Tuesday, January 29, 2013

01.29.2013 ~ snow falling on cedar... and scrub oak

snow falling on cedar... and scrub oak ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel en plein air ~ 6 x 6 inches ~ copyright dawn chandler

I know all of Santa Fe (and perhaps all of Northern New Mexico?) is joining me in a sigh of relief today as we watch the snow come down — especially after Saturday's RAIN(?!?) and yesterday's 50+ degrees(?!?). And they call this winter? 

Well yes, at least today they do.

We'll see if the sun pops out later this afternoon like it did one day a few weeks ago when we had another lovely snow; I pulled out my plein air kit and, in a few fleeting minutes, attempted to catch the light outside my studio window....

Sunday, January 27, 2013

01.27.2013 ~ of winter light and lost souls

wiinter sunset light across the stowe mountains and treetops ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel ~ 6 x 6 inches ~ copyright 2013 dawn chandler

Memories of lost loved ones seem to resound most strongly at the end of a winter's day. I don't know why that is. But this January evening finds me taking long breaks from my easel to look out of my west-facing window, to the hills silhouetted against the late-day sky... Reflecting on the many good, good souls I've known and now miss, wondering about the whys and what-fors....

Pictured here, another winter's eve approaching, this one in Stowe, Vermont — the view from my friend, Heather's house.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

01.22.2013 ~ snow on the santa fe rail trail

snow light on the santa fe railtrail ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel ~ 6 x 6 inches ~ copyright dawn chandler

Two years.

That's how long I'd lived here in Santa Fe before stepping foot onto the Rail Trail.

Chalk it up to ignorance. Though I drove passed the paved pathway wending through town nearly daily, it never occurred to me that the trail might stretch unpaved beyond the urban sprawl. But it does just that, for some 12 miles or more, south toward Lamy, across the sage and pinon pocked mesas.   

Now I'm grateful to find myself out there at least once a week with my running partner — the other half of Team Tortoise — stretching our legs with the coyotes. It's glorious.

Here, two recent paintings of two different views of the Rail Trail in December snow.

dropping down on the santa fe railtrail ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel ~ 6 x 6 inches ~ copyright dawn chandler

For more information about the Santa Fe Rail Trail, click here and here.

Monday, January 14, 2013

01.14.2013 ~ relearning color

A few months ago I changed my palette — the colors I use when oil painting. I was inspired by an unlikely source: a book by Jack White on the ins and outs of being an artist. Mr. White may not be the most elegant nor sophisticated of artists, nor the most refined writer, but he's passionate about art and his desire to share his knowledge of making a career of it.

For a long time I'd been feeling a need for change with the way I mix oil paint. Despite years of  experience mixing colors, and despite having been a teaching assistant in grad school for a brilliant Albers based color class, I still hit walls of frustration when mixing oil paint. Too often I create mud, or don't get the "temperature" of the color right; I end up with a warm color when what I wanted was a cool color, or visa versa. If I go a while without working in oils, when I come back to it I often have to relearn the properties of the colors on my palette. My eye is trained pretty well, but my retention of chemistry is weak, as is any in-depth understanding of the properties of pigment mixing.

And that's my own fault.

With so many colors available from painting manufacturers, I've been lulled too easily into laziness. I walk into the art store and stand before the tubes of paint and become intoxicated with the ever-expanding offerings of color choices. "Oooo...look at that color... Ohhh....I want that one....OH! and this one! That's beautiful, and surely there's no way I can mix that myself...I better get it!"

Next thing I know I've just spent $42 for a tube of some obscure color that I'll end up hardly using at all. (e.g.: cobalt violet light)

That, or else it's a color that, had I done a little bit of focused experimentation, I could have mixed it myself with my colors on hand (e.g.: ultramarine blue + alizarin crimson + cadmium orange + cadmium red light = burnt sienna)

Or it's one that charmed me by the color printed on its label or in the catalog, but ended up being nothing like I imagined or needed (e.g.: king's blue).
But I use it anyway and create mud with it because I haven't taken the time to really see how this color mixes with other colors on my palette and still haven't grasped the real chemistry of color mixing.

Or I stick to colors I'm familiar with, regardless of whether or not they're really working for me, and mostly mainly they're NOT working for me and never have. (e.g.: sap green)

Or I'd use a color because it seemed I was supposed to cause I'd always sort of heard about over the years, even though I never really liked it (e.g.: cerulean blue).

Time and time again.

And the result? I have over 70 various colors of oil paint in my possession, of them a mishmash of some 40 or more colors pictured below that I'd use off and on with varying degrees of frustration.


I've been winging it with all of these colors, not really knowing what I was doing and basically wasting time, money and paint.

Well, no more.

In September I kicked 3/4s of those paints to the curb and have been using instead the "Double Primary Palette" mentioned in Mr. White's book:

- deep dark (ultramarine blue + alizarin crimson. Mr. White calls this "mud" but it's anything but)
- ultramarine blue
- pthalo blue
- alizarin crimson
- cadmium red light
- cadmium orange (cadmium red light + cadmium yellow medium. you can mix it yourself or simply buy cadmium orange)
- cadmium yellow medium
- hansa lemon yellow
- titanium white

What's noteworthy about this palette is that there are two colors for each primary (hence the name "Double Primary Palette).
Recall the primaries are red, yellow and blue. Here, there are two of each, one warm and one cool:

- ultramarine blue (warm)
- pthalo blue (cool)

- alizarin crimson (cool)
- cadmium red light (warm)

- cadmium yellow medium (warm)
- hansa lemon yellow (cool)

(For more information about what I'm talking about when I refer to color "tempertaure," click here.)

I am very pleased with results of this limited palette.

However, I'm still repeating my same old bad habit: If I go too long — say a few weeks — without working in oils, I forget how to mix the colors I want. Sustained knowledge and recall will come eventually with consistent practice. But I'm not there yet.

What I really need to do — what I've needed to do for years, frankly — is to take the time and do the real grunt work of mixing color after color after color on my palette and take notes. The busy, unromantic, time-consuming elementary work of mixing paint and making a chart. I've never brought myself to do it because it has always seemed so time-consuming and, well, boring. But had I done this years ago with my paints? I would have wasted a helluva lot less time and thrown out much less paint.

So that's what I did yesterday afternoon: mixed colors.

And you know what? It was really kind of satisfying.

And now I have this groovy little reference chart that I can keep with my mudless, uncluttered palette.

Will I only ever use these nine tubes of color when painting in oils?

Of course not. 
For truly there are certain colors out there that I simply can't mix from these nine colors, no matter how skilled I become. [Study the photo at the top of this post and you'll note there are four colors of blue on my plein air palette. That's because I really really like cobalt blue + sevres blue to get the dazzling blue sky of New Mexico.] And besides, it's just darn fun sometimes to experiment with a new color of paint. But for the time being I intend to keep my oil palette limited and see just how much I can learn again about mixing color. 

Not a bad project for a new year.

Friday, January 11, 2013

1.11.13 ~ losing oneself in light and snow

winter sun across the afternoon ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel ~ 6 x 6 inches ~ copyright dawn chandler 2013

Happy New Year, Friends!

Just over a week in to this new year and I am feeling positively radiant with creativity and plans and goals and gratitude.

The new year is good.

Adding to that feeling is this cool message I received from a long ago friend. She asked:

Can you send me a painting with snow? Gosh I miss that - we had a slight freeze here in Texas and it was beautiful in the morning and gone by noon. Made me homesick - but I am sure you have a beautiful painting you can post for me...

So here's a recent 'painting with snow.'  

The scene is just below the rise upon which my house sits. Late afternoon. 

December 15th. 

My pup and I were walking the periphery of the property, losing ourselves in the contrast of glistening snow and bruised sky as my thoughts attempted to wrap themselves around the news of the day before.