A Room of One's Own

Yesterday on social media I posted the video of my long-awaited studio completion. If you weren't tuned in to that, I'm including it below. Today I'm also sharing a few more photos and some details because I'm really excited to finally have a permanent home to create my work.

Yes, the garage-to-studio is complete! Hurrah! 😄 I feel as if I have been moving for nearly two years, because, well, I have. So just the very thought of not having to shuffle my supplies and equipment from one place to the other is a most delicious concept to me.

It doesn't have the cottage charm of my former studio,  but it's open and airy and has North light and storage, so I feel like I'm in luxury any way. Here are the bins we had built:

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We built them "up" to keep the work off of the floor, even making use of the space over the water heater. 

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I'm using the same hanging system for hanging art as I did in the last studio, using picture rail and a hook and rod system from Walker Display. But my favorite feature is the shelving that runs along the perimeter of the space. 

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This came about because I had a strange cinder block bump-out that ran along the walls of the garage, and the carpenter suggested capping this off with some shelving where I could perch works-in-progress, wet paintings, or other unframed art. He also ran this same shelving over the doors and windows I had framed in, in place of the the old garage doors. 

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This space is just slightly east of due north studio lighting. But as you can see, when the sun goes down I still need supplemental lighting. For that I have installed Daylight LED tube lights and tracks. At some point I may install a couple of additional short tracks over my framing and auxiliary painting area, but I have enough to get me up and running. 

In keeping with tradition, I maintain my usual impeccable timing, and have completed the studio just in time to leave for two weeks on a plein air painting trip to Maine for an artist's residency. So, as excited as I am for my new space, it will have to wait to get junked up until I return! 😉  Meanwhile, God and internet willing, I hope to blog from the road during my travels. 

Local fare

Doing the mom/artist thing is a constant juggling act. For that matter, doing the mom/anything thing a juggling act! I love painting the early morning light, but so many mornings, despite my best intentions, I cannot get out of the door to paint on locations as early as I would like.  It seems silly, but this can actually be a source of considerable anxiety for me. But, as with so many other lessons that parenting teaches me, I have had to learn to make peace with what is, and perhaps even embrace it. 

This painting occurred on such a morning. With a late start I decided to see if I could find something of interest to paint in my neighborhood. It's actually not that hard in Ashland, as it's a small railroad town with beautiful historic houses and lots of charm. 

"Bicycle Garden," Oil on linen, 10x10"

"Bicycle Garden," Oil on linen, 10x10"

If I'm not mistaken, this bike has been on this corner since the fall, in anticipation of the UCI Road World Championships that whizzed through our locality in September. In Ashland, decorated bikes were set up everywhere. Even after the races, many of the bikes have remained, their decorations changing according to the season. I have been eyeing this corner for a while now, enjoying the charm of it. When the daffodils popped up, that sealed the deal for me. 

Incidentally, you never know what can happen when you stand on a street corner in a silly hat, no makeup, and sweatpants. You just might encounter a photographer who works for the local paper!

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Winter Walk

Though I've been working on this painting for the past week, today seemed a good day to post about it. Outside it is a cold, slushy mess here in Ashland VA. It's a good day to sit by the fire sipping tea and reading art books--unless, of course,  you happen to live with a five year old. Then it's all snow angels, snow men, and snowball fights, until finally thawing out with hot cocoa. But there is something pretty magical about seeing the snowfall through the eyes of a child, and even a mere dusting must be thoroughly explored and exploited.

This painting was inspired by our very first snowfall in Ashland. My niece happened to be here visiting and she and my little daughter created some nice interest for the wintry setting I'm featuring here, which is located in the park that sits just behind our house.

I had a beast of a time photographing this painting for accurate color, and I didn't bother to do any color correction on the sequence of progress shots above. The colors are pretty accurate in the final shot of the painting below, however. It was a really fun and different painting for me, and I enjoyed all of the soft edges and the subtle color palette employed to create the mood.

"Winter Walk", Oil on linen, 20x24",  ©Jennifer E Young

"Winter Walk", Oil on linen, 20x24",  ©Jennifer E Young

Small but sweet; Ashland, VA

I sometimes feel that painting really small can be just as challenging as painting really large. Because of the level of detail, this little piece has a slightly tighter handling than the one I posted last week. There was a time or two during my process where I questioned whether I should see this through, but I am glad now that I stuck with it. This painting features the former train station for RF&P Railroad in my home town, Ashland, VA.

"Autumn in Ashland," Oil on panel, 6x6"

"Autumn in Ashland," Oil on panel, 6x6"

While it's an iconic view of the town, it is also meaningful to me for another reason. I gaze upon this approximate view on a regular basis, because my temporary studio happens to be located very near by.  Ashland is a small southern town that grew up around the railroad, so it has a pretty interesting history. In fact, while there is no longer a ticket counter at this location, the footprint of the interior has hasn't changed all that much, so it isn't hard to take a step back in time and imagine what things must have been like when rail was all the rage. Today, while the building now serves as the town's Visitor's Center, this train route on Railroad Ave. still sees a lot of action, and the location serves as a train stop for Amtrak commuters,  both north and south.

In Autumn Light

'Tis the season for small paintings! This time of year, galleries promote their artists with small works shows for the holidays. There is a good reason for this. Small paintings are a nice way to start an original art collection or offer a unique and thoughtful gift without breaking the bank. With that in mind, here is a little 6x6" painting in water miscible oils of a quaint little street in my home town.

"In Autumn Light", Oil on Board, 6x6" ©Jennifer Young

"In Autumn Light", Oil on Board, 6x6" ©Jennifer Young

This is a well known Episcopal church on Virginia Street in Ashland. I experimented with a lot of different angles, but they all seemed a little too much like "look at this church!"  and not enough like "look at this sweet painting".  Finally I found a composition I really loved. I wanted this to have both a sense of place and a sense of the lovely light of autumn. The leaves have been falling off in droves from all of the rain we've had. But at its peak, this humble little street displayed its foliage like a proud peacock, and I am really glad to have captured it. 

I took a couple of progress shots to record the architecture (har har) of the painting. They were a very few, both because this is such a tiny piece, and  because I forgot to photograph the first step, which was the monotone value sketch (done in my usual manner).  While it lacks the nuance of a larger, more developed painting, the process below shows my general approach to building a painting regardless of the size. In some ways, the simplicity of the piece helps to demonstrate the importance of creating a strong structure right from the start. 

Post- tonal sketch, I begin mapping out my shadow patterns. The darks act as the "bones" that hold the painting together. Even at this stage you can get a very good idea of the strength or the weakness of your painting. Are those values spotty? Disconnected? Or do they lead the eye in and around the painting to the focal point?

Post- tonal sketch, I begin mapping out my shadow patterns. The darks act as the "bones" that hold the painting together. Even at this stage you can get a very good idea of the strength or the weakness of your painting. Are those values spotty? Disconnected? Or do they lead the eye in and around the painting to the focal point?

What is it about the light family that makes us want to jump right in and start painting it? What representational artist has not said, "It's all about the light"? But here's the kicker. The light doesn't hold up unless you have the shadow to support it. Shadows first give the painting its form, then that gorgeous light can follow.

What is it about the light family that makes us want to jump right in and start painting it? What representational artist has not said, "It's all about the light"? But here's the kicker. The light doesn't hold up unless you have the shadow to support it. Shadows first give the painting its form, then that gorgeous light can follow.

At one time I painted a lot of "minis" (6x8" and under)  both en plein air and in the studio. They sold well, but I got really burnt out after a while and longed for more opportunity to massage my ideas into something more fully developed, more refined. But now, upon request, I am revisiting the concept of the "small stuff" for its own sake. I have to say, there is something to be said for the simple statement. It lends itself so well to  the direct approach, and there is a freshness to it that says, while perhaps not everything, sometimes just enough.