I have a few teaching opportunities coming up next month and in the winter season.
Rory McEwen: The Colours of Reality by Martyn Rix
I first became aware of the work of Rory McEwen when I read this blog post on Katherine Tyrell’s Making a Mark blog. Then by coincidence a dear friend of mine gave me this monograph of his work, and all I can say is that I often lose an hour or more when I open this book because I spend so much time looking at each plate.
Rory McEwen’s career was long and varied, intermixing his interest in botanical art and jazz music. This book covers both, though mainly focusing on his art.
I particularly like his stark compositions of flowers, how they are placed on backgrounds that are totally void of anything, thus really focusing attention on the minute details he captured and recorded. His technique most often employed watercolor on vellum, a method that employs a very dry application of highly saturated watercolor to its support.
However, there is one small section that deviates from his typical technique, its of his exploration of watery watercolors and grasses. These images really capture my imagination, because of the variety of line and form in these pieces. Some areas of the watercolors were allowed to bloom and blossom, creating fuzzy and soft edges, and then there were areas of rigorous precision and edge, much like his more typical work.
I am a homebody by nature. I love being home, working in my studio in my garden.
I also love the seasons of the year.
As an artist, I strive to always paint seasonally, and before this year, this always meant that I would paint what is blooming in my garden. Painting only from life. However when my family moved, my studio situation changed, and I no longer had a large northern facing window. Now my lovely and larger studio has only one window that is smaller in size and faces west. This change in the fundamental design of my studio layout has forced me to reassess my studio practice. And I am happy to share that I am adapting and really liking how it is changing.
I am still committed to recording the seasons with my paintings, but instead of painting the flowers that are blooming in my studio, I am going outside in painting in my garden.
This year I’ve committed to learning to paint in plein air, and have been enjoying the immediacy of this painting practice. It requires intensive concentration for short spurts of time because the light changes so rapidly. In two hours the sun shifts in the sky, thus changing the angle of shadows and highlights, and even the color notes observed.
[ Image of azaleas, image of watercolor sketch of crocus and Hyacinth]
In the spring, I dipped my toe in sketching and painting oil sketches.
[Image of foxglove, close-up and distant ]
As the summer has progressed, painting in plein air has become a part of my life. I paint a sketches regularly. Typically in the morning before I do anything else. It helps me connect with the season and slow down and observe how my garden is changing.
I have written before about why I teach, today I want to share my underlying philosophy of how I teach.
There are many ways to teach oil painting
This past February I was surprised and honored when I received an invitation to participate in a special exhibition at the Bennington Art Center in Bennington Vermont. The exhibition, Artists for the New Century, takes place every five years and the artists invited are nominated by the editors of American Art Collector, Art of the West, Fine Art Connoisseur, Plein Air Magazine, and Southwest Art.
In 2012, my husband helped me narrow down my art philosophy into this distinct and simple statement. Five years later it still holds true today. It is my goal to celebrate and live with intention, and to bring this sense of life to my creative process of painting.
In the last year so much has changed, but still this underlying principle holds, and I still come to art with the deep desire to share my love of simple things and elevate these experiences into fine art. 2017 has been a year of transition and growth, and today marks an important anniversary for my own path as an artist.
“Expression implies emphasis and selection”
I am not sure where I first came across this quote, however I had it posted in my studio for several years to remind me daily of this idea. To me the idea that “expression implies emphasis and selection” is what the creative process is all about.
In order to synthesize my experience into a work of art, I need to investigate it and then choose how I will express my interpretation of the scene.
When I first started painting with oil in late 2006, I struggled to understand and apply everything about the medium all at once, but when I switched my mindset from having to focus on everything all together to narrowing my attention to mastering one fundamental of painting at a time, things really began to take off for me.
Before that time, each painting experience had the potential of becoming emotionally discouraging and also a disaster in outcome, you know, making a bunch of mud. And in the beginning, the time I had to devote to learning to paint was precious, because I was still working as a full-time architect.
Morning Ramble, 20 x 16 inches
When I began this painting, I first completed a scaled color-study of the composition.Because I was working from a photo reference, I wanted to explore a few ideas and experiment on how I was going to simplify the busy and information filled background.
Something you may know about me, is that I am SUPER fascinated with detail, lots of texture, and complex shapes. However, detail and texture must be incorporated thoughtfully into a painting or else it will overwhelm the composition.
This is a painting of my daughter, Naomi, with her friend, Kiaya. They were two-year-olds when they first met in September 2013, and they have regularly been weekly playmates since then.
This double portrait is my personal exploration of their friendship, and a summer-time play date from last June (2016).
Last year in early June, my old garden was blooming well. Sweet Williams had taken over a corner of my flowerbeds, the chives I had separated and planted in a row, trying to create a bordering edge the year before were a riot of blooms, and everything else was green and lush. The garden was getting ready for the height of late June.
Ringtone and Flower Record Daffodils
In my quest to always paint the flowers that I grow in my garden, about three years ago, I began reading more about gardening. The magazine that has had the most influence on me in the last few years is the British periodical, "Gardens Illustrated" and as a result of religiously reading this magazine from cover to cover, I have begun to realize how helpful it is to use the correct names for the different plants and flowers I grow.
Peonies Festiva Maxima and Flower Bud
This is a painting I began on my own in the studio, and then demonstrated to my Saturday morning students how I finish a piece. Sometimes this final phase where I am tying up loose ends and trying to unify a piece can take extra time to resolve. So after the 3-hour class was over, I continued on a bit more adding the finishing touches.