Monday, April 30, 2012

"Waiting for the Weekend" in stages oil 16" x 12"

 "Waiting for the Weekend" is my take on the mudroom, or storage room in the lovely Maine house I rent with artist friends for a week in June.  I'll be going for my third consecutive year in a matter of weeks.  It's the room I associate with all summer houses.  You can see the flag, and life jackets, and citronella candles, and lighter fluid.  Without seeing, you know there are Zebco fishing rods, and a wooden croquet set (perhaps missing one ball), and drop lines and kite string, and oars, and plastic buckets, shovels, and sand toys, and some flippers, and perhaps a deflated rubber float or two, and a kickboard, and some oarlocks.  I spent summers in a house with all of these things and more, and I have a story associated with each which this room brought to mind, though it has no physical connection to the paraphernalia of my youth.
I've been writing lately about threads, and connections.  Here they are again.

I always travel with several art books to read and study.  Each trip, the books vary.  On this trip, I brought Alfred Chadbourn's "Painting With a Fresh Eye", to which I attribute the ultramarine block-in. I "drew" the basic shapes, and washed in the shadows, moving a few things around until I was satisfied.  My intention is usually to move around the painting, bringing the level of resolution up gradually.  However, I always fight the lure of some component that is enthralling.  Looking at these iterative photos, the life jackets were the draw. 

"Waiting for the Weekend" - a roomful of kinetic energy listening for the crunch of gravel under the station wagon's tires, the tumbling forth of scrambling young feet, slamming screen doors and days of sun and fun ahead. Looking forward to June.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

"Isabella and the Pot of Basil" connecting threads

Recently, I challenged my painting class with an exercise in neutrals.  They listen to me expound on hierarchies to consider when beginning a painting.  Observe and note the lightest light, darkest dark, softest and hardest edge, warmest and coolest notes, and the richest and most neutralized chroma or intensity of color.  I suggested visualizing a series of thermometers, (just "tilted number lines" said my math-teacher brain) and we worked on the "chroma scale", by noting the most unadulterated color in the subject, putting a note on the canvas with the understanding that all other mixtures must be LESS rich than the richest.  

Where does "Isabella and the Basil Pot" enter the picture?
 One of my students chose a beautiful neutral vase, cloth, etc.  I remarked part way through the class that her harmony and subject reminded me of a painting I love at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, and later looked up the painting on the MFA web site.  Turns out, it is is John Alexander White's "Isabella and the Basil Pot", a relatively large painting hanging among the American paintings along with the Sargents.
(By the way, my daughter learned at an early age that whatever we intended to see in the MFA, Egyptian hieroglyphs, Chinese vases, musical instruments, etc... all paths lead us past the Sargents).  The beautiful, dominant curved diagonal in White's painting is the exact curve of   the vase in my student's painting, and the neutral harmony very similar. This powerful, 6-foot tall painting, has lodged itself in my brain. 
Okay, then what about connecting threads?  A month or two later, I found an interesting web site titled "Learning to See" by a UK artist who is charting his own artistic journey which involves research, practice, practice, study, practice, and sharing his finds, and practice (did I say "practice"?) and his results.  
Some of what Paul was posting reminded me of a series of Art Education books I have collected over the years.  The books were published in 1905 and are beautiful, filled with William Morris designs, and images of lovely drawings.  I use the books as reference for my painting classes. I pulled one of the books off the shelf, and it fell open to "Isabella and the Pot of Basil".  John Alexander White painted it in 1898.  The painting was acquired by the MFA back then, an image landed in this book in 1905, and I'm referencing it over a century later.  Those are some seriously durable threads.  I rejoice in the serendipity of connections. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

"Quiet Cove" oil 12" x 9"

 $125 + $10 S&H  

 Painting destinations.  Where to go?  Lately I find myself traveling the nearby roads and byways as a quiet meditation in preparation for the next outing.  It's an interesting visual exercise, thinking about light, wind, surf, tide, access, all from the quiet of an armchair. 

When I began painting on site a number of years ago, I would head out to explore with a few uninterrupted hours ahead of me, looking for an alluring spot from which to paint.  As often as not, I'd spend the time driving, and exploring, and never settle anywhere.  Now, I have a mental catalog of places and subjects, coastal interstices, woods, glades, architecture, cityscapes, etc.  Each visual in my cranial catalog is filed with footnotes about parking, seasonal availability, class access vs. solo access, shelter, etc.  I try to make space for a few minutes in this visual meditation each day - quiet, intentional, brain-clearing. 

This week, I added a new destination when I went painting with my friend Nancy Sargent Howell.  We clambered the rocks, and settled into this surprisingly sheltered, glorious spot on the coast during mid-April in New England.  We were both prepared for penetrating wind, and happily found the layers unnecessary.  Lovely day, with lovely company.                                                

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"Onions" oil 8" x 12"

 $125 + $10 S&H

"Onions" is a quick demo I painted for class recently.  We clustered tulips, or onions, or strawberries, and I encouraged students to average the shadow shape into one color and value, paint that ONE shape accurately and then build into it with slight shifts in temperature and hue.  I find it a lot easier to match value when I am building onto a note instead of next to a note. 
  As an aside, I can usually find an onion or two at home with a lovely green shoot sprouting. I love to paint them and the shoots can get long and graceful while the onion maintains its integrity as a rounded object... makes for lovely harmony. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

"One Truck, Two Truck" start oil 12 x 9"

 My class and I met in our local Scituate Harbor today.  It was gorgeous!  I researched weather, tides, wind direction, and determined that this piece of the harbor would be interesting, sheltered, warm (enough). Okay, some research, and lots of luck.  We moved 25 yards closer to the harbor and the temperature dropped several degrees as the wind picked up.  Some of my students are new to outside, or rusty after a winter indoors.  It can be overly stimulating and my experience is that newer painters will often retreat into the safety of one iconic boat, sitting in profile, or perhaps one building, not that interesting, but "accessible" to the overly stimulated brain looking at a world without edge.   

I encourage the practice of making several thumbnail sketches looking at shapes, and their linking darks, remembering to leave room at the bottom of the painting for the viewer to enter.  As usual, my class amazed me with their intentionality, good humor, intense thinking, and results.  We spread out along the wall and down among the rocks, and were suddenly a part of the local scenery.  I told them all that part of their training is to chat with "their public".  We met moms with babies, grand moms with babies, walkers, bikers, joggers,  a man with a dented canvas at home asking advice on fixing, a man with a lobster who asked if we had a quick sketch artist who might want to draw it.  (Might want to draw a DEAD lobster, by the looks of it).  We gracefully declined.  A few friends stopped by.  We made some new friends, and  a bird on a wire dropped a gift on one painter's hand.  I reveled in that wonderful call gulls make near the water, the sun and salt on my face, and the rich smell of clam dirt at low tide.  Great day, great results.  

This is the beginning of my painting, working title, "One Truck, Two Truck.." I was interested in the boat ramp leading up to the beautiful dory sitting in the lot, and the truck behind.  Several of us painted the truck(s).  Turns out there were several parked adjacent to one another. Their slow exodus was akin to peeling a multi-colored onion.  As a result, each painting with truck had a different color, including silver, red, white, black.  And, just an aside...  when you stand next to the water painting a boat on the land it can be very disorienting.  Each time I looked up for reference on the boat, I looked at the water and couldn't find my boat among those tethered to the pier.   The disorientation was short-lived, but noteworthy.

Great day. Joyful day.  Great day.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

"Dappled Birch" 12" x 12" oil

My painting class spent a glorious day outside a few weeks ago at a garden center.  The plan was to be outside, focusing on bare trees in the landscape.  The day was very overcast, so we headed for the garden center with some color among the grays.  Turns out, the sun broke through and we had a glorious day of very uncharacteristic 70 degree weather in mid-March.  That was then, this is now... back to typical New England spring, lovely pale greens, yellows, pinks, and the temperatures hovering in the 48 - 54 degree range... right on the cusp of taking a group outside, who are unaccustomed to painting while chilly.  I'm on the hunt for sheltered sun this week, ideally, protected from the wind, sun warming the location. Oh, and cue the sinewy shadows cast by as yet leafless branches.  Friday promises to be a lovely, albeit chilly day, and we will be outside. "Dappled Birch" is from a friend's back yard in a different spring.  Think I'll give her a call this morning to see if her yard is available later this week!