Thursday, September 3, 2020

Finishing Touches on Plein Air Colored Pencil Pieces - "Old And New River Birch-Shirley Plantation Winery"

Trying to get your creative groove back during a pandemic involves a lot of experimentation.  What inspires and what needs to be completed fight the usual battle when you are your own boss.  I won't necessarily say it's a fair fight cause after all we are creatives right!  Often what inspires often wins the war.  However this time the "what needs to be completed" won out!  Today I'm sharing a trick I use to make it a more fair fight.  

Old And New River Birch - Shirley Plantation 8 X10 Colored Pencil on Ampersand Pastelboard
(A Plein Air start and studio finish.)

The recently finished painting above began life on a Plein Air painting excursion (pre-pandemic) two years ago with the gallery I show at and it's other painters.  Off to the James River plantation area in VA.  We set up at the Upper Shirley Plantation Vineyard for a paint out and subsequent exhibit to benefit the Rice Rivers Center of VCU.  The Virginia Commonwealth University Rice Rivers Center is a leading authority on river research focused on expanding environmental knowledge and preserving the health of our natural resources.Located on 494 acres along the historic James River, midway between Richmond and Williamsburg, Virginia,     

If your new here or to colored pencil work in general, it is a slow media and not one many use for plein air painting!  While I have finished several Plein Air pieces on site, I may need two days on location to finish or need just a little work at home after a long day on site.  This day was early Spring and cold winds off the James were brisk that morning!  There were many onlookers enjoying the day as it warmed up, with wine in hand.  And I always enjoy talking with folks.  Although it does slow my process even more.  

This location was just out back of the winery and restaurant along the banks above the river edge.  What drew me to the spot was the early morning light hitting the bark on these two River birch. One strong and youthfully sprouting tiny new leaves and the other much older and slow to leaf out!  The younger tree was in the brighter light of a springtime sun.  The older shadowed by a much taller tree out of view and competing with other plants and greenery for its place.  

If you know me, you know I love trees, and have been accumulating a series of tree paintings, sketches and so many reference photos..............If I'm out and looking for something to sketch I usually find it in a tree.  Plein Air pieces are like the sketches in my journals, they write the story of what inspires me to create a painting.  I absorb the temperature, observe the atmosphere, and just plain get lost in their branches. It's one of the best ways to really get to know a place or a tree for that matter!

OK now for the trick I mentioned above for getting paintings completed when they have lost their sparkle or inspirational vibe.  But first a little history: 

As we grow up and develop our own way of fitting into the world and becoming a productive adult - we learn or develop coping mechanisms for getting things done when we loose the "fun" bit pushing us thru to completion.  Cleaning your room or eating your vegetables before dessert come to mind.  

It could be having grown up the people pleaser I inherently became (no judgement here please).  Or possibly it's the "I'll show you" attitude I have when told I can't do something.  I prefer the later.  What resulted from an older sibling telling me as a 10 year old "You never finish anything you start".  I now have a monkey on my shoulder when I don't complete a task.  

Unfinished paintings that I either loose interest in (which is rare) or Plein Air work when time runs out and weather conditions change, sometimes make their way to a short pile in my studio.  As a compulsive list maker,  I add a new line to my Excel spreadsheet for my Art Inventory List when I start a new piece.  I number all my works at that point and dedicate a line to it's place in production/completion.  Sometimes it has no title but I know the size, substrate and genre it is.   Just like any good list maker, the check off is the reward - and for my inventory sheet it's the "Completed Date" column I use as my check off reward!  

As a result either "the pile" or every time I look at my Inventory spreadsheet I'm reminded of what's not yet completed.  Simple tasks like switching out my work in a gallery or show exhibit requires my making changes to the "Current Location" column, I'm reminded.  I guess I'll have to do a separate post on my spreadsheet if folks are interested so please comment below if you would like to see it or know more.  

None the less an artist needs to have an inventory list for their work.  You will forget titles, sizes, prices, how it's framed and of course the ever important "where it is" or "what show has it been entered in?" If your just starting out create one - if not on your computer grab a notebook and write it down!  You will forget trust me it's just like the mystery Tupperware container/science project in your frig.  You'll forget. 

Ok off my soapbox!  

Back to the trick I use to get to finishing a piece:  

When I'm stymied and I feel a need to complete a piece, I go back through my photos taken while on site.  If it's a plein air painting waiting to be finished, resetting the stage in my mind helps. Sometimes when flipping through my sketchbook or travel journal I stubble upon the page where I noted the day, lighting conditions and location.  Since I've spoken about journaling and it's importance in my life on posts before I won't go into it now. But if you're new to the blog you can find a few here and here

Any sketch I do, helps write it's story into my memory so much more than a simple photo shot could.  And all I need sometimes is a reminder to pull it back from the abyss of incompletion.  The really seeing a place or object in that place comes from having drawn it. 

"I have learned that what I have not drawn, I have never really seen"

Frederick Franck (1909 - 2006) Dutch American sculptor

Enjoy completion, it checks off an item on your list, it rewards your total paintings finished goal as well as you get to revisit a moment that was special in your life of days. 

Gloria Callahan

Friday, June 19, 2020

A Note To Myself - "The Space In Between" - Artist Life

Slocan Lake View
Colored Pencil on Ampersand Pastelboard
6 X 12"

Note to my Readers: This post was written prior to my last finished colored pencil piece "Welcome Wellies" you can see it here.  At the time I thought it might never get finished. I wasn't quite sure I would share this on my blog as it's personal to my journey as an artist and adult but here goes....... 

The Space in Between, the skills in between the mastery or the sales.  The paintings in between or not yet finished, or maybe never finished.  Much like the Seasons in-between of nature, all have their place. The droning on of Winter’s chill and the awakening of Spring's warm temperatures.  My painting above gives me the feeling of the space in between.  If you'd like to see the post of this painting's story you can find it here.

We all need a period of rest, all plants and animals do too! However they never seem to need reminding.  A refilling of the well, rejuvenation of spirit, or re-found motivation, of new directions or purpose.  It all plays a part in the process.  The process of becoming and of creating.  I’m a stubborn sort, impatience I’ve written about before.  I’m also a perfectionist in many aspects of art, life and self.  However much I would like to release the perfection seeking, it’s part of me.  The “imperfection" of all this seeking is not lost on me.

Acceptance of “me” the real me and not the one I’ve read I should be.  It’s an elusive and lofty goal.  So right now I’m just working on the space between this goal and where I’ve been.  The right now moment where I sit, this current season of my life, the imperfect aging body I have - This space in between the artist I’ve been and who I want to be.  Acceptance of how far I’ve come.  Sitting in this space in between I can’t help to see possibilities of a future.  

So today I choose to accept the Space in Between.  Much like those first waking moments in the morning, between being awake or re-closing your eyes in denial of it.  It’s not easy some days.  The pull of staying warm in what we know like those soft blankets in our bed.  And opening our eyes to the bright morning light and risking the cool air to start our day.  

The vulnerability in those moments in between choosing can consume us and keep us from trying.  Although they can be exciting and full of energy if we let them.  Like the child on Christmas morning ready for the adventure of what may come.  

Sometimes we get caught up in the what’s next!  Rushing thru the check list, done, done, check mark!  We forget it’s the "In Between" days or stages of a project where we find the Joy of doing.  True it can be less exciting than the actual checking off.  But from what I know of artists’ block getting back into the process of doing (the In Between of completion), can be the hardest part.  Learning to enjoy this stage or find joy there is key for the long haul.  

So I sit in this silence of the In Between, I sit with where I am. Just like one can choose to go out on a mid Winter’s day to sit in the Season.  Drink it in, rest assured you are in the now. Enjoy the small promises of the sun peaking thru with the crispness of breeze in the air.  Learn to love the in between for there you will find the best of days in this space between.  

What is your Season In Between?  Where do you find the joy while waiting?  

I promise I'll get back to creating soon, but thought I'd add this new section to the blog for those who additionally need inspiring thoughts. If you'd like to see more of these make a comment and I'll try to oblige. 


Sunday, May 31, 2020

"WELCOME WELLIES" - My Salute to a much loved family home and downsizing.

"WELCOME WELLIES",  20 X 16, Colored Pencil on Ampersand Pastelboard
Setting up what was to be the last Still Life at our big family home, was more than just your typical set up. It was to be a fond farewell to the home where we enjoyed raising our boys and welcomed grandchildren. This painting was one I thought about composing for a very long time. Putting together a garden vignette scene which would tell a personal story, of joy in past days, family and a bright future.  

It showcases many generations welcomed in our home; my mother's circa 1940's red umbrella, my Welly boots, and my grandchildren's alligator Welly boots (all 3 of them wore these fun little boots), with our colonial welcome yard ornament at our Provencal blue door. The pair of blue garden gloves was added to soften the boot edge and to bring a repeat of blue to the composition. The bouquet of flowers I placed in a vase and into the tall back boot were to enhance our two story entry for the Open House we had when selling this home.  The flowers are a symbol of how the gardens there were such a part of our lives. 

When completing this painting I wanted to preserve the glow of sunlight through part of the red umbrella and where the light steamed under it. Textures of the aggregate and brick porch floor wasn't fun but not hard to create but time-consuming. Although the reflections on the shiny stripped boots were fun and are always the best part to accomplish. Love doing reflections!

Just looking at this painting makes me remember all the wonderful times we had at this home. From Spring Easter Egg hunts to splashing in mud puddles! ;)) So much fun, graduation to prom photos, garden swings, badminton games, and paddle pools. Downsizing from such a home toward a smaller one where life can be easier, simpler and which allows for more art, family and good times is our future.

Transferred Line drawing

Watercolor CP under painting stage. 
While the above photos just show the beginnings of the painting, line drawing transfer then watercolor pencil underpainting of the door, umbrella and background tones. Much planning was done before the line drawing like the many set up versions to the many many photos. moving the ornament from right side to left for composition reasons after the photos were taken. However I neglected in my moving brain fog to photograph all the dry color pencil application stages.

The painting from set up to competition took 11 months, not because it was so large or difficult but because life got in the way. The process of downsizing isn't for the faint of heart and certainly not for sissies. Going from a home we as a family of 5 grew into and down to a home for two empty nesters took perseverance and cut throat eliminating. donating and giving.  

Always hoping for more time to paint, healthy partners, and not having to move twice from home to apartment/storage while building to finally moving again into our new open plan one story home. I love this new home and it was so "just in time" before my dear hubby's total knee replacement.

More on the new place yet to come, and a studio tour is a possibility so stay tuned. Sorry to have been gone so long from my blog and you readers. So comment if you can: Have you downsized recently? Has life gotten in your way of creating? How did you get back on track?

Back in the studio and out sketch journaling, at a safe social distance of course ;))
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