Nancy Paris Pruden, an award winning artist, lives and works in Houston, Texas. Nancy started painting at a very early age when she won a scholarship to study drawing and later painting at the Experimental Art Program in Ft. Worth. By the time she graduated from high school, she was selling her art and is today shown in many national juried shows. Texture and color are her main interests, and..
This Thursday, May 16 from 5:30-8:00, my students and I will be having our yearly Art Show at 2315 Union Street, just off Washington. ( Please note that this is the correct address, not 3215) I just returned last week from Plein Air Southwest in Galveston, which is a juried show of 50 artists from all across the country. We spent all last week painting all over the Island and last Saturday night I won an" Award of Merit" and a cash prize for this painting, "Blue Silk Stocking". If you would like to purchase this are some of my other plein air paintings of Galveston, do come by to see the show, this Thursday evening!
Times of difficulty come with life, but often the worst of times makes us appreciate the sunny times all the more. Often these dark times come in patterns and interestingly this is mimicked in Nature. When choosing a subject to paint, my first criteria is to find interesting shapes but an important second is to pick a subject where the focal is in Light. However; the lovely thing about painting as opposed to a photograph is you can bend nature to your own desires. I loved the drama of the angle of the barn against the sky, but also wanted to feature the shadows the trees cast in the morning on the side of the barn. No problem, just remember those shadow patterns and put them in later. What Power we artists Have! Don't you wish we had the same power over the shadows life casts our way?
There is a lovely antebellum house on top of a hill just outside the town of Round Top, that has been made into an elegant B&B, The Belle of Round Top. The owner, Debby, is a doll and she graciously invited my workshop it paint as long as we wanted on her property. What a View!
The goal of the Workshop was to introduce the artists to the delights and challenges of capturing the scene in a few hours. To facilitate this we worked on values. This can be accomplished if you arrange your pallet into value families simplified to Light, Medium, and Dark. Even though the color changes the value is what holds the painting together so think in terms of Value, not just color. In the painting above, the value of the sky is the same value as the stripe of Indian Paint Brush clumps at the bottom of the painting. The trees are the darkest value and the pale center stripes of grasses and flowers in the middle are the same value, which leaves the focal, (the roof of the house) to be the lightest value. Using just a few values, (3 to no more than 5) further strengthens the composition.
How long has it been since you have seen Fireflies? Growing up in Ft. Worth they were a fixture of warm summer nights playing in the dark with my sisters. The soft murmur of our parents talking in the background made us feel safe, as we darted under the trees to catch them in jars. These days, in a few places you can still see them, like in the Texas Hill Country. Our good friends have a ranch West of Ingram, Texas and it has been a place of artistic inspiration. There is a pond off the back patio of their house, and years ago I took our children out there to catch fireflies as well. However, the painting of this scene is also partly a dream, half real and half imagined. Like memories, places do not have to be exact to be imprinted on our brains. It's more important to get the essence of the experience, don't you think?
Some paintings are easier to resolve than others, and this one has been a challenge! I kept struggling with the reflections...too much and it was too busy, not enough and I lost the mystery. Hopefully it is finished but like most works of art, it can always be open for improvement sometime down the road. That is why I seldom put a final coat of varnish on my paintings. Retouch varnish works great for at least 5 years anyway.
Today is the funeral for a dear friend, Lana Lowry Hadlock, who was one of those people that lit up the room. And no wonder, she was beautiful, smart, with a quick wit, and a wonderful laugh. Lana had that unique ability to make you feel you were the most important person in the room, but one of her most endearing qualities, Empathy, had a dark side. When her beloved husband, Frank, developed cancer she became sick right along with him. After he died, we were afraid she would never recover, but she had a quality no one counted on, Courage. That Courage, Faith in God,and help from family and many close friends, enabled her to recover her health and serenity. How fitting that she should meet her maker on Easter week. We, However; Miss HER!
Here's a good way to start! Grab a big brush, with a little Turpentine and cover the canvas with a dark blue green color. Next, get a paper towel dipped in Turpentine and remove the areas where you want to place the flowers. If you don't like the placement you can always paint back the blue color and start again. The main thing is to keep your paint thin at this point. Next, cover the whole (Now white flower) with a grey-green and white mixture over the WHOLE flower shape! Third, paint the centers and areas close to the stems pink, (on top of the grey-green color) Now, for the leaves, with a big brush and lighter green, start at the center of the leaves and form the leaves with as few strokes as possible going from the inside out.. Finally the real fun starts! Using a large filbert brush mix up A LOT of pale pink paint and scoop it on to the tip your brush. The size of the brush should be about the same size as the petals. Lightly place the loaded brush on the canvas and drag it back while lifting it up to form the petals. Move from inside out. Make sure you leave some of the shadows. Remember, keep the Dark colors in the Dark and the Light colors in the Light! The shadows give form and the lights give excitement!
It's interesting that Poppies symbolise Sleep, Peace, and Death. Sleep because the opium extracted from them is a sedative, and Death because of the Blood-red color of the Red poppy in particular. Poppies used as emblems on tombstones symbolize eternal sleep, but after the First World War the Poppy was also adopted as a symbol of Remembrance. On that subject, a field of Poppies also reminds me of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. How she fell asleep in a field of Poppies on her way to the Emerald City. Do you remember how the Good Witch saved her by making it snow? So that brings us back to; When do Poppies bloom? Here in Texas, Georgetown, will be celebrating their 20th Anniversary Red Poppy Festival, April 26, 27, and 28. They will have a parade with bands, floats, live music and an art display, shopping booths and a kids play area. Sounds like fun for the whole family! Maybe we need to check it out this year. Let me know if you are going.
History tells us that sooner or later, it will be Spring, so how about we plan for better weather? Or at least we plan on dancing around in a field of Bluebonnets sometime SOON! A great Quote... "A Goal without a plan is just a Wish." so let's make a plan to get out of the City in April and go painting in some small town in Texas! How about we meet in Round Top, Texas for my 2-day Workshop April 12 & 13? We will gather at Copper Shade Tree Gallery in Henkle Square, Round Top, Friday morning. Just email me for more information.
Now, for a painting tip, Simplify! The photo below was taken across the street from this charming row of old bungalows in Spring, Texas in January, however; note all the doo-dahs and junk obstructing the charming structures! So, SIMPLIFY! Take what is good and ignore the rest. This could be taken as a philosophy for a happy life as well. Spring is not far behind!
In 2005 a friend sent me a photo she made into a postcard. It said," My husband took this pic out the window at Barton Creek. It looks like Tuscany." The postcard has been sitting on a shelf next to my easel since then and, although faded, I have been dreaming about it ever since. Last week I decided to paint a scene inspired by the photo and my dream of an imagined landscape. This painting is actually nothing like the photo but exactly like my dream of the place. Often, although inspired by nature, a painting will come from a mysterious place within yourself. When that happens, it is a good idea to just go with it!
Last week's blog about the Outdoor Painter's Society met with many comments about this Plein Air Phenomena, becoming quite "The Thing". And why not? It's a great chance to get outdoors, meet new people and try your hand at a creative activity. No one cares if you don't do a masterpiece. Just because you play golf, doesn't mean you plan on joining "The Tour". Anyway, after 2 hours spent painting the Barn in shadows, in my next attempt, it seemed like a good idea to find a scene where the light was the main subject. This little shed looks like a hotdog stand next to the baseball field but the patterns of sunlight casted by the tree were interesting to me. If you are trying to make a work of Art, really anything can become worthy of your attention. Maybe this little shed will be used in another expanded painting, but maybe it will just be a reminder of 2 hours spent on a cold January morning with friends in Spring, Texas.