Art theory Oil Painting Painting Plein Air Still Life

Citrus and Camelia Plein Air

Citrus & Camelia Plein Air

Oil on panel, 9×12″ (Larger)

You really have to work fast to do a still life outdoors in the afternoon. In less than two hours the sun moved overhead far enough that I had to stop because everything was in shadow. I’d gotten all the objects and their shadows well blocked in and probably should have stopped there, calling it a sketch or a study. But of course I couldn’t.

I had to bring it into the studio to “just touch up the edges.” Then I was going to do another quick painting. But I spaced out and before I knew it, overworked areas that I’d originally painted very freely, made more problematic since I’d forgetten exactly what the pattern of light and shadow was on the objects.

Someday I’ll learn to stop while it’s fresh. Nevertheless, I think I did capture the feeling of a bright sunny afternoon, which was my main goal.

Life in general Sketchbook Pages Still Life Watercolor

Stanley 93E Box Cutter & Polish

Stanley 93E & Polish

Watercolor on hot press paper, 5 x 7″ (Larger)

Yesterday at work someone had left a strange little still-life set up on a table in the ladies restroom: a little cosmetic bag and a a heavy metal box cutter (well, to me it looked like a still life, probably nobody else would have thought so). I recreated it on my drawing table tonight, adding a bottle of nail polish that I keep in a similar cosmetic bag.

I like the way the box cutter came out looking like a fish with a little rooster comb on top (the brass thingee you push to move the blade in and out). It felt so good to do this painting after a frustrating day in which I never made it out of my pajamas.

Hamster Brain Part One

Fridays I work half a day from home, but today the half day stretched out into the late afternoon, due to problems needing my attention and because I got a late start due to spending a frustrating hour trying to reassemble my wonderful Capresso coffee grinder after finally receiving the missing part in the mail (it had fallen on the floor when I cleaned the grinder, and was promptly stolen and hidden by my plastic-gizmo loving calico cat Fiona). It turns out I’d put the burr grinder piece in wrong and it was jammed and I could not remove it and so the bean hopper wouldn’t screw back in on top. Now the whole thing needs to go back to Capresso for repair. Makes me think it’s time to give up coffee (again!).

It was the first sunny day in a long time and I wanted to get outdoors and paint…and I needed to get some exercise…and I had some errands and phone calls to make. Plus I had a bunch of studio art projects I wanted to do — some dream paintings, color exercises, and this one.

I got into one of those stuck places, going around in circles…I’ll go to the gym first, no to the store first, no outside to paint first, but really I should vacuum…I’ll just check my email….and around and around. I call it Hamster Brain, since it feels like running in one of those hamster wheels.

Finally, at 8:00 P.M. I pulled myself out of it, did about half an hour of Pilates (while simultaneously putting in my weekly call to my mother) and having accomplished both those things, got to my drawing table and made this picture. Now it’s 11:00 p.m. and I’m free! My weekend has begun and it will joyfully include exercise, painting, and as little erranding and hamstering as possible!

Oil Painting Painting Still Life

Christmas Citrus & Saint Nicholas

Christmas Tangerine

Oil on masonite panel, 6″x6″ (Larger)

Although I personally don’t celebrate Christmas, I thought a bright orange tangerine would be a fitting tribute to the day (see below about the tradition of oranges and tangerines as stocking stuffers).

My sons and my dear friends and family are all with their significant others and families and knowing they’re all having a lovely Christmas day, I’m exactly where I want to be: in the studio.

I hope you too are safe, warm and happy today, whether you celebrate Christmas or not!

St. Nicholas traditions in America

Immigrants brought St. Nicholas holiday traditions to the United States. Over time these have melded into some common practices.

StockingsChristmas stockings by the fireplace
And the stockings were hung by the chimney with care in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there, goes the oft repeated Christmas rhyme. In the story of Nicholas rescuing the poor maidens from being sold into slavery, the gold dowry money, tossed in through the window, is said to have landed in stockings left to dry before the fire.

OrangeOrange or tangerine in the toe of filled Christmas stockings
The gold Nicholas threw to provide the dowry money is often shown as gold balls. These are symbolized by oranges or even apples. So the orange in the toe of the stocking is a reminder of Nicholas’ gift.

Art theory Glass Oil Painting Painting Still Life

Conscious Competence?

Lemons on Green Glass Platter

Oil on canvas panel, 8×6″

I think I’m finally making a little progress with my oil painting. I’m starting to understand about color temperature and how to make transparent darks (which you absolutely have to protect just like the white of the paper in watercolor). I couldn’t figure out how to get the little highlights on these lemons but maybe I have to wait for the paint to dry and then use a dry brush to sweep across it. Or maybe I could do it with a knife? I tried painting it on with a brush but just kept smearing and muddying the paint. Any suggestions?

In July, I did these lemons on a different green glass plate and …

Lemon on green glass plate (P1010468)

…I think I see some progress.

My friend Judith told me about a learning theory that divides the stages of learning into four stages:

  1. Unconscious incompetence .(You don’t know how much you don’t know and sometimes have beginner’s luck that makes it seem like it will be easy to learn).
  2. Conscious incompetence. (Now you’ve realized how much you don’t know and how bad you are at the thing you’re trying to learn, and how many people are way ahead of you. You may have the knowledge or information about HOW to do something but not the skill to do it.)  A lot of people give up at this point. This is where I’ve been for past couple months.
  3. Conscious competence. (You understand how to do it, you’ve practiced and built some skill, but it doesn’t come naturally. You have to think through each step but you can do it and a basic level.)
  4. Unconscious competence. (It just comes naturally and you don’t have to constantly think through each step.)

Mom was half-right when she said “practice makes perfect.” I know that when I strive for “perfect” I only end up miserable. I think the saying should be “Practice makes Progress” and right now progress feels great after being mired in Conscious Incompetence for months!