Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"Snow Shadows"

Enjoying a quiet week between the holidays before heading back to school in the new year.  We haven't seen more than a token flake or two, happily, on Christmas Day, but it's coming.

I'm working on something larger in the studio; but thought I'd post the view out the front window from a winter past. There is so much warmth in the snowy landscape.  I'll hold that good thought when snow is a reality here this year. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

"Cool" vs "Cold"

Temperature is a challenging concept for some students to grasp.  Initially, or instinctively, warm is red or yellow or orange and cool is blue or green or purple. When you are painting the shadow side of a lemon, or the distant yellow hillside; this simplistic interpretation of warm and cool handcuffs you.  The rest of the time, a lack of understanding of cool vs. cold limits your results and leaves your painting with a lack of sophistication and subtlety as the planes shift.

Take a look at this landscape by Edgar Payne.  I saw it recently on FB posted by Brian Neher in his series of photos "Painters of the Past".  The painting took my breath away.  It is the epitome of "Cool vs. Cold".  The landscape recedes beautifully; yet the range in temperature is very narrow.  The entire painting could be considered warm; with a wonderful variety of "cooled warms".  He cooled the distant hillside showing the atmospheric perspective; and the yellow on the near trees where they are in light and touched by sky is cooler than the yellow inside the same trees.  Wow!  The overall result is a shimmering, hot long view.  Look at the detail  above from the painting.  In the larger painting it reads as the cool distance, but without the closer warms; this is a lovely, warm landscape in its own right.   There are no "cold" cools; just cool warms.  By the way, I love this type of puzzle.

One of the problems I pose my  hard-working students is to paint a still-life composed of all yellow, or all red, or all blue elements. (See the yellow example to the right.) The exercise forces each student into exploring the cools and warms within one color family.  False notes; or unsophisticated notes jump out. We  have a conversation about the color wheel.  When you begin with yellow - cool is everywhere you go.  Sort of freeing, don't you think?


Saturday, December 03, 2011

Cropping or "Breaking the Barrier"

 Yesterday's class was about cropping as part of your design.  Cropping your subject can bring energy, dynamism, excitement to the painting.  I advise my students, "Don't crop because something doesn't fit!".  Use cropping, as you apply yourself to all other aspects of your painting, with intentionality; with deliberation.  It's a matter of granularity.  The design needs to be as considered and deliberate as does each stroke of the brush.  

  Back to cropping. Many new painters are reluctant to cross over the edge of the painting surface.  That's natural; there is a boundary there.  It can be intimidating.  I use yesterday's exercise to crush that reluctance, by having the class fly across the edges with power and intention.  We discuss rookie ways of approaching the edge of a painting.  There's the tried and true squashed bottles,  flowers hunching down below the top edge, or bending and bowing to the sides of a painting, the disproportionate rooftops and miniscule chimneys.  It can become a bit like Marcel Marceau trapped in the invisible box of his own design.  Most of us have been there at one time or another.

Next, there are the "edge kissers".  Not deterred by the approaching border, these painters move fearlessly in that direction; then stop abruptly as the object touches the edge.  The subject matter may still be clinging to the picture space, but the viewer's eye finds this alluring tangent irresistible and follows it faithfully to the edge and BEYOND, (pardon the Buzz Lightyear reference),  leaving the painting with alacrity!

  Yesterday's exercise was to design a painting which boldly crosses at least 1/3 of a horizontal edge, and  1/3 of a vertical edge.  No bending, no squashing, no kissing.  Several students use view finders to examine the subject.  Some of those view finders had large openings, 4" x 5" for example, that didn't allow the artist to extend their arm far enough to really see the subject cropped.  Make sure your viewfinder has a small opening, and make sure the opening is adjustable.  Bring it close to your eye to see more; extend to see less.  If you are unaccustomed to cropping your subject, you need to see LESS than you are used to.

  The class drew thumbnail sketches; then I advised them to look at the sketches through the viewfinder.  We had a few "Ah, Hah!" moments, and the result was some great design; and everyone breaking the surface tension that the edges can create.  The result is that you bring the viewer into the middle of the painting.  It's fascinating to see the shapes in the middle of a garden; or porch, or bouquet of flowers, or to bring your viewer into the middle of a still life.  Dynamism.  Burst across the edges of your painting surface.  Break free; with intention. 

Next post:  Negative space.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Onions 'n Oil 8 x 8 oil

I like onions.  I like to paint onions.  You might have started to notice.  They are sensual, and strong, and shapely, and subtle, and lovely pieces of everyday life.  They add elegance and some sophistication to almost anything you pick up and place nearby; here an oil bottle and a jar of spice.  

This is a backlit study I painted with my class;  cool up-facing planes, and juicy, warm shadows; and the hot glow of the oil bottle. Combine the three; and it's that wonderful cooking smell you love to come home to.... 

Did you ever see the movie "Always"?  Richard Dreyfus, Holly Hunter, with cameo by Audrey Hepburn.  It's a beautiful movie about love, grief, hope -  wrapped up in a story about the men and women who fight fires from the air.  Holly Hunter invites a romantic interest over for dinner.  She buys a boatload of takeout; then sautes onions and oil, tosses the takeout into her own serving dishes... dinner date success.  Okay, a bit of deceit; but my point is that onions and oil are a wonderful combo to cook... or to paint. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

High School Debate sketches 9 x 12 pen & ink

 I spent most of yesterday with our high school debate team.  It's wonderful to see hundreds of exuberant teens being teens for the day; wearing business attire, and competing intellectually.  Lots of research, writing, and thinking on their feet.  This month's topic:

"Direct popular vote should replace electoral vote in presidential elections."

Of course,  the 2000 election and subsequent recount in Florida were a big part of the arguments.  Loved hearing the kids argue about this event which dominated our news coverage yet the oldest of these students was in 2nd grade. 
Teams prepare both pro and con positions and speeches; and it is determined via coin toss during each round which side they will argue.    

Here are some continuous line contour drawings  I made when our team was brand new and we observed some debate rounds. Captive audience, and thirty-three minutes to draw!  

Friday, November 18, 2011

Shelf Life 6 x 8 oil

I love my studio; compact, yet mine.  It is filled with things I love to look at, to touch, and just to be around.  I find it visually stimulating; some may find it visually exhausting.  To each his own. I can rationalize any small purchase (see "compact" above) as a still life prop.  

A few years ago; I had a milestone birthday and threw myself a party, ("no gifts, please") to which I invited about 65 people I love, and don't see often enough.  Who can see that many people very often? Do the math....
During the weeks prior, I gathered things from around the house and wrapped them up as my gifts to my friends; sort of a grown up goody bag. Everyone took home something I'd loved for while; and chose to move along.  Bottom line, I like things.  Some, I keep; some I keep for a while.
  "Shelf Life" is the first in a series of small paintings using vignettes of my things as subject matter.  I have enjoyed these two small wooden blocks, sitting jauntily on my shelf, but never painted them.  They are sort of nautical and nostalgic, and have that special patina and warmth that well-used items can have.    The Norman Rockwell postcard, and blocks, and little architectural detail are sitting on the narrow chair rail in my studio. I love the contrast of movement amid stationary objects. My goal was to say as little as possible, while conveying the intimacy of a peacefully perched collection.
More to come.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Island Retreat, 12 x 9, oil

For many years, I have been blessed to spend time painting on the coast of Maine. This is a study from South Bristol.  This tiny island had a wooden causeway to the mainland near my location, perhaps 50 yds long. While I was painting, someone wheeled a garden cart full of groceries across the little bridge; and later, a lawnmower.  Lawnmower?  From my vantage point, nail scissors could have done the trick.  Lovely day. I liked thinking how my life might change if I had a wooden footbridge rather than a driveway.

Come check out Island Retreat the North River Arts Society's Holiday sale this weekend. Saturday and Sunday 10 - 4; more details here:

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Sunny Onions 12 x 9 oil

It promises to be an unseasonably warm and sunny day for November in New England.  I'll be teaching math today, but thought I'd post a demo I painted out in the sun on an unusually warm early spring day; well, maybe not-so-warm but that type of day you can't resist because the sun is bright, and the winter has been long, and maybe, just maybe, if you hunker down in a sheltered spot you'll feel more warmth than chill.  Maybe.  

We set up these glorious spanish onions on tables in the sunshine; to get the class accustomed to the rapid changes in shadow patterns outdoors. I loved the combination of reds, and the glowingly warm shadows; and the surprising Medusa-like quality of the design.  Generally speaking, my goal is NOT to have surprises in the design of a painting; I discover those as I make thumbnail sketches, and eliminate the unintended.  However, once in a while I get a surprise.  My students got the point; watched the shadows move; learned to block in the patterns quickly; and had great results.

$150 plus $10 s&h

Friday, November 04, 2011

Reflections of Greatness

 Today we talked about reflections in paintings; how to ensure the reflected image reads as reflection.  My students set up wonderful still life arrangements  on and in front of mirrors.  Very challenging.. some great successes.  We looked at several painting images.
This detail from Rubens, to the left, was a great example of the center of interest found IN the reflection. 

 Below is Frank Benson's "Rainy Day".  In this painting, the reflection is a  design element which enhances the sense of space and piques my                                              curiousity, as well as carrying my eye
                                                        through the painting.
               The painting at left is a Stanhope Forbes. I love the use of the two, very different, mirrors, especially the rounded mirror in the foreground.

We had a great day. My students dug in, as usual.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Dolly and Pretty Boy 8 x 6 oil

$125 plus $10 s&h

I surprised my painting class with a pair of live Solomon Island Eclectus parrots, and their owners, this week.  Dolly and Pretty Boy were great models, perched on the back of a chair - they looked around, made a few interesting sounds, and sat under the spot light provided.  I think our cavernous classroom was a bit cooler than they prefer, so they huddled, and puffed themselves up.  After an hour, they took a 15-minute lunch break while my students strolled about and looked at the other easels.  Then Dolly and Pretty Box got "back to work" for another hour; leaving us time for a critique at the end of the class.  Each interpretation of the two lovely birds was fascinating.

Hoping Dolly and Pretty Boy can visit again soon.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Chicken and Garlic 8 x 6 oil

This cast iron rooster is a favorite of mine. I picked a couple of garlic cloves with which to pose him.  I like the juxtaposition of organic against man-made; though poultry isn't man-made, this miniature certainly is. 

Autumn is cooling off.  Great day for painting, lit the wood stove and cranked the music.

Thanks for looking.  

$125 & $10 s&h

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Blue Brownie, 8 x 10 oil

 I have amassed a number of interesting props with which to teach the concepts of linear perspective, including this Brownie camera. I use wrapped gifts, cereal boxes; toy chairs and houses, spice boxes, and a host of interesting rectangular vases.
When I teach linear perspective; it can get a little "mathy" which is not a problem for me as that is my avocation.  However, turns out my challenge is to discern the line (pun intended) between too mathy and just right when describing the process to my painting students. 
When my teen-aged daughter has a day off which coincides with my painting class, she loves to accompany me; paint, and sometimes advise.  Recently, she said to me after class, 'Mom, you had them all at "parallel", lost a couple at "perpendicular", but you have to draw the line at "orthogonal"! '  So, there's the virtual line... somewhere between parallel and perpendicular.  See it?  I do, now.

$150 & $10 S&H

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pumpkin Cart, 8 x 8 oil

 $150 plus s&h

Took my class painting to Donna Green's Farm in Marshfield.  She runs the Magical Moon Foundation, providing wonderful support to children with cancer.  The grounds were abuzz with thirty volunteers from EMD Serono, raking, cleaning, organizing, planting; while we painted.  Fabulous day.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Rockwell Kent, Monhegan, "Quiet Bell" 10 x 8 oil

While painting by the lighthouse on Monhegan one solitary, foggy morning this summer, I met an engaging twenty-something woman who had just hiked up that steep hill.  I admired her Rockwell Kent T-shirt, Moby Dick, I think.  We struck up a conversation and I learned that she was Rockwell Kent's great-granddaughter, on a day trip as part of her quest to follow in his footsteps. She spent a great day seeing the houses he built, and visiting the museum where they showed her the works in the archives donated by Kent himself.  You meet the most interesting people painting!  Adjacent is my painting from that morning.  

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Sun n Pines 12 x 12 oil

This is one of my favorites; from our great friend Natalie's yard in South Bristol Maine.  I showed it to a group of 7th/8th grade students at our school today when I made a guest appearance as a drawing teacher to give them some pointers for their project journals.  I did a demo, showing them contour drawing, gesture drawing, how to draw the negative space, and to use directional lines.. then split them into groups and had them rotate every 5 minutes.  The kids were fantastic!!  Great fun, and nice to wear a different hat than my math teacher one. 

Monday, October 03, 2011

Green Tea 8 x 10 oil

Used this painting last week with my students as an example of drawing with straight lines to show the planes, angles, and to build the curves of this soft, round, sensual tea pot. 

Sunday, October 02, 2011

North River Arts Society - Painting Students hard at work!

My painting students work very hard.  Part of their education includes learning how to frame, exhibit, and talk about their work.  They have an exhibit at the Pembroke Public Library, (in MA); opening tomorrow night, October 3rd, at 7pm.  

Keeper's Cottage, Oil, 12 x 9

The museum at Pemaquid is lovely just before the sun drops; actually, lovely most of the time.  I enjoyed standing just above the gorgeous Pemaquid rocks and surf, listening while painting and racing against the descending sun. I hear and feel the surf when I look at this painting.