Monday, December 31, 2012

"Building Space" a Generation at a Time and Theme Song

I love to teach.  My students range in age from single digits, to teens, to octogenarians.  I teach middle school math and painting, and sometimes they coincide as in the one art class I hold each week.  This term, the 7th/8th graders are making books from one large piece of paper.  They are designing 12 frames, including a title and ending page, and telling the story without words, only pictures.  We will eventually cut and fold the large paper to make the books. 

When I was a child, I sat riveted in front of the television humming the Star Trek theme song, and "whooshing" with the Enterprise as it "whooshed" past us in space.  Space... my students and I consider space:

During our last class before the winter break, my art students saw the first quick sketch above left on my whiteboard with a dog, ball, house, car and tree. I asked which of the objects was closest, and the students eventually realized that they didn't know (you can see we began by voting).  We talked about how to make depth, space, distance in their drawings by: 

- putting things behind other things   
- placing closer objects closest to the bottom of the surface
- adding less detail to the farthest objects
- making objects smaller as they recede  

The second drawing above aligns the 5 objects showing my students how to put some objects behind, the ball now being closest.  Everyone got the idea right away. In the third drawing, I showed how to pull and push to create a tangible space in the middle of their pictures.
Next is a painting by one of my adult painting students.  With color, we added the ideas of softer edges farther away, and atmospheric perspective along with the ideas listed above.
The last image is an Aldro Hibbard painting I saw in his retrospective at the Rockport Art Association in the fall... beautiful design, leading the eye around and into the space in front of the shaded men in the foreground.  The arrangement of light and shadow and the placement of the white figure looking slightly downward build a sense of curiosity and then hubbub about the street market.

Building distance, designing the picture space, pushing, pulling, shapes, shapes, shapes - across the generations.  So much thinking, so much fun. 

Here's to lots more in 2013.  Happy New Year, all.  Thank you for sharing some time here with me.

Promised theme song, click here: Space, the Final Frontier                                                                                                                        

Sunday, December 09, 2012

"Blue on Blue" 6 x 6 Class Demo

My painting class arrived today to a table filled with three collections of objects and matching cloths - red group, blue group, yellow group.  I asked the students to choose only objects from one collection so that they could explore warm and cool mixtures in the same color family.  (Interestingly, there were red and blue still life arrangements, but no one chose the yellow.)  

Then we reviewed the hierarchies I recommend they establish when beginning each painting. Look for, and establish the following notes:



    Hardest/softest edge 

    Saturated/neutralized color. 

By establishing the range for each of the hierarchies, you are setting the boundaries for the painting.  If considered thoughtfully, no other passage in the painting should be outside the established boundaries.  

"Blue on Blue" is my demo of today's lesson.  I began by putting notes of color for each of the eight hiercarchical boundaries.  

Every artist establishes their own repertoire of methods to draw on when beginning a painting.  This is a good way to start a painting, and good discipline for painting in an intentional, thoughtful way.  Each and every stroke is measured against the initial notes.  Intentionality doesn't suppress energy, rhythm, spontenaity, exuberance.  In fact, intentionality frees you.. it produces results, and avoids a lot of fixing, adjusting, reworking, and overworking. We had great results today.  As always, my students are such good thinkers, and hard workers.  Good day! 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thankful for Onions

Blue Onion 6 x 10
Red and Yellow  8 x 10
 I just shared a satiating, satisfying, wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends.  It was filled with fabulous food, hugs, laughter, stories, play, walks, memories, a few mishaps which will become legend ("remember the year...?").   The holiday was replete with the hectic hubbub I relish.

This year, my  brother concocted a hearty turkey stew/soup from whatever he could find in the kitchen the morning after.  Turkey carcass and leftover
 meat were essentials, but in the process while chatting and chopping, I saw carrots, shallots, garlic, celery, pasta, spices and onions.  I noted that as he sauteed the onions, he poured some of the stock into the sautee pan just before adding the mixture to the stew pot, dredging up all the sweet carmelized yumminess and adding layers of flavor to the stew which was scrumptious.  So...

I started thinking of onions and how often I have chosen them as subject. Here are a few of my onion paintings from over the years.. some you've seen, some not. Onions in the sun, in the shadow, on Mom's favorite plates, with other ingredients, sprouting, peeling, always enticing, color glowing as it bounces onion to onion. Though I love to cook with onions, I am often tempted to let them sprout, and sprout some more.  Those sensuous, organic greens are wild and alluring.

Thanks for looking and Happy Thanksgiving. 
Sunny Onions 8 x 10
Red on Red 12 x 9

Onions 6 x 10

Flavorful 10 x 8
Onions n Oil 10 x 10

Thursday, November 01, 2012

"Dockside" 6 x 6 oil

My entry for the Girls Just Wanna Paint's October challenge, theme - hats. This couple was sitting on Monhegan Island's dock, waiting for the afternoon ferry. Or, maybe they were just sitting because it's a wonderful place to be... for hours.  Salty, sunny, breezy, and beautiful.

Truth is, the hats are a little crisp and new for Monhegan,  making the couple's energy  more about movement, than just being in place, but I loved their silhouettes, and their juxtaposition against Monhegan's lovely Manana.

Thanks for looking.

Monday, October 29, 2012

"Tide Pools" oil 12 x 9

Thinking about the surf along our coast today during Hurricane Sandy.  I love to stand above the waves, watching them move, roll, crash, recede, invade, but certainly not today.  Be safe. I'm painting in the studio while we have power.

Monday, October 01, 2012

"Shake All Your Blues Away" 6 x 6 oil

Our painting group, Girls Just Wanna Paint, was handed "chic" as the theme for September by our member Pam Copeman. She was unable to attend the meeting as she was at New York Fashion Week.  Pam epitomizes chic, so we painted her (as a surprise).  Pam bears an uncanny resemblance to famed dancer Ann Miller (in my opinion) so this is my painting "Shake All Your Blues Away", Pam as Ann Miller (Nadine Hale) in Easter Parade, one of my favorite movies.  

By the way, Ann Miller has the reputation of fastest tap dancer, ever.  (Not sure if 
 her record still stands, but check out a video of "Shake All Your Blues Away" and you'll see why.)
Or, watch the whole movie: Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Ann Miller, Peter Lawford... just the ceasar salad scene is worth it!   Chic.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"Horizon" 6 x 6 oil

Horizon  6 x 6 oil original oil painting
This is my third in a series of working boat paintings. "Horizon" was pulling traps off the Pemaquid Point in Maine. I am enjoying painting these small, closely cropped, semi-abstract images.  When I look at the boats, I can hear the intermittent start-stop-start as they move from trap to trap, and can hear the gulls following, smell the salt, feel the air, and the sun.  The small format is working very well for me this busy autumn.  More to come.   

Thanks for looking.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

"September Dusk" 8x8 cut paper

I like to cut paper.   Let me elaborate.  I like to cut paper with scissors to make interesting shapes and forms without drawing them first.  I use it in my math classes to demonstrate symmetry to my students.  I cut paper shapes iconic of certain holidays that our church youth group then uses to make one-of-a-kind note cards which they sell to fund their mission trips. I like to cut paper.  

 "September Dusk" image stretched to square proportions
So, when North River Arts Society kicked off this year's Outside the Box fundraiser, inviting artists and non-artists alike to create an 8" x 8" work, different from their norm, I decided to paint with paper.  

I chose one of my favorite paintings of our local river and stretched its image into a square for the proportions.  I bought a number of sheets of patterned paper, no solids,  considering only the colors and values, not the patterns, then proceeded to cut shapes, and to use them like paint.  It was very interesting to decide how to layer up, how to soften edges, how to build in atmospheric perspective and texture.  I used the paper much like I would use paint, blocking in with large shapes, then continually subdividing those shapes.
original "September Dusk" 7 x 5
The result is a "paper painting" filled with paisley, polka dots, peacock feathers,  floral images, toile, and stripes that comprise "September Dusk". When I compare the original oil and the paper version, I'll admit, I am drawn to the oil more than the paper. However, I love the paper painting, the thinking and the process. My goal was not to recreate the original oil painting.  My goal was to create a piece of art that stands on its own, using the oil painting as reference, much like my oil paintings are intended to stand on their own, using life as reference. 

 I'm planning to explore this idea again, and am considering skipping the middle step altogether, bringing my paper, scissors, and Modge Podge outside to paint with paper en plein air. 

As always, interested in your thoughts.  Thanks for looking.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

"Open Mic" 6 x 6 oil

My entry for August's Girls Just Wanna Paint challenge, theme "music".

Last spring, my daughter sang at Club Passim in Cambridge on open mic night, great fun, with a variety of performers of a variety of ages, styles, and talents. She sang an original song composed in her high school music project, and is performing here with her music teacher.  This is a study for a larger painting which will include her friend and classmate playing guitar.

Thanks for looking.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Marshfield Fair 2012

The Marshfield Fair comes to town for 10 days each August.  We love it and have volunteered for years in a variety of ways during the weeks prior to and including the Fair.  We find ourselves there almost every day, enjoying the lights, the pageantry, the sounds and smells, the people watching.

We spend a lot of time in Agricultural Hall, smack dab in the center of the fairgrounds.  Arts and Crafts are housed upstairs and Horiculture
is downstairs.  This year, I was scheduled for a painting demo upstairs, and chose the Arts and Crafts Shop. I love the majestic old building with its views of carnival rides and festivities out the windows.  

I have been bringing my sketchbook and will sit and draw while soaking up the atmosphere.  Whether I am sitting isolated on the rocks of a Maine Island, or amid the hubbub of our local country fair, I am blessed... 


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

"Good Day at the Office" 6 x 6 oil


My second in a series of fishing boats from this summer.  This is the "Susan A",  a work horse with salmon pink trim - quite a contrast.  This happened to be a crisp, dry day with calm seas and light breezes, a good day on the water, though I assume the catch is the true measure of what makes a "good day".

Thanks for looking.

Friday, August 03, 2012

"Evening Tide" oil painting 9 x 12 and goats

 Manana is the small island across from Monhegan which creates the sheltered harbor out here, 10 miles from the mainland.  Manana is visible from most vantage points on the west side of Monhegan.  Its lovely curves and angles have been painted by generations of artists including Rockwell Kent, Edward Hopper, Aldro Hibbard.  

I love watching the shadows appear on Manana midday, then creep down the sides, the ratio of light and shadow shifting as the afternoon progresses, until Manana is completely in shadow and the sun eventually sets behind it. "Evening Tide" was painted from Fish Beach late in the afternoon.  I was painting with my friend Marianne Buckley Curran, which is always a joy.

While I was painting, I looked up and saw the Manana goats aligned on Manana's peak.  The goats are a relatively recent addition to the tiny island.  I had a flashback to childhood when Johanna Spyri described Heidi sneaking soft rolls into her pinafore in Dusseldorf to save for Grandfather on the mountain...  what a great afternoon.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Monhegan Surf in process 12 x 9

 We are staying on Monhegan Island, Maine for our second week this summer. "What is the allure?"  some have asked us about this rustic destination where we have been blessed to spend time during each of the past nine summers?  I could expound for pages and pages, but will abbreviate with this: The island is a sumptuous feast for the senses.

Here is a painting I'm heading off to finish this afternoon when the tide is heading out.  I climbed over to a spot accessible only at tide 2/3 of its way out, and made a mental note to get out of dodge before the tide returns and cuts me off at the pass. (Don't know where the western metaphors are coming from)
I've been spending a lot of time again this trip in my sketchbook with pen and ink and watercolor... images for another post.

The second photo is our luggage in transit to the island a few days ago.  We pack in bins.  The bins are tucked under a tarp in the bow of the ferry... so much kinetic energy packed in plastic and duct tape.

Thanks for looking.

Friday, July 27, 2012

"Outside the Box" or "Shhh - It's a Secret"

North River Arts Society is holding its Outside the Box fundraiser again this summer.  Adjectives:  creative, fun, affordable, fascinating, exciting, mysterious, surprising, eclectic, diverse...                                       Background:  Artists and friends of North River Arts Society were invited to create a 8" x 8" works, in a different medium and/or style from their norm.  The works are displayed by number only (no names attached, no signatures) for a 3-week long silent auction.  Bidding on each piece (and there are hundreds of them) begins during the opening party on August 11 7-10pm and bidding continues through August 31st at noon.  The exhibit then stays up for another week with the artists' names revealed.  Prepare to be surprised.

The first year, I painted the honey bears above, which now live in New York City. As an oil painter, the medium was no different, but the subject matter was a big change, and in doing the painting I discovered my love of kitsch as subject matter. (I just looked up the definition of "kitsch" -
something of tawdry design, appearance, or content created to appeal to popular or undiscriminating taste.)  Can't say I completely agree with the definition... I firmly believe that some things are so kitschy they cross back over into beautiful and can become iconic, and it takes extraordinarily discriminating taste to see that inner beauty.  I have a number of them in my studio, but that's for another time.
The next year, I used pen & ink, watercolor, gold pen, and colored pencil to sketch the waves shown here as my entry. That piece lives in the next town over.
This year's entry is a secret until August 11th when all will be revealed (except the artist names).  All I can say is I went completely Outside the Box, and enjoyed the results so much, I'm planning to work more with this new exploration ... hmmmm.    

Monday, July 23, 2012

Monhegan Surf and a request

Monhegan Island surf painting
 During the summer, I teach a couple of weeks of Art Studios for Children at North River Arts Society in Marshfield, MA.  Last week, as the young artists were checking in, a friend dropping off her granddaughter  pulled out her ipad.  She showed me these images of my paintings, and asked when she'd see more of them.  

These are paintings from my favorite cove on the south end of Monhegan Island, and from a couple of years ago.  I do love standing on the rocks, listening, smelling, and even tasting the salt air as I paint.  I'm heading back there in August for a week.  You'll find me down past Lobster Cove tucked into the rocks painting, as requested.

Thanks for looking.
Monehegan Island painting

Artist on Monhegan

Sunday, July 15, 2012

"In the Dinghy" 9 x 12 watercolor & ink

Manana painting Monhegan

Manana is a very small, mostly uninhabited, island just west of Monhegan. Aside from providing a sheltered harbor for the larger island,  Manana also provides a gorgeous backdrop from almost every vantage point on the east side of Monhegan Island.  I enjoy painting Manana, looking at Manana as I meander through my days, and collecting paintings of Manana.  I am thrilled to have added a lovely study of Manana by Alison Hill  to my collection.  

"In the Dinghy" is a sketch of the harbor from Fish Beach.  The father and daughter made several trips from the beach to their mooring, reminding me of my days as a child in our old dinghy rowing back and forth just because I could.  Thanks for looking.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

"Harbor from the Inn" 9 x 12 watercolor & ink

Another page from my sketchbook on Monhegan last week.  Sat with my daughter and friend on the rocks above the harbor while we all painted scenes below us.  I am blessed to spend time with teens.  Fascinating creatures.

 It was a beautiful afternoon.  It was tempting to hop the 2pm ferry for the half hour tour of the island, but we were in the groove.  We waved as another friend boarded and sailed away. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"Two Brothers" original oil painting 6 x 6

My entry for June's Girls Just Wanna Paint challenge.  The theme was "July". As a middle-school math teacher, I consider July true summer.  School is behind me for the year, and on the near horizon for next year.  Each summer we spend some time in Maine, where crystal air and lobster boats are emblematic of July.  Thanks for looking.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Monhegan Sketchbook 2012

Here are a few more sketches from this past week on Monhegan Island.  The top two are from different chairs on our rental's deck.  First is looking west over the Trailing Yew to the Manana and the mainland, the latter being 12 miles away.

Next is a quicker sketch from the north end of the deck looking over the village and the Island Inn out to Allen Island.  

Last are a few gestures of local gulls.  They are plentiful and vocal.  The island is so narrow, you can watch them fly from the cliffs on the east, to the village on the west in a few seconds.  I love their sounds and plaintive cries.
We treat them each Friday after our traditional lobster feast. The children (now teens) deliver the buckets back to the steps of the fish market after emptying them of lobster detritus past the jetty and giving them a quick rinse.  Gull heaven.  The island is just plain heaven to me.  Thanks for looking.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Monhegan Village 12 x 9 watercolor & ink

Just back from a week on Monhegan Island, ME.  This is our ninth or tenth year going to this vibrant locale for a week in July, then another in August.  It makes for a choppy summer, but we love it.  We spent this past week in a different house than our usual rental, and we invited friends who had never been to the island - lots of firsts.  It took me a few hours to acclimate to a new view. 

 Here is a watercolor sketch from a deck off the living room of the new house, and a photo of the same scene from a slightly different angle. I loved the long view over the village, and the jumble of rooftops stretching from below into the distance. More sketches to come. Happy to be home, and happy to be going back later this summer. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

"Whitehead" 12 x 9 oil

Looking forward to heading off to Monhegan this summer for a couple of weeks.  The bins are out, packing has commenced, lengthy lists becoming less lengthy.  We have been spending time there each summer for almost a decade.  We are blessed.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

"Overcast" 14" x 11" oil

I love painting by the river on this type of day.  It's overcast, which keeps the heat down, and there's just enough air moving.  I painted this as a quick block in with my class, very washy, intending to add more definition in the sky later.  As often happens when students are scattered about, I don't spend much time at my own easel. The painting was tucked away in my "Look at this again later" pile.  

By the way I highly recommend several piles of work aside from "Finished" and "Unfinished" in your studio. I have "Just off the easel, look objectively over the next couple of days", "Use as a study for something larger", and "Not a complete success,  why?", among others.  Looking at "Overcast" recently, I decided to leave it alone.  I can feel the air that day when I look at painting.  That works for me.

$225 & $10 S&H

Saturday, June 16, 2012

"Birds of a Feather" oil 8 x 12

Last fall, Maggie Price asked me to participate in a book she was editing.  Exciting!  The book's subject: strategies for breaking artists' block.  Would I like to participate, did I have any favorite strategies, could I meet deadlines with iterative demo photos, copy, and delivery according to North Light Book's specifications? This was new to me, but of course, I agreed to the challenge.  I learned a lot in short order, and, thanks to a couple of friends with the right photographic capabilities, it all came together.

"Birds of a Feather" is the result of my first painting demo.  My strategy was to paint in a different size than you're accustomed to.  The size needn't be drastically different, just different for you, which results in a different energy, different relationship to the edges, and the underlying diagonals.  I paired several vintage props from my studio with the Winslow Homer postcard including the pair of friends.  The complete demo, including photos from thumbnail sketches through completion will be available in the book  "Creative Freedom: 52 Art Projects, Exercises & Techniques to Overcome Your Artist's Block" available in spring, 2013.  More news when the release date gets closer.