Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Based On a Photo?

I've got boxes of photos that I've taken. I separate them into groups--churches, buildings, barns, clouds, farmland, riverscapes. Then, when I'm not sure what to work on, I pull out some photos and try to get inspired.

I already knew I wanted to paint another church with the red sky, before I dove into my box. But, you can't make all the building up out of your head... This is a chapel in Corrales, near Albuquerque. I don't remember the name of it. But at least I remember which village it is in! Notice my Sweet Ride, Sprinter, in the background.
This image is a piece I finished based on the photo I took. Not totally realistic but about as close as I bother getting. I left Sweet Ride out. I think that is an important deletion.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Church Lady

The completion of Ghost Church--Of the chapel in La Cueva ,NM

Here's one of one of the churches in Truchas--on the high road between Taos and Santa Fe. Generally the sky is blue but I like making it red.
This is a chapel in Placita (not Placitas). From the Highway you see its rounded back. I can't remember the village it is in but I do remember buying a bushel of apples nearby.

By the way, when I first started working in oil pastels many of my works were of chapels and churches. My brother, Chris, called me the church lady. I didn't like the label so I expanded my repetoire to include other structures.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Ghost of a Church-Haunted by Commissions

This is all I accomplished on a new 18 by 24 piece today. I think it will be a good piece but I didn't get to put in the hours I would have liked today. Wanna know why? Well, if you don't want to read any WHINING--come back tomorrow.

Both of my last commissions have actually painted themselves. My clients have been joys to work with. Subject matter within my realm. All great. EXCEPT: I had to order a special size panel and a special sized frame. When I got the frame it was in pieces. I had to put it together. I didn't know that it would come that way but, because it was larger than other frames I've ordered from them, they send them RTA. Guess what? The corners weren't absolutely perfect. So, I had to fill the corners with wood filler and then repaint the entire frame. And it will need a second coat. I'm feeling really lucky that I checked to make sure he panel fit into the frame before I started painting. So, with that in hand, I thought I should get going on framing the other commission piece. I'd picked up the frame and the mat from my frame guy in Taos and picked up the glass at the glass shop before I left for Rees' mom's funeral. I cut the backerboard, slipped it into the frame and it fit great. But the mat was too big! Same guy cutting it as making the frame--you'd think he would have checked to make sure it fit. Nope. So, I got a new razor blade out to trim the edges and cut myself--just a nick but when dealing with one of a kind mats you've got to be careful. I couldn't find my new bandaids so I taped up the finger with tape. It held. Then, I went to hinge the piece to the mat. Only some of the grease from an oil stick I used in the sky made my hinging tape not stick. I knew I'd recently seen some special art-savers things that you can use to frame paper pieces. But, could I find it? No way! Took an hour or so before I did. Positive on this, I actually tidied up as I looked and studio is in a lot better shape than it was this morning. BTW, the little devil artsavers were hidden in an unmarked box of extraneous framing supplies. Then, when I did actually track down the art-savers I realized the overlap of the paper wasn't large enough for this to be a good way to go. I did manage to cut them down so they would work but it was an entirely inefficient way to work. At that point, I figured I better call it a day. I'll finish framing that tomorrow. Again, commissions, or more accurately, special sized commissions take more work! (Thanks for letting me rant! I feel better now.) And it is Friday. Thankfully!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Cranberries! Is it done yet?

This is the first pass at the commission I've been working on--and the one I've been procrastinating on. In my head, the client was saying--not too red--more maroon-y and I really like your bright greens. So, that is what I thought I did. When I sent a progress email to the client, her husband's monitor was reading purple in the trees (which it was) and hers more deeper maroon. (Help me remember that other topic for another post--monitor calibration!) She was hoping for the cranberry and he thought there was a lot of green in it. So...knowing it wasn't finished, I carried on.
(Please excuse the stripe of sunshine projecting diagonally across the bottom--it was sunny today!)
By the end of the day, I'd layered some different colors in the fields, made the trees more cranberry (I even opened a new package of craisins to see that color and googled "cranberries" with images to see the color she was hoping for.) Add some chinese orange #90 sennelier to the shadows, more color strokes in the grasses in the foreground, some middle purple to the shadow side of the mountains, strengthening the color of the sunny side of the farthest building, and I think the piece works. I haven't yet emailed to the client as I want to look at it and photograph it in the morning to be sure I don't want to change anything else.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Photos Taken!

Today, besides working on my vertical commission piece (coming along nicely, BTW), Rees & I photographed all the art I've been making this year. It wasn't exactly what I wanted to do today, but I take the photos outside. And, while the forecast for today was only partly cloudy, and the rest of the week a chance for snow every day, I figured I'd better get at it.

At first, when I pulled out the works on paper, I was totally disappointed in the number of pieces--NOT enough! But, then we started taking pictures of the pieces on panel. I was a bit more pleased. I was going to post a couple from today but, for some reason, our 2 sided computer --my side and Rees' side--won't let me look in Rees' pictures for anything to upload. And, since that is where they are, since he does all the photo manipulation for my website and my advertising, I guess I can't access them. I'm sure I'll figure out a way to get at them, but I'm a bit too tired to do that today!

I promise a picture or two tomorrow!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cooler Colors

The commission is started but not finished. But this piece is. Please excuse the dark shadow at the bottom. I didn't notice that when I took the snapshot. And, now it is too dark.

This blog will be quiet for a few days as my mother in law passed away yesterday (not unexpectedly but sadly, just the same). Ruth was a great woman. We will miss her. But I'll be back no later than mid week with more art to share.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Otherwise Occupied

I know that I promised to get right on my commission. But, I didn't. I mean the panel is sitting there, eagerly waiting (I am sure) the application of oil pastels in what (I am also) sure will be a wonderful and amazing quilt of colors. Only, I didn't get much further than imaging just that.

We artists do do other things besides make art. Most of you know that because you see me at shows, or art openings or even at the Valley Market picking up milk. I do occasionally get out of the studio. Today, my friend and gallery owner, Katherine McDermott, video interviewed me for our upcoming fab-five show--more later but it doesn't happen until December. I was a bit nervous but knew it would be fine once we actually started. It did go just fine. I wasn't stupendous and witty and wonderful but I didn't have any boogers hanging out of my nose and I didn't make any serious faux pas--at least none that Katherine acknowledged. And, that part vis done. Cross it off the list. YEAH!

But, by the time I got back, with no fire going in the wood stove, I decided a trip to Taos to pick up some specially cut glass, mats and frames was just the thing for a beautiful afternoon. After all, it wasn't snowing, the roads were clear and I had room for the dog. So, in I went. Mission accomplished. Now I can frame that commission piece and a few of the long skinnies I've been working on. No excuses for tomorrow, though. None. Must-create-nice-art!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Pilar, again!

The little chapel at Pilar as been one of my favorites ever since I started working in oil pastels. It already has a red roof, so I don't even have to change that color! Of course, the photo I was working from was taken during the day so I did make that adjustment. I also prepped a special size commission panel today and put together the frame for it. It will be a vertically oriented piece!I've sketchd out some ideas an plan to attack tomorrow!

Monday, February 8, 2010


This is a large panel. And, I think I finished it today. It is, however, still sitting on the easel, waiting for me to look at it tomorrow morning. Between varnishing panels I finished in January (and there were a good number) , feeding myself (Rees is out of town), and shoveling the 18 or so inches of snow we got here (I've got a semi- circular drive), I've been working on this piece for days. And usually my dusk skies are faster than the others. I was trying to incorporate some of the loose-ness that I got out of the bottom part of the commission piece--and I think I mostly succeeded. Only I did have to go back in and add more grasses as the feeling this morning was that it looked messy. Oh, and for those who were following the commission saga--SHE LOVED IT! I'll get back in the saddle tomorrow--provided we don't get too much more snow!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

From the bottom up

I think people are creatures of pattern and repetition. I don't know why but I usually paint the skies into my pieces first. It must have started before I worked on an easel and didn't want to smear the piece as I worked on it on a desk. And, so, that is how I do it. Period. Sky first. Always. But, not this time. I changed up the formula! See, in this case, I wasn't sure if the red sky I had originally planned was going to work with the extra foliage and mountains behind. So, I just left the sky blank until I'd done the rest of the piece. It felt weird! I kept looking up and thinking something wasn't right. But, when I completed the bottom of the piece, I realized that red, in fact, was not the right color and that the piece needed the New Mexico blue sky (the photo sort of dulls the actual color). So I added that in. And it worked! Yeah!

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Today I finished a 25 by 25 inch commission for a customer who has admired my work for a while. We'd agreed on a certain size work, with certain elements about 2 years ago. I dragged my feet and didn't get the commission done right away and by the time I did, she was not in a position to purchase. By the time she got back to me, the piece was no longer what she wanted. And, so, I learned my lesson. Be expedient with commissions because over time, wishes and desires and situations can change. No biggy! The other piece will sell fast, once I actually get it in its special frame.

But, that does bring me to the whole idea of commissions. I do them. But I don't always like doing them. Don't get me wrong. If someone likes a certain piece but it won't fit where they would like to put it, I'm happy to create something else using similar elements and colors. But, when they want the sky from piece "A" and the road from piece "b" and the structures to be "more in the background", what happens is I become the draftsman of someone else's art. And, that is not the fun way to do it. What happens in these situations is the spontaneity of my creating art is gone. Poof! GONE. And that makes for static art. Generally, the commission is not exactly what the client expected. Sometimes it is as simple as liking the highlights on an adobe building in one piece but wanting it to be nighttime...If I've used different base paper/panel colors the oil pastels are going to "mix" differently and I won't be able to replicate the exact colors. So, now I tell people I'll do the commission but give them only a certain amount of input--like colors and/or limiting which structures go into the piece, along with size-- which seems to be the main reason people ask for something special. But, not creating a "build your own". Most people get this when I explain it to them. And many people don't even want to ask for a special piece--they want what I want to create. All depends.

So, when I actually do a commission, I do feel as if the client is sitting on my shoulder, watching the overall process. Sometimes this is good as I tend to work through puzzles that I might not otherwise attack. But, when I finish a commission, even before I've gotten the final okay, I feel as though a weight has been lifted from me. And this is a VERY. GOOD. FEELING.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Little Dark

Here's another work on paper--a night time with a barn and my favorite sennelier 205 green. The image is a little dark. It is snowing like mad--and my sky light is covered and the lights create too much sheen/glare. But I had to show you something I was working on!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Better Off Red

I can't remember when I started doing red skies. But, I think they work well. I actually use about 4 different colors when I do them, cadmium red light, cadmium red deep, violet blue and then some yellow at the horizon line. I apply all the color and then smoosh (my term) the colors together to blend with a blue shop cloth that I've wadded up. It usually requires a trip to the sink to get excess color off my hands--even before I work out the rest of the painting. This one is of Ojo Feliz, is on burgundy paper, 7 by 23 inches. when I frame it with an 11 by 27 mat, the final size will be about 12 by 28 if I use a blond wood frame, about 14 by 30 if I use a black leatherette frame. Haven't decided yet which works better!