Sunday, November 23, 2008

I've been tagged!

Remember the childhood game of tag, you're it? Well, tagging is part of the blog world, too. It's fun when you have the time to participate. I chose today, Sunday, to spend some time playing tag indoors after enjoying the gorgeous sunny day in Seattle. What a contrast from yesterday when I painted the gray landscape!

A Canadian artist Joanne Griesbrecht, whose work I admire, "tagged" me on her blog.

This is how the game works:
1. Put a link in your posting to the person who tagged you.
2. List 7 unusual things about yourself.
3. Tag 7 other bloggers at the end of your post and comment on their blogs to let them know.

My list of 7 not-so-usual things about me, even though I'm pretty much a "garden variety" artist, are the following:

1. I did my first painting (pastels) of Woodside Store (California Bay Area) when I was in grade school as part of a Girl Scout badge project. It was really pretty good.

2. Until high school I never was in one school longer than two years because we moved. I survived quite well because I loved new places and new people. I still get the "two year itch" but find it hard now to pull up stakes when the time comes.

3. I learned to play soccer in grade school, played collegiate field hockey besides all kinds of other sports. I also was a member of the county junior posse drill team, riding horseback in drills while carrying a flag on a pole!

4. Lots of 4H(raising/showing cattle) and FHA (home economics) kept me busy and provided plenty of fun. I even raised/showed Berkshire hogs! Have you tried to make a pig go where you wanted it to by using the end of a pole?

5. I wanted to major in piano but the college I attended wouldn't approve my second instrument (saxophone......played in marching and dance bands). They would accept voice, but I flunked the audition! So, I majored in chemistry (which I loved.......colors, even then) and worked in teaching and research until job openings disappeared for chemists in my area.

6. I studied four foreign languages and can't speak nor read much of any of them anymore, but they're a great help for crossword puzzles.

7. I took a watercolor class in 1976 and instantly loved the flowing water and paint. I still have my first watercolor, a farm landscape, to remind me of that experience. However, my brother critiqued with his construction foreman/superintendent eye "the silo is not plumb"!

Here are the blogs I'll be tagging because I like these artists' work.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Chromium Oxide Green - New Name in Daily Painting

Today on my way back from shipping a painting to a collector I went down the hill to the beach for a coffee break. I enjoyed the birds diving for their Saturday brunch, a seal stealing lunch from the fishermen, and the few minutes of sun breaking through the clouds.

All of a sudden I noticed, there's that chromium green oxide mix with cerulean blue out there in the water! I looked a bit more at the colors in the Puget Sound waters, then I grabbed my trusty sketch book to draw this composition. Even a small tug way out on the water provided some interest because it had a neat accent of red on the engine house, perfect touch for a tiny painting of greens. Everywhere I looked that green/blue mixture was staring at me. Aha moment arrived! That is what is known as "Seattle Gray"!

For those who haven't lived here nor experienced our climate, this area is known for the persistent gray sky that drips most of the time with moisture from mist to torrential rains. Seattle is absolutely gorgeous when the sun is out, but the fall/winter covers us with a blanket of gray. I've not associated that gray with this paint color that I'm about to toss from my supplies. (Read an earlier post about chromium green oxide).

For those curious about the geography, the dark land mass behind the tug is Vashon Island. The distant more blue land mass is the DesMoines area south of Seattle and near SeaTac International Airport.

Here's the little painting I did today after working on some larger paintings. I used color mixtures from only three colors: chromium green oxide, cerulean blue, and titanium white. Then I dotted the tug with a bit of cadmium red deep.

"Seattle Gray"
3.5 x 5.5" acrylic on paper
Free to the first person who requests it.
Update: Artist Julie Carnes of California who owns property on the island claimed this painting. See her work at

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sunflower Study Three Times

After completing a detailed watercolor of a sunflower yesterday (you can view it on the home page of my website), I played with acrylic techniques today.

I've had a love/hate relationship with the color chromium oxide for too long a time. This grayed green does "match" the color of most sunflower leaves, but the color is so grayed that it can create "mud" really fast. You know what a dirty Army green looks like? I threw out the last of an old tube a month ago. Lo and behold, I found a new tube of it in my paint supply! So, I challenged myself to use it in these three studies of a sunflower. I used the same palette of colors in each of the little paintings.

In the first small sketch I used the paints in thick, opaque brush strokes. This is how I paint on canvas. The real challenge in this one, besides that chromium oxide mentioned above, was the angle of the sunflower and the bend in the head. I didn't fully pull off this tiny painting, but I liked the texture of the paint applications.

"Sunflower Study A"
6 x 4" acrylic on watercolor paper
Free to the first person to request it.
Updated:12/29/08 A person in Minnesota asked for all of these.
Click here to e-mail me.

Next I sketched in pen and ink a sunflower on watercolor paper and proceeded to add layers of acrylic colors in washes. This watercolor style lets some of the light of the paper show through the paint.

When I paint watercolors I use traditional watercolor paints which can be "lifted" from the paper unless they are staining colors. I can achieve all kinds of effects with "lifts". The acrylic layers do not lift, so it is hard to correct mistakes. I've often thought that I should switch to acrylics for my watercolor paintings, but I tend to paint "tight" every time I've tried it. I like the luminosity of the acrylic layers, though. Some day maybe I'll change the paints.

"Sunflower Study B"
6 x 4" acrylic on watercolor paper
Free to the first person to request it.
Updated: 12/29/08 A person in Minnesota asked for all three of these.
Click here to e-mail me.

The third study was done in opaque acrylics on watercolor paper with brushstrokes giving texture to the surface. I wanted to test this composition because I like the 3-D look of the sunflower with its petals pointing outward. I also wanted it with a dark background to emphasize the dimensionality of the sunflower head, so I used the chromium green oxide full strength with some cerulean blue to darken it more. More layers of blue and a dark red gave the rich background without reverting to using black. I may paint this composition in a larger painting.

"Sunflower Study C"
4 x 6" acrylic on watercolor paper
Free to the first person to request it.
Updated: 12/29/08 This little study is also going to Minnesota.
Click here to e-mail me.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Daily Painting or Painting Daily by K. Joann Russell of Sunflower Studio Art

What an education a blog gives me! The cyberworld “talks” all the time from the blogs created with words. The daily painters’ blogs delight with the colors and compositions of paintings. Today in the gorgeous sunshine that gives us a break from the wind, torrential rains, and persistent gray of the Pacific Northwest I pondered why my blog posts are few and far between.

My life is energized with creativity. I revel in colors. Show me clear, vibrant colors and my head spins with ideas in all kinds of media, two and three dimensional. Let me outdoors and I can dance at the sight of the autumn colors of leaves from deep reds to pale yellows against the dark greens of our evergreen trees. I’m awed by the gorgeous array of colors of the sunrise or sunset on Mt. Rainier viewed from my location above Puget Sound waters. Yet, I relish silence and solitude when painting as long as I have plenty of natural light.

Am I not a daily painter? Where are the daily paintings? Am I comparing myself to those who “produce” a “daily” painting…….completed, ready to be bought? Yes, I think so.

For me painting is a process, not a production line. I personally can stand the same ole’ same ole’ only so long when I’m bursting with new ideas. That doesn't deter from my ingrained work ethic. On the other hand, the methodical processes can offer me a calming effect from overly active days or doing things that require mental focus…….consider bookkeeping tasks.

Quick answer to long question: My painting daily goes right back to the process I was in the previous day. I rarely do tiny completed paintings as warm ups. I jump right back in where I left off. My warm up is the habitual palette preparation or rejuvenation routine. Consider filling the watercolor jars with fresh water…….spraying the acrylics in the sealed palette…….

So, as part of my explanation, I’ve included a photo of a watercolor in process. Translation: it is not completed yet.

Original Watercolor Painting of Sunflowers


What does process look like for this artist? Pen, pencil always with me plus blank and graph paper section in my personal planner and a sketch book nearby. I “talk” with my pen or pencil. That’s second nature for me, to illustrate what I’m thinking. Often I intersperse words, occasionally numbers or dimensions. I have a hard time “filling in the boxes” or coloring “within the lines.” When actually speaking I find it difficult to keep my hands idle. I’m gesturing naturally, sculpting three dimensional space as I do in interior design. I just “see” the whole volume and then the planes. I’m an artist 24/7 naturally. It took a long time to understand how I am wired!

I play with colors. Any “warm up” I do would look like a little abstract painting. I’ve thought of putting those on greeting card blanks, but I’d have to cut up my large sketch book pages. That would ruin my many, many sketch books that “journal” my artistic endeavors. I do go back to them on occasion as references or to refresh my memory.

I use more than one media. The watercolor shown today is an example of my penchant for meticulous drawing and multiple watercolor glazes. It is very time consuming but it gets the need for control out of my system. I seem to go to that when too much is going on around me. For example, overdue income statements and balance sheets, meeting exciting new people, spontaneously developing business ideas, rethinking studio arrangements after reading current Studios magazine, evaluating new online venues such as Etsy and Handmade Fuzion.

Then there are times when I “cut loose” and paint as I want to paint all the time with bright colors and visible brush strokes. I’ve done a few recently in acrylics (my winter media), but I need to do more before letting them out to the public. I’m hoping it is a breakthrough from a plateau for me, but it must be considered experimental for now.

I haven’t given up on myself for changing habits to produce a tiny painting each day. I’m seriously considering continuing to offer them free to the first e-mailer. That frees me from the constraints of presenting only one consistent style of art. Those in the art business world understand what I’m talking about.


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