Saturday, April 27, 2013

April 27, 2013

From snow last week to spring flowers budding this week—welcome to spring in Chicago! It was a beautiful day for painting and everyone rose to the task, as you can see. Lots to see and do this week, so we'll get right to it.

News of the week—Tony used the last of his old paper and will be switching to watercolor paper next week! Yay!
Assignment of the week (yes, everyone has homework, not just our newbies!)—inspired by Greeta's observation that painting fruit changed her life, we're all to paint something from life, rather than imagination or a photo.
Question of the week—What do you do when you run into trouble in a painting? Hard to imagine that any of us hits a rough patch, but read on. You'll see our answers after our paintings.
Pet of the week—Well, cats, of course. This is the internet, after all!

As you scrolled through, you probably noticed that Ellen is we posed last week's question to her. Ellen says she often comes at a painting from a literary point of view—a poem, a quote, words. Notice her "purple cow?" And, if you look closely at the waves in the painting of her son, the fisherman, you'll notice that she has subtly incorporated actual words into the waves ("just for today...don't worry"). Very cool, isn't it?

Today's question—What do you do when you run into trouble? Yes, it's happened to all of us at one time or another. And while we started with jokes like "Just ask Ken" or "Just add water," we all took the question seriously—and came up with some interesting observations. For many of us, the first thing we do is to stop. Alan and Ellen both stop; one thinks and one looks again. Mark thinks, too, but his thoughts specifically turn to negative space. And Elaine T. steps away, but then she "sneaks" back up on her painting to catch what it wants or needs from her. Sara may say she simply "adds more paint," but it's a complicated process of stepping back, seeing what needs to be done, adding a layer, painting over, adjusting, and looking again.

Very few of us give up. Most of us "paint through" the rough patch, using the potentially ruined painting as an opportunity to experiment (Tony) or be freer (Greeta). Only Susan and Ken admit to throwing out a painting midway—but only when it simply isn't working. Then they move on.  Steve views problem paintings as studies, as does Elaine O., who claims she runs into trouble in the middle of every painting so she just keeps on, finishing all the paintings she starts.

Pat pointed out that every painting veers from the original vision, creating a dialogue along the way between painting and painter. And in the end, some paintings are good, some not so good—but we learn something from each of them, whether we work through to a masterpiece or use the back side as a "sacrifice sheet" for testing paint swatches.

See you next week, when we ask the burning question, "How do you know when you're finished with a painting?"

Saturday, April 20, 2013

April 20, 2013

There was snow on the daffodils this morning—at the end of April no less! Had to be Caturday again! Elaine T. and Vivian painted cats, to coordinate with Ken's cat shirt, no doubt—which in turn coordinated with Pat's tablecloth/curtains ensemble and led to Mark's painting of Flounder, the koi from the conservatory. We have certainly gotten a lot of mileage from those sketching trips, haven't we?

Elaine O. forgot the camera, so no movies and we're relying on phone photos, but the paintings are great. Also, we had an interesting and lively art discussion today about how we decide to paint what we paint. See what we painted and then learn about our individual selection processes.

How do we decide what we're going to paint? Don't you wonder? If you've watched over the years, you'll notice that we sometimes paint in series, we sometimes try things once and walk away—and sometimes it seems like we have a sort of mind meld going on and we all tune into the same theme. Well, dear reader, we'll tell all below. 
Not surprisingly, most of us paint what we like or find interesting (which may change or evolve over time). For most of us, painting has opened our eyes to our surroundings. We go through the week looking for subjects that intrigue us. Mark looks for colors and Alan looks for structure and color. Tony looks for places he's enjoyed and wants to remember. Sara likes to paint people she knows and scenes from her window. She likes to paint light and large and has never met a tree she didn't like.
Many of us use photography as a tool. We've all painted from photos, but Steve deliberately takes series of photos to paint. So do Elaine O., Greeta and Vivian; Vivian increasingly uses her own photos and Greeta has noticed a marked improvement in her photography as a result. Susan, on the other hand, is into plein air—she paints as a diary of her life, seeing what she's feeling during the week and painting something to match. Ken sets himself exercises and moves from series to series as he explores; the series grow out of these explorations.
Elaine O. and Greeta joked about their choices. When they get stuck, Elaine O. says she paints a Buddha and Greeta goes for whatever's fresh in her refrigerator. But maybe they aren't kidding after all. Those familiar subjects have sparked some painting breakthroughs for them. In fact, Greeta says fruit changed her life. It taught her about shadows, drawing, composition and photography. Maybe there's something to this apple-a-day bit after all.
And while everyone claims they paint whatever appeals to them, either planned or spontaneously, what if you're truly in a quandry? Elaine T. elicited nods of approval when she said she wanders around looking for anything that seems even mildly interesting. And as she starts painting, she finds her inspiration. We agreed that she spoke for us all. It's so true—as we start to paint or draw something, no matter what it is, it becomes interesting.
See you next week. We'll be painting things that interest us and exploring a new "how do you make art" question.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

April 13, 2013

Another day back painting—always a good time! First of all, you'd think the month we spent sketching at the conservatory would have done us some good. Not so, apparently. It has come to our attention that we have been showing one of our paintings upside down—and it's a lush tropical scene, no less—exactly what we've been seeing and drawing for the past month. How embarrassing! At any rate, we've corrected that here. You can't miss the painting; it's the top of our lineup and the beautiful vibrant colors are eye-catching. (To be perfectly honest, it would even look great upside down, but it looks much better this way!)

And here's more bad news—no movie! Either the camera wasn't turned on or we're all some kind of vampire painters.  There was absolutely nothing on the camera to download when we plugged it in. At any rate, you'll have to wait until next week to look around our circle

So look at the beautiful colors, ranging from the delicate irridescence of seashells and glass to bold, colorful trees and cities. Then keep going as we look at granulation medium and discuss brushes.

Medium of the day. We spent some time discussing another medium today—granulation medium. You'll see it in the fabric in the painting of the still life near the top. Allen's conclusion, along with others who tried it, was that the effect was a bit subtler than we'd like. It seems to get more granular when you're using a paint that's already prone to granulation on a paper surface that encourages granulation. But the rest of the time.....needs more experimentation.

Because we didn't have all that much to say about granulation medium (oddly enough, as it seemed we were in a very chatty mood today), we switched to brushes. It started when Ellen grabbed the wrong bag before leaving her house. Can't do much painting with workout weights, so she had to borrow supplies. She did an incredible job with the unfamiliar tools and, in the process, discovered a new favorite brush—the cats tongue. Interestingly enough, the brush was Ken's and it had been languishing in his brushholder. So we talked about oil vs. watercolor brushes, fan brushes, whip brushes, liners and cats tongues. We reminisced about people by their favorite brushes or ones they'd introduced us to. Keep coming back. This is something we may have to explore in greater detail.