Thursday, April 10, 2014

New Work: Stanislaus River

Gouache on 140lb cold press wc paper
For one of the first times I can remember, I am stumped for a title. 

This one was finished earlier in the week. I had done a trial run of the idea and the results were anemic. That's what happens though when I am not focused on what I am doing and just churn something out to be done with it. To fix my mindset, I redid the shapes within each rock, focusing and shading with pencil some simple patterns with lights, mediums, and darks. When I began this version, I laid in the darkest areas first. I guess this is contrary to how watercolors work but because I was painting each discrete area individually, it really didn't matter. What I am discovering (it didn't take long at all) is that watercolors (and gouache) have a quickly achieved additive effect when layering colors. The gouache can be used transparently too for the most part though that is not its intended use of course. They are both such diverse mediums. I love watching the paint settle into it's place and seeing how the granulation occurs and what happens when you add color or water or both to a drying puddle of paint. In the pic above you can see where I had some "backflows" in the green area in the background. I don't mind that a bit and think it adds to the texture of the piece. I also learned about layering when I added the water colors. Rather than just painting the water shape I painted some of it over the bottom of the rocks. That seemed to add to things and I like the effect. Overall I am really pleased with this piece. This way of working is so exciting to me. I will say that the contour drawing is the basis for this piece (and others I have done like it). I made the initial mistake of transferring all of the interior lines of those rocks to my blank paper. That was one of the areas that threw me off initially. When I restarted the piece, I left the insides of the rock blank and added the colors freehand, so to speak. That was much better for me.

OK, I have some errands to run today. Tomorrow I am back in the studio. I have started an acrylic painting of two women in a field. This is one of my favorite LOC images to date and is a larger piece-20" x 20". It's good to work with acrylic again.

Hope everyone has had a creative week so far. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Rejection 101

This last Friday I received a rejection notice for a show that I recently entered. This is a show that I have had work accepted to in the past. I wasn't totally surprised. I learned about midway through that the juror was Carrie Lederer. Her credentials made me a bit nervous I admit. However, fair is fair and the work is judged accordingly and so I figured that this is a juried show and you are throwing in your lot, so to speak. My only regret is that I would like my $30 back. (Seriously, I am not paid by the hour here or even paid at all for that matter.)

I have some mixed thoughts about this rejection, none of which are a reflection on my work. (Not to say that my work doesn't need improvement.) Why do I feel that the rejection isn't a commentary on my work? It's because in this scenario, there is no feedback from the juror regarding the work. The submitter is left to speculate about the rejection (or acceptance). Mostly, I am seriously questioning the purpose of entering juried shows. Not because I am experiencing the sour grapes thing but because of the money and wanting to know why I do what I do. Here are some things that I considered doing and/or thought about upon receiving my rejection email. Maybe they will help someone sort out their own thoughts:

1. Why not email the organizer of the show in order to get some written feedback on the rejection? What can be learned about your work that would be helpful? Previous corporate work experience suggests asking the juror to highlight "areas of opportunity" from which to learn. 

2. In reality, the juror is under no obligation to provide this type of personal feedback. Period. She isn't there to help people grow as artists or to give personal attention.

3. The submitted work is in the same pool as everyone else's work (good) but that it may not measure up (bad) or fit in (not so bad) or be relevant (huh?). Without feedback from the juror, it's impossible to learn much.

4. The show was open to greater Bay Area artists and while I got in last year, considering my area as part of the "greater Bay Area" is really a stretch. (Begs the question though about why I got in last year.)

5. The juror's obligation to the show sponsors is to put together a cohesive show of the highest caliber possible. Maybe the work didn't fit into that criteria. Or maybe there was just a lot of work. 

6. Lastly, why enter any shows in the first place? What purpose does this serve? This is probably the most important thing to consider. WHY enter a juried show? Is it for resume building? Strengthening credibility in the world outside your blog or site? It seems random to me. 

And that is where I stand. Why do I enter shows and what purpose does that serve? I think this is the question that needs to be answered. What am I hoping to gain in a real and tangible way? Not because I was rejected but because not knowing why you do something or accepting someone else's reason for doing something (as in "all artists enter juried shows") is the wrong way to go about it, in my opinion. As I said, I'd like my money back. Feels like the tip of the iceberg poked me a little too hard in the rear end.

On the positive side, the whole thing seems like a chance for "outside the box" thinking. So what if I didn't get in? What else can I do to access other venues or shows or opportunities to satisfy myself? 

Lastly, I get in advance that not everyone will understand this post or agree. And that is fine. I do hope everyone had a good weekend. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Friday, April 4, 2014

New Work: Meet Me For Lunch

Meet Me For Lunch
8" x 10" gouache on wc paper
For a long time now I have wanted to redo this image. I painted the first Pickle Patch painting when I moved here. The building has a long history and reminds me of the homes in the neighborhood where I grew up. It's a sure bet that if someone says to meet you in San Andreas for lunch that they mean to meet at the Pickle Patch. The piece (in my opinion) has the quality of a children's book illustration and I am finding that I kind of like that result. There are other things too that I like here so a good outcome for me overall.

I learned this time about the ratio of water to pigment, pooling of that mixture on the paper, and the ability to move that mixture around with your brush once it is down. I am also learning about the "stiffness" of the brush and how that works on your chosen substrate. There are some variables here but not so many that they can't be worked on.

Other stuff: At the beginning of each month I look for shows and venues in which to participate. It became really obvious to me this month that my output is not enough. And by output I mean good, show worthy and saleable art. Not practice pieces or pieces where my style is clearly evolving. Rather than get down about this though I concluded that not only do I need more pieces but I also need to apply myself more effectively. Anyway, I am working on the issue and hope to have a good solution soon. 

I have been doing some sketching also this week and reading my gouache book. I went to the dentist on Wednesday which took up a good chunk of my time. Today I am having lunch with my SIL and running errands. I started in on a sketch yesterday for a new piece and will hopefully have some pics soon. 

Lastly, does anyone have an opinion on how to present these works on paper for sale? I am thinking of matting them and putting them in a glassine bag. I have also thought about just framing  them simply.

OK, thanks for reading and commenting. Hope everyone has had a creative week.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

March 2014 Wrap Up Post

Always Summer
8" x 8" gouache on cold press watercolor paper

7" x 10" gouache on watercolor paper

Summer Afternoon
8" x 8" Gouache on watercolor paper

8" x 8" Gouache on watercolor paper
Finished Work-March:
March was a productive month. There are four finished pieces to share. The first piece, Always Summer, is based on one of my photos from a trip to Melones Reservoir earlier this year. I took some liberties with the season and turned the green hills into the golden color that seems so "California" to me.  The meandering fence and rolling hills really caught my attention.

The second piece is based on a photo taken a few years ago when we first moved here. This is the church spire of the Catholic Church in San Andreas, a small but important county town located about 15 minutes from where I live. I learned that the church was built during the 60's. It sits on a hill in a neighborhood and the spire is visible from several parts of town. My concept for the piece was the structure as both a beacon and a piece of architectural history. The simplicity of the lines of the building caught my attention.

Pic number 3 is based on a vintage photo from the 60's. The idea of the freedom of summer experienced by a small child was what attracted me to the photo. The smallness of the young girl set against the lake and hill beyond seemed to somehow signify that time of the year when kids just get to be kids.

Lastly, the 4th image is also based on one of my pics from my time out and about in the county. I have written before about the drive on 26 East from my home to Moke Hill. The route is beautiful during all of our seasons and has proven to be a little gem of inspiration for me, painting wise. For this pic, I left the green landscape "as is." It's so fresh right now because of the rain and this cow seemed to be enjoying the green grass.

What's New?:
During the month of March I decided to learn more about the materials that I use. My painting process normally includes 3 things: an initial pen sketch, a color study done on paper with gouache (an opaque watercolor) and then the finished acrylic painting on gessoed MDF board.  Acrylics for the most part are opaque paints, particularly when combined with white paint to create a lighter value of color such as when making red in to pink. Though they can be used transparently like watercolors, I use them in a more layered and opaque fashion. My color sketches on the other hand use gouache which can be used both transparently like watercolors and opaquely like acrylics. The short story here is that the transparency of the gouache over the white paper can produce some lovely results. I decided to learn more about the medium and to try to produce some finished work. The above pieces are the results of my experimentation this month. I purchased a few new books and will continue on with the learning in April.

Upcoming Events:
On April 27th I will be participating in A Taste of Calaveras. This is an event highlighting all things Calaveras and this year it is being held at Camps Restaurant at Greenhorn Creek in Angels Camp. I have never participated in this show but am expecting to have a good time. It's Calaveras afterall. If you are local please come down and see me-I do love having visitors. There will be new art of course and I'll have my cards and prints for sale as well. 

In the next couple of months I hope to begin offering a new class or two. I have some ideas in the works and just need to pull things together. There will also be an upcoming art and garden show in San Andreas that I hope to participate in again this year. The "art season" is beginning and once the weather is warmer and clear, there will be a few more events scheduled hopefully. My plan too is to spend more time sketching outdoors when possible on out and about road trips. You can't beat the area here for inspiration.

As always, much of my artwork is for sale. Original pieces as well as prints and photo cards are available by email through my website here. I also write a little more extensively about the story behind each piece. Tutoring and teaching are on my mind so if you are aware of opportunities please let me know. Lastly, I am on Facebook (who isn't right?) and can be found under Libby Fife Fine Art.  "Likes" are always desirable so hop on over!

Happy upcoming Easter to everyone. Thank you for showing interest in my artwork by reading my newsletter. The support means a lot to me!


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

New Work; Gouache; Sketching

8" x 8" gouache on WC paper

7" x 10" gouache on WC paper
Working with gouache has broken me out of a cycle of thought that I have been trying to get away from ever since I started painting. At least I think so. Not every painting I make is the final answer and not every piece is saleable. (Maybe that is two thoughts?) I redid the above piece of the cow, using the first piece as a guide. I wouldn't normally revisit the same design again but it was really helpful to do so. I like both pieces. Somehow using the gouache encourages do overs. 

What else? I bought a book based on the recommendation of my Internet friend Julie.  Julie is a great painter, an old illustrator, and a solid kind of gal so I feel good with her thoughts on the book. The topic is gouache in illustration. There is so much negative (and positive) press surrounding gouache and the ability to use it well. (That and watercolor too has such a bad rap. Why scare the pants off of beginners before they even start?) I am a firm believer in independent learning coupled with doing. You can't learn unless you actually do. I have met people who amass supplies, attend classes, and consider things but don't actually do. And while that works well for them, it doesn't work well for me. So I am forging ahead here. 

I also went sketching with two ladies from the previous sketch class that I taught in January. We were in Murphys yesterday and I did get some sketches done despite being a little cold and very tired. (I have not been sleeping well for several months now and it makes functioning very difficult sometimes.) We had a wonderful lunch which was a treat and we are going back next week. I plan to be better rested and better functioning.

Hope everyone is well and being productive. I am thinking about starting my work week on Wednesdays now, running through Sunday. Mondays and Tuesdays suck! Why are they so bad? By Wednesday I am always a lot happier:)

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Cows and My BIL

I worked on a couple of ideas this week (as well as doing some problem solving for some other art stuff). I have been reading in my watercolor book and really just learning how to use my paints, paper, and brushes in combination. It's trickier than you would think. 

The first pic shows a study that I did based on my photo from last weekend. There is a lot that I like. I have another drawing set to go and will try this one again. It's very difficult for me to not use the gouache in the same way that I use the acrylics. Again, harder than you would think to break old habits. I think though too that I will paint this one in acrylics. I like the composition a lot.

The second pic shows a sketch I did of my BIL and his dog, Susie. This is another idea I tried out-sort of a back lit figure. Sort of. My BIl was standing in the shade with the sunlight hitting parts of him. I left those areas completely white, made the background just a little darker, and left my pencil marks. I actually used a colored pencil to draw the figures. I like the effect a lot.

There is lots and lots to learn just to have some working knowledge and to be able to make a rudimentary painting.  However, I do so love the whole "lightness" of this medium. Even with the murkiest of mixes there seems to be a clarity. I will say without reservation that the drawing is the ticket, at least for what I can see by looking at other work. Drawing and planning. It's appealing. And misleading too because some work looks so effortless. But, knowing what I know now, even just the little bit that I know, tells me that a LOT of planning went into those pieces.

OK, I will be making the blog rounds tomorrow morning so if I haven't visited with you, watch out! Thanks for reading and commenting this week.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

New Work: Summer Afternoon

Summer Afternoon
8" x 8" Gouache on WC paper
In the ongoing effort to completely obliterate any remaining sanity, I have ramped up my paintings efforts with gouache. I have worked with acrylics this entire time and have had some good results. Some of my recent paintings were done with several layers of initial nearly transparent washes prior to a final swipe or two of opaque color. I felt like the results of that were somehow more vivid-more pronounced or more deep somehow. And so I wondered a lot about using gouache more. I have not had success with controlling it though which is a drawback. It's a giant learning curve (again).

So, with that said, there is a lot I like about the above painting. It is the third attempt. For the first two efforts there were irretrievable damages done to the paper. This last effort is a great start.

I purchased a book titled Understanding Transparent Watercolor by Gerald Brommer. It's a pretty good overview of basic paint application and design. He writes fairly heavily about color and value, composition and design. There are some good examples in the book too-varied and interesting and displaying a wide range of techniques. I wouldn't have guessed this but watercolor could possibly be even more technique driven that acrylic. I have tried using my acrylics as watercolors and haven't liked the results. (Which I am sure has everything to do with my skill level.) There is something about the transparency of gouache on white paper that is very beautiful to me. It can be delicate and sort of dreamy in a way that acrylics, at least for me, aren't. There is a lightness to it I guess. 

That is what I have been doing. Drawing and some experimenting and generally getting twisted up. Three things really stand out for me. One is that the drawing has to be tight to begin with. There doesn't appear to be a lot of room for error and correction. I guess you could go in with opaque passages but I am not there yet. The second thing is that controlling values is both easy and difficult. For watercolors, water itself acts like white paint. The less you use of it the more tinted your hues, so to speak. The white of the paper shows through. But "glazing" over passages of already dried color produces darker and darker results-in a hurry! So, real care is needed. The final thing is that this medium, for me anyway, seems to allow me to do the same piece several times. You almost have to because of the inability to correct. Doing the same piece several times allows for some learning:)

OK, hope everyone's week is off to a good start. Thanks for reading and commenting.