Tag Archives: painting

Plein air painting, old buildings

Hoosier Desk Building, Final. Watercolor / pen and ink, 11 x 14, Kit Miracle

Hoosier Desk Building, Final. Watercolor / pen and ink, 11 x 14, Kit Miracle

Today I decided to paint this old factory building.  It has undergone so many renovations and additions over the years.  Very interesting from many aspects.  I selected this broad scene (and it really could have been a panorama if I had brought larger paper with me).  I may end up doing some close-ups of the interesting architecture over the coming months.

Today’s challenge was to work with some speed in order to beat the changing position of the sun and the shadows.  This is why so many artists like to paint on cloudy days.  I don’t so I just have to paint quickly or remember where I want to keep the sun and shadows even as they move.

Plein air painting, Hoosier Desk Building. Beginning

Plein air painting, Hoosier Desk Building. Beginning


Sometimes you’ve just got to paint

When pigs fly. Watercolor / pen and ink, 12 x 16. Kit Miracle

When pigs fly. Watercolor / pen and ink, 12 x 16. Kit Miracle

We’ve all heard the  admonishment that you need to create art every day.  But…life gets in the way.  Jobs, family, gardening, etc.  Sometimes I find all my  have-t0′s overwhelming my urge to create.  This weekend I just had to paint.

Yesterday, before I could get overly involved in the rest of the home tasks, I trucked my painting gear out to the front yard and painted this flowerbed which has been calling me for weeks.  It seems to be a symphony of purples, mauves, and yellows this time of year.  The heat was oppressive.  The humidity was drenching.  But I had a great time.

For you gardeners out there, you’re looking at purple cone flower, bee balm, weigela, daylilies, lambs ear, and a giant yucca.  The flying pig is a bit difficult to make out but he’s one of my favorite yard statues, as he bounces on his spring in a strong breeze.  Symbol of not-quite-lost causes.

Giant Moth Mullen Watercolor/ pen and ink, 16 x 12 Kit Miracle

Giant Moth Mullen Watercolor/ pen and ink, 16 x 12 Kit Miracle

Then, this morning I decided to capture this weed, Giant Moth Mullen.  It is already 5 feet tall and will probably top 6 or 7 feet.  It has fuzzy leaves, similar to lambs ear and the most interesting curly-type leaves and stalk.  It will eventually have a tall spike of yellow flowers which in turn, will produce seeds that the goldfinches love.  Probably how it came to be growing near my cellar door.  Majestic!

BTW, I was inspired by a blog challenge by James Gurney, who held a recent competition of people who paint weeds.  This painting is not entered as it is past date, but I thought it was a perfect subject.

Gardening with Scottie

Gardening with Scottie, 20 x 20, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle

Gardening with Scottie, 20 x 20, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle

I recently completed this winter still life painting.  That is, when it’s cold outside, I usually paint inside.  The theme for this painting is planning my spring garden.  There were many challenges, especially all the circles and ellipticals as well as that dang ceramic dog.  I’m not sure I’m done with this yet as I keep tweaking it every time I walk past it in my studio.  Check out the demo for Gardening with Scottie.

Challenge Painting


Hiking in Crawford County, 30 x 30, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle

Last year I decided to participate in a challenge art competition.  This was a local county exhibit with the county plus the eight surrounding counties.  The requirements were:  a box, fabric, a living or formerly living thing, a map and something representing my county.

This is the painting I finally came up with.  The box is the L.L.Bean shoe box.  Fabric background and tablecloth.  A deer skull and some bittersweet.  A map of a local park.  And some postcards of local scenes.  It sounds simple but it actually took me an entire day to set up the still life.

Many of the entrants created collage or 3-D sculptures.  Only two of us did paintings.  I was shooting for something that met the conditions of the challenge and also created a good painting.  Adding the lamp to the still life created its own special challenges as I had to paint much of the painting in a nearly dark studio.  I repainted that lamp four times and I’m still not totally happy with it but the judge really liked the way it seemed to glow on the canvas.  I won second place so I guess it was a success.  What do you think?

Plein air painting with acrylics

First of all I will admit that I am not an expert in acrylic painting.  Yes, I’ve painted watercolors for over 30 years and have tackled oil painting for about ten years.  But I’m pretty new to acrylic painting.

I got into acrylics painting artwork last year when I had some commissions which needed to be completed quickly.  Mainly I was looking for something durable but which dries more quickly than oils.  And after my last foray at a multi-day plein air event last month where I seemed to get Titanium white all over everything, I thought acrylics might be a good idea to try.

I have a beautiful little pochade box which I purchased last year but have never used so this was to be my designated acrylic box.  (For now.)  I loaded it up yesterday morning and drove out to a place down the road that I’ve been eyeing for a future painting site.  It was so peaceful and I arrived just before the sun arose.  I will say that the hardest part was attaching the quick release to my tripod, but after several attempts, I finally got it.  Not too thrilled as it wiggled a bit but otherwise it worked.  Then I unfortunately sat on my only plastic water container and smashed it.  Humph!  Artist ingenuity jumped up and I cut the bottom off a bottle of water.  Worked perfectly.

The next test was the new mini Stay Wet palette that I added too much water to the sponge.  The paper palette wrinkled a bit but I could work with it.  Lesson here:  try new equipment at home before you hit the road.

Here’s a photo of the beautiful rolling fields that I was trying to capture.  I find that I really only have two hours to make a go of a painting before I lose the light but this was enough.A sunny early morning photo 1000

And here’s a photo of the field painting at the time I packed up.A sunny early morning photo - 2-1000

When I got back home, I wasn’t quite satisfied with the colors or composition of the painting so decided to work on it some more.  You can see where I lowered the clouds to emphasize the dawn.  Then I pushed back some hills and brought forth some of the sunny highlights. A sunny early morning painting2-1000 I’m not totally satisfied with the overall painting but I usually have to live with them for a while.  It doesn’t seem to have the personality of the scene I was trying to capture but barring that, isn’t too bad.  What do you think?  Which one do you like best.

So, lessons learned from my first acrylic plein air painting adventure.

  1. Test out new equipment first before you take it into the field.
  2. Be adaptable.
  3. Acrylics are nice in that they dry much quicker than oils but are more opaque than watercolors.
  4. And….don’t sit on your water container!

Painting Nova Scotia

Cabot Trail, most iconic of drives.

Cabot Trail, most iconic of drives.

My husband and I made a trip to Nova Scotia last month.  Neither of us had been up that way.  It was so beautiful!  I took my painting materials but came home with enough subject matter to last for a long time.  We spent a week on Nova Scotia south shore, then toured the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton and finally ended on Prince Edward Island.  The weather was lovely with temps in the low seventies, dipping to the fifties and even forties at night.  Perfect for August, I think.

Nova Scotia Beach, Storm  Coming

Nova Scotia Beach, Storm Coming

Here are the first few paintings, some painted on location, some back here at home.  Rugged shores, pines, ocean, beautiful sunsets and sunrises, quaint towns and fishing villages…what more could an artist want?  As always, I appreciate any feedback.

Painting at Sand Hills Beach, Nova Scotia, Kit Miracle

Painting at Sand Hills Beach, Nova Scotia, Kit Miracle

Sunrise, Nova Scotia, oil on canvas, 12x16, Kit Miracle

Sunrise, Nova Scotia, oil on canvas, 12×16, Kit Miracle

French Lily, oil on canvas, 12x16, Kit Miracle

French Lily, oil on canvas, 12×16, Kit Miracle

Cape Breton, Cabot Trail, 12x16, oil on canvas board, Kit Miracle

Cape Breton, Cabot Trail, 12×16, oil on canvas board, Kit Miracle

What is your painting style?

At some point in your painting career, you’ll wonder if you’ve got a painting style.  Would someone be able to point to one your paintings and say, “Oh, that’s a John Smith!”  It’s always nice to be known for a certain style but many of us find it difficult to recognize our own.  The following are some of my thoughts and observations about this.

  • Your style is like your signature, a certain way of handling your materials, your brush strokes, maybe your palette, or your subject matter.
  • It may take years to develop a recognizable style.  In the meanwhile, most artists experiment with many types of painting, often copying our favorite painters.  This is a great way to see what excites you and to test the waters.  How did Monet capture that light?  How did Picasso make the most of his materials?  Eventually you’ll find a style that suits you.
  • Your style may…and probably will…evolve over time.  It’s pretty unusual for an artist to find one particular way of painting and to never change again.
  • While your work may change over time and while you are having fun learning how other painters create, at some point it’s a good idea to focus on one style for a while.  When an artist shows me a portfolio with a mishmash of subject matter, techniques, and mediums, and who exclaims, “I can paint anything!” the first thought I have is “amateur.”
  • You need to focus.  What are you passionate about?  What is your emotional connection?  What reaches into your chest and grabs your heart?  That is what you need to paint.  At least for a while.
  • Build up a body of work.  Do maybe twenty paintings that are similar in technique, subject matter, medium, etc.  Some people say to create as many as 100, which seems a little excessive to me but, well, whatever works for you.  You just need to prove that you have the tenacity to focus to create a body of work.
  • Stand your paintings around the room and ask a trusted friend, preferably a knowledgeable artist or teacher to give you their honest opinion.  How would they describe your work?  What are its strengths, weaknesses?  Close relatives are usually not good at this because they love everything you do.  And beware of someone who may have an ax to grind.  You definitely do not need their opinions to undermine your self-confidence.
  • Listen to what they say.  If someone says, “That’s an awful lot of yellow in your work,” maybe you need to reevaluate.  Or if you’re aiming for super realism, and your friend says, maybe the shape on that bottle could be worked on, that means you need to work on your drawing skills some more.
  • And finally, as I have said before, be kind to yourself.  Your work is continually evolving and that’s OK.  You may still be sailing for the horizon which continually moves beyond you.  Sometimes you need to stop and take a reckoning of how far you’ve come already.

There is a lot of other advice about how to identify or create your style, but these tips will provide you with the basics.  Please let me know if this posting is helpful to you or if you have any other questions.

Plein Air Painting Demo

Blessinger Farm, oil on canvas, 16 x 20

Blessinger Farm, oil on canvas, 16 x 20

I went out early yesterday morning with a friend to do some plein air painting. We drove around and found a beautiful old farm. The air was humid and the day grew hot but I found a nice place in the shade. Memo to self: put on more bug spray. The flies were biting. The couple who own the farm were most welcoming and invited us to help ourselves to drinks in the fridge. More often than not, painters are welcomed into most places. Of course, being a good neighbor and picking up after ourselves is important and we never leave any trash or dump chemicals.

To see the demo of this painting, check out the full page. https://my90acres.com/artwork/plein-air-painting-demo/

How to set up a still life

Final set up. Cup with silver spoon. Fixed silver foliage later.

It’s not always easy to set up a still life for painting.  It’s much more than just throwing a random collection of stuff on a table.  Check out my page for How to set up a still life for a photo story of one of my recent works.  I’ll post the painting later.

How to paint on a toned canvas

Does a blank canvas intimidate you?  Learn how to paint on a toned canvas. You’ll be surprised how this will speed up your painting and add an overall cohesiveness.  https://my90acres.com/artwork/painting-on-a-toned-canvas-step-by-step/