Tag Archives: kit miracle

Surprises

A nest of baby mice found while splitting firewood.

Life in the country often means some hard physical labor, always trying to keep up with the garden and chores.  But sometimes there are surprises.  Yesterday morning we were splitting firewood and found this soft nest of sweet baby mice.  Look at their tiny toes and ears.  Unfortunately, mice are a constant problem in the country but today, we gently set the nest behind the woodpile.  Maybe mama will find them.

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Reading other blogs

I always enjoy reading other blogs.  Some I check daily, some are just weekly.  Many are about or by other artists.  It always makes the artist seem so approachable when I read what they have to say in their own words.  Plus, there is so much to learn!

Dinotopia by James Gurney

One of my favorite artists and blogger is James Gurney.  He is the author of the famous Dinotopia series of books.  His own artwork is wonderful.  He works in plein air much of the time but not always.  His plein air paintings are usually done in smallish art notebooks (5 x 8) and are usually in gouache.

Color and Light by James Gurney

I was first introduced to his work through his book Color and Light.  Later I ordered a used copy of his drawing book The Artist’s Guide to Sketching where he and his college roommate, Thomas Kinkade, bummed across America in the 80s.  Wow!  What company!  They also both worked at a movie studio for a time doing background cells for space animations.  And, he’s just seems to be a really nice person.

The Artist’s Guide to Sketching by James Gurney and Thomas Kinkade

Gurney also includes videos of his work, reviews favorite books, museum exhibits and many other artists.  Certainly work checking out.

http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/

http://jamesgurney.com/site/

Painting Marathon – Trying Something New

About a week ago, I decided to see how quickly I could paint ten paintings.  I’m not quite sure what the spark was.  Maybe I was bored, tired of the old style. Something I saw that reminded me of some yellow and blue paintings that I had done years ago.  Anyway, I decided to challenge myself, not only with the number of paintings, but stretching to a slightly different style.  In this case, my aim was to paint looser, faster, and more colorful.

Apple Jack, oil on board, 16 x 12, Kit Miracle

I chose my subject matter by going “shopping” through my house and refrigerator, and, of course, my prop cupboard in the back of my studio.  Hey, I didn’t even remember that I had martini glasses until I spotted them in the back of that cupboard!  And a shaker, too.  Must have been from a resale shop.

Two Lemons and a Martini Glass, oil on canvas board, 12 x 9, Kit Miracle

It was really great fun.  The miserable and damp weather meant that I didn’t feel any guilt at all about holing up in the studio instead of going outside for some fresh air.  I didn’t even want to come into the house to eat.  (And that never happens!)

Wait for Me!, cherry tomatoes in a dish, oil on canvas, 8 x 10, Kit Miracle

Although I wasn’t deliberately trying to emulate any particular style, I can see a lot of Cezanne and Janet Fish in these paintings.  And I’m really eager to try some more, perhaps larger or some landscapes in this style.  What do you think?  Thanks for stopping by.  Your feedback and comments are always welcome.

Oh, yes, all of these paintings are available at my Etsy shop, KitMiracleArt.  Check them out.

Three Tomatoes on a White Plate, oil on canvas, 8 x 10, Kit Miracle

Three Lemons in a Blue Bowl, oil on canvas, 8 x 10, Kit Miracle

Pine Sprigs in Antique Blue Bowl, Weller pottery, oil on board, 12 x 16, Kit Miracle

Lucky Four, green apples, oil on canvas, 12 x 16, Kit Miracle

Lemons on Blue Plate, oil on board, 12 x 16, Kit Miracle

Green Apples and Cut Glass Dish, oil on canvas board, 9 x 12, Kit Miracle

Adam and Eve, red apple and green apple, oil on board, 8 x 10, Kit Miracle

A walk in the big woods.

It was a beautiful early fall day on Friday so I decided that my dog Mikey and I needed to explore the big woods to see how things were progressing towards autumn.  I always take a bag to collect fall things – acorns and pretty leaves, bits of lichen and moss.  Our property is a mix of gently rolling hills and streams with some acres of hardwood (red and white oaks) up on a hill.  It is one of the highest places around and one of my favorite escapes.

Beginning of the walk through the east bean field.

I usually don’t head up to the woods in the deep summer – too buggy and too many weeds. So I was eager to see what had happened since I’d last been up to the big woods last spring.  Of course, this called for long pants and long sleeves, and some bug spray.  Dang, I hate chiggers and ticks!  And biting flies!

An old weathered tree stump on the dry creek bed.

Through the hickory grove. Love the way the light strikes the dead cedar on the left. My companion Mikey waits almost around the bend. He’s very patient.

Another almost dry creek bed. Look closely and you can see plenty of deer traffic through here, especially some very large prints.

I’m always fascinated by interesting patterns of fungus and lichen.

It’s a little early for many of the leaves to have changed color here but there were the beginning signs.  And, as expected, the creeks were really dried up after the past few weeks without rain.  Normally everything is very lush, even in the deepest of summer.

Mikey loves to go into the woods and runs about 20 feet for my every step.  Of course, one will never see any wildlife as he chases it all off.  But I eagerly look for signs and wasn’t disappointed to see some pretty big deer prints in the mud near one of the creeks.

Getting ready to cross under the powerline. Usually this is a cleared path but since we’ve added another path, this one has grown up over the summer. The weeds were taller than me! I’m heading towards that dead tree on the hill on the upper right.

Wading through chest high weeds, I appreciated the brilliant colors of this late patch of goldenrod.

I actually just walked through this (looking back). Path is totally grown over with some fierce briers, snatching at my hat and clothes. I can’t imagine the early pioneers and explorers wading through this kind of terrain, although deep woods really have little undergrowth. This is caused by the open spaces that were created when some trees were taken out.

Reached my “resting” chair, an old chair that we dragged up into the woods on a favorite lookout space. I had to clear the weeds off just to sit down.

Over the past 30 years, we have done some selective timbering.  The last time was a few years ago and a new path was cut to the big woods on the hill.  The old path had grown over but I wasn’t prepared for just how much it had grown over since last spring.  I almost got myself into more work than I anticipated as I had to practically hack my way through the overgrown weeds and briers.  It was a relief to come around to the new path (and mowed) area. I sure don’t know how the pioneers did it except that real heavy woods don’t have much undergrowth.

We’ve hacked our way through the briers and have come out on the downside of the loop with the cleared new path. Yay!

Now the hiking is much easier, exactly what I was anticipating.

Coming out of the top woods, heading back under the powerlines.

The view from the top of the woods on the hill. If you enlarge this photo, you’ll see farms in the distance which is about a mile or more away.

Easy walking through the lower woods. These are mostly hardwoods, red and white oak.

Poor Mikey was as tired and thirsty as I was. I have never seen him lie down to drink. I think he really wanted to roll in the water on the cool sidewalk.

Mikey and I had a good hike (about a mile and a half for me) and much more for him.  But we were both exhausted by the time we returned to the house.  An immediate shower was called for to help prevent any chiggers or ticks from digging in.  So far so good.  Lots of good material for future paintings and a pleasant way to spend a fall morning.

The Huntress I and II, oil on canvas

The Huntress I – oil on canvas, 20 x 20, Kit Miracle

The Huntress II – oil on canvas, 20 x 20, Kit Miracle

The Huntress I and II are two paintings that I created earlier this year.  Although I have often created a series of paintings, this is the first time that I created a pair of paintings.  They each stand alone from a design view, but work better as a pair.

My aim here was to create a bit of mystery, to simplify the background and the figure, and to play off the high intensity light without adding a harshness to the scene

Check out the step-by-step page to learn more about how I made these beautiful pair. https://my90acres.com/artwork/the-huntress-i-and-ii-step-by-step/

Selling Art on Etsy….or Not

My90Acres, Etsy shop

A couple of months ago I had lunch with two old friends from high school.  We hadn’t seen each other for decades so there was much to catch up on – families, careers, retirement, etc.  We had such fun.  As the newest retiree in the group (just since May), I was curious about how they spend their time.  As it turns out, my friend Susan started an Etsy shop.  We talked some more and I thought I could probably revive some fruit and vegetable paintings that I used to do when I was traveling the art fair circuit.  Later, when I returned home, I looked at my friend’s shop DoodleDogDesigns (cute personalized doggie bandannas) and was impressed by how professional it was….and how many sales she has had!  Wow, who doesn’t need a little extra income?

KitMiracleArt-Etsy shop

Within a week, I had set up a new Etsy shop, My90Acres with the intention of focusing on artwork related to the theme of this blog, i.e., living in the country.  The paintings are all original watercolor / pen and ink sketches, matted to 8 x 10.  These used to be my bread and butter item when I did the art fair circuit for 25 years. Very popular with buyers who want to add a pop of color to their kitchens and living spaces.  Afterall, just how much grey can we live with these days?  And they’re small enough to fit into those awkard spaces in your home, on the soffits over the cabinets, between the cabinets and the counter, between windows, or even on a shelf.  I had customers who would come by my booth every year to add a few more paintings to their collection.

Veggie Painting, My90Acres, Kit Miracle

I was also surprised that an Etsy shop that I’d started a few years ago was still registered to me, KitMiracleArt.  So I decided to revive it for all of my other artwork.  I’m ambitious if nothing else.  Besides, I have plenty of artwork on hand and plenty of time to pursue my interests now.

Autumn Road

So after two months of the Etsy experience, this is what I have to report.

Pros

  • The investment was minimal. I already have the studio and all the tools I need to do my work.  The Etsy fee is only 20 cents per item and 3% per sale which is a small fee to get my work in front of so many people.  I did purchase museum-grade ready-cut mats.  Not much overall.
  • I already have the skills. I’ve been painting professionally for over 30 years. I have years of selling at art fairs and running a business.
  • I have a modest amount of computer skills with my original web site since the mid 1990s, plus managing the website, blog, and other online activities at my former job as Director.
  • I’m pretty good at marketing and SEO (search engine optimization). During my decade as Director, we sold out about 50% of our performing arts events. And a Google search of my name reveals that I come up five times on the first page.
  • This forced me to take a complete inventory of my studio, plus clean up. Neither of which is a favorite activity of artists.
  • I was forced to learn my “new” digital camera which I purchased two years ago.
  • I was also forced to learn a really good photo manipulation program which I had installed over a year ago.
  • And, my time is still my own; I still get to paint and do something I enjoy. I love those afternoon naps, too!

LuckyRed #3

But all is not paradise in the land of Etsy.  There were some surprises.

Cons

  • Running a successful Etsy shop takes LOTS OF TIME! I so admire those people who are really good at this and totally appreciate the effort they have put into their shops. The actual time invested to make this happen was a surprise and affected almost every area related to my Etsy shops.
  • Establishing a new shop and reviving the old shop was more work than I anticipated. What was I thinking?!
  • Production time increased. Just to get enough products for the My90Acres shop required a concerted investment of time.  This could almost become a job. Did I mention that I just retired?
  • Taking good photos is paramount. If your pictures don’t look good in your store, you don’t look professional. I was forced to learn the new camera so this ultimately was a good thing. It takes a lot of time to set everything up, check the lighting, take the photos, and put everything away.
  • Photo editing (after I learned the new program) takes a lot longer than I anticipated. I really want my pictures to look good.  Many evenings will find me working on my laptop while my husband is taking in the Cubs game.
  • Writing the descriptions for each item takes way more time than I imagined. Afterall, I want to be informative but perky, to entice the buyer to actually purchase something.
  • Promotion is critical and again, takes some investment of time. This includes making sure your tag words are good, searchable, promoting on social media, and just keeping up with it all.
  • Educating myself about the ins and outs of Etsy has also been a treat. I’ve read a couple of books but will say that the Seller’s Manual on the Etsy site has been a tremendous help.  I’ve also watched several videos on the topic (there are over 1 million Etsy videos on YouTube).
  • One needs to have some business background – budgeting, accounting, inventory – to have a successful shop. Fortunately, I had this already but new Etsy shop owners should educate themselves in this area.
  • Planning and organization are key. I’m pretty organized but the amount of time involved has been a surprise.

Bottom line

So, my shops have been open for less than two months.  Lots of visitors from all over the world but no sales yet.  My friends are encouraging and I’ll stick with it because, hey, I’ve got the time to devote to it now.  And….shameless marketing….I’ve got sales going on in both shops through September 18th.  Time to start shopping for the holidays! KitMiracleArt   My90Acres

Pumpkins and Sunflowers, KitMiracleArt, Etsy

Telling A Story with Your Art

Pumpkin Head – final painting, oil on linen, 29.25 x 36, Kit Miracle, Halloween theme, telling a story

I was talking with an artist friend recently and was lamenting that I couldn’t seem to find my style.  She was astounded and said that I definitely do have a style.  Upon reflection, I’ve had other people tell me that they can recognize my paintings immediately in a gallery full of artwork.  So, I guess maybe I do have a recognizable style.

But as we talked further, I said that the paintings that I’m most proud of are the ones that tell a story.  To me, storytelling is so much beyond just the skill of being able to render a still life or landscape.  This is not really a new thing. Artists have been telling stories through their art for centuries from the first caveman drawings (how to hunt) to relaying biblical scenes to recording street scenes.

Some of the things I think about when I’m creating one of these story paintings are:

  1. How can I engage the viewer?  How do I draw him in, step closer, stay awhile?
  2. I want the viewer to ask, What’s next? Is there a next?
  3. If I can, I want to insert an element of surprise. After the viewer stands in front of the painting, they notice the small things.  Maybe they have an Ah Ha
  4. I like to insert some emotional aspect.   Wonder.  Fear.  Danger.
  5. And it seems as if many of my story paintings exhibit some quality a little beyond reality.

The painting Pumpkin Head is such a painting.

The straight story here is that my son was carving some pumpkins for my granddaughter for Halloween.  When she asked for happy faces, he responded, No, they’re born as pumpkins and they die as scary Jack O’Lanterns! Kinda creepy if you ask me but it set the scene.

Many viewers have picked up on the element of danger here.  He really shouldn’t have been carving a pumpkin in his lap…but no blood was shed.

Pumpkin Head – detail, carving jack-o-lantern

And the element of surprise.  The viewer doesn’t really know if the child is a boy or girl with the gray outfit and dinosaur boots, until the pink bow is spotted peeking over the pumpkin she is holding.

Pumpkin Head – detail, child with jack-o-lantern

And, of course, there is humor.  It’s just a bit silly but something kids have done for years.

Finally, there’s an unreal quality about the painting.  Maybe it’s the October light or the impressionistic handling of the paint.  The moment in time.  The difficulty for me was to decide what to leave out of the painting.  I worked on this for two months with the last month taking the most time as I agonized what to change, what to emphasize.

I will make some future posts of other recent story paintings.  Meanwhile, think about the idea as you look at the work of Edward Hopper, Grant Wood, or Diego Rivera.  Good art is a lot more than just pretty decoration.

To view a step-by-step illustration of Pumpkin Head, visit this page.

Pumpkin Head is currently on exhibit in the annual Juried Show at the Krempp Gallery, Jasper Arts Center, Jasper, Indiana.

Night visitors and animal thieves

Living in the country, we often have furry visitors, especially at night, and especially when the garden comes in.

This year the raccoons ate ALL the peaches!  Dang!  And they took out the entire second crop of sweet corn.  Fortunately, we were able to put up some from the first planting.

Pears on tree in the orchard.

This year our pear trees are giving us an abundant crop.  The branches are drooping with the heavy fruit.  I put up two buckets of pears this week which will taste pretty good in a cobbler this winter.

Unfortunately, a lot of other critters like this fruit.  My dog barks at night at the invaders but since he is tied up at night (due to his penchant for visiting the neighbor’s chickens), he can only bark. (And keep us awake.)

So, I set up the deer cam to see who was grabbing his attention.  I expected to see a lot of raccoons but was surprised at what I did see.

A family of foxes visits often  They eat a lot of windfall but, like the fox in Aesop’s fables, they will try jumping up to grab a low-hanging fruit.

Fox with pear

Fox at night, eyeing low hanging fruit.

Mystery night creature. Probably an owl.

But the real surprise was the coyote who has become a frequent visitor.  I think this is a female based on the size compared to my dog.  Also, she is probably feeding pups as she returns many times, even during the day.

Coyote with pear. Probably taking it back to her pups.

Coyote on Alert

My dog sniffing around after running the coyote off this morning.

In the long run, I don’t really mind sharing.  Just leave something for me.

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