Sunday, December 6, 2015

Why I Paint What I Paint



Recent conversations with some artist friends about inspiration, styles and methods ignited my own questions personally about why I paint what I do and what prompts my choices of subjects, painting sizes and so on. So I figured I'd post about it, mainly just thinking out loud, but also in case anyone ever wonders. ;-)
© 2015 Tammy Kaufman - As Long as Life Lasts - soft pastels on Ampersand Pastelbord 8" x 10"
I used to think I just painted things I thought were pretty and used whatever surfaces I had available. But on deeper inspection, I realized I do consciously and purposefully select not only my specific subject matter but also the specific sizes and surfaces I use, and it’s become clear to me that it’s much more than just random choices.
© 2015 Tammy Kaufman - Give Peace a Chance - soft pastels on Richeson Premium Board 8" x 10"
With regard to the sizes of my works, they are small. Some artists would even call them “minis”, as I tend to be most comfortable painting in the 4x6 to 9x12 range. I used to think the main reason for that was due simply to ease of storage of smaller works, especially those requiring glass when framing like the pastels I do. Or the reduced intimidation factor of a smaller surface. But on really thinking about it, I believe there is more to it than that. I’ve always watched in dismay as our society has focused so much on the “more, more, MORE” and “bigger is better” mindset. Perhaps my resistance to “painting bigger” has something to do with wanting to show that small things have meaning too and can even be quite intricate, even though they are often overlooked in the never-ending societal quest for More.
© 2015 Tammy Kaufman - For the Love of Nature - soft pastels on Pastel Premier Paper 5" x 5"
Subject matter is another issue that on first glance belies its deeper meaning. Yes, I paint pastoral landscapes, a seemingly benign and typical subject. But on closer inspection, you’ll notice it’s very rare to see any architecture or manmade structures in my works, and rarer still to find any human figures in them, if at all. That is not by accident. Although I’m not na├»ve nor jaded, and I do believe the world is full of kind, compassionate and wonderful people, all one has to do is watch five minutes of world news to see what a heart of darkness so many of our species have toward one another, animals, and even the earth itself. My landscapes are painted as an homage to Mother Nature and envision a world sans the destructive forces of man, with scenes welcoming the viewer in as the first one to see them. These are quiet works, speaking with more of a whisper than a shout. There seems to be so much noise in the world already, with everyone and everything screaming constantly, so I find that I’m drawn to paint a quieter, softer, calmer world, the kind of world I want to see.  
© 2015 Tammy Kaufman - Windows of My Soul - soft pastels on Canson Mi-Tientes Paper 8" x 10"
And on that note, I’ll leave things with one of my favorite quotes from the immortal Bob Ross who best stated my overall purpose in painting: "That's why I paint. It's because I can create the kind of world I want, and I can make this world as happy as I want it."
© 2015 Tammy Kaufman - Lost in the Melody- soft pastels on Richeson Premium Board 9" x 12"

Monday, November 16, 2015

Art of the Carolinas

I got a call a couple of weeks ago from an artist friend here in town, asking me if I'd be willing to be the pastel demo artist for Art of the Carolinas, the annual art expo hosted by Jerry's Artarama. As I always take my vacation during AOC, I was already off work that week so agreed to do it. Once the date grew closer, I began to get quite nervous - What was I going to paint for the demo? Would I be able to answer questions about process and materials satisfactorily? Am I good enough to even be doing this??

Before I knew it, Friday morning had arrived and I was at the Hilton setting up my booth. For that first day, my booth mate was a very experienced painter, Dick Ensing, so I was initially a bit intimidated and worried about my serious lack of experience at less than three years painting compared to his lifetime as an artist. Dick was very friendly and engaging, however, so I soon relaxed, and the fact he was demoing oil paints gave me something interesting to watch during my less busy periods too. Being the first day of the expo, Fridays are always a madhouse and this year was no exception. This turned out to be a good thing, though, as I was too busy to worry about much of anything other than talking to people about art and doing a little painting as well. My first demo was a 9 x 12 soft pastel.
© 2015 Tammy Kaufman - One Touch of Nature - soft pastels on Sennelier La Carte Pastel Card 9" x 12"
Throughout the day, I got to talk with so many interesting people, along with a lot of my artist friends who were kind enough to stop by my booth during their shopping, and it was a blast watching people try pastels for the first time. I think many folks had no idea how much fun this medium is until they tried it, and it was wonderful seeing those big smiles break across their faces as they played with the soft pastels and the oil pastels - and more than a few headed straight over to buy their own starter sets of pastels and surfaces!

Saturday was a little slower, and I was delighted to see some of the same people stop back by my booth to let me know they had either taken a pastel workshop or signed up for one, and were having loads of fun. I enjoyed talking with more new folks as well as having additional artist friends come by and visit, and managed to turn out three mini demos Saturday. My booth mate for Saturday and Sunday was one of the regular staff at Jerry's who has helped me with my shopping in the store many times prior, Greg Halloran. Greg was demoing oil paints and created some very intriguing paintings with the help of any visitors to the booth he could persuade to pick up a brush and join him!

After the two long days on Friday and Saturday, Sunday was a little shorter and quite a bit less busy, so I actually had time to do a little shopping of my own, picking up some pastel paper and several frames during my break. But I still got another mini demo done, and even had a pencil artist stop by who had never tried oil pastels but wanted to see if he could do a painting with them. He ended up painting a lovely little snow scene which I had him sign and take home to keep. I don't have a picture of that one, but I did put four of the little minis I did over the weekend on my easel all together for a "group photo".
© 2015 Tammy Kaufman - Clockwise from top left: Quietude, oil pastels on Ampersand Gessobord; Listening, oil pastels on Richeson Premium; Melodious Thoughts, soft pastels on Richeson Premium; The True Nature of Things, soft pastels on Richeson Premium - all 5" x 7"
It was an honor to be part of Art of the Carolinas as a demo artist, and I am forever grateful to Kimberlee Maselli, Ophelia Staton, Sharon DiGiulio and everyone else responsible whose name I may have missed, for providing me this opportunity. I'd also like to extend my gratitude to Jerry's Artarama as well as their vendors who make the event such a success year after year.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Raining Sunshine

The weather outside may be frightful here this week, but it's definitely raining sunshine in my life right now. To put the magnitude of this into perspective, let me start from the beginning.

In late June 2013, I decided on a whim that I wanted to try my hand at painting for a hobby, so got a cheap student grade watercolor set and a pad of paper and set about attempting to learn to paint. It didn't take long for the art bug to bite for real, though, and I began experimenting with a variety of media including acrylic paint, charcoal and graphite. Frustrated with the student grade paints, I moved up to artist quality watercolors and acrylics, then expanded to Gouache and colored pencils which worked much, much better and were a lot more enjoyable to use.

As much fun as I was having, however,  I still felt like something was missing so in September of 2013 I picked up a small set of student grade soft pastels and a little pad of pastel paper just to see what they were like. After my first two attempts, I was more frustrated than ever and decided perhaps soft pastels just weren't for me. Luckily, I was intercepted by some other pastel artists who noted that my frustration was in all likelihood due to the lower quality of my pastels and the very challenging paper I had selected to use with them rather than an innate inability with the medium. Never one to give up too easily, I picked up a small set of artist quality pastels and a little sampler of sanded paper - what a difference! It only took a couple of test mini paintings and I was hooked. Determined to learn this medium, I gradually expanded my collection of high quality pastels and surfaces, and studied everything I could find on them - books, online tutorials, other artists' websites. Ever since, I've been painting like a woman possessed - at least several times a week consistently. Most of my earlier works were mediocre at best, but I was putting in my time with  painting and getting practice making marks, learning about color, values, temperatures and composition. I studied everything I could find on pastels and painting in general to help me learn. I checked books out from the library, purchased online training courses and joined the local pastel society.

Ever so slowly, things began to happen. I got juried into several shows and even won first place at the State Fair. But I wanted to continue improving and growing as an artist, so I was delighted when, at one of the local pastel society meeting, I met another member who had given an incredible demo earlier in the year and discovered that she taught and, even better, was willing to travel to my home to teach me! After hiring Addren Doss and studying with her this year, I saw noticeable improvement in my painting, which carried over even into my other mediums, and I began to dream bigger. I had heard about the Pastel Society of America - the premier organization of serious pastel artists. Unlike the other art organizations I had joined, membership in PSA are offered only on a juried basis, and I had heard how high their standards are so I knew it was going to require even harder work on my part if I were to have any hopes at all of getting in. So I continued to study and practice and work harder than I ever thought I could at my painting. It was difficult and frustrating at times, and other times things just clicked. I turned out some paintings I felt very good about and some that went directly into the "studies to maybe repaint later" bin. But I never stopped working at it, and I never lost sight of my goal. By the October PSA jurying session, I finally had five paintings I felt good enough about to submit for consideration for membership.

This weekend, roughly 26 months after that first frustrating attempt to draw something with a stick of pastel, I got the letter that validated all my hard work. The letter welcoming me as a juried Associate Member of the Pastel Society of America. But this is not the end - rather the beginning. Now the even harder work begins and I'm intensifying  my efforts with lessons and practice as I pursue that next ever more more challenging step on this artistic journey, the quest for Signature status.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

NC Open Plein Air Paint Out

Last weekend was the NC Open Plein Air Paint Out in Salisbury, North Carolina. I signed up because it was fairly close by, and there was a nice campground in the immediate painting sites area that allowed pets which meant Steve and Fry could accompany me. This is definitely a do-not-miss event for plein air painters. The huge variety of painting locations are lovely and the "goody bag" we received at check-in was very nice. It included the usual maps and restaurant guides and various printed informational brochures. But it also contained a small watercolor set with some gorgeous colors in it, a pencil/eraser/sharpener set with a good sized sketchbook, and even a hat!
I knew the Piedmont of North Carolina had some nice rural scenery, but I was quite simply amazed at just how beautiful this area is! I unfortunately only had one day available to paint, and it was a challenge to select just two locations from the variety of choices including dams, wineries, old homesteads, parks, lakes, etc. We ended up camping at Dan Nicholas Park Campground in a very secluded and private wooded site. This campground is right next to the Dan Nicholas Park itself which contains a variety of activities and features, but I was particularly drawn to the lake where there was a wooden bridge crossing over masses of waterlilies. Water birds, including beautiful white ducks and the occasional heron, frequented the lake as well. I elected to paint a portion of the bridge where it exited onto the trail across the lake next to a gorgeous tree with an intricate trunk growing out of the water itself.
My best little plein air buddy took an early break to walk around the lake with Steve, but then returned to rest next to my easel while I finished up this first painting.
The early morning light was rapidly changing, so I had to paint quickly, but this time I had to work even more quickly than I usually do, so I would have time to go to Dunn's Mountain and paint my second work and still have time to frame everything and get to the reception by mid afternoon!
© 2015 Tammy Kaufman - Dan Nicholas Bridge - soft pastels on Pastelmat 8" x 10"
Dunn's Mountain Park proved to be an excellent choice of painting location. The staff there really made our visit memorable. They were quite knowledgeable about the old quarry and the history of the area. One of them was an artist as well, and we had a delightful time chatting while I painted. I elected to paint from the observation deck itself since I wanted to capture some of the expansive view of the quarry and retaining pond below as well as the views out across Salisbury all the way toward the Blue Ridge Mountains. The park staff told me on clear days you could actually see the distinctive profiles of Pilot and Grandfather Mountains, but today there was quite a thick layer of haze which amazingly completely occluded any evidence of the mountains themselves! Staying true to my plein air experience, I painted what I actually saw, which on this day unfortunately did not include the well defined higher peaks of the distant mountains due to the hazy skies. But the view was amazing nonetheless.
© 2015 Tammy Kaufman - Dunn's Mountain Vista - soft pastels on UArt 8" x 10"
I did manage to get both paintings done, framed and delivered on time for the opening reception.
All in all, we had a wonderful time, seeing old friends and meeting new ones, and enjoying the beautiful scenery of the North Carolina Piedmont. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, and I'm already looking forward to next year's event!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Helping Animals Through Art

Last week, despite being on routine flea and tick preventative and daily skin checks, our dog, Frylie, was diagnosed with Lyme disease. After several days of antibiotics and anti-nausea medications (which he will continue to take for at least another month) and pain medications, he is finally beginning to show some improvement. However, in addition to the stress and worry about our little furry family member, the financial impact of treating this illness has also been quite substantial already and with follow-up scheduled to monitor for long term effects, will continue to grow. Fry is fortunate that my husband and I are able to pay his medical bills, but this situation made me think about the many animals out there who are not so fortunate.
Together, we can help those needy animals. I’m the Guest Artist for the month of July here in Wake Forest, at The Artists’ Loft  and I've decided to use this opportunity to donate a portion of the proceeds from any and all painting sales during this show to the Good Samaritan Fund at Animal Emergency Hospital and Urgent Care of Raleigh. This fund helps pay emergency veterinary bills for companion animals and wildlife with urgent medical needs. So I hope you’ll come out to The Artists’ Loft above Wake Forest Coffee in Wake Forest during the month of July, buy some original artwork and help support a very worthy cause.
© 2015 Tammy Kaufman - Live Deeply - soft pastels on UArt 8" x 10"
The opening reception for the show is Friday evening, July 10, 2015, from 6 to 9 p.m. at The Artists’ Loft above Wake Forest Coffee, 156 South White Street, Wake Forest, NC, phone 919.554.8914.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Opportunity Knocks

Opportunity knocked and I'm so happy I answered! I've been fortunate enough to get a chance to try some Henri Roche pastels, which have a long and rich history in the art world. You can read all about them here, but suffice it to say they are the world's most expensive pastels and now that I've tried them, I can see why. They have a feel that is unlike any other I've ever used, and the pigment load is incredibly rich and full, depositing vibrant luxurious color with the lightest touch. They play nicely with my other pastel brands and work beautifully over a hard pastel underpainting too, which is an added bonus in that I can reserve these precious sticks for the final outermost layer and let the less expensive sticks be the workhorses. Despite feeling rough, almost pumice-like, and hard to the touch, these leave a beautifully soft and delicate layer of rich color that stays vibrant even with blending. Unless I somehow manage to win the lottery, I don't ever see the full 800+-color set in my future, but who knows? Maybe someday I'll be able to afford to buy a small three-piece set or something. With color this rich, it doesn't take much and I think they'd likely last a long time when handled with the light touch they seem to prefer. :-)
© 2015 Tammy Kaufman - A Peaceful Mind - soft pastels on Sennelier La Carte Pastel Card 9" x 12"
(painted primarily with Henri Roche, Terry Ludwig and Sennelier pastels)

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Time Flies

They say time flies when you’re having fun. And recently the weather has been just glorious for experiencing the joys of nature by painting outside, so perhaps that's why it's been so long since I updated this blog! As much as I enjoy studio painting, there’s something about painting from life – en plein air – that is a unique and wonderful experience. In light of that, I've attended two plein air paintout events this spring, in addition to some small local "unofficial" plein air gatherings, and hope to be able to do more this year.
© 2015 Tammy Kaufman - Standing There -oil pastels on Sennelier Oil Pastel Card, 9" x 12"
In April, I went to Southport, NC, for their "Paint the Town" paintout. The location is spectacular, and it was a joy to see some current artist friends and meet some new ones. So many gorgeous paintings and other than getting sun- and wind-burned, I had a terrific time painting the marshes from a gazebo at the end of a boardwalk on the sound. I used soft pastels with sanded surfaces for these two little studies, one painted in the early morning and the other mid afternoon.
© 2015 Tammy Kaufman - Morning on the Marsh - soft pastels on Sennelier La Carte Pastel Card, 9" x 12"

© 2015 Tammy Kaufman - Afternoon on the Marsh - soft pastels on Ampersand Pastelbord, 8" x 10"
Then in early May, I had the pleasure of attending the Town of Cary's "En Plein Air Paint the Town" paintout. This was only their second year hosting this event, but it was a topnotch affair. I did a quick oil pastel color study which I donated to the staff at the Cary Arts Center, and then did two small soft pastels later in the morning. The paintings from this paintout were displayed in various Cary businesses for the month of May and then the Arts Center held a silent auction during their Plein Air Gala at the end of the month. I’m delighted that both my paintings sold, and have gone to their lovely new homes!
© 2015 Tammy Kaufman - Performance Green - oil pastels on Uart 600, 7" x 9"

© 2015 Tammy Kaufman - Spring Show - soft pastels on Uart 600, 7" x 9"

© 2015 Tammy Kaufman - The Old Man and the Fern - soft pastels on Uart 600, 7" x 9"
For the past few weeks, I've been working a lot in oil pastels and am finding myself more and more enthusiastic about this medium. It's so versatile and works on a tremendous variety of surfaces. There currently isn't much information available on techniques, so I'm more or less teaching myself through trial and error, but it's been a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to doing more with OPs in addition to continuing work with soft pastels, and will be exhibiting both oil pastel and soft pastel paintings in a show at The Artists' Loft in Wake Forest next month. I love both media so much - they're very different but each delightful in their own ways.
© 2015 Tammy Kaufman - Listen With Your Heart - oil pastels on Sennelier Oil Pastel Card, 9" x 12"
© 2015 Tammy Kaufman - Drink the Wild Air - soft pastels on Pastel Premier, 10" x 13"
I'll write more later, but now I really want to go paint. There are just too many beautiful places waiting for me! J
© 2015 Tammy Kaufman - Walk in Peace - soft pastels on watercolor paper prepared with Art Spectrum Colourfix Primer, 6" x 9"


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Life is Good!

Today is my wedding anniversary, and as if celebrating 15 years of marriage to the greatest guy in the whole world wasn't enough, I was just notified that my painting, "Ghosts of Fallen Leaves", has been juried into the North Carolina Statewide Pastel Show, On Common Ground! I am beyond honored and utterly delighted. Many thanks to juror Teresa Saia for including my work. (Doing my Happy Dance!)
© 2015 Tammy Kaufman - Ghosts of Fallen Leaves - soft pastels on Uart 600, 9" x 10"
I figured I'd add the reference photo (taken by me) since this creek meanders along one of our favorite local hiking spots and is in such a lovely area. I love where we live! My photo was taken over the winter but it had not snowed yet and I wasn't happy with the barenness of the scene so decided to add snow to the painting. :-)
Reference photo 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

What's Cooking

Let's face it, pastels are expensive, and my budget is limited. So, while I do try to save enough money whenever I can to buy the very best artist quality pastels I can, obviously I can't afford to buy every set I want. What I can do, though, is avoid waste. In that vein, I save my pastel "dust" and chips that have become too small to use, and today I figured I had enough "scraps" to make my own custom colors with them. Granted, they are not the buttery soft creaminess found in the professionally handmade sticks, but they seem to work well enough and blend fairly easily. I love that they're uniquely greyed colors as they're born from a combination of whatever dust falls onto my easel ledge, and I feel good about the fact that nothing is going to waste. :-)
My homemade pastel colors, as tested on Uart 600 sanded paper

Small Treasures

More exciting news! My acrylic painting, "Evening at Horseshoe Farm", has been juried into the Small Treasures Show at Cary Gallery of Artists! The opening reception is this coming Friday evening from 6-9 p.m. at the the gallery. Very honored and excited!

Small Treasures Juried Art Exhibit
Cary Gallery of Artists
200 South Academy Street, Cary, North Carolina
Opening Reception: Friday, March 27 from 6-9 p.m. 
© 2014 Tammy Kaufman - Evening at Horseshoe Farm - acrylics on canvas panel 6" x 9"

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Never Give Up

I was utterly delighted to receive an email from the Fine Arts League of Cary that began as follows: "I am happy to inform you that your entry was juried in to our Annual Exhibition." After receiving so many juried show rejection letters over the past year, I had pretty much given up on ever getting an acceptance. So when this one arrived, I almost couldn't believe my eyes and had to re-read the email message and even have a friend confirm that I had read what I thought I read! I am absolutely walking on air right now. As the selected paintings are due at Page-Walker Art and History Center on Tuesday, I spent the past few days getting "Riversong" custom matted and framed so it will be ready to go for the exhibit.

Show Details:
Fine Arts League of Cary 2015 Annual Juried Art Exhibition
Page-Walker Art and History Center, 119 Ambassador Loop, Cary North Carolina
February 25 - April 18, 2015
Opening Reception &  Awards Sunday, March 1, 2015, 2-4 pm
© 2014 Tammy Kaufman - Riversong - soft pastels on Sennelier La Carte Pastel Card 9" x 12"

Saturday, February 7, 2015

It's Caturday!

Venus is my purrfect painting companion and studio cat. She curls patiently around my feet, keeping me company while I paint, never bothers any of my painting supplies and as a bonus, makes a beautiful subject to paint. After spending the past two weeks working on still life homework for my pastel class, I decided to take a break last evening and paint something just for fun and just for me.
© 2015 Tammy Kaufman - Catticus Finch - pastels on Uart 600 7" x 7"
I'm please with how this one turned out for a variety of reasons. First, it's a huge step outside my comfort zone as I painted it using only value and temperature to choose my palette, instead of relying on color hue. It is from my own photograph, as most of my paintings are, but for this one, I cropped it down much tighter than I usually do to achieve the final composition and greyscaled the reference image it so I wouldn't be distracted by color.
Original Photo Reference in Greyscale
Additionally, I made a conscious decision to avoid drawing all the details and then "coloring within the lines", instead choosing to let the big value shapes define the subject. So after cropping and greyscaling my photo, I used the Picture Perfect 3 in 1 Viewfinder's red filter to help me determine the values. I drew only the general location of the eyes and nose but nothing else in order to avoid that "coloring inside the lines" appearance and set to work. Once I had my values mapped out, I selected pastels from the corresponding value compartments with no real regard to the color itself, although I did try to consider temperatures based on my light source when choosing which pastels to use.

All this was a bit scary for me, but I want to learn to trust my instincts, as well as what Addren has been teaching me. During our initial lesson, she had helped me arrange my pastels by value and sort them into the six compartments in my pastel box - dark darks, light darks, dark mids, light mids, dark lights and light lights. So for this painting, I made no conscious decisions about color hue, selecting my pastels solely based on value and temperature. I realize I'm still very early on my path to becoming an artist, and very possibly a year from now I'll look back on this painting with embarrassment, but today I'm happy enough with this little experiment that I decided to mat it - in a mat I cut myself! - pop it into a frame (please pardon the glare and reflections from the standard glass) and hang it on my studio wall. :-)
© 2015 Tammy Kaufman - Catticus Finch - pastels on Uart 600 7" x 7"


Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Practice in Patience and Perserverance

Well, it only took less than two weeks before my impatience kicked in! I've been working exclusively on still lifes as part of my values and temperature in color theory pastel lesson, and a dozen or so of those things are already starting to try my patience and make me look forward to eventually hopefully returning to my beloved landscape and animal paintings! But I'm not giving up, and will figure this out no matter how long it takes! A big hurdle for me at present is actually getting the still lifes set up. I use a small spare bedroom as a "studio" so am quite limited on space, and setting up the painting subjects appropriately is a challenge in and of itself, to say the least. Currently I'm using a tiny computer table with a clip-on lamp, and hinged cardboard to serve as a backing. I have several of those brightly colored presentation folders to use as various surfaces when I don't want to use just the white table. One of my biggest challenges is the fact that I have to paint in the evenings after work, so must use artificial lighting on my easel by which to paint. This can sometimes interfere with the shadowing on my still lifes, even though I try to shield them as much as possible from all but the lamp. Then add to all that my amblyopia visual distortion, and it can occasionally make for a bit of stress to get the homework studies even close to correct! So far in the past couple of weeks, I've painted several objects in greyscale, including an egg, a cowbell, shaving brush and razor, fruit (apple and pear), coffee mug and spoon, bar of soap and a shaving bowl.
Greyscale Still Life Homework Assignments © 2015 Tammy Kaufman
And I've done several color studies as well of the cowbell, shaving brush and razor, fruit (pear and apple), shaving bowl, and coffee mug and spoon.
Color Still Life Homework Assignments © 2015 Tammy Kaufman 
Most of the homework has been much less successful than I would have hoped, and I've had more than a little difficulty "seeing" all the values and temperature changes within the objects and shadows themselves, not to mention the reflected light and color in the backgrounds and surfaces. Who would have thought still lifes were so tough?! But I'm still pressing forward, fully intent on "getting" this color theory thing one way or another.