Oct 29, 2010

New mixed-media experience

So I am somewhat addicted to the internet. I have spent so much time in my past-life of digital design goddess researching and communicating online that I find it a hard habit to break (cue Chicago song). But the positive side of my internet rambling is that I come across lots of great info for creating, marketing and experimenting with art.

Four  9 1/2"x4" mixed-media

detail - the rag paper I used picked up a lot of texture from the pastel

The latest cool idea I came across was for a collage teleclass by artist Sarah Bush called The Creative Breakthroughs Technique. Honestly, I've done a lot of exploring of the art world and this was a format I've never seen before. So MAJOR kudos to her for creating a class in this way. Basically if you purchase the teleclass, you get information to join a conference call and participate in a group of artists working on collage. The class is 90 minutes long, and you work on several pieces.

Fly  6"x6" mixed-media

detail - I painted around a butterfly cutout to include negative space in the piece

Thinking this would be a great way to get inspired with some mixed-media, I signed up for a free trial class last Wednesday. In preparation I cleaned up the studio, set up a workspace and materials for three small pieces, and called in at 7:30 pm. I placed the call on speakerphone near my workspace so that I could have both hands free. We started with a brief meditation, and then jumped right in.

Summertime  10 1/4"x 6" mixed-media

Sarah has a nice manner and a soothing voice that was good for leading us through the process -  she would call out a technique picked randomly, then give us a solid block of time to work it into our art. We worked on several pieces at once, which I found helpful in that I couldn't obsess over any one piece and try to make it too "perfect". As we worked, Sarah described lots of ideas and ways each technique could be explored. She checked in with us during the call, and again at the end of the teleclass.

Summertime detail - pattern of swirls in metallic ink

As you can see, I wound up with three very different works of art. My media setup included watercolor, soft pastel, various old papers, stamps, metallic pens and some natural found objects. I tried to let each piece have it's own identity. You can see most of the ideas/techniques incorporated in all three works:

  • pattern
  • the number four
  • a negative shape
  • text
  • a conversation (very challenging - and brilliant!)

The most abstract one - a conversation, was tough at first. Eventually I tried to relate areas within each piece. In Fly, I added swirling shapes that seemed to interact with the butterflies, like an indication of their movement. In Four, I repeated the line pattern that I had created on the right side with another on the left, but changed the placement and direction, to unite both edges. In Summertime, I tore another piece of print and layered it over the background text, a counterpart or contrast to the original. There was no right answer, just inspiration.

Summertime detail - dried flowers and acrylic I added later to complete the piece

An hour and a half was a decent amount of time to make the three pieces, but Sarah encouraged us to live with them and see if they needed any more work. I did go back into Summertime and add some opaque acrylic and the dried branches. This was my least favorite piece initially, but after tweaking it, I'm really happy with the results.

Overall this was a great experience, and helped me to loosen up a bit. I'd recommend trying Sarah's teleclass as her process surprises you and challenges you to create without overthinking. And you might come out with a new masterpiece!

Oct 27, 2010

Wild Lace painting

Wild Lace  10"x10" acrylic

The last of the three paintings I created for the Pawtucket Arts Collaborative 10x10x10 show is Wild Lace. I have painted Queen Anne's lace in several formats, and thought I would create another for this show. In this version, I focused on just three blossoms - one of them just on the verge of opening.

detail of the opening blossom

The flowers are lit from behind, and so they have a bit of a glow about the edges. You see a lot of brightness on the delicate branching leaves where they pick up the sunlight. I also used a purple underpainting with some blue strokes so that the background wouldn't be too stark.

The opening reception and sale for the PAC 10x10x10 show is November 11th - if you're in the market for unique holiday gifts, it's a great show, as every painting is for sale for $150. More details are here on the PAC event page.


Oct 26, 2010

Hydrangea painting

So to continue with the series of paintings I created for the Pawtucket Arts Collaborative 10x10x10 show, here is number two - Hydrangea.

Hydrangea  10"x10" acrylic

I have a pretty decent sized flower garden in my front yard that my husband and I have been cultivating for the past 6 years. One of the first plants I added was a row of hydrangea under the windows on both sides of the garden. I just love (LOVE) those plants. Lots of color, easy to maintain, no major pruning or trimming of shrubbery - it's pretty much awesome.

So I took some photos of the flowers from the late summertime when they were blue with just a hint of purple coming through the blossoms and set up another painting. Because it's a close-up of the leaves and flowers there is a LOT of texture in this painting.

The underpainting with some color roughed in

First thing I needed to cover up all of that white canvas and get a base color - since there is also a lot of green, I added a deep purple so that the shadows could be established and I could build up the leaf color from dark to light. I also blocked in the area of the flowers with a deep blue.

Some of the leaves are taking shape

Next I started to define the leafy areas, working darkly and slowly building up leaves from the ground up. I kept a copy of my reference on the laptop screen next to the easel, and referred to it often to make my placement of shapes.

Leaves with the beginnings of texture

I continued to add detail and definition to the leaves, making them more textured and occasionally adding shadows between them.

The leaves are fully textured - now onto the flowers

I repeated this process, adding light and occasionally defining the serrated edges between leaves, until they all looked realistic. Then I began the detail on the flowers in much the same way, starting with rougher dark and light areas and then building more color and detail into the flower petals.

The completed painting, with more complex shading over the blossoms.

The last step was to add the brightest highlights to the petals, and also bring in more shades of purple so that the blooms were not monochromatic. Some of this was done with glazes of color, and some with paler shades of purple layered opaquely. The photo really doesn't represent the painting accurately - for some reason the intense blues seem to blow out with my camera. But at least here you can see that there is more shading and variety of color.

This painting will be for sale at the PAC 10x10x10 show beginning November 11th. I will be at the reception, along with many other talented artists!


Oct 25, 2010

Pine Forest painting

I just recently joined the Pawtucket Arts Collaborative, a wonderful group in the Rhode Island area that puts a lot of emphasis on promoting arts and community. The shows for PAC are always exhibited at the Blackstone Valley Visitor's Center in downtown Pawtucket, and the work I have seen there is always inspiring. One of my Prov-ocations friends, Liz Talbot is a member as well. So I am exited to be a part of another show that PAC is organizing for this winter.

Pine Forest  10" x 10" acrylic

The Pawtucket Arts Collaborative 10x10x10 show is their yearly (large) art sale. Each member is allowed to submit up to three works of art, all 10" x 10" and all sold for $150. I am new to PAC but I have heard that this event is very popular, as not only are there emerging artists such as myself, but some more well-known creatives also participate. Getting any painting of this size for $150 is worthwhile, and in the case of some of the bigger names is a downright steal.

Base of the painting, with saturated color and roughed-out shapes

Anywhoo - my first painting for the sale is Pine Forest, acrylic on museum wrapped canvas. Just last weekend I went with my husband to Purgatory Chasm in Sutton, MA to take some pictures. As stated on the state website:
"A unique natural landmark, Purgatory Chasm runs for a quarter of a mile between granite walls rising as high as 70 feet. Popular with picnickers and rock-climbers alike, the Chasm is believed to have its origin in the sudden release of dammed-up glacial meltwater near the end of the last Ice Age, approximately 14,000 years ago."
I took about a million photos (which I will be painting for sure) but this scene from above the Chasm in a stand of pines was beautiful, with the gold of birch behind that pine trees, and pine needles carpeting the ground.

Painting with some detail added to trees and rocks

I gave the underpainting in this piece some saturated color - I used an all out red on the ground and a deep blue for the rocks. The photo seemed to lack the intensity of the colors as I remembered them, so I used my imagination and memory of that day. I also wanted to emphasize the diagonal angle of the ground and the strong triangular shape that resulted from the contrasting colors.

The completed painting has much more detail and texture

This is the first of my three paintings that I will be blogging for the PAC 10x10x10 show. The exhibit runs November 1st to January 7th, and the reception and sale begins November 11th. Check out the event website for more information, and consider art for your holiday gifts this year!


Oct 15, 2010

One year later

October 15th is a memorable day for me. One year ago today I completed my last day of work at my office job. I had been downgrading my hours to a four-day work week as the company was lacking for clients and I was shifting my focus to fine art. I started taking that feeling of being trapped seriously, and finally got up the courage to walk away and start out on my own.

So what have I done in the last year? It's gone by in a blink, truly. So many days I struggle to stay focused on the art and be productive between two sides of my business. I also try to not get depressed at the achingly slow pace (so it seems) at which I can experiment and grow my audience, and challenge myself artistically. Even in the last year, I spent the first few months taking on as much freelance multimedia work as I could get, and only from May on did I really prioritize the fine art. So I try to be a little forgiving in that I still have a long way to go on this journey to full-time artist.

Here's what I have artistically in the last year (outside of the freelance work):

  • Started the Art Heart project with Olivia's Heart Fund
  • Created six illustrative paintings for the Art Heart exhibition
  • Created 35+ other paintings
  • Created two found art pieces
  • Placed artwork in two local gallery/stores
  • Showed artwork in four exhibitions
  • Donated two paintings for an art museum
  • Won an award for a painting
  • Wrote a grant proposal
  • Became an art instructor for acrylic workshops
  • Scheduled two interviews about teaching at institutions
  • Blogged 40 times (not including today!)
  • Created a Facebook page, art website, art business cards and other promotional efforts
  • Became a member of four art groups/museums
  • Learned how to solder art jewelry
  • Started experimenting with a new mixed-media technique
  • Went to numerous museums and creative events and met lots of talented people

Most of this I have been tracking through Outlook, I'm getting better about it now, and it really helps to look over your calendar and see all those little blocks of time that account for your efforts. Now that I see it all in black and white, I don't feel like quite such a schmo in getting things accomplished.

Do you keep lists of what you've done, or what you want to do? Has that helped you get a better picture of your progress or define what you want to do in the future?

I think I can continue this momentum and get much closer to my goals over the next year. There is a solid foundation here, something to build on.

Oct 13, 2010

Laurie's Art Heart

Laurie  10" x 10" mixed-media 

Back to the Art Hearts! I just finished the sixth heart in this series of Art Hearts for Olivia's Heart Fund. This heart is inspired by Laurie - an adult survivor of congenital heart defect.

Laurie's battle with CHD began when she was just three months old. Diagnosed with a heart murmur at a routine pediatric appointment, her parents were surprised when the condition was determined to be Pulmonary Stenosis. Laurie was sent immediately for open heart surgery, which would be a temporary fix. She did well with the surgery and happily was raised to be active and outgoing like her siblings. Her condition necessitated another surgery at age five to repair the pulmonary regurgitation that had occurred because of the compromised heart valve.

While Laurie still has memories of this second surgery, she continued to live life as if she had no physical restrictions, determined to be a "normal" child. Over time the doctor's visits seemed superfluous as she maintained her health, despite the fact that her right ventricle had to work harder than most.  She entered adulthood and continued her life as an active, physically fit woman, running two half-marathons, working two jobs, being married and even having three heart healthy children.

For years Laurie lived without worry of her CHD, but eventually her busy life changed when she became very ill with viral pneumonia. A friend and cardiac nurse practitioner insisted that Laurie have a check-up to see if her heart condition was complicating her current illness. This was the point where she received the hardest news she would face as an adult - despite her apparent health, she had two of the three criteria for a valve replacement, and would need another open heart surgery.

When I read Laurie's story, I kept thinking how though she was determinedly living her life as if she never suffered from CHD. The physical activity, having three children though pregnancy was not recommended, she never let her condition sway her from living an active and fulfilling life.

Sketch for Laurie's heart

So for Laurie I wanted to represent the boldness of her spirit, and came up with imagery based on a Buddhist symbol - the golden fish (matsya). This is one of the eight auspicious symbols, generally meaning good fortune or happiness. But also it represents living beings living fearlessly, not drowning in the ocean of suffering but freely migrating from place to place like fish in the water.

Once I had that firmly in mind, I was able to start sketching out a golden carp (a large koi) within my heart shape. I pictured the fish as fluid and elegant in how it filled the space. Rather than floating gently, this fish looks active, with bubbles and swirls on the surface as she is stirring up the water.

The first layer of watercolor within the heart

Working from the center out, I filled in the initial sketch with watercolor. Since the watercolor was vibrant and crisp and I wanted to add lots of gold leaf to the scales, I tried to make my underpainting more detailed, thinking I would hold back on the pastel in those areas. I then filled in some of the water, leaving white highlights on the bubbles and suggesting swirls and movement, and later, the background color around the heart.

Yellow glaze applied over the fish, and gold leaf on the scales

I did go back and add another layer of rich yellow watercolor to the koi to fully saturate it and enhance the "golden" look. After the color dried, I added gold leaf to scales on either side and some gold inking around the head. Yay! Love the shimmering effect of the scales. Now on to the water.

Shades of blue and green pastel to create the swirling water

Here I thought I could even out my messy watercolor with some pastel, and add more color. Mostly using pastel pencils, I blended in varying shades of blue with white highlights and green accents. I emphasized the circular movement of the water, feeling that this story is also about returning to the beginning - Laurie's life has brought her around full circle to focus on her CHD and surgery again. Lastly I added three sparkles on the water to represent Laurie's three children, glimmers of light in the circle of her life.

The finished painting!

I usually work from the center outward, to keep the most detailed parts of the painting clean. The last step for me is to add the blended pastel around the heart shape, and this time I used more pastel pencils to sharpen the edge of the heart and add some contrast.

Overall I'm really happy with the results of this piece! I hope you enjoy it as well. If you are so inspired, please consider donating to Olivia's Heart Fund, or come out to see the paintings in person at our art event coming up in 2011.


Oct 8, 2010

Paintings for the Attleboro Arts Museum Benefit Auction

As this is my first year transitioning from digital art and multimedia into fine art painting, I have tried to find places to both show my artwork and also get introduced to my local art community. One great venue that I found is the Attleboro Arts Museum about 25 mins away from my studio. I showed two of my pastels in their Spring Flower Show earlier this year, selling one and receiving an award of merit for the other, which had me thrilled, honestly. The museum is helping to bring back the arts to the community in the Attleboro area, with regular exhibits, lectures and art classes for youths and adults.

Small Bouquet  pastel, 10" x 8"

So now I have an opportunity to participate with the AAM in their 19th Benefit Art Auction. I have donated two pastel paintings for the auction taking place on Saturday November 6th - Small Bouquet and Rose Garden at Capron Park. The latter is especially appropriate as it is a local park in Attleboro just down the street from the museum. Here is a link to the original post on that painting.

Rose Garden at Capron Park  pastel,  10" x 8"

If you are in the Southern New England area, come on by and meet me at the auction! It's a great opportunity to meet and greet with the artists and supporters of the AAM and make a bid on some lovely artwork. 

Here are some details from the AAM website:

The Attleboro Arts Museum’s 19th Benefit Art Auction will be held on Saturday, November 6, 2010.  Doors open at 5:30 pm.
The Auction is a powerful opportunity to contribute to a vital cultural resource and to support the Museum’s arts and culture programming.
To purchase tickets call 508-222-2644 x10.

Take advantage of our early bird ticket sale!
From now through October 15th: tickets are $30 each. October 16 – November 6th at 5pm: $35 each.
At the door, the evening of the auction (doors open at 5:30): $40 each.
Tickets include hors d’oeuvres, wine and beer.
Hope to see you at the auction!