Sunday, May 25, 2014

30 Sunrises in 30 Days

In Search of Essence:

My experience this week with my sunrise paintings has been quite joy filled and enlightening. It is a strange feeling when you are doing something, yet you are so thankful to be doing it that you are really not aware that you are doing it.  "Say what?"  Kelli you need to stop inhaling so many paint fumes! 

 I'll leave the expression of this idea to Nietzsche, 
"The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude." 

This is where it should begin my friends. Believe me when I tell you that the whole world will open up to you, you will see everything as if for the first time, you will paint as if you have never painted before. Whatever complacency I was feeling, whatever I was taking for granted over the last few months is gone. It has reinvigorated my whole life and everything has become new again. This feels soooo good that I don't even care what the painting looks like when it's complete.  I don't care who likes it, who buys it, what it gets me. The reward is in the experience for me.  FREEDOM!!!  (I know I will become unbearable to be around now- ha ha)

Having gone to art school, I too, have had the fundamentals hammered home: judging values, color mixing, color theory, composition, etc.  And of course we have to understand the tools in which we need to communicate visually and I am grateful for the skill set I have been able to develop over the last 6 years.  However, I feel that sometimes the ART can get lost if this is all you are focusing on.  The Magic can get lost somewhere in the least it has happened to me time and time again.  So I believe #1 priority even if your just doing a sketch is Essence. 

Essence:  the attribute or set of attributes that make an entity or substance what it fundamentally is, and which it has by necessity, and without which it loses its identity. Or the is-ness of something.

I noticed this week when I would go out to paint these sunsets, knowing that I had very little time before things would change that I would just observe- soak up the scene- for a few minutes, ignoring the anxious feeling of time passing and the possibility for it to change and never come back.  I realized that I was just being open and trying to feel what I was seeing. Rather than just busting out the paints and going for it in a mad dash, I needed to get the feeling and have it clear what it was that I wanted to capture.  Is it slow, calm and peaceful? Is it fleeting, swooshing, and bold?  Is it heavenly illumination?  Now how do I communicate that with the color, values, brushstrokes?  Below are my attempts at capturing the essence from this week. 

Thank you so much for reading, looking, encouraging and supporting me.

Have a great-essence filled- week!
Kelli Folsom

Sunrise #7

Sunrise #8
Sunrise #9

Sunrise #10

Photo of the glorious scene!

My Sienna Pochade :) I love it! 

Sunrise #11

Sunrise #12
Sunrise #13
*** On the technical side of things, I have learned a lot about grays this week and how they can help the saturated colors look much more brilliant.  My favorite gray mixes are burnt umber/ultramarine/magenta/white.  If you want the yellow to stand out more, make it a de-saturated violet gray. Orange is your bright, a blue-gray will work nicely.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

30 Sunrises in 30 Days

A couple of weeks ago I discoved that  I would make it to the balcony of my apartment coffee in hand to see an amazing sky, birds chirping and a nice cool spring breeze blowing on my skin. No one quite up yet in this sprawl yet congested city and I realized this is really an important moment and I am missing it. At the same time I kept talking about getting up and painting the sun rising behind this Greek Orthodox Temple (pictured in the previous blog) that I drive by almost know how that goes, talking about doing something and never actually doing it.  So the two ideas mingled and I finally did it and you know was great!!!  What refreshing peace and joy came over me actually witnessing this event with only the birds to keep me company and I get to experience it by doing my favorite thing- painting.  I felt like I had been given nature's greatest gifts and it's free if I will only get out of bed and witness it.  

So I am doing this challenge for myself, 30 sunrises in 30 days - nothing forced, no ulterior motives.....just inner peace, feeling good, gratitude that fills my heart for the rest of the day, light and expanded.  Whatever comes from this practice comes, I have no expectations...just open to receive every morning.  I just show up and push some paint around trying to capture the beautiful moment before me.

This poem from Rumi serendipitously showed up the day before I did the first sunrise painting.  "The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don't go back to sleep" 

I will blogging about my experiences with the practice here once a week.  I hope they are of some use and inspiration to you.  Please feel free to comment, share or purchase :) 

All the Best, Kelli Folsom


Sunrise 1


I found this spot driving around on the outskirts of Oklahoma City. Usually what determines my spot is how late did I get up and how much time do I have left before the sun starts peeking over the horizon.  Sometimes, I will get shots of the actual location like this one.  Palette: Cad Yellow Light, Ultramarine Blue, Cad Scarlet, Raw Umber & Flemish White.

Sunrise 1
Oil on Panel


Sunrise 2

Here is the second sunrise completed. This one was a little baby one as I had to go teach a class later on that morning.  The sky was particularly amazing and so I wanted to focus mostly on capturing that and just suggest the large shapes of the ground plane.  Palette:  Cad Lemon, Cad Red Light, Prussian Blue, Black, Flemish White.
Sunrise 2
Oil on Panel

Sunrise 3

So, this is not a sunrise and technically I'm not counting it- ha ha.  When I got to the spot, while getting my things out of the car I looked to the west and well the colors were so much more interesting so I wound up painting this .... moon set instead of a sunrise.  The nuance of color in the scene was so spectacular I couldn't help but paint it instead. Palette:  Cad yellow light, Cad scarlet, alizarin crimson, ultramarine, raw umber, Flemish white.
9" x 12"
Oil on Panel


Sunrise 4

Mostly clouds on this morning, but with the most vivid bursts of yellow-orange light you've ever seen.  I love the backlighting of this jumbling mass of brush and tree in front of the sky.  I think I will try this scene another morning as I think there is more to discover here.  Palette: Cad yellow light, cad scarlet, Windsor blue, burnt umber, Flemish white.
Sunrise 4
9"x 12"
Oil on Panel


Sunrise 5 & 6


 These are my favorite's so far!  The sky was so great this morning and so was this rural farmland I found to pull over at.  I actually painted the second one first. I was in such a frenzy to try to capture all of the great colors and movement in the sky before it went away. I loved the moment when the sun peeked from behind that cloud in an intense yellow orange- So beautiful.  So this was the same scene and after analyzing my first composition and how the sky had mellowed a little bit as the sun rose higher, I decided to skootch the bigger trees over to the right and simplify the ground plane. I love the activity of the bottom painting, but also the quieter approach of the top.  Palette: Cad yellow light, cad scarlet, Windsor blue, burnt umber, Flemish white.

Sunrises 5 & 6
Oil on Panel


Speedball Gessoboard
Synthetic Flats- the biggest sizes I can use
Windsor & Newton Paints ( I generally always use a limited primary palette with an umber or black and white)
Medium: Old Masters Maroger
Sienna Pochade 
Viva, Trash bag & Folgers Coffee :)

You can visit my website to view gallery work or to sign up for updates about classes & workshops. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

What's Your Why?

Sunrise & Cathedral
Oil on Panel - 8"x10"
60 minute landscape study

Two topics have been roaming around in my head these technical, one philosophical.  So I'll start with the philosophical question that I think all artists have to ask themselves, "What is my why?".  For me this is very important. As an artist who is trying to make it professionally there can sometimes be a lot of distractions:  sales, shows, teaching, facebook likes, blog on and so forth.  When I'm sitting at the easel I've got to let all of that go. I have to have the freedom to try something new, to experiment, to explore without regard for where it will end up or who will like it or who won't. After all, this is why I loved creating in the first place.  I've heard it said that we do everything for the Self and I can see where that is true.  Sometimes selfishness gets a bad rap, but as artists I think we are honor bound to be selfish.  To paint what only charges us up because in that we are being completely sincere - we feel so good, we indulge, we dig deep, we submit, we persevere. I believe it's those desires and feelings that resonate with a prospective viewer.  I always know when I am operating in this state because I feel right, at peace and totally engaged and connected to the world around me.  This feeling is my why.   Included in this post are studies/sketches that will never wind up in a gallery or competition, but are a necessary part of artistic growth and because of that are probably closest to my heart.    

Route 66 Farm
Oil on Panel - 12"x9" -
 60-90 minute landscape study

Now for the technical!  I had a question today about how can I paint so fast. My answer at first was: lots of bad paintings, talking to yourself and doing demonstrations while teaching. There are  a couple other ways that you can learn to paint faster and one is paint faster! Ha ha, but seriously you have to set a time 20 minutes, 60 minutes, etc.  The examples given here, I have no choice but to work fast. The model only took that pose for 20 minutes, the sun and clouds are going to totally be different in 30-60 minutes. So I automatically have to prioritize: big to little and paint with as much concentration as I can muster.  However, I think there is another aspect that will help you paint quicker and that is building your visual memory.  For instance, the painting at the top: Sunrise & Cathedral, is a site that is close to my house and I have seen the sun rising and the sun setting behind it on a regular basis. Yesterday morning, I got up before the sunrise and went and parked at this site with the intention of just watching the blessed event and do some writing. Over the next 24 hours I just kept re-visualizing the event and my brain was painting the painting without ever picking up a brush.  So when I went to paint it this morning I was more prepared.  In the other cases (when I don't have this luxury), I generally take the first seconds or minutes to paint the painting in my mind first- to see the whole thing and actually picture what the finished painting will look like. Over time, you will just get faster and better results.

 Figure studies of Tammy on Oil Paper -20 minutes each
And to wrap up, I leave you with the wise words of Kenny Rogers!

You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run
You never count your money
When you're sittin' at the table
There'll be time enough for countin'
When the dealin's done