Okay, enough of winter already. I don't know about you but my winter was totally nuts. Not that spring will be less nuts but at least they will be warm ;-). Family matters have kept me from doing much painting, but here and there I have worked on this 14x18" piece, revisiting a familiar theme and experimenting with brushwork and soft edges:
Technical difficulties on my blog last week didn't exactly create a seamless experience for my first auction. But I'm trying again with a new feature that I think will work much better. This week's auction is a sweet 6x6" Provence landscape.
Click over to the auction page for all of the details. Or if you simply can't wait, start bidding in the sidebar to the right of my blog! Congratulations to Pat H. for winning this auction!
We are traveling next week in advance of the Thanksgiving holiday, so I am limiting my sizes in the studio to avoid having a half-finished or unresolved painting when we come home. Here is a little 9x12" painting of the Val d'Orcia , set high up on an olive grove. The scene then slopes down to a Tuscan farmhouse and then back up to the hillsides beyond.
"Benvenuti in Toscana" Oil on Canvas, 9x12"
I plan to do a few smaller works like these over the next while to serve as studies for possibly larger scaled paintings. I liked the idea of undulating rhythm as this painting leads the eye up and down the hillsides. And while I am happy enough with it on a small scale, I'm undecided if I will attempt it in a larger rendition. For now I think I will move along to one of the other compositional ideas that I have cooking. Hopefully I'll have more along that line by week's end.
Happy New Year everyone! Ok, so I know I am a tad behind, but this is my life right now!
"Wildflowers in the Grove" (Tuscany) Oil on Linen, 20x24"
This is one of a few paintings I had gotten to a point of 80 to 90% complete and then set aside for- like- ever! Even though baby E. is now 6 months old, sleep is still the most precious commodity at our house. Yes, I know--excuses, excuses! But I never knew what a challengeÂ this life-change would be on creative work. So hats off to creative people everywhere who still manage to "do their thing" with a baby at home! (And while I'm at it, any tips?)
I had to finally table the Venice painting I'd been working on in my prior post (before Christmas- ack!) I'll come back to it at some point soon, but progress was really slow and it got to the point where I had looked at it for so long that I couldn't "see" it any more. So for my own mental health, and to feel like I can still complete *something* in my life every now and then, I did the old switcharoo and returned to one of my favorite subjects- Tuscany in springtime.
Hubby and I discovered this olive grove strewn with wildflowers on a well-remembered drive one day in the beautiful Val d'Orcia. It does my spirit good to meditate on that day of abundant sunshine, especially when we are in the midst of a mostly gray, soggy winter here in Virginia.
If you're tired of French paintings, don't read this post! I've been on a roll. Here's another one of the Dordogne, with my favorite light and a play of long shadows:
"Dusk Approaches" Oil on Linen, 20x24"
The paint is thick and it's still a bit soft, but if it sets up enough to receive a retouch varnish, I may include it my show of French works that opens next week. This new piece was done on a rather rougher weave linen than I'm accustomed to using, but since I'm trying to economize, I'm working my way through the art supplies I have on hand (rather than justÂ ordering more of my 'preferred' materials.)
The linen is a quality product, just not as fine a weave as I normally like; so up to now these canvases have been collecting dust. It came stretched and pre-primed, but I did add a couple of extra coats of gesso beforehand (with sanding in between) which helped to smooth the surface a little. But still its grip on the paint was significant, so some use of the palette knife came in mighty handy.
One of these days I will do a serious update to my website and post my new paintings there as well. But in the meantime, please contact me for purchasing info.
"Tuscan Patchwork", Oil, 6x8"
Not much painting this week. After briefly traveling to Texas for a long weekend celebrating my mom's birthday (happy 80th Mom!) I returned to spend the week FINALLY tackling the mountain of paperwork I've had on my "to-do" list for some time.
I used to think I was pretty organized in my art business, but lately I feel like I am forever playing "catch up". There was a time during my studio move when I was literally operating out of boxes. But I'm all set up now and I really can't blame my floundering on the move any more. The only explanation I really have to offer is that during my little break from the routine I'd set up for myself, I developed the bad habit of....well....not having a routine!
"White Road in Val d'Orcia", Oil, 6x8"
I recall a conversation I had some time ago with a gallery owner. I was admiring the work of a fellow artist in the gallery and commenting on how much this artist's work had grown and matured. The gallery owner agreed. They were good paintings, and popular with collectors too. If only they could get the artist to give them more work!
As it turned out, the artist had just recently changed from being a part-time painter with a day job to being an artist full-time. Only, this person was anything but, watching movies, surfing the net--doing most anything rather than painting. According to the gallery owner, ironically, once given the luxury of unlimited time, the artist's productivity plummeted. I could understand this.
So many artists I know can so easily get into the habit of working toward deadlines. But when no deadline looms, (no shows, openings, classes or other projects on the horizon) their commitment (and often their work) can languish. I'm sure all working artists with kids and/or day-jobs everywhere are playing the world's tiniest violin in sympathy! But there is something to be said for having externally imposed time limits.
Of course there are many possible reasons why artists don't create (such as emotional constraints brought on by fear, insecurity, depression, etc.) But when I had a day job, I was forced to carve out a finite amount of time in which to do my creative work, and looking back I am amazed at how productive I was. I remember being up until 2 a.m. painting, even after a full day of work at the bank, going to the gym, showering, and scraping together some dinner (I also remember being single then, and younger too!) Of course, I lamented not having more time to paint, but at the same time, my time limitations lit a fire under me to make the most of each window of opportunity.
But once I started working full time at my painting, I, too, languished for a time due to complete lack of structure and many, many distractions around the home studio. Being the ADD sort that has many other interests doesn't help! What did finally help me was that I began to structure my business in such a way that it set exteral limitations and schedule requirements. But I may have overdone it a bit. I traveled a lot, I maintained a rigorous work schedule to supply work to the 8 galleries I was working with at the time. And when that wasn't enough busy-ness for me, I taught classes, maintained my website and blog, and eventually opened a studio-gallery with montly shows.
But here's the thing. Even though for a while, the money was good and the trips were fun, ultimately this "system" didn't work for me either. Everything was urgent and important, and constantly being in emergency mode was like going from zero to 100 with no brake in between. And you know what can happen when you speed along at 100 miles/hour? Crash. (Of course you can also crash going 20 miles/hour, but it doesn't hurt nearly as much.)
A part of me began to realize what I was doing, so I began eliminating again. Fewer galleries, fewer trips, and eventually letting go of the downtown space and again setting up a home studio. But what I hadn't realized (or had forgotten) was that eliminating much of the externally imposed deadlines and obligations without creating an internal structure to replace it would leave me feeling more lost and disorganized than "free."
Many of you readers out there are probably familiar with Stephen Covey's book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It's become a real classic in the business/success genre, and I'd heard his audio version many years ago but had rather forgotten about it until recently. My favorite part of the book is "Habit 3: Putting First Things First," which includes his famous "Time Management Matrix":
|Quadrant I (crises, deadlines)||Quadrant II (planning, relationships, R&R)|
|Quadrant III(interruptions, some calls, etc.)||Quadrant IV(trivia, busy work, time wasters)|
According to Covey, Quadrant II is the place where "successful people" spend the bulk of their time. This Quadrant is filled with proactive things like planning and prevention, as well as growth activities like relationships and recreation (and many creative pursuits!) Instead, Quadrant I tends to be where most people spend their time (crises, deadlines, etc. --AKA emergency mode.) I don't think I'd be too far afield if I said that there are many artists who hang out in this quadrant. I've seen it in myself, and I have known many artists, both professionals and beginners who do not even work at all unless they have an external deadline to work toward (art exhibit, workshop, etc.)
Having externally motivated goals isn't always a bad thing. But, at least for me, it's dangerous if it becomes too much of a habit. In fact, some of us can get so addicted to emergencies (ahem!) that we tend to put off Quadrant II activities until they become Quadrant I activities. And then we get so freaked out and exhausted that we escape to Quadrant IV!
If you're still with me, I'll tell you what all of this Quadrant stuff has to do with art (or at least my art.) Pretty much every goal I have as an artist and as an individual has associated tasks that can ideally be categorized as a Quadrant II activities-- from health goals like proper diet, exercise and adequate sleep, to artistic goals like x number of plein air paintings/ week, and things like experimenting with different mediums, subject matter, or techniques. And if the tasks are managed properly from the get-go, they need never become "urgent" Quadrant I's.
Quadrant I stuff happens. Sometimes even in spite of their best efforts, people lose their jobs, get sick, or just plain forget to deal with things. But while not every emergency is predictable or preventable, I am fortunate to be able to say that, at least at this time, many of them are. I can prevent stress by getting adequate sleep and exercise. I can prevent freaking out before a show or a workshop by planning and/or preparing for it with a calm and steady production flow in advance. I can position myself for success and future opportunities, even if right now business has slowed. For me, the most obvious path to keeping myself focused on important things before they become urgent, is to create a daily schedule that whittles away Quadrant I and includes as many Quadrant II actvities as possible. I've mentioned this before, but here's the key; you gotta stick to it! In short, it's called discipline. And the last time I checked, discipline requires commitment, not just saying "I'll try."
Ultimately the whole art/artist thing wreaks to high heaven of Quadrant II. I'd venture to say that even for those of us who depend on their art sales as their sole source of income, the vast majority of artists are doing their work first and foremost out of love for it. After all, if it were just about the cash, there are many more efficient ways of making more money in less time.
Will we die without being able to create our art? Will others die without being able to experience it? Well, in reality art doesn't have that kind of urgency. But if life is to be truly enjoyed, we have to move beyond merely surviving to thriving, which for me includes being uplifted, challenged, or inspired. That's the benefit of art, and in that way, it is so very important.
p.s. By the way...I did manage to eek out a couple of small Tuscany studies, playing with the idea of pattern. You can now see purchasing details for these and the other two small paintings mentioned in my previous post by clicking here.
ThisÂ new paintingÂ just flowed. I finished it last weekend but couldn't photograph it until the sun came back.Â This painting is actually a larger, more developed piece derived from a plein air study I did last spring in France:
Here is the study:
Even though I took tons of photographs of this beautiful spot when I was there in France, I must say, having already done a memorable study of this scene helped me tremendously. The photos, even when edited to reveal more of the depths of the shadows, could not compare with the information I got from my little study.Â
I was inspired toÂ work this painting out into a larger format after watching a really excellent DVD by Kevin Macpherson called "Winter Escape". This is a longish, 2 part DVD that is probably only fascinating to artists. To everyone else it might be a bit like "watching paint dry", so to speak. But art videos are a great for me especially on a cold winter Sunday duringÂ football season! I have only had a chance to see part 1 of the DVD so far...Kevin really takes his time in this one. But to me, it was great to see a fairly large painting develop stroke by stroke, with good explanations of his thought processes along the way. Throughout the process, he gives good explanations of how he uses his plein air studies to capture his in-the-moment responses, notes of color and light effects on site.
Â Now, there are lots of plein air painters who will pooh-pooh studio work (for landscapes). And while I do think that the best thing I've ever done for my landscapes is to take my easel outside for the direct experience, it just isn't always practical in terms of weather issues and size restrictions. An art studio is essential to me as it allows me to develop larger works and toÂ experiment and expand on my ideas.
Macpherson seems to agree. Although he is known as a plein air painter (and rightfully so--he probably has thousands under his belt by now) he uses his studio in just this way, taking his studies and experiences he's gained on site and using them as jumping off points for his larger more fully developed work.
It was interestingÂ though, to see how, because he has traveled and painted this landscapeÂ so often, he has so integrated his outdoor experiences to the point that he hardlyÂ referenced the photo he took. He mostlyÂ used his plein air studies (neither of which, by the way, exactly represented the larger painting he was creating on his easel.) The easel painting, was a compilation of elements from two or more plein air pieces, so I liked seeing that in no way did he feel the need to be literal. Rather than feeling bound and limited by one photographic viewpoint, he used his experience, memory, his studies, his beautiful brushwork and gorgeous color to conjure up his emotional response to the place.Â Â Ah, now that is painting!
As for me, my painting developed pretty quickly with the use of the study. I knew I wanted more sky in the larger painting, so I used a combination of a couple of different plein air paintings, plus my photos from the site in France to determine my layout.Â Where the photos are useful to meÂ is that they can help to work out composition and form. But information about the color notes and the light were gained from my plein air experience. The other added bonus was that I nearly felt transported back to my original experience, (which was a real joy) much more so than painting from photos alone. That is no small feat too, consideringÂ I'm painting in what amounts to a glorified closet right now and outside temperatures are in the 30's - 40's.
If I were not such a cold weather wimp, I would be painting outside even now. I can usually deal with the cold okay excepting my hands. Yes, I've tried fingerless gloves (useless) and hand warmers, but the minute my hands are out of my pockets, any amount of cold is actually pretty painful, and I can't paint in big puffy gloves! But, barring travel to some warm tropical location (not a possibility this winter, I'm afraid) painting from my plein air studies is the next best thing.
I've been taking some time off to deal with matters at home these last few, but I still have a few paintings to share from my France trip. If you've spent any time on my website, you might have noticed that this little plein air is a subject that is a familiar to me--poppies!Â In they south of France they are seen profusely in springtime. But, as with sunflowers and lavender, there is no precise way of knowing just when they will be in bloom. Sometimes the sunflowers come "early", or the lavender "late". Or sometimes any one of these flowers can be plowed over (in the case of poppies) or harvested by some farmer. (The nerve!)Â
Our group got lucky. It had been an unusually cold, wet spring up until just before we had arrived, and there were few to no poppy fields in sight. I was pretty okay with it, having painted them quite often (not to mention that we had no shortage of beautiful scenes to paint!) But most of the group seemed to have their heart set on it, and I was a little worried that they might be disappointed.
But we were lucky, not only because nature, at last, decided to cooperate, but also because the folks at Le Vieux Couvent remained on the lookout for our perfect field of poppies. And boy, did they find it--complete with two charming little cabins (cabineaux) set against a mountain backdrop. It may have been one of the prettiest poppy fields I've seen to date....or maybe the thrill of the others was just very catching.Â Here's my little plein air from that afternoon, painted around 5 PM or so.
"Dusk in the Lot Valley" Oil on Multimedia ArtBoard, 6x12" Click here for more info.
And a couple of gratuitous shots of us in the poppy fields:
I hope you fared better on your Valentines day than we did- we're dealing with that awful flu that's been making the rounds here in Richmond. But I've momentarily arisen from the dead to post a new "Art For Food" auction. How's that for dedication? 95% of the proceeds will be donated to the Central Virginia Foodbank. The title of this painting means "The Heart of Tuscany", and to me, the Val d'Orcia in Southern Tuscany was just that. I loved the way the Cypress trees punctuated the winding country roads:
"Il Cuore della Toscana"
Watercolor/Pen & Ink on heavy deckled edge paper
8x11" (image size 6x8")
This auction has ended, but you can see the latest Art For Food Auctions here!
This Tuscany watercolor vignette is the second in my series of charity auctions begun last weekÂ for the Central Virginia Foodbank. Opening bid is just $25 (providing the equivalent of 200 meals.) 100% of the proceeds from the saleÂ are donated to the CVFB. My husband suggested I call the auctions my "Art for Food" program (a cleverÂ riff onÂ "Oil for Food"). I like it :-) Please, if you'd like to be alerted to new auctions as they are listed, consider signing up for my auction alerts, or just subscribe to my blog.
"The Sloping Grove"
Watercolor/Pen & Ink on Paper
Click to bid
Bidding is closed for this item, but you can see available auctions here!
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Busy day today getting ready for the Thanksgiving holiday, but at 5 PM I'veÂ finallyÂ managed to find time to post!Â Â Today it's aÂ new Tuscany watercolor. I think I might be getting the hang of this watercolor thing :-).Â The vignettes are a great way to work out compositions on a small scale. I may just have to reinterpret this one into a larger oil :
"Terraced Grove, Tuscany" Watercolor/Pen & Ink, 4x6" Contact meÂ for more info!
We're getting ready to take a little Thanksgiving hiatus for a few, so if I don't have a chance to post again before I leave, happy Turkey Day! (Or if you are a veggie like me, happy carb day!)
Just a quick announcement that I have been in conversation with a workshop and tour organizer for a landscape painting workshop inÂ southern France in the late spring/early summer of
2008! It should be an incredible time to be there when the poppies are in full bloom. IÂ will supply more information as the plans become solidifed but for now, please get in touch with me with your contact information if you are interested in this workshop and I will send you the details as soon as possible.
Update: After much discussion we have agreed upon a projected spring/summer workshop in 2009 instead of '08. This will give us more time to do the proper planning and promotion. It will also enable me to fulfill the commitments I've made in relation to my new studio/gallery during its first year of business. I'll post all information and updates at this link and on the blog regarding the 2009 workshop as soon as they are available.
Today I present a watercolor/ pen and ink sketch I've done in preparation for a larger oil painting. This scene shows a small stone structure alongside a poppy-lined path leading to a Provincial farmhouse in the heart of Provence. The stone structure is one of many I saw while traveling through the Luberon valley. It looked to be a mini-borie. A borie is a stone hut commonly used in agricultural areas for storage or shelter. Some in this region date far back in history, but they have also been built in modern times. I don't know what use this mini-borie would possibly have held other than decoration, or even if it is technically considered a borie, but it did have the same kind of honeycomb or igloo structure:
"May in the Luberon" Watercolor and Pen & Ink on Paper Image size 6x8"
This is a painting of one of the small villages I saw while traveling throughout the area of southern Tuscany. I am not even sure if it could be called a "village". It was more a small grouping of houses plopped in the hillsides of the region called La Crete. The painting measures 24x30".
Here are two paintings I completed recently that I am having reproduced as limited edition giclee prints:
"Off The Beaten Path II"
"Along the Route to Dieulefit"
My giclee prints are offered in limited editions in a selection of sizes from small to quite large. They are perfect for home decor as well as corporate art, art for hospitals and art for hotels. I expect the prints to be released in January 2007. Please contact me if you would like to be notified when they become available, or if you would like any additional information about the prints. To see my current print offerings, please visit this link.Â For more information about the original oils shown here, please click on the images above.
Here is a paintingÂ of the terraced olive groves I so loved in southern Tuscany:
I actually thought I was finished with this painting last week, but there was something about the sky that was bothering me. I set it aside and worked on other things, but kept looking at the painting over time. The sky was previously painted pretty plainly. I was going for the golden light of evening but it just didn't turn out right. I guess my photo reference of this scene had washed out the sky, even though I knew it was taken during that beautiful early evening glow.
Then the other evening as I painted in my studio, I noticed the most gorgeous clouds outside of my window. I ran and got the camera and took some shots, and then just sat and watched the remaining sunset, noticing the color transitions of an evening sky.
With that new information I went back and addressed this painting again, and now I feel that it better states the mood and atmosphere that I was trying to express. This painting is gallery wrapped and measures 30x40". Please click here or click on the image for detailed info and purchasing information.