I struggled with this one for a number of reasons... First, I did not narrow in on the drawing right off the bat. My idea was to paint just the middle section, but ended up painting it too small and had to include the rest of the surrounding rocks. Then there was a perspective issue. This came from not having a clear idea in my head of what I wanted the picture to look like from the beginning.
It sure isn't easy sharing my failures with the world. Usually these little workhorses (and there have been hundreds!) will be tucked away in my studio far from sight. Whether or not the work was successful, depends on your perspective. There are experiences I had and lessons learned with this painting that I can take with me on my next piece. Being outside and staring at the golden rocks under the water and trying to translate that beauty through paint was a fun challenge. I enjoyed doing it. There is no doubt that this will not be the only attempt at painting this creek in my exciting new back yard!
This blue bottle called my name at Michaels one day... as pretty objects often do. "Paint me! paint me!" it shouted. But alas, it didn't get it's debut until over a year later. That is another reason why painting these little studies every day is a good thing. More objects and curiosities that I've picked up to inspire me over the years will stop collecting dust on my shelves, and will finally get to be painted.
One of my favorite color names is "Ultramarine blue". It is a rich, sumptuous warm blue made from a semi-precious stone, Lapis Lazuli. This expensive stone can be found in a few small mines in desolate places around the world but most commonly, at least in the Italian Renaissance, it came from Afghanistan. For the medieval Italians, who used the pigment in the robes of the virgin Mary, Afghanistan was far beyond the sea. They referred to many imported items as "from beyond the sea" in those days but for this expensive and symbolic pigment, the name stuck until this day. Now most commonly used, is a synthetic version which is far less expensive. In 1824 during the industrial revolution, there was a prize offered to any chemist to produce and publish an artificial production of Ultramarine blue, since there was a formulation of a blue compound almost identical to the color, found in the lime kilns of St. Gobain France.
I proudly wear a little nib of Lapis Lazuli around my neck, a gift from my partner in crime and fellow painter, Ulan more. ( WWW.Ulan.us )
There is your History lesson for the day,
Until next time...
xo - H.
Thank you for taking the time to explore here. I will try my best to make it worth-while.
When I was in my second year of the Atelier, one of our assignments was to paint small master copy value studies in black and white called "poster studies". I made a goal at the start of the year to produce at least one every day. I was enthusiastic about it for weeks and when the little wall of my studio cubicle filled up, I began to see how my progression had come along in a very short period of time. I learned about the importance of hard and soft edges, drawing with the paint brush and designing a picture with value shapes.
I was studying at the Florence Academy of art in Italy this summer for the month of July painting landscapes with principal instructor Tanvi Pathare. Her workshop was excellent. There were so many things learned and also a lot of useful reminders. She brought me back to the simple and all important element of Values. Get the value right and focus on the color later. Notice how the landscape makes you feel and paint with that intention while also striving for honesty and accuracy. We painted in a new location around Florence every two days. At the end of the workshop I ended up with a good handful of paintings and a ton of inspiration.
One hot Saturday afternoon in Florence, I decided it was best to beat the heat and stay indoors. One of my roommates had brought home a small bunch of sunflowers from the market a few days prior and set them on the weathered kitchen table in a little white pitcher. Every time I stepped through the threshold of that kitchen, I was drawn to those flowers. Yes, flowers are pretty. Most people can appreciate flowers. But the light is what attracted me most. The light from the open window on those sunflowers was so soft and elegant. I could see it as a painting in my mind as if it were already painted.
So on that hot afternoon, I put some ice cubes in my water glass, collected my blanket of hair into a bun and set up to paint that light on those flowers. I did so in about two hours until two roommates arrived and began using the kitchen. I painted up until they set the table. That's what is beautiful about alla prima painting... It's that life happens! Things change and objects move. Alla prima, plein air, premier coup, are all terms to describe direct painting in which each stroke of paint is applied and not painted over. It is to capture the life and energy of a moment in time through painting. It is not so much of an importance to "copy" nature, but to suggest the feeling of it.
Alla prima painting is one of the biggest challenges of an artist, yet to the uneducated eye can just appear be an unfinished painting. why do I want to commit to these daily studies? because I love to paint. But also right now I am the queen bee of fiddling around in one are of a painting until it is so over worked it can hardly breathe. The truth is I have only just begun. I am as much a student now, as I was in the Atelier days. I am growing and evolving but always learning. committing to finishing a small painting a day helps overcome obstacles that I may put aside while working on more finished pieces.
Ultimately though, we all battle with resistance from time to time (or every day) to do what we love to do. For a lot of artists, we can get stuck in a mental rut of believing everything we create needs to be great. It is one of the most heart breaking experiences to work for countless hours and have no tangible result. One of the most important things I have learned in the past 5 years, is that where the beauty lies is in the act of doing the work. It doesn't matter if most paintings turn out poorly. they are supposed to!! how are we ever going to get any better if we are only thinking about getting better? I believe there are deeper elements to the soul and to the universe that can only be tapped into when we let go of fear and self doubt and choose to work on ourselves and try to learn everything there is to learn.
In one of the many fantastic art history lectures I had at FAA this summer with Joan Reifsnyder, she explained the origin of the word "Museum". It is the sacred place of the Muses, the Nine daughters of Zeus who are the protectors of the arts. Thus, a Museum is a protector of the arts. This is probably common knowledge, but since that day I have thought about the word Muse. To muse is to meditate or contemplate on something and that is what I do with any object I paint. It is astounding that once one learns how to see, you may never tire of staring at a single object for days. To me, the Muses are very real. They whisper in our ears daily and if we choose to listen, it opens up another portal.. one of timeless beauty. That, for the artist inside of us, is the ultimate goal.
"Make this tale live for us in all its many bearings, O Muse."
- Homer, Odyssey