|Tommy, my husband and the creator of my Web page thought some of you might be interested in the more technical (rather than the emotional) side of my art. I don't think he understands how closely they are joined together but I will try to separate them for you as much as possible.
I love my studio. For 19 years I painted on the couch in the living room using only traditional lamp light. I am now paying the price for this and my eyes seem to get considerably worse every time I get them checked. So in 1985 when he first suggested building a studio for me, I was thrilled. It was to be built onto the second story over the kitchen. We sat many nights arguing over the design as we have on any building project we have embarked upon together. I had dreamed for years of what I wanted and one of those things was north light. Unfortunately, the way the roof line had to be, it was not feasible. I was disappointed but figured artificial light could achieve the same effect. I had read many many articles about this, each one with different view points, but I didn't understand them anyway. It appears proper lighting is a very mysterious science that is not to be understood by many, especially this totally untechnical and electronically challenged (as my friend Pam calls me) artist. My natural light source comes from the West which was not really bad since I had a beautiful oak tree right outside the two double windows that filtered the light. I so enjoyed taking breaks from my work looking out the window at the birds who were frequent visitors to my beautiful tree. Tommy hung a bird house he and the boys made for me and my western light was no problem at all. At the time, I was still painting only with watercolors and had a large drafting table I worked off of. They were lovely side pockets for my paints and brushes and Tommy bought me a rolling adjustable chair. Before that I was using one of my kitchen chairs which when we had company had to be brought back downstairs. Well back to the studio. It is 16 by 24 with a large closet that has shelves built in both ends to accommodate my prints and watercolors. Book shelves were built in the middle to hold my ever growing collection of art books. Last year, Tommy added book shelves to one end of the studio that now is running over and I'm trying to figure out where to put some more. We put wide oak floors in the studio which Tommy finished off with several coats of polyurethane. Everybody thought we were crazy but it has been the most serviceable floor I have ever had. I have spilled my paint many times along with turpentine and it always cleans up wonderfully with no stains. Life went along great for the next couple of years and I loved my studio. By this time Tommy had decided to take an early retirement (this means he quit his job). He must of had too much time on his hands and I must have been off somewhere in a dream world because he came up with the crazy notion that my beautiful tree outside my window should be cut down. He said it hung over the roof and the leaves stopped up the gutters. I protested but not nearly loud enough. If I had it to do over I would have lashed myself to the tree and told him if the tree went so would I. He and his uncle discussed it thoroughly and decided to go ahead with the slaughter. The deed was done and the good sport that I am, I have to admit that to this day, 10 years later I throw it up to them every time I get a chance. What a terrible mistake it was. By this time I had moved almost completely back to my oils which had been my first love. I love my watercolors but oils would give me the opportunity to broaden my subject matter. There are many wonderful things about oils that I could do that I couldn't with the watercolors. In going back to the oils (and with no tree outside) my window lighting became a real problem. The glare off the oils while I was painting was killing my eyes. Morning wasn't so bad but by 2:00 painting was becoming impossible. I would move my easel all over the studio trying to escape the glare. I finally decided I would have to use artificial light and Tommy has done everything he knows how to help out with this problem. We have used fluoresent lights (trying many different light bulbs) mixed with incandescent, halogen, spots, etc.. To this day lighting is still a great problem for me and someday either here or in the mountains we will probably build a studio with north light. Tommy says it will have to be on the first floor since both of us are getting older and he sure wouldn't want me to give up painting just because I couldn't walk upstairs. He is such a concerned husband. He is always telling me to be careful and not to fall and break anything and then adds but if you do, be sure to fall on your left arm, since I paint with my right. Now about my easel, I learned very quickly that I couldn't paint with oils on my drafting table. I was constantly laying my hand in my work. I bought several cheap easels and they were totally inefficient. I looked in cataloges and the ones I wanted with terribly expensive and did not have all of the features I wanted. Again Tommy came to my rescue. He said he thought he could build one with all the features I wanted. Tommy is a fine craftsman (don't tell him I said that) having made several pieces of furniture in our home. We had some well aged cherry in the barn that he could use. After many hours of discussion of what I wanted and several redesigns he came up with a wonderful design. Besides being practical my easel is beautiful. The old cherry his mellowed to a wonderful patina and even though now streaked with paint in places it still is a great joy to me. It has wonderful casters so I can roll it easily all over the studio (the lighting problem) and is fully adjustable both in height and tilt. It will accommodate larger canvases, however the largest I ever use is a 30 x 40 in. A year or two after building my easel he built another one for the house in the mountains. We have since moved it back to my studio at home since I couldn't paint in the mountains because of the glare. This problem of lighting seems to be constantly cropping up.
Now to my pallet of colors. I have through trial and error brought my pallet back to the most basic of colors. I have a paint box full of the most exotic and wonderful sounding names for paint you have ever heard of that I no longer even put out. Circling my pallet from left to right with no rhyme or reason for where they are except from habit are the following colors: titanium white, thalo blue, cobalt blue, ultramarine blue, burnt umber, burnt sienna, thalo green, viridian green, windsor violet, aliziran crimson, grumbacher red, cadmium yellow, yellow ocre, raw sienna, and Indian yellow. I use old Holland paints in many colors loving the smoothness of the paint. I have found no purple I like as well as windsor violet but am having a hard time finding it (fearing they have stopped making it) and in some colors prefer the Grumbacher paints. I have gone to the oderless turpentine due to allergies and the oder it leaves in the house. I use the same pallet for my watercolors adding a white gouache to it finding it more opaque than any watercolor I have found.
My oil pallet is made from a piece of 1/4in plate glass 16 inches by 20 inches with sanded edges. I tape a piece of white mat board to the bottom of the glass. Jim Daley introduced us to this wonderful invention. It cleans up wonderfully with a single edge razor blade. The paint comes off easily if you clean it each night but I sometimes forget and then it is not so easy. At this point Tommy takes it outside and cleans it for me. He does seem to keep cropping up in this story. I wouldn't tell him but he is a vital part of my work, taking many of these undesirable chores off of me leaving me much more time for dreaming and painting.
For my oil paintings I use Fredrix portrait linen canvas which we order by the roll from Dick Blick. It is the only place I have found this particular canvas. Tommy stretches it for me on a traditional wood frame. I always use a piece of a hundred percent rag board between my canvas and the stretching frame as a backing. Since my work is shipped to my publisher, then to the printer and back again,it gives us a certain peace of mind that if something did hit the canvas there would not be as much chance of tearing it. Once the painting has reached its final destination the board can be removed.
After my canvas is stretched I lay out my picture by drawing my main focal point in detail on the canvas and sketching in the rest. This final drawing is arrived at after doing several loose sketches to achieve proper placement. I sometimes draw the piece out on paper and transfer it onto the canvas with graphite paper. Some things are ultimately painted in.
For watercolor I use the hundred percent rag Strathmore medium surface watercolor board. It used to be splitable but the new version is not. It used to drive Tommy crazy when I would work on a piece for a month and then split the board in two. He always said one day I was going to tear one of my paintings in half and thank goodness I never did. I have to admit after my paintings started selling I quit separating the board. However, the good part about this board is if you mess up on one side, you can turn it over and paint on the other side. A lot of my watercolors have a partially finished picture on the back side.
As for my technique, that is really hard to explain. I don't think I have one. With my oil's I paint very thin, I think as a result of painting with watercolor so long. With no formal training for which I constantly regret, I just seem to blunder along. When I don't know what else to do, in desperation, I pray. That seems to be the way it is with my whole life, when I get myself in such a mess I can't get out of it I turn to God. When will I ever learn that if I put him in charge from the first that life would be so much better and certainly a lot simpler.
My paintings are created totally by emotion. I begin with much fear trepidation. I muddle along teetering between joy and despair. I have even been known to throw my painting across the room. I cry, I laugh, I can't sleep, and finally the painting is finished. But there's always another one forming in my mind before the last one is finished.
I thank God everyday for letting me lead such a wonderful life doing for a living what I love and for a very good and considerate husband that helps me so much and prods me along when I am at my low points. He laughs and tells people what all he has to go through during the course of one of my paintings. I always disagree with him but know every word he says is true and am just thankful he doesn't tell all. These are just some of the basics that work for me but I have found that everyone is different and has to do it his own way.
I said at the beginning that it would be hard to separate the technical from the emotional and as you can see I have wandered back and forth fearing I have spent more time on the latter. For me that is what painting is, taking my inner most thoughts and feelings and putting them on canvas.