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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

There is a frenzy about the holiday season...

Filling In   watercolor   10 x 10
that has nothing at all to do with shopping or cookie-baking.  It has to do with a cleansing of our environment....both Rick and I become obsessed with pounding in those errant nails that we have lived with the entire year, ridding the shower curtain of that mildew smell and checking out the size of the dust bunnies behind the refrigerator.  I used to think it was because his parents came to visit.  Now I think of it more as a creating of more negative space in which to dwell in peace.  AND SO CAME THE CLEANING OF THE STUDIO.   For years I had been meaning to paint the antique jelly cupboard that houses my supplies.  The brown wood was depressing.  The paint job took several days, as I chose to do it in three colors (but of course!) and the cupboard is happier.  I am happier.  Then the cupboard led to cleaning out the files......there are always surprises involved.  For the most part, I find that earlier work is better than I remember....almost fresher when I knew less, perhaps relied more on instinct.  "Filling In" is such a work.  When our model did not show up one evening, a newcomer instantly declared her willingness to shed clothing and fill in.  None of us knew much about this girl.  She had no art supplies and painted with eye makeup on paper.  At the end of the session her husband came into the studio to pick her up. I never knew her name.  We never saw her again.  It was a bit of a Santa Claus experience and I was the benefactor.  I have always loved this painting and was surprised, in my reorganization, at its honesty.

Monday, November 22, 2010

...but not the hominy....

Stack of books and gourd...a sketch showing two-point perspective
The only vegetable I can remember totally refusing as a child was hominy.  It was a memorable experience as my mom chose to serve it on trick-or-treat night.  My mother finally relented and let me go out for the begging, only after she realized that I was so very serious about my hatred for this vegetable that I was willing to give up costume, treats and fun.  2-point perspective is much more palatable than that!  Our drawing class members stacked up books and boxes.  First we discussed the two vanishing points for each object which can only be seen when the objects are drawn from a big distance...i..e. on a drawing that is quite small on a fairly large sheet of paper.  When we understood what was happening, we drew our piles of objects that were placed in front of us on the table.  I chose a stack of three different kinds of books, each one with its own particular vanishing points along with its own particular degree of recession. (even though the horizon line at eye-level remains the same).   I placed a handmade gourd on top for patterning, and because I like organic line playing with all of the straights....the yin and the yang.

An astute artist pointed out the apparent faultiness of my bottom book.  This spiral-bound paperback, had a laminated cover that was not laying flat and had slipped down to the spiral area destroying the perfection of the receding form.  I liken it to clothing on a model.  The book's binding is still is just a bit disguised.  Another way to help with the perspective issue when drawing items that are close to us is to accurately judge and record angles of edges, and to pay close attention to the shapes of the negative or counter-spaces....i.e. the spaces between the objects.  We keep each other on our toes!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ah, mom, do we have to eat our veggies?

One-point perspective drawing
I liken a lesson on perspective to eating our veggies when we are we really have to?  The artists in our Thursday drawing class are really very good....good at prioritizing the forms, good with shadowing, good with values and good with rhythms.  It was only when I realized that the lack of knowledge regarding one-point and two-point perspective was interfering with our success, that I decided to devote a couple of lessons to it.  In the past, I have done an entire 8-week class on these basics.  Last week we took on the one-point....objects placed directly in front of us that recede to vanishing point on the horizon which is at our eye level.  The vanishing point would then represent an imaginary spot (at least I hope so) directly between our eyes.  My subject was an enamelware pan.  As I prefer any composition with both organic and geometric shapes, I put two apples in the back of the pan.  The lighting in the classroom was overhead.  I tried to shift the focal area to the back of the pan.  Indicating the chips on the enamel was fun and, hopefully, helped to indicate the material from which the pan was constructed.

Broccoli really isn't so bad after all.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Concept or Technique?

Hidden Symmetry   oil/canvas   48 x 24 x 1.5
Making art can be approached in different ways.  A young painting major in university told me that he always starts by putting his ideas on paper, by crafting a concept that he wishes to explore.  I find that university programs are concept-oriented, getting students to think outside of the box, to intellectually explore new ways of thinking through art.  Excellent.  This way of thinking produces thought-provoking work.

Local and regional art organizations tend to revere technique, the drawing and redrawing, the painting and repainting in the hopes of getting it right, of improving draftspersonship and the ages-old methods of paint application.  Lighting is everything.  Painting what you see right down to the yellow drape behind the model.  Also excellent.  This way of working can produce art that is beautifully engaging, work that creates pause through its paint application and color use.

I cannot imagine beginning a work by making a life is already too filled with lists.  I am trying to escape lists!  My own method is strictly intuitive, creating movement and rhythm through stroke and color.  In many instances, when the subject simply does not challenge my intellect or my sensibilities, the work is discarded.

It is my own belief that the best of all scenarios is the work that marries technique along with concept.  Work from each school of thought is sought out and admired.  Judges seem to favor one or the other and it is our aim in Kaleidoscope to provide an opportunity for all work to shine.

No answers.  Just more questions.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hey, kids, let's have a show!...

Visionary   watercolor/mixed on paper   11 x 17
Those were my favorite lines on the Spanky and Our Gang television show when I was a kid!  Who can forget Alphafa singing, "I'm the Barber of Seville" in his screechy voice?  And, so, the four Akron area art groups come together once a year for a juried exhibition.  The postcard this year is my design.  The idea came to me in my sleep and I was simply unable to go anywhere else with the concept.  My friend with three young sons came over for a photo shoot on my patio where I posed and photographed the boys in various ways with a kaleidoscope.  I ended up using some shots of the youngest whose hands cupping his eyes seemed more naive and, in some ways, more interesting without a prop.  The figure was rendered in watercolor pencil.  The three circular motifs were done by reduction printing.  Watercolor washes were added to tie it altogether.  The color palette of an acid green, turquoise and ultramarine spun my fan, or, in this case, my wheel.  I call it "Visionary".

Seeing as a child.  Excited by the oh-so-many possibilities.  The joy of singing without caring about perfection.  I love you, Alphalfa!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Twelve Eagles   watercolor   27.5 x 17
provide a given artwork with a meaning all their own, I believe.  Works that are light-light-light on the value scale seem romantic and carefree.  Personally, I have a difficult time taking them seriously.  Sometimes they seem just too hap-hap-happy.  Works that utilize values in the mid-range, without strong lights or darks, seem quite moody.  Those on the dark end of the scale are just that...dark.  I prefer the high drama of works that utilize values from both ends, as well as those in-between.  We recently had a Native American model from the Cherokee Nation.  This whole problem was a bit difficult, as the resultant work darkened with each pass.  I wanted to give the work a serious treatment.  All too often, the Native American paintings seem a bit trite, a bit too dark in the eyes and rosy in the cheek.  And, conversely, those on display at The Butler Institute of American Art which were painted during the Westward Expansion seem almost scientific, as if these people were objectified and painted as if they were pinned butterflies.  I knew what I wanted but did not know how to achieve it.  The painting was critiqued by a couple of artist friends whose suggestions were valid.....originally, the feathers were much lighter.  They created a distraction and a problem that worked against the head area.  More washes.  More adjustments.  I have released the painting.  I do not yet know if I achieved my goal.  Ask me in a year.....maybe 10.  How does one paint honor, pride and wisdom that often seems outside of my grasp?  I do not know.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Wednesday Night   charcoal/pastel   22.5 s 14
I have heard it said that musicians tend to work well together as being a part of a greater good, a greater sound, if you will, is in their nature. As for visual artists, well...they kind of have their own personal thing going on so the individuality sometimes gets in the way.  It seems to be true to some degree.  But there is nothing like the silent communion that fills the air on our model nights where artists of varying mediums and experience take to the easel to hone their skills and draw from a common model.  It really is wonderful to be in the company of so many fine artists who have no need for idle chatter and choose to spend that few hours doing what they love most.  Very satisfying.

As for me, I love these nights, as I usually set a playful goal for that may help me to solve problems on the canvas or paper later on down the line.  Last Wednesday evening, Jamie was our model....she is absolutely excellent!  Her professionalism and high regard for working time is to be admired.  I have painted Jamie many times in the past, and I have to say, that I really enjoyed working with her again.

It is always a delight to see so many individual takes on the model....just don't ask us to collaborate.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Odd Devil Out...

Devil in Disguise...a sketch
At the Halloween mask session, we had an uneven number of artists in class that evening.  Lucky for me, the mirrors on the side of the room provided a place for me to study my own portrait.  The devil mask of cloth was a relief compared to the other choices in my dress-up box which included several full-face rubber masks.  The cloth mask seemed less irritating to my head cold.  My goals were:  to describe the mask in such a way that viewers would be able to understand the material from which it was made; to bring up the likeness on the bottom half so that it would contrast with the mask on top; and to describe the eyes in such a way so we understand that they are in shadow and definitely on a plane behind the holes of the mask.

I found that the eye-cut-outs were askew and that tickled my fancy.  That added to the fun of it all.

In addition, I find that whole devil/angel notion of paired opposites to be interesting as well as intriguing.  Positively devilish.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


That October Feeling   watercolor   12.75 x 9
can be tricky.  The more relationships one has, it seems to me, the more complex life becomes.  The same with paintings.  The more objects in the painting, the more complex the painting of it becomes.  We started out this week in class by piling a large number of organic autumn objects onto a well-lit table.  Gourds.  Pumpkins.  Grasses.  Branches.  Mums.  Squashes.  Even a Caramel Apple.  We are using our handmade cropping windows to find interesting compositions.  Everyone's is different.  In the beginning, we paint each object separately to the best of our abilities.  Then later, we need to contemplate the prioritizing of the elements, and, in turn, to consider the hard and soft edges that support this prioritization.  For me, the relationships of the forms become more important than the objects themselves.  I look for hidden rhythms to carry out my intentions.  Forms become alive, almost like persons who make up a crowd....persons at a party, persons at a meeting.  Persons having a conversation.

Animated objects.  Struggling in relationships.  Mirroring reality.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Halloween Parade

Kitty   watercolor   10 x 13.75
The highlight of all-childhood-Halloween-memories-that-meld-into-one was the Halloween Parade where all of the classes lined up and paraded the block around Windermere Elementary School in Akron where homeowners and eager parents  looked on.  They seemed to be amazed and delighted with our transformation from "just kids" into superheroes and monsters.  I, myself, was amazed and delighted.  And so, today, I present the Halloween parade of most of the paintings and drawings created last week in class.

We were transformed.  Please pretend to be amazed.