Friday, December 16, 2016

Painting I College Class Redux

My Painting I college class ended this week. I am sharing my paraphrased highlights, not listing every single thing off the syllabus, so I may forget to mention something.

In my opinion the most was gotten from this class after having already learned some basic art principals. The college let in some students who had not yet taken Drawing I (or II) and either never took design or other foundation classes or had forgotten content from them. Those students struggled with basic things such as making a pleasing composition, seeing and painting value, and perspective.

We painted in acrylic using retarder to slow the drying time, also using a gel medium in order to achieve different tints and opacities, and also to do glazing with. The college did not have the required by the government air ventilation systems to allow us to work with oil paint.

Lessons and Activities and Assignments

Safety in the studio, health issues and best practices to follow

How to work with acrylic paint

How to blend color, painted a color wheel

Different brush types lesson, which brush for what? Used brushes to make many different marks (brushes can do many things)

How to mix color from the tube to create custom color. Made a giant color chart blending two colors. Later these were critiqued.

What is tint, how does opacity affect the color? Made a chart showing the effect of adding white or black in various amounts to one color, also using gel medium with the one color to show differing levels of opacity. Later these were critiqued.

Review of value, shadows, cast shadow etc. Review of basic shapes, cylinder, sphere, cone, square. Painted these.

Lesson demo on 8 different types of painting, ex. Dry Brush, wet on wet, impasto. Painted a sphere in  each including shadows and value due to light source, based on a still life setup in class. Later these were critiqued.

Went outside in sun and painted 6-8 rectangle boxes from different angles with different light source hitting and different shadow castings. Later painted in the surface and different values for each surface of the box as well as the shadows. Later was critiqued.

Review of perspective, drawing perspective.

Painted a chair still life, 18x24 using a monochromatic color scheme. With critique.

Critique, how to do one.

How to build your own canvas starting with wood from the hardware store, use of chop saw, power drill, then stretched our own canvas using staple gun. Gessoed and sanded the 30x40" canvas to prep it.

En plain air landscape demo and painting for 4 classes, total 12 hours. Clouds, Tree, Water, Grass. Did studies, close up, 10 feet, 25 feet, 100 feet.

In class and homework: painted landscape 30x40'. Could use any style but must use grass, water, tree, clouds. Had critique.

Attended two info sessions from admissions staff at undergrad art colleges who accept transfer students. (This class was at a community college.)

Attended an hour long lecture plus two art show openings with artist talks. Opening reception, meet the artist and networking.

Required to enter the student juried art show. Learned to follow procedures in rules for art show submissions. Encouraged to attend the opening (held in the evening apart from class time).

Required to do an artist studio visit and interview an artist and write a paper.

Required to do a museum visit with an observation activity and write a paper.

Learned how to Photograph our art, do digital documentation, use Photoshop to edit the photo, convert to PDF.

I am glad I took this class. The homework load varied but at peak points I was doing 20 hours of homework a week in addition to 3 hour long  classes twice a week. I took this along without other studio art class that took 10-14 in classroom/lab hours. It was a heavy load for me to carry since I did all the work and on time. I have a busy life as a mother, wife, volunteer, household manager, and small business owner. I neglected my business basically! I was also exercising at least once daily at the gym and attempting to keep cooking from scratch.

This semester also included for me, a problem with the pool that needed a total pool and patio renovation, a new drainage yard problem that needed an entire redo, a broken kitchen faucet that needed replacing, and a broken dishwasher that needed replacing (twice due to a defect in the first one). So I was a project manager or contractor of household renovations too.


A side note is I took two workshops on weekends, encaustic painting and resin painting. These were 3 hour workshops for $100, all materials included. The difference between the two is night and day. The $250 plus materials college class focused on foundations since it was Painting I. The projects were challenging and you got out of it what you put in. The college class was also encouraging attending art school attendance or getting a MFA. The workshops were light and fun, others that artist does include optional wine drinking. The workshops lacked the basics, so you could throw paint and media down without thought to composition, color theory, etc.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Art Book Collection

My local public library has a used book store run by the Friends. I have been pleased to find that there is a steady stream of like new, high quality art history books making its way to the shelves. Although the fiction is 50 cents or $1 they really mark up the art books. A book on how to do watercolor is usually $3, $3 is the highest category of standard pricing. Some of the better books are individually priced. I paid $8 for a like new ceramics book which is my college class' textbook that lists for $65. Still a bargain but those prices know the artists and art history lovers are willing to pay more than $1 for a great coffee table sized book or a tome on Degas.

AnyhowI have been stocking up as you can imagine. Being a book hoarder since I stopped homeschooling, I am no longer hunting for books for my kids to learn with. Instead I am looking for what I want to read and now that is mostly painting how to and art history books for inspiration. I already had formerly owned two bookcases full of art books but now that I have been stopping into the used shop at least once a week my collection is growing.

How can I resist the like new books published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Whitney and MOMA? I cannot. Sorry, not sorry. I am trying to limit myself though. One need only own so many books on Monet or Van Gogh. Enough is enough.

However the two bookcases in my art studio / craft room are full. I am pondering options. Those include books on top of the bookcases (one is not really accessible) or moving some into the game room's built in shelves. I did another sweep to get rid of homeschooling books a couple of months ago so there are actually gaps on the shelf. My nineteen year old is asking to have access to some childhood favorites that are stashed in boxes in one of two closets here. I am torn, so torn, on which books to put where and am thinking about getting rid of more homeschooling books. Or rotating out the unused homeschooling books on the shelf for favorite childhood books on the shelf.

This is a project I will be working on with the break between semeseters.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Ceramics I College Class Redux

I signed up for the community college class having not talked to anyone about their own experience.

The thing I learned at class one was there are ceramics labs twice a week. The thing I learned in weeks one and two was that I could not keep up with the cycle of assignments meshing with the wet clay going to leather hard, to the bisque kiln and glaze kiln firings if I only attended class. So basically to keep up I had to attend labs which meant two more trips to the college bringing my in classroom time to 10 hours a week spread over 4 visits.

Then I learned that there was a (nationwide) charity thing called Empty Bowls and there was a clay club which are somewhat intertwined. Empty Bowls met on Fridays for four hours, it was a come if you can thing. So essentially I had the chance to be in the lab for a total of 14 hours a week spread over 5 visits. For. Empty Bowls we use donated clay to throw bowls on the wheel, or hand formed, so we get extra practice. We then decorate them with under glazes and glazes. These are donated to a soup cellar for a fundraiser where ticket buyers purchase a handmade bowl for $25. They fill it with soup and eat it together at the fundraiser then take the bowl home with them. After our work with Empty Bowls is done we were allowed to use the lab for our own pursuits.

I learned that the Clay Club accepts donations of pieces to sell on campus and the proceeds purchase under glazes and glazes as well as some equipment, since the college's budget does not allow for all that we want to have to use. I volunteered to help sell items as well as purchasing some myself.

A major thing I learned was the rotation and cycle for making items and how it works in our climate here and with the college's schedule. The clay only stays wet a certain amount of time, for you to manipulate it. We do things with spritzing with water and wrapping in plastic so we can work on our piece a second time if our class time runs out. This does not always work and sometimes our pieces are ruined. After we are done with the the wet clay we set it on our own shelf to dry to leather hard. Here that takes a few days, so working time in class I s not always when the piece is ready. Then we move it to the green ware shelf indicating it is ready to be bisque fired in the bisque kiln. After that happens (which may take a week or more) we fetch it off the bisque cart and then work on it more to paint or glaze it and set it to the glaze firing shelf where it may take one or two weeks. When it is out of the kiln we fetch it and it is ready to be graded and critiqued. So we have to time it just right in order to get it all done by critique day. Also if we want a best chance at success we should make three projects, not one, according to the head of the ceramics.

My class has finished. My accomplishments are:

I never dropped a piece.

None of my pieces broke in the kiln. I got one small crack only.

Only two pieces had mishaps with firing of the glazes but I had enough come out correctly to get an A grade.

I relearned how to make a pinch pot.

I learned how to make a pinch pot rattle and a pinch pot hollow bird statue.

I learned how to make exposed coil forms and coil projects where the coil was not exposed.

I learned how to make a slab box, platters and bowls.

I learned how to throw pieces on the wheel, regular and also off the hump, making and trimming. I learned how to throw a foot onto a slab made piece.

I made thrown cylinders, bowls, sake cups, tea cups and coffee mugs.

I taught myself sgraffito.

I learned how to use under glazes, glazes, and wash water glazing. I learned how to pour on glaze,dip in, double and triple dip, to paint on with a brush, and splattering.

I learned what raku firing is and made a selection of raku pieces.

I learned how to unload the bisque kiln and to unload the Cone 10 kiln.

I learned how to use the sprayer for glazing, the sander and the grinder.

To learn I was taught by my professor, was taught by the head of ceramics in open lab and during Empty Bowls. I learned by YouTube videos in class and at home, by reading websites and Ceramics Daily online (free), and by reading the textbook. I learned by talking to Ceramincs I & II students in my classes and in lab and at Empty Bowls. Some of these students have been making ceramics for decades, they keep coming back to access low cost ceramics making time. Being an extrovert and being chatty helps me learn a lot. Being open to learning from anyone also helps me grow.

I think Igot a lot out of this class. The financial investment was $250 in tuition, $60 in clays, $150 in other (mostly optional) equipment, and $30 in a fundraiser high quality ceramics apron.

I signed up for Ceramics II for the next semester. I can't wait.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Painting Thought Process vs. Technical Skills

Confession: I thought I wanted to paint for decades but was afraid to dive in. As I write this I have completed my last painting in my for credit college class Painting I and we have a week left in class,we are now focusing on digital documentation of our work to prepare a digital portfolio so I feel a sigh of relief to not have to be creating artworks for 10-20 or more hours a week on projects being graded and evaluated.

In hearing some other students talk about their painting and in reading something by John F. Carlson (landscape artist) I was reminded yet again that not everyone thinks that way I do, although Carlson and I are very much in alignment. Before I say anything else about Carlson's ideas I want to go back to the thought process.

In showing my landscape painting, a 30x40" (assigned size), the professor said a few things that I thought was stating the obvious but then I realized not everyone is in alignment with the thought process behind painting. My painting was based on a photo I took and spent a few minutes on site analyzing for its beauty and doing several shots with different composition just for the enjoyment of it and because I was captivated by the view. I then played with a filter in Instagram back when I took it. This was a site that is 1800 miles away so I did not have access to go there now and take more shots or views for my painting.

Anyhow the point is I had definite reasons to want to photograph that scene, I loved the light, it was the golden hour, the clouds were subtle. The multiple types of wind blown dead grasses and the open seed pods on the wild flowers indicated winter. The wind was blowing hard and it was nine degrees but the bare sycamore stood strong. They gray of Long Island Sound and the light chop on the surface showed the wind blowing. The snow on the beach showed the season. The lack of people showed solitude and peace.  There was a color harmony in the cool grays and blues against the warm yellows and browns of the grasses.

I had explained that for my bare branched tree in the painting I edited out some of the small branches and all the twigs because I did not desire to do a photo realistic scene plus the idea of trying to paint that in my first landscape paintig that would be a nightmare of a huge undertaking. There had been comments on  my thick use of paint which is just how I paint, I said I cannot paint thin. I received praise as the painting looked windy and cold. I use my brush strokes to indicate movement in the sky and in the clouds, to indicate motion and shape. So my clouds swirl or pop forward with dimension, my tree bark is painted in chunks, the grasses are wispy and blowing in the wind. I expressed the challenge I had with trying to show the ripples in the water without being photorealistic or ruining the look so in the end my technique seemed to fail so I kept it simple by not painting in ripples. I also had to redo the entire sky as I used bad order of operations because I had drawn and blocked in the tree before developing the sky fully, to do the sky I had to paint over a good looking tree and restart the whole tree. The professor said my thought process and the constant evaluation and reassessing of the painting's state and then redoing some was exactly the right way to approach painting.

This apparently is not understood by all, which shocked me.

But this is how I live my own life, how I raised my kids regarding my parenting of them, and it was also about how we proceeded through homeschooling. Make a plan, try to execute, assess the situation, tweak it, edit it, start back at the strong part and revisit and redo the weak areas. This is how my mind works and how I live life. So how could I paint any other way?

Perhaps this is part of why I am being called a natural at painting?

I certainly am no expert artist but I do think that taking thoughtful photos for over 30 years and already looking at the world for decades with the eye and mind arranging what I see into good compositions has honed my eye. I also (unlike most Americans) have been carrying a camera with me daily for the last 19 years. Back when the digital camera with zoom lens was delicate I bought a $35 point and shoot and took photos every day (back before mobile phones had decent cameras which essentially put a camera in everyone's pocket and increased casual snapshot taking). I later carried my DSLR in a large purse and used that often. I also took "from the hip" photos with the point and shoot and later read that phrase in marketing materials by Lomography, a plastic film taking camera company who tried getting people to take casual photos whereever they were (again before the time of high quality mobile phone cameras). But after I got an iPhone I begrudgingly put my DSLR away and switched to taking many photos every single day with the iPhone. I snap nearly every single thing that inspires me. I try to catch the light just right. I have taken over 10K photos in 2016 just with my iPhone. Plus I have taken more with my DSLR cameras.


I think it makes sense to paint when you have a reason and an inspiration. And guess what? I have plenty of inspiration in the many photos I have taken over these years. I see things around me every day that make me want to paint. I am surrounded by inspiration, so now the question is when will I give myself time to paint and where to start?