Large or Small


Peppers, Acrylic, 6″ x 6″

As the holiday season approaches, small seems to be in when it comes to paintings.  There’s a very practical reason for this, of course.  They cost less and when it comes to holiday art shows they are competing in price with items like scarves, earrings and other jewelry.  I am in three holiday art shows this year.  The Southwind Gallery Miniature show in Topeka asked artists to paint six inch by six inch paintings which the gallery then framed all in the same way.  That show just opened and will run during November and December.  The Topeka Art Guild Gallery asked artists in their December-January show to contribute art selling for $100 or less, which means that the art will be of small size.  The Holiday Art Fair at the Lawrence Art Center in Lawrence on Saturday November 19 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. did not specify size but when competing with jewelry and other small items I plan on bringing smaller, lower priced paintings.

What can an artist do in a small space?  The painting above will be in the Southwind Gallery Miniature show.  When I am faced with a small canvas I tend to focus on small items.  My other painting in that show is of one water lily.  Not as impressive as a whole pond of them but I think there is something to be gained by limiting one’s focus to just one or a few simple objects.  I loved all the different colors in that one pepper.  Also, if the painting doesn’t work, not so much time and effort have been wasted.

I remember some years ago when I had some paintings in a local gallery, the gallery owner urged me to paint very large paintings.  I think they were in style at the time.  I was told that art majors at our local university were also encouraged to use large canvases.  Well, I tried one that was, I think 48″ x 30.”  It took a long time to paint and then the gallery owner didn’t like it.  I never tried another one that large.  I think smaller paintings have come back and that suits me just fine.


Ready, Set, Go

Tis the season when multiple art shows will be popping up all over the place.  As you look at the work of the artists, you may picture a painter at an easel, brush or palette knife in hand, and think, “Oh that looks like such fun.  I wish I could do that.”  I’ve heard similar comments.  What they don’t realize is that there is a lot more involved in being part of an art show than painting a group of canvases.  They have to be framed, of course, and a record of them kept that shows when they were painted and where they have been exhibited, so as not to keep showing the same paintings in the same annual shows.

My painting are in five shows this month.  Two shows are in Lawrence.  Delivering two paintings to the Phoenix Underground, the lower floor of the Phoenix Gallery downtown, was no problem.  The next local show will be Lawrence Art Walk, Saturday Oct. 22 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday Oct. 23 from noon to 6 p.m.  There will be a map showing where the various participants are located.  (Check for details online.)  My paintings are already hung on the walls of my basement family room but I will still have to make sure each painting has a card listing its title, media, and price, which means printing cards for the newer paintings and placing cards with each painting.

I made a special trip to Topeka to turn in three paintings to Warehouse 414.  That business is having a show honoring the Topeka Art Guild, of which I am a member, on their 100th anniversary.  Two of my paintings will be in the Kansas Artists show at the Topeka Art Guild Gallery  and two or three from the last show there will go on to the nearby Eagle Car Wash.

After preparing for all those shows I wasn’t sure I wanted to enter another.  But an email message said more artists were needed for the Lawrence Art Guild Holiday Art Fair at Lawrence Art Center November 19 and that that day was the last day for entries.  Oh well, why not?  I printed a copy of the online entry form and could see that this was going to be more work than I expected.  Not only were three photos of my work required but also a photo of my proposed exhibit.  That meant getting my screens out of the garage, setting them up, going to the basement and bringing up enough small paintings to fill them, finding the hooks and hanging them on the screens so I could photograph them and then putting everything away.

Next I had to transfer the photo of my exhibit to my computer and print it on my color printer, plus finding photos of three of the paintings on the computer and printing them.  Then I discovered that I didn’t have a padded envelope to put all this in for mailing so I had to go out and buy one.  Next I addressed  the envelope and added the photos, entry form and a check.  Artists not only have to pay to enter shows.  If they sell anything, they have to pay a percentage of that as well, which is why art sold at shows and galleries my seem high priced.  So finally, I have entered and am glad for this season at least, to have places where others can see what I’ve been doing.









Painting Demonstration


Handcrafted, Acrylic, 12″ x 12″

I sometimes like to watch those artists on the public television station demonstrate how they paint.  They seem so sure of themselves, as if they know from the beginning that this will be a really good painting.  Some encourage their viewers to paint along with them, but they paint so fast that this doesn’t seem practical.  How do they do it?  I recently had reason to ask myself that question.

I am a member of the Topeka Art Guild and there is a back room at their gallery where art classes are sometimes held.  The teacher of a weekly afternoon class of primarily senior citizens asked me to demonstrate plein air painting to her class.  Since this was in February, going outside was not an option.  But she wanted her students, who usually painted from photographs, to learn more about the art of painting what is in front of you.  I said I would do it and then had to figure out how to go about it.

When I paint outdoors in a public space, such as a park, people sometimes look over my shoulder briefly to see what I am doing and maybe make comments.  But they come and go quickly and I don’t really talk much to them.  I just keep painting.  This would be different.  I needed to figure out how those artists on TV did it.  I decided on a simple still life that I would paint on a small canvas.  I chose three objects that I had in my house.  They represented simple shapes, a sphere, a cone, and a cylinder, that students in art classes learn to shade.

First I practiced painting the still life at home.  Some of the drawing did not look quite right.  So then I practiced just drawing the still life several times with charcoal.  Finally it occurred to me that it would be a good idea to draw the still life ahead of time on the canvas to be sure to get it right.  Finally the big day arrived and I set up my easel and the still life in the room before the class arrived.  I talked a little bit about plein air painting to the class and about the objects I had chosen to paint.

It turned out to be easier than I had imagined.  Mostly the class members concentrated on their own work, occasionally walking up to where I was painting to see what I was doing and ask questions.  I didn’t quite finish the painting during class time, but I got enough done that they could see how it would look.  I finished it at home.  I plan to enter it in the next Topeka Art Guild show, so they will be able to see the completed painting.

The Furred, The Finned, The Feathered

April 20, 2014

The Furred, The Finned, The Feathered is the theme of the Topeka Art Guild’s June-July show.  I’ve been giving that some thought since I don’t often paint animals or birds and I don’t think I have ever painted fishes.  On a trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma, last week I visited the Gilcrease Museum, which is famous for its wonderful collection of art from the American West including Native American art. You can see the work of Albert Bierstadt, Remington, Thomas Moran, John James Audubon and many more.  If you do visit the Gilcrease, save time to do some walking on the grounds.  There are 23 acres of themed gardens, which are especially beautiful in spring.

What particularly caught my eye on this visit was an exhibit of animal paintings from the West, such as coyotes, buffaloes, horses and others.  While this exhibit was probably the work of a contemporary artist, many of the older paintings also contained animals.  How did these artists manage to capture the essence of animals so well in their art without the help of modern photography?  While an artist can tell a human model to hold still, animals, especially wild ones, don’t cooperate.  How did they manage to portray galloping horses that look so lifelike?

My few attempts at painting animals have been based on photos I took.  I well remember the only time I ever painted a buffalo.  I had been painting in the Flint Hills in Kansas with a group of artists.  One of our number knew a man in the area who raised buffaloes who would allow us to visit his farm to view these huge creatures.  The buffaloes were off in a distant pasture so the ranch owner let some of us ride in the back of his pickup truck on our trip to the pasture.  When we reached that pasture the buffaloes saw the truck and assumed that it meant that food was about to arrive.  So they rushed up and surrounded the truck.  To me, that was scary.  I was taking pictures but found myself manipulating the zoom so that the animals would appear farther away.  I did finally do a painting from one of those photos and it eventually sold.  This time I’ll stick to something tamer.  I’m adding a cat to a painting of a lilac bush.


Creatures, Yes or No

June 8, 2012

Once again I’m painting and looking through paintings from the past to try to fit in with the title of a gallery show.  This time it’s an upcoming show for July and August at the Topeka Art Guild Gallery called “All Creatures Great and Small.”  My landscapes are not usually inhabited by either humans or other creatures.  But for this show I’ll make an exception.

A long time ago a gallery owner told me that paintings with creatures in them did not sell well.  Of course then I soon sold the painting he had rejected.  I think that one had peacocks in it.  I know an aritst who for a while specialized in portraits of cows and another who has long specialized in painting brightly colored chickens.  Both of these sold quite well.  And artists who are well known for their Western paintings often include horses.

I’m a city girl and haven’t even had a pet for years.  If there are creatures in my paintings they tend to be accents rather than the center of interest.  But I’m up for the challenge.  Looking through my stash of paintings I’ve found one with some geese beneath an autumn colored tree.  A painting I recently finished has two ducks in a lily pond, done from a photo taken in a botanical garden.  From one of my many trips to Colorado I’ve found a photo of an elusive mountain goat high on a rocky slope that could turn into a painting I hope to finish in time.  I guess it is good to do something a little different occasionally.


May 15, 2012

Is it just me or do other artists also tend to end up with a number of unfinished paintings?  What usually happens to me is that I paint outdoors furiously for several hours and then the group I’m with is ready to quit, so I take a photo and plan to finish it at home some day.  But other activities get in the way or I need a different kind of painting for an upcoming show so I start something new.  Nowwhat should I do with these unfinished canvases?

First of all, I have to decide if a particular canvas is worth finishing.  If not, I remove the canvas from the stretchers and attach new canvas that I buy in a huge roll.  Some I really like and with the help of the photo finish quickly.  Then there are the iffy ones.  I was looking at one like that the other day.  I had done a painting of some daylilies in a friend’s yard while sitting in front of them.  But that was almost a year ago and it is easy to lose interest.

But an upcoming show at the Topeka Art Guild Gallery is called “Fields, Flowers, and Gardens.”  Maybe here was something I could enter.  So I took the time to figure out what needed correcting and there were several things.  First I noticed that there was too much space at the top where not much was going on and there didn’t seem to be enough contrast between light and dark.  Also, what kind of frame did this painting call for?

I actually found the frame first among my stash of frames bought inexpensively with the idea that surely I could find a use for something this cheap.  This particular frame had been on another painting but it didn’t look right so I had removed the painting.  When I held it over the painting of the daylilies I was surprised how good it looked.  For one reason, the frame was smaller than the painting and by moving it around I could remove some of that uninteresting space.  Fortunately, I had canvas stretchers of the right size for the frame.  So I removed the painting of the daylilies from its stretchers and attached it to the slightly smaller stretchers.  Making more contrast between light and dark was the next step which didn’t take too long.  So now I have another finished painting.  I’ve posted it on the Midwestern Rural page.