Friday, January 28, 2011

Moon Painting

I think my moon painting may be done. I have been working on it for the past couple of days and I think it is OK. The sky turned out really well. I had to reduce the mountains - they were way to dominant. I had a bit of a struggle with the reflections in the water and also a struggle to find the right colours to go with the cobalt blue which is the main colour. I ended up just using payne's grey, a bit of my usual yellow, a bit of my usual red and a lot of white. Here it is.

I have been looking at some of Emily Carr's paintings that are int he Vancouver Art Gallery online show. There are a few I just love. Her skies in her later paintings are fabulous. I suppose they influenced me slightly in my moon painting - though I didn't have a good look at them until tonight. I must get some of her skies into my other paintings. why not be influenced by Emily Carr? she is BC's most famous painter and I started to try and draw like her back in the 50s - my mother was a huge fan.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Old Wine in New Bottles

Last weekend we went to two performances of the Vancouver Island Symphony called Old Wine in New Bottles. I don't know whether it is a good idea to rework old paintings - but, day before yesterday, I decided to take the risk. I reworked two pictures and now have my own version of old wine in new bottles.

Splintered Image #2 was based on a water colour I did in a life class. The water colour has long disappeared. This painting is not very realistic. When I first did it, I decided to make it more interesting by making it part of, what I thought might be, a series of splintered images. The two nudes are each looking into mirrors in which their images are splintered. The background is golden and and there are some decorative flower/berries around the mirrors. The problem was that, while the hair of the nude on the right was amazingly fabulous, the nude on the left was having a bad hair day.

Yesterday, I fixed her hair. I think it is better but it much too neat. It's kind of "Hair Spray" picture. I darkened up the lines around the mirrors to make them more consistent with the dark lines around the nudes.

Splintered Image #3 was a concept picture. It was a woman looking at herself in the mirror. However, the part of the picture representing her was splintered and the image in the mirror was not splintered. I didn't like the way the splintered part looked.

So I decided to splinter it a lot more and add some whites and yellows to make it look more glass-like. It is an odd picture and only makes sense as part of splintered image series (of which there are only 3).

I also decided to add an image in the little hand mirror - so now there are three ears with pearl earrings - one on the real person, one in the image in the large mirror and one on the image in the hand mirror. I put a pearl in her hand - representing an earring for the ear you can't see. Maybe she is looking into the mirror while she puts on her earrings. I think it is still an odd painting - but it looks better.

I don't think I will try to fix any other old paintings. Maybe I will try some more splintered images when I finish the three Nanaimo landscapes that I currently have under way.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

New approach to mill painting

I have taken a new approach to my mill painting. I didn't like the little cartoonish puffs of steam in my Day 1 version so I washed them off as much as I could with turpentine.

To get some new ideas, Mike and I went out on the boat and took some new photos. It was a grey and white day, but I could see from home that the plume was going way up into the sky. From the Yacht Club, Harmac Mill looked much more the way I had envisioned my picture. Going out into the harbour on the boat helped me realize that I'm not just painting the mill. I'm also painting the low Jack Point peninsula that extends out between the Nanaimo Harbour and the mill. Out in the harbour, you you can see the big red crane and some of the buildings at Duke Point that you can't see from the Yacht Club. Here is the new photo:

The colours are cool but the plume is terrific. At first I thought it would be interesting to emphasize how the the different puffs in the plume seem to extend into the clouds on the left of the photo. However the result looked very unbalanced. I eventually realized (thanks to Mike) that the dark clouds on the left left are actually just part of the the same clouds on the right. The plume is a different layer in front of the other clouds - sort of the inverted cone shape of a tornado.

I'm trying to keep a similar colour scheme to the one I started with because I love it and don't want a cool washed out picture. I hope this will work. Here is my mill painting on Day 2. Oops! The waterline is a little crooked!

Tomorrow I want to get back to my moon painting. Mike is a great help with my painting and very encouraging. I do hope I can make some good pictures that will show Nanaimo as the beautiful place that it is.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Trying to paint the Harmac Mill

Yesterday I suddenly got a picture in my mind of a great painting of the Harmac Mill. The picture I saw in my mind's eye was practically all towering clouds of steam in shades of green and yellow. Sounds kind of gruesome - but I think it would be a great picture. Howe3ver, I couldn't find a photo in my collection that pictured the mill that way. The best I could find was a photo I took last fall from the Yacht Club floats. In it the mill is quite far away and it looks pretty small. However, the photo hasd other qualities - a lot of great sky with interesting clouds and lovely smooth gleaming water. I decided that I would try to use it as the basis for another new picture. Here is the cropped version of the photoc:

I'm only trying to paint the outlined part in the middle. This will be a challenge because I don't have much detail to follow.

Here is my first underpainting. I think it looks very cartoonish at this point - though that isn't a bad thing since the old masters used call their initial drawings cartoons. Here it is:

Part of the problem right now is that colours are wrong and columns of steam are outlined. They need to be painted properly against the sky and land. I don't feel as optimistic about this underpainting as I do about my moon painting - but I'll give it a shot. I am quite amazed how great the water looks right now.

I thought I would put a picture in today's blog of a Roy Vickers' print of the moon shining over Victoria's Inner Harbour. The photo is not very good - but in the real thing, the moon has an First Nations design inside it. I think it is the head of an eagle. I like Vickers' picture very much and I think it may have influenced my to try to do my own moon painting. Here it is:

I am quite happy that I have now figured out how to put my uploaded pictures in the right part of my blog. When I first upload them, they appear at the top. I simply cut a photo and then controlV it where I wantit to appear.

I now have three unfinished paintings. My plan is to start working on the moon painting tomorrow. The gap painting is still wet - so will still need to wait awhile. Tonight we are going to the Symphony - "Old Wine in New Bottles."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Nanaimo by Moonlight

Today I started a new painting. My Newcastle gap painting is still very wet - so needs to sit for a while.

My new painting is going to be a picture of the Nanaimo waterfront in the moonlight. So far I have only put on a very diluted wash of oil paint and turpentine but I think it is already very cool. Doing this under painting reminded me of the way Henry does finger painting. What fun!

So tonight, after the Power Squadron course, I sloshed on a lot of paint and covered the whole 24x30 inch canvas. I used a pretty big brush - but I don't know the number. My colours were the same as the ones I'm using in my gap painting - so far: paynes gray, cobalt blue hue, cerrulean blue, cadmium yellow pale hue, and permanent alazarin crimson and titanium white. In my gap painting I'm also using cadmium red light and yellow ochre. I will likely use some of those colours in this moonlight painting when I get further along. (So much blue - the painting after this one is gong to be green!)

The scene is the view from the anchorage at Mark Bay on Newcastle Island. It is based on a two photos I took last August. Nanaimo looked beautiful with mountains in the distance. However, the moon was actually further to the south - shining over the opening between Gallows Point and the Nanaimo Boat Basin. I think the moon shone over Nanaimo later that night - though by then it was probably higher in the sky. Anyway - this is a painting of what I remember - not what actually happened.

Here is the composite photo I am using as my inspiration. It is tacked on a piece of cardboard.

Starting a new painting is a bit like jumping out of an airplane. (Not that I have ever done that!) I still have very little idea of what is going to happen - and just jump in with gay abandon - hoping I will notice the happy accidents as I go along and have the good fortune to keep them and end up with a painting that I like.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Caught up with technology

I liked the title that popped into my head for this post. It is a bit of a pun. I intended it to mean that I had finally got my computer system up to date (caught up) but I also think it could be read to mean that I was totally immersed in fixing my computer (caught up by it) for the last week. Both are true.

I have been mucking around with various part of my computer for days and days. I wanted to put my paintings on my website. So I photographed them - which seemed relatively easy - since it was snowey outside and there was lots of natural light. Then, because none of them looked quite rectangular, I needed to crop them. Straightening and cropping was relatively easy. Then I needed to compress them for my website. I tried to compress them using Coffee Cup Pix Converter and it worked fine for all the photos I had taken on our old Olympus - but not for the one taken on my new Kodak Play/Sport. I then decided that, in case someone actually decided to look at my website, I needed to update our 2010 summer cruise and our 2010 trip to England. But once those photos were uploaded - the new website pages were really slow to open. I needed a better way to compress. In the middle of all this I realized that all my digital photos were in a muddle - so I did a lot of sorting and weeding. I also realized that I hadn't backed my photos up anywhere. I tried to back them up on my regular backup drive only to eventually figure out that there was not enough room. That led to buying a bigger drive and many hours of WD backing everything up. Mike tried using the export function in Picasa to compress photos and found that it worked fine for the Kodaks. Great! I compressed everything again. When that was all done and everything was re-uploaded to the website, Norton announced that I needed to optimize my computers space. The automatic defragging process took all one evening and late into the night.

Of course, all this meant - no painting. Not that I wasn't having fun and actually being pretty creative. Not that any form of creativity requires some knowledge and use of some kind of technology. But now my website is caught up.

Today I worked on my Newcastle Gap picture for about 3 hours. I just sloshed away with the paint and tried to simplify and capture the photo I am using. I first did the sky - I made it too dark. I hate French ultramarine. Then the clouds. The clouds looked way to round, so I tried to flatten them by putting streaks across them and making the edges less well-defined. Then the evergreens on both islands and then the bare branches oak trees and yellow grassy hillside. The oaks are not good yet. They look like tufts of grass. Then the water with it reflections. I just painted away following the photo as best I could and discovered that I had put in a wake from our boat - a nice big wave diagonally across the water part. And finally the red buoy in the middle of the gap. I had tried to get rid of most of the red underpainting but then had to put some red back in so the buoy didn't stick out too oddly.

I just put a photo of today's painting on this blog and there it is at the top. I have no idea how to put it further down so that it will be a nice surprise at the end. I guess I need to figure out the technology of how that works.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Paintings on My Website

For the last few days I have been spending all my spare time working on which is the website I share with Mike. I decided that I wanted to display all my paintings on our website so I reorganized the whole thing by adding a new main tab called "Penny Grant Painting."

I also updated the boating section with photos of our summer cruises and and the travel section with photos of our wonderful six week fall tour of England. I think the revisions came out fairly well. But I must have made all the new photos files a bit too big as they do not load instantaneously. Mike says they are not too slow on his computer but I'm used to all pictures popping up immediately. I convert digital photos to an appropriate size for our website using Coffee Cup Pix Converter. I set the converter at small (640 pixels) when I should have set it smaller (maybe 400.) I guess I will have to do something about it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Photos of the Gap

Here are two photos of my painting started in January 2011. The top picture is Day 2 and the bottom picture is Day 1. I hope the painting will be a lovely interpretation of the unnamed drying gap between Newcastle Island and Protection Island. Tomorrow I will add some more colour and probably get rid of most of the red - though I do want hints of red here and there to make the red buoy fit into the rest of the picture.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Newcastle Channel Painting

After I had finished my Arbutus Painting, I set to work on a painting of boats in Newcastle Channel (at Stone's Marina). I based this painting on a photos I had taken during the summer of the blue-roofed Market buildings.

I tried to show how bright and sunny it is in Newcastle Channel in the summer. Everything in the picture is very blue and white with contrasting touches of red. The buildings were pretty fun to do but the four main boats were a real challenge. I had painted lots of boats in the past and thought I knew enough about boats to be able to paint them realistically. However, boats are tricky. Just the slightest error makes them look ridiculous. I think I must have spent at least 7 hours on each boat and even more on the fishboat on the left. One breakthrough was showing the reflection of the water on the hulls with a bit of light turquoise.

Another challenge was trying to indicate that there were a lot of other boats in the marina. They also had to be in the sunshine but less distinct than the four boats in the foreground. I had printed out the photo in the hope that I would be able to see exactly what was there but it was too complex. Emily Carr says only include what is essential. I tried to do that and I think it worked. I was particularly happy with the sky and the water - which is shiny and folly of great reflections. they almost appeared by magic.

While I was in the middle of my Newcastle Channel painting, Mike put up new lights in the spare room that I call my studio. He also put up picture rails and shelves. The studio is now so bright a well-lit that I can paint there any time of the day or night! It is a great place to paint.

I converted my studio back into ta guest room over the Christmas holidays when the kids and grandkids came to visit. I only took an hour to set it up and take it back down.

After Christmas I finished my Newcastle Channel painting. I think it looks pretty good and Penny at Island Girl Studio was very complimentary. She said she thought I should try to get my pictures into a show at the Nanaimo Arts Council Gallery in Rutherford Mall or the Nanaimo Art Gallery downtown. This is very exciting and I plan to pursue it.

In the meantime, I have started on a new painting of the gap between Newcastle Island and Protection Island. The photo I am using has a bright red buoy in the middle of the gap and there are small boats and sailboats anchored by both islands. The mainland is dark and there are interesting clouds above and reflections below.

I started this painting with a red underpainting and today I put on the first layers of colour. I diluted my paints with a lot of turpentine and kept my palette to white, cerulean blue, french ultrmarine blue, payne's grey, some kind of red, and some kind of yellow. I used a pretty big brush. The painting looks good for the first day thought there is way too much red shining through and It sort of looks as if everything is on fire. I don't think using red for the underpainting was a very good idea. I should probably have used a brownish colour. but who knows - it may work. It should be dry enough tomorrow to put in some more details. I wonder if I will be more efficient than I was with my first two paintings. They had really tricky details like arbutus leaves or the shape of the boats in the foreground - so I may be quite fast.

My aim is to complete three paintings. Then I can say I am really back to doing art. If I can get a couple of paintings in an art show, that will really confirm it. I might even think of myself as an artist instead of a retired librarian. Of course, I also need to keep painting. But everywhere I look, I see something beautiful that I would like interpret - so that shouldn't be too hard. It's just a matter of taking the time and keeping focused.

I am also wondering whether I ought to "fix" some of my earlier paintings. For example, the tug picture should have a log boom behind the tug and one of the nudes hair is really awful. I have been looking at these paintings for thirty years. Should I try to fix them now? Also I have changed my signature to GRANT in large caps. If I were to put my earlier paintings in a show, I think the signature should be the same. That would mean changing the painting underneath the signature as well as the actual signature. Hmmm?

We are thinking of going south in February or there-abouts. That is a good incentive to keep painting before we go. However, yesterday I learned that my mom is not very well and maybe I shouldn't go away after all. It wouldn't be too disappointing to stay home - now that I have painting back in my life.

Arbutus Painting

To finish about my arbutus painting: I worked on the painting many, many hours. I made so many changes to the structure of the tree and the look of the leaves that the paint must be 15 layers thick.

I replaced the unidentifiable Gulf Islands in the background with a a fairly realistic view of the Gabriola Galleries and Dodd Narrow. The tree is now located on Newcastle Island.

I also put a lot of yellow in the sky and water to make it look as if the sun is rising in the east - above the Galleries. Although I did not put in realistic shadows, I think the sunrise effect works. I had a lot of fun with grasses growing at the base of the tree.

So my first painting in about 30 years is now complete. I learned a lot about how oil paints work, how to mix colours, how to emphasize negative space and how to eliminate unnecessary detail. I am pretty happy with how it worked out. I finished my painting at the beginning of December and set to work on a pointing of boats.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Starting Another Blog

Here I go starting another blog. This blog is about my attempts to paint some paintings and maybe even be able to think of myself as a real artist.

When I was a stay-at-home mom, one of things I loved doing was oil painting. I took some courses at VIU and painted away most mornings. I kept some of my paintings, gave a few away, and got rid of the rest.

When I retired, I thought I would start again and actually bought some prepared canvases and oil paints on sale - but nothing happened for three years. I did take a lot of photos that I thought would make good subjects - but there never seemed to be enough time to actually start painting.

Then, last fall I actually began to do some work. I started doing pencil drawings of my teapot. I vaguely remembered how to shade the teapot to make it look round and how to leave white spots to give it some highlights. I thought the drawings were dull but they looked like a teapot and I thought that was OK.

Then in October I brought out the big easel Mike had made for me, put up my canvas, laid out my oil paints and started trying to paint an arbutus tree - based on some of the photos I had taken. I thought I knew what an arbutus tree looked out and was quite optimistic I would be able to make a nice picture.

It was SOOO hard. I soon realized that my photos did not give me a very good idea of what an arbutus tree looks like. So I started going around looking at arbutus trees wherever I could find them and taking tons of photographs. I soon realized that Nanaimo is full of arbutuses. It is probably the arbutus capital of Canada. There are arbutus trees everywhere.

After several weeks of trying to get my picture right, I decided I needed help. A new art studio had opened up down the street so I screwed up my courage and sent an email asking if I could join in. Yes, I could join an open studio. I took my arbutus picture - and dreadful as it was - I got so much encouragement that I persevered.

My method was basically just trial and error. I'd mix up some paints, splash paint around and, when something looked pretty good - I'd leave that part alone and work on another bit. It was a lot like a monkey trying to write Shakespeare. If I just kept trying different things with my paints, I thought I would eventually get it right. I didn't have much skill but I did know what I wanted when I saw it.

Arbutus bark is quite a red colour and in the summer it peels off and bits drop to the ground. The leaves are bright shiny green and they also drop off during the summer - after turning a pale yellow. We have a great arbutus right by our carport and the driveway is always covered in yellow leathery leaves all summer long.

The leaves are the hardest part to paint. Although I had looked at hundreds and even thousands of arbutuses and swept up tons of leaves, I had never realized that the leaves are sort of like little hands and they turn upwards toward the sun. When an arbutus is young and healthy is it covered with leaves - a lot like a laurel bush. But when an arbutus has been around for awhile, part so it dies and turn grey while the rest carries on. The dead part can be very amazing with all sorts of contorted, twisted branches - often very lovely.

Well, I'm going to stop here since it is past bedtime and there is a lot more to tell. I'll write more about arbutuses and my arbutus picture the next time I blog.