Thursday, September 30, 2010

Spending time with Nora

Back from another workshop.

Nora Kasten asked me to join her at the Stapleton Kearns workshop. So off I was, for a long weekend on beautiful Mount Desert Island, Maine. You may be familiar with it by other names, such us Bar Harbor or Acadia National Park. We stayed in a lovely Inn on the ocean.

It was hard to take...

Seeing Nora again was wonderful. Our time together will remain precious in my memories. Next week I'll be seeing her again in Boothbay, where I intend to go paint. There is also the possibility of meeting up with English artist, Karl Terry.

The first day of the workshop was dotted with sunshine and we set up on coastal rocks at Otter Cliffs.

Stapleton emphasized the importance of design. His grand message to us was, without good design, no amount of rendering will save your painting. I returned home with ashes in my easel and the echoing thought that the finished "picture" we create is what is important. Not recreating everything that is at our location. Plein air painting is about altering and adjusting elements and values to create a picture which holds the character of the place, but not necessarily documents it as is. Though I know this, it often eludes me while out there chasing the light.

We were a wonderful group of serious artists. Ten of us in all. Its always a pleasure to meet and socialize with others who share our passion. Pictured is James Cook taking close observation to the subtle nuinces in values on Stapleton's unfinished painting. He had worked this demo during the course of two days, to show us a further evolved work. Stapleton didn't find it necessary to produce a finished product in a few hours, that I find typical for plein air artists. It was interesting to see a different, slower approach. For him, its all about the finished painting and he confessed to completing them all in his studio. He doesn't categorize himself as a plein air painter for this reason, though he frequently works on location. Patty Meglio covers the workshop story in greater detail, if you're interested in reading more.

Our weather was mostly gray. Fortunately I found the sun peeking in and out on the morning of my return. I took advantage of a photo shoot before leaving. Gardens and grand porches had been catching my eye as I drove by them, daily. The workshop spanned long hours and with morning fog and late afternoon mist, I never had to opportunity to photograph anything en route. I pleasured in taking my time and absorbing the beauty...

Note: Friday evening I attended the Luka Bloom concert where I presented him with the painting. As you predicted, he was very pleased. He hopped up out of his seat after looking at it with amazement, to give me a grand hug. How can you beat that?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Second Lisa

Lisa (2)
Original oil Painting 20x16"
by Susan Roux

I thought I'd finish her off by late morning yesterday, but it took until 5:30 p.m. before I signed her. What is it about portraits? I couldn't seem to stop picking at her...

I was thrilled with my first Lisa. I found her fresh and alive and I was so surprised how much it looked like my sister. It was as though she was in the room smiling at me. Redoing a portrait was Don Hatfield's suggestion. He told me I would learn a lot by doing so. So I decided to try her again. I was curious as to what I could learn by redoing her, but mostly I wondered if I really had the ability to capture her again. If I could, it would tell me I knew what I was doing. If not, then it was just a fluke that the first one came out so good.

This one was challenging. Very challenging. I took a different approach for experimental sake and worked it without the first in view. I wanted to work strictly from the photo and not attempt to copy the original painting. It wasn't until close to finishing that I brought both together. To my grand surprise, I found the second painting to be much better than the first. If I think about form and 3-dimensionality, I see substantial improvement. Painterly? I can't really say that her face is painterly, but certainly the rest of her is. I question in portrait painting if painterly should be a goal. If someone were to commission a portrait would they want it well rendered?

During this experiment, what did I learn?

The first thing I learned is no portrait is easy. At least not when you're a new puppy at it like I am! There came a time when I saw more changes in color on my photo than I had before. I think this is why it was so hard to finish. Even in places were I thought I had painted all the information I could see, I kept finding more. I think part of the lesson is simply learning how to see and interpreting what it is you're seeing. As artists, once we see what it is, how its made up in colors and values, we can paint it. The difficulty is when we cannot break it down to those simple elements. I have to admit, I'm breaking it down more easily these days.

I'm exhibiting in a one-day group show at the hospital in November. Many doctors and their families will attend. I'm thinking of bringing this second Lisa and offer my services for portraits. I don't know if I'm jumping the gun too quickly here, but being able to capture my sister a second time has boosted my confidence. Part of me shivers at the thought of claiming that I can capture others. What if I'm commissioned and I really can't? The other part of me timidly whispers, "You can do this..."

I have to start somewhere, right?

Here's the first Lisa and the second Lisa, side-by-side as promised. What do you think?

Quick note: Thanks to all of you for your wonderful and helpful comments. They're always appreciated. For those of you experiencing painter's block, I received some very helpful information from bloggers. Please make sure and read each other's comments.

Thanks again.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Work in progress 20x16"
by Susan Roux

I don't know why it is, but when things start brewing, I get excited.

I'm not talking about a good cup of tea here or conjuring up a witches brew. I'm talking about ideas. Possibilities. And not bad one's as brewing might imply...

One simple comment left on a blog.

That's how it all started. A stranger's blog. Someone I just recently found and followed. Don't you just love surprises? I do. From this comment came an email. It was a simple inquiry about weather and proper dress for October in Maine. I must say the reply was not as simple as the question. At this time of year, Maine can fluctuate 50 degrees from morning to noon! But don't let that scare you, its beautiful here.

The stranger is Karl Terry. He lives in the UK. Yes, he's coming to Maine. Coming with a large group of artist to paint the coast. I believe the rest of his posse lives in the US. Presently Karl and I are making plans to meet. I hope to travel to their location and set up my easel, to capture the coastline with my new acquaintance.

What is it about meeting foreign artists that excites me so? Maybe its a glimpse into a whole new way of looking at things. It can vary a lot with each culture. Last fall when Mike and I traveled to Ireland, I spent lots of time contacting artists there, long before we left. By the time our trip began, I made connections to meet with four different artists. Two I visited in their home studios and two I painted with. It was amazing.

So perhaps this anticipation brewing at present is kindled by stirred up memories. Nonetheless, I'm certain the encounter will be exciting and stimulating. Plus, who doesn't like an english accent?

Posted is my second attempt at Lisa. She's given me quite a challenge this time around. I hope to get back to her today and complete it. Then I'll post the two versions for you to see together...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Painter's block?

Early Lobster Boats
Original oil painting 12x16"
by Susan Roux

While blogging today, I came upon an artist claiming to have painter's block. I think we can all relate to that. But it got me thinking...

What is painter's block?

I know its when we can't seem to paint. Or, when we do, the results are nothing like we'd like. It can be so crippling. So derailing. That horrible feeling of... I can't paint!..falls upon you. You start to wonder why you ever thought you could, because obviously you cannot.

What causes this? Of course we don't all of a sudden forget how to paint. Do you think its something we put on ourselves? Unknowingly?



I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Also, how do you get out of your block?

Beauty Inside and Out
Original oil painting 16x20"
by Susan Roux

Just a quick update: I heard from Gallery 5 yesterday. Not only did Magical Garden make it into the Plein Air exhibit, all four of my entries made it in! The gallery isn't that big, so this came as a huge surprise. Posted are two of the other paintings selected along with In the Lupines. Opening reception is October 15, 5-7 followed by dinner at Fishbones, maybe???

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Me and My Guitar

Me and My Guitar
Original oil painting 16x20"
by Susan Roux

How many times have you heard me mention Luka Bloom? Perhaps too many. When I first heard his music a year and a half ago, it changed me. I've listened to music my whole life, but none of it ever made me feel like I do when I listen to Luka's.

Ever since, its the music I paint to. Its perfect to put me directly into my special painting place. The softness, his beautiful uplifting words and his the wonderful chants, whisk me away to an instant creative place. Its had the same inspiring affect on other artists.

I've had the great pleasure of seeing the Irishman play several times. As much as I enjoy his CD's, there's nothing like listening to him live. On September 24th I'll get to see him again. Lucky for us, there is a little venue in Maine that he adores coming to.

Its located in Brownfield. Its such an out of the way place, people in Maine don't even know where Brownfield is. Rest assured its well worth the drive... In the middle of the boonies exist a charming post and beam structure adorned with elegant, twinkling lights. You'll have dinner at double-tablecloth tables where candles, water carafes and stemware glisten. The food is creative and delicious. Sit with friends, enjoying a bottle or two of wine and listening to an acoustic show. Its a magical place.

If you've been following me awhile, you know I've been in touch with Luka many times and have even run into him in Ireland. Posted is a painting of him singing. Me and My Guitar is the title of one of his songs. In it there's a line, "I love the pictures you paint." I thought it appropriate.

It will be my gift to him.

It was a challenge from the get go. I placed a stage-lit figure in a Irish composite scenery and somehow thought I could pull it off. I know its not perfect. Hopefully he'll overlook the imperfections.

I'm happy that it looks like him...

Monday, September 6, 2010

Another artist visits

Magical Garden
Original oil painting 16x20"
by Susan Roux

Nora Kasten is coming to Maine.

I'm so excited! Like you, I met Nora through blogging. This past March, I visited her during my vacation to Florida. My husband and I melted at the sight of all her romantic paintings hanging throughout her house. There's nothing quite like viewing the actual art, is there? Our visit was wonderful and too short.

Nora contacted me recently and asked if I would join her for Stapleton Kearns' workshop. It will be held in Bass Harbor, Maine. We're talking tip of Mount Desert Island (Bar Harbor). Rocky coast and crashing waves. Its a plein air workshop and should be very interesting since I've never painted the ocean up-close in plein air. Not only are we dealing with the ever changing light issues, those waves don't stand still for a moment! Don't even talk to me about the tide change.

I see a challenge in my future...

Of course I said yes. Who wouldn't? Not only will I get a grand dose of Stapleton's knowledge, I'll also get to paint with Nora. Unbelievable...

Please come early so I can sit and watch you paint those magnificent roses. I'll gladly buy you a whole bouquet!

Its been an exciting summer of artists visitors for me. Three weeks of Martine-Alison, over a week with Don Hatfield and now, who knows how long, with Nora Kasten. I'm so blessed to have all you wonderful people in my life. Blogging has been a gift. I can't think of an easier way to network with and among our peers throughout the world. There's a comfort we build here. A trust. Not only are we revealing ourselves through our art, our words cover pages and pages, helping us understand each other. So many similarities exist in our thought process as we continue this art journey we're on. Friendships grow and blossom.

Go meet each other. I've repeated this over and over. Host an artist in your home. You'll be so stimulated, you won't believe it! Are we unique? We sure are. But artists are also very similar. What are you afraid of? Invite someone. Who knows, you might just be so lucky as to have them accept...

Posted is one of four plein air paintings I submitted for approval in a local plein air exhibit at Gallery 5. Hopefully something of mine will make it into the show.