Tag Archives: art

Wings, a beach scene

Wings – final, acrylic on canvas, 18 x 24. Kit Miracle

I was looking through some old photographs for subjects to paint which I haven’t visited for awhile and came across the inspiration for this painting. Sometimes the subject doesn’t grab me for several years until I revisit the pictures but this photo was only from last summer. I love the beach scenes by Sargent, Sorolla and Zorn, particularly the ones involving children.

For this painting, I decided to work slowly and do plenty of preliminary work.  My last post included several sketches, some Notan studies, and one painting study of the central figure. The latter is actually larger than the figure in the final painting.  See the sketch for this painting.

The title comes from the focus on the little girl with her water wings and the flapping wings of the seagulls.  Sargent did a wonderful painting of Neapolitan Children at the beach and one of them is wearing a contraption of bladders for floating, similar to today’s water wings.

To learn more about this painting, check out my step-by-step page here.

Advertisements

Preliminary work

Beach girl, color sketch. 16 x 12, acrylic. Kit Miracle

I often have mixed feelings about the importance of creating preliminary sketches and paintings.  Sometimes I just want to grab the brush and dive right into a painting.  This is especially true of my plein air painting although, usually I at least do a few value sketches before I put any paint to the canvas.  Usually.

Beach girl, pencil sketch. 18 x 24, Kit Miracle

On the other hand, I know from experience that when I want to create a large piece, results will normally be better with more planning.  Preliminary sketches and paintings basically create a road map for a painting or work of art.  If you think about it, you wouldn’t build a house without a plan.  Probably wouldn’t take a vacation without a map.  So it makes sense to do some support work before you begin a major piece of work.

Notan sketches for beach painting.

I’ve been working on a large beach scene lately.  First I started with some sketches for the layout or composition.  Then I did a few Notan sketches in black and white.  Sometimes I’ll add a middle grey value but usually not.  Next I did a large pencil sketch of the main figure.  This helps me to address any problems and get to know the scene.  Finally, I did a fairly quick color sketch (acrylic) of the little girl.  This was, in fact, much larger than the final figure in the painting which is not necessarily how most people would work.

I’ll post the final painting and more sketches next Sunday.  I really like this preliminary color sketch but I’ll let you be the judge.

As an aside, most famous artists of the past spent quite a bit of time and effort to create their masterpieces, including numerous sketches.  This is still quite common for artists who practice classical education in ateliers.

To learn more, check out the work of John Singer Sargent, Joaquin Sorolla y Batista, Anders Zorn, Cesar Santos, Norman Rockwell, or Juliette Aristides.

Your One Thing

How are you doing with those New Year’s resolutions?  Already feeling a bit overwhelmed?  Maybe fell off the wagon already?  I’ll go on my diet when all these sweets are out of the house.  That big work project is hanging over my head; I can’t stop smoking now.  I promise that NEXT YEAR I’ll set up a budget for holiday shopping. Any of these sound familiar?  Or something similar, I’m sure.

I always get weird looks from people when I tell them that my favorite day of the year is New Years.  Not for the sports (although I live with someone to whom those are pretty important.)  No, it’s my favorite day of the year because it portends new beginnings, new opportunities, a fresh slate.  Possibilities!

Over the years, I’ve gotten pretty good at planning.  My job as Director of a performing and multi-discipline arts center required planning out eighteen months to two years.  I set up a spreadsheet with upcoming events and tasks in all the major areas: administrative, fund-raising, performing arts, visual arts, educational, special events, etc.

I would check the list every month, update as necessary, and set up my weekly schedule – also in categories.  Long term goals were guided by our five year plan and updated as needed.

When I retired a couple of years ago, I decided to put my energy back into painting.  I’ve been a professional artist since the early 80’s but had limited time to give when I was working full time (although I never gave it up, always managing to fit in 15 or so hours a week). Now that I didn’t have any excuses for not giving my best, what exactly did I envision for my next stage art career?

The first several months I floundered about.  I fooled around, did some art, but not with any real focus.  My question to self was, how do I apply everything I’ve learned and practiced for the past couple of decades in the arts business to my art business?

Then in December 2017, I picked up a book from the library that impressed me so much that I had to order my own copy.  I’m a business and marketing book junkie, btw, but I was really fired up by this book.  It is called The One Thing by Gary Keller.

The One Thing by Gary Keller

The main premise is to focus on one thing.  The focusing question is:

What’s the ONE THING I can do

such that by doing it

everything else will be made easier or unnecessary?

There is more in the book to help the reader find and focus on his/her One Thing, but that is the main premise.  The author has a number of free downloads on his website but I developed my own.

I usually focus on some personal goals as well as business goals, but inevitably I am too ambitious and can get overwhelmed.  Sound familiar to you?  Keller emphasizes setting up a set of goals which will cause a domino effect, i.e., do a small thing, which will lead to a bigger thing, until you finally get to your ONE BIG THING.  I set  weekly, monthly, one-year, five year, and someday goals, all revolving around my one big thing.

The goal I set for the year (which I’m not going to share specifically) revolved around creating and selling a certain amount of artwork.  This was one BHAG (big hairy a$$ goal) and beyond anything that I’ve achieved for a very long time.  It was a real stretch. The final result?  I created and sold more artwork last year than I have in any single year since I had a full-time job.  I came within $17 of my big, reach-for-the-stars goal.  Yay!  What a boost to my confidence.  And, all that creating has probably improved my work as well.

So, what’s up for this year?  Revised the plan from last year, tweaked a few things….and DOUBLED my goal!  Heck, why not?

What are your goals for the year?  What is your One Thing?   What one thing, such by doing it will help make everything else easier or unnecessary?

If you’re floundering and lack direction, or lack progress, I highly urge you to get this book by Keller.  Check it out of the library or snag a copy online.  With over 2,500 hundred reviews, you can’t go wrong.  As a caveat, I am not affiliated with Gary Keller or his organization in any way.  I just really like this book and think you might, too.

The One Thing by Gary Keller

Gary Keller’s website

My personal Word doc for goals  one big thing 2019 blank form

High Noon, a street scene

High Noon, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 36, Kit Miracle
cityscape, landscape

I had the idea for this painting rolling around in my head for some time. The middle of the day is not my favorite time to paint as the shadows are often small and the colors are too washed out. However, I wanted to try this back-lit village scene with the street, buildings and cars.

High Noon, detail 1, showing the contre jour lighting and impressionistic brush strokes, Kit Miracle

There weren’t really any people around at the time that I took the reference photos for this painting which is surprising considering all the cars that were there.  I decided to add some people to the landscape to give it more life.

The challenge for a painting like this is, first, to get the perspective correct.  Perspective can be conveyed not only from the actual drawing but distance is also indicated by the shading. The farther away the objects, the lighter the shading. The second challenge is to ensure that the colors are right, that enough details are included without being too focused on details. It’s all a matter of balance.

High Noon, detail 2.  Adding people to a street scene makes it come alive but you don’t need to include every detail. Let the viewer’s eye fill in the story.

I added more color to the street to “lay it down”, that is, to make sure it didn’t appear floating.  This is where having a lot of experience in plein air painting helps.  Photos often make the darks too dark and the lights too light.  Copying a photo exactly often gives unsatisfying results.

Overall, I liked the challenge of this painting.  It has been on display at a local gallery and many people have recognized the scene and commented on it.

Lucky Red #5 – Red Robe / Black Dragon

Lucky Red #5, Red Robe / Black Dragon, acrylic on canvas, good luck symbols, 20 x 16, Kit Miracle

This is the fifth painting in my Lucky Red series.  There are many symbols of power and good fortune in this set up.  The still life arrangement is a little unusual but I’ve been wanting to work the red satin robe into a painting for quite some time.  I love the way it glows.  Red is the sign of strength and power.

An unusual composition, the red satin robe brings all the elements together in this Lucky Red still life.

I can’t recall where I acquired the black iron dragon but it usually guards my desk. Another symbol of strength and power, it can also represent danger.  Hummm…  The cluster of white/clear quartz crystals is a new acquisition from a neat rock shop that I visit sometimes.  They’re all just so beautiful.  This crystal is from the Arkansas quarry which apparently is in a vein of 170 miles long!  Quartz is a very hard crystal and is supposed to amplify the powers of other crystals, especially healing.  The mandarin oranges represent good fortune and the sun and are often given as gifts for the new year.

I can’t vouch for the veracity of the good fortune that any of these items will bring, but I love to create still lifes that are a little beyond just pretty pictures.  This series of Lucky Red still lifes all feature good luck symbols and the color red at least somewhere in the painting.

This painting is a vertical view, the first such arrangement in the series.  Painted in a contemporary impressionistic style, it brings peaceful contemplation to the viewer.

Lucky Red #5 detail 2, showing the various shades of orangey-red in the robe. Very difficult to capture on the computer monitor.

Lucky Red #5 detail showing the black iron dragon, quartz crystals and mandarin oranges

Buddha and Pomegranates Still life


Buddha and Pomegranates, still life, Lucky Red series, good luck symbols, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20, Kit Miracle,Vitarka Mudra

This is the fourth painting in my Lucky Red series.

Detail of Buddha and Pomegranates painting, acrylic on canvas, Vitarka Mudra

The sitting Buddha represents Vitarka Mudra or the teaching Buddha. The circle made in the right hand stands for never-ending flow of energy.  The pomegranates stand for fertility, abundance and marriage.

Pomegranates, lucky red symbol, fruit, symbol of fertility, abundance, marriage

I like the slight smile on Buddha’s face along with the contrasting colors of the fruit and plant.  Painted in an impressionistic style, this painting brings a quiet, reflective mood to any setting.

Yes, of course this is for sale.  Click here. 

The drudgery work behind the scenes of being an artist. Packing, framing and shipping.

This is the time of year which finds me packing, framing, and shipping.  My paintings travel from coast to coast, and even overseas!  It’s important to make sure they arrive safely.

Shipping unframed paintings in these shiny pink envelopes gives the customer a nice surprise. The painting is inserted in a clear plastic bag (to prevent water damage), secured between between two pieces of cardboard to give added support and inserted into the bubble envelope for even more protection.

My flat pieces generally are packed in my signature shiny pink envelopes.  I put them in a clear plastic bag, add the shipping information, secure them between stiff cardboard, and insert the whole deal into the envelope.  Larger paintings are wrapped similarly but put in boxes.

Framing a 16 x 20 into a standard size frame. Using Z-clips makes it very easy. I actually took another painting out of this frame which demonstrates the benefit of using standard sizes.

This is also the time of year to prepare paintings for exhibits.  One advantage of painting standard sizes is that I usually have standard sized frames available.  If not, I might slip another painting out of a frame to use.  This is also the benefit of using neutral frames.  In my case, usually black, white or gold with very simple profiles. It’s been a long time since I’ve selected special frames for each painting as it gets very expensive.

Alley, Belgravia Court, Louisville. Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20, Kit Miracle This is the painting I showed a few weeks ago. The simple frame is versatile and will suit many painting subjects.

Beginning arts professionals often don’t realize that they may spend about half of their time doing the mundane tasks behind the scenes – framing, preparing canvases, paperwork, shipping, delivery – than actually spent in front of the easel.  The final exhibit or sale is the icing on the cake.  I think this is probably true for any arts professional, not just visual artists.  Being a successful artist also means being a good business person.  Paying attention to procedures, cutting costs where you can, and making your customer happy it what it really takes to make a living in the arts.

Alley View, Belgravia Court, Louisville, Kentucky, Acrylic on Canvas

Alley, Belgravia Court, St. James, Louisville, Kentucky, original acrylic painting, 20 x 16, Kit Miracle

Last month I visited the St. James Art Fair in Louisville, Kentucky.  This is one of the most prestigious art fairs in the country. I exhibited on Belgravia Court for many, many years when I was traveling and doing art fairs.  Although the day was very hot for early October, many years the weather is rainy and miserable.  This year, the crowds were out en masse.

One of my favorite parts of walking around on city streets is looking into alleyways.  I always think of this as the back doors of the inhabitants.  The alleys seem so much more interesting to me than the front facades.  This is true for large cities or small.

This is an acrylic painting on canvas, 20 x 16.  I switched to acrylic last winter as I felt the fumes from oil painting and the solvents were probably not good to breathe in a closed environment.  As you can see, I handle acrylics very much like I handle oil paints.  The good part (and bad part) about acrylics is that they dry so much quicker.  As I painted watercolors for over 25 years, I am used to working under the clock.  To slow the drying process, I will often use a retarder which makes the acrylic paint dry more slowly.  I also like the tactile quality of oil paints.  Painting in impasto, or thick paint, is fun but challenging. It is almost like sculpting in paint. For acyrlics, I use a flexible sculpting medium to add more body to the paint even though I use heavy body paint.  The flexible medium allows the paint and canvas to breathe and to be, well, flexible.  It shouldn’t flake off the canvas as a stiffer medium would. My ultimate aim is to capture the feel and results of painting in oils without the toxic fumes.

If you are interesting in learning more about this painting or making a purchase, check out my Etsy shop at KitMiracleArt.  Also, follow my Facebook page KitMiracleArt for special discount codes.

Trees at Alton, Indiana, on the Ohio River

Trees at Alton, Indiana, on the Ohio River. Plein air, 12 x 16, Kit Miracle

Yesterday I drove up to Indianapolis to drop off a couple of paintings at the Indiana Plein Art Painters Association annual member exhibit.  I haven’t entered this before, mostly because of the three hour drive.  But the day was a beautiful fall day, starting off with some fog in low-lying areas. The fall colors were breathtaking.  For those of you who think Indiana is represented by flat cornfields, nothing could be further from the truth.  The southern part consists of beautiful hills, rivers, and streams covered mostly by deciduous forests.  This time of year, the landscape is a panorama of golds and reds.  It was just a glorious day for a drive.

One of the two paintings I entered is Trees at Alton, Indiana, on the Ohio River.  I just painted this back in late September.  As you can see, the tall trees on the left are just beginning to show some color.  Alton is a tiny little collection of houses and has been flooded many times over the years. But the people who live here are passionate about living on the Ohio River so they always come back.  There is something mesmerizing about the big river with its barges and other river traffic.  I can just sit and watch the river for hours.

This scene is pretty classic.  Just some trees, a path leading into the picture, a river and some hills.  A very peaceful vista.

If you’re interested in seeing the whole exhibit, it is at the Hoosier Salon Gallery in Carmel, just north of Indianapolis.  The exhibit runs from November 10th  through  December 14th.  The reception is Saturday,, November 10th 5-9 pm.  There are many beautiful paintings of all parts of Indiana and most of the work is for sale. Take a gander at this exhibit and visit lovely downtown Carmel with its many arty and eclectic shops and eateries.  A great time for some holiday shopping.

The Studio Sale

The front of my blue door studio. This is an old summer kitchen and my commute is only 30 feet from my back door.

It was a beautiful weekend for my studio sale.  The weather was sunny and temperatures were in the 60s.  Fall colors are starting to appear on the trees.  Saturday was a bit breezy but Sunday was perfect.

I love to introduce people to my place of work and creativity.  It’s just my escape, a place to play and contemplate.

Initial set up in the front room during my studio sale. This lineup changed over the weekend as paintings were sold.

Initial set up in the back room.

Although setting up for the sale is a major endeavor, it looked really great by the time I was done.  Mostly from clearing out all the boxes which were moved to the greenhouse.

The wider view. Paintings on nearly every surface, bins of unframed paintings, more and more and more.

As I was pulling work from storage, bins and flat files, I came across many pieces that I’d totally forgotten about.

Good food and drink are always attractions. Homemade minestrone soup, herbed bread, cookies and biscotti, and plenty of other goodies. No one went home hungry.

And my many friends and supporters got some great deals, too.  All in all, I think everyone had a good time.

The fire pit. A perfect place to congregate on a beautiful fall day.

I’m still even getting some inquiries from the photos I posted on social media.  But, it will all be put away by the end of the week.

Time to make more paintings!  Until next year!

Look for the pink signs, I kept touting on social media.