Little Jewels, and Back to the Studio!

March 25, 2013

The Ratner series is coming along much better now that I've made the decision to do the underpainting in oil. I'm quite excited about getting to the next phase, which is the glazing process. Layering tints of color should produce a jewel-like finish, with depth and interest. I've gone through my photo archives and found a few more images that should work nicely in this set, and started marking off the format size and the grid, then taping the areas that I want to keep clean.

Finally, I'm beginning to see my way clear to getting the house fix-up done, and today I got back into the studio for the first time since February 27th (I work on the Ratner series upstairs at night). I finished the third painting in the Skaters series, and worked on three others. Feeling a sense of relief.



March 21, 2013

Recent events have made it necessary for me to drop everything and work on the house. I've washed curtains, vacuumed, painted rooms, sanded the kitchen butcher block island, scraped wallpaper, and just generally done a whole lot of scubbing. It's been 3 weeks of this. Enough said.

A.B. called today, and we talked for an hour, all about art, illustration, teaching, upcoming shows, family life, etc. As we were saying goodbye, he said, "Go paint, Sue." I figured he was right; did a little more sanding, put the sander down, and went back to the two little paintings I started last month for the Ratner show. It's nice to have a friend validate your need to work; it's like a benediction.

The paintings have been a problem, anyway, so maybe it's not so bad that I had a break from them. The plan was to--- as previously mentioned--- do the underpainting in acrylic, because it's supposed to be such a time saver. OK; here's what I think about acrylic: it feels unnatural. It feels like plastic. The strokes I make with it get streaky, and they dry before I get a chance to go back and refine them. Acrylic paint doesn't like to work with the brush. The whole point of art making is to communicate, but with acrylic, I feel as though I have no control over the process, I'm just along for the ride. I was completely miserable about the way the paintings were developing.

So this afternoon I picked up on the two little pieces again and went over them in oil, 'cause the rule is, you can paint oil over acrylic, but you can't paint acrylic over oil. The results are much, much better, so even though drying time will take longer, I won't be wasting time painting the same areas over and over again in an effort to eliminate the streakiness. The paint flows sensuously from the brush. It holds a line. I'm happy.


The New Work

February 25, 2013

It's not as though I don't already have enough series to work on... but I do need to get the set for the Ratner underway, with only a year to prepare. Well, less than that, really, since I'll need everything to be completed before the hanging date.

So, at right is the first panel of the group. I haven't got a name for it, nor for the series yet, but it's a start. The green that you see is the Frog Tape, which I discovered when repainting the guest bedroom, and which does an incredible job of blocking out areas where one doesn't want paint to go. The top and side edges are blocked off, and there's enough space at the bottom to mimic the format of instant photos, which is an idea I wanted to play off: the contrast between the modern instant picture, and the tedious, time-consuming process of applying glazes over a grisaille (like the Old Masters). I'm doing the underpainting in acrylic, and as I think I've mentioned before, acrylic is not my friend. It's supposed to go quickly, but it seems I need to put on at least 3 coats before it even starts to look less streaky. Grrr.

Currently reading: White Nights, Feodor Dostoevsky


Nailing the Likeness

February 15, 2013

I went back in and worked on the head of the model in Fashion Forward, and it's looking better. The photo at right isn't color correct--- there's more color around the nose area, for example--- but at least it's closer to what I'm trying to get at.


Currently reading: Girls Like Us, Sheila Weller


Insane Blending

February 14, 2013

It takes forever to do decent blending. I've sat down at the easel 20 times and worked on He Knew Better Than to Keep Her Waiting, and today--- I think--- I've got the back wall done. It's a bright red wall with two spotlights on it. The most highly lit areas are almost yellow in color, and then the darker ones are a deep red. In some places behind the potted tree, the red actually goes nearly violet, so there's quite a shift as far as color is concerned, and the spotlit areas fall off rather quickly into shade, so I needed to get the shape of the light right as well as the smooth transitions from one shade to another.

It seems appropriate to be working in red on Valentine's Day!

When the paint dries down, I'll know whether the wall's done or not.


Panels on Order!

February 14, 2013

Uh-oh; the group show at the Ratner takes place in March of 2014. You'd think this is enough time to prepare, but no. A couple of nights ago, I couldn't fall asleep, despite the fact that I'd only had one cup of coffee that I found myself at the computer searching for images in the archives, and actually turned up about 8 that I can use for the show. If I keep them relatively small, that is.

Have placed an order for eight 12" square panels. Time to get started!

Meanwhile, spent a day in Paris, Virginia, recently and had a great time. Winter certainly lends itself to misty and mysterious atmospheres in the mountains. The lure of the countryside always gets me, and now I have even more material for landscapes.


A Question of Size

February 7, 2013

For a while now, I've been working on or planning paintings that are smaller, more accessible for patrons in terms of sales. This is partly in response to the poor economy, but also because smaller paintings are easier to finish.

Now though, after some intense painting sessions and trying to get the details right on tiny faces in the Skaters and other series, I'm rethinking this decision. The large pieces do take forever, but at leats there's enough room for me to say what I want to say without feeling disappointed with my draftsmanship. The brushes are a factor, too; it's hard to find one whose bristles aren't too long, or don't have too much spring, or refuse to come to that all-defining point after a couple of sessions. So I have to give it a little more thought and see if I can come up with a compromise.

Eventually I will get the face to look like the model in Fashion Forward. (see right)



January 18, 2013

More gnashing of teeth; still don't feel like I'm accomplishing much of anything, yet I plod on. It occurs to me that I could probably get more than a half dozen pieces finished by the end of March if I keep my nose to the grindstone. Of course, after that comes Spring, and the distractions of yard work but I could use the exercise anyway. I want to get Beer Garden, Rose Bowl, Expectation III and the monochrome portraits out of the way.


Nothing Good Comes of Haste

January 15, 2013

I've been working, but can't seem to get into a groove with it lately. It might be the season or the weather--- we've had some incredibly dark days lately--- or it could be the fact that a lot of the pieces are 7/8 finished, and now I'm looking at doing the really tedious parts.

Hadn't touched the yellow telephones for quite a while, but it was time to get back to it, so I hung it on the wall in the studio and started to paint. I began with one of the coin returns, which had previously been invisible, and the next day moved into the large blank area on the bottom left. That space had always bothered me, and I've been worrying that the composition was off, but the structure really was okay. Then I tried a change of color, seeing some orange in the reference photo for the first time, and bingo! That did the trick. It solves the problem of the space looking too empty, and adds another dimension to the painting.

Sometimes it helps to just hold off on a painting, not work on it for a while; then when you get back to it you see it with fresh eyes.

Just finished reading: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, Katherine Howe


Gearing Up

January 1, 2013

Things Accomplished in 2012:

Sold a couple more paintings; nowhere near as many as in 2011, but I blame the economy and the close of 3 of the galleries I was in (related to the economy) for this.

Showed at Artomatic, and got some great reviews of my work as a result.

Completed 30 new works.

Developed the themes for three major series that I'll work on in 2013.

Plans for 2013:

If ya don't show, ya don't sell. So in response to the first item on the above accomplishments list, it's clear I've got to find a few new galleries.



December 31, 2012

Well, it's almost 2013. I was able to meet my goal of finishing 30 pieces this year. (Perhaps next year there won't be as much traveling.) 30 seemed like a reasonable goal, and it's a good feeling to set a goal and then meet it.

There are a number of paintings in the studio that should be finished soon, too. I feel productive!


Everything's Wet, Redux

December 29, 2012

I've been pretty strict with myself lately, keeping to the paintings that I think can be finished by the end of the year, but this morning realized that everything I've been working on is either wet or sticky. The smart thing would be to pick up on one of the Important Paintings, or even one of the Big Important Paintings, but I decided on a little self-indulgence instead. For months, I've been looking at canvases that I yearn to work on, but I feel guilty painting things that I'm never going to sell.

One of those is Mother's Day II, a pretty floral with a very dark background and a lot of contrast between the flower arrangement and the space behind it. (See at right). Another is the Rose Bowl, which I started a year ago and just haven't been able to get to. So I've spent some time on both of those, as well as a little bead and glass work, knitting, and starting to read a new book.

Just finished reading: Where'd You Go, Bernadette?, Maria Semple


Heavy Clouds

December 21, 2012

It's been kinda dark lately, or at least cloudy a good part of the day, and it's beginning to wear on me. I recently ordered a natural light floor lamp for the studio, and a "Happy Light" was thrown in for free. Maybe I should go plug it in.

Work this morning took a wrong turn on Three Women at the MFA; the reason I haven't worked on it in so long is because that background wall modulates ever so subtly from one place to another, and it takes a lot of unobstructed time and concentration to pull it off. Felt like I had the time today, but the presence of tiny dust specks on what should be a believable, spot lit wall annoyed me. Plus, I'd made a decision to use a raw umber/white mixture for the wall color instead of the VanDyke Brown/Payne's Gray/white I've been using all along. The reults were bad enough that I had to scrub out everything newly painted and just put the thing aside for another day. It's irritating to spend that much time and effort on a piece just to have to face the fact that it's not working. Bah.


Coffee and Chat

December 18, 2012

S.M. met me in town for coffee, and we had a great couple of hours talking art talk. She likes the new direction I'm going in, and made me feel more confident about my plans. I'm really grateful to have such supportive friends.

Today I finished two more paintings, Shadow Study and Postcard 13, but have been running errands and doing major house cleaning as well, in preparation for family arrivals tomorrow. Time to party! But it does look like I'll make my quota for the year.

Currently viewing: Mankind: The Story of All of Us


Winding Down

December 10, 2012

The year is coming to a close in just 3 weeks, and when I realized I was far behind on my painting schedule--- I like to finish at least 30 paintings a year--- I got down to business in the studio. Of course, this meant ignoring a lot of domestic duties, and now the kitchen looks like hell, but I am getting some things accomplished. At least three works in progress are maybe one step away from completion, and there are several more that are just a stone's throw away.

I did budget time for a nice lunch with A.T., and got to look at the photos from her trip to the U.K. So now I'm almost caught up on visiting with friends for a while.


Back to Work

November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving was great, no doubt about it. And the fact that there was no turkey at all made it even more memorable. Family, good food, and fun.

Of course, Thanksgiving involved a road trip, but I got some nice photos of the northeastern countryside as it changes from fall to winter. I'm thinking about doing a set of landscapes in a long, narrow format, kinda like a panorama.

Got back to painting yesterday and today, and the two new series make me feel like I'm finally doing my life's work.

Coincidentally: Currently reading: The Paper Garden, An Artist Begins Her Life's Work at 72, Molly Peacock


On a Roll

November 11, 2012

Okay; so, in the last week, I've worked on 18 paintings. Whew! Finished the non-objective A Delicate Balance, this morning; spent the rest of the afternoon working on JP Licks and planting daffodil bulbs.

Re: Balance; I had wanted to try my hand at a non-objective painting in order to regain that experience. In my senior year at Pratt, nearly everything I did was abstract, and I still have a couple of those old paintings around. Thinking abstractly (in terms of painting) is a real challenge for me these days. The initial stages of Balance had me just repeating the rectangular shape of the canvas, unable to break away from that structure. It took a while to figure out what the actual problem was, and then it became a matter of color, placement of elements, and developing an idea. There's room for improvement, if I ever try this again, though I'm reasonably satisfied with the outcome. But it sure was hard to simplify the thinking process.

Had an extraordinary time last night! We visited our friends J.E. and E.A. at their beautiful home in D.C., then the 4 of us headed out on a photo safari. I needed some more images for the storefront series and the neighborhood was a gold mine. Now to sort through and edit what I've got, then put it all together into a cohesive "body of work." The Winter Skaters and the Atlantic Ocean series are well on their way, and soon--- I hope---I'll be able to start marketing them.


Post-election Painting

November 8, 2012

The election is over, and I'm elated. I really thought I was going to throw my TV out the window in the last month, with the political ads of both parties getting under my skin. I am happy that the President won re-election, and look forward to more cooperation between the parties to move the country forward.

Had lunch with P.C., always a pleasure to see her, and to talk ART. I have so many friends who are committed to their art work, and who have interesting viewpoints and active, open minds. It's exciting to have an exchange of ideas that ends up leading to new directions for my work, or theirs, or for professional development. And everyone's generous about sharing opportunities; being supportive, not competitive.

Painting yesterday did not go well. Chalk it up to lack of sleep from staying up late to watch the election returns; actually, everybody's been pretty much like a zombie for the last day or two. I need to let the last layer of paint on Yellow Telephones dry. Work so far today on The Illusion of Reality has gone very well, though, and I finished Atlantic Ocean Series #1 and Sunrise Over Breakers.


How I Spent My Weekend

November 5, 2012

So, the show at the Ft. Wayne Museum of Art closed on the 28th, and it was time to go pick up my two paintings. We got into the car early Friday morning and drove to Mansfield Ohio, where we had a nice evening, dining at the City Grille and looking at art in the two galleries in the main part of town. I got some nice shots of storefronts to complement the ones I'm using in a new series, which made me very happy.

Saturday we drove to Ft. Wayne, marveling at the miles of windmills in the far western corner of Ohio. Picked up the paintings; had a nice tour of the museum, got back in the car and drove east to Canton, Ohio. Dinner was fun, then Sunday we headed home.

Worked on seven paintings today, though my back is aching from the long hours in the car.



October 31, 2012

Welcome sunlight flooded the house when I woke up this morning. It's been days since the gloom's been lifted. We lost power, of course, but only---amazingly---for 22 hours, and there's been no more damage to the trees or to the house. We spent the night before last snug in the basement with the wood-burning stove to keep us warm and air mattresses (which we'd filled before the lights went out) to keep us comfortable. Folks in New York and New Jersey weren't so lucky, and it's sad to hear of all the homes lost in Breezy Point.

Back to painting today: was able to do a little work, at least, on 7 paintings.

Currently reading: Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell

Currently viewing: Addams Family Values


Waiting for the Storm

October 28, 2012

Spent yesterday and today battening down the hatches; actually got a little painting time in after 3:00. The weather folk are freaking everybody out, and they keep telling us to go buy batteries. I don't think there's a single battery available anywhere on the East Coast right now. It all feels very ominous, especially with Halloween and the election right around the corner. It's like there's no good news to be had anywhere.

I took a shower this morning, probably the last I'll get for a while. We've got enough firewood to last until Friday, I think, and a good supply of canned soup; everything's been washed, cooked and frozen, charged up, secured, put away. There's a fine mist beginning to fall now. So we'll see.

Currently viewing: Men in Black II


More Good Friends; and Threatening Weather

October 26, 2012

Finally had lunch with J.S. today--- we've only been trying to get together since last December! Big changes have been happening in her life, and they are wonderful ones. She is such a sincerely decent person it's great to see things work out for her.

I love people, and I love painting people. It occurs to me that a lot of my paintings seem to feature folks at a bit of a distance, and I wonder about that sometimes. Maybe after I finish the current series, I'll try some portraits. Oh, and I need to finish those monochrome portraits in acrylic.

Things are progressing in minor ways professionally--- I've had invitations to two fine art websites.

So: on to the weather. I might be offline for a while. A huge storm, predicted to cause power outages from Buffalo to Roanoke to Boston, is about to descend upon the East Coast. It seems like several times a year I have to write about the turmoil that's caused by the power going out here; without electricity we have no running water, the toilets won't flush, and of course there's no computer, no cooking or microwaving, no light, no heat or air conditioning, etc. Of course it also cuts deeply into painting time. I'm really sick of it, and when there's the kind of tree damage we had after the June 29th storm, that just compounds the problems.

Currently viewing: The Weather Channel


Good Friends; and a Day in the Country

October 24, 2012

P.T. moved to Harper's Ferry several months ago, and yesterday was the first chance I've had to go and visit her in her new house. We had a lovely time, and walked to the historic downtown area, stopping in for lunch at a place near the railroad station. P.'s paintings were on her walls and they are just beautiful. I wish I could handle landscapes the way she does, with their muted tones and her flawless understanding of the momentary scene. And she has such an easy disposition, and a genuinely friendly manner with everyone she encounters. It's just great to spend time in her company.

The drive to and from Harper's Ferry is just great; one of my favorite drives in the entire world is along the stretch of Harper's Ferry Road. The country nature of it is beginning to erode, with the encroachment of Suburbia, but it's still so pretty.

A couple of minutes after I arrived home, I heard the still-not-familiar Skype ring sound, and was happy to see I.C.'s smiling face on the monitor. We talked for about an hour, easily moving from one topic to another. She's finishing the last illustration for her first children's book, and gave me a look at the work she's been doing over the last several months. And like P.T., I. is one of the most congenial people I've ever known. It is great to have such good friends.

Meanwhile, on the home front: I finished the third and last of the Potomac River series today.

At right, a ghost in the window of a house on Washington Street, Harper's Ferry.

Currently viewing: The Daily Show, Jon Stewart



October 22, 2012

I keep forgetting how awful the first layer of paint looks on panels, and am always relieved when the second coat goes on smoothly and lends itself to blending.

Spent the last couple of nights working on the computer into the wee hours of the morning sifting through a couple of thousand photos. I've got a pretty good idea of where things are going and have figured out which paintings are going to be 9" x 12", 12" x 16", etc. The two new series, the ones I'm banking on, will be on 16" x 20" and 18" x 24" panels. Now is the time to develop them, and that's the real work of the day; meanwhile, there are a couple of florals and little landscapes that are beckoning to be done, and those are more like dessert.

Currently reading: High Society: The Life of Grace Kelly, Donald Spoto


It's All Going Well, Finally

October 19, 2012

I finally feel like things are getting back on track. Finished another painting today, the second of the Atlantic Ocean Series. Six more paintings are close to being completed, and I started the first of a new series today, one that I'm very excited about. Plus, the actual painting activity itself has been going well. I've been able to mix colors correctly, and the application is going smoothly. So, it's all good.

At right: a detail from the first of the new series.



October 14, 2012

I finished Variations on a Theme #4 today. This is a series I began back in the days when I was teaching. All of the paintings in the series are done on 11"wide, 17" high canvas, and all are based on a rather peculiar foundation design: a tall arch with a base a couple of inches from the bottom, where an undulating pattern of light and shadow repeats on each painting in the same place.

I'd always planned for this to be a series of 6. The best of the series so far, #2, sold a couple of years ago. Now that this one's done, I need to plan #5, which will feature a cut-out archway--- the interior of the arch will be negative space, outined by stones. Not sure what else will be happening inside the picture plane.

A few other works are close to completion.


Digging In

October 13, 2012

Well, except for a fabulous time visiting Alexandria with P.T. and J. E. on Thursday, I spent the entire last week painting. Actually, I did some painting on Thursday, too, after I got home from our lunch at Vermilion. So now almost everything on the Works in Progress page has had some recent attention.

A couple of things are really close to completion, and three-quarters of the paintings are within striking distance. I hope to get nearly everything done by the end of the year; that's probably unrealistic, but it's the current plan. I'm also gessoing some panels and odd-size canvases, and toying with the images for the new series. Will start the pencil drawings on them very soon.

Some of today's work at right.



October 9, 2012

The house is coming together, so I've had a chance to assess the art work situation. Productivity has taken a major hit this year due to the floor renovation project and all of the traveling. Unfortunately, there's more traveling in the future, but at least it's short-term stuff. Now I have to set deadlines for the many paintings (37!) that currently appear on the Works in Progress page. I need to start a new series, and there are more than enough new landscapes and individual scenes to tickle my fancy. Plus, the 2014 show at the Ratner Museum will be here before you know it. Time to get crackin'!


More Traveling

September 26, 2012

Another out-of-town trip, this time to Boston. More photos! Will I ever have enough time to finish all the paintings of places I've been and people I've seen this summer?

Well, I did get to see people I love on this last trip, and I am excited about the gorgeous landscape photos. I really don't think there's a better time to be in Massachusetts than mid-to-late September. The roadside plants are in the height of maturity, and the subtle, natural colors blend together so well. Also visited L.A. Burdick in the hope of getting some better reference for A Quiet Evening in Cambridge, but, ack! They had completely re-done the place! It looks nothing like my painting.

I put aside the domestic clean-up stuff today--- it's driving me crazy to have to move boxes around, dust, paint walls, etc.--- and worked on 3 paintings. So now I feel semi-virtuous.


A Dramatic Difference

September 14, 2012

The skin tones on the main figure in Fashion Forward have been bothering me for a while now, and today seemed like the day to try to fix the situation. S.M. had had a look at the painting when she visited, and when I talked about how the color was influenced by rainy day atmosphere that I shot the photo under, she mentioned in an offhand sort of way that as viewers we didn't have any direct reference for that fact.

I thought about it a lot. And a few days ago I read an article on limited palettes, and how to get them to work for you. So today I combined the palette information with a plan to give everything on the front of the figure a bluish cast from the rain-soaked light, while everything on the back--- bathed in the warm lighting from the shop window--- would have a yellowish cast. It's working better. I might continue to tinker with it, but I'm happy with the results of today's work.

Like other artists, sometimes I get stumped by a problem with a painting and have to just stop for a while, maybe even a couple of months, until I figure out a solution.


Finally: An End to The Summer of Complete Chaos

September 4, 2012

It's been the craziest summer I've ever had. First there was the trip to Ft. Wayne, and having to deal with the damage from the storm, which hit while we were away. Then the house was in total upheaval for the last two months due to a major refinishing job. We've spent more than enough time living in the basement, wending our way through piles of boxes and disassembled furniture, and not having access to bathrooms upstairs or on the main floor. There have been trips to California, New York, and North Carolina. There has been almost no painting, though a lot of photography. I'm trying to go through the photos now, to see which ones would make great paintings and then edit them. But the house still requires most of my time... far more than I'd like.

Recently completed reading: The Painted Word, Tom Wolfe

Recently completed reading: Long Ago and Far Away, Timothy White