Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Putting it in motion

Ocean Commotion
(Putting it in motion)
Original oil painting  20x16"
by Susan Roux

Some paintings just beg to be seen in person. This one is no exception. It seems no matter how many times I photograph it and adjust it, I can't get it to look like the original. It's as though I would have to adjust the background in one direction and the foreground in another. Opposing adjustments are essential to each area. How can I do that?

Yes all those colors exist in the background, however the eye blends them together to form a grayed base upon which the figure stands un-conflicted. In this version, the background demands as much attention as the figure. Believe me, in reality it's no contest. She wiggles center stage!

I like this pose. She seems totally in the moment, enjoying the movement of the water and oblivious to all the onlookers. (remember the photo shoot?) She appears seduced by the ocean...  Seduction. The repeating sound can have that effect, can't it?

I'm trying to implement a combination of emotional with fundamentals. Gut instinct with a bit of defining details. I have to admit, it's more fun to paint like this than to painstakingly focus on every stroke. The result is much softer and more emotional. I'm really pleased I took the last year to focus so intensely on the technical part, because I feel it helped improve my finish work. 

Here is my first girl, Frolicking, that was painted just one year ago. Don't you just love it when you can see the benefits of your hard work?

How does your work compare with that of just a year ago? Does it look the same? Are you growing as an artist or do you find yourself stagnating? There are lots of ways to shake things up. Sign up for a workshop. Go paint with other artists. Try some new techniques. Add a few unusual colors to your palette. Upgrade  your paints. Read Nicolaides, The Natural Way to Draw. Whatever you choose, if you focus on improving your skills, you can do whatever it is you set out to do. Work hard and believe in yourself. It's a winning combination. Have fun. Listen to your inner voice and don't forget to Paint the Poetry!

It's all up to you. What are you putting in motion?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Maine Mutt Mansion, again?

Autumn Farm
Original oil painting  20x16"
by Susan Roux

Things have really been brewing here...

You can't expect to see me sitting idle for too long. My mind never stops. As soon as one thing ends, a new project begins. I'm not just talking about a painting on my easel. It's true of everything in my life. I can't ever seem to keep things running on an even slow tempo. It seems every time there's a lull, I get cranking on something else to stir things up.

In a few weeks several artists will be gathering at an oceanside mansion for a retreat. I organized it last year and it was so popular and fun, we've decided to return again. I can see this could easily become a yearly event.

We're five artists this year, with a possibility of a few daily visitors setting up their easels. We arrive with all our baggage and quickly set up our paint stations. The mansion is huge with lots of great windows bringing in ample light for everyone. We'll be painting from early in the morning, hardly sitting with our cups of coffee, until dark. The creative energy locked in winter walls will grow as the week progresses. Conversations revolve around art. Books are brought it. Our minds are opened to new ideas, new ways of looking at things. Stimulation is high. I remember having trouble sitting for a tea break in the afternoon.

I wasn't the only one with this problem. We worked to nearly exhaustion. The double jacuzzi was perfect to rejuvenate ourselves. I was surprised how locked up my muscles became. I didn't realize how much I clenched my knees as I concentrated to paint. It wasn't until I backed away from my work and found myself almost unable to move. I've dreamt about that jacuzzi many times over the past year...

It really was difficult to take a break. Our minds became so cued in to painting, that sitting for a few minutes away from our work seemed impossible. My tea kept getting cold. No sooner had I left my easel to sit quietly in the next room holding my hot cup, it would beckoned me back. Sandy laughed at me, telling me to go take a break! But in all honesty, she had the same problem.

The mansion is in Maine. This year we're very pleased and excited to have two artists join us from Scottsdale, AZ. You may already know Amy Whitehouse and her daily blog. She, along with an artist friend, will be flying in to experience our wonderful artists retreat. I'm looking forward to meeting them and discussing art together.

Evenings are spent sipping wine in front of the large fireplace. Our favorite evening is Champagne Thursday. It's when we invite lots of people to come visit. I'd like to open the invitation to all of you. It begins at 5:00 p.m. on February 23. We're the last house on Shore Dr. in Freeport Maine. Bring champagne and a nibbler. It was a great social evening last year and hopefully will be even better this year! Come and experience the creative energy that builds within the mansion walls. It's unbelievable.


I don't often post my paintings from my classes. It isn't a demo actually, because I paint right along with my students, explaining things as we go along. My Thursday afternoon class just finished this fall scene. I love to paint wet into wet, but the restrictions of painting within class time and stopping until the following week, create quite a challenge for me. Class did really well with this, keeping the bright back trees receded and the large maple forward. The red roof needed to also be neutralized so the red branch dipping in front of it would read correctly. Great job students!

I have a new beginners class starting February 2, from 6-8 p.m. at EL High School, Auburn. If your interested or no someone who is, please call Adult Ed at 207-333-6661 to enroll. I'd like to thank all my wonderful students who work very hard at achieving great things.

You will come to Champagne Thursday, right?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Playing with mud

Morning Fog, Monhegan
Original oil painting  24x18"
by Susan Roux

When Don Hatfield came to teach his workshop here a few summer's ago, he showed us how he mixes paint on a glass palette. Forget the palette knives. He took his stiff bristled brush, dipped in several colors and turned it in circular fashion in the center of his palette. With that mess which appeared like mud, he showed us how he could move the puddle from warm to cool and back again by simply adding a new color to it. As he continued to demonstrate, the mud puddle grew and grew. You can mix anything in here  he told us. 

Much to our surprise, he demonstrated portraiture using this puddle of mud!

Since then, I have to admit I've learned to embrace the puddle. I even have my students using the puddle. There's something interesting about mud. All those neutralized grays... Subtle in their own right, yet clearly distinctive added to the canvas. It's amazing how many different shades of neutral gray one can make. 

Hatfield (that's what he likes to call himself) told us of his early studies with pastels. He learned to add color to a gray toned paper. It worked beautifully. In time, when he began to paint, he brought this knowledge to the canvas. I've never seen anyone like mud as much as he does. Where many fear creating muddy colors, he becomes the master in control when it happens. And just as with pastels, colors sit beautifully on mud. 

As I painted Morning Fog, Monhegan it's all I thought about. Mud. So much mud. I was painting an entire scene with muddy colors. I found myself lost in the slight variations I could create. I was being seduced by it. I was pulling and pushing shapes. My first strokes for the flowers were a simple diagonal swish of hot pink. It was a flat area of color. As I worked in the flowers, I was making decisions about which one's came forward and which ones would recede. And when they did recede, which flowers would be furthest back.

I watched my canvas evolve as I played with mud on my flowers. I felt in complete control. If I wanted a flower to push further back, I had the ability to do it in a instant. Frankly I'm surprised I finished this painting. I was having so much fun being the master of my flowers, it's a wonder I finally stopped. 

It's easy to paint drama with strong sun/shadow patterns. It's also easy to create drama with dark and light values as seen in my previous painting. What I was after here was to see if I could create some drama without any of those things. No sunshine, no high contrast areas, just mud and a bit of pure color. 

Do you ever try to challenge yourself with something new? If so, what? Do you enjoy getting out of your comfort zone? I do. It can be lots of fun. 

Note to Don: My deepest condolences for the loss of your dear sweet wife, Janey.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Art direction?

Floral Emotion
Original Oil Painting  12x30" gallery wrap canvas
by Susan Roux

Where is your art going this year? Will it be taking a different direction? Will you try new techniques or work on perfecting your current ones?

With all the talk of New Year's resolutions and dreams for the year, I have trouble not focusing on my art when answering. January of last year marked the birth of my girls at the beach with simplified backgrounds. It seems as though I've been working on them much longer. When I began, I wanted to play with pale shadows that still read like shadow. I've tried to hold that as part of my focus, but also delving into developing fundamentals.

I'm certain you recall me using words like painstakingly. Trying to improve our painting habits is never an easy plight. We become comfortable doing certain things and it's easy to continue to repeat them. Forcing your brain to think differently, apply the paint differently and try to have a result that doesn't look like you spent too much time "thinking" in the first place can be a very painstaking act. I speak to you from experience. 

Personally I'm drawn to great paintings that offer a balance of creativity, meaning that pure emotional spontaneity, with perfectly executed fundamentals. When these two dance on canvas poetically it's difficult to look away. I'm drawn to surprises. That creative use of color, unexpected in its location, yet working beautifully to unify the composition. A harmony that leaves something to the imagination and elevates the viewer to drift and dream. 

As you can see I set my goals high and I still have a long way to go to achieve them.

Working on fundamentals engages the brain. Spontaneity and gut reactions go out the door. Focusing for a full year on these has helped me develop, but a fear of being unable to shut my brain down grew. What if I can't access that creative side again? What if I want to analyze every stroke all the time? I'm striving for a balance of the two. How will this be possible?

The holidays presented me with very little time to paint. I'm certain you can relate to that or at lease to the growing desire to just pick up a brush when time doesn't allow it. The feeling became so great that one day I just exploded on canvas! I didn't want to think. I didn't want to follow any rules. I just wanted to paint!

And so I did. 

The painting posted is pure emotion pouring on canvas. Oh how it felt good! I look at it now and want to return to it to define some element more. Pick a cluster of flowers, maybe just one flower, and give it a bit more attention. I know it doesn't resemble my other work. That's ok. I could go back and define it, but I want to keep it as is. It'll be good to hang in the studio as a reminder that my creative side is not dead and can still be accessed. Now I can relax and continue in my development of fundamentals. 

Something inside still drives me. My work feels cut out for the new year. My direction is clear. Develop the fundamentals further and begin to allow the creative side to dance with it. Somewhere between my girls at the beach and this emotional outburst lies the place I'm headed. 

So I ask again. Where are you headed with regards to your art this year?