<![CDATA[Karen Mathison Schmidt - Blog]]>Tue, 14 May 2024 01:32:42 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[Books in Stacks & Sleeping Cats]]>Sat, 01 Oct 2022 05:00:00 GMThttp://edgewoodfineart.com/blog/september-29th-2022Books. Cats. Life is good.
Dreaming in Color III: Impressions
oil on Gessobord, 2013
NOTE: At the bottom of this post is a video showing the step by step transition from initial sketch to final painting.
Our Ray was an expert napper. I have dozens of photos in the archives in which he demonstrates his napping skills in a wide variety of locations and positions. Looking back, I think I would have to say that his favorite sleeping places contained books. Sometimes a single volume, sometimes a stack. Read more to see my step-by-step painting photos and commentary:
This is one of those rare instances when I didn’t feel the need to change anything about the composition; it was just right for painting as it was:
First, I did my pencil sketch on paper and decided on cropping, then traced it onto my Gessobord with graphite transfer paper and brushed lightly over the main lines with black acrylic. I then added a loosely brushed acrylic glaze of yellow ochre. For these initial glazes I use paint mixed with acrylic medium in a matte finish. Use more medium and less paint for a more transparent color, and vice versa
Next, a glaze of quinacridone magenta.
Now, a very loosely brushed glaze of phthalo blue acrylic. Before adding a new layer of glaze I let the previous layer dry for about 10 minutes or so. You can speed things up by using a blow dryer on a low heat setting to help each layer dry.
After letting the underpainting dry for a good 30 minutes or so, I start with my oils.
I begin by blocking in the gray areas of Ray’s coat, mixing black with white. For the parts of his fur which are warmed by the sunlight coming in the window, I mixed in just a breath of cad yellow light to warm up the gray toward the greenish.

Next, I started adding the brightest whites and a few medium tones, applying just one or two brush strokes each time before wiping and reloading my brush. My favorite touch right here is the little green highlight on top of his head.
Keeping things very quick and loose, I paint in the sunlit window and the white pitcher. Notice the “lost edge“ on the top of Ray’s body and back leg where his white fur blends in with the sunlight outside the window. I love the way lost and found edges add visual interest.
Next, the book stack! I really had to concentrate on keeping my strokes nice and loose here, and not get too caught up in the tiny details. When painting in an impressionist style, don’t underestimate the ability of the viewer’s brain to fill in missing visual information!
Here you can see that I added just a little more definition (but not too much!) to the flowers outside the window. Painted the book which is serving as Ray’s headrest, and painted the table top just peeking out from under our subject. My favorite parts when painting this section were the little highlights along the edge of the book and  right on the corner of the table.
Added my signature, et voilà! The painting is finished!
(Actually, if I had this one to do again, I would etch my signature into the paint with a stylus so that it wouldn’t be so distracting. But anyway.)

Happy Painting!
<![CDATA[Find the Hidden Kitty]]>Mon, 05 Sep 2022 13:49:47 GMThttp://edgewoodfineart.com/blog/find-the-hidden-kittyA kitten is the delight of a household. All day long a comedy is played out by an incomparable actor.
Hidden Treasure
acrylic on Gessobord, 2013
NOTE: At the bottom of this post is a video showing the step by step transition from initial sketch to final painting.
This may look like your average geranium painting. But if you look real close you might see a kitten.
Here’s Jo. In her mischievous little kitten mind she’s completely invisible to me as I climb the stairway to the second floor landing. When I get to the top she pounces on my feet and then scampers down the hallway back into the room which at the time was serving as my studio.
A day or two after she initiated this routine I started carrying my camera with me whenever I went upstairs, in hopes of capturing the moment for a painting. Following are behind-the-scenes at the photo shoot.

Got it
And then, a shot of the straight-on pose I was imagining for the painting.
Of course Ray had to get into the act.
An impromptu game of King of the Stack of Decorative Storage Boxes ensued.

And here are my step-by-step painting progress photos:
NOTE: At the bottom of this post is a video showing the step by step transition from initial sketch to final painting.
First, I drew the sketch with a graphite pencil and loosely went over it with black acrylic.
I blocked in color for the underpainting using transparent acrylic glazes (paint mixed with acrylic medium).
After the first layer of color was dry, I added a transparent layer of burnt sienna everywhere except the background wall and the center leaf, which I kept bright rose red at this point. I choose colors for the underpainting based on what I imagine I want showing through for the finished painting. I wanted that geranium leaf to have some intense red accents in the end. And for Jo, who in real life was sort of “tuxedo-calico,” I wanted to use the underpainting colors of deep sienna red to peek through her black and white tuxedo.
Starting to add some opaque color to kitty Jo: brightest whites and darkest blacks. These days I don’t usually use black on my palette, but here I used Mars black. Also blocked in the light behind Jo, and her shadow in the foreground, keeping it nice and loose. Just a little triangle of light at the bottom left of her shadow helps define the shadow cast by her tail.
In keeping with the fun, playful feel I wanted for this, I didn’t concern myself too much with Jo’s details, but used color kind of like bits of confetti for her markings. And just a few loose strokes get across that mischievous twinkle in her eyes. You may also have noticed in the previous pic that I added the tip of her tail, which was not showing in my initial sketch, to indicate that playful switching of a cat’s tail in anticipation of a pounce!
For flowers that are made up of multiple smaller blossoms on each bloom, like geraniums or hydrangea, I like to start with a darker color for the base layer of the entire bloom, and then add the smaller areas of color on top of that, keeping each slightly separate, but with some lost and found edges to keep it interesting. Here you can also see how I let the bright red of the underpainting peek through on the dark green leaf.
Here I added opaque color to the blue flower pot, using the sienna in the underpainting for the definition of the design carved into the pot. In a couple of spots, after the blue/teal color was dry, I added a touch of transparent yellow glaze to sunny it up a bit. Little bitty touches of pink (magenta and white), green and buttery yellow help to keep the pot from being too monochrome, and deeper blue helps to define the shadowy area under the rim and the overhanging leaves. You can see by comparing the reference photo to the painting that when painting an impressionist representation of these pots I don’t worry too much about making the design on them exactly like the design in real life, but more a feel of the design. Even though the painting is not a photographic depiction of the actual pot, my goal in the illustration is that if you walked into my house and saw these pots sitting on my coffee table you would say, “Hey! Those are the flower pots in that painting!”
Finished the flowers, the empty pot and background vase ... signature ... and done!
Happy Painting!
<![CDATA[The Mind of the Illustrator]]>Tue, 02 Aug 2022 15:38:00 GMThttp://edgewoodfineart.com/blog/the-mind-of-the-illustratorThe following is a step-by-step I wrote for my original blog in 2016, repeated here by request. 
Oh, magic hour, when a child first knows she can read printed words!
The Joy of Reading
acrylic on cradled Gessobord, 10 x 8 inches, 2016
For almost thirty years, my job as a graphic designer and typesetter included some illustration here and there. When I first started it was still more than a few years before personal computers and desktop publishing came on the scene in a big way, so I used to collect pictures of objects, animals, people, buildings, places and design elements that I might use as reference for freehand drawings, when it wasn't feasible to hire a model or set up a still life. I had file folders with my own photos, pages from magazines, catalogs, newspapers, and books, which I would go to when I needed an idea or a picture reference.

Then along came the Mac. And Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. And CDs you could purchase chock full of stock photos.

And then. My first digital camera. And the internet. 

Oh, my. 

Now we can take thousands of photos without having to buy film and waiting for developing, and there is literally a whole WORLD of reference at our fingertips. Of course, I’m the first one who will say that as an illustrator you should always use your own or your client’s photos or sketches for reference whenever possible, and always be sensitive to copyright issues. That being said, now it’s so easy, fast and fun to put together a composition, especially if you know the basics of an application like Photoshop.

A while back, friends commissioned me to do a painting from this photo as a surprise gift for their daughter, a reading teacher passionate about her job who had taken the picture of one of her students as she sat upside-down in a chair, engrossed in her book. 
I loved the picture, and set about making a solid, more colorful composition from it that would remain true to the original snapshot in feel; that is, candid and casual, unposed, spontaneous, unarranged. A fun everyday moment.

My favorite part of this is the shoes. Sure, our subject may have to wear a uniform for school, but she has determined to express herself in her choice of footwear!

Color decisions for the background elements were made by looking at my subject apart from her surroundings in the original photo ...
... and going with complementary colors. Her shoes are easy: red. So complement would be green. Her skin, visible only at her ankles and the top of her forehead, is a beautiful warm caramel (my painting brain translates this as “Mars orange and burnt sienna”); so complement is blueish. Her khakis have a yellowish cast, and yellow is a dominant color in the cover of the book she’s reading, so complement is – okay, everyone, all together now – purple! So now I know the background will be a cool mix of blues, greens, and purple.

Using diagonals is a good way to add interest and liveliness to any composition, and the original photo already had natural diagonals, so I carried those diagonals into my comp. I made the decision to bring the rug more into the picture so that it would be the main background pattern, and I also made note of the simple and bold design of both it and the gold and white zigzag pillow that you can just see lying on the floor to the right of the chair. I had the feeling that these things were chosen by our teacher for her classroom, so I went “shopping” on the internet for pictures of similar furnishings to use in putting together my picture. 

SIDE NOTE: At this point I would like to say that home decor is like a drug to me. And foraging for design elements amongst all the home furnishings available on the internet, while one of my very favorite things to do, is also quite a precarious activity for me in that if I’m not very careful I can spend hours and hours trekking through Interior Design Land and without even realizing it I will have long since lost sight of my goal of finding a rug and a pillow, and have wandered off into curtains, dining chairs, tables, lighting and kitchenware. 

And while we’re on the subject, it’s nothing short of brilliant marketing for Hobby Lobby to have their art supplies in the very back of the store so that when I need to pick up a bottle of picture varnish or some acrylic glazing medium I first have to make my way through acres and acres of vases, pitchers, furniture, mirrors, clocks (my VERY favorite!), baskets, and a vast array of antiqued metal and turquoise colored items. If I can get to the art supply section – and, oh yeah, BACK again – to arrive at the checkout with only my little bottle of varnish it gives me a real sense of accomplishment. Of course in the dozens and dozens of times I’ve been to Hobby Lobby to pick up one or two art supplies, I can count on the fingers of one hand the times I have managed to do this successfully. 

Anyway. Back to our composition.

It didn’t take me long to find this rug, on the Pottery Barn website. Aqua: PERFECT!
And this pillow, which I think I got from Target. Or maybe it was Pier One. (author's note: don't go looking for Pier One. This article was originally written in 2016 and, sadly, Pier One has gone out of business since then. One tear. And now, back to our text.)
I played around with angles and arrangements ... 
... and ended up with this as my final reference photo. Putting our reader a little off center and letting the right side of the round chair go out of frame just a touch on the right adds to the casual feel. 

I stretched the rug out from left to right at the bottom of the photo, so that the perception would be that it is actually lying on the floor and the viewer is standing right at the bottom of the picture looking down, so the design is bigger right at our feet and slightly smaller toward the top of the picture where the rug is a little farther away from our eyes. Same thing with the size of the pillows.

The thing that took me the longest was deciding where to put the pillows. Bringing them over to the left and letting them go out of frame on that side helps balance the whole composition, both mass-wise and color-wise. At first I had made the floor peeking out from under the rug at the top of the picture a darker blue, but then decided to brighten it up to bring out the bit of blue in the book cover. 

And now, the painting! 

Usually I use the grid method to draw my subject onto my Gessobord, but in the interest of time in this case, I printed out my pic and used transfer paper to trace the composition onto the board. 

NOTE: Perfectly okay to do this if you’ve composed your own photo. However (and I’m talking to myself here, too), DON’T LET YOURSELF DO THIS TOO OFTEN or you might get lazy with your drawing skills. Practicing drawing from photos and especially from life is the BEST way to hone your SEEING skills.

Okay, NOW the painting!

I did this one entirely in acrylic, and my palette was:
violet, ultramarine blue, cerulean blue, cobalt turquoise, phthalo green, cadmium yellow light, Indian yellow, cadmium orange, pyrrole red (LOVE this bright, true red), medium magenta, quinacridone magenta, yellow oxide (similar to yellow ochre), burnt sienna, burnt umber, ivory black and titanium white.
I started my underpainting with an acrylic magenta glaze (acrylic glazing medium mixed with my paints) over the background area, then a glaze of cerulean blue inside the shapes on the rug.
Now, a more transparent glaze (more medium, less paint) of magenta over our subject, and turquoise on the book. You can see I’ve also started with cadmium yellow glazing over the top pillow ...
 ... and continued with the yellow everywhere except the floor areas in the top corners and the bottom part of the rug where the chair and her feet are casting a faint shadow. I wanted to keep it cool there.
Developing the shadows of the chair and the darkness of her hair with glaze of violet, and the shadows of her khakis with phthalo green glaze. Also starting to redden up her shoes a little more here, with the pyrrole red. Adding detail to the book cover, plus some Indian yellow and cad orange for the highlights in her hair. Starting to add white on the pillows, the pages of the book, and the metal of the chair frame.

Also, you’ll see here that I decided to add a headband, which I will paint the same color blue as the floor and the bit of blue on the book cover. I achieve a bit of outline effect by painting the area darker, then not going quite to the edge of the headband shape with the blue.
Painting in the white on the rug design and the book, and continuing to whiten the pillows. Bit by bit, whitening up her khakis, but still letting the shadows be defined by the colors of the underpainting peeking through. More red on her shoes. LOVE that pyrrole red! Also starting to add some turquoise mixed with a little white to the shapes in the rug. And adding some Indian yellow to the orangey gold design on the pillows. Trying not to get too caught up in making that design perfect, because I’m going for a looser, more fun, impressionistic feel, not photorealism!
Notice that the turquoise on the rug is painted in loosely, to let the blue and purples of the underpainting show through, especially in the shadowy area toward the bottom of the picture. After it dries, I added just a touch of yellow glaze at the bottom right and top areas of the rug, to sunny it up a bit.
Starting to work on those splashy shoes!
Finishing the shoes and her ankles, and developing the shadows on the pillows. You can see how I added some variation in the blue of the floor, too, in the final picture below.
A little more yellow added to the sunny areas of the rug and pillows, and just a little more color in both the shadows and those fiery highlights of her hair ... 
... signature ... and done!

Happy Painting!