Category Archives: art

Why Teach?

Class assignment

Class assignment

So you have a particular skill set.  Maybe you know something  about computers, knitting, music, writing or as in my case painting. Why should you consider passing on some of those skills to others? Here is what I discovered while teaching an oil painting class recently.

Planning a class forced me to think about why I do the things I do when I’m painting. I’m an intuitive learner, but that doesn’t work when teaching. It would not help my students to tell them to feel their way to a beautiful painting. It forced me to become conscious of every detail of my process.  Knowing why I do things has made me a better painter.

Your mother, father, teacher and any adult you came in contact with as a child encouraged you to share.  It’s still a good idea to share. Sharing your knowledge and skills with others broadens your world and enriches your life.

The last day of our class many of my students made a point of  letting me know how much they enjoyed the class and learned. One of my students became so passionate about painting she reported that she painted all the time now. She doesn’t cook, clean or do any of the things she used to do. I’m hoping her family doesn’t come after me. Another student told me with tears in her eyes that her mother was an artist and taught her to paint years ago. But since her mother passed away she hadn’t been able to pick up a brush at all because it made her so sad. This class was the first time she held a brush in years. She was so happy to be able to paint again. Then she thanked me.  You never know how sharing your expertise will change another persons life.

Teaching hones the skills you already possess. It enriches your life to share. And best of all, you can have a part in improving someone else’s life.

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Back to School

Never having attended a formal art school has at times made me feel a little left out of the loop in the art world. While I am a big fan of studying painting by learning  modern and past masters techniques from books, I finally reached the point where I definitely needed to take a more direct route to improving my paintings. Thanks to the miracle of modern technology and Johannes and Ken Vloothuis at Improvemypaintings.com I have stumbled upon the perfect blend of inexpensive home study and painting lessons by expert instructors who amazingly seem to care that I learn and apply the concepts they are teaching. They didn’t ask me to write this and I’m not being paid to do so. I’m just so impressed with the video streamed classes I have taken so far that I wanted to share a little of my experience.

Market Day - oi - 8"x10" l- Leah Wiedemer

Market Day – oi – 8″x10″ l- Leah Wiedemer

The most recent class I took dealt with working with a limited palette. The Zorn palette consists of ivory black, titanium white, yellow ochre light and cadmium red.  The painting above was my first attempt at using this palette. I loved the challenge of mixing all the shades, values and variety I needed using only four tubes of paint. By watching Ken work I was able to see how I could paint wet on wet, something that had always alluded me.

The Tomoka - oil - 9"x 12" - Leah Wiedemer

The Tomoka – oil – 9″x 12″ – Leah Wiedemer

Johannes offered a class on painting trees and foliage. Much of what he taught I knew on some intuitive level, but learning the whys and wherefores has been invaluable. The painting “The Tomoka” was what I did as a result.

Hidden Path - oil - 8" x 10" - Leah Wiedemer

Hidden Path – oil – 8″ x 10″ – Leah Wiedemer

This painting is where I combined everything I learned in the past couple of months. I used the Zorn palette, but added small touches of cad yellow and burnt siena.

Taking these online classes has given me a new excitement for painting. I pick up my brushes, squeeze out my paints and attack my canvases with confidence and happy anticipation.  Have you taken classes that ignited your passion? Do you have a favorite instructor you would like to brag about? Did a weekend workshop change you life?  Leave a comment and tell me about it.

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Art Show Get-a-Way

SoBe Kind of Day by Leah Wiedemer

SoBe Kind of Day by Leah Wiedemer

It’s been a while since I had the opportunity to do some roaming, so when my painting “SoBe Kind of Day” was accepted into the Women Painters of the South East annual exhibition I jumped at the chance to travel to Tennessee for the opening. The exhibition was held at the Imagine Gallery on the second floor of  ‘The Factory’ in Franklin, TN.  Franklin is a charming little town just south of Nashville. It was a delight to stroll Main street, window shopping and sampling the offerings of a few of the many fine restaurants in town. Outside of town there were rolling hills dotted with horse farms and historic plantations. The Factory Since Nashville was close we decided to take a little day trip. The Frist museum was holding a wonderful exhibition of old Dutch masters. What a treat! After a thoroughly enjoyable morning of seeing my first live and in person Rembrandts we had some lunch and then hit the strip lined with eateries, drinkeries and cowboy boot shops.

Nahsville

Nashville

The next day Lori Putnam ( our juror for the show and plein air painter extraordinaire)  gave an informative talk and painting demonstration. It’s always great to see an accomplished artist do a painting right before your eyes.

Lori Putnam's painting demo

Lori Putnam’s painting demo

That evening was the show opening and awards ceremony. The show was hung beautifully and I was proud to have one of my pieces included among so many stunning paintings.  If you go to the WPSE website you can see pictures of all of the winning  works. Congratulations to all who took awards! They were well deserved.  Hopefully, I will see you again next year.

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Pan Pastels – Love Them, Love Them Not

pan pastelsRecently an artist friend recommended that I try pan pastels. She extolled their dustless virtues until I was itching to get myself a set. So when I came across a basic set on sale I jumped on it anxious to put them to the test.

I like the packaging and the way they screw together making a nice, neat stack. My set came with a few sponge applicators, but not handles for the sponge sleeves.

The consistency is creamy and they blend together beautifully. But dustless? They do have less dust than traditional sticks and of course it does make a difference what kind of surface you are using.

My first experiment was on  a lovely sanded paper. I did an under painting with the pans. Having just the basic set I felt very limited with the colors available. So I put in the basic shapes of boats, houses, mountains and trees. Then I resorted to my Sennelier sticks.

Leah Wiedemer, soft pastel, 6.5"x9"

Leah Wiedemer, soft pastel, 6.5″x9″

Yes, the sticks are much messier, but I don’t mind getting a little dirty when I work. I’m happy with the result but a little disappointed that I abandoned the pans in order to achieve the look I wanted.

For my next experiment I worked on Canson Mi Tientes paper on the smooth side.  I wanted to see if I could force myself to complete a painting using only pan pastels. First I laid in an under painting. The sponge applicators are great for blending and kept my fingers clean.

Under painting for Venice Rain by Leah Wiedemer

Under painting for Venice Rain by Leah Wiedemer

The colors looked like they were going to work. The pastels blended easily and created a minimal amount of dust. I continued working with the pan pastels indicating where I wanted the umbrellas, people and shop windows. Then when it came to final tweaking I again went back to my sticks. The temptation was just too great. I’m weak. I do love my Sennelier sticks and will probably continue to depend on them. There is something about the directness of stick to paper that makes me feel more connected to the work. Also I like an unblended swath of color here and there. I’ll use the pan pastels too, but only for backgrounds and under paintings.

Venice Rain, soft pastel by Leah Wiedemer 6.5"x9.5"

Venice Rain, soft pastel by Leah Wiedemer 6.5″x9.5″                                                  

What is your experience using pan pastels? Love ‘em or hate ‘em? I’d love to hear how you use them. Leave a comment to tell me what you think.

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5 Ways to Blow the Block

up against the wall

up against the wall

Every creative person experiences  dry seasons from time to time. The sooner you can get out of the desert, the sooner you can start your next masterpiece.  But what can you do to shake things up and start the juices flowing again? The following are some of the ways that I blow the artist block blues.

1. Learn something new. Take a class.  The wonders of the internet have made education very affordable. Nobody is cheaper than yours truly, but I will happily pay for a reasonably priced online art class. I’ve taken a number of classes online from Ken and Johannes Vloothuis through Wetcanvas.com . They are beyond reasonable and  informative. I always come away with wonderful nuggets of artistic wisdom to put into practice. If you can take an ‘in person’ class so much the better.

piles of tiles

piles of tiles

2. Try a new medium.  If you are a painter you could get some clay and try your hand at molding or sculpting. If you work predominantly with oil paints then give watercolor , encaustics, acrylic, scratch board or pastels a try. The unfamiliararity of a new medium can release your pent up creativity.

art show

art show

3. Visit a museum or go to an art show. Find out what other artists are doing. Look at the work of some old masters as well as some new cutting edge artists. Are there techniques you see that you can incorporate in your work?

4. Spend time with other creative folks. Art groups and writers groups are invaluable sources of creative inspiration and support. Find a group and get involved.

5. Try teaching a class. Every time I teach a class I learn a lot myself. It forces me to examine why I do the things I do and to pay closer attention to my processes.

These five practices for finding your creative sea legs again work for me. What works for you? I’d love to hear how you blow the artist block blues.

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Six Steps to a Finished Oil Painting

There seem to be few hard and fast rules in oil painting which can be both liberating and paralyzing all at the same time. The one rule I do try to follow is the lean to fat rule. I generally use straight paint until the final layer where I may add a little oil for glazing or small touches. When the painting is dry to the touch in about a week or so I will go over the whole thing with oil. This may or may not be the prescribed method, so if you would like to school me on what is proper please leave a comment. The following is the process I used for this particular painting.

Step One:  First I sketched out my composition with vine charcoal, taking pains to get the lines and angles positioned just right.

Step Two: I very loosely blocked in the buildings and water. Then I began painting the buildings on the right, working in an abstract texture with a pallet knife. This was a lot of fun for me to create texture and design using a knife.

venice 1

 Step Three:  Here I began working on the left hand side buildings going from back to front. I wanted to keep the back buildings a bit hazy and less defined to indicate distance.

venice 2

Step Four: Now I’m ready to begin a slightly more finished look on the front buildings. I would still like to keep it fairly loose so I go back to using my pallet knife to add texture but no real detail.

venice 3

 

Step Five: It is time to put in the boats on the left and do more work on the gondola on the right.  I also decided to add another figure at the railing. She wasn’t in my photo reference, but she was in my head. Also, I’ve made a few adjustments here and there on some of the window lines that looked a little wonky to me.

venice 5

 

 

Step Six: I went back over the water, adding highlights and reflections. I added some flowers to a window box on the right, and went over the sky again.  Then it was just some general tweaking  and I was ready to sign.

venice final web

 

That’s how I tackled this  48″ x36″ work. I used a pallet knife for about 70% of the painting. Comment to let me know what painting rules you follow and which ones you like to ignore.

 

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Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

This year has brought a lot of newness to our lives.  My family and I find ourselves in a new town and of course a new home. We weren’t necessarily looking for change, but now that it has come we are very happy.  This is my new studio. Don’t you love that big window?

new studio

new studio

I have new plans to begin plein aire painting.  Our new location is near the ocean so I expect my work to reflect that fact. heron

This guy posed for me today. I’ll be back to paint this area on a day the sun makes an appearance. There is much exploration and local roaming to be done. As we continue to unpack boxes and become better organized the roaming will commence. I believe it’s true what they say. Change is good.

May all of your changes will be good changes.

 

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6 Parts of a Successful Art Biz

This was going to be the year that I finally got my art business act together.  I was going to successfully divide my time between record keeping, blogging, keeping in touch with clients, posting on social media sites, and attending and participating in shows while still carving out time to create new work. Those were and are my goals. This is what actually happened.

I began 2012 by attending business planning webinars. I read and studied a multitude of art business books. I joined a dynamic group of artists who also wanted to up their game business wise. I even began to implement some of the practices I was learning. Go me! Then my husband and I decided to move from our home of 25 years to a town about 65 miles away. All of my good intentions are being put on hold till the new year. But even with this disruption of my business make-over I believe I have made some progress.

While not the queen of social media, I am getting better at posting more consistently. Facebook makes me mutter and wonder if there is any such thing as privacy anymore, but I continue to grudgingly use it. I like the challenge of short messages on Twitter, but feel lost in the crowd. Google plus is something I want to use more, but alas I must confess that I don’t really understand it yet.

I started using a cataloging program called The Artwork Archive and I love it. It could be my best new decision for this year. I can print out consignment sheets with all the pertinent information including a thumbnail of each painting. I still have some older works to upload, but have made it a habit to immediately add new work as soon as it is completed. For this I am enthusiastically patting myself on the back.

I’ve always been a receipt saver, but I haven’t delved into quicken books or any book keeping software yet. I’m very old school on this point so I’ll work on that for 2013. In a blink it will be tax time and once again time to repent for my haphazard record keeping.

My newsletters are going out more regularly and I have made more of an effort to add new email addresses. It can be challenging to come up with fresh and interesting material every month. My goal here is to make my newsletter something people look forward to getting. So if you are on my subscriber list and this just makes you laugh, I’m open to topic suggestions! I expect December’s letter to say something like, “I’m moving at Christmas time! Ackkkk! See you next month when I hopefully will be more coherent”.

In order for me to participate in shows the way I would like to I need a bigger car. Well, that isn’t going to happen anytime soon, so I need to find more indoor venues. Which means getting my hermit like self out there in my new town and meet people. Maybe I can schedule an open house for the first part of the year to this end. No promises, but it is an idea I’m kicking around.

So that covers my successes, failures and postponements for 2012. I read a quote recently that said, “Life is what happens when you are making other plans”. Never a truer word was said.  What goals have you reached this year? What are your goals for next year? I’d love to hear about them.

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What’s Your Favorite Color?

so many colors Do you remember when that was a go to “getting to know you” question in grade school? Well, children may know more than we give them credit for. Color preferences can still tell us a lot about ourselves and each other. Colors can influence our moods, create harmony or discord, peace or agitation, excitement or melancholy. Do you have a favorite color?
When I was growing up my favorite color changed almost daily. I still don’t have one favorite color. I do however have favorite color combinations. Certain colors put together give me a little thrill. I bought a sweater more than thirty years ago that I still have because it has the delicious (to me anyway) color combo of an ultramarine base with bright kelly green circles. That might not be your cup of tea, but whenever I see those colors together I have to smile.
Who didn’t experience a thrill of excitement upon opening that deluxe box of Crayola crayons for the first time and seeing all of those beautiful shades with their perfect points? The possibilities seemed endless. I get that same thrill now when I get a new box of soft pastels – the price tag for delight has definitely increased as anyone knows who has invested in a set of pastels. Still, it’s nice to know that my childhood pleasures continue.  
Do colors affect your moods? I read that people who spend a lot of time in a yellow room tend to be agitated and more argumentative. But I find a soft devonshire cream yellow to be soothing. A room done in caution sign yellow would probably make me into a raving lunatic. Red supposedly makes you feel hungry. That could explain my weight gain since I painted our kitchen red. Oh well, I like it so it stays. Orange seems to be a color that people either love or hate. On a recent shopping expedition it was a sea of orange in various intensities with a sprinkling of contrasting and complimentary colors. Orange on its own doesn’t do much for me, but mixed with all of those complimentary and contrasting shades it was rich and eye popping. Blue is very often chosen as a favorite color. It evokes feelings of tranquility, and we really can’t have too much of that.  However it’s cousin purple is less popular. At one time my red kitchen was purple and my children liked to refer to me as ‘the artist formerly known as mom’. For now I prefer the hunger inducing red.

So, here we are back to where we started.  Tell me – What is your favorite color? 

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Exploring Techniques,and Materials for Soft Pastels

Who hasn’t seen an especially appealing, or unique work of art and thought “I want to do that!”?  I love to study the works of masters, both past and contemporary to learn new to me techniques and perhaps try those techniques on different surfaces or with different tools and materials.

After reading about the use of under painting for soft pastels I decided to give it a try. I sprayed a bit of adhesive on the back of a piece of Canson Mi- Teintes paper and stuck it on gator board.  I drew a light sketch on the paper and then got out my water colors and went to work. I just blocked in color, not trying to do a finished painting by any means. With my under painting dry I was ready to go to work with my soft pastels.  I did get some waves to my paper, but when I was finished I took it off the gator board and taped it back to the board painted side down. Then I carefully applied water to the back making sure my tape held securely. When it was completely dry I weighted it down with some heavy books for a few minutes just as an extra measure.  Viola! A flat painting ready to frame.

Heading For the Barn – Leah Wiedemer

Next I decided to try the same technique with different paper. I chose a piece of Uart Sanded paper and again used the spray adhesive on the back. This paper definitely lent itself better to the water color under painting. I experienced none of the buckling as the previous attempt and I loved the effect. This is a landscape just before the fog lifted near Barga, Italy.

Vineyard Path by Leah Wiedemer

For my final experiment I tired a piece of beautiful handmade paper from India. I’m a sucker for deckle edges so I was pretty excited about this paper. I prepped the paper the same as in the first two paintings. Sadly the paper didn’t hold up well to the water color under painting. It seemed to want to disintegrate under my brush. In my head I heard “Abort! Abort!”. So I did. This is the finished painting anyway. It is the scene out of my window where I stayed in Barga, Italy at Casa Cordati.

View From the Big Room by Leah Wiedemer

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