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Thursday, May 28, 2009

El Matador State Beach, Malibu California

El Matador 22 x 30" watercolor
© 1994 Katherine Kean

I thought I'd keep a beach theme going this week - my way of acknowledging that we're moving into summer, with another post on inspiring locations to paint. California is loaded with dramatic natural beauty. There are 70 miles of coastline in Southern California, some of it wonderfully rugged. One of the most beautiful spots is El Matador State Beach. The combination of rock formations and ocean is a sure lure for landscape painters. You can find a few pictures of this stunning location here.

I have only visited this beach early in the day when it’s easier to find a place to park. If I’m carrying a lot of painting gear I try to get as close to my painting location as possible. However I suspect it may be even more striking near the end of the day and I plan to go at that time one day soon.

To get to the beach you have to descend a steep stairway, but there are also some great views looking down on the beach from above. One trick to this location is that once on the beach when the tide is out it is easy to walk north up the beach, but if the tide comes in you might have to dash between the waves and the cliff on the return trip to get back to the stairs.


El Matador State Beach
32215 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90265

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Waves Coming to Shore: New Work and Goals



Work in Progress 18 x 24” oil on linen



I did a quick survey of everything in progress in the studio and came up with a count of 11 paintings in various stages of completion. Almost all of them are within a few hours of finishing, although there is one that has only just been started. My goal is to have them all complete by the end of June as well as starting on three or four new ones. Two of the new ones I'll be starting on will be large; 40 x 60" and above.

I am thinking of devoting the last few days of each month to finishing up work. That would be this week, right? Seems doable.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Places that Inspire


It Takes Two 20 x 16" oil on linen
© 2007 Katherine Kean

What makes a place inspiring?

I believe that the quality that makes a location an inspiration will vary it from person to person. For me it took a long time of honing before I understood what does it for me.

I spent many years painting en plein air, which is a specific form of painting meaning literally “in the open air”. It involves a certain amount of preparation and presents specific challenges, fitness and painting speed among them, I believe, as the light changes so quickly. Monet changed canvases every 20 - 40 minutes to accommodate the shifting light. Then there’s heat, cold, bugs, rain, to contend with. Oh, and let’s not forget poison oak and snakes and other critters. In spite of all this I loved it and still venture out to paint the wild places from time to time.

However, my process has gradually evolved. I had come to a point where I was continually searching for the landscape that naturally contained what I wanted to express, some kind of ephemeral attribute that mirrored the vision in my imagination. I could visit a place that would embody the characteristic I wanted, only to come back another day and find it gone. It’s still a bit of a mystery to me to define what combination of elements are necessary to make a location someplace I desire to paint. It seems to be part a quality of the light, maybe the angle at certain times of day, and part something I bring with me.

Although I continue to refer to the landscape, these days I rely a little less on the details of a location, preferring instead to go for what the character of a place expresses to me, or I reverse the process and create an image and then go out to look for landscape references to fill in the details and make the vision complete.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Honoring Studio Time


I like to paint during the week, during daylight hours. One of the reasons for this seems fairly simple and obvious: that’s when there’s light. I still rely on artificial light to some extent (that’s another post), but all said and done nothing is as good as natural light.

There is another reason that it works for me to be in the studio 9-5 Monday through Friday; that’s when most other people are working and it’s easier to go with that flow: the whole community tends to have more of a professional vibe. There are less likely to be entertaining distractions scheduled: not too many concerts, plays, dinner parties, etc happening during these hours. So it becomes pretty simple to establish these as my studio hours and show up regularly in my studio at these times.

I find a great benefit to sticking to this routine – it becomes a habit and it is a part of the process of artistic incubation. When it is my habit to work and create at these times, there is no hesitation, no struggle. I already know that I am committed to spending this time when I wake up in the morning and the work from the previous day carries creative momentum into the next. And I found that a magical thing starts to happen when this habit is formed: inspiration becomes automatically available because of the space that has been created for it

One challenge to keeping this commitment is the demand on time made by other people. People generally tend to think that since studio time is not what they think of as a regular day job, because I am my own boss and I set my own hours, that my time is available or flexible. They think of my schedule in the same light as their own when on holiday or on weekends, that it is possible to shift things around and then seem disappointed when I refuse and stick to my plan. On the other hand, I am extremely grateful to my friends who respect my process.

A couple of articles on the subject that I found helpful:

Mary Baker on Time For Art

Caroline Roberts on How Can I Find Time to Create

Monday, May 18, 2009

Stay Tuned...



Monday seems like a good day for this.

I’ve been re evaluating many priorities lately, which has resulted in making a new plan. I got a whoosh of new energy out of the process. Part of the plan is to make sure I keep up with posting here, so I thought I’d let you know what to expect in the way of upcoming topics:

1. A series on inspiring locations.

I’ve already talked about a few places, some local, some not and I’d like to expand on the subject.

2. Honoring studio time.

3. A series on Surrealistic Games.

We’ve already talked about Doodling, now onto Dream Resumes – which means a resume of accomplishments achieved while in the dream state.

4. Art supplies and toxicity.

5. E-Prime as a language practice

Posts will not necessarily be published in this order and I will continue to post new works in progress as they come along, as well as events.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A View of Halema`uma`u Ash Plume

Katherine Kean, Vent, original oil painting, Hawaii,  volcano art, steam clouds, blue, atmospheric, contemporary, small


Here is the newest work in progress, another inspired by a trip to Hawaii last fall. This vent emitting gases and ash formed about a year ago in the crater of Kilauea at Volcanoes National Park. I am told that it used to be that when visiting the park you could walk in the crater up to the edge of the volcano. The fact that this fumarole - which is a fancy name for ash plume - has formed is a sign of activity, so you can see why excursions across the crater are no longer allowed. When the plume is mostly white there isn't much ash present, just gases. The ash would make the plume more dingy and brown.

After visiting the crater we went to explore the lava tube. Inside the lava tube - not the tourist one with lights and signs that remind you to watch your step, but the other one - the one with a gate and a sign that said something like "You are free to enter at your own peril". In this lava tube I learned the importance of a good flashlight with fresh batteries.

This painting is fairly small and I'm curious to see if in the final work the scale of the actual eruption will come across.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Inspiration or Interpretation: Why I Doodle All the Day


If there’s an open space within a letter I fill it in. I underline words, then underline again, and then make a squiggle. A radiating pattern emerges with undulating lines and then forms emerge, doorways and paths, clouds and trees appear. In a lecture or classroom, or while on the phone, if I find myself with paper and pencil or pen I start to doodle. Actually paper and pen aren’t even needed. A foggy window, a sandy beach, a pile of twigs on the ground - all are fair game. It’s automatic and that makes sense, for doodling is often thought of as a type of automatism.

Doodling is a bridge to the subconscious, laid out through symbols and patterns, or even through the quality or emphasis of the line. There is a relationship between doodling and dreaming. Both use images as a language to send messages from the subconscious to the conscious mind. The ability to listen to and understand these messages can be very helpful. Some say that like handwriting, doodles can be used for interpretation. Or, as in this process, that doodles can help resolve a problem.

A study by psychologist Jackie Andrade has found that doodling can help a person to concentrate and that it may help with memory. Time explains her findings and the mechanics of how doodling helps people pay attention in situations where they might otherwise tune out.

Automatic drawings, as well as several other techniques used by the Surrealists, were employed as a way to either inspire their work or as the making of a finished piece. The unconscious as a source of inspiration is a key element in the Surrealistic movement. These techniques continue to be explored by artists today. Aaron Landman has recently posted about his doodling exercises and their effectiveness in quieting the critical mind. Dora Ficher, writes about how doodling helps keep her focused.

I use doodles to find a feeling tone for the work I want to do. They’ll tell me if it’s going to be calm or turbulent and if needed, what direction I might look to in the landscape for reference.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

A Little Studio Support

Last week just as I took one of many breaks from painting during the day I noticed a twinge in my shoulder. Later on it developed into a bigger pain, making it difficult to move my arm. The crazy thing was that it wasn’t my right shoulder. I’m right handed so you’d figure that if something were going to ache it would be the arm I was working with.

When this happened three days in a row I had to figure out what was causing it. As it turns out, because I sometimes work from a reference – a drawing, a small watercolor, or a small oil study that I hold in my left hand while I paint with my right, I was holding on so tightly that I was tensing up my shoulder. I remained completely oblivious to this as I worked resulting in tight, cramped, sore muscles in my left shoulder and arm.

I actually have a nifty device that I can employ to prevent this from happening. It’s a little “shelf” that can be clamped on to the easel, or even to the painting itself, that will hold a small drawing or a painting. The shelf is adjustable so that it can be attached to either side. This device actually has a name - it's called a Testrite Picture Holder. For some reason I had taken it off the easel. So I went and found it and reattached it to hold my reference drawing and I haven’t had a sore shoulder since.

Pictures of this helpful accessory in action are below:



In this photo I've removed the drawing so you can see the actual device:



Since buying this one I've noticed that there are other similar clips for holding reference material that are about half the price.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Before and After

I've been reworking the look of my blog along with the functionality by changing the fonts, the background color and sidebar elements, and adding pictures.

Below is a "before" screenshot:



As you can see, I've lightened the background color. It is now a very pale gray. I didn't want to go all the way to white. I have the idea that my artwork looks better against a gray background and I personally find a white page hard on my eyes, but that's just me. The darker gray matches my website, so I'll have to change that on my website as well. I've been meaning to make changes on my website anyway. While I'm at it I'll also have to change the font there. Come to think of it I'll also have to change my business cards. My website and business cards both have Times New Roman and the blog is Georgia, so I might want to rethink that. In general I prefer a font with serifs. I know that many people consider a sans serif font more legible on computer screens, but I haven't found that to be true. My experience has been that the serif font, along with a not too white page is easier on the eyes and easier to read.

Below is the "After" Screenshot. Obviously you can see the changes because you are here reading the blog, but I want it pictured as a way of tracking the changes I've been making.

I also changed the Title bar, including the tag line, and I added some thumbnails of my artwork.

I removed the "Links" section from the sidebar because it is, for the most part, duplicated in the blogroll.




Feel free to give me your thoughts. Have I improved the look? Gone backwards? Spinning my wheeels?

Friday, May 01, 2009

ArtSlant May 2009 Juried 2 Showcase

Yesterday I was notified by the ArtSlant Curatorial Team that my work has been selected as a winner in the May 2009 Juried 2 Showcase.

This means that I now have a lovely award ribbon placed above the winning painting on my ArtSlant profile page and I appear on a premium placement page - that is unless they have to bump me to make room for another winner. (wait, what?)

This competition has several levels: later on a panel of gallerists will choose 6 juried winners from the pool of showcase winners. Then these new winners will be eligible to participate again for three places in the Golden Frame Awards.

The showcase artists are from all over the globe. Even so, I noticed a few familiar faces in the showcase section. Good luck to everybody!