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!)