Monday, July 30, 2012

Frog Party

"Frog Party" -- oil on canvas 40x50" -- Margie Guyot

As I threw this vintage tablecloth down onto my work surface, I wondered what I had in my treasure trove that was green.  Why, my frog teapot set, of course!  I've painted it several times in the past.  The teapot and sugar/creamer came from a garage sale in my old neighborhood of Farmington Hills.  Then I found the pitcher on eBay!  And by now I'm sure you've guessed that I love frogs.

But I've learned NOT to tell everybody that I love frogs.  That can backfire.  Then people start giving me all kinds of frogs -- and there are a lot of pitiful, crappy-looking frogs!  No, I like only certain frogs.  Like there is "tacky but cool" and then there is "tacky but pathetic".  There IS a difference.

The green problem solved, the next search was for "things orange".  Once again, that slot was filled by my vintage orange-striped glasses.  I've painted them several times and they're tricky!  The stripes wiggle and the widths are not all the same.  But they're addictive to paint, kind of like Monet's haystacks. 

By some miracle, my orange tiger lilies were blooming fabulously this year.  It's been hot and dry.  The deer -- naughty little things! -- love chewing all the leaves and buds off.  I've tried to keep up with spraying the Liquid Fence.  Still, the deer manage to squirrel away with some of my flowers.  I cut off a stalk and used a wire frog in another favorite: the frog vase from the Ann Arbor Art Fair.   The potter team of Rita Meech and Terry Oss created this.  Here's a link to their page:  I love everything they do!

I always start a painting by first lightly penciling in the crosshairs.  Then I look through my little view-finder to decide what is in the exact center of the composition.  From there, it's a rather tedious process of continually looking through the viewfinder and comparing sizes of objects and their placement.  I use my paintbrush like a sort of ruler, comparing the width of objects to others.  This is one place where it's a test of being able to control one's panic! 

But still, compared to weeding the garden in 90+ degree weather, with biting mosquitoes and deer flies, I'll take the drawing-in task every time!

Because flowers die so quickly, once I had established the basic placement of a few main objects, I immediately concentrated on painting the lily bloom.  By the next day, lily bloom #2 was open.  I left this painting with only 1 open bloom, though.  Like trying to paint constanly-changing shadow patterns in the landscape, I tend to nail the initial idea down and stick with it.  Chasing shadows (or opening/dying blossoms) could drive a painter berserk!

Last year a gallery had told me they loved my work BUT some elements of it they found "disturbing".  They told me they didn't want to see anything like frog teapots, deer antlers, stuffed fish, etc.  And they loved the complex compostions, BUT they wanted small paintings.  Yikes!  I tried to tow the line for them, but even so, they only sold one or two pieces of mine.  Then they emailed me, saying "come get your stuff".  Ha ha!  I guess you could call this my rebellion piece. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Yellow Shawl and Glads

"Yellow Shawl and Glads" -- oil on canvas 36x36" -- Margie Guyot

This is the yellow silk shawl I'd bought at Stonehege Gardens.  On the way home from buying it, I stopped in at Glen's grocery store, looking like a crazy woman in my new sparkly orange, dangling earrings, black T-shirt and green plaid man's shirt.  I'd been plein air painting with Jordan River Arts Club that morning and had completely forgotten how I was dressed. 
Wandering through Glen's, I spied these yellow gladiolas.  Aha! Perfect companions for the yellow shawl!  As soon as I got home, I set up this still life.  Because of the complexity of the shawl, there was no need to add more components.

From past experience, I knew not to waste time.  Those glads had to be painted -- and pronto!  It was agonizing.  Flowers are always a struggle (as is everything else)!  One would hope the fairies would magically paint them for me, but so far I haven't been so lucky. 

A few years ago I took a painting class with a certain artist (name withheld) and she took an immediate dislike to me.  I have no idea why.  We were painting landscapes, which I hadn't expected, as she was a surreal artist.  I felt a little disappointed, but heck -- as long as we were out there, in the beautiful Rockies, by a stream, I figured I might as well just enjoy it.  "Obviously this comes easy to you!" she snapped, during a critique. 

"No, it's hard!" I replied.  I look at a scene and think holy crap -- this is going to be tough!  But I just plug along, figuring things out as I go.  Kind of like an algebra test.  And don't ask me anything about algebra.  I remember absolutely nothing.

So that's how I paint.  Just plug along, figuring things out as I go.  I knew to paint the gladiolas first, as they would poop out in a day or so.  Sometimes I'll finish painting one bloom, then wander outside to pull a few handfuls of weeds, fantasizing that all the blooms would paint themselves in my absence.  So far, no luck at that.  But eventually I do get them all done. 

The shawl was a pain to do, too.  The fairies were no help.  I do try to stick with it, though, as I usually am sick of looking at a painting after about a week.  To save myself further agony, I try to work quickly, so it'll be done in a week or less. 

Did you ever think artists went through such agony?

Mustard Field

"Mustard Field" -- plein air field study -- oil on canvas 8x10" -- Margie Guyot

Ever in search of "spectacular", I about had a cow when I spied this field of mustard growing along M-88, between Eastport and Central Lake!  The next morning I was out there by 8 AM, painting it. 

I'm a sucker for long rows of plantings.  Or shady roads.  I just couldn't go out to a big field and do a painting of it.  A big field with no design to it, no features.  Some artists can make something of it, though.  Clyde Aspevig, whom I'd studied with back in the late 80's, would take our class out into a featureless landscape, set up and do a marvelous painting.  Then he'd turn to us and say, "OK -- paint!"  And leave us floundering and sputtering.  He's amazing.


"Delphinium" -- plein air field study -- oil on canvas 12x12" -- Margie Guyot

There are lots of plein air groups up here in Northwest Michigan.  After finishing "Circus Circus", a large still life, I was ready to go out and do a plein air -- just to clear out the cobwebs.  This group, from Jordan River Arts Council, went to a delightful spot in between Charlevoix and Boyne City.  The owners of Stonehedge Gardens invited us to come and paint.  As soon as I saw this clump of delphiniums, I knew I'd found my subject.

Whenever I go to a new spot to paint, the #1 question on my mind is always what is the most amazing thing here?  Loved that blue! 

It was hot and sunny.  What a day to find my BestBrella was not working right!  Doggone.  One of the gears was stripped.  I had to hold the umbrella in one hand while painting.  It's impossible for me to paint with sunlight glaring directly onto my canvas.  But I lived.  And I found out it is possible to order replacement parts for BestBrella. 

After painting this, I wandered inside Stonehedge's funky little gift shop.  It's the neatest gift shop I'd seen since New Mexico!  Not the usual tourist crap!  I found a pair of earrings I'd been looking for for years: bright orange, sparkly, dangly balls!  They're my favorites.   I put them on although they didn't go with my outfit (a black T-shirt and green man's work shirt). 

I also found a magnificent silk shawl, in yellow, with long fringe.  Perfect for a still life setup!  I'm into spectacular, if you haven't noticed by now.  "It used to belong to my mother," the woman told me.  Ah -- selling your mother's antique silk shawl?  Sacrilege.  I paid for it & hurried out, lest she changed her mind. 

Oh, and the earrings: I'd completely forgotten I had them on.  After leaving Stonehedge Gardens, I stopped in at Farm & Home to pick up a bag of chicken feed.  Then into Glen's for a few groceries.  People were looking at me funny.  Hmmmm....?  I got out to the car and looked in the mirror.  Hah!  I still had on my sparkly, dangly orange earrings!  I must have looked like a crazy woman.  Oh well. Wouldn't be the first time.

Circus Circus

"Circus Circus" -- oil on canvas 36x36" -- Margie Guyot

Oh, good heavens!  I've fallen way behind on my posts again.  Sorry!  Life's been a bit full this summer. 

I'm particularly fond of orchid cactii.  The flowers are huge and very colorful.  Why waste time (and space) growing anything less than spectacular?  The first time I'd ever seen an orchid cactus (a.k.a. "epiphyllum"), was in the conservatory at Belle Isle, Detroit.  What were those amazing flowers?  Nobody seemed to know.   It took years to find out what they were. 

I ordered a few epiphyllum leaves on eBay, believe it or not.  It only took a few more years before they were blooming like crazy.  They don't bloom all summer, though.  And each flower only lasts for about two days.  One variety, the night-blooming cereus, has flowers that only bloom for one night. 

When I noticed this plant ("Circus Circus") was beginning to bloom, I just had to use it in a still life!  I set it up with a vintage tablecloth and immediately began painting the flowers.  The one on the far right was starting to wilt and the other 3 were only in bud.  I painted as fast as I could. 

And then the iris began blooming!  I had to set this painting aside and do a whole slew of little iris paintings!  Flowers won't wait. 

Once the iris were exhausted, I got back to this painting.  By then all the blooms were brown and shriveled.  As most of my still lifes go, "it was a bitch to paint"!  But given the choice between weeding the veggie garden in the hot sun or figuring out how to paint something, painting wins every time.