Tag Archives: art

Pen and ink, a test

I’m teaching a class next month for flower painting with watercolor and pen and ink.  I’ve been using this technique for about 35 years now so I might have learned a thing or two about the subject.

A few of the pens that I used in the most recent test. Top to bottom, India ink and a #4 quill dip pen, my favorite Platinum Carbon Ink pen, a Uniball Vision Elite, Lamy Safari, Shaeffer calligraphy, and a brush pen with ink.

In preparation for the class, I dragged out all of the accumulated pens that I’ve used over the years.  I first started with the old fashioned dip pens and India ink.  This is still a tried and true favorite.  I use a #4 quill and used to buy them by the dozen as I tend to wear them down. (Or a #102 crow quill.) I like the feel of the quill pen and the slight variance of the lines as I draw.  However, there’s often the problem of an errant drop of ink on the paper, which, being India ink, cannot be removed and is difficult to cover up.  Also, when I was doing house portraits and using a ruler for some straight lines, the ink would sometimes wick under the ruler, again, spoiling the painting.

Several years ago, I began exploring other pens.  I’ve tried many of the mechanical drawing pens but they were too difficult to clean.  Some commercial pens were nice but the ink faded over time.  I’ve actually done some tests in the south-facing window of my studio and some of the inks faded totally away!

My current favorite is the Platinum Carbon ink pen.  These are wonderful pens with cartridges, never seem to clog, and are very affordable.

Several others that I tested in this sample are the Lamy Safari, Faber Castell, a brush pen, and whatever else I had.

Samples of various pens and inks. The blurred samples are where I dragged a brush loaded with clear water to test the fastness of the ink. As you can see, they’re not all the same.

After drawing the test sections, I let them dry completely, and then passed a brush with clear water over the lines. As you can see, some of the inks are not waterproof at all.  This could be a problem for artists who do the ink drawing first before they add the watercolor.  In my case, it wouldn’t matter too much as I always start with a quick pencil sketch, paint the watercolor, then add the details loosely with the pen and ink.

This test paper has been in my window for 16 years. On the inside of this piece, I tested several commercially available pens as well as the standard India ink. Some faded totally away while some others held up surprisingly well.

Anyway, if you’re interested in the class, there are still some openings but it’s filling quickly  Here is the link for the signup. Flower Painting Class.

search my blog for more posts about using pen and ink.

What’s in a name?

East Field in Evening, tetraptych, acrylic on canvas, Kit Miracle

This week I created a set of paintings but I’m not quite sure what to call them.  They are of our east field in the evening, showing the stretching shadows.

I started with one painting, the one on the far right, and that just lead to another and another and another.  Four in all…so far.  I’m actually working on a fifth one.

Since these are all painted from the same vantage point, it’s not quite a series which I consider to be more of the same subject but not necessarily from the same view.  This set of paintings creates one broad vista, each overlapping by a quarter to a third.  They don’t exactly match as far as horizon and it wasn’t my intention to do so.  But I did want to convey the same feel.  Although they work well together as a connected work of art, the individual paintings each stands alone as far as composition and technique.

My question is, what does one call four (soon to be five) paintings of the same larger subject but from the same vantage point?  If a diptych is two paintings, and a triptych is three, what is four or five?

The best information I can find is a polyptych or maybe a tetraptych or soon to be a pentaptych.  Doesn’t exactly fall off the tongue, does it?

What is your opinion?

East Field in Evening 1, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20, Kit Miracle

East Field in Evening 2, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20, Kit Miracle

East Field in Evening 3, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20, Kit Miracle

East Field in Evening 4, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20, Kit Miracle

 

“Whatever you eye falls on – for it will fall on what you love – will lead you to the questions of your life, the questions that are incumbent upon you to answer, because that is how the mind works in concert with the eye. The things of this world draw us where we need to go.” 
― Mary Rose O’ReilleyThe Barn at the End of the World: The Apprenticeship of a Quaker, Buddhist Shepherd

What makes a great painting?

Metropolitan Museum of Art

What makes a great painting?

The answer to this question is, of course, subjective and there are probably as many opinions as there are people who think about it. When I used to run the arts center and gallery, I was often asked this question.

My general reply is this:

  • Impact – when you walk into a gallery or museum, which artwork are you most drawn to? What is your initial reaction? Sometimes you may be attracted to beauty or color.  Sometimes you approach with curiosity.  Sometimes it is horror.  But what initial impact does the painting make on you?
  • Size – a wall-size painting is not always good art but it usually has impact. I have seen some pretty bad giant paintings but they usually get your attention, at least initially.  As an aside, young artists often want to create these very large pieces before they have any real talent or anything to say.  That makes them large bad paintings.  On the other hand, Monet created some huge murals of waterlilies which required a special museum to be built but that was towards the end of his life. And Picasso’s Guernica will only fit into spaces of a certain size. Size might matter but not always.

    Pollack’s iconic painting at the Met. Questions remain today about quality of workmanship but he certainly explored new territory in his time.

  • Composition – how does the painting flow? Although there are many rules of composition, the golden mean being one of the most well-known, I find it is more of a feeling of flow and balance.
  • Evokes a feeling – this is often related to composition but not necessarily. How do you feel when you view the painting?  Is it calming, exciting, emotionally disturbing?  What does your gut tell you? Does it touch the mind and soul of the viewer? Does it make you want to keep looking? It should be something beyond just wall decoration.
  • Originality – a great painting should provide something new to look at. Is it the same flower arrangement that dozens of other artists crank out or has the artist treated a common subject in a new way?  I think a great painting should explore new territory.

    Great paintings make you want to look closer.

  • Quality of workmanship – I admire quality of workmanship and appreciate how the artist actually handled the materials. An artist who cares for the process of the art will often care for the longevity of the art, too.
  • Memorable – will you remember this painting? Will it haunt you long after you have left the gallery or museum?  What will you remember about it?  This was a question that I often asked customers when I sold my work at art fairs long ago and they couldn’t make up their minds which painting to buy.  Which painting will you remember and regret not buying long after you’re gone?  And there usually was one piece more than the other.

As I said at the beginning of this post, this is a subjective list.  I’m sure there are many other opinions but most of these points would be generally agreed upon to answer the question, what makes a great painting.

What are your thoughts?  What do you think makes a great painting?

Gallery show, update

Kit Miracle at the J. Michael Dunn Gallery at Oakland City University, Oakland City, Indiana.

I took a drive over to Oakland City University today to see my newly-hung show at the J. Michael Dunn Gallery.  I’ll admit, it’s been a long time since I’ve had enough work to show at a solo show.  However, in the past few years I have been able to devote more time to painting and creating.

Most artists understand how amazing it is to walk into a gallery and see your work on display, especially if there are several years’ worth of work.  But to see everything out of storage and out of boxes and hung all together…well, it’s just a bit overwhelming.

I’ve posted photos of individual paintings over the past few years but I really haven’t seen the whole body of work in one place.  The first thing that struck me is the color.  I like color and it shows.

Then there’s the subject matter.   Still lifes, landscapes, portraits.  It’s all meaningful to me but I’m not sure it is to anyone else.  Nevertheless, I love seeing the work hung as a group.

The show runs from August 13th through September 28th.  The public reception and gallery talk is scheduled for Sunday, September 9th from 2 to 5 CST.  The gallery hours are M-F 10 to 5, weekends by appointment.  Check it out. Come on out for the reception or just to view the work.

https://www.oak.edu/facilities/j-michael-dunn-art-gallery

Kit Miracle, gallery show 2

Gallery show-3, Kit Miracle

Gallery show 4, Kit Miracle

Gallery show 5, Kit Miracle

Gallery show 6, Kit Miracle

Gallery show 7, Kit Miracle

Gallery show 8, Kit Miracle

Gallery show 9, Kit Miracle

Gallery show 10, Kit Miracle

Gallery show 11, Kit Miracle

Gallery show 13, Kit Miracle

Gallery show 13, Kit Miracle

Painting close to home

Garden in August, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20, Kit Miracle

Visiting new places is always fun and inspiring for artists, but many of the best paintings have been made close to home.  One of my favorites is one that Renoir painted of Monet in his garden.  It’s just a homey painting of a backyard with other houses in the distance.

Renoir painting of Monet in garden

Today I decided paint a scene that I see every day from my breakfast table. It is of my garden this month with the tall sunflowers and multi-color zinnias and other flowers.  The rest of the garden is still producing but is beginning to look a little straggly this time of year.  We’re still getting plenty of tomatoes, eggplants, beans, and peppers.  But it’s the flowers that I really love. The birds and butterflies love them, too.

Garden in August. The sunflowers and zinnias are in full bloom. The vegies are still producing heavily. Lots of tomatoes, eggplants, beans and peppers.

I got out early to take advantage of the cool morning and the shade.  The canvas is primed with a beige color and painted black on the border.

Garden in August, step 1. Here I have generally covered most of the canvas. Notice that I’ve edited the trees in the background to provide more interest.

The first step as usual for me is to lay in the general composition and the dark colors.  As you can see, I did some editing, removing the line of trees in the background and just including a few big trees.  I also squashed things together a bit for the composition.

Garden in August, step 2. More blocking in plus I’ve added the sky and most of the foreground.

Next I laid in more darks and some brighter greens as well as the sky.  I wanted a rosy early morning sky….so I made one.

Actually the most difficult part was painting the flowers.  It is so hard to get them bright without being gaudy.  I ended up painting a light wash of pale green over some of them to tone down their brightness.

The entire painting took about three hours minus some time for a phone call to a friend while I was waiting for paint to dry. The point here is that you don’t have to travel a great distance to find something worthy to paint.  A good subject might be just outside your window.

Gallery exhibit – behind the scenes

Yesterday I delivered fifty paintings to Oakland City University for a solo exhibit.  It’s been several years since I’ve had the time to build enough work for a solo show so this has been a bit of a challenge.

Car number one, packed with dolly. A dolly is invaluable if you have to schlep work any great distance. Always choose wheels. I have a much bigger dolly but this small one is compact and travels well.

Car number 2. Make sure everything is tight. I used to have a full-size van and could have gotten everything into one vehicle, so it’s a bit more challenging now.

Car number 2. Again, make sure everything is packed tight so there isn’t any slipping. This can damage your artwork.

Before I was director of the arts center, I was the visual arts director responsible for lining up and implementing the exhibits.  There is a lot more to it than it would appear.  Contracts, designing and ordering gallery announcement cards, press releases, unpacking, hanging, receptions, repacking, etc.  However, this only built on two decades of schlepping my work around the country to art fairs and festivals.  Those were the gypsy days, for sure.

But yesterday I was on familiar territory with meeting my old friend Roger Willis at OCU.  This was the culmination of spending the past few weeks deciding what to take, ordering frames and framing artwork, packing and delivering, then unpacking.  Fortunately, Roger didn’t require that I stay to help hang the exhibit as some galleries do. So it will be a surprise to see which paintings he places next to each other.

Gallery shot number 1. Unpacked paintings waiting for hanging.

Gallery shot 2. More paintings waiting.

Gallery shot 3. Even more paintings waiting. These smaller pieces (16 x 20) can be double hung to save space.

If you’re interested in viewing the exhibit, it will be held from August 6th through September 24th.  The reception is Sunday, September 9th from 2 to 5 pm.  The address is on the Oakland City University campus at the J. Michael Dunn gallery, Cornwell-Reed Fine Arts Building, 138 N Lucretia Street, Oakland City, IN 47660.  They’re open M-F from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.   And weekends by appointment.

I’ll post more photos of the exhibit later.

Memories of Paris

Memories of Paris, 24 x 36, acrylic on canvas, Kit Miracle

I completed this large painting this past week.  Well, I may not be finished as I keep tweaking it. You would think that a painting of the sky through some tree branches would be easy but I’ve worked on it for some weeks.

Memories of Paris, detail 1, acrylic on canvas, Kit Miracle

I’m not quite sure why I was attracted to this subject.  Maybe the cool spring colors.  It seems to exude a feeling of peace.

Memories of Paris, detail 2, acrylic on canvas, Kit Miracle

It was my intention to just give an impression of the sky view, not to paint every detail.  In fact, I think that is boring. I like the viewer to bring something to the scene.  If you look closely at the detail images, you’ll see many variegated colors, both in the foliage, the flowers, and on the tree limbs.  But also, look at the blank sections of the painting.  You’ll spot a vapor trail and some wispy clouds.

Memories of Paris, detail 3, acrylic on canvas, Kit Miracle

And, do you see the surprise that I hid here?  It is a pair of birds.  Maybe they’re getting ready to build a nest in one of the trees. Not overly obvious, just a sweet sign of spring.

Calla Lilies and Other Garden Musings

Happy Independence day, everyone!  Celebrating here in the United States. Family, friends, plenty of good things to eat.  And maybe a beautiful tour through the garden.

Calla Lily, Picasso variety, watercolor, pen and ink, 14.5 x 10.5, Kit Miracle

The calla lily is in bloom.  This is the standard Picasso variety. It seems to require no care at all except to weed around it once in awhile. Unfortunately, Japanese beetles, slugs and snails love to munch on these lovely blossoms.

I love these tall, elegant blooms. They’re somewhat waxy in texture and will last a few days.

Calla lilies seemed to be a common motif in the art deco period, maybe for their simple lines and shapes.  I also like their speckled leaves.

Calla Lily plant in the garden

Fair as a lily, and not only the pride of life, but the desire of his eyes.

Charlotte Bronte

Trusty Guard Dog, Mikey

On another front, the first planting of sweet corn is nearly ready; only a couple of days left.  This time last year, the raccoons came one night and decimated the crop.  Thus, our trusty guard dog is being posted out by the garden. Based on his enthusiastic barking last night, I think his presence was effective.  A couple of more days before we can harvest.  Mikey says he’s tired and needs some sleep.

Flowers, flowers and more flowers

Pile of paintings. This a a stack of recent flower paintings, usually four to a sheet. Watercolor, pen and ink. Kit Miracle

May has been the hottest month on record in these parts. I’ve been trying to capture local flowers in watercolor with pen and ink but the heat has pushed everything into high gear.  The flowers are blooming faster than I can paint them.

Hurricane Alberto dumped some rain on us but it wasn’t too bad.  Unfortunately, accompanying winds broke off a large limb of a maple tree in the back yard.  More clean up and some firewood.

Persimmon flowers. These waxy, bell-shaped flowers on the persimmon tree will yield wonderful fruit in late summer. Watercolor, pen and ink, 10.5 x 14. Kit Miracle

And the vegetable garden, about 60 x 40 for the main garden, plus the additional spring garden which includes the cold frames, asparagus area, onions and garlic, peas and the squash patch.  I planted this entirely. Yippee.  And it needs hoeing as soon as I can get in there after the mud.

This doesn’t count the nearly forty flower pots, plus flower beds, plus general spring tidying.

And, of course, trimming bushes coming up this week.

Sheesh.

Four flowers. A typical quarter sheet of watercolor paper has been divided into four sections. Here you can see lamb’s ear, weigela, Venus looking glass, and lavender.

I really want to paint something besides flowers.  I keep telling myself, OK, they’re all done.  Then a walk through the yard reveals some more.  Stop, already!  Ok, humpf, I’m over it.

Anyway, here is a whole pile of recent paintings.  It’s been fun if hectic.  I’ve spent some time roaming through my plant books and guides to identify each one but if you see some errors, please let me know.

Thanks for stopping by.