Thursday, October 13, 2011

Nature is such bliss.

"It is not the language of painters but
the language of nature which one should listen to,
the feeling for the things themselves, for reality
is more important than the feeling for pictures."   
                                   -Vincent VanGogh

There's just something about nature that can soothe the soul.  I feel myself aching for the mountains' rugged beauty in every season.  We live in northern Montana with its spacious cerulean skies that never seem to end.  Glacier National Park is just a few hours away from home here on the plains. 

St. Mary's Lake

The winters can seem like eternity...first snow arrives in October and spring doesn't really arrive until late May.  So do the counting.  That's four months for green grass, leaves, flowers and fully thawed streams.  Oh, and there is no promise we won't see snow from June through September.  I've become very attached to my Fujifilm FinePix S700 camera.  I know it's an older camera and there are better ones to be had. 
I even have my own little connection for great deals on any electronics my heart desires.  But you see I know this camera and we've got our system down.  I can take marvelous close ups and the photos turn out so well for my purposes.  It took some time to learn this but I can begin composing artwork by how I frame the shot on the display.  I know I can creatively crop them on the computer later but that's one more step I don't need.

Lake St. Mary's original watercolor  11" x 14"


Our community foundation approached me to participate in an art auction.  Funds will go toward children being able to afford extracurricular activities.  It happens every time and it's a nudging thing, I guess.  I donate art for good causes.  I may not have a large pocketbook but I can give my time and creativity to raise funds for organizations.  It's great motivation, inspring me to create when there's usually been a lull at the art area.  Dust off the table top and break out the brushes!

I've painted scenes from Glacier Park before.  Lake McDonald is one of my favorite locations but I was ready to do something else.  Something about the still glass-like surface of a lake brings a calm to the spirit.  St. Mary's Lake is not always so still because the east side of the mountains can be very windy.  With photos to work from I worked through August and September.  The composition I chose has trees lined up in the foreground.  I worked the entire painting with ease, saving those trees for last.  I have never been pleased with my rendering of trees.  There's no way to fake my way through this; these trees will make or break this painting.  I tried a few with rigger/liner brushes but these were going to end up looking like cookie cutter Christmas trees.  I knew I needed help.  It was high time I learned how to conquer trees.  I was able to find and purchase the book, The Complete Watercolorist's Essential Notebook by Gordon MacKensie.  It's two books in one with the second being all about landscapes.  This is such a wealth of knowledge and I'm wishing I'd had it in my library years ago.  I learned how to use a palette knife to paint natural free-form trees.  Yay!!!  I could finally breathe again.  I haven't put any type of script on my paintings before but I felt like this painting should.  Not sure why.  I could have chosen an inspirational quote but I chose a scripture instead.  Whether this changes its saleability is yet to be seen.  I debated between what I as an artist want to express and what people want to buy.  How much do I compromise?  Will I be pleased with my work in the end?  I love to paint watercolors in my own way without giving in to changing to be able to market the work. 

Poppies in progress.

I had hoped to finish some other smaller works to sell at the auction.  That unfortunately I had to let go.  Life is just too busy right now.  There's not enough of me to go around.  I spent many hours last week being so frustrated and overwhelmed...I was pushing to make it all work out fine.  Sunday night as I lay in bed, I knew it was time to admit this was a lofty goal I must give up.  I was unrealistic to believe I could whip out 3 or 4 paintings to show off and sell.  This momma wasn't happy and her family saw the struggle.  So I'll plug away a bit at a time. 

The first of the oriental poppies  5" x 7"

I've got a series of oriental poppies that were begun years ago.  I realized that the watercolor paper is losing its sizing over time.  I'm not sure if masking tape has acids that could cause this or too much moisture over time.  After searching message boards online I found someone else with the same problem.  The water won't lay on top of the paper like it (and same with paint) sinks right into the paper and there it stays.  No fluid motion, no chance to push it around.  The solution I found but haven't tried yet is to dilute gum arabica with water and paint that on the paper first.  Once it dries the paper should perform as usual.  I have found 2 or 3 sketches on watercolor paper that I'll have to test this method with.  The first poppies painting I had such a hard time with the background and finally had to resort to chalks.  Not happy at all.  The other two paintings are going well but not much continuity between the three pieces.  They may not be suitable for hanging as a set.

All three paintings together. Each 5" x 7."

My setup at the drafting table.

I'm ready to get these started.  Making the time is a challenge right now.  I'm getting the prep done with sketches on wc paper.  The photos have been clipped to searching the photo stash before I can begin.  Otherwise by the time I get to the painting part of it, I've lost all desire to begin. My goal is to have a length of trim with cup hooks hanging on the wall.  The artwork with photo(s) attached by binder clip will hang on the cuphooks.  It will be great to see all these pieces and switch between them quickly.

My creative space is taking shape.

With some tweaking here and there the space is becoming more functional.  Instead of buying an expensive taboret cart I'm repurposing a microwave cart.  There are a few more additional details in the works.  Will show off those changes when they are complete.

Note: All images property of Christy Sheeler. Copyright 2012-1013
Please do not use without permission.

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