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Set Sail

The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.

– William Arthur Ward

I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving – we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it – but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.
– Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr

These ship paintings are appropriate for my life right now. I stand on a shore on which I have built a pretty comfortable life. It is hard to leave the familiar, even if the familiar is not working any more. Some big changes are on the horizon for me and my family. Setting sail for new adventures, maybe…

There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.
– The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame

Creativity Needs Community – Part One

I have learned a lot during the era of Covid. One thing is that, although I do best actually creating my artwork in solitude, my work truly thrives when I have the opportunity to present it to others. I need that feedback which is only present in person, watching people react to and make connections through my paintings.

I have long been an advocate of visiting galleries and art museums. There is no comparison to standing in front of the actual painting only an arm’s reach away. No matter how high quality a reproduction is, it is not the real thing made by the artist and seen by your own eyes. This is such a priority to me that I have built international trips around the artwork I can experience and share with my family. Can I tell you about one of those experiences?

As a child, my mother would often read to me and my siblings about art and artists. One painting stands out in my mind (partly) for silly reasons. Primavera (Spring) by Botticelli is masterwork depicting mythological figures and is heavy with symbolism. My mom was showing me and my brother a picture of the painting in a book and pointing out different elements. She mentioned the “angel hoovering above” at which we broke into unstoppable giggles. Hoovering, not hovering. You know, cupids are not usually depicted as vacuuming the air above Venus! This was then a family joke for years. Fast forward to my first trip to Florence, Italy and The Uffizi. Wandering through halls of art and then stepping into a room with a huge, wall sized painting: Botticelli’s Primavera. I was breathless at the experience. This painting, so small in a book on my mother’s lap, is massive. I cried and laughed out loud – in public! There were certainly connections to my mom (also an artist), my childhood art appreciation (books and museums), my college art history studies (slides!) and the sheer, enveloping experience of standing in front of that painting in Florence.

I could keep going. I have been to twenty world class art galleries in half a dozen countries. I have experiences with art which are priceless and I will always cherish. I am pleased to have shared most of those experiences with my husband and now many with my children as well. I have seen art works capture the attention of my children at young ages, how they will pause and ponder over a painting. How they will bring up memories of particular paintings they have seen in galleries, how they feel about them, how something else they are experiencing makes them feel and reminds them of the painting.

We humans are made to experience with our senses. The digital world will never eclipse real experiences. Twitter is inferior to books. Virtual is less ideal than physical. People need people. The introvert that I am has been hit a little too hard with that lesson this past year and a half (going on two).

It has been a long stretch, folks, and it is time to open the studio again! I have stayed afloat by painting several commissions and plugging away at new work of my own design these past years. My focus has been fresh new work, focusing on light, drawing on a desire for hope and peace for the future. More than twenty paintings that have never been shown (including the ones pictured above) will be exhibited at my Open Studio in October of 2021.

Acrylic Painting

Paint along with me! Watch my video demonstration of painting a pair of California Finches in acrylic paint and paint along in real time. The supplies you will need:

  • Canvas or some kind of surface to paint on (cardboard would work in a pinch)
  • Brushes
  • Palette knife (a plastic knife or spoon would work)
  • Palette paper or wax paper (or waxy paper plate)
  • Paint: white, black, burnt umber (dark brown), yellow ochre (kind of yellowy tan), primary yellow, primary or cadmium red, crimson red, and ultramarine blue.

    Here is part one of three:

Starting a New Painting

This is how the visible start looks (after my perfectly executed mental painting, of course). I’ve got my book pages down and I’ve drawn my dragonfly. I am trying out a new idea with the pages arranged haphazard – like a gust of wind blowing them away.

I usually have my whole composition decided before I start on the final piece. This time, I kept making decisions and changes as I drew! I didn’t want to damage the watercolor paper with multiple drawings and erasing, so I used tracing paper to sketch and then transferred the final lines onto the watercolor paper. For this painting, I placed the dragonfly first, then made the eucalyptus branches work around it.

Paint!

Laying down some background color…

Painting, painting, painting…

Some definition and texture using Prismacolor and Derwent
colored pencils.
On the easel but ready for framing!