Agecroft Hall and Sunken Garden / oil

My palette knife is in my hand as much time as my paintbrush.

My palette knife is in my hand as much time as my paintbrush.

When I get to my location, it always takes me 1/2 hour or 45 min, to mix up my colors for the day.  I decide what area to work on, then mix light medium and dark values of the colors I want to use. By mixing my colors on my palette with my palette knife, I get them closer to what you see with the naked eye, and avoid the problem of the colors mixing too much on the canvas and coming out muddy.

But one thing I really enjoy a lot, is making thin lines with my palette knife. It’s easier to scratch a skinny line than it is to paint one. If you can get a clear enlargement of this photo on your computer, maybe you can see where I scratched all around this painting to make lines and give it texture.

The way I did the brick wall, for example, was to paint the colors of the mortar first. I painted the wall with two shades of gray in the places I wanted there to be light and shadow. So, the whole wall was gray. Then, when that dried, I blobbed in brick colors on top of the gray and scratched through the wet layer to show the gray mortar color coming though as lines. You get bricks without painting every brick. But people see the detail, and might imagine I painted every brick. It works if you paint in the couch with Maroger Medium and glazes.

I also like to scratch through my brushstrokes to feather the edges, and add texture. For the trees behind the house, I blobbed in three shades of green and scratched through the wet paint so the edges of my brush strokes wouldn’t be sharp, but a little blended. Visually, that helps the background trees recede a little. The trees in front of the house got scratched on the trunks but not the foliage.

It took a long time to finish, and I could still keep on working on it, but I’m not going to. It looks like I painted a lot of detail, but I left out the detail I didn’t want to paint, gutters and downspouts, a planter with nothing blooming, and whatever else you might notice is missing, if you have a photo to compare it to.

It seems like I worked on this painting at home as much as I worked on it at Agecroft. A lot of times, I can mix up some colors there, and paint at home on the more time consuming parts of the painting.

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Black Eyed Susans / pastel study

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I worked on my sketch in the shade at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden for a while, then came home and worked on it again. It’s for a collage I’m doing for a show titled “Entangled”, happening at the Petersburg Art League, Fri. Oct. 14.

The theme Entangled is a collaborative show with visual artists doing an illustration for an author, and the author writing a poem for a painting. It’s always good for artists and writers to get together and exchange ideas. Artists find a lot of inspiration in in the other art forms.

I’m entered with my daughter, Sarah Hill, a writer. She wrote a book for teenage girls. The story is about a girl who’s mother is like Wonder Woman from another planet, and her dad is a normal human. The daughter has some super powers too, and the scene I’m illustrating is the chapter where the mother teaches the girl to fly. It’s a real fun subject to illustrate. And Sarah is writing a poem for one of my paintings. The poems and the paintings will be hung together.

I need to cut this sketch up into clumps of flowers for my collage, and arrange them in among the trees in their back yard. Then I can work again on my 2 figures floating slowly down to Earth. Doing the figures is kind of like making paper dolls for this collage. Fun stuff!!

If you’re in the area, you should make it to this opening. It will be great. People will be reading poetry and there will also be Latin Jazz and Salsa music.

the real Lotus flower / charcoal

real lotus

This morning I went back to the white Lotus I was trying to draw for 2 days and started again. That’s it in the center here. It closed up a little since yesterday, except one petal is drooping. It’s cloudy today,but it was sunny yesterday.

I watched Marco Polo on Netflix and saw a lot of Lotuses and Lotus imagery. It didn’t look like the one I was drawing. Then today, a lady from India stopped to talk to me. She told me where the Lotuses from her country are. They’re not on the path, so I overlooked them. They’re pink on the edges, very delicate pink lines going into  white with the lower petals a little greenish. She told me the petals are perfect architecture. I agreed and thanked her for the info. This is the Lotus people know and love.

She told me they don’t last long, but there are a lot of buds. The giant leaves look the same. The 2 flowers on the outside here are the pink Lotuses. The one on the left is all the way open and the one on the right is closer to traditional Lotuses that you see in art.

I still need more practice drawing Lotuses before I paint one. One nice thing about drawing in plein air is that people tell me things about the subject.

Lotus Flower / charcoal

lotus charcoal

This summer I want to do a painting of the Lotus flowers at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. This is my first sketch.

The Lotuses are surrounded by tiny Lily Pads and huge Lotus leaves on a background of blue violet water. I got the sketch in less than an hour, so it will be easy subject matter. This will be fun, but I’ll have to stand in the sun like when I painted the Pitcher Plants.

Fearless in Poe’s Garden / oil

The Poe Museum has 2 black cats, Edgar and Pluto. You already know that miscreant, the Raven.

The Poe Museum has 2 black cats, Edgar and Pluto. You already know that miscreant, the Raven.

The opening of the upcoming art show “Poe’s Enchanted Garden” happens with their “Unhappy Hour” on May 26. You should go, it will be good.

Chris S. at the Poe museum told me the cats worked together and caught a squirrel. They had it cornered. The garden was set up for an event with a huge white canopy and tables with black tablecloths. The cats dragged their victim into the formal set up!  Later, I wondered if it was a wedding, and if the bride fainted at the sight of the squirrel’s murder. It seemed somehow appropriate for the Poe Museum.

The Redbud trees and Tulips are from my memory. Redbuds are bushy little trees, and there’s no room for one, but I put them in the scene, because I think Poe might have liked them. Just imagine they’re espaliered. hahaha, yeah, I espaliered them for Poe with the magic of art.

I  tried to draw that planter  4 or 5 times on paper. Every time, when I got home, I’d look at it and think, that’s close, but not right. So I traced my sketch and tried again on another paper. Finally, I got it to look  symmetrical and right proportionally, then drew it again on the canvas. I was still making corrections with paint, until I decided it was close enough. The planter has a little green bush and some pansies, not Tulips. I wanted to put Tulips in so the painting could have a line of bright red flowers.

It’s a great thing about art, you can make changes to a scene if you want to. A plein air artist doesn’t have to record the scene as it is in real life. I’m using naturalistic colors and values by mixing my paint outside in natural light and trying to match my colors to what’s there. That’s what makes it look like “Realism”.  If you go to the Poe Museum, you will be able to see how much this differs from reality.

 

 

Sky High Flowers / oil

I used my artistic license-a lot.

I used my artistic license-a lot.

First, I eliminated a few trees that didn’t seem necessary  to paint. A tree on the left was blocking my view of the door, and a couple other trees were filling up the sky too much. Then I moved those big flower pots off the stage and put them in the grass there ( with the magic of art). The Daffodils aren’t really there, either. I faked in the shadows on the walk.

See the photos below stripping off the layers of paint all the way back to my underpainting, and photos of the scene as my camera sees it. You can compare my naked eye’s perspective to the camera’s perspective.sky high flowers glazes

This photo shows the background and wall finished with the tree and flower pots still in the underpainting stage. I did my underpainting in the complimentary colors. The flower pots are blue green in real life, so I underpainted them in orange. The tree is a warm color, so I underpainted it in cool gray.sky high flowers underpainting

This photo shows my underpainting in complimentary colors. The green grass is red at this stage, and the pink sidewalk is green. The blue sky is underpainted in a peachy colored gray. all on top of my violet tinted canvas.

If you compare these photos, you can see how I changed the color of the stone wall from warm to cool and back to warm again. That’s something you can do with oil paint if you use glazes, that you can’t do with another kind of paint, or process. all the layers and changes the painting goes through help to give the illusion of depth. The last stages of adding color are close to what I see in nature, and some of the complimentary colors still show through. It looks like the violet is showing through, to me. I don’t know if you can see it on your computer, but it’s under all the layers influencing everything. The violet is a hard color to kill. I like the way it shows through so many layers, but it’s not VIOLET anymore. Do you know what I mean?

I used Alvi’s Maroger Medium, and painted my glazes in the couch. If you want to paint like a master, (hey, why not try?) You neeeeeeed Maroger medium, and paint in the couch, like the old masters. Start with thin glazes and build up more opaque layers on top. Start in the background, and get that to look right with the middle ground before painting the foreground. If you want your light areas to come forward, you have to take the time to work on the shadows first.IMG_1666

The tree on the right is my Magnolia. The flowers were gone by the time I took this photo.  This is how the scene looks to the camera. If I painted from a photo, my painting wouldn’t look up close and personal. It would give the painting a cold distant feel.

Can you see in the photo, rings going around the bark of the Magnolia? That’s a detail I overlooked. I was talking to a gardener, and she told me the rings are made by Sapsuckers!! It looks like the rings belong there. The gardening lady told me the tree is still healthy.IMG_1657

Here’s a photo of a few flower pots on the stage. I put the Tulips and Daffodils into my painting at home on a rainy day, from memory.

Under the Weeping Cherry / oil

weeping cherry

Welcome to my secret hideout!

I’m not the only kid who likes this tree. I was sitting on a root mixing up my colors and saw a boy come over to the outside of the tree. He was probably around 8, I guess. He stuck his face in a big clump of flowers and shook his head around in it. A lot of petals fell and he watched them come down. Then he left and rejoined his group. I don’t know if he saw me through the branches, or not.

I thought it was pretty cool, the kid loves nature too.

This painting went through a lot of changes. You can see the process in the photos below, stripping off the layers all the way back to my underpainting, with some talk about the old school ways of  painting, which is glazes painted in the couch, with Maroger Medium.  I’ve looked at this painting for weeks now, and can’t decide about it. I need fresh eyes to tell me what you see. IMG_1641

This photo shows the white flowers painted on, with the tree and branches still in the underpainting phase. I had to finish the background before the tree bloomed, because the white flowers should be on top of the background colors. And then the branches are on top of the flowers.  I started weeks ago, because this tree blooms fast, then it’s over in a few days and covered with green leaves. So my background was dry before I put the white flower glazes on top of it.IMG_1639

This photo shows the background finished with some lines painted in to plan my branches coming down. I wanted the viewer to be able to see some of the background through the branches. That’s why I need fresh eyes to look at this. I know what’s in the background, because I painted it. Can the viewer see the steps, pink trees and Daffodils? This painting is all about the Weeping Cherry, though, so, I planned to cover a lot of  the background. IMG_1635

This is my underpainting in the complimentary colors of what I planned to use. It’s on a violet tinted canvas, which is influencing the colors. The part I wanted to be green grass, I underpainted in green’s complimentary color, which is red. I used a brownish red. And the ground under the tree, I wanted to make  a warm brown in the light and gray in the shadows, so I underpainted in with green. I underpainted the sky in a peachy orange. The violet is showing through. You can see where I scribbled some shadows under the tree with charcoal, but I wasn’t happy with that, at this stage, and changed my shadows later.

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