Monday, October 31, 2016

Pear #26 - 29: Lots More Experimenting

"A deadline is negative inspiration. Still, it's better than no inspiration at all."
                                                                                            ~ Rita May Brown

Pear #26

As I type, there's a severe thunderstorm giving a final lashing to our area before it moves on. I fully expected the power to go out tonight, leaving me to paint Pear #30 by candlelight. Thankfully that didn't happen and my last painting for the month is finished and waiting for daylight so I can photograph it and post my final 30 Pears in 30 Days on Tuesday. It's no beauty, but it's DONE.

I apologize for the less-than-perfect photos of Pear 26 - 29. It's been gloomy out for a few days now, so I've been completely dependent on indoor lighting for photos. Even with color-corrected bulbs to augment the regular room lighting, my camera has not been happy.

Pear #27

This one, however, is not the camera's fault. I don't even know what to say. What happened???

Pear #28

Experimenting with temperature shifts across the folds of the cloth. This is one of those pieces that I absolutely love parts of and can't stand other parts.

Pear #29

I had a lot of fun with this one. I added naphthol red to my palette, which mixed with cadmium yellow light to make the delicious orange in the foreground. If you look carefully, I've got the full spectrum (good ol' Roy G Biv) represented here.

Happy Halloween everyone! 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Pear #21 - 25: More Exercises and a Whole Different Palette

G Sivitz, oil painting, pears, earth tones, art
Pear #25
6 x 6 inches, oil on canvas board

I have to admit to feeling a little pressure right now. The end of October is fast approaching and I lost a few days for painting this month when Life happened, so I'm running slightly behind. Although I profess to believe in the importance of sharing both good and bad efforts to show that artists don't create perfect paintings every time, I am sweating the quality of some of these pieces. That's why Pear 21 through 24 are not displayed at the top of this post...

However, I suspect that Pear 21 through 24 directly led to Pear 25, and not just numerically. I tried another exercise from Sarah Sedwick; this one on brushstroke economy. I painted my pear model 4 times, for 10 minutes each time. However, I was only allowed 25 brushstrokes in the first painting, then 20, 15, and finally just 10 brushstrokes in the last painting. (A brushstroke is from the time you touch the canvas with the brush to the time you take the brush off, so you can swirl the paint around a lot, as long as you don't lift the brush off the canvas.) Finishing the background was not a requirement. The point is to really think and observe, and consider each brushstroke very carefully. What do you really need to create the impression of your subject?

Pear # 21 - 24
Limited brushstroke exercise

Oh dear, I didn't do very well with this one. I often used up my brushstrokes long before the timer went off, which meant I was rushing and not concentrating on my subject. I came out of the exercise not only with some very ugly pears, but also knowing I hadn't gotten the point of it. I was feeling very frustrated with myself. I knew I needed to keep going and paint another painting, but my brain was refusing to cooperate. I looked down at my palette and felt an overwhelming sense of frustration and boredom, and I was very reluctant to pick up my paintbrushes.

As I was hesitating, I had a mini-temper tantrum inside my head. I berated myself for ever committing to this Pear Project, telling myself I was going to fail and embarrass myself, and that I was never going to be able to paint another decent painting ever again. Luckily another, louder part of me stepped in and decided that if I was going to fail, then I should just have some f*****g fun. I was sick of the palette I'd been using all month, sick of trying to get the values and shapes right: I just wanted to paint. So I cleared off my palette and grabbed the colors that appealed to me at that moment: yellow ochre, Indian red, Venetian red, burnt umber and raw umber (I couldn't find my siennas, otherwise I would've included them, too.). I made a very sketchy drawing of the pears on the canvas and then just started adding paint all around them. It was all very spontaneous, and when I was done it surprised the heck out of me that I discovered I actually liked the piece.

This was exactly why I took on this project in the first place - to see what would happen when I pushed myself, when I got bored, to find out if there was some way to tap into the more expressive side of my creativity. I just hope that I don't have to go through such angst every time I want to paint like that!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Pear #19 & 20 - Color Scheme Shifts

G Sivitz, oil painting, pears
Pear #19 - Experimenting with reflections

I seem to be unconsciously shifting towards more earth tones and darker colors. Perhaps it's all the brown leaves drifting down past my window, or perhaps it's that Halloween is in the air...

G Sivitz, oil painting, pears
Pear #20 - using up what was on my palette

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Pear #15 - 18

"I must continue to follow the path I take now. If I do nothing, if I study nothing,
if I cease searching, then, woe is me, I am lost. That is how I look at it -
keep going, keep going come what may.
                                                                                                ~ Vincent Van Gogh

G Sivitz, pear, pear painting, oil painting, still life
Pear #15
6 x 6 inches, oil on canvas board

I have long admired other artist's rendering of cloth, especially if the fabric has a pattern on it. Oh, those tantalizing polka dots, plaids, or stripes! My hope during this month was to experiment enough with painting fabric that I would achieve a decent ability to reproduce it. When I completed this painting, I did a little happy dance in front of my easel.

oil painting palette
My palette
Mmmm, love all those luscious greens

I should note that I added cadmium yellow light alongside my usual azo yellow in my primary color line-up this time.

I also did a couple of demos for my beginning oil painting students: 

Pears #16 and 17 - each done in 10 minutes.

One was Carol Marine's classic 10 Minute Apple exercise - only obviously I did it with pears.

Pear #18 - study in blue and orange

The other demo was to paint using only complimentary colors - this time blue and orange. This was also a good example of "do what I say, not what I do" as I overworked this one!

I can't believe it's October 26th already! This 30 Pears project has been great, but I'm going to have to start cramming my posts with paintings if I'm going to show you all 30 pieces by the end of the month!

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Rejects

 "To try and fail is at least to learn; to fail to try is to suffer the inestimable loss of what might have been."
                                                                                                   ~ Chester Barnard

The duds. Let's call them Pear #12, 13 and 14

The problem with painting is that it doesn't always go well. Many paintings, for whatever reason, miss the mark and end up in an artist's reject pile. Even the great Masters painted over unwanted pieces, which modern science is now allowing us to see. (If those artists knew we were exposing their abandoned works, I wonder how they'd feel...) This should give us artists some comfort, but I will admit it is small comfort to me. As many times as I tell my students "Every painting is just practice for the next.", my failed paintings eat away at me. I was not even going to show you the "bad" paintings from my 30 Pears in 30 Days project, but if I didn't then I'd just be perpetuating the belief that a "real" artist has talent that magically makes every painting perfect, which I firmly believe is a myth that needs to be dispelled. So many people give up on making art because their work is not perfect.

My mother subscribed to this belief, which is why she did not support me as a developing artist. I stopped showing her my work after a while. Many years later she happened to see some of my work through a family friend and was shocked at how far I'd come. Yet this still didn't dispel her belief in the myth. A few years later she decided she wanted to learn how to draw, so she enrolled in an evening class for beginning drawers. She quit after two classes because, in her words, the instructor hadn't taught her how to draw.

There is no magic formula to making art - just hard work and study. Art, just like any other skill, takes practice. Lots of it. Years and years of it. And even when you've reached a certain level of mastery, there will still be bad paintings, bad days when you wonder why you're even bothering, months when you wonder if you'll ever be "good enough". Too much self-doubt can lead to giving up, but in moderation, that doubt is a good thing. Perhaps without that doubt, we wouldn't push ourselves to keep getting better. If we thought our work was already perfect, we might not be motivated to keep improving. As the Robert Hughes quote goes: "The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize."

Friday, October 21, 2016

Pear #11 - Double The Fun

"Today is a good day. Today she feels she is the master of her craft. Today she is
free of the grinding tyranny of doubt. The voice that mocks her ambition. The voice
that bites and slanders and causes her more heartache that any other voice. Today
she is focused, she is exultant... If only painting were like this every day."
                                                    ~ Glenn Haybittle from The Way Back to Florence

G Sivitz, oil painting, pair of pears, pears
Pear #11
oil, 6 x 6 inches on canvas board

This is the kind of painting that makes you want to keep painting, the kind that makes all the frustration and self-doubt and stacks of failed pieces worth it. The kind that makes you blink and say "I managed to paint that!?" And yet, when you've stopped congratulating yourself, all that elation quickly dissolves into the realization of how much further you still have to go. Paintings like this are just mile markers on the long, long road.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Art and Stress

stressed out, morguefile

Our internet service was down for 4 days less than a week before my 30 Pears in 30 Days project was due to start. I had a long list of things I needed to take care of for my website, Etsy store, the new blog, etc. I was feeling a little stressed and overwhelmed, to say the least.

Life is stressful enough as it is, but being self-employed or an entrepreneur in a creative field has its own special set of stressors. We need to be focused and energized to accomplish all we have to do, as well as relaxed enough to allow creativity and new ideas to flow, and unmanaged stress can zap our ability to do any of that. Top that with the surprising number of artists who are full-time caregivers, or live with chronic pain, or any other added long-term stressor, and it’s amazing anyone can finish a piece of art.

cat, relaxing, sleeping cat,
If only we could relax like this!
Spending time with animals is a good stress reliever.

Dr. Eric Maisel is an author and creativity coach who writes a column for Professional Artist Magazine. In a blog post last year, he discussed stress and the artist:

            “An artist needs to honor the reality of stress and make plans
              for dealing with it...

            Take some time, have a fruitful conversation with yourself and
             answer the following four questions:
            1. What are my current stressors?
            2. What unhealthy strategies am I currently employing to deal
                with these stressors?
            3. What healthy strategies am I currently employing to deal with
                these stressors?
            4. What new stress management strategies would I like to learn?”

We’ve all heard the “eat right, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly” recipe for stress-busting, but honestly, when I’m stressed out, that doesn’t help much. Through trial and error, I’ve had to figure out what works for me. I hope you find something here that’s helpful to you.

chocolate, photo, morguefile

Chocolate has always been my go-to quick relief for stress, and there's scientific proof to back me up. Eating dark chocolate (in moderation!) actually helps reduce stress hormones in the body. Hurrah!

I’ve had an on-again, off-again meditation practice for 5 years now. When I meditate regularly, I feel much more clear-headed and better able to deal with Life’s little surprises. However, there are times when my mind is just too active or distracted by something to be able to meditate on my own, so I also use guided meditations, or guided visualizations to help me relax. I just pop on the headphones and let someone talk me into relaxation.

One of my favorite guided meditation/relaxation collections is from Joanne D'Amico and her "Relax for A While" channel on YouTube. She has the most amazingly soothing voice, and many of her guided meditations are short enough to use as a quick break during a busy day. Some of her videos include relaxing sounds such as rain or a babbling mountain stream. (My apologies - try as I might with YouTube's Share/Embed settings, I could not get the YouTube related videos at the end of this video to go away. According to the HTML, they shouldn't be there, but they are. At least I managed to eliminate the ads at the beginning!)

Okay, so maybe this sounds a little crazy, but I find doing the dishes relaxing. I kind of get into a zone in my head and the sound of water probably helps. Weeding the garden helps me de-stress as well. It's so satisfying to pull out stubborn weeds!

Many people find putting on upbeat music helps to clear their head and get them in a better mood. You can burn off the stress (and maybe some of that chocolate) by dancing to the music or playing air guitar. Even just a few minutes can make you feel better.

waterfall, forest, Glacier National Park, photo
Nature is a natural stress relief

Getting outside in the fresh air, whether to a local park, your own backyard, or out in the wilderness is a wonderful stress reliever. Throw a ball around, play with your dog, go hiking. If you've been holed up in your studio for too long, maybe it's time to see what that bright thing in the sky is.

We've now come full circle: just the act of creating art has been scientifically shown to decrease stress in the body, regardless of whether you're "talented" or not. So perhaps when we are feeling stressed, we just need to drop everything and make more art.

Please leave a comment and share what you do to combat stress.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Pear #10 - More Color Experimenting

"Colouring does not depend on where the colours are put, but on where
the lights and darks are put..."
                                                                                        ~ William Blake

G Sivitz, pear, oil painting, yellow and purple
Pears in yellow and purple
6 x 6 inches - oil on canvas board

As I said at the beginning of this month-long project, my intention for painting 30 pear paintings was to allow me to explore some key artistic concepts without always having to come up with new subject matter. For this painting, I wanted to work on breaking my dependency on the color white. When we lighten colors simply by adding white, we dull the color and often the painting comes out looking chalky and not as vibrant as we might like. For this painting, I used only yellow and purple; purple replaced black and yellow replaced white on my palette. I found it interesting that my color mixes ended up being much more green than I had expected; my purple mix must have leaned more towards blue.

oil paint, colors, palette
My palette with my usual colors at the top, and
the yellow and purple palette in a 8 step value scale below.

Artist Sarah Sedwick has a YouTube demo that she filmed for her online mentorship students, showing her working with a purple/yellow complimentary chromatic scale. In her demo, she's working with a still life set-up that is entirely white. I have yet to find a white pear, so I tried the exercise with a white & green tea towel on a white tabletop with my yellow-green pears. My yellow/purple combination certainly didn't make the most attractive shades of color, but I enjoyed the exercise and, as a bonus, gained more practice rendering cloth.

G Sivitz, oil painting, grayscale, pears
Painting converted to grayscale.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Pear #9 - Changing Up The Color

"He had that curious love of green, which in individuals is always the sign
of a subtle artistic temperament, and in nations is said to denote a laxity,
if not a decadence of morals."
                                                                                           ~ Oscar Wilde

G Sivitz, oil painting, pear,
Pear #9
6 x 6 inches, oil on canvas board

I love the intense reds and oranges I've been using lately, but with a wall full of these color schemes, I felt it was time to change up the colors.

I also set a timer so I wouldn't overwork this piece. I ended up finishing before the timer went off, which was very surprising. It made me wonder if my timer was broken, but when I took a peek it turned out I had ten minutes left! I'm really quite please with this one.

But nothing's ever that easy. A few hours later I accidentally bumped into my easel and this poor painting fell off, smearing some sections including the left side of the pear and the right side of the plate! Luckily I hadn't cleaned my palette yet, so I had leftover paint to patch this piece's injuries. How nerve-wracking to fix a painting you originally liked, holding your breath and hoping you can restore it instead of ruining it beyond repair. Somehow I managed. You can see the blotchy shine along the upper edge of the canvas where I tried my best to fix some other smears. Once I varnish this piece those areas will disappear, but I'll always remember what happened. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Taking a Pear Project Break to Ireland

Ireland, Rock of Cashel, photo
Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary, Ireland

All pears and no play make a boring blog, so I thought I'd post about something different today.

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to visit Ireland for a week when my husband went there on business. We stayed in Dublin, where I visited the National Gallery of Ireland and the archeological branch of the National Museum of Ireland, but I mostly took day trips into the countryside while my husband was stuck at work.

There are many small seaside towns on Dublin Bay just a quick train ride from the center of Dublin, and I happily whiled away my time exploring the flora, fauna, and food of these areas (fish & chips, seafood chowder with brown bread. Mmmm!)

gannets, Ireland, Howth, Ireland's Eye
Boating past cliffs of gannets (the white dots).

On the northern edge of Dublin Bay is the fishing village of Howth, with its bustling harbor and large selection of seafood restaurants. I took a boat tour out and around Ireland's Eye, an island teeming with seabirds. I was thrilled that there were gannets everywhere - preening on the cliffs, flying overhead, diving into the water - a lifer for me (for the non-birders out there, a "lifer" is what you call a bird species the first time you see it in the wild and then you add it to your life list.) An added treat was the occasional seal popping its head up from the water to watch the boat as we chugged along. One large seal swam alongside us for a little ways, seeming to escort us back to the harbor.

Ireland, seals, Dublin Bay, photo
The seals don't mind the wet weather.

Dalkey Island, Colliemore Harbour, Dublin Bay, Ireland, photo
Colliemore Harbour with Dalkey Island in the distance.

Another day I took a train south of Dublin to the town of Dalkey, and then walked to picturesque Colliemore Harbour just south of town. The wind was blowing and raindrops were beginning to fall, but I had a good rain jacket so I forged ahead. Dalkey Island sits less than a half mile across from the harbor and, according to the interpretive signs at the harbor overlook, is home to wild rabbits, goats and the ruins of a church that dates back to the 10th century. This ruin on the exposed rocky island captured my attention, and despite the light rain and the wind threatening to send my sketchbook into the water, I had to sketch it.

Dalkey Island, sketch, Dublin Bay, St. Begnet, Ireland, watercolor, pen & ink, Sivitz
Pen & ink sketch with watercolor and raindrops.

Dolphins and whales are not unusual around Dublin Bay, but although I scanned the waters every chance I got, unfortunately I didn't see a single one. However, everything else I saw and did in Ireland more than made up for it.

Now back to our regularly scheduled pear program...

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Pear #6, 7 & 8 - Getting Back on the Horse

"There is no such thing as a failed painting, there is only practice for a
successful one..."
                                                                                       ~ Brenda Behr

G Sivitz, oil painting, pear, black and white
Pear #6 C - Pear on a Pedestal
7 x 5 inches, oil on canvas paper

After Pear #5, I got all excited about the idea of a series of paintings where I would keep the color scheme and main elements from that painting the same and just change around the composition. Uh, that didn't work out too well... it was as if I'd forgotten how to paint!

I had to scrap #6 A and B which put me behind schedule, so I decided to go back to the basics again and try a black and white painting. I still overworked the pear, but at least in #6 C it looked like a pear!

G Sivitz, oil painting, pear
Pear #7
7 x 5 inches, oil on canvas board

Someone was giving away the last of the pears from their fruit tree so I took one and didn't realize until I got back in the studio that it was a very boring pear. Too smooth, too thin. I adjusted the lighting multiple times, but couldn't get the shadows to play across the pear the way I wanted. I ended up overworking the painting and bleaching out the pear. (Not to blame my model for the shortcomings in Pear #7; I was the one holding the paintbrush, after all.) I don't mean to be completely negative about this effort. There are still a few successful elements in the piece that did manage to survive all my overworking.

G Sivitz, oil painting, pear
Pear #8
7 x 5 inches, oil on canvas board
Overworked, but much better than previous.

Overall, I think Pear #8 was the most successful of these three paintings. I picked up a lovely curvaceous pear at the grocery store to replace my previous model (who found a nice home in the compost pile), with dimples and bumps to make the shadows happy. However, I'm still finding it difficult to put the brush down before I overwork a piece. I think I'm going to set a timer for the next painting.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Pear #5

G Sivitz, oil painting, pear
Pear #5
6 x 6 inches, oil on canvas board

This is my favorite pear painting so far. Everything just kind of came together. I love the bold colors, the way the pear is rendered, the composition. But of course this makes the next painting more difficult. The pressure's on to see if I can top this one, or at least equal it. Why do we do this to ourselves?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Pear 4

G Sivitz, pear, oil painting,
Pear 4
6 x 6 inches, oil on canvas panel

I decided to go a little more bold and a little more complex this round. I will admit to being petrified as I painted the pattern on the blue china pot. It seems silly to have been so nervous about it since I planned to keep the pattern fairly abstract, but I had to keep reminding myself to breath.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Pear 2 & 3

oil painting, pear, Gabrielle Sivitz
Pear #2
6x6 inches, oil on canvas paper

Time is flying - only 27 more pear paintings to go in the 30 Pears in 30 Days project! 

I'm not sure why I decided to include a plate in this one, since ellipses are tricky to get right. Nothing like an added bit of pressure, second painting in. Luckily it didn't turn out half bad.

oil painting, pear, Gabrielle Sivitz
Pear #3
6x6 inches, oil on canvas paper 

I used a limited palette of blue-violet and yellow-orange for Pear #3. Mixing the two together in equal parts gives a nice neutral which I used for the pear stem and the surface the pear sits on, adding a touch more yellow-orange for the warm well-lit part and adding a little more blue-violet for the shadow part. The pear itself is a mix of the two colors, but with enough extra blue-violet to appear greenish, and then enough yellow-orange to appear yellowish in the highlighted areas. The specific colors really don't matter that much, though. As long as the values of the colors are correct, the pear will appear 3 dimensional and pear-like no matter what colors I choose. I could've painted this whole scene in lavender and it would still read "pear". Hmm, that gives me an idea..

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Pear #1 - The Diva

oil painting, pear, black & white, GSivitz
Pear #1 - The Diva 
6 x 6 inches, oil on canvas paper

It’s October 1st, and that means the beginning of the 30 Pears in 30 Days project! And here it is, the first of 30 pear paintings. A value study in black & white. The whole time I was painting this, I was thinking about the pear being a diva in the spotlight. I wonder what she was singing. 

I love the stem on this pear. So long and expressive - almost like a cat’s tail. While I was doing warm-up sketches this past week in preparation for starting the daily pear paintings project, I realized I can’t get too attached to any one pear because they don’t hold up forever, especially under my studio lights. I have to remind myself there will be other divas.