Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Trip Home; Fresh Inspiration

I just arrived home late Sunday night from a week-long trip to Wisconsin. Emily and I drove up there together and spent some quality time with family, getting to see our brand new nephew (as well as our 2 and 4-year-old nephew and neice), our two teenage brothers, and our college girl sister, Cara, and our parents' new dog - all the while enjoying an escape from the 90+ degree weather in Dallas! Wisconsin has gotten so much rain in the month of June that everything looks incredibly lush and beautiful, and unlike Dallas, it cools down at night to a pleasant 65 degrees. It was wonderful to be out in the country again; my parents have 80 acres of land, complete with meadows, woods, streams, and a scenic bluff, where my siblings and I have countless memories of exploring, hiking, and rock climbing as kids.

On Thursday morning, I took the opportunity to climb our bluff once again; I got up at 5:30 a.m. and carried my art supplies up there with me. I was huffing and puffing by the time I reached the top, but the incredible view was worth the work, and I spent an hour and a half creating an 8x10 oil sketch en plein air.

Here's a view from the bluff facing north-west:

A view from the bluff

And my perch on the eastern cliffs, overlooking a neighboring bluff - with my French easel and plein air sketch.

My French easel and plein air 8x10 on the bluff

Painting up there was so fun, and truly peaceful. I can't wait to come back and do some more plein air.

The rest of the week was spent with my parents, my siblings, and my neice and nephews. 4-year-old neice Alayna and 2-year-old nephew Hunter were great fun to do some face painting with.

Face painting!

Hunter and Alayna as a zebra and butterfly


Emily even let Alayna paint her face! Perhaps there's another future artist in my family?

Alayna painting Emily's face

Well, maybe not!

Face painting...the results

To top the week off, I brought a puppy home with me! It's not typical for Steve and me to make such a big, life-changing decision this quickly, but to make a long story short, my brother Jake's dog had puppies back in December. My dad got one of them, and the rest, they tried to sell, but four months after they sold Bella, the owner decided she didn't want her, and they were forced to buy her back. This was all a week after they just had a new baby, and their house was literally becoming a zoo! Anna and Steve to the rescue - Bella is the sweetest, most angelic dog I've ever met. She's a beautiful purebred English Springer Spaniel, now six months old, and already pretty well trained. She also travelled amazingly well for the 17-18 hour drive back to Wisconsin - she didn't have a single accident!

Anyway, I'm sure Bella will show up in some of my artwork eventually. I tend to paint those who are close to me, and she is going to be my new companion. It will certainly be nice to have her around during the day when I'm alone in my studio.

Bella

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Monday, June 14, 2010

"Twin Arts," Part 3

The big project is coming along nicely. I think Emily's and my faces are just about done. I was shocked the other day when I stood on the opposite side of the room and looked at Emily's portrait. It's really her! And the fun thing about it is that her face is mostly in the shadows, so there are very few details. Meanwhile, the rest of her head and body are lit up by the light. My face is turned towards the light, while the rest of my body is mostly in shadow. It's an interesting dynamic...

The latest progress, besides faces, includes starting the palette, working on the carpeting, and the dresses.

Twin Arts - Early refining stage

And finally, Emily was able to come over and model for me! There are many subtle details especially in her back that I was able to work on. Here is a picture of the work in progress - I post pictures of the final results later.

Twin Arts - Emily on the model stand

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"Twin Arts", Part 2

Even though I have other projects going right now, I've been working almost entirely on "Twin Arts." Usually I have to move on to something else after several hours, because my painting needs time to dry. Well, this painting is so big that I can work on it in sections without having to set it aside!

With the block-in complete, and the addition of color, I started on a new layer that continues to refine my drawing, values, and color temperature, allowing myself to use more and more paint as I go so that my lights get really built up (although you won't ever see huge globs of paint on my canvases - I still paint relatively thinly!). Unlike the most traditional of classical artists, who focus on nailing their drawing before committing to color, I tend to correct things as I go...this is probably not the best way of going about it, but it seems to work for me. I keep working and working at it, and suddenly there's that moment where I step back and say, "I got it! Don't touch it anymore, Anna!"

Steve suggested the other day that I write a book some time about what goes on in my head while I'm painting. He's an engineer, by the way, so he's a problem-solver too - but in a very different way! At first this sounded like a good idea, because I might be able to explain my process a little more and what it means to be an artistic "problem-solver". But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that if I put down in words what goes on in my head while I paint, I'll only be adding to that well-known stereotype that artists are all lunatics. Hmmm...

Anyway, back to "Twin Arts."

Often when I paint young women or children, I sand off the face to paint over my initial layers and create a softer, smoother surface. I decided to do that with "Twin Arts" - here are the results after sanding. I wasn't afraid to lose my drawing - and probably could have sanded it a lot more. To be honest, I felt like a second or third go at the face would be good for it, anyway. (Self-portraits are hard!)

Twin Arts - Detail of face after sanding

You can see the start of the "new" face here:

Twin Arts - New Layer 1

And the rough blocked-in addition of carpeting, as well as the bottom part of my dress. I'm waiting to continue work on Emily (Music) because she can only model for me once a week.

Twin Arts - New Layer 2

And a detail of the face and hand. Still some finishing of the dress to do, as well as lots of softening on the face...

Twin Arts - New Layer Detail

More to come!
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Friday, June 4, 2010

"Twin Arts" Part 1

Last week I began my most ambitious project to date, a 48" x 40" double portrait of my twin sister and me (which I explain in last month's newsletter). This painting has been a long time in coming. Emily and I were actually apart for about two years after we graduated college...I was working in Madison, WI, waiting for my husband to finish school before we got married, and she was living out in Colorado as a flight attendant. Somehow God brought us back together again, a little over a year ago, and we now both reside in the Dallas area. The benefits of seeing her almost weekly have been extended to my art career, as she has modeled for me several times. This portrait is no exception, but I feel that it's particularly meaningful because she and I have something truly special. So, amongst my other projects and commissioned portraits, I've taken the time to begin "Twin Arts," and I am documenting my process all along the way.

Early stages (Block-in):

Twin Arts Block-in 1

Twin Arts Block-in 2

Twin Arts Block-in 3

Once the block-in was complete (using mixtures of burnt sienna, ultramarine blue, and white), I was able to get into the good stuff: color! I refine my drawing continually as I go...

Twin Arts - Adding color 1

Twin Arts - Adding color 2

Twin Arts - Adding color 3

I know that some painters can work long hours, but I myself find that my maximum per day is only 6-7 hours. Even then I have to take frequent breaks just to get up and walk away from my canvas, so that when I come back to it, my eye is fresh again. Yesterday at the end of the day, I thought my painting looked awesome. Then I came back to it this morning and saw at least a dozen things that needed immediate fixing! So it goes - the life of a painter is the life of a mistake-fixer!

I hope you enjoy seeing my works in progress. Artist friends, please feel free to ask questions about my methods, materials, techniques, etc.
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