Sunday, December 23, 2007

Mulled Wine & Mince Pies

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A funny thing about living in a country I didn't grow up in, is the unexpected onset of nostalgia. I've never been patriotic, or even that enthusiastic about Britain, especially Wales - but now I'm away... wow there's so many silly little things I miss, and I find myself increasingly drawn to seek out all things British. I listen to BBC Radio over the internet all day while I'm painting, and recently heard a live session with a very talented young singer called Duffy. I was even more drawn in when she said she was from Nefyn, quite near where I come from, and her lilting Welsh accent just hypnotised me. I watched the video to her new song on Youtube, my new favourite place to watch British TV shows, and it just captures so well the Wales I remember:

Dark, and kind of depressing really - but very beautiful in its way too. There's something very earthy and authentic about Wales, and it's just steeped in ancient history the way America isn't.

Anyway, Mulled wine & mince pies remind me of Christmas in Wales. Forgetting the fact that I usually eat so many of these that I'm sick of them by December 25th, I do love them. I made my own this year for the first time, and I'm surprised to report that they came out completely edible and really quite nice.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tangerine Still Life

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I love these colours! I have a Tibetan prayer flag in the same warm colours, and it has travelled with me for many years. I have it draped over a window now, and the effect is similar to a stained glass window - orangey morning light fills the room (our 'office') and it feels very peaceful. Helpful if the computer is being infuriating!

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Ring & The Chalice

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Ah..this feels like such an indulgent piece for me - romance, mythology, chivalry...they say a picture can speak a thousand words, and I think you should invent your own story for this one. That's my wedding ring in the painting; I got married just this year so I'm still on cloud nine most of the time. I've painted my husband Taylor many times, and am in the process of painting a huge abstract piece which is a kind of euphoric celebration of love and passion - so you could say this little painting is just part of what is in the air, creatively speaking.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Chalice & Tangerine - A Still Life

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This little oil study is inspired by the book I'm reading at the moment - 'Pillars of the Earth' by Ken Follet. It's set in Medieval England, and is so visual in it's portrayal of life then, that it is influencing my ideas as I'm painting. It's a hefty book - all the better to draw you in on chilly days, and absorb you into another world!

I went to the local thrift store searching for props, and found this little silver 'Chalice' which I imagine was gracing somebody's mantlepiece for years. It was all dusty and scuffed, and I knew it would be perfect. I love the colour of the tangerines and red cloth reflected in the chalice - I'm a big fan of warm colours. I'm working on the next one already, I think they'll they'll make a beautiful series.

I suppose I'm aiming for something quite Baroque in tone, but modern in style. I'm trying to keep my brushwork looser, which is hard for me at this scale. I keep having the urge to overwork these pieces, to 'finish' them off. I don't want them to become laboured, and I think with practice I'll know better when they're done. My friend Melissa Gregory quoted recently that a good painting is one that's stopped in an interesting place. I like that, and it gives me a chance to tell a groanworthy art joke "....if it ain't Baroque, don't try and fix it!"

Friday, December 14, 2007

Tahoe & Mt.Tallac Watercolour

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So I had the somewhat rare desire to use watercolours today (yes, I know how to spell) It was quite liberating - no thinners, oils, rags and mess - just water and a little Cotman set which fits right in your hand like a mini palette. Oil painting seems to involve such an entourage of stuff. Maybe it's just the way I like working that doesn't lend itself to portability. It's OK, I like my studio. So I set myself up rather easily by the window today and produced this little painting.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Towards Mount Tallac

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You know how frustrating it is when you see the most amazing thing and reach for your camera and...damnit! I forgot it, again! Well I've been having a lot of those moments recently, especially because the light is so atmospheric right now. This little oil is part memory and part photograph because of just that. I don't really mind though, visualisation and memory are powerful tools, and I think some intuitive 'interpretation' of a landscape is a good thing - I think it enriches the painting with more character than a literal translation of 'reality' onto the canvas.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Three Foot Icicles

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This oil study is part of the view from our cabin in Tahoe - and in fact includes part of our cabin! The icicles are amazing - coming from the UK where the climate is much more mild, I've never really seen them. They're pretty commonplace here now, as the temperatures are getting as low as 7 degrees (-13 Celsius) Brr! The forest service has also been doing a lot of prescribed burns the past few days, so the air has been a little yellowy-brown in the distance.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tahoe Trees & Rocks


Well, painting in the window was a mixed success. Just like painting outside, you have to deal with changing light and sometimes blinding glare on the painting. The changing light is actually really cool - it makes me work quicker and keeps things fresh. The glare is something else - I have managed after much ado to arrange my studio lights so that they don't reflect on the oily paint surface too much, with diffusers, full spectrum bulbs and clamp lights. It's not too bad if the painting is small, but on larger pieces it's a real issue.

Working in the window today was almost impossible - the sun was reflecting against the snow and right into my painting, so I couldn't accurately read the colours. I found that taking it off the easel and working on it in my hand was easier - I think this might be the way forward for these little pieces.

The view is a small section of the hillside opposite us. There are loads of tempting looking granite boulders over there, which have on close inspection proven to be crumbly and unclimbable - bah! I tried to keep this painting quite loose, and look at the more abstract design of the landscape. The snow throws the rocks and trees into sharp relief, creating perpendicular movement with the added excitement of diagonals in the steep hillside. I'm going to try a bigger version of this piece - I think it's worth experimenting with and developing further.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Snowy Tahoe

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This little oil study is part of the view from our cabin in Tahoe. We had a huge dump of snow a couple of days ago and it has transformed the view dramatically. It was like Christmas waking up to the sparkly white vista - the trees limbs weighed down under the heavy snow and the mountains across the lake suddenly delineated by contrasting ridges and gullies. Visibility was really bad yesterday, so we couldn't really see so much of the view - but today the sun came out and the landscape just opened right up again. I've stationed my easel in the window now for the next few days, so I can try to capture the vista at different times of day. We get some of the most incredible sunrises and sunsets here, which as a subject for painting I often steer clear of for fear of the dreaded 'cheese', but I'm going to tackle it in earnest if I can.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Shell's shells

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Good morning! It's snow-time at last in Tahoe, so we're off snowboarding as soon as we've had our Pain au Chocolat - no time for navel-gazing today!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Seashell no.5


I've been experimenting with glazing recently, and it's something I've ended up doing almost accidentally in the past, not really understanding the processes but liking the end results. I work intuitively, quickly and sponataneously, which is great for keeping a lot of energy in your work but sometimes good technique goes out of the window. Working on these tiny oils is giving me the chance to evaluate technique on a daily basis, and I'm reading more about materials and other people's ways of working. I can be really impatient with drying times, so glazing isn't always a practical consideration for me - you can't glaze over sopping wet paint, it just gets muddy. I've been building up texture, letting it dry (happens very quickly here in Tahoe) and then applying a thin colour over the top. It's cool the way it catches in the grooves of the underpainting, and you can warm up or cool down a section if it's not quite right. I'm working on some bigger oils of figures at the moment, and the light effects are crucial to the theme of the painting. I'm learning as I go about how to create luminosity, depth and form with glazes. Art is all about learning, you never stop learning....

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Favourite Cup


I bought this teacup whilst Taylor & I were traveling in 2005. I had whittled down all my possessions to the contents of a backpack, but as time went on I found that I missed certain fundamental comforts, and drinking tea out of a metal travel mug just didn't fit the bill. They say tea always tastes best out of china cups, which my coffee-swilling American husband thinks is nonsense. I know now what tea tastes worst out of...metal - yuk. So this cup was an indulgence for me. It's a miracle it never got smashed in the back of our rickety old camper van, but endure it did, and I love it. It sits perfectly in your cold clasped hands(always two hands when it's full) and it's big enough to make you feel like a child - remember when you'd sit on the sofa and your feet didn't touch the floor?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Earl Grey

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Ah, Earl Grey. My favourite tea. Also known as 'foo-foo' tea to those who prefer a stronger, more masculine tea - aka'builder's tea' - at the bottom of which you'll probably find the forgotten remains of a soggy biscuit (or cookie to the Yanks)Yummy!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

New Etsy Shop

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My username is Sugamonkey. I'm trying out this cool online store, which is a bit like Ebay for artists and craftspeople. Let me know what you think!

The Original Twisted Oak Paintings are now hanging at the Trio Wine Bar in Truckee, CA. The opening reception will be on Saturday, December 8th from 6.30pm - wine and nibbles!

Happiness comes from Contentment

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I love Tea. Anyone who knows me will tell you that - I even have a T-shirt which states it loud and clear, and being a Brit in America, this probably reinforces the stereotype and is the crass equivalent of wearing a Union Jack on my chest.Oh well.

I also love ceramics, and dramatic lighting, so this was a very fun painting for me. I watched the film 'Girl with a Pearl Earring' a couple of nights ago, and was struck anew by the beauty of that portrait. I had actually already decided to paint the teacup on a black background to really make the white china 'pop', and I've been using a spotlight to create more dramatic shadows on all of these little studies. It was a beautiful moment of synchronicity to watch the film when I was thinking about chiarescuro. I saw an exhibition of Rembrandt's portaits a few years ago at the Tate Gallery in London, and those works stuck in my mind too. I was actually really surprised by the amount of texture in his paintings, and realised that the heavy impasto catches the light and casts a small shadow, boosting the illusion of luminosity.

I've got some bigger paintings in mind, of a different subject but using the same style. These little studies are proving to be useful starting points for the evolution of ideas. My ideas feel more connected and organic - instead of standing in front of a blank canvas thinking "what shall I paint?" I'm starting to know before I finish one what the next one will be, because they're the logical next step (to me!)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Seashell #4


Good Morning! Well I'm very pleased to announce that I've got my first bids on Ebay for my little Seashell Paintings! Yippee! I'm totally new to all of this, I feel like an old lady trying to get her head round this 'new fangled technology'...I need a 10 year old around to explain it to me. Anyway, this is all a great learning experience - and that's so important to me. I forget where this nugget of wisdom came from but I was advised long ago to regard my art career as a lifelong apprenticeship, and I do. It's been a bumpy rollercoaster ride, very exciting and very depressing at times, but it's worth it.

It's dangerous to regard your sales patterns as a validation of what you do - as that should never be the motivating force behind your work if you want to paint with integrity. I now know after taking a couple of years out to travel - and I suspected this all along - that I would paint anyway, regardless of exhibitions or sales: it's part of who I am.

On the other hand, since I was about 12 I have been determined to make a career out of art (after a brief daliance in school with the idea of being a Radiographer) and shamelessly commanded money for my craft from an early age. I remember those days when some friend of the family would 'commission' art from me...some of them where completely offended that I asked for payment, no matter how small ("you should do it because you love it..") They obviously hadn't read Atlas Shrugged, otherwise they'd know that the world would fall apart without the notion of fair trade. My family has a strong work ethic, and the success of our old-school family business (a carpet and furniture shop in Llandudno) has been due to hard work, old fashioned values and the not inconsiderable charm of my grandad, Ted, who refuses to retire and still calls me his 'Dolly-bird' in front of the customers and his golf buddies.

So yes, I'm as pleased that someone is bidding $50 for my painting a day, as when I sold my first four figure sum canvas - it means I can carry on doing what I love, and get paid for it!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

3rd Seashell


Well here's day three and I'm still really excited about this concept. I actually did a lot of painting yesterday, and I feel a lot more motivated by this challenge! It was snowing and cold outside too, which helps with procrastination no end. I'm off to Sacramento today to pick up my work from the Doiron Gallery, where I was the Featured Artist for the month of November. Tomorrow I'll be hanging my work in the Trio Wine Bar in Truckee - mostly winery inspired paintings, and a few little landscapes I did as part of the 'Seasons of Martis Plein Air Event' earlier this year. I wrote an article about that for a British magazine last month - I'll link to it as soon as the online version is available. It was cold and canvas fell into a was fun though! (Honest!)

Saturday, December 1, 2007

2nd Seashell


Good Morning! this is my second little painting a day - I'm really enjoying painting the seashells. I've never really painted them before, my subjects are usually human or landscape. I was given a load by my mother-in-law recently, from a trip to the beach at Hatteras (dad's a big surfer dude). They remind me of my childhood, as I grew up in a Victorian seaside town in Wales. I remember collecting shells and pebbles and keeping them in my pockets for ages, just taking one out every now and again to look at the colours and rhythms in the markings. I just find them fascinating, like looking into the fire, you can see worlds within worlds if you look closely enough.

Friday, November 30, 2007

1st Seashell painting


I've been an artist for over 15 years, and I do try to work as regularly as I can. I certainly haven't painted every day since I was a student though, and I'm intrigued as to the effect this will have on my work, not to mention my life. I remember my teacher, Peter Prendergast hammering it into us that we must draw in our sketchbooks every day - look, draw! look, draw! look,draw! So I've decided to give this a go...I'll keep you posted!