Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Start to finish - and finally finished! Winter Twilight

Winter Twilight, 24x36" Oil on canvas 
©2016 Helen Read
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Please contact me by email for payment methods - I'm willing to devise a payment plan that works for you - and/or shipping methods. 

I've finally finished this larger landscape painting.  It has been months in the making with some stops and starts in between.  I am trying to keep much better notes on my paintings as I go - so, I'm including them below.  If you have interest in my process you may find these notes interesting!  

Artist's Notes on Winter Twilight  7-19-16

January  30, 2016  - Klein Creek Farm – afternoon about 4:00

The reference picture for this painting

This year, snow was about melted (not much snow this past winter).  It was cold, but warm enough to be outdoors.  There was not much in the way of bird song – the water was not frozen, but not running very quickly.  Quite a placid afternoon.  I was particularly struck by the reflections in the water and the western horizon that had just a was of yellow in it as the sun retreated behind the tree line. 

In preparation for painting, I took photos.  I did thumbnail sketches, I did full size sketches in charcoal and adding color.  I did value studies and worked with 4 values in markers.  I also did drawings – particularly of the large tree on the left as it hung over the water – it was not a typical shape – a waterside, scrubby tree.  But it did have an interesting personality!   All of this to try to understand the landscape I was intending to paint – to understand the various elements of the landscape – to understand the shadows and light – to understand the colors, subdued as they were.  In all of this, trying to internalize something of the physics of the world that God has made.  

 above - thumbnail sketch
and marker value study with notes on values using a value scale (1-10)

Above - A full size charcoal sketch on paper
Below - sketch with color added

 A 9x12" drawing of the tree on the left side of the painting - as a way to understand the structure of this tree.
This drawing has since been sold. 

With preliminary work done, canvas ready, the painting began.  I’d like to say it went easily -  it didn’t.   The size is large.  The painting has to be scaled to fit.  There’s a lot of acreage to cover with paint.  There were times of feeling stuck and needing to stop awhile and think.  Decide what to do about what issue along the way. 

 Above  -  lightly sketched on canvas
Below - neutrals added for sky and water

 Above - a light wash of yellow added to the sky

Below - the progression of the painting - from the underpainting to the almost finished work. 

The palette of colors I used for this painting

was rather simplified.  The winter colors are rather subdued and neutral.  So my palette of colors needed to be rather subdued and simplified as well.  My medium was Liquin. 

Ultramarine blue
Raw Umber
Burnt Umber
Chromatic Black
Transparent Earth Yellow
Portland Gray Light
Torrit Gray
Warm White
Hansa Yellow Medium
Yellow Ochre 

I have not kept close track of my hours of work – maybe that’s for the best!  It was many hours.  This painting was started in February 2016 (January, if you count the day I first encountered this landscape when I was out trekking through the mud and chill)  It was finished in July 2016, with a few breaks in its work along the way.  I think what captured my attention was the tranquility of this winter scene, the beauty of its starkness, the reflections as they tangled and wound toward me while the lay of the water receded away from me. 

            I have hoped to capture the winter starkness just as the warmth of the sun cast its last golden glow across the scene.  Winter is always a long endurance here, but there is a warmth here that seems to breathe hope! 


Saturday, July 16, 2016

.... and a little more is done!

This has seemed an endless painting! 
But I actually am on the home stretch! 
In fact, I think it will be done in the next few days.  I'm going slowly now because drying time is essential.  There's nothing more irritating than to drag my hand (accidentally) through some fine details I just added. 
(And I've done that quite a few times on this one!) 

So, I'm being patient - working consistently - waiting for things to dry - and then all over again!  


Monday, July 11, 2016

A little more done!

I must say,  it does seem to be taking forever!    I'm working along on this larger painting (2' x 3')  and I continue to make progress.  I often find that because of wet paint I can only work for a short period of time before I have to stop and let it dry.  Too many times, I've rested my hand in wet paint - and then a lot of clean up has to happen.  the tree in the foreground is not yet finished, the foreground ground has to be worked on.  And unfortunately the lighting for this is really not accurate.  When its finished, I'll photograph accurately. 

My goal is to have this done in the next few days so it can be put into an exhibit.   Yikes!   I have a lot of irons in the fire - time is going too fast!   I hope that I'll have its final form here to see in just a few more days!  

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Celebrating My 9 Year Adventure!!

It was July 2007....  I made a commitment to get serious!
I started this blog - and planned to paint a little bit every day.  I knew it would take discipline and I knew it wouldn't be easy... I am a full time public school teacher.  At the time I started this, I was also a full time single mom.  The kids have now grown, gotten married, and started families of their own.
I didn't know if I was crazy to even think I could do this... 

I can't say that I have painted every single day in these last nine years, but I've painted MOST days!  
I've seen a lot of ups and downs - belief and doubt - fear and confidence...
I've painted a lot of paintings - I haven't counted exactly, but its in the hundreds!  Some small, some large.
I've sold a lot of paintings here in the US, in Europe, and in Asia right here from my humble blog.   I've seen my own work and vision take shape, improve, and become more focused! 
Its been an adventure - well worth the investment of time and paint!!  
Its exciting to look back over these last 9 years and now, to look forward to what is in store! 

Featured above are paintings from my beginning - July 2007 and a sample of what I was doing in July of every year since!   I hope you can see the progression too!

To see all my available works, please click here!   There are many works available that are looking for their home! 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Once again.....

I'm working on this large painting that I had to put aside for awhile.   Here are the latest brushstrokes!!  Some good things are happening!

This one is large - 2' x 3' -  and has been quite challenging in all that is required as I work on it.  But, progress is being made.   In the top image you can see where I had left of a month or a little more ago.  Not much of the trees have been done, other than the very far ones.  In the middle picture, I've begun adding more to the trees in the nearer ground, with a few more details being included.   And the bottom picture shows that even more worked out.  Also in the nearest tree on the left, a little additional shading to show some of its contours. 

My process so far has been to work on the sky and its reflection in the water first.  These are the lightest values in the painting.  I then worked on the upright (near and far) elements (darkest values)  and am now beginning to work on the ground - both middle ground and foreground.  These will be the mid values.   Of course, there are many details to be added as well, but dividing up the painting by values is an extremely helpful strategy.

I'm continuing to work, although at pointss drying time is needed.  Because of its size, there is a lot of canvas to cover!   I am enjoying the process and seeing it come together.  
More will be posted soon!  

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Tall Oaks - Lincoln Marsh

Tall Oaks ~ Lincoln Marsh,  20x16" Oil on canvas panel
©2016, Helen Read 
Ready to frame 
(Shipping will be added after calculating it accurately for its destination,   IL residents please add 8% sales tax) 
Please contact me by email for sale and shipping  information
There's something about tall trees that is majestic and awe-inspiring.  These trees are depicted in the earliest days of spring, a very typical scene for the Illinois prairie.  There are no leaves on them yet, although the scrubby undergrowth is turning green early.  I started this painting on a  bright sunny day - the shadows are very dark because of the intensity of the sun.  I was captivated by the tall sculptural quality I saw in these beautiful trees, as well as the contrast between sun and shadow, so they became the focus of the painting.   Because of their tall majestic size, it required a larger canvas to contain them!   So this is 20" tall and 16" wide.    It is ready to frame and hang

Friday, June 3, 2016

Up next! Tall Oaks

Still in progress 

 Here you see the beginning progression of this newest landscape... the top image is an underpainting.  (Before the underpainting, there were thumbnails, value calculations, and sketches in preparation of the painting).  In the lower image, you can see that I've made some value adjustments and started painting the sky.  This is a larger painting - 16x20"  And it will continue progressing in the next few days showing its very early spring colors. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

This pathway

Lincoln Marsh Pathway,  12x9" Oil on linen panel
©2016 Helen Read 
(ready to frame) 
(Please add $12 shipping within the US, IL residents please add 8.25% sales tax)

Not too far from where I live is a natural wetlands that is quite lovely, particularly in the springtime as the leaves and grasses just start to return from their long winter slumber.   This painting captures one of those first warm days as green is beginning to dress the bare branches.  The shadows that are cast are thinner, less full than they will soon be.  There's a sense of anticipation about the environment - you can hear it in the birds' songs, in the occasional rustle of the grasses as a small animal scurries through.  The air is warm, but the ground is still rather cool... spring is just beginning with the promise of so much more! 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Spring Awakens!

Spring Awakens, 12 x 9" oil on linen panel
©2016 Helen Read
ready to frame 
(Please add $12.00 shipping in the US,  IL residents please add 8.25% sales tax)


Oh Springtime!  So long awaited during the cold winter months. Those first few days are a wonderful lush growth of green, as the birds sing and the earth warms.
This was painted of a location at Lincoln Marsh, a local area that fosters beautiful growth of plants and is the home of much wildlife.  On this sunny day, in early spring, its beauty was cast in lovely tones of green and blue.


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Working on 2 new paintings

It's a cold, overcast, windy day - so a good day to bring these 2 paintings along.  Both are 12x9" .  The underpainting was done a few days ago -  the values have been categorized, and now layers of color are going down.  
More coming soon! 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

2 New landscapes - underpaintings

Both of these are underpaintings - a monochromatic "rough draft" you could say - which just lays out the general idea in lights and darks.  Both of these measure 12x9" So, now that the underpaintings are done, I'll begin to devise and lay in color while keeping the values (lights and darks) about where they are.   I hope to begin this next step in the next couple days!  

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Its been a week! Student Art Show

Every year around the first week in May, our high school puts on the student art exhibit.  As an art teacher, it is a lot of work!   Its a wonderful thing to do, and many of our students participate - but it is a demanding and exhausting week!   So, this was the week...   I tried to start counting the pieces we hung and/or displayed - and it just wasn't possible.  The small section I counted was 300 - and I estimate that was possibly 1/5 of the total - but that may be quite conservative...  I think its safe to say, over 1500 pieces were hung.  Monday morning, it all comes down again - till next May.    There won't really be much rest until graduation and finals are finished... in a few more weeks, but hopefully it won't be as exhausting as this week has been!  

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Field Work

One of the pleasures of landscape painting is being IN the landscape!  One of the disciplines is drawing it...these are a series of thumbnail sketches with my notes - my favorites out of the lot of 12 or so.  Even though this is a very busy time of year with spring semester finishing up - giving exams, entering grades, closing up classrooms soon - I've enjoyed getting out into the beauty of spring to observe and draw its arrival!   New paintings - coming SOON! 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

And - more trees and branches

Ugh -- work is keeping me busy !  I hope to work more on this in the next few days , but I am progressing - a little! 
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