Friday, October 14, 2016

More inventing = More fun ( Plus, SALE Announcement Below!)

Dog Made Of Moonlight
The moon dog is finished! For quite a while I wasn't sure I could scale up my 8"x10" sketch to 18"x24" and have it be interesting at all—it was such a simple design that it looked rather empty, like a dinner plate with two croutons on it. I was ready to paint over it and start again on a smaller panel when I finally got an idea to break the background into horizontal strips and just apply the paint within the strips. Desert landforms frequently have a noticeable horizontal aspect to them, with their different-colored strata and contours. I used a 7/8" brush and worked quickly and roughly, sticking to my color triad of red-violet, blue-green, and yellow-orange—plus blue which didn't belong but I liked it anyway—and making the values a bit on the imaginary side. I stopped trying to make it look realistic, settling on making it attractive and interesting as my main goal.

I was initially surprised by how much the rough, blocky strokes evoked the feeling of rocky bluffs, and it was fun playing inside the lines—sort of like taking the rules and using them to cheat, exploiting a design element in an unrealistic way to emulate the natural features of desert cliffs and canyons. I wasn't sure how best to use the two main colors so I just kept interleaving them, varying the values to support the overall design. As with my other recent paintings, a lot of my inspiration came from Bob Burridge—"If you don't like the direction, turn left and and keep going."

Like my sun dog, this lady is a spirit, made purely of moonlight, with an ethereal, reflective quality; an observer and thinker, far-seeing and wise.

I'm painting so much now my studio is crammed full and I'm running out of room!!


Saturday, October 8, 2016

A loose-ish landscape

This was my only painting of Villa Catalana this year. I missed the paintout because of the too-hot weather, but took several photos of their blue gazebo a week before. I worked on this for a week before setting it aside to work on my dog paintings, and just picked it back up last week. It was close to being finished but really lacked any dynamics; it just sat there on the panel, too flat and dull. I thought some yellow and yellow-green might lift it, and that worked, contrasting nicely with the darks and adding to the feel of late afternoon light.

I got really brave and added a couple figures in the background to balance the structures on the right.

I had fun painting the reflections, keeping all the foliage and trees loose and poorly defined, using them more as a color foil for the blue tiles and red-brown soil. But I couldn't manage to leave the structures as loose as the rest; I don't yet know how to do loose structures.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

You don't have to stop working on it until you like it

I've had a floral I started many months ago that no matter what I tried, it never got better, so this morning I picked a new color scheme of greens and reds and started painting over it. I blocked in the main colors and the focal point, and then started defining the shapes. After getting that far, I was right back into my old bad habit—thinking about what would make it best instead of just painting! Arggh! So I mixed up more hues and just kept going, minding the color balance and overall balance as best I could until it seemed pretty pleasing and was still nice and loose. I took a photo of it and thought, wow, that was quick! I even posted it on my blog. But the more I looked at it, the more unbalanced it looked, so I deleted the post and the next morning went back to work on it. When it looked better I stopped again, but knew that I'd better let it sit, and before long I realized I wasn't happy with the shape of the green vase. So today—the third day of working on it—I repainted the vase and the area around it—this looser style really makes it easier to repaint areas.

All the over-painting I did gave it a nice texture. My only complaint was that I seemed to be wasting more paint as I almost always mixed too much for the few brushstrokes I made. But I'm way happier with this than any other floral I've ever done and hoping I can keep loosening up.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Painting from the imagination

Blue and Orange
I've been practicing creating paintings without any references or preliminary designs. I wanted to try both a floral and a figure painting. I chose simple color schemes and just started drawing on the canvases with a paintbrush, sketching rough outlines and then blocking in the colors. I intended to work loosely, and wanted to see how lively I could make each painting.

After painting from photographs for so many years, I'm excited to see what images I can come up with just by working first and thinking after.

The vase and flowers came together really quickly, and the only repainting I've done is to balance the pattern of flowers and add bits of the accent colors.

Out Of The Rain
The figure painting took several days, and while I liked the design and general color scheme immediately, I had trouble making it interesting enough for its large 16"x20" size. I tried several tricks from Robert Burridge's website videos, and each one of them was very useful. The first one was using alcohol in the foreground to create the splash effect. But I still had a flat, featureless background where I wanted to add texture and interest without adding any detail. I found it impossible to imagine a satisfactory pattern, so I got out a soft pastel and just scribbled a looping random pattern of circles over the whole painting. I took different shades of pale yellows and oranges and just filled in the circles to look like vague and maybe blurred light sources. It was simple to remove (with a wet paper towel) or paint over the remaining pastel lines that I chose not to use. I've never used pastel on a canvas before, but I'll certainly do it again. In fact, I'm looking forward to playing with it a lot more.

I did wonder why it was so quick and easy to paint the background on the flowers and so hard for me to figure out what to do on the figures. On the flowers, I knew I wanted a gradation from light to dark,  and instinctively threw on a bit of violet with the blue, and those two things provided enough variation in the proportionally smaller background. But with the figures, there's a lot more background, and though I put in a range of colors at the beginning—almost white to shades of yellow and pale orange—it just wasn't adding enough to the design. The only idea I had was of building lights, but that was more detail than I wanted. When I decided to try the pastel to generate a pattern, circles were simply the first thing I thought of, and as I drew them, I could see how they supported the feel I wanted, that it was really all about the figures. I didn't need to imply direction or movement or any other objects, I just wanted a supportive pattern. And that's what happened.

I think the point is that any painting can present challenges along the way, and it isn't always easy to come up with solutions. The more things you try, the more ideas you're going to generate, and trying things generates ideas much more quickly than thinking.

The last trick I used was streaking with a cheap decorator's brush to create the effect of rain falling.

I've really profited from Burridge's videos. You can find them HERE.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Painting without thinking

Dog Made Of Sunlight
I wanted to paint some dogs but don't have any models, so I decided to paint an imaginary dog, and while doing it I would practice painting intuitively, letting the work proceed without me getting in the way. I had been looking at pictures of greyhounds because I think they're beautiful, and made a small paint sketch of a greyhound sitting in front of a big full moon, and figured out how I might create the textures I wanted in the painting. I decided that was a Moon Dog, and I needed to also make a Sun Dog. I sketched out a dog that was sort of like a friend's Corgi, and I wanted him to look like he was made of sunlight.

This was a really relaxed, fun painting to do. I was able to just paint without thinking about what I was doing, or what I wanted the painting to look like. In essence, I was trying to not think about the painting at all, but just to allow my actions to come from a place separate from thought—maybe from the will, or the subconscious—somewhere where I couldn't worry about it, or do anything but watch and enjoy the colors, get the right paint on the brush and put the right amount of the right color in the right place on the canvas. What I did allow myself to do was to evaluate the results, and if I liked them, I left them, and when I didn't like them, I reworked them until I did.

I've been telling myself for a long time that I need to stop thinking while I'm painting, but recently while working on a landscape, I discovered that if I focused my attention on my hands and on observing what they did, I could shut off the thinking part of my mind. It may seem silly, but it was the trick I needed to let my hands just paint without me trying to direct them. The magic part of doing this is that painting becomes relaxing and stress free as long as I keep working. Frequently, I'll come to a point where I stop working and take a minute, but like as not I'll pick the brush back up and go right back to work on some other bit. It might be the same thing I'm doing when I meditate—shutting off the plotting, planning, worrying mind, and just observing.

Frequently, the colors and the patterns I make don't make sense to me at first, and I can't predict the outcome, or tell if it will evolve into the idea I had in my head before I started. More than once I thought, what a stupid idea to paint an imaginary dog! Who would every buy such a painting! But while I had the brush in my hand, while I was mixing colors and slowly building up each part until it began to look both unique and finished, I totally enjoyed the process. There was no worrying while I was painting, just playing without thinking.

The color scheme on this one was red-violet, blue-violet, and yellow-orange. Very fun to play with.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Painting Zion

The Landing

The Landing is my second attempt to paint scenes from my Zion National Park photos. This was the top corner of a bluff that was across a valley looking into the late afternoon sun. But once I zeroed in on this small part of that composition, I loved the shapes and lines, and the backlighting. Once I got to the finishing stages, I played with the highlight colors a bit to bring out the color in the shadows. I also played with the color in the shadows. Again, I tried to make the leap from how the photo looks to how the actual scene looked and felt. I kept thinking about the blue and orange harmonies I worked with on the music paintings and was looking for opportunities to use some of those.

This is one of the scenes I found where I could totally imagine my story eagle character Tlocan flying around.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Now offering — Posters!

I thought it might be fun to make some small photo posters of the new music paintings, so I'm now offering two different ones in my storefront on Etsy, patriciaryanart. It was fun choosing the background colors, but I did get some help from a friend.

They are:


16"x20" Digital photo print on heavy paper $25 each
You can purchase them HERE.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Music for the eyes

Benny's Bounce
10"x30" Acrylics on stretched canvas $300
If you're interested in this painting, please contact me at patriciaryanart.

Another painting done. I roughed this composition out when I was working on Rhythmism, and it waited till I finished Song For Iris. I was hoping it would have a different look to it, and it does. It's a different take on the blue-orange combination, and feels a lot more energetic and active. I did really enjoy the way the colors and forms began to interweave, and the separate lines interact, just like instruments in a song. With this as with Iris, I wasn't sure how the separate lines would resolve themselves to fit in a two-dimensional space, but they just did, as I kept working. I found that again, I didn't have to think about it or work it out ahead of time—all I had to do was keep working.

Monday, June 6, 2016

A tribute to color

Song For Iris

16"x20" Acrylics on canvas panel SOLD
If you're interested in a painting like this, please contact me at patriciaryanart.

I knew I was going to be able to finish this painting when I finally thought of a name for it: Song For Iris. It's obviously not iris-as-in-eyeballs, it's sort of about iris flowers, but it's really for Iris, the goddess of the rainbow. Color is after all one of my passions.

I picked the violet-yellow pairing in a moment of madness, because I've never done a violet painting before. It is one of the 3 possible primary&complement pigment pairings, so it deserves to be explored, but it was such an unfamiliar combo to me that I really didn't feel comfortable until it was about three-quarters done. I purposely kept the yellows to a very small amount and leaned more heavily on yellow green, which goes so beautifully with red-violet.

I went bigger with this one, too, a 16x20. I was interested in whether or not the music painting idea would translate to a more standard format. I found myself thinking of it as different lines of melody and harmony within a short segment of music, various instruments playing around and in concert with each other.


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Painting and music are almost the same thing

15"x30" Acrylics on stretched canvas $325
If you're interested in this painting, please contact me at patriciaryanart.

While I was working on this one, I couldn't stop thinking how much painting a picture is like recording a song. Take out the words colors, hues, tints, shades, intensity, and replace them with words like notes, chords, harmony, volume, and tempo, and you're essentially talking about the same process. It starts with your imagination, you make all the forms and put them together, then you balance them against each other, adapting each one. Then you spend the rest of the time perfecting each bit, integrating it into the whole, and then perfecting the thing as a whole.

As I was doing the final tweaking of the lines and angles, I also thought how that was just like editing a piece of writing, checking for typos, homonyms, and the gremlins of print.

One problem I did not have with this piece was my usual wavering. Whenever I came to a spot I wasn't sure how to deal with, I just thought of it as a piece of music and that helped me see what I wanted to do with that particular bit.

I started my next one this morning, and it's also going to look different from the ones before it, but still blue and orange. In fact, I had to order more paint this morning.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Exploring (Exploding!) complementary color combinations

Yellow Backbeat With A Rising Cadence
8"x16" Acrylics on canvas panel $125
To purchase this painting, click HERE.

After finishing this new one last night, I'm thinking I'm just going to stay with blue and orange for a while. The moods of these last two paintings are so different that I'm wondering just how much range you have within a two-member complementary color scheme. It was a real revelation to stop thinking of pairing single colors in favor of pairing their whole families. (Thank you again, Robert Burridge.) Not just orange, but yellow-orange, red-orange, gold, and citrine (green-orange), paired with true blue, pthalo blue, cyan, greenish blue, violet-blue. Take all those shades and multiply them by a few different values, from pale to darkest, and you have a forest of colors to play with.

It's like throwing a party for your favorite couple, and inviting all their interesting friends to come too.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Painting music

Blue Projection
8"x16" Acrylics on canvas panel
To purchase this painting, click HERE.

While I was working on my last painting, I went to Bob Burridge's website and watched a lot of his videos. I've always enjoyed his figurative series; they're very personal, original, and of course brilliantly colored. I was wishing (again) that I could come up with a personal theme for a series that would last me more than a few ideas. There was some particularly interesting jazz playing on KMHD, and this image appeared in my head that I knew was a visual representation of the song I was listening to, and it was as interesting to me as the song was. I thought, I love music, I should paint how music sounds to me. It felt like the best idea I'd had in years.

I let the idea incubate while I finished up Council Crest, then made my first attempt. It didn't look appealing at all until the second pass when I started layering the colors, and from that point I just got more and more into weaving the two main color groups together. It does not look much like my original idea, so I have to keep trying for that, but that's a problem I'm happy to have.

It's been a long time since I've painted an abstract anything, and I've really enjoyed the freedom of doing one again. I really do need the practice in working playfully and experimentally, and it's so much more relaxing to do that when there's no limit to the liberties you can take.

The color scheme owes a lot to Bob Burridge's examples and his goof-proof color wheel, and his message about painting for fun can't be repeated often enough. I regularly visit his website when I'm looking for inspiration.

Finished, eight years later...

Council Crest
10"x30" Acrylics on stretched canvas $300
If you're interested in this painting please contact me at patriciaryanart.

I started this painting several years ago after a trip up to Council Crest Park in Portland in the winter of '08-'09. I taped six photos together to make a panorama and got the painting about three-fourths done and realized I didn't have the skills to finish it. I picked it up a couple weeks ago and began painting on top of it, adding details and glazing more colors.

I've changed a lot of things about the way I paint in the last two years, so I didn't do much messing with the parts I liked. I finally finished it yesterday and it feels good to be done with it.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Just a little bit off can look a lot wrong

The Lotus Pond
12"x16" Acrylics on linen panel $175
You can purchase this painting HERE.

It took me what seemed like a long time to get the right color balance on this one. Mostly it was too light, but the greens were off, the reds were off, and the grays on the wall were really hard to get right. I reworked the shrubs above them a few times without making them look good, and it wasn't until I noticed in the reference photo that the bottom half of the wall was a shade darker than the top. When I made that correction, that whole area clicked. Getting the highlights on the top of the balusters light enough, the roof color right, and the background dark enough finally made the painting look like it was in bright sunlight. At last!

This was a really good lesson in how little it takes to keep a painting to come together, and you just have to keep looking for those tiny adjustments to get the look you want.

Friday, April 8, 2016

For those paintings that take a long time...

Lunch In The Arbor
12"x16" Acrylics on linen panel $175
You can purchase this painting HERE.

The second of the Villa Catalana paintings from last year is finished. I did a lot of glazing on this one to build up the colors on the stonework and the fuzzy grasses in the foreground. I was frankly surprised at how fluffy they looked when I finished. I started with a couple layers of light greens, and then the pale yellow tufts, and the yellow ochre tint in the center, trying to get the translucency of the clumps. I worked similarly on the rest of the painting, especially on the stonework, trying to give it the look of bright shade, between the brighter back- and top-lighting and the deep shadows under the heaviest vine foliage. The stones were so many different colors I couldn't decide which to paint first—the grays, the golds, the blue sky reflections, the rosy beiges. The vines were a similar problem,  greens in a half dozen colors, plus highlights and shadows.

Even though it seemed I was doing more experimenting than painting, somehow the painting looked a little better, but it never came to life. I intensified the colors of the tablecloth and the people, added new hues of blue, turquoise, and more yellow highlights on the leaves. I deepened the shadows with red-violet, and it looked better, but it still looked flat. I felt as though I'd thrown every color I had at it, and had simply run out of ideas.

Then last weekend I went to a show opening of Leland John, a well-known artist and former teacher from this area. I stayed a couple hours, and did a lot of staring at his paintings up close, looking at the brushstrokes and the amount of paint he used on each stroke. Then I noticed something that all my favorites had in common—that you could take any 4-inch-square area on the paintings, and count around fifty different colors.

I thought about that a lot the next day, looking at the arbor painting again. Maybe I just wasn't using enough colors. I thought there must be one or more colors missing from it, and suddenly I looked at the grasses and pale scrub in the foreground, and realized how yellow they were, and thought that was the missing color—the complement of yellow—violet. I painted virtually every middle tone and shadow with some violet, and the more I put on, the better the painting looked. When I washed the thin lines of violet into the center of the big grass clump, that finished it.

It doesn't look anything like a Leland John painting, but I'll never look at a painting the same way again. When I look at it now, I can't see the violet at all—but it looks alive. It's not flat any more.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Realism without detail?

Garden Steps
12"x16" Acrylics on linen panel $175
You can purchase this painting HERE.

I started this one last August at the Villa Catalana paint-out in Oregon City. That day was so hot, windy, and dry that the paint practically dried on my brush. All I managed to do that day was make a bunch of smears and blobs on the panel, so it was a kind of enforced looseness. Somehow I managed to keep that feel when I started reworking it in the studio, and every time I worked on it I browbeat myself into not getting all tensed up about making it look realistic, and yet it still came out as realistic  as anything I've ever done, maybe even moreso. When I did the stones I made the lines rough and sloppy, really trying to do as little as possible as I put the colors on. Up close I see dozens of blurs and blobs, and yet when viewed as a whole, the general chaos and blocked shapes turns into recognizable plants and architecture. I couldn't resist putting in some real detail in the tree trunk and the rose stems; at least it makes a sort of center of interest. I think any more detail would have killed it.

I still have two other paintings from that day to finish up.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Loosening up with some spring colors

May Garden
12"x16" Acrylics on mounted canvas $90
You can purchase this painting HERE.

With my second song released, I'm back to doing some painting, and still working on my current painting goals: To relax and have more fun, to compose an unpremeditated painting just from my imagination as I paint, and to find more opportunities to draw with my brush. This one did all three for me. I don't remember if I was thinking anything as I did the initial paint application, but by the time I covered the canvas I was seeing a flowery landscape in it. I kept working with it, switched to a smaller brush, and began drawing in the trees. As I worked on the flower colors, I imagined a thick planting of iris in blue, violet, and yellow, and when I put in the peach-colored gladioli, I felt that the color scheme was complete.

I certainly had more fun than usual on it, refusing to worry about how it was going to come out, concentrating on the compatible colors and the overall composition, and just wanting to see how close I could come to a decent painting. When I felt it was almost done, I drew some flower details on a few of the iris, and that was it.

I find the colors a bit startling, and the whole painting is a bit of a jolt to the eyes; I keep thinking, Van Gogh on acid. But it really was fun inventing it, and it's certainly not boring, nor the worst painting I've ever done, or even the worst one I've done lately.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Drawing with my brush

Okay, I think I finished Angel 2. I added more tints for some iridescence, and got the glow the way I like it. I started the Angel 3 canvas, an 11x14 this time, and maybe a tiny bit more "traditional" looking, but not much.

I have long coveted the brush stroke skills of John Singer Sargent, as well as Emily Carr, Van Gogh, and a lot of other painters. My favorite classic paintings are the ones from when the application of the paint became part of the painting. I remember descriptions in the first painting books I read, about how to make your brush strokes disappear, and until I discovered the moderns, I thought that was the ideal. So when I began to admire skillful strokes, I had never thought about how I could emulate them, and when I did wonder if I could, I had no idea how to try.

Then this morning as I started painting, I had this thought: Draw with your brush. (Duh.)

I have a tendency to just smear the paint on, with my only goal being to get it into the desired shape and opaqueness. But today, it occurred to me that every brush stroke should be an intelligent mark—it should convey something about the subject or the subject's surface, just as a line on a drawing does. It should help describe not just the color and outline, but the energy, texture, shininess or darkness, and say something about the emotion or feeling of the painting. And if it doesn't tell you anything, then put some thought into what you want it to do before you put it down.

One of the things I took away from my favorite Sargent paintings is how few brush strokes he appeared to be using. He didn't overload his paintings with information. There were the bare facts of subject—color, light, general shape—and then there were only as many carefully placed, artful strokes, and little blobs as were needed to tell you everything you need to know about that subject in order to understand and relate to it.

I think true brilliance in any communication endeavor is to get across what you want to as directly and succinctly as possible. Brevity is more than the essence of wit, it's being clear about what you want to express. The things you don't say are equally as important as the things you do.

So, as I put the first paint on the new one, I kept reminding myself—no good habit comes easily—to use the important brushstrokes as a way to define my subject, and for now, to use every brushstroke as practice drawing. I'll have to see how that works out, but it's definitely something I've never done before.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Second angel for Angels500

I started my second angel painting today. I don't think it's quite done, but I'm happy with it so far.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

My first angel for Angels500

I think this one is done now, I am pretty happy with the way the painting looks. I hope it will connect with someone when I send it.

One (or two) more to go!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Angel paintings for cancer patients - angels500

I learned about a really wonderful painting challenge today that seems like a real no-brainer. Why shouldn't every cancer patient who wants one have their own angel painting?

It's called angels500 on facebook. I saw a painting by Rhea Groepper on Daily Paintworks this morning that announced this drive:

Look for Rhea Groepper's painting on the 1/16/16 Daily Paintworks site.

Here's the information (from facebook) and the address to send your paintings to:

I bet there are plenty of cancer hospitals across the US who would be interested in donations like this. At least, I hope so.

I've prepped a couple canvases this morning, and can't wait till they're ready to paint. Thank you, Rhea, for putting this out there.