Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"Central Park Reflections" (oil on linen; 12" x 9") sold


Original reference photo

Hue/Saturation adjusted photo

Last Monday I took an interesting workshop with Bobbi Pratte at the Art League School in Alexandria, VA.  It was about how to use Photoshop to improve paintings.  I use Photoshop to crop, rotate, lighten/darken the photographic images.  The basic stuff.  I am not a techie; I dread the whole esoteric, mysterious universe of technology.  So it was with some reservation that I signed up for the workshop, mainly because a good friend of mine talked me into it and some other good friends were taking it.  Why not?

I must say that I did see some interesting "tricks" one could do with Photoshop Elements.  My head spinned at the end of the three-hour workshop.  Bobbi covered such an impressive amount of information in one afternoon that, in the evening, when I picked up my long-abandoned copy of Photoshop Elements 8 for Dummies, I could almost understand what the 600-page-long book was explaining--selections, tools, layers, opacity, etc., etc. 

OK, let's talk about "Central Park Reflections."  The original reference photo was taken on an overcast spring day a couple of years ago during a mini family vacation to New York City.  I loved the way the Manhattan skyline was reflected in the pond water at Central Park.  But I decided to change the time of the day to dusk to make the painting "romantic." 

On the morning of the workshop, I tried to paint with the original printout, which was green all over with a colorless sky.  It was hard.  During the workshop, it occurred to me that I should adjust hue/saturation of the photo, so that it would be easier to visualize the mood I was going after.  I did just that this morning and reworked the painting with the adjusted printout.  It was much easier as I hoped. 

I had known how to adjust Hue/Saturation all along, but have never manipulated a reference photo to suit my particular project, only relying on my power of visual imagination.  I honestly don't know which way is better for an artist.  But I suspect that I will be using Photoshop more often to make my life easier.

Friday, November 25, 2011

"Waterlily Dreams" (oil on stretched canvas; 24" x 18") sold

"Waterlily Dreams"
"Where Dragonflies Play" (oil, 12" x 9")

At the request of a client, I did a much larger version of the same painting.  When a painting is blown up, I often feel that something gets lost in the translation.  The charm and suggestiveness of a small painting become sacrificed in favor of details.  I was determined that it should not happen with this commission work.  I came up with the title first and stuck to it, keeping it "dreamy" and "soft-edged."  What do you think of the new painting?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"Winter Afternoon" (oil on linen; 12" x 9") sold


I've said this before, and I will say it again and again.  You don't have to go far for beautiful sceneries.  Beauty--Nature and man-made--exists everywhere.  It's all around us.  We just have to keep our eyes open.  Take a walk in your neighborhood after snow.  Do it when the sun comes out.  An early morning or late afternoon light will transform your neighbor's driveway into a winter wonderland. 

Just leave your phone or iPod home.  Talking on the phone or listening to a loud music doesn't mix well with the quiet appreciation of sight, sound, and smell that one is supposed to be engaged in while taking a stroll.  We've taken the idea of multi-tasking to the ludicrous level.  We don't feel any more sense of accomplishment with all that multi-tasking of doing several things at the same time.  Instead, we are simply stressed out.  Let's take a time out.


Friday, November 18, 2011

"Orchid Love" (oil on linen; 12" x 8") sold

Reference photo

Do you like orchids?  I do.  Some people have the enviable green thumb with these exotic tropical flowers and have them flower year after year.  No, me.  All I can hope for is to enjoy them for a few weeks, then buy another plant in the following year.  Or, take pictures at a florist shop like I did back in September.  Of course, working from a photo is a big challenge.  I can hardly see what's going on in the dark shadowed areas.  But I liked the design of several long terracotta pots arranged at different levels and the idea of not having to pay for several pots to paint from life.  Cheap I am.

"Orchid Smiles" (watercolor, 14" x 10")

"Orchid Smiles" was painted in watercolor in 2004.  Which do you like better?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"Sarah" (graphite and chalk; 16" x 12")

Today was the last session of Lisa Semerad's figure drawing (short pose) class at the Art League School in Alexandria, VA.  To top off our nine-week forays into the fascinating world of figure drawing, we were assigned to a two-hour-long pose with just a bit of instruction about different kinds of paper and drawing tools.

I chose a warm, mid-toned Canson Mi-teintes paper, since it seemed to match her skin tone fairly closely.  Getting the pose down wasn't hard.  The challenge for me was to get hatching right.  Last week, Lisa showed the different types of hatching--simple, contour, planar, and cross--and told us to practice at home.  Have I done that?  Of course, not. 

And working with white chalk as well as graphite made things really exciting (i.e., confusing).  The paper provides the mid tone; graphite pencils, darks; and white chalk, the highlights.  If you mix graphite and white chalk, you get a disgusting blue gray!  They don't come into contact, excpet where there is an abrupt change of planes from dark to light.

Two hours was a long time for us, a luxury--enough time to get the drawing right, add values, work the environment which the model occupied into the composition, and fiddle.  The model's right knee got a whole lot of white highlights, for instance.  It comes forward too much.  Oh, well.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"Southwestern Wildflower Meadow" (oil on linen; 11" x 14") sold

"Southwestern Wildflower Meadow"
"Mule Deer in the Meadow" (oil, 9" x 12")

Bobbi Pratte's landscape class is winding down, with just a few more classes to go.  She suggested that we should all do some field exercises, that is, paint fields.  I chose a southwestern theme.  "Mule Deer in the Meadow" was the first one I did, based on a picture I took on the way to the Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah during my family vacation in the Southwest last year.  I didn't know why the deer's ears were so big until a friend of mine told me that they were not ordinary deer, but mule deer.

I like the second "field" painting better.  It started raining by the time we got to Cedar Breaks National Monument.  At the altitude of over 10,000 feet, it was chilly although it was late July.  At one stop, we saw a breathtaking view of a wildflower meadow sloping down to the valley of spruces and firs.  The red flowers in the foreground are Indian paintbrushes.  There were also Queen Anne's laces and many other species in the meadow.

In my opinion, the biggest challenge in painting a field is to create the sense of depth.  What's in the background should stay there and don't come forward, no matter how interesting and beautiful they are.   On the other hand, it was really hard to keep balance between enough details and fuss in the foreground.  For instance, how do I not trap the viewer's eye in the foreground with brilliant red flowers in "Southwestern Wildflower Meadow"?

Making sense of the terrain is also a must, I think.  In "Southwestern Wildflower Meadow," it is clear that the meadow goes downhill, whereas everything is more or less flat in "Mule Deer."  I can imagine myself painting fields and meadows over and over again in the future to get to the bottom of it.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

"Autumn Brook" (oil on linen; 9" x 12") sold


Reference photo

It was a picture-perfect autumn day when several members of the Art League Plein Air Painters went to Green Spring Gardens Park in Alexandria, VA.  It had been a busy, exciting week, and I was tired.  I walked around, taking numerous pictures of last roses, trees with their fall colors, etc.  But I couldn't settle on any particular view to paint.  So I continued walking down the trail in the woods until I came across the above scene.  This was it!  Except that I had left my painting gear back on the main lawn.  The thought of having to go back to fetch the stuff, drag it down by the brook, set up the gear, and actually paint the scene tired me out even more.

Among my artist friends I am known for my workaholic (or shall I say, artaholic) habit of painting fast and furiously every day.  Not that day.  I decided to give myself a break.  Gasp!  I sat by my teacher and friend, Bobbi Pratte, and watched her paint an overgrown garden.  We kept company, got to know each other better, and had a great time.  It's sometimes good to kick back and relax.

I painted "Autumn Brook" from the photo yesterday.  The background trees with their fall colors are brilliantly backlit.  Tree shadows caress the foreground and middle ground forest floors.  And there it is--a tiny waterfall in the center of the painting.  It was a glorious day to take a walk in the woods.

Friday, November 11, 2011

"After Storm Glow" (oil on linen; 6" x 8") sold


Myself standing next to "After Storm Glow" at the reception

"Foxy Foxglove" (Japanese beads)

Last Tuesday turned out to be a super auspicious day for me.  Not only did I vote for the first time since I became a US citizen in the spring, I also got two honorable mentions in the concurrent shows at The Art League in Alexandria, VA! 

It was a picture perfect, gorgeous autumn day.  I am usually edgy, anxious on receiving days at The Art League's monthly shows, as they are very competitive and hard to get into.  Not that day.  I was calm and cheerful.  I felt invincible.  After entering several pieces in the shows, I went over to River Farm to enjoy the weather and take some pictures.  Then I visited with a dear friend fighting breast cancer.  When I called the gallery later to see whether I had any luck this month (I haven't gotten into the shows since June!), I wasn't nervous at all.  I was ecstatic after I learned that one painting made the Small Works Show and two jewelry pieces the What Art to Wear Show.

On the following day, the gallery called me twice to say that I received two honorable mentions!  The funny thing is that I don't make jewelries to sell; it's just one of my many creative hobbies.  The reason why I entered two necklaces is that I was desperate.  I feel like I have been barking at the wrong tree.  Perhaps I should become a jewelry artist, then I will have more luck!

Monday, November 7, 2011

"Winter Creek" (oil on linen; 8" x 10") sold

"Winter Creek"

"Winter Morning" (oil, 9" x 12")

Both paintings above are based on the pictures I took many winters ago down the street along Holmes Run in Alexandria, VA.  We don't usually get much snow in northern Virginia.  So whenever there is a bit of snowfall, it is a snow day and everybody is happy.  I am from a country (South Korea) that gets lots of snow every year.  I've got to see snow in winter; otherwise, I feel deprived.

And I love to paint snowscapes.  Although it gives local residents much pleasure, Holmes Run is a small creek, not a particularly scenic one at that.  But look at my paintings!  It's the snow that transformed an ordinary creek into a winter wonderland.  No omnipresent, oppressive greens as leaves had fallen.  White snow, which has hints of the sun's warmth, makes big bold shapes or sparkling, lacy tendrils.  The creek with wonderfully fuzzy reflections of bare trees on the opposite bank is a bonus, which provides a nice dark shape in the middle ground.  I hope we get some nice snow this winter, not just dustings.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"Duck Pond" (oil on linen; 8" x 10") sold


Reference photo

At the outset of every painting, I always feel two emotions: excitement and fear.  I feel excited about the subject AND fearful about whether I will be able to pull it off.  If there is no challenge, boredom will set in and only slapdash work will come out of the painting session.  Yes, I live on the edge.

When  I went to paint at Wide Water along the C & O Canal a week ago, I took a walk to walk off numbness in the toes.  It was a bit chilly, yes; but, oh boy, it was gorgeous.  There were several mallard ducks and lots of Canada geese in the water, fishing and sunbathing.  I took many pictures.  Yesterday, I decided to make something of the above picture, with a bit of both feelings I just mentioned.

I cropped the photo to focus on the ducks and warmed up the palette.  Wobbly reflections of trees and their brilliant leaves fill up the entire painting, but without the two birds, it won't make any sense.  It would have been nicer if one of the ducks had been a female, but I didn't want to invent their colors.  Just to be on the safe side.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

"Helen" (NuPastel on newsprint; 18" x 24")

A Thursday, another figure drawing.  Today's theme in Lisa Semerad's class was foreshortening.  Look at how short the forearm of the model's right arm appears, compared to the upper arm.  Or the right calf and right thigh, neither of which are quite visible.  Nevertheless, the thigh appears much longer than the calf.  It's all caused by the phenomenon that the true lengths of things in perspective are not what they appear.  We just have to take the leap of faith and draw what we see, not what we know.

Actually I had it really easy with this graceful pose from where I was standing.  That's why Lisa tried to move me to another spot where everything was foreshortened!  I refused although I was flattered by her high estimation of my drawing ability.  By the way, the above pose was one hour long.  Two more classes left before the end of the term.  Am I ready for the figure/portrait painting workshop with Steven Early at the Art League School in early January?  Aargh....