Category Archives: IDEAS
Subjects, concepts, experiments in composition that I have either tried, or read about and thought interesting
I’m not sure I really have one! I’ve always loved to make marks on paper. My Mom told me that my first word was “Me, Me” which meant, “Give me a pencil!” I never had real art lessons as a youth because no art classes were offered in Arkansas schools at that time. My first real training came at the Kansas City Art Institute, where I felt so far behind because the other students came from cities and states that offered art classes. This was back in the 50’s.
At any rate, I persisted, and took all the art classes I could in college and afterwards, becoming a certified art teacher myself, ending up with a doctorate in secondary art education. I’m probably a better art teacher than I am an artist! However, nothing keeps me from drawing and painting. How do I get my ideas? From nature, mainly. I see something that interests me — a plant, bright flowers, a bare tree, a group of trees, the shapes of the landscape, and I take photos. I use my sketchbook to plan out a composition that pleases me. Lines and shapes, contrasts of light and dark, patterns and intense colors get me going! Sometimes I get ideas from what I read in newspapers and books or what I see other artists doing. But I don’t copy — my training at KCAI will not let me do that!
As far as media go, I do just about everything but oil painting (takes too long to dry, and I don’t like the smell). My subject matter includes landscape and still life, with some animal portraits. I can do people and portraits, but not too fond of that. Lately, I’ve been doing some pet portraits in scratchboard on commissions. When I work in color, I like to use pastel, watercolor, or acrylic, but when I draw, I like the technique of pen and ink and/or scratchboard. There is something about scratching out or making lines that fills my soul with enjoyment. It’s so meditative. A lot of my work incorporates both drawing and painting in the same image.
It might be useful to know that I always have 3-4 artworks in process at the same time. I have so many ideas, that I start several at the same time. I’m the same way about reading books — I always start another book before finishing the first — especially one of fiction and one of non-fiction. I love reading history and detective novels. I think I’m ADD, but then, aren’t all artists?
Here is one image from my “Bare Tree” series. Notice how the background colors can be seen through the pen and ink drawing of the branches. Also, note the breakup of the background into rectangular shapes and tones. I do this a lot in my artworks. If you want to see more of my artwork, go to my web site: http://www.staffordart.com – I just finished updating it. Thanks for reading! Send me comments, please.
Finished! I changed the color of the seats on the foremost boat to reflect the blueish lavender in the sea and added some red inside the small boat to repeat the color of the background boat. This was a lot of fun!
So far, so good! The beach area is finished, I hope. I tried to soften the edges between the beach front and the sea. All that’s left are the two other boats. I’m trying to decide if the image is predominately warm or cool — seems to me it’s warmer. I will need to make some adjustments on the temperature, then. Hopefully, my next blog will show the completed drawing. Thanks for viewing and commenting.
Some more work on the boats on the coast of Spain: I finished the lower boat on the left and started to work on the right foreground boat. I have started to work on the beach where the boats are moored. There’s several more hours of work to do before I finish, and I look forward to working on it. I have used blending, burnishing, and dissolving with turpenoid on the left side of the beach as well as on the overturned boat.
I will be teaching a colored pencil class January and February 2018 at the Maumelle Center on the Lake in Maumelle. Hope you can join us.
As you can see in this photo, I used solvent (mineral spirits) to dissolve the colored pencil on the water and the red boat. Doing this always makes a colored pencil drawing more painterly. Then I started to work on the 3 boats leaving the foremost boat to be worked last. I usually recommend that the artist works from top down, and finishes one section at a time in order to eliminate the problems caused by pencil debris. (Prismacolor pencils are bad about this because of their softness.) I use a brush to brush away the residue often.
I don’t like the boat on the upper left, so I’ll probably work some on this later. I started on the lower left boat to suggest the dirt and rust on the hull, and did a little on the green boat. This stage took me about 2 1/2 hours. Next time you see a post, I will have completed the three boats, leaving the foreground and beach area for later.
I taught a short workshop at Art on the Green in Conway last week to two very good artists on drawing with colored pencil. They didn’t finish their first drawing, since it takes lots of time to do colored pencil work. Above is the 9 x 12″ drawing I started as a demo (I didn’t get very far either). So I thought I would work on this as home and blog the progression.
This is an image of beached boats that I took in Spain several years ago. I left out one of the boats and corrected the left side of the photo to show the entire boat on the left. As you can tell, the beach area has only one layer of colored pencil at the moment. There was a lot of straw or thin strips of wood in the sand, so I used a sharp instrument to scratch in that suggestion before I started. I also scratched in my signature so that it would show up when completed.
The top part of the drawing is the sea with the red boat moored in it. There are probably four layers of colored pencil in this section already, but it is not complete as yet. I haven’t figured out as yet how to show the bits of surf. I will work on this, and write another blog sometime soon. Keep drawing!
Well, I’m going to teach an art class again — thought I was finished with that, but guess it’s in my “blood.” Beginning September 15 (Thursday) from 1:30 – 3:30, I will be teaching a class on how to compose a work of art at the Maumelle Senior Wellness Center in Maumelle. This is a seven week class, and will include examples, critiques, information, exercises, and perhaps occasional homework. Students will use their own materials, as well as materials provided by the instructor. I’ve had many years of experience teaching this subject, both in high school art classes, children’s classes, and adult classes. A lot of the lessons will be based on the blogs I’ve shared on this site. Cost is $45, and there is a maximum of eight students so call MSWC as soon as possible, if you want to register (501- 851-4344). I’m looking forward to seeing you and sharing my understanding of composition and design principles.
I Always Come Back to Landscapes in Pastel
I don’t know how many times I’ve tried to do non-objective paintings, and they always turn out to be landscapes! I don’t know how many times I’ve tried to paint with acrylic or watercolor, and I always go back to using soft pastels! I guess I should just be myself, and stop trying to do what everyone else is doing.
My favorite subject is the landscape — could be Arkansas’s rivers, mountains, lakes, farm lands and fields, houses, bridges, roads, rocks, forests, majestic trees or their roots; it makes no difference. It’s what I love. At one time, I did a lot of plein air painting, but I haven’t done that in a while. Instead, I take my camera with me as I walk the paths of my home town or travel from town to town; take vacation trips to places like Charleston, Martha’s Vinyard, or Portland, Maine. I must have a zillion photos of landscapes that I want to experience in pastel.
Yes, soft pastel! It’s always been the easiest medium for me. I like to hold the stick broadside in my hands and be able to swipe across the sanded paper, or use the point of the stick to make drawing lines on top. The colors are there for me to use – I don’t have to mix them to get the right color. They are intense, dull, gray, brilliant, sizzling, and/or calming. I can layer on top of a watercolor or ink underpainting, or I can start with a hard pastel underpainting and dissolve it with water or turpenoid. I can use local color, complementary colors, or really intense colors for the underpainting and then layer other pastels on top. Sometimes, the painting just paints itself! What fun!
Here are a few photos of my latest pastel landscapes. I tried to show the mood of late afternoon/twilight landscapes — the time of day when everything is shutting down and the hectic, busy times are over. Time to go home and rest. I call this style “Romantic Realism” because of the emotional content. These paintings are part of an exhibit named “Where the Sky Kisses the Earth” that will be at the Searcy Art Gallery August 5-September 21. The opening reception is August 6, Saturday from 1-3 pm. I will be there; I hope to see you there as well!
I spent two weeks painting these six “word portraits” to take with me to the Delta Arts Festival in Newport last week, and not a one sold! Guess I thought others would like the words of scripture displayed in their house. I was inspired by my priest’s chasuble he wears Sundays in ordinary time. It says “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY” across the front. At any rate, here are the images — the acrylic paintings are 11 x 14″ and I’ll sell any of them for $25. The embellishments are symbolic – at least to me! Might make nice gifts — who knows! Comment if you like them, please
Knowing about how to use linear perspective doesn’t mean that you have to be a slave to it. Using the principles of perspective in drawings and paintings that include buildings, posts, roads, etc. can become an internal knowledge that makes your artwork more realistic. However, some artists like to distort reality and in doing so, distort perspective as well. De Chirico is a prime example of this. Some contemporary artists do this as well: (from Artist Magazine, June 2010).
But here’s another way to use perspective creatively — an imaginary residence high up in the sky! This drawing uses 4 vanishing points — all related. The vanishing points are on vertical and horizontal lines. Try this in your sketchbook to work out your “dream house”!