Friday, January 29, 2010

Dog Days-Study of Hatrick

copyright 2010 Hannah Phelps
oil on canvas board
5" x 7"

While both of us would rather be outside plein air painting, Hatrick is a great companion in the studio. She curls up in a quilt-draped chair in the corner, conserving energy in case something exciting happens. Lately, I have noticed that she sleeps in that chair even if I haven't set foot in the studio all day. I must be clocking enough hours indoors for her to assume I'll be joining her any minute.

The other day, I was working on a landscape when I stopped for a minute just to enjoy the sight of my relaxed dog sleeping in a ball with her tail warming her nose. On a whim, I grabbed a small canvas board and started painting her instead. At some point, Hattie did wake up and move her head, but I already had enough down to finish the quick sketch. I have drawn and painted my other dogs too, and it is these small studies that I end up treasuring through the years.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Low Tide

copyright 2010 Hannah Phelps
4.5" x 6.5" image size

I went to the beach today. After yesterday's oppressive downpours, Hattie and I needed a non-icy place to get some fresh air. Hattie started to get excited as soon as she smelled the sea. Sensibly, she stayed out of the water (so did I...) and happily chased her ball in the sand.

Not only did I enjoy watching my dog run amok up and down the beach, the spectacular surf was also a wonderful site. I didn't realize how much I had missed the ocean this winter. Occasionally, I regretted not having my painting gear. This feeling would pass as soon the wind kicked up and I would instead feel grateful to be there, enjoying a fun day with Hattie.

Since it was low tide when I visited the beach today, I was reminded of the print at the top of the post. I have long been fascinated by the patterns water makes as it flows down the sand flats, striving to catch the ocean at its ebb tide. The interlocking shapes of the water pools and streams with the darker sand change constantly. Unless, of course, it is a print from a woodblock...

Note: this print is unframed, but it can be framed. If this interests you, contact me.

Monday, January 25, 2010

What I Love About Snow

Since it is pouring outside here, it is time to remember what I love about snow before the rain melts it all away! So, here are my top eleven favorite things about the "white stuff."

1. All the fun things we can do in snow-skiing, snowshoeing, skijoring, and throwing snowballs at our spouses when they are trying to shovel.

2. The clear, unbound joy dogs exhibit when they play in it.

3. Seeing animal tracks.

4. The beauty of the snow makes the extra cold days a bit easier to bear.

5. Snow cover softens and simplifies the landscape.

6. The shelter a snow burdened pine bough makes.

7. When we walk around in the woods in fresh snow, we can always follow our own tracks home.

8. Hearing flakes fall during a storm.

9. The clean smell of new snow and the wet scent of melting snow

10. Even as adults, we occasionally get a "snow day," a brief, forced vacation from our regular life.

11. The inconceivable variety of colors that make up the white.

Bonus 12. Painting it!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Warm Winter Days

Two Winter Studies
oil on canvas
12" x 16" & 12" x 12"

Although this week began with a couple of heavy, wet snowstorms, the sun has been shining the past two days. Temperatures have risen right into the forties-warm enough for some plein air painting! I had been snowshoeing with Hatrick in the woods right outside my back door, so I knew exactly where I wanted to take my equipment for some sketches.

So I donned my fashionable one-piece snow suit, threw my loaded pack on my back and strapped on my snowshoes (more difficult than it sounds with my limited mobility-think Randy from "A Christmas Story"). I followed my own track across the lawn to the edge of the woods. The same path that offered a refreshing hike the day before became a strenuous quest under branches clawing at my backpack and tearing at my hat. Sticks jumped up out of the snow to tangle in my snowshoes. With my hands full of straps for my panel carrier and easel, I struggled to keep my balance as I squeezed between saplings and fallen trees.

Eventually, I rediscovered a small clearing with possible compositions in every direction. I paused and looked around, making sure to pick the perfect spot in which to unload all my gear. I gazed over my shoulder and, forgetting I was wearing snowshoes, took a step back. The next thing I knew I was lying on my backpack waving my arms like a flipped turtle. I had to crawl on my hands and knees before getting back on my feet. Luckily, only Hatrick was there to laugh at me.

Once I started painting, I had a wonderful time. I quickly gestured the shadows on the snow and the trees in the background and then it was just like any other plein air outing as long as I remembered that there is no "reverse" on snowshoes before I stepped back periodically to check my work. As I painted, trees threw snowballs at me and one spatted on my pallet, covering the ultramarine blue and cadmium red piles and much of the mixing space. Another chunk of snow got me in the back of the neck and slid down my shirt.

I had enough success to return the following day for another sketch. Neither of these are wonderful paintings, but I have gathered more information from doing them than I could from just looking or even taking photographs.

Plus, I learned that Hatrick is a terrific painting companion and I plan to invite her along more in the future.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Painting featured on two blogs!

Digging to Australia
6" x 8"
oil on board

This is the other end of Hatrick, my golden retriever. A tiny puppy investigating snow in this image, she is three years old now. She still loves playing in the snow and recreates this scene on a daily basis in the winter.

This painting has now been featured on two blogs other than my own! The first is Alyson B. Stanfield's, in a post helping artists decide whether or not to enter a juried exhibit. is a wonderful resource for artists who want to show and sell their work more successfully.

More recently this little piece was included in a winter inspired collection of paintings assembled by Diane Kolak (Design Consultant and owner of Inspired Room Design, LLC) on her blog, The artwork Diane selected will warm the hearts of even the staunchest snow-haters. While you are visiting, check out my favorite category-"color love!"

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Pup Aware

copyright 2010 Hannah Phelps
2.5" x 2" image size

Van Dyke Brown Akua waterbased inks on Stonehenge paper

It seems appropriate to start a new year with an image of a puppy. Here is my Golden Retriever, Hatrick, again, our model from the oil painting "Digging to Australia" (to view that painting click here). She posed for this drawing when she was just a puppy. I worked quickly to capture her fuzzy, curious face.

The magical process of solar plate etching allowed me to transfer this little drawing into a print. There are only ten of them in this brown edition and there may never be any more in any color. Each one is numbered (1/10, 2/10, etc) and signed on the front and back of the paper. It is shipped matted and on a stiff backing board.

I hope that 2010 is a great year for you-I have very high hopes for it and for Hatrick!