Friday, April 27, 2007

An Afternoon Visit

When you're painting, you can't think about anything else.

I thought I'd share the progress on the iris painting; the first 2 pictures are ones I already showed in previous blogs, and the big one is the way it looks now. I'm really enjoying this one - it's not quite finished, but I'm getting close!

I didn't get much painting in yesterday; after lunch we went over to our very good friends' Ramona and Ken's for a visit. They're both teachers, and Ken was still at school but Ramona has taken the rest of the year off to recuperate from a hospital stay. They live in a wonderful old neighborhood with lots of gigantic trees and we sat on the front porch talking and drinking pineapple juice, and the afternoon was perfectly glorious, so it was a wonderful midday break for me.

At one point we walked across the street to say hello to their neighbor Edith, a 91-year-old artist. She said she didn't start painting until she was in her 50's, so she's "only" been painting for 40 years! She doesn't paint much any more because of the arthritis in her hands, but she took us on a tour of her artwork throughout the house. What a treat! I wanted to share this tidbit from Edith:
I would paint every day starting at 9:00 at night and paint until 1:00 in the morning. There was no interference; it was great! I started painting because it was great therapy. I used to sew, but when you're sewing, you can still think about all kinds of things; when you're painting, you can't think about anything else.

I hope your day is beautiful!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Living the Lyrics

Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

An absolutely beautiful morning!

Our choir theme this year is "Living the Lyrics," and one of the songs we sang last night at rehearsal was based on this prayer. We were reminded by our director that the way Jesus taught us to live our lives is diametrically opposed to almost everything our culture tells us about a successful and abundant life.

This was my meditation on my walk with Trixie early this morning: asking God to help me "live the lyrics" today. To REALLY react in love when I'm faced with hatred, to REALLY bring joy to others even when I'm sad, to REALLY forgive someone who has injured me in some way.

God has told us through Paul's letter to the Philippians 2:3-4 (from The Message) "Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand."

Wow ... does this totally go against what our "me first" culture teaches us or what? Is putting others before ourselves natural behavior for any of us? Certainly not me! I'm so grateful that the abundant and successful life God wants for me has nothing to do with material things, but goes much, much deeper, and I'm certainly glad it doesn't depend on anything I try to do on my own, but is only attainable by His grace, which anyone, ANYONE can have freely by just by accepting the gift of His Son to the world. Every day I can ask for God's help, confident that the Holy Spirit living inside me will enable me to "live the lyrics." What a priceless treasure!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Ray, Art Critic

I like to work in natural light whenever possible, which is why I hardly ever paint at night - in addition to the fact that I'm very much a morning person and my energy tends to fade a little ... ok, a lot ... as the sun goes down.

Anyway, one dreary afternoon a few days back I had my easel set up in front of our living room windows, where the light is a little better on cloudy afternoons than in our office/studio. I took a break for a walk with Trixie, and upon returning some time later I found Ray enjoying the residual warmth of my vacated chair, studying the work in progress. (I was hoping he would offer some pointers, but he was pretty close-mouthed on the subject for a change.)

I was already carrying my camera (how convenient!) and the light was so beautiful and soft I couldn't resist an impromptu photo session. I knew I probably only had about 30 seconds, tops, before Ray decided he was through posing, so I had to work fast! Snapped a couple from the doorway with the entire scene, then moved in for some close-ups. To my delight he didn't make his move until I had captured this beauty - I just had to share it with you.

Tomorrow I'll post another picture of the iris painting, it's getting close to finished I think. Meanwhile, let me introduce you to the other feline members of the household. (These are some of those rare photos I have when they're awake!)

To meet the dog, Trixie, click on April under Archives and scroll down to April 12, "One Hip Cat."

Monday, April 23, 2007


"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."
Philippians 4:4-8

Mondays are usually pretty jam-packed, but I managed to find some time to continue work on these irises. I'm really pleased with the way this one is coming along.

These particular irises, which are growing in my neighbor Penny's FABULOUS front garden, have a really sweet history which she shared with me one afternoon as I was admiring the blossoms. I plan to share that story when I post the final painting.

Meanwhile, I hope you find this painting's progress interesting and enjoyable!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Another Beginning

Here's the underpainting for the third of my "Neighborhood Paintings." I wanted these irises to be large and dramatic, so I chose a 16 x 20 art board. I like to work from dark to light, so this first stage will tend to be rather dark. I think it's a good beginning, considering I didn't start painting really until later in the day.

Today (Saturday) I had every good intention of starting early, and I hit the ground running (after sleeping an hour later than usual) at 7:30 this morning, got dressed, kissed my still slumbering husband, drank some o.j., fed the cats, took Trixie for our morning walk and upon returning made some coffee, dragged my easel to my favorite spot in in front of the windows, sketched the outline of the new painting onto the board, and then promptly engaged in about four hours of what we artists fondly refer to as "avoidance activity."

I went into the living room to retrieve my reading (and painting) glasses, and it suddenly hit me that the coffee table, which has been in the same sorry state of chaos since roughly Valentine's day, could not wait one more second before being restored to order. Cleaning off the coffee table also included going through a stack of Country Living, Country Home and Cottage Living magazines and cutting out pages I wanted to keep before throwing them away ...

As I was sitting down to prepare my palette, it occurred to me that since I was about to use my fourth-to-last art board, and I only had a tube and a half of Titanium White left, I'd better order art supplies right away, which meant sitting down at the computer and of course while I was at it I might as well check my email, read a blog or two, check the bank balance, pay a couple of bills ...

So now it's time for lunch, another outing with Trixie, and an in-depth discussion with my husband about what items we might need at Target since he's going there anyway to pick up a prescription. Then a phone conversation with my brother. Then a quick walk a couple of houses down to my neighbor Penny's house to refresh my memory with a look at the irises in real life again, even though I had seen them at least four times a day every day for the past three weeks.

And FINALLY sitting down to paint, I look at the time and it's 2:30.

It's pretty much the same thing with every new painting. Why do I do this? I love to paint. God has given me great joy in this work. When I have other things I'm obligated to do, I can hardly wait until painting time is here. And thinking about doing a new piece is really exciting to me, so why on earth do I delay each new beginning? After all these years it's still a big mystery to me. At least with practice and the good Lord's help I've whittled the avoidance time from weeks down to hours. That's something I guess!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Go Bobcats!

Just wanted to show you all what I did today during my painting time. This is the cover art for next year's school planners at Burcham elementary and middle school in Long Beach, CA, where two of my nephews go to school. My sister (PTA President) drew the bobcat and designed the cover, and I transformed it into vector art in Adobe Illustrator for her.

And here's a picture of my 3 California nephews, blazing a trail during a family camping trip:

This picture is several years old - this July they will turn 15, 12 and 10 ... whew! the time, how she do fly by!

In the morning I'll start on another of my "Neighborhood Paintings" - tune in tomorrow to see what it will be ... the suspense is killing you, I can tell!


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Avery and Jazz

"Avery and Jazz" © 2007 Karen Mathison Schmidt
12x12 • acrylic on 3/4" cradled gessobord • SOLD

I posted progress photos of this painting a few days ago; here it is finished!

Several weeks ago my friend Andrea commissioned me to take photos of her son, herself and her mom, in various combinations. Of course, being 7, Avery wasn't really into the photo shoot; it was next to impossible to get him to sit in any one spot for more than about 4 seconds, and even harder to get a natural expression out of him. (From experience I know that it takes about a thousand clicks of the shutter to get 2 or 3 really good shots of a kid or a pet - thank goodness for digital!)

At one point I got Avery to sit looking out the window and tell me all the things he could see out in the back yard.
Me: What do you see out there?
Avery: ummm...
Me (clicking away): Is there an elephant out there?
Avery (very matter-of-fact): No.
Me: Hmmm ... he must have gone home to eat lunch. Is the giraffe still out there?
Avery (laughing): No-ho-ho-ho!

Then, just for a second, he stopped talking and was just looking, and their cat, Jazz, hopped up behind Avery and was looking in the exact same direction. It was the kind of moment a photographer dreams of – a real gift! I snapped the picture and I knew I had a gem. Out of an hour long photo session, this turned out to be everyone's favorite. Later, looking at the photos on my computer, I knew I had to paint this one. I've been trying to build up my portrait painting portfolio (wow - say that 3 times real fast!) so I have more to show potential clients.

The big challenge for me in painting a portrait is to end up with a good likeness without trying to control the outcome too much. It's kind of like a creative tightrope walking act, trying constantly to keep that balance. And of course I want to be true to my own style, seeing as how that might be a reason that a person chooses me over another portrait artist.

I have a tendency to be very detail-oriented in my work, which is a plus in my graphic design job, but which I have to fight against in my painting in order to keep my brushstrokes loose and painterly. Somewhere in my past (it could have been in an art class or something I read) I heard that the less information the artist provides in a painting, the more the audience has to fill in from their own experience and memories, so a less detailed work can seem very personal and familiar, even when you're seeing it for the very first time. This might explain the extreme popularity of impressionistic art.

Well, boys and girls, that concludes our art class for today. In closing, I would like to say one more thing: it was really fun painting the cat!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Love One Another

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."
Matthew 5:4

"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.
Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God."
I John 4:7

Last night Maggie Stiefvater reminded us on her Greywaren Art blog to pray for and reach out to the families affected by the shootings at Virginia Tech yesterday. Please take some time today to join us in lifting them up, and ask God to show you how you can reach out in love to a friend or neighbor close to you who may be hurting or going through a hard time.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Lighthouse

"The Lighthouse" © 2007 Karen Mathison Schmidt
16x20 • acrylic on 3/4" cradled gessobord • commission

A beautiful, VERY busy Monday. I used my painting time today to finish this one, a commisioned illustration for a poster to be used by the Celebrate Recovery group at our church.

The water on this one was fun to do - lots of lost and found edges in this painting. I tried to evoke a feeling of danger and chaos outside, as opposed to the safety and comfort inside the house (built upon the Solid Rock!), indicated by the light pouring out through the windows.

Tomorrow I plan to finish, or at least get close to finishing the portrait of the little boy I showed in Saturday's post.

Sweet dreams, everyone!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

A Day Well Spent

Well, amongst various other activities, I had time to make a really good start on this today. Actually, I started on it Thursday, but didn't take start taking photos until part way through today's session.

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that my husband is, among other things, a comedian. Guess who's responsible for the bunny ears behind the painting in the first progress photo above.

Well, folks, I hate to cut this short but the king of comedy and I have a movie to finish watching. We're in the middle of Stranger Than Fiction starring Will Ferrell and Emma Thompson among others, and we are having an intermission to make popcorn and so I could quickly get this posted -- so far we're both enjoying the movie immensely.

Have a wonderful Sunday, and I'll be back with a new post on Monday!


"Ray of Sunshine" ©2006 Karen Mathison Schmidt
14 x 11 • oil on board • not for sale

I love Saturday! So much potential! As usual lately, today is jam packed with projects and chores, but with the added perk of no deadline pressure, making said projects and chores much more enjoyable, with plenty of built-in goof off time.

I plan to do more work on the little boy's portrait I mentioned in Thursday's post -- maybe I'll post it later this evening. Meanwhile, here's my portrait of our cat, Ray, working hard at soaking up the the sunshine pouring in through one of my office/studio windows.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

One Hip Cat

"One Hip Cat" ©2006 Karen Mathison Schmidt
16x20 • oil on board • so not for sale

I started on a sweet new portrait today, but I don't want to post it until I get permission from the child's mom. So instead, I thought I would treat you to this glimpse of my husband in one of his more reflective moods.

This is from a portrait session we did sometime back before Christmas. During the photo-taking, our dog Trixie was just beside herself that, for once, it wasn't all about her. Afterward we all took part in a rousing game of "Gimme That Duck" with one of her favorite toys. I guess it's all about the dog most of the time after all.

So anyway, this is Paul: musician, composer, artist, comedian, cartoonist, breakfast chef, love of my life, a heck of a back porch barbecue-er, and one hip cat.

And this is Trixie:

That thing at her feet is the "duck." While we were at church one Sunday morning, Trixie pulled the head off and spent a joyful hour or so pulling all the stuffing out and arranging it creatively all around the living room, but if you look real close you can still see 2 little gray duck feet sticking out of the middle. She loves this thing. I guess old friends are the best!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Walk Into Spring - Epilogue

Pear Trees on Ockley - The Final Chapter

"Walk Into Spring" © 2007 Karen Mathison Schmidt
16 x 20 • acrylic on 3/4" cradled gessobord • sides painted dark brown
The cradled back allows for hanging flush against the wall
Gloss varnish for protection and ease of cleaning • sold unframed

To start at the beginning, scroll down to the third entry below this one and work your way up. The previous three entries are taken from my art journal during the making of this painting. Thought you might enjoy seeing the process - maybe you artists can identify with my frustrations and/or triumphs - please let me hear your comments!

I took the reference photos for this several weeks ago on a late afternoon walk, just as the pear trees were coming into bloom. A couple of times during the painting of it, I walked over to the place to study the shadows and street color in real life.

After living with the signed painting for a day or so, I decided the color in the shadows needed a little more dimension to further distinguish the foreground from the sunny distance. Ooo, there’s something about that phrase I really like, “The Sunny Distance.” Not a bad name for a band, maybe. Anyway, I added a glaze of reddish magenta to the grassy areas in the foreground, making the bluish areas more purplish, complementary to the yellow areas in the distance. The sunny distance. The result is that said sunny areas look ... well ... sunnier! The painting looks a lot more balanced to me now -- thanks to my studies in The Yin/Yang of Painting (Zhang and Woolley, 2000)

I used mostly brushwork on the distance, and brushes and painting knives on the foreground parts. I finished the painting with a glossy clear acrylic varnish for protection and easy cleaning. Here's a detail:

Walk Into Spring - Episode III

Pear Trees on Ockley - The Artist Strikes Back!

Even if I plan to work on only a very specific section of any particular painting in a session, I always work with the full range of colors I've chosen for a particular painting on my palette. (An exception to this is when I’m working on my underpainting. Once I decide what my ground colors will be, I work with a very limited palette until I’m ready to begin the next phase.) Working with a full range every time leaves me free to paint “in the moment” when I see (and believe me, I always do!) something else in the painting I want to do “right this second.” Today, for instance, I knew I wanted to work mainly on the shadows and light patterns in the foreground (the bottom half of the painting), but suddenly I took a break from that to do a little finishing work on the top half. Then a deep breath as I plunged once more into the shadows. A sigh of relief. The foreground began looking a lot less creepy, a little more interesting and inviting. At first it was starting to look a little too controlled, but I loosened up the foreground a bit, and now I think it's almost finished. Lesson learned: perseverance pays off (most times)!

Walk Into Spring - Episode II

Pear Trees on Ockley - Revenge of the Shadows

"... we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us."
Romans 5:3-5

Today was my “I’m going to pull my hair out over these stupid shadows!” day. I really don’t like the painting right now. I know from past experience chances are that if I persevere through this phase I’ll come out on the other side the better for it, and with at least a perfectly ok painting. The source of my frustration? In a nutshell, making art. (Paradoxically also one of my greatest joys.) More particularly, the shadows in the foreground are getting kind of creepy looking, which is definitely NOT what I was going for. In a moment of weakness I thought about giving up and passing it off as part of the Yin Yang of the painting – you know, the balance between the creepiness of the shadows and the friendliness of the sidewalk beyond. Only a passing thought. My husband says “sometimes making art is like sticking a knife in your head.” Today that is the case. But never fear, gentle reader, tomorrow (hopefully) I shall move forward, bending the creepy shadows to my will.

Walk Into Spring - Episode I

Pear Trees on Ockley - The Adventure Begins

I started on the pear trees painting today. One of the things I read somewhere recently that has helped me most: in almost all paintings from life, the first thing you see should be the last thing you paint! Keeping this in the front of my mind helps me from getting caught up in painting details too early.

On this painting, though, I decided to get the treetops mostly finished before starting on the shadowy part in the foreground, because painting the trees is what I’m most apprehensive about in this painting. I just looked up “apprehensive” – it means “anxious or fearful that something bad or unpleasant will happen.” Yep, that’s the feeling I have about trying to get the trees right. So if I tackle that first, the rest of the painting should be a breeze, right?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Life Is Tough

It's a chilly, wonderfully drizzly day today. It feels quite cozy to be sitting here working, occasionally sipping my French vanilla flavored coffee. So much to be grateful for.
This is Bailey's preferred activity on a day like today:

Wait a second ... come to think of it. this is her preferred activity every day.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

In the Morning

"Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning;
For I trust in You;
Teach me the way in which I should walk;
For to You I lift up my soul."
– Psalm 143:8

“In the Morning” ©2007 Karen Mathison Schmidt
12 x 12 • acrylic on 3/4" cradled gessobord • sides painted dark brown
The cradled back allows for hanging flush against the wall
Gloss varnish for protection and ease of cleaning • sold unframed
CLICK HERE to bid!

I hope everyone had a happy and blessed Easter!

I actually finished this painting some time ago, but I just finished varnishing it and painting the sides. Our dog Trixie and I have a standing appointment for a long walk first thing in the morning (6:30-ish), again around 11:00 am, and again around 3:30 on weekdays. It's actually in my day planner. If I'm "in the zone" and work just a few minutes past the appointed time, she'll sit and drill a hole in my head with her stare until I snap out of it. Sometimes I forget to eat lunch, but Trixie won't let me forget our walk! We go, no matter what the weather (although sometimes we cut the walk a little shorter if it's absolutely freezing, and on rainy days we adjust the times to take advantage of breaks in the weather - we're both pretty flexible that way). I love our walks - after a few hours of concentrated creativity it's good to get up and out for a breather!

Well, I had the idea a few weeks ago of doing a series of paintings of what we see on these outings. The Neighborhood Paintings. I thought it would be a good exercise in paying attention. I set myself a goal of 20 paintings for the series, and so far the ideas are coming WAY faster than I ever expected!

This oak tree is one of many on the rolling front lawn of the church in the next block. I took the reference photos one chilly morning in March, just after dawn. The trees in the distance, over the edge of the hill, really did look all blue and misty like this, although somewhere in the development of the painting the lawn became a little bayou with grassy banks. (Over the years I've come to accept and look forward to the fact that sometimes, in spite of all my planning and studies and sketches, a painting just goes off and be's what it wants to be - it's kind of cool, actually - like a surprise gift someone gives you for no particular reason.)

I used brushes and painting knives on this one. I think I may have used my thumbnail and the paint rag once or twice. It has lots of layers of glazed colors, and interesting texture and abstract elements when viewed up close. I used a gloss acrylic varnish for protection and easy cleaning. Below is the monochromatic underpainting, and a close up detail of the finished work.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Ready or not ...

Well, here it is, the moment you've all been waiting for. I've had my name registered for a while now, but I just now finished my profile (thanks, all of you who keep checking back to see if I've written anything yet!) and I'm dead tired. But tomorrow, April 6 was my personal deadline for starting this blog, and I figure why wait until the last minute?
So now that I've officially started I can rest easy, and I promise I will start posting photos of my daily painting progress by Monday at the latest. I say daily progress instead of daily painting because lately I like to work big – 12x12 at the smallest and usually 16x20 or larger, and it would be really hard to finish a painting to my satisfaction in one day. At 2-3 hours of studio time a day it usually takes about 3-5 days to finish one. And after I live with the "finished" piece a day or two, I almost always see some last little adjustment I want to make and THEN I varnish. I hope it turns out to be interesting to see the process, each piece a new demonstration.
In the days ahead I'll tell about where the name Edgewood came from, and about my personal history with art.
And now I must go and join my very patient husband on the sofa for a little tv watching with a bowl of popcorn on the side. Please check back with me and keep me accountable for this daily blog thing!