Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Collage Mania preview is up!

And what a feast for the eyes it is. Click here to start viewing the hundreds of lovely and inspirational paper and fiber collages, many by well-known artists. You may want to start a list because the sale begins on Tuesday, May 5th. The donations are very reasonable ($80 and $40) and all proceeds benefit the American Cancer Society. This is the last year Collage Mania will happen (unless some angel takes it over.) My two collages are on page 4. I blogged about them previously here and here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

From paint rag to fiber art

Instead of wasting acrylic paint when cleaning brushes or palettes, why not recycle it into fodder for fabric collage? I came across this idea months ago somewhere in the blogosphere... can’t recall where now (sorry!) Since that day I stopped using paper towels and instead use rectangles of white cotton fabric to sop up excess paint in whatever form. In addition to wiping brushes, unused paint left on the palette at the end of a painting session can be stroked on either randomly... ...or in a more purposeful arrangement (below left.) The resulting fabric has interesting marks and color combinations that are great to work with. Depending on the colors, the rag could be transformed into fallen leaves, swirls of water, tree bark, stones... the possibilities are endless!
Happy painting and collaging!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The yellow house again, in progress

I’m working on another version of the little yellow house from Avon park that has appeared all week. Many of my favorite paintings have strong linear elements such as this 1890 Vincent van Gogh painting, Thatched Cottages at Cordeville.Another example is Woman in a Purple Coat (1937) by Henri Matisse.So I added strong calligraphic lines with black in this version. It’s still in progress, but it’s more along the line (pun intended) of the style I’m going for, as opposed to the pretty stiff version in Monday’s post.
The funny thing is that I’m working like a dog to finish up the illustrations for a book project and theoretically should not be taking time to create other artwork... can’t stop myself, apparently!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Simplifying a Subject in Photoshop

A common objective in painting from life is to avoid getting hung up on the little details of the subject too soon (or at all). To further the discussion from my previous post, let’s see how we can use Photoshop to simplify a photograph. Below left is the original photo. It seemed a little dull, so I used Image> Adjustments> Levels to make it more contrasty (right.) The rest of these tweaks all started with the leveled photo.
Let’s posterize it to see how that looks, using Image> Adjustments> Posterize with 2 levels (below left) or 5 (below right.) Make sure the Preview box is checked to see how it’s looking while deciding which number to enter. The left image has become too distorted probably, but it’s interesting to see the darks go to black. The one on the right still has too much detail, methinks.
The experience of taking off my glasses to be able to see big shapes during the workshop gave me this idea. Below left has Filter> Gaussian Blur of 10 applied. That blurred image was then Posterized with 6 levels (below right.) That definitely gets rid of extraneous detail.Another excellent option is to use Filter> Artistic> Dry Brush (below.) The brush size was 10, the detail was 0, and the Texture was 1. If the preview image is too big, you can click on the - (minus) symbol on the lower left to reduce it. This does a nice job of smearing out the details. You can run the filter more than once if desired. It looks good to me as the amount of detail I’m interested in. To intensify the colors (right) I used Image> Adjustments> Hue/Saturation, with a +10 on Saturation. Of course, all this digital manipulation isn’t going to be possible if you’re painting outdoors. But if you also enjoy working from photographs in your studio, then...

Happy Tweaking!

Monday, April 20, 2009

The workshop was... a great experience

It’s been quite some time since I’ve taken an art class so my recent plein air workshop was a revelation. My fellow artist Joyce has written an excellent post that includes our workshop leader Larry Moore’s demo paintings. Naturally he makes it look easy. It ain‘t. Staring into the chaos of green otherwise known as a Florida forest and trying to make sense of it was perplexing, but on the other hand nobody will know later that the tree trunk wasn’t that shape. Painting a wooded scene definitely requires the key principle: SIMPLIFY.
Spending three days trying to paint what was in front of us made me realize how long it’s been since I‘ve painted anything truly realistically. Although we were going for a more impressionistic effect (as opposed to getting every detail) we still were striving to capture the actual shapes, colors, and values. I have no problem with drawing or mixing colors per se, but did discover a real deficit in my ability to see what the values were. It was helpful to take my glasses off and look at a totally blurry image.
For example, look at the palm tree in the photo above. When Larry was doing a demo painting, I would think “That green he’s using is way too dark.” But he was right. Sure, the palm tree is green, but it’s very dark against the sky and if you don’t paint it that way, it looks flat and artificial.It’s still probably not dark enough in my painting, but by the third day I was starting to get it. The front of the house is definitely not dark enough compared to the sunlit left side. And the white trim is way too light almost everywhere. Oh well, these things take time. Trying to get perspective lines and roof angles approximately right, make the lamp post perpendicular, plus mix a bunch of colors is a lot to juggle in a couple of hours!I remembered belatedly that my camera will take a photo in black and white mode, which could be helpful when on location. One little side effect of taking this workshop is that you start to scan the landscape while driving, analyzing the highlight side vs. the shadow side of this building or that tree. Must be an occupational hazard of the plein air painter!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Welcome to the Online Quilt Festival!

Greetings fellow quilting bloggers, thanks so much for stopping by. (If you’re wondering what the online Quilt Festival is, here’s the scoop.) This is High Tide I, which is about 42" X 80" and made from a variety of cotton fabrics. It’s the largest piece I’ve made so far and one of the more abstract ones. Click on the photos for a larger view.

It started out as this little sketch of swirling waves breaking on the beach in my art journal. I ended up adding a lot more lines to break up the shapes into smaller pieces. An opaque projector was used to transfer the lines onto a blue background fabric, which worked fairly well.

The fabric shapes were cut freehand, pinned in place, then glue-basted to the foundation fabric. The edges are raw and the outer 1/8" of each piece is left unattached so an interesting raised texture is created.

The quilting stitches create flowing swirls and wave-like shapes (view of back.)

I hope you enjoyed seeing this quilt... please come back again!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Bloggers Quilt Festival

This will be fun... it starts Friday, April 17 (tomorrow!) Inspired by her desire to attend a big quilt show, visit Park City Girl to find out how to participate. The idea is to post the story of one of your completed quilts, then go visit other quilters to read their quilt stories. And, there will be prizes.

See you around the blogosphere!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Garden books for artists + kids

Spring is the time to plant gardens or paint them (or both!) I came across this book that contains garden-inspired artwork from 100 different artists in a wide variety of styles using various media such as oils, acrylics, watercolors, and pastels. Under each image, the artist discusses the inspiration, design strategy, work process, and materials used.
The cover is shown on the left. It’s pretty dull, which may be why this is a bargain book on Amazon, marked down from $24.99 to around $6.50. A couple of other titles in the series are also marked way down. The full title is How Did You Paint That? 100 Ways to Paint Flowers & Gardens. Definitely inspirational! I have some notions about adding some fabric collage, stitching, and beadwork to the mix... stay tuned.

On the I.N.K. blog today, I posted 10 Reasons Why Kids Need a Garden, which includes a collection of several recent books about gardening for kids. To the left is one that didn’t get into that post, so here it is. Gardening with Kids is by Catherine Woram and Martyn Cox, with photographs by Polly Wreford. It has 35 projects plus garden-related crafts and games.

Happy creating, whether with art or dirt (or both)!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tracing an image with or without Photoshop

While getting ready for the plein air workshop last week, my friend Joyce showed me a wonderfully concise guide to the activity by artist Tom Brown. Originally created as a handout for his own workshops, he now sells it as a PDF online through his blog. His April 12th post gives the details of what it contains. One of the DIY tools he shows is how to make a simple “viewfinder” to trace the basic shapes and especially the perspective lines when painting outside.

First let’s try it in Photoshop. Here’s a not-very-sharp photo of our kitty Knickers lounging in the guest room. While she loves it when the futon is open, it does get in the way of my quilting activities.
In Photoshop, you simply make a layer on top of the photo and start drawing the lines with a hard round brush. To see how it’s going, turn off the photo layer (click the eyeball). As shown below, I’m not trying to painstakingly copy everything, just do a reasonably good job of capturing the important contours. It’s very easy to get the lines of the futon going in the right directions to create a convincing sense of space. I just noticed that the line of the floor meeting the wall is missing... oops!But what if you are somewhere without a computer? (Horrors!) The ideal thing is to develop the ability to look at a scene and put it on paper (i.e. learn how to draw from life.) But if you haven’t gotten around to developing that skill yet or are in a hurry, try this: get a piece of thin plexiglass at an art supply or hardware store (8" X 10" max) and a dry erase marker. Hold up the plexi, and start drawing. The drawing will be somewhat wobbly, but it still helps you turn the 3D scene in front of you into a two dimensional rendering. In case anyone thinks this is “cheating,” my response would be... so is buying paint in tubes instead of gathering rocks to grind into pigments. Or buying fabric instead of growing cotton and weaving your own. : )

As you can see below, Knickers had moved by this time. For some reason she is highly suspicious of many tools such as rulers, cameras, sheets of foam core, and heaven forbid, the ironing board. Anyway, what do you do with this scribble now, you ask? Use it as a stepping stone to create a drawing in your sketchbook, or if you’re plein air painting it’ll help you place the composition on the canvas, try alternatives, block in the main shapes, etc.
Rather than plexiglass, I actually used a lightweight sheet of styrene from a craft store, intended to make faux stained glass. It would add very little weight to an outdoor art kit, which is always an plus. It would be nice to add a 5-step gray scale, too. At the workshop I discovered that while drawing is not problem for me, mixing the right color AND value of paint was another story. More about that another time.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

I’m a finalist in the Quilting Arts 2010 calendar contest!

Wow, what great news to come home to after a week-long painting workshop! The list of finalists are on the Quilting Arts blog, plus a giveaway. This was my second time trying for the calendar contest... when I get a chance, I’ll post my non-winning entry from last year. A portion of it forms my blog header but the entire image has not been previously shown.

Getting back to the plein air workshop, my fellow workshop attendee Joyce Shelton has posted about it on her blog
, including photos of instructor Larry Moore’s demos. It was a wonderful experience but I’m debating whether to show my less-than-stellar efforts. We shall see!

Update on the calendar contest (4.13.2009): I had sent in two entries, but on the list of finalists it didn’t say which one they wanted. Turns out they want to see both... cool!

Friday, April 10, 2009

A workshop I’d like to take: Lynn Whipple

Since I have a May deadline for a book and am at this moment in the midst of a painting workshop, Lynn’s workshop is not in the cards for me this time around. But some of you might be able to attend so I wanted to mention it’s coming up at the end of April.

Lynn Whipple has been making amazing mixed media art for years that incorporate antique photographs and her witty drawing and painting. Her work has appeared in numerous magazines such as Fiber Arts and Cloth•Paper•Scissors, as well as several books such as The Altered Object and Art Making, Collections & Obsessions.

These books look interesting, don’t they? I haven’t seen them yet, but will check them out ASAP.

On Lynn’s web site, don’t miss the Ninnies... each one is more absurd and compelling than the last. Her studio is located at McRae Art Studios and the info about her Mixed Media workshop is here. If you’re in the Orlando area on April 25th, it would be a very worthwhile day of creating with an innovator in the contemporary art scene.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Plein air painter extraordinaire, Larry Moore

As I mentioned on Monday, this week is devoted to a plein air painting workshop held in Highlands Hammock State Park. It’s south of Orlando near Avon Park and Sebring. Today (Wednesday) we’ll start wandering through the wilderness dragging our painting gear, water, chairs, umbrellas... I suspect we’ll be forced to pare it down pretty quick. As I write this in advance on Monday morning, it is supposed to be in the 40s Tuesday night, so we’re probably shaking in our sneakers about now.

We’re lucky to have Larry Moore as our instructor since he has had a varied artistic career, working an illustrator, teacher, and now as a fine artist and workshop leader. And as anyone who knows him can attest, he’s a heck of a nice guy. My fellow artist Joyce Shelton and I have known him for over two decades and have even bummed some plein air gear from him for the week to try out. He has a studio in McRae Art Studios in Winter Park, FL. This page displays some of his beautiful paintings, many of Florida settings. He also has led workshops in Hawaii, California, the Grand Canyon, and other wonderful locations. His web site has more artwork, ga
lleries that carry it, plus info about upcoming workshops. To keep up with his latest activities check out Larry’s blog, adventures of a migrant art worker.

I read somewhere that Highlands Hammock park occasionally has signs of Florida panthers... wouldn’t that be something to see! I’ll post some pictures from the workshop next week.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Workshop week begins!

I’m taking a plein air workshop starting Wednesday with my wonderful artist friend Joyce (see her blog.) I’ll post about artist/teacher Larry Moore later in the week, but today was practice time. Larry was kind enough to lend us some gear since neither one of us has painted outdoors much. To get used to it and figure out what to take, I did some painting today. This photo was taken yesterday during the Winter Park Garden Tour. (It’s always fun to wonder through people’s yards looking at stuff!) Anyway, I loved how the bicycle was silhouetted in the background behind the geraniums.
Cropping it and using Levels in Photoshop for more contrast results in the image below. You can see a table and chair cluttering it up that I plan to leave out.Below, the values are blocked in with purplish paint. One of the other main reasons to practice today was to help decide which paints to use. The workshop is officially for oil painting, but I’m going to take Golden OPEN acrylics if they’re good to work with. They dry much slower than regular acrylics which allows plenty of time for blending on the canvas. Plus you don’t have paint drying into hard little buttons after five minutes on the palette.
Below is a close-up of the background painted in. The idea during this workshop is to stay loose and not try to do finished artwork necessarily. As you can see, I didn’t attempt to create the lattice or plant shadows on the wall and instead made them into more solid shapes to keep it simple. Maybe next time.
The final image is below, or at least that’s what I got accomplished today. I might play with it some more, who knows? It’s not too bad considering how little I’ve painted lately. I love, love, love these paints and have zero complaints about them at this point. I’ll still probably take some oils and watercolors just for the heck of it. We’ll have three solid days of painting so there’ll be plenty of time to experiment. It’s pretty pathetic to paint inside using an outdoor set-up, but one step at a time, right? Besides, how else could I use my computer to display the photo reference? I’m so green at plein air I can’t remember the type of gear this is...might be a pochade box. Anyway, it detaches from the tripod and folds up into a neat little box, and the wet paintings can be carried in grooves on one side. Very nifty. Joyce has another brand, so we’ll see how that one works. This one, the Easy L, has worked fine today, but we’ll see what happens out in the field.
I am SO looking forward to this workshop. It’s supposed to cool down into the 60s during the day and it probably won’t rain this time of year... should be perfect!

Update Monday morning: naturally after looking at the painting again there were a few things I couldn’t leave as is. I added the threshold, tweaked the French doors, fixed the wall/floor boundary, added the plant shadow on the front of the pot, tried to relax the overly stiff plant and toned down the bright yellow green. I’m really finished this time... hopefully.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Finding a color scheme in a photograph

Deciding which colors to use in artwork can be daunting at times. One great idea is to use a photograph with color combinations that speak to you. The image below is a detail cropped from a larger image. The complete photo along with dozens more donated by fiber artists for the “Inspired by Photos” Photo Hunt are available here. By simplifying the image in Photoshop or a similar program, it can be easier to see the hues. The image below was created using Filter>Pixelate>Mosaic. In the dialog box, make sure the Preview box is checked so you can see a live preview. Try various cell sizes... below is 25.
Below is a cell size of 50.
Below is a setting of 75. Some colors are lost as the cell size gets larger. In particular, I would most likely put the black and near white back in.Of course, you don’t have to use the scheme as is. Below I chose Image>Adjustments>Variations, then clicked on More Yellow. What’s nice about Variations is you can see several options at once to gauge which is most appealing.
An advantage of this process is the chance to break away from one’s usual color choices. So, start rummaging through your photos to find interesting combinations to try in your artwork. Happy creating!