Friday, August 31, 2012

Thinking outside the box

This may look like an ordinary air register.

In reality it’s a DCS (Dog Cooling Station).

When we got these antique-style covers for the downstairs air registers, we had our choice of drop-in or screw-down styles. I tend towards “just in case” type thinking, and even though I couldn’t think of a reason we would ever want or need to remove the covers – apart from my wedding ring dropping off my finger just as I was passing by one of them and it rolling to one of the few holes in the cover big enough for it to drop in – just in case we ever had to remove the covers to get to the ducts, lifting off the drop-in-cover would be a whole lot easier than unscrewing the screw-down cover.

So we settled on the drop-in style.

Fast forward three years. When Roadie first came to be part of our family, he quickly discovered that lying with his paws on top of the register when he came inside from playing on really hot days made him nice and cool.

Fast forward one more year. This is Roadie’s latest thing. Now that he’s bigger and stronger he’s made the brilliant discovery that he can hook his claws into the holes of the heavy cover and get just enough grip to lift the edge and slide it over, thereby eliminating any barrier between his feet and the cool air coming up out of the duct.

When I want a cool break on a hot muggy day, I just kick off my sandals and stand on top of the cover with bare feet for a minute or two. Silly, conventional me.

Leave it to Roadie to think outside the box.

Now if only I can train him to put the cover back when he’s done.

I’ll keep you posted on how that works out.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Peaceable Household

Thanks, everyone, for checking in on us ... Today was not quite as bad as they were predicting. It was windy last night, just blowing a few branches down from the trees and then all day today has been a steady, breezy rain. It looks from the weather map that we got away with being just on the western edge of all the bad storminess, but our neighbors to the east in Mississippi and later in the day to the north in Arkansas got pretty slammed.

Things have been pretty quiet around here today, and while we’re thankful to have been spared the worst part of the storm, we still keep our neighbors in our prayers.

The steady, all-day rain has been quite conducive to peaceful napping:

Roadie, our Catahoula/ Great Dane mix, now 103 pounds and still growing, is still clinging to the notion that he can comfortably nestle into the same chair he claimed as his favorite napping place about 45 pounds ago.

When I looked out the living room window to the front porch, I saw our Moustachio curled up beside the desert plants I had brought up off the patio to shelter them from the rainy day. I knew that as soon as I stepped out the front door to get this pic, he would wake and run to me thinking I might be putting a snack in his dish. And I REALLY wanted this photo, so I sneaked out the kitchen door and walked stealthily around the house – in the rain, I might add (without an umbrella because the sound of the rain hitting it might awaken our slumbering subject; I sheltered my camera under my shirt) – slipped silently up the steps to the front porch, took several shots with my camera on silent, and then stole quietly away, back the way I came, so as not to disturb the rainy day napper. 

That’s just how dedicated I am to capturing a good pic. And to letting sleeping cats lie.

Even Trixie put down her clipboard, Official Rule Book (pocket edition), and hall monitor badge long enough to catch a few rainy afternoon ZZZ’s.

Battening down the hatches

I’m trying out blogging from my phone; not sure quite how the picture will load. It's an experiment, so we'll see how it goes!

I just got through bringing in the cushions and pillows from the front porch chairs so they won't get soaked later tonight in case we start getting the heavy wind and rain predicted for our area from now-tropical-storm Isaac. It's already really windy but no rain yet.

My thoughts and prayers are with those of you down south of us who have already been dealing with the storm today (which also just happens to be the 7th anniversary of devastating Hurricane Katrina).

I found out tonight that a friend is going with a volunteer disaster relief team tomorrow to help cook meals for storm victims who have evacuated to shelters, and that a lot of our local military and National Guard personnel were dispatched today to help rescue people in flooded Plaquemines Parish. Tonight we're praying for all of those putting themselves in harm’s way to get stranded residents to safety.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Time Out!

Hey there!  Just a quick post to let you all know I've been taking a few days to do an overhaul of my website. I'll be back with the big reveal and a new Colorado road trip painting on Saturday.

Thanks for checking in ...

Happy painting!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Iris update ...

I must have flowers, always, and always.

Wild Bunch • 30 x 24 inches • WORK IN PROGRESS

Here’s where I am on the painting of purple irises I’ve been working on. Lots of intricate detail in this composition. Because of the size of this one, the challenge is to be able to focus on the details while at the same time keeping my eye on the overall composition. Lots of stopping and stepping back at this stage!


Man, this one fairly FLEW out of my eBay store! I listed it last night and this morning it was outta there! Except for the time someone bought one of my works-in-progress while it was still on the easel, this is a new personal record. (That one was a dog painting, too, the first in my Napscape series) I’m very excited and grateful! 


Ensconced III: Buster  © 2012 Karen Mathison Schmidt, artist
6 x 6 inches • acrylic on archival, museum-quality GessobordTM

private collection • Elk Grove Village, Illinois

And, as promised, here are the work-in-progress photos. (Just a technical note: when working with acrylics, an indispensable tool is a small spray bottle of water, with a misting spray setting, and I spritz my palette once every few minutes or so. Not enough to water them down, but just enough to keep them nice and buttery. My palette for this painting: Mars black, dioxanine purple, Prussian blue, King’s blue deep, phthalo blue, emerald green extra, Hooker’s green, cadmium yellow light, cadmium orange, naphthol red, quinacrodone fuchsia, yellow ochre light, yellow ochre, raw umber, burnt umber, and titanium white.)

First, the sketch in black acrylic and washes. Very watercolor-y.

Next, I chose phthalo blue and Prussian blue for the underpainting glazes. For the glazes I use Liquitex gloss medium, or sometimes matte medium, mixed with my acrylics. I used burnt umber for the underpainting of Buster’s golden brown eyes.

After the underpainting was dry (less than the time it took to go and refresh my coffee ... love those fast-drying acrylics!), I started with Buster’s eyes as usual. I’ve said it before that when I’m painting a pet or a person I love starting with the eyes because that brings the painting to life right away ... just my personal preference. And assuming that your subject is awake and not napping, as in about half my pet portraits!

Continuing with the face, using warm and cool colors as well as lightness or darkness of hues, to define form with shadows and highlights, keeping the brushstrokes nice and loose. Sometimes adding just one or two strokes of a color before washing and reloading with a different color. It doesn’t take as long as you would think once you get a rhythm going.

Even though I’m developing a rhythm of checking my reference and adding paint, I try to constantly be aware of the serendipity of my process. In other words, when when you notice that something looks really cool, even though it may not be exactly technically photographically correct, LEAVE IT ALONE! (remember, you can always change it later if you want, but once you paint over those striking hues of the underpainting, it’s hard to get that vividness back.) For example, at this point I really liked the way the vivid blue underpainting was showing through on his ears and in little points all over where my colors weren’t quite touching, so I left it that way. Creativity and perfectionism hardly ever go walking hand in hand. (God may be the only exception to this rule.)

Here I left messing around with Buster and started adding some of the surrounding colors and textures, like the red blanket peeking out from under the lighter-colored fringed edge of the throw.

One of the hardent things about acrylics is the fast drying time, but it’s also one of the best things. It makes it easier to add little dots and dabs of color on top of one another to create texture, as you can see with the part of the woven throw in the top left corner of the painting, in this picture and the one below. I was careful not to overdo the layering, though. keeping it loose with a good amount of the underpainting showing through helped to keep that loose-woven look of the fabric.

During this stage, I was going back and forth between the background fabrics and Buster himself, making some of his highlights lighter, and generally adding more dimensions of color, always keeping it loose, being careful not to over-finish.

Here in the final picture, you can see that I continued with the dots and dabs of color on the throw, and added color to the multicolor strands making up the fringe. I also lightened up the throw right behind the top of Buster’s head, and added a few little dabs of soft highlights and points of color in the shadowy area just to the left of his head in the painting (just beside his right ear). 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A dog in a million

 ... but then again, isn’t everyone’s?


Ensconced III: Buster  © 2012 Karen Mathison Schmidt, artist
6 x 6 inches • acrylic on archival, museum-quality GessobordTM

private collection • Elk Grove Village, Illinois

Here’s Buster, ensconced in one of his approximately one dozen select napping places in and around our house. This one happens to be one of the shabby (not shabby chic, just shabby) antique chairs in the parlor, covered with comfy blankets and the colorful throw Paul’s parents gave us last Christmas.

This was so much FUN to paint, with Buster’s always-soulful (I wonder what he’s thinking) expression, the soft highlights from the indirect afternoon sunlight from the bay window on his coat, and the nubbly texture of the fringed multicolor throw draped over the arm and back of that comfy old chair.

Check back tomorrow for work-in-progress photos!

Friday, August 17, 2012

In progress ...

Ensconced III: Buster WORK-IN-PROGRESS

I’ve had a lot of irons in the fire this week, including a large Colorado landscape, but here’s where I am on this one today. I love painting our Redbones on an underpainting of deep blues and turquoises. I’m planning to get this one finished tomorrow, Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Serious Artists

Ensconced III: Buster  •  WORK IN PROGRESS

Today while I was researching some art products for a friend whose nine-year-old daughter wants to start learning how to paint, I ran across a customer review for a line of paints on an art supply website in which the writer implied (none-too-subtly, I might add) that serious artists do not do paintings which are smaller than three feet in any direction, and they do not paint dogs.

Oh ... REALLY?

I had a hearty laugh, and then this afternoon, in defiance, I did this sketch for a new 6 x 6 (inches, not feet!) painting of Buster.

Our dog.

And I’m pretty serious about it, too. Well, serious AND joyful!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Summer road trip continues ...

I Love a Road Trip No. 2

Mountain Lavender  © 2012 Karen Mathison Schmidt, artist
12 x 12 x 7/8 inches • oil on archival, museum quality cradled GessobordTM

gloss varnish for UV protection • cradling allows for hanging flush against the wall
sides painted dark umber • can be beautifully displayed with or without a frame

auction ends August 19

Driving through northern New Mexico into southern Colorado, I kept seeing painting after painting flashing through my imagination. I love these picturesque clusters of ranch buildings looking so tiny in the distance, nestled in the foothills of the Rockies. This particular ranch was surrounded by miles of wild lavender and other flowers blooming at the height of summer.

And now, back to watching the Olympics with my husband, surrounded by various and sundry sleepy dogs. 

Later, taters!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Wild irises work-in-progress ...

I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.


I do not think I have ever seen anything more beautiful 
than the bluebell I have been looking at.  
I know the beauty of our Lord by it.


Not yet titled • 30 x 24 inches • WORK IN PROGRESS

I’ve been working on this intricate, wild bunch of irises today. (Where the word “bluebell” appears in the Gerard Manley Hopkins quote, I could insert “iris” ... or for that matter, just about any flower in creation!)

My favorite color of the moment is 
Old Holland New Masters “King’s Blue Deep.” 

So soft and pretty with the surrounding cool yellows.

Happy painting!