Using pastels, Lee McVey creates landscapes people feel they can walk right into. Her love of nature began when she was a young girl walking in the woods with her grandparents. Those experiences have inspired Lee to focus on studio and plein air landscape painting.
I'm surprising myself by having fun with watercolor underpainting. I resisted using watercolors for underpainting for quite a while. I preferred using pastel with alcohol or water. I had alcohol and water is easy so I didn't see the need to purchase watercolors just for underpainting.
At the last IAPS convention (International Association of Pastel Societies) I impulsively bought a small travel set of watercolors, La Petite Aquarelle by Sennelier. Instead of just the traditional colors of the color wheel, this set also includes cobalt blue, rose madder, intense deep green, and green yellow.
Initially I thought I had made a mistake by having these bold colors, but I decided to see what happens with them and I do like the results! I think these bold, intense colors add to my painting and allow me to be more expressive.
Here's a demo in progress that I did for my recent pastel class. The view is of Spark's Lake in Oregon. I've only been there once for plein air painting, but it was a memorable experience and I still am inspired by my reference photos. I'm using UART Premium Board in 320 grit, a surface I absolutely love painting on.
The underpainting and the sketch on top done with Generals pastel pencil
Beginning to add pastel
Please check back later to see the finished painting. I put this aside for while in order to work with oils.
Spring is definitely in the air--at least it is in the southwest. Flowering trees are blooming and the birds have increased their singing. It's a time for new growth and new beginnings.
That's how I feel about my art work and my goals. In January, I intended to write a blog post every week, but that didn't last long, unfortunately. I had plenty of ideas to write about, but other commitments with deadlines became a priority, so something had to give.
I was disappointed to let blogging slide, especially because I announced on my blog I would write weekly. I could have berated myself and become angry at myself for not keeping up my intentions. That's what I used to do. But that doesn't feel very good and it doesn't help matters.
Instead, I am just going to start again. And again, if need be. I enjoy blogging and I'll do my best.
It's inevitable that things come up to interrupt so it's best to keep a good attitude and just start again.
How do you handle interruptions and set backs? Do you get upset like I used to or can you just begin again?
Chamisa, 12 x 12 Pastel (above left) and Clouds over the Mountain, 12 x 12 Pastel (above right) along with Autumn Splendor 16 x 12 Pastel (at the top of the page) were juried into the 26th Pastel Society of New Mexico National Pastel Painting Exhibition held at Sorrel Sky Gallery in Santa Fe, NM. The show is up through March 31st, so if you are in the area, please do stop in at Sorrel Sky (125 E Palace Ave, Santa Fe, NM) It's a beautiful show in a beautiful venue.
I was a co-chair for this pastel show and there was lots of work to be done, getting sponsors so we could award prizes, contacting jurors and judges, getting volunteers to help with various tasks, taking in the paintings, and much more. This and pastel painting took up most of my time and was one of the interruptions I spoke about earlier.
The image for Storm Coming, shown to the left, is one that has been in my mind for several years since I first plein air painted at this scene in the Oro Valley next to Tucson, AZ. At that time, I had forgotten my camera, so I had no photographs to refer to later. I went back the next day with my camera, but of course the lighting was very different. A storm coming in over the Catalina mountains seemed to emphasize the blue and green color harmony.
I was very attracted to this light and color, and actually preferred it to the bright sunshine day when I had plein air painted there. The scene was always in the back of my mind but it was several years later before I created a studio painting of the view. I did the painting below during a recent workshop I participated in. It was the last afternoon of the workshop and I was eager to get as much done as I could. First, I painted a 12x12 version of the scene. Still intrigued by the composition, I next painted a 9x12 version. That version is shown below.
I kept the coloring of the 12x12 version, but in my excitement to get as much done as possible in the remaining time of the workshop, I wasn't as careful as I should have been in planning the positioning of the mountain peaks. Unfortunately, this was another example of "dropping the ball in painting." (That phrase refers to my last blog post about a Ralph Oberg quote which you can read here.)
Instead of changing this painting, my solution was to paint another version as a demo for the pastel class I teach. Sometimes, it's good to save your mistakes as a reminder what to avoid in future paintings.
I felt the mountain peaks were too regularly spaced with a low portion right in the center, therefore lacking the interest they could have.
Here is my latest version in which I aimed to correct the regular intervals in the mountain peaks. Because I was creating a new painting instead of copying the last painting, you'll notice other changes as well.
Storm Coming 9x12 Pastel $675
I welcome your comments about these two paintings and also about your experiences regarding dropping the ball in painting or reworking a an unsuccessful painting.
Many years ago I read an article about wildlife and landscape artist Ralph Oberg in Southwest Art magazine. I was impressed by a statement Ralph made about comparing painting to juggling. To paraphrase, he said a juggler can only juggle so many balls. When he keeps adding more balls, at some point he will drop one. Likewise, an artist needs to remember composition, value, color temperature, aerial and linear perspective, variation, edges, eye movement, and more. At some point, it's easy to drop one of these "balls" and the artist needs to pick it up again and continue.
I was reminded of this Ralph Oberg article when I was painting Chamisa Yellow. I thought I had finished it and at first I was satisfied with the painting. But, as it sat on my wall in the "look at" stage, I felt something wasn't quite right. I was about to ask for a critique by another artist when I realized the problem with this painting. I had dropped a painting ball. I didn't direct the viewer's eye and I didn't vary the yellows. My yellows were all the same across the painting. With the sameness, the viewer doesn't know where I want their eye to rest.
I went back to work on the painting to vary the yellows. I made the yellow chamisa blooms on the bottom left darker than the yellows in the upper part of the chamisa. I made many of the yellows more intense in color. I also made variations in the stems, adding more dark areas and light areas. I felt the blue mountains in the distance needed some adjustments too. I added a bit of muted red violet and intensified the blues.
I think the added variations improved the painting. Do you agree? Below is how Chamisa Yellow looked before adjustments.
Christine Kane (founder of Uplevel You) introduced me to the practice of choosing a word to guide your year. Instead of New Year's Resolutions which focus on Doing something, the word of the year focuses on how you want to Be. I've been choosing a word of the year for several years now. I also write intentions for what I want to be, do, and have for the coming year. For example, I want to be productive. (my 2018 word for the year) I want to do a lot of painting and marketing as well as eating well and exercising. I want to have good health, energy, motivation, and optimism.
Initially, my 2018 word was discipline. This past year, things would interrupt my flow of work and it would be hard to get back on track. So, I thought I need discipline. I thought if I were disciplined, I'd be able to get back on track easier. I discussed this with my marketing/life coach, Aletta de Wal. She suggested the word discipline was a bit harsh and suggested productive was a softer word but would accomplish the same thing. Yes, I want to be productive in all areas of my life.
I have started 2017 more productive than last year. I've been exercising more regularly and painting more regularly. I've written a newsletter and this is my 2nd blog post for January. I feel I am off to a good start.
Now the key is to maintain this momentum. I hope you will join me as I continue on my 2018 blog journey. Most posts will deal directly with art related topics. I'll include posts like this one if I think it might be inspiring to others.
How have you been doing with your 2018 resolutions, goals, or intentions? I hope you have been able to keep up your momentum now that we are two weeks into the year. Your comments are welcomed.
The painting above was based on a photo reference taken on a plein air painting trip to Bluff, Utah. I used UART sanded paper in 320 grit. I started with a watercolor underpainting as a demo for my pastel class. Bluff Cliffs and River was entered into Pastel Society of New Mexico's Small Works show this past fall and was awarded 3rd place.
It's hard to believe 2018 is here tomorrow. It's New Year's resolution time. I prefer to commit to intentions for the new year as this way, my intention is there, but since I have no control over outside interference or life circumstances, my intentions sometime get sidelined. I don't have the guilt with an intention that I do with a resolution if I don't stick to it.Plus,I can always start again. It seems a resolution is either a success or a failure, but intentions can be in progress and modified.
I had intended to continue my blog in 2017, but I confess 2017 was a difficult year for me in many ways and blogging just didn't happen. Some people have told me they miss reading my blog, so it is my intention to start it up again in 2018. I intend to write about topics I discuss in my pastel classes, works in progress and how I am approaching the painting, and almost anything art related. I hope you will join me on this blog journey and read my writings.
I'm a teacher through and through and I enjoy teaching. It's a thrill for me to help students progress and improve. My next pastel class is in Albuquerque at The Artist Studio, 8200 B Menual NE, 8 Thursdays, January 25 - March 15, 2018 from 1-4 pm
Come join me for a class packed with helpful information and take your work to another level. Experience lots of attention and encouragement at your easel while working from landscape reference photos. Improve your ability to see and to extract the information from photographs needed to create a successful painting. Topics include composition and value. (2 main keys for a good painting) For beginners with drawing experience to intermediate and advanced students.
Early bird tuition until December 31 was $240 tax included. After that, tuition is $260 tax included, but if you are in the Albuquerque area and want to take the class, I'll extend the early bird tuition to January 8. Contact me for more info or to register at firstname.lastname@example.org