Archive for January, 2010

Scarce and Precious

January 28, 2010

January has been a month of distractions. Sick elderly parents, real estate transactions, disclosure forms, meeting, inspections. Studio time has become scarce and precious. But this reminds me of just another reason why I love my medium of choice, soft pastels. In between the distractions I can catch snippets of 20 to 30 minutes of time to head into the studio and paint. Nothing to set up, nothing to clean up, just dedicated painting time.

work in progress

So when the opportunity presents itself I have working on my “rocky start” painting. The problem I seem to be facing now is solidifying what is the star of the show. Is it the rocks or the cascading water? Can’t be both! My original study favored the rocks, but now as the painting is developing I tend to see the water as the main attraction.

So next time in the studio, the rocks are subject to a major rework. Colors closer in values, less chroma.


Figuratively Speaking

January 25, 2010

Last Friday I found myself in one of the studio classrooms of a local junior college. I am enrolled in Figure Oil Painting. So what is a pastel artist whose genre is the landscape doing here?

I can’t think of a better way to hone my observational skills than by studying the form of the human body. Really discerning values that ultimately define form is a skill that can always use a tune up. Catching the essence of gesture leads the way to rhythms and a sense of fluidity. All vital talents of any artist no matter what the subject or the medium.

So for the next 18 weeks or so, I will will send 6 hours each Friday (this alone is a test of stamina) seeing, drawing, seeing, painting, seeing and learning. Working in oils for extended periods of time will also be a stretch for me. Maybe even a “challenge.” There’s THAT word again.

Revisiting a Rocky Start

January 21, 2010

notan thumbnail (value study)

Torrential rain, hail, thunder and lightening are all good reasons to hunker down in the studio. If you are experiencing California weather or have heard about it, I obviously had some time yesterday to rethink my “Rocky Start” study.

I did a number of value studies and selected the one pictured here. Already I am feeling better. This was a key component missing from my first go round with this subject. As you may recall my original painting had no shapes. It was just a huge mass of midtones, sprinkled and scattered with lights and darks. Now at least I see masses of two lights and two darks. I’m happy!

Pictured is the watercolor underpainting done on mounted Wallis paper. The first thing I checked was how the underpainting related to the value study. So far so good. I also like the composition better. I have addressed the divisions of space. and what makes me the happiest is there are no implied lines that look like ladder rungs climbing up the painting. Recession of space has been recaptured! For all I care, let it pour!

A Rocky Start

January 18, 2010

The new year seems to have gotten off to a rough start in my studio and in life in general. With a number of family distractions on the health front, putting our home and my studio on the market, actual studio time has been at a premium. To top it off one of the first paintings off the easel was a total disaster. But I decided to post it anyway.

What  intrigued me about the scene was the flow of water cascading over the rocks. The problem is that my focal point is not that evident. Is it area one or two as indicated on the focal point thumbnail below)? When I went back to refer to my notan (value study) I was shocked not to find it. I hadn’t done one; something totally unlike me. The notan would have given me a clue of where I thought the emphasis should be, the area with the most contrast, the most interesting shapes. It also would have revealed the value distribution. In doing a graysale posterized adjustment in Photoshop you can see that at least 90% of the study is midtones, the lights are scattered and there is just a touch of darks. No strong shapes here, for sure!

value distribution

division of space

division of space

focal area?


When I step backed from the easel the first thing I saw that made me shiver was the division of space I had created. Three equal horizontal bands were staring me in the face! Bad design. I felt like I flunked Composition 1A. To add insult to that injury, while I have repetition of line with the diagonals coming in from the right, there is little counterbalance.

And then I came to aerial perspective. That’s simple, there isn’t any.

But you may remember “challenge” was the word I chose to guide me through the year. This little disaster is going to be the fodder for a larger and hopefully more successful attempt. The gauntlet has been thrown.

The Chinking of the Jam Jar

January 14, 2010

Young Kieron Williamson at the age of seven has some wise advice for all artists and anyone who aspires to take their dreams and goals to the next level. I especially admire his early rising to be in front of his easel.

See more of Kierons work.

Juried Shows

January 11, 2010

I imagine I am like other artists when it comes to entering juried shows. There is the anticipation of acceptance balanced with the disappointment of rejection. Why do we put ourselves through this? I guess, for me it is the validation of my work by other artists I admire. About a year or so ago I had the opportunity to watch the jurying process unfold on two different occasions. Definitely surprising events.

Juror’s come to the table with different agendas. In many cases the jurors take their lead from the show committee who has outlined for them what they want to show to look like. I remember one juror rejected anything that looked remotely in the style of his own work. He saw those artists as look-a-like wannabes. Another juror placed major emphasis on the title of each painting, saying this was the artist’s chance to “market” their work, state their case, define their concept.

During one jurying session, it became apparant that as the day went on the jurors tired and became either more accepting, or more critical. This was dependent on how many pieces were to be selected to fill the show and what the current accepted count was. There were jurors who were very thoughtful in their selection, verbalizing what they appreciated in the work in front of them but why they felt they had to reject it.

This year I have on my list to enter six shows. I guess just for the angst of it all. I just received acceptance of two paintings, Tomorrow’s Promise and Delta Mist in the Fairfield Visual Arts Association 47th Annual Regional Exhibit. Delta Mist is an award winner, but unfortunately I do not have a digital image to post (another long story). But I can tell you it is pictured in my blog header, the second from the right. Water Dance was juried into the North Valley 26th National Show, awards to still be announced!

Tomorrow’s Promise, ©2009 Marianne Post

Water Dance, ©2009 Marianne Post

Time’s Up!

January 7, 2010

This is the time of year when resolutions abound, maybe even a few haven’t already fallen by the wayside! This year instead of promises to myself I decided to take a cue from Christine Kane and adopt a word to carry me through the year in all aspects of my life.

Just one.
The problem lie in picking just one word. Simplify, explore, nurture, journey, listen, ask; they all have endless possibilities. For better or worse I decided on “challenge.”

So in the studio this week I decided to challenge myself to doing a painting, start to finish, in an hour or less. At the end of 60 minutes it is what it is. Needless to say, the time flew.


I began with a found piece of prepared board from my stash. No telling how long ago I prepared it and I am not  even sure what I had used to make the surface. But heck, this is suppose to be a challenge, remember? It is 8 x 8″ illustration board and perhaps I coated it with just Golden’s Acrylic Ground for Pastel. As I began working with it it had a different feel than my usual pumice mixture I sometimes use.

I chose a scene I had painted previously on a recent plein air excursion, hoping that would help with the time constraints. I did a watercolor underpainting after a quick test with water on the surface to see if the surface would even hold up to this approach, Clock’s ticking, yikes. I dried it with a hair dryer, no time to let nature takes its course.

Bee Boxes, 8 x 8″ prepared surface
©2009 Marianne Post

Time’s up! Not the best painting but a good lesson in seeing what you can do with less time, less detail, less marks.

Puzzle Pieces

January 4, 2010

I sudoku, do you? I will also admit that I work the word jumble puzzle in the daily paper. I love jigsaw puzzles and the spot the difference challenge between seemingly identical photos. Perhaps that explains the career path I chose for over 30 years as a visual artist, which is just a 21st century term for puzzle/problem solver.

So what does this have to do with art?
A few years back I remember completing a painting that I was very happy with. I thought I had arrived as an artist. The work was validated when it won an award at an national show. I had made it. Back in the studio, I was empowered with vigor and confidence. Problem was, as they say  “history is no indication of future performance.” My next endeavor was close to a disaster. So what happened? Where did the magic go? Pixy dust has a longer shelf life than this. Doesn’t it?

Puzzle solving begins.
I took my “wow” painting along with about a dozen others and lined them up along the studio wall. Based on my the list of questions to consider when critiquing my own work and the works of my students I went around the room. Value distribution, variety of shapes, interesting shapes, color harmony, dominance of warms or cools, repetition, balance, poetry in the concept, music in mark making, etc. There were actually a few paintings that I felt really good about, and some had issues. But what made the difference between the “wows” and the “not bads?” They both seemed to have addressed the elements and principles of design, the major players.

The light bulb goes off!
I remember in a college math class, of all places, a professor brought up the theory of the Golden Ratio, phi, the natural phenomenon of beauty that is based on a 3:5 ratio. I recall his dramatic video presentation of an extraordinary attractive woman compared to a pleasant looking counterpart. He overlaid each of their images with a grid based on the Golden Mean 3:5 ratio. The fashion model’s features lined up perfectly. The other women’s facial features in many cases just seem to miss the mark.

A possible solution.
So my puzzle solving brain deduced that the closer something adheres to the magical 3:5 ratio, the more we as humans see it as beautiful or attractive. Back in the studio, I started measuring where edges met the outside of my painting. How did they break up the linear space? I also took note of implied lines in the composition and their ratio to one another. I measured shape masses and compared them to one another. I checked out the relationship between positive and negative spaces. My better pantings had a much higher number of “perfect” relationships.

You don’t need to be a math wizard.

Measuring spatial relationships with a Golden Ratio Caliber

All my measuring and dividing was a bit tedious and something I would never do on a regular basis. Golden Mean calibers are available but they are pretty pricey. Now thanks to technology, PhiMatrix released this past month an inexpensive program developed to allow you to overlay a grid on any digital image. So if I have peaked your curiosity check out the free demo available for both Mac and Windows platforms.

Is this the solution to the puzzle? Not really. But it is pretty interesting to consider. In the meantime, I’ll keep looking for the next puzzle piece.