February 18, 2018

It has been a busy month.

Filed under: Work from the studio — kjames @ 5:55 pm

The show in Saint Charles went very well. I had mostly new works and all of the new work was very well received. Right afterwards I heard about a show coming in April that looked like a good challenge for me, although it would again delay me getting back to the landscape.

I am happy to say I am going to be entering a competition. The Portrait Society of America has a portrait show with a deadline this coming week. In an effort to fulfill the criteria and submit an entry, I had to paint a new portrait suitable for that show. 

My first choice was to paint a self portrait, something I have been encouraged by many of you to do for some time. This was a surprisingly difficult task. In order to capture a good likeness I felt that it was important to be accurate. What I discovered was that scrutiny makes for a severe look and if I do paint my image accurately, I must not just reveal my flaws but focus on them – something no woman really wants to do. 

When that was completed, I decided that since a person can enter 3 pieces for the entry fee, I should keep painting. The 2nd portrait is one of my husband. It is gentler and more playful, and done in a way that compliments my portrait. It was my thinking that these 2 portraits would probably have a permanent home on the wall of our house and so should hang well together.

Surprisingly, not too many day after I finished these two, I woke one Saturday night with an image in my mind that I wanted to put on canvas quickly. I began the painting of the young man, a pre-teen boy in fact, during one of those times at 2:00 in the morning when you wake up with a busy mind and need to do something fruitful. 

Lucky for me, I was still off work the next day and so was able to paint for an hour or so during the night and proceed to complete the painting the next day.

The lovely inertial that painting at this pace has left me with, carried me into another portrait and a landscape to complete the month’s cadre. What a fun and productive month this has been.

I have decided to enter the competition with the portrait of myself and my husband and this fictitious young man. Since entry for shows are now digital, I will submit this week in time to be eligible.

All of these new works will be in my booth this next weekend when I attend the Echoes of the Past living history show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. 

January 17, 2018

Preparing for a show.

Filed under: Calendar announcements — kjames @ 10:32 pm

I’m taking a break from the painting process and preparing for a show. It’s only two days away and I sure wish I had a week more to get ready with framing and packing If you are free this weekend, come to St. Charles, Illinois and see all of the great history vendors, and take a quick browse of my new paintings.

NOTE: It came to my attention that the card was for last year.

Dates for this year are: Saturday and Sunday, January 20-21. THIS WEEKEND!


January 7, 2018

The process – sixth entry: getting back on track.

Filed under: Work from the studio — kjames @ 9:50 pm

This is a progress report on how I’ve been doing with fixing those problems I had identified earlier. 
One of the 1st things I had to do was get the limbs on the tree on the right to a place where I could tolerate them. Then, I had to fix the sky because obviously once I had painted out limbs that had been there – like the main one that went across the middle – I had to come up with enough color to cover the scrub.
The more I worked on that sky the more I believed that there needed to be a greater cloud bank. I have always loved the Midwest. A cloud can be nondescript and can tumble up and become cumulus pretty quickly. Changing these  gave me something solid to work with when it comes to the light. That way the Sun can be higher from the horizon, and still not be an issue. This painting is not done, but it’s back on track for sure. Now that I know that the sun is right about mid canvas behind those clouds, I can concentrate on how the light from that sun will impact the tree trunks, and foliage in concentric circles from that spot.

I’ll be back when I have solved the lighting effects.


January 4, 2018

The process – sixth entry: rolling up my sleeves.

Filed under: Work from the studio — kjames @ 7:59 pm

This last stage of painting doesn’t have a clear cut beginning or predictable ending. It is the hard part of any painting. Working my way through the process has the potential to flow quickly into fruitful completion, or it can suddenly mire into a slow series of challenging puzzles. 

It becomes a dance of moving ahead a step and taking two steps back, and feeling like it just keeps getting worse the more I try to fix what’s wrong. Paint goes on. Decisions are made. Occasionally the look of what you’ve just laid down can be a startling success.

Just as often, you can look at paint that has been down for a week or more and realize the layout or position just fails! The angle is wrong. The rhythm is broken. The flow doesn’t work. To save the work I sometimes need to scrub and scrape the part that’s wrong and paint again…and again. 

For example, I scrubbed out the limb that reached out across the upper part of the sky and painted a layer of white to begin repairs. 

The more times you need to back up and fix, the less spontaneity is evident in the paint handling, brush stroke, and movement, and the feel of the work begins to erode.

That revealed the stilted structure of the remaining limbs and makes me want to increase the changes to the tree. 

As the tree affects the sky, I am sensing that the ground now needs to get lighter to compensate for the lighter sky. This domino effect can either cause a positive regression to the point that things began to go wrong, resulting in a better finished piece, or it can circle the drain and unravel the whole painting.

I will be back when I have resolved this next part of the puzzle.

December 27, 2017

The process – fifth entry: the viewers place.

Filed under: Work from the studio — kjames @ 12:58 pm

This is the last phase in the process and can either fall quickly into place or dither out and take a long time.
It’s where all of the mathematical problem solving needs to take place to bridge that intangible place between the viewer and as the setting. Everything from the tree line to your eye as the viewer, now needs to pull you in. That’s done through details, color, setting, and more. I have to think about how the color plays off of every piece of grass, bark, or twig. By the time I’m done, I want to bring the land as close as I can to you, the viewer. I want you to feel the mid morning air. I want you to almost be able to hear the crickets, and bird song. If I can’t make you feel like you could step into the painting, or want to, it will fall short.

The process: fourth entry – context settles in.

Filed under: Work from the studio — kjames @ 12:40 pm

Now the aspects that apply to time of day, geography, and time of year, begin to settle into a place. Back at the easel  yesterday, I began by moving from the ridge line forward. I will try and make these shots a little bigger so you can see the subtly.

I’m not sure yet how I want the  hills to roll between the ridge and where I’m standing. Because of that, I almost have to go a little at a time to see each effect. I also need to start evolving anything that would be behind scrub and grass. Those things need to be painted first so layers in front can grow up cleanly. That’s not to say that I won’t change my mind periodically and tweak forward and back but it is just easier if the layers from back to front can evolve in order.

Tree planning must begin to establish itself at this point as well. I was looking at the sky and there were some cloud formations that I like more than others so I began putting tree trunks in places that might preserve those vistas.

The next steps will start to add details in the mid-ground and foreground that will lend credibility to the landscape.

It’s beginning to get more interesting because the stakes are getting higher and that increases tension.

December 25, 2017

The process – third entry: foreground blocking

Filed under: Work from the studio — kjames @ 12:12 pm

In this continuing phase of laying down base colors I begin to see some depth.

The depth of field will need to evolve as I move closer to the viewer and this makes me start thinking more about what time of the day it might be. Like I said before, it can’t be too early or too late in the day or it will effect the angle of the sun, saturation, detail and color. As I work I need to decide where the light source will reside. The light must be sourced above a rising line sufficiently to light the ground right in front of me. That’s where I’ll have grasses and bushes eventually.

If we are looking at the sun it can be a distraction so now clouds need to be pulled into play. I need to get the sun out there far enough to give me the angles I want and lay atmosphere between our eyes and the sun. That means there needs to be distance between me and that far ridge.

Ridges need to fade, and in some cases I need to think about where geographically in the country I am, to choose height and color. At first I put hills in blue to give me depth but that was really indicative of larger mountain ranges and not the rolling hills of the Midwest. The Blue Ridge mountains are blue for a reason. The color and shapes reflect size and height and depth through distant reflected light. In the Wisconsin rolling hills they tend to be rolling greens, grays, browns. Fall might introduce blues, yellows, and reds so I also need to think about the time of the year. The plant life in early spring will have lime green and smaller scale, while fall has details that are larger and colors more varied.

So far this has been pretty fun and I am starting to see something emerging that has potential but I know that this painting has only just begun. The blog has caught up to the canvas now so I’m back to the easel for the afternoon. I will try and post daily for the rest of my vacation time spent in the studio. Stop back here if you want to continue watching the process. If you are on FaceBook, following the Kelly James Art FaceBook site will alert you when there is a new posting here.

The process – second entry.

Filed under: Work from the studio — kjames @ 11:26 am

This phase is actually perhaps the most intimidating because of the emptiness. To stare at a big canvas and not really know for sure what I plan to paint is the main issue. Because I don’t have a photograph to look at or a live image in front of me, my mind is almost vibrating with all of the choices and makes me insecure.

To lessen this awkward feeling, I tend to go ahead and start covering the canvas with color so that I can begin to imagine an idea. What happens can always be changed. I start by covering the sky, knowing I eventually want blue of some kind. The sky will probably be daytime and not night so I start with cerulean blue and a bit of ultramarine. It’s probably not going to be a sunset or a sunrise, or at least not too advanced, because I want light on the landscape in the foreground and if it is too late in the afternoon or early in the morning things closer start to silhouette.

These next several shots are just showing the effects of laying out color. It’s like doodling in so far as the hand is working at laying down non committal color while the freed mind can be thinking and moving steps ahead.  

The next phase will begin to lay down foreground coverage in the same non committal way.

December 17, 2017

I invite you to follow my process.

Filed under: Work from the studio — kjames @ 2:12 pm

It has been a while since I shared the insight of what I am thinking as I make a painting. It isn’t magical, but it is, instead, a personal walk through the creative process. Thanks for asking that I do this again.

Using a coupon for a substantial discount from a local art store, I took a financial leap of faith and bought a 24″ x 48″ high grade canvas and prepaid for a custom frame of stacked linen with red oak to frame it.  I am free now to go back, when I’m done with the painting, to have the framing completed at any time in the future.

Beginning the painting. It will be a cumulative view from many images in my mind; favorite feelings, images that I have enjoyed, and places I have walked. I may  or may not reference some photos. My hope it’s that it can be that visual touchstone of daily calm, and will no doubt be my biggest challenge yet.

Since this is a bit larger than my usual canvas it won’t fit on my easel well so I rigged up a clamp and board setup on my drafting board. The angle is a little different but I will adjust. I needed to pull lights for each side so I can see since the overhead is now behind me and casts too many shadows to be effective. I discovered that a board can sit across the two C-clamps holding the canvas ridge and give me a place to put brushes and the like.

From here on I will take pictures of the process periodically but will not stop and post at those moments. The mental switch from images to words would make that workflow far too disruptive. Rest assured, however, I already began painting yesterday and will post another “catching up” post later this morning.

November 24, 2017

Small Business Saturday Sale!

Filed under: Art Update,Site News — kjames @ 8:59 pm

I hope you have all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.
It is a time of reflection and a time to give thanks for all those things that are important in our lives; a time to celebrate the good and positive. I am personally thankful for so very much. 
Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday, and many small, independently-run businesses have promotional sales on their merchandise.
As I have had time to reflect, I have decided that I want to share with all of you who have supported me in the past year. Thank you. For the first time, kellyjamesart.com is going to participate in small business Saturday by offering 15% off select items. 


Saturday, November 25th, items in the following storerooms can be purchased for 15% discount – Landscapes, Historical Genre, and Flora, Fauna and More.

Emails sent anytime between 12:01 Saturday morning and 11:59 Saturday night expressing your intent to purchase an items will secure your 15% discount. See “Contact Me” on the right hand column.

Credit cards through Square and Paypal are accepted.

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