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7 posts from September 2009

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Saturday Morning Skraw - Drawing Lesson 5 - Simple Shapes


When I begin to draw, I always begin with simple shapes, observing first the shape of the object I am drawing.  If you confuse your brain with all of the details surrounding what it is you want to draw, you'll end up giving up.  Start small.  Start big.  But start with a shape. 


Today, let's draw a schooner.  I love sailboats and I love schooners.  As a matter of fact, I have just started painting the largest painting I have ever done - 42 x 60 inches.  It is of the sailboat "Maya" tacking off the coast of Cape Cod.  The reference image is beautiful.  I can almost feel the humid breeze through my hair and smell the salty air deep into my lungs.  I am excited about this painting that I am doing and can't wait to show it to you.  But for now, I'm just drawing pictures in my sketchbook and playing around with pencils on this rainy Saturday morning.  Let's begin by drawing a horizontal line.  This will be the width of your boat.  Then draw another line beneath it, not quite as long.  Then connect the two lines as you see in the picture above.


Next, draw the foremast.  When you draw, pay attention to the relationships of each line and each mark you make.  Ask yourself questions when you draw - Is the mast as tall as the boat is wide?  Where is it located?  Is it in the center of the boat?  How far to the left of center is the mast?  How wide is the mast?  Drawing is all about relationships of each line and each mark you make to the last one you made.


Draw the forward boom or bowsprit off the stern of the boat, or whatever that thing is called extended from the back of this sailboat I'm drawing.  Add your birdle and your jib sails.  Add some texture to your drawing, even at this early stage, by adding some shading and pencil values to the sails.


Now draw the top mast and the top sail or fisherman's sail.  Forgive me if I'm not correct on naming the parts of the schooner.  I can only dream of sailing again on one of these babies. 


Next draw the foreboom and the main mast.  I think that's the main mast.  Crap.  Somebody take me sailin' will ya?


Draw a main sail and a foresail.  Add texture and some fun scribbling to your sails and your schooner.


How about we really get fancy and draw a couple of people inside the schooner looking out at us.  Next, add some scribbles in the water to indicate the reflection of the boat and the sails in the water.


We're almost done!  How about adding a landscape in the background, a house or two, some trees and a couple mountains.  There ya go!  Now, let's go sailing!

I want to see some pictures from my readers.  So, when you have an opportunity, please take some pictures of your sketches and send them to me at [email protected]  I'd love to see them and know if my little tutorials here on Saturday are of any value to you all. 

Everyone have  a great weekend! 



Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Red Barn at Outlook Farm - The Finished Painting


Many of you wrote to me and expressed interest in seeing the completed painting, so here it is in all its glory.  It isn't a masterpiece, but it is a painting that I am proud of and the family that commissioned me to do the painting are thrilled with it.  I took it to Frame Warehouse to be framed - my favorite place in all of Charlotte for framing and they helped me and the "B" family find the perfect frame to set off the painting beautifully.  We are all excited to see the painting varnished and framed and ready to ship this week.

So, before I ship it out the door, I wanted to share it with all of you.  Here again, is the process I used to complete the painting ...









The Red Barn at Outlook Farm is located in Maine.  The family that commissioned me to do this painting is giving this 30x40 oil painting as a gift to a family member that is getting married there in October.  The reference image is below.  She wanted me to make a number of changes.  First, she wanted the red barn to be much larger, and she wanted the painting to be impressionistic.  She also wanted me to remove the white tent from the image and instead paint something else in its place.  With the information she provided, I did that, and also put a large oak tree on the right.  Here is the reference I used for the painting:





Monday, September 21, 2009

Georgia O'Keeffe - An American Inspiration


I adore the work of Georgia O'Keeffe.  It is beautiful, magical, original, and simply feminine.  The other evening I watched a story about her life on Lifetime television and received a renewed sense of artistic inspiration.  She is an inspiration to all women who want to express themselves artistically, freely, and independently and in her day was considered a remarkable woman, paving the way of independence and self-expression to woman around the world.


Georgia O'Keeffe lived a long and interesting life. Born November 15, 1887 near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin to dairy farmers, Francis Calyxtus O'Keeffe and Ida Totto O'Keeffe. She was the second of 7 children and the eldest daughter. As a child she received art lessons at home, and her abilities were quickly recognized and encouraged by teachers throughout her school years. 


During her grammar school years, she attended Town Hall School in Wisconsin, receiving art instruction from local watercolorist Sara Mann. She attended a boarding high school at Sacred Heart Academy in Madison, Wisconsin between 1901 and 1902. In the fall of 1902 O'Keeffe's family moved from Wisconsin to Williamsburg, Virginia, however, Georgia stayed in Wisconsin with her aunt and attended Madison High School. She completed high school as a boarder at Chatham Episcopal Institute in Virginia (now called Chatham Hall) and she graduated in 1905. Her mother was a large influence to Georgia and her siblings, as education for women was a family tradition. Georgia's mother, Ida, had been educated in the East and encouraged her daughters to pursue their passions and education. All but one of the daughters became professionals, attesting to her influence on them.


Art was always an interest to the young O'Keeffe, and by the time she graduated from high school, she was determined to make her life as an artist. She was encouraged by her family to pursue her passions and goals.

I am convinced, as a mother, that we must listen closely to our children's interests, and that in doing so, we foster personal growth and success in our children's life. In looking at Georgia O'Keeffe's childhood, I am equally convinced that her parent's interest in her life, her passions, her education, and her goals, laid the foundation for her future success, strength of character, and recognition.

Jimson Weed - O'Keeffe

O'Keeffe pursued studies at the Art Institute of Chicago (1905–1906) and at the Art Students League, New York (1907–1908). She quickly mastered the techniques and principles of creating art that then formed the basis of the curriculum, which was imitating realism. I know, first hand, how difficult it can be to imitate realism in painting, and appreciate her early work in learning this skill, however, although principled in these techniques, O'Keeffe had not yet discovered her inner voice. She had not yet discovered how to express herself intimately on canvas. That would come years later.


While attending the Art Student's League and studying with artist William Merritt Chase, she won the League's "William Merritt Chase" award for her still life oil painting Untitled (Dead Rabbit with Copper Pot) in 1908. That award was a scholarship to attend the League's outdoor Summer School at Lake George, New York.  Shortly thereafter, however, O'Keeffe quit making art, saying later that she had known then that she could never achieve distinction working within this tradition.  She was discouraged with her work and thus left the Art Student's League and moved to Chicago where she found work as a commercial artist. However, she did not as much as pick up a paintbrush.

I find this interesting, because I have experienced the same mental conflict when I paint for others or paint for the technical experience and challenge rather than painting from my gut, or from my heart.  I have become so discouraged with my own artwork at times that I have gone months without as much as walking in my studio.  Georgia went 4 years without painting, even after winning this award. I suspect it was because painting was "work" rather than "joy."  It wasn't coming from deep within her soul.


Her interest in art was rekindled four years later (1912) when she took a summer course for art teachers at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, taught by Alon Bement of Teachers College, at Columbia University. Bement introduced O'Keeffe to the then revolutionary ideas of his colleague at Teachers College, artist and art educator Arthur Wesley Dow. (painting above is "Boats at Rest" by Arthur Wesley Dow).


Dow believed that the goal of art was for the artist to express their personal ideas and feelings onto the canvas by harmonious arrangements of line, color, and "notan" which is the Japanese system of lights and darks.  His example and teachings influenced O'Keeffe and inspired her to examine alternative ways to express herself through her painting other than imitative realism.  She experimented with this idea for two years while teaching art in the Amarillo, Texas public schools from 1912-1914.  During the summers, she continued her tutoring with Alon Bement as his art assistant.


In 1916, she mailed some of these drawings to her friend and former Columbia classmate, Anita Pollitzer, who showed them to the internationally known photographer and art impresario, Alfred Stieglitz, who owned the New York Gallery "291" and was renowned for his photography.  He told her that the drawings were the "purest, finest, sincerest pieces that had entered 291 in a long while."  He wanted to show them in the gallery.  O'Keeffe had visited 291 in 1908, but did not meet Stieglitz at that time, although she had high regard for his opinions as an art critic.

In the spring of 1916, O'Keeffe returned to New York to attend classes at the Teacher's College, and also to see Stieglitz, who agreed to exhibit 10 of her charcoal abstractions at his gallery.  That exhibition took place in the spring of 1917.  Sadly, Stieglitz closed the doors to his avant-garde gallery one year later with a one-person exhibition of O'Keeffe's artwork.


Spring 1918, Stieglitz offered O'Keeffe financial support if she would paint for one year in New York.  She accepted.  By that time, they had fallen in love despite the fact that he was already married.  They were married in 1924, shortly after his divorce, and they lived and worked together at the Stieglitz family estate in Lake George, New York until 1929, when O'Keeffe left him and spent the first of many summers painting in New Mexico.


From the moment she had returned to New York in 1917 for her exhibition, Stieglitz photographed O'Keeffe.  During their courtship, he took erotic photographs of her, many of them semi-nude and nude photographs between 1918-1937 and in February, 1921, he exhibited 45 photographs, including many of the erotic images of O'Keeffe at the Anderson Galleries.  Obviously, the photographs of O'Keeffe created a public sensation - and it wasn't all good.  We're talking the 1920s here, this imagery was unheard of in those days.


O'Keeffe's artwork emerged to express her innermost feelings.  She created works of both natural and architectural forms during these early years.  In 1924, she created her first large-scale flower painting "Petunia, No. 2" 36x30 Oil on Canvas, which was exhibited in 1925.


Stieglitz organized annual exhibitions of O'Keeffe's works.  By the mid-1920s, O'Keeffe had already become recognized as one of America's most important artists.  Her work commanded high prices, and in 1928, 6 of her Calla Lily paintings sold for $25,000 US dollars.  At that time, that was the largest sum of money ever paid for a group of paintings by a living American artist. Naturally, this attracted a lot of media attention, the likes that O'Keeffe had never seen before.

3F Pelvis-With-The-Distance-Georgia-O-Keeffe-25622

From 1923 until his death in 1946, Stieglitz worked assiduously to promote the artwork of Georgia O'Keeffe, by organizing regular exhibitions at the Anderson Galleries from 1923-1925, the Intimate Gallery from 1925-1929, and An America Place Gallery from 1929-1946.  As early as the 1920s, at which time O'Keeffe first began to paint the New York landscape as well as large-scale depictions of flowers as she is most well known, she had become recognized as one of America's most important and successful artists. A remarkable accomplishment at that time not only for "any" artist, but particularly for a woman.


In 1949, three years after Stieglitz's death, O'Keeffe moved permanently to her beloved New Mexico, leaving her New York home.  She had always been drawn to New Mexico's stunning vistas and stark landscapes which had inspired her work since 1929.  Many of her paintings of New Mexico, the mountains, the richly colored landscape, the dryness and starkness of the land, the desert, and the vast skies became as well known and recognized as her large florals.  


Taos and Abiquiu, New Mexico have become known as "O'Keeffe Country."  She moved permanently to New Mexico in 1949 and  lived at either her Ghost Ranch House which she purchased in 1940 or at her Abiquiu home which she purchased in 1945 until her death in 1986 at the age of 98.  O'Keeffe continued to work in oil until the mid-1970s, then in watercolor and pencil until 1982.  In 1984, O'Keeffe felt forced into retirement due to failing eyesight.  The landscape had nourished her creative efforts until that time.  She did, however, produce objects in clay from the mid-1970s until 2 years before her death.


As an artist and a woman, I believe we can learn much from the life and paintings of Georgia O'Keeffe. She realized early on that if she was to pursue her passion for art, she must seek that which is from within her soul.  She must be passionate about her work, her subject, her place in this world if it is going to express itself within her work and on canvas.  Many artists never learn this lesson.  Others learn from the onset that they must create what is within their heart.  For me, it has been a long lesson, but one that is emerging more and more.  Getting past the academics of art and what others tell me I should do, and pursuing instead what I feel to be true is far more important.  

Georgia O'Keeffe has inspired me in many ways.  First and foremost, her strength of character and personal integrity.  Her work continues to inspire and will for centuries to come.  Thank you Georgia O'Keeffe.



Saturday, September 19, 2009

Saturday Morning Skraw - Drawing Lesson 4 - Two-Faced


Two-Faced.  If you get red flags about a so-called "friend" or someone else - run like hell.  Believe me, if they talk about others negatively behind their back - be sure that they are doing the same to you.  That's what you call "two-faced" or "back-stabber." They'll act like a friend and then trash you behind your back.  I don't know about you, but I have no use for people like that.  They are ignorant, insecure, and shallow.  In the meantime, a great stress reliever is drawing and this seemed like an appropriate subject ...

The Two-Faced Drawing:

When we draw, many things are going on in our brain, and at times, there can be conflict between our left-brain and our right-brain.  I've struggled with this myself at times as I find myself trying to draw "things" as I know them to be rather than what I "see."  Painting is the same thing.  It takes time, discipline, and practice to focus entirely on what you "see" rather than what you "know."  

This seems like an appropriate time to note, too, that if your brain is ever in conflict in a relationship - focus entirely on what you know to be true vs. what you want to see - you'll save yourself a lot of trouble, heartache, and headache.

For instance, when drawing a pear, a barn, a person, or a face, try not to name the objects you are drawing, instead paying attention to the line, the curve of the line, and the relationship of that line and angle to other lines, curves, and angles you have already drawn. 

Vase/Faces DrawingFunny, but this is a good analogy for "relationships" as well - before you draw your line in a relationship, see how yours fits into that which has already been drawn.  Pay attention to past relationships of the other person and yours as well - those lines that have already been drawn, and let that guide you before you complete the picture or add your line to the composition.  Dang, I wish I had learned this lesson years ago!

This post is what you call killing 2 birds with 1 stone.  So, even if you don't want to draw 2 faces, you might just figure out what one is -  I know I have.

Another benefit of learning to draw is getting to know your brain and how the left and right modes compete and cooperate with one another.

This simple exercise is designed to illustrate how mental conflict can occur between your left and right modes.  Of course, if you find your brain in conflict over a relationship - don't fret, don't beat yourself up, and learn a good lesson - run as fast as you can - draw your line in the sand - and draw a line on what you will tolerate and what you won't tolerate in a relationship.  Respect yourself first and foremost.  Of course, if you are the kind of person who trashes others in an attempt to feel better about yourself.  Get help.  This is what you call an "inferiority complex" and can lead to negative and destructive behavior.

Now, let's get down to the business of your drawing.  You will begin by clicking on each of the images below - the image for right-handed and left-handed.  The image will open full size in another window and you need to then print off "2" copies of each picture.  Your assignment is to complete the profile on the other side of the picture.  Don't name the "things" you are drawing.  In other words, don't say in your brain "forehead" or "nose" or "mouth," or "vase" either.  Instead, try to pay attention to relationships of each line and each curve, duplicating the lines and curves of the other side of the picture.

1. Use the picture that is suited for the hand you normally draw with.  So, if you are right-handed, then you want to begin with this picture.  Try to complete the profile on the other side of the picture and set it aside. Label this image as "Step 1."

2. Take the picture that is suited for the hand you "do not" otherwise draw or write with.  Now, use that other hand and try to complete the picture.  Do you feel the conflict going on in your brain?  It's hard isn't it?!!  Don't fret, do your best and then set it aside. Label this image as "Step 2."

3. You have 2 images remaining - one for left-handed and one for right-handed.  If you are right-handed, take the left-handed picture and turn it upside-down.  Now, try to complete the picture with your right hand, only the picture you are trying to complete is upside-down.  This causes conflict in your left mode because it won't be able to "name" things like it wanted to do in the first 2 steps.  It will be in conflict with what it "sees" and what it wants to call the line or object you are drawing. Label this image as "Step 3."

4. Repeat step 3, only use the other picture and the other hand - attempting to duplicate the image with the hand you are not accustomed to using.  Draw the other side of the image - upside down. Label this image as "Step 4."

Pretty cool, eh? 

Here are your pictures.  Click on each image.  A new window will open with the full-size picture.  Print off 2 copies of each image:


This is the right-handed image.


Hope everyone has a great weekend!  Have fun drawing!  Oh, and when someone shows you who they are - believe it.  Don't wait for a person to change, move on and learn from it.  I know I have.



Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Thank You Pablo Picasso


I've been struggling.  All artists go through this at some point in their career, but I felt I should talk about it.  Richard Schmid once said that you have to paint, and the more you paint the fewer "duds" you will turn out.  Now, I don't expect every painting to be a masterwork, and even my best is far from it, (and I think this one is probably one of my very best), but I keep trying, although I must admit that I am not as passionate about trying with every painting.  I don't know why that is.  Maybe laziness, maybe impatience, maybe I'm just tired.  I was passionate about painting "America's Promise."  Can you tell?

I realize that no matter what it is we are passionate about, though, sometimes we just don't feel like giving it our best.  It happens.


The most painful part of being an artist is that there will always be artists who are better than you.  LIke this one - L.S. Liang.  He is brilliant - absolutely brilliant.  All of his paintings are brilliant.  I don't think he even knows what a "dud" is.  There will always be masters of the past and present who we aspire to replicate and he's one of them for me.  There will always be room to grow - lots of room - too much room!  But, there is still something exhausting about knowing that I will never reach the top - never reach my fullest potential and goals as an artist - at least not in this lifetime. Maybe that has to do with discipline.  I think Liang is very disciplined.  It's in his DNA.  My DNA probably looks more like a Jackson Pollack painting. 

La meridienne by Van Gogh

Then I think of Van Gogh.  He didn't sell his first painting until 100 years after his death.  At least I have sold my paintings, and I have a number of collectors.  Maybe I'm just my own worst critic.  That is what my friend Alison told me tonight while we worked in the studio.  She's right you know.

I was complaining about my painting.  She was complaining about hers.  I liked hers.  She liked mine.  We both think our own work "stinks" and that is no lie.  She keeps saying she "paints like a 5 year old."  I keep saying my work is "crap."  We both need our heads examined.


She is completing an entire sketchbook with the theme "An Elephant in the Room" for the Sketchbook project and I am completing an entire sketchbook with the theme "A Million Little ..."  Yeah, a million little what?  How about a million little crappy sketches.  That oughta do it.  Suddenly, though, elephants are everywhere for Alison.  Why are we doing this?  Who knows.  Ask the Art House why they approached us and asked us to participate.  I do like this painting, though, from Christian Vincent.  It's called "Three's a Crowd."  I sent it to Alison. 


To tame my inhibitions, my desire for antiquities, and my inner artistic warfare, my next painting is going to be after Rene Magritte's "The Son of Man" if for no other reason than I like to paint people and hate painting faces - oh, and because my Big Bear wants the painting hanging in our foyer.  I will, however, try to paint the poor man so that his arm on the right (his left arm) doesn't look as though it is bending backwards.  Why did he put that crease so oddly in the man's suit sleeve anyway? That seems odd, as if the apple in his face isn't odd enough, or the wall, or the flat, stationary ocean.

And "No" I have not finished Matthew's portrait yet.  It is on the back burner again until I get my artist's confidence back.  It might just take an apple in the face to get me there.


Then there is the likes of Jackson Pollack.  I mean - what was he thinking?  Was he thinking at all?  I don't even like the colors in this piece.  This had to cost a small fortune in paint.  If you look at it long enough, you can see a face from the white lines.  They make 2 big circles, then a nose, then funny cheeks and an ear.  I take it Pollack couldn't draw well.

I'm sure he struggled too.  Or how about ...


this master piece of wonderment?  You'll never guess who did this...


Would you believe this guy?  Pablo Picasso drew that picture with a green conte crayon in 1952.  And from this picture, he looks like he has a headache.  I'm with ya Pablo.  Believe me, I'm with ya buddy.  I feel your pain.



Thursday, September 10, 2009

In Progress - The Red Barn at Outlook Farm


About 2 months ago, I received an email from a reader requesting a commissioned painting of the Red Barn at Outlook Farm for her sister who was getting married there in the coming months.  I have to say, nothing makes me happier than to get a commission for a painting that I love to do - and you know me and barns.  

Since that first contact, I sought out the best possible reference image, and although it isn't the best, it is enough to create a beautiful painting.  I thought I would take this opportunity to show you how I progress through paintings like this.  I do things a little differently now and then.   So let's get started!


I started by stretching my own canvas onto 30x40 inch stretcher bars.  Then I primed the canvas with gesso. I sanded the gessoed canvas after it dried, cleaned it off with a damp rag, then gessoed again, this time painting brushstrokes in the opposite direction from the first time.  After the second layer of gesso dried, I lightly sanded the surface of the canvas, wiped it off with a damp cloth, dried it with a hairdryer, and sketched out my scene with charcoal.  After wiping off parts of my sketch 137 times, I finally had one I thought I could work with.  The principle at this stage is just to have down the basic shapes and not worry about details.


As you can see from the first image, I painted in the sky.  I work from "back to front" and from "thin to fat." Back to front means working from objects that are considered "behind" the subject and working to the front.  Thin to fat means that the first layer of oil paint I put down on canvas is thinned with mineral spirits and the flow of the paint is improved with Artist's medium.  I also put the down the darkest values and/or basic color of the object or shape first.  This will be my underpainting.  Here, I've just placed the trees under-tone down on the canvas.


Moving right along, I placed a mid-value down for the surrounding landscape.


This area of the landscape is like a hay field.


This area is going to be tall grass.


This area of blue is going to be a pond.


Here, I've now painted in the barn a bit, although I may make a change to the building on the right.  I don't like it behind the Red Barn and would prefer, I think, to make it look as though it is attached to the side of the Red Barn.  I have added an awning to one side of the added side building too.  These were not pictured in the original reference, but instead a big white tent was pictured and she did not want the white tent.  So, I am using artistic license to create a nice, balanced scene.

That's it so far!  Tomorrow I will be moving on to thicker paint, expressive brushstrokes, use of the palette knife (I like to use the palette knife in my paintings as it adds texture) and I will be adding a lot more detail to the painting as well.  You won't recognize it when it's finished.  

Hope you enjoyed this day of painting!  



Friday, September 04, 2009

New Paintings to Share


Hello everyone!  I have some new paintings to share with you that I am going to be exhibiting at the Matthews Alive Festival this weekend together with some other paintings I have for sale.  This one is called "Rolling Acres" 8 x 16 Oil on Panel. You can click on any of the paintings to see a larger view.


Meet "Big Red" 9 x 12 Oil on Canvas.  I love painting barns.  I don't know what it is that draws me to them, but I love 'em.  I grew up surrounded by barns, so that must be it.  They almost look as if they grew right out of the ground don't you think?


"Church Bells" 9 x 6 Oil on Canvas.  This is the first in a series of church paintings that I am going to do.  I am taking pictures of churches and church steeples every time I travel around North Carolina.


"Alone on the Hill" 12 x 9 Oil on Canvas.

I haven't priced these yet.  If you are interested, just send me an email at [email protected]

Everybody have a great labor day weekend!  I am going to be set up at the Matthews Alive Arts & Crafts Festival in Matthews, North Carolina in the event you happen to stroll by. 



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