The Demise of Art Supply Stores and Bookstores

Just a small part of my secret addiction.

Two of my favorite hangouts when I go shopping are bookstores and art supply stores.  For some reason, these marvelous emporiums of possibilities grab me and hold on until I manage to escape some hours later.  Usually lighter of wallet, too.

Last week I made a foray to the “city” of Evansville and, as usual, stopped by Dick Blick’s art supply store.  I had my list in hand, had checked out online prices, and was prepared to spend some money.  I milled around a bit, filling my basket with some “necessary” studio items, and proceeded to the checkout.  The clerk couldn’t tell me if the in-store prices matched the online ones or not. What the heck.  I was there already so I checked out anyway.  It seemed like a lot but when I got home and checked the online prices, they were the same.  That’s good for my budget.

And I’m afraid that I do the same thing at bookstores.  Spend hours perusing my favorite sections, surreptitiously check prices with Amazon and Bookfinder, and see if the book I desire is the latest edition.  It’s just so easy so shop from home and have my heart’s desire delivered to my doorstep.

But the past several years, I’ve made a concerted effort to actually buy something in these stores, even if the price is a little more.  I think we need to support our local merchants for more than just a cappuccino and to read magazines for free.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be enough.

Yesterday I received an e-mail notification that Dick Blick’s in Evansville will be closing later this month.  I am so sad.  This was one of my favorite stops every time I went down there.  Shopping online just doesn’t supply the same adrenaline rush of actually fondling new pens and paints, checking out new authors, just looking around to see what is available.

Over the past several years I’ve seen Border’s flagship bookstore in Ann Arbor bite the dust.  As well as Hawley-Cooke in Louisville.  These stores had knowledgeable staff, enormous selections, and were just comforting places to hang out.

Lee’s Art Shop in New York closed its door last year.  Dang, that is where I bought my Lamy fountain pen (in dayglow green).  And the awesome Rizolli’s Bookstore in upper Midtown was a store right out of casting central – beautiful carved stone exterior, well-worn wood inside, nooks and crannies to find some amazing tome.

Sigh.  I know.  Things change. And we’re all guilty of bottom price shopping.  But where are people going to shop, to hang out, to fondle the plants at the nursery or the special pens and crayons at the art store? To find out what is new and amazing?  Are we all going to sit in our isolated armchairs and just punch buttons to order things?  It is fantastic to be able to find that something special online but it doesn’t quite replace the in-person experience of ogling something new in person. It’s so sad but I await to see what’s next.

What are your thoughts?  Have any of your favorite stores closed?

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When is a painting finished?

Grand Canyon from the South Rim. Cloud shadows on the rocks. Painted in impressionistic style in acrylic, 20 x 20. Kit Miracle

Sometimes when I’m working on a painting, it just seems to paint itself.  I have a clear vision of what I want and it all comes together.

Other times, not.  I may think I’m finished, then when I go back into the studio, I see a glaring mistake.  Or something I was attempting didn’t quite turn out the way I wanted.

This is a painting of the Grand Canyon from the South Rim.  I was particularly attracted to the play of the cloud shadows across the scene.  The Canyon has such beautiful colors which change constantly throughout the day and the seasons, that it’s difficult to catch just the right time and color.  Sometimes I get some part of the painting which becomes “too precious”, meaning that I like it and tend to paint around it, but it throws off the rest of the composition.

This particular painting was created with the limited palette that I mentioned in my last post but took me far longer than some of my other recent paintings.  In fact, I painted some other paintings and then came back to this one.  Still not sure it’s finished.  What are your thoughts?

Painting with A Limited Palette

Abiquiqui, Georgia O’Keeffe’s home, Ghost Ranch, New Mexico, acrylic on canvas panel, 12 x 16, Kit Miracle

How many colors do you actually need on your palette to create a painting?

In truth, you probably need far less than you think. Some time ago, I marveled at a young artist who bragged about using 37 different colors.  My first thought then, and still, is, “Don’t you know how to mix colors?”  Maybe he does now.

My current color palette consists of six colors plus white.  This isn’t a hard and fast rule because I’m a sucker for a new color just like anyone else.  But this seems to work for me.

Acrylic palette currently in use

The hues that I currently use are:

  • Titanium White
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Cerulean Blue
  • Prism Violet
  • Quinacridone Magenta
  • Cadmium Red Medium
  • Cadmium Yellow Medium

I seemed to have weaned myself off of Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber and Sap Green.  But really, this is enough.

I like bright colors and can mix pretty much anything from this small group.  It also makes it very easy to transport for plein air painting rather than dragging along a whole sackful of paint tubes.

The paints displayed are all acrylics.  I’m leaning toward heavy body (thicker paint) and plan to replace the next selections with them.  When I initially tried acrylics, I wasn’t too pleased with the quick drying properties and the fact that I couldn’t “sculpt” the paintings.  However, I have adjusted my working procedures.  Textures are easily obtained if one can wait just a little while before applying new layers.

Acrylic palette in use. Disposable plate.

As you can see, I’m using disposable plates for my palette.  (I hate to clean palettes!)  I can spritz them with water and cover them up for the night.  It works for me.

And cleaning brushes used for acrylics is a must.  Immediately.  They do dry quickly and you don’t want crusty brushes the next day.

So, this is the color palette that I’m using these days.  This may change.  What do you use?

Abiquiqui – Framed, Georgia O’Keeffe’s home, New Mexico, 12 x 16, acrylic on canvas panel, Kit Miracle

By the way, one is not allowed to take photos inside Georgia O’Keeffe’s house and studio.  After touring the home, I had to drive back just to take these photos from the outside.  Love the adobe buildings and brilliant blue sky.

Random Thoughts on Saturday Night

Fire pit on Saturday Night

Random thoughts on Saturday Night

So I’m sitting outside by the fire pit on Saturday night thinking about this and that.  Cedar wood smells great in general but I smell like a smoked weenie.  Lovely.

I love listening to the sounds at night.  Earlier it was the yipping of coyotes in the big woods.  Then the hounds at the farm over the hill.  Then another hound chimed in.  And the sound of a distant train. My dog decided to add to the chorus. The temperature has dropped so the peepers have stopped.

Watching the kazillions of stars welcome the big moon. And then two planes crossing paths high in the sky.  I could just barely hear them go past.  This is a very rural county.  It boasts not having a single stop light so when it is dark out here, it is dark! I wish I had that app on my phone that identifies all the stars and constellations and satellites.

My thoughts drifted back to last weekend when we were being deluged with eight inches of rain.  The rivers here in southern Indiana are still swollen.

But Monday was sunny and warm.  I volunteered to help out with a school program at the arts center.  As I sat there enjoying the show, I thought how great it is that performers can perform and children can enjoy such programs.  What a wonderful world.

Tuesday was an even more gorgeous day.  My husband and I drove over to Huber winery for a tour, tasting and lunch, courtesy of our youngest son for an anniversary present.  It was a lovely day.  Can’t say much for Google Maps whose directions were sketchy at best. Oh, well, tour the countryside.

Wednesday was a bit rainy.  Indoor activities, shopping in town, and a meeting. Oh, and planted peas.  Ever hopeful for spring.

Thursday, gusty winds and some rain squalls.  I tore down some fencing from the old chicken coop.  It was rusted and entwined with vines.  My eldest son is building a new coop on his place.  At first I was just planning to cut the rusty wire but then I decided to see if I could pull the metal posts.  These are damn heavy!  But with all the rain the ground was soft. I started to rock them back and forth, then pulled one.  Then another.  Constantly checking the trees above me to see if the gusty wind was going to drop a branch on me. The more I worked on the posts, the madder I got.  Finally, I got all the posts pulled out.  And the sun came out.  A feeling of accomplishment; man (or woman) against nature.

Friday I spent preparing for my son and his girlfriend who were visiting for the weekend.  Then lunch with friends.  And some time at the library using the free wifi and researching.  I’m planning on redesigning my website.  Not really looking forward to that but it’s time.

Picked up my granddaughter after school.  So sad that she’s moving out of state and I won’t see her for awhile. She’s such a sweet and creative child and I have had so much fun with her.  We will stay in touch via Skype and the phone.  And she’ll be back for the summer.

All the while, spring is sneaking up on us.  The daffodils and other flowers are coming out.  The grass is greening.  I manage to paint several hours a day.

So, that’s a week in my life in the country.  Random thoughts.  Be grateful for small things.  Enjoy.

TABAC, Paris Street Scene

TABAC, Paris Street Scene, framed, 12 x 16, Kit Miracle

This is a painting of the view from my hotel window in the Marais district in Paris.  I loved the bright colors and was particularly attracted to the figure of the child and his nurse.  He seemed to be pointing to the TABAC store which sells not only tobacco products but sweets and newspapers.

TABAC, detail of child with nanny, original painting, Kit miracle

The restaurant next to it serves not only regular fare but Middle Eastern entrees.  I ate there several times.

But basically I just love to people watch from my hotel room.  Early in the morning, the green men (street sweepers in green uniforms) are out cleaning the streets while the shopkeepers spray down the sidewalks, preparing for the day ahead.

TABAC, Paris Street Scene, original painting, 12 x 16, Kit Miracle

Click on the images for a closer view. Painted in acrylic with impasto style on a canvas toned with green.  I thought it would balance all the blues and purples but it was a bit difficult to work with.

Magic Rocks, Painting the Vortexes of Arizona

Cathedral Rock, original painting, 12 x 16, impasto, Kit Miracle

Whether or not you believe in the magic energy of vortexes, any visitor to Sedona, Arizona will immediately be struck with just how beautiful the area is.  The red rocks with the green juniper trees set against the azure blue skies are just breathtaking.

A few years ago I spent time in Sedona doing some plein air painting.  I got up early in the morning or went out again in the late afternoon to catch the light I love so much.

Bell Rock at Sunset, original painting, 12 x 16, impasto, Kit Miracle

This past week, I revisited my photos and sketches from the trip and decided to paint some of my favorite areas again.  This time, the paintings are a little larger and have some heavy impasto paint to add texture.  I just had so much fun recalling the trip and the time and places while I was working.

Cathedral Rock, back. Original painting, acrylic on canvas board, impasto, 12 x 16, Kit Miracle

Check out these paintings of two of the four vortex rock paintings.  Click on the paintings to see closer views which show the texture of the paint.  Of course, they’ll be for sale on my Etsy shop soon.  I still need to paint the last two sites in the series, Airport Rock and Boynton.

Signs of spring

We are still several weeks away from the official beginning of spring, but the past few days have been unseasonably warm.  Mother Nature seems as eager as the gardeners to get on with the show.

First crocus. It seems as if it’s always the yellow ones which bloom first.

The first crocuses are blooming, always the yellow ones first.  They are sprinkled all over the property, courtesy of my kids and granddaughter.

Spring Beauties

Then the first spring beauties have made an appearance.  In a few more weeks, they will carpet the lawn with their dainty white and pink-striped blossoms.

Daffodils and other bulbs are poking up all over the place.  Fortunately, with so many varieties, their blooms are staggered over several weeks.

Finally, the rhododendron near the kitchen window is ready to pop.  These large blooms will be a joy to the eyes.

It is such a pleasure to walk around the property, spy on nature, and listen to the chorus of peepers down by the creek.  The warm days may not last but at least we’ve had a promise of spring coming soon.  The garlic is up.  The cold frame has been dug up and replanted with lettuce, spinach and kale.  I’m ready!

A yard full of spring beauties

Flower Market – Provence, France

Flower Market, Jardin du Sur, Uzes, Provence, France. 16 x 20 on red-toned canvas panel. Kit Miracle This shows the final painting. I have sharpened some of the details and added more. I deliberately did not concentrate on the white labels for the flower pots as I thought they would be too distracting. Overall, I like the painting but it seems a bit busy.

Small Flower Market, Uzes, Provence, France. 16 x 12. Kit Miracle Final painting. I like the way the path leads the eye to the main figures. Plenty of color but it works for the subject.

Several years ago I had the opportunity to bike through Provence, France.  It was the opportunity of a lifetime.  I fell in love with the area.

One of our stops was in Uzes at the Jardin du Sur.  This was wonderful open air flower market on a very hot Sunday.  I spent quite some time there, sketching, taking photos, writing postcards, and, of course, buying a souvenir or two.  The flowers and the people were so inspiring.

A few weeks ago, I was going through the old photos and my journal when I came across these references to the flower market.  I decided to create the larger painting first which is on a red-toned canvas panel.  After I was finished with it, it seemed a bit too busy even though I had cut out many details.

Then I decided to do another painting of the same scene but just a close-up of the two main figures. This was on a canvas which I had toned fuchsia!  Yes, really!  I think I like the second canvas better but what do you think?

Anyway, if you’d like to see a step-by-step, visit this page where you can follow along on both of the paintings.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day, 2018, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Best wishes and hugs to all my friends.  May you enjoy some time with your sweetie this day.

Treasures in the Basement

The Metropolitan Museum of Art main lobby

One of my favorite places to visit in the world in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.  I always manage to squeeze in a visit every time I’m in the city.  I’ve been there so often that I know the best/least crowded entrance.  And I always go straight to visit my favorite paintings and sculptures.

Generally after visiting the European galleries on the second floor to say hello to the Van Goghs and Monets, I make my way over to the American wing to visit the Sargents, Cassatts and other American painters.

The Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art in the lower level of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

However, several years ago, I discovered a “secret” basement area where many treasures are stored which are not on display. Officially called The Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art, there are cases filled with costumes and glassware, china and silver, and a whole lot of furniture.  And, to my surprise, I discovered cases filled with some extremely famous paintings by some of my favorite painters.  It’s a marvel to think that this museum has so much artwork that they can’t even display it all!  But I guess that many pieces are circulated to international exhibits so they always have some replacements available.

Cassatt paintings “in the basement” at the Met.

Portrait of Rosa Bonheur (The Horse Fair) by Anna Klumpke

Last year I discovered many of Mary Cassatt’s most famous pieces, a portrait of the painter Rosa Bonheur (The Horse Fair), and a large painting by Edward W. Redfield of the American Impressionist group. This doesn’t begin to cover the paintings crammed into this area.

Edward W. Redfield painting on display in the Luce Center at the Met

So, next time you’re visiting the Met, make sure to try to find this subterranean treasure trove.  If you get close to the American Wing, you may have to ask for directions on how to get there.  I usually enter from the North side of the café court.