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Sunday, December 30, 2007

On the horizon...


November Mist, 16 x 20" Oil on canvas covered board
(I'm not entirely happy with the photograph. The actual painting has a much wider range of value and color. Alas, this seems to be all I can get for right now!)

Please email me for specific information about price
studio_upstairs@hotmail.com

This painting is larger than my typical daily paintings which are usually 8x8" or less. I took reference photos near Thanksgiving... it had been a long stretch of very gray, foggy weather. I was taken with the overall effect of the barren trees lost in the misty fog, juxtaposed with the dry field grasses - rather wet at this time - but dried out and lifeless. There is a sort of mystery in such a day as things seem to blend together and then get lost in the low clouds and wet air.
It was after weeks and weeks of this kind of weather, that I decided I was probably feeling the affects of Seasonal Affective Disorder... or maybe everyone was! I know this - I missed the sunshine, blue skies, and warm weather! This painting is the result of so many drippy days.
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It is now time to think about goals and growth for a new year on the horizon. I've posted ways that I have grown this past year - but - where do I hope to go? I've heard it said many times, if you don't know where you are going, that's probably just where you will end up - nowhere.
Growth - artistically and creatively, as well as developing what I do into a viable opportunity for increased income; these are the things I have targeted for my art in 2008.

There are some daunting aspects of growth - developing markets, publicity, advertising, thinking outside the box in terms of business ... I'll be the first to say, these things do not come naturally to me - and most of the time, they feel awkward. Honestly, I've spent a lot of time avoiding these issues, but in 2008, I want to overcome those obstacles and make these things feel more comfortable. In another area, I'm sometimes too non-descript about my artistic focus. In some ways, that isn't all bad - but I think it will be useful to try to plan out a general direction for my art and then try to reevaluate that within a few months and decide if I actually am on the right track. Finally, I want to continue to let my "self" be revealed through my work. There is something about that idea that makes my work completely individual and personal ... which is true of each of us. Too often, I don't see that as an especially valuable quality, but I think I should! So there you have it, in general terms - my 2008 artistic goals.
I am trying to be much more specific with daily, weekly, monthly (and beyond) goals and action plans, which I won't detail here. Again, the old adage comes to mind... without a plan I think I can expect to be in the same place year after year. Personally, that sounds boring! I need to continue to create new paths!

Happy New Year! Lets move forward, experiment, learn ... grow! I want 2008 to be an exciting year!


Thursday, December 27, 2007

At play!


Cats at Play! 9 x 11" Watercolor and Ink

Its back to cats again! I wanted to try to do a composition using several cats, brightly colored. Compositions using several different objects can be tricky... its important to keep the eye moving through the picture and balance colors and shapes without creating monotony. These are quirky and fun... Who knows what I'll do with this collection!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A different look at Christmas


The Lord Speaks (mixed media on paper)

I've been thinking about Christmas in a different way this year - I've been thinking about it's mystery and the amazing impact it has had on time and eternity. Let me explain what I mean; there are some deeper, more profound meanings to our wonderful winter time celebration. Thinking about these things has deepened my experience of Christmas this year.

Christmas is not a stand-alone event in time - just a beautiful moment of a special baby's birth.
Rather Christmas is the proof of a promise truly kept by a God with a true and trustworthy heart. God had created the world and everything in it to be good ... without the contamination of evil. That all changed in Eden - and the entire world and everyone in it had been on a collision course with destruction as a result. Evil is pervasive, and it has touched everyone of us. But, there is a great story of redemption afoot. A plan conceived by the heart of a loving God - to rescue and reclaim the people of his creation - if they would have him. We are a people who love stories of redemption ... whether they be stories in great books, or movies, or true accounts. Christmas is the greatest of those stories.

That first Christmas, was the beginning of an obscure and stealthy rescue operation - where God himself (in the person of Jesus) stepped into human history in the middle of the night - disguised as a newborn baby - vulnerable, helpless, weak. Only a few knew, at the time, because the angels who had attended him from the beginning of time could not keep silent. They announced his coming in the quiet moments of the night in a sheep's pasture with a sudden angelic song. The audience was the simplest of common folk, sheep herders - those who would listen and hear and be overjoyed. Terrified, of course - who wouldn't be - but a safe audience, and one who would believe.

The enemy was at work though - threatened ... unsure of the exact plan. In a wide-sweeping attempt to halt this astounding plan of redemption - all baby boys are killed. The land becomes one of mourning. But, slipping away in the night - Joseph is quick to respond to an angel's warning and he shelters God's Promise, protects God's plan of redemption, preserves his family of 3.

Jesus, the son of God - himself God - lived among us, as one of us - ate like us; walked and talked like us; laughed and cried with us... for a short life time. Taking up life in its fullness in order to lay it down for us - trading his life for ours. Redeeming us - buying back his most dear treasure (our spirits, our very souls.) The simple requirement is to acknowledge that a gift is being given and to accept it with a thankful heart. God, the loving Giver, offers that gift to each of us and waits hopefully for each of us - you and me - to receive it.

This story is much bigger than Christmas Day - it spans all of time, and into the time beyond time. This Christmas morning, as we mark the moment God stepped into history as one of us - I'm thinking beyond this day, and all its wonderful traditions, and I'm thankful for all its mystery and implications. I am thankful for a Savior who loves us enough to come on a daring rescue operation to restore our souls.

You can read the account of Christmas in the New Testament scriptures of Matthew (1st and 2nd chapters) and Luke (1st and 2nd chapters). The story is continued through the rest of the New Testament books - of course, the beginning of the story starts in Genesis in the Old Testament.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The year in retrospect, part 4


More small paintings from the Fall 2007

Click here for more information or availability of any of these paintings

This is my concluding retrospective grouping. Summing up - I see progress in several major areas. I've already spoken about some of my inner growth, but artistically - I see myself having grown in these ways: First, by having a commitment and a measure of accountability, I am working daily. It is no longer an idea bubbling on the back burner, but the ideas are getting worked through on my easel day by day! I think I've been more intentional about composition and I've become more fluent in color mixing and color expression. Also, I've become more adventurous. That sounds ridiculous, perhaps - but I mean by that, I am more willing to take some risks, knowing I don't know whether I'll like the outcome or not. Experimentation, I guess.

Once my daughter and I were at a river walk art show near by, and one of the artists gave her such a simple but outstanding piece of advice - I'm paraphrasing here - "Create a mess on the picture plane and then learn to work it out!" That really is valuable advice. Fear is quite limiting ... and being "afraid" to try new ideas and methods and media keeps us boxed in pretty tightly. How often I've created a pleasing picture, which could have been really amazing had I been willing to take a risk in some aspect... being willing to settle for "good" when "best" was still within my reach. I think the piece of advice given my daughter is so great because, if we learn to work through a problem or a mess on the canvas - we learn not to be afraid of that outcome. We learn we can deal with the unexpected. Sometimes what we get in the unexpected is beyond what we originally envisioned!

So - 2007 has been a year of leaping forward for me - in the doing of art, in learning more about my craft, in experimenting, in finishing what I start - the result has been a deep level of personal satisfaction, much better use of my time on a daily basis, nearly 40 paintings in the last 5 months, some art sales, learning new ways to develop art as a business, finding a great group of international artist friends through blogging, and a sense that I am taking big, new steps toward developing the kind of life I was created for and want to live - full of creativity, expression, and meaning. Its been a good year!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Retrospect, part 3


The Cats of November

Click here for information on purchasing a set of these small paintings in note card format

Life has unexpected twists and turns. I've experienced a few of those this fall, one of which was the loss of our family cat. We found out about his illness and had to make the hard decision to put him down on a cold, gray, drizzly day this fall. But in memory of his presence in our home for 10 years, I did a set of fun and quirky water color paintings. These were then made into note cards.

Being able to process life in a visual way is part of what makes being an artist so interesting! I would never have foreseen these 4 paintings, they are not in my typical style of artistic expression. But they have been enjoyed by many and it has been a way to turn a sad event into one that has brought good.


Monday, December 17, 2007

The year in retrospect, part 2


August and September 2007 Paintings

This is the second part of my year in retrospect. Several of these paintings have been sold, but several are still available. Click here for more information on availability.

Among these paintings are several of my personal favorites! The end of the summer always brings with it a sense of sadness for me. I love the warmer weather - love being outside - love the slower pace... and just as I'm getting rested from the previous school year and feel I've found a good pace for personal and artistic growth - gears change abruptly, and I'm back in the frantic pace of public school teaching.

This past summer, as it began, I felt at loose ends. I knew I needed to find a way to exercise creativity on a daily basis. I knew I needed to grow - internally as well as artistically. Journaling is a very critical exercise for me... a way to process life as it happens and my feelings - a way to understand all that is going on in my world and figure out where I need to be going. For weeks, this summer - I felt the compelling need to discover what I should be doing before the summer evaporated! My journal entries reflect the restlessness I was experiencing. But, within the first few days of July - I had started my daily painting commitment. What a valuable decision! It has brought so much into a clear focus... not just in the act of painting - but in the act of being intentional about being creative - and being tenacious - and stretching my understandings in many different areas. All this can be summed up into meaningful personal growth!

What caused me to go this direction? As I think back, it all seems serendipitous! Very unplanned ... a "stumble upon" kinda thing. But looking back, I see now that it has the distinct fingerprints of God's direction rather than accident. I've developed a deeper understanding of how I am created, though artistic interest is no surprise to me; I've always loved art. But maybe for the first time I've realized that this is more important than just what I find intriguing ... this is something instilled within my spirit - and to ignore it, push it aside for more practical things, or give it last priority - really dishonors the gifts I've been given and the Giver of those gifts as well. It has been a good thing to come to a full realization that God, the Maker of beauty and himself the artistic Creator, takes pleasure in my use of the gifts he's given. Maybe that, more than anything else this past year, has been my greatest breakthrough!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Finished Steeple

Steeple 1, 5x7" Oil on canvas

Please click here for availability of this painting, or purchase information.

Here is the finished painting! For those of you in the Wheaton, IL area - post your guess about which church this is in town. I'll post the location in a few days.

This painting only had a few minor adjustments since my last post about it - a few extra details on the steeple, a little smoothing out of the sky color, and a little work on the tree branches. This is a much more fine detail and realistic approach to painting than is typical for me - but it's fun to do different things... and it really forces me to observe the subject - That's a good thing in art! I used thin washes of oil paint and built up my layers - and also used liquin (fine detail) and a tiny brush to accomplish some of the hair's breadth details.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The year in retrospect, part 1


July 2007 Oil Paintings and Watercolors

click here to see the availability of each painting

December is flying by, and has been very busy. At work, I'm trying to finish up this semester and get grading done while preparing for the next semester that begins as soon as we return after Christmas break. At home, I'm preparing for the holidays - children returning from their various places of work and school, Christmas, baking, various events at church, etc. Then there is always just the regular housekeeping, laundry, & grocery shopping requirements. Throw in a few snow storms with the extra time for shoveling and snow removal, and there you have my life! All in all, things are very busy at this time of year! The painting has slowed down a bit - although, I am continuing to paint a little every day ...

This past week, I've completed the small steeple painting, which I will post soon. And I completed a larger landscape that I also will post soon.

In the meantime, though, it seemed like an important thing to reflect on this year as it will soon become the next year. For me, as an artist, a simple commitment made in July to paint every day has been extraordinary! Early in this new venture, I commented that there is a correlation between frequency and fluency. I believe I've seen the truth of that. Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting a retrospective of my journey over the past 6 months. It has been an exciting and sustaining endeavor. I've learned a lot about my craft and about myself along the way. I've also learned a lot about developing and using the gifts which God has given and wants me to use.

The picture above represents my first month of work... some of these paintings are sold and some are still available. I hope you will enjoy a look back at my journey, and you will see the growth too! Soon, it will be time to think about 2008 and the goals to create for next year.

To see all my recent work, please visit my website at HelenCRead.com
There you will see the larger works over the past few years, all my recent daily work, painted bowls, and stationery.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Progress


The Progress Continues

Since my post a couple days ago, I've progressed on this small painting. As you can see, I've added a lot more detail. I adjusted the colors of shadow and sunlight. Though the sunlit areas look very white here, they are modified with some yellow and rose - giving a warmish glow. Next to the blues and violets of the shadow, though, the eye sees those areas as bright white.
The small windows in the steeple were completed using a very small brush and liquin. I also heightened the darkest darks.

I do not use black paint. I don't even buy it! It is probably controversial... but it was how I was trained. My students are completely panicked when I tell them that I've removed all sources of black pigment from the classroom! But, then I tell them how to mix an interesting black with lots of great undertones of color. It is also quite possible to darken color without black, though that seems a concept hard to grasp for high school students! Here, I have created "black" in the steeple using ultramarine blue, violet, and raw umber, with a little phthalo blue added.

As you can also tell from the original post, I added a bare tree - well, just some of the upper branches - to the right. That area of the picture needed something more, and it helps make the blue blue of the sky believable. Here in the Chicago area, the sky is never that blue in the summer - only in the cold winter, when the humidity is no longer affecting light and color.

What's left to do?? I think there are a few more detail adjustments to make, as well as a bit more attention to the sky. Working in the small format has been somewhat more difficult in this type of painting than working larger ... the small details are really small!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

My process - first steps


The first few steps for a new painting

I happen to live in a town which is known for having the most churches per capita... and it has been on my mind for awhile to do a series of paintings of the various steeples that are visible from almost every vantage point in town. I initially thought of the idea with larger paintings, but it occurred to me that the smaller format would provide a good opportunity for the preliminary study.

This is (as you can see) not finished. In fact, this represents only the first few steps. The first step, of course, is the idea and then a drawing. I had also taken some reference photos. Then I began to lay in the basic lines on the canvas. It helps to have a good working knowledge of 2 point perspective - although, with a painting of this narrow size, the vanishing points have to be off canvas. After the basic drawing is put lightly on the canvas (I carefully work with a light pencil layer - so that it does not mix in the with paint in any measurable way), I begin with thin washes of oil paint. I thin it down with turpenoid and also use liquin to get precision. I have put in the basic sky shades - notice how the blue is much more aquamarine at the top of the picture than nearer to the horizon. And I begin to define my shadowed areas and my sunlit areas. The "whites" that you see are not actually white from the tube at all - but are warmed up with some yellows and rose colors... while the shadowed areas are cooled with some blues, violets, and umber.

Working in this method, I will continue to build up layers of color lightly - some of the underlayers will show through - and some will be covered more completely. Along the way, it begins to speak for itself, and I try to listen to the way it needs to be portrayed. So, I can't tell yet, exactly what the final outcome will be. I'll continue posting the progress - we'll all find out together!! Somewhere toward the finale, a title will also come to mind!

Friday, December 7, 2007

White Flower, abstracted


White Flower, 30 x 36" matted, Acrylic and Colored Pencil on Paper

This painting has taken several years to finish and to frame. It is large - for me - and its going up in my studio, at least for the time being. This week has been busy - I've been doing more snow shoveling than usual ... after our first winter storm this week. But I'm also working on a larger landscape painting, and a small - but more precise oil painting of an architectural subject. I'll be posting those soon!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Backward Glance at Summer


Lily and Pads, 5x7" Oil on Canvas

Now with our first winter storm (ice, snow, rain - all in 1 event) I'm posting a summery kind of image! This is actually from a photograph I took a few years ago - the colors were very intense - in parts - and very sun washed in others. It made for a dramatic spread of colors.

Also, this weekend, while the weather was going on outside - I refurbished my website. Drop by and take a look! http://HelenCRead.com There are a lot of different areas to go in order to browse the whole thing - enjoy the visit ... a sort of virtual open studio!

Please click here for information about the availability or purchase of this painting.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Tagged!

Well, I've been tagged by Karen Appleton, whose work I watch and admire for so many reasons... and while I'm waiting for paint to dry, let's have some fun on this cold, snowy 1st day of December!

When tagged, a blogger is supposed to list and link that person who has tagged you, tag 5 more new people, and mention 5 things about yourself. So ~ here we go!
I mentioned Karen Appleton above. Though she is a Chicago area artist, I have not met her... but I really enjoy her work. I hope you'll follow the link to her site and look at what she's doing! I'm especially inspired by her sense of color and how to capture that.

5 new people I am tagging:
1. Brenda York. Brenda's work is fun and quirky and full of color.
2. Debra Sepos. Debra has some beautiful still lifes which are done with a sensitive touch!
3. Mick McGinty. I love the variety of work that Mick produces ... and it is all so skillfully done!
4. Miss Sandy at Quill Cottage. Sandy's blog is one that when I visit, I feel as if I've just been to a quiet little bed and breakfast out in the country - away from the daily craziness of life!
5. Karen Mathison Schmidt. At Karen's blog, I'm inspired by her wonderful expressive work and inspirational words.

OK, 5 things about me:
1. My family is growing up ... and I'm going to become a mother-in-law in the coming year! Yikes... how did that happen?
2. My faith becomes more important to me, the older I get and the more I realize I don't know! Its good to know Someone who does know all that I don't... and who knows my heart.
3. I grew up in a rural part of Texas - that is no longer all that rural. We lived on a ranch, which was a camp for kids in the summer - and our home in the winter. So much of who I am came from those formative years between the ages of about 7 and 15 ... being connected to the land and to nature, raising and riding horses, and relationships with people who remain very dear to me, though are now quite distant.
4. I've now lived in Illinois a little longer than I have in Texas - but still consider myself a Texan. (I think I always will)
5. Art has always been a language of importance in my life. Many people do not understand the compelling call of a creative spirit, but I am learning that it is an integral part of what makes me who I am!


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