Sunday Painters #1

I’ve been having fun playing around with my paints, but there are a couple of things that I know would help me to do more:

  1. Improving my drawing skills
  2. Colour theory

Those things are not the whole of what there is to learn, of course, but I feel like they would go a long way to building a good foundation.

I’ve been doing some reading, but I know that the best way to learn is by doing; putting the work in and practicing skills.  Which is sometimes hard to do…You know you should do it, but it’s more fun to just jump into the painting….Until you can’t manage to get the colour you want…

So…I happened to see this Sunday afternoon “leisure learning” course offered by UNB Saint John for beginner to intermediate painters…That sounds like me! In my usual manner, I proceeded to deliberate on this; how did I feel about giving up my Sunday afternoons for 6 weeks? What about the cost? Etc. I asked Cory and he said: If you want to do it, then go for it.

So I did the online registration…Only to find out that the class was full. So much for that.

Until I got an e-mail on Thursday saying a second class had been added to accommodate the wait list, and the next thing I knew I was all signed up…Didn’t even have time to really worry about it (in my usual manner…).

So off I went today. We talked about colour, and paint, and colour some more. We mixed colours to make a colour wheel. And then we painted clementines.

So no exciting finished product today, but I was interested, I learned, and I had a lot of fun. I am looking forward to seeing what I can learn in the coming weeks and excited to [hopefully] improve my painting skills!

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Art Diaries: Hummingbirds!

Ah ha ha! I have no idea what I’m doing! But I’m having fun and that’s the most important thing? Right?

As much as I enjoy painting once I get going, it’s always hard to get started. Figuring out what to paint next is always a task in itself. And while I’ve been copying other paintings so far, the eventual goal would be to create my own paintings, right?

After some thinking I thought maybe a hummingbird photo from this summer would work. Not too much going on in the photo, so simple-ish to start with, right? But drawing a hummingbird is maybe not so easy, so I chickened out a little bit and went to find another painting to work from…But I at least stuck close to my intended subject.

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So not a perfect match, obviously.  I chose to do a blue background, because I thought I would end up preferring that (I do), and I left out that little line (tail feathers?) coming down from the bottom of the hummingbird because it just wasn’t working for me.

However, I need to start watching the dimensions of pictures that I am working from, compared to the surface I am painting on.

Still, I am okay with how this turned out:

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Nothing for it now, but to see what I can do with my own photo, right? Mom should recognize this; it was looking out her kitchen window this summer.

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And this is what I ended up with:

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I need to work on drawing hummingbirds. I knew this because I tried a few sketches before hand, but painting is more fun and I am impatient, what can I say?

I was also trying to see if I could work a bit faster, and I messed up the background right off the bat…Maybe I should have started over because that was early on in the process, but it’s all practice at this point, so I just did my best to fix it.

The bird feeder was actually completed all in one go. I figured I would go back and touch it up, but in the end I was happy with it. I spent the most time on the background and the humming bird.

And it still took me two weekends to finish.

No idea what will be up next. I do think I will be practicing hummingbirds and trying again though!

 

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Art Diaries: Painting with a Limited Palette

Sadly, vacation is over. No more halcyon days of sleeping in, stumbling to the kitchen to make coffee before I spent the morning in my comfy chair with a book. Afternoons of puttering, painting, and piano; working in the kitchen with Cory to make tasty dinners…It was a good vacation!

However, before it was over I did manage to finish my next painting project.

Next up: How to paint a warm & cool still life painting (using only 2 colours) Tutorial from http://willkempartschool.com/.

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Colour theory and colour mixing is something I need to learn about. Somewhere in the basement storage closet there is a box of my old art stuff, and in there is a colour wheel. I keep thinking I need to try and find that box, but it’s scary in there.

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This video lesson uses 2 colours plus white: Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue. Sounds easy, right?

Before I start:

  • I printed out the reference image this time
  • I watched the videos through one time before I started, then watched and painted along with each lesson.

Lesson 1 thoughts:

  • Last time the base colour was too light, this time I think it was too dark?
  • My drawing skills are terrible!
  • Need better light. This was late afternoon, which is getting pretty dark this time of year, and I definitely noticed it made things more difficult.

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Lesson 2 thoughts:

  1. This is not going well.
  2. The light! It’s killing me.
  3. Was not happy with where I ended up. Particularly the colour on the table top. Then I walked away for a few minutes, and when I came back I actually looked at the reference image. I was trying to look back and forth between what was happening on the video, and the original picture, but somehow it was easier to really look at it when I was not comparing to the video. So made a few adjustments (though after the photo was taken), a little bit happier, but thought I’d better stop there because you can mess things up by trying to do too much.
  4. Seems like a good time for a yoga break.

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Lesson 3 thoughts:

  1. Changed to a different type of light bulb in my lamp; ceiling lights are still not great, but this is a little better.
  2. The more I work on this, the more obvious the drawing errors are; the jug is all out of proportion, the angle on the edge of the table is too steep.
  3. I tend to want to paint clean, sharp edges; not necessary in this painting, and maybe better if I had not. Too solid filling in the shadow/dark areas. Was not happy with the table top at all.
  4. Lost it again at the end, when finishing touches/highlights were being added. It seemed fine when I was watching, but the watching painting at the same time doesn’t go so well. When it’s one section at a time, I watch, pause to do some work, then start it up again. Need to work out how to tackle the end bits.

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The Jug tutorial felt like a bit of a fail. But I remain undaunted! I decided to experiment further with the Two  Colour palette. I chose Burnt Umber and Phthalo Blue (green shade) and dove right in.

Results:

  • Not the best colour choices, I think, but it still sort of worked out.
  • I got lost in the weeds – literally. I couldn’t quite figure out what I wanted/how to make it work.
  • Too much paint on this canvas, trying to correct things, and I ended up letting my paint dry out a bit which just made things harder.
  • I will try this one again, eventually.

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Haven’t decided on the next project yet, but hopefully it will be soon!

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Art Diaries: Learning To Paint

So I decided to start painting! It’s one of those things I’ve always wanted to try, and I decided it was time – thanks in part to Kim Stubbs’ Van Vino events which gave me the opportunity to try it out without having to stress about all the details.

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It’s easy for me to get overwhelmed if I let myself think about things too much, there was still a certain amount of hesitation, but with some help from google, I finally dove right in.  I started playing around with paints in October, or thereabouts.

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December

I have been enjoying a rare week and a half of winter vacation at home in SJ. I know our families were probably a little disappointed that we didn’t get to NS over the holidays (sorry families!), but I think I needed it. It’s been a hectic couple of months. It took a few days, but I have been feeling rested and relaxed, and I’ve been able to find time for some painting almost every day which feels like a luxury. Piano practice too!

The weather has been conducive to staying in. It goes from cold to warm to cold, with precipitation in between, so there’s been lots of ice. We really have no where to be, nothing we need to do. We did go to see Rogue One on Monday, since Cory missed the viewing for our office. We’ve been out to buy groceries a couple of times. But most of the time I barely know what day it is; my kind of vacation!

So, I’ve been working on two paintings. I chose a winter scene, and I started that on Dec. 23. Then I think I must have been down to the detail work on the first one, and started looking for the next project which led me to a still life of a cherry.

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I am a slow painter. I like to take my time; work on a stage, give the paint a chance to set, give myself a chance to walk away so I can come back and look at it with new eyes. When you are staring at a painting for a long time, working on bits and pieces, it can be hard to step back and see how the whole thing is coming together.

So I decided to get started on something else, since I was close to finishing the first one. I had been browsing around a website – http://willkempartschool.com/ – and decided I would try one of the free instructional videos. The website indicated Acrylic Still Life Painting of a Cherry For Beginners as the place to start, so that’s what I did.

So you’re wondering: what’s with the green painter’s tape? Right?

The internet is a great place for finding information and opinions. A lot of that will be conflicting. One thing that was pretty universal, though, was the idea that thou shalt paint on canvas panels! I sort of understand that advice…But I ignored it.

Because I’m learning, folks. And I’m thinking that learning is going to mean a lot of paintings. Some of which will likely go wrong. And even if they all go right – what do you do with them all? I mean, cost aside, those canvas panels take up space – this I know because I have 5 completed Van Vino paintings kicking around (I had seven, but my mom now has two of them). They make pads of canvas paper, and to me it just makes sense to go with that so I can experiment to my heart’s content.

But the green tape? What about the tape? Well, it just looks neater to me. I like the border, with the nice straight edges. I’m not worrying about getting paint all over the place if I paint to the edge of the paper. I’m sure there are other solutions, but I’m happy with this for now.

It means all of my projects are small, and I admit to some trepidation when I think of doing a larger painting someday…But I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

So the paintings…

Painting #1: Still Life of a Cherry

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I can honestly say that I’ve never had any strong desire to paint fruit. Or tea cups or wine bottles, etc. But, the still life painting seems to part of the learning process, so let’s go with it. My thoughts on this:

  • I did the base layer (the coloured ground) too light. It seemed okay at the time, I didn’t realize til later on. I think maybe it was hard to tell from the video. It’s painted over, so maybe it doesn’t matter so much anyway, but I know.
  • I also messed up on my drawing (something I need to work on), and I substituted some colours, based on what I had.
  • I did not print out the reference image, which I should have. I thought: “I’ll be there sitting in front of the computer, so I’ll be able to see it on screen,” but that doesn’t work very well when trying to watch a video at the same time.
  • I kind of got lost somewhere toward the end, and I confess that I kind of just reached a point where I gave up and decided: good enough, I’m done. It’s not that it was hard, or that the video was poorly done – I think I just need to get used to working this way?

In the end, it does look like a cherry if you don’t stare at it too hard. I do plan to do the drawing course from this website, but I need to get out to the craft store for some materials I am missing first, so that is on the back burner for now. Maybe, someday down the road, I will get the proper colours and try again and hopefully by then will be able to demonstrate that I have learned something. 🙂

Painting #2: Winter Cardinals

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In October I was choosing autumn scenes. When I was looking for something new to start last week, this one jumped out at me.

The thing with this is: I am blindly choosing paintings. I don’t know what colours or techniques were used by the artist who painted the original. It’s easy to get lost in the fact that the colours don’t quite match the original, etc. But that’s okay once I can take a step back and look at the painting by itself, not comparing with the one that I’m working from.

The birds, obviously, were the most difficult part. But hey, I’ve never painted birds before, and I already know I need to work on drawing, so I can give myself a break, right? It actually mostly freehand anyway; once I had the back ground and branch done, I put in some basic line to give me a position to work from. I can see other mistakes too, but I learn  best by doing, and hopefully I will improve. Given the fact that I was winging it, I am pretty satisfied with how it turned out.

I really do want to start working from an original photograph, something of my own. I even have one picked out. But somehow that is way scarier than copying another painting. Not sure why that is, exactly.

Oh well. Baby steps, right? For now, I’ve started on a new Will Kemp tutorial, and I have chosen another painting to copy as well. Not sure how far I will get, since vacation is almost over, so I will be back to trying to squeeze in some time on the weekends, and it may be a while before I have something else complete.

Note: For the paintings other than the Still Life of a Cherry and the Van Vino projects, I have no idea who the original artists are. I am not claiming them as original works – though mine do not exactly mimic the originals. They are exercises to help me learn. So thank you unknown artists!

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Autumn Update

Why don’t I blog much these days? Well…There hasn’t been much gardening going on; since the demise of the deer fence it is really hard to grow anything.

Aside from that, I don’t know. I can’t seem to motivate myself to sit down and do it lately; not much to say I guess?

The one thing that I managed to grow successfully this year is Cayenne peppers, in pots on my deck. So we’ve been cooking things to use hot peppers, which is okay by me!

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I’ve been playing around with some painting on my own. It was actually a year ago this month that I went to my first Van Vino Sip & Paint event. Painting is one of those things that I’ve always wanted to do, but didn’t know how to get started.

After half a dozen Van Vino nights, I decided to give it a go. The nice thing about painting on my own at home is that I can take my time. I’m finding it’s easier to work in stages, to let the paint dry in between, to come back and look at the work in progress after taking a break.

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Late July

I haven’t spent as much time in the garden this year, probably because I didn’t plant as much. But we’ve been having a beautiful summer – a good balance of sun and rain so far – and things are growing well.

I have a small herb garden, including catnip for Zappa of course!

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And a few tomatoes and peppers, which I have surrounded with bamboo trellises.

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July 3

I was going to cover over that with some netting, but decided to hold off a bit. I went out this morning and it looks like the deer have been visiting, so after weeding I put netting over the top. I need to do the sides too, but ran out of time today. Will have to get to it soon.

Yesterday was a bit of a weird day – mostly sunny, but it tried to rain a bit which ended up not amounting to much.

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July 23

After a promising start, we are down to two surviving rose bushes of the ones that Dad planted along the fence.

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July 23

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However, I had a nice surprise waiting for me when I went to check on the one planted on the side of the hill.

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July 23 

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So that looks promising!

The flower bed by the drive way has turned out okay.

June 12 - After planting

June 12 – After planting

July 24 - Coming along nicely!

July 24 – Coming along nicely!

We really should have put down new mulch, but the plants have survived and started to fill out. I seem to have been successful in planting things that the deer don’t want to eat.

I put in I think 4 different types of lavender. This is the nicest one I think – it has the nicest flowers so far:

July 24 - Lavance Lavender

July 24 – Lavance Lavender

Irises are done (sad, they are my favourite), but the day lilies are blooming so I still have some colour in the yard.

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July 24

 

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The Green Time of Year

I love this time of year, when everything turns green. I always feel like I wait and wait and wait for spring, and then things start to happen so fast.

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My poor rhododendron is doing it’s best to survive the deer.

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I’m getting a late start, but I got out yesterday to start on the gardens. I won’t be doing as much this year, since we still need to figure out how to keep the deer out of the yard with the new[er] fence. But, I’ll do what I can.

To get started, I finally headed out yesterday to pick up some plants.

 

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My garden buddy was hanging out with me…sort of…Mostly he just sat in the tall grass  looking for rodents.

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For out front, I have lots of lavender and thyme; not because those are particular favorites, but so far the deer seem to leave those alone. There is some catmint there also – which the deer have stayed away from so far – which is destined to go to the big garden bed on the hill beside the road.

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I started with this…

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And ended up with this…

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It may get a bit more, but it’s a good start and hopefully things will fill out and survive the deer.

Still more to do though…

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Tomatoes and a few pepper plants will need to stay on the deck. I have a bunch of herbs to plant out, and a lupin; they grow on the side of the road around here so hopefully will be safe?

I also had a look at the rose bushes and lilacs that Dad & Mom brought over when they visited the last weekend in May. So far things are looking good.

Most of these roses that were planted along the outside of the fence seem like they are going to make it:

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This climbing rose was planted in the big garden beside the road. I may be imagining things, but it sort of looks like someone tried nibbling on it?

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But they didn’t get far, so hopefully they decided it didn’t taste good.

We’ve had lots of rainy weather, which has been good for the plants growing out in gardens already, but it’s been hard to get out and do much. Today was another rainy one, and it’s supposed to rain again tomorrow, but hopefully there will be some decent evenings this week to pick away at things.

Until next time!

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In Memory of Frank

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Frank was a large cat with soft paws and a tiny meow. He had the thickest, softest, silvery fur that felt lovely to bury your hands in. He was a solid armful of cat.

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He liked me to follow him around the house while he rubbed his face on corners and door frames. He liked to find out of the way places to take a nap. He wasn’t a lap cat, but he liked to be close by and and enjoyed cuddles. He liked me to walk with him outside, or just hang out with him.

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He was a staunch defender of his territory.

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He kept me company when Cory was travelling.

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He was adored.

One or both cats will usually wake me up at least once in the night and first thing in the morning – or try to wake me anyway. Often by the time I manage to wake up, they are both relaxing on the bed, just waiting for me to move.

There is the odd morning where I don’t see one of them first thing – I tend to think of those as mornings after a night when they had too good a time running around out in the yard. I always look for them before I leave the house though, because I like to know for sure where they are.

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So this morning when I didn’t see Frank, I thought he was probably in Cory’s computer room. I’ve been setting up in there on Fridays when I work from home, so I went in to pack up my stuff and, sure enough, Frank was stretched out on the floor. Not an unusual pose- cats do like to sprawl – and I thought he was asleep.

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I’m sure I said something like “Good morning Frank!” I stepped over him and picked up my bag to start packing up my laptop and Frank did not move, not even a twitch of a paw, and it seemed to me that he was too still. Checked to see if he was breathing; not the first time I have done this because cats can sleep pretty hard, but this time I was not reassured. Cory had come into the room by now and was asking me “What’s wrong?” I asked “Is he moving at all?” And Cory said “Oh no…”

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Frank was coming up on 14 years of age. I have been cognizant of the fact that time was winding down, and doing my best to appreciate the moments. Neither cat has shown any sign of slowing down though, so I thought we still had some time.

My heart is breaking a little bit right now.

Thanks for the cuddles and purrs Frank, and for the times you made me laugh. Thank you for being a comforting presence when I needed one.  You will be missed.

 

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Ever have one of those days?

Have to say, after an easy winter we’ve been having a pretty decent spring. Thursday and yesterday were beautiful sunny days that almost felt like summer! I can see things starting to turn green. We’re coming up on my favourite time of year!

Yesterday (Friday) was a work from home day for me. It was a little more…eventful than I like my days to be…

Get up and head to kitchen to feed cats. Turn around from getting cat food out of cupboard to find Frank lying directly in my path. Attempt course correction, flailing wildly while trying to regain balance without stepping on cat and wondering if I’ve left anything breakable on the counter, where my flailing might lead to broken glass on our porcelain tile floor.

Manage to survive this without mishap, and continue on with my day. As I’m moving around the kitchen, tidying up, knock over broom, step on handle which slides forward causing me to come down hard on my knee. For the record? I do not recommend banging your knee down on porcelain tile.

And finally, my cleaning lady comes and, while cleaning the kitchen, knocks the glass cruet that we use for sesame oil onto the floor. She has never broken anything before at my house and she felt really bad. I felt a little bad, I did like that cruet, but at that point it almost felt inevitable.

The bright spot in my day – literally – was the fact that it was a beautiful sunny day that almost felt like summer; being at home I was able to eat my lunch out on the deck and enjoy some sun. Frank kept me company.

Looking forward to many more sunny days!

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Photo Journal: September 2015

September was a month of watching and waiting…Watching tomatoes and peppers grow, tomatoes starting to ripen, building a barricade to keep the deer from that plants at the back of the house, coming home from work and watering everything…And also waiting to get on with our bathroom renovations, which did not end up happening.

I had to prop up some plants – using weighted pots for a couple of the containers, and bits of old cat fencing for a couple of the tomatoes that came up from seed. Cory was very confused when I came into the living room asking for wire cutters. I told him I was doing arts and crafts.

Pepper plants refused to grow last year, this year they grew beautifully when I could keep the deer away from them.

I moved the feeders this year, and we don’t have the best view, but it’s a little easier to keep them full inside the fence. Though the deer still visit. I actually watched one jump effortlessly over the fence one morning. I admire the skill, not so much the application.

Actually getting ripe cherry tomatoes off of the plants that grew from seed in the gravel.

And the rest of the cherry and grape tomatoes doing well and ripening.

Lunar Eclipse, September 27 – Bundled up and watched the first phase from our deck. Then it was after 11, and I had to go bed.

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