Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Apples on a Calla Lily Cloth

"Apples on a Calla Lily Cloth" -- oil on canvas 24x24" -- Margie Guyot
Having just finished another painting with this vintage tablecloth, I had a hankering to yet another one.  But what to pair with it?  I'd found this wonderful glass bowl a couple months ago at a resale shop, but what to put in it?  I live in the hinterlands.  It's not just a 10 minute drive to a grocery store or flower shop.  I kind of wanted to find something -- some kind of flower or fruit that would jive with the colors.
Then I found these honeycrisp apples in my fridge.  OK, it's a bit of a stretch, but they do have slightly pinkish tones, here and there.    Well, sort of!  Considering the colors of the tablecloth, maybe there isn't much in nature than would match all that well.
We always read about painters and their struggles.  Up here, it's always a struggle to try to paint a still life with a strong sense of "sunlight and shadow".  Cold air flowing over relatively warm Lake Michigan results in mostly cloudy days and snow flurries.  A gimpse of sun is a surprise.  People will actually call each other up on the phone, saying, "Wow -- would ya look at that sun!"  
Sometimes it's almost sad to finish a painting.  They're just so addictive!  SO much more fun than washing floors!  It's like doing a puzzle where you have to make all the pieces.  You can forget politics and religion.  Just zone out in your own little world.  For me, painting is a teeter-totter game between panic and control.  If you can control your panic (Yikes! How do I paint THAT?) and take your time (and wipe out what's not working), you can come up with a pretty good painting.  Oh, in case you're wondering, I buy Viva paper towels by the case.

Monday, November 26, 2012

"Pink Cyclamen"

"Pink Cyclamen" -- oil on canvas 24x24" -- Margie Guyot
Weeks ago I'd bought this beautiful plant at Pine Hill Nursery, meaning to use it in a still life painting.  And I was super-busy, what with finishing up planting bulbs, putting away lawn furniture, etc.  Every time I'd go into my studio, I'd look at this plant and wonder how I'd set up a still life.  Cyclamen are kind of touchy plants.  It was loaded with buds, but it could die at any time. 
Finally a few days ago I pulled out a favorite vintage cloth, threw it onto the table and set the plant down.  Aha!  And the more wrinkled the cloth, the better! 
The sun was only out for a couple days, so I really tried to make note of how it looked.  And all those doggone leaves!  Oy vey!  Thought I'd go mad.  Really, making a successful painting requires learning how to control one's panic.  Just keep calm and plug away.  If something doesn't look right, wipe it out and try again.  I do go through a lot of Viva paper towels, by the way. 
I think it's a shame that they just don't make tablecloths the way they used to, don't you?

Guyer Creek #2

For the next painting of the day, I gathered up my painting gear and thrashed through the underbrush to a new spot along the creek.  My faithful companion, Picasso, sat on this log, watching me the whole time I painted. 
"Guyer Creek #2" -- plein air field study -- oil on birch panel 8x10" -- Margie Guyot
Here the creek is a smidgen wider.  With the wild tangle of grasses and fallen branches, it was the pale blueness of the water and the reflections that caught my eye.  It's really hard to do a decent painting of this kind of scene.  I've tried so many times to capture it over the years.  Seems like I'm improving on it, but I know it'll take many more painting attempts before I feel I've gotten it "right".

Guyer Creek #1

Guyer Creek setup #1
It was a balmy week, with high temperatures nearly 60 degrees.  We were all doing cartwheels for joy.  Yes, it was also deer season.  I know a woman who won't walk down to her mailbox during deer season!  But I wrapped a fluorescent yellow safety vest around and walked out into the cedar swamp in back of my studio building.  It's all my property back there and there shouldn't be any hunters back there anyway. 
Guyer Creek is a very shallow creek (usually) that empties into Lake Michigan.  I feel very fortunate to have it running through my property.  The land between it and my studio frequently floods and is nearly always mushy.  In the summer I don't go back there, as the mosquitoes are relentless.
"Guyer Creek #1" -- plein air field study -- oil on birch panel 8x10 -- Margie Guyot

It's kind of hard to come up with a halfway decent painting of this creek -- it's just a wild tangle of "stuff"!  What I loved was the water reflection.  And after the screaming greens of summer, it was a nice change to have the subtle mauves and golds. 

Deer Field #2

Setup for "Deer Field #2" -- plein air field study

"Deer Field #2" -- plein air field study -- oil on birch panel 8x10" -- Margie Guyot
All I had to do for this one was turn my field easel a little -- and there was a whole, new view.  It's just a simple field, but it's beautiful in all directions.  That's a basketbush in the foreground.  They're named for their basket-like shapes.  I believe they're a type of juniper.  In the back are two white cedars, another very familiar tree in this area.  Past that is a large cedar/aspen swamp.  It's almost impenetratable.  And past that is Lake Michigan, whose waves you can hear if the wind is right.
It was late afternoon when I painted this and the clouds were rolling in.  No sharp sunlight/shadow patterns today.  After having done a series of studio still lifes, it felt very good to get outside and paint!

The Deer Field

My setup for painting "The Deer Field #1"
"The Deer Field #1" -- plein air field study -- oil on birch panel 8x10" -- Margie Guyot
Here it was, early November, and we were having a week with "balmy" temperatures!  The sun was "sorta-kinda" out, which cheered everybody considerably.  After a series of studio paintings, I was in the mood to get out and do some plein air landscapes.  But I didn't want to drive for miles.  This field is directly west of my driveway.  I've always loved it but hadn't painted it.  There is a deer path that runs along this basketbush (in the foreground). 

When I painted this, the clouds were moving in and there were no more strong sunlight/shadow shapes.  But that's OK, too.  I always love the soft colors of late fall.  There is a mixture of meadow grasses, mosses and bracken in this sandy field.  Lake Michigan is about 1/2 mile due west.  If the wind is right, you can hear the waves crashing on the shore.

Two more pumpkins

"Polka Dot" -- oil on canvas 12x12" -- Margie Guyot

"Blue Satin" -- oil on canvas 12x12" -- Margie Guyot

These are some of the amazing pumpkins I found at a roadside stand in Traverse City.  It's at an old gas station and every fall it's packed with pumpkins, gourds, apples and cider.  I think pumpkins are just so much fun to paint!  When I was a kid, all they had were orange ones.  My dad would drive us kids from stand to stand, searching for "the perfect pumpkin".  And now there are such cool varieties!
I find it hard to resist painting them every fall.  Last year I did quite a few; this year I painted just a couple.  My time was eaten up by planting 1500 English bluebell bulbs, 80 parrot tulips, 20 oriental lilies and an assortment of shrubs.  I did them all in 3 weeks.  You just never know when the weather will turn foul. 

Green Brandywine

"Green Brandywine" -- oil on canvas 12x12" -- Margie Guyot
Once again I'm running way behind on my posts.  I painted this on October 31st, after a quick trip to my "home away from home", Pine Hill Nursery.  I'd bought a few plants on sale and saw this green brandywine tomato sitting on a stone wall.  Knowing how much I enjoy painting things like this, they gave it to me. 
Already it was beginning to rot.  See the black area on the lower left?  The new plants had to wait while I painted this.  I loved the way the shiny green tomato reflected the reds of the cloth!