Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Green Cabbage

"Green Cabbage" -- plein air field study -- oil on canvas  18x24" -- Margie Guyot

Sunday morning I went kayaking out on Lake Michigan with a couple friends.  I'd have gladly quit after an hour -- the sun was blazing, it was going up to 90 degrees and the waves made it rather challenging.  But nooooo -- we stayed out 3 hours!  I was pretty well tuckered-out by the time I got home.  Had to take a nap.
Ah, there's nothing like a little rest and cup of Starbucks to get me going again!  I loaded my Soltek, BestBrella, Gamsol and paints into the car and drove over to my neighbor's garden.  OK -- call me soft.  I could have carried it all over, but why suffer needlessly?  I'd had my exercise for the day.

Wearing my long bumblebee-free jeans, socks and shoes, I felt confident I would be safe from marauding insects, although I sweated like a pig.  90 degrees at 4 PM.  Did I mention I'm not a "heat person"?  But I had been wanting to paint one of the green cabbages for days.  Nothing was going to stop me.  Except rain.

How quickly the sun was sinking behind the row of trees to the west!  Brushes, don't fail me now!  I painted as fast as I possibly could.  Slap that paint around, girl!!!  It would be no good to try to paint without strong sunlight and shadows.  Notice how the sunlight seemed to make one of the leaves on the left side appear to almost glow?  It made the central vein appear a surprisingly strong yellow.
There's nothing like painting in good-old, strong sunlight!  You see colors you'd never be able to get if you were using a photograph as reference.  Depending on the angle of the leaf, some sections would be reflecting the blue of the sky; others would be reflecting the warm gold of the sun.  It's the strong shadow shapes that make an object "pop".   To me, if something doesn't "pop", it's just blah.  And why paint "blah"?

I usually do plein air in smaller sizes just because the light changes so quickly.  But I wanted to paint larger, showing the cabbage nearly life-size.  Impossible to do it proper justice on an 8x10" canvas.
The most difficult part of any painting, for me, is drawing it in.  I always use a little view-finder to help figure out the composition.  And I always use skills I learned from Betty Edward's wonderful book, "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain".  I used my brush handle as a kind of measuring stick, basing all the drawings of the leaves on the gauge of the tight cabbage head.  Otherwise this would have been impossible for me to draw.  And yes, I always have lots of wipe-outs!  But that's the great thing about oil paint -- it dries so slowly, it's easy to wipe out what you don't like.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


"Corn" -- plein air field study -- oil on canvas -- 24x12" -- Margie Guyot

I'd been looking at this cornfield near my house for the past couple weeks, hoping to find time to paint it.  The deer and raccoons have been ravaging the outer edges.  In reality, there are ears with chunks missing, ears hanging and entire stalks ripped out.  I "prettied it up" for the painting. 

And talk about a hellish, mish-mash of green to try to make sense out of!  Oy vey!  Didn't know if I could pull this one off, but hey -- nothing ventured, nothing gained! 

What I loved most about this scene was the interesting patterns on the ground, cast by the stalks and leaves.

And speaking of leaves: the wind was blowing them around, making it as difficult to try to paint as trying to paint a barnyard of crazy chickens!  I couldn't really tell you how I figured out how to get this picture painted!  Felt like I was treading on "new ground".  But I think it worked.

The wind blew my umbrella off twice.  But no bumblebee stung me this time -- I had the sense to wear LONG pants.  So maybe tomorrow I'll return to my neighbor's garden and paint their green cabbage (site of the infamous bumblebee sting of a few days ago).

Monday, August 23, 2010

Purple Cabbage

"Purple Cabbage" -- plein air field study -- 18x24" -- oil on canvas -- Margie Guyot

Normally I wouldn't paint a plein air study in this large a format, but I decided to try it this afternoon.  I'd been over at the neighbor's garden, picking a few green beans, when I noticed their beautiful row of cabbages.  Aha!  Time to drag out the old easel!

Thank goodness I threw everything into my car and drove over.  It took a couple hours to paint this and the sun was hot and I was rather tired at the end.  My BestBrella didn't want to stay put in the wind, so I had to hold it most of the time with my left hand.  Then my canvas blew off the Soltek easel!  I managed to catch it before it landed face-down in the dirt.  But worst of all: a mean bumblebee (one of those fat, black & yellow jobs) crawled up inside my capris and stung me in back of my left knee!  OWWWW!  Talk about "suffering for one's art"!  I was happy my car was nearby and I could just heave all my gear into the back. 

Cabbages are so cool!  I might come back and paint one of the green ones.  But next time I'll be sure to wear LONG pants!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Sunset #1: Rex Beach 8/15/10"

"Sunset #1: Rex Beach 8/15/10" -- plein air field study -- oil on canvas panel -- 8x10" -- Margie Guyot

It's been very windy here the past couple days, so when I first got down to Rex Beach I prowled along the shoreline, hoping to find a Petoskey stone or two.  The waves usually bring them in.  No luck.  I was killing a little time, waiting for the big cloud bank to move south a little more.

The view was spectacular!  I could see patches of heavy rainfall out over the lake.  Somebody was getting pounded.  I found out later Harbor Springs, Petoskey and Charlevoix were catching hell.  Dry as a bone where I stood (just north of Eastport).  

But the wind!  It was difficult to paint a straight horizon line with my hand being buffeted by the wind gusts.  I looked up and saw the sun in this position, peeking out for one last look before being covered by the clouds.  

The view changes by the second!  There's the urge to keep changing the painting, but I've learned from experience not to do this too much.  You can drive yourself crazy, following the endless changes.

"Sunset #2: Rex Beach 8/15/10"

"Sunset #2: Rex Beach 8/15/10" -- plein air field study -- oil on canvas panel -- 8x10" -- Margie Guyot

The sun had just dipped below the horizon, but there was still lots of light, enough to paint a second (or even a third) painting.  I was looking north, out over Lake Michigan, towards Harbor Springs.  I could see there was quite a rainstorm going on out over the lake.  Still very windy -- hard to hold my brush still enough to paint the horizon line.  But very refreshing, after last week's heat wave!

After I got home, a friend called to say his wife (an oboe player) had gotten rained out of the Harbor Springs Community Band's concert.  They'd gotten through about mid-way through their third number when the conductor had to stop and announce they had to end.  Such a mad scramble to pack up instruments, stands, chairs and music!  They managed to square it all away seconds before the giant deluge.

It was dry as a bone where I stood, thank goodness.  The rain didn't hit here in Eastport until after about 11 PM. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

"Rhubarb Pie"

"Rhubarb Pie" -- oil on canvas -- 30x40" -- Margie Guyot

About two months ago I woke up in the middle of the night, thinking that I needed to paint a picture about rhubarb pie.  I've been so busy this summer, I never got around to baking an actual pie, though.  The one in this painting was painted entirely from memory.  Lord knows I've baked enough of them to know what they look like!  Same goes for the bowl of sliced rhubarb.

There are two young kitties that stay in my studio, so it would have been a huge mistake to have a real pie sitting there.  They'd have tasted it and walked on it in no time.  The piecrust (upper left) I painted from memory, too.  The cookbook was all made-up, too.  The potholders (lower right corner) were taken right out of a page from Martha Stewart Living Magazine. 

Summers are just a madhouse!  I also play in a saxophone quartet and the Charlevoix Community Band, plus sometimes I sit in with a little jazz band.  Then there's gardening.  And 10 chickens to take care of.  Weeding.  The distractions are endless.  So I have to slug away on paintings sometimes, doing bits of work when I can fit it in.  

Of course I listened to "Prairie Home Companion" while painting this.  Always love the "BeBop Arebop Rhubarb Pie" stories Garrison Keillor tells.  

Also currently listening to CDs by Mega-Sax, the sax quartet led by Miles Osland, at University of Kentucky.  Pretty wild stuff! 


Monday, August 2, 2010

Geraniums and Frog

"Geraniums and Frog" -- plein air field study -- oil on canvas panel -- 8x10" -- Margie Guyot

After finishing painting "Porch Ornaments", I looked down and saw this at my feet.  I had an hour or so before I had to frame things and drive back to Petoskey, so why not go for a third painting?  It had been such a dark, gloomy day, I thought it would be nice to do a funny, cheery painting.

Porch Ornaments

"Porch Ornaments" -- plein air field study -- oil on canvas -- 10x20" -- Margie Guyot

After finishing painting "Charlevoix Train Station", I felt discouraged.  It was dark and gloomy and rainy -- not a good day for plein air painting!  All of us painters were under the gun to come up with nice paintings, framed and turned in later that afternoon.  Everything looked so blah!  Oh, what to do, what to do!

I packed up my gear and left Charlevoix.  Went home.  I was hungry.  Made a salad for lunch and had a cup of Starbucks.  There had to be something I could paint!

Standing out on my front porch, I looked up and saw it: my next painting!  Bright, cheery and whimsical: it was perfect!  There was the little "flying fish" tincan sculpture by Rich Branstrom and the string of plastic owl patio lights.  It gave me goosebumps.  Goosebumps, for me, are always a sign that I should do it, to follow through on an impulse.  I couldn't stop smiling the whole time I painted this one.  This was my favorite painting (out of 3) that I did on Saturday for the annual Crooked Tree Art Center's Paint-Out.

Charlevoix Train Station

"Charlevoix Train Station" -- oil on canvas -- 10x20" -- Margie Guyot

Ah, the morning of the Crooked Tree Art Center's Annual Plein Air Paint-Out -- and it was raining!!!!  Boo-hoo!  And I had two surprise houseguests, fortunately both painters: Heiner Hertling and Mike Toderoff.  We had to check-in up in Charlevoix at 8 AM.  Pay our fee, get our blank canvases stamped on the back.  Everything was due back in Petoskey by 5 or 6 PM, framed and ready to hang.  Such pressure to produce -- and have it look GOOD!  

Neither Mike nor Heiner knew of any good spots to paint, especially protected spots.  So I took them down to the old train depot in Charlevoix.  There were covered spots we could stand under.  About the only view we had was of the train station, now owned by the Historical Society.  

None of us likes paintings buildings.  All those windows!  All those straight lines!  But it was the only option at that point.  So we slugged away on it, muttering and complaining the whole time.  

Heiner and Mike finished theirs and headed on north, towards Petoskey.  I packed my gear up and drove home.  Had to recharge -- have lunch, a coffee, and consider what on earth I could paint next.