Sunday, November 1, 2009

Digital collage

Red Chevy Truck
10x 8 digital collage
by Miki Willa
I have been down with pneumonia these past two weeks, and have not had much energy to create art. I am feeling better this weekend, finally, so decided to try and do something with some photos I took before I got sick.
I went to take some photos of a house and found this wonderful surprise in the driveway. I love old trucks. This one was beautiful. It had some issues, like a flat tire and dirty whitewalls, but it was really quite a regal beauty. I know I will do much more with the photos I took, but I decided to try a digital collage first. I usually find old trucks in overgrown places, so I found a photo I took of weeds near a freeway off-ramp for the background. Yes, I do always have my camera with me. You never know when something wonderful will ask to be photographed.
This is my first attempt with these photos. Now, I want to learn how to soften the edges so they blend with the weeds. My husband is a whiz with Photoshop, so I am sure he will be happy to teach me. I will also print out the photos and use them in mixed media collage.
I really enjoy finding unexpected treasures like this. I like old things - buildings, cars, hand made tools, quilts. Many, many years ago, I was the director of a small historical museum. The most fun I had was talking to people about the old tools and how things were done in the earlier times. I loved building displays that helped tell the story of the old piano, or the set of wood planers. I am seeking to get that kind of joy into my art. I didn't realize it until recently. Now, my path has a new direction, or is it an old one I have strayed from. Time will tell.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Commissioned Painting - Mt. Rainier

Royal Peak
8 x 10 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
by Miki Willa
This is my first commissioned painting in a long time. The patron wanted mountain and purple. The mountain I see most from my neighborhood is Mt. Rainier. It has many moods and vistas. This is from the north, slightly east. I wanted to make sure little Mt. Tahoma showed its peak as well. I do love working with purple and I enjoy the challenge of mountain peaks. For all you mountain climbers out there, this is my interpretation from a long distance away. It is not meant to be a climbers guide.
I can now say I have sold two paintings in the great northwest. My studio is ready for more creativity. I am working on preparing myself for more creative time. Just working through some of the nay-saying inner voices. One of my goals is to be more active on the blog again. It may take on a different tone, but it will be a place I will continue to share my creations and my creative process.
Enjoy the beautiful fall.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

More geometrics in complementry colors

The Nest
10 x 8 mixed collage with image transfer and stamp
by Miki Willa
I actually created this one before the last one I posted. I was playing around with colors and patterns. I like the colors. I like the stripes in the paper, in the stamped text, and the ones I created. I think they are nicely offset by the curved lines of the on the blue paper and in the nest. The biggest problem I have is with the nest itself.
I have been really working to create a successful image transfer. I have tried just about every method I have read about in books and on the web. The one I did on the last collage was with an image printed on a transparency. Then I put a layer of Golden matt medium on the paper, put the transparency rough side down on the medium, and rubbed with my thumb for a short time. When I pulled back the transparency sheet, the image stayed on the paper without any tearing or pulling. That was the first time that worked. On this collage, done earlier, I tried the same thing, but when I pulled up the transparency sheet, bits of the paper came up as well, leaving gaps and tears. I think I rubbed too long. Clearly, I have a long way to go learning this process.
I have tried the method of using several layers of medium on a copy, letting each layer dry before applying the next. Then I used water to remove the paper backing. These have not worked for me at all. I must not have used the right medium. People who have written about this method have not specified the medium - brand and all. I have also tried using the method of putting a layer of medium on the surface and applying the image face down, letting it dry, and using water to remove the paper backing. This was moderately successful, but it still needs practice. I will keep at this because I really like the outcome when it is successful.
One of the wonderful things about collage is the vast variety of creative forms than may be used to create a finished work of art. I have been so limiting on my self by sticking with one medium for so long. This is really freeing.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Using surprise elements in Collage

Far North
10 x 8 mixed media collage on watercolor paper
by Miki Willa
This collage uses handmade paper, magazine images, found "paper", paper wasp nest, image transfers and acrylic paints. I wanted to get the feeling of being near a rushing stream near the mountains during a salmon run, but also wanted snow. When I think of being on the Skagit River during the winter, I can see the mountains, feel the cold in my toes and fingers, and imagine the eagles feasting on the abundance of salmon. I used magazine images for the rocks, the rushing water on the right, and the first ridge of mountains. I liked the textures in these images. I used hand made paper for the rock overlay and the mountains on the left and in the distance. I used a part of a paper wasp nest on the right side distant mountain. It was a gift from nature left on my front stoop. When I was walking with my granddaughter, and seeing the world through her inquisitive eyes, I found the piece of pulp that had been weathered and run over many times for the mountain in the center. I did my first successful image transfer with the salmon. The trees are also an image transfer. The last thing I did was glop and spray "snow" over it all. This is that transitional snow when it has been warm enough for bit wet flakes, then starts to turn really cold and the flakes get finer. I also used some textured rice paper to enhance the snow and the rock texture. I think I like doing these landscape like collages better than the geometric ones, but I think there is a place for geometry as well.
I have a few more I have done that I will be posting later this week. Please come back and take a look.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Adding Collage to this page

When It's Cherry Blossom Time
mixed media paper
by Miki Willa
I started a blog just for my collages, but decided to put them over here from now on. I seem to be doing more collage right now, when I get time in the studio.
This one was inspired by a picture from an old calendar. I went through my collection of old photos, hand made paper, scraps from the backs of boxes, decorated paper, and some stickers. I have been working with more abstract, torn shapes up to this one. I thought I would try geometric shapes for a while and see where that takes me. I am really new at this medium, so want to experiment with many styles before I decide on a direction. So far, I like the softer edges of the torn shapes. However, I do like the way the softness of the cherry blossom theme interacts with the straight lines of the geometric shapes in this one. The Saurus Cranes in the upper right are just because I like them, and I wanted to create a triangle of focal images.
I would love to learn more about the mechanics of collage. What kind of finish should I use? Is it okay to use dry mounting like a fusible webbing used with fabrics? Are there any adhesives I should stay away from? If you care to share any of these secrets with me, I would love to hear from you.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Art Contests - a rant of sorts

Uptown Glassworks
12 x 18 soft pastels on Kitty Wallis white
by Miki Willa
Plein Air Painting

" Create an art piece between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. on August 22, 2009 in the Art Walk vicinity."
How would you interpret that? These were the instructions for a "Quick draw" contest held in conjunction with an art show this past weekend. While my husband, our son and his wife set up and manned our area, I set up my easel to do a painting of a local landmark "in the Art Walk vicinity." I had a great time painting this wonderful old building, working on perspective, and trying to make it look the way I wanted it to look. After a few hours, I felt it was done and got it ready to enter into the auction and contest. We framed it in the prepared frame we brought for just this painting. I took it down to the entry table to turn it in. I should have suspected something was amiss when the people manning the table had no idea what they were to do with the painting.
It turns out I really misinterpreted the rules for the contest. "In the Art Walk vicinity" meant only that you had to paint whatever you painted in the area that day, but it really didn't matter what you painted. It didn't have to have any relationship to the area whatsoever. I don't mind not winning art contests as long as I feel that the same criteria have been applied to every entry. Perhaps I should have verified exactly what they meant. Now, I can see just how vague the statement is. I also didn't realize that friendship counted. Being new in the area, I haven't established friendships in the local arts groups. Oh well, live and learn.
We will be moving on from the venues in this area. There is a good market there for our son's glass art, but none for our pastel art. It will take time to learn about the local market. In Hawai'i, people bought art with different things in mind than people in the PNW, it seems. It also doesn't help that the economy is affecting art purchases. I have observed that art that serves a second purpose is more marketable right now.
In the meantime, I will add the painting of Uptown Glassworks to my glass making series. I have a nice collection of Hugh's glass, and Tom hung some of the paintings above the mantle where a few pieces are displayed. I like the way it looks as it is all tied together. While I had a difficult time with the contest, I had a wonderful day painting and adding to this series.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Patterns in Wood, Art Shows

Door in the Wall
14 x 20 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
by Miki Willa
There is an old lumber complex on Lake Washington near the southeast end of the lake. For years there were log booms in the lake where the mill got its raw materials. Later, it was occupied by a wood product manufacturer. Now, it is abandoned. On a recent artist field trip, Tom and I found ourselves wandering these premises to gather reference photos. As we were walking back to the car, I caught sight of this door in the middle of a wall created with concrete and varying wood panels. The window panes in the door reflected the bright sun that was out that day. I fell in love with the colors, shapes and patterns on this wall. I loved the patterns in the wood and the concrete and how they worked against each other. I really liked the brilliance of the reflection in the windows. I relished the challenge of capturing all of this in pastel.
I started this painting by blocking out the shapes. Then I added the darks in the woods so the grain would work. I added lighter values as I came to the surface of the wood in places where the lighter grain showed. I added the door and the light fixture to the left of the door last. I pushed some of the colors to capture the emotions I had when I first saw this wall, especially in the windows. I am happy with this work.
We have done three art shows this spring and summer and have been very disappointed at the outcome. It is hard not to think negative thoughts about my art at this point. I know the economy is not in the right place for people to be buying art that does not serve another function, like serving bowls or quilts. That doesn't help at the moment. Another problem has been the venue in two of them and the timing in one. That, also, does not help. We have two more shows coming up. I am working on being optimistic about both of them. One of them is part of a show billed as an art show. The second one is in an area where I know quite a few people. There is a lesson to be learned in all of this, or probably many lessons. One of them has to be about marketing. Hopefully, I will figure it all out soon and the next shows will be better.
The next show is in downtown Renton, The Arts and Antique Walk. It is next Saturday, August 22. We are on Third Ave. in front of A-1 Locks, across the street from the Western Store.
On September 12 and 13, we will be in Lake Boren Park at Return to Newcastle Days. If you are in the area, I hope to see you there.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Does art have to have deep meaning to be good?

The Warehouse
soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
by Miki Willa
There are so many people out in blog land who have much to say about what art is and what makes good art. There are quite a few people who have differing opinions on the subjects. I didn't want to be left out, so I decided to jump into the fray.
There is a rather large camp who think that a work by an artist must make a statement about the state of the world in some way in order to be considered "real" art. It is not good enough to be sell executed, or to be visually appealing. As I came across these opinions, I wondered what grand statement about the human condition my art makes. So far, I can't see any.
There is another camp that says to be considered good art, it has to be technically well done. It has to follow all the rules. And, it has to convey the feeling of the artist about the subject at hand. I do try and put my feelings into my paintings.
There are also a group of people who think that anything that smacks of realism is not true art, but merely copying. This seems to have been happening in the world of academe for a while. I have known a few people who were not accepted into university art programs because their art was too "predictable and inside the box." But I like realism. Does that mean that what I like isn't art?
I do have more questions than answers in this discussion. However, I have come up with something I think is important. I think art should be celebration. I should celebration human emotions, the beauty of the small stream or majestic mountain, the ingenuity and resilience of humans, and the ways in which the earth reclaims what humans reject over time. There is much more to celebrate in art, and I guess that is what I think my work does. I celebrate the earth in my landscapes. I celebrate the power of water in my waterscapes. I celebrate glass art makers. Not everyone will agree with me, but that is okay. What is a discussion without opposing viewpoints.
The painting is a celebration of a landmark in Renton, Washington. It has survived earthquakes, fires, and the gentrification of the neighborhood. I took the reference photo on a glorious fall day because I loved the colors on the hillside, and the plume of steam and smoke against the brilliant blue sky.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Acrylic Landscape painting

Sedona Morning
4 x 4 acrylics on clay board
by Miki Willa
When I was in Sedona during my mentoring workshop with Michael Chesley Johnson, I was not really happy with any of the paintings or sketches I did there. I still have trouble with plein air painting. I get overwhelmed with all the possibilities, and my brain becomes so over stimulated I forget all the basic rules of painting landscapes. I will keep working on this problem, but will keep painting in the studio in the mean time.
This small painting is my first attempt at a landscape in acrylic. I have long been fascinated by the brush strokes I see in oils and some acrylics. I really have trouble with the smells associated with oils, so I decided to try acrylics. I painted with them straight out of the tube, and am quite pleased with the results. I love the way I can scumble in a sky and clouds with pastels, so I tried the same approach with acrylics. It worked pretty well. I also like the way the colors could be layered and blended with ease. Of course, I used my fingers at times along with my brushes. That made it really fun for me. I am happy with the way this turned out. I wonder if I can create something I like on a bigger canvas. We shall see.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Show opening in Bremerton

Last night was the opening event for my show in Bremerton, Washington. The venue was Cornerstone Coffee on the corner of 5th and Pacific. It was part of the monthly First Friday Art Walk in the downtown area. The photo above is of the main wall and the table we set up with edibles and drinks. I was really happy with the way the paintings hung on the gold wall. It is a very nice space.

This photo is of two small walls around the corner from the main wall. They can both be seen well from the front window, but are not in direct sun. This is the first time I have had the glass blowing series (minus 2) hanging together. I am very happy about the look they achieve grouped in this way.

There was a very small crowd last evening because of the holiday. Many people had slipped out of town for the long weekend. The people who did drop by were very kind and complementary. My family came to support me, including my sister-in-law from Virginia. (She was my first patron from this show, buying the stormy ocean painting you can see on the table in the top photo.) It was great to get the family together.

My show will be hung until July 31, so if you are in the area, please stop by. Enjoy the paintings and a great coffee or tea drink.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

First one-person show opening

Glass Oven
12 x 9 soft pastels
by Miki Willa
You are not seeing things. I have posted this one before, but I wanted to use it to announce the opening of my first solo show coming up this Friday, July 3, 2009. The opening will be part of the First Friday Art Walk in Bremerton, Washington. My venue is Cornerstone Coffee at 435 Pacific Ave. It is within easy walk from the Ferry terminal. I will be showing my glass blowing series as well as my landscapes. The show will hang until July 31. I hope some of you will be able to join me for this great event. I will be serving wine and finger food, if my art alone is not enough to entice you to stop by. I hope to see you soon.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

New acrylic abstract

Inside Over There
11 x 6 acrylic on watercolor paper
by Miki Willa
I really like working with split complements, especially this combination. For this painting, I started out with a mono-print. I applied the paint to parchment paper. I used pretty thick layers because I wanted some texture. I put a piece of watercolor paper over the paint. I used a rolling pin to get even pressure to make the print. I was really pleased with the textures that were created. Purple and Payne's gray made up the first layer of the print. After the print was dry, I applied the orange, blue, and magenta with a credit card across the texture so that it would be picked up on the ridges. I also used some Titan buff to add some lighter areas. I really like the areas where I left the white of the paper showing through.
If you are interested in winning a free original painting or professional photograph of a tulip image, be sure and hop over to Tom's blog, Tom's Images, and vote for your favorite. The drawing witll be on June 18 from the people who make comments and select a favorite. These are beautiful images, so don't miss out.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Painting for Different Strokes

Wheat Farm
8 x 18 soft pastels on Kitty Wallis Professional White
by Miki Willa
based on gray scale photo provided by Karin Jurick
I really enjoy watching all the wonderful interpretations of Karin's biweekly photos on Different Strokes From Different Folks blog. Every once in a while, I decided to try my hand. For this one, Karin provided us with a gray scale photo of a Pennsylvania farm and asked us to use our own favorite palattes. This was great for me. I loved the photo, and I knew it would lend itself to my favorite complimentary palatte. This was quite fun to paint. I really like the lost edges in the distance and the cripsness in the nearer buildings. I also had a lot of fun with the size.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Abandoned packing shed

The Packing Shed
12 x 18 soft pastels on Kitty Wallis Professional white
by Miki Willa
This painting has been kicking my butt. I think it is finally finished. The place is a lavender farm northeast of Bellingham, Washington. We were there on a very warm day, enjoying the lavender, the bees, and the beautiful surroundings. At one point, I spotted this old packing shed. Apparently, there used to be fruit grown on the property. The shed was still in relatively good condition as far as looks go, but I don't think I would want to spend much time under it. I love these old structures from a distance.
I started the painting with a gradient orange to yellow underpainting. It really kept the painting warm, which I think made for some of my problems. I finally decided to stay with the orange in the sky and work from there. I used the grayed out greens from my Terry Ludwig pastels for the trees in the background. I then used the warmer greens as I came forward. After fighting with it for days, I decided to kick back and have fun with it. Now, I like it.
I have decided to stay with more realism with my pastels and non-representational with the acrylics and collage. That decision has really eased my mind. I do really enjoy the style I have developed with the pastels, but want to expand my horizons. I think this will work out very well for me. I believe change can be very good, but I am of an age where hanging onto some of the old is very comforting.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Acrylic abstract painting

Blue Silo
12 x 16 acrylic on 300# watercolor paper
by Miki Willa
I finally decided to stop listening to that inner voice that tells me I cannot do something. I chose colors I like together, images that make me happy, and set to work on my first real abstract painting. The result is pleasing to me. It has the farm fields and grassland, the approaching storm, and the blue silo. You may see something completely different, and that is great. The best part for me is that I did it.
Creating non-representation art is very difficult for me. The box I think inside is pretty narrow. I have been able to stretch it somewhat in my representational art, but not to this extent. I expected to get more set in my ways as I got older, but it seems I am doing some rebelling at the present time. This painting represents more to me than just trying something different. It is me stepping outside my box and taking a chance. I am betting that my work in the Artist's Way is having some effect on my creativity. This is a great thing and I am really enjoying this divergent path along the journey.
One of the things that has happened to help make this happen is creating a new studio space just for collage and acrylics. We have a small rust-orange colored room I claimed as my own. I set my sewing machine in there along with a bunch of stuff we were storing. Last week, we cleared it out, bought a new table, and I moved things around to make it a wonderful studio space. Now I can work on my pastels in the studio I share with my husband, and not get glue or acrylics on my pastel paintings, or his. He set up his oil studio in the garage. It is so good to live with another artist.
Speaking of pastels, I have nearly finished the one on the easel. It will probably be posted here in the next couple of days. In the meantime, take a look at my newest collage at Miki's Collages.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Landscape in acrylic

Earth and Sky
6 x 5 acrylic on 300# watercolor paper
by Miki Willa
I had some left over acrylics on my palette after working on some visual journal pages, so I decided to paint a small painting. I tried a painting in acrylics years ago and really hated the result. I was determined never to try it again. Since I started my visual journals, I have found I like acrylics for that purpose. I still put too much paint on the palette and hate to throw it away at the end of the day, so I came up with this idea. It was fun to mash all the paint around with small strokes, creating a sense of some texture. I may get some small canvases to create more abstract pieces with left-over paint as I go. I may learn to enjoy acrylics after all.
In the afternoon, I worked on the pastel painting on the easel. I am happy with the direction it is taking. I do enjoy working with the pastels quite a bit. I would like to do more paintings that are less representational, but I am having trouble making the shift. I will get there, but it will take more time and study. My left brain is screaming for me to get back in line and stop all this nonsense. My right brain is working up to taking the leap. It is an interesting place to be on this journey, and a very funny one for me. A year ago, I would have bet money I would never be in this place in my head. One should never say never.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Gathering

The Gathering
12 x 18 soft pastels on Kitty Wallis Professional White
by Miki Willa
I finished the painting today and I am happy with it. I like that there are very few sharp lines. I love the play of the light from the oven surfaces and the corrugated wall. I am happy that there are hints at structures and oddities, but they are not so well defined. I am glad I waited until I was ready to finish this piece. I think it is one of the loosest things I have done so far.
I think I am done with this series for a few weeks. I am feeling pulled to landscapes again because of the incredible spring days. Even the rainy ones make me happy. Our back yard is constantly changing, and I am loving the new surprises every day. I didn't move here until early June last year, so this is all new to me. I am sorry to say we lost the lavenders over the winter, but we are going to replace them as time and money allow. The blueberry bushes are going great guns. I think we will get a great harvest this summer, if we keep them all watered on the dry days. We also have a new gala apple tree that Tom got me for Mother's Day. It had several blossoms, so I am hopeful for fruit. My lilac tree is in full bloom. I was thrilled to be able to cut a bunch. I will have to get out the ladder and cut some more. They smell so good.
Have a wonderful spring weekend. Take a look at the new paintings Casey Klahn is posting at the Colorist. They are really wonderful.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

WIP The Gathering

The Gathering WIP
12 x 18 soft pastels on Wallis Professional White
by Miki Willa
I am having a hard time finishing this painting because I really like what it looks like right now. I like the roughness of the sketch and the contrast of the blues and yellows and oranges. It looks somewhat cartoonish, but gives an idea of what it is all about. I will finish it so it works with the rest of the paintings in the series, but I think I will go back and do some more in this style.
This is a glass furnace at Avalon Glassworks in West Seattle. Son Hugh has just picked up more glass on a bubble that will become a folded plate, or taco. This furnace is very high tech and different than the other ones we have seen. It is opened by pressing down on a pneumatic foot pedal. Very cool.
I have taken the plunge and started a new blog dedicated to my exploration of collage art and visual journaling. You can take a look here.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Glass Blowing Series - Glass Furnace I

Glass Furnace I
12 x 9 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
by Miki Willa
In working to convey my impressions of glass blowing studios and glass art, I find myself more and more drawn to non-realistic representations. In this painting, I deliberately left the top portion dark and vague. It could be anywhere, maybe even a cave. I did add some detail to the furnace itself, especially at the bottom, which is further forward. One of the things about being in a glass studio is the intensity of the heat, light, and creativity makes it difficult to really focus on the details too much. At least it is for me because I get caught up in the heat, light, and creativity.
So many people have no idea what goes into creating a piece of glass art. We see so many "hand blown" vases, plates, cups, and glasses at places like Crate and Barrel for such low prices, we are astonished at the prices in glass studios. We forget that most of these pieces are made in factories where repetition is the bread and butter. The glass artists I watch work hard. They often sketch out their designs before they gather any glass. They need to understand the properties and chemistry of glass, especially colored glass. They have to have respect for their chosen medium. Then there is the heat and physical endurance, especially in the upper arms and lower back. Next time you look at a piece of glass art that is made in your local area, be sure and look closely. You will be amazed.
In this series, I am paying tribute to these glass artists.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

My first collage

Landscape 1 , 12 x 6 torn paper on 300lb watercolor paper

I finally overcame my fear of trying something new and created this collage. I used paper from magazines, scrapbooking background paper, paper bags that I painted, and some washi paper I had stashed. I also found one of those skeleton leaves in the garden and added that for texture and interest. I decided to do a relatively simple landscape. I wanted to keep it rather simple for a first collage.

I knew the colors I wanted to use and looked for them in my paper stash. I was missing a few, so I took a grocery bag and painted pieces with acrylics. When I paint landscapes, they are pretty realistic in style. I tend to use fairly standard sizes, so I wanted to get away from that with this piece. I think I accomplished my goal here.

I do have a number of technical questions I will have to find answers to. I am sure there must be better mediums out there for attaching everything without all the wrinkles. How do I apply the medium to the pieces of paper without them curling up on themselves, or should I strictly apply the medium to the support. I read about using a tacking iron, and that sounds cool, but the curling up thing would still be an issue. I will sort all of this out soon.

In the meantime, I have a pastel painting on my easel. It is another one in the glass blowing series. I should have it finished in a day or two. I will post it when it is ready.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Painting and more

In the Shadow of the Mountain
9 x 12 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
by Miki Willa
This scene was painted from a number of different reference photos shot in the shadow of Mt Baker in the late fall and early winter. On my screen, the colors appear a bit darker than they are in real life. I really like the look of the fallow fields with the isolated farm buildings. The tree line in the back is a mixture of evergreens and winter skeletons. This is another painting I will include in my show in July. As the date approaches, I will give more information about the location. For now, I will say it will be in Bremerton, Washington.
I have been studiously avoiding my easel for over a week. I just kept putting off painting while I worked on other things. I have been working on creating a visual journal, and am having great fun creating rather abstractly painted backgrounds using acryllics. I am also learning to do collage. In a few weeks, I will be posting some of them on another blog dedicated to this art form. I am also working through The Artist's Way, again. This time, I am taking time to do the tasks, writing my morning pages, and going on my artist date. I have only been at it for a week, and I am already excited to paint again. I have a bud of new insight about myself as an artist which I will nurture further before I share it here. It is a very profound shift in thinking for me and want to make sure it sticks.
For both of these projects, I am working with online groups and having a great time. For the visual journal, I am working with Kelly Kilmer at A Prompt a Day. There is still time to sign up for the May group. Learn more about this at this site. For The Artist's Way Journey, I am working with Laura Lein-Svencner. See her blog here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

An Eagle's Nest

Black River Eagle Nest
18 x 12 soft pastels on Kitty Wallis Professional White
by Miki Willa
I have decided I need more Northwest landscapes for the show in July. A few weeks ago, we went to the Black River Riparian Forest in Renton, Washington. There is a very large heron habitat there. There is also a pair of nesting eagles. An interesting combination. It was too early for the trees to be fully leafed out, so the nests were all very visible. I decided to paint the trees around the eagle nest because of the contrasts in the colors. I used a very limited palette to create the mysterious air about this fairly unknown place of beauty and wonder.
If you want to read more about the area and the heron colony, go here.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Glass blowing series #7

Into the Fire
12 x 16 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
by Miki Willa
In this latest painting in the series, I wanted to depict a partially worked glass piece on the way back into the glory hole. Glass artists keep the glass moving once the piece is begun. It is important to do this to maintain the shape. An object will make many trips back to the glory hole before it is finished. The intensity of the heat will change this piece to a brilliant orange before it comes out again, to be worked and shaped more by the artist. It is fascinating to watch the colors change with the temperature. This glory hole is in Viscosity Glass Studio in South Seattle. This studio features corrugated metal walls to separate the bodies of the furnaces from the studio space. It was fun to represent them here, the way they catch the light from the glory hole and reflect on the steel table top.
We visited another studio last weekend and took some great reference photos. I am looking forward to working on more paintings in this series. I am so glad I keep finding new and interesting material from which to work.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Small Landscapes

Beaver Pond in Spring
5 x 7 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
by Miki Willa
This is the first landscape I have done in a while and it was fun to do. I was able to keep it very loose, which was one of my goals. I used a complementary underpainting. I love the way the orange peeks through the greens. I wasn't sure I could put all the information I wanted to include in this 5 x 7 format, but I found it a useful exercise in really looking for what was important. I am always amazed by the work of plein air painters who work in these small sizes. When it stops raining, I will have to get out and try it.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Painting 5 x 7s

Color Rods
5 x 7 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
by Miki Willa
On a recent visit to a glass studio, I got a lesson on how color is added to glass art. I won't go into the details here but to say that glass artists purchase color rods in various lengths, colors, and opacities. I happened to spot a few short pieces on a nearby shelf. I was taken in by the colors and the arrangement. I decided to try portraying them in a 5 x 7 format.
Why 5 x 7? I recently had a brainstorm about my upcoming show (July). I decided I would have three to five 5 x 7 paintings for a free drawing. Visitors to the show would fill out a card and drop it in a bowl (glass of course), giving contact information and first choice of painting if they win. At a designated time, I would pull out a card or two, and l would award the painting(s). I think this will be good PR. First, I have to create the paintings.
I have not painted in this size before and it is quite interesting. I had some left over pieces of paper I had been using to test color for larger paintings. I brushed the test colors out and created an interesting under painting. I wanted to keep the strokes fairly loose so it would be in the same style as the rest of the paintings in this series. The reflections of light and of the rods on each other was very interesting to me. I also like the pattern of the shadows. All in all, this was fun to paint. I am not sure the power and intensity of the ovens would work in this small format, but I will have to try.
I also painted a small landscape. I will post that tomorrow.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Glass Artist

The Glass Artist
20 x 16 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
by Miki Willa
I rarely venture into the realm of figurative painting. It is not within my comfort level, but I had to do this one. With all the ovens and glory holes I have been doing, I thought I needed to depict a glass artist in the intensity of the creative moment.
When I started my Glass Blowing series, I wanted to share my emotional response to the glass studios I visited. I wasn't sure there was much of an interested audience for these paintings, but I decided to pursue the series for my show in July. The response of friends and family members has been mixed, ranging from strong interest to lukewarm at best. The last from glass artists I know. It will be interesting to see the reactions of a wider audience.
This brings me to a big question. Why am I pursuing this series when the glass artists are less than enthusiastic about it? One reason, beyond my simply finding joy in the creation of the pieces in the series, is that I am learning so much from this series. I am learning about color combinations that I have never used before. I am learning about composing using geometrical shapes and value transitions. I am learning more about techniques in using pastels. That is some of what I am getting out of it. What about my audience?
My sister-in-law recently pointed out that these paintings take people into a world they don't often get to see. We have a glass artist in the family, so we are fortunate to be able to visit studios where he is working and seeing how glass art is created. Most people see the art, but don't think about how it is made. Many people don't have any idea of the amount of thought and physically uncomfortable work goes into this art form. With this series, I hope to help people see into the heart of the process.
In the mean time, I have a couple more paintings I want to do in the series before I return to landscapes for a while. I am not sure if I will do another figurative work, but you never know. We are going to a glass studio today and may find just the right moment to capture.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Glass Blowers Garage

The Garage
18 x 12 soft pastels on Wallis Professional White
by Miki Willa
I took the reference photo for this during a recent visit to Viscosity, south of Seattle. Once again, I was intrigued by the geometric shapes and the colors. This particular garage has two openings, but I chose to only do the one on the right because it had a piece of glass parked there. I decided to use a vertical format to stretch the image and give it more interest. I really like the abstract quality that came through in this format. I worked primarily in Ludwig dark purples, reds, and the grays. I also used some Nupastel reds and oranges. The ochres on the glass are Great American. The yellows and golds in the background bricks are a mixture of Ludwig and Great American. I adjusted colors and values as I went which worked out well. My next painting in this series will have a glass blower at work. This will be a challenge for me as I don't normally do figure paintings. Stay tuned for that in a few days.
The glass blowing garage is a place for the glass artist to park pieces he/she doesn't want to cool down, but has to leave for a while. One example of how these are used is when you create a goblet with a stem, bowl, and foot. The separate pieces are parked in the garage until it is time to assemble everything. In the above case, the glass artist was not finished with the process for making a sphere, but needed to take a lunch break. Just amazing what you learn when you hang around artists who work with a different medium than your own.

Monday, March 23, 2009


Pipes and Punties
12 x 18 soft pastels on Kitty Wallis Professional White
by Miki Willa
I have run across a series of questions about being an artist and creativity at Textures, Shapes, and Color. I have been thinking about the answers to these questions and decided to tackle the question of creativity first. Here are the questions:
1. What is it that I want from my creativity?
2. What does my creativity want from me?
My first step was to look up some definitions for creativity. Wikipedia, not always my favorite source, defines creativity as a "mental process involving the generation of new ideas or concepts, or new associations between existing ideas or concepts." Another online definition is the "re-evaluating or combining old ideas." Websters says, "Creativity is marked by the ability or power to bring into existence, to invest with a new form, to produce through imaginative skill." And finally, Carl Rodgers, writer and philosopher, defines creativity as "the emergence of a novel relational product, growing out of the uniqueness of the individual." With this small research done, I can now begin to examine my own creativity.
As an artist, I have, and continue, to evolve along the creativity curve. When I first started out, I wanted to recreate exactly what I was seeing - photorealism. I actually started out doing technical illustrations, then moved on to other forms of illustration. There are many artists I know who don't believe there is any creativity in illustration. Skill, yes, but nothing of the individual self. At the time, I thought I was being very creative. Now, I am not so sure.
Over time, I have moved more in the direction of painting my impressions of what I see, bringing my own individuality to the piece. Is this creativity? It is hard to fit this into the first couple of definitions I found unless you accept the premise that art is always new if it comes from within, and is not a copy of another artist's work. It is much easier to fit my work as an artist into Rodgers definition.
Now, what do I want from my creativity? I want joy, clarity, and fulfillment. I want to continue the enjoyment of watching my inner vision emerge onto a blank piece of paper. I want to continue to learn to express my own individualism, to continue to find new relationships between existing concepts. I don't want much, right?
What does my creativity want from me? It wants continued growth and practice. It wants silence of the inner critic, but guidance from the inner critique. It wants to be shared. It also wants me to continue to stretch, not only in my mind, but in my creations. It wants me to continue to practice creativity.
About the painting: This is the punty warming oven at Uptown Glass in Renton, Washington. I am particularly happy with the oven and the intensity I was able to achieve. This is number four in the glass blowing series.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Blog Comments - Do you or don't you?

Heating It Up
9 x 12 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
by Miki Willa
This is one of the glass heating ovens in the hot shop at the Tacoma Glass Museum. When I took the reference photo, I was not sure the intense heat would really show around the edges and bottom of the door covering the oven. This is a very hot oven that heats glass to a molten stage. Glass blowers pick up glass from the oven on pipes or punties to create bubbles or other glass starts. Yesterday, I went to see my son working on glass spheres and he gave me a short lesson on what all these things are called that I am currently painting. I love the intensity and the geometry of the lines. I already have the next few ready to sketch and paint. I may even get brave enough to put glass blowers in the paintings one of these days.
On another note, I was thinking about making and receiving comments on blogs. I know I get far more viewers than comments. I am guessing it is the same for most bloggers, at least in the art world. I am wondering why some people leave comments and some people don't. Does it have to do with the art or the text? I have tried asking questions, and very few people answer. Some people have surveys on their blogs, but the number of people who participate is nowhere near the number of people who regularly read these blogs. I know time is an issue for many people. I try and make sure I post a comment or two each morning as I read my favorite blogs. I am very grateful for all those people who stop by to look at my blog. I am even more appreciative of those who leave a comment, however brief. Don't get me wrong. I love the blogging community and all it has to offer. I am not complaining, just observing. Anyone have anything to add?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Glass Blowing Series II

Uptown Furnace
9 x 12 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
by Miki Willa

This is the second work in my glass blowing series. If you want to see the first one in the series, you will find it here. I love being in the glass blowing studio. The intensity of the colors, the labor, and the heat are very inspiring. Sometimes, I forget to take reference photos, so I have to use Tom's. You can see the original photo here. To do this painting, I had to really plan everything ahead.
I was worried that the glory hole (the furnace) would completely overpower the painting because of the intensity of the color. To balance the rest of the painting, I exaggerated the colors and wall surfaces, using some of the colors from the furnace as they are reflected on the walls. I love all the forms and lines in the studio and wanted to bring that to the painting, as well. I used a somewhat limited palette for this painting. I stuck to the deep purples and blues from Terry Ludwig, and a variety of ochres, as well as some very light colors from Unison. This painting was great fun to do. I can't wait to get started on the next one in the series.
If you are interested in seeing and/or purchasing very beautiful hand-blown glass pieces, be sure and visit my oldest son's Etsy shop, French Curves.
On a completely different note, I wanted to share a photo I took a half hour ago from my front porch. Bear in mind that I live in Western Washington, south and east of Seattle a bit. This should not be happening here on March 9.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Resolve

I seem to have so much difficulty with photo placement in this program. After several attempts, this is the closest I can come to what I was looking for. That being said, I want to talk a bit about how I resolved some of the issues I had with this painting.
I was relatively happy with the sense of depth in the one on the left, which was the unresolved painting, but decided to push it further. I darkened the foreground, especially on the lower right, which I think helped establish the steep incline of the hill. I also lightened the shadows on the small rocks toward the top of the path where they meet the rock pile. I then decided to add some highlights on the rock pile to bring out the shapes and forms. While it looks like I darkened the shadow sides, I actually lightened the shadows making the rock faces look darker. It is all about simultaneous contrast. One last area I resolved was the light value on the ground in front of the rock pile. I realized the area was in light shadow, so darkened it a bit. I am much happier with the painting now, even if the focal area is smack dab in the middle. It works for me.
On a totally different subject, my husband had finally started a blog. He does some amazing work in pastels and photography. Take a look here to see what is going on with Tom.
I also want to suggest you take a look at this painting by Casey Klahn. It is bold, intense, and very exciting.
Another artist I have come to appreciate more and more is Mary Buek. Check out her paintings and collages here.
Finally, you can follow all of Margaret Ryall's posts on art critiques at this site.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Starting a Critique Dialogue

12 x 9 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
by Miki Willa
After spending a week in a mentoring workshop, and listening openly to critiques of my paintings, I have been really thinking about the value of critiques, the way to present them, and a way to receive them that doesn't feel personal. Fortunately, other artists and bloggers have also been discussing critiques. Tracy Helgeson received an anonymous comment on her blog that was quite critical of a series she has been working on. It sparked quite a bit of discussion. Some commenters felt that anonymous comments can be difficult and that if you have something to say, you should be willing to put your name behind it. Others felt that so much feedback on artist's blogs is very positive and flowery, so anonymity is the only way to feel comfortable saying anything negative. I agree that most of the people who leave comments are people who have something nice to say, and that is always a good thing to read. On the other hand, I think it might be helpful to growth as an artist to have some helpful critiques along the way.
Another artist who posted about critiques this week is Margaret Ryall at this post. She speaks more to the art of getting and giving a valuable critique. I like what she had to say.
With both these posts in mind, and my own personal experience with critiques, I am starting to formulate what I think would be good things to think about when giving and receiving critiques.
1. Critique does not necessarily mean to be critical or nit-picky. Criticism is not always received well by anyone.
2. It is better to talk about things that would enhance the overall composition than an artist's personal style. Reminding me that my shadows might be a bit to dark or warm is far more easily heard than telling me my style is old fashioned or weak.
3. When giving a critique, try and include the things that work as well as things that might make it better. When receiving a critique, listen to the positives as well as the places where the painting could improve.
4. Don't make your critique personal, giving or receiving. If the artist doesn't follow your advice, please understand that there might be a reason. If it is suggested that a softer line of the far mountain ridge might add more depth to the painting, at least think about it. Use critiques as a learning time.
I am sure there is more I have to say on this topic, but for now, I would like to invite helpful critiques on the above painting before I go any further.
This is a studio work done from a reference photo taken on a very overcast day. It is a rock outcropping in some low hills on the East Slopes of the Sierra Madre mountains. I am pretty sure about the values at this point, but need some help in how to show the mountain slope as partially snow covered with low clouds at the top, eliminating any edges up there at all. The sun, behind the clouds, was coming from my left at the time of the photo, but it was barely discernible and shadows were very minimal. I look forward to any critiques, not criticisms, that you are willing and able to share.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sedona Day 5

From Jordan Trailhead
9 x 6 soft pastels on Kitty Wallis Professional White
by Miki Willa
I am a little late with this because we are on our way back north and didn't have time before this evening. This painting is very different for me. Michael threw down a challenge to use a limited palette in the field. I decided to try it. We selected a warm and a cool of six different colors - blue, green, red, orange, yellow, purple - plus black and white. Value was not really considered in color choice because we had the black and white. He used hard pastels, but I used softer ones because that is what I had. We drove to the Jordan trail parking lot, where there were several red rock formations to paint, and I set myself up near Michael. This was quite a challenge.
After several attempts to get decent colors that were near local, Michael told me that putting the white down first was a big help when trying to get a lighter value. Then, I made the mistake of putting black down first in the shadow areas. I should have thrown away the black and used the dark cool purple. Once I figured that out, I was much happier. What I ended up with is pretty abstract, but I think I like it. Go figure. If Michael posts his from this day, I will put a link in a future blog.
Today, Tom and I have been driving north from Barstow on Hwy. 395. We have seen some of the most spectacular scenes we have seen in all our driving around the country. There was high desert with Joshua Trees, mountains with heavy snow, ranch land, rivers, small towns, and the colors were incredible. A veritable feast for an artist's eye. We ended the day in Carson City, the capital of Nevada. I am so glad we decided to drive to Sedona and back. This would have been a terrible thing to miss.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sedona Day 4

Painting in Jerome, Arizona
First, I have to say I don't loathe yesterday's painting as much today. I see possibilities in it. That is a good thing.
This morning, we drove to Jerome, an old mining town that went bust and has turned into an art colony of sorts. The town is built up a hill, as are most old mining town. As you wander up and down the streets, you can visit many different art galleries from fabric art to blown glass to paintings. There is a big artist cooperative in one area, and the old high school is home to several galleries and studios. We parked on the middle street, across from the Mile High Grill where we later had lunch. I decided to paint a couple of the buildings across an alley from the Mile High. The photo above was taken by my husband, who chose to be photographer today instead of painting.
The painting is not finished, but I know where I want to take it. I was intrigued that the lower buildings had one set of perspective points while the upper on that is behind had its own set. The front buildings are also on a sloped street and sidewalk. I still have to work on those lines and angles, but I think I am fairly close to the values I want. The windows will be interesting to finish. I think I will work on this one some more before I post it.
Now that we are nearing the end of this week in Sedona, I really want to say what a wonderful model this mentoring workshop is. All of us are staying in one house. We eat breakfast together, then we have critique sessions. After that, we follow Michael to a great place to paint. Michael is there as a resource for us as we need him. We are each working on learning different things, and he has time to give each of us the individual attention we want or need. After a few hours painting, we head back to the house for lunch together. Then we are on our own for the afternoon to paint, explore, read, or nap. Any paintings we do, we can include in the next morning critique session. I really think there should be more mentoring workshops like this. It has been a great experience for Tom and me. Check it out at Michael's Sedona page.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sedona Day 3

Munds Mountain
12 x 18 soft pastels on Kitty Wallis Professional White
by Miki Willa
Today was not a good painting day for me. Once again, I bit off more than I could chew. These rock formations won the battle today. I suppose I could work more on this and resolve all my issues, but I fear it would all turn to mud before my very eyes. What went wrong? Many things.
First of all, I was not really grabbed by anything I saw this morning. It was all majestic and beautiful, but nothing that spoke to me and said, "Paint me!" At one point, I thought about painting a large cactus. Perhaps, I should have stuck with it.
Second, I painted with my sunglasses on without realizing it. Once I took them off, 95% of the way through the painting, I was amazed at what I was seeing. It was too late, however, to really fix anything.
Third, I simply couldn't see the values and color temperatures today. Some days are like that. I really wanted to put oranges and yellows where there was shadow. Then, I had to gray them down. The greens were far to dark and looked cartoonish. I got lost in all the shapes and forms in the rocks. The basic large shapes are correct enough that a person familiar with the area would probably recognize it, but that is about all. I could go on, but I think I have beat myself up enough for one painting. Hopefully, tomorrow will be a better day. We are going to Jerome. That should be fun.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sedona Day 2

9 x 12 soft pastels on Kitty Wallis Professional White
by Miki Willa
I am feeling better today, and I think it shows in this painting. Today, Michael took us to a wonderful place between Doe Mountain and Bear Mountain. Everywhere you looked was something wonderful to paint. There were mesas, grasses, junipers, fluffy clouds, strange plants, and distant mountains. I decided to try one of the red rock formations, just to see if I could do it. Michael makes it look so easy.
We started the day with critiques of yesterday's paintings. That was a very valuable experience. I think it was especially good because I was away from the painting for a day and could look at it with fresh eyes during the critique. After the critique session, Michael did a quick demonstration of how he works through the composition of a small painting. He gets so much out of a few strokes. I tend to make things a bit busy sometimes. That is evident in my painting from today.
I chose this scene because I liked the contrast of the red rocks with the blue sky and the clouds. I was worried about not having the right colors for the southwest, but I feel pretty comfortable with the palette I chose for this painting. I am glad I purchased more dark purples because they were perfect for the shadows. I am pretty happy with the rock formations. I think I can achieve a better effect next time by not being so fussy. I just had to feel my way around this time. I am not happy about the lack of depth from the foreground to the rock formations. It is really much further then it looks. I think I was working so hard at getting in the great yellow grasses, I sacrificed the depth of field. Fortunately, we are going back to this place to paint another day. All in all, I am pleased with the direction I am heading. Now, if I can only come up with a non-cheesy title.
(I had to change the location to give a more accurate description of where we were.)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Sedona, Day 1

Low Rock
9 x 12 soft pastels on Kitty Wallis Professional White
by Miki Willa
We finally made it to Sedona! It is very beautiful here with all the junipers, cacti, manzanita, and of course, the red rock formations. We are staying in a wonderful house with Michael Chesley Johnson, Trina, and one other student. Today was our first painting day. Michael led us to a park where we had spectacular views of Cathedral Rock. There was also a wonderful stream with smaller rock formations. As you can see, that is what I chose to paint.
Unfortunately, I came down with a wretched cold during the drive down from Washington. My head is very clogged up and concentrating is pretty tough. I just didn't have it in me to tackle the large rock formations. I was quite happy to work on this red rock slab just across the stream from my vantage point. I am afraid the photograph does not show the slab in its best light. It really is darker than the sand to the right of it. There were some very busy leafless branches just behind the slab, but I took them out. They detracted from the forms and shapes in the rock. It is a very calm scene on a overcast coolish day.
This workshop is very individualized. Each of us are working on our own styles and how to work better within that style. The other two students use a much brighter palliate that I do. I like what they did today very much. I think that the sun will come out later in the week and I will break out the brighter colors as well. The colors I chose today reflected the weather and my physical discomfort. Hopefully, the cold will pass quickly.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

New Pastels

Yesterday, Tom and I drove up to Mt. Vernon to visit Dakota Art Pastels. We are trying to get everything we need for the upcoming Arizona trip. We needed paper and I was running out of my favorite Terry Ludwig darks. While we were there, I took a look at the new gray set by Terry and fell in love, so that got put in the pile. This morning, I decided to clean out and reorganize my palette. It looks so pretty, I just had to share it with you. The box on the upper left is the new Terry set and the one on the upper right is my set of Unison lights. I realized last summer, when taking a class from Richard McKinley, that I really didn't have very many good lights. Now, I feel ready to tackle the colors of the Southwest.

Visiting Dakota was great fun. I could have ordered on line, but we really wanted to experience the store. I got to look at all the colors I could want before I had to buy them. We could see the true colors of the Art Spectrum paper without having to rely on the computer screen. While we were living in Hawaii, we didn't have much choice but to order online. I enjoyed my shopping much more yesterday.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Art of Rejection

Lone Tree
12 x 9 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
by Miki Willa
This morning, I was reading about an artist who recently had paintings that were not accepted into a juried show. After seeing her paintings, I really don't know why. It got me to thinking again about what juried shows mean and why they are or are not important to me. I have had pieces selected for shows, and rejected. In all cases, I would like to have known why.
Recently, I had the opportunity to talk to the artist who rejected my favorite piece for a show. We didn't talk about that piece, but jurying shows in general. This artist said all shows are different based on who is sponsoring them. He eluded to the fact that occasionally, gentle pressure was applied to make sure certain people got pieces in, and even won prizes. This was not often the case, but did happen. He also said that sponsoring groups often give thematic directions, ie. "We don't want anything with flowers." After our talk, I had an entirely different outlook about juried shows.
Every juror has his/her own likes and dislikes, just like every artist and patron. Every juror has a comfort zone. I would have difficulty making decisions about abstracts because I don't know the genre well enough. Then, there is the fact that environments affect what we think and feel. I suppose that when a show is juried with digital images or slides, this has less of an impact than if the juror is in a crummy hotel and the breakfast was a horror.
Having said all this, I want to get back to my stated topic - The Art of Rejection. It is perfectly normal to feel defeated and sad when a piece you really like doesn't get accepted into a show. After all, you wouldn't have entered the piece if you didn't think it was good enough. The art comes in what you do after you get the news. I was part of a show committee one year and watched an artist become very unpleasant when her painting was not accepted. She was very loud and called the juror some very unkind names. Unfortunately, the juror was still in the room. My rejected piece was next to hers in the pick-up area. I think I handled it better. I went out and sold the piece a few weeks later. By that time, I was experienced in the art of rejection. I knew that my piece was one that someone would like because I really painted it for people like me who like old fashioned landscapes. This juror did not like that genre.
I think that is the real secret. Paint what you like. I have decided that I am not going to paint for a juror, a society, a group who says it must be done a certain way, or public praise. If I paint what I like, and use my best skills and techniques, then if I enter a show, and that painting is not accepted, I will still be sad, but I will have a good painting that I know will find a better home some day.
Today's painting is from our Oregon Coast trip. I took a series of photos by the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. I really like the romance of the lone tree. (And yes, I think barns are romantic, too.) I was trying for an Asian look with a feeling of mystery. My husband thinks I was successful with the mystery. This painting took me a couple of days of looking at it. For the tree, I did a complementary under painting in orange. The trunk started off purple, but doesn't look this purple in real life any more.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Reviewing my progress

9 x 12 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colorfix
by Miki Willa
Plein Air
I am currently doing a review of the work I have done over the past two years. I have kept all the paintings in transparent paper books, just waiting for this moment. My goal is to recycle the ones I really don't like, and my husband and friend agreed, put aside the ones I think I can fix, and catalogue the ones I will include in my sales web page. Since I have photos of them already, I am keeping a record of where they are, size, and price point. The upside of all this is that I can see progress in many of my skills and techniques.
The first paintings from my starting painting most days are pretty dreadful. Before that, I was very slow and methodical, working everything to death. Once I started working daily, or almost, I had to work much faster. This really helped me in the long run by getting me past the notion that I have to include every little detail. Now, I feel the freedom to paint what I feel - to get to the essence. The more recent paintings that I decided to recycle don't do that. It is good to see the steps in the journey in this way. I recommend it.
As I was going through the paintings, I realized that I did not post the one above. This was done in plein air in Maine. It is alla prima. I am not sure I like it very much, but I do remember sitting on the side of a trail overlooking this beautiful bay. The weather was balmy, and there were no mosquitoes. It was just about the only place in Maine where that could be said. I am looking forward to a week of painting on location in Arizona in a few weeks. Hopefully, my outdoor skills will improve.
Some Good News: My husband and I have a small show in a local spa, Third Heart Men's Spa. In July, I may have a one person show in Bremerton, Washington. I will let you know more about that as it gets closer. On the blog front, I have passed the 200 postings mark. I have made it well past the first year, and I feel very good about that.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Small Spaces series

12 x 9 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
by Miki Willa
I first got the idea of doing a Small Spaces series a couple of years ago when I noticed that I was fascinated by little places and scenes. Scenes often overlooked in our everyday fast pace as we work hard to get through life. I found myself drawn to the corner at the bottom of the concrete steps where a flowering weed grew, or the rock formation around one of the steam vents on a volcanic plain. I do love the grand vistas, and enjoy painting them, but once in a while, I see something small that touches my painter soul.
Last summer, we took a short hike in Flaming Geyser State Park. After walking along the Green River, we started up a narrow trail along a small creek. When we got to the point where it became too muddy for my shoes, I noticed a really interesting place along the stream where the water was rushing and churning over a few smallish rocks. The branches hanging over the stream were covered in lichen and moss. This is a small space of no more than three or four square feet in the water.
I used dark purples, reds, greens, and blues in the rocks. The water is all from the Unison light set. The lichen and moss are mostly from the yellow-greens in the Terry Ludwig green set from many years ago. I had great fun creating this new addition to the small spaces series. I think I have turned a corner in my rendering of moving water.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sunday with no new paintings

Photo from the Central Oregon Coast
by Miki Willa
I have no new paintings to share today, but I have an artist I want to share. He is still alive, and I didn't get permission to post his painting here, so you will have to go here to see his work. His name is Bill McEnroe. He has done oils, watercolors, and pastels. My interest is in his pastels. He is a member of the Northwest Pastel Society and he did a demonstration at a membership meeting today. It was quite wonderful.

I have never watched someone paint with the freedom he has to go really outside the box of realism, but retain some of the tenants of realism. He is very passionate about what he does, and it shows in his work. Would I collect his paintings? I could never afford them. He sells pastels at $3500. Wow! Take the time to look at his work. It is inspirational.

I am sad about the passing of Andrew Wyeth. In the coming months, I will write more about the study of his work I began in December. One of the things I love about his work is what he left out. He is my reminder that I don't have to paint everything that is there. I do have artistic license.