Sunday, January 22, 2017

On the Way: Painting the Camino de Santiago

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On the Way: Painting the Camino de Santiago

At this time last year, I was totally focused on being a pilgrim.  My husband and I were preparing for a two-week, 150 mile pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago with some dear friends and I had begun to realize that our true pilgrimage actually began long before the first step would be taken. 
To prepare for the Camino, I researched, purchased, and returned more "hiking" items than I care to remember.  Why is it so hard to keep things simple??  We joined the local "American Pilgrims on the Camino" (APOC) group and attended many meetings as well as hiking adventures (which is how I learned that my backpack was definitely not going to work for me).  And, most importantly, I read and reread several deeply inspiring books on the spiritual side of being a pilgrim.  I love being a pilgrim. 
And now I get to relive our adventure as an artist!  As I prepare for my next solo show, "On the Way: Painting the Camino de Santiago", I will be walking our pilgrimage one brushstroke at a time.  This journey begins with small studies (before I pull out the bigger canvases) and the very first memory relived is this incredible view, from our very first day, hiking up the Pyrenees from St. Jean Pied de Port to Orisson:
One of the things that I love about the reference photo is the way the lines of trees move the eye in a lively zigzag fashion throughout the scene.  As I began my painting, I focused on capturing that movement before getting caught up in any details.  At this point it looks like our Camino was in winter snow :)
Ta Da, now it's summer!  This small study (titled "On the Way", of course!) will be used to create a larger piece for my show.
Here's the reference photo again so that you can see the artistic liberties I took:

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Morning Gratitude

In Celebration of Easter:  Sun Rise

This is the view at sunrise from the house we rent in Nags Head NC each year.  Often, as I look out our bedroom door (with bleary eyes), I see my early-rising-mother already walking the beach for her quiet time of morning gratitude.  There's no better way to start the day.

Knowing that I wanted the sea oats to greet the sun with a rim of its radiance, I intentionally intensified the colors of the warm morning glow in my first layer of paint.

I then moved to the sun, sea, and sky and found myself almost having to squint at the sun's brilliance as it came to life.

In this final step, I worked on the cool sandy areas of the dune, providing an entrance for the viewer to step to the beach and quietly enjoy a moment of morning gratitude.
Morning Gratitude, 16x20 Oil, available 

(Here's the reference photo again for comparison)

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Tuscan Hills

Shapes, texture, color, and layer upon layer of mountain vistas ... there's so much to love about the Tuscan countryside!  This is a photo from our visit to Tuscany several years ago.  My painting goal was to capture the zigzag movement from foreground to background using the elements of hills, road, olive trees, and cypress.
Here is my painted sketch on the 20x40in canvas.
And here is my wild color stage -- a thin layer of transparent oil paints.  At this point I was having second thoughts about how I was going to resolve the the foreground fence and hill with the road at the bottom right.  Not sure if they were helpful or hindering.
Ultimately, I decided to remove those elements, opting for the simpler, less cluttered hill to move the eye through the scene.  Enjoy a bit of Italy!
"Tuscan Hills", 20x40 Oil, available

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Charleston Doorway

This week's Sun Day Art is a scene I painted several years ago after a fun family trip to Charleston, SC. Typical of the beautiful and elegant doors in Charleston, this door caught my eye because of the arched shape of the sunlight that encircled the flowering planter.

The painting came together quickly because I chose a very limited palette of almost entirely burnt sienna and ultramarine blue (plus white).  I love the vibrating effect that results when these complementary colors interact.
"Charleston Doorway", 10x8 Oil, Sold

Sunday, August 23, 2015

New Life at the Old Well

This post is in honor of my daughter, Colleen, who just started her third year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill :).

 With my camera in hand and an eye on the light I wandered the UNC campus on a beautiful spring day last year and enjoyed the liveliness of students hurrying to class, studying in the grassy quads, listening to guitar music, participating in a silent protest march, and questioning an itinerant preacher.  I took dozens of photos, but the sunlight on the white columns of The Old Well, combined with the brilliant red azaleas, caught my eye the most.  
Here's the photo I decided to use for my reference:

And here's my artistic rendition:
New Life at the Old Well, 18x24 Oil, Sold

And here are our three UNC Tarheels this summer :)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Misty Hay Day

If you haven't been to Damascus (Virginia that is!) and biked the Virginia Creeper Trail, I highly recommend it!  Matthew and I took a van to the top of a mountain and then pretty much applied brakes for 18 miles as beautiful views passed by.  Not exactly aerobic exercise, but if you want that then you can always skip the van and bike up :)

We saw this view on the second day, though, when the terrain was fully pedal-powered.

I was drawn to the way the delicate, misty background gave added weight and substance to the foreground hay bales, as well as the way the gravel path leads from one to the other. 

I started with thin oil paint and sketched the basic placement of the main objects:

Since I knew I wanted to keep the background soft, I began with the sky and subtly worked my way down so that I could better judge how dark the hay bales should be.

After completing the rest of the painting I tweaked the background a bit and am really pleased with the "mood" of this painting, even though it's not my traditional subject of sunlight and shadows.
Misty Hay Day, 8x10 Oil, available

Here's the photo vs. oil painting for easy comparison.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Dappled Welcome

While visiting Rio de Janeiro recently, my husband and I stayed in a cute town called Urca, under the distant but watchful gaze of Christ the Redeemer.  I took dozens of vista photos, but the one that inspired this painting is what I was most excited to capture -- our morning view from the bus stop :)  The early light dappled through the canopy of trees and onto a common South American wall, creating an inviting scene that was anything but common.  Welcome to Rio!

I decided to crop the photo so that the door was off-center, allowing room for the lovely dappled light to lead the viewer's eye to the even more lovely dappled doorway.  Here's my quick sketch, focusing on getting the perspective right.

In this step, I covered the canvas with transparent paints that were a close approximation to the final colors I wanted (or at least in the same family).  The sidewalk and white of the wall have their first coat of opaque paint.

...working on the door, which is the focal point so I gave it the most attention...

...starting on the house in the background and the vines on the wall...

Here I worked on the house to the right, which was tricky because my photo left that area ill-defined and I didn't really like what I saw.  So I pulled out my artistic license and painted what I wanted :)

After adjusting and softening the shadows to make them look more organic, I finished the vines, and tweaked warm/cool colors.  Done!  (Ha!  That almost makes it sound easy.)
"A Dappled Welcome", 18x24 Oil, available

Here's the photo again for comparison.  Thanks for watching!