Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Sea Island, Georgia

Excited about the next three days!  We arrived at Sea Island yesterday, and starting tomorrow I have three days of one-on-one en plein air painting instruction from a local artist.   This will be while Ron is participating in a clay target competition - The Seminole Cup.  Stay tuned. I’m hoping for at least two or three great plein air paintings to share here.  The scenery all around is gorgeous! Here are some photos I took today:











Monday, February 19, 2018

Rome, Georgia’s Clock Tower

I’m visiting my mother in Rome, Georgia.  I drove to the Clock Tower which is the main landmark for Rome and took some photos.  I didn’t bring my painting supplies with me in this trip, and so I ran by Michael’s and bought the bare minimum of what I needed to paint - a package of canvas panels, student grade oil paints in primary colors plus white, Payne’s Gray and Raw Umber, a small container of odorless solvent, a small bottle of medium, and several cheap brushes.  I obviously could not get my blue to look blue.  It was Ultramarine Blue.  Why does it look gray?   Maybe it’s the “student grade.”  I am going home tomorrow and will finish it then.  

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Topsy-Turvy Studio - Changes on the way

We are re-painting the entire interior of our house - walls, moldings, ceilings, doors - everything.  So all the paintings that I so carefully hung on walls over the past couple months are now stacked on beds in the empty bedrooms.

Despite the general chaos and clutter, I am very excited about one thing.  As soon as the painting is finished, we are getting a carpenter to come in and build shelves and cabinets along one wall in my studio to hold all my supplies.  I will design it so there will be room for drying paintings, for canvases and panels, for all my paints, frames and all the piles of materials and supplies that painting generates.  It's going to look so good and be so convenient.  Right now I have a row of plastic shelving across that entire wall.  And that works - and although it is utilitarian, it is not pretty.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Painting a Cow

Last winter Ron and I visited the farm of some friends to talk about purchasing meat for the freezer - beef, pork, and lamb.  As we were standing in the yard talking, I saw this cow in a small pasture beside us.  Such a sweet face!  So I took some photos.




I decided to paint the first shot with the cow looking directly into the camera.  



He's still a work-in-progress, but I'm mostly pleased with it.  This week has been a painting week since I've "mostly finished" three paintings - the Eclipse Sunset, In Mother's Arms, and now this cow.  I'm still thinking of what to name this painting.  I'm not sure I will write a poem for this one.

Side note:  I have to mention that this cow (apparently named "Henry") is likely the one that was "processed" for the beef that we ended up buying.  The farmer mentioned that the cow was due for processing, and that was why he was in the pen close to their house.  Since I eat meat, that doesn't bother me.  We still have some of that ground beef, steaks, and roasts in the freezer.   I also realize that cows are female, bulls and steers are male - and I've called this cow a "he" - but, for my purposes, it really doesn't matter.

Monday, February 12, 2018

In Mother’s Arms

Back in 1975, Larisa was a baby, and Ron took this photo of me holding her on the porch at our house on Indiana Avenue in Atlanta.  Today I decided to paint that photo. Here is the original photo:



Below is the painting after getting the main values blocked in.  In this painting, I used only two colors:  burnt umber and titanium white. I set up 6 different values of burnt umber and white on my palette.  I wanted the painting to have a sepia look since it's a 43-year old photo.



This is how I left the painting for tonight.  There are still more tweaks to be done - mostly on Larisa's face and head.  I'm going to take it to art class on Friday to see what suggestions Rachael can give me. 



I really love it - mostly because I remember that photo being taken, and because I love that sweet baby so much - even though she's a mother now of her own two children.  I will definitely be working on a poem to go with this painting.

(Later) I've been working on the poem and have tentatively finished one.  I'm considering going in another direction with the poem - making it more personal to Larisa and me.  However, here's what I have for now:

 In Mother’s Arms

In Mother’s arms - Held close, held dear
In Mother’s arms - There is no fear. 

In Mother’s eyes - Beauty profound
In Mother’s eyes - Grace unbound

In Mother’s heart – love beating strong
In Mother’s heart - where you belong

~Mary Carol Shaw Johnston~



Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Eclipse Sunset

Back on August 21, 2017, there was a total solar eclipse, and we are fortunate enough to live in its path.  We packed a picnic lunch and put folding chairs in the car and drove out to the Nashville Gun Club to watch the eclipse.  We would've watched it from our home, but in Franklin, it wasn't a total eclipse, and so the 40 minute drive to the Gun Club was worth it to us.

The club was closed that day, and so we mostly had the place to ourselves.  We parked the car at a pavilion right beside the Cumberland River, set up our chairs, put on our eclipse glasses and looked up.  I did not expect it to be a big deal.  I figured it would be cool to see it, but nothing spectacular.  I was wrong.

As the eclipse reached the "total" part, I took the photo (below) of the river. It was early afternoon on a sunny day - and yet it looked like sunset.



I knew I wanted to paint that photo.  So tonight I started working on it.  The colors aren't right yet - it's too orange.  I cropped the photo for my painting so that the river is at the bottom of the painting, and the sky is 2/3 of the painting.  That puts a LOT more of the pink/orange into the painting.  Also the clouds in the photo did not translate into the painting very well, and so I broke them up a little bit.  I still have work to do on this.  I really want to get the colors just right.



I started working on the poem to go with this one.  It is close to being finished.

The Eclipse Sunset

A picnic lunch and folding chairs
Set out in the middle of the day
Beside the Cumberland River
A solar eclipse was on the way.

Side by side we watched the show
Wearing glasses to protect our eyes
Talking, laughing, enjoying the day 
Staying focused on the skies

At last, the moment arrived
The moon totally blocked the sun
The sky mimicked a sunset
The corona in the heavens shone

Stillness and awe overcame us
As we watched the celestial display
“The heavens declare the glory of God”
Those words came to life that day


~Mary Carol Shaw Johnston~



Thursday, February 1, 2018

Bird School for the GrandGirls - and Painting

My husband, Ron, and I have five granddaughters - ages 4 to 18.  Since we live on a 90-acre farm out in the country, we have lots of bird feeders.  And the variety of birds is amazing.  We have a bald eagle nest within a mile - and we frequently see bald eagles soaring overhead.  We have owls in the woods around our house - and so many song birds and hummingbirds.

Lily and Sophie were our first two granddaughters and are now 14 and 16 years of age. Our 18-year old granddaughter is our step-granddaughter who joined our family when she was in middle school - when our daughter married her father.  So we didn't know her when she was a toddler and young child.   When Lily and Sophie were little, they spent a lot of time at our house.  Ron started "bird school" where they would watch the bird feeders together, and he'd teach them how to identify birds.

One funny story.  One day a bird got into their garage at home.  A neighbor came over to help get the bird out of the garage and was amazed when Lily and Sophie told her that it was a tufted titmouse. The girls knew their birds!  Bird School has been going on for over ten years now at our little farm.

So today, the youngest granddaughter, Bradley (4 years old), came over for a little while and enjoyed bird school with Ron.  She identified a cardinal and a black-capped chickadee.  Here's a photo of her with Ron watching the bird feeders and talking about the birds.  Sweet!


After bird school, Bradley wanted to go upstairs to my art studio to paint.  As she declared, her painting was FABULOUS!



We have got our grandgirls involved in birding and painting!

Good Workshops vs. Not-So-Good Workshops

Beth (my sister who is visiting from Georgia) and I have been taking a couple of art classes.  One class has been very helpful.  We've both completed paintings we really like because of that one class.  The teacher briefly demonstrates a technique or something we've asked about (like how to paint clouds), and then the rest of the time each person works on his/her own painting -with the teacher circulating and offering specific help.  We actually paint at least 80-90 percent of the time we are in class.  She starts each class on time - and has an agenda posted.  She has each of us share what we've worked on during the week - with comments/critiques welcome.  The preparation and organization create a really good sense of camaraderie and enthusiasm among the students.

The other class - not so much.  This last session we didn't paint at all - in a 5-hour class.  Well, we did a color wheel, which I guess is technically painting.   It was helpful in some ways because I really need to work on color.  However, except for the color wheel, it was just a lot of waiting, watching the teacher paint, and before she painted she spent a good fifteen minutes sifting through stacks of photographs, giving us a running commentary on the photos, trying to decide what she wanted to paint for her demo.  Really!  Talk about lack of planning and lack of respecting people's time!  I think it would have been SO much more effective and helpful if she had chosen a small object or scene, and used that to do a 15-minute demonstration of how painting values makes the painting "appear."  That's what she kept talking about during her two-hour painting demo.  However, it was so convoluted, and we couldn't see the photograph she was painting from very well - and so the lesson was mostly wasted.  Plus after sitting and watching her paint for two hours, all the creative fervor was sucked right out of the students.

And that was actually one of the better classes with that particular teacher. We'd signed up and paid for a series of lessons. She's just not that helpful, in my opinion. Or in Beth's opinion. Before Beth signed up, I told the teacher that Beth uses acrylics, and I asked if that would be okay for her class.  Oh sure - that would be great. Then we found out during the first class that the teacher has never used acrylics.  So she couldn't really help Beth much with her painting.

Unfortunately for me, on the first day - being my ever enthusiastic self - I signed up for the second 4-week session she has planned - not only signed up for it but I also went ahead and paid for it.  I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, and I DO want to maintain a good relationship with that artist and with that studio; so I will soldier on and get as much out of the next 4 lessons as I can. I am confident that if I make sure I have something I want to work on each week, the second four weeks will be better. Beth was glad she only paid for one 4-week session, though. Neither of us will ever do a workshop with that instructor again.

Despite the less than ideal workshop, it's good to experience both good and not-so-good teachers.  That's life.  And I learned things even from the not-so-good class.  If I ever lead a painting class or workshop, I now know more about what makes a painting demonstration helpful.  I know that being prepared is vital. I know a painting demonstration is worthless if the students can't see what the instructor is painting from - the still life or the photograph or the scene. And the students have to see it from the teacher's viewpoint.  Otherwise, it's too confusing trying to figure out why the teacher is doing what she's doing.  I know having a schedule or agenda makes everyone more comfortable and things flow more smoothly.  The not-so-good teacher didn't schedule lunch or a break - which made it rather awkward.

When the good teacher does a demo, she sits at a table and has us gather around her to watch her demonstrate a technique. Although there's exactly the same number of students in both classes, the techniques for demo'ing differ a lot.  The good teacher demos something small - and then we work on that in our own paintings.  SO effective and helpful.  Not-so-good teacher demos an entire painting - which takes a long, long time.  She does it standing at an easel in front of the room (which means she blocks the easel to some extent - and with everyone sitting at chairs around the room, there is no way to see exactly what the teacher is painting. Usually by the time it's done, my brain is too fried to even want to paint. Once (in another class) when the good teacher had a still life set up and she was going to demo how to go about painting it, she printed out 8 1/2 x 11 copies of the still life from exactly the angle she would be painting.  That way - even though she worked at an easel in front of the room -we could follow it easily.  The preparation made a big difference.

The not-so-good teacher said in class the other day, "If you notice a color in your reference photo that stands out to you, go ahead and paint it onto your canvas.  You don't have to wait until after you've blocked in the main values."  I was painting from a photo of a house with fields around it and a road running beside it.  There was a bright yellow line down the middle of the road. I painted it because it stood out to me.  She came over and said, "No, no, you painted that yellow too soon.  It's too soon for details like that!" and she proceeded to take the brush and take out some of the yellow.  No biggie - but a little consistency would be nice. She's a wonderful artist.  I love her work.  I wonder, though, how experienced she is as a teacher.  Has she done so few that she doesn't quite know how to make things better?  Has she done so many that she doesn't really care?  I don't know.  I feel bad that I encouraged Beth to take the class, and she spent the money and didn't get much out of it at all.  Actually Beth feels that she wasted her money on the class. And I feel bad since I recommended it. Thank goodness for the good class!

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...