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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Inside Out...

Derby Pam   Watercolor   9 x 13.75
Part of my painting and drawing process involves working from the inside out.  For me, this makes sense.  The block-in is extremely light.  Not committing to hard edges until the necessary tipping point allows for greater flexibility and malleability during the rendering.  Especially necessary for portraits, as every facial feature relates to every other facial feature, including muscles, tendons, bones and the obvious eyes-nose-mouth.  The artists in my class requested a painting demonstration.  I rarely comply, but a class vote put me in the minority.  Painting and talking is just too hard.  I much prefer the tunnel-vision-focus where I can achieve the state of mushin.  Pam was a willing model.  The painting was finished  from a photograph in four passes, top to bottom, although I will confess to leaving it on my table and noodling over it throughout the weekend.  I shot photos of the progression which should be available by tomorrow.  Whew!!!!

Monday, May 30, 2011


Rockamelon   oil/canvas   8 x 16 x 1.5
Day is a time to visit grave sites and to remember those who are no longer with us.  It is also a time to remember those delicious picnic food flavors!  Happy burger-potato salad-baked beans-watermelon day!

Friday, May 27, 2011


of any work is all-important.  The energy, the strokes and fervor with which pigment is applied sets the pace for the entire work.  Many of the artists that come to my classes state that they want to learn to paint and draw more loosely.  Loose is scary.  It is out of control.  Loose strokes cannot be added to a tight painting for any effect other than that of an afterthought.  The goal is:  loose to control; big brushes to smaller; thin paint to thicker paint.  The beginning is everything.

I have been reading a book entitled Blue Nude by Elizabeth Rosner, recommended by a fellow artist.  Interesting to be sure.  The author is definitely familiar with art processes...and feelings.  I see myself on nearly every page.  At one point, the blocked artist named Danzig states:    Begin again.  How many times had he said it?  The phrase was half encouragement, half admonishment, the constant reminder to his students that the beginning was all that mattered and, at the same time, the very thing that had to be executed with abandon.  Perfect and irrelevant.

I couldn't agree more.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Mexican Glass   watercolor/gouache   19 x 11
I appreciate all things handmade and have actually found myself "rescuing" such things from thrift stores.....(no, I am not a hoarder).  They are sacred.  Because they are so often handmade, I seem to love all things Mexican...the glass, the jewelry and the frames.  The glass is full of bubbles and the glassware sometimes a bit lopsided.  The framing is my absolute favorite, but a bit difficult to work with as the metric system is used for assembly.  Fitting them with glass is tricky.

"Mexican Glass" was painted in the summer...I remember it well.  Along with the Mexican blanket flowers from our garden.  Hot.  Cool.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Case for Original Art...

Precarious Stack of Vintage Bowls   Watercolor   12.5 x 9
Just last week my son was searching for some white glazed pots for his indoor plants.  His trips to some Mom and Pop plant stores yielded much better results than a trip to Lowe's.  Large discount houses cater to the lowest common denominator with more generic products.  The same with art prints which have been killed with correctness.  Of course, we all need those deep discounts in some arenas of our lives.  But, for me, what we choose to put on our walls defines us personally....our senses of visual aesthetics.  No generic here, please.  Original art is one of a kind.  It has a personality and character all its own.  It speaks of the artist's hand who created it.  Lively.  Nurturing.  Lovely.  The more I am able to celebrate my own uniqueness, my own oneness, the less I am able to tolerate generic artwork.

So, OK.  Buy generic toilet paper....bars of soap in bulk.  But engage in the liveliness of original art and the artists who choose to spend their lives in wonder.  Participate.  Oh, yeah.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Measure Twice, Cut Once...

Blueberries and Lilacs   watercolor   9.75 x 14
O.K.  I have to keep repeating this mantra.  Preparation is a key ingredient to the success of a painting.  But I don't think that I am unlike most artists who want to jump ahead to the fun stuff, the painting.  Impulsiveness.  At the Mentor watercolor workshop, we spent the first hour drawing our still life set-ups.  My goals were the following:  to familiarize myself with the subject matter; to understand the underlying rhythms of dark and light values that lead the eye through the painting; and to be able to merge similarly valued shapes for the sake of simplification.  And yet, I wanted to retain the enthusiasm for the painting.  (I didn't want to spend it all on the drawing.)  I believe the preparation paid off.  I used the drawing as a road map to guide my painting and used the actual objects for color and detail references.  I think it made for a better painting, at least one that eliminated meandering, making all strokes more crucial and significant.

Let this be a lesson to me, to us.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Blue   charcoal/pastel   14.5 x 10
is forever connected in my mind to N.Y.P.D. Blue.  A cop show with no equal.  I guess the notion of justice is so appealing...especially these days with the lay-offs of these much needed public workers, and the line between right and wrong frazzled and wavering.  Double standards.  Monied payoffs.  The shrinking of the middle class.  Manipulation and trickery for a dollar.  So when our artwalk model showed up, a retired policeman, all of my cop-thoughts came into play.  Our model took great care with his appearance...a stingy-brim hat (which was new to me), a striped 40's styled tie and an earring.  Along the Frank Sinatra-lines.  Terrific.  Three hours never passed so quickly.  Thank you, Al.

Justice has been served.  "Blue" is my response.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

There is simply no substitute...

Bundled (Mo)   Watercolor   14 x 10
for drawing from life.  It is in this life situation that we are able to understand the forms, the roundness, the hills and valleys of the human face.  And, when practicing, the best way is to use pencils or charcoal....values will teach these subtleties more easily without the added complications of color.  I have seen seasoned artists freeze up when faced with portrait-drawing.  It is here that small errors in scale and measurement show up.  And, when we freeze up, we tend to see the human face as we did when we were children....two eyes, a nose and a mouth....and perhaps a  couple of ears and some hair.  Getting the eyes "just right" will help, but is not the true foundation of drawing the human head.  In actuality, the simple planes of the head tell the true story.  It is indeed an overwhelming task.  It is easy to practice on yourself in the mirror....perhaps limiting yourself to just one quadrant of the face.  That success will urge you onward.  My friend Mo does a self-portrait each day, both to improve her skills and to understand herself maneuvering through life.  Her set-up is stationary in her bathroom.  Her drawings are done in an old copy of The Gulag page a day.  Whatever medium spins her fan at a given moment.  What a wonderful way to learn.  Let that be a lesson to us.

Friday, May 13, 2011


Dappled 2   oil on canvas   40 x 30 x 1.5
I believe that it is the path of the serious artist to paint those things, those ideas, that are important to her...those remnants that when left behind, will help to decipher the life of said artist.  I did not set about painting with any themes in mind., but I did follow my interest and paid attention to my intuition.  After several years, I realized  that one of my interests is "things dappled", things wabi-sabi, those things of pied beauty.  I am certain that what lies beneath this whole spotted and imperfect notion, is a distrust of black and white thinking as well as a personal dislike for the purebred, the pedigreed.

Thus, one of my themes is "things dappled".  I hope to continue all this vein for some time to come. "Dappled" and "Dappled 2" have been included in the Artists Archives of the Western Reserve annual May exhibition.

Glory be to God for dappled things--
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced--fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise Him."
Gerard Manley Hopkins (The Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins)

P.S. I was a little freckle-faced girl.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Drawing as Finished Art...

Power Tie   charcoal/pastel   17 x 8.75
Drawings are useful as painting preparation and help to resolve design problems early on.  But drawings are also quite powerful as finished art.  Without the complexity of color issues, they are able to get to the point quite quickly.  I also enjoy the play of the charcoal across the paper which certainly is easier than with paint!  Drawings are value-driven.  "Power Tie" was drawn from a model.  Because I saw the major shapes as light, I tried to used the darks to rhythmically move the eye throughout the drawing.  Thanks to my friend Ann who always has a plethora of pastel sticks on hand, I added the red of the tie at the very end.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Fine or Chunky?...

Silverplate Pot   watercolor/charcoal   9.5 x 10
Discovering yourself in your art is very exciting.  It defines who we are personally and helps us celebrate our own uniqueness, oneness.  I love all things chunky - salsa, spaghetti sauce, applesauce, jewelry and orange juice with pulp.  Mugs, not teacups.  I prefer large brushes and chunks of charcoal...never pencils.  The first week of watercolor class is always a bit problematic in that no one is really prepared for an assignment.  I asked each artist to grab something in the well-stocked trove of still life objects at the art center.  I grabbed a tarnished silver plate teapot.  I don't question my motivations....I just go with my first inclination.  It was indeed a challenge with all of that tarnished goldeny-violety-blacky reflectiveness....and some dents as well.  It was only when I finished the work at home that my self-definition revived itself.  The beauty of this pot was in the embossing on the handle and on the spout.  But when I picked up a small paintbrush, I felt disappointment...a "why bother" kind of feeling.  It was just short of revolting.  I always want to finish off a class project using only watercolor because, after all, it is a watercolor class.  But I had to be true to myself.  The pot was finished with chunky charcoal lines which pleased me greatly.  The overall feel is always more important than the detail to me.

I was reminded of who am am.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Awakening   watercolor   19 x 9.5
are entwined within my every brushstroke.  Tension shows.  Neurotic behavior reveals itself.  Confidence uplifts and frees.  For me, painting and feelings are inseparable.  Painting is, quite frankly, where my inner world resides.  It is rare to commune with an individual whose ego does not get in the way of the communion.  I have never enjoyed painting landscapes that much.  Part of the reason, I'm sure, has to do with a reality-based color palette that is all over the wheel, and whose disparate nature fragments the power of the work.  But artists in my classes enjoy the painting of the outdoor scape.  And so I deal with it.  For me, a limited palette is a must.  Colors were pushed.  The blue-violet of the sky was brought down to the middle ground.  And the grass green was pushed up into the sky.  The large tree was not solidified.  My response to an early spring landscape:  before the first mowing.

Whether inspiration is based on what one sees or on ideas, the artist's job is to react emotionally to what inspires him.  Be less demanding of the source of your inspiration and give more guts to the representation of your visions and ideas. 
Alex Powers