Monday, July 28, 2008

"Clean Sheets" -- plein air field study -- oil on canvas 9x12" -- Margie Guyot
Sometimes the most interesting sights are right under our noses. I came back late this afternoon from slugging away at a painting of some white pines down at the beach (which I wiped out). As I drove down my driveway, the sight of my laundry hanging at the side of my art studio caught my eye. Loved that section of bright white triangle on the sheet!

After parking the Explorer, I quickly set up my easel and drew in the basic shapes. The first thing I concentrated on painting was the sheets and their light & dark patterns. I did 99% of this painting using a #8 flat brush. It's an Ultrex Ultra, which holds its shape very well. Thin lines can be painted by holding it on its side. In fact, I get a cleaner line using this method than if I used a thin brush.

As usual, my 2 cats kept me company. They are very curious and follow me all around the yard. I tell them they're "artist's cats" and they seem to smile.

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"St. Clair Lake" -- plein air field study -- 8x10" -- oil on birch panel -- Margie Guyot
While the Detroit area was sweltering in 90 degrees and high humidity, once again it was a lovely day here in NW Michigan. After leaving Tapawingo this morning I decided to stop in Ellsworth's tiny city park. It's tucked in behind the Ellsworth Farmer's Exchange complex, with all the LP gas trucks and grain elevators. Once you've weaved your way through all that, there is a pretty little paradise.

Having been roasted a little too long in the hot sun lately, I looked for a shady spot to stand. Parked my easel under a Chinese elm and painted this view of St. Clair Lake. A slight breeze kicked up the lake, creating small ripples. One group of fishermen put their boat into the water and zoomed off south. Those were the only other people in the park while I was there.

Still trying to get used to my new Soltek easel. The palette is some kind of plastic and it seems to dry out my paints quicker than I'm used to. Because of the configuration of the easel, I've had to arrange my paint layout in a different pattern, so it's going to take a little getting-used to.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

"July Orchard" -- plein air field study -- 12x24" -- oil -- Margie Guyot

While the rest of the state was sweltering in 90 degree, humid weather, it was another glorious day up here in NW Michigan. I'd thought of going to the beach to paint but figured it would be noisy and crowded. So I stayed home and did a painting right in my own yard. The star thistle just started blooming this week (some call it spotted knapweed). It's a beautiful lavender flower and it's everywhere up here. There's also some small white flower for which I don't have the name. I love all the flowers. The golf-course look for lawns is preferred by some, but I love the wild look. Reminds me of a Persian carpet.

I bought this house and land last fall and with it came about 5 apple trees. While painting, I looked at the tree (in the left in this painting) and saw a hen turkey underneath. She had about 5 of her babies with her. She must have given a warning cluck to them and they all flew up into the tree, out of harm's way.

This weekend is a big festival up in Charlevoix, the Venetian Festival. Traffic is at a standstill up there. So you know I would make an effort NOT to go. After about 30 years fighting Detroit traffic, noise and pollution, I love the peace and quiet right here in my own backyard.

"Willows -- Boyne Falls" -- plein air oil study -- 11x14" -- Margie Guyot

After work at Tapawingo on Friday I had the urge to go painting. Even though I have a "gravy job", doing the table flower arrangements as a part-time job, I'm usually exhausted by the time I'm finished. I came home and fixed lunch and should have tried taking a nap, but of course just couldn't. I was just too excited to get out there and paint. Earlier in the week I'd driven by a beautiful little lake in Boyne Falls. I went back there and saw these beautiful willows.

But egads -- the wind! It was sort of like trying to paint in a hurricane! It got stronger and stronger as I painted. I was using my new Soltek easel, famous for its stability in high winds. It worked like a champ. But I had to keep one hand on my hat.

Constant wind can drive people mad, they say. Think of Vincent Van Gogh in the famous Mistral winds of France, trying to paint his famous scene of the crows in the wheat field. His last painting. By the time I finished this painting, I felt as if I'd been struggling with a pack of dogs tugging on my pant legs and sleeves. To make matters worse, it didn't take long to realize that this lovely-looking little park was right at a highly-traveled, noisy, polluted intersection. And it was rush-hour on a Friday night. In short, I was totally exhausted by the time this painting was done.

All was not lost, though. On the 25 mile ride home, I spied a nice clump of wild tansy on a little side road. Luckily, there was a spade and buckets in the back of my Explorer. Did a U-turn and went back and dug a few plants for my yard. And picked more Queen Ann's Lace for my arrangements at Tapawingo.

Turns out I left just in time. Right after digging the tansy, the rain started. It came down in buckets. All the little wildflowers needed it. A great way to end a Friday night!

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

"Frog Tea Party" -- oil on canvas -- 36x36" -- Margie Guyot
This was a pretty challenging piece. The most difficult part was the tablecloth. It was a vintage find from a garage sale and I about tore my hair out, trying to get it right. Surprisingly, the big glass vase in the center was just a trip! I could paint swirls all day. I found it was best to use a larger brush, turned on its side, rather than a fine brush to do the thin lines.

Those frog pieces are so much fun! I found the teapot, sugar and creamer in a garage sale last summer in my old neighborhood back in Farmington Hills. That woman always had the choicest, most interesting stuff in her garage sales! Every summer she'd have a sale and I'd mop up. She and I had very similar tastes. The water pitcher was found on eBay a couple months ago. I just had to do a painting with these.

If you've followed my blog, you've seen an occasional painting that includes frogs. Frogs have a special place in my heart. Back when I was little, my dad had a cottage on a little river in Iowa and I pretty much grew up out there. I preferred playing with frogs rather than dolls. My sister and I played doctor with them and tried dressing them in doll clothes. We had leopard frogs, green frogs, bullfrogs and the little spring peepers. So frogs have a special place in my heart.

Over the years friends have noticed my affinity for frogs and have given me frog figurines. Which I thank them for, but tactfully as possible ask them NOT to give me any more. Some frogs are cool but others are not. Know what I mean? It's those goofy ones with the gigantic, wide mouths and telescopic eyeballs that I find hideous. And they're everywhere! Like those gawd-awful macrame owls everybody had back in the 70's. No, I guess I'm just a frog-snob.

You'd be surprised at how that setup looks now: the teacups are filled with a fuzzy, mossy scum. The flowers are dried whisps. The cookies look unchanged, but I wouldn't want to eat them. Good old BHT (or whatever preservative they're using now at Pepperidge Farm these days). I always work from life, never a photo, and I'd had countless interruptions while working on this. Normally I can finish a large painting in a week, more or less. It dragged on at least a month this time.

I'm SO ready for some quick, plein air landscapes!

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Saturday, July 05, 2008

"Red Van in Shade" -- plein air field study -- oil on panel 9x12" -- Margie Guyot

My friend Cal invited me to join him painting on the grounds of Behr Art Gallery, on Route 31, just south of Charlevoix. It's the 4th of July weekend and the gallery owner wanted some potters and painters on-site, doing their thing. As soon as I walked onto the property, I saw this bright red van sitting in the shade. Aha! I loved the look of the bits of sunlight on the hood and the reflected lights on the side. In the distance is a slice of Lake Michigan. Give me something big, colorful and reflective and that's what I'll choose every time, as opposed to a grand vista.

The good thing was that I could stand in the shade and paint. The bad thing was that I stood in the shade and painted. It was home to hundreds of ravenous mosquitoes! I'd look down on my arm and see 5 or 6 of those buggers at a time, sucking away. I was more than halfway through the painting before I noticed them and I didn't want to just quit and walk away. Thought I'd go mad. Even slapping turpentine on my arms didn't faze them. Finally Cal came by and said he had some bug spray in his SUV. Thank goodness. I was on the verge of screaming and running hither & yon. Need to write on my next shopping list: bug spray.....

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