Monday, April 21, 2014

Sketches, SF Trip, and a Question

Practice-LOC image

Practice-LOC image

SF Bay Bridge -West

On the Overpass-Octavia approaching Market

return trip to freeway approach
Hope everyone had a nice Easter weekend. The weather here was beautiful so Rich was outside gardening and we were able to have the doors open for fresh air.  Before we know it the weather will be too hot to have any doors or windows open during the day.

Watercolor Findings:
The first two pics show what I worked on over the weekend. In transitioning to working with watercolors and gouache more, the learning curve is very steep and centers around the handling of the paint. One of the tips that I read suggested mixing up a pool of color that is more than is needed. Well, hell! How much do you need anyway and how do you gauge that? LOL! But, it's true and a good idea. The bonus of working with oils and acrylics is that colors can be premixed. Same with gouache if you are using it opaquely. Watercolors are still a mystery to me in this area. How long does a mixture last before it dries up? The other aspect that is interesting is the application of the paint on the paper. Is it wet-into-wet or wet-into dry? I love the look of a pool of color that has been applied to wet paper and allowed to dry.  It's tough to do that on a large scale though. Yesterday I tested out wetting the area first with water and then applying the paint. If you go in with more concentrated color this works very well.  I understand also that you can use ox gall as an additive to help things flow more freely. I haven't tried this yet. In any case, my conclusion is that practice is the key here. Otherwise, the discussion is just academic right?

Trip to SF:
The last three pics show a portion of my trip to SF last week.  San Francisco is kind of an interesting place in lots of different ways. Driving there can be scary though. The streets are very narrow and many are very steep. You absolutely have got to pay attention. I have gotten lost several times over the years while trying to find a freeway approach. Rich has told me many times that the whole of the city is rather small and laid out in a logical grid type fashion. Since I was driving by myself I decided to get a handle on things. Looking at the map showed me that Golden Gate Park, where the DeYoung museum is located, is a rectangle surrounded by a one way loop, roughly speaking. Once I saw this I figured out how to exit the park, find a leader street back to the freeway and also how to right myself if I managed to get lost. That first pic incidentally is a shot of the new section of the Bay Bridge. It's really an elegant structure of sorts. You can see the remnants of the old bridge going in the opposite direction I guess. They are dismantling a portion of that side. 

The trip was a good one and I enjoyed the exhibits at the museum. I mentioned last time that the photo exhibit of the building of the Bay Bridge during the 30's was excellent. That alone was worth the lengthy drive. 

Memory and Identity:
All the time in the car makes you think. As I drove through the area where I grew up I realized that my associations with those places and their history is very strong. I love where I live now, love the landscape and the history here, but I am not from here if that makes sense. In that same vein, my identity with where I grew up is firmly rooted in the 1970's and 1980's and not any later time frame. I view myself as someone from that area and I include all of the associations that come with that view. It's true that San Leandro has changed so much but I still see it through the prism of when I grew up. I left San Leandro in the early 90's and lived in a variety of places until I got married. In a broader sense, it's the history of the Bay Area itself, specifically Oakland, San Francisco and San Leandro that is of interest to me. And that interest is rooted in the early to mid part of the 20th century, specifically WWII and the years that followed. All of this explanation leads to a question. Does anyone else have this type of association? You live in one place but identify with another? I am curious and you know how that goes:)

OK, this was lengthy so thanks for reading. Hope everyone has a good start to the week.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

New Work: Near Moncks Corner

Near Moncks Corner
20" x 20" Acrylic on 3/4" profile birch board

This painting was filled with some exciting moments for me as well as some frustrating bits. (I'll send actual hard cash if anyone can say what frustrated me! LOL!) I will say that I started to add facial features to the woman in front. And while I enjoy images of people, facial features disturb me in anything but the most realistic of images.  In my mind and based on the original photo, I could see the expressions on the faces of these two women. Anything I did on the face as far as features went fell far short of the mark. And was out of tune with what I think anyway so I got rid of what I had done. It's true that greater skill might overcome this problem in part but honestly it's because I have a preconceived idea (based on the photo) of what the person should look like. My compensating factor here is that I think I captured the gestures of each woman nicely. 

On Tuesday I spent some quality time with myself in the car...for six hours! I went to San Francisco to the DeYoung museum and while I would normally take someone with me (like my art buddy, Cate) I really needed some time with myself. Sounds silly but it's true. I got to be just Libby for a day-not a housekeeper and wife or a cat mom or someone's daughter but just me. It was nice. I got to view the O'Keeffe exhibit (the Lake George images) and while I was there I was also able to look at some other special exhibits as well as the permanent collection. I got to see this piece by Sargent which is one of my all time favorites.
Sargent-Caroline de Bassano Marquise d' Espeuilles 1884
The photo of course doesn't do the piece justice. His brush strokes and edges thrill me to no end but it's the expression on the woman's face that kills me everytime. She looks like she might stomp her foot and belt Sargent! Anyhow, I noticed this time too the luminosity of her skin. You can see the most subtle of marks denoting the bluish color of her veins underneath her skin. Just beautiful.

I also got to see a special exhibit featuring drawings and photographs from the building of the Bay Bridge. The Bay Area is of course where I grew up and so the bridge is a fixture in my memory. The drawings were done by Otis Oldfield (they are actually lithographs) and the photos are by Peter Stackpole. There were also some excellent watercolors by George Post. They guys were all heavy hitters (artists) during the Depression and beyond. It was tough for artists to find any work and so the government created some projects. Peter Stackpole worked for Life magazine eventually and I believe Otis Oldfield taught art classes. They were all involved in the Bay Area art scene at that time in some way. It was a super exhibit and in its own way, better than the O'Keeffe show.

OK, I have other work to show and some photos but this is it for today. Hope everyone had a good week. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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.