Monday, October 30, 2006

"Wondering What it'd be Like to Kiss Him" oil -- 30x40" Before seeing this picture, one of my friends heard the title and assumed I would have painted a picture of George Clooney. Oooh baby! Not quite. Have you ever gotten divorced? Know somebody who's going through a divorce? Then you know how crazy that first year is. That first year is nothing short of a freak-out experience, no matter how agreeable both parties are. Back in 1993 I went through a divorce. Everybody (including my therapist - who turned out to be a nut-case herself) kept urging me to "get out there & start dating". Stupid, stupid advice! Why throw yourself to the wolves when you're still reeling from one of life's major upsets? Yikes. Anyway -- right after my ex moved out, I hired a contractor to replace all the doors and install dead-bolt locks. As with most contractors, he was charming as hell. Blonde, curly hair, blue eyes, fantastic body -- just your basic, gorgeous, drop-dead dreamboat. Such a crush I had on this dude! Thank goodness I didn't make a fool of myself. I kept wishing that he would ask me out when the job was finished, but that never happened. So what could a poor, horney artist do in this situation but to do a painting about it?

The contractor is represented by the hammer. The red devil in the champagne flute is my horney fantasies. Note the gold, glittery stiletto heels (I got them for 10 cents at a garage sale). Everybody asks me about the big, black, hair bug in the foreground. He's the Horrible Fear of Rejection. I laid this setup on a white sheet which reflected the colored lights of the owl yard lights. They're the only light source in this painting, giving the whole scene a surreal, carnival-like atmosphere. My life felt like a surreal carnival at that point. It took several tries to figure out how to achieve a glowing effect on the owls. For one thing, the background had to be painted dark enough to provide a contrast to the glowing lights. And have you ever tried to make a clear, glowing red by adding white to red paint? That only ends up as a grayish, muddy pink. What worked, I finally found, was to paint the owls in titanium white and leave them dry. Then I gave them very thin glazes of pure color.

Friends were in my house last weekend and saw this painting, which I'd nearly forgotten about. It had won a cover painting contest by an "arty" magazine here in Detroit, back in 1994. Seeing it again reminded me of how much I enjoy doing wild still lifes. Hmmm.... where'd I put that purple garden gazing globe?

Friday, October 27, 2006

"Bananas" -- oil -- 9x12" on canvas. I'd gotten a really wild, colorful Guatemalan shawl at a garage sale a couple years ago and wanted to use it in some paintings. I painted this one last winter, during one of our layoff weeks from Ford. Had so much fun that I did a 2nd painting, turning the bananas over the other way. Then I did a 3rd painting, somewhat larger, adding half a papaya and some oranges. The bananas got riper & riper as I went from one painting into the next. This particular painting was accepted into the Oil Painters of America Miniature Show (Eastern Division) this fall. I just love doing really challenging compositions. It's fun, setting a still life up that will not only be interesting to look at but tough to paint as well. I guess you could say that drawing and painting a difficult painting is like figuring out a really hard crossword puzzle. Addicting! I remember the great wildlife painter, Robert Bateman, telling us that we should try to make paintings that look fresh, like something people haven't seen before. Regarding composition, he told us that a painting should "hold up", look strong, from 50 feet away. In other words, "avoid the pizza-look."

Saturday, October 21, 2006

"Daffodils" -- oil on canvas, 20x24" That's an armadillo basket, surrounded by artichokes and daffodils on an antique tablecloth. When I was back in junior high school (in Iowa), I used to hang out at my friend Jean's house. One time we were up in her attic when I spied this armadillo basket. How cool! She thought it was ugly and gave it to me. I've cherished it ever since. For a while, it held my supply of those pink sponge hair curlers we all used to use back in the late 60's, early 70's. It even went to college with me. And the daffodils? Actually, when I painted this, I only had one daffodil from the south side of my house. I just kept placing it all over the setup, painting it and then moving it to a new spot. I'm getting together some flower paintings for a show coming up and will probably include this one.

Monday, October 16, 2006

"Apples" oil on canvas -- 9x12" This one just was sold at the "Our Town" show at the Birmingham Community House in Birmingham, Michigan. I painted this from life, up in my studio. It was probably during one of our auto plant's layoff weeks last winter. These apples were so marvelously reflective -- it was a ball painting them! I laid them on a vintage tablecloth picked up from a garage sale. I'll be posting more fruit paintings in the future.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

"October -- Huron River" plein air oil on canvas -- 8x10" After several days of off & on snow showers and wind, our colors in Michigan are well into changing to the bright yellows, golds, oranges and reds of autumn. When I walked down to the river I was so excited to see the bright colors reflecting in the water! It looked almost abstract, with the strips of oranges and rusts and light and deep blues. There were maybe about 10 of us painters, all jockeying for position along the river, elbow to elbow. We all liked what we saw. Right in the middle of painting, a pair or white swans glided past us. I did this one pretty fast, in about 20 minutes, with 2 big brushes. That scene with the oranges & blues got me in one of those moods when I felt I had to race through (which isn't always a bad thing!). I may later use this little painting as a basis for a larger painting in the studio, and at that time I'll add the swans. Need I mention that it was cold and windy that morning? I had on longjohns, fleece and a down coat. Tried painting with wool mittens, but kept dropping my brush. Our gracious host drove up in his golf cart with mugs of butterscotch schnapps and hot chocolate. It sounds disgusting, but it's delicious -- even at 9:30 in the morning!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

"Sunflowers" oil on canvas -- 48x48" I just found out that this was awarded "Best of Show" in the 14th Annual Fine Arts Exhibition at the Village Theater at Cherry Hill in Canton, Michigan. Besides painting landscapes en plein air, I also love painting still lifes. They're easier because they don't move and the weather's always the same! Setting a still life up always takes me DAYS. I'm always rearranging things, adding items, taking stuff out. Through experience, I realized it's better to take my time to find a composition that excites me. If it's boring from the beginning, you might as well not even start painting it! So I'd set this arrangement up on the floor of the dining room (which has never been used as a dining room) and it just didn't look right. Something was missing. I turned around to get a glass of water in the kitchen and saw the solution: the big vase of sunflowers I'd bought that morning at the farmer's market! I grabbed it and plopped it down in the center of everything. Voila! And boy, those leaves were a challenge to paint! The bowl of floating lemons was a blast. And white sheets -- ah, I could paint wrinkled, folded white sheets all day, every day, for the rest of my life!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

"Chrysanthemums" -- plein air oil on canvas -- 8x10" My friends and I had spent the morning painting at Proud Lake and they all left for lunch. I decided to drop in at Sunshine Herb Farm just down the road to check on my friend Heiner Hertling, who was filming 2 shows for his upcoming PBS series, "A Brush With Nature". He was busy painting the red horse barn and chickens. They had a dead goldfinch going around, playing jokes with it, laying it on Heiner's palette, then putting it in the cameraman's van. We painters are always looking for jokes to pull on each other! I saw this bunch of white daisy chrysanthemums and decided to paint them. They smelled so fresh and the bees loved them. It was a gorgeous day, sunny and fairly warm. The colors seemed to jump out with vibrancy, especially the green grass. We'd had lots of rain lately (which was also good for the wild, edible mushrooms), so it was a good day for 'shroom hunting as well! I came home Saturday afternoon with 3 paintings and a basketful of grifola frondosa (a.k.a "hen of the woods").

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

"Pumpkin" -- oil on canvas -- 24x18" I set this pie pumpkin atop a Pendelton Indian blanket that I'd bought at a Peruvian shaman workshop out in western Michigan. I love the patterns it makes when it drapes over the table. When I look at it, I can almost smell the smoke from the fire and hear the ceremonial music. And I love that pumpkin's jaunty little stalk!