Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"Happy Halloween" (Detail)

As a kid growing up in Iowa, I always loved Halloween. My cousins and I would make up the most fantastic costumes and go trick-or-treating weeks in advance. There was no special designated night for trick-or-treating back then, so we'd make the most of it, turning it into 5 or 6 nights. We'd go to each other's neighborhoods and stay out for 3 - 4 hours at a time.

Halloween was NOT a good time to live in or near Detroit, however. For 30 years I lived on the outskirts of Detroit, where the holiday was marred with vandalism and arson. They didn't call it "Devil's Night" for nothing. Thank goodness I moved away.

I wanted to include the two classic Halloween candies: candy corn and those horrible peanut taffy confections that came wrapped in orange and black wax paper. Ugh! Even as a kid, I never cared for either. But they do say "Halloween", don't they? Found a package of each at the dollar store. I checked to see if they were made in China (no -- Indiana). My holy grail was "Almond Joy".

Probably the first thing I'd found that inspired me to do this piece were the clear plastic owl trays. They came from a Charlevoix consignment shop. The clear glass-covered pumpkin dish also came from a resale shop in Ellsworth. As with most of my still lifes, everything either comes from a resale shop or garage sale. I love it: shopping roulette! I love the concept of trusting in the Universe to steer one towards things they need.

Don't you just love the warty pumpkin? Actually, I've been told it's really a squash. Today I'm going to bake it and maybe make a pie.

I've had that black ceramic cat teapot for probably 30 years. Love that thing. It's probably about the only thing I bought new, aside from the candy.

The first things I painted in this piece were the maple leaves. I knew they wouldn't last but a day before drying up. It's getting late in the season and I feared waking up some morning to find all the leaves on the ground before I'd had a chance to paint them.

Maybe working in the auto factory was a good thing in that it got me used to constant interruptions, struggles and aggravations. I've adopted 2 little kitties for the studio and they interrupted me constantly. Kept wanting to climb up my legs, sit on my lap, wanting me to play with them all the time. At the end of every painting session I'd have to lock up the palette in another room, as they wanted to walk all over it.

I included a close-up detail shot of Elvis, my favorite cat. This is the third time I've included him in a painting. He typically hangs around me all the time, watching and guarding me from errant mice.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

"Creek House" -- plein air field study -- 9x12" -- oil on canvas -- Margie Guyot

My friend Pete called on the phone Friday afternoon, saying he wanted to show me a cute little house that just went up for sale down the road from us. We both just fell in love with it! Sitting on 10 acres, just off US31, between Eastport and Atwood, Michigan. South of Charlevoix, north of Traverse City, about a mile east of Lake Michigan.

That's a big porch on the left side. You can't see it in this painting, but there's a stream that winds all along the front of the house.
A great spot to sit and watch the deer!

We met the owner yesterday, who told us the land around the house had been a thick woods, making it difficult to get back there to build the house. It had started out as a one-room hunting lodge. It's beautiful now.

I went back on Saturday afternoon to paint this view. I'd waited until about 4 PM. Which was too late to get a good sun-drenched view. The house sits back of a hill and the trees block the late-day sun. Finally a few patches of sunlight came through on the lawn in the foreground.

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"Sunset - 10/16/09" -- plein air field study -- oil on canvas 9x12" -- Margie Guyot

Again, this was painted from my favorite spot: Rex Beach. I live only about 2 1/2 miles away. As usual, I had the entire beach to myself. That's Northport over in the distance.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"Flowering Kale" -- oil on canvas -- 30x40" -- Margie Guyot

A couple weeks ago I attended a "fungi/fermentation" workshop when I saw this huge, frilly, flowering kale. It gave me GOOSEBUMPS! Some people's heart skips a beat; for me, it's goosebumps. I went up to the workshop organizers and said I wanted to either "beg, buy or steal" it. Ended up making a $5 donation to ISLAND.

I loved the colors in the top part of the kale and selected a cloth from my fabric collection to echo those tones. The people in JoAnn Fabrics must think I'm cuckoo for the garish fabrics I buy.

The red-striped vase is from Pier One. That wonderful grape-shaped wine bottle I found at a flea market for $10. As soon as I saw it -- yep -- you guessed it: goosebumps. And that polka dot bag is so cool! It came from some hoity-toity boutique over in the Leelanau Peninsula last summer. I thought the polka dots work well, echoing the bumps on the wine bottle.

It was a bit of a challenge to get the sunlight and shadow patterns and colors. Usually I have to use my studio light during the cooler months, as it's mostly cloudy along the NW coastline of Michigan.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

"Charlevoix Boat Dock" -- plein air field study -- oil on birch panel -- 11x14" -- Margie Guyot

See those big, dark clouds in the distance? All of us painters were lined up on the boat dock, painting furiously, trying to finish before those clouds hit. Those were SNOW clouds!

I really liked the view of the assemblage of boats, sitting serenely in the placid water. It was a very chilly morning, so maybe that had something to do with the boat owners not taking them out for a spin. We painters were grateful for that! All too often we've gotten 5 or 10 minutes into a painting of a boat (or a car) when the owner shows up and drives off.

My friend Al Maciag and I finished our paintings about the same time, packed up and walked back to the Charlevoix Circle of Arts. We were participating in the plein-air paintout and needed to have all our paintings framed and turned in that afternoon. Those clouds were approaching rapidly, so we decided to call it quits for painting and do our framing in the basement of the art center. Soon all the other participants joined us. As we framed, it begain raining heavily, then SNOWING! Oh boy.

This was also the annual Apple Festival, with many arts & crafts booths set up downtown and lots of tourists. After the snow died down, Al and I took a stroll around the booths. Many vendors were zipping up the tent sides and closing down for the day. Most of the tourists had retreated to their motels. The mitten and fur accessory dealers were still open, though. I bought a pair of purple fox earmuffs, perfect for wearing while plein-air painting!

At the reception we talked to fellow painter Kevin Barton, who had been painting the lighthouse when the storm hit. His easel and painting nearly blew into the lake. His very dramatic painting won a prize (sorry, I don't have a photo).

"Charlevoix Bridge -- Night" -- plein air field study -- 8x10" -- Margie Guyot

Was this ever fun! After painting the view of the Charlevoix Lighthouse (see below), I was walking back to the main street when I was struck by the abstract quality and glimmer of the lights on the water. Darkness had fallen. The high winds had died down. It felt rather balmy, compared to earlier. Thanks to the row of street lights along this walkway, I had enough light to see what I was doing. I didn't know if I'd be able to pull it off or not, but I thought what the heck! It was actually quite peaceful, painting all alone in the darkness. Not a single soul came by. That's one of the great things about living up here -- there's a lot less crime. Painting after dark down on Belle Isle, in Detroit, would probably not be something I'd attempt.

This view shows the causeway that connects Lake Michigan to Round Lake. What you're looking at is the drawbridge that is raised to allow the large cruise ships and sailboats to go back and forth between the 2 lakes. The drawbridge is part of US 31, the main street through town. As you can imagine, in the warmer months, with all the boat traffic AND the numerous festivals and tourists, there can be some big traffic snarls on a regular basis! I've been caught in them -- and it's taken 20 - 30 minutes to go 1/2 a mile sometimes.

I always keep my color arrangement in the same order on my palette. Clyde Aspevig taught us to do that. He said that if you always keep your colors in the same order, you will be able to paint in dim light. The next morning I was somewhat hesitant to look at this painting, for fear the "black" tones would be too brown, blue or red. I'd painted this without any black paint, using a mix of ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson the dark brown that Scott Christensen uses (I forget the name of it).

I'm going to try to do more night paintings. This was FUN!

"Charlevoix Lighthouse at Sunset" -- plein air field study -- oil on canvas panel -- 8x10" -- Margie Guyot

One of the stipulations in our paint-out for the Charlevoix Circle of Arts was that one of our finished paintings should have been painted in a "suggested" area. At first we squealed like stuck pigs, resisting being told we had to paint in a "suggested" area. Sometimes what seems like a good area to paint to one person just might not look at all paintable to another person. Thankfully, all the suggested areas were OK (at least, to me).

We had the option of getting our blank canvases stamped on Friday afternoon (instead of Saturday morning). Rain (and possibly snow) had been predicted for Saturday, so I made sure I got a good start on Friday. I ended up painting 3 on Friday (see yesterday's post to see the one of the excursion boat).

I knew I wanted to paint a sunset scene with the town's lighthouse. They recently painted it red (it had been white). After painting the view of "The Keweenaw Star" (below), I walked over to the lighthouse and set up, waiting for sunset. By the time I finished and packed up, it was nightfall. As I walked back along the causeway to the main street, I was struck by the view of the bridge. Why stop now? It was a good day!

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

"The Keweenaw Star" -- plein air field study -- oil on canvas panel -- 8x10" -- Margie Guyot

This was the first of 3 paintings I did yesterday. It was the first afternoon of the big plein-air paintout, put on by the Charlevoix Circle of Arts. The town was crowded with people, up for the annual Applefest. And the weather was FOUL! I had on several layers of clothing and a hat, but still felt chilled. I think the temperature was in the 40's, with dark skies and relentless wind.

The paint-out rules allowed artists to sign-in and get our canvases stamped on the back, beginning Friday at 2 PM. Two new artist friends of mine from Dearborn (Janet and Kathy) had come up and I wanted to go painting with them. Janet set up her easel overlooking Lake Charlevoix, enamored of the distant view of the blue mountains. She loves grand vistas -- exactly the type of scene I avoid. Where to paint? Where to paint?

I wandered across the bridge, toward the boat harbor and saw this big boat: the Keweenaw Star. Somebody was aboard. I asked them how long they'd be docked there. I've learned to ask because sometimes I'd be 10 minutes into a painting and the boat would drive off! They weren't planning on taking off until 6 PM. Good!

As you probably know, I love big "chunks" of things to paint (as opposed to distant vistas). I love the shapes, colors and reflections. It was a very dark, gray day, but I knew the water would still have interesting colors and reflections. Painting boats is always a challenge, but it's fun.

I did 2 more paintings after this one, continuing until well after dark. It was too dark to photograph them, so I'll post them next time.

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Saturday, October 03, 2009

"Cherry Pie - Lattice Crust" -- oil on canvas -- 5x7" -- Margie Guyot

If you could have seen me painting this, you would have laughed. I just rescued 2 little kitties this week and both of them were climbing up my jeans during most of the time I was painting. The one kitty insisted on sitting on my shoulder. I was kind of afraid it would leap onto the wet palette.

And this pie was really a tiny pie, about 4" in diameter. The cherries are all done in the orchards now, so I'd either have to buy the frozen cherries and bake my own or else cheat and buy a ready-made. Ready-made pies are so yucky, compared to homemade, so I hate to throw money away on them. I found a tiny, individual cherry pie down at King's Orchards, on 31, north of Elk Rapids. This morning I cut it to look like it was a bigger pie slice and had to use my imagination when painting this. In reality, the red juice really wasn't all that appetizing-looking. Maybe they cooked the filling with flour instead of cornstarch, so it was more chalky-looking. I had to use artistic license on this one.

And I locked up my wet palette before leaving. I know what I'd find tomorrow: paint-covered kitties!

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

"Fisherman's Island #1" -- plein air field study -- oil on canvas -- 9x12" -- Margie Guyot
"Fisherman's Island #2" -- plein air field study -- oil on canvas -- 9x12" -- Margie Guyot

Today was supposed to be the last really nice day we'll have up here for a while. Rain is moving in tonight. I decided to let everything else slide -- and drive up to Fisherman's Island State Park, just south of Charlevoix. Last week I'd been mushroom-hunting up here and I knew I'd have to come back and paint this spot. It's one of the few areas that looks good at mid-day.

Both paintings were done within less than 50 feet of each other. I guess I just liked the design of this view, with the "white" gravel road and distant view of Lake Michigan. The fall colors have just begun to show.

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