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.