Monday, August 30, 2010

Secrets, Secrets

"Secrets, Secrets" 5x7 Oil on Panel
I loved painting these three orange slices.  As I placed them on the the cutting board, they kind of spun around a little bit and it looked like the two on the left were in a conspiracy together against the orange slice on the right.  This small piece of art focused on broad brush strokes and bold color.  I really enjoyed using the yellow orange and the voilet together.  Lots of fun.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Jostling Line

"Jostling Line" 5x7 Oil on Panel

Last week I very much felt like I was bumping up against a glass ceiling.  Not so much in the feminism way, but in that I felt like I was overreaching the bounds of my ability.  I can see through the barrier into what I want to be doing, but I need another leap before I can get there.  My skills just aren't quite where I want them in order to tackle the next level.  Eh, so it goes.  I figure that I can either mope around, or push through and work through it until I find the next "ah ha!" moment where my understand enables me to tackle what I want.

My biggest frustration?  People.  I've been working on several pieces that just seem to fall apart.  Take for example, this one:

There are a lot of things that I really like about it.  I really like the composition.  I really like the body language.  I did okay making sure that the colors didn't go muddy, and I like the way that I resolved the background.  But the skin tones are awful.  Totally awful.

As a result, I'm going back to the basics.  I went to a figure drawing class yesterday, and this week I am concentrating on drawing from life.  Things like fruit help me stop for a moment and just practice mixing color.  I'm able to stop worrying about producing something grand and just practice.  Plus, I usually really enjoy the way they turn out.  So, for the rest of the week you'll see some basic still life setups and exercises I'm pulling from other places.  But don't worry, it will be fun!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Respite from Prayer

This painting is from a scene that was in Chinatown a couple of weeks ago.  There is a Hindu Temple, and I saw this gentleman resting in the shade, waiting for his service.  Even though I was walking around at 5pm, it was hot.  

I wish you all a wonderful weekend, and I hope the sun isn't too hot for you as well.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dragonfruit Left

Last dragonfruit of the week, and last little tidbit of knowledge.  The real name for this fruit is the Pitaya, and surprisingly, they are native to Cental America, not Southeast Asia.  They grow on cactus like trees, and from what I can tell, the big supplier to this area is Vietnam.  The red dragon fruit seems to come from Vietnam, and some of the white variety (white on the inside) might come from Malaysia or Thailand, but the bulk of what I see is Vietnamese.  Wikipedia has a pretty good article on them here if you would like to see some more pictures.

On a side note, although at some point I will want to sell these paintings, right now I'm really just working my way through things.  Nothing is automatic.  I have to think very hard about every color I mix, about every brushstroke that I take.  Half the time, my colors turn out totally muddy and awful.  I've seen quotes from other artists about how the life of an artist is to subject oneself to constant frustration and feelings of self-doubt.  I can definitely commiserate a bit.  I usually finish a painting and have this amazing feeling, akin to a runner's high, where I feel like I got it, I understand it.  Then I walk away from whatever it is that I've done, and I take another look at it, and I start to see all the things that are wrong.  Take, for example, the first version of today's painting:

Do I love the colors?  Yes, they're fun, vivid, bold.  But the piece overall was just a mess.  I was kind of in a groove when I did this one, and so I think I got a bit cocky and didn't think about the composition before I started.  As a result, the fruit looks like it is falling off of the picture plane.  Everything is sitting in the bottom right hand corner, and your eye has no reason to look at the rest of the image.  So, in the end, I totally wiped it off and came back the next day.  Giving my eyes a rest can have a wonderful effect.  I thought it through more carefully, and my finished product (first image) I think was much better than the first.  I still have such a long way to go, but I'm totally enjoying this.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dragonfruit Right

Here is the second in my little Dragonfruit series.  This painting better shows the inside of the fruit.  Believe it or not, the inside color really is this crazy fuchsia color that I thought only existed in a Crayola box.  When you open it up, it also has hundreds of tiny little black seeds.  This is nothing like watermelon seeds.  As far as I know, you just ignore them and eat them.  Gives it a bit of a crunchy flavor.  

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Dragonfruit Mania!

I have been having so much fun with the fruit I got this week.  One of the first fruits that I found when I visited Singapore last summer was this crazy creation - Dragonfruit.  Between this and Rambutan, I am wholly convinced that much of what was going on in Dr. Seuss's head was not some LSD-lanced dream, but based on some things that you can actually find here on Earth.  Besides being some of the most beautifully colored fruit I have ever seen, I just love how organic and "out there" the fruit is.

This painting is of one that has not yet been cut in half.  They truly are a beautiful hot pink color with lime green spiky tips.  I remember my mother telling me something about how garish nature is, and when you are bringing things into your home, they can't be as saturated.  I can see her point, but everything in moderation, in my opinion.  I certainly wouldn't paint a room the color of a dragonfruit, but you could throw in a cushion or two!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Look Left!

Look Left 12x12 Oil on Panel
Yesterday I was down on Orchard, and I saw this family come across the street, and stop and wait at a crosswalk.  They were patiently waiting for the signal to turn, but as I looked at them, I was just struck by the way they were standing there.  The girl was at that magical age just before she is suddenly embarrassed to be seen with Mom and Dad, much less holding hands before crossing the street.  The little boy was just totally content to have both parents holding his hand.  Quite honestly, it reminded me a lot of my childhood.  It was lovely to see, especially because you see so many kids out with their nanny, much less a whole family out and about together.  Kind of cool.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ready for Rain

Today was a mostly cloudy day, which kind of bummed me out, because I went to Orchard Rd. a bit early to try and snap some good pictures.  Of course, because I was kind of looking to take pictures, the conditions were less than stellar.  Nevertheless, I saw this worker waiting to cross the street and I couldn't help but think of the past rain we've had on Orchard.  Two floods in the dry season!  Who'd have thought? Well, needless to say, at least someone is prepared for rain!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pomelo Dreams

Okay, I give in.  The mystery fruit is a Pomelo!  After I finished this final painting, I gave in and tried it.  Oh my - simply wonderful.  It tastes like a grapefruit without any of the bitterness that you would normally associate with grapefruit.  The variety that I found was actually a little bit on the sweet side - heavenly!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Grapefruit I Am Not...

So when I cut this fruit in half, I was totally surprised.  I was expecting it to be a white center, like the Wikipedia description, but this guy was mostly pink.  So the fruit had this wonderful pink and green color scheme going on.  It was nothing like watermelon, closer to what an unripe grapefruit would look like.

Anyone figure out what fruit this is?  It is native to Southeast Asia, and frequently comes from Thailand.  One of its nicknames is the King of Citrus, due to its massive size.  They can weigh up to 4 lbs (2 kg).

Monday, August 16, 2010

Not Your Average Apple

Over the next few days I have a bit of a challenge for everyone.  I just discovered my new favorite fruit.  I wonder if you can figure out what it is?
In my quest to go above and beyond and try new things in the grocery store, I saw this giant green grapefruit.  It was in the fruit section of Cold Storage, but beyond that, I didn't know anything about it.  This thing is huge, bigger than a regular grapefruit.  It might be about the size of the grapefruit we used to pull off of our trees in Houston, but those were Chernobyl freakishly huge.  So anyways, the rest of this week will be dedicated to this really super tasty fruit.  I'm having so much fun painting it.  Check back tomorrow if you want to know what it tastes like - I'll be cutting it up to paint it, then I get to snack!  Best part of painting fruit is eating it, I must say.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Club St. Shophouse

This is a scene from a little street in Chinatown called Club St.  I've been wanting to paint this little shophouse for almost a full year, but I just haven't gotten it right.  The colors on the house were just so much fun, and around dusk the light is changing quickly and casting amazing shadows.  Nevertheless, every time I tried to paint it, I had the perspective wrong, composition didn't work, colors didn't work.  I must have painted and re-painted it four times.  Finally, I just left it.  Today I saw the reference photos again, and I decided to try and tackle it again.  Success.  

Friday, August 13, 2010


This guy was standing alone in the middle of a field, just as the morning light was highlighting the leaves I was able to paint this scene.  There is so much humidity in the air, you can almost taste it!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

IMM Field

I spent most of the day yesterday exploring nooks and crannies of Singapore, and I got some great shots.  I totally understand why most plein air painters usually work in Spring and Fall - it gets bloody hot here.  By 9am I am dripping sweat just casually walking around.  This little scene is from in front of the IMM building by the Jurong West MRT station.  There are some beautiful trees in a field that has somehow managed to avoid development thus far.  I am not holding my breath, as I am sure the government will find something to put there, but in the meantime I very much enjoy walking to the middle of the (very mushy) field and feeling like I have escaped from the city.

In other news, my cubic meter of art supplies finally arrived!  I bought all of the art supplies with the intent of resurrecting BS Art Studio.  I had so much fun with the encaustic stuff, but the more I got into it, the less time I had for school and oil painting, which is my final goal.  So, after much talk with the hubby, he proved himself amazing once again - I'm dropping the encaustic and working on oils full time.

Unfortunately, most of the supports that I ordered were Ampersand Claybord, which is decidedly NOT recommended for oil paint.  It is way too absorbent.  I have seen a few artists use it, but it definitely doesn't have the effect that I am looking for.  So, as you can see below, I have a lot of gessoing in front of me.  But - on the good side, I now have close to a years worth of supplies.  Woohoo!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Exploring Singapore

I love finding kind of hidden, forgotten places in a city that is so dense.  In a place that is so perfectly manicured and constantly has gardeners trimming everything, it is a gem to find something slightly overgrown, something not maintained perfectly.  Rather than looking at is as an eyesore, I really feel like it adds lots of visual interest.  This little scene was down by the Ministry of Defense.  The railroad itself seems to be well-maintained, but from all appearances, the track isn't used anymore.  In any case, it was part of my exploration today.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Color Studies

I'm working on this little view of the street just down from where I live.  They are currently tearing up a good portion of the middle section, which had been just beautifully lined with trees.  This MRT construction has really kind of upset me because I chose this section of town to live in because of the trees.  I am not usually such an ardent tree-hugger, but I can already tell that it is 10 degrees hotter where they have cut them down now.  This was just a small color study, looking at the relationships.  This really helps me figure out if what I am planning will work color-wise in addition to composition wise.  Not a bad day today.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Weekly Roundup

This week was not even close to being as productive as I would have liked.  But then, I guess I should have known better.  Joe got back from the US this week, so I've had to catch up on the domestic agenda.  Bah.  And poor guy, I got into such a groove while he was gone that I have been cranky all week because I'm not used to having someone in the house.  Thankfully, he still loves me regardless.  So, next week is a new week, and I will start it fresh, with more discipline and gumption.  So it goes...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Out and About

I got outside again today.  Look out world!  After going out for one of Joe's co-worker's birthdays, I definitely wasn't getting up at 5am to work out, but I was up and out of the house by 7:30am.  The weather here in Singapore is tough, because the sun doesn't rise until close to 7am.  So you don't know if it looks like rain or sun until at least 7, and then you have a very short window to get outside before it is just too hot to function.  Plus, after about 10am the sun is too high overhead to get any kind of decent lighting.  So, the weather is really only bearable from 8-10 and 4pm (omg still totally hot) - 7pm.  The sun sets every day by 7:30 and because the city is built so high, everything is in complete shadow by 7:15.

In any case, I got out to the Botannical Gardens today.  I've been totally absorbed in all of the construction that has been going on in the city.  They are building an MRT (subway) line right in front of our apartment complex, so I've been watching all kinds of crazy equipment come and go.  This painting is one of the views of a pond at the Botanical Gardens.  I love the dichotomy between the lush greenery and the heavy duty earth moving equipment.  Really interesting.

Apple a Day

I continued the theme of apples again today, with varying success.  I was pretty happy with the second painting I did (shown above) because it involved my turpentine container, which is silver.  So it is very shiny, highly reflective, and just generally tough to paint.  I did my best to convey it, and I think I was pretty successful.  The colors got a little muddy, and I would like to do it again, but overall I am happy with it  I've included a picture of the still life setup below.

The first painting I did was of some apples in a bowl.  As per usual, the ellipse screwed me up a bit.  The apples are approaching the end of their useful lives, so it looks like I will be moving on to another type of fruit tomorrow.  I am really hoping to be able to get outside sometime soon again.  Since today was gray that probably means I can get out tomorrow.  One day on, one day off. 

Whew, a little worn out today actually got up at 5am to workout.  Monday and Tuesday I was kind of slack and didn't get around to it until later in the afternoon.  Bad Shelby. 

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

En Plein Air

Believe it or not, the weather held out today!   It was kind of gray, but it didn't rain, so I got outside today to do block studies.  I'm amazed the weather held.  Of course, being as we live on the equator, it was hot as all get out, but I actually got outside, so I was happy.  I was working on some of the methods that Lois Griffel laid out in her book, Painting the Impressionist Landscape.

She is a big advocate of the block studies, but honestly, I had a really hard time doing it the way that she instructed.  Her main technique involved scumbling colors over one another.  Scumbling is layering one layer over another so that the first layer still shows through and the two layers will optically mix for the viewer.  For example, if you put down a first layer of red, then scumble yellow over it, your eye will see orange, without losing any of the intensity of the two colors.  I just didn't really like her technique, and most of her work seems like it is overworked and oversaturated.  In other words, it was just too bright for me.  Ha, imagine that.  Too much color, who would have ever thought.

(This was my first block study)

So, on my second go round, I went back to the method I was using before, and I felt like I was capturing the color and atmosphere much better.  Part of my issue was as much that I have to learn to mix the colors in the first place before I can figure out how to mix them optically.

This afternoon I figured I should take the color studies back to the basics, so I spent the afternoon doing color wheels and mute charts.  Not the most exciting thing ever, but totally important.  It is like memorizing your multiplication tables, or memorizing scales before even practicing them.

In any case, 9.5 hours down! Two more paintings done, as well.

Hellow Down There

I bought some Gerberas from the store yesterday.  They are just such happy flowers.  I set this guy up behind the oranges, but he seemed to want to join in on the fun.  Of the other four flowers I bought, I had four sitting in the kitchen most of the day.  But I guess since there isn't any air-con in there, by the end of the day, they were totally sad and forlorn.  As a last resort I added some water and put them on my dining room table, which sits right under an air-con unit.  Within a couple of hours, they had perked right back up again.  Amazing.

On a side note, we're leaving for Sibu this weekend with our friends from Tulane.  I'll be back and posting on Wednesday!
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