Friday, February 20, 2015

Stretching With Reptiles

It's not a new fitness program, but rather the process for starting on my latest painting project....for hire this one! My past few weeks of painting was a warm up to this project. The subject is the beautiful African Black Forest Cobra. Was it my choice? No, but I'm very grateful to have a project to paint something for a real live customer! This one will definitely stretch the imagination and skills.

The path to the painting
When I agree to take on a project it begins in the mind. The ideas, the researching of images, the preparation of sketches, ideas, a color scheme. It takes very little ACTUAL working time at this stage, but it consumes my mind for some days and even in my sleep as I think about how I am going to go about painting the image. It might look like.....stalling.....looking at snake pictures. Then the drawing....fiddling around ...... a few afternoons with the actual drawing, scaling and putting the pieces into perspective. Then, that magical day arrives when the inevitable cannot be put off any longer....I clean off glass palettes (more diversion).....squirt out a few colors .... and I paint!

After that initial drawing I spot colors upon the pristine white canvas. It takes the first bits of mid-tone color. I have been working with an approach of taking the boldest color of the palette and covering the canvas with it. I use a very loose mixture of pigment and light medium. It's almost transparent and my underdrawing will show through this layer which will guide the next layers.
At this point it looks silly and weird! But I do not despair, for this is only the start. This is usually when Don comes out to see what I'm doing, looks at it, and walks away! This isn't the pretty stage no matter what the subject.

The next session has me adding more definition to the subjects. Yeah, it's still weird looking, but trust me; it will all work out!
Music helps
I like to listen to our DirecTV soft jazz station while I paint. It is motivating but doesn't demand my attention. I like to drift away on the tunes, not even knowing the artists, but enjoying the flow while I paint. Three hours will pass and I won't know it until I come up for air.

Winter weather helps 
The details of each snake are now starting to develop. Another few hours to bring it into focus. I am continuing to work wet-into-wet even after several days. I use Grumbacher Medium II which is slow drying, but not THAT slow drying. The canvas and the palettes are stored in the frigid main area of our barn when I'm not working. It prevents the paint from drying as is equal to putting everything in the freezer!

The final product
Scales are painted, highlights and a general fine tuning. This will sit for a few days to dry before I put a protective spray of matte acrylic on the surface. Into a frame and it will move to its new home. Giving it a break for a few days will give me time to come back with "fresh eyes" to decide if it really is done. 

What did I learn?
It doesn't really matter what the subject is.....find the art in it. I found myself being very fascinated with snakes having spent these weeks studying their own version of beauty. Everything boils down to shapes. The shapes I represented happen to belong to a large poisonous reptile. I like them a lot from my end of the brush!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Corpse Corners

Mercury retrograde offered up some strange days last week. I usually don't put too much investment in that happening until tragic events started happening. It wasn't just the miscommunications and inconvenience of misbehaving mechanics. This was real life and death.

The week started with the disappointment of getting notice that NONE of my entries made it into the ArtsWest show. Bummer. Dang!!! Not tragic, but has me scratching my head about my brilliant art career. (Yes, note sarcasm.) 

Next, my friend accidentally ran over her border collie killing her instantly. Poor Lilly was a youngster and it was just heartbreaking that this bundle of joy and energy had her life abruptly cut short.

The last shoe dropped when the Pepin County Sheriff and deputy knocked on our door. They wanted to know if they could access the railroad tracks by passing through our woods. Seems there was report by a train engineer that there was a BODY just off the tracks behind our home.

Shortly before the sheriff arrived we heard a loud sudden shudder from a passing train. A bit later a helicopter was circling. The engineer had spotted the body and slammed on the train brakes and called it in. Fire trucks and rescue vehicles were parked on the highway in front of our house for the next two hours and gave the horses quite a thrill.

Don offered to go out and help, but they had scads of people to go out there on that blustery15 degree day. His plastic otter sled was used to haul the person out who was quite dead and frozen solid. He was wearing blue tennis shoes. We watched them work in our driveway as they loaded the plastic wrapped body into a white bag on a gurney and loaded him into the awaiting vehicle for the ride to the St. Paul Medical Examiners office. 

A couple days later the young black male was identified as 35-year-old Steven Jouie Glaze. The link tells his story up until 2008. It seems things literally came off the tracks to the sad end of his life. It's still a mystery why he was on the tracks and not dressed for the outdoors. Pleas by law enforcement to contact family members have gone unanswered.

After a week of sad events, it is good to appreciate having a warm home and a great life. Things could be so much worse.