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.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Jefferson Memorial at Night

Jefferson Memorial at night
9 x 12 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
by Miki Willa based on a photograph by Karin Jurick
This is my most recent painting for Different Strokes from Different Folks.
I have not done a night scene before and found getting the value of the sky right a bit tricky. I know and love this spot, so I could see it in my mind at all times of day and night. This helped. There is quite a bit of street lighting and lights from the monument, as well as reflected light from the tidal basin. This usually keeps the lower atmosphere lighter than the vault overhead. It is also very difficult to see stars there, because of all this light.
When I lived in Northern Virginia, I really enjoyed this memorial more than almost all the rest. It is built on a grand scale with a very large statue of Thomas Jefferson in the center. It is right on the edge of the Tidal Basin and the walkway is lined in Japanese Cherry trees. In early spring, the trees are all in bloom, making it a photographers paradise. I have many wonderful memories of my time spent in and around this memorial.
If you want to learn more about the Jefferson Memorial, please go here.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Yaquina Head Lighthouse

A light in the dark WIP
12 x 18 soft pastels on Kitty Wallis White
by Miki Willa

I really like lighthouses. When I was doing some reading about Andrew Wyeth, I learned that he, too, liked lighthouses. For him, they seemed to represent guidance and security. They were a refuge, as they were in the past for sailors caught in the dark in a storm. To me, the lighthouse represents loneliness and hope. In the past, the light keepers job was often a lonely one, but an important one that gave hope to otherwise lost souls. I have painted a number of lighthouses, but I think this is the first one I have done that gives vision to my feelings.
This is the Yaquina Head Lighthouse in Newport, Oregon. Construction began on this building in 1871. It proved to be a very difficult task, as the lighthouse is on a high cliff surrounded by large sea rocks. Two small boats were lost during construction, and a larger ship was damaged. The lamp was not lit until 1873. Today, it is a popular tourist attraction. Hardy souls can even climb to the top. If you are planning on taking photos from the top, be aware that you cannot go outside once you are there. This is also a wonderful place if you are interested in whale watching. There are usually representatives from a local whale watching group to help spot. They are a wealth of information about other forms of sea life, whether fish, birds, or mammals.
If you visit this beautiful spot, plan to get there so you are finished in time to have lunch or dinner at Szabo's Steakhouse and Seafood on Hwy 101, just across the light from the road leading from the lighthouse. We stopped there for lunch because it was recommended, and I want to pass on the recommendation. I would describe Szabo's as a tavern with great food. We were there in the dead of winter on a weekday, and there was a steady stream of customers. We had the halibut and chips, which we thoroughly enjoyed.
About the painting: I have noticed that I am using quite a bit more gray than I did in Hawaii. Do you think that living in the Great Northwest has any influence on that? I do, and I am really enjoying it. I was always trying to use grays in the tropical island paradise, but they rarely fit. This painting was done intentionally minimalist. That is the reason it is still a WIP. I am afraid that if I go after finishing it today, I will add way too much detail. I do have some lines to straighten out, and some edges to fix, but I am going to resist unnecessary details.
Tomorrow, I am going to the Seattle Art Museum with my husband and sister. I am looking forward to this treat. I will let you know what wonderful things I see.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Painting with more freedom, Boiler Bay, Oregon

Boiler Bay, Oregon
9 x 12 soft pastels on sanded paper
by Miki Willa
We stopped at a pull-out along Hwy 101 on the Oregon Coast about a mile north of Depoe Bay. We had been told about a place where the ocean met the rocks in a wild and wonderful dance. We didn't know there would be waterfalls, so that was a wonderful surprise. Boiler Bay does have an official state maintained park just south of this viewing point, but I think we would have missed this scene completely. In 1910, a ship grounded here and at low tide, you can see the ships boiler. This is also a great place to see several of the shore bird species that populate the Oregon Coast.
I decided I wanted to create an impression of the rugged wildness of this place. To do that, I had to let go of certain control issues I have with my paintings. I wanted my strokes to be a mixture of smooth and broken. I wanted to define the rocks and waterfall, but just lay in impressions of foliage and dirt. I wanted to make the water appear to be moving. I have not achieved that before, but I think it works this time. The waterfall appears out of the foliage from where we stood. We couldn't see a source, so I decided to keep it that way. The colors and values are representative of my impressions at that time.
I have been noticing that I am painting less sky since I have moved here. In most of my paintings from Hawaii, sky played a big part. It was always an important element. Now, I am finding inspiration from more grounded elements. That being said, the next painting will be of a lighthouse with lots of sky, and no water.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Painting with grays, Cape Foulweather

Morning Mist
9 x 9 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
by Miki Willa
When we were staying on the Oregon Coast last week, we had all sorts of weather conditions to inspire us. The first morning, it was very foggy. I stepped out onto the deck, and this is what I saw. It was so eerie, yet beautiful. My husband did a painting of the coastline in the fog in Acadia National Park in Maine, but I had not tried working with so many grays before. It was an interesting challenge.
Pastel artists can create grays by blending, or they can purchase pastels in gray tones. I have a wonderful Great American Art Work set of three values each of grayed red, purple, green, blue, and gray. I used them quite a bit for this painting. I also used some Unisons and Terry Ludwigs to blend some of the other grays. I think I got the feel of the unifying fog that permeated this
In planning the composition for this piece, I realized that I could have a more powerful piece if I used a square format. I have not used this format before, but have seen some paintings recently that I really liked. I think I will look for other subjects that lend themselves to this square format.
When we were in Oregon, we stayed at the Inn at Otter Crest, on the south slope of Cape Foulweather. In 1778, during one of his famous voyages of discovery, James Cook came upon this cape as his first sighting of shoreline on the Pacific Coast of North America. He was within sight of land when a sudden and very turbulent storm overtook him. His trip nearly ended there, thus he named the place Foulweather. From this area, you can see miles of ocean, sea stacks, natural arches, and harbor seals in large numbers playing in the surf. This part of the Oregon Coast is quite beautiful.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

My first portrait in pastel

Portrait for Different Strokes from Different Folks
8 x 10 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
by Miki Willa

Portraits are very difficult for me to even contemplate, so I just haven't done one in color before. I have sketched likenesses of family members. I have even sketched myself. I don't know why I decided to join this year end challenge at Different Strokes, but I did, and I am really glad I did. I think it is important to get outside my narrow box, subject-wise, once in a while. My goal was to interpret the expression on the artist's face. I am happy with the results. I hope she likes it.

I have been looking at lists of favorite blogs on other artist's blogs and want to add my thoughts here. I have selected three blogs that I find very inspirational to the artist in me:

Linda Blondheim's Art Notes: In addition to really liking Linda's artistic style, I enjoy her honesty. Many of the ideas she expresses seem to answer questions I have been pondering for a while. The path she is taking is very inspirational to me. I also enjoy the recipes. Her other blog, Landscapes of the South, showcases her paintings and shares her stories about the places she paints. I really like that idea, and thoroughly enjoy the stories. Finally, I really appreciate that she responds to comments and is very encouraging.
Rose's Art Lines: Rose Welty is sharing her artistic journey in a thoughtful, thought-provoking way. She has inspired me to think about trying other artistic endeavors. She has great courage, which is an important trait for an artist, I believe. She also responds to comments regularly.
The Colorist: Casey Klahn has more than one blog, but this is my favorite. He shares information about artists he admires, ideals he aspires to, and he promotes other artists whose art inspires him. I especially enjoyed his series about artist's traits. Casey and I have very different styles, but I am learning from him about stretching my usual color boundaries once in a while. That is a good thing. He is also good about responding to comments.

There are other wonderful artist's blogs out there that I enjoy for many reasons. I keep finding new ones when I have the time. Let me know what blogs you find most inspirational.