It is not unusual here in the Midwest to see farmers harvesting late into the night during the season. Last year our renter harvested past one in the morning. Only fatigue drives them inside.
Earlier this week, the farmer was rushing to get the corn in before the rain predicted the following day. The giant combine looks like some eerie monster gobbling up the stalks, spitting the debris out the back. The grain trucks meet the combine in the field to be filled and cart away the gold.
I have always been fascinated by night activities such as these and I sneaked out to take a bunch of reference photos. I don’t know why I have to sneak on my own property but I felt compelled to do so, hiding in the shadows and behind the trees. With the low light conditions and the movement of the equipment, most of the photos were blurred but I managed to get some good shots, too. I was just using my phone camera, not my good camera.
The clouds were scudding across the night sky, alternating blotting out the nearly full moon and then darkening everything. The lights on the equipment were dazzling. The dust kicked up by the harvest hung in the air like smoke, sometimes caught in the blue light of the moon.
I find night subjects to be interesting and compelling in a totally different way than daytime subjects. I’ve sketched leaning up against buildings in Times Square and have painted the buildings of the city seen at night. Watching diners through the window of a restaurant can be fascinating.
What is going on in your neighborhood in the dark that is worth capturing in art?
My painting activities often insert themselves into my dreams. That’s probably an occupational hazard from creating so much. Reading about art, making art, visiting art. It doesn’t bother me. Sometimes I find that I have worked out a painting problem in my sleep.
But a while back I woke up with a most vivid image in my mind. Very bright colors, semi-abstract, nothing like my usual subject matter or palette. Fortunately, I was able to keep the image in mind (it was that strong) and later captured it in my studio. This does not happen often.
This led to several other paintings in a similar vein. Bright colors, semi-abstract, nature themes of birds and flowers and trees. A few recognizable subjects of water and ponds, bridges and houses. Vivid skies and vegetation.
I’m calling this my Dreamland series. There are about seven paintings so far. I’ve been distracted with some other work lately so I hope that I can get back to this idea or state of mind. The bright colors just make me happy.
I don’t have these listed for sale yet as two of them are on exhibition right now. But check back later in my Etsy shop KitMiracleArt to see if they’ve been added.
Sometimes we just need to follow our intuition and have fun creating. Or so I think.
October started out pretty warm with temperatures in the 80s. However, with November’s arrival, the past week or so, we’ve had some heavy frosts and night temps have dropped to the 20s. Daytime still warms up to the 50s and 60s. This is a perfect time to do some plein air painting. The garden has been cleaned out and outdoor work has slowed.
Last Monday I picked up my friend Bill Whorrall to go out and do some work. Southern Indiana is so beautiful this time of year with the fall colors and hilly terrain. We decided to paint along the East Fork of the White River near Shoals. We checked out several spots but eventually landed at the nature preserve Bluffs at Beaver Bend. You can only drive a short way in, then hike along the path with the river on your right and the sandstone bluffs on your left. So many picturesque scenes to paint.
I decided to paint this big rock with the river behind it. Bill traveled a little farther up the path to capture the sandstone cliffs in some ink sketches. We saw an eagle traveling along the river but unfortunately didn’t get any photos.
It was so peaceful there but not as isolated as we had thought it would be on a Monday morning. Several groups of hikers including a few guys from Chicago. They said they always try to get away together this time of year and go someplace within a day’s drive.
We worked for a few hours and then the wind picked up and we began to get chilled. I got about 75% of my painting done and then finished it up at home. I dropped Bill off at his house where his wife Karen had made a vegetable cheese soup, sandwiches and dessert for lunch. I think we welcomed the warmth of the soup as much as the food.
Afterwards we toured Karen’s extensive garden which was still producing raspberries and some other goodies.
Then for a lovely ride home through the autumn colors.
October has been so busy here on the homeplace. The temperature was in the 80s at the beginning of the month. Now it has dropped to 50s in the day with dips to the 30s at night. Might have had a light frost (which I didn’t actually see) but will definitely have one later this week.
The garden has been picked clean. All of the last peppers, beans, and tomatoes have been gathered. It’s been mowed, tilled, and a winter wheat cover crop has been planted. This will get tilled under in the spring and helps provide needed body to the soil. The flower pots are being emptied and cleaned out. The spiders have been chased from their homes on the porch and all the summer shoes, boots and gardening tools have been rounded up and put away.
We’ve had a bumper crop all summer with the fruit trees being loaded so much we couldn’t pick them all. This trend is continuing into the autumn with an abundance of walnuts and persimmons. You really don’t want to stand under a walnut tree on a windy day. It sounds like gunfire. I’ve picked a bucket of redbud seedpods and have scattered them in the woods. They’re an understory tree so wherever the dogwoods grow, they’ll do fine, too. And I picked another container of beebalm seed heads. I’ll scatter those along the drive and edges of the fields. There is a nice stand of this plant where I sowed the seeds a couple of years ago.
With the warmer weather, some of the plants and bushes have been a bit mixed up. I noticed that one of my lilacs was blooming. That was a nice surprise in…er…October. And the forsythia always seems to get a second autumn bloom.
Fall break meant the grandkids got to come out and spend some country time. A walk in the woods is always fun. We never see any wildlife (due to the dog running ahead) but we spotted a great variety of mushrooms and other fungi. I took the granddaughter to see an especially lovely exhibit of paintings by Louisville artist Joyce Garner.
And I was particularly busy doing arty things. Driving one way to drop off paintings for a show, and the other way to pick up some work. Often in the same day! Recorded books make the time go by quicker.
And finally, went to my class reunion. Who are all these old people?! It had been postponed from last year due to COVID, but it was nice to reconnect with some old friends. It’s a lot of hard work so kudos to the committee who tirelessly kept prodding everyone to sign up, and actually show up. Another long drive accompanied by recorded books. And some beautiful fall scenery.
On this last day of October, celebrate a little. Go out and beat the drums and howl at the moon. Or maybe snitch a piece or two of candy from any little people who may live with you. Or buy an extra bag for yourself. Happy Halloween!
If you have been an artist for any length of time, you have probably been asked to create something especially for someone. Maybe a friend or a relative, someone special. It is always difficult to decide if that is really what you want to do. Here are some concerns for you to think about.
1. What is a commission? This is basically when someone asks you to create something special for them. Frankly, commissioned artwork was the norm until a few hundred years ago. Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel. At that time, the artist was primarily a sculptor and didn’t want to do the job but was persuaded one way or another. That turned out well.
2. Know your style and what you are comfortable doing. If you have been an artist for any length of time, eventually someone will ask you to make something for them that just doesn’t fit your comfort zone. Maybe they want you to copy another artist, or perhaps paint an abstract painting when you paint only in a realistic style.
To be totally honest, I was asked early on in my career to copy another artist’s painting and just was not comfortable with it. Although I eventually I complied (it was a relative), it never sat well with me and I haven’t done it since. Be true to yourself.
3. Don’t compromise. This hooks in with the paragraph above. Know your style and stick with it. If the client wants something different, you may just have to pass on the job. It always helps if you can steer them towards someone else who can help them.
4. Take notes. I have several notebooks which I have filled over the years with notes for commissions. Obviously, the client’s contact information, but more details about what they want. You might even have a list of questions before you meet. For instance, size, materials, deadlines are obvious. Less obvious are what they want in the commission and what they don’t.
5. Come to an agreement. If you really want a formal agreement, you may need to draw up a contract. I don’t usually do this but it is a good way to cover yourself should any misunderstandings occur later. Are they agreeing to your style? Will you submit sketches or mockups? When do they want the final?
6. Arriving at a price and getting a down payment. You should do a little research ahead of your meeting or perhaps you will have to get back with the client later. Remember to include your materials, time, driving time or shipping. Condition for submitting the final product. Don’t forget your overhead. And don’t be afraid to ask what you deserve. Do some research for your area and medium. What are other artists charging for similar commissions with a similar level of skills and background?
7. Ask about a deadline. Is the commission for a special event or doesn’t the client really care when you complete it? I really like to get the commissions done and off my plate. If there is a deadline, do you have time to meet it? Is it around the holidays when everyone else is clamoring for work that must be done yesterday?
8. A commission is work for hire. Get comfortable with that idea or don’t accept the commission. Maybe you’ll be excited by the first few commissions you have, but perhaps by the 100th, you’ll be so tired of doing them. Raise your prices! I did house portraits for many years until I became annoyed with them interfering with the work I was really interested it. After awhile, I kept raising my prices until I finally just had to quit doing them.
9. Do your best. If you have agreed to accept a commission, then you owe it to your client to do your best. Maybe you’re getting a little tired of work for hire, but get this one out of the way. Then decide if you still want to keep doing them. But remember that your reputation is on the line and a disgruntled client can be a real pain. If you can’t make it right, maybe you can refund their money and aim them in the direction of an artist who can better suit their needs.
10. Ask your client for input. Most people who commission an artwork are thrilled with the prospect of having something made especially for them. Ask for their input and a written recommendation. Develop a thick skin in case they have some criticisms. It might prickle at first, but you can always learn something from a good critique.
To see a step-by-step demonstration of how I created this painting, go to the Artworks tab or click here.
The day started out gloomy and rainy. But after a couple of hours the sun was out and we were ready to make our annual visit to the pumpkin patch. It turned out to be a beautiful day for a drive with the grandkids, plus, it was my husband’s birthday. The kids didn’t know where we were taking them, just that it was somewhere special.
It is a little drive in the country, about 60 miles, but it was a beautiful day for an outing. We saw some Amish people putting up corn in shocks, the old fashioned way. I remember my grandfather doing it that way. And passed a lake with many water lilies and swans. Farms with donkeys, goats, cows and some big, big fields. Some farmers were already harvesting. The leaves are just starting to turn colors.
We arrived at the pumpkin patch before the big weekend crowds. I expect many people were a bit put off by the weather, or maybe we were visiting earlier than we have in the past. Cornucopia Farms is so well-organized. In addition to their large offerings of pumpkins and squash of every variety, they offer mums, fresh flowers, good things to eat, lots of activities, such as, hay rides, a corn maze, and so much more.
But we were on the hunt for that special pumpkin. Of course, we found many, many. They mostly charge by the pound for the special varieties, but flat fees for others. It doesn’t matter. I seem to lose all sense when it comes to this seasonal decoration.
After pulling our wagon (provided) around, it was full within a short time. We got the gnarly ones with warts, the large orange ones, the little white ones, striped, speckled. You name it. Plus some yummy things to eat later.
Last year I painted several paintings from my pumpkin patch adventures but I’m not sure I can do so this year. I’m just so busy with other projects right now. But I’ll try to post some more photos later of our day’s adventure.
If you’re looking for a fun fall activity for the family, I highly recommend a drive through the country and a visit to your local pumpkin patch. Enjoyable for all.
Having your art rejected from a show or exhibition can often be baffling, and sometimes a bit painful. Even for someone like me who has been entering shows for nearly forty years, there is still a little twinge when I receive that rejection letter. More often I am just puzzled.
For instance, the painting above, Italian Eating Italian which is from my Intimate Space Series: Breaking Bread, and which was exhibited for a two month show. It received a lot of attention and was a favorite among many. It exudes a bonhomie and welcoming attitude. I would watch visitors gravitate towards the painting from across the gallery. Something about the hint of a smile, the subject matter, the lighting. It was a very popular painting.
I have since entered the painting in a couple of exhibits. One in which I felt sure it would be accepted…was instead rejected. Whaaaaaa???? I’ve been in that show in previous years but not this year. That pinched a little. Also, since I have attended the show in previous years, I was aware of the quality of portraits in the show. Not too impressed. Oh, well.
The same painting was later entered into another show. It won BEST OF SHOW. That is always a pleasant surprise. But I try not to get too full of myself, either.
The whole point is that on any given day, the selection could have gone either way. Best to keep that in mind.
I have been the judge for a number of shows over the years. It is not easy and sometimes the organizations have special conditions to be met: X number of landscapes, portraits, abstracts, etc. Sometimes the shows are open to members only. On any given day, the selections could go one way or another.
Many times over the years, I’ve sat with judges as they reviewed and selected the entrants for exhibits. Some judges are cursory and flippant about the matter, speeding through so they can get to their free lunch. Others review and review and review, taking enormous amounts of time to make their selections. And there have been a few who only seemed to focus on artists who paint in their own style or medium. That irritates me quite a bit.
Over the years my work has been accepted into shows which I now realize I probably wasn’t skilled or talented enough to actually merit being in. And other shows where my work and experience exceeded the expectations, it was rejected.
It’s a puzzle.
My suggestion is….no matter what your artistic talent or medium….to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back into the fray. Maybe a review of the exhibit will help you to get a better grasp of what was considered acceptable and desirable. Maybe you don’t (yet) have the skills or professionalism to have your work hung in the exhibit. Maybe it just wasn’t your year. Many times you can enter the exact same piece the following year with a different judge and it will be accepted.
If this is what you really want, don’t give up. Be objective about your work and keep trying. It will happen eventually.
Posted onAugust 15, 2021|Comments Off on Four categories of painting subjects
Do you ever feel like making some art but you just don’t know what to paint or draw? For some people, this is a common frustration. You have some free time and then what?
In my case, I keep a list. I’m very fond of lists. I often have many lists, here, there, everywhere. I have a couple of lists in my studio, but I also keep an idea notebook. This is actually to just capture an idea which might flit through my mind…and then flit out. These days I’m working on a lot of seasonal paintings for the upcoming holidays so I just brainstorm and write things down. I also use this technique when I’m thinking about another series of paintings.
Most of my ideas fall into three or four broad categories: still life, landscape, figurative and non-objective.
Still life. This can include any single or group of objects. Fruit, flowers, vases, skulls, musical instruments. The list is practically infinite. Some artists select a group of objects and then keep rearranging them and paint them for their entire lives (Morandi). Others choose themes – types of objects like all glass vases, or natural objects, or sports equipment. The really nice thing about still lifes is that the objects stay put (usually) and you can come back to work on your painting another day if you run out of time. This is a really good way to develop eye-hand coordination, composition, and learning to tell a story if that is what you choose to do. Instructors start beginning art students off with still lifes to help build these skills.
Landscape. Just about anywhere in the world can be a subject of a landscape painting. Painting outdoors (en plein air) is both challenging and fun. Cityscapes, your house, your dog’s house, beautiful scenery, or even things that aren’t so beautiful. Landscape painting can be a bit more challenging as the time of day and the seasons often dictate how long or when you can paint. Many artists make quick sketches and bring them back to use as subjects for larger or more detailed paintings. If you are painting out doors, then you have about two or three hours before the light and shadows change. You can always return another day to finish your work, or start another painting while you’re outside.
Figurative. This entails studying a figure, body, part, or group. It can even encompass pets and animals. For many people, this is one of the most difficult categories to approach. Why? Because your subjects move! Stand still, dang it! Again, the more you do, the better you become. Building that eye – hand coordination. A trip to a museum helps if they will allow you to sketch their sculptures. Those usually stay still. Or sit at your favorite eatery, a park, library, or any public space. Plenty of subjects there. The trick is to be stealthy but really, not everyone minds someone sketching them. And don’t try to make a finished piece if you only have a few minutes to just jot some sketches.
Abstract or non-objective. This is the anything goes category. Do you want to make circles or squiggles? Fine. How about several canvasses of lines or shapes? Add some sand or affix some found objects. Maybe your favorite music will inspire you. Ask any four year old and they’ll teach you how.
So next time you’re searching for something to paint, pull out your notebook or 3 x 5 card and check it for ideas. Just keep it nearby, maybe by your reading or TV chair, to jot down ideas as they come to you. You’ll always be ready for those times when you have a few hours to get creative. Good luck!
Let’s face it, if you’ve been an artist for any length of time, you will inevitably create some bad paintings. Crap is the professional term. (Just kidding.) Not everything that comes off your easel, your brush, from your pencil is wonderful. Actually, few pieces of art fit that description.
I remember when I was first getting back to my art roots after several years’ hiatus that I sat at the kitchen table one night and created a cute little flower painting. It was pink, I think. I was so proud of that piece. When I showed it to my husband, he said, “Oh, that’s nice, honey.” Such a sweet supportive liar but I certainly needed the boost to my ego.
I kept that painting for years, long after I realized what a wreck it was. I would drag it out when teaching a class and point to it and say, “See, this is where I came from. You can learn to paint, too.” I have searched the studio for the piece as I would definitely show it but can’t locate it. I’m sure that I never threw it away.
The point is, that we do the best we can with the skills we have at the time. When you know better, you do better. I have painted plenty of really BAD paintings. And still do, although not quite so many.
So what do you do with a piece of art that just didn’t turn out the way that you wanted? Here are several options.
Examine the piece carefully and determine just what you are unhappy with. The color, subject matter, composition, execution, the method of painting, etc.?
Ask yourself if there is some way to correct the mistake? Not all mediums can be corrected but many can.
Ask a friend for input. Sometimes we know something is off but just can’t see the mistake although it may be glaring to some new eyes.
Scrape off the paint or paint over the mistake. You may even need to paint over the entire canvas. I have done this many times and just started over. Or even explore a new idea rather the one you were pursuing.
Trash it. Burn it, destroy it. Some people recommend that you keep your bad work to inspire you but I think it will only haunt you. Use it as a learning experience and move on. It can be very cathartic to throw your canvases into the burn barrel. I’ve had very few regrets over many years.
One thing that I don’t recommend is to donate the bad artwork. It may come back to haunt you as when someone picks it up a resale shop or flea market. And don’t pawn it off on your friends and relatives. They’ll be too polite to tell you and will resent moving it around from place to place over the years.
Finally, don’t stress about a bad painting. It happens. That’s OK. We learn from our mistakes and just promise yourself that you’ll do better next time. It’s only a painting, after all.
I had the great pleasure of hand delivering my painting Bread to my friend Miriam. She was so delighted to be able to buy this. “Making this bread was the best experience of my time during the COVID pandemic.” Miriam used my bread recipe for no-touch sourdough bread. I heard back from so many friends and blog followers that they loved this recipe.
I'm a professional artist, retired director of a performing arts center, bona fide book addict, and enjoy the quiet life...most of the time. I'd love to hear from you or get your ideas for future posts. Come back soon!