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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Great Marsh Sketches







Here are three new sketches inspired by a visit to The Great Marsh on Cape Cod this summer. These will be small paintings, probably 6 x 6" or so - quite a contrast to the three to five foot paintings I've been working to finish up. They have a very different mood - calmer than the turbulent volcanic plumes and storm clouds that have dominated my work over the past few months.

I'm acutely aware of how the days are getting shorter and I know how difficult it is to artificially light a large surface evenly to work on, so I'll probably be working on smaller works for the next few weeks.

Related Post:
Cape Cod Marshes

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ways to Check Your Work

Point Lobos Path 10 x 8" oil on linen
© 2009 Katherine Kean - Available at TAG Gallery


The first method I ever learned for checking artwork is to squint your eyes. Look at your work through half closed eyes and the details drop away leaving the values and composition. Or use a Reducing Glass – I mentioned this before. A Reducing Glass is particularly helpful with large paintings. My favorite way to check for errors is to hold a painting up to a mirror – or for a large painting I bring the mirror to the painting. Right away weak areas stand out and if there is a drawing or perspective error it will show. Another method I use is to turn the work upside down – the composition is quickly revealed – strong and weak areas, value problems, and so on.

Jacqueline Gnott talks about how she checks her work in this post on her Contemporary Realism blog.

I have another, more complicated method for checking work – and for moving it along. I’ll post it soon.

How do you check your work? Answer in the poll to the right, or if you have a different way to check your work, let me know in the comments.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Catching Up

I’ve let a whole week slip by without posting. I have a good excuse - I was out of town briefly visiting family. I got to go to my 5 year old niece’s bowling alley birthday party where I learned how it is that 5 year olds can bowl. (With gutter guards and steel ramps to aim the balls.) Now that I’m back I’m getting started reviewing portfolios for potential new members at the artist owned gallery that I belong to. This is a job that I really enjoy. It involves looking at fresh new artwork and meeting creative people – what’s not to like?

In the meantime I’ve gone back to work finishing up the paintings I’ve started this summer and although I made good progress this past week I didn’t finish yet. Next week I’ll be beginning on new work - drawings for more on this series about nature’s transitions written in the wind.

For now I’ll show you this image of a determined looking Bear enjoying his first cantaloupe rind. For some reason I thought he would just chew the “edible” portions and not go for the whole rind. Silly me, after a brief tug of war I got most of it back and he only chewed up and swallowed a few pieces. It doesn’t seem to have done him any harm.



Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Back to Work


Volcano, Hawaii, atmospheric, haze, clouds, storm, under-painting
Storm Clouds Over Lava Field Underpainting

© 2009 Katherine Kean


Now that I've unpacked all the hastily stowed paintings from the trunk of my car and got back to work things feel almost back to normal. The sky here is clear again and temperatures are below normal - perfect weather, really. Painting is one of those activities that always help me to feel at ease, so I got back to it as fast as possible.

This is the latest large linen with the initial underpainting for another in the "volcano" series. I had a lot of fun doing the cracked lava forms in the foreground. I'm working on a Signature Canvas and it's the first time I've worked on one of their products. So far I like it quite a bit.

This weekend I got to see the Pompeii exhibit at LACMA which along with sculptures, jewelry, and frescoes from the excavation also included later painterly interpretations of the Mount Vesuvius eruption.

Eruption of Vesuvius Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes
While we were at LACMA we wandered over to the new wing and rode the red escalator up to the third floor. The third floor! I didn't look up as I stepped on and it was about halfway up that I realized how high we were - and we still had about 45 feet more to go!

My schedule is in need of revision. I lost about a week because of the Station Fire, so I'm still working on paintings that I expected to complete by Labor Day. They're moving along though, so perhaps I'll catch up soon.

Related Post:
Storm Clouds Over Lava Field Sketch

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Fire Escape - Putting everything on hold to run away from the Station Fire

Photo by John T. Van Vliet
© 2009



I had to drop everything and go Saturday afternoon when the police came around with sirens and bullhorns to evacuate the neighborhood. I of course didn't hear it, tucked away as I am, but my next-door neighbor called to let me know. This fire had already been burning for three days, yet I find it surprising that it could get so far with absolutely no wind to drive it. I stuffed as many paintings as I could in the trunk of my car, packed photos, documents, an overnight case, and pet food and pet supplies and went to the home of friends who were willing and able to tolerate Bear and me.

Sunday morning I returned home, happy to find it still there, but within hours the fires seemed to be progressing from two directions. I found it unnerving to see flames cresting a tall ridge above the development on a hillside above my home. I could also see the helicopters making water drops to the west coming closer with each drop. I returned to my friends’ home and stayed there through Monday night.


I hear from my neighbors that stayed behind that Monday night was the worst. By now the fire fighters were setting controlled burns to the north and to the west and blocked off my street. When I woke up on Tuesday morning it was cooler and there was moisture in the air. I had an overall optimistic feeling. I went home where things were calmer than they had been in days. My trees and yard were fresh from where neighbors had hosed it all down as a precaution. As the smoke started to clear I went outside to see the charred hillsides and mountain slopes. While talking with a neighbor we noticed new flames on a ridge about a half-mile away that turned out to be a controlled burn. While watching we saw what looked like fireworks arcing up and then over, presumably part of the back burning process.



This fire continues to burn and they are still working on nearby areas to the west. It seems like the backfires have eliminated enough fuel so that the homes around here will be safe for some time. I hope they have great success to the north and to the east. I am enormously relieved that my home and my neighbors' homes were untouched. I am surprised by how exhausted I feel from just waiting and watching. I am amazed and grateful for the work of the fire fighters and for the kindness, generosity, and the help of friends and neighbors.

Time lapse of Station Fire by John Van Vliet