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Figure And Ground Relationships: How to Weave A Painting

Conversations About Figure and Ground

I remember conversations I had with my Dad* about composition.  I remember the first time he talked to me about weaving the painting together as if it were a tapestry.  He said all the parts of the painting must fit together to create a whole.  And, yet, each part must be interesting and meaningful on its own.

Because what Dad said was important to me, I have spent some time learning composition.  I don’t think one ever finishes; its an ongoing process.  One composition consideration that I’d like to talk about is the figure and ground relationship.  I think this is a natural topic to follow my previous post on value studies.

Say What?

OOPS!  Press pause!  I was typing away and thought to myself:  “Why should you care?  What’s the point?”  Good question.  Especially if you’re not an “artist”; or if you are an artist and prefer to go by intuition.

Think of learning a bit about design as sort of a game.  By learning a little, the experience you have while viewing a painting can be enriched and exciting.   The visual clues will help you understand the artists intent.

Resume

Press play.  Back to the figure and ground relationship.  The “figure” is my subject; the “ground” the background or environment within which the subject resides.  The figure is also known as the “positive” shape; the ground the “negative shape.  You may notice that I use “figure” and “subject”; they’re the same.

There Are Always Options

If you look at the value studies I’ve included, you will notice that sometimes the background is light; sometimes its dark.  The same with the figure(s): sometimes light and sometimes dark. These are the simplest options.

There is a third option: alternating light and dark.   I imagine that there are almost as many variations to alternating light and dark as there are number of shapes.  When I do an alternating light and dark pattern, I start with one shape and decide what value (light or dark) I want it to be.  Every other shape’s value relates to the first shape.

Still Weaving

Wonderful.  Now we know that there are variations that artists compose with.  So, why?  Back to my tapestry analogy, the pattern of light and dark shapes as it relates to the figure and ground weaves the painting together.

Another important reason to think about the figure – ground relationship is mood of the composition.  The variations of light and dark influence mood.  A mostly dark composition might make you think of evening or winter, for example.  Like somber music, a somber background tells you something about the subject.  Maybe something serious is happening or about to happen.

On the other hand, a light, festive ground may tell a different story about the subject or figure.

Properties of Light and Dark

There is another important factor about light and dark as it relates to the figure and ground that artists consider.  Light advances and dark retreats.

What?  This is two dimensional art.  Yes, but there is an optical illusion.  Look at a white shape completely surrounded by darkness.  The white shape seems to come toward the viewer.  The reverse: a dark shape completely surrounded by a light shape recedes.  Dark shapes can look like holes.

Back to Figure and Ground

Confusing?  Yes?  I have mixed in lights and darks; figure and grounds.  You thought I said I was talking about figure and ground.  It is hard separating them, but you could.  I was just thinking, you could have an all white painting; or an all black painting.  Both the subject and ground are the same value.  OH WAIT!  It’s been done.

The variations in lights and dark help us define the subject.  And, the subject needs to be seen in context with the ground.

Suggestions:  Look At Images in Advertising

And, when words won’t do, just have a look at paintings or graphic designs and let it soak in.  Have a look at advertising.  Check out cartoons.  Do you suppose graphic artists and cartoonists are masters of figure and ground relationships?  You bet!  You have to be to create eye catching, compelling images.

See Figure And Ground

So, now that you know one of the secrets to composing, you can join in on the fun!

And, that is the point.  Look. See. Enjoy. Be the painting!  

Note:

*My Dad was artist John H. Stermer and his website is http://JohnStermer.com

The post Figure And Ground Relationships: How to Weave A Painting appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox – Watercolor Artist.

Drawing

Drawing of Shalyn.  For sale here on Etsy.

Filed under: Drawing, figure, Portrait Tagged: 2013, art, Ashland Art Center, drawing, etsy, female nude drawing, figurative, figure, fine art, life drawing, nude, nude drawing, nude female, portrait, Sarah burns, sarah f burns, work of sarah f burns

“To Market, To Market” Art’Clectic Local Artisans Victorian Christmas Market

Christmas is perhaps the most widely embraced, lovingly anticipated and celebrated annual event for many families in Oregon. In the grand tradition of holiday merriment, the Art’Clectic Local Artisans Group has created a “Pop-Up” event with 12 local artisans, offering an “Authentically Oregon” mix of fine artisan made items including Fine Art, Hand woven Textiles, Quilts, Furniture, and more. There will be a special table with low cost items where children can shop for presents for Mom & Dad (and stay within a small budget). The group will also offer stylish gift wrapping to personalize presents with simple, beautiful papers and ribbon.

The Art’Clectic Artisans Market will be held during the Victorian Christmas Weekends:

Where:  175 S. Oregon Street (IOOF #10)
When:  December 5-7th, December 12-14th, December 19-21st.
Time:  Fridays from 4-8pm, Saturday & Sundays from 10-6pm.

The Art’Clectic Artisans Group started as a social gathering, meeting once a month at the home of one of the artists.  The ongoing meetings are an opportunity to freely discuss changes in the artist community and art market place, upcoming art events, and personal news about family and friends. Artisans include:

  • Patrick Beste – Watercolorist
  • Roberta Coakley-Vargas– Mixed Media Artist
  • Sheri Croy – Mixed Media Decoupage Artist
  • Susan Frank – Pastel Artist
  • Carol Laenen – Textile Artist
  • Tony Laenen – Watercolor/Acrylic Artist
  • Vivian McAleavey – Photographer
  • Tom Ommen – Photographer
  • Lisa St. Arnold – Local Furniture Artisan
  • Zoe West – Encaustic Artist
  • Char Wirfs – Textile Artist
  • Walt Wirfs – Oil Painter & Graphite Artist

For more information:
Susan Frank
(541) 245-2608
susanfrankstudio@gmail.com
For more information on Art’Clectic Local Artisans Market:
http://eventsARTclectic.blogspot.com

“To Market, To Market” Art’Clectic Local Artisans Victorian Christmas Market

Christmas is perhaps the most widely embraced, lovingly anticipated and celebrated annual event for many families in Oregon. In the grand tradition of holiday merriment, the Art’Clectic Local Artisans Group has created a “Pop-Up” event with 12 local artisans, offering an “Authentically Oregon” mix of fine artisan made items including Fine Art, Hand woven Textiles, Quilts, Furniture, and more. There will be a special table with low cost items where children can shop for presents for Mom & Dad (and stay within a small budget). The group will also offer stylish gift wrapping to personalize presents with simple, beautiful papers and ribbon.

The Art’Clectic Artisans Market will be held during the Victorian Christmas Weekends:

Where:  175 S. Oregon Street (IOOF #10)
When:  December 5-7th, December 12-14th, December 19-21st.
Time:  Fridays from 4-8pm, Saturday & Sundays from 10-6pm.

The Art’Clectic Artisans Group started as a social gathering, meeting once a month at the home of one of the artists.  The ongoing meetings are an opportunity to freely discuss changes in the artist community and art market place, upcoming art events, and personal news about family and friends. Artisans include:

  • Patrick Beste – Watercolorist
  • Roberta Coakley-Vargas– Mixed Media Artist
  • Sheri Croy – Mixed Media Decoupage Artist
  • Susan Frank – Pastel Artist
  • Carol Laenen – Textile Artist
  • Tony Laenen – Watercolor/Acrylic Artist
  • Vivian McAleavey – Photographer
  • Tom Ommen – Photographer
  • Lisa St. Arnold – Local Furniture Artisan
  • Zoe West – Encaustic Artist
  • Char Wirfs – Textile Artist
  • Walt Wirfs – Oil Painter & Graphite Artist

For more information:
Susan Frank
(541) 245-2608
susanfrankstudio@gmail.com
For more information on Art’Clectic Local Artisans Market:
http://eventsARTclectic.blogspot.com

New Sketches and Five Sketch Blogs

From My Sketchbook

I’ve been thinking, and re-thinking, as is my custom, about why I spend so much time on my sketchbook.  I like it.  I have two new pieces, one for my “Drawing Talent” series and one from our recent camping trip around the Northwest.

I’ve also been wrestling with what to say.  I drew the one of the local dentist offices that’s in an interest house in our historic area.  But, I don’t know anything about the building.  All I can say is that its a dentist office that I pass on a daily basis.  It’s Talent.

Dental Office

Another watercolor sketch I did was of our camper on our recent outing (please see the below).  We were camped in northeastern California.  I was sitting on a slope, looking down at the campground.  I particularly wanted to include our camper in a campground setting.   I enjoyed the work.

By the way, while cruising the internet looking for my favorite drawing blogs, I came by Rhonda Carpenter’s “Watercolors and Words”.  She had a blog post about taking sketching and watercolor material with her on trips…and never using them.  It is something I can relate to; its hard when visiting family and friends.  I was happy that I did a watercolor sketch this last trip.  Usually, I do simple drawings.

Adebanji Alade Sketch Blog

Then, I stumbled onto one of the fascinating blogs that I like:  Adebanji Alade.  Mr. Alade is an artist in the UK.  He just one the “Harold Riley Sketchbook Prize”.  This is an award unique to the UK.  Mr. Riley wanted to highlight the value of the artist’s sketchbook, which is rarely seen publicly.  Sketchbooks give insight to the artist’s work and creativity.  Congratulations Mr. Alade!

To my friends, I invite you to take a look at Mr. Alade’s sketch blog (he does have a separate one for paintings).  Just cruise the images and look at the sketches.  Aren’t they exciting?

Then, I had a flash of insight.  Why don’t I share some favorite sketching blogs?

Four Additional Blogs

  • Gurney’s Journey sometimes includes sketches.  He’s been doing this for quite some time.
  • Urban Sketchers, by definition: its about sketching and sketch blogs.  This particular blog gave me the idea of doing some urban sketching of my own.  Instead, I am doing Talent sketching, or Drawing Talent.  I don’t know if my little town qualifies as urban.  Back to this blog, the quality of work is amazing!  And, what a great way to get to know a city!  Their motto is “See the world one drawing at a time”.  Isn’t that a cool idea?
  • Seattle Sketcher Gabriel Campanario.  Mr. Campanario sketches for the Seattle Times and is the founders of the Urban Sketcher movement. Inspiring.
  • Then there is the Sketch Seattle website and blog.  The sketchers are fellow northwest artists Ron Stocke and Derek Gundy.  They offer workshops too.  I know of the artists through our mutual affiliation with the Northwest Watercolor Society.

I don’t visit these blogs and websites often, but when I do stop by, I am impressed by the quality of work.  And, I’m inspired to get busy on my own drawing!

I hope you’ll take a moment to wander through these five sites and see perhaps see a bit of the world through the eye of an artist!

Camping Among the Ponderosa Pine

 

 

 

 

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On Writing a Solo Art Show Statement

Art Show Coming Up

In my head I’m having a discussion with my sister Dorothy about art show statements.  Dorothy is in the process of putting together a solo show of my Dad’s work, artist John H. Stermer (1920-1991).  The show will be at the University of New Mexico’s Popejoy Hall (Albuquerque, NM) this November.

The Problem

How does one go about writing a statement for an art show?  What might an art show statement look like?

kittykitty by margaret stermercoxResearch

Thinking off the top of my head, I thought I’d do some online research.  This is not a new requirement, there ought to be lots of articles are art show statements, shouldn’t there?

What I found was that  there are plenty of articles about writing an artist’s statement, but I couldn’t find one specifically about a show or collection statement.  I know they’re out there, but?

I Need Your Help

Since I didn’t find a satisfactory article, I would love to read your suggestions and experiences.  To get the ball rolling, so to speak, I thought I’d write this article.

Brain Storming

Here’s a brain storm type list of what I think a solo art show or collection (we will go with art show) statement might look like.

  • Short.  To the point.  Smallish sentences for easy reading.  Three to five short paragraphs long.
  • Its a story about the collection used in the art show.
  • It introduces the audience, which are potential collectors, to the collection and gives them a clue about what to see, discover or feel.
  • It’s not a bio.  It’s not the artist’s childhood.
  • Written in the first person.
  • Used in publicity and marketing.
  • Specific to the collection of art being shown

Still Life with Toy Pony D25

Sample Statement

I have written a couple from time to time and found one in my archives.  It was for my “MsKitty & ToyPony” collections.  I thought I’d include it as a sample art show statement..ummm, after some editing!

“MsKitty & Toy Pony”

Welcome to the “MsKitty and ToyPony” show!  Its about humor, family and friendship.  Its also about color, boldness and discovery.  Shown here are the highlights of two series of watercolor works:  “MsKitty” and “Still Life with Toy Pony”.

The “MsKitty” series was inspired by my aunt’s cat “Maggie”, also known as “Maggie-magnificat”. I gave her the names “MsKitty” and “KittyKitty”, because she is a proper, modern cat. I like the stoic, subdued expressions of kitties. I also like their ability to go from nap to full tilt boogie in four seconds flat. In the MsKitty series, I am exploring the expression of the individual. Others are implied, as in “KittyKitty”; the text refers to someone off-paper. “Regal Kitty” is a nod to the Cubist sculpture of Henri Laurens. In “Groovy Kitty”, I again include Cubist devices, such a face that can be read as head-on or in profile.

I started the “Still Life with Toy Pony” series after working on “MsKitty” for a year or more. Where “MsKitty” is about the individual, “Toy Pony” is the family.   The objects are arranged to tell stories about family relationships. Sometimes the four objects are all linked as a unit. At other times, I grouped the objects either as pairs, or in an un-even 3-1 arrangement. Each arrangement influences the mood and expression. Another device I used was the animate object, “Toy Pony” contrasted with three in-animate objects, the candlestick, espresso cup and vase. I believe that “Toy Pony’s” character is easier to reveal because of a natural empathy with animals. “Toy Pony” became the star; the candlestick, espresso cup and vase the supporting cast. On a personal note, I seem myself as the espresso cup.

Even though both series were started independently, they took on a greater personal meaning together. They reminded me of my sisters and me. While each painting is designed to stand on its own, together they reflect my feelings about my family. And, if they bring joy or delight to the viewer, so much the better!

Suggestions?

I would love to hear your recommendations and suggestions about what an art show statement should be about.

Thanks.

Paintings From the MsKitty and Toy Pony Collections

 

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Making an Effort

I’m making a real effort to get most of my available work up onto my Etsy site – I’ve been so resistant to the dull work of it all, but for whatever reason, I’m on a roll now.  You know, just in case you have $60 – $3000 burning a hole in your pocket.  (lol, I know!)

Etsy Site Screen Grab

click the picture to go straight to the shop.

Filed under: For Sale, Paintings Tagged: 2014, art, drawing, etsy, figurative, fine art, floral, flowers, nude female, oil painting, plein air, Sarah burns, sarah f burns

Volunteering

30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge

I joined the “30 Paintings in 30 Days” challenge sponsored by Leslie Saeta even though I had projects coming up that might prevent me from finishing the challenge.  Why take on the challenge?  I thought it was worth the start and good practice.  Even if I don’t post, its worth the discipline to paint daily.

What I would like to talk about are the projects I will be doing instead.  Camping and painting, naturally.  Plus, I’m volunteering my time to the Watercolor Society of Oregon (WSO) and the Northwest Watercolor Society (NWWS).

Dreamy Time Tea

Watercolor Society of Oregon

The Watercolor Society of Oregon has their fall convention early in October.  This year it is being held in nearby Medford, OR.  I am one of the volunteer workers.  I’m assisting the convention chair (Ms. Deanna St. Martin) with some of the sessions.   Currently, I’m preparing for the Juror’s Critique Sessions.  There are two sessions each with 20 images.  What is enlightening is seeing the good quality of art being submitted.

Which brings me to a lesson learned that is re-inforced in my brain.  In most any juried show, there are many fine paintings that are not accepted.  It is the nature of the beast due to the limits of juried shows.

Another lesson learned:  there is a LOT of work that must be done ahead of time to prepare for and put on an exhibition and convention.

My volunteer work with the Watercolor Society of Oregon is short term and will be done by conventions end early in October.

Northwest Watercolor Society

My work with the Northwest Watercolor Society is more long term.  I am one of the “Co-Chair” for the society’s Facebook Page.  These days, non-profit organizations, such as the NWWS, must learn and be active in Social Media.  By necessity, the society depends on volunteers.

I started volunteering with the NWWS in 2011.  I was their “Awards Chair”.  It was an interesting job.  My responsibility was securing award donations for their two annual exhibitions.  It was almost like a full time job.  It was also a job I wanted to do well as people were depending on me.

During my tenure as Awards Chair, I started posting on the society’s Facebook page.  I’ve been doing it off and on ever since.

Why Volunteer?

I have gained knowledge about art societies and participating in art exhibitions and conventions.  This is knowledge one does not gain merely by submitting an image.  Things like image preparation, paperwork, shipping and receiving artwork.

The art societies rely on volunteers to function.  Volunteering from time to time contributes to the success of organizations I am a member of, even if it is in a small way.

So, if I don’t post much until mid October, know that I’m busy working on the Watercolor Society of Oregon’s fall convention.  I probably won’t have time for new “Drawing Talent” work either.

Plus, if you have insight on growing a great non-profit organization Facebook page, PLEASE let me know!

Tea & Espresso

Now, I think it’s tea and coffee time!  About the two paintings shown, they are the latest two I completed for the “30 Paintings in 30 Days” .  Thanks!

Espresso & Tea Again

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Talent Library Entrance: Day 11 of 30 Paintings in 30 Days

Remembering My First Library Visit

Libraries.  Do you remember the first time you went to a library?  I do.  I don’t remember the book I checked out, but I do remember going.

Up until that  magical day, libraries were grown up places and I was too young.  

Talent Library Entrance, Watercolor by Margaret Stermer-Cox

We were living in Bayard, NM and the nearest library was ten miles away in Silver City, NM.  To drive to the library was a big deal.  My mother would go to the library and take my older siblings, but I was not old enough yet.

Then one day I wasn’t too young and got to go with my Mom.  I felt important.  I’m sure I read the book I checked out over and over again.  It was the start of a long relationship with libraries.

The Book Mobile

We used to have a book mobile come to our village too.  I remember happy visits and checking out books.  If a book was about horses or dogs, I was certain to be interested in it.

Speaking of book mobiles, I have a friend and fellow artist who used to be a book mobile driver/librarian.  What a special job!

Buying Books Through School

Though I’m dating myself, I will say that there wasn’t a book store in our village.  Periodically we could order paperback books through our school.  I’d pore over the catalog and take my time in choosing the book I was allowed to order.  It was special!

These were the days before computers and the internet changed our lives.  And yet, I think libraries are still important, perhaps more so than ever.

Local Libraries

Local libraries are our communities’ repository for the written word.  Thoughts, ideas, observations, musings and even gossip exists on the pages.  Stories, pictures, histories, its all there.  Rich and poor alike have access.  The library is a “living” monument to what we think is important.

It did strike me as appropriate to be drawing and painting the library on September 11th.  For me, the seeds of freedom can be sewn and nurtured in the library.

Our library in Talent is a branch of the local Jackson County Library System.  It serves us well.

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Talent Cafe: Day 10 of 30 Paintings in 30 Days

New (Real) Talent Cafe

I thought I’d clarify, this is the NEW Talent Cafe!  (They call themselves the “Real” Talent Cafe).

Old (Original) Talent Cafe

On August 31st, I posted an article called “Drawing Talent: Joe Dunbar Designs & Talent Cafe” . You see, the building depicted in the watercolor study was the old, original Talent Cafe. It was the Talent Cafe of my husband’s youth.

Talent Cafe

But, that Talent Cafe went on into the memory books.

Now, Talent has a NEW Talent Cafe!  New building, new location, new owners, new everything but the name.

Lots of Customers

And, let me tell you, they have a lot of customers!  I’ll explain.

Empty Parking Lot

I walked down to the Talent Cafe’s location late this morning. The parking lot was somewhat empty. I was looking for a place to sit that might offer a view with nice light and dark contrast.

Seeing that the parking lot was almost empty, I thought it wouldn’t matter if I set up in a parking space.  But, I hesitated because I’m not particularly familiar with this cafe.  I decided to set up in the weeds just outside of the parking lot.

Last Place Taken – OOPs

Picture this, I’m busy sighting, drawing lines, splashing paint, focusing on my work, not paying attention to the parking lot.  Slowly, the parking lot fills up until the last slot is taken!  OOPS! The last slot was right in front of me and my view was blocked. This is a busy place!

Busy Place

You might not realize that this is a popular cafe; I certainly didn’t! It’s in a small “strip mall”. The backside of the building faces a major road, highway 99 or the Pacific highway.  This is the part I usually see. All the parking is around front so you don’t see how much business the cafe receives. And, its busy!

Good Espresso

Personally, I have only been to the cafe once.  I had a cup of espresso and it was good.  After seeing today’s busy parking lot, maybe I’ll have to try it again!

Update:  Thank you!

I received an enthusiastic email from the owner of the Talent Cafe and I feel honored.  She is an artist herself, working in acrylic paint.  Inside the cafe the walls are decorated with her own, original artwork.  Thank you Ms. Obrien, I feel honored!

 

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