Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sketching in Graham, NC

A few weeks ago our family and a friend went to a movie at our favorite family-run second-run theater, in Graham, NC (the theater we call "The Graham").

I didn't feel like seeing the movie - I felt like sketching, and getting my dessert somewhere in town. So I sketched this old brick building, because I like the arched windows and the brick ornamentation on top. I sat on the side of the portico of the big granite courthouse that fills the traffic circle at the heart of the village, and drew until my legs went to sleep.

Then I walked into the building I'd been drawing, into the corner business, which is the Graham Soda Shop, where I sketched this group of teenage guys while I had a strawberry shake. The exterior drawing is in a larger spiral bound sketch book, the inside scribble is in my larger moleskine.

Click images for closer views.

I visited one my art professors recently (Marvin Saltzman, a painter mentioned in my art profile, here), and the visit (and a gift he gave me) have inspired me to draw more, and to paint even more to please my muse and no one else... So you may see more drawings, as I try lots more things in my various pads and moleskines, and you may see fewer paintings, as some are for my own internal exploration.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Palouse Painting

I spent an evening in the Palouse, south of Spokane, WA, back in the fall. I loved it. This photo captured some of the feel of the valleys and small canyons that show up between the long hills. It also reminds me how the light was at the end of the day, though the camera doesn't do it justice.

This piece of paper has already been three other things, and has been painted over several times. It has a history, and some texture as a result, and colors that show under the others, particularly the cadmium orange.

I am finding my way with this painting, trying various colors as underpainting, and painting some areas over and over. I am on completely unfamiliar ground, trying to see what colors and approaches work for this piece, and for the mood I am trying to capture. So here it is in three stages.

I'm not sure any of the colors showing now will be the colors showing at the end. It's far too disjointed and garish right now, but these colors are just the extremes that will vibrate through and under the final colors.

I'm trying to figure out how I want to put the paint on, as well. This is far smoother than canvas, and has a different feel. The direction of every brush stroke matters, and I get it right sometimes and other times I have no idea how I should apply it.

It's good to be lost but not so lost I can't find my way eventually.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Arc of Sky

When I think, "What do I want to paint?" the answer is often "trees and sky." I have been trying to capture what I feel about trees, particularly "tree skeletons," as I call them, since I was in junior high. I recall a postage stamp assignment we had (probably in 1974 or 1975). I did mine for the upcoming bi-centennial, with a colonial lantern theme, but the stamp was dominated by a huge tree trunk and branches (a tulip poplar).

My cards, when I make them, all have "Tulip Tree Press" on the back - because I heard, again in junior high, that artists named their presses. I joked that mine was a spoon, since that's what I have used for a printing baren all my life. I use the press label on any card, though, even hand drawn. It started with a book project with limericks done in linoleum block prints, and then to Christmas cards made from linocuts, as well. Even the year at UNC-CH that I made them on a silkscreen, I still used the press symbol. Trees.

Here is the photo that inspired the painting above (ink and watercolor, 19 x 19). I took this several years ago at the waterfowl impoundment north of Durham, near the Butner Seed Nursery. It's a quiet place with some impressive trees, with souls. I have exaggerated what I love about these trees - the arc of sky they seem to hold, the way they form it together, the off center balance of the two. I want to try this again, but capture the reaching more, the weight shift, like a dancer reaching. This painting is more still, like an arched stained glass window - the next would have more movement.

Other paintings/posts about trees: Here, and here, and here, and here and here.