Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Painting Peonies

We are still digging out from the big blizzard here, so I thought I'd continue writing about spring flowers to distract myself from the giant snow mountains that are all over the city.

My terrace after the blizzard

Back in June I started a still life with a big bouquet of peonies.  There is a seller in the Union Square Greenmarket that sells the most beautiful peonies for the month of June and then they are gone.  The past few years I've been lucky enough to paint some of his bouquets.

After picking out my flowers I got to work blocking in the painting.  I had to work quickly as peonies can be very short lived.  Luckily, the flowers went in easily and I was able to finish them in about three days.

However, the rest of the painting was a different story.  I worked on the painting and it seemed to be going well, but when I thought it was finished, I was not completely satisfied.

Starting to add the pattern

The shot above is where I ended last summer.  I felt something was not quite right, but I did not know what it was, so I decided to let the painting sit for awhile.  I've done that before and the solution usually comes to me.

A few months later I finally figured it out.  The vase was too flat.  It was not looking as round as it should be, so I knew that it needed to be repainted.  I also decided that the background needed another coat of gray.

As you can see here, I really pumped up the shadow on the right.  That helped so much with the vase appearing to be round.  I also re- did the blue pattern and made an important change to the blue band around the top of the vase.  Instead of making the pattern all the same, I made the pattern shrink as it went to the sides of the vase.  These changes took away the feeling of flatness that was holding the painting back from being finished.

This is the finished painting.  I'm very happy with it now.  I often have this situation with flowers.  They go right in and the rest of the painting takes months, but it's fine if it happens that way.  As long as I was able to paint the beautiful peonies right away,  I don't mind waiting on the rest.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Painting Orchids And Hiding The Brushstrokes

Greetings, everyone!  I hope everybody survived the snowzilla.  Over here it was lots of cooking and Netflix/Prime.

I was looking through my photos and thought it would be nice to talk about a summer flower in the midst of twenty inches of snow :)  I began these orchids back in August and just finished the painting a few weeks ago.  From the start, this one did not go smoothly.

As you can see, the orchids were so big that they went way past my fabric background.  Also, I was not feeling my best when I started the painting, so that did not help matters.  However, I had been wanting to paint orchids for a long time, so I decided to just do it.

This is how I started.  It was just a basic block in that went fine, but i was having trouble coming up with a design I liked for the whole painting.

As you can see, I started with a green background and a white cloth under the planter.  I struggled through this entire process and that should have been a sign that this was not going to work, but it took me a little while to figure that out.

Eventually, I scrapped the entire thing.  One of the great things about Innerglow boards is that they have a front and back.  I simply turned the canvas around and started over.

I changed the background to gray and got rid of the white cloth.  I also put in the flowers rather than leaving them for later.

Luckily, the composition worked this time, but the rest of the painting was a total slog.  I had huge issues getting the background and the planter right.  Happily for me, the flowers went right in, so I had a reason to keep going.

As you can see in the photo above, the planter was still not right.  After having done it many times, I was really ready to throw in the towel when I happened upon an article by Matthew Weiner about his long struggle to bring Mad Men to the screen.  Hiding the brushstrokes is when artists or writers or musicians make it seem like they created their work with no missteps at all.  Weiner advocates talking about the rewrites and mistakes and do overs so that everyone who is struggling does not just give up or think they must be doing something wrong when a creation does not just come pouring out the first time.  This article could not have come at a better time for me.  It really gave me the push to keep going on this thing and finish it.  If Matthew Weiner struggles, I can too!

Things were finally coming together.  The shape of the pot was finally correct and I was getting happier with the background.

Unfortunately, I realized that I was breaking a serious rule with my shadows.  The shadows should follow the line of your object, not be all broken up like mine was.

I fixed the shadow and got to work on the blue pattern of the pot.  Unfortunately,  I lost count of how many times I had to repaint the blue pattern.  It just did not want to work.  I actually had to set the painting aside for a bit to let it completely dry and also just to take a break and work on something else.

This was one of my attempts.  Getting the diamond shaped pattern right was just not happening.  I painted this pot last summer and had no trouble at all.  You just never know how things are going to go.

One day I just went into the studio determined to get this thing done.  I got out my paint and just started doing the pattern.  I did not spend too much time thinking about it and this was the one time it finally worked out!

I'm so happy to have hung in there with this painting.  I'm very excited by how it turned out and so glad I kept going.  All creative people struggle but nobody likes to talk about it.  I hope this will start changing.  If something isn't going as you expected, keep at it or change it and start again.  Very few things come out perfectly the first time and there is nothing wrong with taking the time to get something exactly the way you want it!

h/t to Shauna for posting the Matthew Weiner article.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

My Plans For The New Studio Space

In my last post, I showed you the inspiration for my new studio space.  I will now break it down to show you exactly what my plans for the space were and how it is coming together.

This was the original space when I moved in.  It was great and I was so happy to have it, but there were a few issues.  It was a bit crowded.  It does not look like it here, but shortly after moving in paintings were piling up all over the place and I did not have much storage.  One of my studio mates was very kind and allowed me to share her closet space, but even with that I was constantly schlepping supplies and props back and forth from home.  There was also a much larger issue:  the color of the walls.  As I've mentioned before, we all use Benjamin Moore Country Life on our walls.  It is the perfect gray-green combo and really keeps the light from bouncing around.  I made do with the white walls by hanging large pieces of fabric behind my still life set ups and it helped, but I really wanted those gray walls!

After a bit of musical studios in our building, I was able to take over the entire space and get to work.  Now, when I say get to work, I really mean my husband did all the work while I sat in a chair perusing Instagram and waiting for him to say "Frances, I need a hammer" or whatever.  Luckily, he can DIY anything and actually enjoys doing it, so I'm extremely lucky in that regard.

We went in on November 28 and helped my roommate move her things into her new space and then got to work measuring and planning out the space.  I am a frustrated interior designer, so this is right up my alley.  As you can see in the photo above, I have some shelves to hold paintings rather than making a bunch of holes in the wall all the time.  We decided to extend those shelves across the length of each wall and add a larger still life shelf on the opposite side of the room.

The first task was patching up a bunch of holes and a few cracks in the walls.  Once that was done, it was off to Lowes for supplies to build the shelving.

We picked up wood for the painting shelves, the new still life shelf, and most exciting of all, the new closet shelves!  I now have my own closet in the studio and I could not be happier.  The closet is quite large and has tons of storage space.  Exactly what I have been needing.

It's not looking very glamorous right now, but after taking out the old shelves, repainting the entire thing and giving the floor a good scrub with Murphy's Oil Soap, it is looking and functioning brilliantly.

You can see the dividing line of the space here.  There are now painting shelves all along the wall, which is great as it got a lot of paintings off of the floor!

If you have ever done a renovation, you know that chaos is the order of the day for awhile, but it is so worth it to get the space that you want.

After the shelving was completed, we got on to the really exciting part: painting the walls!  I cannot tell you how excited I am to finally have gray walls.  Even after just two of the walls were painted, we noticed an immediate difference in the reduction of light bouncing around the room.

After all of my talk about Benjamin Moore Country Life, you will be surprised to learn that is not the  wall color I ended up using.  We actually sat in the studio and discussed it for awhile and I realized that the  Country Life would be too dark.  Even though I have two north facing windows, I don't get a tremendous amount of light into the room.  The other issue is the color of the floor.  As you can see in the photo above, the floor is painted battle ship gray.  This happened long before my time in the building and I wasn't about to start painting floors, so I decided to just work around it.  Luckily, the guy behind the counter in my local Benjamin Moore store really knows his colors and helped me choose something more suitable.  I showed him some photos of the studio and told him what I was trying to achieve with the color of the walls.  He suggested going a few shades lighter on the Country Life paint swatch to Herbal Escape.  I am happy to say the color worked perfectly!  I have the gray-green color that I need, but don't feel like I am trapped in a dark box all day. 

While the wall painting was happening, you will be happy to know that I actually did do some of the dirty work.  I decided to make a second still life shelf on the opposite side of the room so I can work on two paintings at the same time.  

The shelf is much larger than the one I currently have so I'm excited to be able to set up a large still life, something I've wanted to do for awhile.  I stained it with two coats of Minwax Dark Walnut, the same color as my current shelf.  

After the walls were painted, we got to work on the closet.  It was not in great shape so we took out the existing shelves and my hubs put up two brand new ones for me. The shelves and the closet walls were painted plain white since the door will be closed and I don't have to worry about light bounce.  
He also cleaned the wood floor and put a new hasp on the door as the old one was not in great shape.  

After everything was dry the fun began.  I got all of my props out of my friend's closet and put them here on the bottom shelf.  It is so nice to be able to see everything that I have.  Some of the stuff was still wrapped up from when I moved in.  On the top shelf I put things I won't need as often such as travel supplies, my spotlight and things like that.  The floor is holding my french easel and all of my handy porter carry boxes as well as my blank canvases.  I am beyond thrilled to have all of this stuff off the floor and organized in one space.

In addition to all of this we changed out the bulbs in the ceiling lights to daylight bulbs, put in a new light switch and cover (the old one was covered with paint), cleaned the windows and I was finally able to scrub down the studio furniture that has been in there for almost three years.  Doing a good cleaning was impossible because of space constraints, but I am now happy to report that everything is looking good.

There are a few things that still need to be done.  I am ordering fabric swatches to cover my bulletin board and I will be bringing in a desk and a kitchen cart to have more surface room.  I also have to figure out my calendar situation.  I need something to keep me organized with show dates, pick ups and deliveries and things like that.  

I painted in the room for the first time this weekend and I can't tell you how great it was.  I'll be back with the full reveal when it is  all finished as well as a detailed source list.   If you have any questions about anything so far, leave me a message in the comments.  

Have a great day, and as always, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A Visit To The Studios Of David Leffel And Sherrie McGraw

Hello Everyone and Happy 2016!  I ended up taking a little blog break and I have so much to tell you.  I have four finished paintings that I will be posting about, but the big news is that I now have my own painting studio!  I am beyond excited about this.  I have been sharing a space for a few years and while it was great and I was so grateful to have it, I started needing more space nearly two years ago.

I have a ton of paintings piled up against my bookshelves at home and I was having to schlep my still life props back and forth.  Those blue and white vases are heavy!  Additionally, I was just out of room.  It had become hard to find things and when I did want to search for something it required moving a bunch of stuff around.  Not a big hardship by any means, but it did cause productivity issues.

I have a board on Pinterest called "Fantasy Art Studio" where I've been saving images for a few years, but on my trip to Taos I was extremely fortunate to visit the ultimate in art studios in person.

You may remember that in the fall of 2014 I attended a workshop in Taos, NM, given by David Leffel, Sherrie McGraw, Gregg Kreutz and Jackie Kamin.  We had a great time painting the landscape and seeing the demos at night, but the highlight of the trip for me was the closing night party.  The party took place at the home of David and Sherrie and while their home is over the top gorgeous, it was their art studios had everyone standing around in awe.  We were overwhelmed by the spaces, they were just so beautiful.  I decided then that if I ever had my own space, I wanted to model it on those two rooms.

I'll start with David's studio.  Above is the still life he was working on at the time.  When we walked into the studio people were just walking around with their mouths hanging open.  It was like being in Rembrandt's studio hundreds of years ago.  He had the gray/green walls, wood floors, easels and furniture, a gorgeous rug and tons of beautiful props and paintings.  It was dusk so some of the pictures may seem a bit dark, but you can definitely get a feel for the atmosphere of the studio.

I use a shelf for my still life set ups, but David has enough room to have a large table.  That is so great for doing a huge set up.

Painting By David Leffel

Above is the gorgeous model we had at the workshop.  There were David Leffel paintings all over the place (obviously).  I've seen one or two at a time at the Salmagundi Club and other galleries, but here there were a ton just hanging out.  It was such a treat so see.

The photo above shows the light source for the room.  Three north light windows provide all the light.  We all paint by natural light only.  It can be dark, but the natural light and the dark walls keep light from bouncing around and help make the dark shadows that make all the difference in our still life paintings.

There was a lot of stuff packed into this space, but it was all very neat and organized.  Something I'm looking forward to in my own studio.

The prop shelves were to die for.  Tons of blue and white pottery, vintage brass pots, dried flowers.  It was just beautiful.

The man himself

Right next door is Sherrie McGraw's studio.  It is very similar to David's but there are a few differences.  Sherrie has the most amazing chaise for models and an incredible still life prop collection.  Lets take a look.

Sherrie in her studio

Drawings by Sherrie McGraw

As you can see,  just a beautiful studio.  Gorgeous props, books, wooden painting racks.  It was amazing.  And it was so lovely to see Sherrie's beautiful drawings and paintings hanging everywhere.

This was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I cannot thank David and Sherrie enough for the incredible generosity they showed all of us.  I can't think of too many artists who would happily and graciously welcome a horde of people into their home and studios.

In my next post I'll give you a rundown on the plans for transforming my studio into something resembling the beauty we have seen here.