Wednesday, February 19, 2020

All The Scary Things

Gryph is in Sunday, and I’m terrified.

Terrified he’ll hurt himself.
Terrified he’ll run up the track.

Terrified he’ll turn out to be everything we’ve been joking he’ll be. #obiwanyoureouronlyhope

I think it was February first I told myself I was going to start back posting here. It's only the 19th, so that's not too bad, right?

They (whoever "they" are) say you should do something every day that scares you. Yesterday, I finally did something that kind of terrified me! You see, I've got this novel I've written, and last September I decided I should at least try to pursue traditional publication for it. Another "they" said, "never self-reject...query that agent." It only took me seven-plus months to write a query letter remotely worthy of sending out, but yesterday was the day I did so for the first time. And, having conquered Scary Thing Number One, I followed up by sending it to a second agent. After that, I figured I'd keep up the momentum, and made a couple of phone calls I've been avoiding (hardcore introvert here: I hate making phone calls!!).

This morning I was happy to receive my first rejection! Yes, you read that right. Happy. I intentionally queried that particular agent because research told me they responded quickly. And as someone who has done art shows for years, and thus is no stranger to rejection, getting it out of the way is nice. It's like, "Hey, I tried that, now I can move on to the next thing." And in this case, not a thing, but another agent! Or ninety-eight.

I don't know if my little book will ever attract the attention of an agent. Horse racing is probably a tough sell right now. But the hopeful part of me would like to see it out there, because racing is about so much more than what the public see on the surface (and the surface is not very pretty right now, it seems). 

The little bit of writing at the top isn't from the novel, it's an excerpt from real life. It makes me think of the novel, though. Until you actually get out there, you never know! And for the record, Gryph didn't run up the track. He ran okay. But he wasn't our Obi Wan!

Friday, October 25, 2019

The Art of Avoidance

After a month of painting every day, I have fallen seriously flat in October. How did I get to the 25th with only managing a couple of days at the easel? Shameful.

Today, finally, I was determined to sit down and paint. It's 2:13pm as I write this, and I'm maybe halfway through the Keepsake portrait I'm supposed to finish. I will finish it, but really, I should be almost done by now, and I'm not.

It's a funny thing – when I'm supposed to be writing, like the times I've done November's Nanowrimo, I have this overwhelming urge to paint. Today, when I need to be painting, what did I do? Decided to take part in a flash fiction contest.

I stink at flash fiction. Today, however, I figured it would be a good exercise. You know, when I'm supposed to be PAINTING.

Anyway. I have written said thing. We'll see if I'm brave enough to submit it. It's inspired by my little black and white dog. Have I told you lately how clever she is? Here's a video of her a few weeks ago at her scent detection class. So smart. 💗

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Paint the Town Red. Or Orange.

"High Hopes," 14 x 11 oil on linen.
Finally, part three of my painting chestnuts posts. While these three palettes are by no means the only ways to go, they're what's most common for me. This week, I'll share with you some of the details about my painting "High Hopes," a 14 x 11 oil on linen (Raphael linen panel).

The reference for this painting has been on the back burner for a long time – literally eight years. The moment I saw the photo on my camera, I knew it was special. I knew I needed to paint it. It just took me a while to decide it was time!

"Firstborn," 14 x 11 oil on linen.
I also knew what palette I wanted to use. It was a stall scene, much like "Firstborn," and I wanted a similar feel. Easy decision to use the same palette!

This is the most complex pallete I use – it's one I adopted from a workshop with Val Hinz ten years ago, and it's really the only time I methodically lay out the paint before I start!

In it's most basic sense, it's red, blue, and yellow. Normally I'll use Alizarin Crimson and Ultramarine Blue...then Val's palette involved a series of yellows, from dark to light. Most often I use Burnt Umber, Brown Ochre, Yellow Ochre and Cadmium Yellow Light. The red and the blue are lightened with Titanium white, and added to the appropriate yellow of the same hue.

With this painting, you can see I started with my usual underpainting, then built up the colour. The usual story! I just happen to have a little time-lapse painting of part of that!

FYI...I could have sold this painting twice. Some pieces are like that! "Firstborn" was also one of those!

I hope you enjoyed my little series on painting chestnuts!

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Okay So Maybe Next Week!

I did intend to do part three of my painting chestnuts this week, but I'm going to leave it for a week. I don't want to just do a quick job of it, and that's what would happen right now!

I haven't painted in a couple of days because of other commitments – being an artist, at least being a working professional artist, is about more than just painting. On Sunday I went up to a nearby showgrounds where there was a dressage show happening, and took some photos as potential references for future paintings. A friend of mine (who also rode my mare when I was off with my broken arm, and with whom I've also done some lessons with my mare) was showing her gelding Grand Prix. Rudy is twenty-one now – so impressive to see him and Katrina strutting their stuff in the sandring.

Monday (yesterday!) I delivered a painting, and visited the subject of that painting, his famous pony companion, Peanut, and their person. It was a lovely visit. I've also painted the pony, but had never met him. He's just as charming and adorable in person as he is in his Instagram account! He was rescued from very dire circumstances – the fact that he survived those circumstances is a testament to his toughness. He's a warrior! You can follow him on Instagram at @ponynamed_peanut.

I'm itching to get back to painting, because I have three pieces which are very nearly done. Too late to do anything tonight...maybe tomorrow?

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Fifty Shades of Chestnut

(Greys are so overrated!) 😂

Last week I talked about the limited palette I use to paint chestnut horses. This week I’m going to continue discussing chestnuts, but cover one of the more complex palettes I use for my more involved paintings. I’m going to use a recently completed example, “Eye Spy,” seen above. I realize I included this one in a post a few weeks ago, so sorry for the repetition!

As I look over my notes for this painting, I do have to laugh. I've written, "various from palette!" meaning, no doubt, I took what was there from whatever I'd been working on before, and started mixing and slapping stuff on! Not very scientific, sorry. 

"BS, CY, CR, BU, RU, TW; UB etc.!" (Translation: Burnt Sienna, Cadmium Yellow - light? medium? Who knows! - Cadmium Red (light, because it's all I have), Burnt Umber, Red Umber, Titanium White, Ultramarine Blue.) Yes, sometimes I take better notes than others. 

When I'm working over an underpainting, it's like having a roadmap, but not exactly paint-by-numbers. What the above colours give me are a few options for that orange we talked about last week, and this gives the painting more life, more form. This past weekend I had someone comment on my work saying, "It's like you've sculpted it." It made me so happy to hear someone say that, because that's exactly what I'm trying to achieve with these more involved paintings. I want you to feel the anatomy, not just see the colour!

So we have Burnt Sienna (which is quite orange on its own) and Cad Yellow (I'm going to say Light, because it's what I've always mixed with BS before for bays and chestnuts) to start. Then Cad Red and Burnt Umber, like from my limited palette for a redder orange. Then Red Umber is also pretty orange on its own, in a nice dark glowy way. Add white for lighter areas. Add blue for darker.

Some artists you'll see working quite meticulously from the get-go. That would not be me. I'm all chaos to order, slapping down paint, then blending to even things out, then building on that.

Blended to some semblance of order.
The next round sees the introduction of some other colours. This time with Burnt Sienna I have Cadmium Orange, with some Viridian Green in there to tone things down. My lights are Alizarin Crimson and Naples Yellow...and Titanium White. 

A lot brighter, yes? Of course there's some environmental light playing a role in the difference in colours between the two photographs, and the background and other elements also influence the final result. From this last image to the final painting above, I've brought the background up to speed, painted the fence rail, finished his mane, which is a cool flaxen...and added those snowflakes which insisted on being there. The details of all that is kind of beyond the scope of my discussion on painting chestnuts here, but feel free to ask if you have any questions about it!

Next week will be the final instalment of my chestnut discussion...but definitely not the last of the palettes I've used to paint them!

Monday, June 10, 2019

All The Best Ones Are Red

"Ophelia," 7 x 5 oil sketch from April 2019 Thirty Horses, Thirty Days
If you ask me what my favourite colour of horse is, and if you push even after I respond with my pat answer, "A good horse is never a bad colour," I will not say chestnut. I do, however, have a soft spot for chestnuts, and of the six horses I've owned, three have been chestnut mares!

I've painted a lot of chestnuts this year. "Soar," with Gryphon; the painting I shared in my last post, "Eye Spy;" one of the featured February Foals, "High Hopes." Chestnuts took up their share in Thirty Horses Thirty Days, and my recently-completed commission (which I have yet to reveal) included a chestnut mare.

When I paint a chestnut, I don't always use the same palette of colours. Not all chestnuts are created equal!  😉 I thought over the next few weeks it might be fun to look at some of the colour combinations I used in the above paintings.

First step: the (very imperfect) burnt umber sketch.

For the Thirty Days paintings, in most cases I used my go-to limited palette: burnt umber, cadmium red, yellow ochre, ultramarine blue, and titanium white.

Basically working dark to light.
To explain the process in a very basic sense, it goes like this:

  1. Draw the form on the canvas with burnt umber.
  2. Block in some mid-dark tones with burnt umber and cadmium red (burnt umber is technically a yellow, so that gives you an orangey colour! Because some chestnuts are really orange, not red, right?).
  3. Move to a lighter midtone of yellow ochre, cadmium red, and burnt umber.
  4. Place in the darkest darks by adding ultramarine blue to the mid-dark mixture.
  5. Place in the lights by adding titanium white to the midtone mixture.
  6. Put in white markings and highlights.
Easy, right?  😀 

The finished sketch is at the top of the post, so you can see what refinement went on from the one immediately above.

Next week we'll look at something more complex!

Monday, June 03, 2019

Let June Begin!

"Eye Spy," 12 x 24 oil on linen. 

Okay so it's the third, but most people have weekends, so that's fair, right? I don't count, but that's okay!

Saturday being the first of June was a bit significant for me, from a work perspective. A client came to pick up a recently-finished commission. That might not seem like a big deal, but it is always an important day for me.

I'm not sure why, after over 30 years of doing commissions, I still get stressed at that moment, but I do! It's always a relief to know the portrait is a) safely in their hands, and b) a success! They had approved it electronically, and that gives me a high level of confidence because art always looks better in person, but it's extra-nice to get that reaction from them. This was a fairly involved portrait, which took about six months, so having it completed and delivered is a happy thing.

Here's the catch – I can't share it yet! It won't be presented to the intended recipient until the end of the month, so I can't risk showing it! Sorry!

I have two more commissions-in-progress right now, but getting that big one done frees me up to start a new one, which will happen this week. That one I can show progress on, so it will be fun to be able to share the steps as I go...even if it's a far simpler portrait.

I've also finished a few speculative pieces in the past few weeks, and recently had them professionally photographed for portfolio purposes. This week I'll send an email out to my mailing list, because I always give them the first opportunity to purchase new work (and always at special prices). If you're not on my list, look for the signup in the left-hand column of the blog! I'd love to have you there!