Thursday, May 29, 2014

Flight of Fancy

Birdwatching on a summer afternoon. I find there's something incredibly calming, almost meditative, about beautifully graceful wild birds on a quiet lake.
©2014 Tammy Kaufman - Flight of Fancy - soft pastels on Canson pastel paper 9" x 12"

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


If you've been following my blog, you know I started a big (for me) painting project a couple of weeks ago. I normally paint on the smallish side, most comfortable in the 12" x 18" and smaller realm. This acrylic painting I started the other week, however, is 20" x 44", so pretty big for me. And also, this time I'm trying using a sand and Gesso prep, something else very new for me.

step one - sand and Gesso prep
After letting the prep dry and cure for two weeks, this past weekend I applied the background. I used a wide soft brush, twisting and turning the bristles, to scrub the paint across the peaks and into the valleys created by the sand prep.
step two - background
I let this dry for a few days while I mulled over the various ideas in my head about the direction I wanted to take with this canvas. Then last night, the finished painting came to me in a dream. What I saw in that dream probably broke all the rules of painting - composition, color theory and mixing, everything. But the image brought me such a sense of peace and happiness, who was I to question it? So this evening, I began brushing the acrylics onto the canvas. It was almost like my dream was guiding my hand, selecting the colors and brushes almost without my conscious decision - these colors with this brush, those with the other, until the work felt finished. I can't really explain why I made the choices I made or stopped when I did, and I know this painting may not fit the rules and guidelines of proper painting, but it matches what I dreamed, and to me it just feels complete. Unfortunately when I took a photo of it, the camera tended to flatten the image, muting the subtle variations in tone and depths of color somewhat in addition to making it difficult to see the brush strokes on the sanded texture very well, so this painting definitely is more expressive in person, at least to me. :-)
©2014 Tammy Kaufman - Reach - acrylics on canvas 20" x 44"
Sometimes it's fun to listen to my spirit, let go of the controls for a while and simply enjoy the ride, without sweating the details.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sunday is FunDay

Fry spent all day yesterday at home, and we figured it was the least we could do to take him for a run today. So we hit the mountain bike trail with him, and he had a blast! He was running faster than I've seen him go in a long time, chasing squirrels, leaping into the creeks and just having a big time. But since we took our time on the ride to let Fry play to his heart's content, I didn't get back home in time to go paint outside this evening at the Six Sundays Concert, so painted in the studio today. This time, I decided to practice painting some manmade structures, working from a reference photo we had taken at Joyner Park the other week that really appealed to me.
©2014 Tammy Kaufman - Joyner Farm - soft pastels on Uart 500 sanded paper 12" x 18"
With, of course, all work being done under the watchful eye of Miss Venus, my arty-cat painting supervisor,
studio kitty
I first sketched out the composition I wanted with a charcoal pencil.
Charcoal thumbnail sketch ©2014 Tammy Kaufman
From this reference photo:
reference photo
I don't normally paint buildings and other such structures, but I want to grow as an artist, so what better time to try new things than now, right? And it was surprisingly more fun than I thought it would be. :-)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

On Location

Steve participated in the Super D mountain bike race at Uwharrie National Forest today, and I joined him for a road trip to do some plein aire painting. I walked along several of the bike trails and forest service roads this morning when we arrived to scout for a painting location, and finally chose an empty camp site along Wood Run Road. This gave me an out of the way place to set up my easel, but still with a nice view of the access trail the riders were using to get to the start line. I just love those little yellow flowers that seem to dot every grassy area and roadside this time of year. I have no idea what they are - probably some kind of weed! - but they sure do catch my eye.
©2014 Tammy Kaufman - Wood Run Peek-a-Boo - soft pastels on Uart 500 sanded paper 9" x 12"
The weather was perfect for our trip so I was able to enjoy a pleasant morning of painting while Steve did his prerace practice, and this afternoon he wound up taking fifth place in his class! After the race, we went for a short bike ride along a portion of the Keyauwee trail which had some gorgeous views. Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me on the bike, but I may try to paint some of the scenes from memory. It was a great day all in all - we saw a lot of old friends, made some new ones, and even got a good chuckle when "Macro-Me" met "Mini-Me". These dogs were so cute and seemed to make instant friends as soon as they met.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Moonlight Madness

Tonight I elected to paint a scene based on a photo I took last week. We were on our way back from the mountain bike trail as the full moon was just rising. When we stopped at a traffic light, I grabbed my phone and snapped a quick photo which simply begged to be painted. And since I had one last Ampersand Pastelbord left, I decided to use that with an alcohol underpainting for this little pastel.
© 2014 Tammy Kaufman - Moonlight Madness - soft pastels on Uart 500 sanded paper 5" x 7"
While I have certainly enjoyed stretching myself as an artist and working with acrylics using only palette knives, it sure was nice to get back to my pastels this evening. Lifting the cover off the tray and seeing all those glorious colors was like being in pure heaven, and using the pastels again felt like sliding into a favorite pair of comfy fuzzy slippers.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Supervisor

For some reason, I haven't been sleeping very well for the past couple of nights so was a bit mentally - and physically - exhausted today, and I didn't really feel up to mountain biking this evening. But I did want to try and do some painting, so I headed to the studio with Venus, my resident studio "arty-cat" and best painting buddy, right on my heels as always. My little Muse used to be content just to lie under my easel and observe me while I paint, but she has apparently now decided she prefers to curl up in my chair and "supervise" my work. So I guess I need to get busy. I mean really, how could I say no to that sweet face?
© 2014 Tammy Kaufman - Muse - soft pastels on Uart 500 sanded paper 9" x 12"

Monday, May 19, 2014

First Public Critique

Tonight I had my first public art critique, and despite my initial fear and nervousness about it, I ended up feeling much better about my painting overall and even more enthusiastic about continuing to learn and progress. Everett Adelman was kind enough to offer us his critiquing expertise at the monthly meeting of the Wake Forest Guild of Artists, and provided incredibly helpful advice while entertaining us all thoroughly with his extensive knowledge of art and artists, and associated stories. I'm so glad I garnered the courage to take in a couple of my works - pastel and palette knife acrylic - for Mr. Adelman's critique - it was a true privilege to have him view my paintings and to have someone of his artistic caliber tell me what is working with them and offer suggestions on making the next ones even better!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Simple Cheer

After yesterday's brilliant sunshine, this morning dawned grey, cool and cloudy, with an almost damp feeling in the air. There has been no rain as of yet but a chance of showers is forecast for this afternoon and evening. Maybe it was the grey cloudiness or the "Sunday-end-of-the-weekend blues", but today I felt the need for a bit of quiet simplicity to brighten my day, so went with a minimalistic palette knife painting on canvas board that honors today's greyness but adds just a touch of color to cheer it up.
© 2014 Tammy Kaufman - Bliss - acrylics on canvas board using palette knives 11" x 14"
I had considered heading out to Joyner Park to paint today, but with the damp, impending-precipitation feel to the air outside, I think I'd rather risk getting rained on while mountain biking than try to scramble putting away art supplies in the event of an afternoon thundershower.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Springing to Life

On a gloriously sunny perfect spring day like today with temperatures in the mid 70s and a soft breeze, it's almost impossible not to be inspired by the natural world all around me. As such, I decided to continue on with the palette knife acrylic painting series and created another smallish work this morning.
© 2014 Tammy Kaufman - Across the Way - acrylics on canvas board using palette knives 11" x 14"
The weather today was too beautiful not to spend a good bit of time outside as well though, so this afternoon Steve and I took Fry for a hike while we worked to clear some of the storm debris from the local mountain bike trail. And then tonight it was back to the studio to put in more practice time with the knives and acrylics.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Mixing Things Up

I've spent the past few evenings enjoying mountain biking on the new Salsa in light of the warm sunny weather and dry trails we had to start off the week, so didn't do any painting in the last two days.

But with the arrival of exceedingly heavy rain today which closed all the bike trails, I headed back to the studio tonight to continue with my series of palette knife acrylic paintings, creating another smallish work. Like the previous two, this one was created alla prima using only palette knives for paint application. I still need to come up with a name for this series, so any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
© 2014 Tammy Kaufman - Mysteria - acrylic on canvas using palette knives 11" x 14"
In addition to the series, just to mix things up a bit, I also decided to paint a tree that had caught my eye while we were biking on the greenway the other day. As an experiment, I did this one using a very limited watercolor palette and India ink on Bristol paper.
© 2014 Tammy Kaufman - Along Horseshoe Bridge - watercolor and India ink on Bristol paper 11" x 14"
And in other news...with the heavy downpour of rain continuing tonight, we noticed a little bit of water dripping onto the coffee table - one of our skylights has apparently sprung a small leak. Thankfully, the leaking skylight is not in my studio, but our weekend plans are pretty obvious now as we have to get that problem addressed and taken care of immediately before it expands into a major - and expensive - repair. Hopefully the rain will end soon and we can get that fixed pronto.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Keeper

I've had a chance to put a few more rides in on the new bike and I have to say, it's become quite clear to me that the Spearfish is most definitely a keeper. The more I ride it, the more I like it. A big part of that is likely because the two areas where the Spearfish really excels just happen to be the two areas which have always been my greatest weaknesses - climbing and cornering. But in addition, the fact that it is beautiful, fun and easy to ride in general don't hurt! Trail sections that used to be the ones I dreaded the most - uphill switchbacks - are now, dare I say it? Actually becoming Fun!

How fortuitous that as I'm bonding more and more with the Spearfish, a little surprise package from my wonderful husband arrived at the house this afternoon just in time for today's ride, containing a very special gift to personalize my bike:
Coolest. Bike Accessory. Ever.
How Awesome is that?!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

New Season, New Series

In light of Spring's arrival, with all the new beginnings that symbolizes, I've decided to start a new series of paintings representing the beauty I see in nature. I'm doing these acrylics on canvas in a rather new style for me, using palette knives for paint application. So far, I've completed two smallish works, and they will be finished out in beautiful wooden frames Steve is handmaking.
© 2014 Tammy Kaufman - Cool Breeze - acrylic on canvas using palette knives 11" x 14"
© 2014 Tammy Kaufman - Heartsong - acrylic on canvas using palette knives 11" x 14"
As of yet, I haven 't decided what to call this new series of paintings, but hopefully as I get more done and the theme emerges more clearly, a series name will come to me - in the meantime, any suggestions? 

Getting inspired by a conversation with an outstanding local artist, I've also started working on a big (for me) painting in the 4-foot long size realm. So far, I've just prepped the canvas with a mixture of Gesso, soft pastel dust and sand, and am waiting for that to dry so I can start adding color - hopefully next weekend. 
On My Easel - Day One: Gesso and sand prep
Thanks for the inspiration and encouragement to take on this big project, Gayle!

On a related note, at the urging of my fellow artists, I've decided to, as Dreama puts it, put on my "big girl panties" and sign up to be part of the Wake Forest Guild of Artists Studio Tour this coming September. So I'm looking forward to a fun and busy summer, filled with painting, bicycling and spending time with friends and my little family. Hope your spring and summer are shaping up to be fabulous as well!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Not Just a Pretty Face

As a disclaimer, let me first say I'm a middle aged woman whose racing days are long over and I just mountain bike predominately for fun now. I also know very little about bicycle frame geometry or the math and technical specifics of suspension design or anything. So my "review" may not be worth much to a hardcore rider. But, as the old quote goes, "I know what I like". And the 2014 Salsa Spearfish? So far, I like - I REALLY like, and it's not just the svelte curves or even the smokingly awesome green anodized color, although those both earn huge bonus points with me for sure.
2014 Salsa Spearfish
But the Spearfish is more than just a pretty face. It's also, even on just the handful of our rides together at this point, proving to be quite the workhorse. And with a rider like me, that is really saying something! I tend to ride fairly "timid", so rely heavily on my bike to essentially be all things - quick yet confidence inspiring, stable without feeling sluggish at both high and low speeds, solid at both climbing and descending, nimble in the turns but not twitchy. It's a tall order, and I'm thrilled to say that so far the Spearfish has not let me down.
Can't. Stop. Smiling.
The initial very brief ride was mostly spent finding the bike's "center" as it has geometry that is apparently not like anything I've ever ridden before - from what I understand: a reasonably slack head angle, short head tube, short chainstays, and Dave Weagle Split Pivot™ rear suspension technology. Once I found the Spearfish's center though, wow. Switchback climbs that previously had been the bane of my rides were suddenly no issue. All I had to do was pedal and the bike just glided right up and around. Which brings me to cornering - another of my extreme weaknesses. I forgot more than once that this bike is a 29er (except for the ease with which it crosses logs and rock gardens) due to how easily it handles in the turns. Definitely no tractor-trailer steering here. But despite its quick responsiveness in the turns, the 'fish never felt twitchy or nervous, and I have not experienced any oversteering with it, even in very tight downhill corners.

I found this bike to be point-and-shoot-stable and solid whether descending or climbing, and the short travel (3 inches I believe) of the rear shock was surprisingly comfortable over roots, rocks and anything else the trail could throw at it.
Roots? What roots?
The Spearfish Rocks
Even in my less-than-fit current state, I had no difficulty with any climbs. All I had to do was turn the pedals over, and the bike scooted right up with less effort than I can recall on any bike in recent memory. Standing to climb induced no pedal bob that I could discern, and going from zero to "go", there was immediate response with no sluggish start like I expected on a 29er. On descents, the rear suspension was a dream, remaining active even when braking, with no brake jack at all.

Despite  being outfitted very modestly with average midrange parts (I bought the frame only), my Spearfish comes in at a respectable 26 pounds, but somehow it rides much lighter than that, and forward motion feels almost effortless on it. Salsa is marketing the Spearfish as their ultra-endurance bike, and speaking as a former 24-hour solo racer myself, I truly believe they've nailed it. I know I could certainly be happy spending hours, if not days, in the saddle on this bike - yes, it rides and handles just that well.

I'll write more on my impressions of the Spearfish later as I get more miles in on it, but right now I think it's time to go for a ride...
Let's Ride!

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Path

Just like last week, again this weekend upon returning home from plein aire painting at Joyner Park, I found inspiration in some of our photos taken while there.
Reference Photo
So I pulled out the oil pastels and tried painting this scene. I used a turpenoid wash on the underpainting this time, which unfortunately wanted to buckle the Strathmore pastel paper a tad, but I just consider it all part of the experimenting and learning process.
© 2014 Tammy Kaufman - Joyner Path - oil pastels on Canson paper 6" x 9"

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Back to Joyner

This evening, we again headed to E. Carroll Joyner Park for the Six Sundays in Spring free concert series. I joined fellow Wake Forest Guild of Artists member, Anne, this week and we painted down by the pond, while enjoying the soulful and folksy music of Walking for Pennies.
What fun it is to paint outdoors!
My charming new friend, Anne, creating a beautiful oil painting
It was simply a perfect evening to be outdoors - the joy of spending quality time with my sweetheart of a husband in stunning spring weather in the park, visiting with a variety of friendly people interested in talking about art, listening to talented musicians, and having the opportunity to paint in the company of - and learn a great deal from - a delightful and incredibly talented artist.

Up until this past week, I've tended to paint primarily from my imagination, so painting en plein aire (in the outdoors) is a whole new experience for me. I'm finding that I'm continuing to paint what I imagine rather than what I actually see, and I still tend to use the landscape before me only as a vague reference. But hopefully with time and more practice painting outside this summer, I'll get the hang of painting what is actually there and work on learning to let Mother Nature, rather than pure imagination, be my primary guide when working en plein aire.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Follow the Leader

What a beautiful day to play Follow the Leader with Fry; my speedy little boy being the leader of course!

The photo sequence:
And the video:
Looking forward to a fun weekend in this spectacular spring weather!