Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Painting a glass blowing glory hole

Glory Hole WIP
10 x 8 soft pastels on sanded paper
by Miki Willa
This is another gift painting. Our oldest son is a glass blower, so I used a reference photo my husband took of son blowing a vase, which I have on my mantle. I wanted to capture the intensity of this part of glass blowing. The fire is so hot, the edges around it are blurred. There are subtle shapes and forms in the dark areas. I still have to flesh them out a bit and clean up some of the lines I want to be sharp. I am pleased with the colors and values, so far. This has been a challenge, but a very enjoyable one. It took me outside my normal comfort zone and there is not a speck of green here! I am adding this to my small spaces series.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Snow in Seattle

It has been snowing in the Greater Seattle area off and on for over a week now. I spent part of that time painting and part of it creating Christmas stockings for five family members. This project all started because I wanted to make a stocking for my new granddaughter. Her parents wanted new stockings as well. Then my husband spoke up, so I had to have a new one also. Next year, I will make for the rest of the family. It was a fun project. I haven't sat at the sewing machine very often over the last ten years or so. I think I will be doing more fun projects now that I have it set up again.
I lived in the Seattle area for many years before I moved to Hawaii and don't remember real snow in December. This has been a great adventure for me because I haven't had to try and get around in it. I thought I would share a couple of photos of the yard. I don't remember too many white Christmases in my life. I am sure there have been a few, but they are rare. This snow is supposed to stick around until Christmas day, when it will begin to rain. I wonder what the rest of winter will have in store.

This is a view of part of the back yard. We have a wonderful yard that has great character all times of the year. Notice the two bird feeders toward the distance.

This is the maple tree by the front door. I love the structure of the branches and trunk. You can see a fall foliage shot of this same tree near the bottom of this post.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Paintings as gifts

Bread, Beer, and Edam
8 x 10 soft pastels on sanded paper
by Miki Willa
Doing a painting as a gift is always a tricky thing, I think. Unless you really know someone really well, you may easily create something that will reside in their storage closet until you are expected for dinner. For instance, I would never paint something for my daughter unless she requested it because she really knows what she likes. My son's, on the other hand, have asked me to do paintings for them for a long time. They each have paintings by my husband, their father, but not by me. I decided to remedy that this year. Our oldest is a pastry chef who enjoys a good beer. He has been giving me bread making lessons, and I have become very popular with my daughter and sister every since. I decided to do this still life for him. I threw in the Edam for color and shape. Besides, we really like to eat Edam now and then.
I had some trouble with the beer in this painting. I expected the foam to last much longer than it did. Fortunately, I took a photo before it went away, and I didn't pour it until I had the sketch done. I started on that part. Another thing was the glass. I haven't painted glass in a long time. I am pleased with the final results, but it was difficult to get there.
I hope he likes this painting. My other son is a glass blower. That painting will be an even greater challenge.
I have not been idle between paintings. I spent several hours making Christmas stockings for five people. I haven't had a sewing room for many years, so it was good to get back to that sort of creativity. In the new year, I will be splitting my time between quilting and painting. I am really glad I named this blog Pastels and More. That way, I will be able to share all my endeavors.
If I don't get back before the 25th, Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate. To my readers who worship in another way, a blessed season to you all.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Lower Falls - finished at last

Lower Falls
20 x 27 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
by Miki Willa
I think this is finally finished. It was quite difficult for me to resolve the left side of the painting. Partially, it was because the area was not as geographically interesting as the right side. The other part was a color and value problem. I had originally used pale green for the distant river valley above and behind the falls. As soon as I realized this was not working, I rubbed it out and used purples. This gave me a much clearer vision of what I needed to do to the left side. I may have more to do on this one, but it will have to wait until I haven't been staring at it for a couple of weeks.
I have a few smaller paintings to do in the next couple of weeks, so I will be back in my size comfort zone. It is good to push yourself to grow your skills, but it is also fun to get comfortable once in a while.
Now that I have discovered somewhat of a routine to my weeks, I am going to take a look at where I want to be in 2009. Over the next few days, I will we working on some goal setting and a business plan. I will post some of this as it formulates.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Lower Falls WIP 3

Stage 1
Stage 2

Stage 3
I had a request to put all the stages of this WIP on the same page for comparison purposes. I hope this helps.
For this stage (3), I worked more on the farthest ridge on the right of the painting, the left ridges, and some on the far distance. As I work, I am constantly adjusting for value and temperature. One of the things I want to do next is darken the foreground of the hillside on the left. I will add some purples to indicate that this side is more in the shadow than the right side. The purple will also help the golden foliage pop more and send it further forward. I have all the elements I want to use from the original reference photo, so now it is all about the painting and what will make it work.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Lower Falls WIP 2

Lower Falls WIP 2
by Miki Willa
In this second phase, I reworked the ridges on the right side. I wasn't happy about the values yesterday. The closest ridge is filled with golds, iron oxides, and sharp angles. I wanted to portray that. The second ridge is very dark, with a few tall pines. The third ridge was much lighter with more trees. I think I finally have what I want here. I may punch up the areas that were hit by the sun closer to the finishing stages. I also worked a bit on the left ridges, the river, and the falls. There is a tree with very golden leaves in the near ground that I will be adding in the next stage, if I get brave enough.
I was reading Linda Blondheim's Thanksgiving post about the ugly stages of a painting. It is so good to read about the process other artists go through in their painting. I am always amazed at just how ugly my paintings can be in the early and middle stages. When I take a class, or paint in public, I have had to learn to just trust the process and not worry about what others think. That is no easy task, for me. The way I have of approaching a painting has evolved over time from working on one small section until it is as good as I can get it before moving on to the next, to working with the whole piece in mind from the beginning. It makes it much easier to see how colors and values will react with their neighbors, but it sure makes from some not so lovely scenes. Even on this painting, I placed the values and temperatures in the first layer. Staying with them, I am able to work back and forth on different elements.t
Given all that, I am still learning how to let go of those paintings that never leave the ugly stage. If you have watched my progress on the blog, I am sure you know which ones I mean.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lower Falls WIP 1

Lower Falls WIP
by Miki Willa
After I did my preliminary sketches, I got out a full sheet of Art Spectrum Colourfix and found a backing board large enough. I did a very rough sketch of the basic lines and shapes. I selected pastels in different values and temperature to lay in the basics. I worked the falls and river first, something I rarely do. What you see here is a bare beginning, just trying to establish value and some form. I am also trying to keep the majesty and my emotions at first seeing this place. A tall order, perhaps. Lots of work still to do.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fall Colors

I love the fall colors, but have decided to share photos for now. They are very difficult for me to paint the way I want to at my present skill level. However, I wanted you to see what I was seeing through the lens. This one was taken in the upper parking lot at Snoqualmie Falls in Washington.

I love the bright colors in these trees. This photo has not been tweaked at all. I took this one from the pedestrian bridge between Snoqualmie Falls and the upper parking lot.

We have a lovely old Japanese Maple near our front door. I waited and waited for it to change color this fall. About two weeks ago, it started. First, the dark reds appeared here and there. Then the golds and yellows. I took this photo two days ago. It is just about the last to turn in our area, and one of the last to retain most of its leaves. I really like the structure of the trunk and limbs. I can see this tree becoming part of a series.
My next project will be a big one. I am thinking of posting the progress. Today, I will be working on line and value sketches. I still don't know what size I will be working in, but I know it will be larger than usual. I am looking forward to doing another large painting. It has been a long time.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Artist's Traits

Casey, Iowa
9 x 12 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
by Miki Willa

I am going through a major transition in my life. I have retired. I have become a grandmother for the first time, and have the privilege of taking care of my grandchild a couple of days per week. All of this has led to a disruption in my daily routine. A happy one, for the most part. On the downside, I have not been painting regularly, or blogging. That has led me to several questions. Where do I want my painting to go? Am I a hobby painter, or do I want to work at marketing my paintings? What direction do I want my blog to go in now that I am not posting daily paintings? This is an important question since I have found the blog art community very inspiring, and I know that I must be an active member to get the most out of it.
Casey Klahn has been exploring the traits he thinks are important to be a good artist. A recent post has called for traits other artists think are important. I suggested discipline, since this is one I really have to work on. He is calling for an essay on discipline. I hope I have the discipline to do that. I would say LOL, but that is not something I see in blogs very often.
Another thing I have done is reserve a space in a mentorship with Michael Chesley Johnson in Sedona, Arizona in February. I have been wondering where to focus my efforts during this time, and have pretty much narrowed it down to taking my paintings to the next level. I am looking for the wow factor. I am really excited about spending a week in Sedona.
In the meantime, I have my sights on painting the lower falls of the Yellowstone River. Groan all you like, but if you see it in person, you will want to paint it, no matter how many times it has been painted before. Some will resist because you think it is so cliche, but don't. It is far too wonderful to pass up.
This painting was done from a photo of a very small town in Iowa. We stopped for gas and lunch, all at the same place. I wandered down the road while Tom put gas in the truck. I couldn't resist the photo.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Capturing Fall Colors

Vine Maples
9 x 12 soft pastels on sanded paper
by Miki Willa

These are the trees at the beginning of our driveway. Having lived in Hawaii for six years, I didn't realize just how much I would love having fall colors right at home. Today, I noticed the Japanese maple by the front door is about half turned, and the Dogwood out back is fully turned into its brilliant reds. It seems to me the color has lasted an extra long time this year. I have been enjoying every minute of it.

When I first decided to paint this scene, I wanted to make sure the rock was prominent. It is a very cool rock. No matter what I seemed to do, however, the rock kept getting lost in the glory of reds, yellows, and oranges. After I took the photo of the finished painting, I was zooming in to make sure it was in focus and I figured out the problem was the composition. I really wish I saw these things before I started painting. I am going to have to work on that. I have included a cropped photo of the painting that I like much better.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Following the Rules of Painting

Yellowstone River Meander
12 x 18 soft pastels on Kitty Wallis Professional White
by Miki Willa
When I first saw this scene, I fell in love with the colors. The river was so blue surrounded by several shades of ochre grasses. This is an area where the buffalo really do roam. The lodge pole pines line the tops of the rolling hills to add a wonderful dark contrast to an otherwise light landscape.
I did several small sketches before I started this painting. I had trouble getting the shapes of the small islands at first. The shapes were very important to the overall effect of the scene. I really wanted to share how I felt when I first saw this place. I feel pretty good about the final result. There were, however, some things that might have gotten in the way.
I have studied pastel painting for about seven years now, focusing on landscape painting for the last two or three. I have been learning all the "rules" for representational painting. I understand the principles of aerial perspective, value, temperature, focal area, and more. Sometimes, though, I think the rules get in the way of what I am trying to convey. For instance, I know that yellow is the first "color" to disburse in the atmosphere, so that in the foreground, the yellow is warm and intense, the mid ground yellow begins to get cooler tan, and by the distance it is a cool grey. However, this is not what I saw in the scene above. I know that an artist has to use these "rules" to trick the viewer into seeing what you saw, but I sometimes have trouble swallowing it. For this painting, I hit on a compromise by adding cooler grays to the distant hills while still using a pale yellow. Rules, after all, are often broken when it comes to art.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Rethinking an old painting

Fall on the River
9 x 12 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
by Miki Willa
When Tom and I set up the new studio, we put a cork board on one wall to hang newly finished pieces so we could see them to think about them over time before they were put away or framed. For a long time, I have been looking at this painting and liking it less and less. This morning, I awoke thinking about how to change it. This is the result.
Yesterday, I drove into Seattle along the west shore of Lake Washington. The colors of the fall trees were spectacular. I kept thinking about them all evening and this morning. I decided to work them into the trees along the bank of the Green River. If you look at the old painting, there are no fall colors, but plenty of deciduous trees. I also took out the path that simply wasn't working in the old painting. While I like some aspects of this painting much better, I still think I have a long way to go with rivers. I am just happy I got the fall colors in. I want to do many more of these.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Painting Reflections in Pastel

Little Saco River, Maine
12 x 18 soft pastels on Kitty Wallis Professional White
by Miki Willa
When we were in Eastern Maine, we left our campground in search of a covered bridge crossing the Little Saco River. We wanted to find a place to do some pleine air painting. We had all our painting gear and we were ready. The leaves were beginning to turn along the river, and we wanted to do our first fall color paintings. When we got to the bridge, we were excited to see several areas that would be great to set up to paint. Then we got out of the truck. The mosquitoes were so thick, breathing meant the possibility of taking in some of the critters. Deet was no match. We grabbed several photos, dove back into the truck, and drove back up the river. On the way, we saw this beautiful bush that cried to be painted. Photos were taken quickly and stored for studio reference.
Since I want to get better at rivers, I decided to work on this one this week. I did a dry underpainting, paying attention to values rather than local color. The scene was all about the turning bush and the reflections on the slow moving river. I started with the bush and worked out to the sides, putting the reflections in as I went. I kept in mind the unequal triangle approach to points of interest, with the bush being the main focal area. I went with local color in the final painting. If I do this one again, I think I will push the fall foliage to the brighter reds, yellows, and oranges. I would like the next river I paint to have more speed to it. I still have much to learn about reflections, but I also have to learn to paint moving water.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Painting Rocks

Coastal Acadia
12 x 18 soft pastels on Kitty Wallis Professional White
by Miki Willa

I really like to look at paintings of rocks. When I was doing watercolor, I learned to do pretty good rocks. I used wet in wet, dry brush, palette knife, and credit cards to create rocks with texture and interest. That was a long time ago. Now, I and trying to recreate the same effect using pastels. I think this is my best effort to date.
My husband says you have to look at rocks to paint them. They are all so different. The rounded smooth ones from rivers and the shore are the most difficult to paint, for me. I like the ones with planes and angles. MC Johnson did a short post about painting rocks where he talked about using short straight strokes to indicate roundness. His rocks are very good.
This is from a photo I took on a walk from our campsite in Acadia National Park in Maine to an overlook on the coast. Coastal Maine is known for wonderful rock formations and islands on the horizon. I took a series of photos from this spot to create this painting.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Gibbons River, Yellowstone

Gibbon River - en plein air
12 x 18 soft pastels on Kitty Wallis Professional White
by Miki Willa
I did not do as much plein air painting on our trip as I originally planned. During our third day in Yellowstone, however, we found a very nice picnic area on the Gibbon River. It was a perfect day. There was a shady spot right where I wanted it to be. There were no bugs, it being too cold at night for them to be around in the morning. I didn't have to drag all my stuff very far. In short, it was comfortable enough for me to paint outside.
I don't think the river was as full or as deep as it looks in this painting. I really need to work on moving water. Maybe that should be what my series is about. Any ideas about who I should study in this area will be appreciated.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Painting Grand Vistas

12 x 18 soft pastel on Kitty Wallis Professional White
by Miki Willa

I was reading Rose's Artlines yesterday, and she posed a question about what kinds of art a person likes and why. I have been pondering that question for a while in an effort to narrow my focus for my paintings. I think I will start with subjects.

One of the subjects I really like is the grand vista. I like the idea of the majestic landscape, but not in an over romanticized way. I also really like pastoral scenes, with or without buildings. Old barns, rivers, wetlands, rock formations, and mountains always draw me in. I also really like still lifes, if they are filled with odd and interesting things.

I guess the reason I am starting with subjects is because I am thinking of working on a series. Katherine at Making a Mark has been writing about series paintings. Some time back, MC Johnson wrote about painting in a series. Yesterday, I read Elizabeth Mowry's Landscape Meditations: an artist's guide to exploring themes in landscape painting. All of this has made me think about what I would like to get from painting a series.

1. I would explore a subject in depth and make it a part of me.

2. I would hone my skills in certain areas that need work.

3. I could explore various techniques while staying true to style and subject.

Now I just have to decide what I want to use as my primary subject.

Today's painting is from just outside West Glacier in Montana. We stayed one night at a very overpriced, not really pleasant motel before we started our camping trip in Glacier National Park. The only thing this place had going for it was the view. I used an orange underpainting for the trees in different values of orange. I was really pleased with the way the underpainting turned out, so I very carefully followed the values when I added the greens and violets. I also worked hard getting the values the way I wanted for the receding mountains. Once again, I was going for good aerial perspective.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

New Directions

Early Fall in the Blue Ridge
12x18 soft pastels on Kitty Wallace white
by Miki Willa
We returned from our seven week adventure last Friday and I have spent the week getting used to being home. During the week, I have been pondering this blog and where I want to go with it. I started out doing a painting a day and the blog helped me to stay focused on that project. This summer, on the road, I was exploring plein air painting and how I would adapt to it. I have learned several things.
First - I am a studio painter. I am very glad for the opportunity to paint on location and learn new ways of seeing things. I know it will help me enormously in the studio. I learned a great deal from Richard McKinley about translating what I see onto paper to help others see it, also. I have a long way to go, but I will keep at it.
Second - Doing a painting a day was very good for me to learn to control my medium. When I started out, I had a heavy hand. All my strokes were way to heavy. I am pleased to say, I am getting better at varying my pressure and strokes. That being said, I still have trouble with tree trunks. I have to work on that.
Third - I want to work on larger, more in depth paintings for a while. This means that I won't have a painting a day to post on the blog. I also want to do some artist studies. I have become very enamored of Andrew Wyeth and Winslow Homer of late. Do I post only my finished paintings as they are done, or do I take the blog in a new direction to share what I am studying and learning? I am not sure yet. For the time being, I will post some of the paintings I did on the trip that I have not already shared.
To that end, today's painting was done in studio while in Virginia. We spent a lovely weekend in Syria, Virginia in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. On the way in to Syria is the small town of Crieglersville. As we drove past it, I came upon this scene and knew it had to be painted. It was early fall and the trees were just beginning to turn. I am a complete sucker for these pastoral scenes. They bring me so much peace.
I am glad to be back and hope to figure out my new directions very soon.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Values in the landscape - learning to see again

Ever since spending a week learning from Richard McKinley, Tom and I have been looking for values in every scene before us. On the way out of Bend, we stopped at Smith Rocks again to do some value work. The photo above is of one of the beautiful rock formations. Even though I know that the camera lies about values, you can see some of the darks in the shadows and crevasses. Such a beautiful place. Keeping in mind the value challenges of the camera, I have selected a few representational photos of what we have been seeing, drawing, and discussing on the way to St. Cloud, Minnesota (our present stopping place).

This is a view from the west side of Logan Pass from the Going To The Sun Highway. We were stopped for road construction, so took some photos. Notice how the values go from the dark shadow in the foreground to a middle value on the nearest ridge, finally to a cool light value on the distant ridge. This is a pretty good photo showing the warmer tones closer and the cooler tones in the distance. This is something I have to work on. I tend to use too much warmth in the distance at times.

This was taken from a trail in the Many Glaciers area of Glacier NP, I think. Once again, look at the warm darker values in the foreground and the cooler lighter values in the distance. One of the things I am working on is to make sure the darker values in the distance, like in the shadows, are not as dark as the darks in the foreground. I also need to make sure I don't do major value jumps in any one area. Sometimes in the studio, I relied too much on the photographic image. Since I am learning to see again in real life, I am seeing that photo images cannot be relied upon completely. Value sketches are much more reliable.

This is not about value. I just had to throw it in because it was so cool seeing these beautiful animals so close. This herd of bighorn sheep was in the meadows at Logan Pass. They were very close to the boardwalk feeding on alpine lilies.

This photo is a perfect example of how a photo can lie. This is the Painted Hills area of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. It was taken on an overcast day. Notice that the values read the same from front to back. It was not that way in reality. It was also much more colorful than the photo shows. The hills were brilliant pinks, calming ochres, and many shades of browns and lavenders.

This last photo was taken from the car, at 72 mph. It is a field of sun flowers along I 94 in North Dakota. I kept wanting to get a good photo, but the people who plan these roads simply do not have artists and photographers in mind at all. Don't you think they should build in pull-outs for plein air painters in spots like this? So far, we think Montana wins the prize for artists pull-outs. Or course, they are cleverly disguised as scenic overlooks or chain removal spots.
Today, we head further east. We will still be looking at values. In a couple of days, we may even be able to stop and paint again, if the weather holds out. Forecast is for rain and thunderstorms to the east. I will post again on Friday when we get to Boston.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

From Bend, Oregon to Bismark, North Dakota

On the way out of Bend, we decided to stop again at Smith's Rocks. Both of us were determined that we could actually paint this place. We allowed ourselves time to do good sketches, one line and one value. We both would have stayed to paint, but we had to make it to Spokane, WA by dinner time. We both think we have good sketches and photos. I wrote extensive color and value notes on mine. Look for it when I get back to the studio.
After two nights with family in Spokane, we headed northeast for Glacier National Park. It was a long drive, so we decided to stay the night in West Glacier before we headed over Going to the Sun Highway to our campsite in St. Mary's campground. The motel I selected had fantastic views. Tom did a great painting there. The room was very clean, very small, and very basic. It was also really pricey. For the money, we could have stayed in West Glacier itself and had stuff to do.
The next morning, we headed over Logan Pass. There is construction on the steep west side, but we were lucky to have only a six or seven minute delay. Most of the delays are 30 minutes. We decided to push on to the campground and drive back to the meadows on the top another day. The picture at the top is of our campsite and Tom's painting from the day before that he wanted to work on a bit more.
We spent the next two days exploring the park and painting. The next three paintings are pleine air pieces we did. I have decided to post Tom's paintings from the trip also.

From St. Mary's Lake

12 x 18 soft pastels on Wallis

Tom Willa

View from St. Mary's Lake

12 x 18 soft pastels on Wallis
Miki Willa

Jackson Mountain
9 x 12 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
Miki Willa

After we left the park, we headed east on Highway 2 through Montana to Glasgow, where we found another interesting motel. It was a very hot drive. This morning, we headed southeast to pick up interstate 94. We stopped at a very cool dinosaur museum, looked at the North Dakota Badlands in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and drove through the rain to Bismark. Tom picked this place to stay which has reliable internet access, plenty of room, a laundry (thank goodness), and very cool furniture. I am not sure how much painting will be done between now an Maine. The weather forecast is dismal so we may not be camping much until after the 16th. Hopefully, it will clear up by then. If we don't get paintings done, I will post some great photos from Glacier in the next few days.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Blog news

Sorry. No picture this time. I just wanted to let you know that the McKinley workshop was fantastic, and now it is time to head east. Tom and I are going to take a plein air cross country trip for a few weeks. I will post results when I have internet access. We are going to Glacier National Park, North Dakota, several state parks on the way to Boston, three parks in Maine including Acadia National Park, and Yellowstone on the way home. Look for my impressions along the way.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mckinley Workshop Day Four

These are the two paintings/sketches I did on Day Four. The one on the left is of Southern Sister Mountain from Sparks Lake, Oregon. The one on the right is looking slightly northeast from the other view. Neither of the paintings photographed well because I tried to do it in deep shade. I have tried to get them closer to reality with Photoshop. You be the judge on which one you like best.

McKinley Workshop Day Three

On Wednesday, day three of the Richard McKinley workshop, we drove north to Smith Rock State Park, Oregon. The place was awe inspiring wherever you looked. Painting rocks had me really excited because I love to paint rocks. This place just about did me in. There was so much to chose from. Talk about a pastel artist in the Dakota warehouse! (Dakota Pastels is an online pastel artist's mecca located in northwestern Washington.) I had a really hard time, so set up in the shade near the parking lot and decided to attempt this view. First, I had to do my thumbnail sketches. Before too long, I got totally lost. Never a good sign. However, I persevered, and came up with a plan. Once I got the small sketch done, I put in on the larger paper. Everything was fine up to that point.

One of the techniques Richard teaches is using an underpainting. I have talked about this before, and have had good results before. I figured it would work out fine. That is until all my carefully placed sketch disappeared. I realized I had only done underpaintings on pieces that did not require detailed sketches. I should have gone with my first instinct to just start the painting. But, I was a good little student and did the wash. I nearly cried when I realized what I had done. Then, I decided to try and paint the painting anyway. Such a disaster. One of the first things Richard said was to expect to paint my worst paintings in the workshop because it was a learning experience. Well, this was my worst painting ever. Fortunately, we stopped for lunch and to watch a painting demonstration.

By the time I got back to the easel, I decided to wipe out what I had, and start all over. Pastel is such a forgiving medium. My paper ended up with interesting tones upon which I redid my sketch. Of course, it wasn't as good or as fresh as my original, but I made it work. As I started to build up the colors, I started having fun, finally. I still struggled, and as you will see, I have much work to do, I think this painting now has potential. I will carry it with me until I get back into my studio in seven week.s and I will work it some more. Here it is, warts and all.

Monkey Face

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

McKinley Workshop Day Two

Today we met on location at Green Lakes Trailhead about 27 miles west of Bend, up in the mountains. It was incredibly beautiful. There were three mountains nearby. There was a full stream and wonderful meadows. During Richards demonstration, we were visited by a beautiful little doe. Fortunately, the weather was much cooler, so we all had more energy for painting. There were not so many bugs in the cooler, overcast weather.

Today, Richard talked about aerial, or atmospheric perspective. This is where the artist takes into account knowledge about light waves, refraction, and distance. Here in the northwest, we have quite a bit of moisture in the air, so things that are in the distance become lighter and more blue. The artist has to take that into account to help the viewer see those distances. I am still struggling with that, but I understand it better now.

There were so many views to choose from to paint. Several of the group painted Broken Top mountain. Several chose the meandering stream. A few of us chose the wonderful meadows filled with wildflowers. I worked very hard on my painting, trying to put all my new knowledge to use. I am still struggling with the wall of trees in the distance. I think they detract from the overall painting. Unfortunately, the photo of this painting is really not good. As all artists know, the camera does lie, especially about values. My meadow has many more values than this photo shows.

Tomorrow, we are going to a place called Smith Rocks State Park. I do love painting rocks. Maybe I will have less of a struggle tomorrow. Moving from the studio to pleine air is much tougher than I expected.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Richard McKinley Plein Air Workshop

Richard McKinley demonstration
Dillon Falls, Dechutes River, Oregon
Photo by Miki Willa

Today was the first day of our plein air workshop with Richard McKinley. In the morning, we sat in a classroom where he gave us an overwhelming amount of information. It was great. I learned so much about composition and simultaneous contrast. Two of my goals for this workshop revolve around those two skills. My other goal is to learn to see with my own eyes instead of through the lens of a camera. I really think that if I can develop this skill, it will make me a better studio painter in the long run.
The class time ran a little long, so we didn't get to our location until after 2:00. I have to say it was quite beautiful. It was also hot, dusty, and the bugs were very hungry. We were forewarned so had umbrellas and bug spray, but I found it quite distracting. I really don't like bugs too much. I kept the bug spray with me at all times and kept reapplying until they left me alone. It didn't stop them from doing fly-by stunts a la Top Gun. By the time I got my thumbnails done, I was ready to pack it in. I really wanted to do a larger piece, but that will have to wait until tomorrow.
Richard is a great teacher as well as artist. I am really looking forward to the rest of the week. Tomorrow, we will be travelling to a river trail system in the mountains surrounding Bend, Oregon called Green Lakes Trails. I am looking forward to a full day of painting. I will post what I do whether successful or not. After all, this is a learning blog.
Below are my thumbnails from today. The first one is line directions. The second is shapes. The third is first impression of values done in pencil. The fourth is done with grey tone markers after consulting with Richard. The last one has a bit more detail. I did take photos, so I may be able to do this one in the studio when I get home in seven weeks. Did I tell you we are on a seven week plein air road trip? Stay tuned. This is only the beginning.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Virtual Sketch Date

5 x 4 colored pencils on Colourfix
Miki Willa
I did this for the July Virtual Sketch Date. This is the first time I participated. Once again, I have to applaud all the colored pencil artists out there. I find this a very difficult medium. Go to the Virtual Sketch Date site for more information and the reference photo. I cropped it pretty drastically before I started drawing.

Green and More Green

Green on the Green
9 x 12 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
Miki Willa
This is the Green River in Flaming Geyser State Park, Washington. I did this one using a complementary color underpainting. I should have taken WIP photos to show you some of the amusing problems I had with this painting. When I thought it was finished, I stepped back with Tom and discovered that the river looked as if it were going to slide diagonally off the page toward the bottom right corner. I hadn't paid enough attention to my water strokes. Then I noticed that I had created a perfect formal garden hedge of flowers all along the river bank. The path was all one value from front to back. I decided to wait until this morning to fix all of this. A few carefully placed strokes with my handy-dandy foam brush took out much of the hedge and helped to fix the river. I found my favorite purple for the nearest part of the path. Then I added the strokes in the river to make it show movement in the correct direction. We were there on a very cool early June day when the river was still running high, and I think I captured both the cool weather and the full river.
The title? It was a very lush green place along a river named Green.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Dugualla Flats with tree

Dugualla Flats
9 x 12 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
Miki Willa
I know the title of this posting won't get any hits, but I wasn't sure what else to call it. Besides, it took me quite a while to find the name of this place, so decided to use it.
This is a wonderful flat meadow between the main north/south highway on Whidbey Island and Dugualla Bay in the Puget Sound. The white mountain in the background is Mt. Baker. It is done from a reference taken in early spring several years ago. The photo was taken in the morning, thus the long shadows.
I did this painting as a demonstration on using a complimentary underpainting. I put orange under the green field, red under the distant tree covered hill, and dark purple/blue under the water. I did a blue underpainting on the sky because I have not been successful with complements under the sky yet. I used soft pastels and blended them with turpenoid (the stuff in the blue can, not the green one). I put the grazing cows in the far part of the field to give a sense of distance between me, the tree, and the water. I really liked this place. We had fun sketching there from the cab of the truck. As I recall, it was a cold, very early spring morning.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The color of haze

Sound View
9 x 12 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
Miki Willa

I finally made time to get back to the studio this week. Since I still have several local monuments to paint, I decided to get the Mt. Rainier painting taken care of. I am not entirely satisfied with it, but I will try and explain my feelings about this Puget Sound icon.
First, some basic information about the mountain. Mt. Rainier is 14,411 feet high, making it the highest mountain in the Cascade Range. It is an active stratovolcano, and it has 26 glaciers. That is the most glaciers on one mountain in the lower 48 states. Parts of it are open year round for hiking and day trips.
When I first moved to the northwest during my college days, in the dark ages, I have been in love with this mountain. Of course, I am not alone in this love fest. It is a part of local lore as well as conversations. "The mountain is out today," is a great weather indicator. The goals of many local residents include climbing the mountain at least once in their lifetime. Many celebrations take place on the mountain, as well as few losses over the years. Going to the mountain for a day trip or a week long camping adventure is a must. Seeing the wildflower meadows in late spring is awe inspiring. The most interesting thing about this mountain is that it appears differently each day and each season.
On a recent trip to the northwest, before moving here, I took several photos of Mt. Rainier from the decks of the Bremerton-Seattle ferry. It looked so big and close in real life. When I got home and looked at the photos, I was disappointed that the sense of proximity and size were completely lost. When I decided to paint it last week, I decided to exaggerate those points. One important point is that the snow cover on the mountain takes on the colors of the sun at each point during the day. Late afternoon and early evening, the reflections are pinks and oranges. I wanted to include that in my interpretation. There is often a haze or low cloud cover masking the base of the mountain and the foothills leading up to it, which adds to the mystique of the mountain, I think. The haze is where I first got into trouble in the painting. I finally went to Daniel Smith's and bought new pastels in the light range, and that helped.
Finally, I am pretty happy about the mountain, but the mid and foreground need something. Any suggestions would be received well.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Painting Details - or not

Virginia's Pond
12 x 9 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
Miki Willa

In my continuing journey to become a better artist, I find I am looking more critically at some of my favorite artists to see what they are doing right. I am beginning to see that there is a way that these artists handle details that draws me in. James Gurney wrote a post about what artists include in their paintings that was really though provoking along these lines. One of the artists who handles details in a way I find quite wonderful is Richard McKinley.
McKinley knows just where to include details and where to indicate them. He uses color, line, and light to draw the viewer into his landscapes and details to guide you along the path to the place of most importance. I am fortunate to be signed up for a workshop with him in July. I am looking forward to learning some of his techniques.
Today's painting is done from a reference photo of my friends', Virginia and Jerry, pond in northwestern Washington. Several years ago, they bought a large and wonderful log house on several acres. Thanks to a family of beavers, they looked out from their deck onto a great pond. I have been meaning to paint this for years, but lost the photos until a few days ago. I was drawn to this photo because of the yellow leaf. Tom thinks I need to make the leaf look more like what it is. I am working on it.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Deception Pass

Deception Pass
12 x 18 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
Miki Willa
I finally got time to work on a larger piece. I really had fun with this one. This is one of my favorite places in Puget Sound. It is at the northern end of Whidbey Island, and it separates Skagit Sound from the Straits of Juan de Fuca. It was named Deception Pass by Captain Vancouver on one of his exploratory voyages because he was certain it led into a sheltered bay, but found it to be a strait instead.
I am finding that I use totally different greens and blues here. I wasn't frustrated once in finding the right green. Besides, I recently read Richard McKinley's post about greens and tried to apply some of what he said. I think it really made a difference.
I read an article in the latest Pastel Journal about painting local landmarks, and how that is a good thing. I have also seen artists talk about local landmarks being so cliche. For me, I paint what I enjoy seeing or what moves me in some way. I also find that I am painting the kinds of things I am drawn to in other people's art. I was reading Travels With a Sketchbook in . . . the other day, and Katherine was talking about analysing what you like by going to a large exhibition and seeing what you are drawn to. Now, I just have to figure out how to find the right market for what I do. It is time to start marketing my work.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Olympic Mountains in Spring

Spring on the Sound
9 x 12 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
Miki Willa
Summer isn't officially here until this weekend, but we have had absolutely beautiful days yesterday and today. It still feels like spring after unseasonably cold weather. It snowed in the mountains last week. We took full advantage of the sun yesterday, and we drove east to a great park along the Green River. As soon as our computer gets fixed and hooked up to the printer, I will be doing some paintings from this area. In the meantime, I am using photos from a few years ago as reference.
This painting is from a photo looking west across Puget Sound toward the Olympic Mountains.

Friday, June 13, 2008

New Home, New Studio, New Painting

Late Afternoon on the Sound
12 x 9 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
Miki Willa
It has been a while, but I am finally set up in my new home and new studio. We moved from Hawaii to the Pacific Northwest. Hawaii is beautiful, but this place is quite wonderful. The mountains, tall evergreens, Puget Sound, and my incredibly beautiful back yard all call to me. My studio is great with fantastic natural light, even on these gloomy days of June.
My first painting in my new studio is from a reference photo my husband took of a small ferry coming into port on Whidbey Island. I loved the way the cloud colors reflect on the water. I am adding this to my cloud series even though the sky is not the focal area.