Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"Pumpkins" -- oil on canvas -- 40x60" -- Margie Guyot

This was almost as hard to photograph as it was to paint! This image got cropped a bit. I use a little point and shoot digital to get my jollies with. I work from life, not from a photo. I only photograph things when they're finished.

These are the coolest pumpkins! All were grown locally, mostly at Bolt's Farm, on Atwood Road. We had them as decorations at Tapawingo this fall and my boss let me take them home. I knew I wanted to use them in a still life. I'll try planting the seeds next spring. I hope the deer leave them alone.

Everything in the painting was scavanged or haggled for. The table was from a resale shop. Finally -- a big table to put still lifes on! In the past I balanced a piece of drywall on cardboard boxes. The orange and beige tapestry I haggled for down in Peru some years ago. The deer antler came from a garage sale, as did the squirrel nutcracker. The ornate gold frame was from a resale shop and I found the wild turkey feathers out in the woods. Those prickly-looking doodads in the upper right corner are seedheads from cardoon flowers. The Mexican bat mask I haggled for down in Mexico when I was there last time, on a mushroom-hunting trip up in the volcano region, outside Mexico City. Ah, I love junk!

The one piece that inspired this whole painting was the orange plastic Jack-o-lantern Jell-O mold I got at the neighbor's potluck and give-away party! As soon as I saw it, I got goosebumps! When something gives me goosebumps, it's a sign I need to follow through with it.

Even the canvas itself was from a garage sale.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"Christmas 2008" -- oil on masonite panel -- 12x16" -- Margie Guyot

This morning I bundled up, hitched on my snowshoes and took a long hike back into the swamp. It was about 10 degrees, with blowing snow. I'd been to a big party last night and was trying to burn off some of those yummy dips and cookies! Spied a cute little evergreen and considered cutting it for my Christmas tree. But I decided to leave it be. I'd rather be painting in my studio!

Don't ask me what kind of skull that is. A young deer? Don't blame me -- I nabbed it at a garage sale, along with everything else in this setup. The hardest thing about doing this painting was the tapestry. I slugged away on it for days. Scraped it all down a couple days ago. It's one of those things I could slave away on for years and years, but I think I finally got it down to give "the illusion of tapestry".

I love painting shiny, reflective things, so that was probably the most fun thing: painting the Christmas ornaments. But doggone! Getting a perfect circle is tough! I ended up scavenging through the studio to find various sizes of jar lids to trace, to get the round shapes.

It's been cloudy here for probably 2 months (and will probably continue being cloudy until April). It snows up in this part of Michigan practically every day. I used natural light when painting this, so there were no really strong, sharp shadows. We did have one day of sun, however, last Saturday. That gave me my one crack at seeing some bit of shadow shapes. I probably should use my studio lights for the next still life.

How to get the skull and antlers to stand out from the tapestry? It was another problem to work out. When I'd squint and look at the setup, there wasn't really a great deal of value difference between the tapestry and the skull. I had to make the skull look like it was sitting on top of the tapestry -- and not sunk into it. The wild pattern and colors of the tapestry naturally would tend to make the viewer focus on that. Scraping down the surface of the tapestry helped, I think. And I laid on the paint for the skull pretty thickly. Being the largest, solid shape also helped.

Ah, I SO look forward to starting on my next still life! It will be using pumpkins. Gotta paint them before they rot!

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

"Bell Peppers" -- oil on canvas panel -- 15x15" -- Margie Guyot

After weeks of painting the winter blahs (or, as we used to call them, "the sour owl"), I was gunning for something very bright and yeowly. Actually, this is even more bright in real life, but it was very dark when I photographed this (without flash). The peppers were easy, but the cloth they're sitting on is really tough to paint. It's a deep fuscia brocade that reflects into the bluish/purplish tones. Red paint, even though I own probably every shade they make, is very hard to recreate all the colors, due to the physical limitations of the paint. To get this very intense shade of the fuscia, I ended up putting down several layers of "Aurora Pink".

I live in the Snow Zone in NW Michigan, where we get snow pretty much every day. So it really is exciting to paint bright, screaming colors now and then. After the last painting experience, setting up in the middle of a howling snowstorm on the edge of Lake Michigan, holding onto my gear so it didn't blow into the lake, I decided it was time to spend a bit more time in the nice, warm studio for a while.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

"Storm - Dec. 1, 2008" -- plein air field study -- oil on canvas 9x12" -- Margie Guyot

This was the second painting I did yesterday out on the beach, looking at the stormy Lake Michigan. It was so windy I had to hold onto my easel with one hand the whole time. The wave's spray was freezing instantly, pelting me with ice pellets. That white stuff in the foreground was chunks of ice. Waves were swooshing it up onto the rocks at my feet. That big boulder you see out in the waves was getting a crust of ice on it. In the distance you see the snow-covered hills of the Leelanau Peninsula.

I like painting at this particular spot because there's a small reef that juts out into the lake and the waves come at it in a crosswise pattern. Having grown up in Iowa, where we had rivers and ponds (and no waves), I'm totally captivated by waves here.

I thought I had a good grip on this painting, but the wind caught it and blew it face-down into the snow, missing the lake by inches. I had to let it thaw and dry out in the studio overnight before I could touch it up a little and photograph it.

Painting in a snowstorm along Lake Michigan kind of wore me out for a while. I'm going to be painting some still lifes in my nice, warm studio for a while. When the ice starts piling up along the shore and the sun comes out I'll go down and paint again.
Expect bizarre things!

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Monday, December 01, 2008

Easel setup in the snow, Dec. 1, 2008

"View of Antrim Creek, Dec. 1, 2008" -- plein air field study -- oil on birch 8x10" -- Margie Guyot

Wow -- it was cold and windy today! We woke up to about 12" of new snow that had fallen overnight. Of course I just HAD to drive down to my favorite spot to paint! Thank goodness for my Explorer. It handled the unplowed roads like a champ.

That first photo I took of my easel, sitting up on the little hill I painted on, looking down upon the tale end of Antrim Creek, where it empties into Lake Michigan. I'd brought along a big umbrella with the thought that it might help keep some of the blowing snow out of my palette and painting surface. Not only was it ineffective -- I had to hold it with one arm so it wouldn't blow away. It came in a nice carrying bag with a strap. Alas, the wind blew the bag down the hill, into the creek. Did I mention the creek was freezing over? Goodbye, umbrella bag!

In the spring you can stand by this creek and watch the steelhead and salmon run up to do their spawning. Last spring I was standing next to this creek, painting the lake and heard some splashing next to me. It was a big steelhead.

I'd been itching to try some winter storm lake painting, so when I finished this one
I slogged back through the snow with the usless umbrella and this painting to put them into the Explorer. Then it was slog all the way back through the snow and move down to the waterfront, where I struggled to paint a second scene. The ice pellets were blowing in my face. Waves were crashing. Spray was flying. I was standing in semi-frozen slush. The wind was so strong I had to hold onto the easel at all times. It was really a challenge. The wind ripped the painting out of my hand and it fell face-down into the snow. The snow is melting off, out in the studio, and tomorrow I'll probably post it. It was a fun day!

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