Sunday, November 6, 2011

Pushing Forward

What a week!  Things have cycled more widely than usual between bad stress and positive excitement, creativity and fear, good health days and bad ones, and in the end I feel like I haven't managed to be very productive in any area of my life. But at least things haven't been boring!

One of the consistently good things in my life is going to art class each week.  I am learning so much and rediscovering what I thought were long-gone skills.  Two pieces I've done in the last few weeks especially please me:  


The lilies were a complete impulse project. The grocery store had cheery yellow lilies on sale and somehow some of them just jumped into my basket.  I couldn't resist the lively colour and thought I'd try to capture it on paper.  I have been using Arches 140 lb paper, but decided to experiment with another type of paper for this painting. That was a hard lesson learned... (Note to self... stick with Arches paper!! lol...)  Because the paper reacted so differently it was a challenge to make this painting work.  But overall I am pleased.                           

The apples were inspired by some photos I took a few months back of an orchard bordering a local park area.  In particular I wanted to capture the soft blush developing on the apples with an overall bright, airy feel. I think the apple highest up in the grouping is my favourite part of the painting - here it is close up:

The shadows were a bit of a challenge at first but with some coaching from the teacher on using glazes of opposite (complementary) colours to create depth, I'm now rather pleased with those areas, too.

Last week we were challenged to paint a scene from our own travel photos and do it with dry brush technique and pen-and-ink.  Wow.  That is SO not at all my personal style, but I do see the benefit to learning all different styles of painting.  And in the spirit of the "Creative Courage" class I'm taking online, it was an opportunity to feel uncomfortable with something but do it anyway. 

In the end, it became a completely different piece than I first envisioned. The photo that inspired it is a lake scene with mist in the trees - the photo was taken on the Oregon Coast between the cities of Florence and Bandon.

A little hesitantly, I share with you my painting because I'm not all that pleased with the results...  But I want this blog to be totally honest about all stages of my creative growth and rediscovery, so I am going to share the good along with the not so great...

Emotionally I rebel against painting dark and somber pictures.  I've been through so much emotional heaviness and darkness over the past few years I just can't create more darkness and heaviness - and I can't ask others to view dark and somber images, either. So it was intentional that this picture have a brighter colour palette.  The lightness of the palette is something I'm pleased with.  But the overall technique isn't one I'm particularly in love with.  Still, who knows when this kind of dry brush could be very useful. 

This week in class we were introduced us to painting watercolour on canvas. (Did your brain just hiccup like mine did?)  Watercolour paints and gessoed canvas just didn't seem to go together in my mind.  But they really do work!  Having said that, the canvas needs to be prepped with a good quality gesso, and painting happens v-e-r-y slowly as you apply your paint, it puddles up, and you patiently wait for it to dry before you move on.  Down at the art supply store I was told that painting watercolour on canvas was probably not unlike painting on Yupo paper.  I've not tried Yupo paper yet, but from what I read the similarity is that the paint dries on the surface and doesn't soak down in to the support material, like it does on paper.  The good news is, as my teacher informed me, if you don't like how your painting has turned out you stick the canvas in your bathtub, wash all the paint off and begin again.  Fool proof!!  : )

So here's my class project for this week - 'in progress' because the going is s-l-o-w...

I've chosen a westcoast forest scene that will have a creek running through the lower left corner of the picture.  The inspirational photos are very visually busy.  I've mostly shied away from landscapes - even back when I was doing more painting in my teens and 20s - because they are so detailed and feel completely overwhelming to me.  Joanne, our teacher, has a personal painting style that reduces the visual busy-ness down to simple shapes (a link to her style), so I decided to give her style (or my interpretation of her style) a try. Joanne remarked that I'd taken on a somewhat difficult subject for a first attempt at painting on canvas. However jumping in at the deep end, so to speak, tends to be the way I do many things in life. So with the awareness tucked into the corner of my mind that I was really challenging myself on this piece I decided to try painting this subject anyway!  After sketching the picture out I did sit and stare at the canvas for a few paralyzed minutes wondering just where and how to begin.  The teacher rescued me by and talking me through a variety of options - starting in the foreground and working to the back, versus starting with the darker trees and water, etc...  Talking it through was very helpful. And then all that was left to do was stick my brush in the paint... and start! (Come on courage... don't fail me now!! lol!) 

The piece is turning out far differently than I expected, probably because I can't add shading and shadows with a glazing technique - if I try glazing the dried paint layer below is wiped off because it doesn't bond well with the canvas and is just sitting on the surface.  That means trying to add shadows and shading while the paint is wet and it's much harder to control then.  Challenges aren't bad - they just make us stretch out of our comfort zone and create a bit of anxiety.  If you read between the lines right now you'll understand that I feel pretty 'stretched' over this painting but am determined to keep painting in spite of the anxiety as I just might be pleasantly surprised when I'm done.  And if it turns out not so great... oh well, it's been a good learning experience for me and an amusement for you! 

Let's see... what else good happened recently?  I went with a friend and her children to a park where I had the joy of photographing her children as they played in the leaves.  I love watching children when their faces light up with pure emotion - they are so very "in the moment" that I envy them a bit. 

What a lovely bouquet you have, m'lady...


What if I buried myself in leaves...?

What a lot of fun it was!  I came away feeling very energized and uplifted.  (Note to self:  Must make time to play... and/or watch children at play... more often.)

We don't get the truly amazing fall colours here in Victoria that are found in other places.  But I enjoy the golds and rusts of a typical Victoria autumn. I've used a photo of autumn leaves on one of the anniversary cards in my greeting card line.

Well, it's been fun chatting.  I hope your day is going well, that you are doing things that nurture your soul and your creativity.  Time for me to quit procrastinating and go do more work on my watercolour-on-canvas forest scene.  Hope for the best for the outcome of my painting, won't you?


  1. Hiya Fern thank you for your visit! wow I LOVE the name of your blog.. how wonderful it fits!
    Your art work is amazing i LOVE the fruit , very well done..very delicate and beautiful!

  2. Oh yes, the lilies and the apples are beautiful!!
    & I LOVE the gessoed canvas piece a whole lot - the brightness of the colours is amazing, and I am VERY impressed with the shadow and the fading green in the background - even more so now that you've shared how hard it is to paint!
    I totally see how a real life class is great in so many ways - the stretching in technique, painting out of your comfort zone, and especially a helpful teacher to nudge you along! I would love to take a good class - note to self: save up for that :)
    Love the park-walk photos :) Kids make such lovely subjects full of energy :)