Sunday, February 11, 2018

Orderly Disorder

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Tomorrow I am heading south for some photo reference gathering. I need new material, and I need some of that famous California sunshine! : ) Unfortunately this means I won't be able to ship paintings until I get home Feb 18th. But my stepdaughter will still ship any book orders for me.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Discussing Fruit

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This is a slice of French light, on French produce, complete with French gals, having a discussion in French. If only we had some French bread. Or would that just be too much?

Friday, February 09, 2018

Salt the Asparagus

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I painted this today. All day. It's six by six inches, and it took all day. Amazing, right? So, getting things to look good with a palette knife isn't easy. Apparently I got lucky with the first one!! Or maybe I just have to be more selective about my subjects. And guess what, it wasn't the asparagus that was difficult! It was the bowls. I struggled and struggled with them, and then finally used my palette knife to scrape it all off, and started over. I think in the end the bowls were all brush. But I'm finally happy with it.

I've done oodles and oodles of abstract collage lately, and I think I'm finally ready to offer them up for sale. I experimented today with getting good images of a couple. I found that scanning was best, although no matter what I tried I couldn't get the oranges to come out right. In the image to the left, the middle piece is a brighter, more saturated orange. And in the right one, the three red pieces are actually orange. Is it my scanner? Is there a better way to do this? Does anyone have any experience photographing collage? I would really appreciate any suggestions. Thank you!

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Red Hot

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I've been wanting to really play around with the palette knife, so I gave myself this whole week to do nothing but experiment. I spent the first day simply playing with texture. Then I tried a few things that didn't work out, but that I learned from. This was the first one that started going in a direction I like. I started out with my brush and whenever I felt like it might work, I laid in some paint with the palette knife. About halfway through it was looking too tight, so I took another tool that's like a rubber spatula, and I made a sort of contained mess with the paint. Then I worked on it some more. And this is the result. I might have danced around a bit in my studio.

Unfortunately the paint is quite a bit thicker than usual, so this will take longer to dry and then varnish. I'm not sure how long, since I haven't really done this before. The buyer will have to bear with me.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Brighten Up My Day

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Every time I paint this little yellow/orange bowl, it makes everything more cheerful. It's like the bowl is the sun and it brightens everything up!

Friday, February 02, 2018

Squeezing Through

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Unfortunately this painting has nothing to do with what I have to say next. This painting is a tight scene from France, whereas what I have to say is about Carmel, California. I will be teaching a plein air workshop there, at the end of May. It's not something I plan to do regularly, but I'm going to try it, with a relatively small group. Ideally all the participants will have taken a workshop from me before, so I don't have to repeat a bunch of stuff. I will be opening it up for registration in one week, Saturday Feb. 10th at 10AM on the WEST coast ... of the US. : ) Click the link for deets...

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Cracked Egg

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I am happy to announce, finally, that I have a new ARTBYTE available!! For those of you who don't know, that's an online tutorial. This one is $10, and includes a video of the above scene being painted. I've edited out all the boring bits where nothing is happening on-screen, which cuts it down to about 30 minutes, and added a voice-over explaining things about my process. Happy watching!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Classic Who-dun-it

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Once you've drawn your cup(s), I have a few suggestions for checking to make sure it's all working. The first and simplest is to step back as far as you can. I recommend doing this often, actually, which is why I strongly suggest (unless you have health problems that prevent this) that you stand to paint (and draw). I use an anti-fatigue mat to stand on, and it is very long, so I can walk to the end of my studio and not have my feet pay for it later. When you step back you can see the big picture. For example, apparently I did not check this painting enough, because now I see that the front blue cup is leaning a little in the wrong direction. Damn. So, what the heck - I don't want to re-do it now so I'm going to start the auction at $10.

Another way to check your drawing is to look at it backwards, with a mirror. OR, take a picture of it with your cell phone, and flip it horizontally.

One other recommendation that was sent to me a while back, is to trace a cup onto a piece of plexiglass with a dry-erase marker and hold it in front of each ellipse to check its shape. To be honest, I find this a little awkward, and very hard to hold still, but it may work well for you.

I hope you've enjoyed these cup lessons. It is my way of saying THANKS to all of you who have supported me over the years, either buying my paintings, lessons, workshops, books, or just sending me a nice comment now and then. Thank you so much!

Monday, January 29, 2018

Joined at the Hip

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I should have mentioned earlier that I use a viewfinder when I'm drawing out my composition (from life). I mark the edges of my viewfinder and panel as shown to the left. This is a kind of simple "grid" that helps me figure out where things in my scene live.

I paint a lot of cups in stacks, and I often get questions about how to draw this. Mostly I just say, "It's hard." But here's an approach that I think will help. The first thing to do is (and this is going to sound familiar) find the boundaries (top, bottom, left, right) of the whole stack, not considering the handles yet.

You can draw the entire rectangle, or just little dashes where the stack touches it, but think of the lines extended so you can compare them to other things in your setup (if there is anything).

Next you'll want to establish the tops of the cups, the ellipses, at the correct angles. If you were to imagine a line straight up and down through the center of each cup, these lines I've drawn would be exactly perpendicular to each of those lines.

Specifically you will want to pay attention to how you are slicing up the stack. In my example, cup B is my smallest slice. Next is A, then C, then D. Measure to make sure your guesses are correct. This is a little tough because depending on where you measure each cup it will be different. So pick and spot and remember it.

Next find the angles for the sides of the cups. Note specifically how they differ from each other. For example, notice how the left side of cup A is just a slightly different angle than the left side of cup B. And how the left side of cup C is parallel to the right side of cup D.

At this point you have the general placement of your stack. Now you just have to figure out the curves, and add the handles. The top curve of the top cup is always the trickiest for me, and for that I have no easy solution, sorry. This is where you just need to make a guess, step back and see if it looks right, then try again.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

It's a Tomato Thing

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Now we tackle handles! NOTE: I don't start trying to figure out where the handle is until I've completely established/drawn the rest of the cup (from the first few lessons). I've taken some pictures here of several different cups, at different angles. Then I've drawn lines to indicate the boundaries of each handle shape (top, bottom, left and right-most part of each).

In order to figure out where each boundary is, I elongate the lines in my head (I can also use the edges of my viewfinder for this) and compare it to other major cup landmarks. For example, in the top-left cup, the top of the handle starts just a little below the top of the cup, but the bottom of the handle starts about halfway between that line and the bottom of the cup. In the bottom-left cup, on the other hand, while the top of the handle also starts just below the top of the cup, the bottom starts well above half the height of the whole cup, and even above the bottom of the ellipse. The right-most side of that same handle (bottom-left cup), is only a little ways to the right of the cup (compared to the width of the entire cup). But look at the bottom-right cup - see how the right side of the handle just about lines up with the right side of the cup? If you ever need to measure to find out just how wide/tall something is compared to something else (a ratio), you can use the measuring technique I explained in lesson two.

Once I have established the boundaries of the handle in my drawing, I can find angles (this is especially important for more complex views, like this one to the right). First I find the angle of the top of the handle A, and how it attaches to the cup (this is usually parallel to how the bottom of the handle attaches). Then I find B, the angle that connects the top and bottom of the handle, on whatever side I can see. Then I find the angles that indicate how the top and bottom of the handle are extending from the cup, C's. Then, in the middle of all this, if I can see one, I find the negative space, D.

After that it's just a matter of connecting the "dots" and curving some sides. It looks A LOT more complicated than it really is. And by the way, this is how I draw everything, not just cups. Once you get better at it, you don't have to draw quite so many lines - you do it mostly in your head. The more you practice the easier it gets, so don't beat yourself up if your first ones are terrible (mine were!).

Saturday, January 27, 2018

It's Not About the Nectarine

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If you are looking down at a scene with cups (or other vertical things) in it, you will notice that the cups not in the middle will appear as if they are leaning. This is again because of perspective. If you imagine a line going straight up and down through each object, you can imagine them converging somewhere far below. This is their "vanishing point."

I have illustrated this with a couple of examples of old paintings. You will notice that the lines go just about straight up and down when the object is in the middle of the scene.

Again, this happens only when you are looking down on a scene. How much each object leans will depend on the angle you are looking from. I recommend using your viewfinder to compose your scenes - it is then easy to see the angle of the lean by comparing it to the vertical lines of the left and right sides of the viewfinder.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Reflected Reflections

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Here I've drawn four versions of the same cup. This cup has completely straight sides when viewed at eye level, as you can see in the left-most drawing. The second version was drawn at about a 20 degree angle (I don't do math, so please forgive me if this number isn't quite correct). You can see that the sides are angled a little bit in this view, in other words, they aren't quite parallel. This is because of perspective - these two lines would eventually converge somewhere far below us. When we tilt the cup again, this time at about 45 degrees, the lines angle more, and more so still in the 60 degree version, on the right.

I'm pointing this out because our brain knows the sides are "actually" parallel, so it is going to have a hard time allowing us to draw them at these crazy angles. Even when I was drawing these a few minutes ago, (from a real cup) I had a hard time really seeing it. But it looks right, right? I sometimes feel like I'm even exaggerating it a little bit, but it never looks that way when I stand back and re-assess the drawing. Of course not all cups have straight sides to begin with, but they still need to be angled more as the perspective changes.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Peaceful Oasis

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If you had a stack of cylinders, it would look something like that in figure a. (yes, my examples are sloppy, but you get the idea) If you start from an ellipse in my drawing that is below eye level and go down, the next ellipse is more rounded than the first, correct? And so it makes sense that when you are drawing a cup, the bottom ellipse will be more rounded than the top one, as in figure b. But most of my students, even when they are looking at a cup from above, draw the cup with a flat bottom, as in figure c. Why? Because their brain and what it knows is over-riding what they are seeing. They know the cup is (technically) flat on the bottom but forget it won't look that way when viewed from above. So I tell them, curve the bottom, and they draw figure d. But now the curve is similar to the curve in the top ellipse, right? And it should be a little bit more rounded. This is a subtle thing, but important I think in making your cups believable.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Ignore the Pear

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When I draw/paint cups, I am always shooting for pretty accurate proportions, so that the cup makes sense in the scene. If it's a little fatter or taller than in real life, that's ok, no one will complain, but if the proportions of the ellipse don't jive with the height of the cup, it will look "weird," and that will make viewers uncomfortable.

So, I measure, and here's how. I hold my paintbrush straight out from my body, with  my elbow locked, brush parallel with my face, and my thumb near the end. First I measure the height of the ellipse, as shown in the picture, with the tip of the brush at the top, and my thumbnail at the ellipse bottom.

Next I measure the front (side) of the cup, with my thumb in the same place. I'm basically trying to find out how many of that first measurement (we'll call that 1) will go into the side. You will see from the pictures that the ratio of ellipse to side is 1 to almost 4. What I normally do is place my boundary marks first (from yesterday's lesson), measure the cup, then measure my drawing to see if my guess was correct. The more cups I draw, the less often I need to re-establish my boundary marks.

You can use this tool to measure other parts of the cup too, like over-all width to over-all height or ellipse width to ellipse height. You can also use it to measure, well, just about anything that you're drawing/painting. It can be especially helpful when you've got objects receding in space. You know they should get smaller as they recede, but your brain is going to try and keep you from drawing it that way. Believe me. So measure and prove it to your brain.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

A Serene Team

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MINI LESSON - CUPS (1 of 8):

I've talked about this before, but I thought I'd cover it again since it's probably the first thing I think about with cups. So, I've set up a cup(s) and am going to draw it. First I find its boundaries: top, bottom, left, right, & ellipse bottom. I've drawn dashes to indicate these 5 boundaries in the picture to the right. I draw these same dashes on my surface (canvas, panel, etc.), with paint, trying to get them in the right places. If I have other objects in my setup, I place their boundaries as well (top, bottom, left, right), before going further.

Next I draw one vertical and one horizontal line (as shown) through the cup. Now I just need to draw the ellipse so that each of the four quadrants are equal pieces (no, you sticklers, they are not exactly equal, but I personally am not shooting for exact in my paintings - perfect is the enemy of good enough). Then I draw the two quadrants of the front (side) of the cup, making those two mirror images of each other.

If you are instead looking more down at your cup (this also works for bowls & plates), the proportions will be different, and so your boundaries and cross will look different. Here is an example that I have drawn and then roughed in the outside of.

The idea of drawing the dashes first and only completing the cup once you are sure these are correctly placed is to save you the effort and heartache of painstakingly perfecting your cup only to realize it needs to be moved over 1/4". Been there, done that? The "cross" helps to ensure that your proportions are correct. Handles come next.

If you have questions, please ask them in the comments so everyone can benefit from the answers. I will get to them as quickly as I am able. Thanks!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Take Your Medicine

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I've gotten kind of obsessed with these cups and this vantage point. And this drawing and painting of cups makes me think about everything I've learned from observing them for so long. Which inspires me to put out some little, mini lessons, which I will do, starting tomorrow. About cups. Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Color Hogs

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I have several lightbulbs that I use to light my still life setups, and recently my daylight florescent up and died. I went to the store to get a new one, where my husband suggested I try a daylight LED bulb instead. I got a 60 watt one, which is brighter than my florescent was, and I love it! I've used it for the last few paintings.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Colorful Espresso

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Usually my compositions are more complicated, but for this one I waned to focus in on the simple reflections in the cup and saucer.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

A New Perspective

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I painted this twice because I got interrupted in the middle of the first one. Does this happen to you? You are in the zone, painting away, when you get a phone call or some other interruption, and by the time you get back to the easel, you have just simply lost your momentum?! You can't remember what the next move was or where you were going with it? Maybe I'm just a delicate flower, but I have a tough time with it. This time though I really liked the composition, so I decided to start over from the beginning. Fortunately I think the second try was even better.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Grapes on Blue

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It occurred to me today that painting is like putting together a puzzle, except you have to create each and every piece. It's tough and SUCH a challenge, but so satisfying when it turns out well - when you step back and realize, yes, all those pieces fit together to look like grapes!