Alley View, Plein Air Painting, Jasper, Indiana

Alley View, Plein Air Painting, final, 16 x 20, acrylic, Kit Miracle. This shows the final view of the scene. I might tweak it sometime later after I live with it for awhile, but so far, I’m satisfied.

Although I do a fair amount of plein air painting, I don’t do too many competitions.  Today I participated in a local event which is always fun.  I’m familiar with the area so it’s always a challenge to find new and interesting things to paint.  Yesterday I scouted out a few locations. I don’t like to do what everyone else is doing but seek to highlight a vista that might make people see their own space in a new way.

Alley view, initial scene, very early in the morning.

So this morning found me sitting in an alley. I was drawn to this blue garage and the alternating light and shadows as I looked up the alley.  It was very peaceful on a Saturday morning at daybreak.

Alley View, 1st step. Using a red-toned canvas, I painted in the basic shadows and main shapes.

Alley View, second level. Here you can see more added colors. This is the point in a painting that everything looks like a real mess. But I’ve learned to just keep pressing on and it will come together.

As you can see, I started with a red-toned canvas, 16 x 20.  First I blocked in the main shapes and the darks.  Then I started to lay in the markers for the greens.  The last colors to go in were the lightest colors – whites, off whites, and the sky.  I don’t always work in this order but usually.

Alley View after two hours. Notice how the shadows have changed. Usually 2 – 3 hours is the most time I have for a plein air painting.

Despite the heat and humidity, my acrylic paints kept drying out quickly.  I didn’t bring a retarder with me so I kept having to spray the paint and add layer after layer.

But I enjoyed the peace of the scene.  A few dog walkers, a couple of interested passersby, the occasional bunny rabbit, and inevitably, the Saturday morning lawn mowers all created the peaceful atmosphere.

I might review the painting later to see if I need to tighten it up, but actually, I like the feel of a warm summer morning. How about you?

Alley View, Plein Air Painting, final, 16 x 20, acrylic, Kit Miracle. This shows the final view of the scene. I might tweak it sometime later after I live with it for awhile, but so far, I’m satisfied.

Summer garden

Giant tomato, Park Whopper My husband ate the entire tomato for lunch. Yummmm.

 

You haven’t heard me bragging about the garden this summer because, well, in a word, it’s been awful.  We usually plant a big garden (25 x 40) and a small spring garden which holds spring crops, such as, lettuce, spinach, kale, peas, etc.

Tomatoes ready for canning.

Everything was looking good before we went out west last month on vacation.  Although we enjoyed wonderful weather on our trip, apparently the Midwest received buckets of rain the entire time.  We returned to a garden full of weeds, at least, that which was not drowned.  I could watch them grow on the deer cam.

Multi-stemmed sunflowers just came out this week. They’re already being eyed by the goldfinches.

Red sunflower being strangled with a morning glory. The bees are loving this.

Then with a couple of weeks of extreme heat, there were some crops that we just gave up on.  The peas blew past, the kale, lettuce and spinach bolted.  The beans, corn, and squash in the big garden looked anemic.

New bean crop. The red line gives you an indication of location.

This past month we have spent hoeing and weeding, feeding and trimming.  Some things we’ve just given up on.  I planted new beans a couple of weeks ago and they’re up now, doing nicely.  The sweet corn has recovered but we’re trying to keep the varmints out of it until we can pick it.  The raccoons have already cleaned out the apple trees and devastated my seckle pear.

Swallowtail on some volunteer flowers.

Butterfly and zinnias

A bouquet of zinnias just for me. I love cut flowers in the garden.

The sunflowers are out, the butterflies are loving the zinnias, and we’ll still probably end up with way too many tomatoes.

Anyway, that’s life in the country.

Where were you when?

We all have memorable events in our lives, milestones in history.  With all the celebration of the 50th anniversary of landing on the moon, I thought I’d ask a few people where they were when.

Bombing of Pearl Harbor  Sunday, December 7, 1941

As the population ages, there are fewer people who were around to remember this significant event of WWII.  I asked my father who was nine at the time.  He said that unlike today when we are constantly tuned into the news (bombarded), they didn’t have the radio on all the time.  He said it probably wasn’t until that evening or even the next day that he learned of the bombing.

Assassination of President Kennedy  Friday, November 22, 1963

I was in sixth grade when Mrs. Nicholson came in during our afternoon milk break to give us the bad news.  We all prayed (back when that was allowed).  So sad that such an inspiring young leader was taken away from us too soon.

My husband said he was in the alley working on a car with his buddies when someone came out and told them.

Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King  Thursday, April 4, 1968

I don’t remember this tragedy as well as some of the others but it had an impact on all of us during the turmoil of the sixties.

My husband was called up (in the National Guard) to help quell riots in Pittsburgh.  They weren’t issued any ammunition but later were given one bullet each.

Landing a man on the moon  Sunday, July 20, 1969

I got to celebrate this very exciting event while I was at a summer conference on the Indiana University campus in Bloomington, Indiana.  I remember about 200 students sitting in a darkened room on a cold linoleum floor watching the first step by Neil Armstrong on a black and white television.  And the room erupted in cheering.  It still amazes me.

Explosion of the Challenger spacecraft  Monday, January 28, 1986

I was at work at Ford Motor Company when one of my co-workers came in at lunch time to tell me about the tragic event.  We listened to the news on the radio with tears in our eyes.

My father was at a seminar in Florida at Cape Canaveral.  They actually went to the window to watch the rocket launch and saw the terrible event in person.

Terrorist attack  Tuesday, September 11, 2001

I was at home getting ready for work when I saw the first announcement on the morning news.  As I watched, I saw the second plane hit the second tower.  I was heartbroken and in shock.  Needless to say, I didn’t go to work that day.  What I really remember was how quiet the skies were the following week as all the planes were grounded.

In addition, my father was at the airport heading for a vacation in Paris.  I panicked as I didn’t know if he was actually in the air, what plane he was on, or where he was.  Fortunately, he was turned away at the airport.  It wasn’t until several hours later that I was relieved to find that he was safe at home again.

We all have memorable days in our lifetimes, some happy – marriage, birth of a child, and some sad – death of a loved one.  Although these are often personal times of remembrance, sometimes we share national days of historical importance.  Where were you when?

Creating a painting from a sketch

West Texas Big Sky, watercolor, pen and ink, 13.5 x 9.5, Kit Miracle

A few weeks ago I posted several sketches from my recent vacation.  I’ve been working with those and some 1500 photos to create some fresh and lively watercolor / pen and ink paintings.

This is an example of a painting of the Big Sky country of West Texas.  There is just something about the terrain and the brilliant blue sky with the white fluffy clouds that draws me.  I’m not sure I quite captured the fluffy clouds receding into the distance but I like the colors.

Driving west on 87, sketch, Kit Miracle

Western Landscape Paintings

Arches Vista II, watercolor, pen and ink, 13.5 x 9.5 inches, Kit Miracle

Since we returned from our big adventure out west a few weeks ago, I have been taking a break from the beach series of paintings that I’ve been working on.  It has been fun painting several landscape impressions in watercolor with pen and ink overlay.  I just can’t get away from this subject.

These paintings are very loose with bright colors.  I have probably done more paintings in this medium than any other over my artistic lifetime.  And I still find them fun as well as challenging.  Of course, they’re all for sale in my Etsy shop.

Arches Vista I, watercolor, pen and ink, 13.5 x 9.5 inches, Kit Miracle

Zion Vista II, watercolor, pen and ink, 13.5 x 9.5 inches, Kit Miracle

Zion Vista I, watercolor, pen and ink, 13.5 x 9.5 inches, Kit Miracle

Grand Canyon Vista III, watercolor, pen and ink, 13.5 x 9.5, Kit Miracle

Zion Vista III with Virgin River, watercolor, pen and ink, 13.5 x 9.5 inches, Kit Miracle

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.

10 states, 4,435 miles, four national parks, 16 days

Duck on a Rock, Grand Canyon, plein air sketch, 12 x 16 Kit Miracle

Part I

Ten states (plus three of them twice).  Indiana, Illinois, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, and back through Illinois and Indiana.  Lots of different terrain and climates.

4,435 miles.  Not really too bad.

4 National Parks – Carlsbad Caverns, Grand Canyon, Zion, and Arches.  Plus, you can’t be in the area without stopping at Roswell to see the alien museum.  It’s not exactly on the way to anywhere.  Even their streetlights are painted like aliens.

16 days – we left a day early and returned a day early.

Whew!

Earlier this month we drove down to Texas to pick up our granddaughter for the summer.  Then we went of a big adventure.

I like to keep a journal of my travels with notes and musings, small sketches, mileage, and even sometimes the label from that chocolate shop in Paris which I never can remember.  These travel journals are always fun to revisit later, long after my memories have faded and gotten fuzzy.  They instantly transport me back to the place and time, allowing me to experience the trip all over again.  They’re, of course, nothing so monumental as the Lewis and Clark journals, but they work for me.

Sun breaking through the clouds over Arkansas, sketch, Kit Miracle

After months of planning and preparation, making reservations at the big stops (didn’t realize it was the Grand Canyon’s 100th anniversary until afterwards), we lit out on June 2nd, a day earlier than planned.  We were concerned about the flooding in the Midwest and decided to skirt along the Mississippi to Arkansas and then take the southwestern route to Texas.

Flooded Arkansas River in Little Rock, sketch Kit Miracle

Fortunately, the only flooding we saw on the way out was the Arkansas River in Little Rock but that didn’t affect the drive.

Driving west on 87, sketch, Kit Miracle

After we picked up the granddaughter, we headed west through the Texas hill country (beautiful), to the flatter and dryer areas of west Texas.  Just a delight to be on the road again, away from the daily maintenance of the homestead.

Longhorns resting in shade (from memory), sketch, Kit Miracle

Abandoned House, Texas sketch, Kit Miracle

We negotiated miles of roadwork through the oil fields of west Texas and New Mexico to land at our first national park, Carlsbad Caverns.  My husband and granddaughter had never been in a cave, and even though I have, this was a truly fascinating experience.  The vistas outside were gorgeous, and inside the cave was even more so.  We elected to take the elevator down (700+ feet) rather than walk.  The National Park Service has done such a wonderful job of making this site accessible and interesting.  We took a self-guided tour of the great room which still took an hour and a half. Although many other areas remained to be viewed, that was enough for us.  We didn’t stay for the bat exodus at sundown  either.  Just too tired and road-weary and ready for a meal and bed.

Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico, sketch, Kit Miracle

Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico, sketch, Kit Miracle

Carlsbad is probably typical of any town in the oil field area with lots of traffic, overpriced rooms, and not much scenery.  As we were waiting at a restaurant for dinner, we spoke with a lady who was a local who said it was always this way during boom times.  People renting a room in their homes for $1200 or more.  And getting it.

Sample sketchbook – journal with alien streetlight, sketch, Kit Miracle

Our stop the next morning heading north was Roswell, NM.  You have to stop if you’re in the area as it’s not exactly on the way to anywhere.  We visited the alien museum built in a former movie house.  It was pretty much as I expected.  A mix of history, facts and lots of speculation.  (I hesitate to use the term cheesy but you get the idea.)  Of course, had to buy the T-shirts and trinkets as I don’t expect to get down this way again.  The whole town has gone alien nuts; even the streetlamps are painted as aliens.  The annual UFO festival this year is July 5-7, 2019.  I expect it will be a sight.

Butte, New Mexico, sketch, Kit Miracle

We continued on down the road towards Gallup where we spent the night.  My granddaughter’s major requirement for a hotel was a pool (she’s nine).  After a quick stop in the morning at Walmart, we stocked up on food for our stay at the Grand Canyon.

The further west we drove, the more interesting the landscape became with the big mountain in Flagstaff calling us (Humphrey’s Peak).  It still had snow on the top.  After a roadside picnic lunch (sure got tired of fast food in a hurry), we headed north to the east entrance of the GC National Park.  I’d been there before but the others had not so I couldn’t wait to introduce them to “my” canyon.

We drove through sparsely populated reservation territories.  Some beautiful scenery but appeared to be struggling.

Finally, we arrived at the East entrance of the Grand Canyon. I want to insert here that every park employee that I have met has been terrific.  They’ve always been so polite and helpful.  This is true for every park we have visited.  And I also want to emphasize that our National Parks are one of the greatest assets the American people have.  People from all over the world travel to see our lands and it makes me just want to bust with pride.

Duck on Rock, Grand Canyon, sketch, Kit Miracle

Duck on Rock, Grand Canyon, sketch, Kit Miracle

My granddaughter and I got up early and went out plein air painting.  Well, I painted and she checked out the rocks and vegetation.  The first day was very windy, but after that, it eased up.  My husband was really affected by altitude sickness but we all had a great time.

Next week I’ll post Part II of the remainder of the trip, parks and scenery

Hopi House, Grand Canyon Village, sketch, Kit Miracle

Family at the Beach

Intimate Spaces Series – Family at the Beach, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 30, Kit Miracle

This is the twelfth painting in the Intimate Spaces Series.  Family Day at the Beach reminds me of the many beach scenes by Sargent, Sorolla, and even Mary Cassatt.  There is nothing really extraordinary about the scene and that is what I like about it.

If you look closely at the mother in the painting (click to zoom in), you will notice that she is very pregnant.  The son will soon have a sibling.  Dad is painted with a slight paunch.  Not all scenery at the beach is magazine perfect. This is real life.

Family at the Beach, detail. Notice how abstract the sand is painted. Layer upon layer.

Again, another detail of the sand in the foreground.  This is painted very abstractly.  There are many layers but the whole point is that the focus should be on the family and not necessarily anything else in the painting.

Settling In

Intimate Spaces Series – Settling In, acrylic on canvas, 28 x 38, Kit Miracle

This painting is number seven in the Intimate Spaces Series.  It is titled Settling In which is where the beach-goers begin to stake out their territories.  In this case, the woman in red is being helped by the beach attendant.

Intimate Spaces Series – Settling In detail 1, Kit Miracle

I was attracted to the complexity of the chairs and umbrellas, to the figures and the contrast with the brilliant blue sky.

Intimate Space Series – Settling In, detail 2, Kit Miracle This detail shows the abstract brush strokes I have used for the sand.

As you can see in the detail photo, I have painted the wet sand in a very abstract manner.  It is important to not be concerned about trying to depict every little detail, but to let the viewer’s eyes fill in the details.  The entire painting is a study in contrasts, between details and abstracts, light and dark, near and far.

More series, Intimate Spaces – Beach Series

Go! Number 11 in the Intimate Spaces – Beach Series. Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 16. Kit Miracle

I completed the twelfth painting in my Intimate Spaces series this week.  My thoughts behind painting this series of beach paintings is that when people go to the beach, they carve out their little spaces, arrange their belongings, and then seem to act as if they are invisible within their own little territories.  They’re not.

Maybe I’m just a voyeur, or just have an artist’s eye for observing, but I have always been drawn to people-watching.  The beach, of course, is a great place to be an observer of the human animal, but there are many other places to do that, too.  More thoughts for future series.

Many artists have created series of paintings around themes in the past century and a half.  Most notably are Monet and his haystack paintings or Van Gogh and his sunflowers.  Some artists work the same theme for their entire lives like still life painter Gorgio Morandi who essentially painted the same objects over and over.

And what is the point of painting the same thing over and over? you might ask. For some artists, like Monet, it’s to study the object or scene in different lighting conditions.  For instance, he would often have several canvases at different points of completion, and then work on them when the same lighting and conditions presented themselves.  Most notably, his Rouen Cathedral series, but he was known for this throughout his life.

For me, it is the challenge to drill down into the subject. I like to paint the human figure in situ, or it’s natural, unposed state.  How do people interact when they think no one is watching them?  With each other, or with their surroundings?

My series of beach paintings, I have sixteen planned in all, does exactly that.  Children, families, individuals, seagulls, the landscape – all of the interactions within a limited scope of place.  If it were a different beach or place, there would be different subjects and activities.

But I am surely getting tired of painting sand and sea and sky.  Not doing the beach for the next series, for sure but I already have ideas rolling around.  First, however, will be a little plein air painting for a change of pace.