Many lists of the most popular painting subjects include landscapes and seascapes. I must admit that I’ve painted quite a few pieces with these subjects. Although I live in the Midwest, many of my landscapes include some water feature – streams, rivers, ponds, lakes. And my travels have taken me to the ocean in various places. There is something very primal and soothing about hearing ocean waves…most of the time.
Recently I painted a couple of paintings based on the very large lake nearby. Lake Patoka is 8,800 acres and is a major water and recreation source for the area.
But I also cruised through old photos of places we have visited, particularly Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, and New England. Such beautiful scenery that it was difficult to choose. Many more subjects for future paintings.
And, of course, I did an entire series of beach paintings but those are mostly about people and children with the ocean being a common denominator for each painting.
This is not to say that painting water features is the only subject that I tackle, but it is one of my favorites. So many opportunities if I take my time to look for them.
August has been scorching here this summer. Too hot for outdoor work. So I spent much of the month in the studio just being an artist. This was a great respite from all the other chaos of the summer.
However, we did have a couple of days of lovely cool temperatures, in the low 80s. Fling open the windows! I took advantage of the cooler weather to clean out my studio. This meant dragging nearly everything outdoors, rewrapping and packing many of the paintings, vacuuming, debris clean out. Just making an inviting space to work again.
Our garden was in name only this summer. And I only gave cursory attention to the weeds and flowerbeds. This meant that I had plenty of time to devote to creating some art.
I began with building up some inventory, especially of sunflowers, some of my favorites. Although I usually grow several different varieties from the mammoth giants to the multi-stemmed, to all the colors that are available, this year I only had a few to work with. I planted them but they just didn’t want to make an appearance. So I used some of the many photographs that I’ve taken over the years.
I did several sheets of minis. I can get four 4 x 6 on a quarter sheet of watercolor paper. Although I often repeat a theme, they never turn out the same. I buy mats and backs in bulk so it’s pretty easy to prepare them for display or shipping.
Then I did a few larger ones. After that, I created duplicates of two local scenes. These are not standard sizes so I have to cut the mats to size for framing. More time and money involved.
Finally, the last half of the month, I was really missing our usual vacation. This was probably prompted by selling some previous western scenes so I dove into that subject. These paintings were larger and more complex, the smallest being 9 x 12 and up to 12 x 16. I have some pretty extensive photo files from some of our western vacations so plenty of subject matter to choose from. The most difficult part with these paintings is canvas prep. And trying to come up with new titles. Grand Canyon Vista #1, Grand Canyon Vista #2, etc. But it’s so satisfying to just put on some music or recorded books and zone out. Due to the many years of plein air painting, I can generally produce a painting a day, maybe two. But I did discover that I had duplicated two scenes from previous years. They came out similar but not exactly the same.
Overall production for the month of August was twenty-five. Not all are shown in the multi-image above as several were duplicates. And I didn’t work every day. It’s very rewarding to spend time alone with my thoughts and just create. To build inventory for online shops, the holidays, or local and regional shops.
I have been working all week on a couple of ideas for my Sunday blog post. Although I don’t usually write it until the end of the week, I give some thought as to subject matter, finding or taking photos, etc. This week’s post was going to be about books.
However, life had other plans.
I was in my studio early this morning, packing a painting to ship today. My husband and son were outside installing a new battery into old Brutus. (See former posting here.) It was a sunny and blessedly cool morning so I had the door to my studio open while I was working.
Suddenly, something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye. I glanced outside and saw a fire beneath old Brutus. AAAAaaaggggghhhhh! (And my car was parked right next to the truck.)
I shouted to my son who came running, handed him the fire extinguisher that I keep handy in the studio, and he ran off with it. Well, two more extinguishers later, the fire was out. The outdoor faucets and hydrants are too far from where the truck was parked to have been any help.
We’re not sure yet what started the fire – maybe an electrical short, maybe a fuel leak, or even a mouse nest in the air cleaner. We’ll have a mechanic friend stop by next week to give us an assessment. Fortunately we were prepared or it might have been a very different story.
Although we live in a remote area which is our reasoning for having some home fire protection, I would urge everyone to have a few fire extinguishers on hand. You just never know what kind of emergency you might encounter.
I’m not qualified to advise what types of extinguishers to get but there are several varieties for the many kinds of possible fires – paper, wood, chemical, oil, grease, etc. Check online or with your local dealer or hardware store to see what they advise.
You don’t know when you will need one. Or wish you had been prepared.
The rest of the story
Here are some photos of poor Brutus after the fire incident. As I said, we don’t know what type of fire it was. This is the damage.
I have introduced several series of paintings over the years here on my blog. It seems that I’ve started another one, the Park Series. This will focus on, what else, scenes from the park. A park. Many parks. Parks are usually filled with scenic landscapes and people doing activities, two of my favorite things.
Most of the series paintings are a little larger than some of my other pieces. They also tend to concentrate on the same color palette. In fact, I’ll often make a schematic of the colors I plan to use. Using the same color family adds a cohesive theme to a series of paintings.
Some of the series paintings I’ve created over the years include Westerns, particularly The Grand Canyon, Intimate Spaces – Beach Series, Intimate Spaces – Breaking Bread Series, The Food We Eat, Lucky Red and Alley Views.
I might have an idea for a series of paintings at the beginning but more often I just cruise through my extensive batch of snapshots until something catches my attention. I’ll write about using photos as an art subject in a future post.
It’s been five years since I retired as Director of Jasper Community Arts Commission. JCAC is the only city-owned arts department in the state and one of the few in the country. It was started by a group of private citizens in the small town, then later turned over to the city. Although initially it was just a performing arts venue, eventually it came to encompass visual arts, arts in education, special events and so much more. Now, of course, they’ve expanded to the new Thyen-Clark Cultural Center which is way beyond anything anyone envisioned at the time the performing arts center was created.
The performing arts are still a major focus of the arts department. With an auditorium which seats 675, we’ve hosted a number of performances over the years. During my tenure as Director, we presented about a dozen performances a year so I had the great pleasure of meeting a variety of entertainers over the years.
I’ve often been asked who was my favorite which is truly an impossible question to answer. We presented singers and musicians, dancers and comedians, actors, jugglers, and acrobats. It was all good. Well, mostly. But we won’t talk about that. Obviously, a small Midwest performing arts center cannot afford top Vegas headliners. But we had a wonderful variety of quality entertainers.
So, I thought you might like to hear about a few of my favorites. Not all, by any means, but there were still some memorable performances.
The first one was Marie Osmond. This was right after I was promoted to Director. Tickets had just gone on sale and the phones were ringing off the hook. Marie was just starting to revive her career. On the day of the performance, the tour bus showed up and everyone disembarked. I don’t remember very much about the actual performance since much of my time was behind the scenes. Marie did two shows for us that day which was our way of doubling our capacity. She was not feeling well at all and had a very bad cold. But like the real trouper that she was, she went on stage and gave the audience a show to remember for years. She sang a mix of her pop standards, but then she gave us a variety of Broadway tunes. It was perfect. The audience was blown away. Such a nice person and so professional.
Another favorite performance was Always…Patsy Cline. We were having trouble right down to the wire of determining if the show was going to go or not as the Broadway management hadn’t returned the final contract. Fortunately, through the perseverance of the wonderful agent I worked with, the show went on. I cannot remember the name of the actor who played Patsy in this performance but she was super talented. She was a little, tiny thing but belted out over 25 songs during the performance. But one of the memorable moments is that Louise, the woman who was Patsy’s pen pal, was played by Sally Struthers. So nice and down to earth. Quick to laugh and just had a kind word for everyone.
As an aside, I quickly learned that the biggest stars were often the best to work with. Undemanding, kind, thoughtful of the staff and crew. The performers that we had the most trouble with were those who were just getting started with their careers and kept trying to impress us with their star status. We were not impressed.
Due to our location in south central Indiana, we are on the way to or from many major cities in the Midwest. We are only about three hours from Nashville so we were able to present quite a number of county music stars. Many enjoyed the smaller venue, plus they could sleep in their own beds at the end of the evening. Some names you might recognize are Clint Black, Ronnie Milsap, Kathy Mattea, Lee Greenwood, Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers, Sandi Patty and so many more.
One of my favorites was the Time Jumpers with Vince Gill. This group is comprised of a bunch of Nashville musicians who get together for weekly jams. Vince often sat in on the jam sessions (he has since left the group). He was very conscious about not making the performance all about him, and all of the other musicians were extremely talented, too. When we were negotiating the contract, I asked what they wanted to eat. They said just some beans and hamburgers would be fine. I replied that we could do better than that. We ended up serving fried catfish and creek fries. They loved it! So happy not to have to worry about leftovers. Vince was kind enough to pose for this photo with one of my staff members and me. We usually avoided putting performers on the spot since they were here doing a job, so this was an exception.
Speaking of food. I quickly learned that all the dance and acrobat troupes ate like linebackers. Usually after the performances, not before. They expend so much energy during their performances and are such terrific athletes. We presented the Russian National Ballet twice. I wasn’t sure how our town would respond to Swan Lake but it was a sold-out house and you could have heard a pin drop. We could count on every scrap of food disappearing at the end of the evening.
There were so many other wonderful performances that bring a smile to my face when I think about them. The Blues Brothers, Under the Streetlamp, Women of Ireland, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Diamonds and Glenn Miller Orchestra, Richie Havens, Leon Redbone, The Ahn Trio, The Texas Tenors, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Tommy Emmanuel, Jim Brickman and more.
Over 132 performances during my time there. I was so very lucky to have this experience. I have truly missed live performances during the pandemic shutdown but I think we’re all ready to come out of our nests. If you have a performance venue nearby, I hope you can get out and enjoy the experience.
There are many rules and ideas for composition. No one idea is perfect for all situations. You may have your favorites or you may like to try new ideas frequently. Today I’m going to discuss the idea of framing. I’m not talking about the frame of the painting but using framing as a composition device.
I most often use framing in landscapes, cityscapes, and sometimes interiors. This means that I’ll often place a large tree or bush near the front of the picture frame, usually on one side or another, with the main view in the middle distance. This leads the viewer’s eye into the painting and directs its focus.
Sometimes in cityscapes, the view might be between two buildings or down an alley.
In a recent couple of paintings of the same subject – a child flying a toy airplane at the park – I first explored just the child and the plane. In the second painting, I used the framing composition to lead the eye from the near subject matter, to the large tree on the left, to the child and plane in the background.
In another couple of paintings, I painted a straight view of a Grand Canyon vista. The second landscape shows the Grand Canyon framed by tree in the front.
Here is an interior view using compositional framing. The doorway, chair and plant, lead the eye through the doorway to the desk in the distance.
There are no hard rules on when to use compositional framing. It’s mostly a matter of what you feel comfortable with, what helps your painting. I’ll often do several thumbnails or even larger charcoal drawings to test the feel of the subject.
One of my favorite parts about traveling is seeing new vistas. Visiting the mountains, the parks, the ocean, historical sites. It’s all good. I always take my art equipment and capture the areas on canvas. Parking my easel on the edge of the Grand Canyon and painting for a couple of hours is my bliss.
But one of the best parts about traveling is returning home and seeing your own world through new eyes. Noticing that which you may pass every day but in a new way. You can look at your own home town as a tourist.
Spring here in Southern Indiana was so beautiful this year. Often we’ll receive a late frost or freeze which pretty much ruins everything, but this year was spectacular. The wild flowers in the forests and fields put on a show to remember. I captured the spring greens of the fields and byways for several weeks, and even had my husband drive while I was shouting, stop here! to take photographs.
The results have been paintings of spring fields and crossroads, little villages, gentle vistas of all types. Not my usual big, bold colors but a much more gentle palette. Often painted in the style of Pissarro or Monet but not actually deliberately. I just want to bring to the viewer’s attention and appreciation the overlooked landscapes of our everyday world.
Take a look around your own world, your home town, the back allies. I’m sure you can find some wonderful vistas, too, which you may have overlooked a hundred times. They’re out there, I promise.
View more about these paintings online at this link.
This past Friday we were assaulted by Mother Nature with freezing rain, hail, sleet. Just wave after wave, all day long.
But SPRING will arrive eventually. Forsythias are in full bloom, the daffodils are nearly past, the crocuses that I planted last fall finally came up although I think the chipmunks and squirrels got most of them. The yard is a carpet of spring beauties and the redbud is ready to pop. The bluebells are out. Blue and yellow.
Even my largest crabapple is late. This time a few years ago, it was in full bloom. A week of warm weather will surely see it out.
Although we lament the weather as Mother Nature doesn’t always follow our wishes, we know spring will eventually get here. The swift who makes a nest on the porch of my studio is already nesting. The mourning doves are pairing up. And I’d better get the rest of the birdhouses up real soon. Like today, maybe.
As I drove down the driveway late Friday afternoon, I stopped at the creek (which our drive crosses), just to see what I could see. And I saw this beautiful wood duck paddling around. This is the first one that I’ve seen in over thirty-five years! The plummage was beyond words. So colorful and distinctive. I hope that the wood duck family starts a family nearby but the creek with its after-storm gully washers is not the best place for a nest. Maybe up the hill a bit.
Anyway, all this is a reminder that even if you live in the same place and don’t go anywhere, surprises can find you. Keep your eyes open.
If you happen to get to the post office or a farm supply store this time of year, you will hear the peeping sound of baby chicks. They are SO cute! And it takes all kinds of willpower to NOT buy a bunch of each.
There are many varieties, but I particularly like the speckled ones and the ones with feathered feet. They look so fancy. We’ve had many kinds over the years. I also loved the bantams, the females, not the males which tend to be aggressive for their size. One year, one of my favorite dun-colored females disappeared. I was certain that she was the victim of a raccoon or hawk. But after about three weeks, she reappeared with about eighteen little bantam peeps following her. They were so tiny and cute. I don’t know where she hid but apparently it was a good hiding place.
This antique sponge bowl holds five fresh brown eggs. Do they taste different? That’s hard to tell but they sure are deep yellow when cracked open. Probably from all the extras that the hens get in their diet than those that are confined to chicken factory farms.
We’ve also had blue and green eggs, too. It is rumored that they are lower in cholesterol but I don’t know if that is true. They’re just so beautiful to look at.
The sponge bowl, by the way, gets its name from the decoration. The glaze was applied with a sea sponge. I have only seen these in blue. These stoneware bowls are very heavy for their size. I bought this at auction many many years ago and still use it for fruit and whatnot.
Although spring officially began a little over a week ago, the season has been sneaking up on us for a while. The grass is greening with that lovely shade of spring green. The trees are sporting a haze of pinky-red buds or some with more greenish buds.
The daffodils and crocuses are out. The yard if full of spring beauties, a tiny white flower with a pink stripe. It looks like snow in some areas. And the forsythias in the yard and out by the road where I had my son transplant shoots over fifteen years ago. I think it adds a little colorful surprise for passersby.
I’ve been so busy with other activities but have been able to sneak out to catch a painting or two. These are some of my favorite recent ones. One depicts our house sitting on the little hill with the morning sunlight catching the fronts of the buildings. The middle building behind the big house is my studio.
The second larger painting is of our North field looking west. You can see the farm rows from last year’s crops. The white dogwood, some redbud, and the various spring colors on the big trees. Such a pretty time of year.
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!