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Plein Air Painting – downtown Maysville, Kentucky 31 October 2020

An old warehouse in Maysville, Ky was recently demolished, giving us a new view of downtown.

plein air easel setup in front of panoramic view of downtown maysville kentucky

October 31st weather was sunny and cool, so I loaded my paints in my car, to try to capture the view. 

It is a big, wide view, and I wanted to capture it all!  I used 2 9×12 panels to create a diptych of the panoramic view. 

plein air underpainting by ken swinson of downtown maysville

The closer we get to the winter months, we don’t have nearly as much light in the sky, so I had to race against the setting sun to capture the view.  I am inspired by the impressionist tradition of painting directly from life, without the aid of photography.  It forces me to use loose brush strokes to capture the essence of the moment. 

kentucky artist, Ken swinson, plein air painting view of downtown maysville and the ohio river

Another one of my favorite things about working from life, is being outdoors, and a visible part of my community. It can get lonely when I spend a lot of time alone in my studio. My friend, the photographer, Lorraine Marcella stopped by to chat while I worked, and I had her take this snapshot with my camera to document the painting.

work in progress plein air painting by kentucky artist, ken swinson subject maysvile kentucky

This view is so new and interesting, I could paint at least 10 more paintings from this spot. Hopefully, they don’t start building soon.

The church steeple on the right was just a little too big, so when I got back to the studio, I fixed it!

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Porcelain Test Tiles

I spent much of the summer throwing pots, and learning how to work in porcelain-a beautiful, translucent clay, that requires a little bit of extra care and a lot of patience.

triple beam scale for weighing ceramic material

I had to take a break for a few months, so that I could do some glaze testing…and here are the results!!!:

finished test tiles for ceramic porcelain glaze

I FINALLY think I have a recipe for BLUE!!!  The blues I was used to with stoneware were too fluid on porcelain…the colors had a tendency to slide around. 

mason jars with colorful ceramic glaze

I also have a decent RED, ORANGE and PURPLE!

The YELLOW I was hoping for was a little less vibrant that what I wanted, but it’s a nice toned color that will pair nice with some others. I’m still working on a GREEN…I have learned that a glaze recipe that doesn’t include zinc helps it stay a little bit brighter.

raw materials for ceramic glaze

I’ve put these tiles through a stress test: freezing them, then dropping them into boiling water ( a few times)

unfired test tiles for porcelain glaze

The glazes all fit, so I’M BACK IN THE CLAY STUDIO!!! Hope to have new pots soon!

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Throwing pots on a Rainy Day

An exciting thing about live video is that you never know what will happen, and there’s no way to edit out the warts and bloopers that are part of real life.

I haven’t been in my pottery studio for a while, and thought it would be fun to broadcast live while throwing pots and listening to cincinnati’s classical music station, WGUC. After listening to a beautiful piece by composer, Robert Schumann, DJ Elaine Diehl talked about how the composer struggled with mental health, and how music was an important part of his life. Reminding US that during this pandemic, we can think about Schuman and his struggles and music, when we have OUR mood swings and challenges.

After a few minutes, while still broadcasting, facebook sent me an alert, threatening to stop my broadcast because I was playing copyrighted music. Almost as if on cue, my mood went from happy to rage, and I almost said a few cuss words, while ranting about facebook’s lack of a social conscious.

I took the video down, because that vibe is not the kind of thing I want to spread among my friends (or to anyone), but I think the story is worth sharing, because, like everyone, I am dealing with maintaining mental health during the uncertainty of the pandemic….lately, art (and listening to WGUC public radio) have been a saving grace, just like music was for Robert Schuman. I hope you are finding and embracing the thing that keeps you healthy and happy right now.

Another moral to the story, you never know what you are going to get when you watch those live videos, lol! My apologies to anyone who saw me acting like that.

And here’s a sped up and muted version of what you missed…the pots actually came out pretty good!

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Blue Cat In The Tree – Work In Progress Video

Hi Everybody, it’s ken from the log cabin print shop, and today i’m going to start a new linocut.

Right now, I’m going to start carving my tree, and let’s see how it turns out! I’m working in a size that’s a little bit new to me. It’s 6×8″ which is a little bit bigger than a notecard, but it’s not so big that it would take me days to do all the carving. I like that it’s big enough, i can get some details that I can’t get in a notecard.

I’ve already worked all the composition out, so it’s a meditative process to just follow the lines and to cut the design into a block of linoleum. I’m working on a theme of a tree with birds and cats. I’d like to have 4 new linocut prints that all relate to each other.

Keep checking this post for updates. I’m printing the blocks right now, and will be able to share them real soon!

UPDATE: here they are in their bright blue glory!

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Goat Eating Tulips – new Linocut notecard

I have some new colored paper, and thought this new design featuring a goat eating tulips would look good on orange with brown ink. This short video shows the hand carving and printing process with a traditional press to make a unique linocut notecard. If you’d like to support my work and add one of these cards to your collection, you can order one here:

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Plein air painting near the elliott/carter county lines

I’m close to the elliott/carter county lines, and am going to try to get a painting from this view

Here is my sketch

The cell phone reception is not super, but I’ll try to post updates as I work, check back later ..

Setup and ready to start painting!!!

I more or less have the values and composition worked out…I’m painting on a board slightly wider than a traditional landscape proportion, so my center of attention keeps falling into the center…supposedly a no no in art, but I think I can make it work…time for color!!!

This scene is backlit (I’m facing the sun) so I’m having a lot of fun, experimenting with some new color combinations in the shadows

It’s backlit ( we are facing the sun), so I didn’t get the best photo of the painting with the landscape. When I get back to the studio, i’ll take a better photo to share with you all.

What an enjoyable experience: painting from life out in the country! I don’t consider myself a representational painter, but I REALLY enjoy the exercise of working from life, learning about light and color. I did some things with color that I never would have tried on my own.

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Road trip Update

Some of my friends and family make fun of me. They think I’m becoming agoraphobic during the pandemic. It might be true. I was camping and doing my best to avoid people and indoors while on my recent road trip, but there is a problem of using public bathrooms. I don’t want to use them while Kentucky and Indiana are having record breaking highs in COVID infections.

selfie style photo of ken the artist with a car loaded with paper

I skipped over some of my original plan, to arrive at my destination (The French Paper Company), where I stocked up with more paper than I could ever use in a lifetime! Now I’m going home, where I plan to make a lot of woodcuts and never leave the house again!

UPDATE: 10/8/2020
I might have a paper problem…not sure where to put all of this. I came up with this idea of a shelf to stack the paper over a set of drawers. I used the 3d Modelling software, Blender (normally for animation and 3d graphics), to plan the design

it WORKED!!! The lumber was a little bit longer than I thought it would be, so I’ve extended the height…there’s room for one more shelf

home made shelf for oversized paper
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Plein Air Road Trip

I’ve pretty much stayed put since march during the pandemic, so today is a big deal.  I’m going to leave my house and the 5 miles radius in which I live..maybe for a few days. I’m off to madison, indiana to do some painting…then. Brown county indiana (see the awesome guidebook my friend Diane sent me?). After that:  michigan! 

Artist with car packed with art supplies, holding a book of brown county artists

I take the pandemic serious, so I’m bringing lots of sanitizer and masks…doing to sleep in a tent. No indoor spaces, or close proximity to other people for me.  Wish me well, and check this website from time to time. I’m going to share trip updates here. 

4:30 pm UPDATE

I have been nervous thinking about painting in a public place. Normally I welcome people to look over my shoulder, but not during a pandemic.

Photo of a farm house near Carrollton, kentucky
Farmhouse near Carrollton, ky

I decided to stop and paint a country scene before getting to madison. There was a classic looking farmhouse on a hill by the highway.

Sketch of the farmhouse scene

A nice thing about the country, there aren’t a lot of people around, which gives me the opportunity to focus on the painting

Easel setup ready to paint

There was no cellphone signal at this spot, which disconnected me from any distractions. It’s been a long time since I’ve painted plein air with no company…in person or virtual.

Just getting started with the painting

I tried some experimental things with color that I never would have tried if people were watching. Halfway through the painting, I was really frustrated, and thought I was going to lose the painting

Plein air painting. Farmhouse near Carrollton, ky

As luck would have it, I didn’t give up, and the painting came together. I’m happy with how it came out. It’s possibly one of my favorite plein air paintings.

Plein air painting in the light

The first photo was with the painting in the shade…here’s another in the light!

Now I’m in madison, indiana. Instead of put myself in a situation where someone can stop and breathe all over me, (setting an easel and paint up) I’m going to walk around with my sketchbook, and do some pen sketches of the river and old houses. Stay tuned!