or new materials. Even a new location helps.  The challenges keep me inspired and allow the mental juices to flow.

My latest challenge is painting a series of paintings revolving around a day at the beach.  I love slice of life subjects, catching people going about their lives without thought of an audience. One thing I’ve noticed is that when people are at the beach, they stake out their territories, bringing the chairs and the umbrellas, the coolers and the toys.  Beach goers seem to operate under the illusion that no one can see them in their little sand kingdoms.

But the artist’s eye can.

The planned series includes vignettes of life at the beach.  Families, couples, kids playing, people just enjoying the sunshine…or totally ignoring their surroundings with their noses in books or napping.  My inspiration for these seaside paintings are John Singer Sargent, Joaquin Sorolla, and Burt Silverman.  It took a lot of effort to make their seaside paintings seem so, well, effortless.  Unstaged even though they often were. And that is the aim of this current series that I’m working on.

The painting above depicts the settling in and establishing of territory by a family.  Mom gets the lounge chairs ready while son is waiting patiently for her attention.  The composition with overlapping umbrellas and tents is like a little city, each with its own slice of life.

The beach walkers and people playing in the surf add distance and perspective to the scene.  I also chose to flatten the color of the sky (no clouds) and the foreground.  This allows the emphasis to be placed on the middle plane where all the action is.

A Day at the Beach is number six in the series.  I have sixteen planned but we’ll see.  A series is an exploration of an idea and I’ll keep at it until I don’t have anything else to say about the subject.

If you’d like to see how this painting was created, click on this link or go under the tab Artworks and click on A Day at the Beach for step-by-step photos.

Thanks for stopping by.

Ground breaking for the new Thyen-Clark Cultural Center

Thyen-Clark Cultural Center sign made with colored chalk and sand.

Today was a big day for everyone in this area.  The official ground breaking for the Thyen-Clark Cultural Center was held this afternoon.  This is a true partnership between Jasper Community Arts and Jasper Public Library.  The new building will be on the site of a former factory in the downtown area near the River Walk and many other area attractions.

Thyen-Clark Cultural Center proposal. Will the doors really be ready to open by the end of 2020? Yeah!

We are so excited.  Both entities have been seeking expansion for many years, decades in fact.  I first met with the Thyens in 2006 but it wasn’t until about four years ago that the library and Jasper Arts decided that a partnership would be a great idea.

Some of the first shovels with our generous donors Jim and Pat Thyen at far right.

The road has not been easy but everyone in the community seemed to get on board with fund raising, the referendum drive for the library, approval from all the political entities, funding from state organizations.  The turning point was the challenge grant pledged by Jim and Pat Thyen.  From major companies to individuals, everyone in the area has pitched in to make this project happen.

So this afternoon, we all gathered at the site for the ground breaking ceremony.  Speeches were given, children were invited to participate, all of the board members and staff and other supporters were given an opportunity to wield one of the golden shovels.

The bulldozers take over tomorrow.

I can hardly wait!  Viva la arts!

Links to more information.

Library Director Christine Golden and Arts Director Kyle Rupert welcomed the crowd of about 100 people.

Mayor Dean Vonderheide gave a brief speech. He has been involved in the Cultural Center project before he became mayor. We’re so fortunate to have his continued leadership.

Visual Arts Coordinator Emily Colucci Peake decorated the honorary shovels, an artist’s brush and a stack of books. How clever!

Gumby put in an appearance. Here he is posing with Corina and Juan Mack. Corina is special Project Coordinator for the arts.

Peppa Pig also dropped in to entertain the kids and adults.

Jasper Community Arts

Jasper Public Library

How to enter a digital portfolio review

Krempp Gallery, Jasper Indiana

I am on the Visual Arts Committee for the arts center for which I used to be Director.  The committee is charged with selecting exhibits for the following year.  We do twelve exhibits a year with some being fixed so generally we have slots for seven or eight shows.  Some of these are solo shows and some are group exhibits.  A few are invitationals based on a theme, ex, portraits, furniture, costume design, etc.

Each December we put out a call for artists with the deadline for entry the following March.  Then the committee, comprised of artists, teachers, gallery owners, and interested community members review the entries and begin to winnow them down.  We’re seeking talent, variety in both style and media, and often something just plain different.

What initially began as slide submissions quickly morphed into digital images on CD which has again transitioned to reviewing all the artists in an online forum.  This week I’ve looked at over fifty artists.  (The first year we put out a call we had over two hundred entries!)

One thing that has struck me is how some artists clearly project a professionalism that others do not.  This gives them a big advantage in the review process.  So, just what do I mean by this?

  1. Follow the rules.  If you’re asked to submit ten images, then don’t submit three or twenty. Check the size and format that is requested.  If an Artist’s Statement or CV is requested, then send one. DO NOT send a link to your web site or a photo of your fancy brochure.  You want to make it easy for the judges and they shouldn’t have to go fishing for information.
  2. Check your photos very carefully. Is the quality up to par or could you do better?  There are all kinds of resources online or YouTube about how to take decent photos of your artwork.  You don’t want any hot spots, frames, hands holding the work, your dog or the garage door in the image. With affordable digital cameras and editing software, there is no excuse for submitting shabby images.
  3. Check your computer monitor and view your images on different monitors. If you’re really serious, invest in a monitor calibrator.  This will help ensure that your images appear the same across many platforms.
  4. What work should you submit? Obviously, your best, but more than that.  Ask yourself if your work is consistent in quality and impact?  Or does it look like everyone else’s work?  Is everything too same same or are you working in a distinguishing style?  Usually first impressions count so I would suggest lining up your work with your best piece first and your second best piece last in order to make the impression stick. What makes your work stand out?  Yes, it may be very well executed but it just may not have that special something.  Try to be objective.
  5. If you are working in more than one style or medium, it is OK to submit more than one portfolio with each submission focusing on a different style or medium. However, that means that should your work be accepted for an exhibit, then your show will be focused on the work that was submitted.  Gallery directors understand that the exact pieces you submit for review may no longer be available (unless that was one of the rules), but they expect to see you deliver a show similar in style and content to what was in your application.
  6. Learn to write a decent Artist Statement. Can you explain your work in half a page or less?
  7. When you are writing your CV (curricula vitae), start with the newest items first.  If you have many, many listings, then highlight some of your most important awards or shows.  Summarize the earlier work.  Believe me, no one is interested in what you did in kindergarten.

After you submit your portfolio, then relax.  You either will or you won’t get in.  It’s out of your hands. But learn from the process.  It’s OK to contact the gallery or museum to find out if there was anything you could improve or for other helpful suggestions.

You can often find request for portfolios in the back of many artists’ magazines and through online resources, such as, CaFE.org.  Some charge a fee and some do not.  Again, read the rules.  And if you should get accepted for an exhibit, pay particular attention to the conditions and rules of the gallery.  But that is a subject for another post.

Read more about submitting your work for a juried show at this link to an earlier post.    5 Tips for Getting into a Juried Show