Class Notes: How to Use a Sketch

Something as important as a sketch can get over looked; - we sort of know it's a good thing - we aren't always sure why-
or worse, we don't know HOW to use it.
In class we have been painting animals using photo reference.
So- how does doing a simple sketch help with complex material?

Our purpose is not to make tight realistic drawings before we go to paint BUT to use the sketch to make the most important design decisions before going forward.
For the painting below, I had a photo of this crazy jackrabbit with lots of good detail.
It might be tempting to simply copy the photo reference as it is -  but the best way to use reference is to redesign the material to suit YOUR purpose - not the photographer's.
I will sidestep the discussion about photo copyrights - too involved - but suffice to say, it is always better to use photo material as "reference" not to COPY it.  Unless, of course, you took the photo yourself.
But when using ANY photo reference, design decisions must be made before touching the canvas with paint -
and this is where the disconnect happens.
While making these simple design decisions in your head seems like a good idea -  it's like pointing your car in the right direction just hoping you will arrive at your destination.
I never cease to be amazed at how willing beginners are - to strike out onto the great white canvas with out a map or a clue. Maybe doing a sketch seems too basic?
Hmmm . . . . The PAINTING is our destination.   And while I never have the whole piece figured out before hand -  I can go forward with greater confidence if I have made the basic design decisions in a sketch.
The simple sketches at the top show 2 ways my painting could have gone. One is vertical, of a rabbit in the landscape,
the other is horizontal and more portrait like - both from the same photo reference material.
The face of the rabbit attracted me to the photo in the first place, - so it made sense to design the painting with that in mind and not commit to a lot of extra background landscape, etc.
My sketches are about 3 inches wide, and easy to do;
size does not matter but the information does. I can visualize and arrange the information to see how it best works before committing any paint to canvas.
Once I have done a few sketches  it may become apparent that not every route is a good one, or I may end up choosing between 2 good ideas - No bad thing.  When I am satisfied with the arrangement of my shapes I will use the sketch as a road map and the basis for what  I want to do on the canvas.
Sometimes this takes only one sketch, sometimes 5.
Start with small, simple sketches and soon you will be adding more information to them and they will get better and will serve you better. You may even start to show them off as something you are proud of.


Class Notes: More Confident Sketches

In class we have spent this session focused on SKETCHING and DRAWING - of course, as it relates to painting- but, these things go hand in glove and I do believe that better sketches make better paintings.
If better PAINTING is the goal, it's a NO brainer.
Taking the small amount of time to do a sketch before painting will contribute to a stronger and more well designed piece - and at the same time your range of sketching will improve with the practice.
This is a two-for that is SO worth the time spent.
With that in mind, I have encouraged the class to start doing their sketching with a Sharpie marker.
If the thought of using a black marker to sketch makes you gasp for air  -  consider this:
statistics have shown that people who use a marker - will develop drawing skills with greater confidence more quickly than those who are always erasing, shifting and correcting their marks.

The benefit is huge and the upshot is more confident mark making and more confident sketches. It's not for the faint of heart - or those committed to pencil sketching.
And YES, you will do more bad sketches
but ultimately, more GOOD sketches.
I have included here 3 of my Sharpie sketches in a progression from simple to more complex:
the first, at the top is from reference and is a simple line sketch showing placement.
The second sketch was done en plein air - it shows value and placement; also called a NOTAN sketch.
The third is what I might consider a finished drawing-
or how I like to draw portraits.
I use the Sharpie fine point for most of my sketching, and I buy them by the box.
But I also love the kids Crayola markers, in black.


New Work Heading OUT!

3 of my newest pieces are going out this week. Yay!
as part of a juried show at the Pagosa Springs Medical Center.
The Medical Center is hosting a public reception on April 14 at 5:30 pm to celebrate the new Out-Patient wing and show off juried works for purchase, that will become part of their permanent collection.
There will be live music, food and ART.
Sounds like a good party, and I will be there.
Below are photos of my pieces that will be on exhibition.
                                 Red Mesa,  23"x 32"
                    Winter Park, 24"x 30"
                    On a Summer Eve, 22"x 30" 

The entire show will hang in the Medical Center until June 19. 
For more information call"  970-507-3810.


Shape of Things - SLV Painters Show

Congratulations to the San Luis Valley Painters on the "Shape of Things" show; hanging the entire month of March in Milagros Coffee House Gallery, Alamosa. Thirteen Painters are represented with over 50 pieces, all for sale and all affordable.     This show will hang until Friday March 31st.

Most of the San Luis Valley Painters gathered on Sunday March 12th in Milagros for our "Shape of Things" party.  It is always a pleasure to share our work with the community and people passing through town joined in our Art celebration; some even took a painting home with them.
As part of the festivities, everyone got to vote for their "favorite" painting.
This year the BEST in SHOW honor went to Kari Christoferson, for "Coyote Moon", in oil.
BRAVO! to all the painters who participated.

The San Luis Valley Painters is a group loosely associated with my painting classes. We hold a show locally every Spring in the Milagros Coffee House Gallery in downtown Alamosa.
Milagros is a San Luis Valley institution where roads & friends meet, art & book lovers, free thinkers, musicians and writers, all find a place. It is a stop for tourists, a setting for conversation and coffee drinkers, and for years the site of the only espresso bar in town. I will personally attest to this as a matter of public record.
A rich gathering spot, very much at the heart of Alamosa, Milagros supports causes that are dear to the heart of our community and a natural place to show and celebrate art in Alamosa.  The SLV Painters are donating 15% of all sales to the Milagros fund for our community.
If you are in the area, check out the show - which will hang until Friday, March 31st.
Congrats to Kari- on receiving the Best in SHow award, by a vote of community members AND your painting peers.
Also, a big "Thanks" to the SLV Painters for giving your time to this effort.
SLV Painters represented in this show are: Dee Bartee, Yvon Boss, Kari Christoferson, Peg Collins, Lara Demlo, Judith Greenwood, Laura Hays, Margaret Jones, Richard Luckemeier, Josie Perea, June McDaniel and Barbara Rayburn.


Happy New Year!!

The new year is picking up steam. I enjoyed having my 2 kids home from college in California; we spent time shoveling snow, ice skating, binge watching Phineas and Ferb - and now- as a friend so aptly put it: the holidays are over, it's time to take off the pajamas and go back to ADULTING.
sigh. . .  It was all too short.
I am ready to get back to the studio, back to work. Today we are snowed in tho' - so I am writing instead of painting.
For many artists - the kitchen or spare room is the impromptu studio - their "PLACE".
But the STUDIO is only the space, not the source.
We are all trying to tap in to the well spring of inspiration.
When it is flowing, I want to stand under the stream; when it isn't,
I want to cry over the tap.
I know creativity does not happen in a vacuum; sometimes just getting together with others helps to prime the pump - or trying something new, or following a wild hare. . . . That has been my experience of the last year and a half; banging on the pipe to get the juices to flow.
And the upshot?
a new medium, a new painting experience, new subjects. That also means new marketing, hmmm . . .
I did a lot less oil plein air work this year and a lot more studio work - in ACRYLIC.
Yeah- I have been thinking about it for years and finally jumped in. . . .
I traveled to Canada twice to study for an extended period of time and have been painting like mad - and not all good stuff.
To use a metaphor: I had to consciously give up the love affair with that old car, one that by the way,  no longer made me happy or took me where I wanted to go;
I had to get into a new car; one that I did NOT know how to drive
of course, I thought I KNEW how to drive it - I have a license after all. . .
It's been a real road trip; in a crazy new car that I am having a love- hate relationship with - and still can't figure out.
Can anyone relate?
All I know is that 2 years ago I hardly wanted to get out of bed in the morning - even to go out en plein air, and friends had to listen to me whining about "my car" getting stalled. Actually, it was me getting stalled; tapped out, bored.
Back to the car thing;  I've spent the year driving all out - to the metal,
no map, no destination and nothing to lose - except a gallery or two, but that hasn't happened yet.
I still love plein air painting; the landscape is still OUT there and I am still inspired by it.
Maybe the difference is - something about this new car makes me feel like I am still in my pajamas.

Weekly oil Painting classes started up this week. I am so grateful to my students who motivate me and keep me honest.
Aside from the weekly classes, this January I will be running 2 workshops out of my studio: a 2 day workshop and a 5 day workshop.
I guess I'll have to get dressed for those.

A lot of my new work is now on display at the ARTrium Gallery, Alamosa, Colorado - in the DESIGNx2 Exhibition.
To view my work in this show click on this link: DESIGNx2 or go to ConiGrant.com


All new work at ARTrium Show



Party on Friday January 13,  4 - 7 pm

Two designers, two painters, Coni Grant and Judith Greenwood  
come together at the ARTrium Gallery in Alamosa for a Winter show.

Save the Date:
We invite you to the reception for this show on January 13th
at SLV Health Regional Medical Center 
in the 2nd floor ARTrium Gallery,
106 Blanca Ave., Alamosa CO 

This show hangs through the end of February
The ARTrium is open every day. 
20% of all sales goes to the SLVH Foundation.


Postcard art: "Zoom Zoom"  in acrylic, by Coni Grant (left)
"Neighborhood Watch"  in acrylic & ink, by Judith Greenwood (right)

Ten Years in the BLACK!

This month marks the 10 year anniversary of my PleinView Painting Studio here in Alamosa and 10 years of running this small business as a totally self supporting entity.  Whoo hoo!
That means rent, vehicles, travel, advertising/promotion, fees, taxes-licensing-insurance, education, supplies, inventory - and everything else that comes with life as a small business owner.
It's not for the faint of heart.
I am so grateful, to God first - who gladly carries ALL,  and to my family who live every day with the sacrifices, and the fun that comes with the mix of family and business ownership.
Also, for my life here in Alamosa where I enjoy the benefits and encouragement of the best art community in the world -

and that includes all the students who have painted with me through the years - in season and out since 1996 -You inspire me to continue learning and growing and showing up - Thank You.
Finally, to the Buyers,
- you float the ship - THANK YOU! -   Keep buying art. To all,  a very blessed Holiday Season and a great New Year!


Class NOtes: Elemental Thinking

After a beautiful plein air season, classes are now back in the studio which  always gives us opportunity to try some new things and go in some new directions.
As a working professional,  I think artistic growth and evolution is essential. The willingness the learn and change is hallmark to our field - all with the idea of pushing the work beyond itself to a new place.  This might even involve re- inventing yourself. . . . .

These thoughts seep down from my head- into my class sessions and my painters know that when I start thinking about something - everyone in class will have to start thinking about it.
    Something that is always on my mind is - how to bring new ideas to my work.
Currently, I have a class of about 12 painters, all with pretty advanced skills. What a luxury for me!  So, we have purposed to spend this last painting session of the year looking at the design elements of line and shape and applying them to "other" painting styles.
 Not so that we can become like THAT artist- but so we can gain insight into ideas and methods that will broaden our own work. Or maybe it's a case of saying "What would happen if I do THAT?".
And maybe- it will be fun!
The top piece appears to be an homage to the American expressionist & pop artist Jasper Johns - but started out simply as a plan to express letters or numbers by the design elements of line and shape - with the idea of PAINT being the subject.
Applying a design element to imagery is a good way of changing the focus of a painting.
Another way is to think of PAINT as the subject in order to get your brain away from the"imagery" in order to create a stronger sense of the abstract.

The bottom piece is done in, what we might characterize as an "impressionistic" style - which is essentially lines and dabs of color laid down next to each other in individual strokes. For this one we used a piece of landscape reference but followed a strict formula of stroke next to stroke.
PAINT is very much the subject as lines of paint go down next to lines of paint to create imagery;
it's not as obvious here - but it IS elemental: line and shape.


Power of the SMall

We have a saying around our house "he small". . . .
- or she, or it - and tho' we speak with a sympathetic note,
the phrase suggests both - condition and camouflaged strength.
Small painting, big impact.
I painted this piece in the last plein air evening class of the summer;  quick notes in late light,
of a large cottonwood.
The power of the NOTAN and the energy of rapid strokes belie the small size.
He small. . . . .
"Raking Light",  6"x 8" - SOLD in Manitou Springs


Toys Toys Toys

We had a great time last week with our special guests Carl and Sarah Judson - just what we needed to bring enthusiasm and zing to our Fall plein air season. Carl gave a informative talk and visual presentation about plein air painting through history - but the best part was a thoughtful take on painters who did not follow the beaten path.  Ha! The rebels- they are our favorites.
It was encouraging and fun for everyone and
we all got Guerrilla Painter Viewers (very handy), paint samples- who doesn't love that? Free stuff!  
After some discussion and some snacks we all went out to the Guerrilla Van to see Carl's work - and for the REAL fun:
shopping out of the Guerrilla Van. It was almost as good buying at the ice cream truck- 
and just about that crazy 
as 17 painter/kids
stormed the van.
I suddenly had a vision of Carl Judson in a Santa suit. . . . . .

The item most popular?
the Guerrilla 6x8 Thumbox
with carrying case -
I think we bought out
his entire supply.

So, this is the challenge:
bring your box to class
every week. You will get better with it the more you use it
and it just may change your life,
at least your painting life.

Ahh - the places we'll go!