Monday, December 6, 2010


"Butterflies" -- oil on canvas -- 30x40" -- Margie Guyot

Some years ago while walking through a gallery out in Montana, I realized that the paintings that "grabbed" me were ones done in predominantly complementary colors.  My last post was of a painting I'd done in mostly reds and greens.  Both these paintings began as a decision about color.

In reality, both pieces of fabric were shades of red.  I used artistic license to change them to orange.  The poinsettia was really pink.  I love poinsettias by the way and always manage to kill them within a couple weeks.  I just don't have the touch for them.  One of my friends has plants she's had for years.  Go figure.

The blue butterfly glasses are of 60's vintage.  I found them in an antique store up north.  Love the blue shadows they cast!  The Lucite box with butterflies is also from a resale shop.  To get the blue to "glow", I first painted it white.  After it dried, I gave it coats of ultramarine blue mixed with Liquin.

One artist I was taking a workshop from said (rather snottily), "Obviously this comes easy to you!"  We'd been painting landscapes at the time.  I said no -- it's really tough, but I try to control my panic(!) and figure it out, bit by bit.  I'm far too impatient to take a slide and project and trace onto the canvas.  I always paint directly from life and wipe-outs are a part of it.  

The first painting class I had was out at Scottsdale Artists School.  The teacher was Clyde Aspevig.  He gave each of us a simple, cardboard cutout viewfinder.  I don't know how many people continued using theirs after the class, but I wore mine out.  Using a viewfinder really helps find the composition.  Now I use an adjustable viewfinder.  When I start a painting, I first use a yardstick to lightly draw in the "crosshairs" on the canvas.  Then I look through the viewfinder and determine what sits on the crosshairs.  I relate everything to that.  Without a viewfinder, my composition would end up running off the canvas!

Another essential thing is the principles I learned in Betty Edwards' classic, "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain".  During a big layoff from my job at Ford (1980), somebody loaned me a copy.  I saw how the high school students made such dramatic improvements after 3 months of her instruction.  That was enough to make me do every exercise in the book.  I hadn't drawn or painted in over 15 years.  By the time I finished the book, voila!  I could draw!

People say they just want to paint.  They say they don't care about drawing.  Well, the skills you learn in Betty's book are applicable to painting as well.  Everything boils down to measurements and comparisons.  You learn to look at something and ask: is it bigger? is it smaller?  is it at an angle? is it warmer or cooler? lighter or darker?  The exercises teach you to ignore that inner voice that wants to scream it looks horrible!
Patience, patience!  It's all just measurements and comparing.

PS -- the ice cubes!  I added those at the end, on a whim.  They were so fun!  Will have to do more with those....

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