Fixing a Painting that Was Almost Right

Sometime last year I painted this picture of an August sunrise in mid-Michigan.

It was almost right. I loved the sky, the mist, the clouds.

But I hated, hated, hated how the big trees turned out. It was not what I had in mind.

That’s the trouble with learning an art. So often we can picture or imagine what the finished product — be it painting or novel or what have you — ought to be, but we lack the skills to bring our vision to fruition.

Well, I’ve been painting a lot lately, and reading books about painting. And something clicked in my brain about those trees. So I got the painting back on the easel and worked on it for about twenty minutes or so. And this is what I came away with.

I fixed the trees! I made them darker, since they are in silhouette, made the edges more defined, and added sky holes where you can see what is behind it peaking through spots with fewer leaves. Now they look so much more like what I had in mind.

While I was at it, I darkened the top of the clouds a bit and added some foreground detail.

I used to be disappointed in this painting. Now I love it. And it’s satisfying to see my technique improve as I practice.

What have you been practicing lately?

An Indulgent Weekend

I probably should have been doing all the laundry this weekend. Instead, I painted.

I painted this…

…and this…

…and this.

Because that’s what I really wanted to do.

I also decided that one wall of my office could double as a drying rack / storage area for paintings until they found new homes.

I’m even hanging some blank canvases in spots until I fill them up.

And that gold-framed mirror over on the left wall? That’s there for when I want to start trying my hand at painting faces. I guess I’ll start with mine.

Spring Fever, Satisfied

We are reveling in spring here in Michigan.

It feels like such a blessing after a very long winter that reached its grasping, scraping fingernails into April and was reluctant to let go.

But now, our spring flowers are in bloom.

Our foliage is stretching out to greet the sun.

And our feeders are being visited by exciting birds I rarely get to see, like orioles…

…and rose-breasted grosbeaks.

Along with our more common visitors: cardinals, blue jays, sparrows, house finches, chickadees, downy woodpeckers, and goldfinches.

We even get to see quite a lot of the neighborhood turkey, who likes hanging out in our back yard and our neighbor’s in the morning.

The poor thing is rather frightened of my little chihuahua mix (all seven pounds of her) and seems utterly dumbfounded by fences.

The view out of my upstairs office window is improving day by day as the trees leaf out.

Even the rainy days are rather warm. The daffodils and scilla and crocuses are all gone now, but tulips and grape hyacinth are hanging on, and the flowering trees are just past peak. Rivers and creeks are running high with much rain. My thoughts turn outward, toward summer travel plans, as they always do this time of year.

In about five weeks or so, my sister and I will be hiking the Porcupine Mountains, one of the stops my son and I made on our epic UP Road Trip last June. Our chosen path will take us along rushing rivers, past seven waterfalls, along the shore of Lake Superior, along escarpments, and through forests that will be weeks behind in terms of new growth (which means we’ll get to experience this marvelous spring a second time). Our campsites will have us sleeping alongside the Little Carp River, on Lake Superior at the mouth of Toledo Creek, and up on the escarpment not far from the Lake of the Clouds.

Rocks and rivers, woods and waterfalls. 60,000 acres of wilderness. Time to reflect, to rest our minds and busy our feet. Alison and I look forward to our hiking trip each year. We’ve been lots of places. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Grand Sable Dunes, Tahquamenon Falls, the Manistee River, the Jordan River Valley.

The Porkies have been on our Someday List. It takes a long time to drive there (nearly 9 hours drive time from my house in the state capital, plus time for rest stops and meals) so you need two extra days built in just to get there and back. Thankfully, timing seems to have worked out in our favor this year.

I guess after this, we may have to start saving our money to fly to more trails further away!

Hear Me Bloviate on Publishing!

You may or may not know that my husband, also a writer, is a podcast fiend, both as a listener and as a podcaster himself. He is currently hosting three podcasts (The Gut Check Podcast, Clinch: A Podcast of Fiction and Not-Fiction, and These Go to Eleven) and his sermons are available online as well.

I’ve appeared here and there on the Gut Check Podcast, mostly as a bystander or an interrupter-of-proceedings, though occasionally I am asked direct questions or serve as a reader for Gut Check Literacy Month (which has lasted, oh, I’d say maybe two years). And I bet you can hear my laugh in some of those sermon recordings. But this week Zach actually interviewed me for the not-fiction portion of Clinch.

If you’re curious about what I do in publishing, how annoying I think I will be as an author to the people on my publishing team, or you just want to listen to us talk about Zach getting lost in the woods outside of Owosso, actor Kevin Sorbo, and whether or not we should have closed the drapes to keep our dog from barking during the recording, you should definitely give it a listen.

Also, you should go back to episode one and binge it, both for the fiction portion, where Zach reads his current work in serial fashion, and the not-fiction portion, which gives you an inside look into the highs and lows of publishing, both traditionally and independently, from Zach’s own rollercoaster experience and interviews with other authors. It’s one of the most honest assessments you’ll get of what it’s like to be a writer trying to make a mark in the book world today.