Sunday, November 29, 2009

Work-In-Progress: Close-up of Barn Swallow

It has been some time since I worked in graphite, and it is a pleasure to return to it.  Even more than that, it has been about three decades (yes, three decades) since my previous bird drawings.  It may have been one of those serendipitous events that I was recently asked to provide one or two bird drawings for an upcoming gallery I am thoroughly enjoying the subject matter, and may not have made the decision myself to revisit it.

I love birds.  LOVE birds.  Who would have thought?  I was raised by an avid bird watcher, who provided lengthy commentary on every purple-crested-what-cha-ma-call-it known to man.  My father made sure that I knew more bird species by age twelve than most persons learn in their entire lifetime.  And I in turn was a typical, rather contentious, and very bored young person, with much bigger fish to fry than learning bird species!

Or so I thought.  In spite of myself I learned, and through my adulthood I have become just as fascinated with birds as is my father.  Consequently I have gone on to bore my son even more than my father did me, and who knows?  Maybe someday my son and I will have a riveting conversation about the migration patterns of the elusive gray catbird................Okay, alright; I won't hold my breath on that one!  I'd settle for him not remembering his mom as the nut he discovered standing outside the kitchen window one frigid winter morning, unmoving, frozen in position with seed-filled hand raised high.  (And I'll have you know it only took two ten-minute 'statue sessions', on two consecutive days, to get those chickadees to feed out of my hand -- it was amazing!)  I was absolutely awestruck when I held a stunned American Kestral, who then took flight from my hands -- and I still try to save every fallen or seemingly abandoned baby bird who's path I cross.

Thankyou Dad.        

Sunday, November 22, 2009


My schedule over the past several weeks has not allowed me to make as much progress on my current work as I would have liked. Though the techniques I'm employing in this piece are proving to be very time-consuming, I am pleased with the sense of depth achieved in the finished areas.

In this drawing I am tending to work in numerous light layers of pencil, often blending colors in between the layers with a stiff oil painting brush. The base layer was laid in using indigo blue, cool grey 90%, and walnut brown: the detail layers are then built on top of that using these same colors in addition to black, black grape, burnt ochre, bronze, and several values of french grey.

I am reminded of (and amused by) something artist and instructor Linda Lucas Hardy said to me at the 2007 CPSA convention in Bethesda, Maryland. Observing my tendency to work in many ultra-light layers of color, she said (in her loving way, as everything Linda says sounds loving......and very Texas), "Lynda; you are laying down alot of wax, but not much pigment." It sure did not take her long to get my number! I've thought about her comment many times since then, and have come to realize that at times my tendency to layer so lightly is a reflection of my own lack of confidence. Ahhh..........yet one more issue to work on.

Over the next few weeks I will be alternating between this piece, as well as one or two graphite drawings of birds that I am starting. It has been some time since I have worked in graphite, and I am looking forward to the diversion and the challenge.

Thanks for stopping in.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

S-t-r-e-t-c-h-ing Myself Through Oil Painting: (or, "Journey into the Black Hole")

Completed nearly forty years ago when I was in the 5th grade, and affectionately dubbed "Sunrise Over Fruit Bowl" by Massachusetts artist Debbi Friedman, the above was my first (and last) oil painting.

I have been interested in the arts from a very young age: drawing more so than painting, whether in graphite, colored pencil, or pen-and-ink. Drawing always seemed to come very naturally to me, and I have done precious little painting over time. Since returning to my artwork several years ago however, I have increasingly had the desire to try my hand at oil painting. I mean, hard can it be?, I thought.

Gradually over the past few months, I have collected those items that I knew would be needed to make an attempt at oil painting: a canvas, brushes, linseed oil, odorless turpentine, stand oil, palette, and brush cleaner. Then little more than a week ago I took the final step and purchased five tubes of oil paint -- black, white, cadmium red, cobalt blue, and cadmium yellow. I remembered hearing that any color can be mixed from the three primary colors, so no need to go overboard, right? Debbi was quick to let me know that I may want to invest in more colors, but really, once difficult could this paint mixing be? And besides: I was simply experimenting........trying it out. (THIS assessment from a woman with 400 different pencil colors.)

So, three mornings ago I decided that that was the day. Given the fact that there is a work-in-progress in my drawing room currently, I chose to spread my newly acquired oil painting supplies strategically around on the kitchen table -- and I sat down to get to work.

The self-commentary and inane questions began almost immediately. Is it possible to layer this dark-to-light, in much the same way I do colored pencils? ( What is meant by the term "glaze" as it pertains to oil painting?........ I don't think I bought enough oil painting brushes; I wonder how water color brushes will work............... Is it best to work wet-on-wet?.......or wet-on-dry? For what reason did I buy stand oil? I can't remember...............I can't believe that some artists produce such stunning portraits with this..................... If I thin the paint with turpentine as opposed to linseed oil, will it dry faster? (At some point during all this I burst out into a loud hyena-like laugh, causing the retrievers to look up in an alarmed fashion.) How do you stir this stuff???........ Its thirty-eight degrees outside; is it really necessary that I well-ventilate this room?........... I think Debbi was right; I need more colors............ What exactly is meant by the term viscosity? (The property of a fluid that resists the force that tends to cause that fluid to flow.)

You get where I'm going here: this was no easy feat for me. After nearly an hour"painting", I put away my supplies and returned to my drafting table to lick the wounds on my bruised artistic ego. (The fact that I recently encouraged another artist to keep at it, despite his unfamiliarity with sanded pastel paper, comes to mind.) And I will keep at it, perhaps engaging in my second painting session sometime this week -- using the things I learned not to do from last week's adventure (and right after I obtain more paint colors). Needless to say, my admiration for those who paint has increased dramatically.

The result of my endeavor was an unrecognizable blue jay feather. Debbi said that feathers are difficult, which made me feel a little better (even if she was saying it for that purpose). Another close friend, Elizabeth Patterson of California, summed the experience up with, "I think that maybe you need to take a class".

Clearly. (loud hyena-like laugh)