October 2009

Central Square #3

This was the last of the rainy day paintings I worked on in Vermont, and the hardest.  The whole surface is close to the same value; the bright and dark spots are tiny, found in details.  I often find that a piece of art works best when I have a clear idea—not only of what I want it to look like— but of how I plan to get there.  Here I wasn’t even sure what the painting was about.  The different greens of the windows?  The wet surface of the pavement?  The DONT WALK sign in the distance?  The two figures?

I’m thinking of working on it some more, bringing up the light on the figure, ordarkening the pole in the foreground, maybe adding a tree to the left to soften that edge.  What do you think?

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Thanks for stopping by

I’m a little slow on this whole internet thing so I just figured out today how to add the little Google widget for people to sign in to the site.  So please do sign up so I can find out who’s been stopping by.  (Its down at the bottom of the sidebar.)  Or leave me a comment and tell me something about yourself (For example: Hello, I live in Wisconsin and I’m your mother).  And thanks to everyone who has left a comment already.  Its great to hear from people.

Guess what came today? Jim’s and Becca’s new book! Very exciting.  I’ve also been enjoying Jim’s novel in progress over at Heavy Table.

Also a belated thank you to Cennetta, who nominated my blog for a Kreativ Blogger Award.  Of course I’m totally flattered that she actually reads my blog.  Especially because she has amazing style.  Thanks Cennetta!

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November Jacket — finished!

It’s finished!  I tried to insert the lining with the machine just before I left for vacation.  That was a disaster— the jacket that fell so nicely suddenly developed a horrible flared tail in the back when I sewed in the lining in.  I was glad to take a break from it for a couple weeks.  When I got back I took the seam out and took in the center back panel a little at the bottom.  Then I sewed the lining in by hand.

It actually didn’t take too long.  I used the hemming-my-pants stitch that my mom taught me in high school and that for many many years was the only sewing I did.  (To be honest, I don’t know any other stitches.)  But I think it came out rather well and certainly gave me more control than using the machine.

Overall I am really happy with this jacket.  I was hoping for something casual and lightweight enough to wear inside at work, but warm enough to wear outside in the fall before its time for down.  I was worried that the cotton flannel would make it very bulky but its actually pretty light.  The body is lined in “silk” twill (might be polyester) that is fairly stiff and adds some structure to the jacket.  It also doubles as a wind-breaker when I’m biking.  I left the flannel interlining off the arms and used a thinner more flexible silk for their lining so that I could move and type comfortably.  The only interfacing is in the collar so the jacket is quite comfortable to wear.  My only complaint is that it feels a bit too loose in the lower front.  I wonder if I should have made it more fitted but I think the less-fitted style is more flattering.  And that the collar on my right pulls in a little at the center.  I’m hoping it won’t get too cold too soon so I can wear it for a while.  The snowstorm last weekend wasn’t too promising though.

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What I did on my fall vacation (#2)

After the first painting I thought this would go quickly.  I tried the same approach I took with the first one: first sketching out the drawing, then trying to pick the lightest, darkest, and a middle tone to set the range of values.  But it took me a while to figure out that in this picture, the sky is a middle tone, not a light.  And I spent a lot of time building up paint on the buildings only to realize they were close to the initial gray of the canvas.  I finally wiped out most of the more distant building then put it back in with a just a few strokes.  Its amazing to me how little paint it took to describe it.  Here’ how the painting looked when I finally figured out that the orange lights in the distance were the brightest tone in it:

Once I had this down I worked from back to front.  The next part I built up was the middle ground of the closer building.  I like that the green window is really bright but doesn’t distract too much from the main axis of the street.

FInally I went over the foreground again in a mix of alizarin crimson and prussian blue (my darkest dark).  This part was a lot of fun because I didn’t have to worry about color and could just play with the brushstrokes.

Here’s a closeup of the foreground with the contrast adjusted so you can see the brushstrokes:

With the foreground dark I realized there was a gap in the painting.  It had a foreground and a background but no middle.  The last thing I did was to bring up the contrast at a few points in the middle ground: the borders of the lower windows, for instance, and the area around the car on the left.

Once again it was parts I neglected somewhat that were my favorites.  I like how this part of the foreground works as an abstraction and still gives a sense of the car’s motion.

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What I did on my fall vacation (#1)

This one pretty much painted itself.  I started it in the morning and finished that night.  I usually stretch my own canvas but Artist and Craftsman had some nice-looking ones that were stapled in the back rather than the sides, and came pre-gessoed in gray.  I bought four for our two weeks in Vermont.  I sketched out the drawing in pencil, then in a very thin mix of raw umber and Payne’s gray.

I started by painting the mid-tone gray-green of the front telephone pole, then established the lightest and darkest values: the sky, and the garbage disposal and flower plot in the foreground.  During the morning I kept all the colors neutral, building up the space and rubbing in the distant buildings.  Here’s the painting just after I added the first dab of color.

Once the space was built up in grays adding the colors was just like putting on jewelry.  A little bit here and there and the whole thing lights up.  Not everything works in this painting, but there are spots I really like.  This bit with the wet pavement and the blue umbrella for instance:

Often the parts I liked best weren’t those I worked hardest at.  Just ones I noticed towards the end.  This part was sort of vague in the reference photo but I like how it came out.  I think it looks like the entrance to the T although I don’t think there’s actually an entrance right there.

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On vacances


Lots of painting.  Lots of sleeps.  Lots of sitting in front of the fire.  Yum!

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