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.