Saturday, March 30, 2013

"Distant Manana" and a spring show

I have written before of my fascination with Manana, across the harbor from Monhegan Island, ME.  "Distant Manana" is another view of the small, (mostly) uninhabited island, as seen from the rocks at Dead Man's Cove, a beautiful spot to spend a few hours.  An occasional hiker happens by, lots of gulls on a nearby rocky outcrop, waves, the ferries passing in and out.  
Last night, I had dinner with a couple of friendsThey described a day they spent together on the coast last summer.  The conversation bounced back and forth between them as they relived what they termed "the perfect day".  I listened, and responded, but a part of my brain was sitting in Dead Man's Cove having my own "perfect day".

"Distant Manana" is on view at the South Shore Natural Science Center  in Norwell, MA in the invitational show "Spring Stirrings".  The exhibit runs March 27 - April 30th.  If you're local, hope to see you at the opening reception on April 4th from 6 - 8pm.  As always, thanks for looking.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

"Creative Freedom" is in the house!

In January, I blogged about Maggie Price's new book, "Creative Freedom".  She asked me to be a contributor to her book about breaking the artist's block.  Well, I'm thrilled to say, I now have a copy of the book in hand.  It is a compilation of 52 artists' thoughts on moving beyond the block, however that artistic obstacle manifests itself.

The artists are arranged alphabetically. Naturally, I looked at my pages first, and I can attest to the fact that the colors are true to my original work. (Thank you, Liz Haywood-Sullivan for your patience and photographic expertise.)

I contributed two ideas for breaking your artist's block. Contributing meant painting the demo and writing the copy.  Really exciting and fun.  My first demo is about painting 30-minute studies.  Everyone can find a half hour.  Each of the four paintings at left was completed in thirty minutes or less.  I used an old-fashioned egg timer, and laid the brush down when the bell rang - no cheating.  It was tough for the first painting, but no problem at all for the rest.  (Which was the first?)

My other idea is painting in an unfamiliar size; even a small move outside your comfort zone provides a freshness to the painting. "Birds of a Feather", shown left, is 8" x 12" - a slight deviation from standard sizes.

Once I left my pages, I explored  "Creative Freedom" as a whole.  There are wonderful demonstrations, ideas and paintings in a variety of media.  Beautiful book, beautifully designed, packed with terrific information. I'm proud to be a part of this endeavor.  And, I made the back cover!
"Creative Freedom" is published by North Light Books, and is widely available.  Thanks for looking.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Wipeout - Class Demo and The Surfaris

 The goal of this week's class was to force modelling in the darks, creating instant lost edges, and using temperature shifts to differentiate planes rather than value shifts. 
I asked my students to arrange still life set ups with direct light, high contrast, and to set themselves up in the middle, or toward the dark side. Then I instructed them to mix a ground that was neutral, value about 3 1/2, and to tone the whole board.  I made my ground with viridian and cadmium red light.

The students then wiped out all of the lights, using solvent and a clean brush or paper towel.  It was a bit uncomfortable at first, drawing by wiping away, but pretty quickly, they began to see great results. Simply, all that was in shadow was the ground, and all that was in light was wiped away. If they wiped too vigorously, they could just scrub in some more of the ground color and wipe again with more accuracy.

Tricky discipline at first not to see too much, too many values, and too much detail.  But, as you can see from my top photo, form is evident immediately with careful drawing.  Added benefits 

- Edges are already lost in the light and shadow before any color is applied.
-  the neutral ground is both warm and cool by its nature so any color applied reads as beautifully rich.  Look at the first and second images:  the reds I began to add feel sumptuous on the ground.  
I asked the students to model only in the shadow, generating form and looking for subtle shifts in temperature and intensity within each value.  In the last few minutes they could paint in the lights with very few strokes. My students thought it was a great exercise.  I think this is a terrific way to begin a painting, exercise or not.  
Thanks for looking and here's a classic instrumental treat of the same name by The Surfaris.

click here:


Monday, March 04, 2013

"From Noel Coward's Firefly - Jamaica" oil 6 x 6

The February theme for my painting challenge group, Girls Just Wanna Paint is "tropical".  Tropics, tropical.  I haven't spent a lot of time in the tropics. Hmmmm.  I began pondering, and was suddenly flooded with memories of a wonderful trip to Jamaica years ago with my mother and her friend, Mary.  Sitting quietly, the details have come roaring back, sights, smells, sounds, personalities, adventures.. it's not that I'd forgotten the week away, just hadn't pulled it up for a mental polishing lately.

Brief details: my mother  had learned of a small private house on the northern Jamaican coast for rent, a few miles east of Ocho Rios.  The rent included services of a housekeeper and her husband..  May and Leonard (pronounced Le-NARD).  May cooked our meals; fresh, flavorful, local ingredients.  Leonard sort of hung around in the afternoons, and evenings.  We played dominoes, "the real dominoes" as he put it, and chatted through the evenings.  He spoke softly, and told stories of the island; excusing himself each evening around 9pm with a polite, "good night".  Turns out, Leonard was sleeping in a small shed in the small yard, and was there to encourage any locals walking the road late at night to keep moving, rather than loitering outside the gate of the house with the three American women... I heard him about 2 in the morning the first night, on the street not far from my bedroom window.  I could pick up a word or two of his patois.. "move along"  "nothing for you here".  Leonard's son was a police officer down in Kingston, and I had a sense they were both well known to the locals.

On day, we took a walk up and up along a densely wooded road to Firefly, Noel Coward's lovely retreat. Turns out that Coward had a larger house for entertaining down along the water near Port Maria, but he built Firefly as his private writing retreat.  (from a local tour website - "Noel Coward’s mountaintop Jamaican home and burial site is an American-free zone. The tropical sanctuary high above the brassy resorts and impoverished towns of Jamaica, links the Caribbean island’s present with its glamorous past.") 

Emerging from the humid, quiet, overgrown woods onto Firefly's clearing was a bit reminiscent of my first trip to Fenway park.. walking among the crowds, dense, noisy, close before climbing the ramp and gasping as the panorama unfolded below.  We spent a few hours exploring and enjoying the breeze up at Firefly before beginning our descent.  I recall that the skies opened and the resulting downpour produced raindrops so large you could almost catch one in your fist. Mom, Mary, and I each grabbed huge leaves, using them as makeshift umbrellas as we laughed, sang, and slogged our way back home.  

Leonard picked up driftwood and roots from the beach and carved them into a variety of birds.  Mom and I each bought one of his unique sculptures.  For years, the birds lived in our respective homes.  They were reunited when Mom passed away in 2006, and now live on my mantel.

I have enjoyed the idea of tropics, and am reveling in the memories of Jamaica with my mother years ago.  Thanks for looking.