Sunday, October 18, 2009

dark to light

This is the last painting of Cape May in my series of five miniatures for the Cider Painter show in Wilkes-Barre. When I scanned the piece for the first time, by mistake I had my scanner set to greyscale. But when I looked at the preview, I could tell even without color that the piece had emotional impact and the water looking even more "ocean-like" than it did in the color image. I think this speaks of how well I was trained in value (seeing and representing images in light and dark alone). I don't think I'd be doing so well in color if I did not have that foundation. I believe I will continue with my seascapes and begin trying landscape paintings of our fall foilage. I think being freed of having to make these "look like something" as you do with portraiture-my approach is strictly seeing abstract forms of color and design and painting them. Also, I realized all the training I've had using filbert bristle brushes is perfectly suited to water-the "sparkle" in the water happens by dragging undiluted paint over the white surface of the bristol board with a bristle brush. The brush skips spots and lets the white show through. Likewise with the clouds, it catches and drags pure pigment over previously worked spots which looks like the edges of clouds.
One friend told me maybe because these come so easily that this may be my calling as an artist. I'd like to say I agree with that. Art isn't necessarily easy, but it should be a natural and joyful expression of who we are as people, and further (for me anyway), an act of worship, a loving gesture. Painting pure color is definitely that for me.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

"May" as well

Reproducing really strong colors always give me problems, even scanning them. The sand isn't black, nor is the water. It's a combination of blue, purple and burnt sienna, which you can clearly see in the original. But the overall effect is pretty good. So I thought I'd put it in. I guess I'll put in my other one as well. Not as bad as I thought I suppose! These were really fun. I love, love, LOVE the beach. I just do. I'd like to travel the globe photographing and painting beaches. What a job. Chuckle.

Number 4

Still working on my "minis". This is number four. The other two I did after my last post have much stronger color and didn't scan as well as I'd have liked. Reds and oranges photograph so poorly. Cooler colors are much more apt to pick up. Don't ask me why, but I think I have another very successful painting. It is so much easier to work with abstract shapes. I wish I could see faces more this way. I like that there is a hint of footprints in the very lower front-trying to paint actual footprints looked terrible. I just sort of scumbled over what I did and it looks much better.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


This is a little gem I just love. It's the actual size of an index card, and I think probably one of the most successful paintings I've done to date, maybe because of the size. I'm doing a series on our visit to Cape May. I love the ocean and I was up every morning around 5:30 to wait for the sunrise and take pictures. This is one subject I will never tire of, and I think I need to explore more. The series will be submitted to the Cider's Painters miniature exhibit. I'm hoping to sell them, but in a way, I hope this one stays with me.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Back to the Future

Couple of good things...I got published! Strokes of Genius 2: The Best of Light and Shadow-I'll include an Amazon link. It's fantastic work, a beautiful coffee table book and a real honor. I guess I feel vindicated after being rejected for what seems a century by the Colored Pencil Society of America. The piece in Strokes of Genius is one I sent in to their annual exhibit. Go figure...I guess I'd rather be published.

Also, I feel like a creative Dr. Jeckl(ette) and Mrs. Hyde. I'm giving myself complete creative license. Someone actually gave me a piece of paper that said that. I always like the idea but never really used it. Now I need to. I'm working with white grounds and really hot colors-I've always liked the very bright hues, and so now my color is becoming creative rather than staying local. I was never a photorealist. I'm about shapes and design. So best to use what furthers those ends.
The top photo is a painting I did on Sunday, and the bottom pic is the piece in the book. They look very different, but believe it or not they are based on very similar principles creatively. Working on white with brilliant color is going to take some real practice.

Monday, September 7, 2009


This is the latest done on illustration board. I am continually disappointed with the color reproduction. It just isn't accurate. The original image is so much more subtle, but I guess digital photography doesn't do lots of brushstrokes. Oh well. I still want to get these things posted when I do them. This one has a lot of expression and was successful in terms of painting a subject flat and middletone basically. I used a magazine photo of an owl. I'm going to have to do a good deal more painting before I land, but I like working on white board and I like acrylics. There is a purpose for using toned backgrounds, but for painting like this, pretty much alla prima, the white board shows up color much better. I have moved far away from strict value interpretation.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Today My Roses Wept

Well, this is the end result of the roses from the prior post. I kept adding things, I stopped working, I started, I tried to decide what this "should" be, and then I gave up and just let myself paint. Between calls at work I read a book I tried to read years ago and realized at the last attempt I just wasn't ready to wholeheartedly embrace the message-I am now. The book is "Art & Fear" by David Bayles and Ted Orland. I laughed at so many things this time, I read it in a few hours, whereas before I'd read a page and lay it down. Here's a quote, "A finished piece is, in effect, a test of correspondence between imagination and execution". A friend of mine shared with me about her "inner critic". Mine is the little voice that says to me, it has to be saleable, it has to have purpose, it HAS to be this, that, thus....and last night, I said, it simply has to be painted. My only goal now is paint, and let my poor soul have its own unique say independent of pleasing a public, a person, the inner Nazi, all that. And last night my roses just had to weep.

This statement is not aimed at anyone, any school of thought or method of painting, but I'm just not of the mind "every piece a masterpiece". The main point of the book is, and seems to be the lesson I'm learning in life-art is made by fallible human beings who are constantly changing. It is not some angel's offering to a few hallowed souls. It can be learned, it is a dialogue as the other quote suggests, it is living, on-going, a diary of the soul. What makes an artist an artist? This dialogue cannot be ignored and it is a person who does not stop recording it. It is a person who is lovingly, completely and wholly dedicated to their craft and who keeps working and keeps listening to what that work says to them and responds to it. This whole thought train set me free. Is it worth the doing? Only if the work is authentic response to the individual vision. Nothing else is, and I could say that for any other art form.

A parting shot that I hope may give a chuckle. This quote included in the book is from Ben Shahn, "It may be a point of great pride to have a Van Gogh on the living room wall, but the prospect of having Van Gogh himself in the living room would put a great many devoted art lovers to rout."

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Practicing, having fun

This is something I painted this afternoon on my illustration board, sort of taking a cue from the crazy piece I last posted. It's not nearly so colorful, but what is important to me now is that I feel comfortable painting this way. I like working on a white board, and I did this with four acrylic colors and one brush. I've always been attracted to calligraphic art, Japanese in particular-the post-impressionists borrowed heavily from Japanese postcards. So this may turn into a poster with script, more background-but I was very pleased with the flowers. I used a photo of dried roses as a reference, but made up most of the composition. I like the gestural feel of the flowers. They don't possess photographic realism, but the "pose" if you will surely denotes death. This to me is much more enjoyable than straining to capture intense realism. I can tell the years and years of painting have given me a very relaxed and natural brush style, if I let myself paint this way. So we'll see. I'm going to continue working and seeing where it all goes. I think my artistic bent is more as a designer than a painter.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


This is piece of art I did early in my community college days. It is mixed media, black and white acrylic paint and magic marker. I have always liked it and felt even though it was done before all of my training in realism, it has great strength, sense of design and originality. I feel as though I need to get back to designing in my work, no matter how that manifests itself. I like the freshness of the piece. I cancelled my Yellowbook website ad, and feel I need to take a year to not be pressured by "having" to do things. After a while what used to be a joy becomes a chore. So I bought some illustration board and magic markers, and decided to see what I can still do, now that I have the training.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Pennsylvania landscape

This is a wedding gift I painting for the daughter of good friends who is to be married at the end of July. Once again my camera just couldn't graps the subtleties of color change the way I painted it, but for a small show and tell, it's ok. I'm not a landscape painter, but I like this one.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

two months is too long!!!!

Well, a lot of things have happened in two months. The above two pics are the more finished backyard. Everything is done except my real wish list, which includes a covered swing, a pond and a new patio set. Ok, that's the frosting.

The bulldog is my latest completed commission. The picture isn't wonderful, and I know it's time to save up for a camera or larger scanner that records work more accurately. Things tend to moosh together and pixelate out with the camera I have now, but this is Zebby, probably the most beautiful amateur photographic reference I received to work with. Lovely. And I'm so proud of his expressiveness. So I'm back in the saddle.

Oh, the other issue I've been dealing with is an 8-5 work situation. It's tricky but not impossible by any means to paint and get everything else done in the off work hours. I'm just learning a game that so many people have to deal with.
p.s. I scanned Zebby's head to see if the image would come out better. It's still smooshing, but I added it anyway.

Friday, May 1, 2009

where I've been...

Backyard pretty well done....
Backyard started!!

I feel like I need to apologize for my absence and getting seriously off track with my painting a week goal. My "painting" talents have be recently used elsewhere (front steps, shingle facade on the front of our house), and my designing skills particularly used in the backyard. Well, my sister Tere and I agree...landscaping is 3-D art. And it is, so I'll include pics of the back. We had an above ground swimming pool, a little 15 footer, that finally bit the dust, and so we were left with a 15 foot circular sand pit basically which was becoming the world's largest litterbox for wild animals or visiting neighbor critters. In short, something HAD to be done. So I covered it with stone. Now the space can be used. Ialso had help ala Tom Sawyer-style, this-looks-fun as our little 11 year old neighbor saw me painting. Could he help??? Is she stupid??? We painted steps together and had a nice conversation. That is such a lovely age.

So finals are next week, certification testing is over then, too, SO!! Back to the easel! I promise-myself as much as anyone else. Well, I do want to buy a Serenity prayer stone for the backyard, a covered swing and few more plants!! I deserve some fun and pretty stuff and friends to enjoy them with.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

2nd place

I won a second place painting prize for my glug jug floral at the Wyoming Valley Art League spring show. That was some great encouragement! I simply have not had time to paint, but this weekend I hope to!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Joseph Raffael

Well, as I am off my mark of one painting a week already, I figured I'd let someone else who is far more worthy have this tiny piece of artistic spotlight have it this week. The above images are the work of Joseph Raffael, whose work graced the cover of Artist's Magazine this month. I almost fainted dead away when I saw the cover. This is realism, but the actual works are ENORMOUS! I wish I could post a scale bit so the abstract quality of the work is visible. This is also WATERCOLOR! Once again, stunning, stunning, amazing-but the color!!!! I love it, I love it. This is what I'm trying to get. It is still realism, more beautifully done than so much out there-it is worthy to note that Mr. Raffael has spent a lifetime painting. He had has first show in 1963. So much for age being any sort of detriment. These works make mine look amateurish and yet how wonderful it is to say, "THIS is what I'm shooting for! This is what I'm hoping to accomplish." And here, someone has done it. Now I said the works are enormous-up to 80 inches, which therefore means a very small reproduction looks absolutely amazing. But these are even better in person I'm sure.
It is extremely difficult to manage clean, beautiful and natural looking color that is not local, or is heightened. There has to be something that ties it all together, but I am so sick of seeing the deaden palette on some works out there. I've seen enough toys hanging on strings, dark chiaroscuro-it has its place, but I realize over and over it isn't me. How does one develop this sort of spectacular color sense? Years of practice, obviously. But it is something to use the rest of my life to aim for.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Process

Lautrec drawing of singer Yvette Guilbert (artistic inspiration)
Reference photo for painting

Sophisticated Lady (Rebecca in Gloves)

I'm trying to document my creative process, if only for myself. But I think it is crucial for an artist to look at why certain influences are important, what is the goal of painting or drawing, using a particular process, media, subject matter, color...all of those things. I hope that as I enter information and post paintings, I'll begin to see my own work in a more objective light.
This was a fun piece, one where I began to get more uninhibited with color, less afraid of botching a portrait, and more confident about the "look" I wanted. I did not ask Rebecca to pose like this. It was a natural moment after I gave her the gloves to put on. The portrait of Yvette Guilbert is one I love because it is so dead-on candid and graphically edited to capture the singer exactly as she was. I had hoped to try to capture a similar feeling, even though as you can see from the reference photo, much interpretation was done, but the expression was very much what the drawn portrait suggested, not overtly caricature, but a with enough cheeky wink*wink*! How fun. And Becky is a born artist's model.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Glug glug

Well, the last pic in the series is my latest painting. I felt it is important to look back, see where the journey used to be and where it has led me. The drawing on top (Sara, Smile) was supposedly published in "Strokes of Genius 2". I got no notice of the book's publication and have checked repeatedly on Amazon. I don't know where that went. The drawing is colored pencil, my portrait style in the past. The second piece is a still life painted with acrylic on canvas. The style is remains very sedate and quiet, low key color, more dependent on value for its structure (the lights and darks). Now the third is an extreme departure. It is acrylic on stretched, dyed paper. Even as I myself look at these, I wonder-all have good points, all are the same artist, but who is the real me? I was rejoicing that my husband saw the last painting and said, "How joyful!" That has been my aim. A dear friend and artist in her 80s, whom I have known for years, looked at the style of painting on the canvas and asked me, "Where's your joy?" She told me the most memorable thing about me is my laugh and buoyant presence in life. My work simply did not reflect it. She felt it was all that our family had suffered having a son in prison, and maybe that's in part true, but really, to be completely honest, I was trained as a traditional painter. I was hugely fortunate to have had atelier training after the style of the Old Masters. But there comes a time when one must depart...and yet I know I would not be the excellent painter and draftsman I am without that training.
The vase is a "glug jug", a traditional item found in English homes. When water is poured out of the jug, it makes a very loud, distinctive glug-glug-glug sound.

Monday, March 9, 2009

"White" Vase

I'm trying to keep my goal of a picture a week. This was done on Sunday. I do know if I continue posting and publishing my art, I will have to have better reproduction equipment. The colors are just not right, but at least it gives an idea. For example, the far right corner contains my signature on a red fabric stripe. You can't see it at all. But even with those limitations, this was by far the most confident attempt. I love the stripes, the strong patterns, bold colors and the way acrylic handles. I have continued studying the Post Impressionists and now The Fauves. They were the next group of painters to come along, including Henri Matisse and Andre Derain. The Fauves, or "Wild Beasts", used their own color systems. They did not necessarily, or even never, use local color. Skies were yellow, grass blue-whatever suited the pictorial harmony. Now they were representational painters, which means they painted the observed world, boats, landscapes, figures...but the color was used in a more emotional vernacular, which is what I'm trying to get at, while remaining true to realism. I was also studying Wayne Thiebaud, and I loved one quote out of his book just simply titled with his name,"The simultaneous reading of depth and flatness in paintings...reflects Thiebaud's grappling with the dilemma that faces all modern painters: how to reconcile three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface without adhering to the concept of pictorial space defined in the Renaissance". Yes, uh huh, that's right, Wayne! It's hard. My solution was, let color define shapes only as much as is needed for contrast and separation. The green vase is actually bronze, but the local color did not help my composition. The stripes served as a secondary dissolve into patterning that was not necessary dimensional, and the final horizon of background was my original drip and splattered imprimatura. There are planes of reality, and my thing is, let them coexist. They don't have to be formally reconciled. Isn't that true of the physical and spiritual worlds?

Monday, March 2, 2009

out of darkness


"Little Dipper"


Fruit 3 (so says my photo file!)

..Into the light! Or at least the 21st century digital camera technology age! I clearly have to practice, but because I use really saturated, intense chromas and very "hot" colors, photographing the work is extremely difficult. My little Canon Powershot is not up to the challenge of taking exhibit quality photos. But for keeping records, it's perfect and a heck of a lot smaller, easier and better than film. These are all works in their entirety, Becky at the top, "Little Dipper", my seashells and then fruit I just finished. I haven't titled the three yet. But looking at them together in a file I feel like I'm starting to have artistic consensus. My style is getting there, my color preferences consistent and obvious, and I think this will work for me! The fruit was great fun. And I do think I capture a bit of the Post Impressionist sensibility, getting back to Lautrec. I have to keep trying, keep practicing, and eventually get a digital SLR for show quality photos. I do need to do work that is that first!
I do have to say with Little Dipper I tried to get the feeling of the weight being in front to pull your eyes down like Lautrec-his large images would usually be frontally directed. It just turned out to be a classic genre painting. Every child has this moment, staring longingly at the water and someone else having fun, and wishing mommy would get up and swim, too. It didn't start out that way but I love the concept. I just need to improve and come up with them sooner.
So hopefully my photography and painting will improve together!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Little Dipper

Well, that digital camera will be purchased if I have to auction off my cats. (No, I would not do that, but almost). This is a detail of piece that's pretty well done-the color is too saturated on the computer, but I absolutely love using acrylic on stained white Canson Mi Teintes paper (the rough side). This suits me beautifully. The acrylic dries fast so I can quickly glaze over spots without making mud. I can cut the paper down if the composition isn't working. It's cheap but archival and good quality, and just like everything digital, modern acrylic paint is coming into it's own with tons of types and variations of colors and thickness. I love also that I can go from watercolor thin washes to buttery thick paint on the same painting and it won't crack. I can use lines, color patches, gesture draw (the seated figure is just that).

I plan to scan the reference photo I used, or the section of it that this is worked from, to show the editing process. The painting is basically two sets of complementary colors, orange and blue, and red and green. I favor outlining in burnt sienna. I will try to have the completed painting up this weekend.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

In contemplating my next piece, I pay homage to Henri Toulouse Lautrec, probably one of my favorite artistic influences. I'm studying his compositions, and noticed in the beach scene reference I am working with now, the similarities in composition are evident. Lautrec was a dwarf (the photograph at the top is a mirrored image for fun-he never seemed to take himself very seriously) and it only now occurs to me his stature must have greatly influenced his viewpoint, which are generally overwhelming. His compositional strategy reminds me of someone swinging a weighted bucket on a bungee chord, which puts viewer within inches of striking distance of the framed action. They literally spill onto our present day reality. I think he must have loved the total scene enveloping him as he spent time at the Moulin Rouge.
I will wait to display the photo reference and my attempt at a finished piece, but I love being a part of "the action", watching people and letting their noisy colors and conversation invade the picture space. I have to take a break from sketching to go somewhere, and so I'm taking those few minutes waiting for my ride to study Lautrec. We'll see how good a student I can be!

Monday, February 23, 2009


Detail of seashells (untitled acrylic)

Well, add to my list of goals, save enough money for a decent digital camera and a larger scanner!

starting all over again

Detail of Rebecca (my daughter) in acrylic

"Ode to Joy" (Detail of first attempt at acrylic)

"Cara" (most recent charcoal)

This is the art blog of Susan Obaza. I've been interested in art all of my life, been drawing and painting actively for around 12 years, and I thought it's time I create a place for myself to share my work, things I'm learning specifically related to the arts, and to ask questions of other artists or interested visitors. I do have some goals in mind. I think I've wearied friends talking about my hopes and struggles trying to make it somewhere in the art world, and they've been patient. And I need that support. I need your comments, your prayers, your encouragement and criticism, or I just need you to know what I'm doing. And I need accountability. I also need a place to visit artists out in the blog community on a regular basis, and links list is by far the easiest way to accomplish that. It's hard being alone, hard to stay focused and hard to create without the joy of sharing it. I also love to write, so this is perfect for me.

I'm in a bit of a quandry at this point. I received excellent "basic training" in traditional drawing and painting disciplines. I'm extremely grateful to my teachers and fellow artists who are brilliant and have remained friends. They're all over the world now, showing work, teaching and forging new artistic paths. I will include links to them. I have a commercial art associates degree from Luzerne County Community College. I received atelier training under Tony Waichulis. He is doing everything but writing the book on trompe l'oeil these days. But this turned out not to be my path. And that is where I am-trying to fine tune just what that is. I work in oil, charcoal, colored pencil and now acrylic, which is where I'm attempting to land. I will include two recent pieces I've done. I think keeping a record of recent work will help me be more objective. My greatest skill seems to be in portraiture. This is a joy for me, but also a problem, in that I have never really developed the discipline of thinking in terms of the whole-my composition skills are lacking, as I most usually paint or draw vignettes sans background of any kind, or just shapes or light shading if that. Or I use imprimatura, so there's a ready-made tone in the background.

So then, my goals are to achieve at least one painting a week, improve my compositional skills, improve my skills working with acrylic as that is a new media for me, and begin to jump back out in the pond. I have not exhibited work for probably a year now, and that seems like a lifetime. My ultimate hope is to land a gallery or the equivalent of that.

Thanks for visiting, thanks for sharing. Sue