Category Archives: Lessons Learned

A Cohesive Body of Work

Last October I had my first art show.  It was at New Seasons Market, and the space was large enough for ten 16 x 20 inch framed paintings. This October, I will be showing there again.  I took inventory of my paintings this summer and found myself at a loss for what to hang there this fall.  I recalled last year’s show and the factors that made it a success:

The ten paintings were all in a similar style (textured abstracts).
They had a similar subject matter (landscapes).
And they shared a palette of mostly warm colors.

Here is the display of last year’s “wax paper landscapes” at New Seasons Market.

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I was very pleased with the appearance of this group of paintings, not realizing that it would set the standard for all of my future shows!

Last month,  I found myself sorting through my paintings with this October’s New Seasons show in mind.  I certainly have a larger body of work now (I have painted close to 100 more paintings since last October), but it was a challenge to find ten pieces that looked really great together, in my eyes.  I’ve been taking classes and workshops and learning so many new things, and my painting portfolio represents all of these teaching influences.  I have loose paintings, tight paintings, abstracts, florals, paintings in black and white, paintings with lines, paintings with shapes, and numerous color charts I’ve made.   I have groupings of three, four, even five paintings that look good together, but a cohesive collection of ten paintings was proving to be a challenge.

I thought about those characteristics of last year’s show:  similar style, similar subject, and mostly warm palette.  I thought about the orange walls of the cafe area these paintings will be up against.  And I thought about the food that people would be buying and eating in the space these paintings would occupy.

With as much ambition as I could muster on a hot July day, I decided I would paint ten still-life paintings of food for the upcoming show.  Today I have finished number 8, and I am pleased with what I have learned.

Pepper Mill & Pasta

Pepper Mill & Pasta

I’ve learned the effectiveness of a limited palette.

I’ve learned that it’s ok to paint from a photo.  In fact, for some of these paintings I actually enlarged my reference photo and traced it onto the watercolor paper.

I have learned that individually these paintings tell a small story, but together, in their grocery store setting, they will tell an even larger story.

And I’ve gained the satisfaction of meeting a challenge I created for myself, and sticking to it without changing my mind.  As a painter who is always experimenting, it took discipline and focus to complete this self-imposed summer assignment.

All ten food still-lifes will be on display during the month of October at New Seasons Market, Orenco Station.  I hope to see you there!

New Seasons Market – Orenco Station
1453 NE 61st Avenue
Hillsboro, OR  97124

 

 

Blind Contour Drawing with Ruth Ellen Hoag

This past weekend I attended a three-day workshop with Ruth Ellen Hoag, who travelled from Santa Barbara to Portland to show us some ways to use line in our paintings.

Standing over a large piece of paper and holding our pencil lightly at the end farthest from the point, we drew a still-life of kitchen utensils without looking at the paper or lifting our pencils.  This exercise allowed the eye to take in information objectively, without judgement of what the line looked like.  I have done blind contour drawing before and absolutely love it.  After drawing the still-life Ruth had arranged at the front of the classroom, I made half a dozen blind contour drawings from reference photos I had brought from home.  Here are the two that I later turned into paintings:

 

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These drawings were traced onto watercolor paper, keeping two objectives in mind:  to attach the subject to more than two edges, and to pay attention to the negative space created by the edges of the paper.  We were reminded that negative space is as important as positive space and should be an opportunity to create interest in your painting.  I chose not to refine my wonky line drawings, as I loved the personality they brought to my subjects.  Here are the finished paintings from the line drawings above.

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I am a shape painter, so I wasn’t surprised to see my lines turn into shapes.  I did not alter my original blind drawings, and I like the personality of the lines that formed my son’s ear, the ice-cream cone, and the detailed flowers in the vase.

Here are some timed blind drawings I made last winter looking out the classroom window at Oregon Society of Artists.

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Try making some blind contour drawings of your own and see where they take you.  What will you do with the line in your painting?  Develop your own personality and let line be your guide.

Painting: A Series of Choices

IMG_3208I have recently returned from a three-day painting workshop with Ruth Armitage at Sitka Center for Art and Ecology.  Ruth is an accomplished Oregon painter and I enjoy her teaching style.  I travelled to the Oregon Coast to paint in her workshop last week, knowing she would focus on the elements of design as keys to success in a painting.  More specifically, Ruth encourages her students to commit to the dominance of one design element within a painting, choosing from line, color, shape, texture or value.

Over the three-day period, we completed three paintings of the same subject, choosing a different design element to explore each day.  Since my habit is to usually paint with shape and color, I chose to explore line on day one, texture on day two, and color on day three, working on Yupo paper the third day to punch up the hue of the primary and secondary colors I love to use. I didn’t plan on painting myself at this workshop, but a reference photo of me in a sunhat and a dress I really like kept my interest for the entire workshop.

The self-portrait shown here is a painting done in my usual style of shape-making and flat color, with the addition of collage to add texture.  I explored texture using magazine clippings and some of my hand-carved Speedy-cut rubber stamps.  It was so much fun to create!  I look forward to playing with texture some more, especially as a way to re-invent and invigorate some not-so-great watercolor paintings I keep in a drawer in my studio.