Tag Archives: art

Studio visit – where the magic happens!

My studio is the old summer kitchen surrounded by herbs, flowers and giant maple trees.

I love to visit the studios of other artists, to nose around and see how they work, what materials they use, how they store materials and artwork.  Sometimes I get great ideas but it’s just wonderful to see what the other artists do.

So I’m inviting you to visit my studio.

Over thirty years ago, my husband and I decided to leave the corporate world and purchased a small farm in Southern Indiana.  This was always a dream of mine so he mostly came along for the ride.  If you are not familiar with this part of the country, it is totally beautiful with woods and fields, gently rolling hills, lakes and streams. And not too many people.  I like to say it’s like New England without the crowds.

We live in a 150 year old farm house with a large garden, a couple of orchards, and plenty of the aforementioned woods and fields and streams.  We raised two sons here and have enjoyed living in a county that doesn’t even have one stoplight…and we’re proud of it.

My studio is the old summer kitchen so my commute is about 30 feet from the back door.  For those of you who are not familiar with this term, summer kitchens were popular in the days of wood-fired stoves to keep the heat out of the house…in the summer!  They are very common on old homesteads in the midwest and south.  And it’s very nice for me to have an area to keep my art separate both physically and mentally from the rest of the house.

Thanks so much for stopping by.  Don’t forget to visit my art website at kgmiracle.com  or my Etsy shop.

My Blue Door Studio,the old summer kitchen is about 30 feet from my back door. The blue is Electric Blue, a lucky southwest color. Hey, why not?

View from the front door through the studio. It is a two-room space.

View from my artist chair to the front door of the studio.

A broader view of the front room of the studio. This used to be the dining room for the field hands during the summer.

It may looks a bit haphazard but I know where everything is…usually.

Broader view from the back room into the front room.

This large pantry in the back room of the studio is where I store many objects for still lifes. The old wood cook stove was back here, too. I can’t imagine how many meals were fixed here, as well as all the canning that was done.

Storage is always a premium for artists. Where does one PUT all this art?

This is where the magic happens. The easel for oil painting. The flat table for watercolor and some drawing. Everything I need within a hand’s reach.

Will your artwork last?

One thing that has concerned me since I first became a professional painter (over 35 years now) is the quality of the materials that I use and how to make sure my art lasts.  This is important to me not because of my ego but to ensure that my customers can expect a painting to last for years, even decades or centuries with proper handling.  I educated myself early on about the greatest causes for deteriorating artwork, especially works on paper.

Some of the greatest causes for paintings to fade or change are:

  • Sunlight! Yes, while the sun is great for so many things, it is not good for paints or papers.  Even over a long period of time, it will fade the colors and break down the fibers of the paper or canvas.  Sun will even fade wood over time.
  • Damp enviroments invite mold and organic changes to the supports.
  • Insect damage. Those little silverfish love to eat paper.
  • Using cheap materials. This is my personal pet peeve.  Why put all the time and effort into creating a work of art and use cheap materials?  Doesn’t make any sense to me.

What can you do as an artist or art owner?

  • Always choose the best materials you can afford. For instance, if you’re an artist, use artist-grade paints rather than studio or student-grade paints.  The artist-grade paints contain more pigment and better quality.
  • If you’re creating works on paper, use 100% rag, linen, or cotton fiber. These will hold up decades longer than  pulp papers.  Wood pulp contains chemicals which deteriorate almost immediately.  Remember that pile of yellowed newspapers in the garage?
  • Ensure that the matting and framing is archival or museum-grade. I always use museum rag mats and archival backing.  If the work is under glass, you can help prevent sun damage by using UV filtering glass.

So, if you are an artist, take pride in your work and make it with the best materials you can afford.  If you are an art collector, ask the artist or gallery about the materials or framing.  If it isn’t framed, have your framing shop frame it archivally.

My personal experiment.

Many years ago I decided to test my materials by putting samples in a south-facing window of my studio.  Both of the samples shown are on 100% cotton rag paper.

This was the test. Two pieces of Arches 100% cotton rag with ink and paint samples in a south facing window

I was testing four things.

  • How well the paper withstood the direct sunlight.
  • How the watercolor paints held up.
  • If there was fading to the computer printed color paints.
  • If any of the commercially available inks and ink pens held up to the sun.

The time frame for this experiment has been about fifteen years.  I folded the art pieces over and they have just been sitting in the window for that long.

This is the outside of the mini watercolor painting. I was surprised that the red didn’t fade over 15 years. It is usually pretty fugitive.

Each piece was folded over with part of the experiment covered by the fold. In this case, it was an old mini painting. As you can see, the actual watercolor paint held up pretty well.

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.

As you can see, there is some small damage to the paper along the edges.  I attribute this mostly due to water damage from condensation of the window, not to direct sun.

The watercolor paints (Winsor and Newton) held up surprisingly well.  I was somewhat surprised that the reds held because that is a color that has a great tendency to fade.

And the pen inks.  What can I say?  Some, like the Zeb Roller Ink totally faded.  But others, like the old standby India ink and newer Vision Elite haven’t changed at all.  That is good news.  I’m now testing a carbon ink from Japan and have high expectations for that.

In this test piece, I printed color ink from my computer onto rag paper. Pretty faded, eh?

The fading is even more noticeable when the covered part is revealed. Note to self: don’t use standard office printers for original artwork.

The computer printed paper totally faded. So much for archival inks. My experience has been that the black computer ink will last but not the colors, however, inks may have changed over the years.  And I’m sure that commercial-grade printers and ink will fare better.  But best to ask if you are purchasing a print.

The takeaway is to use or buy quality art materials and frame them in a way that will prevent damage, particularly from sunlight.

Please note:  I am not a scientist so this was just a personal experiment.  Use your own judgement in the end.  Check out this article from scientists who are actually fixing old artwork.  https://www.livescience.com/13536-winslow-homer-van-gogh-fugitive-art.html

What pigments are you using?

I was taking inventory of my paints in my studio recently and it dawned on me that I have a LOT of paint.  As I was sorting my paints into categories by color, I realized that I didn’t really know all of the various nuances of the paints I was using.  Yes, of course, I often to return to favorites and use them  frequently.  But I decided it would be helpful to have a chart of samples of each hue.

As you can see by the charts below, there can be many slight variances by manufacturer.  Some qualities you cannot actually see but you know in the “feel” of the paint, i.e., creamier, richer, stiffer, etc. Although I generally use Artist grade paints, I had accidentally ordered some Student grade paint.  You can see by the sample comparing the various Raw Sienna varieties that one is much thinner, meaning there are more fillers and less actual pigments.  It always pays to buy the best you can afford. Oh, and I had 58 different colors or brands of oil paints.

Color sample chart #1

Color sample chart #2

Other variations include how the pigments behave over time.  Some yellow or change color. Others thin, particularly something like Titanium White, which means if they are applied over a darker ground, you may find the background bleeding through over time.

While I had all my paints out, I also decided to create a few charts of the pigments that I use most frequently.  My top ten oil paints are:

  • Titanium White
  • Cadmium Lemon
  • Raw Sienna
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Sap Green
  • Winsor Green
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Cerulean Blue
  • French Ultramarine
  • Prussian Blue
  • Cadmium Red
  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Cobalt Violet
  • Ivory Black

Although it is rare that I would incorporate all of these colors into the same painting, I often try to have a cool red and a hot red, a cool blue and a hot blue, etc. Usually just one green and no black.  My favorite brand is Winsor Newton but I try some others, too.  For instance, I love Richeson’s Hansa Yellow Medium because it’s so creamy.  There are no hard and fast rules about how many paints you need, except that generally fewer colors will result in the artist creating more colors by mixing, resulting in greater harmony in the long run.

Color samples made with Cadmium Lemon

Color samples made with Titanium White

Something Different

Times Square at Night, watercolor, India ink, Kit Miracle

The first month of retirement has been interesting.  Everyone keeps asking me, “How’s retirement?”  “I just feel like I’m on a long vacation,” I reply. And mostly that is true.  I’m starting to feel very relaxed.  Sleep better.  Crossing some things off the inevitable list.  This time of year there is so much to do in the country: finish the garden, planting, cleaning, etc.

However, I am still finding time to paint and spend in my studio.  I’ve been working on some larger figures in landscapes and have two drawn out.  I decided to take a break and work on this watercolor of Times Square at Night this week.  If you have ever been there, then you can appreciate how bright the lights are, no matter the time of day. Times Square is always awake, always exciting.  That is what I was trying to capture in this watercolor with India ink overlay.  Somewhat abstract for me but more detail would not have been beneficial.

Quick Draw and Plein Air Painting Event at Jasper, Indiana

I have only been into retirement about three weeks but, frankly, I have been sooooo busy!  I know, all retirees say that.  But it’s true.  It rained nearly the entire first week with some epic flooding in this area.  I spent much of that week just organizing the stuff I brought home from my office (too much after 17 years).  And making lists.  I’m a list maker and have always been one.  Just love checking off those items.

After awhile, however, I reminded myself that I didn’t want my entire retirement to be one big To Do list.  I want to have some fun!

So I signed up for the Quick Draw and Plein Air Painting event sponsored by Jasper Community Arts.  I have never been able to participate before since I am an employee so I was grateful for the opportunity this year.  It is also co-sponsored by another organization I belong to, RunawayArtists.com.

This two-day event was on the Friday and Saturday before Mother’s Day.  Friday predictions were for more rain so I tried to think of somewhere sheltered to paint.  I asked my friends at Green Thumb Nursery if they would mind if I painted there and they were delighted so that is where I began.  It was a very pleasant morning with the rain pattering on the roof and painting among all the flowers.  The most difficult part was to find the right corner where I wouldn’t be in the way of all the Mother’s Day shoppers. The angle wasn’t the most desirable as I couldn’t back up enough to gauge the proper perspective, but a lovely morning, all in all.

Plein Air Painting at Green Thumb on a rainy day. Kit Miracle

Plein Air Painting at the garden center. Oil on canvas, 12 x 16. Kit Miracle

Watching all the shoppers come in for holiday, I thought that I might stick with the flowers theme and went to the other side of town to paint in the Walmart garden center.  It was an awesome display of flowers!  Again, I found an out of the way spot to paint.  I was particularly enamored with the bright colors of the kayaks propped against the building contrasting with all the flowers.  You have to develop a pretty thick skin to paint in such a public and well-trafficked space but it didn’t bother me at all.  No one from the store came up and asked what I was doing but I did have a few customers asked if I worked there.  It must have been my painting apron.  Ha ha.

Painting at the garden center at Walmart on the day before Mother’s Day. Kit Miracle

The Garden Center at Walmart. Oil on canvas, 12 x 12, Kit Miracle

Finally, at the end of the afternoon, I participated in the Quick  Draw event at the Schaeffer Barn in downtown Jasper.  This old log barn was moved here and restored and has a beautiful garden space.  Always something interesting to paint.  This is a timed event and the artists only have two hours to complete a painting.  I came in third.  Yay!

Painting at the Schaeffer Barn, Quick Draw event.

Schaeffer Barn Quick Draw event. Oil on canvas, 12 x 12. Kit Miracle Third place winner!

The second day of the event I worked in the morning as a volunteer.  Later in the day I did some more plein air painting at a different garden center but nothing came of it.  Sometimes it works that way. I must have used all my creative juices the day before.  But that is alright.  I met some very nice artists and had a good time in the fresh air.

More paintings Florida Keys

The Florida Keys are the kind of place which could supply years’ worth of painting inspiration.  Here are a few more paintings of my recent trip to the Keys, based on sketches and photos.  They just have a totally different feel from the other landscapes that I work with.

 

Sunrise Florida Keys

Isabelle’s Place, oil on canvas board

Among the mangroves, Florida Keys

Winter vacation in the Florida Keys

My husband and I were able to take our first winter vacation in a very long time.  We chose the Florida Keys which we hadn’t visited for over 30 years.  Oh, it was so nice to bask in the warmth of the sun.

Plein air painting of Among the Mangroves, Florida Keys 2017

Plein air painting of Among the Mangroves, Florida Keys 2017

Among the mangroves, Florida Keys 2017

Among the mangroves, Florida Keys 2017

One of the nicest parts about the Keys is that there are so many places that visitors can pull over to fish…or in my case…paint.  The Pentalic Aqua Journal (5 x 8) is perfect for painting broad landscapes. In the first painting, I was sitting in the shade while trying to capture the feel of being tucked away in the mangroves.  The photos don’t do justice to the amazing aqua waters but it’s a nice memory.

Plien Air Painting from the park in the middle of Marathon, Florida Keys

Plien Air Painting from the park in the middle of Marathon, Florida Keys

Photo from the location I painted from the Marathon park.

Photo from the location I painted from the Marathon park.

The second painting was from a small park in the heart of Marathon.  I liked the way the house across the inlet was framed by the pine tree.  I took liberties to emphasize the house, actually more than I could really see it.  Oh, well, that’s what artists do.  Enjoy

Studio Work

Like many artists in winter, I don’t have much time to get outdoors to paint. By the time I get home from work, it’s usually dark. However, I paint every week, often several evenings. These are some recent paintings from photos that I took this autumn.  One is from a trip to the Indiana Dunes in 2015.

As a contemporary impressionist, I try to capture the “feel” of the scene rather than every little detail.  It is often difficult to restrain myself.  I think in this day and age, with the benefit of photos, many artists often fall prey to the tendency of painting every detail which has been captured by the camera.  But that is not actually the way we see.  We see what is directly in front of us but the peripheral edges are often lost. The advent of modern photography continues to tempt us.  But that is not why we are artists. Anyone can take a photo but only the few can interpret their feelings in an artistic medium.

Indiana Dunes, 2015, oil on canvas board, 12 x 16, Kit Miracle

Indiana Dunes, 2015, oil on canvas board, 12 x 16, Kit Miracle

This first painting is from a trip that we made to the Indiana Dunes in 2015.  Surprising enough, this national park is set on the shore of Lake Michigan in northern Indiana.  It seems to have been carved from an industrial landscape but if you spend some quiet time here, you can imagine what the shore was like 100 years ago.  I wish I had painted this with a little warmer tones but that is in hindsight.  Love the sketchiness of the trees and the ever-moving sand.

Fall Walk, 16 x 20, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle

Fall Walk, 16 x 20, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle

This next painting is from a photo I took on a walk along my country road this autumn.  It is difficult to not go overboard with the bright colors which could lean to garishness.  I had to make a great effort to push back the far trees to add some atmosphere which enhanced the foreground trees and the lovely green of the cattle pasture to the right.

Frosty Field in Autumn, 12 x 16, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle

Frosty Field in Autumn, 12 x 16, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle

The final painting is just a glance out my bathroom window one frosty morning.  Love the early morning light catching the pine tree with the colorful woods behind.  Not so successful capturing the feeling of frost.  It looks more like a river or lake but there you have it.  As any experienced artist knows, not every painting turns out as we wish.  But we always learn something, even from our failures.

Clouds

A.J.'s Clouds, oil on canvas, 24 x 30, Kit Miracle

A.J.’s Clouds, oil on canvas, 24 x 30, Kit Miracle

Occasionally here in the Midwest we get some pretty fabulous cloud formations.  They’re probably not any different than anywhere else, it’s just that we actually have the space to see them.  This painting is from a photo that my son shared with me of some dramatic cumulonimbus clouds in August. Interestingly enough, I was taking photos of the same clouds from two miles away as was another friend who lives about 30 miles away.  That’s how impressive the formations were.  I decided to turn it into a painting for my son for Christmas. I don’t think he follows my blog or otherwise, this won’t be a surprise for him.

Capturing the Moment

After the Harvest 300dpi

After the Harvest, oil on canvas, 12 x 24, Kit Miracle

I do not ever text and drive and rarely speak on the phone while I’m driving, but I am guilty of another distraction.  I am frequently guilty of taking photos out the window as I drive.  Sometimes there is just one fleeting moment – a ray of light, a cloud formation, whatever – that I must capture.  The photos are usually not very good but they capture enough of the effect to jog my memory and be translated into paintings in the studio.

This is from a photo I took on my road (sparsely traveled) that I took last November.  It grabs the early morning light on the cornfield after the harvest.  I was attracted to the contrast of the golden cornfield, the patterns of the rows, the cast shadow of the valley and the darkening sky.  Rain is on the way.