November 12, 2017

Painting peaceful reflections.

Filed under: Work from the studio — kjames @ 10:16 pm

I spent part of my time this weekend at the easel and it felt good. It’s that time of the year when I come back inside from a long summer outdoors traveling, camping and painting and I have to re-establish my discipline of sitting down  in front of a canvas and painting from some of the photos I’ve taken.

City Park on Madeline Island, Wisconsin.

It’s kind of funny, I can get rusty in pretty short order if I don’t paint regularly. This painting is another relatively small canvas but the image appealed to me because the water was reflecting the landscape.
I had the opportunity to be on Madeline Island in July, and took a walk one evening with friends. There was a park with some nice walking paths along the southern edge of Lake Superior on the island’s shore. The sun was setting quietly and the water on the inlet was so still. I hope you enjoy the look of it as much as I did.

September 30, 2017

Finding joy each day.

Filed under: Waxing philosophical,Work from the studio — kjames @ 6:20 pm

There are so many things a person can do on any given day. We have commitments such our jobs, family routines, and community obligations and these things are often the source of great pleasure and fulfillment. 

Saturdays are a little bit more free and have a larger variety of choices we can make. Mine might range from cleaning my house, to working in the late season yard, or grabbing my fishing pole, or even going out for a drive to see colors. All of the things I could list here are fine, to be sure, and I could feel good about any one of the choices of how to spend the day.
Sometimes the day is not planned long in advance, but happen with all the spontaneity typical of a lovely fall day.
In my case, even with all of the many Saturday options available, I chose to pick up a paintbrush and play with color – to give myself the gift of painting, since it is one of the things that brings me great joy. You must always make the time to choose joy.
This small self portrait was what I painted today.

September 3, 2017

Evening play

Filed under: Waxing philosophical,Work from the studio — kjames @ 1:53 pm

Not every painting is inspired by an event, or done from a photo I’ve taken. Neither is it captured on site at the moment of a sunset, or even specifically intended for a learning process. Sometimes picking up a brush can be just about going into the relaxed state that pushing paint around affords. 

This little painting is not a real place and not from a photo, but  is just from a relaxed place in my mind. Think of it as doodling. We’ve all been known to doodle up and down the sides of note-taking, a grocery list, or some other scrap of paper while we’re thinking about other things. This is a little like that. I wanted to play and think about planning and dark and light and change, as I doodle my way through the process of painting. It is one way I process thoughts not even related to art. Sometimes it’s about processing what goes on in your day job, your relationships, or projects around the house that you need to think about. It becomes a mediation tool, a distraction, or an emotional or perspective leveler.
An artist and their works are interwoven and cannot be fully understood independent one from the other. I hope you enjoy this painting as an insight into the mind and workflow of a working artist.

August 23, 2017

Capturing calm

Filed under: Work from the studio — kjames @ 10:35 pm

First evening-blocking in the shapes.

Second evening – working the detail.

Even though the season for traveling and taking pictures is not completely done yet, I find myself already anxious to get started on some of the pictures I’ve taken. This first piece is painted from a shot that I took one evening when we were out for a drive in the country. 

I started this painting on Sunday afternoon and this first photo on the left is how far I got that evening. I don’t have too many process pictures for this painting because it fell together pretty rapidly but I thought it might be fun for you to see my priorities.

Evening three – finishing the tree and the final details.

The second shot on the above right is what happened on Monday night. In this phase of the painting I blocked in where and how I wanted the tree to grow and concentrated on the water’s surface and the grasses. 

The last evening I completed the painting by adding the greenery on the tree and enhancing some of the details that still needed to be finished. It’s fun now that I’ve learned how to pick up speed.

This is a remarkably simple subject – just calm water in late afternoon or early evening sun. I love the quiet light that early evening offers, right before dark. Last light touches the water’s surface and the edges of grasses and makes the color slightly heightened.

I hope you can hear the crickets?

August 20, 2017

More summer travel

Filed under: Working in the field — kjames @ 1:55 pm

Part of what I love about summer is taking dozens and dozens of pictures of images that I want to paint when I retreat from the first snow storms into my studio. Studio work is wonderful fun but it is also true that I like to paint small works like the calf that I painted on Washington Island in my previous post, while I’m on the road. I love doing those quick sketches.

Great Hall. Grand Portage, Minnesota.

The beginning of August found me at a historical encampment on Lake Michigan in Kenosha, Wisconsin. That was an invigorating event for me and I enjoyed collecting photos of the lake. From there I traveled to a lovely farm west of the twin cities in Minnesota to regroup with family between events. The next leg of the vacation entailed progressing farther north and settling on the far North Shores of Lake Superior, still within Minnesota, at the Grand Portage National Monument.
The painting of the Great Hall I show here was done sitting inside the fort walls on the Friday we were there. I know, traditional plein aire would be far more loose, gestural, and quick but I was using smaller brushes and just having vacation fun.
Look for a lot of work coming from this summer, in the year ahead.

July 22, 2017

Summertime – work on the road

Filed under: Working in the field — kjames @ 5:12 pm

I can’t believe the summer is flying by so incredibly fast.

Little Holstein calf at the farm museum on Washington Island over the 4th of July week.

From May to September I often find myself burning up vacation time making long weekends so I can attend living history events, or take simple road trips for fun and fishing. That boils down to shooting a lot of pictures that will be translated into paintings when I “come inside” this fall.

Not to imply I don’t do any plein aire sketches on the road, but they often don’t warrant a lot of fuss here and I rarely spend much time at the computer. Summers are mostly a time of pure input but here is a sweet little sketch you might enjoy.  

April 22, 2017

Painting just for fun.

Filed under: Waxing philosophical,Work from the studio — kjames @ 11:39 am

To really keep up the continual process of discipline with my painting, regardless of the motivation of commission, show presentation, or lectures, it is important to work… as often as possible but weekly at the very least. The more I paint, the less I am subject to the trap of painting only when I feel motivated to, and the better my skills become. 

View from the middle of a Midwest cornfield a good bit after sun's rise.

View from the middle of a Midwest cornfield a good bit after sun’s rise.

One of the most important parts of this whole process is that I continue to remember it is not about whether the final painting is perfect but about what I learned along the way. It is also vital that I enjoyed making it.

What is not important is if it is liked by everyone or that it “wows” anyone. Even less important is if it sells. Commerce has it’s place, of course, as does popular opinion but I must continue to paint regardless of the natural ebb and flow equated to either of those effects.

I give you my latest work, a 24″ x 36″ oil on canvas of early morning over a typical Midwestern cornfield. I do hope you enjoy it, and thank you for following my work.

April 8, 2017

The third painting from Kalamazoo.

Filed under: Work from the studio — kjames @ 11:58 am
This young man was a wonderful sales apprentice for this vendor.

This young man was a wonderful sales apprentice for this vendor.

I haven’t been free to work in my studio very often these last couple of weeks. Life balance is always a challenge for an artist – to find the time to spend at their craft and still work at a full-time job and have social activities. As with anything, when there is an ebb and flow in one part of our life we shift and allocate time to another important part. Yesterday I was able to sit down and finish this painting. 

This is the third painting that I started at the Kalamazoo Trade Show. It is a playful little illustration of the vendor display across the isle from me in my room in trader’s hall. The young man who was helping this vendor was delightful and made me think of all of the apprentices who learned at the shoulders of mentoring tradesmen in the 18th and 19th century. Best wishes to Delbert, my fine model and period apprentice.

April 2, 2017

The Second Painting from Kalamazoo.

Filed under: Art Update,Work from the studio — kjames @ 10:55 am

This second painting looked a little more done when I brought it out but I didn’t like how dark it was overall, so I spent some time yesterday bringing up the highlights.

This was a walking trail in western Pennsylvania that had big boulders everywhere.

This was a walking trail in western Pennsylvania that had big boulders everywhere.

Each painting I do now is chosen because they have some element in them that is a specific challenge. It might be a particular color palette, a tone, or something like water, architecture or rocks. 
For the most part, I take my own photos to do my paintings from. Part of the reason I insist on doing that is that I don’t need to worry about copyright. If I use an image someone else has taken then I must always ask for permission, often formally in the form of a written release to allow me the freedom to sell my final work. The other reason I use my own photographs is that they are literally triggers – reminders of something I experienced. They reflect a moment or emotion I saw, experienced, felt, smelled, or want to remember. Hopefully that direct memory helps me pass those experiences on to you more effectively.
I hope you enjoy this capture of the Rocky Path. Now, on to the next painting.

April 1, 2017

Playing in the Studio

Filed under: Art Update,Work from the studio — kjames @ 4:36 pm

I had a great weekend at the Kalamazoo Trade Fair where I worked on two paintings on Saturday and a third one on Sunday.

From the cool shade of the shoreline birch, a view of Turtle Island.

From the cool shade of the shoreline birch, a view of Turtle Island.

I love painting and talking at a public event like that and couldn’t be more thrilled that I was able to produce several works to a point of mostly done.  
When I am in such an open venue as that I start and stop painting while I talk to each person – something I love to do and is the main reason I paint on site.
The split concentration often keeps me from focusing on the problem solving part of pulling a piece through to completion so I bring the paintings home and look them over before signing them. Usually I see a few things I am not happy with and sit down and put a little time in fixing. The trick is being free to sit down and paint and these last couple weeks I have been too busy to do that.
This first painting was relatively close to done so all I needed to do was clean up a few places where there were awkward details. Done now, I offer you the View of Turtle Island.

Now, off to finish up the next painting.

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