Every day, every time of year, is beautiful at Snow Canyon. But this particular day, just after the rain, was especially jaw-dropping. We were at a Winters family reunion in St George, and after a big rainstorm the night before, the more adventurous of us set off on a morning hike to Three Ponds. The hike wasn't difficult (as you can see, the trail is mostly flat), but it was about three miles of gorgeous, rain-soaked desert trail, concluding with a series of ponds at the end where the kids jumped in and went for a swim!
I just finished this painting last night. This will be on display at the AmBank Invitational show, which opens November 3, 2016.
UPDATE: The president of AmBank decided they couldn't part with this painting when the show closed so it is now part of their permanent collection.
I was standing on a bridge opposite the one where these girls are seated, painting this gorgeous scenery at Sundance with one of my classes. The autumn trees were backlit in such a way that they glowed like they were on fire. Suddenly these five young girls wandered into the scene and took a seat on the bench, and I snapped a quick picture. I loved their gestures, their friendship, and the way they were out enjoying the fall color just like I was. I knew instantly that I wanted to paint them.
In a class in Salt Lake yesterday I was explaining how and why I include figures in my paintings. The people in my landscapes are nearly always strangers, and I paint them without recognizable features so they can be about anybody. If I want the picture to be about a particular person, say, a family member, then I do a portrait. But otherwise I want any viewer to be able to envision themselves in the picture, interacting with the landscape. Including a figure embraces our humanity and links us to the subject at the same time.
This painting is called "Encircled About by Fire" (inspired by a chapter in 3 Nephi where angels come down from heaven to surround children and minister to them them, "as if in the midst of fire.") The subject of this painting is obviously not little children but teenage girls. Having raised three teenagers of my own, I know they are surrounded by guardian angels! That is every mother's prayer. Sometimes teenagers need that divine intervention even more than their toddler counterparts. Here the reflections in the water complete the circle of fire. This is a larger piece (22 x 30) that I completed in the studio last week. I'm planning to exhibit it at the AmBank show opening November 3.
The piece I was working on en plein air when I took this photo is called "Stream of Light" and has a different format, as you can see below. It is smaller, and was completed on location, visiting this spot in multiple painting sessions. It is now sold. You can see that while the setting is essentially the same, the subject of this smaller piece is clearly the water, while the focus of the larger painting is centered around the girls and the circle of fire that surrounds them.
I spent the the entire day by myself. Jeff and Jeremiah went off to a concert, and I decided to explore the city on my own. I spent most of the time on Portabello Road, exploring the seemingly endless open-air market and photographing all the colors and textures of the shopkeepers and their stalls.
Rather than take the tube home, I decided to find my way back on foot, including a stroll through Kensington Gardens. It had already been a very long day, and I'd been walking for miles, but all the life and growth here kept me going. It inspired and revived me to be surrounded by so much natural beauty.
I was planning to put this in a show of my London paintings, but decided on a whim to show it—unfinished—to a woman who came over to look at my work, and she bought it right then and there. I asked if I could keep it a few more days to add some finishing details (the hints of flowers in the upper right, and a few other bits) and she agreed. This often happens with my florals. I can hardly keep them in stock, and this is the second one that has sold before it was even finished.
This is a small piece, but it packs a lot of punch, thanks to the Transparent Pyrrol Orange. This was originally begun as a class demonstration, in an effort to show how to neutralize the color on the rocks, and capture the rush of the water against the vivid intensity of the surrounding fall foliage. This is the result.
Nearly every year I take a group of students to the base of these majestic falls to draw and paint, and the location never disappoints, at any time of year. There is always contrast, color, drama and light in abundance.
This painting sold last week, and its color and light are bound to add a splash of fire and passion to the walls of their home. I'll definitely miss this one.
If you're interested in painting with me in Provo Canyon this month, The WorkRoom has hired me to teach a watercolor workshop/creative escape for women on September 24th. The class is already sold out, but I think they're adding a few more spots.
One year our house in Pasadena was on the Historic Highlands home tour. People would come from all over California (but mostly from our neighborhood) to admire the lovely restored Craftsman houses. As I walked the neighborhood, I couldn't resist painting this one—on the corner of Atchison and Catalina. It's not a typical Craftsman bungalow. But I love the flash of orange shrubbery growing over the fence, echoed in the red tiles of the roof. The house is almost a back-up band to the flashy array of lush foliage. Something about this painting just says California sunshine in a big way. In fact, I left the top edge of the roof completely out of the picture, as if to invite all the sunshine in.
This painting sold this week, and I have to admit I was a little bit sad to take it down off my wall. But then I was so happy to see it go to a new home where it will be loved and admired, and add a little splash of sunlight and joy.
It was the golden hour. Shadows were falling fast, chasing away the remaining light, Meanwhile, everything around us glowed.
My sister Holly and I were away with our children at her cabin in Christmas Meadows, Wyoming. Our picnic was finished, and we were walking the kids down to the river before bed. Over and over again we had to turn around and wait for Lexi, who kept stopping to catch butterflies in the waist-high field grass,
All of a sudden I heard bits of conversation and laughter, then the slip and whoosh of a canoe on the river. It appeared right in front of us, as if from out of nowhere. We watched in amazement as another family floated by, out enjoying the last vestiges of daylight with their kids, just like we were. Kinship.
I loved the way the light caught their faces. I loved their red canoe and their matching life jackets. I loved the rich darkness of the riverbank, contrasted with the golden glow of the meadow all around us. This moment was pure magic.
I finished this painting last weekend, and I feel like I finally captured the moment.
This painting is a full-sheet watercolor, (22 x 30) and will be featured in the AmBank Invitational show in November.
One mistake many beginners (and even professionals) make is knowing when a painting is finished. On the one hand, knowing when to quit can mean saving yourself from overworking an otherwise fresh, vibrant painting. In the movie "Six Degrees of Separation," Donald Sutherland plays an art dealer. One day he asks the first grade teacher how all her students paint like Matisse. She answers, "I know when to take their paintings away." Sometimes we all need to stop ourselves while it is still art and before it becomes a muddy mess.
On the other hand, stopping when a painting is almost finished can be equally disastrous. Leaving out the essential darks (even when you think they're already established) can leave a painting feeling weak and unfinished.
I was painting toward a show deadline on this piece, and got it to the "almost finished" stage, but not completely finished. I knew it wasn't quite there yet, but I was under the gun. As it turned out, the deadline came and went, and the painting was still unfinished. I entered another in its place.
Almost the exact time a year later, I found myself painting for another show deadline and decided to pull this one out and finish it up. That's right, it has sat unfinished in my studio for an entire year! Sometimes that's how long it takes before I know exactly how to take it to its final state. I finished this last night. I started by experimenting with a dark dark along the shoreline in one spot, and liked the result. So last weekend I completed those darks along the shoreline, as well as the darks in the far background, softened areas, made some colors richer, and finally refined the figures just a touch.
I like Donna Zagotta's quote on when a painting's done: "You know it's finished when you love it!" I think this one's finished now, because I finally love it.
Do you have a painting you're struggling to finish? Or one you think might be finished but you're not sure? Set it aside and wait until you can see clearly how to take it to its final state. Or ask a friend. I often turn to my critique group (who offered some advice on the darks), or my dad. Another pair of eyes can often help you know when a painting is finished.
I am an artist and art instructor working in water media. Just knowing I can watch colors run together makes it worth getting out of bed every morning! Helping students capture the same excitement is equally rewarding.