Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Pretty Is as Pretty Does

Christmas Moon (2007)
6 x 6
Private Collection

As I've written here before, I started riding horses at a young age and have ridden and owned horses most of my adult life. For some reason, most of the activities and sports I liked to do on horseback (until the last ten years or so) involved riding at breakneck speeds across fields, through woods, jumping fences, ditches and obstacles of all kinds and generally raising hell on horseback. As I got older and noticed that I did not bounce as well as I used to, I developed a rule for selecting my horses called "Pretty Is as Pretty Does"- meaning, that I didn't have to have the fastest or best looking horse in the field. I just wanted the one who had great heart, good sense and could scramble when the need arose.

A couple of years ago, I realized I needed to apply the same rule to my art career. Early on, I spent a lot of time building a resume. As time went on, I started to get invitations to shows and other events, invitations to show in several galleries, as well as opportunities to teach. I had worked so hard to make those connections, it was really hard to say no, and besides, I was still in the resume-building mindset. Once I started actually trying to make a living as an artist, I suddenly got a lot clearer about what was and wasn't important to my art and my career. This past year I really pared things down- doing only the shows and events which had resulted in good sales or which offered very good opportunities to make connections with collectors. Pretty is as pretty does. No matter how much fun or prestigious an event is, if it doesn't make economic sense, I don't do it. I've tried to be mindful of this rule in new things I've tried (like Internet sales) . This year has been my best year ever as far as the income from art sales is concerned and I've also had much more time to devote to R&D. Its impossible to know what 2009 will bring- things will surely be different and selling art will be even more challenging- which I think means sticking to this rule will be even more important. As a working artist, I am in this for the long haul- I just need to have heart, good sense and the ability to scramble when I need to.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

2009 Workshop

For a number of years, I taught painting workshops from my studios in Florida and New Mexico, as well as locations around the country. When we moved, I decided to take a hiatus from teaching. I knew that my work was taking a new direction and I needed time for R&D. In the last couple of months I agreed to do two demonstrations in the early part of 2009 . That got me to thinking about how I would go about demonstrating and talking about my work and I also received a few inquires about workshops. I enjoy teaching and have always received excellent reviews from my students. Its something I take very seriously, so I wanted to wait until I was ready to put the required time and energy into a class. So, I've decided to schedule a workshop here at my studio in Clarksville, TX, March 28-29, 2009.

I've given much thought as to how to organize this class. Most importantly, I wanted it to be small enough that each participant would receive lots of individual attention with enough time for painting exercises and demonstrations. So, I've limited the registration to 8 artists. Here are the things I'll be covering in the class.

-edit and simplify the landscape for maximum effect
-create a strong under painting
-glaze and scumble to create luminosity
-choose and work with transparent colors
-create an interesting paint surface using a combination of opaque and transparent passages
-choose painting supports, tools and materials for indirect painting methods

Please contact me if you have any questions and also please pass this along to any other artists who might be interested.

You can go here to read more information about the workshop and to register.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Evening Pines

Evening Pines
10 x 8

East Texas is referred to as the Piney Woods. Tall, elegant stands of loblolly and long leaf pine can be found just about everywhere here. I am particularly fond of them, not only because they are visually interesting but because they remind me of north Florida (where I grew up) and south Georgia (where I spent some time in school and on horseback). I have in mind to do a number of larger paintings of pines and this little piece is a start on that project.

Friday, December 19, 2008


Winter Greys
6 x 6
Private Collection

Yesterday I took a drive of about 60 miles round trip over to the vet's to pick up medicine for Sophie (our oldest Corgi). Its a trip I take about once a month and I always look forward to it. Although the landscape along the way is very similar to where we live, it does have more of the tall pines this area of Texas is known for (more about that later). Yesterday,the fog was thick and I was fascinated by the variety of greys- from the violets and blues in the distance to almost maroon/wine colored greys in the near trees. By the time I got home, I had an entire painting composed and painted in my head.

I have never been a patient person. I tend to want what I want, when I want it. Instant gratification- a birthright. As my husband says of me in former days, before we came to the Bubble, "you were in a hurry". So it is probably a great cosmic gotcha that I have adopted a mode of painting that requires me to paint, wait, paint, wait, paint, and wait some more. Which is why I am posting a painting today done this time last year and not the one I started yesterday.

Deborah Paris Fine Art- Small Gems -Big Art in a small package

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Old School-New School

December Dusk
8 x8
Available at Deborah Paris Fine Art

As regular readers know, about 18 months ago, I began to explore new techniques in search of a way to better describe not only the atmospheric effects in the landscape that interested me, but also to create a certain mood and look to my work. That quest lead me to a study of glazing, scumbling and the use of transparent paint in general. Glazing is most definitely Old School- a technique which goes back to the Renaissance and which was almost completely lost over the last couple of centuries as more direct painting methods were deemed to be more desirable. Many still feel that way, but this centuries old technique is making a comeback in some circles. Modern, man made pigments have added a whole range of highly pigmented, rich colors to the transparent colors now available to the 21st century artist (very New School) .

My aim was and is to combine this very Old School technique with a modern (New School) landscape sensibility. Over the last few years, I experimented with a more stylized and even abstracted form of landscape painting to accomplish these goals. Although I am very drawn to a decorative approach (I mean that in a good way), in the end, I knew I wanted my landscapes to be places my viewers felt they could actually walk into. I wanted to make the viewer look, and having looked, desire to linger. For me, that meant that a more representational (for lack of a better word) mode combined with a modern, spare sense of design and use of limited but rich color was needed.

As I've written before, I describe this as "just enough, but not too much". I often miss that mark, usually erring on the side of "too much" but occasionally "not enough". I think it is a pursuit that will engage me for the rest of my life, and as I come to trust myself more- I hope I can get closer to what I want to accomplish.

Friday, December 12, 2008

To Do or Not To Do

Heading South
20 x 20 oil on linen
Private Collection

It seems much that I read these days on artist blogs and Twitter is about getting organized, marketing and the all important To Do list. Its natural I suppose with the year coming to a close and the anticipation/anxiety about what the new year will bring for working artists. But, as usual, I seem to be swimming against the tide-or at least paddling in the opposite direction. This post is about one artist's fight against the tyranny of the To Do list.

First a disclaimer. I have been writing and using To Do lists for many years. In my previous life, they were indispensable. I still use them, although I try to compartmentalize them as much as possible. I have even perfected the art of the Honey Do list according to my husband. Unlike some artists, getting into the left side of my brain has never been a problem for me- its getting out of it that's tricky. In fact, one might say it took me almost twenty years to get out, and I'm not going back!

Truthfully, when I became a full time artist, I tackled my lists with new ambition. In fact, To Do lists were much more my comfort zone than the studio was. My analytical, problem solving background and training put to use in service of my art career- what could be better??!! So in those years, I taught workshops and participated in plein air events and other shows all over the country, wrote and published articles, built a 1200 name mailing list from scratch (and this was before blogging was even a twinkle in my eye), started a plein air group that grew into a 250 member state wide organization, organized a huge plein air invitational at a prestigious gallery in Santa Fe, and oh, did I forget to mention...... painted full time. But, the more I did, the more I began to feel completely disconnected from my real work- painting. My painting became more about show deadlines and submissions than about building a cohesive body of work. Finally a series of gut wrenching events forced me to take stock and to make significant changes in just about every area of my life. And that was a good thing....

What I know now, is that my work requires large amounts of R&D- research and development. This means for me, lots of reading, thinking, looking at and noticing things, and most importantly, just painting. I allow myself to wander around, both outside and in the studio, and in my head. The shift in both the technical and aesthetic focus of my work over the last 18 months has been, for the most part, completely the product of simply following a thread of thought and visual ideas and finding a technique which would best express those ideas- without a preconceived notion of where it might take me. Goal oriented thinking or activities simply won't get me where I want to go in the studio. So if it takes me ten minutes to walk the fifty yards from my studio to the house in late afternoon because I am watching the light flicker behind the trees or if I pull off the road on the way to town to see the clouds move across the horizon- its more important to my work as an artist than a check mark on my list ever can or should be.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Evening Pond

Work in Progress
Evening Pond
36 x 30

As I've written many times before, there is something very compelling about autumn to me. Visually, its a time that the landscape begins to strip itself bare, to uncover and expose the structure of things. The rhythm of life seems to slow, even to ebb. The sun which used to set directly behind my house, offering extravagant sunsets in summer, has migrated to the south and slips below the horizon, sending weak rays of light across the field behind my studio.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Morning Fog

Morning Fog at the Pond
11 x 14
Available at Deborah Paris Fine Art

When I did the under painting for this piece a couple of weeks ago, I had something else in mind entirely. But lately, we've had this lovely morning fog and it was all I could think about when I got back to it yesterday. Technically the challenge was to keep the values as close as possible yet high key while using shifts in color temperature rather than value to give the painting visual interest. I love the way fog softens, envelops, hides the forms in the landscape.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Studio Visit

Work in Progress (sorry about the glare)
Sunset Stream 30 x 30

Still working on this piece. Monday I had two studio visitors, so everything came to a halt for a massive clean up of the studio and house. I had this piece on the easel -always makes me nervous for a collector to see work in progress but it gave me a good opportunity to talk with my guests about glazing and how it works. The fact that its a centuries old technique still used by artists today seemed to be genuinely interesting to them (although I can go on about this stuff until people's eyes glaze over ...). Anyway, it reminded me about the great article on the Gamblin web site which explains the science behind the stunning visual effects created by glazing. I think I may have linked to this before, but if you haven't read it and are interested in glazing, here it is.

And now for a commercial break.... some of you know that my husband and I own a small company (very small- just the two of us) called Mountains Edge Frames. Its how we pay the bills (or not) in addition to painting sales. I try not to muck up this blog with that, but like everybody else in the world, we are having a holiday sale, so click on over if you are interested. Also, we have added a new product to our line- birch painting panels- both uncradled and cradled, finished with gesso or not. Earlier this year, I blogged about the Magic Panel, and that quest turned into a new product for us. They are fantastic if I do say so myself. Now, back to regular programming.......

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giving Thanks

Work in Progress
Sunset Stream 30 x30

Here is one of the pieces I am working on now. The under painting was posted here. Now, the sky has been laid in and an initial color glazed over the foreground. Still many painting sessions to go on this one.

Yesterday I spent a good portion of the day writing and sending my holiday studio newsletter. After it went out I received a number of emails and a few phone calls from other artists and collectors. One conversation in particular reminded me of the power of art to connect perfect strangers and made me grateful for my role in that process. I had never spoken with this person-let's call him Bill- before, but he is a regular reader of my blog. He told me a bit about himself and his passion for collecting art. His tastes and his collection cover a wide range - he clearly just loves art.

Its easy in an economy such as this one to let the question "will this sell?", or worse, "what can I paint that will sell?", creep into the studio. Talking with Bill yesterday, I was reminded of this quote from The Writing Life by Annie Dillard:

...the more literary the book-the more purely verbal, crafted sentence by sentence, the more imaginative, reasoned,and deep-the more likely people are to read it. The people who read are the people who like literature, after all...I cannot imagine a sorrier pursuit than struggling for years to write a book that attempts to appeal to people who do not read in the first place.

And so it is with painting. The more passion for your craft and your subject you put into your work, the more likely it is that people like Bill- people who love art- will find your work. Nothing you do can make someone who does not care about art -or about your kind of art, care about your work. But the people who do, are the ones with whom you have a bond, a shared passion and to whom you owe thanks and the responsibility to make the best work you are capable of. So, thank you Bill.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Holiday Studio Sale

The painting area in my studio -
definitely a work in progress

I'm having an online studio sale this holiday season. From the looks of my studio, you can probably guess why its best for me to do this virtually rather than in real life! One of my goals for this year was to get my studio finished- which means book shelves built in the study area (can't see that in this photo), storage space for supplies, frames, etc., paint the walls...the list goes on and on. As you can see from this photo, none of that has happened...yet. But hope springs eternal, so perhaps the combination of having a studio sale and the embarrassment of posting this photo will spur some action. Available work can be seen at Deborah Paris Fine Art. There are generous holiday discounts and payment plans are welcome!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Autumn Pond

Autumn Pond
10 x 8
click to see larger image

One of the things I really love is the change of seasons. Fall, in particular, seems more drawn out here than in other places I have lived. The crisp halcyon days of indian summer have slipped way to the almost brittle melancholy of late autumn. The crunching sound of dry leaves underfoot follows me on every walk. The landscape has opened up again, bare trees revealing corners of woods that have been hidden from view all summer. Right before my eyes, the landscape is reinventing itself.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Technical Difficulties

For some reason I am not able to download images from my digital camera to the computer. Keep getting some error message about a power surge on the port, so I am hoping its a problem with the USB cable, as the port seems to be working otherwise. Got a new cable ordered today, and since it will be a while before it gets out here to the boonies, I am posting a piece I painted last year at the Telluride show.

Aspen Nights
14 x 18 2007
Private Collection

As regular readers of this blog know, I am a big fan of nocturnes. Love to paint them, look at them, and stand outside and gaze at the real thing. An artist friend of mine says I am a Neo-Romantic. Is there such a thing?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Season Turns

Right before sunset yesterday a front came through. I woke during the night to the sound of rain. This morning it was a bit cooler, but still mild. But, I could feel that the season of bright autumn days was giving way to something else. Bare trees now mix in with the rusts and ochres and trees in the distance look more violet. The grass has stopped growing and everything looks more spare, stripped down. Out on the road, windswept with leaves, it felt a bit desolate, like every living thing was turning inward, preparing for the rigors of winter.

I stayed in the studio most of the day and worked on several larger pieces. This is the latest on the 48 x 60. I've worked on the trees a bit more, repainted the sky and glazed over the edges of the trees again. I've had to wait several days between each session, not only to let the glazes dry, but also to "oil out" in between. Oiling out is an old term, used in the 19th century, to describe the process for bringing the colors and values back to their original state. When oil paint dries , the darks will dry a bit lighter and the lights a bit darker. So before you start again, its necessary to use a bit of medium over the surface to regain the saturation, color and value. There are still several more painting sessions to be done to complete this.

I've also been working on two other under paintings. I finished this 30 x 30 yesterday and a 36 x 30 today. It was a good day in the studio.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Leaf Peeping

Indian Summer II
10 x 20
Please contact me if interested in this piece

Our beautiful fall weather continues. The leaves are just spectacular this year- much more so than they were last year (our first fall here). We don't have that sort of over the top Vermont kind of color- its more a full range of rich ochres, rust, copper, with the occasional screaming red maple thrown in. So, I've been out leaf peeping up and down our road every afternoon, hither and yon, over hill and dale...you get the idea.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A New Site

Over the last couple of months I realized that new readers to the blog (or even old ones!) might not want to scroll through all the archives to find work that is available through my studio. So, today I've launched a new site- Deborah Paris Fine Art- which has only those pieces that are available for purchase through my studio. It includes small pieces (6 x 6) up to larger studio works (30 x 40). The paintings are available for sale either framed or unframed. I haven't got all the images up yet, and I'll be updating it regularly.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Indian Summer

Indian Summer
12 x 16
Please contact me if interested in this piece

We have had some incredibly beautiful fall days over the last week or so. Yesterday it was almost 80 degrees, which made me start thinking about the term "indian summer". It turns out to be a uniquely American term, in use for over 200 years, although this phenomena is recognized and called by other names in Europe and other parts of the world. Of course, it refers to a warm period of weather, occurring during a time of the year (fall) when cooler weather prevails. I prefer a less meteorological definition - a metaphor for something that happens at an unexpected time like a late bloom or flowering- something perhaps brief, but cherished for its untimely appearance.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Imagination & Execution

This past week I reread the book Art & Fear. I was first introduced to this wise little tome over ten years ago. Its one of those books that you can reread again and again, finding new and deeper insights each time. This time was no exception. The passages that seemed particularly apt had to do with what the authors call the "correspondence between imagination and execution"- that is, the place where your work actually gets made. The idea is that at the beginning the work can be whatever you can imagine but as it progresses- as you actually begin to make it- the possibilities narrow with each successive brushstroke, until at the end only a very narrow range of choices remain to complete the work. It is then its own thing, separate and apart from the world and what inspired it. In other words, as Annie Dillard (paraphrasing Paul Klee) wrote:

The painter...does not fit the paints to the world. He most certainly does not fit the world to himself. He fits himself to the paint. The self is the servant who bears the paintbox and its inherited contents.
I have read those words a dozen times over many years and have only just begun to understand what they mean. I had this ridiculous notion that I was in control!

This past week I've been working on the large painting-the underpainting is posted here. This first image is one glaze over the foreground and trees and the sky laid in with opaque paint.

Once the sky was laid in, I began to adjust the values and color temperature. It gets tricky here because you have to remember that each successive glaze will darken that portion of the panting. In this next image, I've put several more glaze layers on the foreground and the distant trees, repainted a portion of the sky, and adjusted the distant tree shapes and color harmony throughout.

So far, I've done very little to the large trees in the foreground and nothing to the small piece of water in the very front. And the sky will need repainting again. There are zillions of little adjustments to edges and shapes and color needed everywhere now-each needing to be fitted to what came before-to the paint.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Walking the Country

We live about 4 miles outside a small town (pop. 3800 on an optimistic day) in North Texas. Founded in 1833, back in the day, it was a prosperous town with numerous cotton gins and four drugstores and a movie theater on the town square. Now, not so much. Our road and the adjacent land in our area has had its own identity as a distinct community for many years also. Its called Mabry. My husband hates that- he thinks it sounds like "Mayberry". I say, so what? Mabry is, of course, a family name of the people who settled here and several of their descendants are our neighbors. When you turn on to our road, an old, white church and a graveyard mark the entrance to Mabry. The school house for the community (two rooms) originally stood on our property. A small piece of the foundation and a leaning flag pole (which we still use) are all that is left today.

Over the last 16 months I have painted mostly what I can see from our property, on our road or the drive into town. I cannot say, as Constable did, that these are "my places" given our short residency here, but nevertheless, they do feel like they are mine-at least aesthetically. Over these months, we have met our neighbors and most already knew I was an artist (that's the way it is in small towns). Many have graciously consented to let me roam their woods, pastures and fields in search of inspiration. I never have to go far. That little wooden ladder leaning against the fence behind my studio seems a perfect symbol of my place here- and I am content with that.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Finishing the Start

Evening 48 x 60-under painting

Its amazing the amount of things you can get done while you are trying to avoid tackling a big canvas-things like laundry, cleaning up the garage and even your taxes (yes, we procrastinate around here). But eventually you have to face the music, or in this case- the linen. The one thing I have learned is that no matter what I intend the work to be, no matter how many studies I do, the canvas will, at some point very early on, become its own very different thing. When I painted in a more direct manner I would sometimes try to force it back into its cage, so to speak. But now, I cannot so easily cover my tracks. The under painting tells all and whatever happens by the time I have finished the start will be part of the finished work.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

October Afternoon

October Afternoon
7 1/2 x 12 oil
Please contact me if interested in this piece

This past weekend I drove to New Mexico for the opening of the Albuquerque Museum Miniatures & More show. It was a quick trip- 24 hours of driving squeezed into about a 54 hour trip. But, I'm glad I went. I saw many friends at the show and I always enjoy the drive, especially at this time of year. I was more than a bit worried about how the show would go, given the recent economic news. I haven't heard whether overall things were slower, but Summer Moon sold, for which I am very grateful.

About a year ago, I was making the drive back from a show in California, and wrote about not being sure where home was. But Sunday, as the high desert of New Mexico gave way to the rolling hills of north Texas, I knew I was heading in the right direction.

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Natural Painter

Hay Field Evening
30 x 40
Available at Hildt Galleries, Chicago

For the last two years I have been running after pictures, and seeking the truth at second hand. I have not endeavoured to represent nature with the same elevation of mind with which I set out, but have rather tried to make my performances look like the work of other men…There is room enough for a natural painter. The great vice of the present day is bravura, an attempt to do something beyond the truth.
John Constable

As readers of this blog may know, I count J.M.W. Turner, the great 19th century English landscape painter, as one of the influences on my work. Turner and John Constable have come down to us in art history as the twin stars of early 19th century landscape. And though Constable has always had my admiration, it has only been in the last year that I have come to feel a deep kinship with his art and aesthetic point of view.

In art history, Turner plays the shooting star to what seems at first glance to be a more earthbound Constable. And in fact, Turner did burst on the London art scene, becoming the youngest member ever elected to the Royal Academy at age 24 , while it took Constable over twenty years to achieve that status. Both exhibited artistic courage by raising the art of landscape from its third class status and laid the groundwork for the Barbizon School and the Impressionists. Turner's emphasis was on the Sublime and his audacious use of color and technique nevertheless were often used in service of history or classical themes which found more favor at the Royal Academy than the pure landscape paintings of Constable.

Constable's art was based upon a deep and abiding affection for the landscape in which he grew up and to which he returned during his entire life as a source of inspiration, saying that for him "painting was but another word for feeling" and that his art "could be found under every hedge and down every lane". Constable's approach to his art, grounded upon plein air work and close observation, combined with painterly technique was in fact, quietly revolutionary.

At a time when representational landscape painting is once again beneath consideration, if not contempt by the post modern art world (today's self protective gatekeepers as surely as the Academy was in its day), I take great comfort in Constable.

I should paint my own places best, for they made me a painter.
John Constable

Saturday, September 20, 2008

On the Cusp

Late Afternoon at the Pond
8 x 8
Please contact me if interested in this piece

This summer my husband became slightly obsessed with hummingbirds. We have always had a feeder or two, but this year he bought several more, then another and another. He was filling the feeders three to four times a day, and right before Ike blew through, it seemed like we had hundreds of birds. A few days after the storm the overnight temperatures dipped into the fifties, and the next morning they were gone! The next day I noticed how much earlier dusk came and that the sunset had moved to the south along our west facing property line. In just a matter of days, summer was over.

I know all this seems trivial in light of the momentous events of the last few weeks. But in a strange way, its the same: in a matter of days, things changed. Its just that hummingbirds and the coolness of the morning air seem much more real to me than hedge funds and securitized debt instruments.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hayfield Moonrise

Hayfield Moonrise
10 x 12

This is the third small piece for the Albuquerque Museum Miniatures & More show next month.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Waiting for Ike

Backyard Sunset
10 x 12

This painting is also a slightly larger version of a previously posted study. It will also be exhibited at the Albuquerque Museum Miniatures & More exhibition next month.

We are in the path of Hurricane Ike as it heads north through Texas. So, I thought I'd post this before the power goes out!

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Blog Birthday

Evening Pond
12 x 10

This is a larger version of a study I posted a few weeks ago. It will be exhibited -with two other pieces this size, and the larger piece posted here- at the Albuquerque Museum Miniatures & More exhibition in October.

This week marks a year since I began writing this blog. When I started I had a few ideas about why I wanted to blog and what I would do. Most of that went by the boards in the first few months. Instead this blog sort of took on a life of its own and led me in directions I hadn't really anticipated. As with any creative endeavor, the journey became as important as the result. I thought about writing a post about what I hope to accomplish in the second year. But I think I'll just wait and see what happens.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Calm before the storm

Soft Summer Evening
oil on birch panel 8x6

Last night as we drove home from dinner in a neighboring town, the evening sky was so beautiful. Recent rain had greened up all the fields and it was a perfect late summer evening. Hard to believe Gustav is on the way.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cool Water

Cool Water
oil on birch panel, 8x6

When I was a little girl I was, like many little girls, horse crazy. I started riding when I was about six and within a year had convinced my parents I had to have my own horse. During the school year, I rode in the afternoon and on weekends and in the summer I spent a good deal of my time on horseback exploring the fields, pastures and woods in north Florida where I grew up. There was a large pond (or at least it seemed large to me) on the edge of a pasture at the barn where I boarded my horse. After a ride on hot summer afternoons, I would strip off my horse's tack (and my own shoes and socks) and ride bareback with just a halter and rope into the pond. As we moved out to the center of the pond where the water was deepest, I would float like a leaf off my horse's back, holding on to his mane and the halter rope. His legs would begin to churn beneath me and the cool water from the bottom of the pond would rise up and envelop me. It was the most perfect sense of freedom I have ever known.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Creative Capital

Evening Pond
10 x 8
Please contact me if interested in this piece

You know how sometimes it seems like an idea keeps popping up everywhere in things you are reading, or looking at or thinking about? I've been thinking a lot lately about what I choose to paint- what ideas and imagery interest me and why. I wrote a bit about that here (quoting both Annie Dillard and Thoreau) and since then, it seems I find references to this notion- that your aesthetic sensibility is a like a vein of ore you are meant to mine. Then last week I was rereading The Creators by Paul Johnson, and there it was again- except this time Johnson had given it a name- creative capital.

"By experience I mean the combination of observation and feeling that leads to a creative moment...this precious capital can be spent- thrown away, as it were...and replenished by undergoing fresh experience...of an intense kind."

I'm not sure I would have agreed with that a few years ago, but now it seems just about right, at least for me. In my own case, I can't help but notice that certain imagery- water, for example- and certain times of day- evening, night- are favorite motifs. Although it was mostly an unconscious thing, I think the change in my painting techniques were directly related to my desire to explore these ideas. Perhaps the most dramatic change came about because of our move to a landscape which in many respects reminds me of the landscape of my childhood. There are powerful associations for me, childhood memories that I hadn't thought of in years-but which now seem to inform everything I want to paint.

"There are a lot of things I could say about the art (of poetry)....it should be about major adventures only,outward and inward-important things that happen to you, or important things that occur to you. Mere poeticality won't suffice."
Robert Frost 1928

I also think there is an edge of melancholy and sometimes a sense of sadness or loss in my work, that wasn't there until the last few years. Perhaps this is just an acknowledgment of the loss of my parents, who I miss terribly, and the fact of my own mortality. At 58, I am not exactly at death's door (at least, not that I know of, but I do feel a sense of urgency and mourn the loss of so many creative years when I was otherwise engaged.

"Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case."
Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

But truth be told, I am not so sure I would have been able to tap into that vein 25 years ago or even 10 years ago. So perhaps this is my time and these are the things I was made to give voice to. One thing I know for sure, there's no time to waste.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Piney Woods Sunset

Piney Woods Sunset
8 x 10
Contact me if interested in this piece.

This part of Texas is referred to as the Piney Woods. I love the look of a pond through these tall pines, particularly at sunset. This painting is also a study for a larger work.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Evening Study
8 x 10

After a couple of weeks of really hot weather and almost a month without rain, we finally got two days of rain and temperatures dropped about 10 degrees. As the skies cleared at the end of the second day, the evening sky was the most beautiful shade of violet.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Sunset Study
8 x 10

This is one of a number of studies I have done recently to work out some ideas for a larger painting. I tend to get a bit obsessed with a general visual idea and then try out different compositions, formats and color harmonies. Its been suggested somewhere ( I think it was in Art & Fear), that artists have a handful of themes that they spend their entire creative lives exploring in different ways. I don't know how true this is across the board, but I think it may be the case with me. I'm talking here about themes or ideas, rather than the specific imagery, although for me, those two things go very much hand in hand. I think its time well spent to think about the things you love and love to paint.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Grazing at Dusk

Grazing at Dusk
6 x 6
Like many other bloggers, I was locked out of my blog over the last couple of days because of some problem Blogger had misclassifying blogs as spammers. Glad that's over!

We are having a heat wave. The up side of this steamy circumstance is that each evening the sky turns a beautiful shade of pinky something. The temperature drops just enough for everyone, including the cattle, to breathe a sigh of relief that the sun has set.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Rethinking Rothko

The Hay Field- Evening
18 x 24

I've been reading the James Breslin biography of Rothko. I am not sure why I bought it in the first place, but it prompted me to also reread some of my other books about art and artists from that era, and to rethink Rothko. I vividly remember the first day of my first college art history class in 1967 (I was 17 -yikes!). Clement Greenberg was on the reading list and I have had a serious bone to pick with him and just about everyone that followed down that path for the next 30 years. It seemed to me that everything about art that was beautiful, transcendent and lyrical died or at least went on life support during that time. You can definitely put me in "the emperor has no clothes" column when it comes to much of what is called modern or post modern art. I am fully aware this (in much of the art world's opinion) makes me tragically unhip, provincial, narrow ,etc- and I'm OK with that.

However, I also remember the first time I saw a Rothko painting in the Museum of Modern Art in about 1969. I was stopped dead in my tracks. It was big yet quiet, bold yet meditative. And the color seemed to just envelope you. Big surprise to me, I was really moved by it. So, the biography and my collateral reading put some things in context that I had not really grasped at the tender age of 17. By the time I entered college, Rothko and his crowd, had been supplanted by "the next big thing" - Pop Art- and that Pop had swept away not only abstraction, but a rebirth of representational work by artists like Fairfield Porter (also a thoughtful critic and at odds with Greenberg) , Jane Freilicher, Larry Rivers, Nell Blaine and others. So all these years I really should have been pissed at Andy Warhol instead of Jackson Pollock!!??!

But to be honest, I was always willing to grant a dispensation to Rothko. Now, from a distance of many years and seeing how my own work has developed over that time, its not so hard to see why. If Rothko himself is to be believed - and he was often contradictory or in later years, silent about his art- he thought that the purpose of art was to transcend, to transport, to access the best part of our humanity. His paintings are beautiful - full of lush, transparent color, creating indeterminate spaces (fields) that invite us in . They mirror the story of his life, our lives, the human condition-love, loss, courage in the face of despair. He wore his heart on his sleeve, or at least on his canvasses. These paintings are the very antithesis of the formalism of early abstraction or the commercial, hip, smug, snarky, or souless stuff that came next. I think Rothko is perhaps the only abstractionist who was able to make his paintings of nothing truly about something, taking them beyond the merely decorative- which is why viewers respond so strongly to them.

"I'm interested only in expressing basic human emotions—tragedy, ecstasy, doom. If you . . . are moved only by . . . color relationships, then you miss the point."
Mark Rothko

Casey Klahn over at The Colorist posted a video about Rothko's work that I think is particularly moving. Since I can't figure out how to post it here, I'll send you there to see it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Good News!

For the last three years I have been invited to participate in the Albuquerque Museum of Art's annual Miniatures show . Each invited artist can exhibit 3 pieces that are no larger than 120 square inches each. Last year the Museum decided to add a new feature to the show and asked a small number of artists to exhibit larger scale works in addition to their smaller pieces. I am very happy to say that this year Summer Moon, 36 x 30, posted here previously, has been selected by the curators as one of the larger pieces for the 2008 exhibit. There are 92 artists included in the show and 12 of those (including me!) will exhibit larger scale works. The show opens on October 4, 2008 and runs through December 7, 2008.

I'd like to thank Linda Blondheim for her mention of me on her blog today. Like me, Linda is a native Floridian and a landscape painter. Her blog is a delightful read- chock full of great advice on just about every facet of painting and the life of an artist, as well as delicious recipes and great anecdotes.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Summer Moon

Summer Moon
36 x 30
The last week has felt a little like trying to walk fast in waist deep water. You know that feeling? You are moving but it feels like slow motion. Its part decompressing from the show, the trip home, having to deal with a bunch of stuff immediately and having a painting deadline for some larger pieces looming.

The full moon in June was just a few days before the summer solstice, which means it followed the lowest path across the sky of all full moons. That makes it appear larger to us- scientists have a number of theories about why that is, but everyone agrees its some sort of optical illusion. I'm not so sure.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Telluride Plein Air- Day 7

Today was the second day of the public sale and the last day of the event, winding up this evening with the Artists Farewell Party. Its been a long week- lots of hard work, fun and not a small amount of stress- which I think finally caught up with me today. However, I am happy to say I sold well - 6 paintings (my personal best at this show) and I also learned that perhaps I can adapt my new style and way of working to my plein air work. As always, it was a pleasure to be in the company of the many fine artists in this show. Tomorrow, I head for home bright and early.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Telluride Plein Air - Day 6-Happy 4th!

Goodnight, Telluride
16 x 16
OK, so you didn't really think I was going to paint in Telluride for a week and not paint that mountain, did you? This is an awful image- trying to photograph these while still wet and half dry etc. is just not getting it, but I hope you'll bear with me and just know this piece looks a lot better in real life!

My auction piece sold last night (and was bid up quite nicely) and today was the first day of the public sale as well as the town's big 4th of July celebration. The parade started about 11:30 and right before that - right on cue- a formation of F16s flew directly above and down Main Street, than banked away up and out of the box canyon. Very cool. Happy 4th everyone!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Telluride Plein Air - Day 5

Last Light on the San Miguel
12 x 20
The San Miguel River flows out of the San Juan Mountains through the Telluride valley and joins the Delores River 72 miles downstream. There are many pull offs along the banks as well as a river trail in Telluride itself. I painted it last year twice and knew I would want to do so again this year. Unfortunately, I was unable to get a good image of the painting- the last glaze was not dry yet and so I have glare.

Today is a busy day. We will turn in our auction piece at 10AM (I'm using this one), then the Quick Draw starts at 10:30. This is a 90 minute event along Main Street where each artist will produce a small painting which will be for sale immediately after the Quick Draw. Tonight is the Collector's Cocktail Party and Silent Auction. Each artist picks his or her favorite piece for this auction and the artists also vote for the Artists Choice award ($1000)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Telluride Plein Air- Day 4

Fishing at Lizard Head Pass
10 x 12

Lizard Head Pass (10,222 ft.) is about 12 miles south of Telluride. The day I went there started out sunny but weather in the pass can change quickly . I was just finishing up my under painting when a storm started to roll in from the southwest. I was packing up to go when a car pulled over at the pull out where I was parked. This fisherman got out and proceeded down to the stream. I thought he provided the perfect bit of scale for this immense landscape.

Telluride Plein Air- Day 3

Morning at Leopard Creek
10 x 8

Leopard Creek is a small stream that runs north-south "down valley" as they say here in Telluride. I actually discovered it last year when I was here but never got a chance to paint it. So I headed there on the first day. The greens in the grasses are actually a bit cooler and more intense - the product of a last minute scumble with thinned cadmium green.

One of the many challenges of this week- in addition to the ones I mentioned in my last post- is integrating my "new" indirect painting method into plein air work. Plein air painting is an alla prima sport - the high wire act of painting. My strategy has been to do as many under paintings as possible the first couple of days, let everything dry, then glaze. Risky business since we have to have all our work ready by Thursday!

By the way, we are allowed to pre-sell all work so if anyone out there is interested in this piece, please contact me and I'll put you in touch with the Sheridan Opera Foundation (show sponsors) to complete the sale.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Telluride Plein Air- Day 1

I arrived in Telluride late Saturday afternoon. This morning the event officially began- canvases were stamped at 9 AM and artists began to paint in Telluride and surrounding areas. For me, Telluride is a bit like the Marilyn Monroe of landscapes- lots of dramatic views- beauty spots- and over the top gorgeousness. Its very easy to be overwhelmed by it. Its definitely a big view kind of place which makes it harder to find the sorts of intimate scenes I prefer to paint. In addition, the cool cast of the light and color harmonies are the opposite of the warmer palette I tend to favor. But enough excuses, its time to paint!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Gone Painting

On Friday I am heading out to the Telluride Plein Air Invitational. Telluride - an historic mining town located in a box canyon in the heart of the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado - is now a trendy destination in both winter and summer months. The town holds a huge 4th of July celebration each year complete with an old fashioned parade with homemade floats and a flyover by F16 jets and World War I biplanes, and Norman Schwarzkopf as the Master of Ceremonies (he has a second home there). A few years ago, the Sheridan Opera Foundation decided to add a plein air event to the festivities. Thirty artists from across the country are invited to Telluride to paint for a week, followed by a collectors auction and a public sale. This will be my third year participating in this show.

So, right now I'm busy getting organized (painting supplies, frames, canvases, easel, etc), and packing, and doing laundry, and making lists for my husband. Friday I'll do a 12 hour power drive to Santa Fe and spend the night with friends, then drive on to Telluride on Saturday. I am taking my laptop so I plan to post while I am there. Until then...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Summer Evening

A Summer Evening - oil 5 x 6
Last evening I was looking out the window at the long twilight, safe in my air conditioned envelope. It seemed so quiet and still. Then I went outside to take a closer look, and what a racket! Bird song punctuated the steady hum of insects, crickets chirped, the cows in the next field chimed in and the whole landscape was alive with the neon trails of fireflies.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

One Summer Morning

One Summer Morning - oil 6 x 5

The other morning I was out early. We had rain the night before and there were still storms to the west where the sky was a dark blue grey. In the east, where the sun was coming up, the sky had an eerie greenish cast that bathed the landscape in a veil of light I had never seen before. It felt like the world was on the cusp of changing into something else- I know that sounds a little over the top- but there it is.

This is the first small painting I've done in quite a while-it was such a pleasure to do after working on larger pieces for weeks.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Another New (to me) Art Blog

I've just discovered that my friend Steve Worthington, aka Bunny Boy (you'll see why) has a blog. Steve, a wonderful animal sculptor, is a transplanted Brit living in Santa Fe with his lovely wife, Meridee. Within about 5 minutes of taking up sculpture a few years ago, Steve had been invited to join the National Sculpture Society, juried into the prestigious Loveland Sculpture in the Park show, and had several galleries showing his work. He is a wonderfully creative guy and his web site and blog are highly entertaining. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sunset Reflection

Sunset Reflection - 30 x 40 oil
Available at Hildt Galleries, Chicago

I've had the opportunity to work on some larger paintings these last few weeks. Its been a treat. Unfortunately, this image doesn't do the painting justice- the subtlety of the glazes in the foreground and changes in color temperature just don't register. Anyway, working large has been a goal of mine for several years but this is the first real opportunity I have had to paint this large in quite a while. It presents a whole new set of challenges , but I'm hooked! Now I'm dreaming of 48 x 60 or 60 x 90!

Friday, May 30, 2008

A New Art Blog

My friend Jane Fulton has recently started a blog. Jane lives and paints in Laguna Beach (tough duty,eh?). She is a dedicated plein air painter and I think you'll agree that her little beach paintings are wonderful. Click on over and take a look.

Friday, May 23, 2008

When Worlds Collide

As some of you might know, I practiced law for many years before becoming a full time artist. A couple of months ago I got an email asking if I would do an interview for the alumni magazine of my law school alma mater. I was a bit baffled about why they wanted to profile someone who wasn't practicing law anymore but the Communications Director assured me he thought it would make an interesting profile. Hmmmm. So, I agreed, and then sort of forgot about it until an old law school friend emailed me today to say the article was out. I think its well done, really and does a pretty good job of explaining how I got from Point A (law school) to Point B (full time artist), although that transition was a lot bumpier than described.

The article isn't on the web, although it will be eventually. Here it is, if anyone's interested in reading it. If you click on it, it should be big enough to read.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Art & Critique Feature

I am happy to say that a feature on my work appears today on Elijah Shifrin's Art & Critique here. Thank you Elijah!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Afterglow - oil on canvas 24 x 30
Available at Hildt Galleries, Chicago

Here is the second painting of the "pair". I had planned to post them side by side but Blogger doesn't seem to want to let me do that. But, hopefully, they do read as complements to one another, as intended.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Twilight Field

Twilight Field - Oil on canvas 24 x 30
Available at Hildt Galleries, Chicago

Here 's one of several larger pieces I have been working on over the last few weeks. The gallery asked me to do a "pair" of paintings- which I have never really tried to do before. The idea is that these two pieces would be somewhat similar, complement one another and be framed the same- they could be sold as a pair or individually. Sounds simple, right? Well, it turned out to be much more difficult than I anticipated. Unlike a diptych where the same composition flows from one canvas to the other, these images needed to be separate and distinct, yet enough alike to "hang together". I decided to use generally the same point of view and thus horizon line to help hold the two images together, as well as similar color harmonies. The second piece is not quite finished but I'll post it in a few days.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Evening Sky

Evening Sky
10 x 10 Oil on panel
Please contact me if interested in this piece

The last few weeks I have been hit or miss, mostly miss, in my posting schedule. There are lots of good reasons- trying to get a group of larger pieces completed for my Chicago gallery and some personal stuff- but do feel guilty when I let it slide.

I've been having a problem lately with varnish. It seems like every time I varnish a painting I end up with lots of little bumps and debris on the surface that I didn't see before I varnished. I haven't changed varnish- I use Gamvar made by Gamblin- but I have changed my painting methods quite a bit and I've started using gessoed panels in addition to canvas. So I figured there was some technical voodoo at work. I went to the Studio Notes on the Gamblin web site for help. This is a great resource for painters- lots of technical information. I read their article on varnishing and then sent an email off with questions. Within 24 hours, as promised, I received a helpful email from Scott, who helped me pinpoint the problem (dust!) and gave some suggestions as to how to prevent or fix the problem. So today my husband constructed a little canopy under which my paintings reside while the glaze or varnish layers are drying- it was either that or build a new studio which is not in the same building as his shop. The canopy seemed like an easier solution. In addition to strictly technical advice, Studio Notes also has an interesting article comparing direct and indirect painting methods and the art historical context for those methods.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

April Moonrise

April Moonrise
Oil on panel 20 x 24
Available at Hildt Galleries, Chicago

A couple of weeks ago there was a spectacular moonrise. I did a small painting of it but wasn't really satisfied. So I made a few adjustments for this larger piece and I think I captured that brief moment when the sun has set in the west, the moon is rising and night is falling.