Saturday, August 30, 2008

New Travels Among The Leaves

Poor Blog! It was neglected all last week while we went on a foray to the Pacific Northwest. There was too much for me to do, to consider blogging last week, and so I took a blog break.

I wish I enjoyed flying like my husband does, but I fit kind of wedged into the too small space of one of these tin cans. If they would only take one row of seats out and distribute the space evenly among the remaining rows of seats, it would make a real difference in comfort, especially to tall people. But that would mean the airline's losing out on five full fares, so I'm going to ask you a small favor: the next time you fly, have mercy on whoever is behind you with legs and please do not recline the seat.

Luckily the flights were pretty short, but coming back my “neighbor” in the aisle seat had this super-annoying habit of repeatedly pulling at her “forelock” (grown-out bangs or what ever you call that bunch of hair that is shorter than the rest). I guess this behavior must have been comforting to her, but it absolutely made me feel like restraining her hands behind her back with one of those twister thingys. But I didn’t have one of those; consequently, it just made me really uncomfortable. I mean this was extreme, because she didn’t just occasionally push back her hair or pat it to make sure it stayed where it was. After a constant one and a half-hour toying with this hair thing, no kidding, I was looking for the whole thing to come out in her hand.

Well enough about air travel. . .on to more fun things.

Although it was at least 20 degrees hotter returning to Colorado than it had been in Oregon and even though no trees have started turning, I just have this feeling that autumn will be early this year.

For the last few years, fall has made me wanting to make leaf prints. This year is no exception, and on the road back I was collecting leaves of different kinds and shapes for my projects.

What I do next is to paint the back of the leaf (or leaves) I’m using with white Gesso. Then I place those, with the painted side down, on watercolor paper and use a brayer to roll over the top side. I do this while thinking about a pleasing arrangement of leaves on the paper. When dry, the imprint leaves will be white on white paper and not be overly visible. You can use the painted leaves over and over again until you run out of paper and motivation.

The next step is to get out the watercolors, and paint over the leaves which will resist the watercolor paints. It is a fun thing to do, and other than messy, rewarding with its results.

I will be putting some of these up in my Etsy shop before long and wlll post the clickable addresses as I do. The image on your right is called Leaf Season. Click here for more info.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Smashing Flowers

OK, I've heard of smashing pumpkins and Smashing Pumpkins. But, have you ever thought about smashing flowers as an art form? A fellow artist sent me an email about Betsy Dillard Stroud's article which you can find by clicking here. Look for Printing with a Hammer, August 07, 2008, by Betsy Dillard Stroud. It looked interesting, so yesterday I gathered some flowers and leaves of different kinds including stems. Then I prepared my watercolor paper, padded it, laid wax paper over it, and proceeded to beat the living daylights out of some innocent plant life. (I'm still not feeling good about this.) Anyway, this first photo on the left is what my initial effort looked like.

Still feeling sorry for the flowers, this morning I thought I needed to make as much as I could out of it, so I grabbed a Tomball pen and my watercolors and went to work. First, I outlined to find the flowers and leaves that were obvious and invented a few more . Then I began to do some negative painting with the watercolors, and by now I'm not feeling so bad about the flowers, now that I've made something that I like a lot more. I hope you will like it too!

It's something different. It really doesn't matter if you use some kind of dillapidated flowers though, so if you get a chance you might try it with some past-their-prime poseys. I guess you could also try it with some blooming weeds you want to clear away anyway or on that bouquet you get from someone you now dislike with a passion (to relieve stress).

Click here for more information about this painting.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Memories of Cottonwood Trees

This painting is about cottonwood trees, not just one like you see in the photo, but remembrances from my life that these trees bring to mind. There were the childhood tire swings that were so much fun, and the fallen leaves that needed to be raked into piles to play in.

I remember many trips across the Great Plains where these are practically the only trees you see for miles and miles.

There was the painting workshop I took, in the mountains on someone's ranch ,where one of the painters was holding used brushes in her mouth. (The rest of us were voicing whispered speculations about her early demise from heavy metal poisoning acquired from Cobalt, Cadmium, Titanium - all lovely ingredients of paints.) This had nothing to do with the tree we were painting, but the memory of painting the tree includes this scenario.

I loved the volunteer trees that came up in our yard from seeds along our driveway that we transplanted and watched grow into 30 ft. trees. Of course, there's the annoying cotton floating in the air at times, but as a child I remember chasing after it floating in the air.

Cottonwood trees are a part of my memories and therefore of me. I understand just how welcome is their shade in a hot snd treeless area. I appreciate just how fast they grow, but also remember cleaning up fallen limbs and green leaves from an unseasonal heavy snow.

This painting was taken from the photo of the cottonwood that I took on that 104 degree day as we drove through Oklahoma and Kansas a few weeks ago. I tried to capture the feeling of dry heat and the late summer bleached out dry prairieland grasses in my watercolor painting. Purchase information about the painting entitled Old Cottonwood can be found by clicking here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I Found The Best Store Ever!

Yesterday we spent the day in Denver running errands and enjoying the day just poking around. It's always fun to visit somewhere you've lived for a long time just to see what's new and what the old stuff looks like. It's been 12 years now, and much has changed.

Here's what made the trip really special though: I found the greatest store, and I want to pack it up in my car and take it all home. The store is Donohue Paper Emporium. Next best thing: they have a website!

Donahue Paper Emporium
7286 South Yosemite St.
(between Arapahoe & Dry Creek in Centennial) Englewood, CO 80112

There are note papers in any color your heart desires with matching envelopes. They have mailing boxes and pouches of all sizes and shapes, bubble wrap by the foot, foamcore the size of a twin bed, plastic sleeves in a bunch of sizes. These are just the tip of the iceberg. I could have spent a lot of money and a lot of time in this store, because I just love paper stores, but this one is the best ever!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Back To Painting Again - Creative Process

Hello! After two weeks of travel, we have reached Colorado where we will be for the next couple of months. It's familiar territory for me, since it was home for many years. I feel so blessed to get to spend time in two places that have such natural beauty and yet are so different from one another.

When we reached Denver, that city was almost at the end of a 25-day streak of 90 degree days, and incredibly they have only had a bit over three inches of rain this whole year. The afternoon before we left there was a big fire in the grassland of Green Mountain which came so very, very close to a neighborhood of expensive homes. As we drove up in the hills we could see the charred remains of the fire which covered somewhere around 900 acres on the east side of the mountain.

Today I got to paint with my friends in the Glenwood Springs Art Guild and enjoyed chatting with them and catching up on what had happened since I last saw them. I did make some progress on the Italian wash job painting that I previously shared on the blog. This is the painting I had started before we left on our trip. The first few steps in creating this painting can be found on the blog dated July 12th entitled Creative Process. (Click to refresh your memory).

Today I started adding watercolor to the inside squares (the background is all acrylic). I could hear Pink Floyd singing Just Another Brick In The Wall
as I painted the stones using many different colors, mixing bits of cobalt blue, burnt sienna, quinacridone gold, Winsor purple, brilliant orange and a little caput mortem from time to time. But first I painted the sky in the left panel and all of the windows.

Of course, after I stepped back from the painting I could see some issues I will have to keep in mind in the next painting session, the most bothersome to me is the almost "kiss" at the left bottom edge of the roof. I am also going to have to be very cognizant of the colors of the stone and not let everything blend together into the background. I am now thinking about making the right square more blurred so that the effect would be like a camera tightly focusing on the left square. Also, I'm not finished outlining the squares and creating the shadow effect I want.

Taking a photo of your paintings when they are still unfinished and looking at them on a computer screen helps also to point out any color issues. I found that the window reflections are not reflecting the sky color, and I will need to address this also.

So, that's where I am after this painting session. There will be more to come. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 1, 2008

What Does 104 Degrees Look Like?

As we were traveling through the country in an air-conditioned vehicle today (Thank You, God), the temperatures this afternoon were hovering between 104 and 106 degrees outside. So not wanting to go outside and paint (so what, am I nuts?), I thought I would take some pictures so that you could see just what heat looks like. You will notice you see no people in these photos and very few cars.
Cottonwood trees are like the sentinels of the plains. Their structure very often has multiple trunks, and they grow quite rapidly, but as you might imagine with the fast growth, they are not strong trees and oftentimes and early fall or late spring heavy snow will break their limbs or even cause one of the trunks to fall. However, on this hot August day it wasn't snowing.

It wasn't too hot for cows though, and we saw quite a few today. Now yesterday when there were ponds scattered around, we sometimes saw the cows standing in the ponds. Today there were no ponds, just circular metal storage containers, and frequently the cattle were gathered around closeby.

I'm saying it wasn't too hot for cows, but then I didn't stick around to watch and see if any of them keeled over after we passed. Also, I know that people who are familiar with the bovine genus do not refer to them as cows, but I am a city girl, and they moo; hence, they are cows.

Another common sight on The Great Plains of the USA is the grain elevator. These stately white structures can be seen for miles and miles on a nice, clear, hot day like today.

So what can we surmise from these photos to describe how 104 degrees looks? Nobody human is outside if they can help it. Cows are pretty much stuck with it to do what cows do. Depending where you are, there has either been enough rain for the grassland to be still green or so little it has already been bleached out by the sun, and the more dried out it looks, the hotter it feels. No matter how you look at it though, the foliage cannot be described as lush. The skies are almost cloudless. Does this describe what 104 degrees looks like? All of the above photos were taken in Oklahoma or Kansas on August 1, 2008. They will make nice reference material for later paintings.

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