Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"Banks Twp Park - Ice Chunks"

"Banks Twp. Park - Ice Chunks" -- plein air field study -- oil on canvas 8x16" -- Margie Guyot

It was another glorious, sunny day here, so I decided to venture up to Banks Township Park.  Pulled on my long underwear and ultra-heavyweight down coat.  And this time I wore hiking boots with ice grippers.  Unlike Barnes Park (see previous post), Banks Park lacks a steep hill, allowing the icy winds to sail right along. 

See that distant little point sticking out?  That's where I hiked to paint.  There's a rocky point that juts out and after my experience of falling into a crevass, I wanted to play it safe and stick to the rocks.  And I was so glad I'd bundled up.  The wind was brutally cold out there.

Things always are exciting out on that point.  I set my gear down and walked all around, looking for the most amazing spot.  What I loved was the little area of ice chunks that had floated into a cove.  Everything was freezing shut again.  The colors were subtle, but I was fascinated by this view.  Again, I'm looking south, towards Elk Rapids and Traverse City. 

One of the advantages to using a Soltek easel is the sides flip up, allowing the palette surface to be shaded.  Trying to mix colors on a palette that's in bright sunlight is pretty difficult.
After finishing this one I hiked around a little, but when my boot fell into another small crevass, I decided to quit when I was ahead!

"Barnes Park, Looking South, Looking North"

"Barnes Park, Looking South" -- plein air field study -- oil on birch panel 8x10" -- Margie Guyot

Photo by Babs Young: view from the shore

Babs Young clambered over the snow and ice to get a closeup of me in action.

This has been the strangest winter.  Unusually warm, with very little snow.  Most days have been dark and gloomy.  With such dreary sights, I haven't felt much like going out plein air painting.  But a few days ago (2/19/12), the sun came out and I thought what the heck!  I'm going down to Barnes Park (in Eastport) and see what the ice looks like. 

I pulled on my Arctic-weight boots and long underwear.  It may be a balmy 40 degrees back at the house, but it can be drastically cooler out on the ice.  That wind can just howl across the ice.  But luckily, it was quite pleasant.  To my left (out of the photo) is a very steep hill, which helped radiate the sun's heat. 

Having grown up in Iowa, the sight of ice pileups on the Great Lakes always amazes me.  After finishing the 8x10" view, looking south towards Traverse City, I gathered up my gear and walked north on the ice a block or two.

All the warm weather affected the snow and ice.  After finishing my second painting of the view looking north, I packed everything up and was making my way back when my left foot fell into a hidden crevass.  Yikes -- it was a struggle to pull out.  It was all I could do to yank my boot out!  I'd gone in up to my knee.  It was a good thing I didn't twist my ankle.  But my painting fell face-down into the snow:

melting snow on "Barnes Park, Looking North"

"Barnes Park, Looking North" -- (repaired) plein air field study on stretched canvas 8x16" -- Margie Guyot

OK, the view is looking more northwest, with the Leelanau Peninsula in the distance.  Northport is right at the tip.  After leaving my snow-covered painting dry overnight in the studio, I was able to repair the damage.  

Thursday, February 16, 2012

"Grapes and Pink Glass Bowl"

"Grapes and Pink Glass Bowl" -- oil on canvas 30x30" -- Margie Guyot

When I set up this still life, it looked so complicated, I didn't know if I could pull it off.  Could I finish it before the grapes rotted?  I'm always challenging myself, though, so I just ignore my fears and start.  And how do I start?  Always with something I know: using a yardstick, I lightly draw in the crosshairs onto the canvas.  Looking through my little viewfinder, I try to determine just where the center  point is.  Seemed to me the center point was on the plastic bag.  I put a little mark of paint right there.

Before I figured out the trick of marking the center point, I'd have trouble fitting everything into the still life.  Half of my composition would run off the canvas!  I'm always looking through the viewfinder, trying to estimate whether something is 1/2 or 1/3 of the way up or down, right or left.  And I do a lot of measuring, using my paintbrush at arm's length, comparing distances and sizes to objects.  In this painting, my "unit of measure" was the green apple at the upper right.  Everything related to the size of that apple. 

It's a good way to control one's panic, comparing everything in a painting to one object's size. 

Recently I was given 2 young cats to watch for a friend for the next 6 months.  Of course I'm figuring it will be a permanent thing.  The kitties were fascinated by the grapes in the plastic bags.  They kept trying to fish grapes out and bat them around.  Every afternoon when I quit painting, I had to cover the setup with a tablecloth to keep the kitties from destroying it.  And I always clean off my palette and park it way up high, where Flower and Butterfly can't walk all over it.

I've found resale shops sometimes have very colorful (and ghastly!) silk scarves, quite cheap.  I liked the purple and red scarf.  I wouldn't be caught dead in it, but it added something to the  painting.   The bright reds of the scarf were echoed in the red geranium blossoms.  My studio windowsills are lined with geraniums all winter, where they bloom like mad.  

Saturday, February 11, 2012

"Polka Dot Glasses"

"Polka Dot Glasses"  --  oil on canvas 24x24"  -- Margie Guyot

Last weekend the sun finally came out!  It may seem trivial to you, but up here along the coastline in northern Michigan, it's a real event in winter.  I'd been trying to think of something inspiring and exciting to paint when I saw the sunshine hitting this scarf and glasses.    Wowee!  I started whooping and jumping around, all jazzed at the sight of the cast-shadows and brilliant colors.  I'm not totally sure how this photo turned out, though.  I'm using a new Photoshop program, on a new computer, and it's been a hair-tearing experience lately.

But enough whining!  I quickly set up this arrangement on my table in front of the south-facing windows and drew it in like a fiend.  Sunshine in winter is very fleeting.  I didn't know if it would shine again until May.  So I captured as much of it I could. 

The next day it was cloudy (of course), but I continued working on the drawing.  One thing I picked up fairly recently was the trick of using straight lines to establish obelisks.  Circles and obelisks are just the devil for most of us to draw!  Starting out with just 4 basic lines to establish the size limit of an obelisk really seems to help.  Little by little, add small straight lines to finish it off.  That trick has really helped me.

The third day the sun popped out again and I wailed away with the paints, nailing the shadows.  I put color notes on some of the larger, "easier", areas, such as the plain borders, saving them for when the dark and gloom returned. 

Luckily, the sun came out again the next day, allowing me to see enough to be able to finish this painting with some more shadow pattern details.

And if you're a painter, if you want a challenge, just try painting a doggone daffodil!  Yikes.

"Mardi Gras Pumpkin"

"Mardi Gras Pumpkin" -- oil on canvas 16x20" -- Margie Guyot

My friend, Pete Peterson, gave me this pumpkin a few weeks ago.  He's bought it in a farm stand in Traverse City.  Neither of us knows what variety it is.  It's one of the strangest-looking pumpkins I've seen!  I'm struggling to learn to use Photoshop Elements and I don't think I've adjusted the color quite right in this photo.  Or it could be the monitor, but anyway --- you can get some idea of the painting.

I liked the bits of peach and purply-mauve tones in the pumpkin.  I loved all the folds and netting.  It seemed to need something "regal-looking" to sit on for a painting.  This is an old, paisley scarf I'd picked up somewhere.  Some of the golds and mauves were echoed in the pumpkin's maze of netting. 

I'll save the seeds and will try to grow more this summer.  If the doggone deer will allow it!

"Oranges on a Bluebird Cloth"

"Oranges on a Bluebird Cloth" -- oil on canvas 24x24" -- Margie Guyot

I found this old tablecloth at a resale shop somewhere.  It's all hand-sewn and I think it's some kind of silkscreen print, possibly from Japan.  The blues are vey delicate, ranging from pale to deeper blue, plus some gray areas.  I'd been all set to paint in butterflies, but golly gee wilikers -- to my surprise, they were little bluebirds!

Winters up here along the northwest coastline of lower Michigan are typically dark and dreary.  We might have sunshine only 1 day each month.  I have my still life setups next to a south-facing window, hoping to catch some sense of sunlight.  Many painters swear by north light, but I love the strong contrasts of sunlight and shadow.  I didn't get any sunny days while painting this, so the shadows are very soft.

This painting is another example of how I love to do paintings in predominantly contrasting colors.  Life is just too short to stick to beiges and browns!  I guess there's a part of me that's like a tropical bird, sitting high in a tree, dressed in gawdy, screaming reds and blues and greens, shouting "More!  MORE!!!!"