gaining perspective

Present Moment; casein tempera on board; 10" x 8"
It helps to step back from a situation to gain perspective.  Sometimes we're too emotionally involved or invested to make the best decisions.  Removing ourselves for even a short time can do wonders for our ability to problem solve. 

When I painted the box with a bow on top I was almost nose-to-nose with the model.  I was also sitting which is not the best way to paint.  It's optimal to stand so you can step back now and then and keep moving.  And as far as being too emotionally involved - that would be my love affair with the bow.  Being so caught up in its beauty, I fear I neglected to give the proper attention to the box.

So I stepped back - asked for advice - and played with scissors.  String, pins, tape, a pencil, ruler and cardboard came in to play too.  With a print out of my painting, I was able to establish vanishing points that helped the box feel more at home.

photo of perspective play
It turns out playing with perspective can be as fascinating as painting the infinite color spectrum of a white bow sitting on a red box.  A present moment sustained.


seeing through

The Sun and the Moon; casein tempera on board; 8" x 10"
We've been building a sauna here - for almost 2 years.  The electrician came today for the last time.  He hooked up the heater, said goodbye and left us to wrap up the final details.  It's going to be beautiful - when it's finished.  If we put in an hour or two a day we'll have it done by the holidays - barring any major issues.  At this point, it's just a matter of seeing it through - one step at a time.


100-painting reboot

Since July 2017, I've set out to make 100 casein paintings.  Last night, I painted the 84th one.

At the start, there was never a clearly stated objective.  And the "rules" for the project have only gradually crystalized over these past few months.  Here's what they look like at this writing:
  • the paintings must be 
    • made with only casein paint
    • my best efforts
  • studio hours are
    • 6 hours a day
    • 6 days a week
  • the paintings may be
    • of anything
    • of any size
  • the goals of the project are
    • to gain facility with casein
    • to grow as a painter
    • to learn about, and be able to articulate, my artistic vision
  • work towards sharing these pieces
    • on social media
    • by frequent blogging
    • by searching out exhibition opportunities
    • with collectors
Morning's Light; casein tempera on board; 3" x 4.75"

Social media has been an amazing way to gauge the popularity of some of these pieces.  And I'm very grateful for each and every comment and "like" they've received.  My own personal favorite, however, is the little piece above - painted first thing in the morning after sleeping in a tent the night before on a hilltop in Wisconsin.

There are still 16 more paintings to be made.  It's too soon to expect the answers I'm looking for.  But it's not too soon to be getting excited about the new avenues and directions these 100 paintings will take me.  I'll keep listening to them and will keep you all posted on what they eventually have to say.


present moment

Present Moment; casein tempera on board; 10" x 8"
"Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one's attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, which can be developed through the practice of meditation and other training." - from Wikipedia's entry on mindfulness.

I propose that the "other training" can take many forms.  Gardening immediately comes to mind.  Bicycling, soaking in a warm bath and swinging on the oak tree bench are a few others.  I'm sure it's different for everyone - but there's surely a means that we all find that removes us from our time constraints and delivers us to a heightened sense of simply being there.  It's a matter of survival - to let our minds rest in a sort of suspended limbo.  Just as sleep is essential to our well-being, so is being mindful.  Such a gift.


loving vincent

Sunflower Study; casein tempera on board; 6" x 7.5"

There's a new movie out that is like no other.  It's made up of painted images - 64,500 of them - that tell the story of Vincent van Gogh's amazing life and tragic death.  An intense endeavor to be sure - to create a moving picture of a man who made some of the most moving pictures of all time. It's called Loving Vincent has been out since September 22nd.  In Minneapolis it's showing at the Landmark Theater.  Hopefully, there's theater near you that's showing it too.

hard floor

Sunflower Study in Progress; casein tempera on board; 6" x 7.5"

My studio is my house is my outdoor surroundings - there are no boundaries.  To facilitate this, there are several set-ups that come into play.  What you see above is my table-top-easel which consists of a thin piece of birch-plywood weighted down with an old brick that I dug up when putting in the vegetable garden.  You can't see the brick (it's in back of the painting board) but you can see the little strip of wood that I glued on the plywood.  That came from an old cedar garden stake.  Other set-ups are my heavy field easel (what I tend to use most) and my pochade box (good for bicycling in to a site.)

When you paint whenever and wherever, it helps to know what you need and to keep your supplies to the bare minimum.  It also helps to take up all of your carpet and paint the subfloor.  (Scraps of carpet are great for suppressing weeds in the garden - they make great paths too.)  And to protect your bare subfloor, go ahead and paint it with left-over wall paint.  You can even paint a map of your neighborhood on it for fun - and for little matchbox cars to traverse should the occasion arise.


for words

Sunflowers on a Round Black Mat; casein tempera on board; 10" x 8"

Usually, when posting here, I like to talk not so much about the painting being posted - but of something else entirely and then tie the artwork back in somehow.

Sometimes, however, I'm at a loss for words.

I hope you like the painting anyway.

Number 82 of my 100-Painting Reboot


a one

Study of a Shipping Box; casein on board; 6" x 7.5"

What's that red worm in the lower right?  Why are there bits of red and medium blue standing out?  Why is the inside of the box so hazy?

Are you curious as to why these seemingly incongruous happenings are preserved in paint? 

Even if you're not, I'm in the mood to address them.  So - spoiler alert - read no further if you prefer to create your own interpretations.

The "worm" is an early sketch mark - it's where I thought the bottom of the plastic packing would go.  Later on in the painting process, the packing moved up - but I left the worm there - I kind of liked it.  The bits of red are also uncovered early marks.  The entire table top was generally expressed in red before adding the various surface values  (i.e. the medium blue patch) and reflections.  The red bits poking through were never covered up because I felt they added to the story - to the mystery of the empty (or not) opened box.  Finally, the haziness inside the box is very intentional - it's layer upon layer of paint until I felt I'd got it just right.  Again, the haziness adds to the mystery of what was - or is - inside the box. 

As for the contents of the box . . . I mustn't tell . . . just yet.


upcoming exhibition

Today, notice was sent that two of my casein paintings from 2013 have been selected for an exhibition at the Mayo Clinic.  This will be a private showing for doctors attending a conference there.  I'm extremely pleased and honored to be included!  You can see the two pieces HERE and HERE.


caught up

The Marsh Pool; casein on board; 10" x 8"
Are you caught up?  Do you think it's possible to be so?
When I think of those questions, two meanings of 'caught up' come to mind.  Am I up-to-date on the tasks I need to accomplish - or - am I involved in doing something I'm passionate about.  As for the latter - I definitely get caught up in scenes like the one above.  The brighter-than-bright-distant-illuminated patch of marsh along with the complex-tangle-of-branches-and reflections create an amazing dynamic when paired with the dusky-dark-wind-blown leaves, grasses and distant trees.
As far as being at a sense of completion with my task list - I doubt that will ever happen.  But as long as I get in episodes of being caught up in nature, I can handle that.


turning corners

Potted Cactus in the Corner; casein on board; 10" x 8"

'Feeling Cornered' was my first instinct when titling this post.  I tried to write a bit about it - did some searches - even found out that quite a few horror films are titled the same.  But I just wasn't feeling it - or haven't felt cornered as such.

So we're turning a corner here instead.  Not sure exactly how - not sure it matters.  But just the idea of turning a corner appeals to me.  Have you found that if you focus on an idea it will materialize for you?  Well, that's what we're going to do - we're all going to turn the corner and see what wonderful things happen.


self portrait

Self Portrait 10/13/2017; casein on board; 10" x 8"
The coffee cup doesn't usually sit on my palette.  But the painting above is a depiction early on in my process - when I use yellow ochre to sketch out the scene  That stage gives me plenty of room on the palette for a drink.  When the other colors came into play, the coffee cup moves to the ground. 
It's getting more and more important to bring something hot to drink when painting outside lately.  The good news is the mosquitoes aren't the problem they once were.  But the chill will only get worse now.  Casein is a water based paint so I definitely need to move inside to the studio when it gets below freezing.  Until then, I'll keep drinking my coffee - and start making plans for some winter still lifes. 


lone lake

High Water; casein on board; 10" x 8"

There is an incredible amount of activity and life at the edge of a body of water.  Bugs, birds and unknown splashing things were my companions today - as well as walkers, both 2 and 4-legged, on the path nearby.  With a scene like this - where there are seemingly infinite amounts of twigs, branches and stalks - you really have to edit things down to what you most need in order to tell your story.  It also helps to keep your feet out of the muck.

Today's painting is number 76 of the 100-painting Reboot - 24 more to go.


minnehaha creek

Clouds over the Creek; casein on board; 8" x 10"
Longfellow wrote of Minnehaha - the lover of Hiawatha - in his epic poem: The Song of Hiawatha.  It's a tale that tells of the tragic love between an Ojibwe warrior and a Dakota maiden.  Early on, the poem sets the stage and relates how Hiawatha came to be born (his mother was seduced by the West Wind.)  Later, there are adventures to be had by the young warrior until finally he meets and falls in love with Minnehaha.  But there's still time later in the poem for him to kill the evil magician, Pearl-Feather, invent written language, discover corn, and accomplish many other feats.  Minnehaha's tragic death during a severe winter fits well with the setting - the South shore of Lake Superior.
The creek above is Minnehaha Creek in Minnetonka where I live.  It's 22 miles long and flows east from Lake Minnetonka to the Mississippi River in Minneapolis.  There's a beautiful waterfall near its mouth - an amazing sight when frozen in the winter.


no fish

Yellow Leaves in Silhouette; casein on board; 10" x 8"

The day was one of those magnificent crisp October days when the last of the leaves are putting on their final display. 

There were a lot of passersby at the easel - taking peeks - and offering kind comments.  One little boy in particular stands out.  He was sweetly impressed with my progress and told me so.  I thanked him and remarked at what a gorgeous day we had and how lucky we were.  He looked at me and said, "But there were no fish today."  I felt for him - he seemed truly disappointed.  Not really knowing what to say I told him that it was too bad there were no fish.  He shrugged - and left - taking it all in stride.


fetching dogs

Fetching Dogs; casein on board; 8" x 10"
Every month there are challenges on WetCanvas - a worldwide forum where all artists are welcome.  For the monthly challenges, artists are invited to choose from a group of photos and then submit a painting that they made from their choice.  It's a wonderful opportunity to see how other artists interpret the same photo - and to explore techniques and mediums.
The painting above is my entry in the October Watermedia Challenge.  There are no prizes and everyone wins by participating.  Like the dogs in the painting - it's all in the pursuit.


everything but

Dawn; casein on board; 10" x 8"

The kitchen sink makes for an exciting subject.  So much of our lives revolve around it.  We cook near it, satisfy our thirst by it and wash our fruits and vegetables in it.  And when the children are young, we indulge them with 'water play' in it.

I'm lucky now to have a window above this kitchen sink.  When we lived in an apartment in Hinsdale, Illinois, we weren't so fortunate.  The kitchen there was a narrow-window-less-u-shaped affair with the sink at the furthest-darkest end. 

We lived in that 750 square foot apartment for 3 years with our 3 little boys.  Our next move was to Decatur, Illinois and into our first house - we lived there for 2 years.  Lansdale, Pennsylvania was the next stop - staying there for 1 year.  After that we were able to stay in Libertyville, Illinois long enough for the boys to feel at home.  Buying 3 houses in 3 years with 3 little kids seems crazy looking back on it now.  Packing up each time with all we had - everything but the kitchen sink.


decision tree

October's Way; casein on board; 10" x 8"
Have you ever been caught in a decision loop?  Where you keep circling around with seemingly no way out?  That was my day yesterday.  The painting above, that I made today, is my attempt to move beyond the loop and make a decision.  It may not be the final one - but at least I'm moving forward again and feeling a lot less dizzy.
There are all sorts of exotic tools out there to help you make your decision tree.  And depending on your problem's complexity, you may want to access some of them.  But yesterday, all it took was a large piece of drawing paper and my trusty fountain pen.  If you want help getting started, here are the basics at WikiHow.


seeing things

Dream I; casein on board; 20" x 20"

How would you paint a dream?  Fluffy clouds or specific scenes?  Maybe you'd just paint an image of someone sleeping - or a cat curled up in a corner purring.

There's been a doodle of a morning glory flower - face forward - on my studio wall for some time.  I did it in colored pencil in a sort-of-fractal way.  It somehow gave rise to the painting above - my largest casein in quite some time.  It was a good break from my usual realistic fare and gave me a chance to play with the paint a bit more freely.  I love painting the orbs in casein - a medium that really lends itself well to those bubble-y-spherical-floating shapes.  It was fun to get carried away.


seeing purple

in process photo of The Straw

There's a reason why bits of surprising color shows through in my paintings.  When I'm first searching for the forms and the relationships between them, I use color - and not necessarily the color that I see in real life.  The first colors I chose either represent my interest in that part of the painting or are helping me to organize the painting spatially.  Certain colors suggest distance while others seem to jump forward.  Reds are apt to attract a lot of attention while subdued grays provide a resting place for the eyes. 

The Straw was a challenge because the subject of the painting, the straw, needed to appear in front of the Post-it Note.  To calm the yellow, I added a fair amount of white and also used a less-saturated yellow ochre.  There are other ways of pushing the note back - and if you look, I think you can see those too.

sweet water

The Straw; casein on board; 9.75" x 6"

When you're using your tap water today - and drinking your filtered water - please remember the people of Puerto Rico.

The First Lady of Puerto Rico, Beatriz Rosselló, has set up a website for donations that will go 100% to helping the victims of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.  Please click HERE to learn more.