Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Yellow Iris Painting

In my painting life, I've decided to slow down a bit.  Exhibiting became exhausting and I didn't feel that I was "growing" so much in my art.  I find that it is very easy to become focused on selling rather than investigating.  I did not like that and I do not like that about the art "scene".  At the Lancaster gallery I was required to produce several new paintings for each month I exhibted while trying to work full time and raise teenagers.  While I did sell a few paintings, I felt that the quality began to suffer as I tried to meet deadlines.  I enjoyed several invitational exhibits over the last few years and now I just want to focus on the painting process. 

I've considered pursuing my MFA through one of the many low-residency programs, but the cost and the committment seemed prohibitive.  So I enrolled in a low-cost oil painting class at our local York Art Association with an instructor who taught me watercolor painting almost twenty years ago.  Nancy Wiseman is a fine artist, trained in the classical old masters' style.  I was a bit hesitant as I have been known for my loose style, but thought, "I like Nancy, so what the heck?"

I came in to a room set up with the typical still life arrangements of fruits and pots. I confess that I felt underwhelmed, having painted many of these arrangements in college.  I took my spot among many middle aged women and began to paint.  I was almost immediately chastised by Nancy.  She is quite the regimented instructor and I have a lot of sloppy habits.  Eventually I caved and bought the paint and the brushes that she recommended.  I also bought a balanced hardwood palette, handcrafted by her husband and her hand-blended maroger medium.  I toyed with her fruits and pots but confess that I did not really like the process or products.   

Nancy however, would not let me quit that easily.  She called me at home to remind me to register for her classes.  On the third round of sessions I began painting Nancy's flowers.  She is a wonderful gardener and brought in irisis.  She also photographed the irises because they would not last through the completion of the painting.  I began with a purple iris.  I worked on a second purple iris over the summer in my own studio.   One class, I forgot my reference photo for the purple and started on the yellow.  This was my third, and only completed iris at this point. I absolutely loved painting this.  I learned so much about this delicate process.  It took almost the entire ten week session (3 hours a week) but I think I can say that I am finished with this one. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Where's the Hookah?

I think this guy should have a hookah up there on my tomato plant.  He certainly has the munchies. This is the dude who has been eating my zucchini flowers, my sunflowers and my tomato flowers.  I also removed found three of his buddies. The first I captured for observation.  He did not survive.   Two were covered with eggs.  I mistakenly thought they were Tomato Hornworm eggs and destroyed them.  Later I found out they were the eggs of a beneficial parasitic wasp that would have protected my garden.    Of course caterpillars would not be the ones laying eggs.  What was I thinking?


As I stand upon the precipice of this new phase in my life, I have been full of strange thoughts.  I'm dividing up the past into increments.

It occurred to me that come September, I will have known my husband for thirty years.  We started working together and then began dating.  We were both twenty-four.  

It was a time when I left one lifestyle to begin another.  It was a time when I consciously abandoned an oppressive religious belief system.   I had to forcibly remove my self from a repressive lifestyle to do this.  

It took months of planning and soul searching  and reading  and praying.  I knew I wanted this but after years of indoctrination I was finally able to break away.

It was probably the single most important decision in my life.

It just happened that I was being wooed by my husband to be at the same time.  It was not considered acceptable  for me to "date" someone outside of this particular church.

I consciously defied them.  I was empowered with a belief in my self that was beyond anything I could have imagined.    I found the power to become independent, go to college and become a partner in this relationship.  We moved to a different town , got married and got to know each other for seven years before having children.

Now my youngest child will be moving away to attend college.  The last 21 years have been a blur of band concerts, science fairs, parent/teacher conferences, school board meetings, road trips and you name its.  I've tried to maintain my artistic life despite everything.

I can't divide my life into halves, but thirds are seeming to make sense.  My first 23 years were turbulent and troubled.

I think I actually began my adult life at 24.

I will be 54 in September.  I have no idea how much longer I will be around but I  am anticipating this new phase, whether it's a third, or a quarter, or an eighth.  Life doesn't occur in smooth even increments.  I just know I'm looking forward to this adventure.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I think I want to blog again.  I have so much going on at the moment. My youngest daughter graduated and we will soon be empty-nesters.  I will be starting a new job in the fall teaching younger students.  I keep finding myself at this weird intersection in life.  Beginnings.  Endings.  The beginning of a my daughter's college experience.  The ending of my "job" as a parent.  (The full-time kids at home part). The ending of my existence as a high school art teacher.  The beginning of my life as an elementary art teacher.

It is the beginning of a new kind of life without kids around.  It is the beginning of a sort of freedom.  Husband and I can run around naked if we want.  We can make love without being self-conscious when the kids are awake.

I will have more time to paint.  We will have time to do things.  Fridays and Saturdays will not be filled with Football games and concerts.  No more band boosters meetings.

I would like to immerse myself in painting.  I'm thinking of going for my MFA.  I have lots of ideas.

I would like to "reopen" this blog perhaps as a place to record what happens next.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Still Hibernating

Will this winter ever end?  I have decided to stay in hibernation for another week or so.  This was the view of my little bird feeding station outside of my rear window today.  My school closed so I had no reason whatsoever to venture outside.  I prefer to "look" outside on days like this  Even the birds were hiding.

I did snap a photo of a downy woodpecker who was not eating, but hiding from the snow under this little arbor   There were at least one dozen red cardinals out in the back fence row a little later.

I found that the zoom on my phone was no worse than the one on my Canon DSLR (from the doorway at least).  I had no desire to get my toes wet.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Excruciating Realism

Just For Fun I took a class in painting using the techniques of the "Old Masters".  This is not my typical style at all.

So why did I do it?

There are several reasons.

Reason #1   To see if I could do it.
Reason #2   To correct some of my bad painting habits.
Reason #3   To get out of my cave and paint with other people
Reason #4   To get out of my comfort zone.
Reason #5   The teacher is an old friend of mine.
Reason #6    To spend lots of money on fine sable brushes.
Reason #7    I secretly have a need for people to yell at me
Reason #8    To learn some fun "trade secrets"
Reason #9    To learn how to properly use a mahl stick
Reason #10  To drive myself absolutely crazy

Yes.   Sometimes I do crazy things.  This is my first attempt at this excruciating realism down to the water drops.   (I kind of like the water drops).   I did enjoy rendering the metal bucket but I despised  painting those lady apples.

This process is much more like drawing and less like painting to me.  I am used to large canvasses, large brushes, wild colors and thick layers of paint.   This method is quiet and meditative.  I suppose it is therapeutic to a degree.

I subscribe to the belief that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger so I am continuing this class for another session.  I'm actually learning a bit.  You can leave your love/hate comments.  I've already heard them from my children.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Yellow Crowned Night Heron

The last painting I "completed" was given as a  Christmas gift.  My daughter's private flute instructor of the past nine years is also the head of the York County Wild Bird Refuge   She has made it her  mission to protect the Yellow Crowned Night Herons who have made an artificial lake in the middle of York City their home.

It is quite an experience to attend the annual Spring Garden Recital surrounded by fledgling herons and other birds who are being nursed to health by Mrs. Deckard.   Her wonderful backyard garden in transformed into a hospital for injured and rescued birds.  While the young ladies are playing their flutes in the gazebo, wrens and robins and finches fly about, oblivious to the commotion taking place in the garden.

I had to research the heron that she loves, borrowing reference photos from birdwatchers along the mid-Atlantic seaboard.  The swamp flora  was partially my own garden and partially borrowed from another photo, but largely invented as Vincent Van Vogh seemed to visit me while painting this.  I was inspired by my visit to the Van Gogh: Up Close exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

I painted this over a discarded painting of my own garden which I attempted to paint en plein air.  The painting was abandoned after I was attacked by hordes of Brown Marmorated Stinkbugs who kept flying into me and my canvas.  I could not find any sandpaper so the ridges and textures remain from the abandoned painting.  (I like doing this, but I've often received criticism for it).  Please click on the picture for a better view!

This is quite a contrast to the style I have been studying.  I am taking a class using Old Masters techniques.  It is a lot of blending and smoothing and sanding, small brushes and discipline which I am not used to.   Not my typical style, but I am learning a lot.  I think it is always good to challenge oneself as an artist by exploring as many genres as we can.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

What's New in 2013

Nothing much to post about.  Last postable painting was the Yellow Crowned Night Heron. I gave it to my daughter's flute teacher.  I did post it on Facebook in it's not quite finished form.  If any one is interested, I will post it here.

I have been taking a painting class at the local Art Association.  I felt I needed to be in a class to get out of my "slump".  So I am taking this Old Masters painting class and it is a love/hate thing.  It is much tighter than I usually paint and I must say that I suck.

Nancy, was a watercolor teacher of mine some 15-18 years ago.  She is very good at this but it is not my thing.  Still I find the challenge enticing.   I've learned some nifty things and I might do a little more of this.
If nothing else, it will help me to teach my students.

On another note, I am going to start a new blog for my Photo 2 students.  I will post some photos for them to look at and critique.  (I might be visiting some blogs for these).  I will also be requiring them to create their own photo blogs to post and critique each other.   So please visit them if you think about it.  More details to follow.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Blank Canvas

My daughter gave me two blank canvasses for Christmas.  I think that is the best gift ever for an artist.  They are pre-stretched, pre-primed Dick Blick 16x20s.  I like to stock up on these, then I never have an excuse not to paint.

Think about it.  Blank canvasses, an empty journal, a 32G SD card.  The empty tools that need to be filled.  A gift of possibilities.

Someday when I am retired perhaps I will have time to stretch and prime.  I will have time and money to buy good linen canvas, but that time is not the now time. Now I need to have convenience so that when I have the urge to paint, I can.

It is a new year, a blank canvas, an empty journal, an SD card with a lot of space.  What will I do with it?  What will you do?

Have a great year filling your emptiness with possibilities.

Thank you Annelise.