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

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.

Fresh Eyes.

August 4, 2011

Knowing what you see and Painting what you See is only part of the equation.

As an artist, I paint.  I record moments in history or life on a visual plane using the medium of watercolor and oil paint.  I have been on consistent painting schedule completing a small painting a day for most of  2 months straight.  Wow!  really? Then Life tripped into my studio and I have been a bit side lined prepping for shows and trying to endure our summer heat.

I just checked the studio thermometer, it’s 9:31pm and its a cool 97.3 degrees out there.  Did I mention that we are at voluntary power conservation here in Texas with our record triple digit temps.  So in contrast to 100+ temps 97 could be cool.  But not advisable studio conditions.  Those kinds of temps create lots of havoc trying to paint not to mention how it responds during the application.  Excessive temperatures be it heat or cold, really discourages long spells at the easel.  Even my water-soluble oils are limited to how much I will work with them in poor conditions.  And watercolors just want to evaporate and buckle just as quickly. No to mention the heat has an adverse effect to getting proper ventilation and air movement in a west-facing garage.

It does not thrill me to know the difficulties that await when I resume my mixing/painting routine, to regain the ground and consistency I am looking for in my work.  But it does lend more time to meddle in the mind and what to do with the precious time I can devote out there.

So back to my point here.  Fresh Eyes.

Required time away from the studio easel can be a positive.  It gives me a chance to see the progress in my paintings and determine if what I have actually painted matches or represents what I intended.  Did I capture and reflect the light and subject the way I wanted.  Are the values and shapes reading clearly to relate what I saw, what I felt, more than just what I know.

I will freely admit I have a difficult time putting the paint brush down and stepping away from the easel.  Perhaps even at the risk of ruining the painting, all to often.  I’m still learning my limits and effective processes.  But as an Artist I still have to step back and really look at what I have done and evaluate it for what it is.  Somehow I must remain objective and critical of my own work to achieve a credible visual recording.

No, the Texas heat is not an ideal set back in my studio schedule.

On the bright side I am able to look at some unfinished pieces with fresh eyes to determine what I need to do to finish them!  I’m hopeful I can grab a few hours to get some more fresh paint moving soon. Even if it just watercolors and only for a brief spell, between life commitments.

The Value of a painting?

August 2, 2011

Really now, So what’s in the value of a painting?

Well truthfully there are 2 parts to that.

  • 1. the $$$ someone will trade for an intrinsic item of interest.
  • 2. the light and dark that compose the painting.

For now I’m particularly interested in the Value definition that describes the light and dark of a painting. The human eye can see all the subtle gradations of light as it illuminates an object.  Painting a recognizable object on a flat surface requires relating the values as they describe the object in space.

Since I have been away from my studio for a spell, trying to sort out other details, my paintings have been drying and cooking (sort of).  So the next time I get to start a painting around here I have to go back to a clean slate and fresh mixed paints if I intend to maintain clean paintings.  That actually requires mixing 11 distinct values of gray from my white and black.  The outer most (1) being closer to white, 5 being the middle range, and (11) black the last on the corresponding gradation.  I limit my scales to 5 when working plein air.

Gray Value Scale (11 steps)

Why?  The gray-scale establishes a consistent means to measure and test the lightness / darkness of any additional color mixtures I want to paint with.  This allows me to establish credible depth within a flat surface and limited plane.  Color or hue is all relative to its surrounding environment.  But the value or lightness / darkness of yellow measures differently when compared to blue or red.  Not to mention the infinite possibilities we can create from mixing pigments.  The more variations you have of a single color (hue) the more depth ranges you can create, even within a monochromatic (single) color study.

Color value mix. Oil samples.

But why do I mix new paint? As paint ages it dries and oxidizes.  It looses it’s luster and wetness and frequently darkens in value (especially common with oils and acrylics).  This is why I find it critical to mix fresh values regularly when I paint.   This provides a fresh clean scales to judge my other mixtures against or even more importantly try to match against.  Notice that I have taken a few extra steps for checking the relative light or dark of mixing colors by adding a piece of middle gray under my glass palette as well as a few small strips of the value scale to check against as I mix.

Taking the time to mix clean accurate values will take you r paintings a long way to helping push the contrast and add more visual interest without overloading the colors.

In the end it’s always about achieving a readable balance when we are painting –  regardless of subject or style.  It even is applicable to abstracts.   So next time you are looking at a painting, photo or cartoon that grabs your attention see how many different values you can distinguish and consider if it really does add $value$ too.

Prepping and Framing

July 24, 2011

Some days you just have do the prep work.

Today, I wanted to paint.

But spent the day prepping and framing paintings for the Georgetown show on August 13th.   The second stage to finishing a painting is of course signing it clean and legibly.  That requires the right brush and paint consistency applied with a smooth steady hand.

Framing art is not terribly difficult and I actually enjoy it.  But it is somewhat tedious, time consuming, and somewhat costly if you make a critical error.

Always Measure twice and mark your spots before you drill the brackets into the frames.  Some frames can crack easily if you are not careful.

Assemble all necessary tools and to reduce frustration and time lost hunting for the missing drill or brackets. Tools you will need: small and large wire clippers, needle nose pliers, screw driver, small cordless drill is very handy, ruler and tape measure, and pencil.  I keep my framing tools in a designated tote for easy access. And added portability when I deliver art work for any required quick fixes.  I also keep small band aids for unexpected nicks or cuts when framing paintings.

I should mention that it is very handy to have small portable tables to add works space when framing.  I have 2 small 2’x4′ folding tables be sure to clean them before you start framing to avoid any unwanted spotting on art work or frames.   It’s always a good idea to watch for curious little ones interested in you tools, accidents happen very quickly and can be very serious with framing or sharp tools.

Lastly there is recording important inventory details on each painting like title, subject, media, dates, and sizes for printing labels and contracts.  So that’s been a day of counting, checking, prepping, and recording just to get the work hung for August.  So I try to keep a system and check them off as I go.

These Shoes…

July 16, 2011

Sexy Shoes. 7x5. 2011.07.16

Stepping out of the norm. These shoes are Sexy Shoes.

They are a favorite pair of mine.  These shoes are surprisingly elegant and beautifully comfortable to wear.  I’m a more practical classic kind of gal.  Comfort before style…at least when its my shoes and I have to wear them.  But these are elegant beauty and comfort. I’ll take them. Maybe I’ll paint them too.

The more elegant and simple the subject appears the  more challenging to paint.    And that’s before you even get to load up on color ranges.  The challenge in painting elegant shapes is in the complexity of the simplicity. Think about it.  Go ahead you try to draw a perfect circle or ellipse with only a pencil no other  gadgets. Then consider painting it in all the values to transform that circle into a sphere.

These shoes are a complex creation of spheres, cylinders, cast shadow, loops, light patterns and reflections.  Weee!!! “Jump in and push the paint” only works to a point.  An artist must know the shapes and value temperatures needed.  An artist must know how the paint will mix when applying it next to a wet area. All this and more to relate the subtle shifts in light and depth to create credible impression of the intended subject: my shoes.

So here is the painters “not so simple” version of elegant shoe theory, at it’s basic development.