Thursday, July 24, 2014

Learning How to Paint without Being Able to Draw

'Summer Wanderings'         8x10         pastel           ©Karen Margulis
purchase in my Etsy shop $125
In an ideal world every painter would also have good drawing skills. It is certainly something to strive for as an artist. Good drawing skills result in stronger paintings. The ability to see carefully and render what is seen is important to having a painting look and feel 'right'. A solid understanding of perspective and proportion helps. Having a sensitive and trained eye is important but it is a skill that takes time and practice to hone.

If you want to learn how to paint do you need to be good at drawing first?

I had a discussion with a student yesterday that has me pondering this question. I am so glad she decided to come try pastels with me. Her story concerns me. Here is a creative person who has always wanted to paint. She has dabbled in different media with a variety of instructors and has had success but recently she wanted to learn how to paint with oils. In her first oil class the instructor asked her to draw her hand and she struggled a bit. So the instructor then informed her she would need to spent the remaining  six classes working on drawing. She wasn't ready to paint.

How discouraging and sad! She is 78 years old and isn't interested in painting a masterpiece...she just wants to have the fun. To experience the joy of expression,  moving paint around and playing with color. She wants to enjoy the journey of creating art not be a perfect draftsman. I needed to show her that it is OK to learn how to paint and draw at the same time!  In my demo I showed her how I simplified my landscape into a few lines. Not every subject needs a precise and detailed drawing.

An old box of pastels just waiting for the right time!
Next I opened a box of pastels and sat her in front of an easel with some UArt paper and a pear. (she had brought along an old box of pastels that she had but never knew how to use them.) To my delight, she created the most wonderful pear painting....full of exciting marks and wonderful color. This is what panting is all about...having fun!

Don't misunderstand ....drawing skills are important and I work on mine and encourage my students to keep a sketchbook and practice their drawing. It is a work in progress! Don't let this work in progress prevent you from expressing yourself with paint!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Painting Iceland: Painting After the Trip Made Easier

'Make a Wish'            11x14          pastel          ©Karen Margulis
purchase painting on Etsy $165 here
It has been quite a summer so far. June began with a bang with a Caribbean cruise and then a trip of a lifetime to Iceland. I have spent the last three weeks since my return buried in my studio. I have been painting everyday from my Iceland reference photos.   I have posted 13 chapters to my Iceland travelog and posted many more photos on my Facebook page. The dust has been flying and my pastels have never been messier! And I have been in heaven. 

What a crazy mess!
I am so glad I was able to spend so many uninterrupted days in my studio. It has allowed me to truly reflect on my experience in Iceland. I don't always have this luxury after a trip. I have learned something very important though that will help me after future adventure. 

Writing a Journal is the Key!

I am not usually a journal writer. My friend Jayne and I joked that we usually get as far as two days into a trip and abandon the journal. We always start with good intentions but then it fizzles. In Iceland I did about the same....two days worth of journaling. What I did differently this time is I wrote in my journal on the long journey home. I had about 20 hours of travel time and I made good use of the downtime by writing. I filled my journal with my memories and observations from the trip....while everything was  fresh and clear. These journal entries served as the basis for my last 13 blog posts. I hope to turn this travelog into a book complete with photos, paintings and even more that I haven't shared on the blog.

The journal has helped me paint!  Reading and transcribing a chapter each day brought the trip back to life. I would look through my photos to find one that might illustrate the chapter. Having the memory written down helped me get back to that place while I painted. It made it all fresh which I know helped my paintings. Words and pictures together are the best way to help make my paintings more authentic. I will always make sure to bring a journal along on a trip and actually use it!

Enjoy the gallery of my Iceland paintings below. They are a mix of plein air and studio paintings. Some are sold. All of them and more can be viewed in my Etsy shop or Pinterest board. They are also available for purchase. I would love to share my trip with you through my paintings and I am offering blog readers free shipping on any Iceland painting.(coupon code ICELAND)

Question for you: I will be putting my travelog together in a book form and will include additional chapters with tips on traveling with pastels, Iceland travel tips and more. Is there anything I missed that you might like to know more about? Feel free to comment below or send me an email.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Iceland:Through an Artist's Eyes Part 14 Reykjavik

'Morning Kaffi'           6x6            pastel          ©Karen Margulis
painting available for purchase $50
After a wonderful week in the red house of Stykkisholmur the workshop expedition came to an end. I was so glad I had decided to stay on for a week. So it was back to Reykjavik for me. I had reserved a room at Hotel Leifur Eirikson. It was the perfect choice. Located across the street from the landmark church Hallgrimskirkja, I would never get lost. I just needed to look for the tall church. My room was small but cozy. Breakfast was included and was ample and fresh. It was the perfect home base for exploring Reykjavik on my own.

Across from my hotel was Hallgrimskirja

My single room at Hotel Leifur Eiriksson

Except I wasn't really alone! I was happy to discover that my new friends from the workshop Christine and Riley would also be in Reykjavik. We had dinner with Christine before she had to leave and Riley and I met up several times over the week to explore together. We spent quite a bit of time (and kronur) in the local art shop. It was a wonderful little shop filled with all kinds of art and craft goodies. I bought some Icelandic stone beads to make my own souvenir bracelet. Riley bought a set of Caran d'Ache Museum watercolor pencils. They were wonderful and I had to go back and get a set for myself. I spent many happy hours sketching in the local coffee, cakes and great people watching...what could be better?

Stones from Iceland

I spent 5 days in Reykjavik and I was glad I had the luxury of time. So often when I travel I have limited time at each stop on my journey. There is never enough time to truly get to know a place.  Having plenty of time (in between my tours) allowed me to slow down and notice things that I might have passed by on a short stay.

I switched cameras when I got to Reykjavik. I decided to use my small Canon digital trusty old camera with the bad screen. It is small and would allow me to be inconspicuous as I took candid shots. I would have loved to be invisible. It was the people that intrigued me. The little vignettes of life in the city...tourists and locals going about their business. Snapshots of life in Reykjavik were what I was after. I walked up and down the hilly streets looking for little moments in time. What fun I had!

Kid friendly city...sidewalk chalk and hoola hoops!

The colors and shapes of the buildings were also wonderful. And the windows! Most every window had some kind of arrangement of knickknacks on the sill. They were like little works of art and reflected the spirit of the resident. Windows were filled with elves, flowers, books and the occasional cat. I found the windows just as fascinating as the people.  Motifs of a wonderful little city by the sea. I will be back!

Today's painting was inspired by one of my candid photos. It is on black Artagain paper and is 6x6.
My travelog is coming to and end with just 2 chapters remaining. I appreciate all of the wonderful comments I have received. If you would like to catch up and read the other chapters you can find links to all on my Pinterest board HERE

Monday, July 21, 2014

Iceland: Through the Eye's of an Artist part 13 The Icelandic Horse

'White Horse Meadow'         5x7       pastel
Purchase painting here $50
 It was a ride of a lifetime. All of my life I've dreamt about galloping across a flower filled meadow on the back of a beautiful horse....mane and tail flowing in the wind. My dream came true in Iceland on a gorgeous Icelandic Horse. It was a magical experience.

The Icelandic horse is special. They are small and very strong and hardy. Since no horses have been imported to Iceland since importation was  banned in the 11th century, the horses in Iceland today are the same as they were 900 years ago. They are known for having 5 gaits with the best known gait being the tolt. The tolt is a smooth gait that carries a rider very comfortably over rough ground. I can attest to this!

I had booked my horseback riding tour before my trip. During the week of the workshop the anticipation for my ride was building. We saw these beautiful horses everywhere. It was a challenge to get good photos while we were driving though we did ask Stan and Corey for a few 'horse photo ops' and they happily obliged.

Adorable foal at the shark museum

Finally the day of my tour arrived. I looked out the window and it was raining....and it was windy and cold. A front was moving in. The good news was the tour was still on and I was going to make the best of it. I layered up from my long underwear to my new Icelandic wool socks and rainboots. The rain stopped just as we boarded the van to the Laxness Horse Farm.  It was going to be a good day!

My experience at Laxness Horse Farm was perfect despite the messy weather. There were about 10 of us in the group including my new friend from Lapland (you meet the best people on the bus!)  We were ushered into a room to gear up....rain pants, jackets, boots, gloves and helmet all included. Next step was to meet your horse. I was asked about my riding experience which was not much but regular trail rides.  The guide thought a minute and said he would be right back..he had just the right horse for me. He walked into the corral and came out with my horse Odina. She was beautiful. She was careful and had just the right amount of spirit. She was perfect!

Getting ready to ride!

Play ball with me!

Yes, she is the perfect horse for me.

We started out on our ride....single file through a meadow filled with Lupine. We gradually climbed the hillside until we were above the farm. The path leveled out and we began to move along more quickly....and even more quickly. This was no ordinary trail ride. We were really riding!  We continued riding past waterfalls and crossing streams which Odina did with such care. We climbed higher and higher ever so close to the edge but I felt secure on my horse. Every so often the wind would pick up and it would sprinkle. It was raw and so alive! (so much more exciting than a sunny day)

Across the moody and mystical countryside of Iceland

At the halfway point we dismounted to give our horses a rest. Our guides went around the group and asked how we were with the speed of the ride and if we wanted to go faster. Hmmmmm. My heart overruled my head and I said FASTER! So the group was divided into two and I wondered if I did the smart thing. Oh well. You only live once as they say.

Odina takes a rest

I am so glad my heart said yes. Odina and I flew like the wind over the meadows and streams. Wind and rain whipping us we ran and I quickly found her rhythm and moved with her across the rough terrain. Odina was so smooth. Her thick mane and tail were flowing. I could hear the thundering of hooves and feel the splash of the rain. All of my childhood dreams were coming to life in Iceland. I couldn't stop smiling. It was truly an experience of a lifetime.

We are flying!
The second part of my tour was a trip to the Blue Lagoon, the famous geothermal pool known for its warm milky blue water. The perfect way to end the day was a soak in the warm and soothing water. Another memory was made.

selfie with my horse

'Odina'              5x7            pastel             ©Karen Margulis

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Iceland: Through the Eye's of an Artist part 12 Icebergs, Glaciers and Arctic Terns

'On Top of the World'               9.5x13         pastel             ©Karen Margulis
purchase painting here $150
Iceland is green and Greenland is ice. That's what we learned in elementary school. I still wanted to see ice on my trip to Iceland. I wanted to walk on a glacier and see some icebergs. I came close to some glaciers and there are tours to take you out on them but I didn't walk on a glacier this trip. I did see icebergs though.

The spectacular glacial lagoon of Jokulsarlon was 600 miles roundtrip from Reykjavik but it was well worth the drive. After the workshop I spent 5 nights in Reykjavik on my own. It was my plan to take some tours. The tour to see the South coast of Iceland and Jokulsarlon was my first tour. I went with Iceland Excursions and it was a wonderful experience. We rode on a comfortable brand new bus complete with wifi. Our tour guide was interesting and knowledgable. My seat mates turned out to be a wonderful couple from New Jersey of all places and one of them was a pastel artist. It truly is a small world.

The edge of a glacier reaching down to the highway

The entire drive was spectacular...from waterfalls to distant islands to the largest river bed in the world, to the volcano Eyjafjallajokull, it was all amazing. The glacial lagoon was the final stop on the tour before heading back home. It was more than I could ever imagined!

A couple of the spectacular waterfalls we stopped to see

You don't know what is coming before you get the lagoon. It is right off the main road but there is no 'preview'. You go over a bridge and there it is. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. I was in awe and I know my jaw must have dropped. Yes it really was spectacular. It couldn't possibly be a real place and yet it was. We were greeted by the din of hundreds of Arctic Terns flying overhead. They would prove to be a distraction for me.

Hundreds of Arctic Terns greet us at Jokulsarlon

Part of the tour included a boat ride in the lagoon. We put on our life jackets and the amphibious boat slipped into the water. The colors and shapes were simply beyond my wildest dreams. Every shade of blue seemed to be represented in the sky, water, distant glacier and mountains and of course in the icebergs themselves. It was eerily quiet except for the sound of the boat. We learned about how the icebergs are chunks of ice broken off from the glacier Breiðamerkurjökull  We had a chance to taste some of the glacial ice which was interesting. 

A few photos from the boat tour among the icebergs

After the boat tour we had time to wander around the area. I was torn between taking more pictures of the lagoon or turning around and watching the Arctic Terns. They fascinated me.  Hundred of these little sea birds had made their nests on the grassy area beside the parking lot. These birds make the longest annual migration of any other bird. They fly 25,000 miles from Antarctica to their Arctic breeding grounds in Iceland and Greenland. (and I thought 600 miles on a bus was long!)  Since they nest out in the open on the ground they have to be fiercely protective of their nests and young. And they are!  They will attack anything that ventures onto the nesting area....they dive bomb the highest point (your head) and will even poop on you!  The chicks were well camouflaged in the grasses but I managed to see them through the telephoto lens of my camera.

protecting the nests

nesting in the grass

A crazy tourist. I hope she got pooped on!

Can you see the chick?

So well camouflaged 

Sheep....move out of the way...or I'll poop on your head!

I may have been a long day but I wouldn't trade this experience for anything. Many of the stops we made deserve more time but at least know I have more to see on my next trip to Iceland!

If you have missed any of my Iceland Travelog posts you can find links to them on my Pinterest page HERE