Negative Space – Dogwood sketch

Dogwood is one of my absolute favorite trees. I grew up in Maryland where dogwood trees were commonly found in bloom along the roadsides in the early spring. It was always so delightful to see their white petals, so delicate and bright in the new warm sunshine. It was a special time of year for me which still is alive in my heart.

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Painting flowers can be a tough thing, but painting white flowers…well that is a whole other realm of complex! I have in no way mastered painting flowers, painting Dogwood blooms or painting anything white for that matter. But! I have learned a few things, that is the reason for this blog! Today when I set up to paint these blooms I felt that I needed a new approach. My Dogwood blooms in the past have looked like they were bogged down, platic and stiff to be kind. My goal today was to simply paint an image that moved and did not look like it was made of lead. I was hopeful for petals that moved and that was it. If I had these two things when I got up from the table, I promised myself that I would be happy. I am happy!

So here is what I learned. I started out with a very loose sketch of the blossoms, my sketch made the blooms appear almost like eggs. I did not spend time working out each petal or any detail. I simply found the center of the flowers and placed a circle around each to indicate where the petals as a whole would go. If you look really closely at the next two photos you will likely see this under drawing. Note how lightly and minimally I sketched. My whole point of making this sketch is placement. I wanted to simply make sure that everything had it’s place (so I did not loose room for any of the good stuff!).

Second, I refined my sketch so that the petals were loosely determined, I like to still leave myself room for adjustments.  I painted in the centers and I let them dry. I chose to do the centers first so that I had a strong set of visual anchors to help keep me grounded as I moved into the next stage.

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Third, I chose a charcoal color to start cutting in the Dogwood. This is my new approach. Typically I would have continued painting the blossoms and then I would have added the background a bit later. I chose charcoal because it is a very agreeable color. I knew that I could add greens and reds to it and create a warm and pleasing background atmosphere.

Also, Note that I did allow some of the background paint to flow into where I knew the blossoms were because it would be found there through reflections.

After this stage, I added some color and more structure. I cut out the petals by pulling some of the back grounds negative space into the foreground. This gave the painting a cohesive feeling.

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You might notice that the painting really started taking shape when the back ground became a part of the foreground. It was a way to draw with paint. It gave a strong foundation for the colors as they were introduced.

From here, it was a bunch of flicks of the wrist. I do firmly believe that a paintings success is determined in the choices we make in the first few moments. It is in our set up that we choose our success. When a painting is built on a strong foundation, it becomes very forgiving. We can use wrong colors, it can usually withstand a few stray lines and poor choices. When we do not start with  a strong foundation or vision our painting can suffer no stray lines and we often can not move the idea past a single poor color choice. Even worse, when we do not build our painting on a solid foundation, we will compound our poor choices, one on top of another in attempt to correct it. We can not fix foundation issues with surface solutions!

So, is this a great painting…no not really. It is great in that I was able to create something pleasing. I was able to accomplish my goals and learn a new approach. I like to think that this painting is great because it is what will make the next attempt that much more pleasing. This sketch is important, it has confirmed to me that I am on the right track.

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Day in the life of an artist

 

For me, it is tough to paint every day. This may be surprising to many because I get comments all of the time about how productive people think I am. Most days there is at least one person who will say something highlighting surprise that I am able to find time to paint with such a busy life. The truth is, I don’t “find” time. Hell…I don’t even “make” time to paint. I take time. Just like I am “taking” time to blog right now.

Just like people are surprised that I am able to “find” the time to paint everyday, a large majority of people who see my work envision that I paint in a large, airy studio space with beautiful large windows.  It can be surprising for others to learn that I am just like most artists, I paint at my kitchen table, in terrible lighting amongst a pile of clutter which can include anything from bills, to car keys, slime my teenager has made, to cookies and half empty bottles of water…or all of the above!

Most days I wake at 6:30 am after being up one to two times during the night to feed the baby. I go to work and after working a whole day at the flower shop I am tired and I move into the evening routine. There could be a trip to the grocery store, the gas station or some other random place on the way home. There is dinner to cook, dishes to do and children to attend to.

Most evenings when I paint, I have a whole house moving around me. There are times where I am able to put headphones on and listen to music or a sermon but many days I am working with out because I am still on duty as a mother to a 7 month old. I often try to work during her nap time (which is not long) or after she goes to sleep for the night. Sometimes she wakes, when she does I try to bring her to my table top studio to finish my painting.

Sounds relaxing huh?! Well, you know what, for me it is perfect. It’s ok that the house is alive around me and that my husband needs my help and my kids want my attention. I love that my teen wants to sit at the already crowded table with me and paint too because she loves what her mother is doing. It’s alright that I can not listen to music or a sermon and the television is on and my husbands ipad is playing foreign music I can’t understand. I am ok with the cat using the living room and kitchen as a race way and that the fan in the middle of the floor is humming like a 747 is about to take off even though the house is still hotter than hell…this is my life.

My….life.

All of these little, and not so little, noises and disturbances…they are my family.

My…family.

All of the messes, they belong to my children…..I have such beautiful children.

I suppose as I look at things, I “take” time to paint. When I paint I notice all of the things that this blog has mentioned. When I paint, I notice how incredibly blessed I am. So of course my work, my paintings, look like they were painted in an optimal inspirational environment, because they were!

My paintings are joyful because I am joyful. They radiate joy and vibrancy and excitement because that is where I internally live as a person. My work is rich, because I too am rich. I am so incredibly rich in my spirit that my blessings do runneth over in many ways….and in many colors!