Monday, April 26, 2010

Old Mission Peninsula Plein Airs

"Barn on Old Mission Peninsula" -- plein air field study -- 9x12" -- Margie Guyot

My friend, Al Maciag, and I were spending the day, tooling around the beautiful Old Mission Peninsula. It's NE of Traverse City, MI. He called me in the morning to say the cherry orchards were in bloom -- and did I want to go painting? Whatta question! I enjoyed the chance to be a passenger and sat, dog-like, gazing out the window. While I'm not a big fan of painting old barns, we decided this scene was pretty enough to paint. I believe this is a horse farm, as two were peeking at us from behind the wooden fence on the hill. A few clusters of blooming daffodils were livening up the scene. Please scroll down to the the two other paintings I did that day.

"Forsythia" -- plein air field study -- oil on canvas -- 9x12" -- Margie Guyot

While waiting for my friend's daugher and son-in-law to prepare dinner, Al and I scooted down the drive to paint some forsythia bushes in full bloom. After a dreary winter of blues and grays, the chance to paint screaming yellows was irresistable! Although the day had been overcast, the sky cleared later on. I loved the patterns of shadows on the street. Notice how the shade of yellow changed on the painted center line of the street? Showing sunlight and shadows is fun!
One more painting to check out:

"Cherry Trees" -- plein air field study -- oil on canvas -- 11x14" -- Margie Guyot

This was the first painting of the day. This area of NW Michigan is filled with orchards: apple, cherry, apricot, peach and plum. When they're in bloom, it's like heaven! We painted this orchard on Old Mission Peninsula, just NE of Traverse City.

The sky was bright but overcast, with a layer of thin, white clouds. No blue. As soon as I saw this scene, I realized that the cherry blossoms were actually quite dark, compared to the bright sky. They looked rather medium-gray in comparison. I loved the pattern of the sky and blossoms most of all. Of course, it was rather challenging to figure out how to paint this, but, like figuring out an algebra test (or a jigsaw puzzle), I knew to just stick with it and not panic.

You won't see any strong sunlight/shadow patterns in this one because there weren't any.

Monday, April 12, 2010

"Lunch Break"

"Lunch Break" -- oil on canvas -- 24x30" -- Margie Guyot

Pansies are such sweet little flowers, so welcome after the long winter! I snapped up a flat of them one day last week, getting an assortment of every available color. After laying in the basic lines of the composition, I spent an entire afternoon painting in the blooms. They wouldn't last.

From there it was relatively easy. The pineapple pitcher came from a resale shop. I'll have to use it again -- it's just too cool!

The striped glasses seemed to go well with things, although they're pretty tough to paint. Obelisks are always a big challenge.

But where did I stash my gardening gloves? I've had to move everything I own several times in the past 2 years, so it took a while to find them. These gloves were fairly easy to paint, thank goodness!

I'd painted in the outline of the plate but left finishing it for last. What to put on that plate? I've used cookies so often, I wanted something else. The grocery stores up here offer such nasty-looking pastries: electric blue frosting, plastic toys, glitter -- ugh! So I decided to paint a sandwich. Alas, I haven't had bread in the house in over a year. Luckily, my neighbor Pete had some and graciously gave me 2 slices. I slapped some lettuce between and quickly painted it.

The laundry needed tending, so by the time I got back to the studio, the kitties had disassembled the sandwich. No meat -- sorry buddies! I gave the lettuce & bread to the chickens.

Still, the sandwich looked a bit bare. An olive would look spiffy! Rummaged around in the fridge and found a jar. Yikes! It was pretty old. The olives had turned brown. Had to paint the olive from memory.

This painting went fairly quickly, as I've finally gotten a lot better about using Liquin as a medium. Instead of having to wait days for a section to dry, I can usually continue painting the next day. Ah, what is that saying? "Better living though chemistry!"

Monday, April 5, 2010

"Hot Fudge"

(My cat, Picasso, likes taking a nap in the middle of my painting setup.)

"Hot Fudge" -- oil on canvas -- 24x30" -- Margie Guyot

An acquaintance saw this yesterday and asked, "Who'd buy it?" An indication of his foul mood, of course. Fortunately, I knew the answer to his question: somebody with an equally eccentric personality, someone with a sense of humor. Why should I waste my life paint boring, trite subjects? Years ago, recovering from surgery, I'd been rudely reminded of my mortality. Looking at my paintings on the wall, I wondered: do I want to look back on my life's work, realizing I'd painted nice, little "safe" images of teapots and onions with the hope of making a sale? Or do I want to look back at my life's work and have a good laugh, knowing I'd painted what amused me, what I loved? The answer was very clear.

What if Monet, Van Gogh or Picasso had asked permission before doing their paintings?

People often ask me what my inspiration for a painting was. In this case, the spark was when I stumbled upon 2 more monkey candlestick holders at a resale shop, bringing my collection to 3. Regrettably, I couldn't fit all 3 pairs into this painting. Also, having been on a low-carb diet for the past year (and counting), hot fudge sundaes have been a no-no. What we cannot have, we crave most. Pairing the humorous monkeys with zig-zaggy, striped fabric and hot fudge sundaes symbolically captures some of the joy and zest of life's celebrations.

Somebody once looked at one of my paintings and remarked that "obviously, that comes easy to you". WRONG! I look at a still life setup (or landscape) and one of my first thoughts is: yikes -- this is going to be tough! I love challenges. I abhor easy stuff. I just start out with painting the darkest shapes and pick my way through the painting, working from dark to light. Painting what I can figure out, little by little, until the painting is finished.

I love the challenge of wrinkled fabric. Yes, it's a nightmare. But so rewarding when finished! Symbolically, the wrinkles represent our struggle with life's challenges.

To paint the hot fudge sundaes, which were the last thing, I put the ice cream and fudge sauce into one of the dishes. Painted it as quickly as possible, then oh my goodness, had to eat it. No sense wasting things. They talk about "suffering for art". I managed to paint the remaining two sundaes from one actual dish of the real thing.

Ah, but what else did it lack? Maraschino cherries! Not wanting to buy a full jar of them, I got a waitress friend to snag two of them. Although wrapped in plastic wrap overnight in the fridge, by the next day they'd lost some of their sheen. To revive their luxurious shimmer, I rolled them in a little olive oil. After I was done with them, I gave them to the chickens.

Days after completing this, I realized this painting symbolizes my years of struggle, working on the assembly line (represented by the wrinkled, striped fabric) and the joys and rewards of retirement (symbolized by the monkeys and hot fudge sundaes).