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

Friday, June 27, 2014

New Work: Hideaway

Hideaway
9" x 12" watercolor and acrylic on wc paper
(image taken from recent trip to Bridgeport area, CA)
One of the things that is so attractive about painting with acrylics or oils is the ability to correct or to refine. Watercolors, however, are difficult to fix or to alter once the paint is on the paper.  And this is fine; it's a selling point actually of the medium. I like a little more flexibility though and wasn't quite sure what I was going to do.

The solution is found in mixing different media.  Combining watercolors with acrylics is a good answer for me personally. (People work years to master watercolors, using them in the purest way possible and I respect that.) This idea didn't occur to me until today however. Rereading a book I own on using acrylics as watercolors prompted me in the right direction, I think. The author points out that he uses acrylics both opaquely and transparently in the same piece as needed. (Funny how the solutions are there ready and waiting for you to catch up.) I tried it out today on the above piece. Acrylics allow for some real precision and that is what I wanted for the houses. I figured, "what the heck?" and just started in with things. While I was at it I had a go at the tree trunks and the bushes. I added some of the roof color to the shadows also. Lastly, I added some white highlights here and there.

 I admit to being very excited. I am combining some things that I really like: the use of paper rather than canvas or board; the sheerness of watercolors and the ability to be precise and to correct with acrylics. I'll just see where this idea takes me. 

OK, hope everyone had a creative week. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Libby

Monday, June 23, 2014

New Work: Intertwined

Intertwined
9" x 12" watercolor on watercolor paper
I am posting this one even though I am not totally sure about the results. Coincidentally, I recently read some advice written by a professional artist, Randall David Tipton. He mentioned about having a simple measurement for whether or not the artwork was finished and OK. His test was whether or not he could live with the work. (And I am paraphrasing the idea here.) I also read something else recently about keeping older work around and selling it. That advice had to do with whether or not you would display the work in your own home. They are both good tests aren't they?

There are some things I both like and dislike about the above piece. Because watercolor is so new to me, I am very interested in the marks that I make with the brush. Watercolor for the most part is transparent. Every mark shows unless you sort of wet it and smooth it out. You really need to consider the brush you are using, the water-to-paint ratio, the direction of your stroke, and how much of the brush is going on the paper. There's a lot really.

OK, I have kind of a busy week. I have some ideas picked out and hope to get some drawings and studies done. Hope everyone has a good start to the week. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Libby

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Care and Feeding of Your Inner Artist

Lake Alpine-boat launch area-east shore (roughly)


small cove where I sat and thought about stuff:)

lovely little yellow flowers

expressive arms:)

As much as I love my routine and depend on it, there are times when I simply just need to go somewhere else. As an artist, going to a new location, sourcing new material and becoming absorbed in the landscape is key. (That sounds kind of pretentious or something but it's the truth.) I like to feel connected to my environment. Not only do I want to directly observe the various forms and colors but I also want to smell the smells and hear the sounds. It all adds to my painting experience back in the studio. And it's a matter of being accurate with my work in a very loose sense. Realist painting is not my thing but I want the work to have some basis in fact. 

I cherish my environment here-the oaks and rolling hills and the lake are all beautiful and inspirational. Lately though I have begun to appreciate the landscape of the eastern Sierra area. That is a loose designation really. Lake Alpine, which is where the above pictures were taken on my trip yesterday, is really sort of at the base of the Sierras. Kind of on the way. The topography is completely different from what I am used to however. There are mountains close at hand instead of in the distance and the trees are of a different variety. As you drive east up highway 4, oaks give way to redwoods and the redwoods give way to pine trees. That is a generalization since I don't know my trees very well but it's the idea. The boulders are of the gray granite variety rather than the craggy ochre and sienna colored ones down where I live. And there is water. (I am a poor swimmer and have a bit of a fear of water but I am drawn to it nonetheless.) Lakes and reservoirs dot the landscape and many are surrounded by lush green meadows. ( It's summer after all.) Honestly, I live close enough to Yosemite to drive there easily but for my time and money and peace of mind, I would just as quickly drive to this area as to the other. 

That is where I went yesterday to sort of renew myself. Anyone observing might think that being at home all day is easy. It is in many ways. It's also very difficult. There is no one to motivate you; no structure unless you create it; and no reward for a job well done other than the mental reward that you give to yourself. It can be boring if you let it be. And it can feed your depression or sadness.  So, it's important to fight against all of the above and to get going. There. Don't you feel better?  I know I do:)

Hope everyone had a good and creative week. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Libby
PS-Maybe there will be some artwork soon...