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Monday, October 6, 2014

Q&A A Recent Interview by a Student

I was recently contacted by a student asking if I would complete a questionnaire for her personal study for a college course.  I felt her questions were well thought out and thought I would share them and my answers...

really bad photo of two new smaller works in progress featuring skulls © christine mercer-vernon

Please talk me through the process you follow when designing your drawings and paintings Do you work instinctively, directly onto the canvas, or are your works pre-planned, using sketches and photographs?

I actually work a number of ways. I spend a lot of time just thinking and conceptualizing ideas, sometimes, I have a title, then work backwards to create the still life. My larger paintings develop out of experiences and moments and are rarely crafted ‘just because’. I have a small sketchbook I’ll record thumbnails in as ideas come to me, then I can come back to them when I’m ready.

I work both from life and from photographs that I have taken of my setups. For the majority of my works I begin with a very detailed drawing on tracing paper working quickly to address the major shapes, then just layering a new piece of tracing paper overtop of my rough drawing to refine it further. I keep going like this until I am happy with the drawing. After transferring I try to tackle the more difficult areas first completing as I go, although sometimes I will utilize layers and glazing if needed to attain the effect I desire. For some smaller works, I’ll just begin with a blank panel and work directly.

Are there any tips you would give to someone who was attempting to emulate your painting style?

Other than copying another artist’s work for study (with proper accreditation), I generally advise against emulation of another artist’s style. Learning their technique is a great way to understand how they work and a valuable learning tool but spending time at the easel and taking all you’ve learned and developing one’s own style will benefit the artist greater than trying to emulate another. Finding one’s voice and style as an artist takes time and experimentation and a lot of time at the easel. I paint the way I do, not because it’s how I’ve wanted to paint, but because I’ve spent a lot of time just painting and letting my style and preferences develop over time.

Do you always paint/draw first hand, from a photograph or from your imagination?

I am a realist artist, therefore, I always work from a reference of some sort. All my still lifes are set up in my studio. Sometimes I will photograph them if lighting/time of day are important or if the possibility of the set up changing over time is present.  I always work from life on my skull drawings, using a pair of close range binoculars to see the details. Accuracy and detail are important to me, but I also like to make sure that in the end, the viewer realizes they are viewing a painting, not a photograph.

What is your favourite material to use? Do you like to experiment with any other utensils or products? 

I used to experiment a lot, but I’ve simplified and now I work exclusively with charcoal, graphite and oils. Sometimes I will still work in watercolors, but mostly for my own enjoyment, or to use up old supplies!

Which artists have influenced your work? In what way has your work been shaped by others?

I am drawn to the old masters and can never spend enough time in front of an Ingres painting, Rembrandt painting, or any of the dutch masters floral still lifes. I’m particularly fascinated with vanita's and keep a pinterest board of them here:  http://www.pinterest.com/mercervernon/vanitas/

I’m more interested in a painting if it has something to say, even if the message is merely to convey beauty, and strive to work this way in the majority of my paintings. My work has been more influenced by todays amazing realist artists only because their works force me to constantly evaluate each painting to be sure I am putting my best work out there. There are so many amazing artists out there today and I keep another pinterest board of works that I find inspiring here:  http://www.pinterest.com/mercervernon/art-that-makes-me-sigh/

video

Here's a rough photo time lapse of the drawing for my new onion painting, taken in 15 minute intervals.
© christine mercer-vernon



Can you show me work in progress or semi-complete artwork? I would love to understand the process you go through and how you apply media at different stages of your paintings?

In progress works can be seen on my blog and my instagram feed:
http://mercervernon.blogspot.com
http://instagram.com/christinemvstudio

Are you currently working on any new paintings? I would love to hear.

Of course! I’m a slow painter, but I usually have several works in progress at one time.  Right now I am working on a small still life with an onion I grew for 6 months and let die down, as well as 4 smaller works, two of which contain skulls of a fawn and a turkey. I have thumbnails fleshed out for seven more larger works once I complete these, plus a series of small alla prima studies of all the skulls in my collection.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Most Challenging Painting I've Ever Done (and the easiest)

lights down | 24x18 oil on panel

I've never been one to get an idea and think it through, generally, if the inspiration is there, I go for it.

It's only after I had begun, that I realized, I should have thought it through a little better (but I'm not one to quit).

This painting definitely falls into that category. Set up with a very small, cool temperature LED light placed directly overhead, I wanted this to be barely lit, almost moonlit.

I had originally started this prior to our two moves last year, and had some foliage draped around the skull, but a sooner than anticipated move put a quick end to the progress on this painting and it was packed away.

When I pulled it out, two moves later in my hastily set up new studio space, I realized I could not capture what I had started and essentially started over, same lighting and set up, minus the foliage.

This is hands down the lowest key I have ever painted in and to say it challenged me is an understatement. I mixed and remixed and remixed again, I wiped a lot off and started over, there might have been some tears, there was definitely a lot of swearing.

But I stuck with it, and I learned some valuable lessons... stay focused, don't forget everything I've learned, if it's not working - wipe it off and try again, swearing makes me feel better.

I may have done a little celebratory dance in my studio when I signed it.

autumn leaf | 3x3 inch oil on mini canvas panel | available here

So I followed it up with this little alla prima, which in comparison, was probably the easiest painting I've ever done.

comes with small display easel


Friday, June 13, 2014

Giclees, Paintings and Tangible Things

detail of untitled deer skull painting © christine mercer-vernon

It's that time of year when school let's out and the kiddo and I work together to find a schedule that works for both of us (or at least we try). Camps start next week and I'll have some quiet time in the day when I can focus on working through the giant to do list of paintings I'd like to get done this summer.

Two finished paintings to post, the currently still untitled, deer skull painting (detail photo above) I started last year before we moved, and this little apple painting below. When I have a good photo of the full deer skull painting I will post.

I'm quite enamored with these little 4x4 inch canvas panels...

Apple for Mrs. Myers • 4x4 inch • oil on canvas panel • unavailable

Because I'm always looking for opportunities to learn, I'm taking an online course called, Tangible Things, given online by Harvard University. It's free, which is pretty cool, and has absolutely nothing to do with painting and drawing, yet in every way it does.

The course focuses on objects and other tangible things and explores what can be learned by questioning and looking past the initial perception of said objects. There is a lot to learn about something just by looking, examining, studying, and questioning [a lot like drawing and painting, right?].

While the study is to learn more historically about these objects, I couldn't help but see the parallels in my own work, and how I look at objects I use in my still life setups, in particular skulls and bones.

Learning to not just look but to see and question and understand the details and their significance and sometimes placement in history. The stories that the objects themselves, tell.

It's fascinating and I'm already altering some of the thumbnails I've done for planned paintings.

I love that even though I am learning nothing to improve my painting skills, I'm still learning to see... more.


Long overdue, I finally have two of my skull drawings available now as giclee reproductions.

My skull: bear and skull:human drawings are both available in 8x10 size (with a 1/2 inch white border as shown).

Both are available HERE in my Etsy Shop.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Seven New Paintings


wishbone • 3x3 inch oil on canvas panel • mini painting, includes easel • available here

I've been a busy girl!

Last week I posted seven new small paintings in my etsy shop.

Now that I've finished these smaller works, I'm moving on a to a few larger paintings. I'll post some WIP photos as I make progress.

I love painting wishbones, and never tire of them. I really enjoyed working on this new small series, and I'm already contemplating some new compositions.

at the edge • 6x6 inch oil on panel, wood cradle • available here

balanced approach • 6x6 inch oil on panel, wood cradle • available here
hanging on • 6x6 inch oil on panel, wood cradle • SOLD

once chance • 6x6 inch oil on panel, wood cradle • available here


stacking the odds • 6x6 inch oil on panel, wood cradle • available here
If you've followed along, I started this painting last summer while we were transitioning from our old house, into an apartment then finally into our new home. It felt good to finish this one, almost like completing a very long journey.

cautiously optimistic • 6x6 inch oil on panel, wood cradle • SOLD
It's been a hectic few years as we worked hard to make our transition to our dream home, but we're finally here and even though my new studio needs some renovations, it's not stopping me from working again.

I'm so grateful to everyone that has stayed with me these last few years.

I've been working hard updating everything from my website to my newsletter to my print materials.

Over the next few months, I'll be phasing out my Facebook page and my twitter account, and posting new works strictly through this blog and my newsletter to reduce redundancy.

If you haven't already signed up for my newsletter, you can join my mailing list HERE. If you wish to receive postcard announcements, please remember to enter your address. I do not share information and I send out my newsletter no more than one time per month.






Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Back to Work


We've spent the past year transitioning from one house to another. There were two moves, a short stint in an apartment, and my entire studio packed away for seven months.

The new (old) house is coming along (lots of renovating going on) and I was able to finally set up a painting area in my new studio (upper left).

I probably won't unpack my full studio for a few months as we need to rip out really old shag carpeting and spruce it up a bit, but for now, I can certainly paint.

With no time to waste, I finished off a little cherry painting (upper right), a tiny little wishbone (bottom left) and have a series of five small wishbone paintings transferred and ready to start (bottom right).

My new studio space is going to work out great. I have a great window teeming with wildlife for me coo at all day. [i do, it's embarrassing]

Turkeys wander by almost every day and I love it. If only they didn't freak out when they suddenly see me through the window.


I'll have new, small works available in a few weeks which I'll post about here, on my Facebook Page, or my Instagram account, where I also post some work in progress pics and quick cell phone pics of works as I finish them.




Saturday, September 7, 2013

My Studio in a Box

I'm going to be honest, whatever ambitions I had to be creative while living out of boxes, was borderline insane (for new readers, we sold our house and are in a temporary apartment while securing a new home).

my studio in a box. ugh.

There's no waltzing into my studio with a cup of coffee and simply picking up a brush.

Most days, by the time I get everything ready to go, I have maybe 30 minutes before I need to put it all away to make dinner, or do homework with the kiddo.

I'm not complaining, good things are coming. I'm making progress, slow and steady on very small paintings. This one is almost done (finally) and I've got five drawings for new wishbone paintings ready to go.

WIP 6x6 inch 

I've also been taking some time to get some furniture projects done for my new studio. Check out my old school desk redo that's going in my studio for sketching and reading. (I'm sorry all you lefty's, I know, these desks were so not fair to you).


So that's it. Slow and steady. You can find me posting more frequently over on my FB page (here) or on Instagram: christinemvstudio.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

In Transition...

It's a been a wild ride the last year and half. Every spare minute was consumed with sorting and cleaning out everything in our house.

Unfortunately, it meant not a spare moment for anything. We even packed up half my studio and moved it to a spare room to stage our house. It paid off and we sold our house quick. Now we're now shacked up in a tiny apartment searching for our forever home and trying not to go completely insane.

As a result my studio is completely in storage.

Completely.

I kept only what I could in this backpack.




I have my plein air easel, a few brushes, paints and some drawing supplies. And now that it's all done and there is nothing else to do but sit in this tiny apartment (because it is too flipping hot to go outside), I'm working on a new series of small wishbone paintings that I had a few spare moments to set up and photograph before I packed up all my skulls and bones.




The drawings are completed and I'm waiting on some cradled panels to arrive. I won't be able to work big this summer due to absolutely no where to sit a large WIP, so it will be all small works. But... I'm excited to be painting so who cares.

Although, my creaky back doesn't take well to drawing on the kitchen floor for too long...