Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Joy of Having a New Studio.

Last year I drew up rough plans for a new Studio / Sun Room addition on the east side of our home.  The previous year my wife had her dream kitchen remodel completed and now it was finally my turn to have a real studio space.  I sent the rough plans to my brother's step-daughter and she put them in Cad in a three dimensional format.  I used that concept to get bids from contractors so I would have an idea what I was looking at in costs.  The first contractor almost scared me out of the idea because of his bid.  It was way more than I could envision spending and I did not have the reserved funds to cover it. 

I eventually found an excellent experienced contractor whom I trusted who had excellent references and I called six of them to determine the type of work they had done. Everyone of them praised his work ethic, the workmanship and their happiness with the finished product. Once satisfied, I asked Paul Bestelmeyer if he would agree to have me work on the project with him as his second guy. He said definitely, he would enjoy that and would not have to hire someone. This would take my time but save me a lot of money. I also said I would do all the demo on the existing deck.

We worked well as a team and I worked the project from laying out the foundation to digging it and jack hammering the rock so we could set footings. I helped finish the concrete footings, and building the studio from the ground up.  There were many long tiring days as we erected the structure. 

We also had to have inspections along the way, and the wonderful thing was, we were building it above code, a lot stronger than the plans I had an architect complete called for.  We always passed each phase of the inspection.  The building inspector told us he wished more contractors built as responsibly.  I also purchased the windows and doors to match those in the existing house and found a roofing contractor to do the Concrete tile roof once we were at that point. We managed to match the siding on the front as well as the brickwork to the rest of the house.  I found a terrific brick mason who did the brick work on the east side and the front and also built the outside front entry stairs. As we got closer to finishing the building, I would continue to work painting the inside or outside after the contractor went home.  I pre-finished all of the boards for the knotty pine ceiling so that did not have to be stained once it was up. Once we had the knotty pine ceiling installed we could spend time on the finish work. The finish work inside took quite a while to complete with all of the trim moldings around doors and the fancy trim on the east side windows.

The finished studio is a very comfortable well lit place to read, drink coffee, and most importantly to create new paintings. It is our favorite room in the house.

I love to put classical piano music on while painting and relax and enjoy the beauty I am hearing. That comfortable space translates to brighter more balanced work as I create new paintings.

Now that I have my own studio, I  applied to be on the fall Auburn Artist's Studio Tour in November of this year.  A few weeks ago I was told I was accepted and will enjoy the opportunity to  show my work in this wonderful room.

Monday, September 9, 2013

An Artist's Job is Work!

An Artist’s Job is Work

Artists all over are working hard to create works that they hope will turn heads or stop people in their tracks. While creating works of art is a pleasure and offers many challenges for us creative types it is also work.  When I work on a painting I find that each subject I have chosen has its own frustrations and blocks. Sometimes the work may go smoothly, and other times it may be a difficult learning journey.  When creating a painting and things just don't always turn out as intended I fuss and change things hoping to bring it to a close.  Sometimes a composition that initially seemed just the right setting just does not hold up when it is on the easel and nearing completion. Those are the times I struggle to correct, change, start over or toss the painting rather than waste the time on one that will just not measure up to my own standards.  That journey is part of the growth to improvement.

There are so many things I could paint, but the decision once it is made, to push forward with a particular subject is sometimes more difficult than I had anticipated.  I don't always know automatically every time just what my next subject may be.  I like to be in sync with my subject, and feel fully engaged and enjoying the journey. I also like to vary my subjects and switch from landscapes to animals or birds periodically to keep me learning and challenged. Once in a while I will decide to go out painting plein air and choose to paint a very old deteriorating barn that has lots of character. The variance in subject matter provides different challenges and focus as well as an opportunity to grow my technique and my knowledge of the medium I work in.  Landscapes can be loose, but wildlife generally needs to be much tighter and detailed. The fur or feathers require knowledge of the animal or birds anatomy to create a believable representation in a drawing or painting.
Continual study and research are a part of every artist’s growth. I don’t know about you but I study peers I respect, take advanced classes, or workshops and read up on the old masters.  I also go to museums to look at the famous painters who are part of the museum’s collection or are a visiting show.  I watch and enjoy teaching DVD’s that fellow artists develop, and pour over their books, looking for tidbits that I can use that may be new to me.  When looking at paintings in art shows and I eavesdrop and listen to people’s comments on what they like, or don’t like.  All of this is fodder for my creative mind to digest and reassemble into my artist’s brain.  When I have finished my next creative subject painting, I hope to see smiles, recognition, or looks of appreciation when the piece is finally displayed.  Most of all, I love it when a person is moved by my creativity and purchases a piece for their home.  That brings a satisfaction that few occupations can duplicate.  I hope you enjoy the journey, while you study, keep learning, and creating!


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Framing Our Pastel Creations

All of us have a passion to paint the beauty we see, and try to capture that beauty on our choice of pastel paper.  But just painting a scene that moved us or scene we created is half of the job.  Properly framing the work so that it draws the viewer to the piece is as important as getting the values right when one is painting it.  When we take all that time to paint that scene we hope will get the notice of the judge, or will satisfy a client, we must be sure that the framed painting is going to last by being properly framed.  I have been amazed at how poorly framed some of the paintings are at art shows, and how little care was taken with this important part of the presentation.  Some poorly framed pieces come apart in shipping and the painting can be damaged or destroyed.  Improper matting, or a gaudy frame, will take away from the painting and cause the judge and other viewers to keep walking by. 

Framing can be expensive if you have a professional do that portion of the presentation for you.  A good framer can be provide guidance with the correct mat, or making a decision to use no mat at all.  The service of a professional can more than triple the price of framing. The price of commercially purchased frames in retail art stores is just one chunk out of your art budget, and the costs of mats, the type of glass and proper backing keep the sales clerk pushing buttons on the register tabulating all the costs to complete the framing and putting hooks and wire on the back so it can be hung.  The final bill gives one a gasp of shock, because it just ate most of your art budget for the next two months.  

If you are going to make the decision to frame your own work, then I encourage you to attend a workshop on framing or buy a book on framing that gives you some fall back information.  The first step in framing is to take the time to select nice quality simple frames to show you care and value your pastel painting.   Hopefully before you get started framing, you can take the pastel outside and gently spank the back to allow any loose pastel to fall off harmlessly, rather than doing that in the frame.  If you are not going to mat the painting and you did not use a pre-mounted paper, make sure it is properly mounted on a piece of acid free foam core with Lineco acid free linen tape or some other brand. Use a proper art spacer to space your painting away from the glass so that pastel dust is not drawn to the glass by static electricity. 

If you are going to mat your pastel painting, be sure to mat it with neutral matting that does not draw ones eye away from the painting.  Most rag mats are acid free.  I have used accent mats but found that the color of that accent mat may be the one thing that makes a prospective buyer decide that it will not fit in with their color scheme.  Lately I have been framing with double white mats with a spacer mat in between.  The spacer creates more distance from the glass and also allows pastel dust that decides to come loose to have a place to go without piling up on the edge of the bevel of the mat. 

Once my piece is mounted and properly matted, with the mats secured at the top with acid free tape so they will not move, I carefully place the painting in its frame.  A lot of store bought frames come with a back board made of thin Masonite. I will use this and secure it firmly in place with framing inserts.  Sometimes the ones that are there can be bent back when the backing is removed and cardboard taken out and then pushed flat once the painting and mats are put in place.   Once the painting is tightly secured, it should be sealed with an adhesive framing tape that seals the air gap between the picture back and the frame.  This way no bugs or moisture can migrate into your pastel painting.  

You are almost done, but now must attach flat eye straps that can be screwed into the frame to attach the hanging wire.  I use a plastic coated wire and provide plenty of extra wire twisted together at both ends and secured with tape so that people hanging the painting do not get poked.   

Lastly I put a piece of paper on the back that gives the tile of the painting, the catalog number and where it was painted as well as my name and signature.  Now you have a quality piece of art, properly mounted and displayed that can be hung in a gallery anywhere to attract new clients. Now get back to painting!

Paul Harman

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Plein Air Painting Saturday Morning

Some people have no idea what plein air painting is since the words are French and mean fresh air painting. There are many plein air painters today and even a great magazine dedicated to the subject that inspires one to want to go out with the group. I have been trying to get out more to paint on location having read how much it improves one's art and sense of color. I would have to say that those who tout painting outdoors on site are right on the money.

Two weeks ago I packed up my French Easel, grabbed my Dakota pastel carrier, and Better Brella and a bottle of water and went off to paint a barn I had been wanting to paint. The barn is located on Wise Road at Linnet Lane on the back road way to Lincoln from Auburn. It was a sunny cloudless day, and a comfortable temperature when I arrived on scene at 9:15 am. I decided that I would set up in the back of my Nissan P/U because it afforded a nice spacious level platform that was safe to stand on, and raised me a foot or so higher than if I had been down on the road.

My Set-up On SiteI took out my viewer and made a decision as to the dimensions of my painting on the 9"X12" piece of Wallis sanded paper I had taped to the wood pallet board. I first did a value sketch in my sketchbook of what would be my painting using a #3 pencil. Once that was done, I sketched the barn lightly on the Wallis paper along with the trees in the background. I then roughed in an undercoat using some NuPastels in the major blocks I had determined. I used an orange behind the trees, some light yellow, in the sky and a darker brown where the barn would go, and a dark ochre undercoat where the foreground grasses would be. I then used Turpenoid and a 1/2 brush I had brought along to liquify the pastel and give me a nice base to begin my painting. Since it was warming up quickly, it only took about ten minutes for the undercoat to dry.
I then began using various hard and then soft pastels to bring the painting colors together, and capture the essence of what I was looking at. The barn began to take shape with its rusted roof, and multicolored wood siding. I managed to lock down the values on the shady side and in the surrounding trees and grasses. There were a lot of corral fences around the barn, and I roughed them in to get the correct placement, figuring I would complete those details at home in my studio.

The sun was getting warmer as it rose and I was grateful I had brought along my umbrella to shade my painting and part of me as I worked. I locked in the sky, tree and grass colors to bring the painting together and felt comfortable with the paintings foundations. I packed up around 12:30 to head home since it was getting quite warm and the light was changing significantly. I was glad I had shot a few pictures when I first arrived on scene as a reference.

Once I was home and had a chance to have some lunch I began to tackle the fences and to add some detail and shading. I have entitled the finished piece "The Sound of Silence". Unfortunately, like many old barns, this one is no longer used and sits quietly, gradually deteriorating with no maintenance against the elements.

I will be displaying this piece at the Auburn Art Walk this coming week beginning Thursday evening the 13th.  I was invited to be the artist in residence at the County Air Pollution Control District Headquarters on Maple Street, across from the old courthouse.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

How Many Pastels Are Enough?

I don’t know about you, but I am always on the lookout for new colors of pastels that will round out my palette.  I try to have one of every color I need whatever the subject I am painting plein aire. When I am in my studio I have my sets of Prismacolor and Gallery hard pastels for under painting. I also have quite a number of Rembrandt and Winsor Newton soft pastels that get me started on my layers of color. Once I begin building color, I add in the Schminke and Sennelier pastels in some of the light and dark ranges I have purchased to add different hues, and value. 

Selling one of my paintings helps to give me justification to purchasing more supplies.  That was the reason I decided to splurge and buy the wonderful soft and lush Richard McKinley selection of Great American pastels at a demonstration last year.  In speaking with other pastel artists, one is always attracted to new colors, or wanting to try different brands that are offered at tantalizing prices. They are like eye candy to me.  I haven’t tried any of Dakota Art’s new Blue Earth pastels, but Richard McKinley said he bought a whole set and really likes them. They are organized by hue, value and intensity of color on a seven value scale and each one is numbered. The sets are arranged like candy and seem to beckon to me, saying, “Buy me!” I really want to have a reason to buy them and try them.

I have heard a number of people rave about the American made Mount Vision pastels, but to date I have not purchased any.  I did decide to try some of the beautiful soft and Rich Terry Ludwig pastels and definitely will have to get some more.  This month, Dakota Art offered a half stick set of Unison pastels, Jan’s Dark Side 30 piece set and I could not resist making that purchase. I was delighted when they came yesterday and I began checking them out on a piece of pastel paper to determine how dark they really were compared to my existing darks.  I was pleasantly surprised and pleased that they were darker than anything I had purchased to date. 

That purchase made me carefully reorganize my Dakota travel case and include 27 of the 30 pastels in the diverse palette that I carry. I have been able to wedge in 357 different half stick pastels in this case, and fill every available space.  I don’t plan on buying a bigger travel case, but I when the bug hits me, I may still have to buy new varieties to flush out my studio selection.   

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Shetland Ram

This spring I had decided I wanted to paint a different subject than the landscapes I was concentrating on. I began a painting of a marvelous Shetland Ram who lives at Chaffin Orchards off of highway 70 not too far from Paradise. I had not painted an stately animal like this one, and found its long tresses and wonderful curved horns to be a great challenge to recreate in pastel.  I sent a  picture I took while the painting was nearing completion to the Chris Kerston at Chaffin Orchards to let him know I had chosen the ram as my subject.

Chris wrote me back and asked if he could purchase a framed print when it was completed. He wanted to give it as a gift to his partner that raises the Shetland sheep. I explained to Chris that I do not make prints of my artwork, but that I am sure we could work out a trade with part cash and some barter for some of the fine products the farm sells. Chris liked that idea, and so once the painting was completed I began looking around for an appropriate frame. I decided that the best frame would be old barn wood, because it would fit the Ram and go well with the painting.

I found a large barn wood frame at Hobby Lobby for $30.00 and managed to carefully cut it down to a 23" square frame to fit the format of the square picture. Once matted and placed behind protective glass, the painting was ready for delivery.  I hope you enjoy it as much as Chris and his partner did when he and his wife surprised him with the painting.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Richard McKinley, Pastel Laureate of the Pastel Society of the West Coast

Yesterday the Pastel Society of the West Coast honored Richard McKinley, a celebrated pastel artist, teacher and author as a Pastel Laureate at the Placer Arts Gallery on Lincoln Way in Auburn.  As an added attraction and backdrop, the Society’s fall membership show was on display.  The opportunity to see hear and possibly speak with Richard McKinley was an event I did not want to miss. I have bought Richard’s DVD’s and one of his books, Pastel Pointers and learned so much from this positive, good-humored soft spoken man.  

When I walked into the gallery, I recognized Richard as he was speaking with a couple he obviously knew, sharing stories and conversation with easy comfortableness one has with long-time friends.  I did not know what time the presentation would begin so I put my things on a chair to claim a spot.  I just took some time to enjoy the many high quality pastel paintings from the 59 artists represented in the gallery.  As a member of PSWC, I was proud that one of my paintings was among that group. 

I noticed Richard was on his own as I came back around the gallery and so I took the opportunity to speak with him. I commented that I had read his blog on the new Blue Pastels, and noticed he had purchased a set and arranged them by value in a small Dakota pastel carrying case.
Richard was pleased to talk about them and said, “I have quite a collection of pastels, and just have to try out new ones when I see them.” I found the Blue Pastels to be very soft, they are meticulously made, each is numbered and they are a perfect size to paint with. They have a good edge and are easy to hold and there is no need to break them. He mentioned that the only short coming is there were no mixed color sticks in the set, they are raw colors designed just like the old oil system by value.  He said, “I prefer to mix in a few colors I like that are not there.  I will probably add some hard pastels to the set.” I recalled, you have a preference for Cretacolor hard pastels don’t you?  “Yes” he said, “Unfortunately Nu-Pastels have out-sourced  their manufacturing  to Mexico and there has been quite a buzz in the art community that their quality is not as good as it was and some of the colors do not hold and fade. “

Richard carried on a conversation with me for some time, about pastels and art, and I thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity to speak with this genuine man.

Shortly after the meeting was called to order and Richard was presented a plaque by PSWC President Tina Moore, recognizing him as the seventh Pastel Laureate to be honored by the PSWC. This honor is equivalent to being a member of the Pastel USA Hall of Fame. It is given to artists who win ten awards in Pastels USA competitions.  This award recognizes Richard’s tremendous contribution to the advancement of the pastel medium through his teaching, his blogs, and articles and his books on pastel painting. 

Pastel Laureate Margo Schultzke was asked to make some comments about Richard and she was very generous in extolling his contributions in the Pastel Art medium. She recalled a painting Richard submitted to a show so many years ago, that was just prefect without unnecessary detail. She said he has mastered the ability to refrain from unnecessary detail in his paintings. She said also said how important his contribution was for encouraging other painters and bolstering their confidence.     

After the presentation, we all had the opportunity to ask questions of Richard and get his viewpoint on many different subjects from pastels he likes versus those he is not too fond of. The likes list was very long and included Rembrandt’s, Sennelier, Girault, Schminke, Unison, Great American, Terry Ludwig, and the New Blue Pastels, and the dislike list was very short with Yarka being the only one he mentioned that were inconsistent in their manufacture and color stability.

Richard said, "I know that I am known for preaching about, simultaneous contrast, more luminosity, a higher value scale that comes from the personality of the pastel set.”  Richard said the gratuitous use, of dark pastels in a landscape painting are to be avoided because it is about light! When someone asked him how long it took to select his choices for a set of Terry Ludwig pastels, he said it took him a whole day to narrow his choices down and make his selections from Terry’s pastels to make a set. And yes, he made sure to put that eggplant stick in the set.  

Richard gave some wonderful quotes he has heard, for example, Albert Handel said,” I learned to paint in therapy when I learned to trust myself. Albert says he has this crazy friend Richard that doesn’t know when he is done.”  Richard said, it is always difficult to determine when we are finished.  “The conscious mind says you can’t be done, and yet there is this other voice one hears that says, I like it fine the way it is.  Then there is this evil voice on the other side that says, you aren’t going to leave it like that are you?  Those are the kinds of battles all artists go through when determining when a painting is done.”

Many different topics were discussed from under painting to framing decisions and the use of fixatives and Richard provided tremendous insight to the assembled group of artists that had gathered to honor him and to hear him address their questions on his take on things.  Most importantly, Richard said that our job as artists is to tell people who are looking at our paintings our vision so they can see what we see. He closed his talk with the words find the technological ability to make it work and follow your heart.  

There were so many excellent artists present at the gallery and so it was a pleasure to speak with different people I have come to know and also to meet and speak with some new ones I just met in person. One such person was Margot Schultzke another celebrated pastel artist and also a Pastel Laureate. Margot is the founder of the Pastel Society of the West Coast. Margot has traveled the world painting and has also given workshops and written an excellent book on pastel painting entitled, “A Painters Guide to Design and Composition.”  I had an opportunity to also speak with Margo and compliment her on the value of her book that my chiropractor friend Gary Robinson had loaned me.  Margot has written many articles for the Pastel Journal and is also the editor of the Pastel Society of the West Coast’s newsletter. 

Later, I had an opportunity to talk some more with Richard as he circulated around the gallery. I told him how much his book Pastel Pointers had provided me with valuable information and thanked him for sharing his technique and knowledge so freely with many artists and students.  He thanked me for the feedback and asked to see the painting I had in the show and I showed him where it was.  He was very complimentary and said he had told some friends that it was a beautiful well done landscape. I was flattered to hear that from a man that I respect and look up to and have learned so much from.  This was a special day among many artists I have had the pleasure to meet and get to know, but made even more special with the opportunity to dialog with Richard McKinley, one on one.