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
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
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
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.
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.
Self-Portrait with Still Life, 24 x 30, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle
Most artists create a self-portrait every few years so I painted this one last month. I had recently purchased this old mirror and thought it would be interesting to set it up as a still life. My portrait isn’t really the first thing the viewer notices (I hope). The challenges with this painting is that there are two light sources: one on the still life in the foreground and one me as I paint. An additional challenge was to prevent other light sources so I had to black out the windows. This meant I was literally painting in the dark. Check out the step-by-step view of the painting process at this link. Self-portrait with Still Life – step by step
Winter in Mentor, Final, 12 x 24, oil on Canvas, Kit Miracle
Artists usually have some reason that they paint a subject. This could be a desire to convey beauty, despair, record something historical, or whatever. In this painting, I wanted to convey the bone-chilling cold one early morning this month. Check out my step-by-step page.
New York in January, Sunrise
Each January I visit New York for conference. Although I’m officially there for business, I never can seem to turn off my artist’s eye. I’ve put sketches up here before which I’ve done in museums, hotel rooms, night clubs. Even just leaning against a wall in Times Square late at night. Always interesting to me. Most do not turn into finished artwork but are just memory notes.
This happens to be a painting that I did based on the view from my hotel room. I love the early morning light dancing across the buildings with the cool colors of Central Park in the background. There seemed to be some inversion layer going on which translated into a variety of impressionist colors.
When I create a painting like this, I’m often asked why I didn’t finish off the buildings. But that wasn’t what attracted me to the scene, I reply. It was the juxtaposition of hard and soft shapes, early morning light, a light dusting of snow on the roof tops. I doubt the painting would have been improved if I had included every window, balcony, and detail. This just leaves the soft feeling of a city wakening to a new morning. What do you think?
A few weeks ago I was showing my studio to an elderly friend of mine who commented, “How do you find time to paint all these pictures?” Now this woman has been a professional artist all her life, including many years as a commercial artist so I was a bit puzzled by her remark. This reminded me of a situation a few weeks before then. I was at a picnic with a group of friends. They were sitting around talking about all their favorite shows, how they had downloaded several years worth of episodes. Interestingly enough, I hadn’t watched any of the shows. Ever. Not one episode.
So back to the question of how I produce so many paintings. I guess I just work at it. It’s all about priorities. I don’t have any more time than anyone else, probably less considering my day job as director of a multi-discipline arts center with some real crazy hours. But this is just what I do. It’s all about priorities. Yes, I watch the news and might get sucked into Jeopardy or Antiques Roadshow, but mostly if I’m not painting, I’m reading or working outside. I can usually squeeze in 15 or 20 hours per week which is the equivalent of a part-time job. Even if I get only one painting done a week, that is still 52 per year. Usually way more depending upon the size and complexity of the works. Not all paintings are the same quality and some are just sketches. A plein air painting may only take a couple of hours before the light changes. And I may work on it a bit more in the studio. Some are just studies. Some are more finished pieces.
So my usual reply to people who say they don’t have time to paint (or learn a musical instrument, read a novel, write a novel, etc.) is, “You can always make time for the things that are important to you.”
My question to you, is, “What are your priorities?” Make the time for you.
Path to the Beach, 24 x 30 oil on canvas, Kit Miracle
Ritter Creek, Final, 24 x 30, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle
Ritter Creek is just down the road from me. Like my last posting of French Lick Creek, this was also painted on a toned canvas. However, this was a very complex subject, lowland creek bottom with many trees. Check out my step-by-step demonstration for further information. Sometimes as the artist, you must take things out to make a better composition. Ritter Creek, Demonstration
I have a beautiful drive to work every day, through the gently rolling hills of southern Indiana. This is a valley that I frequently pass which changes throughout the seasons. About a week ago, I was so taken with the freshly washed sky after a rain and the glancing sunlight through the valley, that I had to paint it when I got home. This is totally from memory and was painted primarily with palette knife.
Kyana Bottoms from memory, oil on canvas, 12 x 16, Kit Miracle
Then this past weekend, I went out early on Saturday morning to paint it from life. Due to the severe winter, I haven’t been out plein air painting much this winter so I was aching to get outdoors. Plein air painting poses its own challenges – weather, changing sunlight, where to park. In this case the people who live back the lane stopped on their way out to town that morning, then later on their way back in. Also, as you can see, I was really close to the train tracks. And just when I was concentrating, I heard this noise behind me. Some neighbor had spotted me from her house but I hadn’t heard her drive up due to the earphones I was wearing to cancel out the traffic noise. I worked a couple of hours and then finished it up in the studio.
Kyana Bottoms, final, 16 x 20, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle
So…which do you like best? The painting from memory or the one that was done on site?
More of the steps below…including the train!
The valley as it looked early in the morning.
Working out of the back of my car, initial washes.
Uh oh, here comes the train!
And THIS is how close I was to it!
Last painting step before I packed up for the morning, The light had changed too much.
Posted in art, oil painting, painting instruction, plein air painting
Tagged art, contemporary impressionist, kit miracle, Kyana Bottoms, oil painting, painting instruction, plein air, trains