Wednesday, March 29, 2006

New art greeting cards now available

I am pleased to announce that I now have a new line of greeting cards available for purchase online. These cards are offered in packages of 6, with white envelopes included. They are printed in full color on heavy stock and have a blank inside, so they are perfect for including your own personal message.

The cards are produced by a company called Cafe Press. I have ordered some samples for myself and was very impressed with the printing quality. Right now I have a small selection of images available, but I plan to offer more in the future. Please visit the greeting cards page on my website for more information.

Jennifer Young; Vibrant Landscapes


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Watching the weather

When Dave and I first married, I used to joke to him that he was a closet weather man. I'd come out to breakfast each morning and he'd be there with the newspaper at the ready, quoting the weather forecast for the day.

In those days I'd scoff at the idea of such preparedness, but once I started painting landscapes, I came to depend on those weather forecasts. There's nothing worse than setting up all of your painting gear and seeing those black clouds roll in when you've only just begun your work! This painting of the Georgia wetlands was created under such circumstances. It is actually named "The Clouds Roll In" and measures 12"x12". Additional details about the painting are available
here. Since we were on the road, we weren't able to come back to this site on another day, so I had no choice but to finish it in the studio:

It has still really been either too cold or too rainy for me to paint outside yet, so I've been getting some new studio paintings under way. But my weather man informs me that there are some warm days ahead, so I'm getting my painting gear together in anticipation. I want to grab it and go out in the early morning at the first opportunity.

-Jennifer Young; Vibrant Landscapes

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Digital Cameras

I had some inquiries at my recent workshop about the kind of digital camera I use, so I thought I would post that information here:

What I use is a
Canon G5 Digital Camera. I am no expert on these kinds of things, but I did a lot of research before purchasing, and this is a good 5 mega-pixel camera. At the time of purchase it was NOT cheap, but it had the highest number of mega-pixels on the market in an attainable price range. This is no longer so. There are many other very good cameras on the market, but the G-5 is still very good, so I will have to stick with this one for a while longer.

It is not compact, but more like a traditional body single lens reflex camera. This is something I will need to reconsider in the future because I travel so much and now long for something more compact. It does have a good zoom and can shoot macros (for close up shots) which were the two criteria that were high on my list of priorities. But it is not good at all for action shots (something I don't really need for landscapes and city shots).

The only thing I really don't like about my camera is the lens cap. It would be much better if it had an automatic retractable lens, as the cap can sometimes fall off and you end up needing to clean the lens a lot. (I had a time when I was in Italy trying to figure out how to say, "do you have any lens paper?" in Italian. I think I ended up saying like "Do you have anything for to clean this?" pointing at my lens.) This problem may have been remedied in the next generation of this camera though. There is a newer version out now (the
Canon G6 ) that has 7 megapixels. There are also other cameras that have 8 MP and more, so one has a lot of choices, depending on the budget of course. Basically the more MP's you have the higher resolution images you can shoot. The G5 has been discontinued, but is still sold through various outlets. Here is a VERY detailed review of the G5.

You can read more about newer Canon cameras, including the next release of my model (the G6) here.

If you have an opinion about a good digital camera with good zoom and macros, feel free to post a comment about it!

-Jennifer Young; Vibrant Landscapes

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Planning a painting

One might assume that if an artist already has a photo of the scene, no further planning is needed. However, I always find it helpful to plan out my composition a little bit in advance before I dive right into painting. This saves consistent editing to the composition on my canvas, though editing and refining are still a part of the painting process.

A sketch need not be overly detailed, but it is still helpful in order to figure out the placement of things. Where is my horizon line? Where is my center of interest? Where is the sun in relation to my subject, and where will the shadows fall? What from the scene do I feel is important, and what may I want to edit out completely?

A sketch is also helpful because my canvas proportions may be different from the proportions in my photo. Therefore, I have to think about how to crop a scene to make it most interesting. Here is a photo of a scene in the Luberon valley of Provence that I took when I was there painting on location. A lovely little church served as a backdrop for a beautiful cherry orchard strewn with pink and white wildflowers. The photo does not do justice to the gorgeous wildflowers that were in this scene, but since I was there and painted and sketched in this area, memory can serve me well here:

Here is my very quick sketch. I plan to eliminate one of the middle ground trees, and use the two foreground trees to frame the scene. I establish where my horizon line will fall. At this point I am thinking it will be more interesting to have the horizon line a little higher up in my scene, rather than right smack in the middle of my canvas. Having my center of interest (the church) just off to the left of center creates a more dynamic composition as well. I also establish my light source and determine shadows.

Here is the painting, pretty well laid out. It is 12x16". It's been snowing here so the lighting coming in my studio windows has not been great for photography and this photograph has dulled my colors somewhat. I'm still working out the distant trees and the grasses and wildflowers in the foreground. I will post the completed painting on my website in the Provence Paintings section when it is complete.

Jennifer Young; Vibrant Landscapes

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Studio Work

Even though yesterday was the first day of spring, it is still pretty cold here. The days are actually varying wildly in temperature, which is typical for March in Richmond. Today temperatures will top out in the mid 30's, but by the weekend it is supposed to be in the upper 60's. Anemones, daffodils, cherry blossoms and forsythia are everywhere, and yet weather reports are actually calling for snow.

So, for a while longer I rely on my sketches and photos to inform my work. I work in the summer months in the studio too, but in warmer weather I can also break out for mornings painting and sketching in the open air. There is nothing quite like working from life. But when conditions are not ideal (or when you have long departed from your subject matter), I have devised (with my husband Dave's computer help and expertise) a way of working in the studio that exceeds working from printed photos.

When I travel to my painting destinations, I take literally thousands of digital pictures. I take shots both up close and far away, and I also shoot the same scene from several different angles if possible. The benefit of shooting digital is that I don't need to buy loads of film, and then worry about whether it will survive going through the x-ray machines at the airports. I can also see my images immediately and delete the ones that are clearly deficient.

When I get home I save my images onto a CD and work directly from a computer monitor that sits next to my easel. As it is, even digital photography is still one generation removed from nature. When an image is then printed off onto photo paper, the scene is even further removed. Printed photos tend to further wash out light areas and blacken out the darkest shadows, so a lot of detail is lost.

Viewing the images directly in digital form on my monitor allows me to see them in a truer light than if I had to print them off. Another advantage is that I can zoom in on a segment of the photo to see more detail--something not possible with printed photos. Of course you have to have taken the picture at a high enough image resolution in the first place, so I have a number of flash cards that hold a lot of large pictures. If traveling for extended periods it is even a good idea to download images along the way to CD or laptop, if possible, so that you have more room on your flash card (or memory stick) to take more pictures!

Here is my monitor/easel setup:

My monitor doesn't photograph well, but rest assured there is not a dark band running across my picture in the studio!

Jennifer Young; Vibrant Landscapes

Thursday, March 16, 2006

New art note cards in development

I have been looking for a way to offer a new line of note cards to sell on my website. Up to now I have been offering ones that are hand assembled with images on Arches deckled edge paper. They are really nice looking, but not the most practical in terms of the time and cost required to produce them.

I believe I have found an alternative that will enable me to offer some new images at a reduced cost to the customer. I've just ordered some "test cards" to get an idea of the product quality, and they look mighty good! Now I just have to go about picking out some more images that I think might appeal. I should be offering these new cards very soon on my website.

-Jennifer Young; Vibrant Landscapes

Monday, March 13, 2006

Back from the Workshop

The Friday workshop was a lot of fun. I was impressed by the talent and friendliness of the entire group, and it sure made my experience a real joy. I look forward to giving more workshops in the future! I will post more pictures of the class on in my "photo journal" on my website when I have time, but here are a few images in the meantime. The class began with a little talk and a demonstration. Here is a shot of the classroom. I'm standing in the front of the room (wearing a black shirt and green apron).

Giving the demo...

An action shot of the painting process; I'm laying in my lightest and darkest areas first to establish my values.

I got about half way done with this little painting before the participants broke out and started working on their own projects. I should have the finished painting up on my website soon.

-Jennifer Young, Vibrant Landscapes

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


I have a lot going on this week so I have kind of hit the ground running since my trip. I am working on two commissions and also preparing for the oil painting workshop I am conducting this Friday in Greenville, North Carolina. I'm also doing some sketches to plan for a number of new paintings, but they will wait until I get these other things finished (or at least well under way.) I am looking forward to the workshop! It's focus: Painting the Landscape in Oils.

-Jennifer Young; Vibrant Landscapes

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Postcards from the Southernmost Point

Well, we're back from our Key West trip now and I am getting my bearings again--getting acclimated to waking up to 30 degree mornings again. However, the daffodils are blooming in Richmond, and so we have the promise of spring. In a few more weeks all will be abloom here, so I think I can sustain myself with some Key West memories until then. ;-)

The trip was so inspiring and so much fun! I took about 800 pictures and spent my days exploring the island on bicycle with Dave, stopping often to photograph and sketch. I didn't get on the Internet as much as I thought I would, so not much opportunity to blog. But that is okay...I had to make the most of the time I had there, which was much too brief in my opinion (though I can hardly complain!)

Here are a couple of sketches I did on my trip. Along with my photos, the sketches will act as "memory triggers" for larger oil paintings I look forward to creating. This first "postcard" is a view of the courtyard and some of the beautiful gardens in our hotel. Just a quick pen and ink sketch embellished with watercolors:

This next image is a scene I painted in one of the little hidden residential alleys in Old Town, Key West. I visited this alley a couple of times and was drawn to this little scene. The structure looked like a little garden shed but it was maintained so prettily with flowers and tropical foliage. As it turned out this building was actually an artist's studio. No wonder I was attracted to it! I met the artist/owner who was kind enough to show me inside. She is a nice retired lady who lives next door and paints for her own enjoyment, mostly outside on the patio adjacent to this little studio. Don't let the modest exterior fool was a wonderful space!

I will be working on a couple of commissions immediately upon returning home, but be looking for some new Key West oil paintings on my website in the near future!

-Jennifer Young; Vibrant Landscapes

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Key West Conch Houses

I'm finally figuring out how to post pictures! Here is a shot of some "conch houses" near where we are staying:

Ever since our first trip to Key West, I have really admired the colorful "conch house" architecture. These structures have diverse architectural roots, hailing from New England, the Caribbean, and even some New Orleans/Creole influences. I just love the colors, simplicity and tropical influence of these houses, and especially the little shotgun cottages. More sketching today, with a focus on these structures.

-Jennifer Young; Vibrant Landscapes