Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Painter's photo shoot

Come Fly With Me
Original oil painting  28x22"
by Susan Roux

This summer I took my model to the ocean for a photo shoot.

Sounds simple enough, right? Well you need to remember we're in Maine, nicknamed Vacationland. People flock here from everywhere. Summertime is the busiest. Many arrive ready for a bellyful of lobster with the beach as their destination. It was a beautiful warm July day and it was no exception.

How I found a parking space on a side street adjacent to the ocean with a sand path for the rentals is still a mystery to me. It was perfect. A long stretch of sand where cottages line the streets located between two very busy/popular beaches. My model hadn't been to the ocean yet this season and she was already bubbling with joyful emotion. Laughing and giggling, her whole body was already wiggling as we parked the car. Her eager enthusiasm was uplifting. It was like taking a young child to the beach.

The salty sea has a distinct smell that arouses the spirit long before you reach the sand. Excitement was in the air. We had been trying for awhile to find an open moment for this day, but busy schedules made it difficult. Our anticipation coupled with the perfect weather had me imagining a wonderful shoot.

I came prepared.

We found a nice open area in a sparsely filled section. I laid out an old bed sheet on the sand. My bag was full. I unloaded it telling my model, these are the skirts, these are the tops, hats, scarfs etc. I had shopped for white clothes, borrowed white clothes and gathered lots of accessories. The sheet looked like a clothing store. As she looked at every piece, I explained that she could mix and match any of the pieces. Even if they didn't exactly match, they were all various shades of white and I could paint them to look like they did. I had been wanting new photos to work from and the moment had finally arrived.

She picked her favorite skirt. It was a long flowing one. I told her to go dance at the water. I love this model. She has such elegant movements, perfect for the look I was seeking. Still giggling, she bounced to the water's edge. I followed with my camera. The sun lit her up. The breeze was gentle and consistent. I couldn't have picked a better day.

People were gazing. She didn't care. Still like that child, she began to dance in the water. She was totally uninhibited by the onlookers. It wasn't long before what seemed like every man on the beach wandered by. I've never seen so many males walk the beach without a sweetheart by their side. How they slowed their gait as they circled wide around us. We laughed. She continued to dance.

I took shots from the left, shots from the right, shots from the back. The sun made different patterns as I switched sides. She made many costume changes and with each one, she became a different character. Sometimes she strutted, sometimes she flowed. She threw things up into the air. The sun danced with her every move.

We didn't take a break. Outfit after outfit we continued to work. I couldn't help but think I had the perfect job. Who else gets to go to the beach while they're working? Not many.

Every piece of clothing was soaked by the time we were done. She was exhausted. It had been quite a workout. As we stopped, nearby sunbathers came to talk. They wondered what we were doing. They had been entertained by my little beauty. People had their reading material, but not a book was opened while we were there.

As we walked off the beach, an older couple stopped us. They had decided we were taking pictures for the cover of a magazine and wanted to know which one and when it would come out. She did look very beautiful out there dancing in the sun. It's no wonder they imagined this scenario.

I returned home with nearly 1000 pictures. Certainly there are a few real good ones to work from.

Do you work from photos? Do you go on photo shoots to set up the pictures you desire? How about still life's? Do you ever set them up and take photos? It's a great way to have original material. Pick the perfect day and you could have enough material to work from for a year!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

More Pirates? Seriously?

This is a reprint of a post that was up briefly yesterday.


I'm sickened again today.

As you're probably aware, I'm really opposed to copying other artists' art to sell as your own creation. This is a painting by Andre Kohn. I found it today on Marie-Monique's Blog, Art-Monie, where she showcased a lovely collection of his work.

I also found this painting today...

claiming to be an original by a well liked blogging friend of many.
Oh Celeste, I never expected this of you...

I find myself wondering about every other walking in the rain painting you ever did. I'm shocked and crushed.


I removed it from my blog after receiving a long letter from Celeste Bergin. She confessed to copying without making reference to the original artist. She admitted to copying as a form of learning and made it seem an oversight that she didn't give credit to Andre Kohn. She claimed it was the first time she has ever done this. In her words, "I know you wrote a big article on this subject and you point out that it is never correct to paint someone else's work."

I gave her the benefit of the doubt and removed the post.

In her letter she wrote of having worked very hard to earn her reputation and this post could ruin everything for her. She made it sound like her future rested in my hands. Perhaps it's just me, but if this were the case for myself, I would have been waiting with bated breath to see the post disappear and quick to thank for its removal. It was an odd feeling as I waited for a return email. The strange feeling that I had been had

I wondered if she was laughing, thinking how easily I had caved. But my thoughts were wrong and eventually nearly an hour later, I received her thankful letter.

She wrote that her other umbrella paintings were original. Her husband was a photographer and she uses his photos as reference. She also said, she paints over any copies she does and will be doing so with this one too. I took this to mean she never sells copied work.

I was relieved.

It's one thing to post about a pirate half way around the world, yet another to pirate out a blogging "friend". It seemed the best possible ending and I was pleased to shake it off and get on with my day. 

But some things leave a very sour taste in your mouth and stomach. While busy teaching my classes, thoughts churned in my head. I didn't want to go looking for incriminating evidence. I wanted to feel good about having removed the post. 

The burning question that haunted my mind was why did I remove the post? Was I doing an injustice to all the true artists out there? What about the reputation of Andre Kohn? How long and hard had he worked to earn his? Why was I favoring the reputation of the copier? 

The painting by Celeste posted is titled Walking in the Rain II. I wanted to believe her. After all I've been following her blog since I began blogging nearly two years ago. I liked her. She's always up to something different. She inspires a lot of us and seems fearless to try anything. 

I decided to search for her first Walking in the Rain. I wanted to believe she was innocent, but nothing was adding up. So many of her works are done on small format. Usually her large pieces are destined for galleries or exhibits. Why was this latest umbrella painting done on a 40x30" canvas? Who does that with intensions to just paint over it? The sour taste got sourer...

Here is Walking in the Rain by Celeste Bergin.

This wasn't painted from a photograph shot by her husband. This was another copy of Kohn's work. It went to gallery, art exhibits and eventually sold.

I had been fed a mouthful of lies. 

I often wondered why the Portland, Oregon artist's large works differed so much from her day to day plein air things. The quality of the large pieces always astounded me. I innocently thought to myself, wow, she really pulled it all together for this one!

Truth be told, she was copying. I'm inclined to wonder how many of those gallery worthy paintings she produced were actually originals...

I know this is difficult for many to read. I too had difficulty swallowing all of this. 

I'm quite certain these links will only work a short time. From experience a pirate scurries around trying to delete all they can that is incriminating, an action that only adds credit to their guilt. I later realized the reason for the hour delay in her thank you email. She was busy scurrying and deleting.

Were getting a better understanding of this whole pirating process. First a stranger in Spain where we wondered what type of person would do such a thing. Second an artist's point of view after she found out she was being copied. And now this. What type of person would do such a thing? Many of us feel we know Celeste very well. She's fearless and would try anything!

Next time I see this smiling face, I'll know what she's smiling about. Success. (That Charlie Sheen "winner" type of feeling.) The feeling derived from having worked so hard to fool us all. Yes Celeste, you put a lot of time and effort to build your reputation. How often have you been seen all over town painting, sketching? Seems a perfect cover for a pirate. The problem is what was brewing in the solitude of that basement studio of yours...

I'm sorry if this upsets many of you. Turns out I have zero tolerance for pirating. I didn't ask to be the Art-Police, as Kevin Mizner calls me, but when it falls right into my lap, I can't ignore it. Fellow blogger or stranger across the Atlantic, it doesn't matter. Pirating is always wrong.  

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Playing with color

Original oil painting   20x16"
by Susan Roux

Last post I mentioned color is emotion. 

It isn't just a loose statement I've put out there in cyberspace. I experiment a lot with color and know it to be true. I can play for hours entertaining myself with color.

I'm not in a rush when I paint. Every canvas has turned into a learning playground. Don't misunderstand me. There are certainly times of major frustration. Major, MAJOR! But I like to take my time to watch what happens when I change things. Change things such as colors.


It's the greatest change that takes place as I alter the colors on a painting. 

These pretend backgrounds I place my beach girls in have offered an opportunity to cut loose and scribble color. Layers and layers of color get placed there every time I'm tense from focusing too severely on my girl. It's created a yin-yang for me. High intensity on capturing my figure versus complete release on the remainder of the canvas. I like painting large. Many of my girls sit on 28x22" canvases. That leaves a lot of empty space to scribble color! Believe me, I need the release...

Color doesn't scare me. I enjoy manipulating it, changing it and frankly I just embrace it. I think it's my favorite part of painting. If I had to move to black and white, I'd probably give up painting. It's at my very core. No wonder I spend so many working hours being entertained by it. 

If you're a little nervous about color, one easy principle comes to mind. Combine the primary colors (any red, blue or yellow) and the result is a grayed, neutralized pigment. Upon that neutral, any clean color will stand out. This basic knowledge frees me to play as much as I desire. If all fails, the result is a neutral tone. Any color can be added on top and stand out. 

In other words, play with too many colors on canvas and they dull. Some of you call it mud. This grayed base provides a perfect surface to place pure pigment. This concept keeps me fearless with regard to color. There always exists the opportunity to work pure pigment into a neutral area. 

I played with the background pigments of Caressing a lot. The mood and emotion of this painting changed as I altered the colors. In the end I emphasized those pigments that presented the emotion I preferred. The magenta's set off her sunlit back. The golden hues added warmth and sunlight to the water and the greens added a stable base anchoring the composition. The background became a mixture of secondary colors (green, purple and orange). 

Something has really grabbed me while painting these figures. I began in January of this year and continue to be amazed and challenged. All the while having a fun release in playing with colors on this simplified stage, a single figure in a vague atmospheric presence. As I focus on sun and shadow patterns falling on the figure, I also have been enjoying playing with (and learning) color.

What's your secret passion in your whole creative painting journey?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Color Harmony

Sunny Irises
Original oil painting  20x16"
by Susan Roux

While teaching my beginner/intermediate classes, there always comes a time when an explanation of what we're doing is necessary. With new students continually arriving, it becomes important to point out different types of painting. Most often it's the difference between arts and craft painting with fine art. Fine art is what I'm attempting to teach them. All they know is they signed up for an oil painting class...

I usually use the term Tole Painting, because most are familiar with that technique. Dip your brush in several colors at once and in one quick stroke, you have a shaded leaf or petal. I think the biggest difference with fine art is use of color. We seek color harmony. A limited palette helps. A toned canvas does too. But what if you aren't using any of those methods? 

Reference to a child's coloring book is a common one. I point out how a child will paint everything in its local color. The sun is yellow, the leaves are green and the water is blue. One of the first things I need to get my students to understand is the concept of intermingling color. If you could use each color all over your painting you would achieve color harmony. The Impressionist had that mastered.

One thing that really interests me is how color can move the eye throughout the painting. 

A painting catches a viewer. It sends their eye in a little exploration journey, hopefully throughout the entire canvas. The longer they linger, the more they'll see. At first the exploration may be about the elements in the painting. Eventually little things can travel the eye differently. As one catches onto a particular color, the eye will bounce around to all the spots with that color. If the eye focuses on darks, the eye travels throughout the painting seeking all the dark spots. The same is true for the light, shapes etc. 

Studies have shown that the eye will travel differently for each person. As an artist I like to think we have some sort of control in directing the viewer on their initial path. Beyond that, I think it's a very individualized thing. People's experiences and reactions to certain colors or subjects will effect their visual journey in a painting. Why is it that you will linger and return to a certain painting at the museum while other's can walk by it as though unaffected? There is something about your visual exploration that really grabs you. It speaks to you. It strikes you emotionally. 

Color is emotion.

Strokes can also be emotion, but color is very powerful. I wonder if we ever get to a place where we understand it fully? I'm continually amazed as I watch color interact with other colors on my canvas. Play in the paint a bit and move it around like frosting. Oh just talking about it can get my juices flowing... As colors neutralize, changes happen. It's like magic.

This painting is one I finished recently with a class. It annoyed me that the blue sky seemed isolated from the remainder of the painting. (the color appears a bit off and stark on this image) As I verbalized that, one of my students mentioned it was repeated in the irises. Somehow it wasn't enough. I found it visually disruptive. So I mixed a pale cool blue and added it to my iris leaves. Immediately I watched my color path change and saw the front foliage soften. Magic strokes. I just love that.

This is a scene from Monhegan Island. It could represent most typical New England places. Thanks for stopping by and thanks to all my wonderful students. 

How do you achieve color harmony?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Jean Haines

Original oil painting  28x22"
by Susan Roux

I'm sure you remember the post I did a short while ago on modern-day pirates where Hugo Diaz Mapi was selling images copied from other artists. This post was carried by several other artists (thank you) in hopes of getting the word out. Copied art is a real problem and unfortunately it strikes many artists. Usually the pirating has been going on long before the artist becomes aware of it.

Artists are kind people as a whole. We move from our soul and we pour ourselves out for all to see. It's a complete exposure and when you come to actually know the artist, you can clearly see them in their work. We're often so involved in our own creative process that imagining other artists aren't moved the same way, seems unfathomable. Why would a creative person be satisfied copying another's work when so many of our own ideas want to explode out of us? Because of this we're probably far more trusting than we ought to be.

 I recently came upon a post by Jean Haines where she's being affected by a copying issue. Her post is very well written and I recommend you take a few minutes to go read it. It's about an encounter with a personal collector. Imagine her surprise meeting him at an opening and the conversation turned to copying! He was very concerned about original art he had purchased from her at a lofty price, that was now being mimicked by another. How original was his painting now?

I'm certain it was an interesting conversation, though not one you're expecting at your art opening.

As the UK artist points out, the problem with copying hurts more than just the artist being copied. Though there may exist an ounce of flattery involved, the effects carry on to representing galleries and buyers. Does this raise the value of your art or is it cheapening it? A good question that I'm not equipped to answer.

What do we do about it?

I've stopped posting high resolution photos of my art. It's too bad to have to resort to these changes, when there are so many artists out there interested in seeing work up close. Sometimes I add detailed clips to offset this, but I know for myself that when I find art I really like, I enjoy scrutinizing every inch of it. For that I apologize. Haines is taking it a few steps further. Her art has been evolving in a new direction and she'll be eliminating images of it altogether. It's really a shame to have to resort to such severe measures.

We spend so much of our art life getting as much exposure as possible. Art inspires people. It can have a very powerful effect on viewers, even to the point of changing someone's life. It's impossible to know how yours has affected others. So how terrible is it that an artist is moved to stop exposing any current work? It really saddens me. I hope I never get to the point where I want to hide my art from the masses. I'm not blaming Jean. As her career escalates, she feels it necessary to protect herself and her buyers.

I don't know what the solution is. Perhaps there really isn't one. Copying an artist's work to understand art with intensions of improvement is one thing. Copying art with intensions of sales is a whole different ball game...

How are you dealing with this problem? How are you protecting yourself from the few unethical ones?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Trusting instincts

A Marilyn Moment
Original oil painting  28x22"
by Susan Roux

Painting is unusual. Most things, do them long enough and you almost become an expert.  I know this like the back of my hand. Sometimes you feel you could even do them with your eyes closed.

Not true with painting.

It seems no matter how long you paint, or how good you get at it, there are always those pesky paintings that give you a run for your money. For some unknown reason they just won't come together. It's like back paddling, never pushing you forward. You begin to feel like you're just moving paint around. Colors that were once alive, dull. The more you layer, the worse it gets. At some point you might even consider wiping down the entire canvas. It's how I felt yesterday while toiling on this painting.


Frustration can be your friend. Seriously. It doesn't feel like it at the time, but when you get to the point where you're ready to just trash the entire canvas, freedom and spontaneity take over. The big brushes come out. There's fearlessness pumping through your veins. That "I don't give a care" attitude can propel quantities of emotion onto your canvas. With big bold strokes, you find yourself hacking into your work. Where you once delicately painted detail, you now obliterate with a single stroke. Oddly it seems to be better. Either that or you just feel better unleashing. The painting takes an unexpected turn. A clearer direction, perhaps a new direction announces itself.

Often a new day and fresh eyes help. You might even put off going into the studio. After all you're expecting to see a terrible mess, but it usually isn't as bad as you remembered. Those bold strokes of late yesterday seem to compliment. That's when you know your gut took over. There's an empowering drive in trusting your instincts. It's comforting to see your instincts didn't fail you.  Even through bad days behind the easel, the creative you persevered. There's wonderful energy in that. Part of you suddenly becomes reassured.

When the going gets tough the tough get going. Kevin Mizner recently posted about keep on working especially when everything is going wrong. He never brings it full circle to connect with the painting process, but it's implied.

Where do you land on this? How long do you work a painting? Do you try to salvage or does it get dumped as soon as it begins to go awry?

Are you trusting your instincts?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Linda Blondheim

Lupines in the Sky
Original oil painting  10x30"
by Susan Roux

I stumbled upon a little gem this morning...

Did I ever mention I live in the woods? It isn't hard to do when you live in rural Maine. Trees grow here like weeds. Even after they've been cut down, the stubborn stumps rebel by sending up five new trees in its place. Keeping the woods from swallowing up the whole property is nearly a full time job. I'm cutting and pruning and fighting them back all the time and they're still winning. What was once a sunny front yard has become a shady haven. My suffering perennial gardens haven't liked the transition very much.

As much as I complain about my growing shade, I love the woods. I always have. There's something so peaceful about it. I love the smells, the sounds and the look of sunlight filtering in. I live in a world that is absolutely green. Well at least in the warmer months... The forest is so thick with underbrush you can't see very far in. After the leaves drop, a new view deep into the rolling terrain is revealed. In winter the sun lights up the white blanket we call snow, illuminating the woods, allowing me to see into it the furthest. My world is far brighter during the winter months than it is in the shade of summer.

It's very different having surroundings that are constantly changing to seeing the same neighbors house across the street. I find it inspiring. I feel immersed in nature. I feel protected.

I know I'm not alone in my love for trees.

My neighbor's getting married next month and having a large outdoor reception. She's labeled the tables, not with numbers, but with different varieties of trees. How cool is that?

Today I found a blogger who's love for trees dips into the realm of passion. Not only does she paint trees, she also keeps a tree scrapbook. She calls it her Tree Journal. Just the title makes me think she adds to it regularly. Tidbits of bark, leaves and twigs. It's part of her reference material. Such a tactile experience...

She isn't just observing the trees, she's really connected to them.

And it shows in her work.

These are just a sampling of the lovely work you'll find on her blog. I know you haven't been there yet because I'm her first follower. Do yourself a favor and go introduce yourself to Linda Blondheim, the wonderful Tree Painter.

On a sadder note. It's hard to talk about trees and not think of the burning fires in Texas. My heart goes out to all those effected. Let's pray the firefighters can gain control over them soon.

The painting posted, Lupines in the Sky, was shown in progress on an earlier post.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monhegan Coast

Monhegan Coast
Original oil painting 16x20"
by Susan Roux

Hurricane Irene passed, tourist are leaving and school is beginning. As summer winds down and fall approaches, it triggers a change in routine. With regards to art, for me it means a different mindset. I kind of lollygag along during the summer months. It's not to say that I don't work hard, rather nothing seems to matter. There aren't any pressing deadlines to meet and it becomes more a time of play or experimenting. I do whatever I want. Paint what I want. Nothing is created with a specific destination in mind and I'm free to take as long on a painting as I choose.

It's a lot like a day at the beach. You know, sit around all day. Take a stroll, pick up a few rocks or shells. Drag your toes in the sand. Watch the waves roll in time after time trying desperately to remember the range of beautiful colors in it's endless dance to a frothy break.

But vacation's over and it's time to buckle down and get serious again.

Do you morph like this in autumn too? I've already begun changing. Papers are rising on my desk. Printed sheets of tasks I want to do, things I want to look into. I've already searched out a bunch of galleries I'd like to approach and a serious pace to prepare packets will soon follow. This is also the time of year I begin seriously painting new work for next year's gallery season.

I spent time taking lots of photos this summer and hope that I have ample references to carry me to next year. Between what I paint on my own time and all my classes, it takes a large amount of good photos. Which leads me to the painting posted, Monhegan Coast.

This is a painting I did with one class. We pulled out our palette knives. Yes I said palette knives! I never do that. To mix paint, yes. But never to apply paint to canvas. So in it I jumped, all the while trying to direct my students without knowing what I was doing. I thought it was the perfect tool for the rugged coast that covered most of our scene.

It turned out to be very freeing. Jags of paint left tiny shadows which created additional cracks in the rocks. Some students who get caught up in too much detail found themselves playing in paint. It was a great exercise for everyone. I suspect I'll be picking up the palette knife to lay down paint again soon.

The ocean was interesting to do. It has a very different appearance when looking at it from high above as oppose to being at the beach. Students wanted to make breaking waves as they know them from the shore. But the shapes flatten out and all that is left is change in values and color.

This was a fun painting to do. I took lots of coast photos on Monhegan. It's hard not to. So perhaps another rugged coast painting will show up before I know it. I remember the day class arrived and saw this scene. No one thought they could paint it. I'm happy to report that they all amazed themselves. I had some real beginner students in it too and they left with something they were very proud of. Great job class!

So now that summer's ending... what kind of changes does that mean for you?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Flirting with folds

Original oil painting 24x18"
by Susan Roux

I spent the week away in a rental house with friends and family. It was a few yards from the beach and at low tide you could walk for miles in ankle high water. Conveniently, low tide occurred in the afternoon and a promenade through the crystal clear water was the perfect way to relax after painting all day long. I arrived back home yesterday and already miss those afternoon strolls and evening sunsets...

The household was bubbling with activity. Everyone going in different directions to view the area. I'd been there many times and decided in advance to set my easel inside and paint as if it were my studio. I didn't think I'd spend the entire week on only one painting, but I did. After coffee, people would scatter and my daily activity began. It was so nice to have nothing to do but paint. You could say I was on vacation, but I worked very hard.

I'm posting her a bit incomplete. As I look at her with fresh eyes, I can see a few areas that need touching up. Aren't there always..? My focus was the folds in the fabric. I wanted to capture volume and twists. The more I work on this subject, the more I realize I have a long way to go. Folds are a challenge all their own. My wish is to capture fullness and movement while still keeping everything really soft. For now, rigid keeps creeping in.

It's ok though.

I recently took my model on a photo shoot and I have lots of new material to work with. In time with hard work and long hours behind the easel, I'll probably capture what I set out to achieve. I know I'm pretty tough on myself, but the desire to improve continues to bubble through me. If painstakingly is what it takes, then painstakingly it will be!

Thanks for stopping by. I don't spend nearly enough time thanking all of you for your continued support including the time you take to leave comments. Whether nice, sweet, humorous or critical, I love reading them all. You make my day!

With humble gratitude, I thank you.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Nicolaides words

Original oil painting 18x24"
by Susan Roux

After dozens of suggestions from Don to buy Nicolaides, The Natural Way to Draw, I finally own a copy. I haven't posted for awhile because I've been toiling over this painting. Do you ever do that? Toil? I have grunts and groans, huffs and puffs of exasperation that pour uncontrollably from my body. I throw my brush down, take a few steps, turn to look at my work through a mirror, exhale deeply with thrust and return to do another stroke. The level of concentration is so great that each stroke seems a massive effort. In the beginning of Nicolaides book, I read a new word to describe this. Painstakingly.

It describes my efforts to a T. It's miles away from having "fun" on canvas. It's deep and concentrated and a place I don't always get to while painting. It renders with precision and every now and then, I find it necessary for what I'm trying to achieve. In this particular case his sweatshirt became the challenge. I wanted it to read oversized. My fear was making him just look fat.

The secret was in the folds. Nail the folds and it will look correct. So I spent hours and hours and days and days on those folds. Long days.

I was pretty content with the results. I know these images are inferior as usual and some of the values and transitions are incorrect. But still, I feel I captured so much extra space in his sweatshirt that you could almost crawl right into it with him. Painstakingly. Yeah, good word.

Nicolaides had another word to describe a painting method. Ferociously.

Now doesn't that conjure up a great image for you? He ferociously put paint to canvas. The release expressed in that sentence is massive. It reminds me of my initial block in. Some parts go on slower, but I definitely have moments of ferocious strokes. Spontaneity and determined force are things I associate with that. I often call it scribbling with paint. My backgrounds certainly fall into that category. This is where I'm in fear of having too much fun on canvas. Sometimes it's tempting to call a painting finished after ferociously blocking it in. It's full of freshness and personal emotion. It's easy to feel connected to it, but rarely my best work.

The biggest challenge I had with this painting was trying to keep enough spontaneous looking strokes to achieve movement. The tightness of the folds made this difficult. I found myself softening them a bit in the end. I felt I had to overcompensate by making my loose strokes extra loose, otherwise it all looked too stiff.

There lies a balance in there somewhere. I know I have a lot to learn before perfecting it. Maybe it never gets perfected. A juggling of the right amount of painstakingly and ferociously applied strokes. The yin and yang of art. Balance. Rhythm. A poetry of color...

The journey continues.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Critique, yes or no?

Lupines in the Sky
Work in progress
10x30" gallery wrap
by Susan Roux

Where do you stand on the subject of critique?

My last post showed a painting before a critique and where I pushed it following a critique. A good critique is priceless, in my opinion. I wish I had one for every painting I paint. I find it elevates my work to new heights. It keeps me pushing, trying to achieve something beyond where I previously stopped. Just last night Mike and I were discussing this and he wished he had to a good photographer friend who could give him a good critique.

Odd thing is, as much as we would like to be continually critiqued, there are many who are opposed to it. It takes a tough skin to listen to your creative work be interpreted by another. We become tied and connected to the things we create.

It's a reflection of ourselves. Who has the right to tell us what's wrong with it?

Rejection in any form is difficult. It can knock the wind right out of you. But I don't think of a good critique as a rejection. Quite the contrary. When someone takes the time to analyze a work they usually already have an attraction to it. The critique isn't designed to crush an artist, but to urge him (her) to think of it in different terms and possibly see it differently as well. We get very close to our work. Especially those of us who work a painting for an extended period of time. So much of ourselves is invested in it.

Though just as love is blind, so often is the artist who has a certain goal in mind. We'll set parameters for ourselves. Things like a limited palette or brushstroke edges. Some soft, some hard, some blurred, some bold and distinct. We can focus so hard on certain aspects of our work, that we'll easily miss other things. Things we already know. They slip from memory temporarily. A good critique allows you to retain what you've captured and helps you push it to an even stronger finish.

Imagine all the paintings you've ever painted. If you could take the best things from them and put it all together in one work of art, wouldn't that be wonderful? This is the critique to me. No one is teaching you how to paint it, only allowing you the insight to add a bit more and turn your work into a wow. It's never about repainting the entire painting (though Don's sent me to do that a few times as well...). It's about taking what you have and adjusting it. It might be defining something or dulling something. Perhaps adding a punch of color or contrast.

There exists a fear of loosing what we've already captured and ruining it. Loosing that look of freshness. Getting it overworked. But returning to a painting for adjustments needn't be done with your largest brushes. Often tweaking with something tiny that can be blended with the existing work will do the trick.

The other factor that comes up in conversation is the qualifications of the one critiquing.

Yes, I'm very fortunate to have Don Hatfield as my mentor and critique-er. (I can make up words, right?) Yes, he is highly qualified. But often the gut instinct of someone not highly qualified can be as helpful. Your kids can be very honest. Painfully so sometimes when they don't get what this part is. Even after you explain it to them and they tell you well it doesn't look like that.

You'd be surprised how many people can give you a good critique. Many of us have the knowledge, it's getting it on canvas that's the challenge!

So where do you stand on critique? Is it a gift or an insult?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Heart vs Fundamentals

Lupines at Dusk
Original oil painting 10x20"
by Susan Roux

Creating art can be a nagging series of conflicts. There exists a fine line between painting from the heart and adhering to the fundamentals. How much of one is too much? Painting from the heart is freeing and spontaneous. Letting go. The brush dips in color and impulse and the canvas dictate what color is next. You feel your creativity bubbling out of you and great joy is experienced in the process. If that's all you do, where do you end up?

Is there such a thing as having too much fun painting?

The fundamentals, those pesky rules, pull it all together. The values define shapes. Design and composition lead the eye. Sun and shadow patterns contribute to the illusion of reality. A wise man told me an artist is allowed only a small portion of fun to be visible per painting. Oh shucks, really?

Here is me painting from the heart. I was captivated by the lupines on Monhegan. I loved the way they danced in the sky. I photographed a lot of them, but the feeling of observing them could not be replicated in an image. I wanted to portray them at dusk. Those wonderful lupine shades were transformed during golden hour. How rich and warm the cool blue's, pink's and purple's became. I concentrated on capturing that. My photo references were poor suggestions, so imagination took over.

Once I finally captured the light I was after, I felt the painting was complete. Funny how if you toss in one crazy element you're unstable with, everything you're grounded on slips from memory. A well advised critique put it all back into perspective for me. Too much heart and not enough fundamentals. Form became sacrificed au lieu de couleur.

I returned to the painting, freed from focusing only on color and began to establish form. Somewhere between heart and fundamentals one can strike a balance that satisfies. Satisfies the viewer, satisfies the artist. After all, if the passage is not defined well enough, the viewer misses the message...

Friday, July 1, 2011

Painting the fog

Monhegan Fog
Original oil painting 16x12"
by Susan Roux

I experimented while on Monhegan.

I began by spending two days painting a lovely garden in plein air. As you know, I'm a studio painter by preference. I enjoy being out in the elements, feeling the breeze, hearing the sounds, smelling the air, but my mind wants to paint like I have all the time in the world. After two days in glorious sun, it was time I get myself out of it.

Anticipating rain at some point, I brought a few printed images from my previous trip to Monhegan. I had a foggy scene and found myself missing painting my girls. It's odd how desire for something sparks one to deviate from normal behavior. I'd been trying to figure out how to incorporate the impressionist backgrounds I use on my girls into my scenery paintings. Suddenly in a new environment, it became clear to me.

The fog holds little detail and it seemed the perfect subject to launch myself there. I was set up indoors and aside from continual breaks to aloe myself, I was relaxed and in my element. Tucked in a corner with an ocean view, barefoot and dancing with my brush in hand while Luka played in my ears.

I took my time. I played with color. Adding, subtracting, neutralizing...

My reference photo was soon pushed aside and the canvas took over. It wasn't about copying anything. It became all about feeling. The feeling different colors emitted. The feeling of certain pigments against other pigments. Pure color navigated the course. I delighted in observation as color touched color. It became a time for learning, for experimenting. I can get pretty chaotic with color on canvas before pulling it all together in the end to hopefully find a soft relaxing scene. My housemates came over periodically to see what I was up to. They found wild color scribbled all over the canvas. They looked at my printed gray image. Confusion was written all over their face. They didn't say a word. Each observer had the same reaction. I know they couldn't imagine where I was going with this. Needless to say when it was finally finished, they were surprised with the results. It went from chaos to tranquility.

Clarity in the fog. How can you beat that?

Note: Unfortunately just as in my girls, photos cannot do justice to the rich, luminous, seemingly-alive backgrounds my technique is creating. You'll just have to see my art in person someday...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Modern-day PIRATES

This is a painting claimed by Hugo Diaz Mapi. He's a Spanish artist (and I'll use that lightly) who claims to be a digital painter by use of Photoshop. Oddly it bears quite a resemblance to

Don Hatfield's Looking for Treasures...

This is an original Hugo Diaz Mapi. Or is it?

Here is Don Hatfield's Brothers. Does moving a few pieces around and clicking a few filters on Photoshop constitute the rights to call something your own? Notice the boy in blue overalls on the left.

Whoops... here he is again in another Hugo Diaz Mapi!

With this lady of Don's

and this beach!

Son of a beach! What is this world coming too? Are some so jealous of other's ability to create that all they can do is copy, steal and pirate?

Beware of Hugo Diaz Mapi folks!

He contacted me with compliments on my impressionist art. He mentioned Don's name and asked if I knew of any other American impressionist. Then he asked that I look him up on Facebook and send him a friend request. I didn't give him any artists names, but I did send him a friend request. It was only after he accepted that I was able to see these images and more that were copied from dozen's of artists.

Send him a friend request on Facebook to see if you're one of his victims. After a few days, let him know what you think of his "art". We can all use our voice. Together we might speak loud enough...

I'll be cutting down the resolution on my painting images from now on. It's a shame. I really enjoy being able to click and enlarge paintings to see the details. There are always those who ruin it for everyone. Hugo Diaz Mapi. He's definitely one bad apple...

Hey Mr. Mapi, I can use Photoshop too.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Back from Monhegan

We arrived with the island in full sun. It was a welcoming gift for a place that has a reputation of being so gray. The lupins were in full bloom and they sparkled with sunlight as we walked towards our home for the week. Flowering trees were everywhere and the aroma of sweet flower petals filled the air. I was so happy to be back.

It was already mid-afternoon. After settling into our room, it left just enough time for a walk through town before dinner. Cameras in hand, Mike and I slowly made our way down the narrow dirt streets. The slow pace made it feel like we were re-introducing ourselves to the island. Many things had changed so little, others had changed a lot.

During dinner a sudden downpour quickly changed the light filtering in the house. Lightening and thunder clashed and roared. Water poured down the street carving a deep variegated gully. I was glad I had taken a stroll before eating. How quickly things can change. It was a fast moving storm and before the dishes were done, a photographer noticed we had a rainbow.

Not just a rainbow, but a double rainbow!

Our house sits on Fish Beach and we were able to back up just enough to see the entire arc of the rainbow. It ended directly on our house! This had to be a good sign.

This was a very old house built in the 17 hundreds. It was a bit rougher than the usual accommodations I seek. But here as the pot of gold at the tip of the rainbow, I sensed magical things were going to happen. Excitement and inspiration were already pumping through my veins.

The house may have looked a bit dodgy, but our view made up for it.

This was the morning view from our second story bathroom. Yes, I said bathroom... I loved how the sun lit up the boats in the harbor. It made me want to jump out of bed. You may think I saturated the colors, but no. This is how vibrant it looks on a sunny morning.

Our ancient house softened with charm at golden hour. You can see it here at the top of the tiny beach. Not so dodgy looking anymore. Many people came to the beach in the evening. It became the perfect setting for clicking people pictures easily from the comfort of my beach chair. We had musicians in the house and they would gather outside to play and sing. Children would wade at the water's edge picking sea-glass and shells and dragging little sticks in the water. My camera was busy as golden light lit their clothes and captured their merriment. They'll be future paintings from this trip, I promise...