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The drawings behind the paintings

For the paintings in my exhibit at SECCA, “I must love you very much” I did a bit more planning than I normally do. To be honest, I don’t typically plan my paintings, but for these paintings I did have a specific feeling that I wanted. I liked the idea of making a group of paintings big enough to surround viewers such as Monet’s “Water-Lilies.” Some of his water lily paintings were mural sized works that filled specially made rooms at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris.
I’ve been obsessed with Pilot Mountain for a couple of years, and have made a lot of paintings inspired by the place, but they were smaller works. For this project, I wanted to make paintings so big that a person looking at them would have the feeling of being transported to Pilot Mountain. While I’m not interested in creating a photo-realistic image of the place, I am interested in evoking the myriad sensations we feel when we are there.
To determine the size of the paintings, I measured the space I had available for my exhibit at the museum. I planned to make the paintings as large as I could make them while still leaving a bit of white space – or breathing room – around each one. I made four paintings, one for each wall.
After determining their size and taking reference photos on some hikes, I made preliminary watercolor drawings to loosely plan out the composition for each of the four paintings. I used a photo as the first point of reference, then reinterpreted the image by looking for the essential shapes that I would use in my paintings. As I worked on the large paintings, I referred to these drawings as a sort of map to give structure to my paintings. These are those drawings:
 

Want to see how I made these paintings? Check out this time-lapse video I made documenting the process.

Morning Walks

I walk in the mornings after bringing Noah to school. I look, listen, breathe. I take in the shapes of light and shadow, the myriad greens, the pinks, violets, reds, birdsong, my favorite wind chime. I get as close as I can to birds before they fly away, try to get close enough to see their tiny chests moving with their breath. I look up at the big sky, taking in the sunlight-filled blues, the racing clouds, or the broad plush grays. My morning walks are one of my favorite parts of my day. Moving, feeling the cold or warm air on my face, thinking, sometimes even figuring things out! I take the light, shapes, colors, sounds, smells, back to my studio. I’ll keep trying to filter all of these experiences into my painting.

A hike on Pilot Mountain

A couple of weekends ago, my husband and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary by hiking at our beloved Pilot Mountain. The state park is located thirty minutes North-West of Winston Salem. We enjoy hiking there year-round and camping there in the shoulder season.  This mountain is my current obsession and the inspiration for the series of paintings I’m working on. Between the rock, trees, sky, earth, air, and birdsong, Pilot Mountain is IT. I’ll share with you a little bit of the Ledge Spring trail in the video below. Enjoy!

My outdoor oil painting kit

I made this pochade box to use for plein air oil painting over 15 years ago and it’s still going strong. To give you a bit of background, a pochade box is traditionally made of wood, has a hinged lid that acts as an easel, a storage box to hold your supplies, and holds a palette. The concept of plein air painting started in the time of the French Impressionists who painted outdoors with the help of the cutting edge tube paints that became readily available in the 19th century. Before paint in tubes, painting outdoors was unwieldy. So here we go: I’ll share with you my kit for painting outside with oil paint.

Looking for more tips for artists? Check out some of my blog posts below:

How to pack a travel watercolor and drawing kit

Timelapse showing how I pack my plein air painting kit

11 Things athletes do that will make you a better artist

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