Work in Progress – Created with Love: Phase 2

In the first phase of completing this painting, I focused on the amaryllis bloom.  As soon as I got to a certain point, I was ready to tackle the quilt in its entirety.

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{first day working on the quilt background}

I knew this would take A LOT of time and effort, however I LOVE painting drapery and fiddling with the minutia of shifts in value found in painting cloth.

My decision to tackle the quilt in a somewhat organized manner, working in adjacent areas most of the time was helpful in making sure that the overall continuity of the colors and values would read as a whole, even thought it took almost 9 long painting sessions to get the first layer of the quilt completed down.

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{moving forward with one section at a time}

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{At the end of a session}

After working for two long days on the quilt, I needed some immediate gratification in the last hour of my painting session, so I moved down to the lay-in the antique suitcase I got from Steve’s grandmother.

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{moving a bit further along}

By the end of this session, I had figured out about how long it would take to complete one of the four sides that make up each double wedding ring, and was able to estimate how much time I would need to cover the entire canvas.

 This type of hyper-intensive attention to detail also takes a lot of mental energy.  And the best way to remain fresh over a long day of painting is to plan on only focusing on one area at a time, and when your brain starts to turn to mush and you no longer care if you are getting it right.  This is the time when you take a break.  Deep work is mentally fatiguing and to stay on top of your game, means listening to yourself.

The type of breaks I like best to take when I want to mentally refuel my mind is to get on the yoga mat and complete a series of stretches.  I think this type of break is the best for resting and recharging, for me it usually takes anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes of resting my eyes and stretching to be ready to start again.

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{Almost all covered}


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{first pass of the quilt completed}

At the end of this painting session, the canvas was finally covered and I could begin to plan how to further refine the painting and make it read a bit better.  For this painting I used a lead white with a walnut oil binder, so it was taking a while for my white layers to completely dry, which, was fine with me because I needed some time to map out the next and hopefully final stage.

 

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Work in Progress – Created with Love: Phase 1

This year it is my goal to work on a few large and more complex compositions and I thought you may enjoy reading about my process. So today I want to share with you a still-life I began in early January 2015, this post discusses the first phase – focusing on painting the amaryllis flower from life.
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{Created with Love – 36 x 24 inches – almost finished}

This past December when I was finishing up my double wedding-ring quilt, I began thinking about how fun it would be to paint this quilt in a still-life painting. Then I began pondering what to pair it with… knowing that it would have to be something strong to counteract the bright colors and complexity of the quilt. As I was thinking about possible compositions, one of my large “red dragon” amaryllis bulbs came into bloom, and all was settled. I knew I could begin the painting I was pondering right away.

As an artist, I prefer to paint from life and in natural light. This being said, in the winter months I must rely on winter blooming flowers, which typically involves forcing a variety of bulbs inside. My favorite winter blooming bulb is the amaryllis, a tropical bulb that prospers in our warm interiors.

When painting flowers, painting from life is my preference because I feel my work captures the gesture and essence of the flowers I am working on. I try to stay away from relying too much on photo references, I think it is because photographs are one more filter away from my own personal relationship I have with the flowers. Being an avid gardener and that I typically am nurturing and growing the specific flowers I am painting, it is like I have a deeply felt relationship with them, and I want the flowers to be there while I am painting and trying to convey what I am feeling in paint.

Because of this desire to paint from life and knowing a flower only has so long before it begins to fade, I have to plan the sequencing of how to paint every given floral still-life composition. Typically I begin every painting with a drawing painted in with burnt umber, then I begin to immediately paint the areas with the most limited lifetime, in this painting it was the amaryllis flower.

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{first day: end of burnt umber block-in}

By beginning with a burnt umber drawing, I make sure that I can get the scene onto the canvas as I want, establishing an accuracy in proportion and scale. I always try to get the drawing as correct as possible, even knowing that once I begin to paint the under-drawing is going to be obliterated. I view this phase as a very important step because I feel like it helps me engage a level of muscle memory and mental connectedness I want to have with my compositions.

After the under-drawing is finished, I will take a small break (15-30 minutes) to get away from the painting, so when I return I will have fresh eyes and will be able to identify any errors in the original burnt umber drawing. If all is well, I dive into painting the most important and ephemeral subjects.

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{first day: at the end of the painting session}

I began painting the amaryllis flower right away.  Blocking in color masses, keeping the shapes large and descriptive of the total structure of each flower.  When I paint flowers I am also trying to gage how long each flower will keep fresh and bright.  I knew from watching how the flower opened that the flowers on my right were the ones that would fade the quickest.  So they were the first ones tackled.  Leaving the two flowers on the left to be partially laid in.

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{first day: end of painting session}

Because when painting you make decisions based on the adjacent areas, I also began laying in the values for the neighboring background areas.

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{second day: a few hours into the painting session}

Upon returning to this painting the next morning I realized I needed to spend some more time laying in the adjacent background areas.  So I began to tackle more of the double wedding-ring pattern and the white areas.

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{second day: near the end of the day}

After the adjacent areas were laid in, I went back into the amaryllis flower and began refining.  I also took out the back of one of the flowers that had wilted overnight.  Sometimes I will keep a wilted flower in my painting even after it has ceased to exist, however with this painting I realized the void left by that one flower, now wilted, made for a more dynamic shape of the overall flowerhead.

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{second day: end of painting session}

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{third day: a few hours into the painting session}

On the morning of third painting session, I realized that this would be my last day to work with the amaryllis flower before it totally wilted.  So I worked almost exclusively on it.

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{third day: end of painting session, detail of the flowers}

As the end of the day drew near, I had just about finished with painting the amaryllis, so I began to focus on painting the quilt.  I still stayed close to the areas of the amaryllis because I knew that I would need to use this area to key to as I worked on the quilt when the flower would not be there to help me judge for correct color and value.

For me, painting is the experience of slowing down and absorbing what I see, and by painting objects that have a fleeting life, such as a flower, I feel like I am making their beauty more permanent, something to be admired for a long time to come.

Thank you for stopping by and I will be back with another post that describes the next phase of this painting.

 

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First Daffodils of Spring, 14 x 18 inches

First Daffodils of Spring

First Daffodils of Spring

The first spring that we lived in our home I was delighted to discover some daffodils blooming under and around a large oak in our yard. And in the subsequent years I have added more and more patches of daffodils, all in anticipation for the first daffodils to emerge from the ground.

As spring starts to show in the world, I become full of hope and excitement. Every morning I will go out and scout the areas where I know some bulbs were planted, just to see what may have emerged in the previous 24 hours. Sometimes counting the number of flower buds in anticipation of floral abundance and what I may bring inside to paint!

This painting was completed last spring, just as the world was warming up. I was motivated to capture every sparkling detail and shimmer of the cool spring light that was filtering into the studio. I was fascinated with the bright yellows and translucency of the petals, and how notes of glowing color could be found when I would slow down and observe the flowers carefully.

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Framed Painting: SOLD
{14″ x 18″ – oil on linen}

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Sorolla: The Masterworks by Blanca Pons-Sorolla

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Sorolla: The Masterworks by Blanca Pons-Sorolla

Sorolla is the artist I turn to when I want color and brushwork inspiration. And this book delivers.

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“The Return from Fishing” is one of my favorites because of its large abstract shapes of positive and negative spaces, this painting was exhibited in the Salon de Paris and is a shining example of his work.

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However, for me it is Sorolla’s ability to capture the daily and ordinary activities of life that makes his work so remarkable.  I am inspired by his ability to weave color and emotion into his paintings.

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And being such an avid gardener, I love how Sorolla painted garden spaces.  Such as a simple standard yellow rose or an architecturally significant space like the gardens in the Alcazar in Seville.  (I spent close to 6 weeks in Seville during my architecture days, and completed many a sketch in the Alcazar’s spacious gardens, and I love how he captured this quiet still pool and surrounding garden.)

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Sorolla: The Masterworks by Blanca Pons-Sorolla

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Stretch – Evolve – Rest, My words for 2015

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{Resting is easy for our kitty, Slim}

Every year I try to select a few words that will be my overarching mantra for the year. These “words of the year” help me stay focused on the main values I want to promote, and as always each word has a special meaning to me and all I hope to accomplish in 2015.

Stretch

In that when I am working, I want to spend a lot of my time in unfamiliar territory, I want to stretch my skills through applied deliberate practice. Deliberate practice is a special type of work that is designed for the sole purpose to effectively improve specific aspects of an individual’s performance. This is a concept I learned about last year while reading Cal Newport’s book “So Good They Can’t Ignore You”. In this book, I came to realize that if I want to grow as an artist, I cannot continue to repeat my painting practices but instead I must become more dedicated to pushing myself and aiming to dedicate more of my time to going outside of my comfort zone.

This is one of the reasons I accepted the Principle Gallery’s invitation to participate in the 2014 FaceOff portrait painting demonstration. In the past, I focused a lot of my art time to figurative and portraiture, but in the past 3+ years I had gotten away from it. Preparing for the FaceOff and then painting alongside Mia Bergeron and Cindy Procious was a BIG step outside my comfort zone. However in looking back at it, it was a wonderful experience and I now feel a lot more comfortable with returning to figurative subjects.

My goal in 2015 is to spend several hours a week in stretch mode, and hopefully it will lead to new opportunities. (You can read more about deliberate practice here and here, and of course in Cal Newport’s book).

Evolve

Is included this year to help remind me that nothing in life stays the same, that change is the natural path of life and I want to be open to change and all it brings in 2015.

Rest

In that I need to be more mindful of the need for REST and recharge time in my schedule in order to maintain a consistent level of creative output. This year I really want to foster a healthier attitude towards my physical limitations. In 2013 and 2014, I suffered from a few severe bouts of fatigue and illness that would sometimes sidetrack my plans for a month or more, so in 2015 I am going to break this cycle of over committing myself and burning the candle at both ends.

Sleep and down time will have equal priority with regards to my more active art career and mothering responsibilities.

And I plan to keep these three words in mind as the year goes by…

Stretch – Evolve – Rest

My dedication to resting and getting better after being sick for all of December and the first half of this month is one of the reasons this blog post is only being posted now, on the last week of January. So I know I have been applying the ideas with a level of intention I hope to maintain through the year. ;) ;)

Along with getting some much needed rest time, I have also started a new painting… something more involved than my recent work. It is 36 x 24 inches and the quilt in the background is one I pieced together and hand quilted in 2014.

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Here’s to a great 2015,

Thank you for stopping by,

Liz

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