Bailey, 11″ x 14″, Pastel
I’ve been painting with acrylics for years doing mostly landscapes, plein air when possible. But I have many other art materials, in addition to acrylic paint, that I have accumulated and tried through the years. Among them are several boxes of pastels. One box dates from college. Others are from a portrait class with live human models that I was enrolled in many years ago. I think some others were given to me by artist who had no longer wanted them.
Some years ago my daughter wanted me to do a painting of her two dogs, since the older one might not live much longer. I hadn’t used pastels in years but it seemed like the right media for these portraits. Then two years ago another daughter’s coworker was looking for someone to do a portrait of her husband’s favorite dog as a gift to him. Although I almost never have animals in my paintings and don’t own any, she suggested me. Again, I used pastels, which I think are a great way to portray fur.
Recently, another coworker who had seen the dog portrait wanted me to do a portrait of her dog. She gave me a photo of a beautiful animal with long, golden fur. That’s Bailey, shown above. I guess the idea here is not to be afraid to try something you don’t usually do. It could point you in a whole new direction.
I don’t know who she is but I know she is a teenager who shares my love of art. At Christmastime a church group I belong to gets the name of a family who needs gifts at Christmas. Then each member of our group takes one of the names and buys something from their wish list. We’ve done this for a number of years. Sometimes the requests have been for sizes of clothing I can’t easily find or a child will ask for some toy I’ve never heard of and don’t know where to buy it. But this year was different.
A teenaged girl asked for art supplies and canvases and I knew right away that was the person I wanted to shop for. For a low income person wanting to paint, the expense can be daunting. The two high schools in our town have very good art programs so I assumed the girl I was buying for had already been introduced to some basic concepts and wanted to do more. (If she is already enrolled in art classes she was ahead of where I was at that age. My high school offered no art at all.)
I never go shopping on Black Friday but this year I made an exception. Both Hobby Lobby and Michaels had bargains too good to pass up. When my package is delivered she will have a nice surprise. I wish I could know what she will do with it. I discovered art in college and although it has not been a way to earn a living it has enhanced my life considerably over many years. I hope it will do the same for her.
While many people retire at around age 65 and completely stop doing what they’ve spent much of their time doing for years, this does not seem to be true of artists. Instead, some may find that when they stop earning a living, they have more time for art. And even those who have been creating art for years may not be willing to give it up just because they are aging.
But we artists have to be realistic. As an aging painter I know that there are physical aspects of what I do that become more difficult with the passing years. If I want to keep on painting, and I do, I will have to adapt. And as it happens, I’ve found several ways to do that. The first, which I did several years ago, was to buy a new French easel that had wheels and a long handle like my suitcase. I ordered it from Blick, but their current catalog doesn’t have one. I’m often a plein air painter and carrying a heavy easel and other gear was getting harder. Then there are the acrylic paints that I use. Those small metal lids seem to easily have paint stick in them and are hard to open. If I’m painting inside, I run hot water over them and that helps, but I can’t do that if I’m painting outside. So now I use only Liquitex paints with their big plastic lids that will open no matter where I am.
I find that a camera is a vital tool. I photograph the scene I’m painting in plein air in case I need to finish the painting at home. And I always photograph every finished painting and put the photos on my computer in case I need them to enter art shows. The problem was that my hands are not as steady as they used to be. At home I use a tripod but when I’m outside and want to photograph something I might want to paint some day, I don’t want a blurred picture. When my current camera stopped working and I had to buy a new one, I chose a small Sony that was advertised as taking very sharp pictures. And it does. Husband says it is because of the higher number of pixels.
My latest gadget, which I used for the first time on our recent tour of gardens in England, is shown above, a cane with a fold up seat. I took it because I knew I couldn’t do a lot of walking without having to sit down and rest occasionally. But I discovered it was very useful for sketching, since it provided me a place to sit in the exact location I wanted. I had ordered it on the internet a few years ago for a previous trip and didn’t use it then. So with a little help from these aids, I plan to continue painting.
Dec. 31, 2015
While I’ve been too busy to paint during the holidays, art continues to be a part of my life. And I’ve been learning about a new form that may or may not be something I would consider art. We had a big gathering of relatives here to celebrate Christmas with lots of presents under the tree. Among those were crayons, magic markers and paper for a three year old and a big set of art supplies and sketchbooks for an 11 year old. Both these gifts were requested by their moms and I think it’s great when parents want to encourage creativity in their children.
But then I listened to what several adult women had to say about a new activity for adults, adult coloring books. One had received a book as a gift and had tried it and enjoyed it. Another, who has done some creative art, is buying the books for herself as a form of relaxation after a day on the job. A young woman who works at a senior care facility said a woman of very advanced age who lived in the facility spent many happy hours with such books.
I don’t know what to make of this. It is true that these books are nothing like the coloring books children used to use. The adult version features intricate abstract designs that are filled in with colored pencils. Is this a creative activity? I suppose some would say so. I’m not against people following patterns. Women who sew, quilt, knit or crochet have been doing that for many years and create attractive, creative and useful items. But what does one do with a completed page in a coloring book? Another thought. While both men and women pursue various forms of the arts, I can’t imagine a man using an adult coloring book. But I’ll try to keep an open mind even though I won’t be buying one for myself.
June 21, 2015
Husband and I recently returned from a trip to New Zealand of a little more than three weeks. It was an amazing experience. New Zealand is a beautiful country but I wish we could have gone in what is summer for them. Because we were there in parts of May and June it was winter. The reason for the timing of our trip was because husband, who is a university professor, was the director of a two week study abroad experience for four chemical engineering students. So we left on our trip as soon as the academic year ended.
For my birthday in April a grandson had given me a child’s set of art supplies. I had not done much sketching since I took a required photography course as a journalism student many years ago. But I remembered a long trip to Europe when I was 25. We were traveling light with backpacks and I had taken sketchbooks and pencils and decided to try to do a sketch every day. I had really enjoyed doing that and still have those sketchbooks. Why not do something like that again, I thought? I would buy a sketchbook (pages 5″ x 7″) and use the crayons, magic markers, colored pencils and watercolors grandson had given me and try to average a sketch a day.
This proved to be quite a challenge for several reasons. Much of the time I was in a group with a specific agenda so there was no time to stop and sketch. Second, it was winter and I hate cold weather. Third, I was using materials I was not used to using. But somehow I did it. I came up with the same number of sketches as days we were gone. One thing this project taught me was to be observant. When we moved to a different hotel, motel or youth hostel (they are not just for youth any more) I was always eager to look at the view out the window, which is where I did quite a few of my sketches. I also sketched from the window of a visitors’ center while waiting for the weather to change. Of course this kind of sketching is essentially plein air art so things can change quickly. I was looking down from a hotel window at two men playing tennis on a rooftop court. I went to gather my art supplies and when I came back they were gone. I was sketching a young man slouched in an airport chair asleep. Before I could finish, he woke up and walked away.
The two examples above are from my sketch book. One is of three New Zealand fruits, quince (the yellow one), fuejau (the green ones) and a mandarin orange, which I sketched in our motel room. The other is a view from the window of the Youth Hostel in Wellington. If sketching interests you and you live in the Lawrence area, be sure to see the current exhibit at the Lawrence Public Library. The sketches on exhibit are those done by a University of Kansas college student during a study abroad semester in Europe. They inspire me to buy another sketchbook and keep trying.
April 12, 2015
Our family celebrated my birthday this past week and are looking forward to celebrating the college graduation of a granddaughter next month. Both of these celebrations can be occasions for gift giving.
One of the ways I make space for new paintings on the walls of my basement gallery is to give paintings to my numerous grandchildren to celebrate academic milestones, such as high school and college graduations. Since my granddaughter, who would soon graduate from college, was scheduled to appear at my birthday dinner I decided to use the occasion to let her pick out a painting as a graduation gift. When I do this I am always surprised at the choice that is made. It is never what I would have expected.
This young woman from Kansas, who had picked out a small painting of a field of sunflowers when she graduated from high school, now chose a 24″ x 30″ rather lurid depiction of sunset over the mountains near Santa Fe. I have good memories of an evening at the outdoor Santa Fe Opera when I took the photo that inspired the painting. However the painting itself is not one of my favorites. I’m glad it has found a good home.
The same evening an 11-year-old grandson brought a gift to me to celebrate my birthday. It was all his own idea. His mom didn’t even know he had brought it. It was, as pictured above, a set of art supplies, crayons, colored pencils, magic markers and watercolors. He later explained that it was his, a gift I suppose, that he had hardly used. He thought I might like it.
As I looked at it later, ideas began to form. I haven’t done much sketching since I began to take photographs years ago. I think part of the reason is that I so love color. The sunset painting is an example of that. But what if I sketched with colored pencils or even crayons or markers? What if I took this box with me the next time I traveled? I can’t walk for as long as I used to. It would be a good excuse to sit down and rest. Grandson, you may have started me in a new artistic direction.
April 6, 2014
If you are reading this, you have noticed the new look the first page of my blog has now. I’ve wanted to change the rather blah first page for some time but didn’t know how to do it. Now my “On the Road” painting is featured at the top along with the titles of the various pages where you can view my paintings, find out where I’m showing and learn a little bit about me. All this happened because I am about to have a birthday.
When husband asked what I wanted for my birthday, I knew I didn’t need more stuff. What I needed was help with technology I don’t seem able to cope with. Fortunately, since he doesn’t like shopping and understands more about computers than I do, he was willing to give revising the first page of my blog a try. And it didn’t take him long to be successful.
If there is an artist among the loved ones in your life, here are some ideas for gifts to celebrate their special occasions. Producing art is expensive, so the most obvious gift is a gift certificate to their favorite art supply store. If your artist is not already subscribing to an art magazine there are a number to choose from. I subscribe to “The Artist,” a general how to magazine for painters. “American Artist also falls into this category. There are also specialized publications, such as “Watercolor Artist” or “Plein Air Magazine.” For just looking at the representational art being done by really good artists, “Southwest Art” is great. And this is a gift that can be shared by passing on copies to others with similar interests. If you look in the back of the how to magazines, you’ll find ads for DVDs demonstrating the techniques of professional artists in a variety of fields. These could also be gift possibilities.
If your artist is technology challenged like me, help him or her set up a web site or blog. This is a gift that can be used indefinitely. Another way to be helpful to a plein air artist is to share your land or flower garden as a painting site. If you liked the result and bought it, that could benefit both of you. So happy gift giving and receiving.