Sunday, November 29, 2009

"Fisherman's Island - November 28, 2009" -- plein air field study -- oil on canvas panel -- 8x10" -- Margie Guyot

It was cold. It was dark. It was windy. Sometimes it drizzled; sometimes it snowed. But my friend Janet had driven up from Dearborn and she wanted to go painting! Thank goodness for heavyweight goosedown coats!

She'd seen 2 paintings I'd done from this same spot earlier this fall. "Let's go there!" So we drove up to Charlevoix and headed off into Fisherman's Island State Park. It really was a dreary day, but it was far more enjoyable than staggering around in a shopping Mall.

I'd had a bout of insomnia the night before. Had gotten up and fixed a cup of Sleepytime Tea and pulled out Richard Schmid's book "Alla Prima: Everything I know about Painting". In it, he wrote that it's important to always paint the sky first, before the trees. I'd always wondered about that. This time I did paint the sky first and the trees second. Liked the way it turned out.

And it's always challenging to figure out how to handle the light-colored rocks in the foreground. It's not sand there but broken rocks.

I always love the look of Lake Michigan. The colors fascinate me. I love how the distant horizon looks so dark. Closer in, the water often takes a sage green or sometimes turquoise tone.

We were both pretty frozen by the time we finished our paintings. My friend apologized for dragging me out there. Ha! I told her I was glad she suggested it. Otherwise I'd have spent the time cleaning out the henhouse.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

"Gnome for the Holidays" -- oil on canvas -- 30x40" -- Margie Guyot

People always ask me what my inspiration for a painting was. In this case, it was the ancient accordion I happened to see high on a shelf in Petals, a flower shop in Charlevoix, MI. The woman told me she used to play accordion (me, too!) and she'd found this old instrument out in a Las Vegas pawnshop. Reminds me of "Accordion Crimes" by Annie Proulx -- one of my favorite novels, by the way.

I thought this was such a cool accordion. I dared to ask the woman if I might borrow it sometime to use in a still life painting. To my utter surprise, she said yes. She'd never seen me before, but was willing to let me whisk away her accordion! This would only happen in the rural Midwest! As a thank-you, I bought a bunch of lime green fuji mums, which I managed to incorporate into this painting.

My friend Ev had been suggesting to me that I should paint a musical instrument-themed still life. Now that I had the piece-de-resistance, I could build the rest of the setup. Ev loaned me the cornet, guitar and violin.

I had the gnomes. This big one in the center is from Meijer's garden department. Usually it's stationed right inside my front door, greeting all vistors in its namaste pose. The other gnome in the back I brought up from my old digs in Farmington Hills. How it survived the move without being broken, I consider a minor miracle.

Found those great, old vintage poinsettia glasses in Consign Design, in Charlevoix. I love old schlock like that! The poinsettia tablecloth was from my "early garage sale collection".

For reasons I can't really explain, I had to set everything atop a tropical print with turquoise and golden palm leaves. Maybe it's locked way into some subconscious fantasy about spending Christmas down on a desert island.

The cookies are entirely made up, from memory. The miserable grocery stores up here have the nastiest, most pathetic cookies you could imagine! I'm trying to cut the carbs, so I didn't want to bake any. Plus, I'm too impatient to stop & bake cookies when I'm inspired to start a new still life. But I do remember how Christmas cookies USED to look. They're sitting on a Depression glass plate I inherited from my mom.

Swirling around in the back are branches from one of the neighbor's bushes. They sure look like some kind of cranberry to me. By the time I finished this, they were dried-out mummies.

What was the hardest part about this painting? Painting the musical instruments! Unlike a squash or apple, they have to be ACCURATE. And those accordion keys -- oy vey! Early on, I'd painted in the accordion, then when I came into the studio the next day I saw it was all skewed. I'd stood close to the canvas, looking down on it. It looked OK at that angle, but from across the room, it was very much "off". As usual, I did LOTS of wipe-outs on this. But I'm pronouncing it done!

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