Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Winning Weekend in New England

 "Ocean Point Scene II"
etching, aquatint, a la poupee 
oil ink on paper

Lately, there have been quite a few victories up here in New England. To kick it off, my etching, "Ocean Point Scene II", won honorable mention at the  New Hampshire Institute of Art's Continuing Education Exhibit! I have seen the other wonderful pieces in the show and whoever judged us had their work cut out for them! 

My art victory was in good company. The third Monday in April is Patriot's Day in nearby Massachusetts. Of course we New Englanders all sit around and think about the significance of April 19, 1775 when the first shots of the American Revolution changed the modern world. But mostly we celebrate with our biggest sports day of the year and athletes from all over the globe come to join us.

First and foremost, four champions were crowned in the 114th Boston Marathon and two records fell! Teyba Erkesso and Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot won the running race, and Cheruiyot now possesses the course record!

In the wheelchair event, Wakako Tsuchida repeated as women's champ for the fourth time in a row and Ernst Van Dyke became the only Boston Marathoner in any category to win the event NINE times!

In case one of the most prestigious marathons in the world isn't enough for you, the Red Sox always play in the morning. After the game, baseball fans stick around and cheer the runners still on course. Still want more? To top it all off, the Bruins (our ice hockey team) beat their playoff opponent on home ice.

Let's all offer a huge "Congratulations" to all our champions from this week! A special salute goes to my fellow artists in the NHIA exhibit, "Best in Show" winner, Vicki Curry, for her lovely painting, "Clay Haven Mercury", and "Honorable Mention" recipient, Barry Dial and his delicate, haunting photograph, "Surf". 

Monday, April 19, 2010

Countdown to Impact

Today's assignment in my online Blog Triage Class with Alyson Stanfield and Cynthia Morris focuses on the visual impact of our blogs. My fellow "patients" and I were challenged to change at least two things to make our blogs as visually appealing as possible.

Above is a screen capture before I:

- lightened the background color

- changed the font color to black

- added a photo to my header

It is just three little changes, but playing with new font colors and editing the picture took some time. (Everything involving a computer seems to take three or four times as long as it needs to around here....)

Well, since you can see the old and the new alongside each other, I would love to know what you think! If you loved it the old way, I need to know. Maybe this new color scheme is making you excited to visit the blog more. Perhaps you like a little of each-tell me! Together we can make this blog "just right"!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dog Days-Back with the Ball - SOLD!

copyright Hannah Phelps
oil on canvas, 6" x 9"

Here is teaser number two for the upcoming fund-raiser for the Animal Rescue League of NH at McGowan Fine Art in June. (To see teaser one, click here.) Appropriately, the show is entitled "Unleashed" and this is my Hatrick in that very state, reveling in an afternoon of beach and ball.

When Hatrick isn't posing for paintings, she and I compete in dog agility-basically obstacle courses dogs run off-leash. Agility dogs like Hattie need to be in top condition to excel, so running and swimming on the beach is perfect cross-training for her.

Many people ask me what is up with my dog's name. Well, we agility people get a little wacky when we name our dogs. Three years ago, I registered my third agility puppy as "Pine Run's Joy of Sport" because I wanted a us to have a fun and fruitful career as a team. And a "Hat Trick" is one of the most joyous events in sport -when a hockey player scores three goals in one game, the crowd explodes to their feet and showers the ice with hats in celebration.

In case you are wondering, when Hatrick has a great agility run, I don't throw hats at her. She prefers meatballs and a trip to the beach.

This painting has SOLD!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Let's Ink about This

copyright Hannah Phelps
Ocean Point Scene II
etching and aquatint on Stonehenge paper
6" x 8" image size

This print is my very latest creation. You can see it in person at the Continuing Education Student Exhibition at the New Hampshire Institute of Art close by in Manchester. I have enjoyed printmaking so much that when the school announced its new Certificate in printmaking, I enrolled almost immediately. I want to learn all the basics of the many types of printmaking, so I appreciate the discipline of following a program.

This semester, I am focusing on intaglio, specifically copperplate etchings. In case you don't know what some of these terms mean (and I didn't until I started making prints myself) I will back up and define some things. "Intaglio" prints are created by plates with deep grooves that hold ink. The ink is transferred to paper by using a tight press that pushes the paper into the grooves. In this plate, the grooves were created by burning lines and dots in copper using acid, which is called "etching". With intaglio, the marks you make on the plate are the marks you will get in the final print.

Often, etchings are based on line drawings, but the painter in me needs shapes and tones, so I also used a technique called "aquatint" to create the clouds, darken the trees and mimic some reflections in the water. This method uses acid to burn tiny holes in wider areas of the plate. The holes are so close together that when the ink is transferred to the paper, it acts a little like a wash of paint. I have included a close-up of the trees so you can see the dotted texture within the aquatint:

This detail photo showcases my favorite part of this piece. I was able to manipulate the aquatint to create a nice outline of tree shapes. You can also see the variation of colors in the ink a bit more clearly. Using multiple inks on one plate is called "a la poupee". I joked with a friend that this might be French for "makes a big mess", because when I smeared it on the plate, it sort of got other places too. It was worth it, though, because the inks mixed, creating wonderful depth and a nice atmosphere reminiscent of landscape painting.

There are other etchings in the works, so while this one hangs in the NHIA show, I will hopefully finish some more prints. When I do, I will share them, too!

P.S. If you want to know what "a la poupee" really means, the National Gallery of Art has a nice little definition posted here.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

It's All About Me-and You

copyright Hannah Phelps
Wave Embrace
7" x 11"; oil and canvas

I painted this sketch last fall on the coast of Maine. Today, I was supposed to go back to that spot for the first time in 2010, but the weather report shifted from "wicked nice" to "windy, cloudy and cold." This could easily lead to "frigid snow, sleet and rain mix" in an instant in New England, so I postponed the outing for a better day.

In the meantime, I have Part II of my blogging homework to finish-describing what I hope to get out of blogging. The most obvious benefit of blogging is that it is an easy way to share my paintings with other people. Before the internet, artists could only show their work in person. Now, I can paint something in the morning, take a photograph of it and post the image in a few minutes making it available for anyone to see. I can also easily keep a schedule of events updated so people can see the work in person if they wish.

But blogging can offer so much more than just an online gallery. Artists spend quite a bit of time alone in their studios and blogging is a way to say, "Hey Everyone! I am right here!" It is a small connection to the outside world, but not an insignificant one.

Once I decided to reach out in this way, I had to pay attention to my communication skills. The practice of articulating my methods and inspirations helps me not only talk about my art better, it helps me understand it better myself. Blogging has the potential to feed into the creative process and become a part of it instead of just a station in which to display a final product.

And, as it should, all this talk about me has led me back to you, the avid reader of this blog, since it is with you I am trying to share my artwork. Some of you have said that the images displayed here remind you of places you have been or where you grew up. The absence of figures in these landscapes gives them a timelessness that allows you to pick any period from your own life and sit in that moment, forgetting that it is advanced technology and the possibly hated computer that allow you a short reverie. If it is the dog paintings you prefer, they might offer you the relief of a smile or chuckle, especially after reading a little story about the characters depicted in the piece.

So let's make a deal-I'll paint and make prints and write about the joys and challenges, the methods and madness of creating art and you relax, enjoy the artwork and the stories that go with it and, if you are inclined to do so, tell me what you think.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Painting and Blogging

copyright Hannah Phelps
Cat O' Nine Tails-WIP (no pun intended)
11" x 14"; oil on canvas

It is unbelievably nice outside today, so why am I inside blogging? The biggest reason is that I really want this blog to be a fun site for people to visit and read and maybe learn a thing or two about painting, printmaking, the places and things I feature in my art, me and those things combined. In order to do improve my blog and make it the best it can be, I enrolled in a 4-week "Blog Triage" online class with art marketing expert, Alyson Stanfield ( and expert blogger, Cynthia Morris ( and My fellow "patients" (students) and I will have several assignments each week over the month of April, so you can watch this blog transform!

Our first assignment is to define our ideal readers. I hope the following describes you (but if it doesn't, you are certainly welcome to visit my blog early and often) :

The people who will enjoy this blog the most are those who enjoy the representational landscapes that I paint and post most often. They look forward to seeing the tiny image on Facebook or getting an image of a painting in their inbox because it is a little bit of the natural world on their computer screen. These folks are curious about how my art is created and enjoy a short explanation of my process now and then. Lovers of the outdoors and/or dogs themselves, my readers like brief stories about the scenes depicted in the work or an adventure I had while creating the piece. They want to see my art in person and like knowing where my work will be on display.

By the way, I couldn't help myself -I played outside before I did my blog homework. The image above is one result. "WIP" stands for Work in Progress, so I hope to work on this painting more and may be post the final result another time!