This is my third painting of the Carbit Paint water tower. It stands out to me because it’s located in an upscale retail and condo area that has quickly bloomed in the last ten years. It has been right there since 1955, sitting on a lower building than most other water towers. You can practically stand right under it from the sidewalk (I’ve painted this dramatic view), but you also get good views from the surrounding parking garages (I’ve parked here for minimally dramatic shopping).
The immediate area has low- to medium-height buildings, and if you get in just the right spot, you can also see the skyscapers of downtown Chicago behind it. For this painting, I wanted all layers of architecture so that I could paint with many different values to achieve the right atmospheric perspective. Dark, warmer buildings up front gradually disintegrating into blue haziness toward the horizon.
The reference photo I took was from a late-afternoon winter day, so I got that pretty, clear sky fade from cerulean blue to pale yellow because the sun is low in the sky. A bright but still subdued color palette on top of the darkness of the buildings. And I added one of my favorite elements of a cityscape: thick puffs of white smoke rolling off a roof.
When I finished this one, I had a lot of paint left on my palette, so I did a teeny tiny painting of a different but very similar city view. The water tower seen here isn’t the Carbit Paint tower, but it is across the street. This view is from the parking lot of a movie theater (we saw Ferdinand. Apparently a Peyton Manning vehicle!).
wThere’s a lot going on in December, in and outside of my house. My painting takes a back seat to Christmas preparations, but after a two-week-long blitz I decided to take a break and try some small Christmas-related paintings. I’d stay in the mood, but stay out of Target.
First, my studio had become the wrapping room (if only I had a permanent one!). I wrapped up one more gift before putting away all the sparkles, then I reassembled my still-life box and filled it with handfuls of Christmas decorations: my favorite bulbs (C9 opaque colored—the best. Period.), a Tom & Jerry cup, bottle-brush trees, candy canes, and a poinsettia. I listened to Christmas music (and Kanye West and some art-history podcasts), and got to it on small canvases and panels. I planned to use some itty bitty 2.5 x 3.5 canvases, but I learned my brushes are too big for that size.
The difficult thing about painting holiday decorations is keeping the colors pure and bright. You can’t have any mud on your palette or else your decorations look dull, and then your mood is all, “the holidays are a difficult time . . .” Whereas I was shooting for, “Fa la la la la la la la la!”
After Christmas, I’m hoping to paint some snow scenes. But if the skies don’t deliver there are plenty of wintry things to place in the still-life box and continue my tidings of comfort and joy. I’ve created a new gallery page to show these works, and right now I’m calling it “Holiday Punch.” Don't mind if I do--cheers!
I love art exhibitions. No surprise there. I love them for the feat of compartmentalized organization they present. Slight surprise? I like to see how a curator chooses a theme for a lot of stuff. I like to see how she groups the stuff, names the groups, displays the stuff, and which stories she chooses to tell about the stuff. Plus all of the little bits and pieces that make it pretty, such as lighting, wall color, music, and fonts. Don’t get me started on ephemera—brochures are like tiny satellite exhibitions that fit in my purse.
Do I like exhibitions because I used to work in museums? Maybe. But a lot of my love is because exhibitions are an embodiment of my hyper-organizational executive-functioning skills. It’s the same reason I love a tidy kitchen pantry, bulletin boards, and production schedules, and the same reason I did this to my son’s Halloween candy:
I feel good and understand information better when there is order and balance, plus it’s pretty, and pretty feels good too.
I decided that organizing my own artwork with exhibition guidelines and checklist would help me thoughtfully plan the scope of my work. It’s easy for an artist to become scattered. Inspiration can strike whenever and tear you away from your current project. So can the laundry down the hall if you work out of your home. If you paint numerous subjects, they may show better as a story instead of divided into the customary categories of landscape, still life, and figure.
Plus, I’m a DIY studio, like so many artists are these days, and scope also includes marketing, presentation, sales, and deadlines: everything that makes an exhibition.
“Where,” you may be asking yourself, “will you exhibit your exhibition, Amanda?” Online, y’all. And you can watch it take shape. I’ve begun already with a group of related pictures from beach vacations.
Other questions you/I may be asking:
Do I plan to show these paintings in person, too? Sure!
Are paintings for sale during the exhibition planning? Sure!
Do I have the whole thing planned out first? No!
What’s my end game? Have a holistic approach to my art-making to give me the stability I need to nurture a long career.
I spent a few days last week planning a new painting so that on Monday I could start using paint. I had it all worked out for a 24-inch-square canvas. On Monday morning, I was excited to get into the studio after running school carpool. I reviewed my sketches, stared at everything one more time, aaaaand decided the canvas size was wrong for the composition. It was important for me to start painting early in the week because spouse was soon going to leave for five days and then I’d be on 100% mothering duty. I called an audible and started looking for a new scene for my primed canvas.
Last month I spent a full week organizing all the documents and photographs on my laptop. The goal was to edit and organize all the art reference photos I’ve taken over many years. Did it. That may be the first time I’ve started and completed a task before I needed to do it. I found a new reference photo quickly. This explains how surprised and happy I was to go through my new, very granular, filing system.
Bright New Day
I usually paint with the same two or three brushes, all of them filbert shaped in different small-medium sizes. Filbert is kind of a combination of flat and round brushes. I had recently organized my brushes, too, and I decided to bring in some other teammates for my audible play. With big areas of sky and sand to paint, I used a couple of large brights. These brushes are flat in shape but with shorter, stiffer bristles than a regular flat brush. They were great for creating the chiseled volume of the clouds, and their size allowed me to cover canvas quickly.
I liked painting this so much that I really had to tell myself to put down the brush and walk away. While I am at a good stopping point for the days ahead in job shift, it’s tough to hit the brakes when you’re gassed up and ready to go.
One of the happy consequences of my artwork from the 30 Paintings in 30 Days challenge is 30 small pictures to consider as studies for larger work. I like to start with the worst ones.
There was obviously something about the subject that inspired me, and while I didn’t nail it the first time, I want to keep trying until I get it right or until it’s not inspiring anymore. Last weekend I gave myself a challenge: To repaint the least popular (per Instagram likes) painting from the bunch of 30—No. 3. It started as a snapshot taken by my mom. The photo is great on its own—which normally I’d steer clear of—but mom was like, “Paint it!”
It’s one of those images that looks a bit abstract because of its simplicity: few lines, few colors. But just like the most difficult time to drive is at dusk, the difficult time of day to paint is also dusk because it flattens everything. There’s little contrast between light and dark; everything is soaked in a mono-tonal blue-gray light. For drivers, this means you can't see very well. For painters, this means you can't get interest and depth from easy sources of light and shadow. A strong light source is a lay-up for painters. Without it, you've got to really know how to play ball.
I like the first painting, a watercolor. It has the simplicity of design I was aiming for, but maybe I could give it a little more character. Here’s what I did (pictured below).
Later is what?
After settling into various desk jobs, I always said I'd get back to painting later in life, and later is now. Again means that I tried once before. I decided to write about my painting endeavor, too, as a learning tool, an accountability tool, and to stay sharp in case I have to go back to a desk job. Again.
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