Monday, June 2, 2014

The New Studio

5 acres in rural Tennessee about an hour west of Nashville
Over the next few months I will be doing a series of small post about how the new studio is coming along. Because building goes the very slowly, these will just be snapshots of what's going on and a line or two. Actually, I will be out of town for most of it, so I'll be relying on my husband to send me some pics to post. I hope you find it helpful and encouraging if you ever build your own studio.  
I can already see much inspiration coming from our new place.

From the outside, the studio will look more like a barn/utility/out-building than a house, with wide, western cedar planking, stone to grade, and a metal roof. Inside will be 2 1/2 story in height to the crest of the large wooden trusses. On one end will be a huge fireplace, and the general interior feeling will be similar to a lodge in the mountains. As I mentioned above, there will be windows on the north-facing side. The opposite wall will be lined with shelving and cabinetry. There is also a separate work room for framing and stretching canvases.

There have been some changes (dimensions primarily) since these plans were made, but you get the idea:

Because we will also be living there, the design includes a loft area that will serve as our bedroom. It also has a modest kitchen and bathroom.

We purchased the land last year, and Mark began planning where the studio would sit on the property to allow for the best, north light situation for me. We had to also consider where an eventual future home might be built, should we decide to go that route. 

That's a happy man. Passed inspection with flying colors.

Mark spent much of last fall and winter clearing trees and digging the trench for underground utilities. Earlier this spring, the well was put in, and we contracted with someone to prepare the foundation for the post and beam construction. 
Much of this has been knocked down. Mark is pretty patient, but you do NOT want to cross this man. He expects it done right!

For the past two weeks, our block mason has been working. He did a pitiful job. So pitiful, in fact, that Mark knocked most of the pillars out, tore down the foundation for the fireplace, and spent hours cleaning and recovering block to be re-used by someone more competent. We shall see how that goes.

Next week, we are scheduled to have the building crew out to start "assembly."  The structure has pre-dimensioned timbers built to our plan specs. This part, weather cooperating, should go fairly quickly. All of the "pieces" were delivered on a big truck a few weeks ago.

That's it for now.  I'll post again when there is something more to share.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Top Tips For Getting Proper Values en Plein air

"Twins," 16x20, Plein air Maui

If you have ever come in from painting outdoors only to discover that your values are way too dark, way too light, or all right in the middle, try practicing these tips: 

1. Use a mid-value mixing palette. If you use a white mixing area, your eyes are more likely to be strained which makes determining values difficult.
2. Key your painting when you first arrive on he scene while your eyes and mind are fresh. Make notes about the key of the painting on a thumbnail sketch of your design. 
3. Determine what mass in your scene is a mid-value. Make a note in your sketch. Be sure when you mix color for that area, that the mixture VALUE matches your mid-value mixing palette perfectly. Masses in your scene which are darker than this mid-value mass should be mixed darker than your mixing palette. Lighter passages should be mixed lighter. 
4. Work on panels rather than stretched canvas. The light which comes through the back of a stretched canvas will change your perception of value. 
5. Keep both your mixing palette and your panel shaded, even if it means having to face away from the scene. There is a tendency to make mixtures too dark when mixing values with either surface in bright sunshine.
6. Once you have been painting for 30 minutes or so, your eyes will begin to "lie" to you. Trust your notes regarding key and mid-value and constantly compare all mixtures to your mid-value mixing palette. Ask yourself how much darker or lighter each mixture should be. Do not second guess your original observations about what is right in the mid-value. 
7. When mixing your lightest light, "test" a dot of paint on a white paper towel. Lighter, outdoor mixtures will appear to be almost white. Comparing them to the white of a paper towel will give you a more accurate reading. 
8. Most shadows are not as dark as they appear, particularly in the distance. Compare middle and background darks to darks in the foreground. Make notes on your sketch. 
9. Use a grayscale card or View Catcher™ and compare masses. Determine how many value steps are between the light, middle, and dark masses. For example, after choosing which mass is in the mid-value, ask your self how many steps darker your darkest darks are; how many steps lighter your lightest lights are. Again, make these notes on your original thumbnail sketch. 
10. If staring into the sun, turn away from your painting, close and rest your eyes for a minute or two about every 20-30 minutes. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall?

View of where I am practicing today

Most of us who are professional artists find great joy in exploration and experimentation. Whether it involves new materials, unfamiliar subjects, or an entirely different medium, exploring and experimenting spawns creativity and practice leads to growth. 

Professional atheletes, musicians, actors, chefs, lawyers, and doctors, accountants, all take the time required to practice, strengthen their game, sharpen their skills, read the latest publications, learn new procedures, and stay up-to-date on anything that is relevant to their profession. Yet carving out time to practice in a field such as ours can seem like play time. We can get bogged down in "production," or in teaching others, and don't always take the time we need to invest in our own learning. 

A little story: Many years ago I applied for a job at a large publishing house here in Nashville. There were several positions available, and I was applying to work in the art department as an entry level typesetter.  I thought this would be my foot in the door of the graphic design world. After filling out the application, the company gave me a very extensive aptitude test. The results showed that I had no spacial relationship skills, but that I would make a great accountant. They offered me the accountant position, which I immediately turned down to start my own graphic design company.

Please do not read this as an insult to accountants. I knew that I personally did not have the passion for doing it in a way that would keep me curious, or sustain any level of satisfaction for me for the rest of my life. Turning down that job was the best thing I ever did. It lead to a very succcessful design career which in turn lead to a painting career, which is leading to many years of exploration, experimentation, and practice.

Next week I am allowing myself the opportunity to do just as other professional do in their line of work. I will be learning new techniques, trying new materials, sharpening my skills, and stretching my mind at the Plein air Convention in Monterey, CA. I'll be there with several hundred of my closest colleagues all practicing the same things, and every single one of us will be better for it. I will need to remind myself several times that indeed, this is part of my job. Just because it is fun, does not mean it isn't also work. I will be exhausted and exhilarated all at the same time.* 

I have had lots of careers in my life -- music, acting, clerical, and lots of others. I even considered law at one time. As for having any sort of aptitude or "gift" or talent, for painting, I have never felt I had any. But passion and curiosity... I have that!

If there is anything you want to learn badly enough, you will eventually find a way to do it.  Remind yourself often, that the best way to get to Carnegie Hall is "practice, practice, practice."

*If you have not made plans to join us, it isn't too late. You can save $100 if you use PACLP code when you register.