Scouting Paintings

April 21, 2016

Spring is here! It has been most of 5 winter months, with very little plein air painting.  I have ventured out a few times since January to paint.  Only to return home with frozen paint fingers and very little actual painting started.

Now that spring is definitely here.   Everything is blooming in a wide range of colors and compositions.  Spring offers lots of opportunities to paint, especially with the wide variety of Texas wild flowers here that deckle our rich historical architecture and homes. It’s truly inspiring but can be overwhelming too.   The challenge is selecting a location to paint.  To discover a spot that will still be interesting at the end of the painting.

So a few weeks back I opted to just look for painting locations.   Luckily the local town was founded in 1848 and has a large selection of historic architecture and homes nestled among wild flower and poppy gardens.  So there is a lot to choose from.    Thankfully, the weather was quite comfortable for walking through the neighborhoods. I happily spent my Saturday morning, just scouting out new opportunities looking for possible compositions.

As with all plein air painting there are challenges to consider, like location, safety, shelter from elements, or traffic?  Is it safe to park and set up your easel in a new area?  Is there sufficient shade shelter to protect you from the sun or unexpected shower?  How much street traffic can have a major impact on the ability to start let alone finish a painting on-site.   Is there a decent spot to stand without disturbing any unwanted pests like fire ants or wasps?

 

I also find it very helpful to include pictures of the street signs to help remember where my best locations are. Lastly,  it always a good idea to introduce your self to the locals before you discover you are in “someone’s spot.”

Luckily my scouting about the poppies worked out.  As I was recording possible spots, I stumbled upon a lovely side street garden.  It was so inspiring!  I decided to introduce my self and say thank you for such a wonderful spot.  Now I have another place to go and share the fun of painting new garden stories.

Since then it has rained a fair amount with more rain.  Which means my plein air painting outside will be very limited for me in the next few weeks.  So I have been perusing my stash of pictures scored on my outing and working out preliminary sketches.  Which means should I get the chance to go paint I will know just where is my next stop!

prepping fresh ideas...

Fresh ideas to choose from~ lots more to paint.

I can’t believe it has only been two weeks since my recent painting retreat.  It was a much-needed break just for painting!

I found my self so excited to paint.  Yet, the analytical part of my artist was overwhelmed with cataloging the variety of compositions and palette possibilities.   Everything was already painted in raw pigments and it changed every few minutes.  No kidding, the morning light changed so quickly we could barely contain our excitement let alone finish drink our coffee.  The afternoon and evening  sun was just as dramatic.  I could barely record it all on my camera.  So I painted what I could, and came back home to paint more in my studio.

I came home ready to paint.  Over the next few days I walked into my studio and promptly froze at the easel trying to pick a painting to start next.  It should not be this difficult.  It’s not, I was just over complicating it ~ trying to guess what the next sale could be.  And yet, there I stood.  I turned around and walked out of my studio more frustrated than I realized.

A few hours later I had regrouped, cropped and printed most of 20 plus thumbnail images from my recent adventures as well as other local plein-air treks. These were all in my “to paint” files.  I took them upstairs and sat on my studio floor.  Meanwhile I lined up all of my fresh RETREAT paintings to remind me of what I wanted to paint.

I made a fresh cup of tea and just looked at the images. I spent a few more hours just evaluating the unique interest I had with each printed reference.  Eventually, the exciting ones made it into a smaller pile, which I then taped to my easel wall.    I discovered I was looking for a certain tangible energy in my subjects and paints.  I realized I was finally gaining a bit more clarity in my studio again for a little while before family life returned.

I came back with some great paintings but I also came back with a few new realizations for determining what is driving me to paint these days.

  1. Paint the Exciting!
  2. Fresh Paint, Clean Paint!
  3. Don’t wreck it trying to “fix it“.

In the past week I have painted a least 7 paintings.  I  have wiped away several of these after realizing they were “fix its”.  I realized I could revisit the composition in a new way any time I wanted.  Or I could simply paint something else EXCITING at the moment and see where it might lead.  I have definitely scored a few surprises as well!

I will blog more on the 3 realizations later in the week…

 

Working Studio! …(part 3)

December 23, 2013

It has been most of six months and quite the progression for my fitting my old larger studio into my smaller home studio (10’x12′ room).

I recently completed a moderate “weekend” build project constructing my new wall easel.  It has been a few weeks since finishing it out.  I have had the chance to paint on it a few times (mostly smaller projects).  It accommodate new ideas quite nicely and quickly, too.  Thus far, I have just 3 vertical masts for the wall.  The shallow profile allows me to easily move my larger easel to ether side of my studio without hindering desired painting space.  I am rather pleased indeed with the brain child of artist Jason Tueller’s easel design.

Studio - still life setup.

Studio – still life setup.

After stumbling into my larger space rover (43″ long x 18 1/4″ deep x 72″ high) far to many times, I decided to down size that too. I settled for a more mobile cart from the IKEA kitchen department.  It’s all metal components offer forgiving clean up and flexible palette space.  It is perfectly sized for hosting my masterson palette, paint tubes and other materials as needed.  It even has a roomy drawer for my brushes and palette knives.   Even better that it did not break my budget.

I also added a few floater shelves for displaying smaller panels and  a second narrow book case to host my additional art books and collections.   The additional book case offers a nice spot to set up still life objects for painting.  I plan to add a smaller shallow writing desk for my laptop and eventually a drop leaf drafting table to accommodate watercolors.

Figuring out what I needed in my studio has been a longer process than I anticipated.  I have had to cull more than I believed, and build more of what I needed to fit the purpose.

But I am pleased so far, small and functional is the key to getting my studio back to work here.

My wall easel is done and all ready to accommodate larger paintings awaiting my attention.  The wall easel has a minimal depth requirement but can accommodate a 7’x8′ painting easily enough or multiples pieces at the same time.

Wall easel & Clamps complete!

Wall easel & Clamps complete!

Two weeks ago, I started building the wall easel for my studio inspired by artist Jason Tueller’s design and handy work.  The first weekend, I knocked out most of the build project, installing wall braces and vertical rails in an earlier blog Oct 14 (Studio set up).

However, I still needed to make the clamping bars to hold my paintings on the easel.  It has been slower process to fabricate those parts.

Canvas clamping bars

Canvas clamping bars

I had to trouble shoot how to notch out the back part of the clamp to fit around the vertical rails.  I definitely wanted to have them adjustable in height to accommodate small and large pieces.  So I had to plan my process to keep the wood blocks true during and after the build to provide a better fit on the vertical rails.

I have limited tools.  I have a circular saw, a drill and other basic carpentry tools.  I did not have access to a table saw or sanding table that might have made quicker work of the pieces I needed.

back plate

back plate

I am a smart girl, so I used set the depth on my circular saws to score out a 1/4″ deep notch. Then set to removing a six-inch section were needed.  Sanded it a bit to remove any splinters.  Then clamped the matching pieces, drilled peg holes and securing threaded flanges.

clamping the pieces.

clamping the pieces.

I will admit they many not be flawless, but they definitely work!  Now I am all set for starting and finishing my next big project!

Studio set up…

October 14, 2013

Any studio space requires few specific component: lighting, easel (work space), and storage for materials.  Arranging them all to fit the artist needs is quite the challenge, and can drive some of us simply mad.It has been nearly five months since I moved to my smaller blank studio. It has taken me most of that time to research studio setups, build in storage, set up lighting.

I recently started building in a wall easel to accommodate larger paintings without sacrificing floor space.   It is effectively a large 8′ x 8′ easel with multiple vertical masts to accommodate BIG paintings or multiple panels side by side. Thankfully, the simpler design requires very few major tools.  I did find the auto leveler quite useful for the 8ft expanse.  I still need fabricate the bar clamps (awaiting parts), but I am excited about it!

Wall easel framed out.

Wall easel framed out.

The wall easel is quite brilliant and inspired by Jason Tueller http://paperbirdstudio.net/wall-easel/.

Meanwhile all this time, I continued to struggle to really get a feel for what my studio space should be.  So much to my frustration even after installing the wall easel, my studio still felt out of sorts.  I kept turning around to find myself walking back out of the cave, even more frustrated.

So this morning, I resolved to flip the layout of my studio in hopes of opening up the space.  We took down the wall easel (sanded down any fussy spots) and reassembled it on the opposite wall.  This required me to relocate the lighting to the opposite side of my studio.   I have also realized I should down size my giant taboret to soon to something more smaller.

Studio Flip

Studio Flip

After much help from my loving husband, I have achieved a better layout and better energy for working.  I have room set aside for future still life area,more shelving, a work desk and a resting / thinking spot.  I even worked in a short still life study to find myself positively happy even after whipping it off.

Tonight, the studio feels so much better with open wall space and balanced lighting.
Success!!

Studio – Lights (part 2)

October 14, 2013

Stage 2 for my studio – Lights!

Every studio requires sufficient balance of warm and cool lighting.  Most painting artists prefer the northern light balance, however, not every studio has norther windows to provide sufficient light.  Fortunately, today, fluorescent lights come in a wide range of color spectrum.  So it is easier to manage daylight northern light spectrum inside any space with a simple install of light fixtures.

Next step was to upgrade my studio lighting.

Fluorescent light strips are set!

Fluorescent light strips are set!

I hung two 4ft fluorescent fixtures to run parallel my easel space.  I installed daylight spectrum fluorescent in each fixture.  I was sure not to cast multiple light angles or shadows.  A giant upgrade from the standard incandescent 6owatt fixture.
Side note, Though I love my large window, I soon found that the double pane window was bouncing the natural light as well.  So I hung a light blocking drape to better control the light balance.

Tah Dah, there will be light!
I can accurately mix and gauge true color mixtures!

Updated lighting arrangements in next post..

Complimentary Quarters

August 12, 2013

Yay!!  I started and finished a new daily painting yesterday!!!  Yay!

Complimentary Quarters. 6x6. oil on panel.

Complimentary Quarters.
6×6. oil on panel.

Click to Bid here!

It has been nearly 3 months since I have had dedicated time for painting.
I can hardly believe 3 months summer vacation has flown by with home and studio projects here.   But all the labor is painting off with a studio that is starting to come together.  I still have plenty of work to do in there, but I have dedicated work space, dedicated lights, and room enough (I hope) .   Space enough to open up my small Easy-L easel and get some fresh painting mixed on a small study.  A chance to renew dedicated paint space and times.  Yay!!!

Moments later… my six-year-old wants to share and paint with mommy – the real paint, too. Hmph.
My son declared this past week that my studio was too small and had no room for him to paint.  So yesterday’s morning started out slow reconfiguring still life and joint paint space for the two of us.  In the pinch, I resorted to using a set stool for his easel set up.

IMAG1216

Painting and teaching my six-year-old at the same time, not so much.  Left brain/ bright brain…Teach or paint, not both in same space / time.  I can demo sketching and roughing in the painting for him.  So I set to instruct him in minors ways and come back to try painting later in the evening.  Accurate paint mixing requires a dedicated right brain activity, to which does not respond well to the chatter.

After bath time routine, I did manage to sneak away to my studio.  I wiped off the panel, sketched a fresh composition, and set to mixing fresh clean paint.  These are what I managed, sketches, painting… etc.
Happy start on daily painting here…  second start for the day to end the day.

Course I needed a plan for gaining storage space and preserving painting space.  In order to gain desired work space, I would have to build in shelves to gain storage space. I figured if I could build frames and stretch canvas, I could build my shelves.  Luckily, I have a small 3’x4′ closet attached to the extra bedroom that was to become my studio. I plan to store all my immediate materials in the closet to decrease studio clutter and increase creative space.

I started calculating shelving dimensions to fit the majority of the art bins I already had loaded and waiting for a home.  I prefer to use clear storage bins or plastic drawer trays (like the ones made by rubbermade or sterilite).

Clear bin for paints.

Clear bin for paints.

Clear bins allow me to quickly take a visual inventory, access my supplies as well as know where I stored them.   I determined that shelving height could be no smaller than 12 1/2″ to allow for clearance during installation inside the closet. This height neatly allowed for the larger art bins.  I salvaged the leftover pieces to make a smaller 6″ shelf perfect for the smaller stuff.

I double checked my measurements for the right and left side of the closet walls.  I sketched out my plans and set to prepping, priming, painting, and installing the shelves. I used primed and painted 1×12″ pine boards for weight distribution and easily clean up spilled paint.  I used 1×2’s and 1x3s for support bracing.  After a few days work I have completed the shelves and was ready to sort and store the last of my art supplies. 🙂

shelving installed.

shelving installed.

Yes, I am pretty proud of my work.  The only tools I needed was a chop saw, drill, wood tapping screws, lumber and paint, my brain and a bit of math.  All
It will soon be time to paint, next…Lights!

New place, New space.

July 7, 2013

A new place offers a clean slate for setting up a working studio.  New studio means new space layout.  I am lucky enough to have a spare bedroom with a decent sized west window and an attached sink.  Well, it will have to do.

However, starting with a blank room is a bit more of a challenge than anticipated.  I have nearly twenty years worth of art supplies, a large easel, art taboret, drafting table and assorted materials.  I had to purge quite a lot of it in the move.  Everything I had deemed necessary was boxed and promptly stacked in my studio.

More studio boxes.

More studio boxes.

In the new studio space I did not have existing storage of any kind to begin organizing any of it.  I spent most of a month unpacking and re-evaluating the remainder of my supplies.  Equal time was spent considering the best way to store my materials.  More importantly, supply accessibility and ease for future painting or framing or whatever.  Many nights were spent researching studio storage options.

One of the most important tools for an artist is a working Studio.  The studio is a designated space for facilitating the creation of their preferred art.  I quickly realized I needed to prioritize what I would need in my studio.  I am a painter, thus, establishing primary paint space, primary medium, and secondary work space is important.  First, I need space. Good clean space to process and work through my paintings, large and small.  Second, I need good lighting.  Lighting temperatures effect the true color (hue) and value of paint.  Third, I need storage, to keep all my materials and tools accessible.

setting up new studio.

setting up new studio.

I was sure that I wanted to maximize storage and grow room while preserving the top half of the walls for working space for paintings and/or drawings. Yes, IKEA always offers storage options.  But considering I have a tight budget and am somewhat more limited in finding what I need.  I quickly realized with a blank studio, I just might have to engineer some of the things I was envisioning to make my studio effective.

I have tools. Challenge accepted!

All In Boxes…

July 3, 2013

Someone recently asked me to describe the last 3 months of my life.  “All in boxes” pretty much sums it up.

It is no secret that we recently moved to a new house.  The past three months, my painting process has been pretty much boxed up as well.  I have been frustrated wanting to “do something” and then realizing that it was under the dust and debris of stacked boxes, packing materials and more dust.  The garage which usually functioned as my creative studio space, had become the storage and staging zone for all of the packing materials, which of course did not fit inside the house.  All my studio and painting materials had been packed up awaiting the “Big Move”.  I did reserve my plein-air easel and a small amount of paint and brushes for paint outs. Though, free time proved even rarer event with all the packing, construction deadlines, or work and family needs.

Everyone thinks “new studio, exciting!  Ha, I think, “Crap, where am I going to store all of it?”
I want to actually work without having to invest creative energy into cleaning up my studio just so I can paint.   Which generally happens in the garage space and results in poor painting quality if any at all.  Over whelming to say the least.  Moving my studio has proved to be quite the undertaking.  Thanks, to a few good friends and my weekly yoga, and more than month later I managed to breathe through it.

Logically, with such a big move, all my studio and painting stuff had to move as well.  But what was I really going to need and use in the new studio.  Everyone I asked that had a home studio suggested I would need lots of storage, good light, and work space.  The first challenge was to get it all reduced down from what was a 2 car garage space to a single spare bedroom.

Garage studio space.

Garage studio space.

I intended to keep and store paints, paint surfaces, drawing materials and basic framing equipment.  I reduced my studio supplies to the primary materials.  I was giving up many of the old shelves and storage b/c they would not fit or move.   This forced another purge of inferior art I had produced over the past few years during my fast paced graduate classes. It actually took most of 3 weekends to eventually pack up the studio and another day of realizing it was futile to try to keep the crap work for later resurrection.
Purging proved just as stress full to realize  the pile of painting failures, I intended “to fix” someday was larger than I intended.     (Little voice in my head repeats its mantra” not failures, learning cycles”).  I did not need to preserve them for future sales.  I had practiced the intended lesson.  I could move on.  Don’t worry, I still have plenty more to work on and eventually sale.
Yes, purging is good for art growth.  It can be very emotional if you don’t have a good friend to help you separate all the stuff from the precious and best.  It can definitely leave room for many more painting projects, big and small.

The next few blog posts will feature stages of sorting out my studio.