Life in general Painting Sketchbook Pages Still Life Watercolor

Organic Bananas, The FURminator & Blindness

Organic Bananas

Watercolor on Arches Cold-Pressed paper in 5.5 x 7.5 sketchbook

After working half the day I decided to finally vacuum my house since I was feeling sleepy and not particular creative and the house and studio sorely needed cleaning. I’ve been contentedly choosing painting over housecleaning for too long, and the cat hair was piling up. So I dusted, vacuumed, washed the throw rugs, brushed the kitties with a great new cat and dog brush, the FURminator, that thoroughly removes the undercoat and ends shedding for weeks (the pictures on their website don’t lie–it’s amazing how much fur comes off the first time).

After dinner I was still sleepy but knew I’d be sad if I just turned on the TV and had no fun in the studio at all today. So I grabbed the only produce left in the kitchen (I’ve also been putting off the grocery shopping) and painted these bananas.

While I painted I was listening to a fascinating book, Crashing Through, about a man who was blinded at the age of 3, became a downhill speed skier, an entrepeneur, married, had kids, and a great life. Then he was given the historical opportunity to try an experimental surgery and become one of only 20 people in the history of the world who, after a lifetime of total blindness, had his sight restored, via a stem cell and corneal transplant. The book provides really interesting information about vision and how we make sense of what we see, from distance perception, to 3-dimensionality, to recognizing faces and expressions. It turns out it actually has to do with parts of the brain rather than the eyes and is learned in infancy.

A lot of that information is useful for painting. When the author explains how the brain uses visual clues to judge distance, these are the same things artists use to create the illusion of depth and distance in paintings. These include objects getting smaller the further away they are, closeness to the horizon (the further away or taller something is, the closer to the horizon it is), aerial perspective (the effect of moisture and particles in the air between the distant object and the viewer that causes distant objects to appear grayer, cooler, paler than closer objects), linear perspective, and occlusion (one thing in front of another).

Gardening Painting Plants Sketchbook Pages Still Life

More Last Tomatoes

The Last Tomatoes in a Bowl

Watercolor on Arches 140 lb hot press paper drawn first in blue Micron Pigma pen, 5.5″ 7.5″

Yesterday I cleaned up my four tomato plants, removing all the dead leaves and icky, gooshy tomatoes (without screaming once — squooshy, slimey things scare me) and was delighted to discover an abundance of still quite lovely tomatoes, ripe and ready to be picked. I was sure when I painted the last bunch of tomatoes that they were truly the last, but we’ve had some wonderful summer weather all over again and the tomatoes just keep on doing their thing.

I piled them in this old stoneware bowl and stuck them in the fridge. I’ve been working on an oil painting family portrait (more about that tomorrow) and have been neglecting my blog. So I decided to stop working on the oil painting, and loosen up with the tomatoes and some watercolor in my sketchbook.

Now back to the portrait. If I don’t finish it tomorrow I’ll post the work in progress. The painting was inspired by looking through some baby pictures of my son with his father and grandfather that we wanted to bring on a visit to my father-in-law. He’s been very ill and on Thursday night he thoroughly enjoyed seeing the pictures (and us). I was hoping to finish the painting before he died and to share it with him but sadly/blessedly he passed away this morning. If the painting turns out well enough, I’ll bring it to his memorial. In the meantime it’s been a blessing for me to lovingly paint his smiling face, knowing it would not be visible much longer.

Art theory Faces Life in general Painting People Portrait Sketchbook Pages Watercolor

Squinting to See the Light (funny story)

Squinting to see the light

Watercolor in large Moleskine notebook

Today at work, 10 of us were sitting around the table in the lunchroom eating and chatting. I sat across from our director, facing the picture window and our 27th-story view of Oakland, the San Francisco Bay, Mt. Tamalpais and the huge, cloudy sky. I was thinking about what I learned in my painting class last Sunday about the importance of learning to see color temperatures and value. A good way to do that is to close one eye and squint, which helps to blur the details, so that you can see shapes and values. I decided to practice on a blue house and a large brick building that I could see in the distance. I tried one eye and then the other, curious if it made a difference between my left and right eyes.

Suddenly I realized the conversation had stopped, our director was asking me if I was OK, and everyone was staring at me. I burst out laughing realizing that I was sitting there making weird squinty faces and they were all thinking I had an excruciating headache or had suddenly gone mad. I started trying to explain what I was doing and they looked at me perplexed. They finally realized it was an “art thing” and went back to chatting about work and TV shows and travel.

When I got home tonight, I looked in the mirror to see just how funny I looked and had to do this quickie self-portrait in my sketchbook. Amazingly it actually looks like me!

Art theory Flower Art Glass Oil Painting Painting Sketchbook Pages Still Life

Wax On, Wax Off (Breathe In, Breathe Out)

Rose in a Jar

Oil on panel, 12×9″

The title of this post refers to words from the 1984 movie Karate Kid and also my process in this painting except for the painting it would be more like “Paint On, Wipe Off (Breathe!) Paint On, Wipe Off… ” (click on “Keep Reading” below to see photos of the steps). I’m not happy with the front flower but I’m ready to move on to the next painting. With each one I learn so much more, including how much more there is to learn!!!!

I had two main goals for this painting/learning experience:

  • Think in terms of “Whole Canvas”
  • Keep trying to understand how to work with oil paint so that I’m taking advantage of its wonderful qualities rather than fighting them. (I’ll keep trying!)

In my many years of watercolor painting, I worked hard to capture what excited me about my subject. I often worked close focus without much background, or just using the lovely white of the paper as my background to set off the glittering glass or glowing flowers I was painting. If the composition didn’t quite work out–no problem, just crop as needed with a mat and frame.

In oil painting the background has to be an integral part of the painting–you can’t just leave the glaring white of the gessoed canvas as your background. And you can’t crop a stretched canvas or panel like you can paper. I was struggling with this concept and finally it clicked. It’s just another way of seeing and, like peeling layers of the onion, the haze peeled from eyes and I could see that a painting is not subject & background — they fit together to complete the picture, just as night completes day. While an object that interests me enough to paint it is the focal point, I need (for now) to think of the PAINTING as the subject.