L’il Lemon, 6″ x 6″ Oil on panel. A very special, but not-so-good painting.
We all have them. Bad days, bad weekends. Lemons. This past weekend was definitely subpar, a lemon. There was no one thing that happened; nothing disastrous. Just a typical weekend, some cleaning and bill paying Saturday morning that took too long. My whole house seemed to need spring cleaning. Before I knew it, I was putting away the winter coats, arranging lemons and rummaging around for a spring candle. Next, the bills needed to be paid. That’s enough to put anyone in a down mood. Then, time for errands. I stopped by my Dad’s to pick up a new plein air system he custom designed for me. Quite deluxe (will post pics soon!). Of course, I wanted to test it out, but I wasted 2 hours aimlessly driving looking for just the right spot. Snow banks and trespassing laws prohibited me from most of the places I would have painted. I finally got set up, ready to paint a nice barn and thought: boring- it’s just a nice barn. Nothing interesting, old or vintage about it. I went back to a place I had painted before but within 5 minutes, my hands start to go numb. What now? It was already 4:00 and the day felt like a waste. I was furious at myself for sleeping late, taking too long to clean, paying bills on a Saturday and wasting precious weekend time driving. I needed to do something to snap me out of my self-imposed “Looserville” syndrome.
46 brush strokes (plus or minus one!)
Lemons. I had just read about an artist who challenged her students to complete a painting in a limited number of brushstrokes, like 40. The object of the exercise is to be aware of color mixing, brush strokes and brush selection, not to mention accurately reading color and value. Lemons! I had all those lemons in my clean kitchen! Within minutes, my bitter mood turned sweet. I used a limited palette: White, Cad Yellow Pale, Cad Yellow Deep, Alizarin Crimson, Cad Red, Ultramarine Blue. I had a piece of canvas taped under the painting. Each time I made a brush stroke, I made a tally mark. I used a size 8 Rosemary Ivory flat brush. I started with the darkest value, then mid tones, and then highlights. I added the background last. The little lemon taught me a few things: One, that I need to slow down (in life and in painting) and have more gratitude. I need to isolate shapes to really see accurate colors. I used my view catcher for this. Big brushes are awesome. Powerful, bold and confident. I typically would have used a small brush fussing with all the details. Brush strokes matter. I learned to not squander them, rather consider each stroke, it’s direction and length. I reached my 40 stokes and ended up using about 6 more to complete the background. Is it a great painting? No, but it’s an important painting; a reminder that when life gives you lemons, instead of making lemonade, paint them instead!
Remember having a favorite everything as a kid? Favorite TV show, favorite cereal, favorite game, and the quintessential favorite color. As an adult, it may seem silly to have a favorite color. But as an artist, I must admit, I have a favorite color. I know, I am breaking all the rules. But there is one color I sneak into practically every painting. I don’t even do it to create color harmony. I just use it because I have a great association with it, and it makes me happy. My secret color? Winsor Newton’s Cobalt Turquoise Light. I even like the word turquoise. To me, the color dances! It’s light, peppy, optimistic, cheerful yet doesn’t demand too much attention when used sparingly.
Winsor Newton Cobalt Turquoise Light
CTL next to Cerulean
I have not seen this color on any recommended color palette by any artist. It is a color you can mix using variations of cerulean, but there is something about seeing the tube and the tiny squirt on my palette that makes me happy! It’s ready to get mixed, ready to do its job. My palette feels naked without it!
Detail of Glamour: CTL on rim of class
Glamour, 8″ x 8″ Oil
Detail of Get In, CTL on rim
Get In! 8″ x 8″ Oil
Detail of Who’s Thirsty? CTL on lines faucet
Who’s Thirsty? 8″ x 8″ Oil
I remember as a kid, going to Lake George Village in the Adirondacks in New York State. My sister and I would go into souvenir shops and handle all the merchandise. We would smell the insides of the cedar boxes. We would pick out patches for our jeans and would buy a piece of turquoise jewelry. I never knew where it came from or how the gems were made, I just loved the color and besides, cool people had turquoise. Stevie Nicks wore turquoise. I have seen turquoise waters off the island of Puerto Rico, Culebra. I have swum in the turquoise waters off Key West & Miami. They are as pleasing to be in as a preheated bed.
While Cobalt Turquoise Light takes the spotlight, the real star is light! Our colors get all the fame and attention “oh, the colors!”, but the reason we love color is because of light. Light shines on color. Light gives us memories. Light gives us feelings, emotions. It gives us life and miraculous possibilities. Light gives us rich reds and bright blues. It reveals the crimson of a rich ripe strawberry or the cerulean blue of the sky on a dry summer’s day. Light is what makes the waters blue. Without light, colors would just be bumping into each other fumbling in the dark. Thank you, light, for giving me my favorite color. Okay, I must ask, what’s your favorite color?
Song Lime in the Coconut
Well, we have Harry Nilsson to thank for this painting! I loved this song as a kid- I had no idea what the words meant! I still don’t…all I know is you put the lime in the coconut and you drink it all up…and you feel better! This song was like dessert for your ears when it came on the radio. You wouldn’t dare turn the station. It’s the kind of song you secretly feel proud that you know every word!
Lime in the Coconut, inspired by the 1970’s song
Cherries! I prefer my cherries with sugar between two flaky crusts, or in the form of a gummy candy. Growing up, I never ate cherries, the fruit. Now I have a better appreciation of their actual beauty! Cherries are such beautifully shaped fruits and actually are yummy to eat out of a bag…or a jelly jar (Ok, they would be better in this jar with sugar!)
Jelly jar glass with cherries