Tuesday, August 25, 2009

One Thing Leads to Another

Okay, I was lazy... I didn't post my progress every day as planned. Actually, the problem was more like I didn't bring my camera every day, so then I would take photos with my cell phone, which in turn would languish in my cellphone because I didn't want to bother forwarding them to myself. So, yeah, I guess that's lazy... but it's done! It's been done for almost a week and I finally went over to the school this morning to take a proper photo before the sun came over the building. I still want to take a photo with all of Katie' Kids standing in front of it, so I have to co-ordinate that yet.

Painting this mural was fun because of the kids and their interest in the process. Usually on their play time outside, a few of them would venture down to where I was painting. I created a barrier with my paint gear boxes so that they couldn't invade the space I was in, but they could watch me from the other side. One day, when I was about two thirds done with the mural, my little peanut gallery was busy watching me as I was stirring the brown paint. I was getting the usual, "Hi, Miss Sarah's Mom!" and "Watcha do-ing?". I was talking to them as I was stirring the paint when little boy came up behind the others and said quite matter-of-factly, "You need to be done!" Which made me snicker to myself and think of the Pope and Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel, "When will it be done?", "When I am finished!"

It was taking longer than expected, not in hours, but in days because I could only work before the sun came over the building. Therefore, I only worked 5 or 6 hours a day. A few times I tried taking a break for about 4 hours until the sun sank behind the parking structure across the street, but soon realized that the building I was working on had absorbed the heat from the sun and would radiate the heat back on me as I tried to work. Once I got down to the last panel, I tended to be shaded enough that I could work all day.

The original plan for this mural was different. I had actually designed it so that there were 4 flowers and they were all similar to the one on the far right, in shape. The color palette didn't include blue. The day I was planning to start, I started fiddling with the composition because there was just something that was bugging me. Even though the owner had already approved the initial sketch, the artist in me was just not quite satisfied.... The next thing I knew, I had changed all the flowers, except the one on the far right, to be all different flowers because I started thinking of the children and how each one is unique. I then smiled to myself because I realized the bees were like the school's teachers, helping the flowers/children to grow. (I don't know how visible the bees are to you, the reader, because the photo is rather small. But there are two bees, one on the pink rose and one flying over the blue flower.)

I sent the Katie a text message with what I had done and the reasons behind it and explained the new concept to her. She replied with an, "I love it! and I trust you..."

It's so nice when your client trusts you... :)

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Foray into Urban Sketching

A couple of days ago I ran across "Urban Sketchers" on Facebook. Wowzers! I am smitten! I absolutely love, love, love the idea because it's so much simpler than plein air painting. Granted plein air is wonderful, fabulous, marvelous, gorgeous, etc., etc. But, I have yet to figure out how one would do it in a city and since I'm not located near fabulous vistas of mountain ranges or vineyards or woodland streams, well... Urban Sketchers kind of fills the bill. Sure, I could go and take photos and come back to the studio and work up a painting, but that doesn't get me what I want - the immediacy of on site observation. Don't misunderstand me, I will do the photo thing, because there are incredibly interesting places in Detroit - ones of decay, that I find fascinating and their locations aren't going to lend themselves to "urban sketching" either. The camera does have its uses...

Anyway, since the weather today was not predicatable with its "scattered thunderstorms", I decided to forego the mural work and do some urban sketching instead. I grabbed a sketchbook and some pens and pencils - I couldn't find my travel watercolor sets. I only have three! One of them I left in Maui, last March. (I left most of my art supplies that I took, with my brother. I specifically did that so I wouldn't have to pack them ever again.) The other two are somewhere in my studio (?), a knapsack (?), a drawer (?), a coat pocket(?)... I don't know! I've actually been looking for them for about a month, but I can't find 'em. I have the travel watercolor brushes, but no pan sets. gr-r-r-r.... My straw hat, a power bar and my waterbottle completed my gear. So-o-o simple and out the door I went.

I decided to go to Bell Isle. I figured it was a hot day, being near the water would be nice. Besides, Belle Isle has lots of interesting and beautiful things on it. I drove Woodward Avenue down to the river. I much prefer Woodward Avenue to the expressway. The expressway is so boring. It's just a big concrete canal. Woodward is full of life. It may not always be pretty, but it's real! I contemplated going to Hart Plaza for a moment as I reached Jefferson Avenue and saw Joe Louis' fist, but decided to stick with the Belle Isle plan.

The island was still fairly quiet. Not a lot was going on. Some cars had arrived and people were starting their day of fun or going through their morning jogging session. I wanted to park in the shade since it was going to be another hot day. There was a nice patch of shade across from the Conservatory, so I thought, "Oh, I'll do the Conservatory roof. I can sit on my tailgate in the shade."

Oh, naive child of urban sketching... What the hell were you thinking?! Hello-o! Conservatory? Many, many panes of glass? This is what my muse started thumping me in the head with. "Okay, okay...", I argued back. "I can do this. It's just a sketch. Not an architechural rendering. Relax. It'll be fine..." And so I muddled on. I didn't want to get myself freaked out or bogged down so I gave myself a half an hour to complete the sketch.

This is what I came up with. Not terribly accurate, but it works for a sketch.

I then got up and walked over to the Dossin Great Lakes Museum building. On the grounds, near the entrance is the anchor of the Edmund Fitzgerald. To the left of the anchor is a large propeller. I don't know what the propeller belonged to because the bronze plaque is missing (removed by a scavenger, perhaps?). I don't know if it was from the the Edmund Fitzgerald, too. I don't think so, but I don't know. I found it to be quite interesting, sunken in cement and weed-filled cracks for evermore. Kind of run aground in an odd, permanent way. I did this sketch standing, which had me juggling my drawing tools and wishing I had eight fingers on my left hand so I could hold and manipulate everything easier.

And there you have it - my first foray into urban sketching.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Katie's Kids and Happy Pants

Day One: the Big Blank Wall

Day One of my mural project for Katie's Kids, a nursery/preschool, in Royal Oak, MI (where my daughter, Sarah, is a teacher) was quite an amusing one. I had forgotten what is like to be around little munchkins! They're so much fun and so-o-o inquisitive! Number One Question: Waddaya doo-ing? Number Two Question: Wats dat?! Number Three Question: Wat's your na-ame? Number Four Question: How come you got paint all over you? And so on, endless questioning. So much fun!

Number Four Question was probably the most fascinating for them because they get in trouble if they get paint on their clothes. I tend to keep it simple, "Because I'm very busy painting." It's too much for them to comprehend that the reason why there's paint all over my clothes is because I don't bother with paint rags much. If my brush has too much paint on it, I tap it on my pants or my t-shirt. If I need to wipe paint off my fingers, I use my pants. I can't be bothered looking for a rag or even keeping one in a pocket. I've tried aprons, but I find that they still make me overly cautious about not getting paint on the rest of my clothes. You see, it's my belief that if you're subconsciously concerned about getting paint on your clothes, then you're not fully engaged in your painting. Therefore, I tend to have quite an array of color on me when I'm painting! I call my paint pants my "happy pants" because when I'm wearing them I can do anything! I can paint, I can garden, I can do anything and not have to worry about "getting dirty".

I told one little girl about my "happy pants" and she was fascinated by the concept. She then began to tell me about her pants. One of the little boys said to my daughter, after they went back inside the school, " Miss Sarah, your mom is awesome!" So Sarah asked him, " Why is my mom awesome?" To which he replied, " Cuz she looks cool!"

Yep, my "Happy Pants" were a hit!

End of Day One: Blocking in Color

The pink center panel is proving to be a pain to paint, the aggregate is incredibly bumpy!