Corn Shed ’14 / oil

corn shed 14 oil
This is my second painting of the corn shed. I think it came out better than the one I did last year, so I guess my drawing and painting skills are improving.

I layered glazes on top of glazes here. I painted impasto with my palette knife and also used the palette knife to scratch through glazes. Using thick paint and thin paint on the canvas adds interest because the eye compares different sections of the painting and the textures keep the eye moving around the canvas.

That Alvi’s Maroger Medium is the best stuff, my artist friends. You can do glazes, bleeds, paint impasto, add texture.
Everything you can do with any other kind of paint you can do with oil paint. You can do dry brush, work into your bleeds paint thin lines without much turp, and the medium holds it in place and makes the surface nice and slick so the paint slides easily.

I posted my underpainting below so you can see the major changes I did to this painting. And I put some text on it about linear perspective.

Corn Shed ’14 underpainting

corn shed underpainting
My charcoal sketch for this painting is posted below. I can’t trace my sketch and transfer it to my tinted canvas, I had to draw it again freehand with charcoal on the canvas. Linear perspective is still difficult for me but the more I try to draw it the better it gets. The boards on the shed are warped and not all straight. The temptation is to draw lines horizontal on the canvas when I know they’re horizontal, but the eye sees the lines going up hill and getting that close to what the eye sees makes linear perspective work.

Sometimes when I’m trying to draw a building I hold my charcoal out at arms length and close one eye, resting my arm on my easel to keep it steady. I hold the charcoal or pencil out like that to measure. With figure drawing that helps get proportions and angles right but with linear perspective I have to eyeball it to make my corrections. I don’t get it right on the first try and not on the second try here either. I corrected it again when I added layers of glazes. That’s one thing I like about oil paint, it’s easy to paint over and make it look better. I can make major changes in a painting and if I don’t show you, you can’t see my mistakes.

The Gift Of A Creative Journey

Mail Art

CREATE – Mail Art

I have always loved receiving mail. Real mail. Snail mail. Having bits of paper in my mail box delivered by an honest to goodness person kind of mail. Before the age of emails, texting and social media, paper-in-your-hand mail was the best way to communicate and share your life events with those you cared about.

And even though it isn’t as immediate, I still love the anticipation and feeling of surprise when I open my mailbox and find a treasure waiting for me.

When I found out about a Mail Art Swap on the Bliss Angels Blog I decided to jump in! The theme is CREATE. The challenge was to assemble four envelopes.

I sat down with my box of ephemera and I allowed my Muse to guide me. I had a few lovely craft envelopes to use as a substrate. I found a copy  of a painting of First Lady Louisa Adams. I loved her pose and the wistful look in her eye. I decided to build the art around her.

I have a bag of fortunes from Chinese fortune cookies. I dug deep and pulled one out. It read:

Your flair for the creative takes an important place in your life.

It was a perfect start…again…Synchronicity? The substrate is a craft envelope. In addition to the reproduction of the painting I added art and handmade paper, a wax infused paper doily, a postage stamp, newsprint, and joss paper. I finished the envelope by adding rubber stamped and stencilled acrylic metallic paint. All that was left to do was address, stamp, and send.

As I eagerly await the Art that will grace my mailbox I can’t help but think about creativity and our lives. The power to create is a gift. Creativity can take us to the places of our dreams. Inspiration comes disguised and in many forms. Even on a lowly envelope.

Tires and Drums / oil

rock and roll

rock and roll

When Shelby and I were in school at York Academy of Art we had a great design teacher, Mike Klinedinst. He had high standards. One thing Klinedinst hated was what he called “the red circle trick”. He said a red circle is a weak design element because your eye goes straight to the red circle and stops there. A red circle is a bad focal point.

Our great drawing teacher Ted Fitzkee told us “Never paint a flaming sunset”. If you paint a flaming ball for a sun that’s the landscape version of the red circle trick.

Now when Shelby and I see the red circle trick we laugh.

I don’t know what Klinedinst would think of this painting since I painted a gray circle for a focal point. I hope he’d like it because your eye can move around the painting. I also don’t know if Fitzkee would like the painting but maybe he would because I drew and painted it freehand in plein air. And because I kept correcting my circles and ovals until they looked about right to me. Badly drawn ovals and circles bugged Fitzkee and since he had an influence on me, badly drawn ovals bug me too. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t paint a flaming sunset if I wanted to. Chances of that are slim though because I work slowly and sunsets don’t last long.

To get a lot of texture in the grass I dropped paint on the canvas I first wetted with Maroger Medium (painting in the couch) then scratched through the wet paint with my palette knife. And I drew some skinny lines on top with thin paint.

Corn Shed at Cold Harbor / charcoal

corn shed charcoal

Some thoughts about being in the right place at the right time.

The flip side of that coin is knowing when to get the hell out of Dodge because you don’t want to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. My tip for avoiding disaster is to watch for red flags. Metaphorically speaking, one or two small red flags means you should stay aware of the surroundings. Big red flags mean don’t hang around to see what happens next. It’s a self preservation thing.

If you want to be in the right place at the right time it’s a good idea to not book your time to tight. Then you can go for the opportunity when it’s available. Don’t stay home to work, go out and scout. Talk to anyone who’s interested. If they tell you about a great place go check it out. If you get a call that you should be there because someone requests your presence, go. Unless there’s red flags on it, then decide for yourself.

It still amazes me that the farm I like at Cold Harbor, Via Farm, is the most peaceful and safe place in my stomping grounds because 150 years ago it was a crucial piece of land hotly contested by two armies. Cold Harbor was part of Richmond’s outer defenses. The Union army tried to break through so they could get to Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy, and destroy it. They fought there and then fought there again later but couldn’t get to Richmond that way. People kept saying, “this war can’t last long.” but it did. Over the course of a few years dead and wounded soldiers were strewn over the land for miles.

Now, 150 years later it’s lush and green, peaceful and safe. The old weathered corn shed has so much personality it almost talks. It seems like nothing in life goes as planned, but then I see a twist of fate that brings me to a great view. That’s what I call being in the right place at the right time.

Sometimes Reaching is Hard…But Reach We Must…


Big Life – Collage

There are times when life is a song. You know all the words, sing along, and even throw in a few improvised moments with wild abandon. And everything falls into place. Like magic. But we have all experienced times that are challenging. We not only forget the words, but at times the tune. And life seems to be getting smaller, restricted, limited. And this is where I am at the moment.

On the way home from a doctor’s appointment I stopped at Starbucks for coffee. I reached into a bin of cup sleeves and pulled out one with the following message:

“Your life is big. Keep reaching.” – Oprah Winfrey

Encouraging advice continues on the back: take a few moments to pause and reflect. Teavana and Oprah call it your own personal “steep time”. Time to Steep Your Soul.

It was just what I needed to read. Synchronicity? I believe so. And it was enough to get me back to hearing a  bit of the tune…if not the words. I rifled through my box of ephemera. I found a vintage romance magazine. The image of the woman from a 1920’s ad was just what I needed. Someone happy, effervescent…dare I say Bubbly? Someone clearly reaching and enjoying life.

The substrate for the collage is a canvas panel. The background is a page from the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper Want Ads circa 1972. Hershey Kiss wrappers, fine art images, tea dyed gauze, a dried petal from an iris plant, tea bags, printed and rubber stamped tissue paper, dictionary text. Acrylic paint sponged and pushed through purchased and hand cut stencils finish the collage.

So, although my life is still not filled with lyrics and a tune, I am hopeful. I know the big life is there. I just need to keep on reaching.

Knob Handled Bowl with Pegasus / Greek ca.320 BC

pegasus bowl

It’s terracotta at the VMFA. This is what the plaque says.

And when Perseus cut off Medusa’s head, there sprang forth great Chrysaor and the horse Pegasus. Now Pegasus flew away and left the earth, the mother of flocks, and he came to the deathless gods: and he dwells in the house of Zeus and brings to wise Zeus the thunder and lightning. Hesiod, Theogony

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