Friday, December 19, 2014

Accentuate The Negative?????: Book Reviews and More.

Calaveras river-prior to recent rains

Calaveras river

White Pines Lake (They are not Arnold!)
This week has been spent working on studies and because of that I only have photos of scenery to show. The first two shots depict the river near my home. It has been raining and so the river is fuller now. Creek beds that have been dry all summer and fall are now flowing with water.  On my drive to the Bay Area on Wednesday I saw lots of standing water; orchards and ditches flooded with more water than can be absorbed by the ground. The last shot is from November and illustrates some of my most current interests: reflections, repetition and the illusion of layered spaces. The mentioning of these interests brings me to the next two things that I have to share.

Book Review #1:
This week I read two new books that I want to share. The first book has to do with the mechanics of making layered artwork through the use of negative space painting. The book is called Simplifying Design and Color for Artists: Positive Results Using Negative Space Painting Techniques. Linda Kemp is the author and I found the book on Amazon. One of the most challenging problems that I face as a painter is the ability to see spatially. Being able to envision multiple layers is difficult for me. I tend to see things side by side and if I see them layered together I have a difficult time imagining more than one way to layer those objects when I paint. It's one of the reasons that printmaking as a way to express myself never quite took off. However, why struggle with a weakness when you can learn to overcome it? I have tried a few times on my own to work in a subtractive way and have not liked the results so it seemed like it was time for some outside help. 

Linda's book has been key not only in addressing working with layers and negative spaces (how to see things spatially on a flat 2-d surface) but in the concepts of design and color. She stresses design as a way to support the subject matter rather than the other way round. This section is pretty good and covers the basics of composition thoughtfully. However, the section on color is the real draw. I have read quite a few art books that cover color theory, namely color formulas. Linda takes things in a different direction. The information provided addresses the three properties of color: hue, intensity and value. She advocates playing up one property while playing down the other two. Each project illustrates an example of doing this. It makes a lot of sense to me in a way that I can understand. I looked at my own paintings and could see that all of this time I have been utilizing the property of value while decreasing the property of intensity. I fall down in the area of color schemes, however. It's never made any sense to me. The information on color alone and her unique approach to it gives this book a very wide appeal that goes beyond her methods of working with positive and negative space. That information is very good too though if that is what you are after. 

Book Review #2:
The second book I read is called Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking and is written by David Bayles and Ted Orland. I strongly recommend this book for those of you reading who, like me, need a good solid kick in the rear end. Honestly, this will set you straight. The authors are artists themselves. They examine the reasons why artists get stuck with their art practice and quit prematurely. Or get older and stop. Or start teaching and stop. The book is written in a very matter-of-fact style by two men who are very straightforward in their phrasing. "Get over yourself now (because no one else cares)" is the way that I can best sum up this book. A worthwhile read.

I hope everyone has had a creative week. The end of the calendar year generally brings some re-tooling to my art practice and so I hope to have some new things to show shortly. In the meantime, thank you for reading and commenting. 
Libby

Friday, December 12, 2014

New Work: Winter Walk

Winter Walk
acrylic with knife on wc paper:
image 10" x 8" approx/matted to 11" x 14"
available: libbyfife@ymail.com
It's always a good thing for me when I am out and about and see something that captures my attention; a scene that is well suited for the palette knife work. My walk at Hogan includes many areas of open field. Some of the areas lead up or down hills and some just lead across an expanse of flat land.  For this idea, I enjoyed the effect of the field seeming tall and for the framing that the trees provided for the mountains. It feels layered to me and I like that. The colors of the grasses right now too are quite wonderful. They are a deep orange/brown in many places-unexpected when you really start to look at them closely. 

I would add too that in general, the color here is far superior in the fall/winter. It's true that in the spring the brilliant green grasses and trees are a real draw for people. There is something though about the backdrop of a winter gray sky (not actually gray but almost a yellowish or purplish gray) that really sets off the color. The grasses are intensified in their color variations. During the fall, some of the bushes "bloom" and their tips turn a wonderful deep red/maroon shade that compliments nicely the bluish green of their regular foliage. Many of the oak trees, which have been starved for any water all summer and fall, finally give in and start to turn a golden or russet color. Because I live in the foothills and not higher country like Arnold or farther up the highway 4 corridor, we don't have beautiful trees such as Aspens that turn a golden color. Not naturally anyway; people do plant them of course. So, because color doesn't appear in obvious ways, I really have to look at the landscape differently. Tall bushes and trees are a pinkish color blending to a more muted purple. Many trees are a golden color with deeply dark branches. I have seen lately too bright yellow leaves interspersed in bare dark brown branches; two trees twining together. There is some kind of brilliant green algae on the water of the Calaveras river. The water itself is a deep steel gray color at times, reflecting the color of the sky. In all, the hues and tones are very subtle. Beautiful but a person is made to search and think.

Hope everyone has had a good week. We got pounded with wind and rain yesterday; a true gift but I hope no one got flooded. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Libby

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

New Work: Almost Winter

Almost Winter
9" x 12: acrylic on wc paper-matted to 12" x 16"
available: libbyfife@ymail.com
About a month or so ago Rich bought a new camera. It's a very nice one, a Canon, and it's main claim to fame is a very powerful zoom lens. I am slowly trying to learn about how to use the camera. My grasp of basic terminology is poor and so just learning the variables involved in photography (aperature, ISO, shutter speed) is very challenging. All three things work in concert together on this camera or they can work separately. I am feeling quite incompetent at this point. The above shot was taken with the new camera. I had difficulty with the blue of the water (it coming out too vibrant) and the color in the bushes which isn't as vibrant. The above shot is pretty close.

In any case, this is a do-over of the previous post in which I showed a different version of this same scene. The river has a quality to it that I really failed to capture in the first piece. No one except me would notice it because it's my impression of the river right? Someone who lived here might think I was off perhaps but to most people, the scene itself would be enough. And because of that generality of appeal, I wanted to make the piece as nice as possible. I included less gray in the river this time too which I like a little better. (Though in reality the river of course reflects the gray of the sky more than what I have indicated.)

Alright, we have a real doozey of a storm coming in to California in the next day or so. The winds are supposed to be very strong and the heavens will  open up! I haven't built an ark or anything but some extra water and some towels to block the water coming into the garage would make some sense. It's already pretty gray outside.

Hope everyone is having a good week so far. I am looking forward to some studio time in the next couple of days. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Libby

Thursday, December 4, 2014

New Work: Almost There

Almost There
9" x 12" acrylic on wc paper-palette knife
available: libbyfife@ymail.comlibbyfife@ymail.com
"With spontaneous brushwork painting grows up in joy and despair. "
Recently I came across an artist whom I think lives in Sweden. I translated her artist statement into English so I could better understand her work. The above quote is a direct translation of one of the sentences in her statement. (It is in no way meant to ridicule this artist-I simply  thought the translation was hilarious and rather apt for me at this point.)

I have turned out some stinkers lately, let me tell you. It's like someone else has been in my studio painting. (Because certainly I wouldn't turn out any stinkers!) A lot of the failure is just par for the course given my experience but it is also due to being mentally distracted. As I learn about art, I tend to try new things (good) but I get off on tangents (bad) and those tangents creep into my work (even badder). LOL! Badder. Anyway, it has been happening lately so the above piece is a mild relief for me. Should have titled it Mild Relief I guess!

It's been a longish week. My house is a mess, I have my art group coming on Monday, and frankly I could use a maid. Or a cook. Or something!

Hope everyone has had a good week. Thanks for visiting and commenting.
Libby


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

New WorK/A Redo: Yours, Mine, and Ours

Yours, Mine, and Ours
9" x 12" acrylic with brush on wc paper/matted to 12" x 16"
We have lots of rain today and since it isn't ideal for walking and since I desperately wanted to redo my River Reflections submission, today just seemed like a perfect time to paint! It isn't a great time to take photos, however, so my work appears a little brighter than in reality.

The other piece was completed and I actually turned it in yesterday. I just didn't feel great about it. It's fine that I am a novice painter (and paint at a certain level) but it isn't OK to turn in work that is less than it could be. So, a redo! 

This piece was started differently than how my pieces are normally started. I have mentioned previously  that I am trying to get away from transferring every bit of my drawing to the paper and then painting in each shape. There isn't anything wrong with that of course but I know there are other ways to work and I want to learn. So, for this one, I completed my drawing with all of its details. I then transferred 3 big areas: the back trees, the water and the foreground rocks. Each area was then painted with its own mid tone. That mid tone section was then carved into with dark and then light values. I worked all three sections at once, trying to be cohesive. I tried hard to keep all three areas intact and to keep my values grouped. I also tried to find patterning and to keep things from being broken up. It all requires some sustained concentration. At one point the painting nearly got away from me because I was tired. The upshot of this morning is this: There are a couple of artists whose work I follow and I am trying to learn from what I see. Each piece I hope brings me closer and closer skill-wise to where I would like to be. I  hope.

OK, as I said we have had steady rain all day today which is great news. It has also gotten a little dark which isn't super for painting. But, no problem.

Hope everyone is having a great week so far. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Libby

Friday, November 28, 2014

November 2014 Wrap Up Post

Brush With Autumn
9" x 12" acrylic on wc paper
Private Collection

Chill In The Air
8" x 10" acrylic on wc paper
sold!

Cul de Sac
9" x 12" acrylic on wc paper-matted to 12" x 16"
available!
libbyfife@ymail.com

Breach
9" x 12" acrylic on wc paper-matted to 12" x 16"
available!
libbyfife@ymail.com

Available at Calaveras Arts Council
Double Springs 8" x 8" acrylic on wc paper- matted to 12" x 12"
Morning View 9" x 12" acrylic on wc paper-matted to 12" x 16"

Fall Flow-9" x 12" acrylic on wc paper-matted and framed
available at Deborah Marlene's Gallery-Mokelumne Hill

Morning On The Moke-9" x 12" acrylic on wc paper-matted and framed
Submission for River Reflections Show
It's a Wrap!
I hope that everyone had a great Thanksgiving. It's been a good month for me and I'd like to share what has happened.

The first 4 photos show some of the new work completed this month. The paintings were all made with a palette knife and a little brush work for finishing. The knives continue to be an important tool for me. I am happy to say that the second piece, Chill In The Air, has been purchased. My dear sister-in-law and her husband are the new owners of the painting. They have a beautiful home and the piece couldn't want for a better setting. Photos 3 and 4 are two pieces that are still available. Cul-de-Sac was inspired by the lake at the end of my street. How lucky is it to have a lovely body of water that close? Breach is based on a series of photos and observations made several months ago while on a trip to Chico. Bidwell park is the setting for a lovely river that runs through  the center of town.

Now Appearing...
Photos 5 and 6 are all about three events that I am involved with in the next couple of months. The Calaveras Arts Council is hosting its Affordable Gifts of Art show now and through the beginning of January. My  two pieces, shown in photo 5,  are available at the gallery. They are matted but not framed and so they will be set out on a table or in a painting bin. If you are local please be sure to get down to the gallery. My work is there of course but there are beautiful pieces of pottery, jewelry and all sorts of other items for sale. And if you are out of town and need help with purchasing just let me know.

Photo 6 shows two pieces that will be on display this next month. Fall Flow is headed to Deborah Marlene's Gallery in Mokelumne Hill. I am looking forward to showing my work along with the work of many other local artists. Christmas in Moke Hill is quite nice so stop by if you can. And again, if you are out of town and need help with purchasing please let me know.  The second  piece, Morning On The Moke, is destined for the River Reflections show. The show hopes to bring awareness to the upper Mokelumne river as a source of water for consumption, recreation and as a habitat for wildlife. When I receive further information about upcoming venues I will pass those details along in a newsletter.

Hint! Hint! Paintings make lovely gifts! Most everything shown above is for sale either through a gallery or through me directly. Please contact me at: libbyfife@ymail.com with any questions about purchasing or the artwork itself. 

December looks to be a promising month. I hope everyone has plans for enjoying themselves and relaxing. As always, thank you for taking the time to read these newsletters and for supporting me and my art making efforts.
Happy Holidays!
Libby

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

New Work: Morning On The Moke

Morning On The Moke
9" x 12" acrylic on wc paper
River Reflections Show
A funny thing happened on the way to the show...

The above piece is being submitted to the River Reflections show being sponsored by the Amador Arts Council. Along with 50 other artists of all stripes and colors, I am participating in this show designed to bring awareness to the Mokelumne River which flows through my county as well as several others. Some of that water goes down to the Bay Area where I used to live. I never knew this when I was living there and wish that I had been sensitive enough to realize the resource that I had at the time. Our water here comes from Lake Hogan, not the Mokelumne. Anyway.

The above piece is not the original one that I intended to enter. That piece was not working in the format that I selected. I really wanted to be happy with what went into the show with my name on it (not that anyone knows me) but I know me, if that makes sense. 

OK, I am having a good week. How about you? And Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Libby