Welcome

Thanks for taking the time to visit my blog. It's a journal of sorts. It gives me a place to show my work-in-progress for my painting and photography. Comments are welcome --- add one at the end of an entry or email me at BarbBlumer@gmail.com.

Thanks for visiting.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sky Panel ----

This is another painting I am working on.  I am experimenting with the top piece I cut off the landscape with the barn, now called Turtle Cloud. (see previous post)

So far, I have created the horizontal line of trees in the distance, and added blues to the sky, while letting the underpainting show through elsewhere.  I am debating whether or not to leave it abstract  --- along the lines of "where the earth meets the sky" which has been a theme that interests me ---- or do I develop it into a more traditional landscape.  I could make the foreground a lake, for example.

The way it looks right now reminds me of the still coastal waters in the Florida keys which we saw on our recent vacation.

Suggestions are welcome.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Landscape Practice - Keuka Lake and Vineyards

Keuka Lake and Vineyards, 8 x 10

The vineyards in this painting are driving me crazy.

This is a plein air painting from several summers ago that was unfinished and fraught with problems.   I have been using it to practice some of the techniques in the Mitch Albala's landscape book.  I want to improve my landscape skills by next summer before I paint outside again. 

So far I have corrected the drawing problems in the distance--the hills were too big, etc.  -- and repainted it with cooler, lighter values so that it would recede better.  I have also created the band of trees and fields in the middle which aren't there in reality.  

I have painted the vineyards in foregrounds so they look closer --- they are now bigger, sharper, and warmer than they used to be.   I want them to lead you into the frame, and start the zig zag pattern into the distance.

The vineyards in the middle distance have been a challenge for me.  I want them to sit flatter than than they are in my reference.  And I haven't really painted vineyards before so I am learning what the visual cues are that will make them read as vineyards.  I want to paint enough, but not too much. 

I am going to set it aside for now, and come back to it when I think I can fix the middle distance vineyards.

My reference has the hills going down to the lake, but I didn't paint them that way, so I am having to imagine how the vineyards would exist in my landscape. That's probably why they are driving me crazy.  But I still like the flatter design of my painting better, so I am holding on to it, and will have faith that I can eventually fix it in a way that I am satisfied.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Turtle Cloud

Turtle Cloud
18 x 24 Oil and Alkyd on Masonite
This painting has been reworked numerous times, but this is the version I have finally framed.  Tom helped me cut it down to a 18 x 24 size from a bigger, taller rectangle.  I have never resorted to cutting a painting down before, but it was its only hope. 

Here are some of the iterations.  I didn't remember to photograph all of the versions.

Initially-----which was a couple of years ago----my goal was to learn to paint an architectural element in a landscape.  I had never painted a building, like a barn.    

I think I thought a big voluminous sky with a little white barn was a good idea. My reference was of a barn I saw in Batavia along the backroads between here and Buffalo. 


The beginning


With the barn --- Dustin helped me, can't you tell


I messed around with it last year -- changed the barn and sky but didn't know what to do with the foreground ---

In January, I got it out again.  Added fields in the distance.  Simplified the sky.  Went a little too crazy with color -- but it was fun

And ended up here.   Not great, but okay. 

Friday, February 12, 2010

Farmstand Flowers

Farmstand Flowers
8 x 10 Oil and Alkyd on Multimedia Artboard

This week I played with this painting.  I started it two summers ago.  It is based on a photograph that I took in 2006 with C and C when we were driving back from PA, and stopped at a farmstand on the backroads.  These flowers were for sale. 

It's on multimedia artboard and I now realize that I painted on the wrong side.  It absorbed the paint like crazy and looked almost like pastels.  Anyway, I first started painting on our deck at the lake, using my vivid oil paints from Mexico.  And it looked like this.

This week I worked on the flowers to create more detail and dimension.  And cleaned up some of the confusion in the background.  And added color to the basket.  I like the bright happy colors of this painting and the unusual composition. I feel like I am in the middle of the bouquet.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mitch Albala's Landscape Book

Just finished Mitch Albala's Landscape Painting book today and I highly recommend it.  It is chockfull of good information and photos.  It is for the serious painter, not for a beginner, as he assumes you know the basics.  He writes very clearly, and uses lots of examples of paintings to illustrate his points. He thoroughly covers how he approaches plein air painting.  Which probably why I like the book so much.  It has inspired me, and built my confidence.  By the end of the summer I want to be able to say that I have completed ten plein air studies.  I had wanted to do it last year, to fill up my "grid" at the lake, but it wasn't in the cards, with all that was going on family-wise. This year I hope I will have the time to do it.  Now I have a great guide with Mitch's book. 

It is a large hard cover, very nicely printed book, well worth the money, if you want to paint plein air and landscapes.  A good reference.  I ordered my copy from Amazon.  I haven't seen it locally.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Printing Cottage Quiet and Blurb Book test

The Cottage Quiet series is the last photography project I worked on (see my posts from July and August, 2009), and I am ready to start something new --- I am noodling several ideas --- but first, I have to decide what to do with Cottage Quiet. 

I need closure, so I can move on.

I have had a few requests for prints from blog followers.  However, I procrastinated for a really long time.  Then just after the new year, I was finally able to get myself to turn on my photography printer (the one I used for In Their Studios) to see if I could remember how to print. It had been over a year since I printed anything.

It was interesting to see what images were requested from the series. One request was for these two to hang as a pair:

Mirror 16 x 20

                                                                                    Glass Doorknob 16 x 20

And the other request was for a donation for the Corning Children's Center fundraiser.  I let them pick some favorites and then printed one for them.  Their choices were Row Boat View, Clothespins, Hive, Calm, Rain, Crystal Doorknob, Stairs, Water Over Rocks, End of Day and I printed Calm. 

Calm 16 x 20

It was stressful, but I eventually figured out how to get the darn machine to accept the art paper and to make a reasonable to print.  I really miss the traditional darkroom.  I loved the wet chemicals and processing.  It was much more like cooking and chemistry.  I loved counting and waiting to see the image appear and being in the dark, even though it was slow and tedious, not to mention health risks for me and the environment. Now I have to deal with calibration of equipment, finicky mechanical machines and clogged print heads!

So I avoid printing.  I invest my time in capturing images, and working with them in Lightroom, the photographer's software program for improving images. Then I have been posting them on my blog and making inexpensive proofs at the local drugstore as references.  Eventually --- if I see there being a real need -- I will invest time in setting up a reliable, fluid printing process.

In the meantime, I think I will make a book on Blurb of Cottage Quiet.  That sounds like more fun to me.   

Jeff Perrault suggested Blurb back in August.  But I hadn't tried an on-demand book.  My experience with publishing a book was the old-fashioned, expensive way, i.e., using a local printer and having a minimum run.  It was a big investment in time and money.

But I did love creating my book, In Their Studios (with Jaci's help.)  It was challenging, yet fun, to create the design, choose the images and arrange their flow, write the text and see the book come to fruition.

So, yes --- I do think that Cottage Quiet would be a nice book ---

I thought I'd test Blurb out and see what the quality is like.  See how the process works and how much it would cost, and how long it would take.

I decided to use my food blog, Feast Everyday, for the test.  And I am amazed by how easy and fast the process is.

My Blurb Book -- Feast Everyday, 194 pages, full color, hard cover

You can read about how I did it on my food blog if you are interested.  http://www.feasteveryday.blogspot.com/ or check out http://www.blurb.com/.  People are making all kinds of books and they look great!

Net net, it was easy enough and the quality was good enough that I am going to proceed with making a Cottage Quiet book --- I just need to find the time to do it.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Yellow Rose and The Frame

Yellow Rose, 12 x 16 Oil on Canvas Panel

One Monday, Lin showed me a frame that someone else had given her, and asked me if I wanted it.  Hmmm---It was 12 x 16.  Not sure that I had anything to go in it, but I thought I'd look.

This painting was lying on my shelf, half-completed for over 10 years.  (On the back, I had written, Rose Study, November 1998, Marty Poole's class.) For some reason, I could never paint over it or throw it away.

The rose was blocked in, but the leaves were just sketches. The rose was rather clumsy and there were so many weird edges, e.g., the shadows were hard squares instead a soft fades.   I think I kept it because I liked the purple and yellow color story as well as the shadow under the stem. The rose has an arching back, if you will. 

Anyway, it looked vastly better when I popped it in the hand-me-down frame, so I decided I'd try to finish it by imagining how the rose looked originally.  I did not have a reference to follow.

Because the whole project was no-risk --- free frame, old painting --- I could play and see what I could create. 

I increased the contrast of the background and light falling on shelf.  And I softened all of the hard edges on the rose.  I had to create believable leaves.  I played up the stem and space underneath it.  I had fun seeing what would happened with color.   I used pure color in places --- Cadmium Orange as a glaze in the rose's shadow, and Purple Lake in the deepest part of the background.  I had fun imagining how the leaves might lie on the surface and how the light might hit them.

Net net, I learned that old things can become new, and to not avoid painting something just because I don't have a reference.

And that hand-me-down frames are a nice gesture.  I will pass one along to someone else someday.

Monday, February 8, 2010

I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face

I started this portrait in Buechner's workshop last August, and spent several Mondays afterwards, while painting with Lin on her porch, trying to understand how to paint a face.

She doesn't look like our model, but at least she has a face!  This is a huge accomplishment for me.  I haven't been able to finish a portrait, going all the way back to Art 101 in college.  I freaked out when we were supposed to draw a self-portrait and ended up submitting a faceless, Brancusi-ish ovoid thing. 

Since then, I start portraits and work my way all around the subject, creating interesting backgrounds, carefully paying attention to body language and skin texture, but avoid finishing the faces.

About half of Buechner's workshop was dedicated to creating a portrait.  We worked from a live model, the lovely Maria, Tom's current assistant, and a very good painter herself.

He showed us how he tones his surface with a greenish, ghoulish color --we used raw umber, Naples yellow and ultramarine blue, if I remember correctly.  We let that dry. Then, he spent an extraordinary amount of time just observing the model and drawing an outline.  Like a crayon coloring book!  I wish I had a photo of that step.  It was a big surprise to me.

Then, he worked fairly quickly rendering his portrait, exaggerating his point of view --- he was going for the boyish/androgynous-thing he does.  He let the green underpainting show through.  You can see his version of Maria on the West End Gallery website.

I was going for a mysterious shadow hiding one side of the face, by wrapping my background around her.

This is what I had by the end of the workshop.  I ended up using very little of the green underpainting.  Still not sure how to do that effectively.  I liked her Cuban hat at this point, so I left it alone.  I had never used Raw Umber before -- and I stopped using it after this portrait.  Maybe that's weird, but I just don't like what it does to my colors. 

I should have taken a reference photo from my exact position.  As a result, I wasted lots of time trying to figure out the direction of her nose, and never quite got it right. 

Nevertheless, I have grown accustomed to her face. I can live with her as she is now. 

Not sure what to title this portrait.  Some suggestions have been:
  • Lost in Thought
  • Ambivalence
  • Maria
16 x 20 Alkyd on Multimedia ArtBoard

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Family


This is the first painting I made during Buechner's workshop last August.  It was before we were told to select our objects to create relationships.

It was my first time using Multimedia ArtBoard.  I am more of a masonite girl.  It was also a white surface, and I usually start from a brown toned surface.  And it was my first time using fast drying alkyds instead of slow drying oils. First time in a Buechner workshop. Lots of firsts.

I chose my objects because I could set up a vertical triangle ---which I find pleasing ---and they were a mixture of textures -- the softness of the chick against the hardness of the ceramics.  I wanted to paint the fluffiness of the chick.  I chose the vases because they felt familar to me, one was curvy, the other cylindrical. Dishes are in my blood I think, given how much of my business life has been about them.  Also, I have painted vases before so I wasn't going completely outside my comfort zone. I was really sweating at this stage of the workshop. It was Day One, and everyone else had been to this workshop in the past or was way more experienced than I.   They seemed to zone in quickly on what they wanted to do. Some seem to have arrived at the workshop prepared with a preconceived idea for their still life. I was reacting to so many things on the spot, and I remember being sort of panicked to make my choices. Hurry, hurry -- pick something--- now! ---just get going.
Later, my painting became The Family --- the mother/female curvy vase, the father/male phallic vase, and the baby chick ---after Buechner explained his still life approach.

Things I learned while I made this painting:
  • It is better to correct early-on and get the drawing right, than to hope you can fix it along the way.
  • I wish I hadn't placed the grouping so far to the left in the space. But I have a tendency to do this.
  • Multimedia Artboard is fragile and absorbs paint like crazy, which made me crazy, but it allows you to work faster.  Not sure I love it.
  • I enjoyed painting the reflections on the brown "father" vase.  I am interested in how light falls in the space, so spending time learning how to create this type of reflection was interesting to me.
  • I remembered how to paint!  I hadn't painted seriously in such a long time that I thought I had forgotten.  Once I got past my nervousness, I started to enjoy myself.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Imaginary Prey




I started this painting when I was in Tom Buechner's workshop last August. During end-of-the-week critique, I announced that it was going in the trash. 

Here's how it looked then:

Why?  I felt very troubled (and embarrassed) when I looked at it.  It felt just too hard to try to finish.  There were so many problems. 

We were using Buechner's approach to creating still lifes --- take found objects from his pantry of junk he has collected over the years --- and create a story ---place the objects so that their relationship to each other is important as what they are --- elevate them into something more than a still life.  At a minimum, his approach is supposed to make it more entertaining for the painter --- and I think he believes this will translate to entertaining the viewer with both the cleverness of the concept as well as the mastery of the painting.

I think he does this so that his students spend less time painting "it" and more time on painting the environmental space. 

I had never done this before  ---- and I had some fear in doing so --- becoming a Buechner copy cat ---but I was in his workshop --- so what the hay?  I was there to learn and try something new. 

So, I created my story:  The bird basket is sitting in wait for the hard rubber mouse with innocent cute pink ears, who is obliviously doing its thing on the the edge of the shelf, in imaginary motion.  Like a hawk you might see along the side of the highway.  I named it Imaginary Prey.

When I chose them, I remember being interested in the opposite textures. And the difference in scale. I wanted to try using purple as the underpainting for the basket so that the golden basket would really pop. I wanted to paint the pink fuzzy ears!

At the first break,  this was all I had.


By the end of the day, everyone else had completed their still life.  I was obviously working too slow.

But they were kind in the critique. They suggested that I really play up the beak on the bird.  And to move the mouse away from the left edge.   There was silence when I talked about my color palette but I am getting used to that response now!
After I got home, I didn't throw it away, I left it alone for a while.  One day I propped it up in a frame for a second look.  Some how that was the step that got me to move forward.  Hmmm --maybe I could turn this into something?! So, I moved the mouse.  And repainted the beak.  I decided to skip making the bird into a basket and just work with the interesting paint I had already put down.

I worked on it until I was satisfied.  I played up the mouse by adding a tail and let the bird become what I could imagine.  Now I am glad I didn't throw it away.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

"House" Cleaning and Fresh Start

After a long absence from blogging, I thought I'd reflect on what has happened since I stopped.  And see what I can learn if I look back at my work during this period.

I have been obsessively forcing myself to complete -- or abandon--- all the the things that I had half -started or promised to others.  I feel like I am renewing myself by doing this housecleaning and giving myself a fresh new start. 

I am doing this so I don't have big boulders in my path that are either blocking my way or forcing me to climb up or around.  Of course, these boulders are parts of myself, but that's another analogy.

So part of what I am going to blog about are the pieces I chose to finish as well as those that were put aside, and why.

Another part of what I want to write about is the pure joy of creating and being in the company of others who share the same interest in creating something.

As my mother failed last year, and eventually died in October, I connected with my mother in ways that I never expected and now have begun to cherish.  It just goes to show that you cannot predict what will happen and it has given me great hope, that if I am open to being different, to sharing all of myself with others, then there will be new, rewarding discoveries.

The first one I am going to blog about is called Imaginary Prey.  It has been on my mind, so I thought I'd get it out of my system first.