Wednesday, December 4, 2019

A study and a studio piece

Davis Gallery opens its Winter Group Show "Looking Out, Looking In" this Saturday night, Dec 7. I'll have six works from my New York series in it, and I thought I'd share one of my favorites and the plein air piece that was its genesis.

Even after painting in the city for six weeks, this view to the south of SoHo was pretty complicated for me. So many buildings, and layers of them! I never grew tired of the juxtaposition of the old look of the water towers backed by slick, modern skyscrapers. Atmospheric perspective lessons were rampant. Layers of buildings were in warmer, red and brown tones, at the next layers were grays and purples, and the furthest buildings on hazy days would be blues. Finding accurate hues to describe the light and shadow sides of the buildings within each layer (value range) was both challenging and fun.

plein air study, 8 x 10

As far as adjustments I made from the plein air to studio version, in the plein air piece above, I didn't think I accurately captured the intensity of the green in the plants on the rooftop in the foreground, so I made that adjustment in the larger studio version. I also wanted some of the water towers in the middle ground to be a little more defined, so I made adjustments to raise the value those slightly, while slightly lowering the value of the buildings just beyond them to make the towers more prominent.

I moved the placement of the ladder on the tower in the front, making it more visible, and playing on the contrast between the small lines of the steel ladder and the massive steel One World Trade Center just beyond.

SoHo Rooftop No 31, South
studio piece, 12 x 16 in., oil on panel, $1375

Hopefully this has been of interest! I always find it compelling to see what changes an artist makes when making a studio piece from a plein air piece. The studio version, SoHo Rooftop No 31, South, is available at Davis Gallery here in Austin. Stop by if you're in town this weekend--the opening is from 7-9 pm (837 W 12th St.). The works will be up through January 11.

-julie davis

Monday, October 28, 2019



Ben and I head home from New York this week, and we are both a little sorry to go. While we miss home, our time here has given us valuable new experiences, as travel always does. We've both enjoyed making new routines and seeing life from a different perspective for a while. I predict that I will miss the rooftop more than I anticipate. It's been the ultimate outdoor studio for this subject matter--I can literally walk out the door and paint, only contending with a flight of stairs, no car, no hike, and no interruptions. I'll miss it. 

I thought I'd share about the various ways I begin a piece outdoors. Disclaimer: my process, like most, is in a constant state of evolution. I used to begin by "sketching" the composition and values with a dark paint and a small brush. For whatever reason, that doesn't do it for me anymore. I now sketch some thumbnails on paper, then begin the painting with a very light wash of Gamsol + a hue that compliments the subject matter and wipe away the light areas of my composition with a paper towel. I like the sculptural aspect of using my hands more directly on the panel and pulling away paint. Lots of "happy accidents" can happen during this time, hand strokes or ideas that I will keep in the final iteration of the piece. This method also gives me a good design sense, a Notan of sorts. Notan is a whole other post--but in short, it's a Japanese concept that explores the relationship of light and dark, and it is extremely helpful in understanding whether or not you've got a strong design.

Below is a piece I did on Thursday, before two of our daughters arrived for a weekend visit. This view is directly south of us, toward One World Trade Center. I began with a light wash of a violet. It's a little hard to see in these photos. The color doesn't matter to me that much--it gets completely covered--but I want something harmonious that sends me in the right direction for the overall composition. And I don't want the intensity to control me, so it's generally light--I can use this "armature" or not as I go.

Another few more examples (sorry for the formatting and photo quality--these are on-the-spot quick photos and I'm more focused on painting than getting a good photo when I take these):



This one had such strong light and dark patterns that this is how I began the wash, and wiped away from there:

As you can see, this start has more of a Notan quality to it than any of the others. You can accomplish this with thumbnails and a sharpie in you sketchbook before you start painting. I sometimes do that in addition to my thumbnail sketches, but the more quickly I can get to painting when I'm outdoors, the better chance I have to capture the light in the momentary scene that inspired me.

Happy Halloween, by the way!

-julie davis

Sunday, October 6, 2019

A moment in Maine and Vermont

I now understand the appeal of a real, on-time, colorful September fall. As a Texan, I know a long, hot summer, and I always appreciate when fall finally decides to reach us, but some lucky people get it way earlier than we do in Austin. Obviously, theirs comes with a long, hard winter, so I can't say I'd trade them, but real fall in September is terrific, and feels really, really good!

Since my husband and I are living in New York this fall, we've tried to explore areas that are relatively close. So, we took a long weekend drive to Maine and Vermont last weekend, and I took my plein air pack and thoroughly enjoyed the times I got to unpack it and paint.

The photo above is in Kennebunkport, Maine, down by the docks where they bring the lobster pots in from the morning fishing trip. While I was painting these lobster buoys, a couple of fishermen walked by and struck up a conversation with me. One told the other I was "memorializing McDougall's buoys." I guess I was. I sure enjoyed the piece.

This is near Manchester, VT, at the covered bridge near Norman Rockwell's home, and below is my process on a gorgeous barn near Barnard, VT.

I could've stayed for days and painted this barn from many angles. The autumn foliage was the icing on the cake. I got a lot of photos and sketches, and hope to get to painting more on this unique structure when we're home. For now, I'm back in NYC painting on the rooftop!

-julie davis

Monday, September 30, 2019

A really good weekend in New York

with my piece, Texas Trifecta, at the opening

With family schedules and artists' balance sheets, it is hard to take advantage of many of the opportunities associated with various art associations' national shows. They never seem to be nearby, so I don't typically attend even if I've been fortunate enough to have a piece juried into one.

The American Impressionist Society's 20th Annual National Juried Show was different. My husband and I are living in New York this fall (long story), and the show was held at the historic Salmagundi Club minutes from where we are living. I applied and held my breath. And got in.

I immediately registered for everything AIS offered for attending artists, and boy, did it pay dividends! I knew this would be a popular show--who doesn't want to spend a fall weekend in NYC? And Kevin Macpherson was the judge and was doing a demo one night. Derek Penix and Michelle Dunaway did demos as well--we had a tour of the Utrecht paint factory, a presentation on the history of British Impressionism, and a paintout in Central Park, not to mention several cocktail receptions at the club (always a hit). 

Bottom line, and this may seem obvious, but you get out of art associations what you put into them. I met artists I'd known only over social media, and made new acquaintances with whom I know I'll keep in touch. One of my biggest supporters and NYC resident, collector, and photographer Ken Ratner, even came to the reception--Ken--your support means so much!

The best part? Receiving BEST IN SHOW for the plein air paintout competition among AIS members in Central Park with "Signs of Fall!" A complete surprise and a huge honor!!!

Signs of Fall, 8 x 10, oil on panel

Painting at the Bow Bridge in Central Park, NYC

Panel discussion at the Salmagundi Club with Derek Penix,
Michelle Dunaway, C.W. Mundy, and Debra Joy Groesser

Barrels of oil paint at the Utrecht paint factory in Brooklyn

Cerulean Blue...

Gesso being mixed -  biggest mixer I've ever seen

Peter Trippi's presentation on British Impressionism

In front of the Salmagundi Club

Derek Penix and Michelle Dunaway doing demos for the attendees

Some old palettes and a piece from the club

Awards night--truly a great weekend!

-julie davis

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Rooftop process

I've got to figure out how to share video on this platform. Suggestions welcomed. I tried the built-in uploader, but it did not seem to like my iPhone videos, and wouldn't play once uploaded. So these stills will have to do!

Monday I set up on the roof with a little 8 x 10 panel. It was really overcast all day, which was great because the light didn't change much, and the grays of the buildings were pretty saturated. I almost always begin a painting with a wash of color--from a simple neutral to Transparent Red Oxide to whatever this was--I think a mix of TRO and Cad Red Light. I use a paper towel to wipe away the lights until I see the shapes I want. This is a fairly quick process--maybe 5-10 minutes tops. It gives me a sort-of Notan look, so I can judge design and value before I start. (This is after I've done a thumbnail sketch or two, which I tuck behind my panel on my easel while I paint).

I then work primarily dark to light. Someone on my Instagram post about this piece asked if it was hard to work around the supports of the towers--and the answer is yes--it is tedious, but I really can't get the darks like this in after lights are put down. I find it best to put them in, work around them, then  touch up the darks if I need to near the end. 

Next, the background and the foreground. Lots of shapes and perspective to contend with!

Last, the sky. It's hard to tell in this photo, but there are some super subtle value shifts in the sky. I love those, as well as the fun subtle hue and value shifts on and among the tall buildings in the background. This is New York, after all, and the buildings go way, way back, so there are lots of depth (= layers of atmosphere) even between the background buildings.

That's it! Wish I could've shared video of the view; hopefully, I can figure that one out before long. If you follow my instagram account, you'll see me post video in my story quite often. meanwhile, let me know if you know how I can do it here!

-julie davis

Thursday, September 12, 2019

More than an "annual thing"

If you notice these things, it's apparent I've ignored my blog in favor of Instagram for the last long while. I apologize if that's been a issue, but encourage you to get on Instagram just for the art if you've been hesitant to move your attention to that platform. It's even more nimble and immediate than blogs, and you can visually devour art much more quickly!  (@juliedavisstudio is me)

That said, there is obviously a massive and receptive community for art in blogging, and there is more "meat on the bone" in this format. That's why I've chosen to also share this latest venture here, where I can write about it and share groups of photos to "journal" my time here. Even though after almost a year of absence I may be blogging to an audience of exactly one....!

First, you're noticing this isn't the Texas Hill Country, or Austin. Yes, it's New York. My husband and I leased a place in the city for two months this fall. Our daughters are in college and beyond, and my husband is fortunate enough to be able work wherever he is able to drag his laptop and cell phone, and I'm able to work wherever I can drag my easel, so this happened. And I've found my happy place here among the water towers on the rooftops of the city.

I typically begin by wiping away a very thin
mixture of paint and Gamsol into shapes.
Great skies, first sketch in the books.
This week I climbed to the rooftop of our place, and it was like a stairway to heaven for me. If these paintings aren't for you, ignore me for two months, because this is the direction I'll be taking while we're here. The roof is perfect for the introvert in me, because the only people around are on other rooftops, generally far away enough where they don't notice me. Don't get me wrong, I like people! Just while I'm painting, it's great if I don't feel on display, and I was really concerned about that for this New York stint. But up there, I'm alone, with endless viewpoints and subject matter and light's fantastic. And I can run downstairs for lunch or a refill of coffee. I'm not sure I've ever painted in a more convenient setup, actually.

start #2
Pulled this shot from my insta-story.
Got a migraine mid-painting. When
I came back to finish, the light had
changed completely.
Sunset provided this wonderful, pink
 light, but it changed 
Finished this fourth study the next morning.
Fresh light, great skies.

Now I've got these four under my belt, I may move to individual 8 x 10 panels, to fit a little more information on each one. I can't wait to get back up there. Have a good week and a great weekend, and thanks for reading all the way to the end if you've made it this far. I'm planning on these blog posts being more than an "annual thing!"

-julie davis

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Out of the Comfort Zone

Sitting down with Kevin Ivester at Davis Gallery Saturday 

Except for brief moments in my life, I would describe myself as a confirmed introvert. When I walk into a restaurant, I find myself heading for my table with my head all but down and my eyes focused on where I'm going, instead of looking around for familiar faces like my (very) extroverted husband does. I'd generally rather stay home than go out, and I am absolutely energized by and fine with time in my own space, in my own head, outdoors or indoors, and I'm really quite happy in the back row. I'm a really good listener!

While these preferences serve me very well when I'm painting, sometimes things like workshops and Artist Talks pop into my orbit, and then I'm challenged to step outside of my comfort zone. Anxiety creeps in and pushes me to over-prepare, and then magically, the thing happens and it goes well and my world is just fine again. Actually, it's better than just fine, because I learn that I'm capable of more than I expected, and maybe I enjoyed whatever it was, and it's often likely others did as well. This is growth, and it's really important for those of us who are introverts to allow ourselves the opportunity to have experiences we wouldn't normally embrace. 

All this to say, I sincerely enjoyed my conversation with Kevin Ivester Saturday afternoon at Davis Gallery here in Austin.  And I really appreciated those who came and asked questions and were interested in my story and what I had to say. It's humbling to have others respect and enjoy my work, and talking about what I love, (even publicly), now ranks pretty high on my list.

-julie davis

*Earth, Land, Property stays up through December 1
837 West 12th

Tuesday, November 20, 2018


The Drive
8 x 10, oil on panel
$800, available at Davis Gallery, Austin

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you have a wonderful week surrounded by those you love. Our girls return home for the holiday, and I've begun cooking--baking, really. Naturally, I have put my art on hold for a few days. I always think of exercising creative muscle in a different way is a bit like cross-training. I know l need that break from the routine to make me freshly eager to create, and I do come back to my studio with new ideas and a feeling of anticipation that almost makes my easel seem magnetic.

I hope you all get that break this week. If you want an infusion of art on Saturday as part of that break and are in Austin, stop into the gallery that represents me from 2:00-4:00. I'll be stretching my public speaking muscle with Gallery Director Kevin Iverson, answering questions about my process, and showing some studies and materials I use. I'd love to see you. And it's not a bad place to pick up a pretty killer Christmas gift. :) 

-julie davis

837 West 12th St.
Austin, Texas

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Artist Talk Nov. 24 @ Davis Gallery

First, I want to express my sincere thanks to my collectors, friends, and family who came to the opening of Earth, Land, Property. Twelve of my paintings sold at the opening--I deeply appreciate the return collectors and those new to enjoying my work who have given these pieces a home. It makes me extremely happy to be able to do what I love and to have others love it, too!

I also wanted to share that I'll be at Davis Gallery on the afternoon of Saturday, November 24, at 2 pm, doing an Artist Talk / Q&A with Kevin Ivester, the Gallery Director. It will be an informal discussion of my process, how I got started painting, my art and my goals, and wherever the discussion leads us! I'd love to see both new and familiar faces there--it's open to collectors and artists alike!

Below are a few photos I took right before the opening. When things got busy, the photography stopped. Who really wants to be taking photos at an opening, anyway?!

-julie davis