Category Archives: The Learning Curve

And, The Paint Goes On…

La-di-da-di-dee, la-di-da-di-dah...my painting class goes on and I finally put my Fish Houses painting to bed. I say put to bed because, while it's not perfect and it could use a lot more work, I'm done with it. I needed to move on, so I did. The following pictures are of my third pass (I really wanted it to be my last), a revisit of the original inspiration painting and then, finally, my final pass on Fish Houses.
Fish Houses 3

Fish Houses 3

Fish Houses, Monhegan by Bernhard Gutmann

Fish Houses, Monhegan by Bernhard Gutmann

Fish Houses final

Fish Houses final

You can see the progress in some areas but other areas really didn't get a lot of attention. I did learn that acrylic paint dries darker and that's why the building on the left got a bit of blue green that was a lot more intense than I wanted. I like how I resolved it in the final version along with the sky, which I feel is clearly the most successful part of the painting. Considering I felt clumsy, frustrated and completely out of my depth while painting this one, I guess it's not too bad for my second painting. I was happy to move on to a new canvas and a new inspiration painting by Christine Lafuente, Old Spruce on Somes Sound.
Old Spruce on Somes Sound by Christine Lafuente

Old Spruce on Somes Sound by Christine Lafuente

I love Christine's work and this painting is gorgeous, the palette, the looseness, the mood. Yum. And, here is my first pass, just a quick 30 minute under painting. It will develop in next few weeks.
Somes Sound under painting

Somes Sound under painting

I don't know how close I'll stay to the original painting, it may go off in a different direction, for instance, I may or may not add the old spruce. We will just have to see where this one goes. But I'm so happy doing this painting. I love these colors and the loose, sloppy brushstrokes. It's fun and freeing! La-di-da-di-dee, la-di-da-di-dah...

Details, details…

Week four of my painting class... I neglected to include some details of the artwork that I'm working from for my second attempt at painting in my on-going painting class. It is a 1921 piece by Bernhard Gutmann called Fish Houses, Monhegan. 
Fish Houses, Monhegan by Bernhard Gutmann

Fish Houses, Monhegan by Bernhard Gutmann

As I continued working on this piece, right side up this time, I found myself getting very frustrated and I realized I'd made a mistake in selecting this painting to work from. It's entirely too busy, too busy for my novice level and too busy for my taste level. I like large simple fields without a lot of detail or compositional elements. I guess that's why I like the sky, the water and the building on the left. You might be asking what made me choose this one in the first place (for heaven's sake). Well, I was drawn to the rough texture and loose detail, but I guess even loose detail is too much detail for me. Lesson learned. So, there I was making a mess and getting confused when my instructor Maureen came over and turned it upside down again. This is to force me to just see shapes and not get caught up in detail. Here is what I ended up with by the end of class, upside down...
Fish Houses upside down

Fish Houses upside down

And right side up...a little more detail taking shape.
Fish Houses right side up

Fish Houses right side up

I will give this painting one more go at the next class and then I'll move on to something simpler...I hope.  

Painting Upside Down

My painting class continues and I learned a lesson in the importance of focusing on shapes when painting landscapes and a trick in how to do that - paint upside down. No, not painting while standing on your head, though that might provide some interesting lessons in how to amuse your classmates, but rather turning the picture your are working from upside down. This forces you to see only the larger shapes, without context, to avoid getting caught up in focusing on the details too early. I'm afraid I neglected to capture a shot of the painting I'm working from (I'll provide that next week) but here is my painting upside down and what I saw as I was painting it.
Painting Upside Down

Painting Upside Down

I really felt very foolish and incompetent while doing this. The only parts I felt good about were the larger spaces, the sky, of course, is easy for me, the bit of water and the buildings to the right and left. I felt the top part was a hot mess but I was having fun slobbing the paint on. Then, at the end of the class I turned it right side up and voilá...
Right Side Up

Right Side Up

Mind you, this is mostly under painting so it's missing a lot of detail, though I'm already liking the sky, water and those buildings. I didn't realize while I was painting that the lower center vertical shape was a man, currently with no head. Details, details...c'est la vie. If you look closely, you will see some blotchy spots. When I was gathering up my things at the end of class, I prepared my canvas for transport by putting a layer of plastic wrap over it but then was worried about it sticking. I lifted it off and sure enough it did stick to some wet spots, lifting off some of the top layer of paint revealing a different color underneath. Oops! I showed it to my instructor Maureen and I think I startled her when I explained what happened and that I liked it, it created an interesting texture. She agreed and I think she even learned something new, too. After all, this is the kind of thing we textile artists do all the time...add color, discharge color, embrace the happy accidents. Stay tuned for the finished painting. I'm not promising that it will be good so...

The Art of Layering

I took another pass at my Pears painting in class last Friday by adding more layers to the under-painting. Working with acrylics is such a different experience than working with textiles. Acrylics dry fast! Rendering them unworkable. The first day of class, our instructor Maureen had supplied us with an acrylic retarder which, when poured on top of and blended into acrylic paint, keeps it from drying out so fast and prolongs its working time. We were on our own for the second class and I thought I had purchased the correct product, a blending medium with the word retardateur in the French translation, but it wasn't the same at all. So, I was at a disadvantage struggling to keep ahead of the drying paint and mixed the colors as best I could. Despite it all I'm happy with the results...
 Pears under-painting

Pears under-painting

I enjoyed mixing my own colors and layering them to achieve color, shape and texture. It was very interesting. And challenging.
Pears, day 2

Pears, day 2

One of my reasons for embarking on this painting journey is to stretch my abilities in how I work with textiles in my artwork. I'm already accustomed to using textiles as a painter uses paint but instead of blobs of paint, I use bits of fabric to recreate my imagery. But, in past work I've used an orderly structure of horizontal strips which is wonderful in creating depth as with my impressionistic landscapes like Tranquil Marsh - Wild Iris. It's a difficult and meticulous process that, if so desired, can help one develop a galloping case of OCD.
Tranquil Marsh - Wild Iris detail

Tranquil Marsh - Wild Iris detail

Which is why I turned to abstract work as with my Infinity series. It's still meticulous work but not as exacting. I can improvise more with the color, shapes and lines until it feels right.
Infinity IV detail

Infinity IV detail

So, after my first painting class, I tried a small landscape, 6 x 8 inches, with a looser, semi-abstract feel. I tried layering smaller pieces of fabric in a less structured way, a more painterly way. This piece is Horizon II, the second in a new series which lies somewhere in between my impressionistic landscapes and my Infinity abstracts. I made this one to donate to the upcoming SAQA Spotlight auction during the 2016 SAQA Conference in Philadelphia, PA on April 1st.
Horizon II

Horizon II

I'm liking this direction and want to take it even farther. How about you? In what ways do you find yourself pushing and stretching yourself and your art?
Also posted in New Work, SAQA

New Year, New Adventures

Happy New Year! I hope everyone has exciting adventures in store for 2016. I do! I have embarked on a new adventure - painting! I am a self-taught artist that came to art as a quilter back in the '90's at a time when quilting was experiencing a renaissance and quilts were being made for the wall instead of the bed. Quilters began pushing the envelope on materials and techniques while trained artists from other media discovered quilting as a an exciting new medium to explore as a platform for artistic expression. With such a convergence of skills and talent, the current field of quilt art is now inhabited with amazingly gifted artists of diverse backgrounds and skill sets which has inspired me to push my own skill sets and expand my basic knowledge of art. Soooo..., I am taking a painting class at the Hunterdon Art Museum with the extraordinarily talented Maureen Chatfield who is well-known for her abstracts but has extensive experience in all styles of painting. Since my own work focuses on landscapes, both impressionistic and abstracted, Maureen's class Painting the Modern Landscape seemed a great fit. I hope to take what I learn in this class and apply it to my current work with textiles. The class is filled with students from all artistic backgrounds. Some have studied with Maureen many times, others who have always been painting throughout their lives, are taking a class with Maureen for the first time, and those who, like me, are newcomers to painting. I've never taken a painting class in my life. I know nothing other than what I have observed on canvases I have admired in galleries, museums, in books and on line. In preparing for this class, I watched a bit of painting tutorials just to familiarize myself with the tools, materials and terminology. Because of my virgin status, Maureen had me start with a simple piece of fruit using acrylic. I found a few photos on line of pears and picked one to use, Two Pears by photographer Lupen Grainne. I liked the simple shapes, colors and textures.

Two Pears by Lupen Grainne

Class began and the other students, some who had brought in works in progress, began to dive in. I stood there not knowing where to start and, after some guidance and gentle prodding from Maureen, I proceeded to work, tentatively at first but then I dove in head first into my painting. And, this is the result. Pears underpainting fbThis is just the under-painting, or so I'm told. They look a little funny without their stems, can't wait to add them. I was just getting the hang of mixing colors and layering while working on the aqua/green foreground when the class started to wrap up and I quickly mixed and through on the pink background. That's when I discovered the faster you work, the better. I invite you come along on this adventure into painting and see where it takes me and how it influences my work with textiles. One thing I've learned about myself already, when you're self-taught, sometimes you don't really know what you know and what you don't know. Some days I feel there are boat loads I need to learn, but I realize now, maybe I know more than I thought I did and that feels good.
Also posted in Work In Progress

Re-Doin’ the Blog Thing

A few weeks ago, I started this blog, as I have started a blog several times in the past without success. I just haven't been able to stick with it and post regularly. Unfortunately, it's been soooo long since I last had one, I totally forgot basic blogging 101. I'm fiddling around with it trying to figure it all out again. So, I am re-posting my first post from May 24, 2014 just in case I lose it.

May 24, 2014

Doin' the Blog Thing

 

It's Memorial Day weekend of 2014 and I think it's time I started a blog. Lately, I've had so much news to share about my work and this seems the best way to share it. I'd like to use this page as a way of documenting my creative process as well as sharing with anyone interested in that process, my thoughts as I work and news of where my work can be seen. Comments, questions, feedback and pats on the back are always welcome!

2014 was off to rocky start. Debilitating back pain, a stay in the hospital and an introduction to pain meds I don't want to repeat put the kibosh on anything creative. Not to mention the winter that wouldn't end. But Spring is here at last and I'm not letting three herniated disks stop me. My first job was to relocate my studio into a larger and sunnier room in the house where I can move around without tripping over the dog and he's a BIG dog.

My first completed piece of artwork is a small piece I do every year for the benefit auction for SAQA or Studio Art Quilts Associates.  It's a terrific organization that promotes and exhibits the work of artists like me who create artwork with textiles in the construct of a quilt. It is this organization that has given me the opportunity to exhibit my work nationally and internationally. So, with gratitude, I donate Blue Lagoon. Last year I donated Tequila Sunrise. You'll notice I have a little Happy Hour theme going here. So, if you have a favorite cocktail you'd like to see transformed into art, give me a shout.

 ~  Elena Stokes

Blue Lagoon    

At the same time, I decided to change the name of my facebook page from Focus on Fiber Art, the name of a gallery I used to own, to simply Elena Stokes . Artist. You're welcome to follow me there as well.

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