One day this week in drawing lessons, I was helping a man draw a flowing creek when an “aha!” moment occurred.
I have often said that water is almost ALWAYS horizontal, and another student wanted to know how to discern the few times it is vertical. My breakthrough was the realization that the strokemarks reflect the surface plane of the water. If the surface of the water is horizontal, the strokemarks are also. If the surface plane is vertical, as in a waterfall or a breaking wave, the strokemarks are vertical.
To those of you who have been drawing for awhile, that probably sounds more like a “duh” than an “aha”. My excuse is this: verbalizing intuitive visual actions is actually much harder than just demonstrating those actions. To teach effectively, one has to explain both the why and the how, and that is impossible unless one knows those things. Duh!
A few years ago, Jack White (see Inspiration, part 2) referred to someone named Diana Botkin, and in the next issue there was an article by her! She wrote beautifully, and was clearly a wonderful person. (Yes, you CAN tell that by reading someone’s work!)
So, I contacted her to see if perhaps we are related. We married men who have the same last name, but, alas, we can’t find a connection. Meanwhile, I have learned so much from her – asking her technical questions, watching her market her work, admiring her discipline, loving her good character.
This woman is just incredible and her paintings of Northern Idaho and mothers with children are very very beautiful.
Here is her website: http://www.DianaMosesBotkin.com, her Daily Painters Gallery page: http://www.dailypainters.com/artist_gallery.php?artist_id=817 and her A Painting a Day blog: http://DianaMosesBotkin.blogspot.com
Why am I telling you this? Because Diana inspires me, and I hope that you too will be inspired by seeing her work!
This weekend we went to Mineral King to open the cabin for the season. We were all excited to begin summer. It snowed on the way up, snowed in the afternoon, and more snow is predicted for this afternoon and evening. So, I guess more summer will be revealed in the fullness of time. . .
When beauty appears, inspiratioin is spontaneous, easy and instant. The harder part of inspiration is motivation: what keeps me going, prevents me from quitting, answers my many questions, and pulls me through the dry spells? Most often it is people; they inspire me through encouragement, helpful criticism, and written materials. (And, I firmly believe that one must be an optimist to be self-employed!)
Art Calendar is the best magazine for professional artists that I have ever seen. Its focus is the business end of art. It is full of information by and about artists who are earning their livings solely by their art. Through it I have “met” several people who have changed the course of my career, from a pencilhead to an oil painter.
When each issue arrives, I immediately look for the article by Jack White, artist and author of books on marketing art. His wife is quite a successful artist also, probably because she is good (duh) and because Jack promotes her! Jack isn’t a highly educated man or a smooth writer but he is a great communicator. He writes sort of like President Bush talks – Texas is the common denominator there.
www.jackwhiteartist.com and www.senkarik.com are where you can find Jack White and his wife Mikki’s artwork.
Sometimes people ask what my sources of inspiration are. Most are probably asking about what gives me ideas for drawing – that is simple. My life experiences give me those ideas. When I was a kid, a teen and even a young adult, it was a challenge to decide what to draw. As I aged, the number of choices grew, and now, by the time I have sorted through all my ideas, there is hardly any time left to draw or paint!!
So often I have read biographies and artist’s statements that say “I have always been fascinated by light and shadow” or perhaps by “reflection” or “movement” or “textures” or “shapes”.
For me, the answer is simpler, and perhaps a bit of a cliche. It is BEAUTY! I am inspired by beauty! Sometimes it is natural and other times man-made, sometimes it is rustic simplicity, the way colors look together or the patina of age. Most often it is the way sunlight makes a normal object look beautiful. Once I had a job in a kitchen at a summer camp, and my coworkers would laugh at me when I would notice the beautiful color of iced tea, or the way the colors in the salad complimented one another. (But I am not scarred by the ridicule, so there!)
Now I think back to how I noticed colors, and wonder why I chose graphite pencil as my medium? Life might be full of surprises, but it definitely is full of questions!
Today I went to Sequoia and Kings Canyon Parks with two very dear friends, Sophie and Louise. Their extensive combined knowledge of these places, along with their senses of humor, made for a very fun day. Besides, it was hot at home, and quite pleasant up the hill, about 30 degrees Farenheit cooler!
Here is a photo that you might enjoy. In the “olden days” when I concentrated on pencil, I probably would have chosen to use colored pencil for this subject. Now, I am looking carefully at the light and shadow and the shapes and colors so that I can artfully dab the appropriate paint onto a picture and make people think I have painted dogwood. My painting guru, Jack White, says, “All realistic painters either work from photos or they lie about it”.
Here is how paintings look on the first day of their lives in my studio. (And Deanne, the same stuff is on those shelves behind them)
Remember that I said shows are about more than sales? I listen to those who visit my booth and learn from them. One said that she liked the Oak Grove Bridge (which sold – you can see it on the Oils page of the website) BUT (the “but” tells me to tune in carefully!) that she’d like to see it with less green around the edges. So I grabbed a couple of pieces of paper and held them up to block some of the green, and she said, “Like that!” She also said she’d like to see it smaller. (see? I knew people wanted small pieces!)
Now, I understand this is not a commission, but simply conversation. That bridge is so beautiful that I will probably paint it many times (series, series, series!), so why not try out her idea? Maybe she will buy it; maybe someone else will beat her to it and it will need to be painted again. Dontcha just hate that? (not!)
The other painting in today’s picture is an experiment for a friend who likes pumpkins. Actually, he likes them to be a little creepier, Halloweenish style stuff. Can’t do that – if I can’t see it, I can’t paint it! Besides, creepy just creeps me out. (duh) So why would I experiment for a friend who may not enjoy my interpretation? Because he is teaching me to play the bass guitar!
As Dad always said (over and over and over. . .) “Life’s full of surprises!”
Today I might have finished the Seatrain. There is no photo to show you, because it needs to be “framed”. And, I think that while I am “building the frame” (such funny mental images for using masking tape and slapping white paint on!), I just might find more things to fix. Because I am accustomed to the perfection of pencil drawing, the concept of “good enough” is hard to accept. I have asked 4 Joe and Jane Averages, and they all think it is wonderful. Hopefully I will have the courage to ask another artist and the strength to accept helpful criticism, or the grace to accept sincere compliments!
This is my palette for oil painting. It consists of 2 reds, 2 blues, 1 yellow and white, and all the colors I use are mixed with these 6. Before I started painting, I read articles, looked at books, and quizzed painters I knew. The ones that made the most sense to me were working from the primaries, mixing all their own colors. Several reasons are given: 1. Colors are cleaner, rather than the dreaded “muddy” look; 2. It keeps the palette less crowded; 3. It requires a greater understanding of colors and how they interact in mixing.
I think there is a bit of an unspoken snob factor here. There is some pride in being able to turn those basic colors into any color one wants. However, there is a color I cannot mix! So, I gave in and today on the Seatrain mural I used carbazole dioxazine violet. It sounds like something for killing cockroaches, but it was the most wonderful purple in the world!! My friend working on her Master’s of Fine Arts insists the proper word for purple is “violet”, but I am a bit of a DBO. . . after all, I grew up in Ivanhoe! It looks rather blue here, but in reality it is the purplish-blue of lupine and was a great relief from all the orange.
(in case you are wondering – Ditch-Bank-Oakie)