l s

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Watercolor pencils and crayons

Exploring watercolor pencils and crayons with my class on Monday was verrrry interesting. I've used them seldom, tending to be a washy kind of watercolor painter. Also, my past observations led me to believe that they were extremely limited. I remember early experiences as a kid with Mongol watercolor pencils--they never had enough color in them and always left streaks. Some years ago I bought a lovely set of Derwent pencils and found them disappointing. But for some reason, through the years I've acquired two sets of watercolor crayons (Caran d'Ache and Faber Castell) that I never opened until Monday. I was hoping to be pleasantly surprised after re-reading two books over the weekend, Gary Greene's Painting With Water-soluble Colored Pencils (North Light, 2002) and Cathy Johnson's Watercolor Pencil Magic. (North Light, 2002). Both have lots of demos and illustrations of techniques. Greene's techniques are more painterly; Johnson's appear more doable for sketching and travel.

And I was amazed. It was apparent that the Derwent pencils are harder than the sticks, but that made it easy to make a clean line where needed. The range of techniques was surprising --wet-in-wet; wet-on-dry; dry-on-wet and much more. You can lift color from the stick and apply it to paper. You can apply color to a sheet of extra paper and use it as a palette, lifting color and painting with it. I even scraped shavings from a stick onto damp paper and got the look of spatter. And the colors are brilliant. I wonder if Mongol pencils have improved since I used them many years ago.

There are numberous sites on the Web that give detailed technical information on techniques. Here are two: Watercolor Pencil Class 2 and
What are Watercolor Pencils?. For more, Google "watercolor pencils."

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Sooo cold, so very cold...

Weather doesn't usually bother me that much, but the past few days I've been feeling the cold in my bones. It's probably because we had such a mild December and January up till now and I'm mentally geared for Spring, way too soon. Normally, it gets really cold in November and December, then about now, mid to late January, we have a "January Thaw." Somehow, no matter how cold it gets after that, it doesn't get to me. But it's so cold now--in the single digits at night--that I'm afraid it will last awhile, no matter what the groundhog says on Friday. I think I'm going into hibernation. But wait, I'll be back tomorrow with some notes on Monday's class on watercolor pencils and crayons.


Monday, January 29, 2007

Drawing book review

Bert Dodson's new book Keys to Drawing With Imagination. (North Light, 2006) is subtitled "Strategies and Exercises for Gaining Confidence and Enhancing Your Creativity." This may be my new favorite drawing book--sounds like a perfect fit with The New Creative Artist. The book is reviewed on Charley Parker's Lines and Colors blog.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Exploring Color for Kids

On reading my recent blogs about comparing color temperatures, Laura Lemley of Potomac Valley Watercolorists in the Washington, DC area, emailed the following (used with her permission):

In addition to painting, I teach children 6 to 18 years old. They are just as excited as your adults to learn to recognize the warm to cool range in watercolor paints. I started the 8 weeks of lessons with the color wheel…they learned color mixing for the colors other than primaries. First they arrange all my tubes of a particular color from warm to cool by guessing. The color stripe and name sometimes give them clues. I take off all the caps and I read the name of the color to them as they take turns painting a ½” wide stripe from pure to tint on a “chart” (long narrow strip of watercolor paper. When they see that one is out of place, we mark it to be cut and put in the correct order. Afterwards they select three they like from the chart and do a painting. There was an outstanding painting of a brown red horse in an orange red tall grass field with a warm red tinted sky by an eight year old! The older children chose to make a pop art collage of red objects from magazines to make a bouquet including tints, pure color and shades. If you have any teachers who need ideas, you might pass along my enthusiasm for painting color with your guidance!

What a fun way for kids--or anyone--to play with color. Thirty years ago one of my boys took an introductory art course and they painted one color in each class, attempting to make a perfect color wheel by the end of the semester. No wonder he hated art class! (He turned out to be a fantastic potter, though.)

Labels: , , , , , ,

Scrapbook Windup

I finished the scrapbook yesterday morning. I selected eight photos of one or more of the adults who came and a special one of all the little girls. I arranged them in PhotoShop Elements, enlarging the girls' group picture and centering it on the page. I printed it on heavy matte brochure paper. Then I wrote in the names. This page is mounted inside the back cover.

Scrapbooking sure takes a lot of time. I sorted all our family photos several years ago and filled fifteen or more shoe-size boxes. I plan to make a special scrapbook for my motor-head husband, beginning with the little car he got for Christmas when he was about three years old. I made one page for his book and put it in The New Creative Artist.

If I can set up a corner where I can do a page now and then in the evenings, maybe I could eventually make another scrapbook. So many photos, so little time.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Scrapbooking--an art for everyone

My name is Nita. I'm a Scrapaholic. I've been scrapbooking for one day. I admit I enjoyed it. Here's my story. In 1998 I launched my web site www.nitaleland.com. I bought a digital camera so I could put pictures on my web site. In 2001 I upgraded my camera and began taking photography seriously, photographing wildflowers in Ohio, Colorado, Arizona and Massachussetts. I used a computer progam to print out pages of my pictures and put them in big notebooks. In a short time I was a Photoholic, but that's another story.

In 2002 our granddaughter, aka The Little Artist, was born and my photo habit accelerated. I was getting out of control. But I continued to print out pages, only this time the main subject was the baby, although I still photographed wildflowers. Three years ago my niece, who was a Creative Memories consultant, gave my daughter and me a lesson in scrapbooking. We both bought all the stuff--albums, croppers, snippers, scissors, templates--you name it. My daughter made albums of baby pictures while her husband was deployed in Eastern Europe. I sorted our family photos into shoe-sized photo boxes which are neatly stacked but haven't been opened for two years. The scrapbooking supplies are dusty. The pens may be dried up; I haven't checked.

Which brings me to my confession: on the occasion of our granddaughter's fourth birthday party at Build-a-Bear last weekend, I took 285 digital photos. Before you start throwing memory cards at me, let me explain the obvious fact that seven four-year-olds and their parents tend to move pretty fast and I expected a lot of blurry photos. There weren't that many. Still, I culled the photos down to about 125 and decided to make a SCRAPBOOK. A real one, not printed album pages.

I went to Scrapbook Studio at a Cord Camera shop. I found a 9" x 9" scrapbook that was Jenna's favorite color--lavender--with ten pages (twenty counting the backside). Just the right size for her--those 12" x 12" scrapbooks are cumbersone. I bought three purple background pages and two multicolored pattern pages, plus three sticker packs. Then the work began. It takes a long time to print enhanced photos, so I did some multi-tasking while the photos printed.

Yesterday I put the book together and got deep into the addiction. Sorting, cutting, cropping, arranging, adhering--this is one of the most labor-intensive projects I've ever done. And it's fun! Just playing with the background designs was fun. So was arranging the photos to tell the story of the Big Day. I finished eight of the pages in time to show them to the family at Jenna's birthday party for the Grandparents last night. I haven't written anything on the pages yet and am trying to decide whether to use the computer or handwriting. (Is there a transparent sticky-paper that you can inkjet print on?)

Well, I enjoyed scrapbooking, but it will be awhile before I do that again. Just wanted you to know that anyone can do scrapbooking--and you'll be surprised, if you try it, at how much you'll learn about design and color. Don't worry about becoming addicted. You can walk away, just like I did. Uhmmm. Where are my scissors? my oval template? Just...one...more...page....

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Yellow hits the charts

Yesterday we explored yellow watercolor paints, working at discerning between the warm and cool yellows. We all know that yellow is a warm color, but which are warmer and which cooler? Some of them are very close and will no doubt differ between brands. I added in several earth colors, some of which ended up closer to orange than yellow, so that's where I put them on the wheel below.

On the chart above the cool yellows are on the right of the paper and the warms on the left. On the color wheel at right the cool ones are heading toward blue (right) and the warm ones are heading toward red (left). When you're mixing colors, yellow is a hard color to darken without changing it into a greenish-olive or a muddy brownish color. It sometimes works better to use the yellows and yellow-oranges in the earth colors toward the center of the wheel to darken yellows. The mixtures are richer.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, January 22, 2007

Emily Carr on painting a landscape

I am painting a flat landscape, low-lying hills with an expanding sky. What am I after--crush and exaltation? It is not a landscape and not sky but something outside and beyond the enclosed forms. I grasp for a thing and a place one cannot see with these eyes, only very very faintly with one's higher eyes. I begin to see that everything is perfectly balanced so that what one borrows one must pay back in some form or another, that everything has its own place but is interdependent on the rest, that a picture, like life, must also have perfect balance. Every part of it also is dependent on the whole and the whole is dependent on every part. It is a swinging rhythm of thought, swaying back and forth, leading up to, suggesting, waiting, urging the unordered statement to come forth and proclaim itself, voicing the notes from its very soul to be caught up and echoed by other souls, filling space and at the same time leaving space, shouting but silent. Oh, to be still enough to hear and see and know the glory of the sky and earth and sea!

Labels: , ,

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Beggars can be choosers

Friday I was having my hair trimmed. The hairdresser in the next booth was cleaning up her station and pitched a hair dryer in the trash. I said, "Is that thing broken?" She said it wasn't, but it was an ion-diffusion dryer that didn't blow much air--I forget the name of it--and she didn't like it. She gave it to me to dry my watercolors. I figure it might be worth a try if it doesn't blow the paint around like most hair dryers. Then she pulled out some smocks she was going to throw away and I took those and washed them to give to my class tomorrow. Got quite a haul at the beauty shop, big surprise. All you have to do is ask.

Labels: ,

Seeing Red

Last Monday we explored reds in watercolors, as we did last week with blues. Here's the chart that I did in class, explaining the paint characteristics of each pigment and the relative temperature as I went along. I let the class help me decide where a color belongs. I wish we had full-spectrum lighting in our classroom, because the colors tend to look "off" and I have to remember to mention this. Lighting makes a huge difference when you're exploring colors.

This color wheel gives a better idea of where the colors fit in the continuum around the wheel. The ones on the circle are the best match I can make to the ideal colors. There may be better ones, but I'm just using the ones I have. The colors toward the center are darker, earthier variations of the wheel color. The center color will be black. Around the edges are variations of the main colors, some with weaker tinting strength. Way out at the edge on the left is Opera Rose, a color that is fluorescent and doesn't really fit with the others.
The completed color wheel is shown in my Exploring Color book, first published in 1985 and revised in 1998.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

The birthday bear

Yesterday was the Little Artist's fourth birthday party. She invited several little girls to Build-a-Bear at the mall. It was a lot of fun. They go out of their way to make it a good experience. A leader gathers them outside the store and they dance in together. Each child picks an unstuffed bear and names it. Jenna became shy at all the "birthday girl" attention and didn't name her bear. Next,there is a serious "heart ceremony," where the leader talks about love and they warm little red plastic hearts between their hands and put them into the birthday girl's bear. Then they warm little hearts and put them inside their own bears. The bear is stuffed by a machine as each child watches her bear fill out. It was fun to see the expressions on their faces. The leader asks them to give their bear a hug. Is it too hard? too soft? just right? Jenna's was just right and once her bear was stuffed, she was able to name her--Genevieve. There's a little grooming table where they can brush the bear before taking her shopping for an outfit. With the bears all dressed everyone gathers at the front of the store to receive hair bows and birth certificates with their bears' names on them and a house-shaped box with a handle to carry the bears home. The little girls pledged to take good care of their bears--oh, so serious were their faces.

Labels: ,

Friday, January 19, 2007

Creative expression

Canadian artist Emily Carr was influenced by a book written by Ralph M. Pearson, How to See Modern Pictures (1925). Here is a passage from the book:

The Creative artist...begins to draw with his conceptual vision turned inwards searching the storehouse of his mind. That storehouse is well-stocked for he has made preliminary studies in plenty--probably has drawn a model accurately in order to possess himself of all knowledge of details. And now he is ready to use his material to create a picture. The inner fire burns. He comes to his canvas filled with a suppressed power that urges hand to vital, swinging expression. Does he feel the bending weight of sorrow? His hand flows the bend of sorrow into line. No thought of detail. Hardly a glance at the model. The feel of sorrow flowing into form! His problem becomes one of controlling the exuberance of spirit, of holding it to the slow, laborious process of organization, of conserving the force in him to hour after hour, and day after day, and week after week perhaps, of controlled release.... What was in him has gone into the work, where, 'if his power has been great enough', it will live forever. Thus is the felt nature of a thing eternalized into design.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The labeling project

I've pretty much finished with labeling the posts on my blog. It wasn't that hard, as I've just been on fifteen months and had only 345 posts. As others have said, it's hard to decide what terms to use to make the labels useful. After I made the first pass, I went back and reviewed the labels that only had one or two references. I combined those with others that are more frequently used. I figure the reader can pull up a generic term like "art mediums" and then search the results for "oil pastels," "oil paint," "colored pencils," etc. "Watercolor" has a category to itself, as do other subjects I've mentioned several times. I managed to cut down my original label list to around 70 terms. I think it's pretty functional. Has anyone made any interesting discoveries using this tool?

Labels: ,

Monday, January 15, 2007

You can't always tell a book by its cover

A blog reader sent me an image (at right)that is apparently the UK cover of the book The Power of Art, which I mentioned in a previous blog. The one I reviewed (left) is sold in the US. It would be interesting to know what was behind the decision to have different covers, don't you think?

Labels: , ,

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work. --Gustave Flaubert

Labels: ,

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Power of Art

Simon Schama's The Power of Art is a weighty tome that my son gave me for Christmas. It's heavy reading, but only in the actual poundage. Schama begins with the rascally Caravaggio and his sublime paintings, working in the backstory of the artist's checkered political and personal life as he paints monumental artworks, many of which include his own portrait as a villain or a victim. The powerful stories of seven more great artists--Bernini, Rembrandt, David, Turner, van Gogh, Picasso, Rothko--all have a twist, which Schama works into the historical timeline in vivid, compelling narration. The book is lavishly illustrated with high quality images that show great detail. I'm working my way back and forth between gentle Emily Carr and these remarkable giants. Fascinating reading.

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, January 12, 2007

A book day, not an art day

Definitely not an art day. I'm still in the organizing stages of my new book, but happy with the way things are falling into place. I guess I'm still not ready to talk about it in any detail, but when I feel like I have a good handle on everything--the writing, the art and the artists--I'll probably blog you to death.

Labels: ,

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Updating labels on Blogger

If you have my blog on Bloglines, don't be misled by the number of new posts listed. Blogger has added a new labels feature that allows visitors to check out multiple entries on the same subject on the blog, so I'm going into the archives and adding labels. Each change requires me to re-publish the blog, so it appears on Bloglines as a new entry. It may take a couple of days to finish, unless I get distracted. You can bypass the updates on Bloglines and click on the blog title line to get to the newest posts.

Labels: , ,

Happiness 101

This article on positive psychology in the New York Times is long, but worth reading from beginning to end. It seems that this trend is appearing in scientific and educational studies and not simply in self-help circles. Read it through and tell me what you think.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Emily Carr, extraordinary Canadian artist

emily carr paintingSeveral years ago I ran across the art of Emily Carr at the Vancouver Art Gallery. It stopped me in my tracks. Her work is powerful and spiritual and her Northwestern subject matter is uniquely hers in the same way that Georgia O'Keeffe's Southwestern icons belong to O'Keeffe. The two were near-contemporaries, Emily being the older. Apparently they met once briefly when Carr visited an exhibit of O'Keeffe's paintings in the U.S. Like O'Keeffe, Carr was an emerging woman artist in a man's world, but unlike O'Keeffe, Carr had no Stieglitz to support and promote her. The daunting distance between her home in British Columbia and the art centers in the Eastern provinces created great difficulties, as well.

I've often come across references to Carr's writings and I'm finally getting around to reading her works. She was every bit as expressive a writer as she was a painter. Her writing is down-to-earth and yet somehow lyrical and poetic. There are a number of small volumes published, but I bought a used copy of The Complete Writings of Emily Carr. The book isn't an autobiography in the usual sense. Rather each volume of stories is a collection of reminiscences of various experiences and times in her life and her acute observations from childhood throughout her life. For more information on Emily Carr, check out the entry at Wikipedia Another good book is Doris Shadbolt's The Art of Emily Carr.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Community of artists

Just a few words to remark on my wonderful class and their welcome to three new students. It has to be intimidating to come into a room where twenty-one people are enthusiastically greeting each other and exchanging news, not to mention showing each other their recent work or talking about new ideas. But my Hithergreen group made me proud of them. The new students felt comfortable asking questions and when I left, two of them were still talking with a couple of "old-timers." To me this is very important in establishing an atmosphere conducive to learning--feeling accepted and encouraged by those you're working with.


The power of positive thinking

One of my favorite books is Deepak Chopra's The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your Dreams. I find new meaning every time I read this small book.

Here's a brief summary of some things I've learned from the book.

1. Law of Pure Potentiality: We are all born free of ego with infinite potential and creativity (pure consciousness, spiritual essence, all possibilities). Acknowledge the pure potentiality of yourself and others.

2. Law of Giving (and Receiving): Always bring a gift to everyone you meet every day: a smile, a prayer, appreciation, or a compliment. Whatever you want, give it and it will be returned to you: blessings, caring, attention, affection, appreciation, compliments. Receive such gifts with gratitude.

3. Law of Kharma (Cause & Effect): Make the right choices to achieve right results. You'll know it's right--if it feels right. If something bad happens, turn it into a lesson or rise above it and change the effect.

4. Law of Least Effort: Do less and accomplish more by working through love, not power and control. Nature is the model--it simply "is." Accept this moment as it is; respond to the situation as an opportunity, without blame; no need to convince others of your point of view.

5. Law of Intention and Desire: Formulate your desire (goal) and use your intention to achieve it to benefit mankind. Center yourself (meditate), release your intentions and desires to the universe.The past and future are in your imagination. The present is in your awareness, i.e., real. Obstacles disappear when you are serenely grounded in the present.

6. Law of Detachment: Attachment is based on fear and insecurity. Detachment allows freedom to create. Uncertainty is fertile ground, the field of infinite possibilities. Preparedness in the present makes you alert and ready to seize opportunity. "Good luck is preparedness and opportunity coming together."

7. Law of Dharma (Purpose in Life): Each of us is here to discover our higher, true Self, our Spiritual Being. We are here to express our unique talent and our own way of expressing it. No one else has it. We are here to serve humanity. Put your talent to use.

-Find your talent. Ask yourself what are my talents? What do I love to do?
-If you have passion for what you do, you are in dharma.
-If what you do serves humanity, you are in dharma.

Ask "How can I help?" (spirit) instead of "What's in it for me?" (ego)

Deepak Chopra's The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your Dreams.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, January 08, 2007

Singin' the Blues

We almost had a full house for the first session of Exploring Watercolor at Hithergreen Center today. Twenty-one returning students, three newbies, one absentee recovering from surgery and one perpetual absentee. (Don't ask.) I decided to get them more involved with different paints. Most have been with me for two or more years and have had the basic color-mixing exercises. Some have tried other colors and others are still using the basic palette. So today we started with the blues. I should have organized the chart, but just put the colors down as I talked about them, so I hope I can reconstruct the thing and tell you the colors in the accompanying illustration.

Top row: Cobalt Blue, Phthalo Turquoise
Second Row: Winsor Blue (Red Shade), Winsor Blue (Green Shade), Cerulean Blue (Red Shade), Cerulean Blue, Ultramarine (Green Shade)
Third Row: Cobalt Turquoise Light, Manganese Blue Hue, Manganese Blue (genuine), Rembrandt Turquoise Blue, Cobalt Blue, French Ultramarine
Fourth Row: Cobalt Blue Deep, Indigo, Indanthrene Blue, Cobalt Blue Deep
Please note that web colors cannot accurately represent paint colors, so the colors shown aren't exact matches for the chart.

We talked about color temperature, discussing the positions of the blues relative to blue-green, which in theory is the coolest color on the color wheel. I also talked about the transparency or opacity, staining property and tinting strength of each pigment. You will find more information on these properties of paints on my web site here and here, and also in my book, Exploring Color.

This was great fun for me and the class asked great questions. Several said they're looking forward to a new color next week.

We're going to do a color per week for awhile to familiarize them with those they haven't used yet. By the time we're finished, they should be able to find the right place for any color they choose.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Keeping track of your books

I recently found Library Thing, a clever way to keep online records of books you've read or those you own. I have a pretty complete inventory of my books on Microsoft Access, but I don't record the "escape reading." As a consequence, I can never remember if I've already read that Harlen Coben or Patricia Cornwell when I see it at the library. You can list up to 200 books free, then there's a membership fee. The site has some interesting features for Bookaholics and a free tour shows how it works.

Labels: ,

Saturday, January 06, 2007

MAToMATic--what will they think of next?

There's a nifty tool at MAToMATic. You can upload your photos or art images and select mat colors, mat liners and frames--even see how the finished picture will look on your colored walls. How cool is that? The home site for MAToMATic is Matshop.com.


Friday, January 05, 2007

Artists in their studios

New York Times art critic Roberta Smith roamed the rooms of the Metropolitan to discover paintings of artists at work, a behind-the-image look at the artistic process as revealed in the paintings of artists of the past. This fascinating illustrated article is worth your time. I thought it interesting that Smith's investigation was initiated by the realization that a painting she had originally thought depicted three women having tea was actually a woman artist, a model and a studio visitor.

You're welcome to visit my studio and the studios of other artists while you're browsing.


Thursday, January 04, 2007

Editing the holiday photos

Off and on I've been working on the pictures I took over the holidays. I don't take nearly as many as I did when our granddaughter was a baby because I don't see her as much. But I still tend to shoot and shoot and shoot in the hopes of getting some really good ones, and it seems to work. There is still some editing necessary, though. That's why I love Photoshop Elements 5, which I recently updated from PSE 3. I have thousands of pictures in the Organizer and can find them with a click. Get rid of red-eye with a click. Resize with a few numbers and a click. It's so easy. I finally am getting the hang of layers--putting corrections on separate "pages" so you can change each one individually or delete without ruining everything else. I suppose everyone has their favorite editing program--but this one is better than anything else I've used. Amazon has a discounted price and a $20 rebate right now, so it's $66.99 instead of $99.99.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The art of bookkeeping

It doesn't seem like much of an art to an artist, but I'm sure an accountant would be very proud of what I've accomplished today. I was stuck at home while my car was being serviced, so I decided to tackle my 2006 papers and records. I can't believe I got the whole thing done. I'm almost IRS-ready. This is a first. Usually I just box the 2006 records right after New Year's, then put them aside to sort when my husband says he's ready to go to the accountant. I do all the household bookkeeping and my studio books, as well. Everything has been tallied up to correspond to the computer records. You cannot believe what a relief this is. Oh, yes, you probably can. Now would be the time to shoot off the fireworks I heard on New Year's Eve!

Labels: ,