Monday, August 29, 2011

Light in the Hall

This hallway meditation was inspired by an attempt to re-work an old unfinished painting of interior light. After working from memory, imagination and a few unsatisfying reference photos, it was a welcome relief to do a study from direct observation.

Light in the Hall, oil on canvas panel, 10x8 inches.
©2011 Amy Tennant

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Plastic People

Further encounters with the plastic family.

Head to Head, oil on canvas panel, 7x5 inches.
©2011 Amy Tennant

My Turn, oil on canvas panel, 7x5 inches.
©2011 Amy Tennant

Friday, August 5, 2011

Kid in a Cup

My new favorite colors to work with are the Radiant series from Gamblin, particularly for creating more colorful grays and whites. I've always liked Gamblin oils for their creamy consistency but I wasn't aware of the radiant colors until I watched a video about artist Karin Jurick's palette. She works with up to 50 different colors on a regular basis, and it's hard to resist buying a whole new set of paints after watching all of those colors get lined up around the edge of her pizza-tray palette. As she so reasonably points out, "There's a world of color out there, people—I think you should use it."

Kid in a Cup, oil on canvas panel, 5x7 inches.
©2011 Amy Tennant

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Shadow Side

This was my third entry for the Virtual Paintout last month (Jersey). More to come in this series. The location for August is Fairbanks, Alaska. In the meantime, I am continuing another series that I started a few months ago with Kid on a Cup. The kid also has a little sister and a mom and dad. Stay tuned for their debuts.

Shadow Side, oil on canvas panel, 10x8 inches.
©2011 Amy Tennant

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Window Scene

I seem to have a new series developing from these Jersey images, based on neighborhood snippets and window reflections. This is actually the fourth one I've done—I will post another one tomorrow but the first one is still under consideration. I do wish Google would oblige me by going back to Jersey on a sunny day to update some of the overcast snapshots... There are so many great images but I haven't quite mastered the ability to invent my own sunlight, replete with cast shadows and reflected light.

I did learn a helpful trick in Photoshop, for those of you who use that program as your photo editor. One of the things that cameras tend to do is underexpose shadows, especially in direct sunlight, so in order to bring more light and color into the shadows you can go to Image-->Adjustments-->Shadow/Highlight. Depending on the amount of contrast in the source photo, the default setting of 50% can usually be lowered to about 25% for best results.

Window Scene, oil on canvas panel, 10x8 inches.
©2011 Amy Tennant

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Jersey Dormer

This month the Virtual Paintout is going to the island of Jersey in the English Channel. I found some good hedges again and I have a few thumbnail sketches worked out for those, but mainly what I've been drawn to is the neighborhood details. Spartan yard plots, building geometries, window reflections, etc. One crazy neighborhood I came across had duplexes that were painted a different color on each half (nothing unusual there), but there were also two different styles of roofing material woven together in a seam running down the middle of the roof. How does that work?!

Dormer, oil on canvas panel, 10x8 inches.
©2011 Amy Tennant

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hedge Walls

Here are my latest hedge paintings, derived from Google Street View images of New Zealand. I went a little minimalist on the second one below, Green Wall, and I kind of like the simple geometry of it. It may have been inspired by something I read recently about trying to train yourself to see your painting on its own terms (an arrangement of colors, shapes, and values), and not just as a representation of something (a picture). It was a quote by artist Catherine Kehoe:
Try to forget that you are looking at a leg, or a pumpkin, or whatever it is. Forget the name of it, forget what you think the color should be. Forget rendering smoothly or making something "realistic." Think shape, specific color, relative value. Those three things will give you plenty to work with. If you get those things right, you won't need anything else. If you get them wrong, no amount of detail will make the painting live.
I like the idea of bringing out the underlying abstractions of a painting while still having them contribute to a recognizable image.

Hedge Cube, oil on canvas panel, 8x10 inches.
©2011 Amy Tennant

Green Wall, oil on canvas panel, 8x10 inches.
©2011 Amy Tennant

Crosslight, oil on linen panel, 6x6 inches.
©2011 Amy Tennant

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Snack Tower

Now that I see it in print I think I might go back and add a few touch-ups, but here is the cheese and cold cuts painting as it stands. The background is a little flat, I think. And I could try to pretend that I meant for the bottom plate to run off the edge of the canvas, but really it was just that I sketched it in a little too loosely before I started. I couldn't bring myself to scrape off a whole plate of food just to move it up an inch. Next time, a more accurate drawing to begin with, and maybe an hour or so of ellipse penance.

Snack Tower, oil on canvas panel, 8x10 inches.
©2011 Amy Tennant

Friday, June 24, 2011


I think I may do a few more of these hedge paintings even though I can only submit three of them to the Virtual Paintout, but in the meantime I'm working on a new painting of cheese and cold cuts. In the process of browsing around online for other cheese paintings, I came across Philadelphia artist Mike Geno. He paints cheese, meat and other foods, and also sock monkeys. Here is a sampling of his cheese series. Having an affinity for the single-subject series myself, and for good foodstuffs, I can't help liking his work, especially when it is executed in such a luscious, painterly manner.

Monolith, oil on canvas panel, 6x6 inches.
©2011 Amy Tennant

Friday, June 17, 2011


Yesterday I attempted a plein-air painting (working outside, directly from observation) and had frustrating results, so instead of posting that painting I am posting my next hedge painting for the New Zealand paintout. In the meantime, I am giving myself a refresher course on the elements of color theory: hue, value, intensity, and temperature. It's sort of like learning choreography - you have to go through the steps slowly and consciously at first in order to get them lodged into your muscle memory, so that when you actually do the dance you no longer have to "think" about it. According to the somewhat chalky landscape I came out with yesterday, I would say that alla prima color choreography is not quite planted in my muscle memory yet.

Looming, oil on canvas panel, 6x6 inches.
©2011 Amy Tennant

Friday, June 10, 2011


There is an abundance of spectacular landscape in New Zealand...unfortunately it has not all been visited by Google. I had a few places in mind when I started searching the map - Milford Sound, for one - but the little yellow Google man didn't have anywhere to walk down there. Another place I couldn't quite get to was the Vimutti Buddhist Monastery outside of Bombay on the South Island. I would never have known it existed except for the fact that Tim's step-brother is the spiritual director of the monastery. He happens to be visiting California this week and showed us pictures of some of the projects under way at the monastery, one of which is a new stupa. When Tim traveled there about five years ago he helped build this covered meditation path in the woods, adding another inviting element to this peaceful stretch of land.

But because this painting project is restricted to street views, I moved on from fjords and forest retreats to hedges along the roadside. :-) I found an area of countryside outside of Te Puke on the North Island that has miles of cypress walls, and I found them to be quite striking in their own right.

Turnaround, oil on canvas panel, 6x6 inches.
©2011 Amy Tennant

Monday, June 6, 2011

French Window Dressings

My favorite images of the French Riviera turned out to be from a small inland village rather than from the famous coastline (in terms of what was available through Google Street View, that is). I've always liked the irregularity and coziness of old towns with narrow streets, and the contrast of monochromatic buildings with bright colorful shutters.

This month, the Virtual Paintout goes to New Zealand.

Old Town Shutters, oil on canvas panel, 8x10 inches.
©2011 Amy Tennant

Sunbreak, oil on canvas panel, 6x6 inches.
©2011 Amy Tennant

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Azure vs. Gray

This month the location for the Virtual Paintout is the Cote d'Azur, which is marginally compensating for the fact that it has been cold and dreary here for the past week. Then again, it is also reminding me of the day I visited Cannes during a fierce deluge (see below). I could have chosen that day to stay onboard my ship where it was warm and dry, but in order to say I'd been to Cannes I had to at least set foot on shore and buy a postcard. As I fought my way to the promenade, the rain drove through my clothes and sent a flash flood running down my legs and into my shoes. Not the kind of swimming I had in mind on the Riviera! But I hear it's sunny there sometimes...just like it shows in my postcard.

Promenade Chairs, oil on canvas panel, 6x6 inches.
©2011 Amy Tennant

My Visit to Cannes, 2009

Friday, May 6, 2011

Ghost Town

Just got back from a trip to the Eastern Sierra/Owens Valley. I've lived in California for most of my life but this was my first visit to Mono Lake, Bodie, the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, Alabama Hills, and Mt Whitney. Really spectacular scenery, lots of desert wildflowers in bloom, full sunshine the whole time, but it was still pre-season for some of the summer attractions. No access to the Devils Postpile near Mammoth Lakes, and we had to hike in a couple of miles to Bodie and the Bristlecone Pines due to the amount of snow still on the roads. Unfortunately there was too much snow on the trails for us to make it to the oldest trees. This painting was done from an image of the abandoned Tom Miller House in the ghost town of Bodie.

Silent Kitchen, oil on linen panel, 6x6 inches.
©2011 Amy Tennant

Friday, April 29, 2011

It's a Tomato

I guess it isn't the most ambitious of compositions, but here is a tomato. I harbored it for a day as my model but now we can chop it up and put it in our salad. I think somehow it sensed that was coming...

The Tomato, oil on canvas panel, 5x7 inches.
©2011 Amy Tennant

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Virtual Japan #3

This will be my last entry for the Virtual Paintout this month, featuring Japan. I did two other small paintings that I will post here after adding a few touch-ups. Looking forward to finding out what next month's location will be.

Crossing, oil on canvas panel, 6x6 inches.
©2011 Amy Tennant

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Backyard Ladybug

This guy was hanging out in our backyard having a pleasant snack until we started pestering him by snapping photos with the macro lens. As he maneuvered to escape the intrusion he only managed to move into better lighting. I've since cleared out his perch to make room for the garden bed, so he'll have to find modeling work in another yard for a while.

Backyard Ladybug, oil on canvas panel, 6x6 inches.
©2011 Amy Tennant

Monday, April 25, 2011

Field of Poppy

I just learned that there is such a thing as a pink California Poppy. I have seen pale yellow ones and dark red ones, but I've never seen a pink one. I discovered them while buying my vegetable seeds from Renee's Garden Seeds. I think I'll be planting some in the fall, along with some of the other colors they seem to have come up with, like magenta and buttercream.

Field of Poppy, oil on canvas panel, 6x6 inches.
©2011 Amy Tennant

Friday, April 22, 2011

Complementary Poppy

The wildflowers are in bloom on the hills near our house, and the California Poppy has always been one of my favorites. They take on such a great variety of gestures and shapes as they open and close every day with the sun. It's amazing what four little petals can come up with! I am submitting this painting to the Daily Paintworks Color Challenge (using a limited color scheme - in this case, complementary colors). Visit the site to see all of the other entries for this challenge!

Complementary Poppy, oil on canvas panel, 6x6 inches.
©2011 Amy Tennant

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Chunky Succulent

Next in the series of my cactus and succulent garden portraits... This is a strange little one. The common name is Kangaroo Rose (or Karoo Rose), but I think it looks a little bit more like thumbs. I love the pale dusty green color, and I'm looking forward to seeing the yellow flower that it allegedly produces.

Chunky Succulent, oil on canvas panel, 5x7 inches.
©2011 Amy Tennant

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tiny Giant Peanut

The common name of this cactus is Giant Peanut, according to the sticker on the pot, but right now it's really only the size of a regular peanut. (The flower it produced, however, was giant.) This one was born in Arizona, but has now relocated to San Jose after making its debut at the San Francisco Garden Show. I'm hoping it will accept the fact that it isn't likely to be 114 degrees here very often. I know I do.

Tiny Giant Peanut, oil on canvas panel, 7x5 inches.
©2011 Amy Tennant

Friday, April 8, 2011

Virtual Japan #2

Finished my second Japan painting yesterday and started two new ones. Meanwhile my new cactus collection is starting to call out to me. I might have to paint some of their portraits next week after I get them planted in bigger pots. Two of the little ones have already bloomed.

Blue Bike, oil on linen panel, 6x6 inches.
©2011 Amy Tennant

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Virtual Japan #1

The subject for this month's Virtual Paintout is Japan. I keep gravitating to images that have vending machines in them, mostly because I just like the colors and lights, but now I'm discovering that there is so much more to convenience than soda pop when it comes to vending machines in Japan. I thought it was funny when I came across a liquor vending machine, but that's still just another beverage. What if what you really need is some eggs, a necktie, an umbrella, a head of lettuce or a bouquet of flowers? Or, you might not NEED a pet rhino beetle, but you could get one of those too if you had the impulse.

Red/Green, oil on linen panel, 6x6 inches.
©2011 Amy Tennant 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bubbles and Bunnies

Tom Wolfe came up the other night, and through a chain of connections (mentioning The Bonfire of the Vanities --> the meaning of a bonfire of vanities --> the vanities in vanitas paintings --> googling vanitas paintings) led to my discovery of paintings with bubbles and bunnies in them (not together). I found a blog post about bubble painting and learned a new phrase: "Man is a bubble" (in Latin, homo bulla). Otherwise known as, "life is short."

David Bailly - "Self Portrait with Vanitas Symbols"

This led me to another post on the same blog, about a German surrealist who likes to paint animals in various situations, such as a well-to-do bunny getting dressed in front of a large mirror.

Michael Sowa - "Bunny Dressing"

Friday, April 1, 2011

Water Miscible Oils

Sun-Dried, oil on canvas panel, 10x8 inches.
©2011 Amy Tennant

I tried water miscible oils for the first time yesterday (result above). These are oil paints that have been molecularly altered so that they are solvent in water. The paints themselves are not water-based and still perform like traditional oil paints, but they can be cleaned up with water. This is a very nice thing, as washing the paint out of my oil painting brushes is my most hated chore. 

I tried two different brands: Winsor & Newton Artisan, and Holbein Duo. I definitely preferred the consistency of the Holbeins. The WN paints were very stiff. If anyone has tried other brands and can recommend one, I'd love to hear your suggestions. Any reviews of Royal Talens Cobra?

This image is another street view from Cape Town. I had to edit out a few bugs that got stuck on the canvas while I was painting with the doors open after an 80-degree day. 

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cape Town #2

Watching, oil on canvas panel, 10x8 inches.
©2011 Amy Tennant

I started two more paintings for the Cape Town challenge this month (the limit is three per artist), but they are due today and I may not finish the second one. I also did a few touch-ups on the one I posted earlier. Here is the final version that I submitted.

Street in Cape Town, oil on canvas panel, 10x8 inches.
©2011 Amy Tennant

Friday, March 25, 2011

Cape Town

Street in Cape Town, oil on canvas panel, 10x8 inches.
©2011 Amy Tennant

This is my entry for the Virtual Paintout challenge this month. The image is taken from Google Street View in Cape Town (this one is not from Tennant Street). Before I submit it I want to take a better photo; the colors aren't quite right in this one and it's too late in the day for good light now. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Kid on a Cup

Kid on a Cup, oil on canvas panel, 5x7 inches. ©2011 Amy Tennant

I found a family of little plastic people in Tim's toy box and they've been getting into things lately. This kid liked the fact that he matched the cup I was painting and he thought he could improve the composition.

I'm working on little canvas panels using my new mini easel that I made out of a cigar box. I got the idea through artist Abbey Ryan, but it is a popular (and cheap!) way to make a traditional pochade box.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Monthly Painting Challenge

I found a monthly painting challenge to try, using Google Street View. The organizer of the challenge selects a city each month, and artists use Google Street View to find a scene in that city to paint. Yesterday I "visited" Cape Town and found that there's a Tennant Street! I dragged my Google guy around town a little bit and found some street scenes to work from. Pictures to follow...

If you've never used this function in Google Maps, it's pretty cool.

Try Google Maps with Street View

Monday, March 21, 2011

Art Goals for 2011

1. Paint a small daily painting 5 days a week
2. Schedule daily computer time (read, blog, update, email)
3. Schedule daily studio assignments
4. Participate in monthly painting challenges
5. Blog at least 5 times a week
6. Complete 2 or more larger paintings a month
7. Enter at least 1 painting competition
8. Write an elevator speech
9. Write an artist's statement
10. Prepare reference photos for painting

Re-listen and take notes on Artists Helping Artists podcasts