more defraction

I couldn't resist attempting another drawing of the manikin with the spherical water bowl.  This time I tried a pose that was a little less cryptic.  For that I needed more of the manikin exposed - less of the manikin distorted by the water.  Below only the foot is visible through the water with its screw-eye taking center stage. 

If this were a painting, color may add even more to the interpretation.  You could more clearly see that the foot is being magnified by the water in the bowl.  You might not need to title it Big Foot.  It might be less cryptic in some ways and more in others.  It might be worth a shot.

Big Foot; graphite on paper; 11" x 8.5"


while at my (tidied) studio table

The water container I use - for painting in watercolor and casein - is a spherical one.  When full of clean water, it becomes a lens that flips the image behind it both vertically and horizontally.  I learned that this morning - both empirically and upon hearing it explained by my sweetie.

Before I left for a 4 day road trip (four days ago) I cleaned my water bowl.  I didn't clean or tidy anything else in my studio.  Leaving a pristine-spherical bowl of water in the middle of the table made everything else in the room seem sparkling.  It was enough.

This morning when looking for a drawing idea, the manikin called out to me - through the water - upside down - and backwards.  Everything else on the table - save manikin and bowl - needed to vacate.  What came about is the little drawing below - and a tidier table.

Manikin Refracted; graphite and conte on toned paper; 5.5" x 8.5"


from my swivel chair

Yesterday's drawing was of my work table lamp.  Today I swiveled 180 degrees from that angle to give you a glimpse of my studio wall.  On it I hope you'll recognize some recent paintings (from the left): Kleenex Ghost with Drops, Opening, Red in the Corner, Manikin Prone, Water in a Glass Pitcher in Blue and Blue Holes.

The Studio Wall; graphite and conte on toned paper; 5.5" x 8.5"


while at my studio table

Here's a little drawing today of what's hanging around my studio.  With toned gray sketch paper,  graphite and white conte, it draws out what I'd most like to emphasize while leaving everything else "in the gray zone."

I'm messy.  There are models taped up all over my studio and a maze of boxes and things all over the floor.  But it's cozy that way.  Eventually I need to tidy up - and I will.  But I really do prefer the "lived in" look - cozy and a little crazy.  What I need, I see - everything else is kind of grayed over - until I start tripping.

Lamp-Egg-Scissors; graphite and conte on paper; 8.5" x 5.5"


getting the lead out

Today I made the switch from lead white oil paint to a non-lead white. Environmental and health concerns were the main reasons for doing this.  I wasn't thinking about cost but it turns out non-lead white is less expensive too - a nice surprise.  Today I used Winsor & Newton Underpainting White (Fast Drying)  - a good alternative, I've been reading, to lead white.

I'll have to paint quite a few pictures with this new white before it feels right to me.  But even at this awkward stage I'm happy with the first painting I made with it - and very pleased with how much healthier the studio feels.

a little study of the St. Croix River; oil on linen; 6" x 10"
I painted this little study next to my computer monitor.  The photo is one I took yesterday while sitting in a canoe on the St. Croix River near Osceola, Wisconsin USA.  Below is an in-progress shot to show how this all works.  I've only used this method a few times because I much rather enjoy painting outside.  But I knew I couldn't paint this scene while floating down-river in a canoe.  And I also thought this would be a nice way to break in the Underpainting White.  (The pencil sketch taped to the monitor is meant to be me (with my big straw hat) in a canoe seen paddling from behind.  I thought I'd add it as a couple of paint daubs but decided against it as the painting neared completion.)


zooming in

Without my hard contact lenses, I can only see a few inches in front of me.  In that state, my vision is also able to act as a super magnifier - zooming in to see detail that would normally require mechanical assistance.

Last night, as I was getting ready for bed, I took out my lenses, went through my usual routine and then remembered the cocktail umbrella I'd been meaning to paint the next day.  When I found it (in the kitchen cupboard) and stretched it open I was truly amazed.  I'd never looked at one of these treasures so closely before.  Clearly assembled by hand, I could see the traces of care and precision that went into making this little gem.  I imagined the factory where it was put together - of the countless people involved in getting it from its raw materials to my hands.  I fell asleep with gratitude and awe.

On the Dotted Line; watercolor on paper; 10" x 13"


inspiration in unexpected places

store front with suspended cocktail umbrellas
I've been tweeting a lot lately.  As a result, I've been taking my camera (an older elph SD1000) with me when I go out.  Today it came along on a trip to IKEA to buy bedside lamps and then to the MOA (Mall of America) to beat the heat and check out our usual circuit (bookstore, food court (I pack my own lunch,) electronics store and people watching as we walk about.)   That's when I saw this storefront, had a bit of an "Aha" moment and took the photo above.

 I've painted cocktail umbrellas before but only conventionally - in still lifes with surfaces and shadows.  They're lovely when painted that way - with their shadows taking on the colors of their shades.

In case you're curious, here's the nutritarian lunch I packed:

lunch on the go: purple cabbage, red pepper, yellow onion, tomato paste, chick peas, raw sunflower seeds, steamed mushrooms, pear vinegar and broccoli

I saw a call for art today that addresses food politics.  After following a nutritarian lifestyle now for over a year, the issues of bringing food to our global table are starting to take root in my mind as possible paintings.  I'm happy to see there's interest in the art world for these concerns.
inspiration all around us - food for thought


ghostly shadows

The two shadows were a result of two light sources; my work lamp and the window.   The artificial light created the leftmost shadow and the sun made the one appearing below the ghost in the painting.  It's lovely where they meet - like a Venn diagram.  It was very interesting to see the colors in the shadows and how they intermingled.  Some of my teachers instructed us not to look for the colors in shadows but instead to leave them flat - "flat as a hat - flatter than that" was the mantra.  I can understand why.  Most of the time you want to draw attention to what's lit and subordinate what isn't.

Two Shadows; watercolor on paper; 16" x 20"

detail of Two Shadows

watching paint dry

watercolor in progress

detail of a watercolor in progress

morning light coming through the trees and onto my egg painting
The first two images are of a new watercolor in progress.  The last image is of the morning sun dancing on my painting of an egg that I had leaning up against a door in my studio.
Last night I was in love with how the light hit the round table where the ghost lay.  It created a lovely glare which peeked out in a diamond shape under the ghost's neck.  I sketched the scene in lightly and went to bed waiting for the morning light to create the sensation again.  I wasn't disappointed - the morning light was even more delightful.  In fact, I started to see it all around my studio then and got a chance to get a photo of it dancing through the trees outside and onto my egg painting.  I'm inspired now to work these morning-moving-leaf shadows into a future work.  But for now I'll see the ghost painting through.  The wash on the ghost needs to dry before I add more details.  Watercolor teaches one to paint and wait - patience, patience.



Blue Holes; watercolor on paper; 20" x 16"

The thread above is a fine line of alizarin crimson - below it's the cotton Arches paper carefully exposed with an exacto knife after the ultramarine blue and burnt sienna dried.

The blue in the finger holes are a stage.

There are 5 drops of alizarin crimson within the wavy line.  You can't see them in this photograph.  You can only see them in real life if the light rakes the painting just so.

You can also see part of the head and back of the wooden manikin found in previous paintings - reflected in the right blade.


second egg in watercolor

Egg #2; watercolor on paper; 20" x 16"

My first watercolor egg is here

This second time I wanted more contrast in the background but with the same intensely backlit blown egg.  It really is quite beautiful how the egg shell transmits the light.  Finding all of the colors in that interaction is truly amazing.  It seems at times that there's no end to them.


with a single thread dangling

Manikin Prone; casein on board; 10" x 6"

Here's my second attempt at painting with casein - this time on shellac-ed board.  The table-top that you see the manikin on is the unpainted-bare support.

I far prefer the heavy watercolor paper that I did my first casein painting on.  This one felt a bit like painting with pudding on glass.  The issue with watercolor paper, I've read, is that over time casein paint becomes very rigid and brittle.  If it's on a flexible support it can crack if not reinforced or protected under a mat and frame.  I did like the warm effect of the shellac coming through the paint, though.  Something I may be able to simulate once I start in with some colors.


another ghost in a bubble

Red in the Corner; watercolor on paper; 20" x 16"

My accidental bubble drawing was the inspiration for this painting.  

Everything was painted yesterday except for the ghost.  That came about this morning - fast and furious.  I love going to sleep knowing exactly what I'll paint the next morning when my feet hit the ground.  Last night I drifted off to visions of ghosts floating in bubbles.

It takes me about a half an hour to get from bed to easel in the morning.  I've got a finely honed routine that's as comforting to me as Linus' blanket.  It ends with a freshly ground and brewed double Americano.  When that's in my hand my mind knows it's time to paint.  There's no decision making involved - I'm on autopilot at that point.

The red dot in the corner is just that.  Not a lot of thought went into it. I'm really glad it's there, though.  I think it makes possible a nice little title for this piece.


casein virgin

Ghost #1; casein on paper; 15" x 11"

This is my first attempt at using casein paints - hence the "virgin" designation in this post's title.

Inspired by a post by James Gurney in his blog Gurney Journey, I chose a subject I love and am familiar with.  I bought the supplies James suggested in his post: ivory black and titanium white Richeson Casein from The Shiva Series and a 1/4 inch synthetic watercolor flat brush.  The 300lb watercolor paper was a scrap I had been using for testing color ( the back of this piece is a bit of a sampler.)  At first, it seemed like the white was unnecessary.  But at the end, it was really nice to come into the folds and add bits of backlighting here and there.  It was also fun to use the white to sign my name. 

Now that I've been introduced, I'm curious about colors and different supports (materials to paint upon.)   Before I buy any more paint, though, I'm going to learn all I can from the gray scale aspect.  One thing I felt I was missing in the painting above was a much larger brush to handle the background.


watercolor egg

Egg #1; watercolor on paper; 20" x 16"

This is my first egg in watercolor.  I've done many in oil and a few drawings.  You can see the oil paintings of eggs by searching with the index in the right lower sidebar.

The model for this painting was a blown egg suspended by my work lamp such that the light was striking it from behind. 

I named this Egg #1 because I think I'd like to do more watercolor eggs.  This one is just the beginning.


scissors painting finished

Opening; watercolor on paper; 12.5" x 10"

For some reason I timed myself when I painted the scissors.  It took me just over an hour. 

The background, however, took so much longer.  If you look back at the previous posts here, here, here and here - you'll see some of the layers that went into creating a sense of woven yarns. 


ghost in a bubble

Kleenex Ghost in a Bubble; graphite on paper; 8.5" x 5"

The circle was made by outlining a roll of masking tape I had handy.  I wanted this ghost to be roughly the same size as the ghost in the previous post.  The tape roll circumscribed the first ghost perfectly so I lightly drew around the tape roll on some drawing paper to size this one.  Instead of erasing the circle I started to fill it in - and left a reflection spot - to indicate a bubble.

a bigger ghost in watercolor

Kleenex Ghost with Drops; watercolor on paper; 20" x 16"

While waiting for the layers to dry on the scissors piece in the previous post, I painted another Kleenex ghost.  

The drops are new for me.  I actually practiced quite a bit with them.  In the end though, you need to trust fate and let them fall and do what they will.


another veil added

in progress

I added another "veil" to the dark hole that surrounds the scissors.  After that dried, I wetted the area outside the hole and lifted paint here and there.

I bought another watercolor block because there's a lot of down time with this painting waiting for layers to dry.  The new block is 24" x 18" and I've already started a new Kleenex ghost painting on it.  For now I'll work back and forth between these two blocks to keep things moving along.


washing over things

making progress

I've added the wash now to tie things together and mute the background in preparation for painting the scissors.  The paper got quite wet with this step and needs to dry out now and tighten up before I proceed.

By design, the next scissors paintings will go much faster.  I'm thinking about splats and swooshes - backgrounds to indicate quick reponses and risk taking.  This one is planned and plodding - again, by design.