Friday, December 31, 2010

Design, Part 2

Work in Progress 18x24"
by Susan Roux

After establishing the lines, blocking in the big shapes was next. Paying attention to what's in light or shadow and blocking it in accordingly will give you a quick visual of your plan. It's sort of like your blueprint for the painting you're creating.

At this point, you've invested very little time and if your design is flawed, things should jump right out at you. Adjustments can be made easily and painlessly now. Look at the sizes of your shapes. Are they varied enough? Are they interesting to look at? Think of your original idea. Is your painting still supporting that? So far so good. I noticed the shadow on the lawn also points to the roses. Though it's good supporting motion, I must caution myself on not directing the viewer too abruptly or the painting will loose interest.

We want the viewer to explore the entire painting, not just one spot. Keep their eye dancing all over, that's the plan.

The big shapes were a bit difficult to completely establish, since the rosebush is airy. I made certain to carry my background shapes beyond where I thought they belonged to allow room for some play with the rose edges.

I began placing my roses with a value darker than its final highlights. I found patterns in sun/shadow play in both the fence and the house. Stepping back helps you identify potential problems before you develop too much detail. Adjustments are always easiest in the early stages. I was focusing primarily on the outer shape of the rosebush, trying to keep it interesting and varied. Stepping back helped me notice a snow storm effect. Before it turns into a blizzard of pink and white, swallowing the entire canvas, adjustments need to be made.

I keep thinking of design throughout the painting process. How is my eye traveling on the canvas? As soon as I put in something that becomes too confusing for my eye to differentiate one thing from another, a caution flag goes up. At any point during the development of your painting, when you've just added something that doesn't support your original idea, it's time for an adjustment.

I made certain to calm the white snowflakes in the background. The further I developed the rosebush, establishing some of its density as a form, the less conflicting my pink and white dots became.

To keep the eye moving, I'm painting in directional strokes as I work my dark values. Notice the repeated movement from upper left to lover right in both the darks in the rosebush and the tree shadows on the house. While this movement in the roses is supporting the focal point, the house shadow is pulling you away from it. It works well because it's creating a new rhythm and a bit of tension. The movement is no longer just pulling you towards the roses as in the original line drawing. Now the eye begins to dance diagonally as well. To prevent the eye from completely going off the canvas on the right, the tree trunk directs you down and small dark strokes in the greenery calmly pull you back towards the center.

Color and value also play an important part in moving the eye around. They are the elements of design that are the most noticed. Unlike the first lines of design that remain stable throughout, color and value continue to be adjusted right to the very end. I'll talk about that in my next post...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Work in Progress 18x24"
by Susan Roux

Good design. How important is it? Is it important to you?

Artists will tell you of the importance of good design, but often have trouble explaining it. That's because there are many elements that affect design. Elements such as line, proportions, value, patterns, color, texture, etc. In a way we can think of this as complicated or as I prefer to see it, giving us lots of tools to help achieve a good design.

A good design will hold your viewers eye, sending them on an exploration of your entire canvas.

It isn't extremely complicated. As a matter of fact, it can be quite simple. Keep your viewers interest. How do you achieve that? Shake it up a bit with variety to keep the eye stimulated and traveling about. You can focus on any of the design elements, use them in proportions near 2/3 to 1/3 and you're already off to a great start.

Design comes in right from the start. It isn't something that just happens on your canvas. Consistent good design is planned. When you select a photo or arrangement to paint, there's always something about it that struck you, otherwise you wouldn't have chosen it in the first place. Identify that. Know why you've chosen a particular image to paint.

Here is the image I'm working from. It's quite obvious by the way I took this photo that the rose covered fence is what struck me most. If you think in terms of thirds, it's covering about 2/3 of the canvas. Rather than begin with an intense drawing of this complex scene, I chose to place my basic design lines first.

As I painted them in, I adjusted them. Though I was putting lines, my mind was imagining the bulky shapes these lines represented. I had to move several of them. It's a great time to back away and imagine your image within the boundaries you've created. At this point I was concentrating solely on design. Where am I going to place the components in my painting and how will they interact with each other in this placement?

Notice how the lines already travel your eye in a unified direction. As I stepped back to imagine my scene, I thought of the direction things were pointing. Keeping in mind that my floral fence was my center of interest, I could see the movement in my painting was already supporting that. Don't loose sight of your initial idea. If it remains your goal throughout the painting process, the result will be more powerful than if you switched ideas on yourself along the way.

Next I looked at intervals. To keep the viewers eye interested, variety is necessary. Were my intervals varied enough? Not at first. I had to move most of these lines, because as I followed my photo, the lines seemed to be evenly spaced. For the sake of a painting, even if representational, it's better to create interest than to copy an image precisely. (Save that for when you're doing portraits.)

Paying attention to the bare bones of your painting is simple. By doing so, it allows you to concentrate on what you've created that is already working for you. In this case I identified direction. Don't you just love pointers? Make sure their helping you and not pointing the viewer in the wrong direction...

As I continue to develop this painting, I'm keeping in mind this directional movement. I'm supporting it with the colors I'm choosing and the values I'm placing. The bare bones are there to help me, but it's necessary to keep adjusting things as I go along. This will help me build upon the initial structure. Concentrating on good design is a good way to improve your work.

I'll continue to show you the development of this painting, explaining my thought process as I make choices. You'll see how the various elements of design come into play individually. Breaking things down simplifies the process. So rather than have to concentrate on all the elements of design at once, thinking of them one at a time and adjusting them, just as I adjusted my initial lines, becomes easy to understand.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


It's not your ordinary week. I don't think I have to remind you. Reading everyone's posts and finding many of you missing, is just an added reminder that everyone's lives are turned a bit upside down this time of year. I'm no different.

My classes are cancelled for the week.

I hope that doesn't mean my paintbrushes will be too, but one never knows what to expect as Christmas approaches. We suddenly take on additional chores and hopefully with good cheer we celebrate our blessings with people we love.

Thursday, just as class was beginning, am enormous Dick Blick order arrived. I often order for my students and it's kind of like Christmas every time the boxes come rolling in. Several of my students decided to upgrade their paints to the lovely Gamblin's I'm enjoying. What a nice Christmas gift! I can't wait to see how their work will change. When class ended, I looked at my palette full of paint and knew it would shrivel up and dry before finding easel time again. Blick-stamped cases of canvas cluttered my entry. Next thing I knew I was opening various sizes and applying a layer of color.

Oh how fun
it is to paint
on brand new
Blick canvas!

Happy Holidays everyone! Thank you for stopping by and leaving your wonderful comments. They mean so much to me, as do you...

When easel time manifests itself, I'll be ready!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Artists journey

Gardner's Home
Original oil painting 18x14"
by Susan Roux

Where has your art journey taken you?

I was reading Kevin Mizner's post this morning and he talked about the artist's journey, well mostly his own... He made the statement, "The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know, and how much more there is to know."

Wow. Now there's a loaded statement and it's so true.

Think back when you first started. Didn't you think painting was easy? Do you think you'd have started to paint if you'd actually known how far you had to go? It's one of those totally frustrating things. Like a cartoon mirage. Remember that desert oasis? You see where you want to go and you work towards it only to find when you get there, you're not there at all. You have a long way to journey still.

Art is one of those things that as soon as you get comfortable settling in or accepting your level of achievement as the final end, your work suddenly turns into formula painting and it automatically slips in reverse. Think about that for a minute...

I know you know artists who've done that exact thing. I won't mention any names, but even some of the greats of today have fallen prey to that terrible trap. The artists journey is one without an end. The desire to strive for improvement must remain throughout your life. Look at Monet. He pushed himself to the very end. Even blind, he continued to paint. Just before he lost his vision (those nasty chemicals. I hope you're taking precautions to protect yourself...) is when he did his best work. Why? Why were his nympheas so magnificent? He'd spent a lifetime pushing himself. He never settled into a comfortable place where he accepted his level of achievement.

I remember several years ago studying about color. I began to understand color at a level I didn't know existed. How wonderful to have your eyes opened anew to a subject that already excites you tremendously! Who would have known there was more? I certainly didn't. I floated around wanting to explode with joy and had no one to describe my new discovery to.

I've been trapped at a fairly stagnant level for a few years. Yes, there were some paintings that rose above the others, but mostly my work had flatlined. I didn't stop pushing. It seemed futile, but oddly something inside me kept telling me there was more. I listened. I was frustrated. I'd get discouraged. Still I pushed on believing there was more and if I continued trying, I'd achieve it. Now, just like the deeper knowledge of color that opened my eyes a few years back, I feel equipped with a new understanding of grays. Yes, I said grays.

I know it sounds dumb. Insignificant grays are anything but insignificant...

Suddenly I'm exploring like a child let loose in a giant toy store! Seriously, it's that kind of excitement. There is more too. A renewed realization that we aren't just portraying an image, but painting poetry, a passion, a vision of more than just objects. Suddenly I'm finding my work moving forward. I'm thrilled I never stopped pushing. Though the lulls are discouraging, the triumphs are exhilarating enough to compensate. I just want to explode on canvas.

I feel equipped with new tools of understanding and my journey continues. I know these new tools will take me forward for awhile. Forward in improvement, I hope. But I also know that in time it will flatline again. It's the journey. If I'm to be all I can be in this line of work, I know I mustn't ever get too comfortable. Luckily, though frustrating at times, it's also the excitement that drives me ever forward.

Don't you just love knowing it'll always be exciting? There'll always be more to learn and develop.

Have you fallen into the formula trap? It can be a tough rut to climb out of. May the new year ahead jolt you enough to push you out of your comfort zone and propel you forward in your journey. Allow yourself to be renewed in that childlike excitement of discovery. Don't stop pushing yourself. The rewards will amaze you.

Posted is the finished Gardner's Home. It was painted with a class, drying completely between sessions. I may revisit this scene on my own when I can paint wet on wet. I'd be interested to see the different results. I posted this work in progress on Oct. 29. Oddly it was the post where I introduced Kevin Mizner to you. I'm just noticing that. I wonder if that means anything?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

In Awe...

Lupine Cottage
Original oil painting
by Susan Roux

In June, I rented a house on Deer Isle, Maine with other artists to paint for a week. My intensions were to go paint lupines. Unfortunately Spring was very early this year and though we did find lupines, most were on their way out. I took lots of photos including the one I worked from for this painting.

I remember coming around a curve on a narrow winding road. The wooded area I was driving in opened up to a spectacular view of a causeway with the ocean on both sides. The sun was shining that morning and the green twinkling forest I was in bursts into a vista of blue. I slowed my car in awe, taking in the view. It was early. I was in search of a place to paint. I had left a sleeping houseful behind and ventured off in excitement, so thrilled to be on a painting holiday. It was day one.

I wasn't accustomed to causeways. This was the second one I'd found on the island. I liked them. They were curved roads, built up in round rocks, that connected two adjacent islands. Not at all like a bridge that passes you in a straight line above the water. No, this was more like kayaking. You know what I mean. Its like being at water level as oppose to above it like in a typical boat.

I wanted to pull over, but there was no place to park. I suppose it really didn't matter. There was no traffic. I could have left my vehicle in the middle of the road. But it was day one and I didn't yet realize just how rural this place was. At the start of the causeway, across the street, was a tiny spot were I could park my car. Having spotted it at the last minute, I quickly veered and pulled in rather crooked. The tail end of my not so small car (my family calls it a boat...) was still protruding out into the street. No problem. I was just stopping momentarily to snap a few pictures of the view.

I stepped out of my car and as I did I looked back towards the woods where I came from. Tucked up on a hill was this spectacular house. The sun brightened it like a shining beacon. A field of lupines, passed their prime, embraced it. What a romantic looking house. What a view.

I laughed at myself for almost missing it. If I hadn't stopped to take a picture of the ocean, I wouldn't have seen this house until my return at midday. The sun wouldn't have dramatized it like in morning.

Day one. Stopped on the roadside, stunned in awe at the beauty that surrounded me. Where was I? I think I landed in paradise.

I just noticed, today makes a year I've been blogging...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Inferior photos

Original oil painting 18x24"
by Susan Roux

If you ever get the opportunity to see my work hanging somewhere, please go. I keep telling you my images are not correct and I'm serious. Take this image. The blue's are too intense. The pinks aren't intense enough and the oranges harmonize way better in reality. Ouch! That's practically the whole painting!


That's why I'm telling you to go see my work in real life, if you ever have the opportunity. I recently found out that my computer is set on the wrong color setting. Its the reason I can't see many colors I've painted, on my images. The problem with that is I can't just change that setting. I would need to re-calibrate everything, including my printer, which would take me a long time and frankly I prefer to spend any spare time I have, painting. So I apologize for such inferior photos. If you do get to see my work, you'll be pleasantly surprised at the soft relaxing color harmony present. You can't even see all the hot pinks dispersed in between the green grasses! I cringe every time I see my images...

I know I'm not alone with this problem. It is a frustration for many of us. We work so hard to get our paintings just right. Every color change, every value matters to us. How long do you take to tweak your paintings? I'm surprised I haven't worn a trench in my floor from this process. I'm one of those put down one stroke and walk back 15 feet to see how it looks and to decide where to place the next stroke. Tweaking can be a long day's work, but on the bright side, I do get my exercise!

So you can understand my dilemma every time I photograph and re-photograph my work countless times in different light, trying to show you what my art actually looks like. I adjust so many images before I get one suitable to post. But honestly I think I just give up trying. Maybe I would save a lot of time if I'd simply reconfigure everything. Somehow, I keep thinking I would still be dissatisfied anyway...

So bless your heart if you read to the bottom of this complaining post. I'm going to go paint.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Little Performer
Original oil painting 10x20"
by Susan Roux

I'm not in a rush. There aren't any time limits or deadlines imposed. Its just me and the paint and the canvas. I'm experimenting. Pushing. Seeing how far I can take a painting without letting it fall apart. In July, I bought new paints and worked on portraits. Everything was new to me, my tools and my subject. I never took time to explore their possibilities with subjects I was already comfortable with. Yes, I do use them in my classes, but its different alone in the studio, moving to the rhythm of my muse (and Luka). Lately I'm exploring what these new thicker, richer paints can do for me. Or rather, what I can achieve with them.

This was the beginning of my painting. I was trying to achieve shadow on the rocks without punching the values too deep. It worked, I could clearly read shadow verses sun on the rocks, but I felt it looked weak. In fairness, I did have fun with all the colors I was using. Perhaps I'll try light shadows again on something that should be soft, not rocks. My little performer hardly showed when I stood across the room. It was in need of help.

This little seagull was a hoot. He pranced around opening and closing his wings, never flying off. He stayed atop his little rock stage as the other two sat appearing somewhat annoyed. On he flapped demonstrating every position his lovely wings could do. Perhaps the other's were just nervous, waiting for their audition...

I decided to warm things up and darken behind the birds. I really liked the direction it was going. I started to lengthen his wings to give him a stronger presence in the painting. I darkened my rock shadows, but never adjusted the lights. Some might say they looked more like sugar coated muffins than rocks.

Again I pushed.

In the end, I was happy with the evolution. I surprised myself as to how long I could continue to work it. I began this painting almost a month ago on November 10. Its had a finished look since then because all the elements were painted. Its been interesting to keep working it, all over. Oddly, I felt almost in control through most of it. How many times have we been told, or find for ourselves, that we should have stopped awhile ago? Our observation is, It looked better earlier but I didn't stop, only to ruin it in the end. I'm not sure why this was different. Am I understanding more? Is there magic in these new paints? Personally I think its my Napa Valley mentor. Thanks Don for not deserting me...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Work in progress 18x24"
by Susan Roux

Thanksgiving being tomorrow, its hard not to stop at this time of year and reflect on all we have to be thankful for. Yes, many of us have struggled. The economy hasn't made it easy for a lot of people. Sickness and hardships may have hit you hard in 2010. But even through the difficulties life throws at us, there is still much to be thankful for.

I have many. I won't bore you by listing them. I do however want to take a moment to thank all of you who frequent my blog. This has truly been one of the things I give thanks for: the opportunity to have met all of you. Recent hardships in our family have kept me away from painting and posting. My last post was 14 days ago, yet you still continue to visit. You amaze me...

Posted is a painting my Tuesday night class is doing. We should finish it next week. I don't expect to change many things on mine, but I'm leaning towards developing a few of the flowers. Perhaps cutting into some of the round balls of the peony. I also want to identify the irises a bit clearer in spots.

This painting moved along quickly. We didn't draw anything, just hopped in with paint. My class followed along splendidly and with Luka Bloom playing in the background, everyone's work fell into place. Luka has that effect. You should really try it sometime...

This image is special to me. Its a scene in Cape Cod, though it isn't a typical Cape painting. The photo was taken on Memorial weekend, when I traveled there to the Blue Heron Gallery's opening. The female in my painting is none other than the well-known Martine-Alison! Certainly someone high on my list of people to be thankful for. Painting this brought back wonderful memories of her visit to the States. My last post was about painting your passion. This image stuck to that suggestion. Perhaps its why it fell into place so easily.

Note: The darks beneath the flowers are with transparent paint and in reality tuck deep under the flowers. They don't jump forward like in this photo.

I hope you can all find lots of things to be thankful for. I'm certain they exist...

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Follow your passion

Orange Roses
Original oil painting 18x14"
by Susan Roux

I received these lovely roses from my dear Anastasia this weekend. What a beautiful surprise to see her and many others at the exhibition. If you're reading, thanks for coming...

I was up way before the crack of dawn yesterday, even with the time change. I'd been lying in bed painting in my mind. Does that happen to you? It seems lately I've been painting in my mind more than on canvas. Juggling life and your paintbrushes can often be challenging.

I decided to make yesterday a painting day. I had a class to teach at night and aside from a few loads of laundry, I made a date with my easel. Sometimes I just have to overlook everything that needs to be done around here and allow myself painting time. So from the early hour, I was perusing my extensive photo library in search of a picture I could be passionate about. I was tossing a variety into a new folder as a means of narrowing my choices down. There were lots to choose from and the folder was filling quickly.

Daylight finally broke, so I went to this folder only to find my inspiration for any of my choices had fizzled. By now the house was up and I told Mike, what I should do is paint those roses. Why don't you?

Ever notice how we argue with ourselves?

Well... my excuses began, I never paint roses.

He knew that. Mike buys me flowers all the time and I watch the roses slowly droop and die off. I even keep them in the vase because I see beauty in the dead blossoms. Sometimes he buys me more just so I'll finally throw away the crispy ones... How many times has he heard me say, I should paint the roses?

Beautiful as they are, they're in a constant state of change. At first opening, then sagging and slowly fading. I've never had a day observing them without change. The thought of painting them was a bit terrifying. There are people like Nora who paint them so well and honestly I hadn't a clue how to begin. But there they were staring me in the face and my most stimulating inspiration at the moment.

As you can clearly see, I attempted it. It turned out to be lots of fun and not the nightmare I expected. I stopped thinking about them as roses and not knowing how to paint roses. Instead I focused on how wonderful they made me feel and that feeling is what I painted. It didn't take long that I practically stopped looking at the real roses, so if they were changing, it wasn't an issue.

I even brought it to completion and began another painting all before my class arrived. Then I painted again with them. I was on a roll. Sure hope it lasts...

Go paint what you're inspired to paint. Even if you don't think there exists a buyer out there for what you're painting, or if you don't think you have a clue how to do it. Its the passion that counts. Paint what you're passionate about and you'll be the most successful with that subject.

If only I'd remember my own advice...

Friday, November 5, 2010


The Window
Original oil painting 14x18"
by Susan Roux

Don't you just love it when you're relaxed, just blogging around, and you come across a post that makes you want to sit down and write? You know what I mean. Those posts that put some idea out there that really gets you thinking and you're compelled to explore it deeper. That's just what happened this morning as I read Paint Dance.

Maryanne wrote, " I love impressionism. I am a little sad that it has not reached the level of popularity that we currently see in styles like representational realism." It was a lovely post with a John Singer Sargent's Breakfast in the Loggia pictured.

Loving impressionism...

Now there's a common thought among many artists. Put me at the top of the list! I have adored Monet's work for years and over half of my rather large art library is publications on him and the impressionist. I've read everything I could get my hands on about Claude. So much so, that in time I came to feel like we were close friends.

How I loved the dreamy strokes, dashes of color, that came together in amazing reality! The light the Impressionist captured drew so many of us into their world. I tingle just thinking about it.

I never tried to paint like Monet though. I was a firm believer that you needed to be true to yourself and paint in a way that felt natural to you. For me, that which poured out of my soul was a colorful fairly-detailed representation with an acute appreciation for light. Painting in my own natural style worked for quite a few years.

Then it happened.

I exposed myself to more and more art and fell in love with lots of it. So many soft dreamy strokes, laid on impasto thick, I wanted to pass my finger atop it and lick it like frosting. I was so drawn to this look, I wanted to paint like that too. How many of us have started out tight and then struggled to loosen our strokes? I think its pretty common.

So for years I pushed myself in this direction, never being satisfied with my work. I'm still there struggling with it to this day. But recently something has changed in my mind. Like my eyes have been opened anew. It goes back to my original way of thinking, how you must remain true to what comes out of your soul naturally. My thoughts go deep and many questions arise. Questions about improvement and pushing yourself in the direction you admire. It can feel like its coming from within, when with all our being, you love these works you see. But what's in the mind and in the soul are different.

Its been difficult for me to understand. In the past year, I feel like I've come full circle, painting in a way that resembles my original process. Yes, those years of easel time have improved my work, but to think how far I could be with it had I only continued with what poured out naturally.

So the thoughts in my head intrigue me. I feel there is something very natural and in control that wants to come out. I'm ready to embrace the representational part of me, that for years I tried to suppress. But somewhere in there I believe there is a softness too. When I go off to the art retreat in February, I hope to explore this concept further. I feel its at the tip of my brush and is ready to pour out. I only need time to devote to it. I think, or better yet, feel I have a balance of dreamy and tight and they will come together on canvas. I've fought the representational side of myself for so long. It feels good to get to a place where I can be comfortable accepting it.

Unlike Maryanne's statement, I've felt an embrace for looser work over representational work in today's society. I do however think impressionist of today feel its work done quickly. Capture that first impression with bold strokes in a limited time. But the real Impressionist only gave the illusion of it being quickly executed. Monet returned over and over to the same spot, in search of the same light, to continue his paintings. When the light wasn't just right at the same time of day, he would begin a new painting. He returned daily and would progress the one canvas that had the same light, never working it for longer than 20 minutes. If he didn't find the same light within two weeks time, he could no longer continue because with the orbit of the earth, the light had changed visibly for him. This made it impossible for him to capture that moment in time he devoted his life to.

So why is it, I wonder, that the impressionist of today came to feel it needed to be painted within a short period of time? If today's impressionist spent the same amount of time and energy on a painting as the original Impressionists, would they rule in popularity?

Posted: The Window will be one of the paintings in Saturday's exhibition at CMMC, Lewiston, Maine from 10-4 in the main lobby. You're invited to come. If you're around, please do!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Viewer friendly

Sunny Burst at the Fence Post
Original oil painting 18x14"
by Susan Roux

My view counter hit 10,000 this past weekend. Wow!

Thank you all so much. When I began blogging just 11 months ago, I never imagined the visibility I would get. At first I was lucky to get three to ten hits a day. Its amazing how these things escalate. I know I have a lot of faithful readers and many casual ones too. I love it when you stop by. I love it when you leave comments. I love having had the opportunity to meet and chat with you. I wanted to take a moment to let you know how much your visits mean to me. I hope you continue to return.

So I was wondering...

If a blog gets 10,000 in 11 months, does it continue to escalate at the same rate? 20,000 in 22 months? Or 30,000? I never made a conscious count at certain increments to be able to predict the rate my blog was growing. Do any of you know? I realize its a whole math thing and most of you visiting are creative. I don't need to remind you of the left brain/right brain thing. Of course, then there's Kevin who thinks he knows %'s, but whoever was his math teacher failed miserably. Seriously though, I am curious. So if anyone has calculated a growth rate, do tell.

Posted is Sunny burst at the Fence Post. I finished it with my Tuesday night class. For the most part I like it, but I struggled a bit more than I expected to. There's a tightness about it and it seemed no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't soften it. I can't put my finger on what. My brushstroke is about as blurry as my vision, so I'm assuming its not that. Could it be my color choices that give it a tight look? I'm looking for suggestions. Can anyone tell me why it looks tight? Of course the photo never captures the various tones as they really are, so it might be terribly difficult for you to help via the internet...

Suggest soon, because I'm ready to sign it. Its coming to my exhibition on Saturday. For those nearby, its at CMMC in Lewiston, ME at the main lobby entrance from 10-4. There'll be about 30 artists exhibiting, so lots of art to look at! Do stop in and say hi.

Friday, October 29, 2010

K. Mizner

Work in progress
by Susan Roux

Ok, I've kept an interesting blog to myself for long enough now. Its time for me to share.

Remember Chicken Coop man? Well he signs his canvases K Mizner. Frankly I don't know why, because Chicken Coop man is so much easier to remember...

If you recall I met Kevin at a workshop and painted in his studio Coop with Nora Kasten. Kevin is quite hilarious and even at the workshop, we were drawn towards each other. We set up our easels side by side and more off-handed comments were slapped around than paint! At the time I thought it was our shared Maine residency that drew us together. We seemed to have the same off-kilter view of things. But now as time passes, I think it was his humor that drew me in.

Kevin didn't blog.

Well, that never settles well with me. Why not? I asked. Its a great thing. After all, its how Nora and I met. I explained, I'm certain with wise cracks thrown in (some people bring that out in me, but I won't mention names... Rick), that blogging is a great way to meet, interact and network with artists from all over the country and the world. Well Kevin may be from the backwoods of Maine, but he's no dummy. Up here, backwoods doesn't mean backwards. There are some pretty smart cookies tucked in around here.

I think it was the very next day that I received an email from Kevin announcing he had started to blog. Smart guy.

He's posted daily since. He has so much to talk about, frankly I don't know what he did with all those thoughts before he could rant them out on a blog. You need to go be a follower. I mean seriously. He'll crack you up everyday. He can't help it. It just pours out of him. I literally burst out laughing aloud while reading it. My husband asks what's so funny? I'm just reading Kevin's blog...

I've chosen today to send you there, because he has a wonderful chilling Halloween story to tell you. He spoke of this while we visited his Coop, but the story he shared then was different than the one he posted. So you can urge him to post more on the subject. He's got stories...

Chicken Coop man currently has 9 followers. Yes I know, its sad. Go make his number rise. I'm sure he'll appreciate it. And for you, a daily post full of laughs with some art thrown in here and there. How can you go wrong?

Posted is the progression of the Wednesday Night Ladies class painting. We finally filled in the remaining white canvas and I allowed some of the sunlit flowers to emerge. Hey, I had to keep them happy...

One more note: For those of you who've been asking, I found artists to fill the four bedrooms in the February rental.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Art talk

I flew down to the Cape this past weekend. Well not literally, but almost with the way traffic flows. It took four hours to our hotel on Cape Cod and another half hour or so to the Blue Heron Gallery. Its end of the season and time to pick up any unsold art. Sadly there were a lot to pick up. Sales continue to be a struggle, not only for me, but for all the artists in the gallery.

I traveled with my friend Sandy. Conversation through two days of driving was stimulating to say the least. I don't know what it is with Sandy and me, but get us together and we discuss art, our goals and desires deeper than with anyone else I know.

I think it has to do with the questions she poses.

Sandy lives an hour away and is an elementary school art teacher. (Those lucky kids. She really teaches them a great foundation!) Consequently we don't get to see each other frequently. Conversation always starts with, What have you been painting lately? ...but goes much further. Short term goals. Long term goals. How have they changed since we last talked about them? Why have they changed? Desires to travel to different places to paint. Workshops. Workshops you need to travel to. Sandy would love to take one in Scottsdale, AZ. She tried to talk me into joining her, but my desires lie somewhere else.

We both expressed a feeling of being on the brink of something very good and wishing we had time to just paint without the typical responsibilities of life. For myself, its as though a deeper understanding of what I'm trying to do with paint is circling in my head. I feel if I had the time to devote to it, I'd create something at a higher level than my usual. It all makes sense in my brain. I just need to make my paintbrush do it! I talked about wishing I was on an art retreat. Nothing to block my mind, just there to paint. Somehow I'm sure something would break through and emerge from within.

We wished we were painting.
All this talk about our desires, yet stuck in the car...

Wouldn't it be great if at the end of our drive we would be on a painting retreat? Our suppressed desire to paint would burst out on canvas! Why don't we rent a house during February school vacation and do just that? Paint without interruption. We wouldn't even have to go far. Stay in Maine and paint indoors. Just be out of our homes so laundry, cleaning and errands are far from our minds. Paint. Paint all day and keep each other stimulated with conversation. What a great idea!

After returning home, I scoured the internet in search of the perfect "home" to do this at. I think I found it. It has four bedrooms, so we need to get two other artists on board. I don't think that'll be hard to do.

The house in question is on the ocean with lots of windows for good light. There's plenty of room to set up easels everywhere. The plan is to bring drop cloths and paint our brains out! Well its not really our brains we want to pour out, more out hearts, but you get the idea...

Karen Choquet laughed when I invited her to join us. "You're always up to something, aren't you?"

Oh, for certain!

(Posted are a few of the tiny 4x4" paintings I did for the November art show.)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sun versus shade

From the Shade
Original oil painting 14x18"
by Susan Roux

My weeks been crazy. I've been running around everyday and it won't stop until after the weekend. I suppose you all get weeks like this too. I find myself wishing I had three days of solitude to just paint...

Thank goodness for my classes, at least they force me to stop and pick up a brush!

I finished From the Shade with my afternoon class yesterday. I chose this scene so we could focus on shade versus sunny passages within a painting. We took a very different approach than usual. I had them block in the shady foreground area, in monotone, to remind them that everything they developed in this section needed to be in shade. Any color they placed within this area, if it looked sunny, needed to be changed. The class stayed focused on this idea. I find if you simplify things enough, everyone can easily understand what you're trying to get them to achieve.

It proved to be an extremely successful approach. Everyone's paintings leaped with sun and shade.

I decided to try this approach with a few of my other classes. I thought you might like to see the odd beginnings. With the painting posted, we began working on the light area, because it was further back. In the following two, the background is deep and in shade. I'm finding it challenging keeping the students from painting too much light. The photos we're working from have beautiful sunlit flowers in the foreground. They want to paint the light, but as you can see, I'm holding them back.

Its been a great way to have them recognize the difference between foreground, middle ground and background. This painting has yellow flowers against a fence post. In the photo the middle ground was sunlit as much as the foreground. I worked with them to keep it toned down so our final subject will appear to leap forward. Getting them to paint the feeling of sunlit foliage while keeping it subdued and void of detail was a bit unsettling for them. By the end of class this week, they had finally managed to capture this look and they left happy. I've been pushing them pretty hard lately. This class has been painting only a year and the results I get from them are pretty amazing.

My Wednesday night ladies were very happy with the new photo I chose for them. A sunlit garden makes this entry so inviting. Unfortunately I didn't let them paint any of the fun stuff. Keeping them in the darks to capture the house in shadow was difficult. It felt like we were painting a Halloween painting, the haunted house...

Keeping everyone's values in check has been tough. I think after these paintings are done, they'll understand how it all worked and it'll be easier to keep them in the dull deeps next time. Frustration was a visible emotion, but by class end, they had captured the deepness I was proposing. Another group left happy. Its not always easy to do. Especially when you push them out of their comfort zone.

I've been preparing a list of which paintings my students will exhibit in December. I want to know how long they were painting when they did the piece they chose. Its been astounding to us all when I get told 4 months or 6 months or even it was my second painting. It makes me step back in surprise at the achievements they've accomplished. I'm so proud of my students. I'm going to be thrilled to show them off in December!

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Original oil painting 4x4"
by Susan Roux

Here in Maine, the art season is summer. It's warm weather, vacationers and tourist. Tons of shops and galleries prepare in springtime by filling their stores with plenty of inventory, in hopes of a profitable season ahead. For artists in galleries, spring deliveries bring about relief. A time to breath after a long winter of painting and preparing.

Its not a bad schedule. When the weather is cold and nasty, we're indoors painting. When warm weather arrives, we can slow down and enjoy it. Plein air painting, gardening, photo shoots, long walks and beaches... (and this year, hosting other artists!) The hustle of preparing our inventory is behind us.

This has been my mindset for a decade.

Of course there are always a few exhibitions we get involved in. I never get to worried about them as the bad economy has left me with quite an inventory. There's usually something here I can grab to go deliver.

So that's why this October is catching me a bit off guard. It seems I applied and signed up for several exhibitions that are all overlapping. I'm scrambling a bit for satisfactory inventory, but also frames. Oil paintings are easy to transfer in and out of them, so I don't keep too many extras on hand.

Tomorrow night (5-7 p.m.) is the opening at Gallery 5, where my four plein air works will be on exhibition for a month. Please come and say hi if you're around. Tuesday I'll be delivering works to Wilton, Maine where they will hang for three months. Come November 6, I'm participating in a large, one-day exhibition at the hospital. It doubles as a fundraiser with doctors and other well-to-do on the invitation list. There's a cost to participate. Sales can't ever be expected nowadays, so I'm painting some small pieces to entice them.

Posted is Asters on a chunky little 4x4" gallery wrapped canvas. Quick, loose and no frame required. Perfect for the occasion. (I hope...) Usually my smallest works are 12x16". This miniature size is a bit unsettling for me. I still have a stroke or two to add, perhaps some highlights, before its complete.

I also have Purple Coneflowers started. In the days to come, I'd like to paint several. I think they'll be more obvious hanging in a bunch. I'm also planning to bring my second Lisa in hopes of promoting myself as a portrait artist.

Come December, my students will be exhibiting at Guthries, a small local eatery/pub that prides itself in promoting the arts. I have my work cut out for me, preparing for that one!

So summer's done, but my work with exhibitions is cranking. I'll be busy.

...but isn't this life fun?

(so tell me, how do we sign these little miniatures?)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

It took all day...

I bought a bushel of green tomatoes the other day from a local farmer who sells them cheap. In time when they ripen, I'll enjoy making spaghetti sauce for winter. That was my thought. Well in the heat of the house, "in time" came much faster than I anticipated! My boxful was turning redder every day. It became apparent, I needed to take time for my tomatoes.

I began by scrubbing them all. The skins were marred and scarred. Not your picture perfect specimens, but great for the pot.

I felt like painting. I mean I really felt like painting. The weekend had been filled with countless other activities and my paintbrushes were calling, actually hollering, to me. Fall duties had come to the forefront. Saturday brought a big family surge, bringing-in and stacking firewood. Now an overwhelming amount of tomatoes awaited. Somehow I felt like a squirrel preparing for the cold season ahead. I tried to remind myself how happy I would be, come winter, that all this preparation had been done.

I remember loving the process of making spaghetti sauce. This time it seemed a chore. Its a very tactile process. All the peeling and cutting with juice pouring between your fingers. The smells. Garlic, various peppers and fresh herbs explode with wonderful aromas. My chopping knife kept very busy...

Can you smell it?

I thought there would be time while it simmered to go paint or catch up on the ever mounting pile of laundry. No. There wasn't. I had a one-hour "go retrieve my son" break and that was it. It actually took all day. Beginning from: after blogging with morning coffee 'til supper.

At some point during the day, I began to embrace the process and enjoy it. Its hard to see and smell all this and not be affected. All my senses participated.

I've become increasingly obsessed with painting lately and anything that gets in the way seems so disruptive. I read about some of you with painters block, lack of inspiration, even toiling with the idea of quitting art all together. For me, its the opposite. I want to quit everything else! These days, filled with activities and duties that pull me away from our art, only add to the burning desire to paint. When the brush can be picked up again, watch out. Inspiration and desire to push paint around will be peeked!

Yes it took all day, but look what I achieved. Fifteen quarts in all!

... and a box of quickly ripening tomatoes! Yikes!

Pasta anyone?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

When to stop?

Original oil Painting
by Susan Roux

When do you stop painting?

I'm certain I'm not alone on this subject. How many times have you brought a painting to completion only to feel it was better awhile ago. I'm guilty of it in the studio and notorious for it on location.

Have you ever stopped because someone told you to stop? At that point when you still had a vision to continue, it can be very difficult to put your brush down. What do you do to all those spots you planned on developing further?

I'm here today. Stopping and pondering.

This is the painting I worked on in the Chicken Coop. I took a different approach from the start. Paint the poetry! That's what was in my head (and on the little Monet post-it note in my studio) The scene is from my photo shoot following Stapleton Kearns workshop. That glorious morning when I saw the sun dancing in and out. Armed with my camera, I parked and walked many times while leaving the island.

I'm not always a fan of photos. (sorry my dear husband...) I couldn't wait to paint this lovely scene, but once I looked at my pictures, they hadn't captured anything I remembered. I didn't care. I set out to paint the feeling I had when admiring this waterfront property. How dreamy this floral place was! I could just sit there for hours breathing in the wonderful scents. The various flowers, the salty air...

This precious place slipped my soul away into a relaxing dream.

It was all about the feeling. I used the photo as a reference to put down a basic layout of my composition. Move things, change things. Nothing mattered. I wasn't trying to duplicate the image before me. I have to tell you I had more fun painting this than I have in a long time. It was pure emotion. I thought of my friend Jennifer Wadsworth who always lets the canvas speak to her and direct her. Is this what she's been talking about all this time? I was manipulating the paint to whatever felt right. Choosing colors that projected the feeling I desired. I found myself holding brushes in ways I never have before. It became a tactile experience. I was romancing the canvas.

I think Nora enjoyed watching me as pure emotion led me in its development. By day's end, she told me I was near done. She warmed me about overworking it. That evening, artist friend, Svetlana Beattie visited. She loved the painting. Sign it, she said. Her description of it was moving. With her whole body and up on tiptoes, she demonstrated her feelings towards the tree. Its like a girl, looking out at the sea and leaning towards it. Her arms gracefully out and pointing down, breathing it all in. She's like a ballerina...

Its so interesting to listen to others describe your work. She went on and on about the rhythmic movement and the colors and concluded that any additions would ruin this feeling. She made me listen to Debussy's Reflections in the Water. She said my painting made her feel like that. Everything she said sounded like poetry to me. Had I actually captured that?

So here I am today. I have spots I still intended to develop further. Do I stop? Do I continue? The longer time elapses, the more I seem to overlook the passages that struck me as unfinished. There's no rush. Maybe I should begin another and then see how I feel about this one, remaining at this stage.

Perhaps I'll stop here and consider it an achievement. I can take my next one a step further to see if I can carry the poetry to the very end without loosing it.

Ooooh, so many stimulating thoughts... Its like being in competition with myself. Its a win win situation, or lose lose, depending on how you look at it.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Chicken Coop

What's your studio like?

A place in the basement? A spare room in the house? The kitchen table? A shed out on the lawn? How about a converted chicken coop?

I met Kevin Mizner at my last workshop and that's exactly what he has. A chicken coop studio! I couldn't imagine it. How must it smell in an old chicken coop? Lots of silly phrases followed that I can't really post here, but suffice it to say, we went from giggles to hysterics over our creative comments. One led to another as we built upon the previous absurdity. All I can tell you is when a painting goes south, he simply says he laid an egg. You'll have to imagine the rest...

His town is conveniently located between my house and where Nora Kasten was staying. Yesterday we all met there for a studio visit and painting session. The chicken coop made a great studio! It smelled of fresh cut pine from all the new boards he lined the ceiling and walls with. Kevin showed me pictures of how it looked a year ago when he first bought the property. The low water-stained ceiling nearly grazed the top of his head. When he removed it, a wonderful open cathedral space was revealed. He kept a small section of ceiling, creating a storage loft above and a cozy easy-chair living space beneath. His dog Champ lays quietly on the scattered rugs. I don't have to tell you about studio pets. You already know about their loyal companionship.

Kevin gave us a tour through his beautiful historic farmhouse. His paintings hung in every room. One of my favorites was these boats. I loved the light he captured on this typical coastal scene. Mizner paints scenes of Maine, most of which are familiar nearby subjects.

There was ample room for us all. You can see my latest painting on the easel. Its still a work in progress, but is nearing completion. It was a very productive day.

Nora chose to sit, observe and talk with us. I love having conversations of art with various artists. Everyone has their own ideas and sharing our views is so stimulating. The energy floating around this chicken coop studio was wonderful. Nora don't be mad I posted your picture. You're beautiful, baby! Our time together has been so special. Safe travels as you go on your way...

Kevin thanks so much for letting us crash your chicken coop. ( I must stop or some of those silly phrases will just pop out!)

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?