Giving New Life to an Old Door

Old door, paint, decorative paint
Old door awaiting paint

One of my clients runs the High Horizons coffee shop at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky.  It is located in the back at the stadium jumping complex which is a very busy place!  She brought an old door that came from a house that was built in the 1800s and asked if I could paint it a butter yellow with the panels being chalk board paint so they could use it to advertise their specials.  She also asked if I could paint a pot of geraniums with ivy at the bottom on both sides.  I have done flowers in the past, so I said I would give it a try.


Old door, paint, decorative paint
Old door with primer

Of course, there is always plenty of priming work to do, such as sanding down the old chalk board paint that was on one side, and removing the hardware which needed cleaning due to not having been removed before, then applying primer.

Old door, paint, decorative paint
Finished door
old door, paint, decorative paint
Detail of geraniums and ivy on old door

I then painted the geraniums and ivy on both sides which completed the door.  Thank you for viewing this rejuvenation project!


Portrait of Ruby

This is one of the commissions I had to finish for Christmas.  It is a pet portrait of Ruby, a King Charles Spaniel.  Her owners are avid readers, so the client wanted her on the Kindle as if to say, “Hey, put your book down and let’s play!”  Ruby is a beautiful dog!  Enjoy the pictures of the portrait from almost start to finished, matted and placed in the beautiful frame the client had just for this project!

King Charles Spaniel, pet portrait, pastel
Ruby in progress- drawing and started adding color
King Charles Spaniel, Denny Martindale, pastel pet portrait
Next phase
Pastel pet portrait, Denny Martindale, King Charles Spaniel
Getting there…
Dog art, Denny Martindale, pet portrait
Almost complete!
Dog art, Denny Martindale, King Charles Spaniel, pastel pet portrait
Denny Martindale, pet portraits, King Charles Spaniel, Dog Art
Ruby in frame. The recipients loved it!


Plein Air Painting in the Smoky Mountains

One project I find very rewarding is plein air painting.  That is the process of simply painting outdoors, whether it be in a city or the country, using the medium of your choice.  It is a wonderful way to connect with nature in its purest form.  My husband and I recently took a trip to the Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee.  We met with family and friends to see the sights and had a wonderful time.  While driving the Cades Cove Loop we stopped for a break at a point called Abrams Falls.  The sign said a moderately difficult 2.5 mile trail that will take about 3-4 hours round trip.  We did not have time to hike then, but decided we would do it in a day or two.

Abrams Falls, Cades Cove, Smoky Mountains, Tennessee art, plein air painting, acrylics
Photo of Abrams Falls in Cades Cove, Tennessee in the Smoky Mountains by Denny Martindale

The rest of our party left a day earlier than we originally thought, so we planned our hike for that morning.  I had thrown in a canvas and grabbed a handful of paints and brushes (literally) as we packed for the trip, so I decided to take them with as you never know what you might find.  I carted the paint gear and David carried water and snacks and we set out on the trail.  It was a clear, cool morning as we made our hour and a half trek to the falls.  They are not overly big but the setting is in a cove and it is really refreshing as you sit and listen to the sound of the water surging over the edge of the rocks.  I found a log that made a perfect seat and proceeded to set up to paint.  Since I have only done plein air on a couple of other occasions, it takes a little more thought to set up than if I did this on a regular basis.

plein air painting, acrylic painting, Tennessee art
Artist at work, plein air painting Abrams Falls Photo by David Martindale

I proceeded to block in the basic shapes of the falls and the surrounding landscape.  I had just grabbed some tubes of paint so my colors were a bit limited, but I figured I could probably make do.  One of the major aspects of plein air painting is the timing of the light, shadows and atmospheric conditions that allows an artist to recreate a particular scene.  Midday is not always the most opportune time, and here I was painting at high noon.  Although the air was still on the cool side, the sunlight and resulting reflection was intense.  It helped that I was in the shade, but the colors were not what they would be in the morning or later in the afternoon.  I even reached a point in the process when I was so dissatisfied with the piece that I was actually ready to quit!  At the urging of my husband, I continued on and after about an hour and a half, to my surprise, finished with a piece that, all things considered, is not too shabby.  During this time, other hikers were coming and going, and everyone wanted to see what I was up to.  I presume they were impressed as they took photos of me at work, and one man even took a close up of the painting and then one of the falls from my perspective.

Abrams Falls, Cades Cove, Smoky Mountains, Tennessee art, plein air painting, acrylic painting
Finished piece, Abrams Falls, acrylic, 9″ x 12″ by Denny Martindale

After we were home for a couple of weeks, I finished it off with a coat of varnish for acrylics and once dry, placed it in a black frame.  If you have not tried plein air painting, you might just want to give it a try.  Make sure you prepare for the elements, pack the correct painting gear, and tell yourself you are out there to have fun.  Once you loosen up and decide it doesn’t have to be perfect, you will have a wonderful experience with nature that only plein air painting can give.

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Art History: Claude Monet (1840-1926)

       Oscar Claude Monet was born on November 14, 1840 in Paris, France.  His father was a merchant and Monet struggled as a young boy to obey both his parents and his teachers.  By age 15, he was making more money than his teachers by doing charcoal caricatures of tourists, although his father was not impressed.  

     In 1858 at 18, Monet met Eugene Boudin, who introduced the young artist to painting landscapes and en plein air.  He was still wild and greatly depended on his family’s allowances to get by.  In 1860 he was up for military duty and his father felt this would give Monet the discipline he needed.  After two years of service, Monet returned home with typhoid fever.  He moved to his aunt’s home to recover, and with her encouragement and financial support, Monet decided to seriously study art at the studio of Charles Gleyre.  Here he met fellow students Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, and Frederic Bazille.  Monet would continue to rebel any form of formal art instruction, leaving his family to wonder why he never “finished” his paintings.  He painted with loose, dabbed on color and never had a crisp edge or shape to his subjects.  They never met the traditional standards set by critics and public review and were often called unfinished sketches.  Frustrated, Monet and Bazille would continue to paint en plein air, and he began studying informally how the effects of natural light could be recreated on canvas in a landscape or portrait.  Still, the artists needed to generate some sort of income.   

       Prior to the 1860’s, the salons (galleries) of Paris catered to their clientele with traditional, realistic represen-tations of landscapes, animals, and formal portraits.  To veer away from conservative realism was to cut short any possibility of a career in art.  The public and newspaper critics alike simply did not entertain the thought of non-traditional paintings.   

      Enter Claude Monet and company.  With his fellow artists Edourd Manet, Renoir, Sisley, and Paul Cezanne, just to name a few, they transformed the notion of “acceptable” art being strictly tightly rendered realism into a wider range that included looser brushstrokes, with suggestions of shape and color.  The Paris Salon was the annual state-run juried exhibition which could make or break an artist’s career.  In 1863, Monet and his fellow artists entered the exhibition and were vehemently rejected to the point of causing a media circus and scandal.  So much so in fact that then Emperor Louis Napoleon III ordered the rejected works to be shown in an exhibition at the Palais de l’Industrie titled “Salon de Refuses”.  More rejection and scandal over subject matter and technique would ensue over the next few years, with many of Monet’s group struggling to survive.  

      During the 1860’s, Monet was dependent on the support of family and friends.  He often could not pay his rent, and with fiancée Camille and an infant son, Jean to support, he confided to a friend that he even considered suicide in 1868.  He continued to paint hundreds of canvases, many of which he stored at the home of fellow artist Camille Pissarro.  When the Franco-Prussian war erupted in 1870, Pissarro and Monet headed to London.  The Prussian army proceeded to take control of Pissarro’s home and the works of both artists were used by the soldiers as mats to keep their feet dry.  

     Once in London, Monet met art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel who was able to sell his work on a more regular basis.  With the new friendship in place, Monet headed back to France where he had left his family behind in Paris, which had been hit hard by the war.  Finally, in 1874 an exhibition was held with the group of artists that had been so scandalous a decade earlier.  Monet entered his “Impression-  Sunrise”, (1872).  The critics termed the show “Impressionism”, coined from Monet’s title, and the term fit perfectly.  However, success would be overshadowed by grief.  In 1876 Camille contracted tuberculosis.  Two years later she gave birth to their second son, Michel, but her illness immediately worsened, and she passed away in September of 1879.   

"Impression- Sunrise" oil, circa 1872 by Claude Monet, collection Musee Marmottan Monet, Paris

      The following year Monet entered the Salon and began having success with one man shows.  By the early 1880’s he was earning enough income from his art that he gave up exhibiting altogether.  He could finally paint what he wanted.  In 1883 Monet moved his sons and Alice Hoeschede (she had been the caretaker of Monet’s family since her husband had left her years earlier, and she and Monet would later marry) and her six children to Giverny.  At Giverny Monet created gardens and a lily pond, a visual paradise for the artistic senses.  Other artists started to visit the estate to take advantage of its beauty.  Many of the barns became artist’s studios, and it eventually became an artist’s colony.  With financial security and a home he loved, Monet began to paint diligently, at set hours, usually outside.  He began painting pictures in series, to show the difference that time, lighting, weather, etc. had on a single subject, such as haystacks in nearby fields.  Many of these series, such as the Water Lilies, were as large as 77 1/2″ x 502″.  

      Monet was not to be a content and happy person.  He always felt he needed to paint more, and he retouched paintings many times.  The older he got the more he redid, much to the dismay of family and friends.  Occasionally he would completely destroy a canvas because he was dissatisfied.  In 1911, Alice passed away, then in 1914, his eldest son Jean.  Monet could only find solace in painting. However, this was becoming more and more of a challenge.  His vision had deteriorated to the point he had trouble distinguishing color.  It was obvious in his series “Water Lilies”, leaving him frustrated and threatening to destroy the entire series.  Finally, in 1923 he reluctantly agreed to have one eye operated on for cataract.  With his sight restored in one eye, Monet set to the task of reworking the Water Lily series.   

"Water Lilies", oil, circa 1906, by Claude Monet, Art Institute of Chicago, collection Mr. & Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson

     This series, one of Monet’s most famous works, began as a project for the State of France, the brainchild of then French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau.  He felt this would help Monet out of the depression left by the deaths of Alice and Jean, plus give honor to the beauty of the French countryside.  Clemenceau had the Louvre create a special gallery to house the works so they could be properly viewed.  The series consisted of 12 large canvases that were to be displayed end to end, giving the viewer a 360 degree view of the pond at Giverny.  Monet kept reworking the canvases, and Clemenceau kept patiently waiting for them to be finished.  Monet would not give them up.  He worked on the series for the last ten years of his life, right up until 1826, when poor health and eyesight would let him paint no more.  

        Claude Monet passed away at age 86 on December 5, 1926.  He never saw the Water Lilies exhibit fully displayed.  It was finally inaugurated at the Orangerie at the Louvre in 1927.  The legacy he left on painting opened the doors for untold numbers of artists to follow his example of impressionistic techniques, bringing down barriers that would allow more freedom for anyone to paint and exhibit, not just a select few.  Monet’s work can be seen in hundreds of galleries around the world, and there are numerous books written about him and his contemporaries.

Plein Air Paint Out on the Natchez Trace Parkway

     Being a pet portrait artist, I am in the studio more often than not when I paint.  I have been wanting to experience plein air painting now for quite some time.  I guess I caught the bug to do this when Chestnut Group member Kim Barrick came to give a talk at the Tennessee Art League in Nashville, TN a year and a half ago.  I never seemed to find the time to do this, until my husband and I went to Taylor Park, CO about 9,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains.  I had thrown in the acrylics and a couple of canvases, so that my aunt (my aunt and uncle met us up there) and I could try it.  Neither of us had ever done this, so it was definitely uncharted territory.  There is no humidity there, so it was interesting at first to get the paint to the canvas, as acrylics dry quickly anyway.  Needless to say, we were proud of our first little plein air paintings!

       Then, in March, a good friend and I were invited to a plein air paint out put on by the Tennessee Watercolor Society.  I went with pastels this time, and it was wonderful to be out in the fresh, albeit chilly Spring air.  The old shed and flowers I painted was not bad either.  My friend Ann and I offered to host them to a paint out on the Natchez Trace Parkway in June.  They heartily accepted the invitation.

       Now, to June 14, 2008.  The paint out was scheduled for 9am at the Garrison Creek stop of the Parkway.  It rained all night, and the skies were pretty grim.  Thunder rolled a couple of times at 6:30am.  I packed up the gear anyway.  We had discussed cancelling the event the night before, but we decided since there is a pavillion, we could at least paint the hills and trees.  At 9, the skies were trying to brighten a bit, so we headed up to the Trace, and met Bitsy and Noriko from the Plein Air Nashville and Tennessee Watercolor Society groups.  We painted under the pavillion, chatted with cyclists coming in from the short-lived showers, and had a really great time.  Other artists slowly made their way in, and everyone painted the beautiful scenery.  When the skies parted after lunch, we made our way down to the creek and painted along side the gently rolling waters.  Needless to say, painting nature is terrific!  If you decide to do this, make sure you have bug spray! 

     As an artist, plein air painting is a great experience.  I feel it can only enhance the creative process, even  when you get back to the studio.  Happy painting to all!