Showing posts with label Tracy Miller. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tracy Miller. Show all posts

The Tricks of the Trade

By Judy Feldman | www.wildemeyer.com

Whenever I admire a piece of art, I can’t help but wonder how it was done. How did the artist get that amazing texture? What colors did she or he mix? What type of brush or implement was used? In other words, how did they do that??

I looked at the works of some of the Wilde Meyer artists, and decided to ask them about their artistic process. I wasn’t sure if they would appreciate my questions, or want to divulge their “secrets,” but they did! (I think artists really love to talk about their work.)

Yellow Sun Vinyard, 28 x 30 inches, oil on canvas
Rena Vadewater
Rena Vandewater’s charming paintings are full of color and energy. She combines several techniques: pointillism, patterning and what she calls “scruffling,” which is her way of moving her brush very quickly on the canvas while mixing color. All three combine to create vibrant scenes.

Rena says that she sketches out a plan on paper and then on her canvas. To emphasize an area, she uses a warm color to draw an outline; then she paints inside that shape. “My patterns come from my head,” she says. “They go together like a puzzle. When I don’t know where to go next, I stop for a few days, and wait until I feel inspired to go back to the painting.”

Dingo Dogs, 19 x 23 inches, oil on canvas
Rena Vandewater
Travels often inspire her paintings. “Yellow Sun” is a scene from vineyards Rena saw while visiting France. “I want the viewer to see a real reference, yet enjoy the wonder of the painting,” she says. The red ground behind the vineyard patterns, as well as the red outline of the small buildings and the sun give this painting so much energy! The shapes remind me of quilting.

Rena has worked hard to create and maintain her unique style. Initially, she was self-taught; then she went on and obtained an MFA degree. “Although I’ve studied and learned classical painting, I prefer the na├»ve, primitive style,” she says. “Dingo Dogs” is a good example of Rena’s unique take on a landscape. Here, she employs all of her special techniques: the red outlines, the scruffling for the trees, the patterns in the houses, the flat paint for the dogs, and the wonderful pointillist dots for the land. Her use of the complementary green and red in the dots really makes the painting pop. To top things off, Rena encloses the painting in a patterned frame. It’s busy, but it works!

Desert Garden by Acacia Alder
40 x 30 inches, acrylic on canvas
Acacia Alder loves to hike in the trails around her Tuscon home. She’s inspired by the landscapes she sees, and wants to depict the dynamic energy that exists there. Acacia conveys all this through a technique she employs to give her paintings a sculptural, three dimensional look. I asked her to explain.

“First, I use acrylic gel to sculpt the surface in very particular areas,” she says. “That creates a form for the subject matter, which is somewhat abstracted. Then, I paint over the gel. Each painting has many layers of both gel and paint. It can take quite a while to complete.”

Elan: Palo Verde Musings by Acacia Alder
36 x 36 inches, acrylic on canvas
Acacia uses many different implements, including palette knives, brushes, small spatulas and even hair combs for texture. She says that her technique enables her to impart tonal changes, because the gel textures can more easily highlight the light and the shadows. You can see the sculptural quality of the beautiful tree in her painting entitled “Elan: Palo Verde Musings.” Her excellent use of light and shadow, along with a dark outline, makes the tree emerge from the abstract shapes of the landscape behind it.

“Desert Garden” is one of my favorite paintings by Acacia. The many textural shapes and wonderful color palette create energy, and the smooth, burnt orange path is a great, restful contrast. I really like the foliage shadows she’s created on the path.

Tracy Miller has a very interesting creative process. “I have a specific set of rules for myself when I paint,” she says. “I tone every canvas with a wash of either yellow, orange, red or hot pink to give a warm glow that informs the painting.”

Tracy explains her next step: “I make a visual haiku with black paint to create a balanced design of lines, circles or disjointed forms.”

Roughneck by Tracy Miller
11x 14 inches, acrylic on canvas
Bear by Tracy Miller
5 x 7 inches, acrylic on paper
Then, Tracy paints an abstract design within the black lines, while she finds a shape to help guide her to her final image. “It’s like looking at clouds and seeing distinct shapes,” she says. Certain shapes evoke certain animals to her. She sees bears in circular shapes; cows in more boxy shapes and buffalo in sharp angles. Tracy’s fine art background and familiarity with animals enables her to depict their structure and muscles even in her unconventional style. She purposely doesn’t show the entire animal, since she wants the viewers to finish the picture in their heads. When you look at two of her paintings, entitled “Roughneck” and “Bear,” you can get an idea of how she works.

Blue Mood by Tracy Miller
20 x 10 inches, acrylic on canvas 
After the abstract painting is complete, Tracy draws a simple outline in pencil of the final image she wants. Then she paints the negative space around that shape, which becomes the background. Amazing! When you look at “Blue Mood,” keep in mind how the image of the giraffe emerged. As a final touch, Tracy creates her unique signature of paint splatters across the canvas. “I do this to give additional energy to the painting,” she says. “I’m very mindful of the color I use, and after I’ve splattered, I know the work is done!”

Each of these artists has refined her process over time, and is now completely comfortable with it. What’s interesting to me is how personal these approaches are, and that’s why their work is so unique. Even if we understand the process, we can never paint the same way. Who wants to, anyway?

View more art by Rena VandewaterAcacia Alder  and Tracy Miller at Wilde Meyer Gallery. 

Patterns Perk up Paintings!

By Judy Feldman | www.wildemeyer.com

Patterns are all around us. We see them in nature, on clothing, and in any number of decorative items around our homes: wallpapers, rugs, pillows, upholstery, etc. Patterns perk things up. Think how dull it would be if everything were solid! I can’t imagine how plain my painting entitled Fruits, (Mostly) would be without the patterns on the bowl and tablecloth. And, certainly, Spots, Stripes and Squares would be so boring without the spots, stripes or squares!

Patterns have been a big part of artists’ work for a long time. The Japanese wood-block prints influenced many painters, such as Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin and Toulouse- Lautrec, to name a few. The pointillists created their own form of pattern with small dots of color that become blended in the viewer’s eye to form an image.

Joseph Young is all about patterns. “I’ve always been a decorative painter,” he says Trained as an art historian, Joseph is influenced by many art movements, such as Art Nouveau, Arts and Crafts, and the artists mentioned above. “Even abstract expressionists such as Jackson Pollack were decorative artists in their own way,” he commented.

Joseph likes to paint flat, and uses pattern to give the illusion of three dimensions. He juxtaposes colors that vibrate off each other. “If there’s no vibration, I add another contrasting color, until I get the desired effect. I want the colors to either work with or against each other to create excitement in the painting.”

To achieve patterns such as these requires considerable patience. As you can see in his painting entitled Red and White Cat and a Puppy in a Landscape, there are many different elements, and each has its own pattern. There are so many varieties of butterflies, flowers, fish and birds; yet they are grouped in an organized, thoughtful way. You can tell that Joseph has a very strong sense of design (and an amazing ability to stay focused!).

In his painting Cowboy and Two Dogs in a Landscape, we see similar floral designs and butterflies, but here Joseph has used a pointillist effect of dots and tiny patterns to create a sense of depth against the flatter, more solid elements in the work.

Rena Vandewater also uses lines and dots to give her paintings movement and a three dimensional effect. Woman with Pups is a very stylized work – the woman and her dogs are flat, but everything else vibrates because of the patterns she’s created. Pear Tree would be a pretty uninteresting painting without the textures she’s given to the sky, leaves and patches of ground that together remind me of a quilt and needlework.

“I work intuitively,” she explains. “The painting talks to me the entire time I’m working on it. The patterns and shapes evolve in the process, and although I see the images as a whole, each space has a life of its own.”

Yellow Sun Vineyard also shows the influence of textiles on Rena’s work. The shapes of the hills, each with its own pattern and color scheme, convey the look of a collage piece. The red ground that shows between the patterns and as a border around the shapes makes the colors really pop.

Tracy Miller isn’t afraid of color. She often puts conflicting hues together to give energy to a painting. “People respond to color emotionally,” she says. Tracy lives in the foothills of a mountain area in Colorado, where the wildlife she sees daily inspire her art.

Her method is so different from Joseph and Rena’s, She says she follows a “visual haiku,” meaning that she starts with black lines painted in a free-form way to create forms for a color abstraction. “That movement and pattern informs the animal I create,” she says. “It just evolves from the initial drawing.” If you look at two of her paintings, Horse and Bear, you can see the initial black swirls under the red background.

But that’s just the beginning of the work. As she adds brushstrokes of color, the animal emerges, with its shape and musculature. Tracy uses different colors to show contour, rather than more traditional lights and darks of the same hue.

Other techniques that characterize Tracy’s unique style include switching between opaque and transparent colors. The moose in Lazy Days is portrayed with strikes of transparent hues that give it a luminous glow. Tracy often crops her image to zoom in on her color patterns, as in Longhorn Series II. “It’s more about the design, than a realistic image of the animal,” she explains. And, the flourish of a splatter of paint that flies over most of her paintings is “my, fun, energetic signature.”

So, keep your eye out for patterns. They are everywhere, and they make life so much more interesting!

Big Art, Small Art

Wilde Meyer Gallery, "The Gem Show" Scottsdale, December 2011
Unless you’re a miniaturist, painting in a small format can be challenging. Certainly, abstract painters prefer a large canvas. Since there are no figurative images, they need the size to make a powerful statement with form, composition and color. But painters who employ realism also have to rethink their skills: they have to simplify and create a way to draw the viewer into a small space.


If you’re used to working with large brushes or palette knives, it can be weird to switch to a small brush. Since I don’t use very large brushes, this doesn’t present a problem. For me, it’s more about choosing subject matter that will work in a small space, and creating a composition that’s the right scale. I wondered what other Wilde Meyer artists had to say about making small paintings, and since the gallery has its annual Gem Show up right now, I decided to call a few people.

Back of the Sierras  18"x14"

First, I spoke with Judith D'Agostino, who lives in Santa Fe. She had been an abstract painter, but began plein air painting in 2005. She committed to doing a painting a day, so she started taking small canvases on her trips to paint landscapes.

Italian Landscape, 12"x18"
“There is a learning curve to painting small,” she said. “You need to simplify and create an intimate environment. But it’s a useful exercise to paint on a small scale, and these paintings often become ideas for larger ones.”
What Are You Looking At? 7"x5"
When she’s painting small, Judith often turns to another subject. In this painting, entitled “What Are You Looking At?,” she’s used a canvas that’s 7” X 5” and "Taking a Break" that's 6" X 8". 

Taking a Break, 6"x8"





Desert Dreams (left) 6"x6"
Fancy (right) 5"x5"
 
 Suzanne Betz, a painter from Taos, alternates between small and large paintings. "Changing the size exercises my creativity,” she says. “That way, I don’t get locked into one mode of painting. My smaller pieces are intimate and open to interpretation by the viewer.”



Suzanne uses mixed media, painting in water-soluble mediums on drafting film. She can cut the film to any size, so she can quickly select the format she wants. Her goal is to achieve transparency, and she works in many layers. These small paintings, which measure 6”X6” and 5”X5,” are covered with plexiglass, which add another layer to her work.
Quiet Time,  7"x9"

Connecting Heaven and Earth 5"x7"
When I talked with Deb Komitor, who lives in Colorado Springs, she said that she’d rather paint “huge,” but her car isn’t big enough! So, I guess practicality also enters into the equation.  Like Suzanne, Deb enjoys switching back and forth, between large and small paintings. She, too, says it gets the creative juices flowing.

The Protector 39.5"x11.75"



“By varying the painting sizes, the rhythm of my painting process keeps changing. It keeps me from getting stale and repetitious, since I use different images and the paint application is different.”

Honoring Joy 7"x5"
Deb paints mainly on wood – she uses panel boards for her small format work, and actually paints on wood doors for her large pieces (I guess she borrows someone’s truck). She recently painted a series of small pieces in an iconic style, which she says is her “way of honoring these animals.”

You can see this technique in her beautiful hummingbird painting called “Honoring Joy,” which measures 7”X 5”, as well as “Connecting Heaven and Earth,” which measures 5”X7.” Both birds have the gold halo that is inherent in icon paintings.

Down Low 12" x 12"
 
Mama and Baby Bear 7"x5"

Tracy Miller also lives in Colorado Springs, and enjoys painting wildlife. Her expressionistic style and love of color make her work quite unique.

She starts with an abstract painting, getting colors to vibrate off one another. Then an image comes to mind, and as she defines it, an animal is created! You can see an example of her technique in this small painting of bears called “Mama and Baby Bear,” above, as well as the buffalo in “Buffalo Study 47,” shown below.

Buffalo Study 47,   5"x7"

Tracy likes to “mix things up,” painting in larger and smaller formats.

“The small pieces are great for first-time collectors,” she says. “It’s important to introduce your work to people at an affordable price. Also, painting small is instant gratification!”




From these artists’ comments, I guess you could say that working in a small format is both liberating and limiting. I’m going to end this blog now, so I can face the challenge of a small painting!