Welcome to my Art Blog! I paint or draw most weekdays and sometimes finish a painting a day. I fondly call them my "Postcards from Paradise" because it's such a beautiful place the Lord made here for us.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Plein Air Painting at Smith Rock

Here are two of the plein air paintings I did at Smith Rock, while I was traveling in July.

I have a few more pieces which I started, but I'm still looking at them to see if they need something. Some definitely do.

"Afternoon Light on Wombat"
8"x10" Oil on Raymar panel
©2013 Diana Moses Botkin

Smith Rock, in central Oregon, is a very interesting place to paint, hike, or rock climb. I saw many climbers during my days at the park. Without exception they were a lean and fit group and many would make fascinating models for figurative studies.

I talked to several and one showed me a handy guide book of the area. I was very interested to learn that all the rock formations have names such as "Wombat", "Koala", "Monkey Face", "Kangaroo", and "Asterisk" (which indeed looks very much like an asterisk silhouetted against the evening sky).

The climbs also are named with phrases that might serve to warn neophytes to stay on the ground. Such routes as "Slit Your Wrist", "Time's Up", "Skeleton Surfer", "Ghost Rider", "Toxic", "Highway to Hell", "Suicidal Tendencies", and "Scene of the Crime" sound like places to avoid if you ask me.

(left) "Betty's Needle, Afternoon"
6"x6" Oil on hardboard
©2013 Diana Moses Botkin

The first two days I was there, the sky was clear and very blue, and the light was intense. There were clouds on following days and some hours of the day were lit very differently from the sunny days. My paintings I had started on those bright days were especially challenging to finish. I worked on a number of pieces, changing to different paintings as the light changed during the day.

The weather was cold in the morning and evening, and hot and dry during the sunny hours, typical of that high desert area in summer. I was thankful to not encounter any rattlesnakes while I was painting or hiking.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Still Life with Apricots

I set this still life up after I got home from the workshop for a little practice.

On our place we have a couple of apricot trees and for the past few years, spring frosts have ruined any chance of fruit.

However, this year, there were a few branches on one tree that were not spoiled and we actually had apricots.

So I brought the harvest in the house and used a branch with apricots for this painting idea, along with a few crabapples and flowering mint from my garden.

As I blocked in the shapes (above), I saw that the many elements I'd included gave the piece a busier feeling than what I'd originally wanted.

So I changed my drape to shield the light a little. That way, more of the objects were in shadow, which gave those luscious apricots in the old amber glass bottle the spotlight.
(above) "Summer Gifts" Original oil, 9"x12" ©2013 Diana Moses Botkin


Monday, August 19, 2013

Painting Beauty

I've been away for several weeks on a painting trip and to attend a workshop in Oregon at Art in the Mountains, taught by Sherrie McGraw. If you've seen Sherrie's work, you know how simply beautiful it is. She is also a wonderful teacher who gives freely of her thoughts and insights.

Months ago, I stumbled on Sherrie's interview at Artists Helping Artists. Her artistic approach to make something beautiful struck a chord and resonated with my own desires. She mentioned she would be teaching at the workshop. I knew I had to learn from this woman.

Converging with this goal was a scholarship award from Oil Painters of America, which was not only a huge honor for me, but helpful with the financial commitment of workshop costs.

Because I am mostly self-taught as an artist, I have missed some important instruction. Books such as Mayer's "The Artist's Handbook" have given me valuable information about art materials and archival practices. Not surprisingly, however, I have not managed to discover everything I need to know. I lacked personal feedback from master artists about what I was creating, and the opportunity to see them at work.

Consequently, I arrived at Sherrie's workshop full of expectations and questions. I was not disappointed.

(left) Sherrie McGraw painting a still life in oils at the workshop.

I especially loved watching her painting demonstrations and the way she handled the brush and paint.  

Her comments regarding differences between drawing and painting may take me awhile to fully understand, along with other points she presented. Not because there was a lack in her explanations, but rather because I need time to process, understand, and put into practice.

Another point Sherrie taught during the workshop is that, "Shadows are warm, and lights are cool. Shadows have the quality of depth and transparency whereas the lights have the quality of cool opacity."

Sherrie also stated that, "Flat reads. So within that flat area (all values virtually the same), temperature changes are what give the illusion that there is dimension within a flat shape."

(left) Sherrie painting a costumed figure in oils at the workshop.

Sherrie's painting approach is to keep the visual idea as the goal of a piece. A visual idea is different from most of my painting ideas of the past. I've thought more in allegorical terms about ideas for paintings: images which tell a story or portray an emotion. And while a story idea can be the vehicle for the visual idea, it is the visual idea that makes a painting interesting.

A question I'd been asking myself months before Sherrie's workshop is how do I keep from putting in too much in a painting or drawing?... how to imply rather than describe. I've become more and more aware that I don't need to portray everything.

Like much that is too graphic in cinema, painting can be too literal. During the past months, I've repeatedly wondered how to leave more to the imagination rather than painting everything I see. I still love detail, but I've been thinking that too much of it is simply not as intriguing as only a bit of it.

Seeing the Fechin exhibit in Seattle last June drove home many of the questions I'd been asking myself about detail. Sherrie's workshop helped fuse these thoughts to some actual painting practice.

After Sherrie's demo the first day of the workshop, participants chose still life objects to arrange and paint. Our helpful teacher gave each of us input on our set-ups.

(left) This is my still life block-in.

As I worked, I asked myself if I was holding to my idea, and if the design was interesting from a distance, even in the rough stage. 

I was only able to block in my composition before the end of the day. After all that preparation I wanted to stay for the evening and keep painting!

Unfortunately, the conference room where our workshop was held would be locked after workshop hours so I had to wait until the next day to finish the piece.

(at left) the completed study of my still life, "Gathering of Light"

As I worked the following day, it felt like such a struggle to remember everything! Foremost in my thoughts was what I was trying to do with the visual idea. Next I wanted to try to use the brush and paint as Sherrie had demonstrated.

 And, how to do less: to keep it simple rather than try to paint in everything I see.... to not copy everything there in my arrangement.

Sherrie's demos for the costumed and undraped figure were marvelously fascinating and enlightening. 

Finding an angle for my own studies of these same model set-ups were a bit challenging in a room full of painters. We all managed to find a spot, however.

(left) Sherrie gives pointers to workshop participant Cathryne Trachok.

On breaks as I walked around the room, it was interesting to see how the various locations presented unique problems and visual joys for each artist.

Also, working with my little outdoor painting box under the florescent lighting in the room, fighting the overhead glare with the angle of my surface, and struggling with eyesight issues made it difficult to enjoy the painting experience. However, as the piece began to come together (and I eventually put on my reading glasses), I did have fun with it.

Struggling and then having some fun with the paint were to be pretty much the theme for me during the workshop: a dance of despair and hope. 

Here I am, at left, with one of the studies I did at the workshop.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Our August Challenge: White

Yes it's that time again! If you've only recently started following this blog, I'll explain.

Every month, several of my blog artist friends paint something new and different, and we unveil our creations on the 15th. The Challenge group members take turns choosing what we will portray. (You can see all the Challenges since the beginning at my blog sidebar.)

The idea is to have fun and do something we might not otherwise paint. This month it was Suzanne's turn to pick. 

(at left)
"Basic White"
Oil, 8"x6"
©2013 Diana Moses Botkin

Please contact me if you would like to own this small study.

This oil sketch was painted with Titanium White, Mars Black, and Gamblin's Torrit Grey. I considered adding a little more color, but made the decision not to, and just let the tan primer show through for a little warmth.

I wanted to keep it simple and not put in too much (more on that idea in the coming days at this blog).

Most of my study was painted with a much larger bristle brush (size 8) than what I often use for small studies. Even at the end for the rough detail I used a size 4, which is pretty big for me. This felt somewhat clunky but forced me to simplify.

I was so tickled when Suzanne's and Vicki's paintings came to my Inbox yesterday. As we do these Challenges month after month, we do not see each other's work until the 14th when we email them to each other.

Turns out, Suzanne painted one of the ideas I had thought about doing for this Challenge: white eggs in a white bowl.

"Eggs 2"
Oil on heavyweight canvas
©2013 Suzanne Berry

I turned over a few other ideas, as well, which either required a model, or more time than I had after returning from my road trip. I hope I can get back to those ideas in the coming weeks after I've finished some commissions!

At left is Vicki's piece: a lovely creamy composition. 

"Study in White"
Pastel, 16" x 12" 
©2013 V.N.Ross 

Monday, August 12, 2013

OPA Show Continues Only a Couple More Weeks

I am finally home after being on the road several weeks for a workshop and painting trip. I'll be sharing about my trip on this blog, but still need to finish uploading photos. Meanwhile, I'd like to show this painting again, as the show venue is in the last two weeks.

"Awake, Sleeper"
Original oil, 10"x8"
©2013 Diana Moses Botkin


This nude figurative painting of mine is being shown at the Oil Painters of America Salon Show. I feel very honored to have this piece juried in the exhibit, and to be in the company of some of the finest artists on this continent.

I had "Awake, Sleeper" beautifully framed in a custom presentation, as I wanted to show off the subtle highlights and contrasted darks in the shadows and background. 

This exhibit runs for only a couple more weeks at Crooked Tree Art Center until August 31. If you are near the location in Petoskey, Michigan, I hope you'll drop by in person to enjoy the selection of beautiful work by living artists not often seen together in one place.