Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"Honeycrisps #2"

"Honeycrisps #2" -- oil on canvas 24x24" -- Margie Guyot

This is my favorite variety of apple!  It tastes like its name: sweet and crisp.  Lately I've been on a pumpkin/gourd/apple kick.  The most recent painting, "Granny Smiths", featured green apples on a red and white tablecloth.  I'm a huge fan of paintings done in contrasting colors, so I had to follow that painting with red apples on a green tablecloth.

This tablecloth was an antique store find.  When I pulled it out, I hesitated because of the gold.  But the longer I looked at the honeycrisps, the more yellow and gold I saw in them.  So I think it was a good match.

My studio is in NW Michigan, along the coastline of Lake Michigan.  It's winter here and the skies are overcast about 98% of the time.  Summers are a joy, but winters are pretty gloomy.  So it's a rare thing to see strong, bright sunlight and shadow patterns in my still lifes -- unless I invent them.

Years ago when I was visiting galleries out West, I was very impressed with the paintings of the American Impressionists and master painters of the Old West.  They were so good at painting cloth!  I'd stand right up to the paintings, studying how they painted fabric folds.  More than once I set off an alarm by standing too close.  But at least I got a good look at how they did it.

I always love challenging myself, so I never shy away from painting wrinkled, mussed-up tablecloths!  Some people take photos and then project and trace, but I work from life.  I do use a little viewfinder to help compose the painting.  There are generally a lot of wipe-outs when I'm laying in the design, but I'm used to that, so I don't panic.  Heck, it's more fun that shoveling out the chicken coop!

I must admit, though, the pattern of this tablecloth was about to drive me mad!

Monday, January 16, 2012

"Granny Smiths"

"Granny Smiths" -- oil on canvas 24x24" -- Margie Guyot

I had the urge to paint another apple still life.  This time I wanted to do something with Granny Smith apples, since I'd painted quite a few Honeycrisps lately.  I love the green!  If you've been following my blog at all, you may have noticed I love painting vintage tablecloths as well.  And I don't shy away from painting folds and wrinkles, either.  What else is there to do, anyway?  Iron sheets?  Wash walls?  No, I'd sooner be figuring out how to paint things!

Often I'll decide on the color scheme before I set up a still life.  Years ago I was in a gallery out West when I realized that the paintings that seemed to jump off the wall were done in contrasting colors: red and green.  Orange and blue.  Lavender and yellow.  I love bright colors and a "this one's jumping off the wall!" type feeling, so much of the time I will consciously decide on contrasting colors before I set things up.

I've used this red and white tablecloth in several other paintings.  I snagged it in an antique store in Traverse City a year or two ago. 

The apples -- I'd planned on buying a bag of them, but the bagged ones all looked too green.  Like they weren't ripe yet.  Super-green, gill-grabbers!  So I had to pick out individual ones, going for the more pale ones at Meijer's.  A couple had faint tinges of red (all the better!).

And it was such a crazy week to try to paint!  A 6" snowfall, 2 rehearsals (I'm in 3 different musical groups), plus I taught 2 art classes and had art show opening at the Dennos Museum in Traverse City.  There were constant interruptions, but sometimes that's good, too.  It can be helpful to step away from one's painting, then come back to it to "see it with a fresh eye".

What's next?  A red apple with green tablecloth?  Possibly!

"Ford Flex in Snow"

"Flex in Snow" -- plein air field study -- 8x10" oil on birch panel -- Margie Guyot

Setup for "Flex in Snow", January 13, 2012

This has been the strangest winter.  Up until January 13th, we'd only had 1" of snow.  Many days were 40 degrees (or more).  I was hoping we would get some snowfall so I could do some paintings of cedar trees in the snow, ideally on a bright, sunny day, so there would be blue shadows.  I haven't seen this combination yet, but it could still happen.

So last Friday I woke up to 6" of snow.  It was still snowing here and I was so excited, I wanted to paint it.  From past experience, I've learned it's next to impossible to paint when the snow is falling.  It ends up on your palette, mixing in with the oil paints.  Just an icky mess!  

The whole front side of my house has a porch with an overhanging roof, so I set up my Soltek easel and painted this view of my Ford Flex.  Keep your fingers crossed for a sunny day + snow!

Oh -- I get asked this all the time: how is your Flex in the snow?  Great!  This one's got AWD and I've never had a problem.  I managed to get out of my long driveway, through the pileup at the end that the snowplow leaves, and out onto the highway.  And there's lots of cargo room for transporting big paintings. 

"Lettuce and Tomatoes"

"Lettuce and Tomatoes" -- oil on canvas 16x20" -- Margie Guyot

This is the first painting I did after the holidays, right when everybody's thinking about diets and salads!  I'd just finished a still life recently that had this same green bowl in it.  It was such a "hoot" to do, I had to do another one.  Don't you love the greenish shadow it casts?  I'm fascinated by glass (although this bowl was really plastic!) and how it distorts shapes.  Why scrub floors when you can paint glass?

We rarely get sunny days in winter up here, so there is hardly ever a true, strong sense of shadow shapes -- only a fuzzy suggestion. 

Another thing that's captured my fascination lately has been the colors of the shadows.  It seems the local color of an object (such as the carrots) affects its shadow.  Notice the faint tinge of orange next to the carrots?  And the faint tinge of red next to the red pepper?  The cold and winter snows help eliminate distractions up here in the north so we artists can notice things we might otherwise miss.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


"Honeycrisp" -- oil on canvas 18x24" -- Margie Guyot

My favorite apple variety, the Honeycrisp!  With the wind howling and snow blowing, it seemed to be the perfect way to spend a few days, holing up in my studio, painting apples.  That's a resale shop glass bowl.  I'd used it in a a painting right before this.  It's fun to paint -- I like the way it distorts.
Honeycrisp apples may not be the prettiest apples out there, but they're the tastiest.  They always sell out before any of the other varieties.  

Most of the time it's overcast in winter up this way (northern Michigan).  But one day the sun peeked out for about 5 minutes, and I saw small bits of sunlight hitting the table, filtering through the row of geraniums on the windowsill.  I thought the little spots of sunlight added a bit of charm.

About 99% of this painting was done with just one brush: a #6 Silverbrush flat.  It's a great brush.  Holds its knife-edge, allowing me to make long, thin strokes.  I'm not very fond of cleaning brushes, so that's probably why I will paint all day long with one brush.  OK, I did have to use one more, a Windsor-Newton Series 7 Kolinsky sable, only to sign my name.  

Some artists are very careful about cleaning brushes.  One friend gently wipes them with walnut oil, never turpentine, certainly never soap or detergent.  I guess I'm horribly brutal: I douse them with Dawn dish soap and scrub them mercilessly until they come clean.  And sometimes I add a drop of soap to the bristles and re-shape them, allowing them to dry that way.  I don't know who's right about this, but I guess the brush manufacturers like to sell me more brushes!