Thursday, May 30, 2013

"Pink Peonies Bursting" (oil on linen; 14" x 11") sold


All spring I wait for my pink peonies to bloom.  Actually, peonies don't bloom.  They burst!  It has been an unusually cool spring in the Mid-Atlantic region this year, so they just started blooming in my garden.  I took some pictures on Tuesday and proceeded to paint my darling peonies.  Unfortunately, the last two days were full of distractions and family duties to fulfill.  After many disruptions, I managed to finish "Pink Peonies Bursting."

Reference photo

I must say that I have never painted peonies like this.  The workshop with Gregory Packard is rubbing off on me!  The biggest compositional challenge was how to handle the table, which bisects the picture so rudely.  I rounded and lowered it.  Please tell me that I did the right thing!  I am going to paint a few more peony paintings because I just can't get enough of these flowers.

Monday, May 27, 2013

"Poppy Field" (oil on linen; 5" x 7") sold


Reference photo

Poppies at Green Spring Gardens Park in Alexandria, VA

Sometimes the subject matter is fairly easy to paint.  It is the background that causes problem.  As you can see in the reference photo, I had to be creative with the bottom part of the "poppy field," which was not exactly a field of red poppies bobbing romantically.

After several scrapes, I came up with the finished painting, which has the red-green compliment colors as the dominant color scheme.  The violets in the background were inspired by the deep violet heart of the flowers. I didn't start the painting with this color scheme in mind.  I stumbled into it!


Friday, May 24, 2013

"Spring Garden" (oil on linen; 12" x 12")

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This beautiful and inviting front garden bursts with spring flowers: azaleas, irises, daisies, etc. Red poppies bloom on the painted mailbox perched on a tree stump. In the back I can see a pergola for grape vines. Wouldn't you like to walk up the stairs to look around?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"White on Red" (oil on linen; 8" x 8")

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Reference photo

All this talk of grays got to me.  I decided to go crazy and do something wild.  What if I use cadmium red straight out of the tube to contrast with the grays on the white iris blooming in my neighborhood?  How do you like my wild painting?

Friday, May 17, 2013

"Spring Creek" (oil on linen; 12" x 12")

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"Spring Creek" half finished

Reference photo

Last Friday was the last day of Gregory Packard's workshop.  I was sneezing, headachy, and burning up with fever.  Besides, I had a two-hour drive back home on I-95 to deal with.  I could have skipped the last session, but you know me better.  I pulled out a photo of Holmes Run running through Green Spring Gardens Park in Alexandria, VA. Using the same palette as the day before, I painted "Spring Creek" quickly.  The grays have become a lot subtler in five days.  Even without darks and brights, the painting looked luminous.  Greg told me several times not to overwork the painting.

But Greg lives in Colorado and I am on my own now.  Ultimately, I am the one who has to live with the painting.  It looked chalky and unfinished.  So I got to work.  Please don't tell me I ruined it!

What did I learn in Greg's workshop?  I learned a lot about color harmony.  The whole point of mixing piles of grays with a limited palette is to ensure that all the colors in the painting are related to each other.  The predominance of grays--muted, grayed down colors--allows the bright colors to sing.  I am finally beginning to understand what Kevin Macpherson says in his two books.

During the workshop, I also experienced the southern hospitality firsthand.  After the plein-air painting session last Thursday, I was packing up to head back to the hotel.  A local artist whom I met a couple of days ago asked me if I would like to come to her house for a drink.  Of course!  After a nice cold beer on her deck, she asked me to stay for dinner.  After a delicious dinner her husband had prepared, she suggested a walk in the neighborhood park.  Wow.  I made a good friend that day.

The workshop organizers of the Richmond Art Workshops too went out of their way to make the workshop experience memorable.  After the Wednesday sessions, they took us to Laraze Gallery in Charles City, VA, about 45 minutes from Bon Air, VA.  This premier, privately-owned, gallery offers a breath-taking view of the James River.  Once you step inside, you are whisked away to the world of the Russian/Soviet Impressionist art.  You know what?  We were amazed to see how many paintings were made beautiful by the wondrous grays.

The view of the James River from the grounds of the Wurdeman family estate

Kathy Wurdeman on the right greeting us in the main level of Lazare Gallery

The upper level of Lazare Gallery

Thursday, May 16, 2013

"Fine Creek Morning" (oil on linen; 9" x 12") sold


On the fourth day of Gregory Packard's workshop, which was last Thursday, the sun has returned to Richmond, VA.  The workshop organizers had kindly arranged a plein-air painting opportunity for us.  Following our fearless leader, Greg, we trekked for half an hour to the Mill at Fine Creek in Powhatan, VA. Yes, there were the romantic mill ruins, which have become an outdoor dining area and wedding venue.  But the real surprise was the creek itself.  The name apparently comes from General Robert E. Lee, who said that it was a fine creek.  I have never seen anything like it in Virginia.  The entire creek bed was rocks!

The romantic mill ruins at Fine Creek

Fine Creek

Workshop participants painting away

I decided to paint a scene facing the other way.

"Fine Creek Morning" half finished 

There was no shortage of beautiful sceneries: garden flowers, quaint houses, the mill ruins, the creek, etc.  But I didn't feel motivated.  Shocking, isn't it?  Kim Stenberg, a painting addict, not motivated in such a stimulating environment?  I didn't know it at that time, but I was coming down with a bad cold.  So I took a picture of the above scene that caught my eye and seemed "easy" to paint.  Unfortunately, by the time I was finished setting up my easel (it takes at least 15 minutes to set up the outdoor oil painting gear), the sun disappeared for the rest of the morning!  It actually rained a bit. Dang.

Do you know what I, a sick puppy, did?  I painted the scene from the LCD screen of my camera and memory!  Greg wasn't terribly impressed with my efforts; I wasn't either. The biggest problem with the half-finished painting was the composition.  If you look at it carefully, it is divided into a series of rectangles.  What's up with that?

I called it quits (good for me!), had a sandwich lunch with my new friends, and successfully persuaded Greg into doing a plein-air-painting demo.  I even helped him to unload and carry his painting gear.  He said that he was rusty because he hadn't painted outside for a year.  Tough.

On Monday, I worked on "Fine Creek Morning," focusing on correcting the compositional error.  I am pleased with the final painting.  Please leave comments about what you think!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Print Giveaway!

"Purple Glory" (watercolor, 20" x 14"; sold)
click here to buy a print for $25

It is the middle of the month, not my usual time for a print giveaway.  But I wanted to have some fun.  I've ordered a 16" x 11" print of "Purple Glory" from my print shop and am going to give it away this weekend.  If you want to win the print, you have to do three things: like my Facebook fan page, like the post that announces the print giveaway, and leave a comment.  I will announce the winner on Facebook on Monday morning.  Good luck!

Monday, May 13, 2013

"Primroses by Window" (oil on linen; 12" x 12") sold


On the third day of Gregory Packard's workshop, at our vigorous request, he did another demo, this time, from life.  As it turns out, he often paints from his photos.  We were all surprised to learn this.  As I have become "addicted" to painting from photos myself, I actually felt relieved.  There is no right way.  A beautiful painting is beautiful whether it was painted from life or from a photo.

For his second demo, Greg picked a still life setup someone had used the day before--wilting azaleas in a pretty striped ceramic vase.  It was another washout day.  Rain, rain, rain.  Virginia was becoming the Washington state.  The weak light from outside and the artificial light from above produced an unpromising lighting condition.  It was a test.  Could Greg Packard paint a vibrant still life in this challenging condition?

We sat there, mesmerized by how Greg brought life to wilting flowers and light to a still life.  As the light source was not strong, the painting was overall muted, quite different from his first demo painting.  Having struggled with the iris painting the day before, I was humbled and awed to see how he transformed what he saw into what he envisioned--fresh azaleas bathed in soft light.

After the demo, I painted "Primroses by Window," based on a photo I took at Petworth House in West Sussex, England in March.  My grays have become less garish; my greens, softer.  Just like in Greg's second demo painting, the lighting is muted here.  So I painted a gentle still life.  I was pleased.  I think Greg was pleased too.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

"Azalea Woods" (oil on linen; 8" x 10") sold; "Iris Shadows" (oil on linen; 14" x 11") sold


On the second day of Gregory Packard's workshop, Greg didn't do any demo.  What to do?  I did have some photos, but couldn't resist the fresh irises, azaleas, and many other flowers that some local workshop participants kindly brought from their gardens.  So I set out to do a still life painting of yellow and purple irises.  Boy, it was a big mistake!

My still life setup

"Iris Shadows" in original state

"Iris Shadows"

Although the Bon Air Community Center, where the workshop was held, was a spacious, beautiful place, one thing it lacked was the spot lights.  Light was defused in the interior on a rainy day. There were shadows on the table, but they were faint. There were no distinct lit/shadow variations on the flowers.  I struggled for four hours, making up sunlight that didn't exist.  The yellow iris on the right opened up, so I had to change it from a bud to an open flower.

In the end, both Greg and I agreed that enough was enough.  The shadows were so big and dark that they competed with the flowers.  I filled the canvas with the flowers to the brim, so the painting became claustrophobic.  The flowers were overdone because I kept fiddling.

After I returned home, I decided to fix the painting.  Why not?  There was absolutely nothing to lose.  I introduced the table to break up the background.  I shrank and lightened the shadows.  I also decreased the size of some flowers and made some bluer, or purpler, etc. so that they were not all the same.  All in all, I think, the painting looks better.  It feels airy.

To get frustration out of system, I decided to do a landscape during the remaining hour.  I pulled out a photo of azaleas blooming in sunny woods.  Using the piles of paints on my palette, I whipped out "Azalea Woods" so fast that even I, a notoriously fast painter, was surprised at my speed.  Greg was impressed too.

The difference between the two painting experiences that day is that when I have a game plan, I paint decisively, assured of what I am doing.  When I try to make up things as I go along because I don't have a clue, no matter how hard I work at a painting, it goes nowhere!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

"Spring Rock Garden" (oil on linen; 8" x 10")

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I just came back from the five-day workshop with Gregory Packard in Richmond, VA. As you may remember, I took another workshop two weeks ago with Dreama Tolle Perry, which blew me away.  What can I say?  I got blown away for the second time in a month.  It is exciting and bewildering to be esthetically challenged by two totally different approaches to painting.  So it will take some time for me to digest what I have learned this past month and make it part of my own esthetics.  I will share what I got out of the workshop with Greg in next several posts.  

The first thing I must say is that Greg Packard is a nice guy.  He is young in his late 30's and has already garnered fame and success that many artists would love to achieve but don't necessarily do.  You wouldn't know this by talking to him because he is such a down-to-earth and modest person.  But what about his art? He is famous for his gloriously vibrant floral still lifes.  Happily for the workshop participants, he did a demo of a peony painting on the first day.

Before the demo, however, he showed us how to mix grays.  Yes, grays turned out to be the secret to his art.  If you can mix lovely grays, you can create lovely paintings. That is Greg Packard's bottom line.

He squeezed out loads of paint onto his large palette.  Don't be stingy with paints.  He actually used an entire large tube of white paint for the demo painting!  We were awe-struck as he finished a dazzling 20" x 16" painting in just two hours.  And he did so by starting out with mid-tone grays.  He reserved the lights, darks, and bright colors until the last stage of the painting.  I have never seen anybody painting like this!

After the lunch break, it was our turn to paint.  I was so intimidated by the demo that I had a hard time getting started.  I picked the photo of a rock garden with phlox and sedum, mixed my own grays, and came up with "Spring Rock Garden."  Greg was profuse with praise.  What do you think of my "gray" painting?  

Sunday, May 5, 2013

"From Spring Garden" (oil on linen; 10" x 12") sold


Reference photo

A month ago, I posted the above photo on my Facebook fan page.  A fan who saw it sometime later asked me whether I was going to paint from it.  I wasn't; if I had planned on it, I would have put the vase on a piece of white paper so that I could see the shadows.  The bouquet seemed too complicated at that time.

On second thought, I decided to give it a try.  And I am glad I did.  Compare "From Spring Garden" with "Spring Bouquet", which I painted two years ago.  What do you think?  I have come a long way!

"Spring Bouquet" (oil, 12" x 12"; sold)

Saturday, May 4, 2013

"Green Spring Day" (oil on linen; 8" x 8") sold


The gazebo at the Green Spring Gardens Park in Alexandria, VA

There were three of us painting together on this glorious spring day!

"Green Spring Day" blocked in with transparent paints.

"Green Spring Day" further developed.

On the morning of the May Day, I received a tempting email from a painting buddy. She and another mutual friend were going out to the Green Spring Gardens Park in Alexandria, VA.  She invited the members of the Art League Plein Air Painters to join them.  I was torn.  After three days of rain, it was sunny again.  But I was going to stay home and do things around the house.  What to do?

I couldn't resist the prospect of the plein air painting fun with friends on such a fine day.  It's been almost a year since I painted outside.  Despite the winds, chilly air, and numerous chatty onlookers, we enjoyed our outing thoroughly and vowed to go out more often this year.

As I have been meaning to do a series of spring garden paintings for May, "Green Spring Day" seems like the perfect piece to kick off my May Challenge--"Spring Garden"!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

"Lavender Patch by the Barn" (oil on linen; 9" x 12")

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"Lavender Patch by the Barn" was painted last summer during the plein-air painting workshop with Bobbi Pratte at Fairfield, PA. It had been an exceptionally hot spring AND hot summer last year.  Regardless of the sweltering heat at the lavender fields of Willow Pond Farm, we painted away, sweating profusely.

After the morning session and a nice luncheon buffet, the workshop participants were supposed to rest and take a siesta.  Did I?  Of course not.  I noticed a lavender patch by the barn glowing in the afternoon sun.  I sat down under a big tree and painted the scene.  I worked on it in my studio later in the summer to the current glory.  I am quite pleased with this painting, and that is why I am sharing it again for Leslie's challenge.

Anyhow, when the class met for the late afternoon session, I was pooped out.  Did I rest?  What do you think?  I painted again!  In two days, I produced five paintings all together, breaking the class record.  Here is what I learned from my experience.  DON'T OVERDO IT!  I was so burned out that I didn't go out to paint again for the rest of the year.