Sunday, June 30, 2013

"A Quail walks into a bar..., a firehouse. She makes friends with the dalmatian... yeah, that's it..."

Something like that has to explain how those crazy spots got on the quail eggs, right? I'm no zoologist, but it makes sense to me!

Meanwhile, here they are: a pair of quail eggs, cozying up with each other and they need a title. I know you all are just dying to help me out.

What do you think?
There's something about the spots that looks kind of worldly, like earth from space... sort of.
So maybe -
    • You Are My World  
    •  Eggsisting World
Or pun-i-ness -
    • Quails by Comparison
    • Quail Watching
 Or descriptive -
    • Speckled Reflections
    • Eggceptional Beauties 
I just can't decide. So suggestions are welcome!

©2013 Dorothy Lorenze

In any case, they were great fun to paint. And take my word for it - all the spots are painted exactly as they were in real life on the actual eggs!!!  ;-)

(If you believe that, you're probably also good with, "a quail walks into a bar, no a firehouse...")

Friday, June 28, 2013

Flower Painting #2

Hydrangea's are another lifelong favorite flower. The deep blue-to-pink are everywhere in Charlotte right now. But the delicate, pale blue color that intrigued me was harder to find. I had almost reached the point of knocking on doors with a scissor in hand... but then Trader Joe's made my day.

Since flowers are still not in my comfort zone, putting them in a silver teapot helped.
reflections = security
(although on FB one person thought it was a copper kettle not a silver teapot :-(   the coppery color is actually a reflection of the warm wood it sits on)
Hydrangea Tea ©2013 Dorothy Lorenze

In Julian Merrow Smith's workshop we were encouraged to look through art books for similar subjects or treatments when presented with a challenging element and I didn't have to go far to find an excellent example of a lovely blue hydrangea. Claudia Hammer, a Daily Paintworks painter has a beautiful hydrangeas that you can see here.

So now that I've learned to enjoy painting hydrangeas, maybe I can learn to grow them! They don't seem to want to flower in my garden in New York. Weird 'cause I grew up with them on Long Island. Oh well....gardening advice is welcome.

PS - the teapot is from the United States Navy (it has USN on the bottom). Who knew our armed services were ever so elegant!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Fig Painting and Color Confusion

Color is not so obvious. There are three attributes of color to consider in painting: hue (actual color name), value (dark/light) and saturation (dull/intense). And they are all relative. While the basic fig "hue" is pretty much a bluish purple, the variations in "value" and "saturation" help turn those purple egg shapes into figs.

These images from James Gurney's blog (Dinotopia creator) are cool optical illusions that show how dramatically value and hue can appear to change based on surroundings.

Check this out:
In the checkerboard, grey squares #1 and #2 are exactly the same color! Being me, I had to test it for myself in Photoshop. It's true: virtually identical RGB mixes for both.
© James Gurney's blog: Checkerboard
Same thing with hue - it's influenced by surrounding color information. Here's an almost unbelievable example, also from James Gurney's blog.

from James Gurney's blog: Color Constancy
James painted these and he wrote: "... the cyan square in the bottom corner of the red-lit scene is exactly the same color mixture as the red square in the upper corner of the green-lit scene."  Again, it checks out in Photoshop! And Photoshop never lies! (stop laughing, in this case it's true... I promise)

So, this phenomenon occurs everywhere and these vivid illustrations really helped remind me that color areas have to be looked at both independently and in relation to surrounding colors and values.

My figs are basically three purplish ovals, with a greener hue for the center fig. The roundness of the forms, surface details and areas of interest are established with subtle variations in value and saturation.
Three Little Figs ©2913 Dorothy Lorenze
Its a perfect example of why still life is such a fascinating painting genre. I love, love, LOVE traipsing through the labyrinth of color misdirections to figure out what's really there.

PS - Read more fro James Gurney by clicking here.
PPS - I wish I knew a good sports analogy to explain how exciting it is to me when these things come together. I'll have to ask the swimmers and baseball players who occupy all my non-painting time in the summer!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Farmer's Market Figs

Figs are irresistible for painters. The subtle ribbing is a wonderful challenge to render. And the color is so rich. I couldn't wait to capture the blue/grey of the fig on the right. It has that powdery coating like a blueberry when it's at the untouched-and-dusty stage of ripening.

Painting in oils, you're supposed to get in the darks first - it's much harder to darken light colors. But I was anxious to find that dusty color so I tried starting with the lighter tones.

Live and learn. The initial light blue was not nearly dusty enough (too bright, too dark, too colorful). It needed neutrals and deeper tones for comparison.

These figs are sitting on a satiny silver surface. Starting with the neutral grey of the metal, probably would have helped. However muted, they will look more colorful against grey - it's all relative!

Here's the "final" version of "Standing Figs." I might tweak a bit later when it's dry, but I'm pretty happy as it is right now.
"Standing Figs" ©2013 Dorothy Lorenze

Monday, June 17, 2013

Creativity and Kindness

Since I started this journey to become a painter I have met some of the most amazing, creative, wise, and supportive people! The generosity of artists who share their knowledge and their enthusiasm has been fantastic. From family who are always cheering, to internet "friends" and artists who meet virtually or locally and share art info, to studio and plein air pals who make painting dates - you really keep me going. Thank you!

The experience of being with 12 painters at Julian Merrow Smith's plein air workshop was a perfect example. Part of the magic was thinking about nothing but making art for a week. But the other part of the magic was the excitement and good will of a dozen artists of varied backgrounds and abilities who wanted nothing less than for everyone to succeed. Every artist should experience this!

Sure we were "on vacation" and the south of France is not too shabby, but it was a slightly daunting adventure to travel so far and stay with people we'd never met, learn a new painting genre with a new painting teacher and basically be little fish in a big (unfamiliar) pond. Happily, there was a built in support system of good people and honest critiquing. Learning and improving was cheered by all.

So, cheers to all of you who support artists - you make it possible for us to take that leap of faith! Believe me, we need and appreciate your positive energy!

In the spirit of a leap of faith ... and inspired by wild poppy fields ... I've taken another stab at dealing with red petals. The field of wild poppies was so beautiful it could make you cry. Unfortunately, my painting of the field almost made me cry as well. I need to have another go at it, but for now, these poppies are making me smile!

These beauties are from the farmer's market in Charlotte where I am happily visiting another group of highly positive and supportive art lovers! (One of whom once said "Gramma's are kind of magical" - how's that for instilling positive energy!)

Persevering Poppies ©2013 Dorothy Lorenze

I'm happy to say that Julian Merrow Smith has just announced two more plein air workshops this fall. If you want to be immersed in creativity and kindness, sign up and spend a week painting in Provence with Julian! You'll never forget it.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Painting in Provence #1

I've been very much away (from reality and life as I know it) but have finally returned to earth after a heavenly week painting in Provence with Julian Merrow Smith.

It was an incredible experience and there is so much to say! I had all good intentions of writing while there but we were totally immersed in painting all day! Afterwards we critiqued, talked, ate, drank local wine and ... sang!
Hey, "one does what one must" to alleviate the discomfort of standing all day in the elements.

They say plein air painting can be an extreme sport and now I understand why: we fought the cold, wind and rain; hiked through waist high grass and climbed rugged, rocky, hilly terrain - all to find the perfect vista to paint (well, the rocky, hilly, terrain might have been the stone path to the  kitchen where I made tea, but you get the idea).

Some of the challenges:
  • Paint fast before the light changes! (you may recall that my "3-hour" pear painting actually took 3 days).
  • Paint green that doesn't look like kermit the frog, colored with basic crayola 16-crayon box green.
  • Forget/reverse still life thinking: objects get lighter as they recede in landscapes.
  • Don't freeze (I packed for spring - apparently more experience with traveling is required) 

In an effort to get complex greens, my first painting looked like mud (or the related French word "merde")

Looks more like the rainy, wintery day we were battling than the lovely, spring weather we had hoped for. Although, if you look closely there is a hint of poppies blooming between the rows.

I was discouraged but determined and set forth to conquer green! These are better greens and it's less muddy, but the trees look like the they were made by Lionel for train tables. Sigh.

I hung in there and will post some other/better(?) paintings soon. 

Plein air painting is HARD. Unlike still life painting, you don't get to position the light source and place the objects ever-so-precisely where you like. You have to work fast and that damn sun moves while you're trying to keep consistent light on the canvas and palette! Not to mention the unpredictable weather!  It's frustrating, exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time.

Is there any wonder we drank wine at the end of the day?!

Seriously, this was such an amazing trip - with great instruction by Julian Merrow Smith, astounding organization by Ruth Philips and the most awesome, energetic and supportive group of intrepid painters focused on a totally artistic experience for all! Even with the challenges, frustrations and difficulties, I never once resorted to collapsing on my "fainting couch" although clearly, it was tempting!

Did I mention that we stayed at La Madelene, a 12th century priory transformed to a Country French B&B?

No? Well, as I said, plein air painting is a rugged, extreme sport. Sort of.

Oh, it was a thoroughly wonderful week! So much to cherish, so stay tuned for more tales from my Provence painting adventure!