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Sunday, July 22, 2018

Painting Provence part 2 ...Bring on the Lavender!

'Along the Lavender Road'           8x10        pastel         ©Karen Margulis
available $150
We came for the lavender and we weren't disappointed! We came away with so much more but it was the lavender that we wanted to see first. So our first excursion after our day of rest and jet lag recovery was to take one of the suggested routes to see the lavender fields. There are several suggested routes and bloom times depend on altitude and location.  Here is a good website to get an overview of some of the routes. 

We had rented a car so that we would be free to take excursions around our home base. We found out quickly that the roads are very narrow and the drivers are fearless (and fast) We had a few hairy moments but our driver Sharon was magnifique! Sharon also planned out our lavender route and it was a perfect day of lavender immersion.

Planning the route for the best chance of seeing lavender in bloom!
We began out tour with a stop at the Abbaye de Senanque. This is the place of the iconic lavender in Provence photo. It was a very good thing we got an early start. We parked and walked down to the Abbey and took our photos. As we wandered around the place was filling with cars and people very rapidly. It was no longer a peaceful place. It was a madhouse. Back in the parking lot tour buses fought for a place to unload and cars lined up to grab newly vacated spots. It was time to move on!

Beautiful Abbaye de Senanque before the hordes of tourists arrive
 We all piled back into our car. We had our assigned seats. Tena was the navigator extraordinaire in the front seat. And Donna and I sandwiched Jane in the back seat. A window seat worked for me so I could take drive by photos. (probably at least 1000!) A side note about navigation. Tena took control of the map and coordinated with Babette our French speaking GPS. By the end of the trip we could all understand Babette when she told us when to get off the round abouts! On the first days of the trip we cursed her though! (remember Russell Crow in the movie "A Good Year"?)

We drove all day making stops whenever we saw something that made us say OOOOOHHHHH and AHHHHHHH. That means we made many many stops!  At the first lavender field we saw we stopped. It was amazingly beautiful. It was also loaded with bees. The sound of the bees and the cigales (cicadas) was almost deafening. And the scent of the lavender was intoxicating. I LOVE lavender!

I really wasn't sure what to expect as far as what the lavender fields would look like. Somehow I had imaged that they stretched for as far as the eye could see like a giant sea of lavender. We did find a few spots like this but most of the fields we saw were contained and bordered by trees. We noticed that the lavender varied in color with some being quite dark and some being almost pink. Of course the light and time of day changed the color of the lavender. Unfortunately most of the fields we saw were in the flat light of midday. Later in the trip we would visit the fields during the magic hours!

A field with poppies and Queen Anne's Lace....perfection!
 One of my favorite stops was at a small field of lavender. I liked it because it was a little rough around the edges and there were patches of poppies and QA lace mixed into the lavender. Can it get any better than that!?

Half way through our drive it was time to stop for lunch. This stop and lunch was to be one of our most favorite stops! The village was  Saint Saturnin-des-Apts. We sat outdoors at the village cafe and had the most delicious lunch. I had the first of many tomato mozzarella sandwiches on a fresh baguette. It was a wonderful stop.

Saint Saturnin-des-Apts was the perfect stop for a lunch break
 The rest of the day was spent driving and stopping for photo ops. I couldn't get enough!  In the photos below you can see the change of color in the fields. Later in the trip we went to the Museum of Lavender to learn more about what we were seeing.  Look at those layers of color! It was purple heaven!

Below is a photo from one of the hilltop villages. You can see the patchwork of purple in the distance. We would see these lavender fields up close at the end of our drive.

It was a long day and we returned home happily satiated and inspired. I couldn't wait to get out my pastels and paint! We would see much more lavender as the days passed including some fields that were just down the road from our village. Yes. We had done well with our choice of Goult and Elias House and as we wound down with some good wine we toasted the start of a wonderful adventure.

You can see the paintings I did on the trip in my Etsy shop www.etsy.com/shop/karenmargulisfineart

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Painting Provence Part I ...Welcome to Our Home!

'Provence Impressions'          5x7           pastel            ©Karen Margulis
available $95
It was a difficult decision. Should we rent a home in Provence for one week or for two?  We wanted 10 days but the home was only available by the week. We all voted and two weeks was the unanimous decision. We were off to a good start!  I'll start this travelog with some background.

I was invited to join a group of four women on an adventure to the Luberon region of Provence in France. We all wanted to see the lavender in bloom so we decided to make the trip in the beginning of July. We all had only one friend in common. I met Sharon last year at Art in the Open in Ireland and we got along fabulously. She was planning the France trip with her cousin Donna and had asked two other friends Jane and Tena to join them. I was the last one to join the group. Although mostly strangers we all got along as if we were old friends.  Only Sharon and I were artists which made the trip  non art focused which was actually a bonus for me. As you will discover there was plenty of time for me to paint and take photos and just soak it all in.

The View from the Terrace  5x7       pastel     available $95
Welcome to our home for the two weeks....Elias House in the village of Goult France. If you are not familiar with this region of France, Goult is about 45 minutes from Avignon and only a few minutes from the better know villages of Bonniuex, Gordes and Roussillon.  More about Goult in another post.

In the planning stage Sharon had selected several homes for us to consider and since we all lived in different states we voted online for the house we wanted. It was like being on International House Hunters! I knew it was going to be a good trip when we all voted for the same home. And did we ever make the right choice!

Check out the front door to our home! Elias house was right in the village! It was just a short walk to the center of the village. The house was filled with quirky charm and had all of the comforts of home.

The front door was a work of art

Not only was the house in the perfect location it had a pool! Which was a wonderful feature for the hot summer days in Provence. There were 5 bedrooms so we each got our own bedroom. three of the rooms had sinks and showers and one had a toilet and tub. The others shared a toilet. There was also a full bathroom by the pool and this became my preferred bathroom. I called it the grotto bath. Quirky but certainly workable.

Elias House in Goult
I had been studying the house layout online and wondered how we would choose our rooms. It all fell into place and I ended up with the third floor room with a terrace and an amazing view. It didn't have a bathroom or running water so those rooms went first. I didn't mind the trek down the stairs to the grotto bathroom. It was well worth it for the view.

My room also had the perfect spot to paint. Look at the little window ledge in the photo. I set up here and painted the view several times. The paintings in this post were all done from my room with a view!

The light in the room was amazing. The windows let in so much light that I was up every morning by 5:45. It stayed light until 10 pm. It was also quite warm. (no air-conditioning) But with the windows open and a fan I made it work. And it was well worth it for the amazing sunrise and sunset views. Oh and I shared the terrace space with my friends  of course! We spent many evenings watching the sunset and eating sorbet and chocolate and drinking wine.

My room for the 2 weeks. See the door to the terrace.
The terrace and the view!
The amazing view!

Overlooking the rooftops of the neighbors

One of the spectacular sunsets from the terrace
Here is a quick tour of the rest of the home. We spent a lot of time on the deck just off the kitchen. but the living room with fireplace would certainly be a welcome space in colder weather.

The dining room came in handy when Chef Julien made us a special dinner

A fully equipped kitchen

The pool and deck as seen form the deck just off the kitchen

These loungers were perfect for relaxing to the sound of the cicadas and bees

The cool grotto in the pool area

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

My Paintings from Provence and What I Used to Paint Them

'Impressions of Provence''           5x7       pastel          ©Karen Margulis
available $95 click here
 I really don't know where to begin. It has taken me a couple of days since returning home from France to get caught up. I am not sure it has all sunk in yet. I had the most amazing and magical two weeks in Provence and I think I left a part of me there.

I came home filled with memories and inspiration.....and goodies. I have a duffle bag full of interesting finds from my trip. I also have 40 paintings done on my trip and over 3000 photos! That's a lot of inspiration and I will begin to sort them and find a way to share them here with you. As for my past summer trips I will be writing a detailed trip report and sharing some of my photos and paintings. I hope you will follow along and enjoy the virtual trip to Provence.

Many of these paintings are now available in my Etsy shop. They are $95 each with free shipping. Click here to see them all.

I'll start with the paintings. I came home with 40 small paintings. Each one is 5x7 and was painted either plein air or from the photos I was taking on the trip. It was very hot. I found that a good time to paint was inside the sunlit kitchen during the hottest part of the day. The light was wonderful and I was comfortable. Here are some photos of my set up:

My travel set up was based around my Heilman single sketchbox
 My pastel set up was perfect for this trip. It wasn't a painting trip. In fact only one other travel mate was an artist. I wasn't sure how much time I would have to paint  and I was determined to travel light.  I didn't want to be bogged down with a big box of pastels and an easel. Here is what I used. It all fit into a zippered book cover and that fit easily in my backpack.

  • Heilman single sketchbox was the perfect size. It has one section for pastels and can be used as a pochade box. To get the maximum use of the space I used Girault pastels that I broke in half.(I had the two Richard McKinley sets and fit most of them in the box. Girault pastel are wonderful because they are firm yet go on soft....they are great for travel.
  • To supplement the Giraults I filled a small Nupastel box with some broken pieces of Nupastels, I chose them because the harder Nupastels work great with the softer Giraults and they also travel well. The small thin box fir into the pocket of my book cover.
  • My Purple box! If you look closely at the photo you can see a small tin box. It has a selection of Terry Ludwig violets. I knew I would be painting lavender and I would need some good purples. I am so glad I brought this small selection of violet pastels.
  • Paper and Itoya portfolio to hold paper and finished paintings. I precut 45 pieces of pastel paper in 5x7 size. I used an assortment of paper including Pastelmat, Uart, Wallis warm mist and some homemade surfaces with clear gesso. I filled a 5x7 Itoya portfolio book with the papers and as I finished a painting I would slip it back inside the book. This kept my papers and paintings safe and clean.
  • A piece of 5x7 foamcore covered with a clearable plastic bag for protection. This was my painting board. I used small Banker's clasps to hold the paper in place.
  • NO easel. I worked flat either on my lap or at a table or countertop. Since I was working small It worked well without an easel. It was liberating!

Another look at my set up. After a painting session I just recycled the used newspaper.

I got into a good painting routine and usually managed to paint 4 painting each day. I am looking forward to interpreting these paintings and using the photos I took to paint larger studio paintings but there is something very special about the paintings I did while in Provence. I'd like to think they are infused with the magic I was feeling. 

Have a look at all of the available Provence painting in my etsy shop. Click here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/KarenMargulisFineArt?ref=seller-platform-mcnav&section_id=24324413

Stay tuned for my travelogue of my Magical adventure in Provence! If you are a Patreon member I will be doing a video sharing more details of my paintings and travel set up. www.patreon.com/karenmargulis

Monday, July 16, 2018

How to Generate Painting Ideas

'Joyful'            5x7            pastel              ©Karen Margulis
It is hard to get started. There always seems to be something else that needs to get done. Painting time often takes a back seat. Especially when you haven't even been home for much of the summer! 

When I return home form this trip  I will have a long list of things I need to do but it is important for me to make a little time in my day to paint. I don't need much time. Under 30 minutes is enough. I think of painting time like doing a workout...30 minutes helps keep me fluent and flexible.  All of my daily workouts add up and makes me a better painter.

Making time to paint is easier if you know in advance what you are going to paint.  Having a selection of reference photos or subjects already planned saves much time and energy. 

TIP: Spend some non painting time choosing reference photos and clipping them to the paper you will use. Put these painting ideas in a pile. When it is time to paint only choose from this pile. Feel free to add to the pile only during non-painting time. Generating a stockpile of painting ideas during downtime allows you to be more productive when it is time to paint.

'Happiness'        6x6        pastel          sold

Today's paintings took about 30 minutes. I was able to start painting as soon as I went down into the studio because I had a pile of photos and papers all ready. I was able to get into the zone quickly. I enjoyed the first painting(top) and wanted to do more!  I was inspired by the first painting to zoom in closer to the Hollyhocks and paint another version. 

Often the act of painting will generate ideas for other paintings. My first painting inspired several new ideas that I look forward to exploring.

It was easy to get started when I have so many painting ideas all ready and waiting. It was just a matter of making time and ignoring all distractions!  How do you generate painting ideas? Share in the comments!

My reference photo from Auvers-sur-Oise France

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Sneaking Up on an Underpainting

'Evening Walk in the Wheat Fields'        10 x 10     pastel         ©Karen Margulis
available $165
It was an old and dirty piece of paper. It had been mounted on foamcore sitting in a pile waiting for inspiration to strike. But it had gotten buried in the pile and now was covered in splotches of random color. I never waste paper so I decided to use it and wash in the colors with a wet underpainting.

My subject was a scene from my last summer trip to France. Our home base in Normandy was surrounded by wheat fields. (technically they could have been barley but wheat seems more romantic somehow) Every evening after dinner we would go for a walk through the village and up into the fields. At the highest point you could see far into the distance and see the beach and water. It was an inspiring place and was especially inspiring one evening when the sun broke through the gray clouds of a rainy day.

Read on to see how I used the underpainting to help express what I remember of that evening.

I used two Derwent Inktense sticks to draw and block in the main shapes. I used a dark blue and dark purple. I used a stiff brush and water to create a wash with the ink. I was very happy to see how the water interacted with the inktense. It produced some interesting drips. I'm not sure what the yellow stain was but it was on my paper and seemed waxy. It resisted the ink and water. I liked it.

Because I really enjoyed what happened in the underpainting I wasn't sure how much pastel I wanted to use. I had to take baby steps and sneak up on the underpainting with pastel. I started with the most important thing first.....the yellow light on the wheat fields.  I very tentatively added light layers of gold and green to the field.

I slowly added more pastel....an even lighter yellow on the filed and more greens in the grass hill. I chose to leave the yellow sloth in the tree. Just because.

I wanted to add some green to the trees but I started with a purple to match the color and value of the underpainting. Then I began to develop the tree.

I saved the sky for last. This isn't the usual way I work But  since I liked the underpainting I wanted to let it do most of the work. The color and value of the sky were close to what I wanted so a decided to use a few warm and cool purples to lightly layer in the sky. I added a few pale yellow clouds to make a connection to the fields and the sky was finished.

All that was left to do was add the final marks....the spices. I chose a wonderful rich blue and made a few marks. Can you spot them? It was fun to work this way and allow myself to be guided by the underpainting.

Painting notes: 10x10 on Uart 500 grade with Terry Ludwig and Unison pastels

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Best Solution Ever for Traveling with Pastels

'Memories of France'            5x7            pastel           ©Karen Margulis
available $45
Enjoy this post from the archives while I am away in Provence. I have my trusty portfolio book with paper with me!

One of the most important things to consider when traveling with pastels is how to carry and store your paper and finished paintings.  I have been using this solution for several years and It has been the Best!! Read on to see how I transport my  paper and paintings.

Plastic portfolio books by Itoya

  •  When I travel I bring an assortment of my favorite sanded pastel papers. Uart, Pastel Premier, 
       Tip: Bring paper that you are familiar with. Unless you have a lot of room and want to                     experiment and play it is safer to work on paper you know.
  • I cut full sheets of the papers into smaller sizes both 5x7 and 8x10. I use a ruler and scissors or utility knife to cut the paper. (saves money)
  • I sometimes tone some of the Uart paper in my favorite plein air color (a medium value gray)
  • I fill my Itoya plastic portfolio folders wit the cut paper. These folders have plastic sleeves that work great for protecting and transporting paper.
  • I put finished paintings back into the plastic sleeve of the folder. This is how I transport and protect my finished paintings. (yes a little residual pastel dust is left on the plastic but not enough to harm the painting.)
  • The plastic folders are great for sharing your work with others and keeping the paintings safe. 
  • The loaded folders are slipped into my backpack. The perfect solution for keeping both paper and paintings safe!
'Memories of France II'      5x7      $45

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Dealing With the Greens of Summer Pastel Demo

'Summer Green'            8x10        pastel        ©Karen Margulis

Are you dealing with the greens of summer? This post from the archives will give you some tips!

It's been raining in Georgia just about everyday this summer. So everything is very lush and green. My weeds are out of control. But it's raining so I spent the day inside painting instead of pulling weeds.  I decided to paint a summer landscape from a tiny photo I took of a roadside mountain stream.  I took some progress photos so follow along and see how I tried to make a very green landscape interesting.

I started the painting on a piece of Uart 600 grit paper with a loose charcoal drawing. I then underpaint the shapes with some orange and red NuPastels. I blend in the Nupastel with a piece of pipe insulation foam.  I chose the reds and orange because I knew I would be adding a lot of green. So in using the compliment of the greens I would make the greens more exciting.

I started blocking in the dark shapes. I am now using soft pastels. This painting was done only using Terry Ludwig pastels. Next I put in the bright yellows in the sunlit areas of the grass. One of the things I liked about this scene was the strong light and shadow patterns so I wanted to be sure to get them in place early on.

I am using a variety of greens from Terry Ludwig's green set. I have some dark cool greens in the distance and shaded areas.  I then put in the sky using a very pale blue green. I also use the same colors in the water.  I try to break up the shape of the trees with sky color.

I now introduce some purple in the tree trunks and along the banks. One of my favorite quotes from Richard McKinley is about the secret of green. He says the secret of green is orange and violet is the friend.  I like to keep this thought in mind when I am dealing with a lot of green in the landscape. In this painting the orange is the underpainting and the violet is the little touches I put in as I finish the painting.

I continue building up the layers of green. I am using bold strokes. I want to let some of the orange peek through and the bold stokes keep me from overblending the green and orange which could make the greens look muddy. I add the final punctuation marks such as the orange in the tree trunks and little purple marks in the grass.