Monday, May 28, 2012

Inspiration Monday: Memorial Day

It is Memorial Day today here in the United States. A day to remember those who have fallen so that we may have our freedom. It is also a day of patriotic music. We have just returned from playing a community band Memorial Day concert at a local retirement village. Many of those there are from the World War II generation and there are fewer of them each year. For me, it is always a day of reflection because my grandfather was killed in World War II and because I am still fortunate enough to have living family members from the Greatest Generation. They are all my inspiration today.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Get Your Paint On: Week 5

I'm kind of sad to have finished my last painting for the Get Your Paint On class I've been taking on-line with Lisa Congdon and Mati McDonough. It has been a wonderful experience that I highly recommend. I was unsure about the internet format, but it absolutely works. They provided instruction via a blog with an assignment each Monday. As class members finished their works, we uploaded them to a private Flickr group where other class members and the instructors could see and comment on them. The community created was wonderful and supportive and I've learned so much. I had painted very little before and found myself enjoying the broad strokes of the brush rather than the fine lines of a pencil or pen. It was liberating!

For the last week, we were to use the principles we learned during the class about color, composition, style, and technical skill. I have been watching robins nesting on the porch outside of my studio window all spring. In fact, Mrs. Robin's second brood just hatched today. We also had several robins nests nestled into windows at our renovation project where I could closely see the 3 eggs. I decided to paint the nest with its eggs and Mrs. Robin checking on them. That left an empty spot on the right that needed some greenery to represent the lilacs surrounding the nest.

What did I learn this week?

1. Stay loose. I tried to be too exacting and got blocked. This painting was originally going to show the brick column on the porch, the nest, the way the beams meet in the corner...I had some initial parts of it painted and just didn't know where to go from there. I gessoed over the original canvas and started over. The new painting went much better.

2. Don't be afraid! I painted the nest and eggs first and was really pleased with them. But then I was afraid I'd mess up the robin and therefore mess up the painting. Then when I was pleased with the robin, I was afraid I'd mess up the branch. (It was a rough week.) It took me 3 days to finish the painting once I had started because I took a lot of time to study and decide where to put the next element.

3. Keep adjusting as needed. After I painted the robin, it didn't look like it belonged in the painting. I finally realized that if I painted the beak a shade of yellow that was in the nest, that would pull it together. I tried to do the same with the branch by adding a touch of yellow.

4. Buy a big tube of white paint! Over the course of the class, I've used lots and lots of white paint. It is wonderful for toning down too saturated colors, clouds, creating a transparent wash. And you need lots of white to make a dent on those bright colors too. Just a tad of black, but LOTS of white.

I'm really pleased with my work this week. I'm by no means an expert, but did much better than I expected. I can see more painting in my future and am thrilled with the creative boost the class provided!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Food: Hamburger Mac & Cheese

This is my version of Hamburger Helper, without all the nasty chemicals and colorings. I think I probably combined a couple of different recipes to make this. It is tasty and filling. If you don't like hamburger, you can leave it out or substitute another meat or vegetarian protein. I used Ritz crackers for the topping because I usually don't have breadcrumbs on hand. When I made this for the photograph, I didn't have fresh garlic and basil so I substituted the dry version. You'll also notice that instead of macaroni, I used whole wheat penne, just because that's the pasta I happened to have on hand. In my world, cooking is all about following recipes generally, not exactly. If I'm missing an ingredient, I don't let that stop me. I just substitute and come up with something new and tasty!

Hamburger Macaroni & Cheese

1 pound hamburger, cooked
8 oz (2 cups) macaroni, cooked
2 Tbsp butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
2 Tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp ground mustard
2 1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed

Melt butter in saucepan. Saute garlic and basil in the butter.
Remove pan from heat. Blend in flour, salt, pepper, and mustard.
Add milk. Heat, stirring constantly until sauce thickens some and is smooth.
Add cheddar cheese. Heat until melted.
Combine macaroni, hamburger, and sauce in 2 quart casserole.
Top with parmesan cheese and Ritz crackers.
Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Get Your Paint On: Week 3 Redux

My painting from Week 3 of the Get Your Paint On class I've been taking had been bothering me since I declared it finished so that I could move on to other things. The umbrella's shadow was too big and just wrong. And when I looked at the painting on the computer, I noticed a couple of spots in the sky that didn't look quite right (there at the top left where the blue didn't get blended and in the middle where it looks like I dropped some water or something).


I spent the week looking at it and decided to fix it. I'm much happier with how it looks now though I drove myself crazy "getting it right". I'd try to fix something and make it worse because there was too much water on my brush. I've finally realized that I need to thoroughly wipe my brush off with a towel so there's no chance of water droplets ruining my work!


Much better! And I learned that the painting will tell me when it's done whether I'm ready for it to be done or not!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Inspiration Monday: Emily Gray Koehler

I found this print not long after I had visited some alpacas myself. I was enhanted by the print and was introduced to the wonderful color-reduction prints of Emily Gray Koehler of StudioEGK at Etsy.

Alpaca, color reduction woodcut
by Emily Gray Koehler

Her subjects are farms and nature with landscapes and animals her focus. The landscapes are bucolic and colorful, with perhaps even a sense of wistfulness.

Before the Day's Toil, color reduction woodcut
by Emily Gray Koehler

The animals are full of character - like the alpaca above. You can see their personality in their eyes, the cock of their ears, an open beak. Wonderful inspiration!

Reverie For the Forgotten, color reduction woodcut
by Emily Gray Koehler

(All images are the works of Emily Gray Koehler and Studio EGK. Visit Emily's website to see more of  her work or click on the links above. The works featured on Inspiration Monday are those that I enjoy and I have not been compensated in any way to include them on my blog.)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday Food: Quinoa & Bean Burritos

My husband is afraid of anything that doesn't have meat in it, but I have a vegetarian tendency when I eat by myself. I also like to make food with leftovers so I don't have to think about what I'll have for lunch during the week. These burritos fit the bill. I decided to use quinoa instead of rice to boost their protein and nutrition which seems to work just fine. Increase the heat by using hot salsa or adding jalapenos to the mix.

Quinoa and Bean Burritos

1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
8 - 6" flour tortillas
1 can (15 oz.) black beans
3/4 cup salsa
1/4 cup diced fresh tomatoes
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Heat beans and salsa in a large covered skillet 5 minutes, stirring often. Stir in rice, remove from heat and stir in tomato. Fill tortillas, add tomatoes and cheese and roll.*
Serves 4.

*As you can see in the photo, my burritos are browned. That's because I like my cheese melted, but since I was only making one, I just used the toaster oven to heat it. The regular oven wouldn't have done that. If the filling is hot and you don't want your cheese melted, you don't need to heat them at all.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Vote for My Book!

I usually don't mention this because I've been focusing on art on this blog, but I am also a published author and photographer. I've written several pictorial histories about the county I live in, but also a coffee table sized book about small places in Virginia called Lost Communities of Virginia. The book came out a year ago this month and still has momentum. I have speaking engagements several times a month and the book is still selling well enough that we've just ordered a third printing.

Lost Communities of Virginia has been nominated for a 2012 People's Choice Award from the Library of Virginia. Voting takes place now through June 29, 2012 on-line, or at your local library if you live in Virginia. If you love the book, I encourage you to visit the Library of Virginia and vote for the book on-line. We're the middle book on the second line. Thanks!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Inspiration Monday: Danna Ray

I was unfamiliar with Danna Ray until she was mentioned as inspiration by Mati McDonough during the Get Your Paint On class I have been taking. And, wow! I really like dreaminess of her backgrounds and the details of her foregrounds.

Take Me Out Tonight by Danna Ray

Most of her paintings are set outdoors, in a seemingly isolated place. They remind me of the peacefulness of hiking and camping in the woods and enjoying nature.

Cairn no. 3 by Danna Ray

There is a simplicity and calm in her paintings, but they also trigger memories and a sense of wistfulness.

Memory of Migration by Danna Ray

(All images are the works of Danna Ray. Visit Danna's website to see more of  her work or click on the links above. The works featured on Inspiration Monday are those that I enjoy and I have not been compensated in any way to include them on my blog.)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Get Your Paint On: Week 4

This week's Get Your Paint On assignment by instructors Lisa Congdon and Mati McDonough was about Composition. Lisa gave us 10 elements of composition (focal point, value, cool and warm colors, element number and size, variation in space, overlap or don't, unification, variety, rhythm, don't overload the canvas. I tried this week to a little more symbolic and primitive with the elements of my painting rather than trying to fussing with exactly how the houses, cat, bird, and tree would look.

I started with a background of 16 squares that changed in gradation of color from a darker blue at the upper left (sky) to a darker gray at the lower right (pavement). I pained over that with a transparent wash of white to tone it down. I painted the houses that are down the street from me. I like the rhythm they create as they march up the hill. And yes, one of them really is red. But that wasn't enough for a painting so I added the cat looking at the bird on the tree branch - both common sights around here. I tried to tie it all together with the pops of red.

Of the 10 elements of composition, I think I used:
  •  Focal point: The red house.
  • Variation in values: It's mostly cool, but the pops of red and the tree branch add warmth.
  • Not equal parts warm and cool colors.
  • The elements are apart, not touching.
  • It feels unified: Houses, a bird, a tree, and a cat seem like they belong together.
  • Rhythm: Created by the houses.
  • The canvas is not overloaded: Though it may be a bit too sparse.
What did I learn this week?
  • Acrylic medium is great for transparency, but doesn't dry quickly! I had some problems last week just adding water to create a transparent color and had used acrylic medium the previous week with better luck so I did that again this week on my background. And waited. And waited. It was still tacky 18 hours later!
  • Don't use your finger to see if the paint is dry! At least don't use it in the middle of the painting. I ended up with a finger print. That I tried to fix. And messed up a background I really loved. I've fixed it now somewhat, but it was better before the fingerprint.
  • I still need new brushes. I haven't bought any more because I'm not sure what to get, but I know that I'm using some of my brushes more than others and that the cheapy ones seem to scratch off paint better than they apply it.
  • Water is still frustrating me. I think my paintbrush is free of water drops and poof! Just when I'm least expecting it, a drop lands on my painting and when I try to get it off it takes a layer of paint with it. I'm not fully drying off my brush with a paper towel before applying paint and have been successful so far.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday Food: Terri's Potato Salad

I'm really picky about my potato salad. I don't like most of the recipes that are out there or the store-bought or restaurant-made stuff. Most of it is either bland or vinegar-based. I prefer my potato salad creamy not crunchy and love the heartiness of hard-boiled eggs in it. This recipe tastes similar to the way I remember one of my grandmother's potato salad.

Somehow, my potato salad has come to signify special occasions at our house. Maybe because of the tradition my husband and I started before we married to make a picnic lunch of his fried chicken, my potato salad, and wedges of watermelon and go for a hike in the mountains to celebrate our birthdays. Try it for your own special picnics!

Terri's Potato Salad

4 cups diced peeled potatoes (about 2 lbs, boiled 20 minutes)
6 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1/2 c. mayonnaise
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp dried minced onion
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp dijon mustard

Combine mayonnaise, lemon juice, onion, salt, pepper, and mustard. Stir in eggs and cooled potatoes. 
Cover and chill before serving.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Playing with the Super Moon

Our trip to the beach coincided with the Super Moon, and we totally forgot to bring the tripod. Do you know it is almost impossible to take a clear photograph with a long shutter speed without a tripod? My husband tried. There are a couple of photographs that came out okay, but most are fuzzy. I decided to just mess with the camera, using the moon as a light source.

I zoomed the lens focus in and out slowly while waiting for the shutter to close above and decided to just move the camera around below.

Moving the camera was so much fun that I wrote my husband's name with the moon.

How cool is that? The Super Moon was beautiful reflecting on the water, but didn't look any different to us than a regular full moon. We didn't get to see it rise because the horizon was cloudy. Maybe that's when it was at its largest.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Inspiration Monday: The Ocean

I have been fortunate to spend several days at the beach. I love the peaceful crashing of the waves, walking miles on the beach, watching the pelican patrol fly through like a fighter jet squadron, the sweep of the grass on the dunes, patterns in the sand, colorful pieces of shell, reflections on the water, the wind in my hair...the ocean brings me peace and helps me to clear my thoughts. It also provides lots of artistic inspiration.

The ripples of the water, the birds...

Sunrises and moonrises...lots of fodder for future art!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Get Your Paint On: Week 3

For the third week of Get Your Paint On with Mati McDonough and Lisa Congdon, the assignment was to paint with COLOR! In particular, to choose 4 colors from objects in your life and mix paint to match them and use them in a painting. I had intentions of matching colors of some of my clothes, but because I was at the beach this week, I tried to match the colors I saw there instead.

  • Mixing paint to match colors is hard! I have only been using red, yellow, blue, black, and white paint for this class and have been mixing my paint anyway, but I haven't tried to match anything. It was really hard to get the sky, ocean, and sand colors right. What I have is much more saturated than the real thing. I got to the point that I wasn't sure what other color to add to get the color right. More practice is necessary!
  • Be careful when you add water to paint. I found that I tried to put a white wash on the sky that I ended up "erasing" some of the color from the background and was left with a yellow-ish shade. That was handy when I decided I didn't like the first umbrella shadow I painted, but caused me no end of grief and fussing with my painting in some spots.
  • Paintings sometimes paint themselves. I had drawn out what I was going to paint before I went on vacation. But as I was sitting on the deck, looking out at the beach, paintbrush in hand - I changed my mind and found myself painting water.
  • And a question: How do you know when you're done? I feel like I'm satisfied with my painting, but I'm not really sure it's done. Or how I know when I'm done.  I could probably keep messing with it, but it's Sunday afternoon and I'm okay with what I've got. But is it done?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Friday Food: Chocolate Apricot Cookies

I copied this recipe from a cookbook, but I don't know which one. The recipe comes from the World War II era when butter was difficult to buy and so uses shortening instead of butter. A note on the recipe says not to substitute butter because they have a better texture with the shortening. They are a deeply fudgy cookie, perfect for chocolate lovers like me!

Chocolate Apricot Cookies

1 square unsweetened baking chocolate, melted
1/2 cup chocolate chips, melted
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 to 1 cup diced, dried apricots

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream melted chocolate, shortening, and sugar together.
Add egg and blend.
Mix in milk and vanilla.
Beat in baking powder, salt, and flour.
Drop by spoonfuls onto parchment paper and bake about 12 minutes or until done.
Makes about 3 dozen little cookies.