Friday, November 21, 2014

New Work: Chill in The Air

Chill in The Air
8" x 10" acrylic with palette knife on wc paper-available

My drives on highway 26 headed to Moke Hill have yielded me more painting ideas I think than any other area of my county. It seems that every season has something to offer in the way of a particular "feeling" that I get when I look at the landscape. Driving  home on Saturday morning, there was an approaching storm. The clouds and sky overhead seemed almost purple to me when I looked in my peripheral vision. The mountains seemed to be a dark blue, almost a gray blue really and the grass was still fairly ochre looking though a little less colorful than what I show above in this piece. Truthfully  though, I have been out on an early winter morning in the past, taking color notes alongside the highway. Right before the sun fully crests the hillside, the grasses strike me as being almost a purple/lavender/pale blue color. And so I borrowed that idea for this piece and pumped up the ochre color a bit.

My week has been frustrating, painting wise, and so the above piece that came together easily felt very good to complete.

Hope everyone has had a good week. Thanks for reading and commenting:)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Studies, Copyright, and The Origin of Said Studies

study 1

study 2
Over the weekend I worked on the above two pieces. They are based on my photos and subsequent sketches of some of those images. And I use the word "based" in the loosest sense of its definition. Lately I have been sketching in the hopes of not necessarily trying to capture a likeness of the scene but to get an  idea about the "gestures" of the objects that I am sketching. Objects such as weeds or rocks or branches all seem to have a direction and inherent movement to their forms even though those forms may not be moving at all. My goal was to take the gestures and the shapes, sketch them and then do a piece loosely based on the idea of the thing. The piece didn't have to look like the scene but it had to have the general flow of my sketch. And during the painting I had to be able to let go of any very strict rules or preconceived notions that I might have about things.

Things went fairly well at first but got a little scary. I drew my sketch freehand onto the gessoed paper and then started following the lines and making shapes with thin strokes of paint. I tried to pay attention to  positive and negative areas and to see what the lines were doing. I worked in what I call an additive and reductive manner, covering over areas and then re painting areas, working big to small. When I thought things were sort of tightened up I started applying paint with the palette knife, then corrected and added some more.  Lastly I went in with my new oil pastel crayons and added and emphasized lines. 

Now, everything comes from somewhere including the above two pieces. I didn't just totally make them up as they are based on my sketches and materials and color preferences. I will say that the work of this artist, Marsha Boston, and this artist, Meredith Pardue,  most likely influenced how I made the pieces. And I add these references in the spirit of the post made today by Portland, Oregon artist Gwenn Seemel. In her post she talks clearly about releasing your work freely into the public domain and what happens when someone takes advantage of that (and how to make that into something good). Gwenn is 10 years younger than me (at least) but I really admire her willingness to think and change. Her view points are really something to consider if you are a person who posts your creative work online.

OK, hope everyone has a good start to the week. I am doing some more studies this week and hope to have some new work too. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

New Work and Out and About Pics

9" x 12" acrylic on wc paper-matted to 12" x 16"

Magnolia tree?

White Pines Lake

White Pines Lake
The above piece was finished today. It's gray outside now with a little bit of sun showing through the clouds.  I mention that because I have been looking forward to some gray days with not so much green. The gray brings out other colors and I am looking forward to that. With all that said, the above piece is probably the last of its kind for awhile since I am anticipating more gray days.

The next couple of shots are of my neighbor's tree. I think it is a mulberry tree of some sort but don't hold me to that designation. I just don't know my trees very well. I was taken with those pods though. Such extravagant color and texture. Nature is wondrously varied and complex and I often think that not much else adornment in the world is needed. The last two shots are from a trip up to White Pines Lake along the highway 4 corridor headed east. The elevation is a lot higher than where I live. I got out of the car and man, was it cold! Or "crisp" as I like to think of the changing weather. It's a beautiful area though and all of the trees that were formerly a bright green color are now golden yellows and glowing reds. I took lots of shots of weeds and branches and leaves. So graceful and flowing in their arrangements. Makes me wonder about the need for those types of formations-what purpose they serve for the plant.

I have one more day out and about this week and then I am back in the studio for a bit. I have been formulating many ideas in my head-too many to execute of course-but it's been good for thinking to have new images and concepts come my way. I am learning a lot about abstract art of all sorts-American mostly-from the 1950's onward. It's quite an education and an eye opening experience as well. I am also really excited because I ordered a book about Matisse. The book is all about his paper cut work from the last years of his life. I am hoping to learn a lot. 

So, on to Thursday and Friday. Hope everyone is having a good week so far. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Friday, November 7, 2014

New Works/New Thoughts

9" x 12" acrylic/pastel pencil on wc paper
available-matted to 12" x 16"

9" x 12" acrylic and pastel pencil on wc paper
matted to 12" x 16"-available
This week was semi-successful for me. The first piece shown was completed today and provided some more insight for me. I started the piece with some clear intentions which rapidly disintegrated. (Who wants to read about an artist that is always falling down. I know!) But this is what actually happened. I got a little frustrated and started to scrape down the surface of the paper. Well, that turned out to be a good thing! For one, it dislodged all of the repeated applications of paint meant to "fix" the problems. It also released me from hanging onto what I thought I should be doing (following my sketch and the photo) and allowed me to just proceed with a more back and forth kind of a dialogue rather than a set plan. Painting is nothing if not a question and answer session between the painter and the materials and anything else that happens to be present. All in all, I am satisfied with the caveat that I am going to keep going.

The second piece was a huge leap for me. I was driving home on Tuesday from Stockton ( I-5 and the Cross Town freeway-what is up with that eternal construction?) and I pulled over to take some photos and make some observations. All of the fields now have a deep ochre/bleached ochre kind of a quality to them. The horizon to my right showed me the bottoms of orchards where the trees meet the ground. There is a bluish haze which I take to be part atmosphere and part shadow. I looked up at the sky to see some swirling clouds. When I got home I started in on a piece based on my collective impressions. The leap for me was in assembling several parts of my observations and photos, mixing them up and putting them back together for one impression. Now, I am not going to say that this piece conveys my absolute feelings about that time but it reflects some of the things that I saw that day. This is a big step from painting from one photo to painting from several photos based on an idea, if that makes sense. 

The  goal here is to work differently from how I have been working. Not just a different look but an entirely different approach. Same mechanics (value, color, line, shape, overall design elements) but a different way of addressing those things. When I did the above two pieces I found myself still considering those elements but starting and finishing the pieces differently than I normally do. Clear as mud right?

Hope everyone  had a great week. I was out and about today in the tiny area of White Pines (they ARE NOT Arnold!) and I took some great photos that I hope to share soon. Thanks again for reading and commenting.

Monday, November 3, 2014

New Work: Brush With Autumn

Brush With Autumn
9" x 12" acrylic on wc paper-matted  to 12"x 16"/framable
The above piece is the second work based on the photos that I took the other day in my backyard. It's funny but when I first started painting and we moved here, I used to draw on my backyard for inspiration all of the time. I got away from that (interest in other subjects) but am now revisiting it again. There is a wildness to all of that brush and grass that lends itself very well to the palette knife work. 

For this piece I did a basic sketch first. I tried to focus on the general movement and direction of the brush along with light, medium and dark "shapes". When I started the painting I used a charcoal pencil to transfer the general idea to the paper. This is a real departure for me on several levels. First, there was no drawing depicting hard shapes and a definite composition. I normally have done this in the past and one of my goals is to get away from doing this. The second thing was relying on other design ideas to make this piece. Normally I would have relied on definite shapes with gradation and hard edges. This time I relied more on the direction of some very general "lines" of each mass, roughly. It was sort of like the trees, bushes, and grasses all had their own gesture lines. I also used a charcoal stick to establish the initial lines and some basic areas. Those lines were then restated after some color application. 

All in all, I am pretty happy with the outcome. I will say though that I feel like there is a place that I want to get to here but can't say exactly where that is or how to get there. I don't actually know how to resolve the problem.

OK, hope everyone had a great weekend and that Monday is off to a good start. Our weather is to remain clear for now so let's hope there is some rain  in sight, somewhere.


Friday, October 31, 2014

October 2014 Wrap Up Post

Back of Beyond
9" x 12" acrylic on wc paper-matted to 12" x 16"

Transition9" x 12" acrylic on wc paper-matted to 12" x 16"

Still Full
8" x 8" acrylic on wc paper matted to 12" x 16"

Sense of Place and Space
9" x 12" acrylic on wc paper-matted to 12" x 16"

Fall Flow
9" x 12" acrylic on wc paper-matted to 12" x 16"

October was a productive month. The palette knife paintings have continued and I am learning a lot from doing them. It's a different way of working for me that yields different results. Each piece has a story too and I'd like to share just a snippet of each one. 

Back of Beyond: This piece was inspired by one of the views in my back yard. Having three acres is a blessing but not all of that land gets attention. The very back is quite wild and while back there just recently, this view caught my eye.

Transition: We took a trip to Chico earlier in the month. The creek that flows through town is beautiful. You walk to the creek through a jungle of trees and bushes and when you get there you are entirely enclosed in this clearing.  The reflections on the still water create an illusion of there being no horizon line. My interpretation of that space was distorted and that experience brought about this piece.

Still Full: Lake Tulloch is not far from where I live and during a recent trip south on highway 49, I stopped by the side of the road to look at the water. The lake appears to be full. Ownership and distribution of the water in California is of interest to me and this piece of the lake was made in response to that interest.

Sense of Place and Space: This piece is a second work in response to the Chico creek visit. Another aspect of that creek area is the wildness and entanglement of all of the various trees, bushes, and plants. I hoped to capture a little bit of that disorder with this piece.

Fall Flow: The Calaveras River flows close by to where we live. It's easy to get down to the riverbank to take a look at things. I have visited here often and taken lots of photos over the past 4-5 years. The water, trees and bushes all have a much different look during the winter. That impression was used to make this piece.

Upcoming Events:
Staring in November, the gallery store in San Andreas will be hosting the Affordable Gifts of Art show. The Arts Council puts on this event every year and it is always quite a draw. It's a great way to shop locally and to support local artisans. I hope to have some work in the show. If you are in the area be sure to stop by and do some shopping.

Beginning again in January, I will be offering more classes through the Arts Council in San Andreas. The color wheel/6 color split primary palette class offered in October was very successful. I will probably offer this again in addition to a basic drawing/observational skills class. I am hoping also that one of my artist friends will be teaching a class on basic perspective. Things will be worked out soon so stay tuned!

I love this time of year and am hoping for a good month coming up in November. Please feel free to email me with any questions regarding the above pieces:  My website is updated and can be found here: I am also on Facebook under Libby Fife/Libby Fife Fine Art. And I refuse to Tweet so no joy there!

Thank you to everyone for reading these posts and supporting me and my art making. It means a lot!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

New Work: Transition

9" x 12" (roughly) and matted to 12" x 16"; acrylic wc paper
The Work Above:
This was completed on Tuesday. It nearly got away from me. Painting in the afternoon for me is always a dicey proposition. I tend to get tired and when that happens I stop making good decisions. The results here though feel good to me. The piece is based on a photo that I took while in Chico a couple of weeks ago. I mentioned earlier that the creek that runs through the middle of town is amazing. You literally step inside a large stand of trees and brush that surround the creek. The experience was other-worldly. It's literally like you are standing inside of something, looking out, rather than just looking at something in a two dimensional sense. I didn't think I could necessarily recreate that but I was able to hold onto those ideas as I was making t his piece.

Technical Stuff:
I used the palette knife again for this piece. The reference photo was turned upside down in order to get rid of the horizon and the idea of it being a landscape. My initial drawing was also done upside down using the photo which I turned into a black and white image. Those two things helped me to just focus on shapes and values and direction of line. I started with a 3 value under painting done in a cool blue. Using just one color made it easier to see the overall pattern of shapes and movement. As I added the green colors, dark to light, things weren't making a ton of sense. I added the muted purples and browns and then the idea of what I wanted solidified. I also broke down and added the suggestion of a horizon line. At some point I'd like to not use a horizon line in my compositions but honestly, I am not there yet. 

OK, I had stuff to do earlier this week and haven't been in the studio too much.  However, there are groceries in the fridge now and a meal planned for tonight. I am good to go! If you think I just get to be arty all of the time, think again! 

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