Tag Archives: kit miracle

Rereading favorite books

Just a small portion of my personal book addiction. I should also mention that I have library cards from two counties!

Winter is a time of forced indoor activities, or at least, that’s my excuse.

I’ve been culling some of my many books for donation and have come across some of my favorites, probably too tattered to donate.  I was thinking about if I could only have ten books to read, maybe on that proverbial deserted island, what would they be?  That actually led me to contemplating rereading some of my favorites.  Books that may (or probably not) end up in the donation pile.

These are just some of my favorites, most read many times but at least twice…or more.  These days I cheat a little and will get the recorded book from the library to listen to while I’m in my studio, but they’re still on my list.

In no particular order:

Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams and The Bean Trees.  Plus, just about anything else she has written.  I love her observations and narrative.  She has introduced me to different ways of life, different ways of living, that I never knew existed.

Louisa May Alcott, Little Women and Little Men.  I always thought Laurie was a sap and Amy was a spoiled brat.  But I actually like Little Men much better.  I haven’t seen any of the recent movie remakes but will probably catch them on TV later.  My imagination is always better than the movie.

Robert McCammon, Boy’s Life.  This was a gift from my father many years ago and has nothing to do with the magazine of that name.  It’s a delightful coming of age tale with so many twists and plot threads that it’s often difficult to keep up with.  I’ve read it several times including once aloud to my sons when they were young.  One of them recently borrowed it again.

Jean M. Auel, Clan of the Cave Bear and Valley of Horses.  I’ve read these several times and recently pulled them off the shelves again.  I even read them to the boys, skipping the juicy parts, and they have borrowed them again.  I didn’t care for some of the later books in the series but these were still thought-provoking.

Niven and Pournelle, Lucifer’s Hammer.  I first read this on vacation in Florida many years ago and it has been a hit with the family since then.

Shel Silverstein, all.  Love every book of his and am now reading them to the grandchildren. Just the irreverent attitude and silly poems and puns. And who doesn’t love The Giving Tree?

Raymond Jones, The Alien.  First read this back in high school when I was in my aliens and outer space period and a few times since. Might have to reread this again.

Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking.  I read this when I was very young and I think it has an effect on my life ever since.  It gave me the idea that with enough effort, I could pretty much be whatever I wanted to be.  Looking back now, it seems a little simplistic, but it was a good push at a young age.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit.  A major inspiration for artists and probably on lots of studio bookshelves.

Bayles and Orland, Art and Fear.  I reviewed this book not long ago and have read it several times.  I find something new in it every single time.  Another great inspiration.

David Lynch, Catching the Big Fish.  This book has prompted me to look at life with new eyes and an open attitude.  Another inspirational book for artists, writers and any creative person.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Flow and Creativity.  I particularly liked his research on flow, that feeling of being one with whatever you’re doing, whether that is painting, gardening, biking, whatever.  You get so involved with what you’re doing that you just go away in your head for awhile and return to the results a few hours later.  This really works for me and other people that I’ve talked to.  It might be likened to a creative meditation trance.  For me, at least.

Johanna Spyri, Heidi.  And her other books.  I’ll admit that I read this many times when I was young but when I tried to read it to my granddaughter, it just wasn’t the same.  Probably dated, by now.

Anna Sewell, Black Beauty.  Another children’s book that is getting pretty dated now, but still, most girls love horses, so there’s that.

Agatha Christie, any, all.  I think I have the complete works of Agatha Christie in various book forms.  Used to love these books and would reread them endlessly.  I loved the England of the era of Miss Marple but those days are gone now.  Might be time to donate this collection.

I remember the time when my best friend Mary and I would always have a mystery or sci-fi book tucked into our purses for those moments when we had to wait after school for someone to pick us up, or on road trips or vacations.  I wonder if teens still do this?  I know my granddaughter is happy to take a bag of reading material with her on vacation.  I still do.  But I also am as likely to read a book on my phone at the hairdresser or while waiting for a meeting to begin as with a physical books.

What do you think?  What favorites have you reread or are still rereading?  Are any of these books on your list, too?

Making temporary fixes to a painting

Far Horizons, original painting, acrylic on toned canvas, 20 x 24, Kit Miracle This is the original painting with portions of the toned canvas (raw sienna mostly) showing through as well as the original charcoal sketch on the canvas.

A few weeks ago I posted about changing the background of a painting.  I took a standard flower painting from a traditional dark background to a colorful reddish-orange background to a mixed background.  Someone asked me if I made the changes on the actual painting.  Yes, I did.  I like the painting but I’ve long passed the point of where every one is precious to me.  As the artiste, I feel it is my right to paint how I wish and what I wish.

However, I’m going to show you a neat little trick which will allow you to make temporary changes to a painting.  Here you can try out new ideas, new approaches without making permanent changes.

I have a large roll of acetate film which I used to use for wrapping large matted but not framed paintings, particularly watercolors.  This kept the paintings clean and protected them from fingerprint smudges and other dirt.  Great to use in art bins or wherever you want to display your work in public. You can buy acetate in rolls or sheets.

The painting that I’m demonstrating with is titled Far Horizons.  It shows my granddaughter looking out over the Grand Canyon. Not only does the painting depict the distant views of the Grand Canyon, but the deeper meaning of a young girl looking out to the future.

Although I love the composition of the painting, it somehow didn’t seem to give the impression of really far horizons, as anyone who has visited the great canyon can attest.  So I wanted to try to lighten the background as a test.

Far Horizons, 1st step. A clear acetate sheet has been taped over the canvas. No painting has been done on the acetate yet.

First, I cut a large piece of acetate and taped it to the painting.  Then just started loosely painting over the acetate with acrylic.  I lightened both the distant sky, and made many changes to the rocks with lighter colors.  I even added some more highlights to the girl’s hair and jacket.

Far Horizons, 2nd step. Here you see that I started with the sky and have been painting directly on the acetate sheet. The whole idea is to test out some lighter background colors in order to push it back.

Detail of step 2 showing some loose strokes of lighter colors.

Far Horizons, final step of the acetate painting over the original painting. I even touched up the highlights of the girl’s hair and jacket.

This is the actual painting on the acetate. I’ve put a plain piece of toned paper behind it to better show you the actual painting.

I plan to set the painting aside in order to evaluate whether I want to make any of these changes permanent.  If not, I haven’t done any damage to the original painting and can leave it just the way it is.

This technique works well for both acrylic and oil painting.

Painting in 3D

I recently had some work in an exhibit which was limited to works 8  by 8 inches.  That is pretty small.  So I decided to challenge myself by adding another twist.  I ordered three canvasses 8 x 8 by 2.5 depth.  It was almost like painting on boxes.

I’ve painted edges of canvasses before but this deep was extra challenging.

Kit Miracle – White Dahlia 3D, acrylic, 8 x 8

White Dahlia, left side

The first two paintings were of flowers, of course.  I paint a fair amount of flowers as you know.  Here it was fun to plan what part to focus on and which parts to wrap around with the painting.

Kit Miracle – Sunflowers 3D, acrylic, 8 x 8

Sunflowers 3D, left side. You can see where the flowers were carried around the edge of the deep canvas.

Sunflowers 3D, right side.

The final painting was really outside of my normal subject matter.  A goldfish bowl with a couple of fish swimming around.  I actually had great fun with it, especially carrying the fish bowl around the sides, top and bottom.

Kit Miracle, Goldfish Bowl 3D, acrylic on canvas, 8 x 8 I love the way the fish on the right is looking directly at you. Or so it seems.

Goldfish Bowl left side

Goldfish Bowl 3D, right side

Goldfish Bowl, top

Kit Miracle – Goldfish Bowl 3D – bottom

I guess some artists are more comfortable painting the same thing time after time, but I find that I like the challenge of trying something different.  What do you think?

What a difference a background makes

Lilies with brown background. Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20. Kit Miracle

I often treat myself to a bouquet of fresh flowers when I’m at the grocery.  They just make me feel good and remind me that spring will be here soon (another three months).  This week’s selection included some beautiful lilies and other flowers.  Of course, everything becomes a subject for painting to an artist.

I started this painting yesterday and worked on it some more today.  Although the first image with the dark background is pretty classic, it was nice but didn’t move me.

Lilies with orange background. Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20. Kit Miracle (Apologies for the glare from my easel light.)

So…..I decided to try some different backgrounds.  First I painted a bright, orangey-red background. This really added some pop to the painting.  But it seemed very flat to me which is probably what I didn’t like about the first painting background.

Lilies with blue and orange background. Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20. Kit Miracle

Then I added some variegated shades of blue to the background, leaving the orange at the bottom. Much better and it ties in with the blue vase.  (I have many cobalt blue vases of various shapes and sizes which I’ve collected over the years.  This is why you see them in so many paintings.)

The flowers are essentially the same although I may have touched them up here and there. So, which background do you like best?  Dark brown, orangey-red, or blue and orange?  They each bring something different to the painting.

Hummmm….I wonder what a lime yellow-green would look like?

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.