Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Trip out to California

Last week, Steve and I went on a five-day trip to Napa, Yosemite, and San Francisco (and everything in between!). Our original excuse to go was that I had a painting accepted into the OPA Western Regional Exhibition in Calistoga (Napa Valley), so we were going to the opening reception. But that ended up being a very small part of the trip. Having never been to California before, I was in complete awe of the diversity in the landscape and climate. I knew the landscape would be beautiful, but it was more than that... it was a breathtaking display of God's creation which offered unlimited opportunities for painting!

We did it right as soon as we arrived by renting a red Camero convertible and driving down Hwy 1 from San Francisco to Monterey and Carmel. That afternoon, I had the wonderful opportunity to set up to paint at Point Lobos State Park. It was so overwhelmingly beautiful, and I realized I still have much more to learn and explore in my journey as an artist. The waves crashing up against the rocks looked different with every single pulse, and it seemed a nearly impossible task to try and capture the movement of the water. But I tried, and had a great time doing it! Life couldn't get any better than this! When I experience moments like these, where my love for nature and art become united, I feel like I can let all the cares of the world crash against the rocks like the waves, while I stand on the rocks up above, free from it all. I can simply enjoy those moments where the ocean breeze hits my face and the only sounds that reach my ears are those of the waves and the birds overhead. Wow.

Where was Steve during this time? He out and about, climbing on the rocks and taking pictures of me while I painted. He got some really great shots!

Above: the finished painting: "Late Afternoon, Point Lobos" - 12"x9". I decided not to touch it up at all when I got home, because I really enjoyed the freshness and immediacy of this one.

Below: here we are in Yosemite. It was a cloudy (and later RAINY) day, but we enjoyed the beauty nonetheless. And I painted by the waterfalls until I got rained out.

Then there was Napa Valley, where we stayed for four of the five days. We toured several of the wineries and had some wine tastings (that's just what you DO in Napa!), but I also did some painting. And, I discovered a gem of a gallery in downtown Napa, called Quent Cordair Fine Art. They feature only "Romantic Realism," so a lot of figurative painting and sculpture. Steve and I lingered there for quite some time.

This was the only painting I had time to attempt in the vineyards (below) -- "Four Rows, Napa Valley" - 12"x9". You can see that the colors are different in the photo. The light was changing very quickly in the valley as in neared sunset, so by the time I stopped, everything had turned orange and pink from the setting sun.

Our adventures took us to San Francisco, where we saw the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz shrouded by fog. We explored Fisherman's Wharf, took a look at the city from Coit Tower, and strolled through Chinatown (my favorite!). It was a wonderful trip and a good source for fresh inspiration. Where will my art take me next, I wonder?


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Challenges of Self Portraits (from a mirror, or course!)

American Artist magazine is currently running a cover competition featuring self portraits, so that gave me some incentive to try my hand at, once again, the ever-intimidating self portrait done completely from a mirror.

Some things I learned from the experience this time around:

  • You have to cope with the model moving all the time. You'd think that since I look at myself in the mirror everyday, I'd have my features memorized. But this time it felt like I had to learn them all over again, in this specific lighting, under these specific circumstances. The lighting changes everything!
  • I asked myself the question: "Do I want to idealize myself or paint me the way I look, in this moment?" True to my classical-realist tendencies, I answered with both. The idealization was unintentional, as it is most of the time when I do a portrait. I have a real empathy for my subjects, especially this one! I also included some of the not so perfect things that make me the way I do... like the dark circles under the eyes, the big chin, and the fact that my mouth is always open when I'm concentrating on a painting!
  • You can still squint at yourself as a subject, unless you're working on the eyes. :-)
  • You can only look at one eye at a time! So, I had quite the challenge making sure my eyes in the painting weren't focused in two different directions!
  • Each self portrait should be different in some way from the last. I wanted this one to include at least one hand (mission accomplished, in natural window light, with the addition of my easel and canvas inside the composition.

Self Portrait by the Window - 15" x 14" - oil on linen

I also realized (and this was completely unplanned) that in my self-portrait and the portrait I'm working on of my husband, we are wearing the same color shirts. Weird. I'll post pictures of that one soon.

Meanwhile, here is a picture from this morning's 2 1/2-hour painting excursion at the Dallas Arboretum. It was absolutely gorgeous out today, and I hope that while the beautiful fall weather lasts, I can make this a weekly thing. There are thousands of pumpkins out there right now, as well as azaleas, roses, and chysanthemums. It's just beautiful!

I may tweak this a little more in my studio, but here is my rendition of the Poetry Garden.

"The Poetry Garden" - plein air painting, in progress


Saturday, October 1, 2011

New Plein Air Sketches

I have been doing more plein air painting, now that the weather is finally cooling down. Here are a few little studies, the first three of which are from the nature preserve that is within walking distance of my house. Because the rocky stream curves and bends so often, there are countless potential paintings waiting to be created just in this one small area.

I went out with my painting students on a couple different occasions and created these sketches.

8" x 6" study - 1.25 hrs

7" x 9" study - 1.25 hrs

12" x 9"study - 3 hours

This last one was painted at Lake Lavon in Wylie, Texas. It was about 95 degrees, with mid-day lighting, so all in all, VERY uninspiring. However, I decided to give it a shot. At least I had fun!
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