Thursday, June 5, 2014

Judgmental Giraffe is judging you

Luncheon on the Grass
This is my friend the giraffe.  Doesn't he look super judge-y? Mr. Sands told me he looked like the lady in Edouard Manet's Luncheon on the Grass:
Yeah, she's totally naked.  But my blog is family friendly :))
"really? well fine then"
She is judging you so hard.  Like she has any right.
Anyways, that's why this piece is named "Luncheon on the Grass."
It's a pun too... lunchin' on the grass... get it? :))

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Mildly curious British bossy

I was flipping through a National Geographic, looking for pictures for a collage, when I happened across this photo.  I loved it so much, I just knew I had to paint it.
"With mild curiousity, three bossies look up from their grassy breakfast.  Their pasture lies behind a lush hedge bank in Cornwall bedecked with tiny red valerian, purplish ragged robin, and cream-colored sprays of wild chervil, locally known as cow parsley."
This photo was taken by Sam Abell as part of a story called "Britain's Hedgerows" in the September 1993 National Geographic.
I tore the picture out and promised myself I would paint it later.  I finally pulled it out again on one of those snow days.
I had a hard time copying the shape of the cow's head, so I projected my reference onto an 11x14" canvas I had painted red.  Somehow I'd forgotten that I'm afraid of the dark... I really don't love working with super dark values.  I was kind of in trouble.  Eventually, with the deadline looming, I sucked it up and painted myself a cow.
I knew I wasn't going to be able to copy the hedge in extreme detail, so I just kind of fudged it.  I tried to add some of the same textures and values without painstakingly copying every leaf, every blade of grass...  I think I have come a long way since I started painting ;)
Sorry for no in progress pictures...
Here she is... a mildly curious british bossy;)
The colors are a bit off, and you can't really see the values in the face, but you get the idea...

Artist behaviors:
1.  Artists Develop Art Making Skills - I probably wouldn't ever tell you that painting with really dark colors is one of my skills.  However, through this piece, I got a teeny bit better at that.  I kind of figured out how to paint using "pretty dark" and "really dark" instead of "light" and "medium" and "almost darkish."  I also got to work on using textures besides "fluffy" and "feathery," especially with the hedge.
2.  Artists Take Risks - I didn't quite realize it at the time, but it was a big risk for me to pick a little picture of a dark cow to make a big ole painting out of.  Once I realized how painful much work it would be, I decided not to give up because I really loved this cow.  I'm not comfortable working with black and almost black.  I still don't like using black paint to mix colors.  I got past that a little bit with this piece because I just dove into it without thinking about the "risks."
3.  Artists Solve Problems - I realized shortly after starting that I had a big problem... I tried and tried but I could not get the shape of the cow's head, especially her ears, onto the canvas.  I decided to project the image onto the wall, prop up my canvas and trace the cow onto it.  Then, I was having issues with the transparency of my paint.  I couldn't get the green of the hedge to look right where it overlapped the blue of the sky I had already painted or the black of the cow that had to be there for the shape of the grasses to look right.  With a whole lot of paint and a lot of random other colors mixed in, I finally got the green to cover what it needed to.

You can expect some more cows in the future :)

The floating city

For this project, we were supposed to make a piece inspired by the work of Friedensreich Hundertwasser, an Austrian artist who painted stuff like this:

And built stuff like this:
the Hundertwasserhaus
I decided I wanted to paint a man in a boat with some buildings behind him.  Then I figured, what better setting than Venice? So I found some reference pictures of Venice.
I especially liked the colors of the buildings and the water on the upper left and the composition on the lower left.
I did a super basic sketch to give me an idea of what I wanted to do.  I thought underplanning would be better than overplanning... I have a tendency to overplan but lately I have been overcompensating for that... it might have been a bad idea, in retrospect, to plan so little.
Oh well!
a sketch... with secret code! kidding.  just mixing oranges
So I started by painting the whole thing blue, then painting some big orange boxes for buildings and adding some colors to the sky and water.
say... is that cheese??
Hundertwasser considered straight lines to be of the devil, but I had a hard time controlling myself and it got all perspective-y on me.

It ended up not looking as much like a Hundertwasser as I intended because my try-to-make-it-look-ok instincts kicked in and I had a really hard time letting it be imperfect with crooked lines and everything.  I decided to line the buildings in black, which is something I would normally never do but I think overall it enhanced the piece.
You & Me in the Floating City
Ta da!
Hundertwassery or not, I am happy with this one.  I am glad I chose to paint something besides cute fluffy animals...  I've been feeling lately like that's all I'm really capable of.
you&me in the floating city
Artist behaviors:
1.  Artists Create Original Art - For this project I drew inspiration from Hundertwasser's pieces and the lovely city of Venice, Italy.  I combined the colors and images of Venice with Hundertwasser's style to create a unique composition.  Elements of my personal style show through, especially in the little people :)
2.  Artists Take Risks  - This whole piece kind of felt like a big risk to me.  I suppose I could've made it feel less risky with a little more planning... I made myself make some choices that I normally would never make because I was attempting to embrace Hundertwasser's style, like the black lines and dark, crooked windows on the buildings.  I'm typically a careful painter, so I was very nervous throwing dark paint on my fabulous orange blocks of cheese buildings but I somehow got over myself and went for it.  I'm glad I did.
3.  Artists Have a Global Awareness of Artmaking - The reason I made most of the choices I did with this piece is because I was trying to draw inspiration from Hundertwasser.  I'm not certain exactly how successful I was in emulating his style, but it definitely influenced my choices and pushed me to take some risks.  I think it was good for me to get out of my (fluffy animals) box -- as a wise friend once told me, there is no growth in a comfort zone, and there is no comfort in a growth zone.


I spotted this pretty lady
just outside my window on one of those snow days a couple weeks back.  Since I've been painting animals, I really felt like I had to paint this bird, so my mom helped me take a couple pictures.  I love the colors of the cardinal against the snow.  Cardinals are such funny fat little birds, especially in the winter.
First I painted a 10x10" square canvas orange.  Then I started layering the background colors on, but since gray is boring, I made it purple instead.  Brownish is also a boring color, so her chest became vermillion.

This project took me a long time because I was working on several other pieces at the same time.  I'm afraid I went a little dark with the purple on her belly, but overall I'm happy with the painting.

Artist behaviors:
1.  Artists Create Original Art - For this piece, I was inspired by the sight of a cardinal outside my window and took my own picture of the bird. I went beyond the photograph to create a unique piece that shows my style as a painter.
2.  Artists Take Risks - As I was painting, I decided that I didn't want to stick with traditional or realistic colors. Instead, I intensified the colors that I saw to make the piece more interesting (and less boring to paint :)). I was actually kind of nervous, as I was inventing colors that I wasn't sure would look good together or that I would be able to create shape and form with. I had to be careful not to let the colors mix and create a nasty brown color. I think my color-mixing risks paid off. I am happy with how this turned out.
3.  Artists Develop Art Making Skills - I used oils for this project, a medium that I am getting more and more comfortable with, but I think I still learned some things about manipulating oil paints. I got a little more comfortable with using darker colors, something I tend to have trouble with, and I had to figure some things out about composition and simplifying the picture so the focus would be on the cardinal.

ugly duckling

My ballet company is performing a ballet "The Ugly Duckling" this spring.  (I'm the ugly duckling:))  In honor of the ballet, I painted an ugly duckling (actually a cygnet) and a cute duckling.  These adorable 4x4" canvases were an impulse buy at AC Moore... hey, they were on sale.
First the sketches, done in prismacolors:

(You can see the finished duck here)
And the original swan...

It took me a bit to actually start painting the baby swan, because I couldn't decide what color to make the shadows. I didn't really want to use just plain gray, but I was also kind of nervous about picking a color. I didn't really mean to make its feathers as blue as they turned out. It just kind of happened.
ugly duckling lovely cygnet
The hardest part for me was the foot on the left. I couldn't figure out what colors I needed and where to put them to make it look like a foot and not just a blue-gray extension of the body.
Overall I am pretty happy with how this one turned out :)
Artist behaviors:
1.  Artists Communicate Through Their Work - since this piece was inspired by my role as the ugly duckling, I wanted to communicate the mood of the character and the themes of the ballet. In one scene in particular, the ugly duckling is left behind by her "sisters," the ducklings. They proudly dance away and the ugly duckling realizes that she has been excluded when she wanted so badly to be one is them. I thought this picture captured the quiet disappointment of being left out... something I am not unfamiliar with.
2.  Artists Develop Art Making Skills - I *think* I am getting better at mixing realistic colors.  Painting my animals in crazy colors is not just a stylistic thing... it is easier for me to pick out one color that I see and intensify it than to mix colors accurately.  On this one I got a little closer to the gray of the cygnet's feathers than I have previously.  I'm actually not sure if that is a good thing or not...
3.  Artists Solve Problems - I had a really hard time starting this piece.  For some reason, I could not get it to look right.  I took a break from it for about a week, took a huge step back, and tried to look at it with new eyes.  It turns out I had the shading all wrong - I had highlights in the wrong places and it made the whole thing look a really weird shape.  Even though the swan didn't end up the exact same shape as my reference, I like the way it turned out.

Friday, March 21, 2014

a duck for Laura

In January, my sister Laura was cast as the duck in the ballet "Peter and the Wolf," which my dance company is performing this May.  I told her I would paint a duck in her honor :)  There have been casting changes since then, but I still decided to paint a duck.  Well, a duckling, actually.
(Side note - we are also performing "The Ugly Duckling" so we get double ducks :))
look at those cuties
 I painted it on a cute little 4x4" canvas I found at AC Moore...

I'm pretty happy with this one.  It could use a bit more value in the feathers (plus this picture is kind of washed out... sorry) and I'm still working on the grassy parts...  Turns out most of my oils are transparent or semitransparent, so it's tricky trying to get good coverage.
Artist behaviors:
1.  Artists Develop Art Making Skills - For this project, I used oil paints, which I am becoming more and more familiar with.  I practiced manipulating the paints to get the textures I wanted, such as the down on the duckling's back.  I believe I built my skills with this medium through this project.
2.  Artists Solve Problems - As I mentioned before, many of my oil colors are transparent or semitransparent.  This was especially a problem with the background, because I was trying to use transparent green paint over and orange background.  To cover the area like I needed to, I used less medium so the paint was thicker and mixed the sap green with other colors that are more opaque.  I also intentionally left some of the orange showing through to give the color more depth in some areas.
3.  Artists Communicate Through Their Work - When I chose a picture to paint, I chose a duckling that seemed "dignified" rather than just cute or goofy-looking.  This was important to me because I was trying to portray not only the duck from "Peter and the Wolf" but also the ducklings from "The Ugly Duckling," which are very proud in their rejection of the ugly duckling.