Monday, May 30, 2011

Minneapolis Mills Drawing, along Hiawatha

Hiawatha Mills study, 8 x 11" mixed media on cotton rag paper, by Tracie Thompson

2700 38th Street, Minneapolis (the Old Garage), 7 x 9" pencils on brown paper, by Tracie Thompson
This is how I spent the afternoon of 5/30. I'd gone out to draw some of the mill buildings, which have always attracted me, and found the little leaning garage by chance when I parked my truck. Sketched it, got hungry and visited the Cardinal Bar just a couple blocks away for a nice beer and a burger, before heading out again to try my hand at the mills.

Mushroom Drawings

Mushroom Study #2, pencils and pastel on paper, 7 x 5", by Tracie Thompson

Mushroom Study #1, pencils on paper, 7 x 5", by Tracie Thompson
These are the perks of all the rain we've had in the Twin Cities lately -- all kinds of fascinating little mushrooms springing up. The sketches were done over this weekend, in carbon pencil, pastel pencil, and (for the second one) soft pastel.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Petit Four Painting (the Second)

Raspberry Petit Four, 5 x 5" oil on canvas by Tracie Thompson
Another of my series for La Patisserie. Finished fresh this morning. Available at $40 at my ArtFire Shop.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Spring in St. Paul; new workshop; and happy bulldozing.

Lilacs at the studio window, 5/24/11

Went out walking this morning, and despite the clouds it's gorgeous here, and all of Highland Park smells like lilacs.

Home now, I'm putting together the outline for a fun, one-day workshop at Bloomington Art Center, on painting portraits of animals from photos.  Scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 24th. I'll link more information when it is available.

Meanwhile, I'm thinking about how often we get stuck because we let stupid obstacles stop us. The little still life setup in this photo is an example: I haven't been painting still life at home because I kept thinking I had no place to set one up. This idea, when examined, was silly. Of course I had a place. I was just using it for clutter-storage, crowding it with things that I could simply move.

What a powerful thing -- to just move stuff where it needs to be instead of letting it make you take detours. Now I feel like a happy little bulldozer, on the prowl for other "obstacles" I can shove out of my way.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Walking and Flying (rut avoidance, part three I think)

View out the Soap Factory Window, 3.5 x 5.5", ballpoint, watercolor and acrylic on paper
I liked last night's sketch enough to add some color to it today.

Good day for playing around: it's raining here, storming, lightning. Earlier, during a break in the weather, I went walking and chose another new direction. I'd already been thinking about birds and about some seeds that look to me like moth-wings -- thinking of things that fly -- when I came upon a perfectly intact balsa-wood airplane, resting right there in the street. Wet and dirty, it had clearly been out there some time, yet somehow had not been run over. It was missing nothing but the rubber band that had powered the little red propeller.

As a kid, I had probably a dozen of these, the exact same design. Naturally I picked it up and took it home. I figure I'll do with it what it was designed for: play. But on paper and canvas rather than in the backyard that I currently do not have.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sketches from The Soap Factory

Tonight I did a bit of volunteer work -- I'll confess I turned out to be more decorative than useful, for most of the evening, but I tried -- at the Soap Factory.

While sitting at the entry table to greet guests, I made a couple small sketches with the materials I had on hand: my little Moleskine sketch book and a ballpoint pen. The wild violet was pilfered from the grass just outside the building, and the roofline drawing is of the view I had out the Soap Factory window.

I met some really great people, including Jim Rustad of the Weisman Museum, and had a very good time looking at art once my volunteer shift was over. Being at the Soap Factory always makes me happier.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sir William, at the Paideia Academy Festival

Sir William the Dragon, 16 x 20" acrylic on canvas by Tracie Thompson

Okay, this? Was fun.

I began with nothing but the sketch on the canvas, and worked from about 5:25 to just after the close of the silent auction at 7:30. Because I was using acrylics, the paint dried almost instantly, which meant the winning bidder was able to take the piece home right away.

Next year, I'm thinking ... horses.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pumpkin the French Bulldog, finished

Pumpkin, 10 x 8" oil on canvas, by Tracie Thompson. Click to enlarge.

Ten hours in the studio yesterday, picking up where I left off on the portrait of Pumpkin. My legs and feet are still sore from standing at the easel that long, but I just couldn't go home.

I don't know how anything is as adorable as this dog. Is this even legal?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Flower Painting from yesterday in the studio

White Ranunculus study, 5 x 5" oil on canvas by Tracie Thompson
On the way to the studio I bought two ranunculus stems at Laurel Street Flowers. Having paid rather a lot of money for them, I was pretty motivated to actually paint them. Will probably make a second little study today; the white flower is a challenging study in light and color.

Meanwhile, work continues on the portraits of both Pumpkin the little French Bulldog, and the Fiend -- a gorgeous, and goofy, black German Shepherd Dog. Those aren't photo-ready yet, but the day is young.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Why I Love Highland Park

Highland Park is full of flowers. That alone would make me happy.

Tulips and azaleas on Eleanor Street, Highland Park. Photo by Tracie Thompson
We also have a lot of outstanding independent businesses here, one of which is Wet Paint, now officially my Favorite Art Supply Place Ever. If you need it, or didn't even know you needed it, they either have it or will be happy to get it for you.

Yesterday I took my two pastels -- the ones I'd done at their free Try-It Thursday -- to find out what it would cost to have custom archival mats cut for them. Answer: about $3 less than it cost me last time at Giant Art Supply Chain, and less than half of the last price I got from Michael's (Public Service Announcement: Michael's and Jo-Ann's are way overpriced on mats and framing. It's how they run their constant "50% off" sales. Their ready-made frames are reasonable, but don't go there for custom work unless you like overpaying).

On that note, I need to head for the studio for the day. I'm going to drop by a florist on the way and buy myself a flower -- a peony, if they have them -- and perhaps get to know another local business in the process.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Sheltie Dog Pastel Study, and the difference between commissioned and not

Milton the Sheltie, 10 x 7" pastel on paper by Tracie Thompson
This is from a photo I took, and is a quick sketch -- about 40 minutes.  Which is something of a fluke, and I have learned -- at my own considerable expense -- that if I were doing this on commission as opposed to on a lark (as this was), it would be more finished and take much longer.

There are the consults with the client; the emailed photo exchanges, the photo-editing, format decisions, a much more careful measuring and layout of the composition, and way more time spent on making certain I get that exact dog, a true likeness, as opposed to just a dog of that breed. And then the trip to the framer's to get a mat for it and make sure the pastel is properly mounted and ready to frame. I can easily end up spending 6 hours on a drawing like this one by the time it's said and done.

I can sell a 40-minute sketch for $45 plus the mat cost, but I simply can't do a commission in 40 minutes. My commitment to making certain my clients are not just happy, but thrilled, always makes me put in hours instead.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Rut-avoidance, sidewalk poetry, or why I should've taken my camera

Walking keeps me from falling into the Endless Pit of Stress, but I realized today that I'd been taking the same route the past few times out, so arbitrarily I decided to pick another street this time. Odd how even such small changes can feel uncomfortable for a few minutes.

On the Eleanor Street sidewalk (south side, between Fairview and Howell), I found poetry stamped into the concrete, some of the letters still full of water from the morning's rain.  Lost count of how many poems; there are several, varying in length and style, all delightful.

Oh, and there's a huge, storm-broken willow on Highland, coming back to life all the same; and on Eleanor in one yard is a tree I can't identify that is bent into the the precise shape of a question mark.

Next time out, the Nikon goes with me.

Sir William the Dragon

I invented Sir William when I was seventeen. He's stayed with me ever since, and now I get to bring him back in the form of a painting on canvas, to be created live at a fundraiser auction for Paideia Academy, an outstanding public charter school in Apple Valley.

Sketch for Sir William, ink and watercolor on paper, by Tracie Thompson
The event hours are 5:30 to 7:45 pm (close of silent auction) at 7200 West 147th Street,Apple Valley, MN 55124.

I will be painting Sir William in acrylic (very fast-drying paint) on canvas during the auction. At the end of the night he'll go home with the winning bidder -- dry and ready to hang in a kid's room, laundry room, bath or anywhere that needs a bit of colorful whimsy.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Strawberry Roulade

Strawberry Roulade, 5 x 5" oil on canvas by Tracie Thompson
If you'd like this treat for yourself, take heart: no calories, fat or sugar; keeps forever without refrigeration; doesn't even require a frame because the edges are canvas-wrapped and painted. Available for $40.

My easel at La Patisserie today. White canvas on the right is the Roulade, sketched but not yet painted.

Today was really a great little adventure. I'm using colors and techniques I rarely use, learning constantly, and thoroughly enjoying all the people I meet.

What do you think I ought to paint next? I have fourteen more tiny canvases ...

Buttercream Frosting

Buttercream Frosting, 5 x 5" oil on canvas by Tracie Thompson
One of three tiny Snack Food paintings done today at La Patisserie.  Available at $40.  Thanks to everyone who dropped in and chatted with me while I was working!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Green Pear (Friend of Tomato)

Green Pear, 5 x 5" oil on canvas, by Tracie Thompson. $40
I'll offer this little one with its Happy Tomato buddy for $75 for the set, plus shipping if applicable. Will ship anywhere, in a few days when the paint is dry enough!

I'll have this available tomorrow at La Patisserie. I'll be painting on site there starting at 10 a.m.; lunch -- with the brand new salad bar in addition to soup, sandwiches and the selection of amazing pastries -- starts at 11.

Tomato Season!

Happy Tomato, 5 x 5" oil on canvas by Tracie Thompson. $40
One of a series of Snack Food paintings for La Patisserie, at 1570 Randolph Ave. in St. Paul (corner of Snelling and Randolph). Happy Tomato has a companion piece: Green Pear. Set of both, $75.

I'll be painting on site there Tuesday, 5/10, starting at 10 a.m.; the lunch event with the brand new salad bar starts at 11. Come on out, watch some little paintings get made, and get the best pastries the Twin Cities have to offer.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

Daffodil at the Mackmiller House, taken by Tracie Thompson
If you'd like to use this shot for a desktop image, comment here or email me and I will send you the full-size file.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Buck, the Draft Cross

Buck the Draft Cross, 9.5 x 6.5" drawing on paper, sold

Buck is a lively, curious guy who didn't hold still more than a couple seconds at a time, but with a little patience I was able to draw him pretty well. This is from life, this afternoon at Lakeview Farm, during the Cowboy Races. Good fun!

Editing to add that I teach this drawing technique -- dark and light pencils on tan paper. It's a lot of fun (great for lazy types who hate filling in lots of tedious white space) and there's class information here.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Cupcake Rebellion Marches On

For today's painting, I was forced -- forced, I tell you -- to purchase a chocolate cupcake.

Straggler, 5 x 7" oil on canvas panel
 This is a bit more complex than the first one; about an hours' work. Available at $45; ships free within the US.

I've also got a good start on the next dog portrait, today, and will post some progress photos soon.

The Cupcake Rebellion

(would be a great name for a rock band, wouldn't it?)

Cherry on Top, 5 x 7" oil on canvas board

Rebellion, because I needed a break from my commissions for at least a few minutes. Also I may have been a bit hungry. This is absolutely inspired by La Patisserie. Mine is the zero-calorie version, though.

I'll have this and some other fun paintings available at the bakery on Tuesday, 5/11, starting at 11 a.m.

Update: this painting has sold and gets to go live in an office in Trieste, Italy! 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Six Chartreux Kittens

Six Chartreux, oil on canvas, 20 x 32"

 This was, all told, about 64 hours' work.

Each kitten takes approximately eight hours to refine and finish, and then there's the background. And before all that can even begin, the process of determining the correct format and (in this case) buying materials and stretching a custom-sized canvas, and then getting the initial drawing in place.

The fur texture of these cats is so soft that I actually had to go buy some new brushes that could give me the right feel. None of the ones I already had would do it.

In short, these kinds of canvases are a great deal of work, but very rewarding!