Wednesday, June 29, 2016

"MC", "CJ" or "Carol" - decisions, decisions, decisions

One of the fun things about painting is completing a painting and signing it!  It was at this point that I realized I had to make a decision.  Would I sign my paintings "cj" for Carol Johnston - the name I generally use, "mc" for Mary Carol which is my given name.  Or would I simply sign them "carol." I nixed "carol" immediately because there are millions of Carols in the world.  I wanted something that was at least a little unique.  I looked online, and there IS another artist named Mary Carol - but she puts an "e" on Carol (Carole).  So if I used Mary Carol, it would still be unique as far as the art world goes.

For a few days I thought "cj" was the route I'd go - and I signed all my paintings "cj."  It's simple, and it's what I use in my everyday life.

But then I reconsidered, painted over all the "cj's" and wrote "mc" again.

I reconsidered yet again, repainted over the mc's and wrote "cj" again.  I was making this MUCH more complicated than it needed to be.  Perhaps I had such a difficult time making the decision because it would be something that would identify all my art from this point forward - whether I end up with ten paintings or ten hundred paintings.  Once I made a firm decision, that would be it - no more changes.

In the end, I decided that "mc" would be my signature.  It's the constant in my life.  I've had several different last names - but the Mary Carol has remained the same.  Although I've given my mother a hard time about calling me by my middle name (which causes issues with drivers licenses and school roll calls, etc.), I've always liked my name.  I think it's pretty.

So, once again, I need to paint over a couple of cj's on and put mc instead.  Since I have only a few paintings so far, that should be fairly easy.  It's matching the colors that makes it somewhat of a challenge.  

Painting our trip to Alaska

June 3 - 14, 2016, my husband and I took our two teenage granddaughters on a trip to Alaska.  It was an AMAZING trip.  We had such fun!  The girls were wonderful the entire time - never a cross word, and we had experiences we will remember and cherish the rest of our lives.  As we traveled and did all the many activities, I took photographs of things I'd want to paint when I returned.

First of all, I want to paint a picture of the girls traveling.  They were responsible for their own luggage.  We each had one suitcase and a backpack.  They led us through airports, parks, towns and attractions.  This photo shows them in one airport - leading the way on a moving sidewalk.

And this next photo was taken at a different airport - with their rolling suitcases and backpacks.  So independent!



In Anchorage, we watched many floatplanes.  We rode in floatplanes twice.  I snapped this photo of a floatplane landing.  The pattern of the sun reflecting off the water ripples behind the plane was fascinating.


The girls sat on rocks a few miles outside Anchorage, looking at the snow-capped mountains in the distance.  I love this photo!

When they turned around, they threw their arms up in the air to pose for a picture.  I love that photo, too.


So my first attempt was to combine the two photos into one painting.   I did this painting at my mother's house last week.  I knew I couldn't paint the girls' faces to look realistic at all.  So I had them facing away from me.  However, at this point I realized that it just looked like two girls sitting on a rock.  There was no "Alaskan" context to it.  

 I got a larger canvas and started over.  I was using acrylic paints, and each time I made a change, the paint built up since acrylic paint dries so quickly.  I blocked out the picture - and I like it. However, there are many changes I want to make, but I can't make the changes without adding too many layers of paint with lots of conflicting textures underneath.  Thus my plan is to wait until I get my oil painting studio set up.  Then I will start over on a new canvas using oil paints.  The challenge is to make the snowcapped peaks in the distance look realistic.  Then I have to get the girls' bodies and hair to look realistic.  I think I can do it - and, if I succeed, it will be, by far, my favorite painting!

"Lily and Sophie in Alaska, June 2016" unfinished painting
(Acrylic on canvas)

There's one other painting (actually more than that) I want to make from our Alaska trip.  We stayed at Camp Denali in Denali National Park.  The cabins had no electricity and no bathroom.  Outside each cabin was a "meticulously maintained" outhouse.  Sophie never used the outhouse while we were there.  There was a bathhouse up the hill - about a 3-5 minute walk away.  So she walked up there each time she needed to go.  I only used the outhouse when I had to go in the middle of the night.  I didn't want to go hiking up the hill by myself then - even though, since it was June in Alaska, it never got completely dark.  Here's a photo of our cabin, The Last Chance" along with our outhouse.


I started blocking out the painting in the photo below - and later on I will work on it more.  I'm satisfied with the basic proportions.  I will likely start over and do it in oils since I'm seriously considering using only oil paints instead of acrylic from now on.  It'll be fun to see how these paintings turn out.


We all agreed that our favorite part of Alaska was staying at Afognak Wilderness Lodge on Afognak Island (Kodiak, Alaska).  So I'd like to paint a scene from there.  There are so many choose from, though - our cabin, the fishing boat, the girls standing with all our catch laid out on the dock in front of them, the girls standing with the large halibut Sophie hooked and Lily helped reel to the boat.  So I will look at those pics and decide what else to paint.

Below are two photos of the girls at Afognak Island with fish that they caught.  One of these will be the inspiration for a painting one of these days.


While we were in Anchorage, both Lily and Sophie did a lot of photography.  Later in the trip they were too busy with fishing and hiking to do much photography.  We were in Anchorage the first couple days of our trip, and they were awe-struck with the incredible scenery.  So I took some photos of them taking photos.  They were so very much into it!





One of the highlights of our time on Afognak Island was seeing a pod of whales.  This is the best photo I got.  They were incredible to see.  I am anxious to look at the photos on Ron's camera because I'm sure he got more incredible photos than I did with my iPhone.



We went to a small airport in Anchorage (the same airport where I took the photo above of the float plane with ripples behind it), and came across this sign - just in time to yield to the airplane in the photo that was crossing the road.  That's not a sign you see everywhere!  I thought it was cool that when we saw the sign, there was actually a plane crossing the road that we had to yield to.  Great coincidence!



The photo below was taken in downtown Anchorage in a parking lot.  We'd just parked our car in front of the sign before going to a restaurant for lunch.  Sophie thought the sign was funny - and posed for some photos with it.





"Dirt Road Barn" - my second country scene

After finishing "Mountain Barn," I was eager to try another barn.  I DO like country barns! For this one I googled "painting of a barn" and looked at probably 100+ paintings of barns.  I had decided after doing the rooster and rose earlier that I did not want to copy anyone else's painting.  I would look at other paintings to get help but I would make the painting my own.

However, this painting ended up being too much like another painting I found.  I made some changes, and of course my painting is nowhere near as good as the one I used for inspiration.  Still, I wouldn't enter this one in any competition since the general scene is taken from someone else's painting.  I copied the shape of the barn, the way the road curves around and behind the barn, the fence and a building in the field behind the barn.  This first photo shows the barn after I got the basics blocked in.


I added the fence, a house in the background, some clouds, and some grass in the middle of the road.  In the painting I was looking at, there were blue flowers in the left foreground.  I wanted queen Anne's lace, but the white just didn't look right.  So I changed them to yellow flowers.


Then I got carried away and added more yellow flowers - and they didn't look realistic at all.  However, if I painted over them, it would make the painting look worse from all the dried paint shapes underneath the top paint.

Plus, all the flowers were facing in the same direction.  I was not happy with the painting.  I really liked the barn, the road and the fence - although the barn leans to the right!  Good lesson in getting basic shapes blocked in correctly to begin with!  I changed the barn doors to metal gates - which I really like.  The flowers need to be changed, but I think I'd have to re-do the entire painting to make that change.  So I declared the painting done.  I will probably do this painting again on a different canvas - using oil paints next tine instead of acrylics.  All in all, I like "Dirt Road Barn" - I just see lots of changes that I need to make.
"Dirt Road Barn" - June 2016
(Acrylic paint on canvas)

"Mountain Barn" - country scenes are my ultimate goal


I love paintings of country scenes, and that is the direction I wanted to go in my paintings.  So my next project was to paint a barn.   First, I looked at online videos.  I found one for doing backgrounds.  So I followed along with it to get the background done.  Then I looked up a video on painting a barn.  The artist used a palette knife, but I used a paintbrush.  I ended up having to draw it out on paper first.  Then I drew it with chalk on my canvas.  Finally I painted it.  The following show those steps:


  I wanted to add a fence and hay bales - along with a road.  I looked up a photo of a round hay bale, and painted the three hay bales by looking at that photo.  


I made the path from the barn lead to a road.  Then I worked on shading and highlighting. But I didn't like the purple background.  It just didn't look right to me.  Whenever I'd drive around, I'd look at distant hills and mountains - and they weren't purple.  So I changed it to a dark green grey.  I also added a lake.  But rather than a field beside the lake, it looks like a slide going into the lake.  Hmmm.  How would I make that look realistic?


I added more shading and highlighting, and I took the field out and made more trees instead.  I added shading to the road.  It was at this point (unfinished) that I entered this painting in the Williamson County FCE Cultural Arts competition.  And look what it won!  I KNOW there were very few entries - probably only 2-5.  Since I was out of town to be with my mother while she was hospitalized, I wasn't able to attend the cultural arts day.  So I have no idea what other pieces were in the competition.  My friend DID tell me, though, that it missed being "Best of Show" by just a few points.   Regardless of whether there was only one other painting or five or more, a first place ribbon is really nice.  However, I still had more work to do on it.  I felt it looked too dark.


After I got the painting back from the competition, I changed the road to make it look more realistic, added more highlighting to the front of the barn and field, lightened up the shading on the road, and gave the grass and hay bales a little more definition.  Then I pronounced it finished.  I still want to learn more about making realistic clouds.  However, for this "Mountain Barn" painting, I will leave the clouds mostly wispy and undefined.  As I did this painting, I sought help from several different videos, from photographs and from observing landscapes in real life.  It is the most complex of any of my paintings so far.

"Mountain Barn" - June 2016
(Acrylic on canvas)




Tuesday, June 28, 2016

"3 Vases" - Painting from real flowers

I wanted to paint flowers again but I didn't want to paint from a photo, another painting or a video.  So I went to Kroger and bought their least expensive bouquet of fresh flowers.  I think it was only $5.00.  I looked around my house and found a set of three vases for them.  I love multi-colored things.  So when I saw this trio of vases several years ago, I immediately bought them.  I arranged the flowers in the vases, set them on a little table and took some photographs.
I liked the dark purple flowers and the daisy/mum flowers.  I didn't like the white flowers.  So I decided not to include them in the painting.  The first step was to block out the painting.  I have no idea if that's what other artists call this step, but it's what I do.  For this painting, I determined where the table and the background would be.  I cut out a shape for the vases and traced around it with chalk.  I knew there was no way I'd get three vases the same general shape and size by drawing them free-hand.
After looking at it, though, I didn't like the blue background.  I changed it to a peach color.

I liked the peachy background and decided to keep it.  Later, I would second-guess that decision.  I did some shading and highlighting and then started adding flowers.

What I found is that the yellow flowers did not show up well against the peach-colored background.  I wasn't willing to re-do the background, though, since there were so many flower petals that I'd have to work around.  So I used deeper yellows and oranges for shading to make the daisies show up a little more clearly.  Below is the final painting.  I entered this painting into a competition - a very small competition.  I had to be out of town because my mother was sick.  So a friend entered it for me - the Williamson County FCE Cultural Arts Day competition.  I think there were only maybe 3 or 4 entries - maybe not even that many.  I don't know for sure since I wasn't there.  This painting was entered into the decorative painting category, and it won second place!  Maybe there were only two paintings!  :-)
"Three Vases"
(acrylic on canvas, June 2016)
This is my first completely original painting, and I'm quite pleased with it.  I know it's not fine art and I will probably look at it in years to come, cringe,  and think it is completely amateurish.  However, I AM an amateur, and I really like this painting, and I'm proud of it because I think it shows how very far I've come in less than two months of painting.  Two months ago I would never have imagined I could paint something even half that detailed.  I plan on hanging "3 Vases" in my home.

My 5th Painting - Hydrangeas!

After painting the 3 pots of flowers, the rooster, the rose and the vase of jonquils (see previous post), I saw a lovely painting of some hydrangeas.  I LOVE hydrangeas, and I decided to paint some.  I designed my own vase, and used the painting I'd found to see what a hydrangea should look like.  Here's the first attempt:


It was awful!  The vase was too tall and too thin, and the flowers looked like they were stacked on top of each other.  So I started over - changed the vase and made fewer flowers.  The following photos show the progression from blocking out the blooms and chalking in the shape of the vase to the final painting:


Painting #5 - "Hydrangeas in Vase"
(Acrylic paint on canvas.  Completed May 2016)

I'm finished with this painting.  I'm not pleased with the flowers because the individual blooms are not shown.  It looks more like giant colored cotton balls.  However, I DO like the general look of the painting.  Although the blooms are not individualized, they're recognizable as hydrangeas. 

Again, I had looked at a photo to see specifically what a hydrangea looked like.  Real flowers, I decided - that's what I needed, and that's what I did next.

April 26, 2016 - The day I learned that perhaps I could be an artist

April 26, 2016 was the day that my sister, Beth, and I went to a paint-along class in Franklin.  It was at an artist's studio in downtown Franklin, but I won't name the place since the owner of the studio didn't teach the class. I don't want to give her negative publicity since she didn't have anything to do with the class we took.  There is another artist (the one that taught our class) that uses that studio to teach classes once a week. The teacher, who I also won't name, was nice in some ways and pretty awful in others. She let us switch the painting that we would do as a class.  So that was nice. She ignored my sister's questions, and then when I asked her a question about painting the background flowers, she took my brush and finished my painting for me.  Really!  She took the brush, sat down on my stool and finished my painting!  I kept saying, "OK, I understand now" "Thanks, I see now" and similar comments, hoping she'd stop and let me finish my own painting.  She kept on sitting there, though, and not only painted in background flowers, but finished the entire thing for me - going back over the shading I'd already done and re-doing the leaves and some of the flowers.  Sigh!  I have zero feeling of ownership of that painting now.  How could I?  And my sister kept asking for help, and the teacher either didn't hear or chose to ignore her.  The teacher talked on her phone and acted really impatient to get us out of there!  There were only 3 people in the class.  So it wan't as though she had a bunch of other people demanding her time.  It wasn't the best introduction to painting - except that I realized that before the teacher commandeered my painting, I was enjoying the experience and I wasn't as awful as I always thought I would be.

I had it almost finished on my own when the teacher took over.  :-(  The first photograph is one I took of my painting a little while before asking the teacher how to do background flowers.  I had smoothed out some of the shading before she took over - but not a lot.

And here is the "finished" item.  She re-did the leaves, added flowers, worked on the shading and highlighting.  Really, I was dumbfounded as I watched her.  She totally took it over, and completely ignored my very pointed comments that anyone with the least bit of sensitivity would understand was a nice way of saying, "Stop it!"   Of course, it is a better painting as a result of her work on it.  However, it isn't "my" painting.  Sigh.

Painting #1 - Three Flower Pots
(Acrylic on canvas - done in a "paint-along" class, April 26, 2016)
A few days passed, and Beth and I decided to buy some painting supplies and try painting on our own.  After all, if someone as bad as that teacher could do it, then we figured we could, too.

Beth looked at a lots of YouTube videos that basically followed the same format as the class we'd attended.  Following a video would be easier and cheaper (we thought!) than going to another paint-along class.  The artist in the video would paint a picture - describing what he/she was doing - and people who watched the video could follow along to paint their own picture.  I looked online at videos, and I finally decided to paint-along with the "Art Sherpa" (Cinnamon Cooney) and paint a rooster.  I raise chickens, and so a rooster is an animal I'm familiar with.  Here is my first painting using a follow-along video:
Painting #2 - Rooster
(Acrylic on canvas - done following a "paint along" video by The Art Sherpa, May 2016)

Overall, I am pleased with it.  However, I still don't feel that it's "mine" since I merely followed along a video - imitating everything the teacher did.  Everyone who followed along with the video would end up with a painting that looks basically like mine.

My next project happened when I went to my mother's.  We covered the table in her breakfast room with newspapers, and Beth and I - along with our sister, Joan, and nieces Brianne and Natalie - painted.  I chose a painting of a rose that I found in a book.  This was the result:
Painting #3 - Red Rose
(Acrylic on canvas, done following a painting in a book, May 2016)
What I learned from this painting is that I need to think of what a REAL rose looks like. As I finished this painting, I realized that I had not even tried to "see" the rose, I had merely tried to copy the brush strokes I saw in the painting in the book. Overall, though, I was pleased with this endeavor. It was only my 3rd painting, but it was the first one that didn't involve any active instruction. I had to look at something and try to paint it. While there is much I could improve, I think it's a fairly decent attempt by someone who never considered that she had even a smidgeon of artistic ability. I want to paint roses again - and next time I will think about what a rose looks like as I paint it.

The next day at my mother's I decided to paint more flowers. This time I would paint daffodils or jonquils. I sketched out the table, background and vase with chalk on the canvas - and used the illustrations in the book about drawing flowers to make the blooms. The painting turned out okay for a fourth attempt at painting. The vase is too large, there needs to be more flowers, and the shading/highlighting needs work. However, it was good practice. Someday I'll do another painting of jonquils.
Painting #4 - "Jonquils"
(Acrylic on canvas, May 2016)


Pandemic Painting

The Coronavirus pandemic is in full swing, and people across the world are self-isolating in their homes. Quarantines are wide-spread, and s...