January 31, 2012

Day 1 of Tracy's Daily Painting Project

Welsh Landscape 1 -- watercolor on canvas 10 x 8" (20.3 x 25cm)
Before I started doing this painting project, I reviewed lots of other artist's work to get a better idea of where I wanted to go with this, and how I wanted to handle things.  I saw a lot of great work, and realized,  when looking at different people's sites, I came to understand
that there are many ways to do daily painting "right." 

For instance, some painters truly clearly felt compelled to produce a painting each day. Others were comfortable, instead to commit to creating a fixed number of paintings a week.  Some restricted themselves to working only from life. Others also looked to  photo reference and/or their own imaginations for inspiration.  Some marketed their work on one source, and other's took a broader marketing approach.  Some limited themselves to 30 minutes or less to paint: , others didn't.

No matter what their commitments about how they would work, the daily painters had something really important that united them:  a belief that submitting themselves to the discipline of producing work so consistently over a long period of time would help them grow as artists.  

Craig Nelson, the author of one of my favorite painting boos,  60 Minutes To Better Painting, called doing this giving yourself "brush mileage."  Like Nelson encouraged his readers to do, daily painters see these little daily paintings as serving a purpose different from their larger, finished work.  The process used to produce them is at least as important as the look of the finished works themselves.  I love that idea.

I look forward to using this year to increase my observational, painting, and composition skills as each painting increases my own personal brush mileage.  However, I'm following the folk who produce 3 to  (ideally) 5 new paintings a week.  I'm not committing myself to a set time to do the work because I accept that working quickly is a skill that I'm still in the process of learning. I am, however, going to restrict the size of these pieces I produce.  The works I create must be able to fit in one of the USPS priority mail boxes.  Doing that will make shipping more affordable for buyers and myself.  Thus, none of the pieces will be larger 12 x 14" (30 x 35 cm), and most will be smaller.   For instance, today piece is 8 x 10.  Finally,  I'm planning to produce work in a variety of media because that is something I've always loved to do, and I've been restricting almost exclusively to oil painting in the last year.

Although I really like the idea of working from life,  I'm going to be one of those folk who uses a variety of inspirations for my paintings.  I'm doing this because I have all types of photo references, etc. that I've gathered over the years that I would have loved to tackle.  Now, I have an excuse to do that, and I'm thrilled.  That being said, I'm going to do at least one painting a week from life also because since I normally do paint from photo references, I know can use practice working from life.

Today's painting, Welsh Landscape 1, is based on a watercolor sketch I did years ago when we first visited Wales.  Wales holds a special place in my heart because an English travel agent tried to discourage my husband and me from visiting there -- dismissing the Welsh as unfriendly and strange. As Americans, my husband and I decided that we wanted to make up our own minds, and we are so glad that we did.  We found the people to be warm and friendly, and much of the landscape beautiful and dramatic.  For that reason, my earlier sketch held a special place in my heart.  However, I had just starting to paint, so the materials I used weren't as archival as I use now, and I'm thrilled by the opportunity to revisit the topic.  I'll probably revisit again later in the year as my skills doing fast, small works grows.

I'd love your feedback on this piece and on the way I've decided to approach my own daily painting project.

January 29, 2012

Fine Day Out in Lancaster County

We have been having January thaw weather -- blue sky & clouds and temperatures topping out in the high 40's (about 8 or 9 C). We finally decided to take advantage of it, so yesterday we attended a winter birding program at Lancaster County Central Park. 

It was great and we were so charmed by seeing things like snow drops (that shouldn't be out for about a month at least) that we decided to continue the fun by taking a ride.

Arny asked where I wanted to go. At first, I said north, and then I looked at the clouds moving in and said, let's just follow the sun. He thought it was a great idea, and we had a wonderful couple of hours drifting through the county, choosing each new turn after consulting the sky. If our direction of travel started to move us into clouds, we turned towards the most sunny place. 

What we saw on our ride reminded us of how beautiful our county is even in the more-subtly-hued times of winter. By the end of the trip, we were pleased and surprised to find that our drift had led to one of our favorite natural places, Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area, and that it already had a large population of swans and geese.

 Check out a selection of the photos we took below and 
tell me which ones you think I should use as subjects for my "painting a day" project.

Fox Sparrow on Christmas Tree

Sparrow on Feeder

Nuthatch on Pine

Chickadee Hanging From Feeder


January Snow Drops

Seed Pods in the Sun
Dried Grasses Glowing in the Sun

Winter "flowers"

Sycamore Against a Winter Sky

A Spiral of Swans, Middle Creek WLMA

Middle Creek Swans & Geese in Late Day Sun

Swans Trough Late Day Trees

January 27, 2012

Thanks for the head's-up about spelling errors, etc.!

I am not a naturally good speller nor a great typist (or proof-reader if the truth be known.)  Thus, I am one of those people for whom the invention of the spell-checker was a remarkable boon.   However, that great tool alone can't protect me from all errors in my posts, but fortunately, lovely people also have my back.  They point out my error(s), so I have the opportunity to correct them. I welcome those corrections, so if you notice an error, I'd love to hear about it so I can correct it as soon as possible.  I even value hearing other's opinion's on what I post, and am happy to update my blog if I think that what was pointed out is of value.

     For instance, this morning my younger sister and pointed out an error that I've fixed with my last post.  And, a couple of people posted about my first tutorial, and pointed out problems with using black tape to give the sides of one's paintings a more-finished edge.  I thought I had made it clear in the post that it was a quick and easy thing to do, but one that wasn't a professional-looking as either painting the sides of the painting black or just continuing the image on to the sides. After reading their shares, I realized that wasn't as clear in my post as it should have been.  Thank you both for altering me to that.

    The first person who wrote lives in a warm and damp place, and she pointed out that duct tape in such weather can eventually loose it's grip and then fall off.  Not only does loose tape look unsightly, but the getting the tape residue off the side might be hard.  I thought about what she said, and I realized that freezing and very dry weather also undermine the integrity of the glue on duct tape.  So, dear readers heed her warning, black duct tape does eventually lose it's grip, and unless you plan on replacing that tape with MORE duct tape, it may be difficult to get the tape residue off the side.

    The second person to point out a problem with the duct tape is an artist of long standing who also worked in a gallery setting.  Using black duct tape on paintings was a particular peeve of her's as a gallery person because she saw the problems it caused to restore the painting to a presentable condition when it did come undone.  She thought that using such materials should even be discouraged even in a student setting because doing such things can lead to lazy/poor work practices that would haunt them all their lives as artists.  For instance, she said that sometimes she got works in her gallery were the artist was demanding as much as $15,000 for work that incorporated duct tape.  Seeing duct tape on works now is a reason for her not to show the work.

   I was so impressed with their reasoning that I want to state clearly here that using black duct tape has lots of problems (even if it is so easy and fast to do.) Thus, it should be avoided in most situations. In fact, I was so impressed by their reasoning that you might notice that my little  "painting a day" canvases all have black sides painted with acrylic paint.

   As I said, if you have any comments (or corrections) about this post, I'd love to hear them.

January 25, 2012

Art musings, art tip, and a "painting a day"

5 little canvases prepared for week 1 of  PAD
 (note black painted sides) 
Since coming back to the States (from Ireland) in August, I've been in landing mode: getting the house back into shape, sitting in on a painting course, and (of course) starting this blog.  However, the Fall was dominated by my painting in class, and on my own in the class studio when classes weren't on.  It was great.  I got lots of "brush mileage", but not doing much from the professional development arena. For instance, I hadn't arranged to have a show of the work I produced in Ireland.

Thus, when Franklin and Marshall College's Fall Semester ended, I decided to forgo sitting in on a Spring class as an act of commitment to once again doing more to get myself  better known as an artist.  For instance, we didn't do our normal traveling on my husband's break from college.  Instead, we stayed in town so  I could work with my graphic artist sister, Danni, to created this blog.  She also helped me get over some of my fear and loathing about updating my website.  She was great, and I feel more grounded, but as we all know that feeling only lasts as long as we keep doing what helped us feel better.

 If you didn't notice, that's an art tip:  if you are like me, techno classes you take (or help you get) will only move you to a better place in the long run if you choose to use the use the things you learned.  Otherwise, in my experience the term use it or lose it will be the rule of the day.  I know this is true for me because I've taken great business of art workshops that our local art college, PA College of Art and Design, make available to folk in the arts community as part of their Lancaster Artist Initiative program.  I left each class stoked to do what I learned about, but fear led to my putting things off long enough that I never got comfortable with doing the new things I learned.

Tomorrow, I'm going to start talking about something else I'm doing to keep my focus on the work -- while working on the business part of art.  I'm exploring the "painting a day" movement.  It will push me to do work each week day.  It also will push me to explore using e-bay or other marketing tools. Wish me luck.

I'd love to hear your input (thoughts/advice) on the painting a day program, eBay or whatever.

January 17, 2012

I've got a tutorial on EmptyEasel

I've always loved the site, EmptyEasel.  It's a great resource for those interested in painting and those interested in finding ways to market the work they make.  I loved looking at the tutorials that people in the art community make sharing things they have learned that have helped them as they grow as artists.  I thought it would be great to become part of their art community, so I submitted the first tutorial I produced for my new art blog, and Dan (the EmptyEasel man) accepted it.  Click here to check it out.  So cool!
Hey, Everyone,

        I've been thinking about participating in one of those sites that challenges on to do small paintings on a regular basis.  I've looked at the "painting a day" sites, and they seem good in many ways, but I was wondering if anyone knows about any good painting a week sites.  It still would improve my "brush mileage", and give help me challenge my creativity and compositional/color skills.  Does anyone out there have any suggestions of sites they like, or they've found useful?

January 10, 2012

Paying Attention to The Sides to Get A Step Ahead: 5 tips for Making This Easier.

Unfinished sides
If you paint on canvas -- either in acrylics, oils, or watercolor -- you probably have noticed that your unframed paintings look much better from the front than they; do from the side.  The raw canvas looks startlingly white against the painted front.  Worse yet, during the painting process, bits of the colors that you used on your painting get on the sides and create a “design” element that is jarring against your carefully planned and executed front. Throughout this post, I’ve included some examples of works where I did and didn’t “pay attention to the sides” to help you envision what I’m writing about. 
In the past, what the sides looked like didn’t matter as much because everyone assumed that a finished painting was a framed painting.  Framing works is still great, but having to find frames that fit and really complement your work adds a layer of complication and expense. Today we have more options that can save us time and money, and will allow even our unframed works to feel more finished and professional.  

Here are 5 tips to do just that:
  1. The quickest way to make your paintings’ sides look more finished is to use black duct tape (it’s called Gaffer’s tape in Ireland & England)  to cover your canvas’ sides. Ideally, you'd do this before you start painting, but you can use this technique on a finished painting whose sides you left white.  Its downside is that the tape I’m recommending here isn’t acid-free -- which upsets some collectors, and museum folk, but it’s a good choice for studies and in works you're planning on showing in your home or more casual settings. Several things to keep in mind when doing this: 
Black sides
      1. You don’t have to use one continuous piece of tape, but the fewer seams you have, the better.
      2. Your tape should be somewhat wider than the side of your canvas so you can wrap the tape over the canvas’ back edge.  However, don’t overlap the canvas’ face -- or the tape will interfere with your painting’s look and, if you later choose to remove the tape, leave a jarring white place on the painting itself.
      3. Finally, to ensure the tape looks its best: use a hospital fold (like you do when you are stretching a canvas)  on the corners; make sure to press the tape down firmly; and be diligent as you paint to clean off any stray paint that gets on the tape.
2.  The cheapest way to finish your painting's sides is to paint them black before starting your painting. Three things to keep in mind if you do this:
    1. Acrylic paint is best to use for this, no matter what medium you’re using to create your work (acrylic, oils, or watercolor.) It dries quickly and cleans off easily. However, if your canvas is stapled on the side, first gesso the sides -- to prevent rust problems later.
    2. Avoid letting the black paint get on the canvas front.  If it does, wipe that paint off immediately to prevent a ridge line showing though your paint.  A rag is OK with oils and acrylics, but if you’re planning to use watercolor on canvas, use a Mr. Clean Magic Sponge on the wet paint to ensure that all residue of the acrylic paint is off the canvas front.
    3. Diligently clean off any stray paint that mars your black sides.  Dry paint is harder to clean off, but if that happens sand the dry paint and carefully touch up the marred area with your black acrylic paint.
    3.    The most interesting way to finish your painting's side is to continue painting onto the work's sides (best done on wide gallery-stretched canvases.) Three things to keep in mind if you do this:
        Painted sides
      1. Don’t forget the bottom.  It’s tricky to do this because your canvas sits on the bottom, so you might want to wait until the top is dried enough to flip the painting safely on the top edge so you can work on the bottom edge.
      2. Use a sketchier painting style on the sides.  The sides aren’t the star of your work, so viewers aren’t concentrating on them. Thus, you just need to have enough detail to have viewers’ eyes “fill in” what they expect as they scan from the front to the sides. 
      3. You can also choose to paint the sides of a narrow depth canvas, but it won’t look as good as if the sides are deep.  Further, if the sides are stapled, like with the black-painted sides, you will need to first gesso the sides to prevent rust problems later.
    4.  Resist the temptation to skip using hanging hardware and bumpers when displaying your work with finished sides.  The top of your canvas really isn’t designed to carry the weight of your painting over the long haul. Instead, place hangers on the canvas’ side bars (about a hand’s length down from the top.)  Why should you place the bumpers on the on the bottom edges of your work?  They help your work stay straight on the wall.

    5.   When using a shadow-box style of frame for your work, do finish your painting's sides in some way. Yes, the reveal won’t allow the viewers to see much of the edge, but finishing the edges still creates a more professional, finished look.
    I’d love to hear any comments or further suggestions about this topic.

    January 5, 2012

    Happy Birthday to My Sista

    Tracy Birthday Tangle - by Danni O'Brien, CZT
    This is a guest post, I'm Tracy's sister Danni and I'm here to help her with her blog and celebrate her milestone birthday. I want to say Happy Birthday to my sista Tracy and wish her much Laughter and Love on this special day.

    I created a little birthday tangle to celebrate this wonderful day. We're having a party tonight and much laughter and frivolity will be had with 30 or so of her friends tonight. She's a popular gal!

    p.s. "sista" is correct spelling in our little family!

    January 3, 2012

    Creating a portrait of a child

    Immersed in Her Own World
    Sometimes people ask me how I choose my images.  For me. it's a highly personal and evolutionary process.  

    For example, with "Immersed in Her Own World" I started out thinking about creating a toy landscape for a class I was sitting in on.  The teacher wanted us to use toys to create somewhat disturbing images, but I had a general idea of creating a softer, gentler image.  So, I visited with friends and got some wonderful pictures of their baby girl's favorite toys. But, I couldn't resist also snapping a number of images of the toy's adorable owner.  Then, when I went to compose my landscape, her image wouldn't let me go, so the landscape evolved to include her. . . and then grew into a series exploring how children's experience of their toys differ from what grown-ups might expect.   

    Here's a poem I wrote while painting that captures why I chose image as part of my series:

    Beloved child, fruit of my loins.
    I awaited your arrival with such anticipation.
    I envisioned sharing with you the things that brought me joy . . .
    in my childhood, and during my child-like moments.
    I so looked forward to experiencing anew the pleasure of those simple things 
    as I saw them through your eyes. 
    In our excitement, we who loved you, surrounded your little body with whirl of soft textures, 
    and pastel and jewel-toned offerings to show you, “you are loved.”      
    I never wondered if their number was more of a burden to you than a joy,  
    but then I saw you with your sweet little train, 
    so totally focused on that one bright thing, 
    and I doubted.
    But moments later, my heart was calmed when you focused 
    your laser attention and love on another thing. 
    That became your world for a moment, and then another thing did, 
    and then me.  

    January 1, 2012

    New Year, New Venture

    2012 is beginning a great way.  My sister, Danni, is here visiting and helping me to begin my art posting adventure.  Danni, a CZT (Certified Zentangle Teacher) and graphic designer working in the Ann Arbor, MI area.  With her help, I know that my blog is going to take on a professional look it wouldn't have otherwise (Thanks, Danni),  and we're going to use this week to help me get a comfort level with work on the blog that I never would have had otherwise.  Am I a lucky gal or what!