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.