I have always been an avid gardener. In the spring I love to start by filling colorful pots on my deck with fresh plants from our local garden centers. When Tila was a puppy, I was happily potting away, turned my back for a moment and found my puppy in a whirl of lavender plants. In reality, there was only one plant de-potting puppy, but in this painting I thought it was more fun to have two.
Yesterday I posted another of my paintings on Facebook for my friends to see. I was actually called “an artist”! I can embrace that. I have been reading about art and artists. Most artists have an adjective associated with their name. There are “great” painters such as Titian and Rembrandt, there are “pop” painters such as Warhol, there are impressionist, modern, folk, deconstructionist, reconstructionist, and some just bad or crazy painters. The list obviously goes on and on.
I haven’t earned any adjective yet. And I think that can be a good thing.
In my imagination, Pyrs have a secret life at night we don’t know about. They hear the conversation of owls and mice, smell the scent of moonbeams, and more. This painting came out of that part of my imagination.
A little Pyr puppy wakes in the dark of night and is frightened by the shadows and the sounds. His mother comforts him with “Don’t be afraid of the dark, the Pyr in the moon will watch over us.
And look very carefully at the moonlight that comes in the window! It lights part of the wood floor and lights the Pyrs up in its beam subtlety changing the colors of the rug as well. I worked very hard on that!
I had an idea, a dream of a painting I could see clearly in my mind. A little Pyr puppy who was woken up at night by the light of the full moon and decided to play. I picked up my brush and realized I had no idea on how to paint light. Light is hard. So I read up on glazing. That is what the great painter Vermeer used and many other great Masters to show light and make their paintings glow. Me, I’m starting with the basics.
First take a large serving of patience. Glazing involves using transparent paints and a special alkyd medium (I used walnut alkyd oil) to dilute the paint. Then after putting a thin light layer, you must let that layer dry before you can do anything else! That’s right….a few brushstrokes and ..come back tomorrow. Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock sigh.
So in the painting below I only used red, yellow, blue and white. I wanted the hand to look like ghostly moonlight. First I painted the hand white and the red bar at one side and the top stripe of yellow. Then I painted the square over the hand a dilute blue and then a dilute red and I got purple. Then I painted the stripes at the side. Then I pained the hand a light yellow (my original yellow mixed with a little white). Of course I had to let everything dry in between and then the red heart and the blue paw. Where the paw overlaps the red it is a dark purple, where it over laps the yellow hand it is blue. The same with the other colors. The paint that is used is classified as transparent or semi-transparent and it is diluted with walnut alkyd oil medium rather than linseed oil or turpentine.
I like to paint wet over wet where you paint with layers of wet paint over other layers of wet paint. Sometimes I wait to let a layer dry so I can have a pure color and it won’t mix with the under-layers of paint.
But glazing you have to let each layer dry. But it is worth it. The next layer you put on, like putting one pane of stained glass over another, is blended by your eye to give you a new color, and more depth and luminosity. You really need to see the result with your eye on the canvas because it doesn’t photograph well.
So I did two somewhat abstract designs, Hearts and Paws, and Hands, Hearts, and Paws. I used only three colors, red, blue, yellow and white. Any other colors you observe is what you eye sees after one layer of one color is laid over the dry layer of another color.
So finally, I had the technique to do moonlight.
And here is my little Pyr at Moonlight Play.
I am now working on the largest canvas I have ever used. It is 18 inches by 24 inches. It has a theme again of Pyrs in moonlight. I hope to make the moonlight in the next one a little less intense yellow and make it look a little more like real light rather than a “beam me up Scotty” Star Trek beam. Getting better takes practice and trying new things. But it’s fun to branch out.
Dan and I honeymooned in Malta. It’s a wonderful island country in the Mediterranean with a rich history that my history buff husband loved. It also had a neolithic cult where they had many statues and temples to ..I have to say..fat women…hugely obese richly voluptuous women. Goddesses of fertility it is proposed. It’s no secret that I’ve never been twiggy and don’t want to be. So being on an island where they once worshiped women of my proportion and larger (I say bring back the cult) was really up my alley too. That women could be worshiped for all they were mentally, physically, spiritually appeals to me, rather than how advertising approves women on a basis of lack of bodily mass. Both various sites and the Maltese museum have images of this goddess. Some believe it was part of a cult of those who worshipped Astarte. Of all of the images, my favorite is the sleeping goddess seen below.
The light in Malta is wonderful and many companies go there to film. There is a blue that I call “Maltese blue” that inhabits their ocean coves that I have seen no where else.
As we toured Malta we passed this cat, more than once.
He sat in front of a store that had a wonderful entrance including a sparkly piece of granite embedded into the sidewalk. The cat sat on this granite basking in the sun. It was clear from his demeanor that we tourists were only allowed on the island because he granted his most gracious permission. This cat had cattitude! I nicknamed him the Mayor of Malta, I tried to capture his cattitude in this oil painting.
It seems there is nothing a Pyr likes better than a full moon, a brisk wind and the soft delicate first snow flakes of December. I took a photo of Tila shaking off the snow, reveling in the blowing snow and used that as the inspiration for this painting.
In the same spirit of “Nothing is White” I tried to give this painting the reflected blue light in the snow we often see in moonlight.
This original will also be available at the Great Pyrenee’s National Show 2012 at the rescue table with the money going to help rescue dogs that lack a “Forever Home”.
Now I haven’t been breathing in too much turpentine, but I recently discovered that paintings need a reason to live.
Having finished two great works of art, I pulled out some of my 6 x 8 inch canvas and just decided to paint. Let the muse move me. And ack..utter failure. Why?
Well paintings need some sort of focal point. Some place for your eye to land. Another thing I found out in my recent reading is that your eye travels from left to right in a painting. At least according to one author. So it’s nice to plan your lightness and dark and negative space to help your eye to travel. Or at least frame your picture.
I had this in hand when I just started to paint. But when I was finished there was no reason for the painting to be there. It had no reason to “live”. It did not have a life or a spirt of its own.
So now I have a couple of 6 x 8 canvas paper weights. But I think I learned a valuable lesson. You must paint was inspires you and as part of the process you must breath some light and spirit into the work.
I have this wonderful photo I took of Tila. On a warm summer day, after helping me garden and grill on the BBQ, he came in and parked himself in front of the candles and sat down and to my astonishment, looked as if he was sitting and meditating. I’ve always thought Pyrs had a spiritual and mystical side. And this proved it to me. This is the photo I used as the basis for my first painting. I have to say that this inspired the painting rather than me trying to copy it exactly. There were things in life (like the drool and dirt on Tila’s chin from the garden) that I didn’t want to make into the painting. I also wanted it to have a warm tone rather than the harsh dark background the photo has. So I had a vision of the end result as well as a mystical pyr to help me find my way.
Of course Tila helped by nudging me for treats from time to time to make sure I took enough breaks to step back and take a good look at my painting. He was absolutely right, you have to step back, assess and sometimes just stop until you figure something out.
The one thing I found out after “Nothing is White” is there are more shades of tan and brown and grey on a white Great Pyrenees than you can imagine. Let alone mix the colors. I had palettes with nothing but brown and badger and tan and various shades of cream trying to match those few hairs under the nose or over the eyes.
I did my planning and made a few preliminary sketches. And finally after days and days of working on it and letting layers dry (believe me this Pyr painting has an undercoat) I was done. Well not quite done…
Before I could start showing off my painting to my friends I had to get muse approval.
So after a proper examination, I was approved.
And at last I can say Ta Dah! Done the final work Tila Mediates.
While I know I’m just taking my first steps as an artist, I’m happy to say that the original painting is going to the rescue table at the Great Pyrenee’s National Show 2012. So hopefully some kind person will buy it there and the money will go to the rescue of Great Pyrenees Dogs that have not yet been located in their “Forever Home” yet.
One day, while sitting around just looking I finally felt like I really “saw” for the first time. After you have a car accident and break your leg you have lots of time to look, But enough of that. I looked and saw nothing is white. Now that may not sound like much, but if you look at a shadow it may be shades of grey. A tree, shades of brown. If you put all those little shades next to one another, you have a picture.
I got it! But could I do it? I started just drawing with pencil. After a few false starts I decided that what I was doing, while not great, wasn’t all that bad. When my husband asked me for what I wanted for my birthday, I asked for oil paints. I haven’t picked up a brush in over 20 years, but am I having a ball. I decided to work through a book of oil painting exercises.
Just mixing the colors was lots of fun. In the past I just jumped in and tried to capture what I could but learning a bit was advancing what I could do as well. In the first column you have the color out of the tube, the second column is the color mixed with white, the next is the color mixed with black, the next is the color mixed with grey. The last two colums are the color mixed with it’s opposite on the color wheel (I may have played with this a bit rather than being exact) then the opposite and white. So this entire large block was made from 7 colors. The last one I threw in there as the exercise only had 6 as I was in search of shades of Pyr fur.
Of course I posted on Facebook that I recieved my oils. Not only did I recieve my oil paint set and easel, but my husband, showing great faith in my unproven ability bought me enough canvas to fill an art gallery. Next my dog’s breeder asked if I would paint a picture of my dog as a charity donation for the Great Pyrenees rescue booth. I wasn’t sure I was up to it. But I decided to try my best. So I jumped from exercises to dog portraits.
It turned out having a furry muse around really helped. I had been taking pictures of him for years and looking at Pyrs for a long time. So it was subject matter I knew well and loved and really wanted to show him off well.
Surprisingly, people actually liked what I did and even wrote to me asking for copies and cards and the like. And an idea was born. So I’ve skipped from exercise 2 in the painting techniques book, to being a painter of Pyrs and other things my furry muse Tila brings to my attention.