Changing is not easy

I know my style of painting is changing because my way of feeling and thinking about painting is changing. Its not easy. I’ve been painting a lot but nothing that feels good is showing up on the many newly painted canvases in the studio. I’m trying not to get discouraged or stuck. Here is what I like to do when that happens: Invent!

Invention #1

Recycled materials plein air brush holder

Recycled materials plein air brush holder

I sewed a flat holder for my brushes to travel in but it was more like a sail once I got it clipped on my plein air set-up. So I’ve been thinking about what I could use to make a sleek one like the other PAAC plein air friends have. I didn’t want to shell out a lot of $$ and also want to use stuff I save and have around the studio and garage. Voila! Old mailing tubes and some construction adhesive plus a cord = brush holder. I painted it and added a Velcro and webbing strap to keep it closed inside the backpack.

Invention #2

Recycled cardboard canvas holder

Recycled cardboard canvas holder

This is a canvas holder for wet boards. I had a couple spacers laying around from a RayMar holder I have. But it only holds up to 8″ x 10″ boards. So I used the spacers and put them inside a fruit box I cut down and patched the front together with more cardboard. (Can you guess where I get my dog’s food?) A bit of packing tape and some industrial strength Velcro were all the supplies I used. I can put 6 – 11″ x 14″ canvas boards in it and carry it. I didn’t put on a strap handle as I thought that was overkill.

I felt like I was doing something to improve my craft, yet not putting paint on canvas. I also was thinking and processing what is going on inside myself while working. I spent a couple hours total on these two inventions and ended my day in the studio. I feel better today and have a clear head, ready to get painting!

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Daily Paintworks

I am giving it a try! I want to paint a painting a day (5 days a week) and sell them online at Daily Paintworks.

I’ve painted 5 already but there is a problem with a few of them, which I hope to get to later today or tomorrow. I want to post my best work and letting a painting “ferment” for a few days helps me with that. Also getting some great feedback from my artist friends is another way.

So here I go……. More later on what daily painting is feeling like to me!

Cathedral Peak, a 8" x 6" oil painting that I have on Daily Paintworks.

Cathedral Peak, a 8″ x 6″ oil painting that I have on Daily Paintworks.

Thoughts on Plein Air painting, the weather and good gear.

I consider myself a hardy person. After all I am the incident commander for West Elk Mountain Rescue and we go out in the wilderness areas and national forests in Gunnison county looking for lost persons all year around. I dress appropriately and have great all-season outer wear. I also walk my dog every day of the year, no matter what the weather. (My neighbors tease me about dog walking in the dark on 10° winter mornings.) I am usually prepared.

Today was almost no different as far as me being prepared for the weather. I went to join the group of PAAC painters in Montrose, CO. Myself and my faithful companion, Tova, met with several other painters at Baldridge Park along the Uncompahgre River. I set up my plein air kit and it seemed like it was going to be a lovely day. Warm, sunny, calm. Tova even took a dip in the river and spread out near me for a sun bath. Seemed a perfect Plein Air painting day.

HAH! About 1 1/2 hours into it, someone flipped the wind switch. At first it was just a few gusts but after about 20 minutes, dust started pelting me and my easel blew over a couple times despite the anchoring.  My backpack with stuff in it blew over. My little table was lifted up a bit, but I caught it in time. I had taken my heavy Carhardt jacket off and it was blowing off, too. When a wall of dust launched itself at me and embedded about a pound of gravel into my wet painting, I packed stuff up and called it a day. I noticed a few others were doing the same as we were all spread around the park.

My wet oil painting was not prepared for the weather. Tova wasn’t too happy about it either, she kept nose punching me and heading towards the path to leave and then looking back at me like I was crazy. I think I left in just in time. By the time we made it home to Paonia, it was grappling (snow pellets or soft hail) with about 40 mph winds.

Dust storm in Montrose, CO

Dust storm in Montrose, CO

Very windy!

Very windy!

I was really concentrating on my painting and somehow the weather didn’t bother me until the dust turned to sand and started to interfere with the actual painting. Call me nuts, but I think it added some interest to the painting. When I got home, I just had to clean up a few spots and knock off a clump of something (dust, leaf and dog fur-ball most likely). Plus add a few touches without overworking it. I also got a good photo of the location, pre-cyclone.

What was really great about the day was that I felt really confident about what I was going to paint, the process I was going to take and the confidence I felt about it all. This was the first time I didn’t feel totally overwhelmed & awed by everything and its beauty around me. I was able to pick out a specific scene and define its boundaries, look for the centers of interest, lay out the composition, values, focus and colors without much difficulty. I also was able to work pretty quickly having done a separate sketch, charcoal layout on the canvas board, under-painting, blocking in and laying down of colors, etc. in that short time.

"Baldridge Park Eddy" plein air oil 8" x 10"

“Baldridge Park Eddy” plein air oil 8″ x 10″

This little plein air painting gives me lots of information about the light, the feel and the energy of the location. Combined with the photo, I feel I could do a larger piece if I wanted in the future. It was a good day. Its not my best work, but its getting much better!

I learned a lot about my set-up, too. I need a good easel and palette. It seems like good equipment is important, even though I have a nice set-up, I think I want something more hard-core. I always have a hard time deciding to get good gear with anything. After I suffer a while, then something trips a switch in me and I make the plunge into good gear. True for me with hiking, riding, gardening; pretty much everything. I think I may spring for a Strada with tripod kit. Now to sell some paintings to pay for it………!

Maintaining a clean environment in the studio

Its important to maintain a clean environment in the studio. This keeps anything that could make you sick, like dust from some paint chemical or whatnot, from floating around on the air and getting inhaled.

You shouldn’t eat or drink in the studio. But most artists don’t follow that rule. At least put your tea mug on a different table than your brush cleaning solvent. And really, don’t eat in the studio. You could ingest toxins or get grease or crumbs on your artwork.

And the BIG ONE. Pet fur!  Pets should not be in the studio.

Tova, Enzo & Ruby

Tova, Enzo & Ruby

So after taking a look at my “helpers” who are always underfoot in the studio, you can consider me a hypocrite considering studio cleanliness. Yep, dog fur is everywhere. In my paints, solvents, on the painting, in my tea mug, in the corners and under foot. As a result, I have a special tool I use exclusively when this becomes a problem. So its all good. More or less.

Helpful hair removal tool

Helpful hair removal tool

If you ever get one of my paintings, chances are there is at least one dog fur somewhere on it. I like to think it will bring you good luck.

The process begins….

I am still engaging in a well thought out process for starting out my paintings. I really enjoy laying out my canvas with both the Golden Ratio and the Rule of Thirds. I also use other composition methods to enhance my painting and keep the viewer’s eye engaged.

Sketch of painting showing the layout lines.

Sketch of painting showing the layout lines.

After the sketch, then I make a monochromatic value painting with acrylic paints. After its dry, I then use the “notations” to add my color with the corresponding value.

Monochromatic Value Painting

Monochromatic Value Painting

I think its been making a huge difference in the quality of my paintings.