Category Archives: Flowers

Art I Like: Word Art and some more of my watercolors

It’s flower season here in Portland. I have been doing a lot of fun watercolors.

Here’s one of some geraniums:
Geranium, watercolor on paper, 12x16

Geranium, 2017, watercolor on paper, 12×16

Foxgloves are biennials, which apparently means they bloom every two years. I thought this was a yet another weed in my front yard and recently I got surprised by these lovely blossoms.
Foxgloves, 2017, watercolor on paper, 12x16

Foxgloves, 2017, watercolor on paper, 12×16

I also grew a bunch of wonderful tulips this year. Here’s a view of the tulips when they get all floppy and flattened right before the petals are going to drop.

Spent tulips, 2017x watercolor on paper, 12x16

Spent tulips, 2017, watercolor on paper, 12×16

And I could take pictures of peonies  forever. I have peonies in my garden! Hot pink ones and these pink frilly ones (I think they’re Sarah Bernhardts?) I want to grow tree peonies but they’re like $80 a pot.

Peony bouquet, 2017, watercolor on paper, 12x16

Peony bouquet, 2017, watercolor on paper, 12×16

Last time I mentioned I painted a canvas with a lavender background. I wrote out that dream quote in yellow paint and then smeared it out. Not sure where this is going. I could see this one being used for a landscape eventually or maybe I’ll make it an abstract. This canvas is larger than the ones I’ve been working on.
Work in progress
The canvas is sitting on an unstretched piece of canvas that I found rolled up (my mother had dutifully saved everything of mine). I’m going to paint over it as well with oil. We’ll see how the shapes in the background play out.

I was reminded of an artist  that I like on Pinterest …Jenny Holzer. She writes memorable quotes and they are embedded in all sorts of places: billboards, movie theater signs, etched in marble, projected on a building, etc etc. I love this quote:

This piece is so fitting for today’s politics:

Abuse of Power Comes As No Surprise from the series Truisms T-shirts (1980-)

Untitled Bench, Jenny Holzer, Missing Peace Exhibit

I had a drawing teacher tell me a long time ago, in a place far far away that my charcoal drawings reminded him of Cy Twombly. I was fortunate to see Cy Twombly at a retrospective I think at the Whitney Museum several years ago. He’s amazing. He embeds words in scribbles and gestural marks in a very beautiful and effortless way

Apollo by Cy Twombly

Here’s a recent watercolor of a peony with the word daydream scribbled on top. Nowhere near  as masterful as  Twombly but we’ll see where adding words in my art leads me. Don’t quit your daydream!

Daydream pink peony

Daydream pink peony

Spring Flowers- some oil paintings

I’ve been awful about updating my blog this year. In fact I hadn’t thought about it at all when Portland artist Randall David Tipton emailed me to tell me he had read my blog post about his artwork that I wrote over a year ago. He returned the favor and highlighted a watercolor on his blog. Thank you Randall!

After a very long, wet winter (one of the wettest winters on record in Oregon), it is flower season here in Portland. This is the time of year when it is really hard for me to concentrate on doing any paintings because I just want to be out in the sun and take lots and lots of pictures.

Anyway, I wanted to update my blog to show some spring flower oil paintings I have completed recently. I wanted these to be light, bright, and colorful.  In the first painting of a quince bouquet, I wanted it to feel like a watercolor- painting with thin, transparent layers. This was successful for the most part but not sure if there’s too much ‘white’ left? What do you think? I’m going to do another one with the same technique, but start with a solid color background first to avoid that problem. I’ve prepped a canvas with a very light bright lavender. We’ll see how that goes.

Glowing quince, 2017, oil on linen, 16x20

Glowing quince, 2017, oil on linen, 16×20

This next one is also a painting done from the same quince bouquet in a teal vase but from a different perspective. I also used  a slightly different technique, painting much thicker. I think my obsession with Matisse shows a bit more here. Which one do you like more this one or the first one?

Quince bouquet, 2017, oil on canvas, 16×20

Here’s another closeup of a spring bouquet, I think composed of all the early spring blossoms:   quince, forsythia, and cherry blossom leaves. I had a lot of fun playing with color- glazing the background in teal and emerald green, creating the dark purple leaves.

Spring bouquet, teal. 2017. Oil on canvas, 16x20

Spring bouquet, teal. 2017. Oil on canvas, 16×20

Ninebark and other fall foliage- mixed media

I love the dark foliage on the copper beech tree but I don’t have a source nearby. I planted the bronze colored ninebark because it was drought tolerant and had the dark foliage that I desired.

Here is a mixed media (watercolor, gouache, ink) painting I did of  a still life I created using the ninebark leaves.

Ninebark still life

Here’s another painting inspired by the trees at the Sunnyside Medical Campus. The leaves are much more brilliantly vivid in real life, I guess I still got the greys of winter on my mind.

Foliage

I’m still obsessed with creating greys and muted maroons and I like how the complimentary colors meet to create these interesting, iridescent stains.

 

Oil painting floral still life is done!

After being on the verge of done for what seemed like months (mainly because I would go weeks without touching it) I think I am finally done with this floral still life!

floral still life by Betsy Chang
floral still life by Betsy Chang

Well, I think I am ready to call it quits. There’s a lot I learned from this process and of course I have more questions.

My major learnings from this painting:

  1. Which colors are transparent
  2. Making things lighter by making the darks darker first

which gets me to my current conundrum.

This oil painting is darker than most of my watercolors. That’s not just because oils are more opaque than watercolors. It has to do with the fact that I chose a subject that had a dark background (which I normally wouldn’t try in watercolors because it’s hard to find good greys in watercolor) and my oil painting technique relied on a  mid tone foundation with layered glazes ….without really ever using the color white. Whereas in watercolor, the white of the paper shines through and keeps things bright.

So this oil painting is not only extremely hard to photograph- hello glare- compared to my watercolors. It also feels dull and heavy in normal inside light, while under a nice bright lightbulb or in the sun you can see this amazing luminosity and the feeling of glowing from within that drew me to using oils in the first place.

closeup of painting in sunlight
closeup of painting in sunlight

So I don’t have any Rembrandts in person to compare, but is this just how it is for oils? Do you need like museum quality lighting to fully view them and normally they are just meh? I don’t know if i I buy that…

If so that’s another debate. Watercolors feel flimsy (on paper) and they need matting and glass to protect them which gets expensive and cumbersome. Whereas oils don’t really need to even be framed, but are they just ghosts without strong light?

Which do you prefer? Oils or watercolor?

An oil painting still life’s (slow) progress

I was told that my painting looked finished even in its previous stage, but I wanted to further develop the peach colored poppy and the pink ranunculus in the foreground. I really liked what was going on with the background area near the camellia stem and blossoms.

I love watercolors and thinking about how that translates to the transparency in oil paints.  Oil paints excel at providing really great dark tones for luminous, transparent shadows. Certain colors are particularly transparent: alizarin crimson, ultramarine, and sap green. Sap green is the best green ever, it’s so balanced it’s like a neutral color that you could add anywhere. Some greens are too blue or saturated that they look fake when you use too much of them, but sap green is just so agreeable and you can use it even straight out of the tube. I’ve learned one way to make a great grey: mix sap green + alizarin crimson + naples yellow.

At this point in the painting, I’m feel really impatient to be DONE ALREADY.  I keep needing to be reminded not to rush ahead, and to keep knocking back the the shadows, using the darks and midtones. With the peach poppy, I ended up mixing more murky greys and browns and then blending them, than using this awesome salmon color I mixed from yellow ochre + montserrat orange + cadmium red.

To create the yellow stamen and pistil center of the poppy, I used cadmium yellow, yellow ochre, and naples yellow.  (Side note, mixing yellow ochre is good way to add the yellow hue without going too light in value.) 4 tones are needed to create 3 dimensional form, so I attempted to mix 4 ish yellowish tones. Again, I was feeling frustrated because I see this part being so clear and bright, but the first layer  feels very vague and fuzzy.

For the ranunculus, I’m using magentas for the first time in the painting.

 

Imbrie Hall

Hillsboro near Intel is growing like crazy. I heard that Cornelius Pass used to be this quiet little rural road and now they are doing massive construction on it to handle all of the traffic. Near the powerplants and electrical lines and all of the big box surburban sprawl is a real gem brought to you by McMenamin’s: Imbrie Hall.

The grounds and landscaping are stellar. It would be a great place for an event or wedding.

Super cute wooden sheds.

Look at all of the cool windows inside this rustic barn. I would love a cabin/tiny home like this:

I love this garden, I’m not sure if it’s fennel or Queen Anne’s lace

Girl with Pigtails and Roses (and a Pearl Earring)

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Have you seen Girl with a Pearl Earring, based on the famous Vermeer painting?

www.npr.org

Oh man, I thought Colin Firth, was at his best as my movie Husband, Mr Darcy, in Pride and Prejudice, but he has never looked better than when he portrayed the artist Vermeer in this movie. Scarlett Johansson is great in this movie too.

theredlist.com
www.artnews.com

There’s several interesting scenes for artists.

The way that they make paint with ground powder of different pigments.

https://admitonefilmaddict.files.wordpress.com

Contemporary artist Anna Valdez also uses pigments to create her custom oil paints. I think this is a bit too messy and potentially environmentally unfriendly for me to risk:

Raw pigments – Ultramarine Violet, Ultramarine Red and Titanium Grey. @sinopia_pigments

A photo posted by Anna Valdez (@missannavaldez) on

The beautiful, beautiful northern facing window lighting that is evident in all of Vermeer’s work. It also makes the perfect lighting for photography. My house has no northern facing windows. Sad face.

www.mcalpinetankersleyblog.com

The camera obscura tool that Vermeer uses to help him draw accurate compositions. I’d like one too!

 

Pink Bougainvillea

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Generally I think that Portland has some of the best flowers in all of the United States. There’s a reason it is nicknamed the Rose City- and Portland’s great not just roses. From the early hellebores, to the brilliant camellias, to the spring peonies, there’s a flower for all my heart’s desire in nearly all seasons. One thing that I am missing out on are the perfectly PINK bougainvillea that grows in California. The pink is so vibrant, it almost seems artificial.

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Here I tried to take some pictures with a won’t sit still for the camera three year old.

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These are taken with my brother in law’s Canon 5d Mark II and Sigma 80MM 1.4f lens. Add both to my wish list. I normally would say digital is inferior to film, but it’s like every shot is freaking brilliant on that combo. OK time to buy a Megabucks ticket.

More from my Seattle trip: Food and Shopping

Seattle’s Pioneer Square is so charming. Look at all the ivy-covered brick buildings.

Like Portland, Seattle has so many cute shops and cafes. We stopped so I could get my coffee fix at this one shop (The London Plane) with an amazing floral selection.

Look at this teeny anemone by the register – so perfect I almost thought it was fake.

The market at Pike’s Place had rows and rows of tulips, every variety you could imagine. If I hadn’t been concentrating so hard on my artisan greek yogurt (Ellenos), I would have more pictures of them.

West Seattle is like being at a beach town on the coast, except you’re still in the city. On one side you can see Puget Sound and from other view you can see Mount Rainier and the Space Needle.

The ‘downtown’ area of West Seattle near California Ave was super cute. I had the best lunch (Pellegrini Market) of handmade lamb meatballs on a pizza crust sandwich thing and I devoured it. There were also cute little shops with more flowers.

 

Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm

I’ve always dreamed of visiting Amsterdam. Luckily I got a taste of the Netherlands when I went to the annual tulip festival at the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm near Salem, Oregon. They have their own windmill and it is not tacky at all.

Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm

There are rows and rows of tulips at this farm.

tulips

It’s a tricky time of year to go, in early spring is when these tulips bloom, and sometimes it is still grey and gloomy at this time of year. But luckily when I went it was sunny with a chance of meatballs.

Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm

 

They sell other plants at the farm too, including the most wonderfully scented hyacinths /muscari.