Monday, December 26, 2011

Apples and Gourds

"Apples and Gourds" -- oil on canvas 30x30" -- Margie Guyot

As soon as I began disassembling "Pumpkins and Gourds" (the most recent painting), I stopped and thought why not use most of the same objects, only re-arranged?  You probably have guessed by now that I'm fascinated by gourds!  I had a bag of honeycrisp apples in the refrigerator.  Glad I pulled them out, too.  Two of them were starting to spoil.  So the chickens got those.  And I can't remember where I got the hand-woven grass mat.  Either it was the one I bought in the jungle in Panama or else it's a garage-sale find (one somebody else bought in a jungle somewhere).  And what would one of my still lifes be without good-old turkey feathers? 

I just loved the way the glass bowl distorted things!  Not much going on up here, TV-wise, and house-cleaning is so boring, I'd much rather be trying to figure out how to paint distortions!  And it being winter, I have no distractions from gardening chores.  Although the chickens and rabbits (and cats!) do require a certain amount of attention each day.

I wasn't entirely sure I could do a satisfactory rendition of that grass mat!  Thank goodness I didn't allow myself to go into a panic.  Just about anything can be figured out if you stay calm!

One thing that surprised me was the beautiful green shadow that the green "glass" bowl cast, in the upper right.  It may not show up well in this photo, but it is noticeable in person.  And another surprise to me was the faint reddish tones in the shadows cast by the red apples.  This painting was done under natural light, next to a south-facing window.  It was overcast the entire time I painted; no strong sunlight/shadow patterns.  Maybe the reddish tones only showed up because of the softer light.  Maybe they would have disappeared in strong sunlight.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"Kitty and Pumpkins"

"Kitty and Pumpkins" -- oil on canvas 36x36" -- Margie Guyot

Here it is, several days before Christmas, and I'm still painting pumpkins!  Well, this year I happened to find a very interesting assortment of pumpkins (and gourds).  I really hope to paint as many of them as I can before they rot. 

And what would a still life painting be without a wrinkled tablecloth and some type of glass?  I love painting both and have quite a collection.  Turkey feathers, too.  I use them often in paintings.  I love their ziggy-zaggy design -- and they're harder to paint than you'd think.

This year I did quite a number of small, 6x6" paintings, as they seemed more affordable.  They were good practice, but for me, it's frustrating.  I love doing very complex, difficult paintings -- and 6x6" is too small of an area for that.  So every once in a while I have to haul out a larger canvas to satisfy my need for "challenging projects".  My friend, Todd Warner, said that it's good to paint a large one at least once in a while to show people that we still can do it! 

I never paint from photographs.  I always use a viewfinder and draw the composition in, using a thin mix of a soft gray paint.  Sometimes there are a lot of wipe-outs, but generally it takes me about a day to draw a painting in.  Then I dive in to painting the darks, moving gradually to the medium tones and finally the very lightest tones. 

For this painting I deviated slightly.  The toughest thing for me was the distortions in the glass bowl.  Distortions in glass are very addictive for me and after having painted a few hundred little 6x6" apples and cupcakes, etc., I just had to slug away on this bowl first thing! 

Making a successful painting is learning how to control your panic!  Unlike plein air landscapes, the wonderful thing about still lifes is that they pretty much hold still.  The distortions stay still.  So that is a comfort.  I have learned to just calmly look at the shapes and paint them.  Painting shapes is all there is to it. 

Yesterday morning I'd pretty much painted in the whole thing except for the gap in the lower right.  The table edge left an empty gap.  What to put there to stop the viewer's eye from falling off into the abyss?  I was sitting here at the computer, mulling it over when Picasso, my studio cat, nudged my leg.  Aha!  I grabbed my camera and snapped his face.  Cats may be wonderful, but none of mine have ever cared to hold still.  So I did have to refer to a photograph for his portrait. 

The title: If I'd called this "Picasso and Pumpkins" it might have sent viewers into a wild goose chase, looking for "THE" Picasso, hidden somewhere. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011


"Blue" -- oil on canvas 16x20" -- Margie Guyot

Last weekend my friend Ann stopped in my studio to show me her new handblown Christmas ornaments.  She suggested I use them in a painting, paired with an old blue Carnival glass bowl I had.  I'm always careful to return borrowed items as quickly as possible, so when we had a sunny day here this past Friday, I painted like a fiend!  This painting would have been impossible to do without bright sunlight flooding in.
If I had the nerve, I would have titled this "Ann's Blue Balls"....

Antique Christmas Ornaments

"Antique Ornaments" -- oil on canvas 18x24"

Until I'd painted "White Poinsettias" (see previous post), I'd never attempted painting Christmas ornaments INSIDE their boxes.  It was rather challenging, but a lot of fun.  So I wanted to do another one, only with more boxes!  I'd thought of doing a very large canvas, but considering the economy, kept this one relatively small.

Every year I yearn for those 4" pots of poinsettias.  Love them!  Alas, the stores never get them here until well past Thanksgiving.  But I wanted to include some type of holiday plant.  So I brought one of my many Christmas cactii down to the studio.  I'd never attempted to paint one -- they seem like such a wild snarl!  But nothing ventured, nothing gained.  I always love a good challenge.  And it was sunny!  I love sunny days with the strong shadow patterns.

Keep tuned for a future painting with those elusive poinsettias.... 

More Pumpkins 12x12"

 "Cheese Pumpkin" -- oil on canvas 12x12" -- Margie Guyot

"Baby Boo" -- oil on canvas 12x12" -- Margie Guyot

Once again I've fallen behind on my posts!  Life is FULL.  The weather here along the NW coastline of Michigan has been balmy, compared to previous years.  We've even had a few sunny days, which I've used to squeeze in a few more plein air paintings of the pumpkins.  I wish I could say I had grown all of them, but the deer population here would never allow it.  No, these are "store-bought" pumpkins from a farmstand in Traverse City.  I never cease to be amazed at the varieties!  All they had when I was growing up were the big jack-o-lantern types.

To paint pumpkins, I've been plopping them in the grass in front of my studio, setting up the Soltek easel and Bestbrella and sitting in my lawnchair.  Usually I stand when painting, but maybe I felt lazy.  And I always, always use a little viewfinder to see my compositions.  

Most of the time it would be sunny when I'd begin; often the clouds would roll in at some point and I'd lose my strong sunshine/shadow patterns.  And the temperature would drop very quickly.  Good thing I paint fast!