As part of my slow, late arrival to social media, I recently joined Instagram, and I really like their format for posting quick photos and captions as I paint. I’ll probably be posting my most frequent painting updates and backpacking photos there, and I’d love it if you want to follow me.
You can also follow my work on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+, although the updates are less frequent as it’s harder to post pictures from my phone (and I’m often too busy chasing my two young kids to sit down at the computer).
Finally, I also wanted to thank the very kind Kristin Alexandra for nominating me for the Liebster award. I’m not the prolific writer that she is, and I’m not sure if I’ll get around to answering all those questions, but I really appreciate the nomination and I encourage you to visit her blog to read about her travels.
I like lighthouses, although I wasn’t thinking of any particular place when I painted this. I wanted the painting to be mostly about the beauty of the sky, overwhelming the tiny symbol on the horizon, a theme I’ve been working with in manyforms. This painting features a lot of Smalt Hue, one of Golden’s historic colors.
Smalt Hue is a modern synthetic approximation of the blue color that was once made from ground cobalt glass in 16th and 17th century paintings in place of Ultramarine or Cobalt blue, which were made from crushed precious stones and very costly to use. Blue is a rarity in Renaissance paintings due to cost of the pigments. The method of making blue paint from cobalt glass was much less expensive, but the colors faded over time.
Working with modern paints, I don’t have to think much about the relative cost of the colors on my palette (although some still cost more than others) or worry about the lightfastness. I still discovered Smalt Hue as a beginner artist because it was relatively inexpensive (as a Series 1 color, it costs roughly half as much as Cobalt Blue, which is Series 8) and I fell in love with the slightly purplish shade for skies. As you can see from the swatch on the tube, it’s very transparent and easy to layer.
The other main colors are Paynes Gray and Dioxazine Purple, with some Titan Buff in there for the moon:
This is a painting I did a few years ago of Mt. Whitney in Yosemite National Park, California. I painted it on a travel easel outdoors, near the wonderful Whitney portal store, as my husband was hiking. We did a shorter backpacking trip in the Glen Aulin area that summer, and did Whitney as a side trip. I still had too much altitude sickness that day to attempt the 14,505′ climb, but it was fun to hang out at the base that day and paint.
The painting took about 45 minutes, which was good since it was very hot and bugs kept flying into my wet paint. I used reference photos to get the distinctive shape of the peaks right, but I exaggerated the colors of the sky and rock for dramatic effect.
This painting has been hanging on my wall in a half-finished state for quite a while, since I can’t decide what to do with it next, so I’m seeking feedback from you guys.
With most paintings, I have a natural moment where I sense that it is done, and I know I should step back before I overwork it. It is hard to find the balance between making your work precise and polished, and keeping the life and spontaneity in the brush strokes. I don’t have that sense with this painting yet, but sometimes it’s helpful to seek ideas from fresh eyes.
This is the painting hanging on a wall in my back yard, so you can see it in natural light. Overall I like the look and energy, but I’m wondering if it needs something in the foreground, or if it’s something about the colors that is not quite right. I wanted to try a painting that mixes my two landscape styles; the more abstract, linear hills with the more realistic starry sky.
What do you think? Should I stop here, or keep going? Just for fun I’m trying out the poll feature in WordPress, so you can weigh in:
Other artists, how do you know when your painting is finished?
I just dropped off my newest starry sky painting at the Pacific Art League gallery in Palo Alto. Their annual members exhibition will run from January 9-29. This is my painting of Mather Pass, from the Pacific Crest Trail/John Muir Trail:
I wanted to create something peaceful but mysterious, with a dark sky. I decided to keep the composition very simple and limit the palette to mostly blues and purples, to make the focal star more striking.
As my style developed as an artist, it kind of split into two styles; abstract/surreal and more realistic landscapes. The more realistic landscapes tell a story or recall a certain place, the surreal ones are more emotional and abstract. I love hearing others’ impressions of these pieces, and I’ve found that viewers interpret the surreal landscapes in very different ways.
For me, this painting shows a vast desert – sand dunes in the foreground, the star in the sky – and has a dark but hopeful feeling. Other people have told me that this painting is the moon over huge ocean waves, and it has kind of a scary but captivating feel. Others have said it is snow-covered mountains, cold and stark. I like that these images can be different things to different people.
This is part of my guide for beginners learning to paint in acrylic, based on my own experiences as a self-taught painter. These are some mistakes I made when I was starting out, and how you can avoid them in your own paintings.
Mistake #1: Not modifying your photo composition
I strongly recommend working from photos as a way to improve technical skill. If left to my own devices, I would probably just paint the same landscapes over and over, but my work doing custom paintings from photos helped me learn new skills and find enjoyable subjects that I never would have tried. However, it’s important to think of the photo as a starting point, not your end goal. Many new artists get tripped up trying for photorealism. We have cameras for that. Move things around, take things out, change the sky, make it your own.
Last night, we went to the opening reception for the Winter Wonder juried show at the Pacific Art League gallery in downtown Palo Alto. My snow painting Solstice was selected to be part of the exhibition, and will be on display there until the end of the month. There was a lot of beautiful winter artwork in the show, and I recommend you check it out if you’re in the Bay Area.
This is a quick demonstration of my color blending method, for people who are learning to paint. It seems pretty basic, but as a beginner I had a tendency to overmix my paint, resulting in flat colors. This method will give you a wide variety of closely related shades that will make the objects you paint look more luminous and three-dimensional.
To start, put dabs of paint on your palette a few centimeters apart. Try to distribute the paint so that the colors you’ll be mixing will be close to each other, but don’t overthink it. Some artists use a circular arrangement of paint on the palette, I tend to just make a few groups of associated colors with some space in between. For the demo, I’m just using two colors of acrylic paint; yellow and green.
Begin by adding a little bit of water to your brush and pulling some color out of the side of the paint dab and onto the clean palette area next to it. Spread the paint around a bit so that you have some room to work. Next, without washing off your brush, do the same to the adjacent color so you have a thin gradient of paint that changes from the first color to the second color.
I just got notified that my snow painting, Solstice, was selected for the Winter Wonder Juried Show at Pacific Art League in Palo Alto, CA. The opening reception will be December 5, 2014 from 5:30-8 pm. The exhibition will be up for the month of December.