Thursday, August 25, 2016

Exploring 'Notan Painting Strategy'

As a self-taught artist, I try to continually learn and refine my skills.  I wrote in an earlier blog post an analogy between creating a beautiful life as one navigates life's peaks and valleys to lights and darks help in creating a beautiful painting.

I was reminded of how important contrast and composition are in paintings so I decided to give myself a refresher on focusing on the underlying composition.

I came across this painting tutorial so practiced the Notan painting strategy suggested in this lesson.   Notan is pronounced No- tan and means just that No tan or strictly black and white.  The lesson suggests taking an image and reducing it to black and white so you can focus on the underlying composition.

I'll share my initial work here:

I took an image and cropped it closely until I liked it.  I painted a rough draft in black and white on a small board-- think this is 5 x 7.  The dimensions didn't translate exactly to my reference so the proportions are slightly off... you can make it easier on yourself and make sure your reference ratio and your 'thumbnail' ratios match!  :)

I did this exercise again on a larger board (with correct ratios) and painted in black and white again.

This was really good practice... I tend to paint fast and light to get right into the color so forcing myself to only see the image in black and white and in values only is very good for me!!  

In this next image, I wanted to show you as I added some color to the smaller practice board....

I found this to be a good experience...and I liked the end results.  I will paint the larger board and show you soon.  I put this 5 x 7 up on my etsy shop if you happen to be interested.  :)

Take care!

Sue Steiner

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Artful Living

Navigating Peaks and Valleys 

I had a tough day yesterday.  I won't go into details but just suffice it to say in my non-art work life in a pediatric emergency room as a mental health tech, I am often witness to some of life's tougher moments.  I find value in providing a calm, assuring presence and offers of appropriate comfort while maintaining healthy boundaries.

Being in an emergency room brings things into sharp focus.  Being an artist has allowed me to appreciate my sensitive nature but being in intense situations and being 'sensitive' doesn't always go together.  It takes some real navigating to keep my bearings, I'll be honest.  Painting, art, and my horses allow me to recharge and balance myself.  I would like to share with you some things I have learned. Since art is life, and life is art I will draw correlations between those two things and how they help me navigate life's peaks and valleys.

I was reading an art blog article on the importance of lights and darks in painting.  First of all, the light and dark variations allow one to see the subject in a painting.  Imagine looking outside in thick fog.  You quickly lose your bearings because everything is the same light value.  In life, if our lives were always of the same intensity, it would be like living in a deep fog.  Just as in painting, the variation of peaks and valleys, lights and darks, create a structure in one's life.  This structure could also be called 'defining moments'.  A defining moment is a major event in a person's life that reveals to them an important aspect of life or character trait that changes the course of their life. defines it as 'a point at which the essential nature or character of a person, group,etc., is revealed or identified'.  

The birth of a child, the loss of a job, divorce, death of a loved one, a move to a new area can become defining moments in a person's life.  It is those times you are jarred out of complacency with new revelations.  Events like these bring life's priorities into sharp focus.  The event can be either positive or negative and have the same effect- the event changed something inside of you.  Whether the change in you is for the good or not depends on what you do from there.  That of course, is the hard part.  Do I let life beat me down or do I allow this event to shape me into a better person?

In an article, What are the Defining Moments in Your Relationship and Life?  Susie and Otto Collins write,  "Find the lessons in your defining moments and open yourself up to valuing what they’ve helped you learn along the way– even if the biggest lesson has been what you do NOT want more of in your life."  We can't stop life from having highs and lows, but we can search for greater meaning in those events.   This doesn't mean you have to put a positive spin on awful things that have happened... sometimes tragedies are just that- tragic.  But you can search, in the midst of the dark times, for some life lesson or bigger meaning in the event and use that to propel you into living a better life.

Another important aspect of lights and darks is it determines the light source. In art, a drawing or painting with incorrect shading will look off.  An artist needs to always keep in mind where the light is coming from, keep consistency within the art and show how the light affects the subject.  In life, a light source can be determined by seeing where one looks for support, guidance and spiritual awareness?  In times of joy and sorrow where does one find comfort and meaning?  Without a light source, the big picture becomes blurry and out of focus.  A light source creates a path for your eye to travel in art and a path to travel in life.   The lights and darks help a person to define what is guiding them.  A person's light source is their God, the Universe, their life purpose.  Without this we are prone to wander aimlessly.

Artists are taught that the human eye is naturally drawn to areas of the greatest contrast.  To bring attention to the main focus of a piece of art,  an artist will put the lightest lights next to the darkest darks in areas that define the subject.  I think if we made a visual timeline of major events in life, it would create a person's major focus in their life.   An overall theme or priority is evident by the paths one took at critical moments.  It is possible to experience life's darkest times and in the midst feel a greater connection to God, your community, close family, and friends.  Those times are when life hands us our greatest lessons- the dark and light are in sharp contrast to each other and we can see clearly.  The 'veil' is lifted and for a moment we see and understand things we couldn't before.  We change.  We connect.  We feel a part of a larger force that is difficult to describe and difficult to hold on to.  We are prone to 'forget' which is why it is so important to savor what has felt to me like the hand of God reaching down in the midst of darkness.  Light touching the dark.

As I am writing this blog post, I am reminding myself to look at life's challenges to be defining moments in which I can clarify my vision, my focus and my priorities in life.  I can keep myself open to God and a greater purpose.  I do not have to fear the dark because my light source is a consistent guiding force in my life.

Just as a beautiful painting needs variation, structure, and a light source, so does a beautiful life.

Create Your Beautiful Life! 

Inspired by a little toddler that helps me to keep things straight! 

Life is an Adventure! 

Here's a little video clip to enjoy about Defining Moments.

Happy Trails!
Sue Steiner

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Sunday, August 7, 2016

My Resident-Artist-In-Training....(or at least we were roomies this past week at the beach)

I am pleased to introduce to you my artist in training! He prefers a fast and abstract painting style. When not painting he enjoys studying nature, color theory, and digging into 3D sculpture work.

working in watercolors

 Spending some time in the outdoors after studio time. 

Studying shapes and light. 

 Exploring photography


observing wildlife

Brushing up on color theory

 enjoying some great lighting as the sun sets

 more photography practice... reference photos maybe? 

Enjoying some down time 

 Our next 'up and coming' artist, contemplating a self portrait. 

One of those times when the beauty is just too much for words! 

Maybe you have been able to gather I got to spent the past week with my grandbabies and adult children (and husband) at the beach.  We were in OBX North Carolina.  We stayed on the sound side with a short walk to the beach.  It was ideal for our family.  The sound side water is shallow with activities like fishing, kayaking, crabbing and paddle boarding so lots of fun and excitement for little ones but not the same level of stress one has with kids and oceans.  The sunsets are gorgeous over the sound and the wildlife abundant.  The ocean side offers the usual waves, shells, beautiful sunrises, lots of sand and fun for the older crew.   And when we had the little ones and had enough of the ocean we could just walk back to our place or go to the sound.

I had months ago bought a portable easel specifically to take with me on this trip.  As I packed I decided to leave it at home and just take some watercolors (more portable).  I am glad I did, not because I wasn't interested in painting--the scenery was gorgeous and very inspiring.  I was glad not to be distracted away from these beautiful faces.  (When I paint I tend to get consumed in it.)  What a joy it was to all be together.  I still would love to have a trip specifically to try my hand at Plein Aire painting but that will have to wait for another time.  Here's some of my photos.

I loved seeing the changes in the water color in relation to the changes in the sky.  

Last year, I went on one of the wild horse tours and ended up painting this watercolor on the trip. 

And then later painted these two custom oil paintings on 30 x 30 canvases roughly based on the wild horses in OBX.

Thanks for stopping by!  
Happy Trails!

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Broken Glass Mosaics III

These are becoming addictive!

For DIY instructions go here:

 still drying 

 partially dry- as it dries completely, the adhesive will no longer be cloudy

 Side view- big chunky glass adds beautiful light reflections!

 In my studio window

 close up- still drying 

 in the works....

 My 'assembly line'...

Laying glass down...

Thanks for stopping by!
Sue Steiner

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