Tag Archives: kit miracle

Evolution of a painting

Barry, portrait in acrylic on linen, 28 x 34. Kit Miracle

Except for plein air painting and sketching, it’s pretty rare that I create a painting by just diving in and slapping some paint on canvas.  Yes, I know, movies and biopics of artists give that impression.  But really, it’s hard work and, for me at least, requires a lot of preliminary work.

When I’m doing a portrait, which is to me the most difficult to achieve, I always begin with some preliminary sketches.  Generally I begin with some charcoal sketches.  Sometimes one is enough but more often it’s several.

Barry, preliminary charcoal sketch. Kit Miracle

After that, I may try some color sketches on canvas paper or panels.

In this case, I had recently been gifted with some art supplies by a friend who was moving so I proceeded to a conte crayon study on pastel paper.

Barry, conte crayon. on pastel paper.

The next step was to do a larger oil stick pastel, also on pastel paper.

Barry, oil stick pastel on pastel paper. Kit Miracle

The final painting was created on a large stretched linen canvas 28 x 34.  I had already primed it some time ago with a dark neutral background and some splashes of color in the center.

I sketched in the main figure with charcoal.  Then, sanded the primary area and gessoed it again.  Then sketched over that again with charcoal.  A little spray fixative set the charcoal so the painting process would not pick it up.  I decided to leave the background unfinished with just the initial undercoats of paint.

The figure is painted in acrylic very loosely but with attention to detail in the face and hand.  The primary difference with painting a human portrait as opposed to painting a building or landscape is that if you’re off a brick or leaf in the landscape, no one will know. But if you’re off a quarter of an inch on a nose, you have totally missed the mark in capturing a portrait.   At least in my opinion.

What do you think?

More paintings from the Snake River

Snake River, Idaho, II, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Tomorrow (Veteran’s Day) is the final day of my landscape painting class.  We have been using watercolor with pen and ink added for details.  It’s been a great class but a little challenging for me.  I usually like to include something man-made in a landscape painting to give it that human touch, as well as to provide scale.

Most of the paintings we’ve done this class have been pure landscapes without any notion of a human in sight.

Tomorrow’s painting will involve a subject with a water feature.  Looking through some of my thousand of photographs, I decided to add a water feature since this is pretty common to landscape paintings.

Here are two simple compositions of the Snake River in the southeast area of Idaho.  The paintings are created with about five or six colors, but certainly less than eight.

Palisades Reservoir, Snake River, Idaho. Watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

One shows the reservoir lake as the viewer is looking into the sun. The other shows the Snake River with the sun at the back of the artist.  Both are relatively simple landscapes but should be challenging for a class of beginners to try.

Painting the Snake River

Final, Snake River painting. The final step is to use some pen and ink to add some details but be careful not to add too much. I suggest that you zoom in on the image so you can get a better idea of what I’ve done. It’s really just a lot of scribbling and very loose calligraphy.

I mentioned last week that I’m teaching a watercolor landscape painting class. I let the class choose which subject they wanted to paint and they selected the colorful sunset.  Well, it seemed easy but was a little more difficult than they thought.   I’ve painted that scene three times and none of them have turned out exactly the same.

So, I thought I would try to find something a little easier for the class.  One of my selections is this scene from a trip we took out West several years ago. This is the Snake River in Idaho near Palisades Reservoir.  Such beautiful country out there.

Snake River, original photo upon which the painting was based. As you can see, I eliminated many of the shrubs in the foreground to better draw attention to the river and the mountain.

This is a classic landscape valley with pretty clouds and blue sky, a nice piney mountain, a river, and some trees up front leading us into the scene.  I only used eight colors for this painting,  three brushes, and my fade-proof ink pen.  The paper is Arches, French-made of 100% cotton rag.  The painting time was about two hours.

To see a step-by-step view of the process, click here or go to Artworks and scroll down to Snake River Landscape.

The Art Fair Circuit

The beautiful fountain at the center of St. James Court. It’s beauty is somewhat dimmed by all the lovely art booths. The line at the Bloody Mary booth quickly formed when the fair opened.

I attended the St. James Court Art Fair in Louisville this past Friday.  I’m not sure if I ever mentioned this before in my blog, but I did art fairs for about twenty-five years.  The memories came flooding back, some good and some not so pleasant.

Love this giant dinosaur at St. James.

Traveling around the country to attend art fairs is like being part of a big family, something like being in a circus, I imagine. If you spend a few days next to someone, you quickly make friends.  Sometimes you start a conversation in May and end it in October.  Your friendships may carry on for years.

Mr.and Mrs. Huiying Lee in their bonsai booth at St. James. I always love to stop by. Not so successful with keeping a bonsai alive but it’s still a dream.

Brandon King, a young man from Jonesboro, Arkansas stands in front of his beautiful display. This is only his second year of exhibiting at art fairs.

Most of the time I would travel to the fairs alone but for some of the bigger ones I would take help, usually hiring a high school student or one of my boys when they got older.  I think I only did at most about twenty shows a year but pretty well traveled throughout the Midwest.  Some artists I know did the art fair circuit in the northern states in the summer and then went south to cover the southern states in the winter.  I knew several artists who lived and created totally in their campers.  Another couple I knew floated around in the Gulf of Mexico in the winter on their boat, stopping at ports to collect mail.  Of course, now all that is done on the internet and with e-mail, but this was quite a few years ago.

I love these colorful glass garden flowers I saw at St. James.

So this past Friday I decided to take a trip to Louisville to visit the fair at St. James Court, one which I had exhibited at for about twelve years.  The weather had finally broken and the day was cool and sunny.  I got there very early as I am aware of the difficulties of snagging a parking space as the crowds arrive.  The early bird, etc., etc.  As I made my way onto the fair site, the first thing is that I was met with the smell of cooking onions…at 9:30 in the morning.  But the aisles were uncrowded as the artists put the final touches on their booths.

Last year St. James as blistering hot.  But some years when I exhibited, it was so cold and rainy that we kept buying cups of hot cider just to keep our hands warm.  It’s all part of the job.

I only recognized a few artists that I knew in the past. I guess many of my contemporaries are retired now, too.  I made my way to some of my favorite booths.  I love the couple that sells bonsai.  Looked for the glass artist with the special paperweights but he wasn’t there this year.  Spent some time talking with a nice young man from Arkansas about his beautiful paintings.  So much to see.  After a couple of hours, the crowds were packing in and I was getting tired.  Time to leave while my feet could still move.

Over the years, I’ve had people approach me and say, “I would like to do this.”  They have NO idea, I would think.  The months of preparation, creating enough inventory, the application process, booth fees, traveling expenses, dealing with the weather, bugs, etc. Not to mention the physical toll of hauling your stuff all around.  Sheesh!

Me and my art fair family at Ann Arbor. I’m the one waving.

I have had many wonderful experiences over the years but a few stand out.  There was the singing garbage man in Ann Arbor.  And the time I had a water main leak IN my booth….at St. James, of course.  The time a big storm was coming and I had packed up my artwork and had just taken the weights off my tent when a wind tipped it up and over….while I was standing in the booth!  The time a couple consulted and bought my show piece (largest painting).  The little boy who would attend the fair every year just to talk to a real artist; I watched him grow up over the years.  The couple who invited a few of us artists to their home at the end of the day for a home-cooked meal. That was very welcomed.

So next time you’re at an art fair, take some time to talk with the artists. You might be surprised what they have to say.

This is what the street looks like at 6:30 in the morning on the day of set up at Ann Arbor. This is one of the top ten art fairs in the country, with three fairs going on simultaneously. Plus every merchant has a sidewalk sale and everyone with a front yard is selling something. That is the student union in the background.

Early morning, road is clear. Wait until this afternoon.

The Art Guild crew laying out the booth spaces before we can set up.

It’s mid-morning. The booths on the sidewalk side set up first.

Mid-afternoon, most of the booths in the interior are set up by now.

Asymmetrical composition

Beach Readers, Intimate Spaces series, acrylic on linen, 24 x 30, Kit Miracle The whole attraction of this subject was the irony of the two young women who are reading and totally ignoring the beautiful day at the beach. I also love the way the red beach chairs draw the viewer’s eye into the scene.

There are many rules of painting composition which I have discussed in previous blogs (search: composition).  These are usually conventional and are designed to lead the eye through the picture.  But one of my favorites is an asymmetrical composition, that is, not even or necessarily balanced.  I liken this somewhat to whether you are a candlesticks at each end of the fireplace mantle kind of person or you feel comfortable placing both candlesticks at one end (usually balanced by some other object at the other end.)  It’s just a matter of personal preference.

The painting above, Beach Readers in the Intimate Spaces series, is a good example of asymmetrical composition. The bright red chairs on the right lead the eye into the scene to the two girls who are reading.  Most of the other action is in that quadrant of the painting.  However, the small figure playing in the surf at the far left is able to balance the scene.  If you don’t believe me, cover the figure with your hand and see what a difference that makes to the feel of the painting.

Asymmetrical composition came into vogue in the 1880s and 1890s as the Impressionist artists were influenced by the import of Japanese prints.  These prints not only led to some experimentation in composition, but to flattened colors and situational composition.  This would be similar to a photograph that is just cut off at strange places.  This could include people looking out of the picture plane, cutting off the head or legs of horses, or even figures exiting the frame.

Below are several examples of paintings by Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas and Edouard Manet which illustrate this influence.  The first two artists collaborated for years with their printmaking but as you can see, the Japanese influence directly appeared in their work.

Mary Cassatt, Woman and Child in the Driving Seat.

Degas, more race horses running out of the picture plane. Lots of empty space but it works.

One of many Degas racing scenes. Notice how some people are only partially shown in the picture plane. This is a similar composition to my Beach Readers in that there is a big blank space in the lower left side of the painting, with the action on the right leading into the main subject.

Degas. Another very unusual composition of race horses and jockeys.

Degas, Place de la Concorde. Notice how everyone seems to be looking off in a different direction. And why are the little girls cut off at the waist?

Edouard Manet, Portrait of Gillaudin on a Horse. You can only infer the horse in this painting although the main subject is centered.

Exodus

Exodus, Intimate Spaces – Beach Series, acrylic on linen, 50 x 34, Kit Miracle

When I first planned this series of paintings back in January, it was in order to drill down and challenge myself to sticking with a theme.  In this case, Intimate Spaces – Beach Series, was meant to depict how people seem to stake out their territories at the beach, and then to presume that they are invisible to the outside world.  They aren’t, of course.  The Artist’s eye is one of observation, especially of the human animal, and how we go about our lives in public spaces.

There are sixteen paintings planned in this series.  I planned each one back in January, including doing preliminary drawings, NOTAN studies, and approximate sizes.  Some are fun or humorous, some relay my quirky sense of humor in observation, but some are more serious.

I am painting each work in the order that I’ve planned them.  However, as I drew closer to working on the painting Exodus, it seemed as if my thoughts turned to more serious matters.  That is due in part to the turmoil that our country has faced in recent months regarding the influx of people seeking sanctuary here.  This led me to reflect upon the Bible and the story of the flight of the Israelites from Egypt. (Exodus is the second book of the Bible.) Even up to the past few centuries when our country was populated by people seeking a better life than where they were from.  My mother immigrated to the United States when she was only nineteen.  I can’t begin to imagine the courage it took to leave everything and everyone she had ever known for the promise of a better life.  It still gives me pause to think about.

Exodus – Intimate Spaces, Beach Series, detail 1, Kit Miracle

So while this painting actually depicts a family leaving the beach at the end of a long day of sun and surf, with the young boy looking back wistfully at the ocean, it seems to hold so much more meaning.

Exodus – Intimate Spaces, Beach Series, detail 2, Kit Miracle

The actual painting is 50 x 34, the largest of the series.  No faces are revealed except that of the young boy.  And the family seems to be marching off into the sunset.

The sky ended up with multiple layers and the beach sand is heavily textured.  However, the figures are meticulously painted in a manner reminiscent of Renaissance religious paintings.  Even the children have slight halos.  I haven’t totally examined all my reasons for choosing such a method of painting but I’m sure it will dawn on me later.

To actually view the step-by-step painting of this piece, click on this link or go to the tab marked Artwork and scroll down to Exodus.

Thanks for stopping by.  Your comments are always welcome.

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.

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.