Tag Archives: painting techniques

IPAPA and the Wawasee Paint-Out

Art En Plein Air

Donna Shortt took this photo of the breaking day on July 13th, at Lake Papakeechie, from an upstairs bedroom at my family’s cottage.  Yep, up at dawn.  These IPAPA painters barely pause for breakfast.

She, Pam Newell, Dave Voelpel, Leanna Arnold, and I were there for the annual Indiana Plein Air Painters Association paint-out at Lake Wawasee, in northern Indiana.  IPAPA people dotted the area lakes’ landscapes for the event, thick as the threatening clouds.  They hunkered under sun hats, umbrellas, and shelters, undaunted.  When they couldn’t find an open (or free) lake view to paint they found flower gardens, street-view scenes of cottages, and crowded shoreside views peopled with the backsides of sailing students.

Try to say that a few times, and you’ll understand their frustration.

Pam Newell, "The Red Cottage," oil on panel

Pam Newell, http://www.pnewellart.com, “The Red Cottage,” oil on panel

The site’s the thing–en plain air painters (think:  in plain air) need a place to stand for a couple of hours. That’s about all they need, they bring everything else with them.

Here’s hoping more Lake Wawasee residents open up their shoreside lawns, their unparalleled views, their access gates for these professional artists, next year.  Lake Wawasee can be a wild and wonderful model on a stormy day, and the weekend of July 12th was brilliant with weather.

Donna Shortt, "The Red Cottage," oil on panel

Donna Shortt, http://www.dshortt.com, “The Red Cottage,” oil on panel

The IPAPAs shown here were working  Lake Papakeechie (off the tail end of Wawasee), with its more intimate water views.  And at least some of the other IPAPAs found painting space near water–Saturday night’s pizza party, at the Wawasee Yacht Club, sported a few lake-themed paintings.  Despite the paucity of water scenes, easels wound around the yacht club yard, blooming with high quality impressions of flowers, boats, and grand old homes.  IPAPA member Dave Voelpel, in a reverent tone, called it “Museum quality work.”

Dave Voelpel at work on a watercolor

Dave Voelpel at work on a watercolor

Leanna Arnold, oil on canvas

Leanna Arnold, oil on canvas

The weekend event ended with a show at Lake Wawasee’s South Shore Golf Club on Sunday, July 13th.  Check IPAPA’s Facebook page for the next group paint-out, or go to the website at http://www.inpainters.org.

Leanna Arnold and I are both new IPAPA members.  She took two of her fresh paintings for the pizza party’s  group display, while I left my one unfinished start at the cottage.  Her abstracted rendition of Lake Papakeechie, shown here, was received with interest.

Leanna painted a total of three canvasses on Saturday and Sunday.  Look closely at the photo of Dave and his watercolor, and you’ll see her painting on the dock, down by the lake.  Examples of her earlier work can be seen on this blog;  go to the January, 2013 archives.

Plein air painters somehow manage to get paintings finished and ready to sell inside a matter of hours.  From what I’ve seen in the few months I’ve been paying attention to these intrepid, on-site, outdoor artists, they carry frames with them and come prepared to deal with anything nature throws at them–including the art loving, art buying public.

Laura's hour-and-a-half start

Laura’s hour-and-a-half start

Here’s mine–an hour or so’s start.

Ah, but I was hosting.  Yes, that’s it.  I was a student last weekend, learning from these masters but not at all in their class.

One thing I’ve learned about painting in the open air is that I work faster, more intuitively.  There’s no time to wallow in angst.

But I need more time.  I’ll have to go back next year, and finish this one.












Dave Voelpel at work











Art Works for Robyn Brown

Robyn Brown & her wallFor Robyn Brown, applying her artistic talent to daily life is as simple—and as complex—as building a stone wall.  She’s shown here with just such a wall, which she built recently.  “There’s a creative aspect to everything,” she said.

She should know.  Robyn has designed at least a dozen homes on graph paper and, together with her husband, Chris, carried the design process through to completion for most of those homes.  The two make a team that handles nearly every aspect of construction.  For the stone wall, Robyn said, “We brought four or five loads of stone, hand-picked from Hoadley Quarries, and Chris tumbled the rock, built the scaffolding, mixed the mortar, and hauled it all while I laid the mortar bed and set the stones.”

Robyn is self-taught in nearly everything she does—with the exception of one drawing class and, beginning a year ago, the Partners in Painting class at the Owen County Art Guild.  Most often, she finds her own answers intuitively or at the public library, building an artistic life from a series of thoughtful, self-reliant solutions to questions as diverse as home schooling her children to laying that mortar bed.  Her resourceful nature, in fact, reflects the pioneer spirit of her forebears, the historic Spring Mill State Park Hamer family.

As a child, she learned to love art by watching her older sisters, who exceled in painting.  For Robyn, it was ceramics that caught her interest first, and painting later.  Then, for decades, crafts of all sorts, projects with her children, and building construction kept her easel idle.  Last year, when she began painting again, her experiences in real life paid dividends;  her skills transferred easily from “cutting in” the color of a home’s walls to refining her brush strokes on canvasses.

Her acrylic on canvas, Frog Pond, was created by combiningFrog Pond 2 photos of lily pads, fish, and a frog, for use as subjects.  “I love doing the preliminary backgrounds first,” she said, “because it’s fun and freeing to ease into the details of the painting.  If it doesn’t work, to me, it’s like a wall with an archway that’s too small, or a stone set in place wrong.  You just re-do it.  You need to step back and look at a painting, just as you need to step back and look at a wall.”

DSCN2283The Wave is another example of her acrylic on canvas works.  It was inspired by a double-page photograph by David Miller, in a book titled Oceans.  “I loved it, and I had to own it—it was the moodiest wave I’d ever seen,” she said.  “A friend tried to contact the photographer to purchase a copy of the photograph for my birthday, but she never got a response.  So, I had to buy the book.  I thought it was so perfect!  I didn’t add anything of myself, except my name, when I painted it.  It’s as close as I could come to an artistic representation of the original, and the largest painting I’ve ever done—two feet by four feet—so it was daring, but not difficult.”

Her work on an earlier painting with a fog element, and on Frog Pond, had taught Robyn the technique of using a natural “sea” sponge to create effects, and it helped to build foam on The Wave.  However, when she tried the natural sponge on the walls of the home she and Chris are currently constructing, she was not impressed by its effect.  So, she stepped back, and started over.  Using a synthetic tiling sponge instead, watering down the paint, wringing out the sponge and rubbing it on the walls, she achieved a beautiful muted, old-world effect.

“Art, in my opinion,” Robyn said, “is fluent.  It runs through the fiber of who you are.”

Robyn Brown occasionally shows her artwork at the Owen County Art Guild;  the guild is located at 199 West Cooper Street, Spencer, IN.  Her paintings, as well as those of all the artists featured in this series, can be seen in color online at http://www.lauraleffers.wordpress.com.  The guild’s phone number is  812-829-1877.

Art Works for Holly Wheeler

Holly WheelerHolly Wheeler has an eye for color and a gift for speed painting.  She is also the young mother of four boys, and slow painting is not an option.

She’s painted on her own—when she found the time—for the past nine years.  Self-taught since her art classes with Mrs. O’Malley at Edgewood, in Ellettsville, Indiana, she joined the Partners in Painting class at the art guild in Spencer, last year.

“They tease me at the guild, because I usually have two or three paintings done by the time class is over,” she said.  “Recently, though, I painted a draped nude, and it took three full studio periods.  I’d never painted a figure—I don’t usually do detail—but I thought it would be good for my artistic growth to slow down and do something different.”

Parrot needed two forty-five minute sessions’ worth of Parrot 2Holly’s limited painting time, because she wanted it to dry between the layers of oil paint.  She often re-purposes what she considers a “failed” painting and, in the case of Parrot, she said, “There’s a lot of texture, because I had to incorporate the brush strokes from the earlier painting.  I’m not happy with it, though.  I think the tail is more decorative than realistic, and it’s too abstract for my taste.”

BearBear, another oil on canvas, was painted in an hour.  Barb Bauer, the class teacher, noted that the photograph in a Western magazine, which Holly used to inspire the painting, was dull.  “Holly used her artistic interpretation,” Barb said.  “She painted asymmetrical eyes, and incorporated purples, teals, and oranges that weren’t in the illustration.”

Bee Balm“I’d been using acrylics to paint,” Holly added, “and Bear was my first oil painting.  I brought the focus onto the bear and changed the colors, and it worked.  So, for my second oil, Bee Balm, I combined inspirations again.  My sister e-mailed the flower picture and asked me if I could paint it for her.  I did, but afterwards thought that it, too, could use some color.  When I saw the bright red bee balm on our family vacation in the Smoky Mountains, on a hike to Clingmans Dome, I decided they would be the perfect addition.  They were everywhere and so pretty!

“I paint as a true amateur,” she said, “because I love it.”

Holly Wheeler’s artwork is available for sale;  she may be contacted at HSWHEELER14@yahoo.com.  The Owen County Art Guild is located at 199 West Cooper Street, Spencer, IN  47460.  The guild’s phone number is  812-829-1877.

Art Works for Connie Luttinen

Connie Luttinen with A SplashConnie Luttinen, shown here with A Splash, done with colored markers on a book back, finds the Owen County Art Guild a pleasant place to work.  “I’ve found congenial friends at the guild, new mediums to explore, and a sociable setting,” she said.  “Everyone’s upbeat—we keep it that way—we’re interested in one another’s work, and open to suggestions.  It’s delightful.

“Our Wednesdays and Thursdays together are the highlights of my week.  People bring snacks and pizzas, and we eat while we work—often straight through dinner.”

A Splash was the result of Connie’s normal process, which sheCandy Counter describes as intuitive rather than laborious.  “I can’t draw a straight line, it would drive me crazy,” she said.  “Instead of drawing a design ahead of time, I simply start.  I join colors, and blend….  I might go from one corner to another.  All of a sudden, it seems, the canvas is covered.”  Her oil on canvas, Candy Counter, represents the first time she tried oil painting, and it followed much the same unpremeditated process.

FloralShe was new to oils when she painted Floral, and still uncomfortable with larger-sized canvases.  She credits the Partners in Painting class teacher, Barb Bauer, for encouraging her to paint larger, and reports that the challenge made her search harder for movement, and to invent her own colors.  “I don’t use the color chart because I love mixing and finding my own blends,” she said.

One of Connie’s latest firsts—completed just weeks ago—wasOriental Dream a painting on a black primed canvas using metallic acrylics, entitled Oriental Dreams.  Barb, she said, provided guidance to create the painting’s distinctive borders.

“Structure has been my life,” Connie said.  “But the point of life is living—the freedom to be natural—and I believe in finding laughter more than anything.  Now, I look at a blank canvas, and just let it rip!”

Connie Luttinen’s work is often shown at the Owen County Art Guild in all-member shows.  The guild is located at 199 West Cooper Street, Spencer, IN.  The guild phone number is 812-829-1877.

Art Works for Cindy Conklin

Cindy ConklinCindy Conklin is a former third-grade schoolteacher, and no stranger to the challenges—and benefits—of learning.  Seen here with her small acrylic, Baby Bluebird, she said that the difficulty with this painting was in the bird’s coloration, which she wanted to portray realistically.  “When I first began painting,” she said, “if it didn’t have the realism of a Cynthia Richards’ work, I wasn’t satisfied.

“I admire Owen County artists like Tom Maher and Mae Dene, too,” she added, “who have their own individual styles.  They create ‘out of the box,’ from their own visions.  They’ve contributed to my artistic education, and enhanced my appreciation of other painting styles.”

Cindy has always had an interest in art.  As a young mother, she and her entire family had a tradition of getting out the oil paints on New Year’s Day, and painting pictures together.  By 2009, after many phases of what she referred to as “dabbling,” she and a friend, Dorothy Cumbo, took an acrylics class taught by Nancy Raper at the Endwright Center, in Ellettsville, Indiana.  “Nancy emphasized that we could borrow from other artists, but that we should bring our own ideas to the canvas,” Cindy said.  “And she invited us to attend a meeting at the Owen County Art Guild.”

Now a member of Partners in Painting, Barb Bauer’s DSCN2111class at the guild, Cindy likes things a little off normal perspective, citing as an example her acrylic painting, Spencer Tree.  “Most people,” she said, “would paint the entire tree.  But it was the bark itself that was a challenge, and Barb suggested that I use a ‘brick’ technique.  This simple idea, adapted for my tree, worked well.”

Roses in Art Glass, also acrylic, was done using a print DSCN2118of an original painting—the class often uses prints and photographs to stimulate the artists’ creativity.   It became Cindy’s own original work after she changed the focus and perspective, shortening the vase and adding more definition to the flowers.

DSCN2120Moonlight Bay was painted in a single day, as an exercise Cindy set for herself.  “I wanted to try an impressionistic technique,” she said, “using acrylics en plein air.”

Cindy believes that art is a personal, unique expression of creativity, which can be as simple or as complex as the individual’s vision.  She respects that diversity.

Cindy Conklin and Dorothy Cumbo will exhibit their work in a two-man show opening September 8, 2013, with a reception from 2-4 p.m. at the Owen County Art Guild, 199 West Cooper Street, Spencer, Indiana.  She can be contacted through the guild by calling 812-829-1877.

Art Works for Terry Urban

Terry UrbanTerry Urban, an iconographer who signs her work “By the Hand of Terese,” believes that the creation of art is a spiritual experience.  Spirituality is a priority for her, because her finished work will become a sacred image.  The word itself, “icon” or “eikon” (from Greek), means “image,” and in an historical sense refers to religious images painted on small wooden panels.   “Creating an icon,” Terry said, “is a prayerful, multi-step process which begins with research, and each step can take days or weeks to complete.”

Coptic Jesus, acrylic on wood and seen here with the artist, is an example of her explorations into the cultural diversity within iconography.  The Coptic faith is ancient—established by St. Mark the Evangelist in 56 AD—and its icons exhibit large-eyed, naturalistic figures.

In contrast, Terry’s icon Our Mother of Perpetual Help Our Mother of Perpetual Helpexhibits elongated figures—a more familiar Byzantine style of icons.  The fifteenth century original of this icon is housed at the neo-Gothic Church of St. Alphonus Liguori, on the Via Merulana, in Rome.

Terry was literally raised in the arts, in an apartment above her parents’ art store, and spent her free time mingling with its patrons and learning the trade within its walls.  Her interest in icons was piqued early when, as a child, she attended church with her grandmother.  “The Mass was in Latin,” she said, “and the priest spoke to his parishioners in their own language, Polish.  So, while the Mass itself was beyond my understanding, the sacred images and icons taught me.  They communicated and enthralled me.  Besides my family, I have two passions—theology and art.”

Terry holds a Master of Arts in Pastoral Theology St Therese of Lisieuxfrom St. Mary of the Woods, and threads her life with her faith in every one of her endeavors.  “St. Therese, who was known for her ‘Little Way,’ is my patron saint.  She offered every small act of her life to God, and I painted St. Therese of Lisieux to honor her.

“Icons are sometimes referred to,” Terry explained, “as windows into the sacred—they provide a visual spiritual connection.  The Apostle, St. Luke the Evangelist, is believed to be the first iconographer, and this two-thousand-year-old art form has continued to adapt to express the Living Word.  The work to create an icon combines the skills of research, drawing development, woodworking and board preparation, gilding, and painting.  Along the way, grounds—base coats—and clay must be mixed and applied.  Going back and forth from technical to fine work involves the whole person.  And, once a piece is finished, I know it is a gift and I accept it with gratitude.  The entire process ends in a prayer of thanksgiving.”

Terry’s iconography “toy box” includes compasses, scribing and ruling pens, burnishing tools, sandpaper, vodka—which removes bubbles from the clay underlayment, creating a surface for gilding—and a hammer.

She begins an icon by scoring her prepared wood to enhance the absorption of the ground.  Next, she applies cheesecloth, then homemade gesso—made of hide glue, calcium carbonate, and water—by hand, building and curing each layer.  She then sands the ground, working to a fine grit.  When she’s satisfied, she transfers her drawing and incises lines to guide her hand.  Where the icon requires gilding, she applies a red earth clay (bole) by “floating” it, and dries, sands, and burnishes the clay, preparing it for the gold leaf.  To gild, she first breathes on the clay to moisten it, then adheres the tissue-thin gold and burnishes it purposefully to create directional effects.  Finally, she can begin painting, moving from dark colors to light, layering the acrylic paint in multiple fine sheets to create the icon’s rich, inspiring colors.

“When you’re painting icons,” she said, “you work from dark—chaos—to the light, which is the Divine.  Even the final touches are laden with meaning.”

Terry’s master’s degree in theology effectively makes her a lay minister;  her talents allow her to serve in St. Therese’s “Little Way”—by providing a window to aid the faithful in seeing the Divine.  Each icon, for her, is a spiritual journey.

Terry Urban’s icons will be on exhibit with BJ Bennett’s repurposed materials sculptures, in a show entitled “The Sacred and the Profound.”  Their two-man show opens August 11, 2013, with a reception from 2-4 p.m. at the Owen County Art Guild, 199 West Cooper Street, Spencer, Indiana, and runs through September 9th.  Terry can be reached by e-mail at iconepainter@aol.com;  the guild’s phone number is  812-829-1877.

Art Works for Steve Corns

Steve Corns w:Cheyenne WarriorThe fine art of justice is one of the forces behind the work of Steve Corns.  Cheyenne Warrior, the pencil on masonite drawing shown here with the artist, is his way of honoring Native Americans and dishonoring the injustice he feels they endured.

Another powerful force behind his work is emotional.  His mother encouraged his artwork from his early childhood, by clearing the kitchen table each night, putting out drawing materials, and standing behind him to watch him work.  “She always said ‘Let’s do some art,’ but she never picked up a pencil,” he said.

Steve developed his work throughout his school years, and received the Outstanding Senior in Art award when he graduated from Owen Valley High School, in 1982.  By 1985, he began exhibiting his work and, within six years, started taking home reserve grand champion awards from the county fair—three, in all.  Today, as a member of the Owen County Art Guild’s Partners in Painting class, he continues to develop his talent and his attention to detail.

Winter Fury was done in painting class, on what Steve called a winter fury“double-dog” dare.  “Barb Bauer, my teacher,” he said, “challenged me to do a horse in full color pastels.  I took the dare, and did it in a week.”

Steve has developed his own technique for base, or ground coats, which he prefers because he likes using masonite as a work surface.  He explained that, when he uses gesso as a ground coat, it creates too slippery a surface for his preferred art mediums.  So, instead of gesso, he paints a flat latex paint—interior or exterior—onto the masonite, sometimes sanding between each of four coats to get the surface texture he prefers.  He’s used latex as a ground for the past twenty years, and reports no problems with the long-term stability of his artwork.

He started Flying Free in 1988, and three years later it won Steve flying freehis first reserve grand champion award.  His time for art became limited that year, because he’d joined Pony Express, a charitable organization devoted to helping injured children, and Terry McKnight’s Raiders, doing theatrical stagings of Old West themes, and he was also active in rodeos.  Then, when a tragic accident took his mother and younger brother in 1990, he put away his artwork forever—or so he thought.  Six months later, however, he felt his mother’s spirit pushing him to finish Flying Free.  He did, and entered it in the Owen County Fair.

Steve believes that he has a lot of his mother’s spirit stored inside him.  “She was Irish and Native American,” he said, “and I can still feel her standing behind me, watching me work.  It keeps me right, it keeps me going every day, doing my art.”

Two of the artworks by Steve Corns shown here are available for sale.  His work—including pieces on loan from private collections—is on exhibit through early August, 2013, at the Owen County Art Guild, 199 West Cooper Street, Spencer, IN  47460.  He can be reached at 812-821-5387;  the guild’s phone number is  812-829-1877.