Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Outta Sync

Ever have that feeling that you're about a half-step (or more) out of sync with everything and everyone around you?! I've been having that feeling most of this week. Lately, I've been working long days in front of the computer and today, I realized why I felt so out of sync! I haven't done any artwork this week! No wonder I'm out of step! S0 tonight I'm headed for the studio to create - maybe a mess or two as I'm rusty, but I'm gonna create - I need a fix.

An update on the background series: it will go on; however, I'm working on trying to make it "bite-sized and fun"! Maybe even some video! So, my current plans are to have the series resume early next week. Thanks to everyone who left comments! It makes a difference to find out what you all want too!

Monday, July 27, 2009

To Background or Not, That is the Question!?!

Okay, bloggie buds and budettes, I need some input from all of you! I've been working on some more material on backgrounds and most of it is quite lengthy as backgrounds are not simple nor quickly explained. Perhaps some of it could be boring. So I'm going to let you decide whether you would like for me to continue to post the background series. Or not. Either way, it won't hurt my feelings. I have no wish to bore you to death with something you simply have no interest in.

So let's hear it - yay or nay! If you would care to comment about the current direction or a direction you would like to see the series take, please share it! If there are no comments, I will assume from the silence that there is not sufficient interest in the series and cease posting it. If there are several comments, majority will rule. Let me reiterate, you will not hurt or harm my feelings either way, so please share your opinion!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

109 Degrees in the Shade!

That's what AccuWeather said the "feels-like" temperature was and it did! I think it was actually about 93ยบ with little breeze to stir the air. But despite the intense heat with only the slightest of breezes, I did get in a little plein air time this weekend!!

201 S. Evers Street
Original Watercolor by Laure Ferlita
© All Rights Reserved
5" x 7"

This is 201 S. Evers Street in Plant City, Florida. Chris and I went and spent the day antiquing in Plant City on Saturday, and found some fun stuff to bring home - just what we needed! More stuff! The old downtown area is a maze of antiques, boutiques, restaurants and the like all nestled around some parks and the old train depot.

I managed to talk Chris into going back today so that I could get in some sketching. I had about 50 minutes before the weather started to really get serious with thunderstorms moving in. Since I'm not a huge fan of lightning, we left and it wasn't but ten minutes later and the rain started to pour.

This is the start of a new watercolor paper sketchbook that I can't say I'm overly fond of - yet. It may grow on me. I need to do more work in it first. I also didn't have the right tools for painting bricks but decided to go for it any way. When I got home, I finished the sketch at the kitchen table with the same tools that I started with. Why? To make sure that I didn't lose the feel of the piece by swapping out tools in the middle and getting a different effect. Just call me glutton for punishment!

Regardless of all the weather issues, ant bites, lightning and wrong tools, this was a blast and I'll be going back to do some more sketching in Plant City very soon! Care to join me?!!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Things to Know: Abstract Backgrounds

Warning: Practice first! Please do not try these techniques on a "good" painting without first practicing on a failed painting, a practice sketch or a scrap of paper! It takes a few tries (sometimes more) to get the hang of doing backgrounds.

Update: The piece above is Bright Beginnings and has been featured on the blog before - it is not a new piece! Sorry if I have caused anyone confusion. I simply used it as it illustrates the points I am making below very well.

So you've painted a lovely rose and you're ready to put in a background and it looks like, well, nothing. A big green blob. This is where your artistic license gives you the opportunity to change, add, or play with the green blob any way you see fit! Here my process before I ever pick up a brush:

First, I evaluate for color variations. Is there more than one shade of the main color? Other colors? Are they attractive? Do they harmonize? If the answer is no to any of these questions, I change the background to have a variety of colors including at least one from my center of attention (COI). If there is a jarring color, I change it. Just because it's in the reference photo reference does not mean I have to put it in my painting! (In the painting above I changed the background to be a variety of greens using the same greens that are in the stem and sepals [the green leaf-like thingies under the bud] as well as adding the orange and pink.)

Second, I evaluate the overall temperature of the colors in the background, COI and the light. If it's full sun and my COI is out in the open, does it make sense to have cool darks in the background? Would it be more pleasing to have warm darks? A mixture of both? This depends greatly on the subject matter and artistic intent. There is no one answer. It must be determined for each painting. (In the painting above, I chose a variety of warms and cools, but with a definite leaning towards warm.)

Third, I observe the shapes in the background. Is there variety? Are they pleasing? Are there too many shapes? Does anything detract from the COI or cause confusion? Do I need to strengthen a weak area? Variety is the spice of life, but to much variety is still too much. I look for a variety of shapes and unify where necessary to eliminate confusion, busyness or competition. (In my photo reference there was a jumble of partial leaves at the bottom of the image with some very bright spots of light that would have confused the eye had I included them.)

Fourth, evaluate the overall background. Do I want it to be totally abstract or does it need a suggestion of an environment? This depends on several factors - what is the COI and will it be clear what the background should be without any clues to the viewer or would the piece be made stronger by a suggestion of a shape? You may want the background to be ambiguous if you are trying to evoke mystery, mood or emotion. (In the painting above there are no defined shapes, yet you know it is outside in a garden area probably with other plants around that may or may not be roses.)

And last but not least, I look for areas to integrate the COI with the background. Has nature already provided a merger? Are there any similar values between the COI and the background? (If you look at the back two sepals in the painting above you will notice that their edges are soft and that they are much darker than the two forward sepals. I painted all the sepals at the same time as I painted the rose, but I then allowed my background wash to cover the back sepals to integrate them with the background. The wash obscured some of the details, softened the edges, and the values are now similar thereby merging the COI with the background.)

After answering these questions, I have a good idea of the direction I want to go and I'm ready to pick up my brush and start painting. Next installment of the series will deal with the technical side of painting an abstract background!

© Article and text copyrighted by Laure Ferlita, 2009 All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

WIP: Pink-Petticoats Peony

WIP #2: Pink-Petticoats Peony
Watercolor painting by Laure Ferlita

Isn't she pretty?!! This beautiful peony reminds me so much of wearing petticoats when I was a child. They were usually white and sometimes had a touch of pink trim, and boy, oh, boy, did I think I was something! Of course, those kinds of petticoats were usually reserved for special occasions so they retained their frivolity. Then, after I turned 5 or 6, you couldn't get me to wear a petticoat, skirt, or a dress to save your life. Most especially if it was pink - yuck!! (I had two older brothers to keep up with!)

I am painting this flower on Sennelier hot press watercolor paper. This particular paper damages easily from tape or masking fluid so I've opted to paint around the flower's yellow center rather than run the risk of tearing the paper. As you can see, I still have a good deal of work to do, including the background. Oh, yes, with regard to backgrounds - that series will be continued tomorrow. Himself and I received an unexpected dinner invitation for this evening and will be going out! That didn't leave me with enough time to do the whole post, so it will be up tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Things to Know: Backgrounds

WIP: Pink Petticoats Peony

“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

Backgrounds are just as important as the center of interest (COI)!* (Maybe more so!)* If you don't plan them out as carefully as you do the COI, you run a huge risk of ruining your painting! I can't tell you how many times I've gotten excited about the COI, painted it while totally ignoring the background, only to ruin the painting by putting in an "afterthought" of a background! I had to learn to slow down and ask the right questions! By asking those same key questions before you start painting you too can avoid this trap!

Some suggestions:
  • Backgrounds are a design element! Use it! Backgrounds can dictate temperature, time of day, distance, evoke emotion, set a mood, create an environment, etc. They can be abstract or realistic, hard edged or soft and blurry, hot, cool, varied, high-key, low-key, etc. Their role is one of support. Backgrounds should enhance the COI and that enhancement should be thought out and planned!
  • Ask broad key questions during the design stage to determine how you want the background to support the COI. What do I want it to say? How important is the background in this painting? Do I even need a background? Should it be in focus? Out of focus? A mere suggestion of objects, totally abstract shapes or realistic? Should it be warm or cool? Show the time of day? Push the COI forward? Will it help pull the viewer into the painting? Is it close up or does it show distance? Answering these questions should provide a direction for the role the background will play in your painting.
  • Once you have the background drawn out, assess it by asking narrow-focused questions. Any confusing shapes? Extraneous details that do not support your COI? Does anything compete with the COI? Get out the artistic license and evaluate the shapes, spaces and objects, with a critical eye. Do they add something? Do they confuse the eye? Do they detract? Do they compete? How can they be changed, adjusted, modified, strengthened, or eliminated to make a stronger image?
  • Once the tweaking is done, assess the background as a whole. Does it say what you want it to say? Is there a flow? Does it have negative and positive shapes? Is anything too close to the edge? Do any shapes lead the eye out of the image?
By asking and answering these questions before you being the painting, you have an idea as to what you want from the background in the way of support. Make conscious choices and decisions! You will find there are an infinite number of answers to all of these questions for each piece of work. Whip out your artistic license again and go for what you think are the best answers. By consciously choosing, you can then evaluate what worked and what did not. If something worked in one painting, that can become a foundation block to build upon.

If you're painting a still life in the studio you have a bit more control and can incorporate the things you want into the set up. If you're painting on location, these questions are just as vital, if not more so! Time is fleeting and it is necessary to focus on the COI and eliminate unnecessary details in order to capture the essence of the scene before the light is gone.

Next, we'll talk about some tips and tricks to use with backgrounds. Meanwhile, any questions?

*Please note there are many opinions in the artworld and these are simply mine. One of the wonderful things about art is there are many "right" ways to do something and no one way is usually the only way. Take this info, try it on for size. If it fits, great! If not, disregard it. I am a student just as you are and will always seek to be a student so that I might continue to learn as there is much to know.

© Article and text copyrighted by Laure Ferlita, 2009 All Rights Reserved

Monday, July 20, 2009

Something New

In the last few weeks, I've had a number of comments and questions on painting backgrounds and on using masking, so I thought I would try something new - a series of posts around these specific subjects. I had intended to start tonight, but had some unexpected computer issues today that took most of the day to resolve and I haven't had an opportunity yet to put anything together. (All has ended well with the computer, yay!)

I've decided to turn this situation into a positive by giving everyone the chance to post any questions they would like answered about either of these subjects in the comments section. I will then attempt (assuming I know the answers) to work them into this series of posts. So, if you've got a question, here's your chance!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

It's Double-Bonanza Day!!

Imagine my surprise and absolute delight when I received two blog awards today! Double Yippee Skippee!!!

The first award is from Lori of Twin Cedars Drawing Board. Lori is a very talented graphite and colored pencil artist who has just entered and been juried into her first art show earlier this year. Thank you, Lori!

The second award is from Soulbrush! Her blog is Soulbrush as well. She and I met in the ABC ATC trade group that I'm playing with! She is a wonderful ATC and collage artist and author of several blogs as well! Thanks so much, Soulbrush!

With these awards, I am suppose to tell you seven things you don't know about me and then pass on the award to seven others. So here we go . . .

1. I grew up in a family that grew strawberries here in Florida. My oldest brother still grows berries on a 95+ acre farm.

2. Strawberries are not my favorite fruit. In fact, I seldom eat them.

3. I don't watch television. I will occasionally watch a movie, but Chris has to step on my tail feathers to get me to sit down long enough to watch it. Once the movie starts, assuming it's any good, I'm okay.

4. I don't watch the news either. The media are not our friends. They're there to sell ads and they do that through negativity. "Catastrophic fire in New York today" sounds much better (to them) than "Old vacant, abandoned warehouse burns in New York."

5. I do listen to music and have it on all day long all over the house! Classical, jazz, rock, you name it!

6. I believe in Santa Claus!

7. I hate doing the laundry. No, actually, it's not doing the laundry, it's putting it all away (she says as she sits looking at a load that needs to be put away).

As to the seven people that are deserving of this award, in no particular order:
Claire from Claire's Sketchbook: she is a wonderfully talented artist, incredibly creative and so very honest about her struggles to paint and draw more.
Pat of Pat Reese Design: this woman is soooo talented and extremely prolific. Her talents are spread over a wide area of interests including gardening, landscape design, sketching, and painting just to mention a few.
Caroline of From the Studio: another fine artist that speaks frankly about her goals to improve and be her personal best.
Krista of Hope In Everyday: this lady has a lot going on and I admire her tenacity in refusing to allow art to slip away by keeping it front and center in her life!
Gabrielle of Inner Artist: Gabrielle has recently embarked on a journey (challenge) of completing 100 paintings in a year and has been so kind as to share her adventures on her blog.
Teresa of Teresa Mallen Studio: Teresa is a topnotch colored pencil artist and has recently had work juried into the CPSA International Exhibition showing in Atlanta.
Steve of Steve Penberthy's Adventures in Watercolor: I have just recently "met" Steve, but I am very impressed not only with his work but his willingness to share about his learning experiences and what he has learned.

These are just a few of the fantastic people out here in Blogland, and I encourage you to pay them all a visit as they all have talent in spades and are more than willing to share! Again, thanks to Lori and Soulbrush for the honor of these awards and for passing them on to me!

An Inexpensive Marketing Idea!

Sometimes thinking outside of the box, or in this case, the closet, can be a very good thing! I want to share an inexpensive marketing idea that my husband, Chris, came up with - I have an opportunity to display my work at a local business, The Compounding Shop of Riverview, but space is a bit limited. They have one of my paintings on display, but I wanted to make more of an impact than just the one painting.

Chris and I had kicked around various ideas and nothing really seemed to fit the bill - too complicated to manage, too fussy, and then not too long ago we cleaned out our foyer closet as we were installing new flooring. Chris came across some frames I had purchased to create a family photo display but never got around to doing.

Chris called me over, and said "What about using these to display your paintings? You can include your website and contact info, it's a nice, clean look, a bit understated so that the work shows well, and we can put your business cards near by?!!" I thought it was a fabulous idea! Yippee skippee!! Problem solved!

I purchased the frames from Bed, Bath and Beyond with their 50% off coupons and I created the images to fit the 4" x 6" (10.16 cm x 15.24 cm) image area, printed them out on 8.5" x 11" (21.59 cm x 27.94 cm) paper and then cut them to size. It would be easy to duplicate this idea even if you doesn't have a color printer by taking any images to a photo kiosk at the mall or drugstore and have 4" x 6" photos made. Then print out any contact info on a black and white printer. Kinko's or another copy shop may also be able to help with color copies, etc.

This idea is very handy if the work you're is creating mostly commissions and you don't keep the paintings for very long, if you are just starting out and do not have a lot of paintings to display, you want to display your work at several locations all at once or if the work is selling faster than you can create it! This may also be a good way to approach a business about displaying your work as the overall size of the display is 11"x 23" and can be hung vertically or horizontally. Without a big space requirement, more businesses are likely to play with you!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bright Beginnings

Bright Beginnings
© Laure Ferlita
Original Watercolor
4.625" x 6.625" (11.75 cm x 16.83 cm)
2009, All Rights Reserved

Here is our lovely rosebud getting ready to open to her full brilliance under the sun's warm and caressing rays! This has been one of those paintings that practically painted itself and it was such joy to be part of the process! No fights, no struggles, no "oh, no, I've ruined it!" thoughts, just the fun and joy of watching it emerge from the paper.

I almost feel like a sculptor sometimes when I watch a piece take shape out of the whiteness of the paper. I also think I've really been missing my time in the studio due to all the computer work I've been doing lately. Can you tell?! With any luck I'll have more time to paint tomorrow and I am soooooo looking forward to it!

UPDATE: This painting is has sold. Thank you!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Daily Practice - Rosebud WIP

Rosebud WIP
by Laure Ferlita
© 2009 All Rights Reserved

As you can see from the lack of progress on this sweet little rosebud, I haven't been doing much painting. I've been in video land learning about file types, resolution, conversion, clips, cuts, breaks, transitions and all sorts of video-speak. And so far, I've learned that I am totally clueless, and quite dangerous when I get hold of a piece of video. But as a wise person recently commented "You're learning a whole lot of things not to do again!"

The rosebud is coming along. I just love that touch of yellow under the front petal coming towards us. Sweet spot! I've just started on the leaves and stem. Haven't decided whether to put in a background yet or not. What do you think? And what about a title? Any ideas? If so, please leave them in the comments!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Please Join Me . . . .

. . . . in wishing my lovely husband, Chris, a very, very

Happy and Wonderful Birthday!!!

I'm not going to share any of the details as it might backfire on me, but he and I are the same age and will be for the next few months!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

One Step Forward . . . .

Rosebud WIP
© Laure Ferlita

I have been having the best fun today! I've been playing in the land of HTML and Blog! They are absolutely fascinating places with lots of nooks and crannies to explore and become lost in! The lovely Susie of 1stFloorFlat posted a tutorial about favicons on her Computery page. What's a favicon you ask? See that cute little ladybug up in the address bar? That's a favicon! I replaced the "b" from blogger!

Well, one thing lead to another, and then another and the next thing you know - changes galore! Not all of them apparent yet, but they're coming. And talk about getting into a zone! I was in front of the computer from 9:00 this morning until about 3:00 this afternoon! Where did the time go?!! The hours flew by! But I have a small confession to make - as enjoyable as the day was, it was an exercise in procrastination.

You see, I am trying to put together some painting videos and today was the day! Today was the first day I was actually going to videotape myself painting, and, well, ummm, I guess you could say I was just a little bit nervous about it! It took until about 5:00 this afternoon before I got around to it and then, wouldn't you know - I LOVED it! I was having a ball!!

I had intended to post a piece of the video today because I was painting the rosebud you see at the top of this post, only to find out that I can't edit the file because it's incompatible with my editing software! Arrrrrgggghhhhhhhh! I go back to Apple for one of my training sessions tomorrow - bet they can solve my dilemma! Until then, we'll stick with scans.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Wandering Cherries

If you've ever tried to paint cherries, or any fruit for that matter, then you know they're not flat on the bottom. This means they tend to wander off. Most annoying when they're in a line-up and posing for a painting. But I suppose they don't know that.

After setting up the cherries just thus and so today, I would sit down in my chair, get all ready to draw and . . . . . one of the cherries would get bored and roll off. Sigh. I would get back up and go put the cherry back, just thus and so, sit down and . . . . . another one would depart. After about the fourth time of this nonsense, I went and got my roll of double-sided sticky tape.

No more wandering cherries! I don't know who invented that stuff but it borders on magic. So there sat my perfect little cherries all in a row so that I could paint them for the new blog header! Tell me what you think of the new header! Do you like it? Yes? No? Tell me why!

Different Views

Day's Last Light
© Laure Ferlita
Watercolor on Handmade Paper
Image Size: 5.25" x 5.25"
Overall Size: 7" x 7"
All Rights Reserved

I had the opportunity to view my blog on my sister-in-law's computer and nearly had a heart attack when I saw how horrible the image looked on the screen! Well, actually, the background. The flower looked like it was suppose to! The previous posts all included scanned images. The ones in this post are all photographs. Something about the valleys and hills in this textured paper really mess with the light from the scanner. I hope these images are much lighter and show you more clearly what the background and flower look like!

I'm hoping you can get a better idea of the texture from this image. It has lines, folds, and knobs as well as hills and valleys. I really thought this was going to be one of those pieces that bled and refused to lie flat but thankfully those issues did not happen.

Looking at this image should give you an idea of what the image would look like floated showing off those fancy deckled edges.

After looking at the piece all day on Saturday, I decided to make some adjustments to some of the values in the lower left corner as well as beneath the flower. By darkening those areas, the eye was not pulled away from the center of interest, the rose.

Please click here for purchase information!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Updated Rose WIP: Day's Last Light

Rose WIP: Day's Last Light
© Laure Ferlita
All Rights Reserved

This has been fun, I am surprised to say! This paper has a very unique finish that makes it very interesting to paint on and challenges me to think differently about how I apply the paint. To look at this paper, one would think that it would bleed into a fuzzy mess when touched with water and paint. It doesn't. However, the pigment does sit up on the top of the paper somewhat. That makes for easy lifting but it's nearly impossible to go back to the white of the paper.

For that reason alone, I've had to sneak up on the darker values on the bottom petals. I can go dark all at once, but there was no way to judge whether or not I had the right value. So those darker bottom petals probably have a dozen or more glazes of blues, greys, lavenders, greens and yellows. With that many glazes, I'm glad it wasn't a bigger piece! (Click the image to see it larger.)

The other challenge with this paper is getting a good scan. The scan above is decent, but it took two tries and then I still had to take the image into Photoshop and adjust the levels to get it closer to the actual painting. The colors are richer and not quite so dark in the real painting. Once it's complete, I'll try photographing it to see if that does a better job. Day's Last Light will be available for purchase on Monday morning should you interested!

On a final note, before the weekend kicks off, I wish you all a safe and happy Fourth of July!!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Going out on a Limb

Rose WIP

Going out on a limb . . . . because I'm showing you this and I don't have much faith that it's going turn out well, but “they” say that's where the fruit is!! This is painted on handmade paper from a mill in Montreal, Quebec by the name of Saint-Armand. It is quite the intriguing surface - Chris said it look like balled up paper towels or tissue pressed flat. It reminds me of alligator skin - tough and leathery looking. But it's not tough!

I used a piece to play with before beginning this painting to see what I could and could not do with it. Tape tears the paper, but you can use masking fluid. Unfortunately, because the surface is so rough it is difficult to achieve any accuracy with the mask, so I'm having to do a lot of work to blend in the masked areas. It is very difficult to lift pigment without tearing the surface. Those leaves over there on the lower left - they're supposed to be white. Haven't quite decided how I'm going to fix that area, but I can assure you they won't be white because I can't get the pigment up!

The black background is there to show you the deckled edges. If this piece turns out, it would be lovely floated against a dark green background. I think if you click the image, you'll get more detail. But let's not get ahead of ourselves as this is just beginning and has a very long way to go. And I keep asking myself why I keep doing these nutty things. First Aquabord, now handmade paper. Don't think I'm going to ask what's next. Not sure I want to know!

More Stops, Starts and Sputters

My apologies for the lack of posts this week. I've been doing some experimenting on various substrates and it has been most unsatisfactory! Almost all of it has or will be hitting the bin! Hence, I have had nothing to post and entertain you with! I've also been doing a lot of work on the computer in preparation for things that are (hopefully) going to happen in the fall. Still, nothing to show you as computer files are not all that entertaining.

I am hoping to make it back into the studio for several hours tomorrow and should (hopefully) have some new artwork to post. So, in the meanwhile, what are you up to?