Monday, November 24, 2014

Kentucky Inspiration

Last September I participated as a vendor at the Secretariat Festival in Paris, Kentucky. It's a funky little town that exists in another time period. No chain hotels, no chain restaurants or any other tiresome mediocrity. We were staying in Georgetown, approximately 17 miles due west.

It was late in the afternoon when we tore down and packed up my exhibit. Route 460 is a very narrow road with no shoulder, just a disconcerting two foot drop from the pavement on both sides. The speed limit is 50 mph as I recall making this a white knuckle ride.

I spotted a band of mares and foals on the left side. The light was golden and glowing. Long shadows stretched as the sun sank low behind the trees. The mares were up close to the fence by the road, unusual as they are very protective of their foals and never compromise safety. I was so excited! Can we turn around and go back?

Fortunately, there was a road perpendicular to where the horses were grazing. Michael managed to pull a daring u-turn and park on the opposite road while I jumped out with my camera. At first the mares were nervous and stood in front of their foals. When they determined I was no threat, they relaxed and shimmered with highlights in the fading light. This is the heavenly manna that artists patiently pray for.

Eventide, oil on canvas, 18"x48"
I named the painting Eventide which represents the subtle period of transition from late afternoon into evening.

While I was clicking away, a lady pulled up alongside Michael and scolded him for parking on the side of the insanely narrow road. He listened patiently, pointed to me and replied, "I'm married to an artist, what can I say?"

Bless our spouses,

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Miles of Canvas

I completed a couple of experimental paintings this past week in between my equine commissions (and canine to come). As an artist friend wisely told me not long ago, sometimes it's about painting miles of canvas to achieve your vision. I think of her sage advise whenever the restlessness sets in. Whenever I'm uneasy because the paint isn't doing or looking the way I want it to. My thoughts have returned to wondering if I should take a workshop with an artist who's accomplished in landscape, who's wrestled with values and edges, perhaps someone who can help me find my voice within this cacophony of uncertain thought.

Indian Summer, 11"x14", oil on textured canvas
In the painting above, I wanted to loosen my brushwork. I may have gone too far as I used big brushes on a small textured canvas. One thing I am pleased with is my return to a brighter palette. For a while I limited and toned down my colors. Don't ask me why. We all love happy colors.

Studying other artists continuously - the modern masters, plein air painters, or just keeping track of what my peers are up to - I've observed that unless a landscape painting has an unusual focal point, or any focal point for that matter, it's boring. A pretty picture yes, but where's the intrigue? Even some technically excellent pieces are just that.

In the other piece, I struggled with the waterfall, cooled it, warmed it, brightened, toned it back, added rocks, spray, rivulets, scraped, smudged and generally worked the thing to death. In contrast, the deer took about two minutes to apply with a few simple brushstrokes that I got right the first time. A nod to all those hundreds (if not thousands) of horses I've painted.
Wahconah Falls, 11"x14" oil on canvas

So thank you to my artist friend Sue Johnson for assuring me about all those miles of canvas I'm determined to crank out. You're so right. Just this morning Michael and I did an inventory on what to scrap heap in order to reuse the stretchers. Now that's an accomplishment from the days of wrenching a bad painting out of his reluctant arms.

It's a bittersweet symphony,