It's not often that I post progress photos. (Most of the time, I forget to take photos!) So I thought you might enjoy seeing a few of the coyote I am currently working on. This canvas is 36 x 48 inches. I did the drawing in vine charcoal, and now I am painting in oil. Hope to finish soon!
It has been a true pleasure to experience a fall season with leaves. Living in the Mojave Desert for a decade meant living without this seasonal marker, so New Mexico has given us something we had almost (not quite) forgotten about. I am heavily influenced by my surroundings, and I expect the colors and shapes of New Mexico to begin appearing in my paintings. But it doesn't happen all at once. Usually, it's a slow process that unfolds over a period of months, perhaps years! I have always been a slow thinker, I suppose.
I have been working in encaustic, for the past month or so. I took two workshops with Ellen Koment, a gifted encaustic artist who lives close by. She has helped me with some of the finer points of transparency, as well as some basic practical skills related to studio set up. I am grateful to her for sharing her knowledge with me! So far, most of my encaustic paintings are small, but I am gradually working up in size as I get more comfortable with the medium. The three paintings below are all 7 x 5 inches. (Sorry for the quality of the photos, as I took these in a hurry with my phone.) Already, I can see the gold and orange in these three pieces.
My online class, "Intro to Realism" is now over as a live class. I enjoy having a chance to share some of my art knowledge with other artists. The students who took my class worked really hard and posted some fantastic work! The class is now available as a self study, along with the three other classes I have taught through Carla Sonheim. You can learn more about them by clicking here.
I hope you all have a happy fall! I'm going out to see and smell more leaves now!
We have now been in New Mexico for nearly four months. Most of the boxes have been unpacked, and I am back in the studio. I have been preparing for my next online class which will be launched in October. The class will be the first in a series designed to teach techniques for realistic drawing and painting. I believe that drawing is a skill that can be learned, and the thing I will try to emphasize is to accept individuality and imperfection. If you can write your name, you can learn to draw. Since all of my other online classes have been geared towards abstraction, this will be a completely different class for me to teach. I am really looking forward to it!
We do not see as much wildlife here as we used to see in Joshua Tree. We do hear coyotes almost every day, but sightings are rare, and photos even rarer. I am beginning to think that most of the wildlife in Joshua Tree is half tame. (I do recall many desert people telling me how they fed the animals they had in their yards.) Maybe there's just more space without human beings here, making the wildlife more skittish. I am planning to visit Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge soon, and I have hopes that I will be able to replenish my library of wildlife images.
In other studio news, I have been working on making short videos of myself while painting. I am finding the technical challenges to be somewhat daunting, but I have managed a few short clips. If you want to see them, I've posted them on Instagram.
I am up to my armpits in boxes, tape and black sharpie markers. We are getting ready for our big move from Joshua Tree, CA to Santa Fe, NM!!! It seems like I will do almost anything to get out of packing for a little while. With a flower-filled spring in the desert, there are plenty of distractions. Ole and I walk in warm, sweet scented desert air. I have to stop every few feet and feast my eyes on the spectacle of color. Eventually, I must come back home, and put things in boxes. There are endless decisions: what to pack, what to get rid of, what to keep out in case you need it,... It is exhausting. I have been waking up at 4:30 each morning, thinking about the loose ends that need tying up, and trying to remember where I put that one thing I need today. Already, I have packed things, only to discover I really should have left them out. Ole helps, by taking things out of the box after I have put them in.
I had my big fire/moving sale of artwork a week and a half ago. It was a great success, and I am grateful that so many people came and so many people took a piece of art home with them. Thank you, to those of you who are reading this!!!! I still have a lot of art, and I have been packing it up, slowly but surely, since the sale.
I am supposed to be packing up my oil paints, but I can't seem to. I haven't been painting, but somehow, once the paint is packed, it will be official. I won't be able to paint until we get moved and unpacked in Santa Fe. Oh, but that's a long time to be without my beloved paints!!!! I did save out some watercolor and gouache, so it's not like I can't work at all. But the oil is my true love, don't you see?
It is a gradual process, saying good bye to this desert. I have felt so connected to this place. It has changed me. It has changed my art. I love it here! Every day, I go out for the morning walk, and think, "oh, I will miss these Joshua Trees. I will miss seeing lizard tracks in the sand. I will miss the warmth of the air, the boulders, the vistas...And the wildlife." I will miss these amazing desert creatures. I cry a little. Then, I remind myself that I am going to a new desert, and there will be plenty to fall in love with there. It helps, but I still need to say my farewell to this magical place.
The part that I have only begun, the part that will be the hardest, is that part where I have to say goodbye to all the people here. My friends, my fans, my collectors, my fellow artists,...this community is so special. I don't want to say good bye to my people. Maybe just a "see you soon," since I have already invited so many out to visit, and promised a return visit to Joshua Tree. See you soon. Much better. That is what I will say. But not yet. Not just yet.
I had visitors to the studio, and then the comment is made, "You are SO LUCKY to be an artist! I wish I could draw. It must be so much fun! Do you just sit down and paint?" Uh, .....well, no, actually. I don't just sit down and paint. There is a process, and it's much more involved than you might think.
For one thing, I didn't just pop out of the womb, knowing how to draw. I have worked hard, for many years - decades, in fact - developing my drawing and painting skills. I use my own photographs as reference. Before I even start to paint a new animal, I need to have images to work from. I hike for hours, every day, camera strapped around my neck, hoping to see some wildlife. I paint wild animals, so there's no guarantee I will see one while out hiking. Most of the time, I don't see much of anything at all out in the desert - a glimpse of some ears, disappearing behind a creosote. Maybe a bird of prey, quickly taking flight upon seeing me. It is always exciting and special to be able to photograph a wild animal out in their native habitat.
Once I have some photos, I get them on the computer where I can select a few of the best ones. I print those out. I then sit down and draw. And I draw. And I draw some more. I like to have a few different photos of an animal, so I can study it from different angle and in different poses. Not all of the photos become paintings, but most of them become drawings. The drawings are sometimes fast and loose. They are sometimes slow and studied. But I use the drawings as practice. I draw to begin to see and understand how my subject, whatever it may be, looks. I also like to read about the animal I am getting ready to paint. I like to do research on the internet, to find out what they eat, how they reproduce, and other characteristics that may help me understand them.
Once I begin to get a feeling for the animal, I may brave the blank painting surface. The surface isn't always commercially prepared. Sometimes, I prepare my own surfaces. I stretch the canvas. I then prime it - usually with at least three coats of primer. With canvas, I like to use an acrylic gesso. The primer prevents the fabric from soaking up all of the pigment. It also helps the painting last longer. With birch panels, I often use a clear gesso, so that the natural texture of the birch can still be seen. I like the color of the birch, too. Each coat of primer needs to dry before the next layer can be applied. I usually sand the final layer. Now, I have a painting surface. I stand when I paint. I don't sit. I have my own reasons for this, but that's how I work. I still am not ready to begin painting. The composition of the painting must be considered. Then, the initial drawing is started. I don't use a projector. I don't use a grid, except maybe every now and then to help me place the animal correctly on the surface. My drawings are all done free-hand, and I don't always get it right. Often, the drawing takes a while, and gets erased several times. When I think I may have the drawing where I want, then, and only then, do I begin to paint.
Once I have painted an animal a certain number of times, my preparation process is much shorter, and then I will often jump right to the painting surface without quite as much prep work. It isn't always this lengthy. Smaller paintings are treated a little more like quick studies, but larger paintings do take more preliminary steps. I find I have higher success rates if I take the time to go through these steps.
Having explained all of this to you, I will say that most of the time, I love what I do. And yeah, painting animals is fun! Just maybe not quite what you thought.
A few pages from my sketchbook.
It's a good thing to be busy in the studio. Some days, everything comes together and it's a thrill to be painting and drawing. Other days, it feels like everything learned and earned has been forgotten, and the muse has left one stranded. The only thing to do on those tougher days is push on through. It always gets better.
I have been playing around with little grids of watercolor (well, gouache) grids of rabbits and quail. I find that jackrabbits are less likely to cooperate about being pushed into boxes. They have their own ideas...
The quail are not as picky. They don't need as much space. They don't seem to mind the boxes I put them in.
This little painting has already found a home, so I guess I better work on another one.
I'm also re-working a couple of coyotes that I never managed to resolve to my satisfaction. I will be able to show them, soon.
There is some news - big news! But I am not quite ready to share it just yet. Stay posted. (and if you really want the latest news, I highly recommend signing up for my newsletter. Link is in green below. I send out emails bi-monthly, or more often if there is exciting news to share. Art related. I don't share my email list with anyone, either.
It's 65 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a nice reprieve after a stretch of windy, cold days. Joshua Tree can get quite cold, and every now and then it even freezes. We can get snow! I have lived in plenty of cold places (South Dakota, Colorado) and quite frankly I have had my share of cold weather. I prefer the heat, which is why the desert and I are so well suited.
Here's what I've been working on:
"Frightened." Charcoal on toned paper, 9 x 12 inches.
"Scary Monster." Oil on Canvas, 8 x 8 inches.
No, not very desert-like. I'm working on desert stuff, too, but none of it is dry enough to photograph yet.
It was early in the morning, the air felt cool (finally!), and I was trudging uphill on one of our regular hikes. My mind was on everything I needed to get done that day, and I wasn't really paying attention to Ole, who was galloping with his floppy ear, big paw gallop ahead of me. Suddenly, three coyotes appeared, just in front of us and Ole stopped. He began to do his very-excited-puppy bounce and bark. One more coyote rose up from the ground. The first three wild things took off to the right of us, but this third coyote trotted towards us, hackles up. It stopped, closer than I would have thought, and stared at Ole. Ole was still barking and bouncing, and he stayed between me and the coyotes. Then, the coyote leaned forward, in a posture similar to a dog who wants to play. I have never seen a coyote do this before! Maybe, if I had been more alert, I would have snapped a photo of Ole's fuzzy head, as it kept appearing between me and the coyote as he bounced, but I didn't. I did manage to get the above photo of the coyote. Finally, after giving Ole several good stares, the fourth coyote trotted down the slope towards the waiting three. I guess some hikes are just more exciting than others.
My time in the studio has been frustratingly scarce, as I have been getting new art to both the Cactus Mart in Morongo Valley and Old Town Gallery and Gifts in Yucca Valley for the annual Hwy. 62 Art Tours. For the first time in eight years, I am not showing in my studio! I just needed a break. It's a great event, so if you are planning to be out in the high desert this October, I do recommend it highly. More information can be found here. I hope to get back in the studio soon!
Someone flipped a switch, and it finally feels like fall. Cooler nights, cooler days, clouds, and last week we even got some rain! After a long, hot summer, the change in weather is so welcomed. Never mind that I have felt cold ever since the cooler temperatures arrived! (poor desert girl) The other sign of fall in the desert is the bi-annual appearance of circling turkey vultures in the sky. Western turkey vultures migrate south for winter, moving through Central America. Sometimes, they travel as far as Venezuela, Columbia and Ecuador. You can read more about this amazing bird here.
I am happy to announce that the Joshua Tree National Park Art Exposition 2016 was a great event! I had a busy weekend of sales in 29 Palms over the weekend of September 17th & 18th, AND my "Supersized" jackrabbit was awarded an honorable mention during the awards reception on Saturday night! I even got my picture in the Hi Desert Star. If you haven't seen the show at the 29 Palms Gallery, this is your last chance! The show comes down this Sunday, October 2nd. Gallery hours are noon to 3 pm, Wednesday through Sunday. The gallery is located at 74055 Cottonwood Drive in 29 Palms, CA.
I have also been busy getting some new paintings finished for the opening this Saturday at Old Town Gallery & Gifts in Yucca Valley, CA. The opening is from 6 to 9 pm, and I will be showing with Chuck Caplinger. I hope you will stop in to see the new work, listen to some music, and enjoy a glass of wine with us! Old Town Gallery & Gifts is located at 55922 Twentynine Palms Hwy. in Yucca Valley.
It looks like once a week is too ambitious for me to post on the blog, so now I have decided that maybe twice a month is more reasonable. After all, getting in the studio and painting is the most important use of my time, isn't it? I leave you with one of the new paintings that will be debuting this weekend in Yucca Valley.
The desert summer seems endless this year. Hot and dry, the distant thunderstorms are nothing more than a torment to thirsty desert folk. I wake early each morning to walk Ole, before it's too hot. Even at 5:30 am, the temperature gauge reads 77 degrees - which really isn't that cool. The camera seems heavy, the sand deep. But the light remains as beautiful as ever, and there's really nothing like the quiet of a desert morning.
I'm working on a coyote painting that has been sitting on the floor in the studio for months. It stared at me as though it were already a finished work, but it wasn't and I couldn't touch it for all this time. FINALLY, I worked up the courage to pick it up - deadlines looming. On the easel for days, I finally got the drawing where I think it should be, only to realize that the back end of the coyote is going off the edge of the surface. So. This is making art. So much like life, where finally ONE THING seems to be going your way, when you discover something else isn't. No point in getting worked up over it. Just wait to see what happens next.
I am just now re-starting my blog, after giving it up in favor of other things. Since life is all about new beginnings, I am also just re-discovering my connection with my art. We lost our old dog, Pono, last fall, and I couldn't paint at all with out him - for many months. I still miss him. Grief takes its own sweet time to reach a tolerable level. I finally have gotten the new studio-assistant-in-training to a place where I can have a few hours to myself. Puppies are a lot of work! I am feeling more like the artist I know I can be. Ole will be a great dog, I think, but there were a few months there when all I seemed to do was chase him around the house saying "no" and "drop it!" and "LEAVE IT!" Working at home means that the dog rarely gets left alone, and sometimes, putting him in the crate seems like a cop-out. (I do it anyway.) So now things are back to a new normal. If only it would rain.
I hope to write something once a week, so I hope you stop back in and see how disciplined I can be. Greetings from the High Desert, all.