Spent the morning tweaking and signing

Millie and the Sunflowers 11"x14" oil.
I extended some sunflower petals and reworked Millie's face and gave her white paws.

Beach Babies 16"x20" oil
I repainted the upper back of the girl in the turquoise swimsuit.

Christina and her Cello 10"x8" oil.
I adjusted a few things on Christina's face.

Painting at Limepark 10"x8" oil.
Several finishing touches... red flowers, red pot, adjusted the painter's shirt, put a few dashes of light on the pavement...

Girls Beach Day 10"x8"
I changed a lot in this one. Made the skirts blow to the right, raised the woman's arm, changed her neckline, added a beach towel... It feels slightly more casual and connected now, I think.

All this makes me want to go look through some of my false starts and see if there's something I could do to save them now.

Palette knife kitty- starring Millie

After several technical glitches and delays, I finally got to paint online last night with some awfully patient friends to chat with. I'd changed my mind about working on the current commission, as it would mean carrying a wet painting on the bus to the gallery- something I've done, but would rather avoid. So I was going through my reference folder with the viewers and showed them a photo of my cat, Millie. Sue Bailey, a pastel painter friend from Austin, suggested that I paint Millie with a palette knife- that's how this painting came to be. In the photo, Millie's feet and tail can't be seen, so I made them up. This morning I realize Millie has white feet. I'm actually thinking about changing them, but will need to wait until the paint has set up a bit more. I did make up a white-tipped tail as a compositional device to direct the viewer's eye back into the painting. There was no black used in this painting. It's all a mixture of red, blue and green. Since I painted on a grey-toned canvas panel, I couldn't just scratch down to white to make the whiskers, so had to use the palette knife. Much harder!
When I paint with a knife, it always leaves me wanting to do more. It's an exercise in letting go, that's for sure!

Finish of Mother Daughter Beach Day

20"x16" oil on stretched canvas
Again, I'm not happy with the colors of this photo, but will go ahead and post it anyway and try to get a better photo later. The subject is sweet, isn't it?
More accurate color.
I'll be painting online tonight, but a bit later than usual.... 7 p.m. instead of 6 p.m. Central time. Why don't you come by for a chat? www.ustream.tv/channel/susancarlin

Birthday inspiration

To celebrate my birthday, my sister Patty and I went to visit my favorite art museum today- The McNay. It's a beautiful Spanish style mansion that was originally the home of the woman whose impressive art collection remains in the museum. Many impressionist works are a part of the permanent collection, and now a huge contemporary wing has been added. These are a couple of photos of the interior courtyard. I had my white balance setting set wrong, so they're a bit blue, but maybe you can see how beautiful it is.

The McNay has my most favorite Monet waterlily painting, several good Gauguins, a gorgeous Pissaro, oh... wonderful things. The contemporary wing had an extensive exhibit of Edward Gorey's work. I got a bit of a crick in my neck (that's fancy Chiropractor terminology) tipping my head back so I could see his tiny, exquisite pen and ink work through the lower third of my tri-focals. Aging is not for sissies, my friends.
On our way out, we bought chunky bracelets in the museum gift shop. We plan to swap them back and forth every few weeks. Mine says Believe In Yourself. Patty's says Explore. Dream. Discover. Hey, it doesn't hurt to be reminded, right?
Now Patty's come over and is starting a new landscape painting at the easel next to mine. I'm going to continue working on the mother-and-daughter-at-the-beach painting I started on Wednesday. This is a good day. If you're going to get older anyway, why not look at beautiful things, try to make a few of your own, and seek out good company along the way?
Let me hear you say Amen.

A new start

I had some time and the excitement carried over from yesterday, so spent two and a half hours online today getting this far with a new 16x20 painting. Someone said during the broadcast that it had the look of a watercolor. I sort of agree. I made my objective just getting the canvas covered with as close to the right values as I could, not worrying too much about the correct colors as yet. I see that the only part of the canvas not covered is her shoes. The woman in the reference photos - also ones I took in Ireland- was wearing orange Crocs. I'm still thinking about that. the little girl was carrying a blue bucket which I painted as blue at first, but it didn't have much presence against the mother's skirt, so I've wiped it off and think I'll try red instead.
I'm not sure when I'll be able to get back to this painting, but I like the start. Again, thanks to all of you who came by to chat as I was painting!

Beach Buddies

16"x20" oil on stretched canvas

I painted this this afternoon.... and was so excited the entire time. This is what I've been imagining- big brush, thick un-blended paint laid on simply and deliberately. I can't wait to do the next one! I did set it aside and worked on the commission of the sister and brother playing Monopoly during my broadcast tonight. I don't think I shut up the entire two hours. We had a great conversation covering several topics. I do so love hanging out with 'the gang' who comes to chat with me while I work. Thank you to all of you who joined me!

Thank you, too, for all the comments on my "no pictures, just words" post about my memories of the moon landing. I've come to rely on the kindness of this blogging community we've created. You're an essential part of what makes my life as an artist so good. I'm grateful. I hope to offer you as much goodness in return.

40 years ago

(This has nothing to do with art, but has everything to do with this artist.)

I was turning 14 that July when they walked on the moon. Our family was in Ghana, West Africa, as missionaries for the years that I was 12-15. I'd been 500 miles away from my parents for the first of two years to go to school in the capitol of the country- Accra- while they and the younger two kids lived way out in the bush to the north. We were having a rare vacation together on the coast during a school break at a house that one of the other mission denominations maintained as a rest house for their missionaries. The place was near the water and we'd been on the beach most of that day. It was now evening and Dad was glued to Voice Of America, the radio station, as the moon landing was occurring. My brothers and sister and I tired of listening after a while and went outside to look at the moon.

The man who was the caretaker for the house was outside, too, and we proudly and excitedly told him about the moon landing. He looked at us and then at the moon and back at us, perhaps trying to decide if we were lying. He tried to argue with us that the moon was too small for anyone to stand on it and seemed to have no knowledge that it was even spherical or solid. After a while I think he realized we were telling the truth and I watched him try to fit this new information into his former understanding. As we talked, we walked with him to his own home a few yards away. It was an open, three-sided concrete box, perhaps 12 feet square. His wife was sitting on the floor with one of his two small children on her lap. They had been cooking over an open fire in the center. Flat straw mats were against the wall for beds and all of their possessions could have fit in the trunk of a car.

The man had been hired to clean and take care of the rest house- three bedrooms, a kitchen, flush toilets, living room furniture, quite often empty, I'm sure- while he was given a concrete box to live in with his family. Of course, he was referred to as the "houseboy" in spite of being over 30 years old.

We'd been in Ghana for two years at that point and I certainly hadn't been oblivious to the contrasts between our lives and the lives of the people we were supposedly there to help. But the stark inequities had weighed on me and that night I went from proud and excited to embarrassed and angry and certain that America was spending its money wrongly and focusing on all the wrong stuff. I was tired of seeing that we treated the Africans differently than we treated other Americans.

When you're 13 and 14, you feel things DEEPLY. At least I did. I'm aware that a lot of who I am now is rooted in what I was feeling then. There.
I've since tempered my certainty that America had no business going to space with a wider understanding that space exploration can't wait until all inequalities on earth are erased.

But every time I hear about the Apollo missions, I remember the mixed up way I felt that night as I looked up into the African sky with a man who struggled with the idea of a moon large enough to stand on.

At 14 with little Charlie hanging on for dear life. (This is the only photo of me from that time I could find.)

First painting from Ireland references

Well, I've taken this photo here at home after dark, so the blues seem to be intensified. But I wanted to post this anyway. I painted this today for me... can you imagine? I loved it.
Below it are three previous stages of the painting.

10" x 8" oil on Raymar panel.

Progress on Max and Briana

The lighting is so different between the studio/gallery and at home, that I spent much of yesterday correcting skin tones. Many more hours to go, but I'm liking the "so far."

Kitty for Bill, 5 x 7 oil on panel, Sold

It's wonderful when I get a commission to paint someone's cat or dog. What could be better than looking into these eyes for part of an afternoon?

I also painted a small landscape today and suffered all the way through. Only tonight did I find out why. I thought I'd bought one of Ampersand's cradled gessobords, but it turns out it was a claybord. The paint almost dried on contact. It felt almost like painting with acrylics. I'm going to try a second pass at it sometime by "oiling in" first and see what happens. Has anyone out there used a claybord and could offer words of advice?

Bichon Frise "Max" 16 x 12 oil canvas, Sold

Lookee what I got to paint today. Awwww....
This was tons of fun.

Start of 18 x 24 commission of two young people

After a frustrating start trying to get the broadcast going last night, I had good company as I waded further into this painting. I'd painted for about three and a half hours on it the night before, and spent most of my time on Max's face last night. Top to bottom, his face on the painting is about 4 inches tall.

I'll try to bring Briana's portrait up to that same mid-level of development next time.
Thanks, Everyone, for hanging out last night!

Likely Finish on Ailee

I've spent the last several days working on this portrait. Like always, I'll need to look at this tomorrow and the next day to be sure about it, but I like it tonight. I'm not getting good photos in my fluorescent-lighted computer room, so these are the best images I can get to show you tonight. After I'm sure I'm done, I'll post better photos. Thank you for cheering me along on this portrait of Ailee!

Progress on Ailee

I'm liking this portrait better and better. Yesterday I worked on it during two broadcast sessions, one of which I recorded. This evening I watched bad TV and painted by myself. Not my favorite way. Sniff.
It was good being back in the gallery again today.

Painting Online Twice Today

I’m home again and want to work on my commissions that were on hold during my trip to the Emerald Isle. So today I’m going to paint twice, neither one at my regular time. I’ll be on at noon (Texas/Central time) for a couple of hours, and then again at 8 p.m. for another two.
So what if my house is piled up and my suitcases are still unpacked and my lawn is dying from the 100+ degree prolonged heat wave we’ve been having? I miss you guys and want to PAINT!
I hope you’ll have some time to join me…