This piece took a while but it was totally worth it, if I do say so. She is fabulous!
At first I wasn’t sure I wanted to tackle the entire painting by Botticelli and I thought maybe I’d just do Venus. But it was going to be awkward because she’s not really standing in the center of the shell and I’d have to cut something off so I thought, oh the hell with it, I’ll just do the whole thing.
Coincidentally, I happened to read about a method using pastel pencils to create portraits that really kind of glow so I thought I’d try it out on this particular work. Lo and behold, it ended up being awesome, but it also took a loooooooong time to do!
So apologies for making you wait so long for the latest in my Old (Dead) Masters series, but wasn’t it worth it? I think so!
I love walking in the woods in the spring. No wearing three layers of clothing, no mittens to keep track of, no boots! I can just slip into my regular tennis shoes and a jacket, throw the dogs in the car and off I go.
Unfortunately, when the snow melts the other thing that’s out in the woods besides me is garbage. I don’t mean beer cans, although there are a ton of those out there. I mean garbage like television sets, shingles, plastic containers, tires, diapers… Just crap, really. A whole ton of crap.
I go from euphoria at being outside all the way to absolute fury at the way some people use the woods as their personal dumping ground.
I wish there was a place where people could drop off all their crap. Oh wait! There is! It’s called a dump! But it costs money to take your crap to the dump or to have someone haul it away and it’s so much cheaper to drive down a two track out in the forest somewhere and throw it out there.
I wish I had a superpower that would let me zap all the crap in the woods so that it would disappear from the forest and reappear in whoever’s house it belonged to. Right on their living room floor. Or maybe on their bed. Yeah! Take that, you littering litterer!
Anyway, after walking the dogs I was so depressed at all the fresh garbage out there, I got out my pastels and painted a scene from another walk I’d taken recently with my family. A beautiful day on the Pere Marquette River, sun shining, water flowing, birds twittering. A gorgeous, gorgeous day.
Of course, we also found snarled fishing line, bait containers and cigar wrappers along the banks. Wherever you find beauty I guess you can also expect to find evidence of thoughtless humans. We picked up what we could on the way out.
I guess I’ll start bringing a garbage bag with me on my daily walks. It’s little enough, but it makes me feel a little better to at least clear the areas where I love to wander. Painting also helps. Although having a crap zapper superpower would be nice, too.
Lately, I’ve been driving out to the state park in the mornings before I settle in at the office. Today it was raining but I just parked in front of some dunes, rolled down the passenger side window and zenned right out.
This painting will be available on eBay starting tonight at 9pm. Ten percent of the proceeds from each of my auctions goes to benefit AFFEW, a local group dedicated to saving the planet.
A month of painting on location equals a lot of new work!
You know what the biggest surprise was from my time away? How much I enjoy painting outside.
To be honest, I haven’t done a lot of plein air painting because I just always thought it couldn’t help but be a pain. First of all, you have to lug around a lot of stuff. The weather can be brutal. And what if you forget something important, like paper? What if it’s windy out? What if there’s bugs?
But it was either paint outdoors or don’t paint at all on this trip and we planned to be gone for a whole month, too long to go without pastels. So I decided to make an effort because art is important, dammit.
I prepared as well as I could by fitting everything into one big backpack and trying it out once or twice before we left to make sure I had everything. I also did some research on southwest color palettes so that I’d have the right pastels for the job. I cut up a lot of paper to take with me, with different textures and tones to keep my flittery fluttery mind engaged. I ran into one snag at the beginning when I discovered the foam core boards I’d brought to work on were too small, but I clipped two of them together and it was fine.
The only day it was too windy to paint was while we were traveling through New Mexico on day four. It’s pretty scary pulling a trailer in winds gusting to 70 mph. After an hour of that we were only too happy to find a place to wait out the weather. We ended up sitting in a gas station parking lot in Vaughn for seven hours. I doodled semi trailers in my sketchbook and Steve and I took turns watching the cover over the gas pumps to see if it would break loose and go flying off across the prairie.
After that we had non-stop beautiful weather right up until we headed north again. We put off visiting Taos on the way home because camping in the snow is just not a viable option at our age. Most of the time, though, I was up bright and early and working in my pajamas, coffee in hand. It was lovely.
As for bugs, I saw exactly one while I was painting, and that was a bombardier beetle at Las Cienagas National Preservation area. He came perilously close to running into my foot, aimed his butt at me for about five seconds while I held my breath, and then went on his way. Everyone’s a critic.
So now that I’m back I’ve decided to get out there and do more painting outdoors because who doesn’t have as much fun as they can? No one, that’s who. I have to say I like the look of my landscapes much better when they’re done on location than from photos in the studio. I’m looking forward to doing a lot more. It’s going to be awesome.
I’ve posted the best of my southwest USA plein air efforts on eBay this week, so be sure and check them out, a new painting every day at 9pm for the next week or so, and then it’s back to local landscapes, but with a new (for me) outdoor twist. If you see me out there, be sure to stop and say hello!
This is a small pastel on paper I did this morning. My “usual” spot on the porch didn’t look too promising so I turned 180 degrees and painted what was behind me.
You can see by the photo what I was working on. I like the feel of this piece and all the rest of the pastel I’ve been doing while staying here in Tucson. Working outdoors forces me to work quickly which I like and the work is much looser than anything I can achieve in the studio.
My husband and I are camping on a friend’s property for a week or so here in Tucson, AZ, and I’m taking the opportunity to paint horses!
This morning’s effort is a painting of a horse eating her breakfast in a small paddock.
I have always liked horses as subject matter, although I was never a riding enthusiast growing up. That said, when I was twelve or so, my sister and I pedaled our bikes for miles to a small farm every Saturday where we’d ride ponies all day long, stopping only for lunch. The farm belonged to Mr. and Mrs. S., friends of our parents whose kids had long since moved on to mini-bikes. They were happy to have us exercise the ponies. I didn’t much care for the long bike ride, although I’m sure my mother felt I needed the exercise. Mary probably would’ve have biked three times as far for half the riding time. She was crazy about horses.
I remember the air was hot and full of buzzing deer flies. We rode along mini bike trails out in the piney woods for hours. Socks was a dapple grey, the smaller of the two, and she took good care of me, patiently putting up with my considerable lack of riding skills. My sister’s mount was another matter. A beautiful appaloosa, Gepetta was almost horse-sized, very smart and an opportunist, as she regularly tried to buck Mary off at the first available sandy patch on the trail, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.
Once while we were eating sandwiches at the house, Mr. S. happened to overhear us telling Mrs. S. about Mary getting dumped. Mary hadn’t been hurt by the fall and we’d just followed Gepetta back to the house as usual and planned to go out again after lunch. But Mr. S. immediately went outside to where the ponies were hitched, and picked up Gepetta and threw her onto her back, saddle and all. She scrambled back up and stood there, shaking, while he yelled at her. Gepetta never bucked Mary off again, but I think Mary would’ve died before she’d have ratted Gepetta out to Mr. S. again anyway.
Eventually the ponies were sold or maybe I refused to bike over there, I can’t remember how or why we stopped going. Mary continued to find horses to ride, I continued to accompany her when she pestered me into it. I never have been a confident rider and in general I prefer to paint them, although our friend here put me up on her horse Easy last night and it was sweet. He’s a patient horse, too, very gentle, just how I remember Socks.
I’m traveling in the southwest USA for the next few weeks. Steve and I packed up the camper last week and, after chiseling it out of three inches of ice in our back yard, we hauled it down to our current location in Tucson, AZ. It’s not exactly warm here (50 degrees as I type this), but compared to the wilds of Fountain, Michigan, it feels like a tropical heat wave.
I am determined to practice drawing and painting while traveling so I brought along a sketchbook, among other stuff, and I’ve been trying to take it out and draw what’s in front of me whenever I can.
This has resulted in what at first glance would seem to be a couple of less than inspirational scenes, but when you’re logging a lot of expressway miles, you have to make do. So, some semi trucks, and once, the waiting room at the Marshfield Chevy dealer (The driver’s side door stopped working and we had to get it fixed. Nice service shop, friendly and helpful and the price was fair, although we would have paid practically anything not to have to crawl in and out of the truck through the passenger side door. And before you ask, neither of us is capable of using the driver’s side window as way in or out. We’re old.).
Surprisingly, drawing things that I wouldn’t normally think of as interesting subject matter turns out to be just as consuming as a face or a figure would be. I think it’s because I don’t know what a semi tractor looks like. I’ve never really looked at one before. I need to remember not to discount anything out of hand. It’s all worth looking at, exploring, discovering, drawing.