Monday, May 30, 2011

Size Counts

Escalante After the Rain 24 x 36
Most water media artists work relatively small. Oil painters seem to go from the ridiculously small little miniatures to fairly large. Those creative minds that transfer their imaginations to canvas and panel with acrylic seem to paint LARGE by in large. When I first went back to painting as a way to entertain myself and rehabilitate (practice what you don't want to lose) following my head injury I was overly fond of 11 x 14 and working on watercolor paper. I dreamed of half-sheet and full-sheet paintings.

Once I made the jump to watercolor canvas I fell in love with the 16 x 20 size. I was using pre-stretched canvases at the time and when there was a sale brought several at 20 x 24 and 24 x 36. I stared at the larger size for quite a while. Escalante After the Rain was one of the only 24 x 36 paintings I have done. This was due in part to the warping of almost all that were shipped to me except this one. Inferior pre-stretched canvases led me to stretching my own canvases and changing proportions. I rather like tall and thin or short and wide. I executed a commission that was 26 x 72. The two below are 12 x 48,

So I proved to myself that the medium is not necessarily the governor of size. Sometimes it is time or size of brushes or space in the studio. Or the cost of not merely the materials but the finished product. Lately it has been the economy that has dictated size of paintings. I entered an exhibition this spring that had a minimum size specification as well as a maximum. Artists have been painting smaller to have more reasonably priced work for the market. My booth at last year's Holiday fair in Albuquerque was filled with smaller works. I even did 6 x 6 cactus flowers.

As I was gathering up work for a new gallery, Old Town Gallery in Cimarron,  and the June exhibition at High Desert Art and Frame in Albuquerque I became aware of the vast number of smaller works I did have. Too many really. Any display of an artist's paintings should be a range. And as my artist friend, Sherry Wolf, pointed out as we were talking about Artsfest in July, there is something to be said of a bigger center of attraction. All the new work I had been doing for summer fairs were smaller. Some I even considered studies for larger paintings if they worked.

Water Passage 19 x 13
But with the whole car issue and the economy small fits my budget. Then a couple days ago I found an old framed acrylic painting at a thrift shop. it was 24 x 36 and was on great sturdy stretcher bars (the bigger the painting the more sturdy the stretcher bars must be). For $5 I got a good frame to put on the Escalante painting in the beginning of this post. Escalante, which I had never seen as quite finished, got its completion as well as the frame, And once the old canvas was ripped off my thrift shop find I had a great frame for new canvas.

Yesterday I completed the enlargement of the Water Passage sketch to 36 x 24 and got the canvas stretched. Hopefully it will be my center piece for the New Mexico Arts and Crafts Fair in June. And it will sell and I have to come up with a new center piece for Artsfest in July. I won't have to paint any more small pieces before fair season. I seem to have a plethora of those.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mag 66 - The Library

Magpie Tales by Tess Kincaid
The Library

It was love at first sight
Smell and touch
The promise of tales unending
Lined up on the shelves.

Mother had secured her entry
Into the adult section
Where books did not smell of candy
Or have sticky covers.

Or pictures on the front
Mom had suggested
Something by Alcott, Louisa May
But first she had to walk every aisle from A to H.G.Wells

Her summer that year she turned twelve
Was all about Zane Grey
Lured by the title
Riders of the Purple Sage.

But the library shelves
Would take her from Wyoming
To ancient Greece
From Walden Pond to Pompeii.

 And into the future
College and beyond
Everywhere she lived
She first found the library.

J. Binford-Bell
May 2011

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Knew it couldn't be that easy

I am trying my hand at another photography contest. The deadline is tonight at midnight and I thought I had my five submissions all picked out until I started playing around with my photo editor program and going back to FlickR to see if there was one I liked better than one of my choices. Before you ask the above was not one of my first choices.

Nor was this one. One of the reasons for these two not being included is I thought I had lost the originals with the crash of my external hard drive and the wipe of my desktop computer by a well recommended computer tech. But I found the originals on FlickR. Sometimes I do something right like back up important data (to something other than the failed hard drive).

I had considered these two because the first sold in my first photographic exhibit and the last one second. This however is a cropped version of that one on the recommendation of the judge of the earlier show.

I had also in that show entered this photograph. And when I posted my possible choices on my page in Facebook this was not in it and everyone asked about it. This five leaves out a couple I frankly like a lot. And if I was to consider the cohesive aspects of the five. I would delete the car and insert one of the two following instead.

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Spider Rock Triptych

Spider Rock Triptych
I did it again. Another triptych. Somehow they remind me of the exercises assigned when I was getting my fine art's degree. And to have all the information I need in case I have to do a theme paper on it I recorded the steps and, in this case, missteps.

Ready to transfer drawing

The drawing in and of itself isn't easy. Landscapes must be rearranged so that each piece is a painting in its own right but all three go together to form one. First mistake here was the base of Spider Rock. The curve made for problems.

The poured sky

I liked the sky but clearly it was going to be night and it was a moon and not a sun. But heck if I can move mountains and canyon walls why can't I move sun and moon?

Original color scheme

And I may do one in these colors in the future with a cloud dotted summer sky. But it was just not working with the sky or the base of Spider Rock. See the little piece of the base that juts into the right panel? That had to be changed clearly and the brown. One of the advantages of water media on watercolor canvas is that it is more forgiving but this triptych was going to challenge just how forgiving. You can actually lift some colors off. I decided to go with a setting sun ergo the canyon itself should be dark.

Cliff faces and bottom of canyon put in shadow
And I lifted off most of the brown on the bottom of Spider Roch but it didn't solve my hump into the right panel. The purple and blue washes over the yellow of the canyon in the background, however did set the Spider Rock off as the main focus of the piece. I think it looks like two regal women standing tall.

Toned down walls
Rather embarrassed to mention how long the triptych stayed at this point while I debated the color of the foreground. Not all the creating in a painting has to do with brushes.

Thin white washes added to far canyon to give distance
And I corrected that annoying base of spider rock. Details added to punch up the front. Lines on Spider Rock make them look more like women gazing at the moon but not obviously so. Wanted to keep the mystery. It is only my spiral stars missing at this point and some refinement of the stars and a touch up of the cliff dwelling hiding in the walls in the center panel.

This was definitely a learning experience.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mag 65 - Pocket Stone

Image Provided by Magpie Tales
Pocket Stones

How she hated skirts
They had no pockets
Not like the overalls
She would have lived in overalls
If Mother would have let her.

After a day of treks
In the Missouri woods
With Charlie and her brother
They would all return home
Weighted down with treasures
In their pockets
Each Taken out and talked about 
Displayed on her windowsill.

How she loved stones even then
Noticed for their odd shape
Their color or sheen
Picked up to look at closer
Kept because they fit
So nicely in her palm
Slipped so easily in her pockets
Carried as a talisman or put in potted gardens.

She thought at first it was just a piece of soap stone
But upon examination saw it was carved
A figure with birds and a gentle expression
Now worn smooth carried about
In one pocket after another
Over the years.

Now it was cargo pants
And she didn't have to beg permission to wear them
She picked up St. Francis from her dresser
Slipped him again into a pocket
Set off into the New Mexico forest with her camera
Collecting photographs
And stones.

So many walks with her Saint
So many pocket stones.

J. Binford-Bell 
May 2011

Monday, May 2, 2011

Mag 64 - The Cinco de Mayo

On May 5th, Cinco de Mayo, in 1996 the Hondo Fire broke out in San Cristobal, New Mexico. Conditions had been extremely dry with high winds but a local resident left a burning trash fire to go to the local bar and have a few on the Mexican holiday. Within hours after the Hondo Fire started the neighboring town of Lama was burned through. Some structures remained, but many were destroyed. Families in nearby Red River and portions of the town of Questa were evacuated.

Before this incident was over, about 2,000 individuals were displaced or evacuated from their homes, and portions of some highways were closed to all but local residents and fire traffic.The fire set a ground speed record of 9 miles in 30 minutes without crowning. That record has yet to be beaten. I watched the flames and plumes of smoke in horror as the fire rushed to within a half mile of my house. And for the next 22 days I was immediately awake anytime I smelled smoke or sensed a shift in the wind for fear a smoldering Ponderosa Pine spar would spark and the forest would be again in flames.

I was back again recently to Questa and the scar on the mountain remains. The fire burnt so hot that the earth was scorched three feet down. Reseeding efforts in slurry dumped from the fire fighting planes has not done much. And all because a resident wanted a few beers in honor of the Mexican Revolution.

I will never forget those 22 days on the edge of the smoldering mountain before the Forest service announced the fire was truly out. I watched the smoldering hills, counted the pets over and over, and checked on the pile of items by the door in case we had to evacuate. I was surprised to find the pile grew smaller. And the realization that one of the "precious items" I would not take was my husband. We agreed to divorce that summer and I moved to the "wet side" of the mountain on a piece of land that had no trees. To this day when the wind is high and the forests around me dry I stare into the sky on the lookout for smoke and like a wild animal sniff the wind for that all too familiar smell.

Don't wish me Happy Cinco de Mayo.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Painting Procress

The Beginnings
I often work on several paintings at once. This is often about technique - the pouring of skies, and sometimes about color - four of these have those dark blues in them, and upon occasion it is about a spurt of inspiration. Yes, it can become a bit crowded for lay-down space in the studio but it is highly productive to work like this with a water media - no down-time waiting for paint to dry. In addition to the five in this photograph I also had a canyon triptych working at the same time. More about that painting in a later blog.

As I am a camera nut as well as a painter I frequently record the step by step process of a painting. And this morning I was going through my picture folders assembling photos in an art progress folder. Some paintings are more recorded than others. I suppose it is like parents and children in a way. This morning I thought I would cover the odd child in this group - the one with the orange sky.

The arch in shadow

I absolutely loved the sky. But I felt like I had literally painted myself into a corner. I had put dawn behind the arch so it was by the laws of nature going to have to be dark. This is by the way Cleft Arch in Lavender Canyon of the south Canyonlands district of Utah. I call it Debbie's arch because when we were approaching from the other side it looked like a niche in the canyon wall to all but Debbie. But I digress. What to do with the arch against a yellow and orange sky. I stared at it while I worked on the other paintings. Then I just decided to go with the color wheel. Orange is the compliment of Purple. That seemed appropriate to Lavender Canyon.

Sunshine spilling through the arch
The stripe of cadmium red spilling down the hill through the arch set up the repetition of the arch angle and also opened up the lower part of the painting to be other colors. I have also played with the sky but using a soapy Q'tip to lift and soften the line between colors in the ski and give it a more cloud like effect.

Colors blocked in

I find that once I have the major elements determined it is then relatively easy to block in the other colors. I brought in the gold to echo the strong sky color in the upper left corner and also to put more light on the dark side of the arch as it were. I was working from a photograph I made of this arch when visiting the area last May. I have done one realistic rendering of it. Sometimes that has to be gotten out of the way so that I can just go with the color.

I generally allow the painting to dry before detailing out as it were. Finishing a painting can include top washes and glazes that require the paint to be dry. And brush lines I add that I don't want to bleed into their neighbors also require dry surface.

The Other Side of Tomorrow
Line adds definition and also movement and shape. The iconic flight of ravens adds distance. And title adds to the mystery. Some paintings name themselves. This one didn't at first. I asked for suggestions on Facebook. I liked several but it was as I was typing the caption that I actually named it. The title is a mixture of a couple suggestions that just joined themselves together. What is the other side of tomorrow? Who knows but we all want to go there.