Found or Free: Apples and Candlestick

Found on the Street #1, Candlestick and Apples, oil painting on panel, 8x8" (Click image to enlarge)

Found on the Street #1, Candlestick and Apples, oil painting on panel, 8×8″ (Click image to enlarge)

This is one in a series of paintings of free stuff and things found on the street during my walks in the Berkeley, California area. The little apples had fallen from a neighbor’s tree and the candlestick was in a free box on the curb. Below are photos of some steps in the work in progress of this painting (which is available to purchase from my Daily Paintworks gallery here) and a couple of cool studio tips too.

I’m finally back to regular painting and posting and so excited about oil painting again after a long stretch of pondering, processing, exploring, questioning, looking outward and inward to discover what it is I want to be doing with my art life. I’m now happily rediscovering my oil painting process after trying on many others. There is so much beautiful art and so many styles and approaches to making it but only so many hours in the day and I want to spend them painting in a way that brings me joy.

In case you’re interested, the adjustable height table that supports my glass palette (made to fit by a glass shop) is this Over Bed Table from Amazon as is this Wooden Cane.  I’d been trying to find a used one in thrift shops for months after reading about Richard Schmid using one as a mahl stick but never found one. It’s nice to have a shiny, new clean one anyway. The shadow box is one I built based on Carol Marine’s directions but I covered some of the white PVC pipes with black tape. The clip on light has a small 5000K LED lamp in it. I’ve tried so many different lights but this is my favorite, from my local hardware store. The easel is a Sorg.

My Art in a Book, a Field Guide and a New Commission

I am happy to say that the excellent new book Urban Sketching: The Complete Guide to Techniques by Thomas Thorspecken, includes this “Urban Animals” page (above) featuring my sketches of cats. When the publisher contacted me to request the use of the images, I was delighted. I was even happier when they sent my complimentary copies of the book and I saw all the really useful information and wonderful sketches it contains.

Field Guide to San Francisco

Field Guide Cover

Field Guide Cover

Then I got an email from an art director from the San Francisco office of the national advertising agency, Ogilvy. They were moving and she was designing a “Field Guide” to the new SF neighborhood for their employees. When searching for sketches of the area she found mine, and as she looked through my blog she found sketches to illustrate most of the pages in the guide.

(This would be a good time to point out to fellow art bloggers how important it is to tag or attach categories to your images and your posts. WordPress makes it easy; the feature is a little hidden in Blogger but it really helps to find posts or images with specific content.)

In the end, they licensed 18 of my sketches for use in the printed field guide. Above are a few of the pages, brilliantly composed by the art director.

What I’m working on now

I am honored to be working on a commissioned large watercolor painting for a couple who live in Europe now, but were married in a lovely building in a Bay Area park. The wife wants to give her husband the painting for their anniversary. I visited the venue and took photos and we agreed on a composition. The painting is underway and so far is going well, but because it is large and has many details, it is keeping me very busy (and happy) in the studio.

(I’m leaving out any identifying details about the locations to make sure there’s no way her husband will find out. I know that seems unlikely, but when working on a previous commissioned painting of a house for a surprise anniversary present for the husband, their daughter found the work-in-progress painting I’d posted of her parents’ house when she Googled “Oakland Federal Building,” landed on my sketch of the building, scrolled down and the next post was her home. She was so surprised to see it she called her parents!)

Sunny Landscapes, Summer, Spring, and Smelly

Briones Park, Sunny Afternoon, oil on panel, 10x8"

Briones Park, Sunny Afternoon, oil on panel, 10×8″

Briones Park Sunny Afternoon available for purchase here

I didn’t realize until I saw these two pictures together, that it was easy to tell that I painted one in summer (above) and the other in the spring (below), just by their color palette, even though they were both painted on warm, sunny days. I started the painting above plein air, but only got halfway done before it was time for the group critique. I finished it from memory and a photo but didn’t touch areas I already loved, like the yummy turquoise color in the background.

Briones Park (above) is gorgeous, but dogs are allowed off-leash there so the grasses along this beginning stretch of the trail are littered with stinky dog poo, thanks to irresponsible dog owners. But like bugs, wind and weather, smells are part of the plein air experience too.

Castle Rock Park and Mt. Diablo, Spring, 8x10"

Castle Rock Park and Mt. Diablo, Spring, 8×10″

I painted this watercolor view of Mt. Diablo in my 8×10 Moleskine. I didn’t have time to set up for oils because although we’d planned a day at Borges Ranch we learned on arrival that a 4-H club had reserved the area and we had to leave. The ranger suggested we go to Castle Rock Park down the road.

I parked at the Borges entrance for a while, catching others as they arrived and directing them to Castle Rock. Finally I left a big note on a brown paper bag taped to the Borges entrance sign, hoping latecomers would see it and know where to find us.

After the drive to Castle Rock and a hike to the top of a hill I only had time for a watercolor sketch. The bright yellow-green grassy field was beautifully spotted with lavender wild flowers. In the summer everything would be pretty much the same color of golden brown. This time it didn’t smell like dog poo; it was the pungent odor of the cows that graze there that accompanied the view.

End of Journal Self Portraits

Self Portrait, Oil on panel, 6x6"

Self Portrait, Oil on panel, 6×6″

I wasn’t satisfied with the two ink and watercolor end-of-journal self-portraits (below) that completed the 8×10″ Moleskine I was working in back in June. Rose Frantzen had told me during my workshop with her that I had wonderful skin to paint and should be doing lots of self-portraits from life in oil. So I decided to give it a try.

I only had couple of hours left in the day for painting so chose a small 6×6″ panel that already had a dark background from wiping off a previous failed painting. I turned off most of the lights in the studio except for one pointing at my face from the left and one overhead light behind me. I clamped a mirror to the easel and started painting. What a surprise: after a couple of hours I’d made my most favorite self-portrait ever.

I know it’s not perfect but I don’t think it calls for perfecting; it’s just a moment in time and a record of a very enjoyable but short painting session.

Below are the two in my sketchbook. I was in a really grumpy mood and struggling with the drawing on the first one and it shows (below):

Grumpy Strained Self-Portrait, ink & watercolor, 10x8"

Grumpy Strained Self-Portrait, ink & watercolor, 10×8″

A few days later I tried again:

Self-Portrait with Birthday Bouquet

Self-Portrait with Birthday Bouquet, ink & watercolor, 10×8″

I was in a much better mood. I put my birthday bouquet on the table between me and the mirror and started drawing. It was confusing trying to combine what was real and what was mirror image. It’s a dorky drawing of me but I like the flowers.

Isn’t it amazing how emotions and mood show in a drawing or painting? It’s like there are two different people in these two sketches: mean, tense, bossy-lady and sweet, flowery, dorky girl.

Invite and Sneak Peak of Art Show Reception Friday August 9

My wall in the group show at the Collector

My wall in the group show at the Collector

Here is a peek at my wall in the Collector Gallery in Berkeley’s Elmwood district showing 12 oil paintings. I have more small paintings displayed off the wall in the gallery. The largest painting on the wall (Happy Boy Farms Tomatoes) is 12×12 inches and the smallest is 6×6 inches.

If you’re in the area please stop by for music, refreshments and to see these and the interesting work by the other four artists in this show. And for further enticement, it doesn’t hurt that Berkeley’s most popular ice cream shop is right next door.

August 9 2013 reception flyer

August 9 2013 reception flyer

Above is the postcard for the reception Friday night from 6-8 at the The Collector Gallery in Berkeley at 2950 College Avenue.  (Download Collector reception flyer pdf).

Loads ‘o Lillies and Winsor Newton Cotman watercolor review

"Lily White on White," oil on Gessobord panel, 8x8"

“Lily White on White,” oil on Gessobord panel, 8×8″
(AVAILABLE on DailyPaintworks Auction: CLICK IMAGE to visit auction)

I spent some time sketching and painting a calla lily that sprouted in my garden and while I was at it, tested a palette of Winsor Newton Cotman paints. Several of my friends have this clever, inexpensive Winsor & Newton Cotman Sketchers Palette and I thought it was worth a try so I ordered one.

I started by testing the colors, listing the pigments to match them to artists’ quality pigments I normally use (click to see larger with pigment numbers) and making notes about which ones to swap out (at that point assuming I’d continue using the others).

Test of WInsor Newton Cotman pan paints (FAIL)

Test of WInsor Newton Cotman pan paints (FAIL)

I was very frustrated with the results I was getting when painting and in the end, took ALL the Cotman pans out of the palette and replaced them with pans filled with artist quality paints from tubes. I put the Cotman pans in a large jar of water to soak so that I could empty and reuse the empty pans. After dumping and refilling the jar many times I ended up with a jar of tinted water with a lot of white sandy junk at the bottom: the nasty fillers and binders added to the pigments to make it cheap.

I know that for the same $17 that this palette AND crappy paint costs, you can only buy one or two tubes of full strength, high quality paint. But I’d rather have only a few colors than use junk. Most of the following sketches lack vibrancy, richness in color, and paint application was difficult and unattractive. Here they are in reverse order of completion:

Lily sketch #6, watercolor, 8x10"

Lily sketch #6, watercolor, 8×10″

I liked the drawing above, but not the grayed colors.

Lily sketch #5, ink & watercolor, 8x10"

Lily sketch #5, ink & watercolor, 8×10″

I liked the shape of the leaf above.

Lily sketch #4?, gouache, 8x10"

Lily sketch #4?, gouache, 8×10″

I painted over an awful sketch with gouache (above), just loosely trying to get the shape of the flower.

Lily sketch #3-4, watercolor, 8x10"

Lily sketch #3-4, watercolor, 8×10″

Two previous attempts at the leaf, on 2 other kinds of paper I taped into the 8×10″ Moleskine.

Lily sketch #1 with Snail, watercolor, 8x10"

Lily sketch #1 with Snail, watercolor, 8×10″

The first sketch. I like the composition but the colors and application were yuck.

I’m still using the Cotman Palette. I think it’s a great for sketching because it’s light,  compact and holds enough colors (12). And at $17 I don’t mind the price, even after throwing away the colors it cane with. It’s handy to have the now-empty, extra half-pans which usually cost about 50 cents each. So really, I got the palette for $11, and 12 empty pans for $6. Not too bad.

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