Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Sketch For New Work/Still Itching Away




So, just kind of plugging away here. I have been out of the house a lot this week and when I have been here I have been distracted by the itching and doped up from the Benadryl. All good stuff I assure you but it doesn't make for great concentration.

The above two shots are what I am working on this week. I did a sketch in wc of the above composition and I like the idea of things. I switched up the drawing a bit. I will see how things go this weekend when I should be able to apply myself a little better. There is another version which I hope to do in wc too. All in good time.

In the meantime I am off to see my GP who I hope, has some very strong drugs for this itching. Over the counter hydrocortisone(sp?) is not quite doing it for me.

I'll be back on 7/31 or 8/1 with my newsletter too so stay tuned for that.
Libby

Monday, July 28, 2014

Copy and Itchy, Itchy, Scratchy, Scratchy

George Post-Copy of Cabin at Shaw's Flat

Finding any of George Post's original images online is a little tough. There are two sites that have a pretty good assortment but so far neither site has images of what I am copying. In any case, the above sketch is a copy of Post's original painting.  I can see where I deviated and why those changes are wrong. The tree, for example, on the right appears to me to be on the same plane as the far background trees. It should be lighter to suggest that it is further in front. He had some different colors in his shadows also which I thought were more effective and his background tree markings were also much better-more suggestive of organized tree shapes. Overall though, I was able to work in layers (for the most part) and to see how to tie everything together with the final marks. 

Working in layers is a very different approach for me and requires some longer range vision. Developing this skill will take time. Part of this involves working from big to small, shape to detail, and light to dark. You are thinking several steps ahead because whatever marks you make at this particular time will affect future marks. As an example, laying down a very dark wash and then covering it with a lighter color doesn't work. For the above piece I put down a yellow wash in the foreground, a warm green wash in the background and a light gray wash for the cabin. I started to build in more medium colors, still working in larger shapes. I didn't quite get that totally right so I added another layer of mediums. Lastly, I added the darker value in the back and then the fence and darker marks. Watercolor is cumulative also (it's transparent after all) and so each layer, regardless of value, adds an additional amount of value. The whole thing is tricky but worthwhile to learn.

In the meantime, I seem to have contracted poison oak or some other equally heinous skin rash. God almighty but it is fierce! I am going to the doctor today at 3:30. This can't come soon enough and I sincerely hope the man has some heavy drugs that I can take as I am speeding away in my  itchy-itchy-scratchy-scratchy-mobile.

Hope everyone has a better start to their week than me!
Libby

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Sketch: George Post Copy

Copy-George Post

I may have mentioned that last month I went to the Haggin Museum in Stockton to see an exhibit of early 20th century watercolors. The pieces were all from California artists working in what is known as the "California Style" of painting practiced in the early to mid 20th century. The style is essentially regionalist in nature and includes a direct, plein air approach to painting. Most of the scenes depict industrial views or cityscapes. Many of the artists featured had been illustrators or had been trained by a core group of teachers or had attended the same art school. This is a loose summary but what I am getting at is that all of the pieces shown had a very strong sense of design about them and an underlying similarity. We are talking a high level of skill and vision. 

The show was very inspiring and I was particularly taken with the work of George Post. Because I am learning about how to use watercolors and also about different styles of painting, I decided to see what was what with the above piece. I have a book of Post's watercolors and I selected this piece to analyze and copy. Using what I have learned so far about seeing a piece in terms of "layers", I roughed out a sketch and determined the light, medium and dark layers. I reserved some white areas and pinpointed where the darkest darks should be. My version is somewhat simplified. It's impossible to know exactly why Post did everything that he did in this piece. I can guess though on most of it. The final dark, calligraphic marks are his own personal choices. I simply copied what he did and guessed why he may have done it. 

This is a fairly instructive way to work in order to figure out the structure of something. I have some other works selected for this same kind of exercise. In the meantime though, I am working on a sketch for a new piece of my own. I will be in the studio Thursday and Friday and hopefully I will be able to get something started. 

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

Thursday, July 17, 2014

New Work: Impermanence

Impermanence
12" x 12" Acrylic on MDF board
A couple of weeks ago my sister-in-law and I were hiking up at Bear Valley ski resort. As we rounded a corner, we came to this little clearing. At one point, when there was more rain during the winter, this area of rocks and bushes was probably part of a larger stream.  At this stage in California's drought however, we were looking at just a rather large puddle. I have had a thing recently for rock forms and any type of water. This little spot was a surprise for me and so I took a variety of photos. When I got back to my studio and reviewed my pictures, I was struck by the shadow of the rocks on the water. My first reaction was that I didn't think I could paint a reflection. My second reaction was, of course you can and be quick about it will you? I cropped the photo to focus on the parts that interested me. Upon further reflection, (no pun intended!), I realized that by cropping I placed the emphasis on the water and rocks. Choosing to not highlight the lack of water is just one design decision in a long string of design decisions. 

I am happy with how things turned out for this piece. Lots of things went right including my interpretation of the back bushes and the pine trees. The forms that I ended up with are very exciting for me. And I really enjoyed working again with the acrylics. 

I have an unexpected full studio day today. There is a drawing ready to go too. I will be doing a watercolor study today. I am learning about hard and soft edges, gauging the wetness of the paper and the loaded brush, and seeing the piece in terms of "layers." I purchased a book by Tom Hoffmann and have been carefully going through the chapters. It's a delightful read for me in that this artist speaks and describes things in a way that I can both understand and relate to. So many art books that offer instruction are incomplete, don't describe things in a way that is understandable, or are either above or below my skill level. I can picture this guy standing there, doing a demo, and saying, "Well, oops! I screwed that up. See, I should have taken  my own advice." Very down-to-earth.

Hope everyone is having a good week. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Libby

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

New Work: Cove

Cove
12" x 12" acrylic on MDF board, 1/2"
available: libbyfife@ymail.com

Beginning of piece; drawing done with Prismacolor markers; initial washes down for value and color

Foreground and parts of mid ground installed

before installing background

This last Saturday I worked on a small study in watercolor. I like to work out ideas prior to the finished piece. Not only does it help me to see if I am on track with my concept but it also helps me to work out any design errors. It's like a rough draft when writing an essay. I finished up and though I felt my design was pretty solid, my execution was less than what I wanted. In my limited experience, two things seem to go wrong while working a piece. It's either the design or the execution (application of paint). Duh, right? 

With the above two possible problems in mind, I decided to redo the piece in acrylics. The ability to easily correct is one bonus of that medium. I also thought I could better express my idea with the acrylics. Truthfully too, I miss painting standing up. The way I use watercolors requires me to sit down. The paper needs to be flat (for me). Standing up though, it's easier to see the piece as a whole. 

Sunday morning I reconfigured my space, got out my acrylics, and transferred my design. The first shot shows the design on the board with acrylics laid in transparently. I used colors that I thought would ultimately be a part of the finished piece. Laying some color down first, even if it is only a wash, allows subsequent layers to build up gradually. It's almost like the paint adheres better to the board and the final coverage of paint is much more complete. I have had trouble in the past with thicker initial applications of paint. The thicker coats seem to contract when they dry and sometimes leave little holes where there is no paint. 

The second shot shows the installation of the water and remaining rocks. I worked some transparent passages in so little bits of the original orange and yellow paint show through in some spots. I added the mid ground bushes as well and allowed some of the drawing to show through the paint.

The last shot shows most of the piece complete except for the background. I decided to freehand those shapes for the distant trees, relying on an angular style brush to get the marks I wanted. When I thought I was finished with the piece, I reviewed everything for "balance": black drawing showing through; range of colors (red-orange to blue-green; overall contrast; cool and warm; and variations of shapes and lines. And lastly, did I get my idea out there? It feels to me like I did so that seems just fine.

I feel like I learned a lot by taking a break from the acrylics. I am not done with the watercolors or gouache though. I like using all three mediums. A good feeling of getting to be a well rounded painter has come over me! Go figure:)

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

Thursday, July 3, 2014

New Work, Giving Up, and Riding The Bike

Fallen
9" x 12" Watercolor on wc paper
available

Funny how all of these years later I can still remember being a child and falling off of my bike. I probably took a couple of headers as a teenager also but those memories aren't as fixed. I can recall how it felt to skin my knee and to see it bleed. Probably my mom fixed me up and helped to make things better. I don't remember not wanting to get back on my bike. Certainly to this day I continue to ride my bike. I didn't develop any permanent fear that prevents me from biking. Caution though is always at the forefront; it remains a guiding principle while riding on the trails. 

Great story you say but how is it relevant to the above piece of art? I can't count the number of times that I have wanted to give up painting because a piece I was working on did not turn out well. Not at all, not even close. In fact, putting everything away this last Tuesday and looking for employment outside the home was sounding pretty good. (And I live in a fairly economically stagnant area-employment opportunities are scarce.) Why then did I wake up the next morning with a renewed sense of purpose and a desire to continue painting? I don't know actually but I did. It has something to do with riding a bike and that long ago learned lesson of getting right back on even though you skinned the Hell out of your knee.  Luckily the fall didn't permanently do you in. And you really like your bike and the feeling that you get being outside on a beautiful summer day going somewhere exciting that only you know about. You just think to yourself that this next time (and all subsequent times) you will pay more attention to what you are doing.  Hopefully.

Thanks for reading and commenting. Hope everyone has had a creative (and not too frustrating week).
Libby

Monday, June 30, 2014

June 2014 Wrap Up Post

On The Rocks
9" x 12" watercolor on wc paper
Twin Lakes 1
watercolor on wc paper

Twining
9" x 12" watercolor on wc paper
Hideaway
9" x 12"
watercolor and acrylic on wc paper
New Work:
Among the many benefits of a monthly newsletter is the ability for me to look back and see progress and production when I think it has been a slow month. There are 4 pieces to share this month.

The first piece, On The Rocks, is based on a source photo from our recent trip to the area of Bridgeport and Mammoth Lakes here in northern CA. This particular scene is from the area of Twin Lakes, a wonderful spot for recreation of all sorts-fishing, camping and even some water sports. This day was clear but pretty cold. A storm was on the way which in fact came in not long after this shot was taken.

The second piece, Twin Lakes 1, is from the same area as above. I decided to explore the colors and shapes of the rocks that are lined up in great piles on the beach area. It's always of interest to me as to how the rocks came to be placed there and how the elements must have shaped their forms. They seem to have a lot of "character" to me.

The third piece depicts an unlikely scene I recently spotted while hiking at Big Trees State Park in Arnold. Ever in search of the "perfect scene", I nearly overlooked this beautiful log with the manzanita bush draped over it. It pays to keep an open mind when looking for subject matter-sometimes what you think you want to paint is not what you end up painting!

Lastly, the fourth piece is also based on a photo from my time at Twin Lakes. These homes were far across the lake from where I was standing. I decided to bring them much closer. By doing so I hoped to create the idea that  they were "near but far", "intimate yet remote." Sometimes these things don't necessarily translate for the viewer but it is what I was considering as I was painting-my own experience of the scene.

Save The Date:

I have signed up to participate in the Columbia Fine Arts Show to be held September 21st at Columbia State Park.  I also expect to participate in the Calaveras Arts Council studio tour to be held the following weekend, September 27th and 28th. The Columbia show is firm and if anyone needs information please follow the link above or contact me directly. I am awaiting additional information about the arts tour and will pass that along when received.

I am happy  to report that I have been out and about in the county gathering up more photos and ideas for future paintings. The weather is hot now and so going upcountry to places like Arnold and Bear Valley is helpful for cooling off.  There are some more outings planned for areas along the highway 4 corridor and possibly to points beyond! In the meantime, I continue to offer all work for sale at my website, www.libbyfife.com. Please contact me via email @ libbyfife@ymail.com for purchase information. Watercolors are offered matted but unframed. Works on MDF board are unframed as well and can be hung that way or framed by you in a style that you like!

As always, thank you for supporting me and my art making efforts by reading these newsletters. I love hearing from people so please feel free to email me with your comments or thoughts. Till next time!
Libby