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Life is Good

September 26, 2009

My life seems to go like this: intense periods of work punctuated by a sudden trip out of town, disrupting my schedule completely, but providing me with rewarding and immeasurable experiences. I take great delight in seeing familiar old faces, and my perspective changes as I make new aquaintances or just chat with total strangers. Of course, the visual excitement is almost too much for my little brain to handle--- I'm overwhelmed by flocks of geese landing in deserted urban lots, by the sight of warm sunlight hitting old, red brick factory buildings at sunset, by toddlers riding carousel horses, banners wafting in an autumn breeze, and the great clouds of the Northern skies.

So I write this on Amtrack, on my way back home from a quick couple of days and nights in Boston. The weather was spectacular there, but we streamed into cloudy greyness around New York City, and now it's raining. It's a dismal end to a lovely break, but I'm on my way to see some friends at a show in D.C., and that should be fun. I always enjoy seeing these folks. Will settle in later at home, and review the couple of hundred photos I took with an eye to incorporating some of them into paintings for the March show.

Life is good.

Obligatory Tourist Shot


September 23, 2009

A couple of outside projects have laid claim to my time lately, and it's likely that this will continue for the next few days. I'm working on Dawn Series 2 right now, and am a little dubious about whether or not the glaze layer I'm working with is going to be successful or not.


Artist Friends

September 19, 2009

Had a long, leisurely conversation with I.C. the other night. I called her at 6pm, after the day was done, so I wouldn't feel the tug of the paintings in the studio calling me back to work on them. The topics went from everyday stuff to mutual friends to current art projects; I'm fortunate to have friends who are as passionate about their art as I am, and who value craftsmanship, technical ability, presentation, and archival methods. Talking with them reinforces my own values, which sometimes seem antiquated in an art world that's less concerned with substance than shock. I.C. is moving towards an artist book and showing her gorgeous colored pencil work, and seems very content in her new situation.

I'd thought I was going to take a break from painting over the weekend, but couldn't keep away from Waiting For The X-10 this morning. I just did detail work, straightening out some of the architectural lines and adjusting color here and there, so it won't look like much got done from the last sitting. There is a party to go to tonight and the weather is just fine, so the day seems filled with possibility.


A Productive Week

September 18, 2009

I got so much done this week. I worked on every painting on the works in progress page, though I wish I could have gotten more done on the big paintings.Still, it feels good. And I'm ready for a break this weekend!



September 17, 2009

It feels ominous and deliciously creepy out there today. The Baltimore classical station was playing Rocky 2 this morning (Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto) and the wistful central passage was just right.

I'm trying to balance a couple of gallery duties and other responsibilities with painting, and am currently working on the little clock image. Yesterday I tore through seven projects, and have got almost everything on the works in progress page up to date for September. The big paintings, unfortunately, still have many hours' worth of work to go on each of them.



September 15, 2009,  8:00pm

A productive day!

Despite the fact that I had to spend an hour mowing the lawn (it was already a week overdue and rain is in the forecast) I got a lot done today, and much of it was getting past stumbling blocks on a couple of the important works.

For a long time now, I've been bothered by the fact that the elderly man in Time Piece looked cartoony. I just couldn't get past it, because I couldn't figure out how to make it work, and that kept me from doing much of anything else on the painting. But last Sunday's New York Times had a full-page, full color ad from the Met touting their loan of Vermeer's Milkmaid, and seeing the tones and values on the maid's face made me think I should try for something more like that on Time Piece. I taped the ad up on the wall next to the painting and went back to looking at the original reference photo, darkening some areas, redrawing others. I'm much happier with the way it looks now (see right).

So that was a relief. Feeling successful, I decided to try working on another problem that's held me back for months: the female figure in Conversation. The reference photo unfortunately didn't have much detail on the figure, and I've repainted her a dozen times and failed. But when S.M. and I were in Bethesda last Friday night, I needed some sort of celebration after the Timeless show, so we went to the nearby La Madeleine for a bite to eat. I'm a sucker for the way incandescent lighting produces warm interior shots, and the lighting in the restaurant was just lovely, so after we finished eating I asked S. if she could sit at one of the small tables while I took a picture. The pose she took (when I reviewed my photos the next day) turned out to be exactly right for the Conversation figure! It needed to be flopped horizontally, but everything about it was perfect; the angle of the head, the lighting, the gesture... what great luck! Anyway, I painted her in and while it still needs some refining, it looks great!

Earlier in the day I'd put Le Monde des femmes back on the easel after months of letting it gather dust. Le Monde is absurdly girly, a wacko confection with tutus hanging from the ceiling of a suburban clothing store, and it just makes me smile to think of all that pink frou frou. I redrew the lights that are reflected in the store window and adjusted some of the color. The rafters really need to be painted in before I go much further, as they establish the color and mood of the piece.

I worked a little on a couple of other things, too.... I heightened the contrast on Waiting For The X-10 and for once had the sense to consciously work from left to right, avoiding the smearing that is so much of a problem for me when I jump around the picture plane. I'm not sure if the contrast is too strong now, but will take a look at it in the light of day tomorrow and see if it works.

Oh--- and I got a second coat of gesso on that new 40" x 50" canvas.

(Big sigh of relief.)


Somewhat Better

September 15, 2009,  2:00pm

More on this later--- but I worked on the face of the elderly man in Time Piece.


So Here's How It Is

September 14, 2009

A very dear family member whom I haven't seen in two years came to town for a visit last Thursday. This meant days of cleaning and yard work in advance of the visit, complicated by the fact that I was scheduled for gallery sitting on the day of the actual visit. But I was able to get another member to switch with me, and the visit went beautifully. The day was perfect from start to finish, including a terrific sushi dinner at a favorite restaurant, and I got to take a bunch of photos that can be used for paintings.

Over the weekend there was plenty of activity. Friday night I met up with S.M. at the Washington School of Photography, where she said there was a surprise for me. Two of my paintings had been selected for the show, and one of them had been awarded first place. That was exciting  enough, but S. took off for the Fraser Gallery, and after spending some time talking with Missy Loewe at the first show, I met up with her at Fraser, where the Trawick Prize work was on display. We looked at the art and chatted with Catriona Fraser and a few other artists and aficionados. It was a very pleasant evening.

Saturday night I went to the reception for Kathy Guzman at Gallery West, and Sunday went into DC to take some photos for more paintings. It's been a busy couple of weeks lately, with little time for writing. Sometimes you have to live life before you can write about it, though, don't you?

So, I'm stressing out already about my solo show in March. I've got six or seven large paintings but am not sure they all work together. Plus, I need some smaller ones to tie in with the large ones. Should I try to relate everything in terms of color, imagery, composition, or the cities they represent? Should I forget about the large ones and just concentrate on a bunch of smaller pieces?

Spent three hours last night combing through the photo archives, trying to get a handle on the problem. I've got some possible candidates for new work in folders on my laptop. Today I threw caution to the wind and just painted. Tomorrow: more painting!



September 5, 2009

I haven't felt much like writing lately, and have been a little short of time, too, as my evenings have been spent catching up on some things I've been neglecting for a while. The end of August was a little depressing, anyway. The air was heavy and dull, the sky was overcast, and it seemed like everything had come to a standstill. I figured September would bring a feeling of change--- it always does--- and we've had beautiful weather for the last few days. There's a sense, too, that the economy is beginning to turn around. I started a bunch of new paintings, and one of my paintings has sold. So things are looking better.


New Canvas

August 25, 2009 4pm

I spent a long time lovingly applying brush strokes of gesso to the new 40" x 50" canvas today. The folds in the linen, which had been pronounced, completely disappeared as the canvas tightened up. Now it's as tight as a drum, and even sounds like one when you tap the fabric with a brush. I only got the face and one edge done, and the bad news is that I'm out of gesso. This means either a trip to the art supply store or waiting for a delivery. Either one is costly in terms of time.

I've decided the first of the two paintings (I have stretchers from Utrecht for another 40" x 50") will be the one I'm calling You Are Here.


Stretchers to Die For

August 23, 2009 4pm

Did I mention how beautiful the new heavy duty stretchers from Utrecht are? They're as soft and smooth as a baby's bum, and fashioned from a single piece of wood. I'm beginning to see pieced-together stretchers in stores; to me, it's symptomatic of the way our standards seem to have fallen, across the board, since 2000. But these are lovely. I still have to square up the first set that I assembled, using a T-square to make sure everything's straight, and then it will be on to attaching the linen and applying the gesso.


The Undeniable Lure of the Natural World

August 23, 2009

Awoke this morning to find the backyard trees alive with birds. It was a flock of robins making their leisurely way south, as they hung around for an hour or two and sampled the birdbath in turns. Had watched the movie Bottle Shock on Friday night, and the images of California's wine producing country were still in my head; in fact, I dreamed last night that I was gliding through vineyards, surrounded by a landscape colored in the same hues as are in Sunrise On Breakers right now... hazy pastels in blue, green, yellow, peach, violet... So, that sense of well-being has combined with the morning sun breaking through the trees and the activity of the robins to create a feeling that all's right with the world.

Though I don't consider myself an accomplished landscape painter, and really should be concentrating on my figurative paintings, it's hard not to be seduced by the beauty of the land and sky. And when you add a source of water to that mix, whether it's the ocean or a lake or a stream, it has an irresistible pull. I'm trying to get my photos and negatives organized, and there's more than one pretty image in the mix.


The Image Bank Dilemma

August 19, 2009

The silverpoint work has been fun, and I primed the three new hardboards so they're ready to go into action. But what to use as an image? It's impossible to get a true black with the silver, so I have to find photos that don't require a deep dark black. It occurred to me that I might search my store of black-and-white negatives from the past, with some rolls of Tri-X and Plus-X dating back to 1964. So I've been sifting through them, but unless I scan the negatives, it's hard to tell if there's anything useful on them or not. Scanning takes a good long time, and there are rolls and rolls of film from Pratt art school days and beyond. Not to mention the color film, which I got into as soon as I could afford it (it can be scanned and converted to grayscale if necessary) AND the hundreds of boxes of slide film, which I changed to at Syracuse when the instructors pointed out its faithfulness to color and its versatility for reference work.

This is all going to take FOREVER to scan. But I think the images need to be converted to digital format.

Today I cut the linen for two large canvases, and assembled one set of 40" x 50" stretchers. Also gessoed a small canvas and stapled some leftover canvas onto a 10" x 11" support (I have a frame that size and want to make use of it). Worked on three of the works-in-progress pieces, including Time Piece, and pulled a little painting of apples out of the archives. It's part of a set I started ten summers ago,  thinking I could sell them as a set of reproductions for hotels or something like that. I don't know what I'll do with them now, and I did intend for them to be a set of four, so I'll have to find one more image. But all in all, things are moving forward. I'll staple one of the linen sheets to the stretchers and brush a ground on it, then start on either the coffee shop scene or the fast food joint. Or maybe the Indian imports store. Or the thrift shop with the Chocolate Festival scene reflected in the window.

Or--- The Illusion of Reality.



August 18, 2009 7:00pm

The linen arrived around 5pm, and it looks great! I've had a couple of bad buying experiences in the last couple of years, but I'm really happy with this 66J from Utrecht. It measures 92 threads per square inch and it looks smo-o-o-th. Hopefully it'll keep that fine texture when it's gessoed.

I actually got back to Time Piece today after a four month hiatus, but only worked in the upper left-hand corner, so I'm not putting it on the Works in Progress page yet. Having been inspired by the work of Alex Roulette, I decided to go for broke and try to make this painting as close as posssible to the original reference. That's like going over it with a fine-toothed comb, but I won't be happy until I've done my absolute best on it.

Tomorrow I can start stretching at least one new canvas.


Server Back; Still Waiting for Linen

August 18, 2009 12:15pm

I get a consistent number of hits on the website every day, though I have no idea who the viewers are or even if they're reading the Paintblog, as the number of hits registers on the front page only and gives me no information about who's looking. But if you are a regular reader of this blog, I thank you for your patience. A week out of town is not something I want to advertise to the entire planet, especially when there has been a recent break-in in my neighborhood, so I don't mention the trips in advance, and just can't always post when I'm away from home base. The absence, coupled with the server problem, made me worry that regular readers might drift away. Anyhow, I am back up to speed, having spent the morning working on some tedious straight-line work on Waiting For the X-10.

The Fed Ex truck hasn't arrived yet with the linen and big stretcher strips, but the tracking information assures me that the package is coming today.

Am about to get back to Walking the Walk. There's hope that I may finish it this calendar year. More later.



August 16, 2009

Well, the server that hosts my website is down again, but I thought I'd keep up with the postings anyway.

Waiting for the linen to arrive, but got an attack of the crazies this morning and HAD TO HAVE some new 5" x 7" hardbord panels to gesso so I can do more silverpoint. I took off for Plaza and got there a few minutes before they opened the door, picked up the last set of 3 panels and a really smooth nylon brush to apply the special medium with. I'm going to try to find a way to keep them from picking up tiny dust particles as they dry, but this brush should help as well.

Have put in a bit more time and work on point placement on the new sunrise painting. It's a dreary task, and very slow. I briefly flirted with the idea of doing it as a grisaille, but don't think it's the best way to do this particular painting.

Oh! Forgot--- hung the new show (of only 7 paintings) at the Reston Town Center Barnes and Noble.

And I've discovered the work of Alex Roulette.


Something New

August 14, 2009

After sifting through several years' worth of digital photos and making notes on what images work together, I ordered some linen and stretcher strips this morning. It's agonizing to have to wait for the (free!) ground shipping--- I want to get started right away! I had a nicely stretched 40" wide canvas sitting around, so I found an image that would work with it and started plotting out the main points. If I can pull it off, the color will be phenomenal. Meanwhile, I count the days until I can start the city scene of a coffee joint and the sidewalk outside it.

Did a little more work on A Long Way To Go, too. It's the same size as the seascape, a long narrative format, and I'm slowly placing each figure in its place on the platform. I love the way their individuality shows through.


Mining the Archives

August 13, 2009

Not all the work I do is the up-front, visible on the Works in Progress page painting stuff. This morning I sat down and went through the lists of ideas I've saved and looked through a few folders of images of possible work. There's plenty there. I made a handwritten list of things that were especially appealing, and stopped counting when I got to 85. The images are just begging to be realized and made tangible; what I need to do next is categorize them and decide on sizes. It would be a good idea to do all of the city scenes in one size, for example, so that a show featuring them would look pulled-together instead of random.


I Need a Plan— and Some Linen

August 12, 2009

I should not go on vacation, it just messes me up. I like my little painting routine, my work schedule. I love Mondays, when the chaos of weekend activity subsides and I get to spend hours working. I don't like this feeling of being upended, like, what was I doing before I left? What was that idea I had that was so promising?

And I desperately need linen.


Still Adjusting

August 11, 2009

On the long car drive back from the beach I thought a lot about new work. Having gotten a fair number of paintings finished in the last couple of months, I want to do some dramatic new pieces. There's one in particular that I've been thinking about, but with several hours to consider the way it should be composed, it seems like it'll have to be four separate paintings instead. I'm not sure about the size. Large? Medium-sized?

But I'm still mulling over other ideas. Right now it's all a formless and shapeless cloud of imagination.

Worked on three paintings today, but it was very slow going. I added a full view of A Long Way To Go on its latest update page.


Shifting Gears

August 10, 2009

Had to deal with the usual domestic issues today after being out of town for a  week. Felt scatterbrained and unable to focus on painting until around 3pm. Started with the portrait of the two little girls, and finally captured some of the impish quality of the younger one. Whew. Have some detail left in the hair and clothing, but it's nearly done.

Worked on a couple of things that aren't on the Works in Progress page. Picked up on A Long Way To Go, but after about an hour's worth of work, you can't see much progress. Hope to get back into the swing of things tomorrow.


Home Sweet Home

August 9, 2009

Just got back from a week at the beach.


Finishing Up

July 29, 2009

The show at Applegate is this Saturday night, and I've spent the last couple of days working my way through all of the small tasks involved in framing the paintings. Several of them, notably the five from the Sky Series, are in floating frames, so I wanted to paint the outside edges of the canvas a charcoal grey to make them less visible to the eye. The frames are black with a thin silver face that works very well with all of the paintings in the series, but I wanted to go that one step further for a truly professional presentation. It's taken a lot of extra time, but they look pretty good.

Also, I've cut my fingers several times on the nasty little edges that stick out on the wires on the backs of the paintings, so I'm slowly going through and taping them up. I don't know yet who's doing the hanging, but whoever it is, I'd rather they don't draw blood when they try to mount the works on the wall.

Finished the Key West postcard yesterday, and there are only a few dots and dashes left to do on the 8th postcard. I've got almost all of the framing and wiring done except for two of the Skies and the postcard. Once the show is in the bag, I can get back to the more inventive stuff.


Some People Are Crazy

July 25, 2009

Pretty much took the day off. I am not in the picture at right.

Back to painting tomorrow.



July 24, 2009

Silverpoint drawing is done with a thin rod of silver in a holder (much like a ball point pen). The very fine lines adhere to a specially prepared surface on paper or board, and over time, the greyish color that looks like regular graphite oxidizes and becomes a warmish bronze-y color instead.

I've been enjoying the silverpoint work that I do in the evenings. It suits my style perfectly. But I'm going to have to figure out how to get the special ground (the white that you see in the drawings) to lie more smoothly on the support (the hardboard panel). I like the rigidity of the board, but there are inconsistencies here and there, probably dust particles that settle as the ground dries, that make a smooth gradation impossible. And a little more practice with the tool wouldn't hurt, either. It's a very thin rod, and easy to get overlap lines where you don't want them.

I'm thinking that I might try this little scene in pencil as well, to see if it might work better in that medium.


Another One Down

July 23, 2009

Completed Suspended in a Smoky Sky today. This was a small painting, and not one with a lot of detail--- still, it was tricky trying to get the balance between the smoky blues, the faint yellows, and the rosy pinks. I think it was fairly successful in the end, but of course the photo looks washed out and doesn't capture the subtleties of the colors.

Made some good progress on A Long Way To Go, even after posting the photo of today's work. Established the points for the turnstiles where they meet the platform, and painted in a base grey in the foreground. The figures are developing slowly but surely.

Continued the fine details on Postcard 7. The more I look at it, the more I think needs to be done. Frustration!


Well, Maybe Two or Three More Sittings...

July 22, 2009

As usual, I find things to repaint as I get to the very end of a project, and that extends the time I think it's going to take to finish. The Key West painting has such tiny, thin lines from the masts to the sails, and sometimes I paint them in only to find they're too thick, or the anomalies in the board surface work against me to produce a wobbly line. So it's taking longer than I'd hoped.

Managed to fit in work on 5 pieces today. The figure at right is from Waiting For the X-10. Added more modeling to the curtains, and some deep shadows to the textured pattern near the bottom of the building.

I'm hoping to get the eighth postcard finished this weekend, as it's due at the show next week. Next week!


One Step Closer...

July 18, 2009

To finishing Postcard 7. All that's left is the detail work on the boat, and I've done enough of that this morning to be able to say I've made progress and stop before smudging all those delicate lines. One more sitting should do it on this baby.


Watercolor Woes

July 17, 2009

The little watercolor of the sun hanging over the ocean is going to have to be scrapped. First, the paper buckled and I got puddles where no puddles should be. I need to get control of the stretching process, even (it appears) with watercolor blocks. Second, there was some sort of intrinsic flaw in this sheet that produced odd spots where the color took differently, more intensely. Maybe I splashed it with something, who knows? Anyway, I hate to give up on a piece, but this one's not going to work, ever.

The 20"h x 40"w Sky Series, A-4, is now complete. I'm breathing a little more easily. It needs a better photo--- it started to rain just as I took it outside, and the images I shot have the vertical line on the left side shadow area tilting inwards. Will get a better pic later.


Why Does It Take So Long?

July 16, 2009 8:45pm

Worked on enough paintings today that I lost count. Two of them were from the California Series, circa 2006, that I wanted to re-do. So those don't show up on the Works in Progress page.

Things like Waiting for the X-10 and A Long Way to Go are painfully slow, and here's an example of why: on X-10 today, I started to glaze the deep folds of the curtains with Alizarin Crimson, which is a transparent oil color. The curtains had already been painted with Cadmium Red Light, which is opaque and has an orange-y bias to it, so the crimson intensified the red color wherever I stroked it. Then I went back in with a mix of Cad Red and Alizarin to smooth out the transition between the deeper color and the bright red; then I hit the highlights again with Cad to brighten and blend. All of this was done with a very fine brush on essentially vertical lines.

This takes a while, as you have to paint slowly and then go back again when your hand moves a bit and you make a mistake. Expressionist painters (and I've got more than one landscape that leans in that direction) don't necessarily have this problem, since they're after something different... but I'm trying to put the viewer right into the scene and make it believable. Any little bobble on an otherwise straight line just looks weird. Is it worth the extra trouble to model the folds of the curtains? Yes--- when you realize how finely developed our eyesight has become, how in a millisecond we recognize and process visual information--- it makes a difference. I really want it to go beyond "good enough" and take it to a higher place.

There's actually a little green in some of the curtains, especially in the shadow areas next to the window frames. I went back in while the paint was still wet with a layer of transparent green. Anyway, it took forever, but if you look at the difference between today's work and the last version, it'll look like hardly anything changed. Over the next couple of weeks there will be more of a progression from the deeper red on the left side of the painting.


Less Cranky Today

July 16, 2009 8:45am

Up early; lots to do today, and planning to get as much done as possible by late afternoon. Have to work on several paintings, then create an e-postcard to announce the August shows and consolidate the mailing list.


Finishing the Cherry Blossoms Painting

July 15, 2009

So I finished Cherry Blossoms today. I worked on some of the background details, added the shadows from the trees on the sidewalk, and painted in some of the petals from the trees, floating in the air. I know I will be criticized by some for being "sentimental," but you know what? Screw them. Why should it be such a crime to have a sentimental take on the annual love affair with the cherry blossoms? Why should semen-covered newspaper clippings be considered high, collectible art rather than work that takes 30 hours of careful attention to contrast, light, drawing, color, and content? Why is sentiment any less valid than shock?


Still Recuperating

July 14, 2009

Three consecutive nights of partying over the weekend make it hard to hit the ground running on Monday morning. At least, that's true for me... have got to get the social stuff under control!

Visited the gallery owner at Applegate yesterday and now have an idea of what she'll need for the August show. Between that and the Barnes and Noble show in mid-August, I'll have my hands full. Since the edgier stuff goes to Baltimore and there's no hard-and-fast timeline for those, I can ease off a bit on things like Waiting for the X-10 and the clock painting. I've got to finish the postcards 7 and 8, wrap up the cherry blossoms painting, and complete Sky Series A-4. Worked on the postcards today, and am contemplating moving the park bench in the cherry blossoms so it doesn't compete with the figure.

Started another silverpoint last night.



July 7, 2009 9:45pm

That's what I feel like, working on A Long Way To Go. It takes forever to figure out precisely where each person on the train platform should go, and the painting itself is very slow.

But I like it.

Did not get to work at the easel today until 3:15. Grrrrrrr.


New  Toys

July 7, 2009

Lots of women get excited about new shoes; for me, there's nothing like a package of art supplies from Dick Blick. The new, darker colors of casein showed up yesterday, and though I had multiple responsibilities that took me out of the studio, I did manage to squeeze in some time for the daffodils painting that I'd wrecked with watercolor and am now transforming into a casein piece. The three colors I mixed for the background (Shiva Violet, Burnt Umber, and Ivory Black) look great against the whites and yellows of the flower heads. And the two new Grumbacher brushes are just fine.

More errand running today, and in fact the whole rest of the week is problemmatical, but I should get some painting time in today...


Lenny Campello, ARTnDEED, and Sidney Goodman

July 5, 2009

If you are an art aficionado in the DC area, you probably know of Lenny Campello, who writes about art and the issues of the contemporary art marketplace--- if not, you should bookmark his site and check in daily. I always find something of interest in his blog, whether it's an opening or an opportunity or just his take on what's going on, but yesterday his column really made my day. I found my name listed among his top ten picks of new artists at Artomatic, and started screaming and actually jumping into the air. Back when the show opened, my husband and I went to opening night. I came home overwhelmed after only viewing three floors--- AOM does that to you--- and remember writing on my Facebook page that I was banging my head against a wall. A concerned friend wanted to know what was going on, and I replied with some gibberish... basically, I thought my kind of straightforward, simple realism would be lost, completely overlooked among the myriad of talented and creative artists there.

So, seeing my name listed was something of a surprise, and I'm thrilled to be listed with the other folks he mentioned. I thought Deb Jansen's installation about being a wronged woman who was setting her life right was brilliant, and I too noticed James Halloran, who worked in quiet colors and whose paintings showed a great deal of skill in drawing as well as a unique sense of color. Today is Artomatic's last day for the 2009 exhibition. If you get a chance to get down there, don't miss it! Meanwhile, I will be home, painting.

In related news, I've also made the top ten of Artomatic artists as selected by the director of ARTnDEED, a DC-area virtual art gallery that promotes contemporary artists. This too is a real honor, as the artists were narrowed down from 1000 to 50 to 15 to 10. I'm both stunned and grateful. I know some people find it fashionable to knock Artomatic and claim that serious artists don't show there, but I can tell you that not only did I see extraordinary professional work but also the kind of raw creativity that comes from the soul, unfazed by current fashion or a critic's sense of what's right. There was much that inspired me, and I find the cross-pollination at AOM without parallel.

Meanwhile, had an article this morning on Sidney Goodman's concurrent shows in Philadelphia, and I am champing at the bit to go see them. I think he has figured out an approach to dealing with contemporary issues that might help me figure out my own direction in the future. I'm unable, so far, to come up with a way to deal with the chaos of the last eight years without hitting the viewer over the head with imagery. Looks like Goodman has a handle on how to do it.


Watercolor is Tricky

July 2, 2009

I admire the artists who have learned to control watercolor. I keep forgetting how unforgiving it is--- lines have to be clearly thought out in advance, puddles and eddies form when you lay down what you think will be a flat wash, and it takes more time to dry than you think it should. When mistakes are made, it ain't easy to find a way to correct them-- if you can at all. Oil paint allows me to go back in and change a color or value, or redraw. But watercolor is so beautiful!

Called the gallery where my work will be featured next month, and I'll bring some paintings in next week for the owner to look at and approve. It's far busier this summer than I thought it would be. Have also got the Barnes and Noble show on tap in mid-August. Meanwhile, I'm trying to finish up everything that's in the studio. I need to get a roll of linen and some stretchers for some larger paintings.

Meanwhile, more casein is on the way--- have been trying to get a good dark background on the daffodils painting, but the colors I've been using aren't deep enough in value to begin with.



July 1, 2009

Sometimes there are images that just grab me. The photo at right is a dusky sunrise, and I'm currently working on two different versions using it as a guide; one in oil, and one in watercolor. I started the oil yesterday, but the colors are so murky I thought I'd try the watercolor. Watercolor is luminous, and the different blends of soft yellow, rosy pink, and steel blue in the reference photo should translate to paper very well in watercolor. The image itself is elemental: the early morning sun hangs suspended in a smoky sky over the ocean, haloed by a fiery cloud, the color of burning embers. The composition is strongly centered, and I imagine that the view on similar mornings has strongly affected humankind for at least a couple of hundred thousand years.

I had picked up a gorgeous, decadently ornate frame on sale at a local art supply store a couple of months ago, and was planning to put the oil-based painting into it and hang it on my wall. Art for my own enjoyment, for a change! And the image is such a study in simplicity that it would be a nice complement to the baroque frame. But it may turn out that I can't get the effect I'm looking for in oil.


Thank God it's Monday

June 29, 2009

I think I'm looking at a work week with no outside appointments or distractions... worked on 8 pieces today, and completed the water lilies painting. The central charater is coming along pretty well in A Long Way To Go--- it looks like I'll have to work on that one from the center out.


Half-yearly Assessment

June 28, 2009

In just a couple more days it'll be July. I've finished 18 paintings already this year, and 2-3 more are very close to being done. The most I've ever finished in a calendar year was in 1995, when I completed 33. And looking back over the list, I can see that most of those were small works, in the 16" or less size. So I'm on a roll.




June 26, 2009  

What I like about casein

     It's opaque; you can work over it

      It dries fast

What I don't like about casein

      It dries on the brush

      The available colors are limited

      The colors are dull



More Artomatic Fun

June 26, 2009  

Yesterday was my last volunteer shift at Artomatic, and I spent most of it running the projector in the movie theater. What fun! I got to pick what to show, and had the best time watching an excellent movie about the Silver Spring train station and a few other things. It took a little while to figure out how the equipment worked, but my experience in a past life as a teacher of film history came in handy. At right: the view through the projection booth window, showing a shot of the screen outside and across the room. Note some scrawled admonitions on the woodwork by the people who created the booth.

Now I know the power the high school AV guys felt!

Today: worked on five pieces and had a deliciously long conversation with I.C., recently back from the UK. We've had so many experiences in common over the years. Glad to hear she is well and happy.

Soon, very soon, the water lilies painting and the Atlantic sunrise will be finished.


Yard Work

June 23, 2009  

The past weekend involved a lot of partying. I had lunch with a good friend, a family member came into town, a neighbor had a surprise birthday celebration, there was an art event, etc. The upshot of it all was that the yard work---which has been sadly neglected due to all the rain and my recent cold---had to be dealt with today. So, not much painting got done. Oh, and I found the drill and the drill bits (both in separate places) so I framed four or five paintings, too. Now sitting outside with my laptop, enjoying the late late afternoon.

The younger sister in the Sisters painting is staring to look like her photo. I'm still having trouble with the skin tones, but it's a lot better. It doesn't look very good here on the website, for some reason. In person, the faces have more form and color. Still have to work on the background, the girls' clothing, and their hair. A Long Way To Go is shaping up, but it may not be done until the end of this calendar year because of all the details. And I think I've finally got the color corrected in the foreground of the water lilies painting.

I've got the last four issues of American Art Collector here on the table, and am planning to look through them. Everywhere I turn, I keep reading or hearing the same thing: representational art is making a comeback. Hope so. I see beautiful stuff here and there, but not a lot of it is intellectually challenging as well as technically brilliant. I feel like I've got too many directions to go to, myself--- there's the landscape direction (I can't resist a gorgeous nature study), the cityscapes, full of energy and activity, and the more thoughtful stuff (Time Piece, Food For Thought, Expectation, for example). And the florals. Luckily, the galleries I'm in now have different needs, so the more decorative stuff can go to one, while the edgier pieces can go to another.


A Long Way To Go

June 22, 2009  5:30pm

This tickles me; the name of the new painting is A Long Way To Go, and I guess I'll have a long way to go to finish it. It's the train platform at Newark, crowded with people of all sizes, shapes, and varieties. Near the center is a young girl, maybe 10 years old, standing peacefully. I'm guessing that's her mom behind her on the cell phone, dead center in the composition. Anyway, I fell in love with this image a while ago, stretched a beautiful canvas for it, and am now starting to paint it. Since it's so long and narrow, I'm just including a detail shot for the first few weeks.



June 22, 2009  

I am learning a lot about mixing color lately, and have been enjoying working on the little Postcard 8 painting. It's a color festival, that one. Would like to follow it up with a "postcard" (as I call these little 9" x 12" pieces) that concentrates on muted roses, rusty reds, and sophisticated greens. Will have to search through the files.

This is shaping up to be a week with only a few distractions, so hopefully I'll get a lot of work done.


Atlantic Sunrise

June 20, 2009  

I am writing this in the middle of yet another thunderstorm, hoping the power doesn't go out.

The sunrise painting for the Power of Color show looks really good--- despite all of the normal Saturday morning distractions, I decided to take a chance on lightening the sky just above the sunrise itself. I used Manganese Blue from W&N, and Holbein's lovely Lemon Yellow Light, plus some Permalba White, and graduated the color from lightest to a slightly deeper turquoise as it nears the clouds. It creates a more believable, realistic sense of the sunrise than it would if I'd painted in all of the turquoise sky in the same value.But again, it's kinda lost in translation on the digital photo--- in real life, it's far more nuanced.

I did some work on the horizon clouds, too, but right now they're too purple. I'll go back in after they dry with a glaze of blue/blue-green.

Too dark to paint now.



June 19, 2009  

Afternoon Grazing is done! That makes 18 paintings so far this year.

Casein is nasty, but I like it anyway. It dries on your brush, and dries darker. Tricky!


Upcoming Shows

June 19, 2009  

I've got two solo shows coming up in August at local venues, and am working this morning on some paintings in preparation for them. A series of six 12" x 18" panels that I did several years ago from photos I took on vacation in California is almost ready to go, but two of the paintings need a bit more color. One is at right--- I'm planning to add some more violet to it.

Things are going great on Sky Series A-4--- I feel like I'm in tune with the painting, and have begun to develop a feel for cloud structure and color.


A Productive Day

June 18, 2009  

A heavy thunderstorm woke me up at 5:30, and I stayed up.Had a large cup of coffee and gradually came to terms with reality.Worked on eight paintings, and made some good progress. Darkening some of the flower clusters in the center of the cherry blossoms painting has given it more interest. I added some greenish pink as well, but the darker mauve color works better.

Toned down the orange in the Dawn Series painting with Rose Madder, though it's hard to see in the photo. I think the sky---just above the area where the sun's breaking through---should have that strange, luminous greenish cast that it gets at that time of the morning, then segue into the turquoise near the top. It doesn't need a whole lot more. The sea will be pretty easy, and the foreground should stay in shadow.

Waiting for the X-10 is getting a nice sense of drama. I've been reading about Vermeer's techniques, and apparently he did some red glazes over opaque red bases... Last week, when I saw a play (Design For Living) I was captivated by the fact that the stage was draped in a red curtain, very similar to the one in X-10, and it was made even more saturated by red spotlights. I'll try an Alizarin glaze over the Cad Red curtains in X-10.


Second Artomatic Shift

June 17, 2009  

Felt lucky to have been able to work on those two pieces this morning; had to dash off to my second volunteer committment. Traffic on the way was maddening, but I managed to be only a few minutes late. Did not get to see every floor this time--- was asked to sweep the Electric Stage, which sounded like a 10-minute job to me, but after two and a half hours in a huge room, was ready to collapse. Late coffee the night before was the culprit here, as I didn't fall asleep until 2am. But it was fine. I met a few people, and discovered that almost all the postcards I'd brought in last Friday night to replenish the stack were gone. Not sure what to do about this--- it'll take at least a week to get new ones made and delivered...

Tomorrow I get to paint!


More Water Lilies

June 17, 2009  

While visiting the water gardens yesterday I took careful note of the floor of some of the watery areas. There seemed to be a fine, tan-colored silt in some places, which might account for the peachy hue I see in the reference photo for the water lilies painting. The reference photo, however, is from a vineyard in Virginia, where the soil tends to be a reddish clay color. Anyway, every new bit of information is helpful, and I've just tried another glaze layer of peach over the foreground, which I'd gotten too dark last time. It either looks too glaringly orange to me, or too dark. But I'll keep trying until I get it right, whatever right is for the little universe inside this particular picture plane.


Lily Pons Water Gardens

June 16, 2009  

Recently back from a trip to the country. My friend S.M. pulled up in my driveway around 9am, and we took off for the Lily Pons Water Garden in Adamstown, MD. I've been struggling with the foreground color in the lily pond painting I'm currently working on, and had gotten this idea in my head that I had to have more lily reference. Since S. was ready to go along, off we went. Burned straight through a 256MB chip on my digital camera. One of a couple hundred pictures at right. Need a nap now.


Integrating the Cherry Blossoms

June 15, 2009  3pm

Getting the cherry blossoms to work visually has been harder than I'd anticipated, but I'm learning something as I go. I think I still need to bring a little more green into them to reflect the grass, and the starry centers of the flowers need to be added here and there (not so much as to be formulaic). But I worked with a very light pink this morning, and dabbed it in places where I thought it would define both the larger forms of the boughs, and the smaller ones of the flower clusters. It gives a sense of catching the light.

Have started another Postcard. More on this later. Also am trying to resurrect a disaster that occurred when I didn't squeeze as much water out of the watercolor paper as the video demo told me to. Casein to the rescue!


Casein Cows

June 15, 2009  7:55am

Up early. Worked on the casein cows last night, and the little painting is close to being done. There are two characteristics of casein that I'm finding work well for me; it dries quickly, and it's an opaque medium. As much as I love the luminosity of watercolor I find it really difficult.

I might re-title the painting, "Three and a Half Cows in Tall Grass."


I've Been Brashed!

June 14, 2009  noonish

Came down with a case of food poisoning last night, so I spent the wee hours waking up in fits and starts from dreams of talking with people and making art. But I'm on the mend today and anxious to get into the studio.

However, I forgot to mention that I've been Brashed! Brash is a mysterious poet (some say a guy, others say a woman) who creates poems THAT ACTUALLY EMPLOY A RHYMING STRUCTURE (I am so in favor of this) for art he/she sees at Artomatic. Mostly everybody who displays there hopes to find a poem by Brash taped to their wall, and I found mine last night. It's dedicated to my Storm Warning painting, and if you click on the image at right, you can see a large, readable version of it from Brash's own hand. What fun.


Curiouser and Curiouser

June 13, 2009  9:35pm

It's been a full day...went to see the matinee of  Tom Stoppard's "Arcadia" at the Folger Theater. It is absolutely the best play I've ever seen, and I was in tears at the end of it, not because it was sad but because it was brilliant. Great art does that to me.

Following that, we drove to Alexandria for Gallery West's "Alexandria and Beyond" reception. It was fun to see gallery members and chat with them, and a few patrons were wandering about looking at the art as well. J.E. congratulated me on my recent sales (there had been one sale of a watercolor and two of the little Alexandria oil paintings) and I joked about it a bit before realizing that he had sold yet another one of the little oils this afternoon!


Around 6:30 we realized it was time to leave for Artomatic's Meet the Artist Night, so we headed back into DC. Very few people actually wanted to talk to me, but I got to say hello to Tammy Vitale, who had so generously featured me on her blog, and a couple of young men who were really taken with Diesel and Against the Wind. Then I went upstairs to see Kimberly Bush on the 9th floor, and bought one of her very beautiful raku ceramic vessels. This made me really happy. I love the piece.

Got home, and less than five minutes inide the door got a call from my good friend G.S., who had news: ANOTHER PAINTING HAD SOLD, and not one of the tiny ones, either.


Does this have something to do with Lenny Campello's recent endorsement? Did I mention this yet? Back on June 3rd, when we had that trip to the MRI clinic and the violent thunderstorm, Lenny wrote some extraordinary words about my paintings on his web blog. You can check it out; it's, again, the June 3rd entry, so you have to go to the link to his Older Posts, but it's there. When I first saw it I thought I was hallucinating after a bad day. But: are the recent sales connected to this?

PS: Upon arrival home, the package from Dick Blick had arrived! More casein colors!


Back in Gear

June 13, 2009  

Feeling much more in tune with working this morning. Have added some of the figures to the clock painting, am wondering if they're too light in value. At least once they're placed, I'll be able to take care of that big white spot where the sidewalk needs to go. Feeling quite good about this little painting.


Another Sold Sign

June 12, 2009  3pm

Received a phone call to tell me that another painting has sold. This is the 3rd piece sold in the last three weeks. Hmmm. It's thrown me off even more than I was this morning, and I'm having trouble concentrating---also the air conditioning repair person, a very pleasant guy, actually, has been and gone. This just created more distractions, though. Trying to buckle down; did a not-quite-disastrous blending job on the sky in Postcard 7, and think it's time to put the brushes down. I think I'll concentrate on the little cat silverpoint.


More Gallery Sitting

June 12, 2009  

Had gallery sitting duty again yesterday, a little early this month, but since it's not on the calendar agaiin for another six weeks I'll have plenty of time to work. Trying to get back into the zone this morning but feel scattered. Did some redrawing on the two figures in X-10 to bring them more into proportion to each other. Might work on the red curtain next.

And I did tone down the crazed orange in the sunrise painting to a softer greyish pink, though you can't really tell from the photo.


I'll Tone it Down, I Swear

June 10, 2009  

Spent an hour and three-quarters in pleasant company this morning with an art friend at a local Starbucks. We hadn't seen each other for a few months, and had a lot to catch up on. Came home and immediately got to work on the X-10. Did as much as I could on it for the day, and then picked up on the Dawn/Atlantic piece, which had dried since the initial application of paint. Lots more to do on this one, but at least I'm satisfying my inner color junkie.




June 9, 2009  6:30pm

I was sitting at the easel when suddenly it seemed everything was getting very dark, very fast. A storm moved in, complete with high winds, thunder and lightning. Stuck my head out the door a few times to make sure there weren't any funnel clouds. Had to stop painting and take care of a few weather-related tasks, but at the point where I stopped, the cherry blossom painting was beginning to come together.

I keep studying the reference photos, and realized that the centers of the flowers sport a little star-shaped design. Putting in some darker spots in some of the flowers in the foreground helped a bit; then the addition of a soft, greyish pink in selected areas helped a lot. The greyish pink acts as a transition, not just for its color, but also as a way to connect the up-front flower clusters with the ones in the background.

Got a fair amount done today, and there's always the hope that I can put in a little more time on the cat in the sun.


Tedious Fine Detail

June 9, 2009  2:30pm

The little clock painting needs the taxicabs (the glowing taillights of which were my strongest motivation to do this painting) to be placed perfectly, so I am having to plot them out like dots on a graph. It isn't easy, and my back hurts from hunching over at the easel, trying to place each little tire and back window in the right place. Going to take a break and answer some email.


Monday Errands

June 8, 2009 

Ticked off. Had to spend the morning running errands, now it's the afternoon and all I've gotten done is a start on a new piece, Dawn Series, Atlantic Ocean #1. Gallery West's next show, in July, is called The Power of Color, and I had thought I was covered until I realized the pieces I had earmarked for it were committed somewhere else. I've got two here that will fit the bill, but while mining my source material last night came upon a really colorful sunrise, and of course, another, and then another... I don't know when to stop. But this first one should go fairly quickly, as well as satisfy my ravenous appetite for color this time of the year.

Eventually I'll get back to Conversation and Time Piece.


Deeper into the Archives

June 6, 2009 

Resurrected another painting today that I haven't worked on in years, the A-4 from the sky series. I'd always intended that there would be six of the A series but work duties sidetracked me for a long time. The A series grew out of a sketch I did one day sitting in a local bank. It had a set of very long, narrow windows, and the reflections from the walls on the interior space combined on the glass with the sky and clouds outside to cut up the long format in an interesting way. Some areas looked darker than others, suggesting the opportunity to create shapes on the picture plane. I played with the format and used some photos I'd taken to put together some works in the 20" x 40" size. Maybe it's time to finish that series.

Also picked up again on Walking the Walk. I think I started that in 2006, and it's a bear. Everything is screwed up. The heads are too large, the perspective's way off, and I can't seem to get a handle on the thing. I'm completely confused by what appear to be two separate light sources--- take a look and you'll see what I mean; but every time I check the reference photo thinking, this can't be right, there they are! Oh, well. Manhattan with two suns, I guess, or else some really unusual bounce lighting.

The water lilies painting technique I described the other day seems to be working, thank God. The canvas weave is just deep enough to act like a well for the orange-y peach color, so when I brush the blue over it with a fairly dry brush, it only skims the top of the weave and doesn't settle into the deeper parts. This allows the blue and orange too shimmer when seen together. Whew. Still not sure about those blue algae spots, though, they may need to be knocked back a little.


Work Horse

June 5, 2009 

That's how I feel sometimes---

Worked on 7 paintings today, and finished one. The spooky little bathroom scene with the crow sitting on the balcony railing in the mirrored reflection is done. So far this year, I've finished 16 pieces. The last two years of my full-time teaching job, I only completed 2 each year. I can't even begin to articulate the difference.

I'm bothered by the cherry blossoms--- they're luminous enough, but they have a monochromatic feel to me. I think I'll mix a little bit of green in with some Rose Madder and white, and dab that into places where the smaller branches would meet the flower bunches. It's a common-sense problem solving attempt to try to create magic.

So I've read Tom Wolfe's The Painted Word... wish I had read it twenty years ago, it would have saved me from a lot of angst when snooty colleagues said things like, "Oh, well, if all you're interested in is the illusion of three-dimensional realism..."  It's been a long hard battle to retain my own personal style in the wake of all the isms... Everybody always seems to want me to be like them, or paint like them. I get really insecure about my work, as my family and best friends can attest... After viewing Artomatic on opening night a week ago, I was ready to pack it in. My work didn't seem to stand out at all, and there was so much more showy stuff all around. But in the last week I've gotten some wonderful reviews from people I respect. This makes me want to work all the harder, and I feel like I'm on the verge of some strong new paintings.

Ordered some more casein today, so I can finish the one of the cows. Also some Winsor & Newton brushes.


Thunder and Lightning

June 4, 2009 

Left the house yesterday at 11am for my first volunteer stint at Artomatic, which I enjoyed greatly--- I have little patience for critics of AOM who don't have experience with the professionalism of the folks who run the thing, and who do the behind-the-scenes work. The graphics on the website are awesome. The people in the office assign you to tasks, tell you what you need to know, and are very responsive when you call the office (like I did yesterday) about a clogged toilet on your floor, or a locked men's room.

Anyway, the day also entailed accompanying a family member to an MRI at dinnertime, which ended up taking absolutely FOREVER, and when we finally stepped out of the office one of the loudest thunderstorms I've been in since my childhood in Florida was in full swing. We had a very interesting time coming back on the Beltway, and got home at about 10pm. So the upshot of this is: no art work, though I did see some fabulous stuff at AOM.

Trying to make up for lost time today, but the transitional area in the foreground on the water lilies painting is really throwing me for a loop. The reference image shows a seductive blend of orange and blue, my favorite color combination, in the shallow water. I'm not sure where the peachy orange color comes from, but then there are also amorphous shapes, I'm guessing algae of some sort, that are darker and bluer. I've tried glazing, but that hasn't worked very well. Anyone who knows how to mix neutral colors knows that mixing orange and blue, opposites on the color wheel, produces a neutral grey (in my case, a neutral murk) which isn't what I'm trying to get across. So I'm trying  a large, soft, moist brush and trying to blend the layer of peach over the blue. But it may take a while, and it looks very odd right now.

I did fix the fact that the work had an overall dark quality by lightening the water at the top of the painting. Now, back to work.


Casein and Silverpoint

June 2, 2009 5pm

Took the paintings to the gallery last night, and was pleasantly surprised to hear that one of them sold today. Great! It feels like things are happening. Now if I could just shake this nasty cold that's moved into my chest, I can get some more paintings finished. Getting worn down by the coughing.

Worked on the casein painting of the cows today and also the little silverpoint of the cat, since they didn't require much energy--- just attention to detail. I like the two new mediums. They're different--- nobody else is using them much--- and they have distinctive traits that make them interesting to use.

Also worked on Interior With Trees, Dusk. One or maybe two more sittings and it'll be done.


Meeting the Deadline

May 31, 2009 5pm

Managed to get the rest of the little Alexandria street scenes finished, just in time for the show. Also put the finishing touches on the old Christ Church scene. I feel responsible since this whole Alexandria theme was my idea...Tomorrow I'll frame everything and take the paintings down to the gallery.Then I'll be able to get back to the edgier, more compelling stuff. Yayy! Not so much liking the 5" x 7" painting size for oils, though it's good for watercolor and silverpoint. Or maybe the lack of a decent brush (one that can hold a point longer than 10 minutes) has been the biggest drawback here.

Anyway, have come up with some ideas for some more psychological-based work. Looking forward.


More Silverpoint

May 31, 2009 9:30am

Every artist finds that they're suited to certain mediums; some people do well with watercolor, others with acrylic or oil. Drawing has always been something I'm comfortable with, and the silverpoint feels like home to me. I am loving it. My lifelong struggle to learn how to use color has been frustrating, and one of the nice things about silverpoint is that there's no color involved, only tonality. It's a very exacting medium, though--- once you put a mark on the surface, that's it; there's NO ERASING IN SILVERPOINT---so you have to be completely focused, and you have to take it slow. I'm not always calm enough for this, but am anticipating that once I find a few more reference photos to work from, I'll be doing more of these little pieces.

Speaking of watercolor, the little one of the four red apples sold yesterday at the gallery! This makes me happy. Those were apples that I'd picked from trees out in the Shenandoah valley, especially because of their ruby red color.

Lots to do today!



May 30, 2009 

Had gallery sitting yesterday; went to view Artomatic's opening night later on. (More on this later.) Worked on a little silverpoint while gallery sitting, see pic at right---


Taking a Break

May 28, 2009  7pm

Just put my brush down a couple of minutes ago. The combination of my lingering head cold, the fast approaching deadline for the Alexandria show, and bad, bad brushes is making me cranky. I finished two of the little Alexandria 5" x 7"s this morning, and have spent the bulk of the rest of the time on the cherry blossom painting. I've finally fgured out that I need to go darker on some of the blossoms.

First chance I get I'm buying some decent Winsor&Newton watercolor brushes. And maybe a really small round bristle. I've had it with the brush hairs wobbling all over the place when I need to paint a straight line. It's so irritating to make art that looks like you don't know what you're doing.

Big flap on the Artomatic message boards today--- yesterday I was all excited because the word on the street was that there was really good stuff to be seen on Level 2. Since I'm on Level 2, I was hoping whoever said that was including my work in their thinking.Today, though, I read that there's a whole lot of---gasp!---nudie art on Level 2. I don't care if there's nude art, as long as it's WELL DONE and not the kind of crappy stuff whose only purpose is to shock and attract attention. God knows I've defended the use of nude models in drawing classes when students' parents had an issue with it, but what irks the hell out of me is poorly composed, technically substandard, juvenile draftsmanship that doesn't have a clue as to what a meaningful concept is. I'm really curious now about what's on Level 2.


A Hard Day's Work

May 26, 2009  7pm

I worked on 11 paintings today, something of a record. Most of them have been updated on the Works in Progress page, it's just too dark to take a photo of the last one, the W44th Street Clock painting. Tired. Ready for some down time.


Making Tracks

May 26, 2009

Having to hit the ground running this week; have already worked on one painting and it's only 8:30 am. The weekend was full of work and play--- lots of yard work, and some good party time with friends--- but deadlines are looming large. Hope to get a lot accomplished today.


And It's Done

May 22, 2009

The installation at Artomatic is complete. It took about two hours this afternoon to get everything in place, but it's done. I'm not crazy about the size of the type for my name--- too big--- but at least it looks professional. I had been thinking of painting it on, but thought better of it this morning and dashed out at the last minute to buy the type.

I'm on floor 2, if you get a chance to see the show.

Had to get back to the car, which was in a 2-hour parking zone, so I didn't get to roam around and look at anything on my floor, let alone other floors--- but what I did see coming off the elevators made me wish I had more  time. Someone last year said, "the older artists learn from the younger ones, and the younger ones look to the older ones as models." I think it's true. I know I get inspired by the way other artists see things or handle different mediums. What a great thing Artomatic is.


A Frustrating Day

May 21, 2009

Fed Ex FINALLY delivered the frames this afternoon--- but I had to call them again this morning after nothing changed on the tracking information, which simply said, "package at warehouse" or something like that. I got the frames put together and the hanging hardware installed, then worked on the labels. Had finished the artist statement this morning. There's still plenty to do, and the car still has to be packed. Looks like it ain't gonna happen tonight. Am pretty sure I should not be around other human beings for the next couple of hours.

Assorted technology problems have only added to the fun that was today.

It did occur to me that painting might calm me down, but the only thing I could imagine working on without screwing it up was the water lilies. The color had gone all muddy in the foreground at the last attempt to coax transcendental color out of the glazes, but since that didn't work I decided to go in with some bold corals in a more opaque wash, then brush lightly over them with blue. It looks pretty good. Also, I had a DVD playing in the background--- "Sanctus: Meditations for the Soul." Say what you will about the pitfalls of Catholic school; we did have really great music. And the DVD has calmed me down some.


What's Up

May 20, 2009

Taking a short break from painting; have worked on four pieces already today, but the deadline for the Alexandria and Beyond show at the gallery looms large, and I need to work on three more of the little 5 x 7s before the end of the day.

My cold's a lot better. I'm still waiting for the delivery of the frames I ordered on the 7th to arrive so I can install at Artomatic. It's been very frustrating. For the last two days the update on the Fed Ex website says they'll deliver "the next business day."  Grrrr.

The Sisters painting I was commissioned to do is coming along. Now that I've got permission from the portrait photographer to use her image (and intellectual property) I can get down to business with it. So far, MAYBE the eye on the right of the sister on the right looks correct. There's plenty of re-drawing to do, just fine tuning type of little adjustments here and there, but those are the kinds of things that make a difference between whether or not the likeness works.

But back to intellectual property issues--- I'm really dismayed at the way people cavalierly ignore the rights of other artists and then expect different treatment for themselves. I also found the entire Shepard Fairey/ Obama "Hope" episode disturbing, especially when Fairey decided to sue the AP. Murray Tinkelman used to tell a great story about how his lawyer called up one day to say that an artist on the West Coast had used two of Murray's rodeo photos as the basis for paintings, and the ensuing litigation. We were always told in art school to take and use our own reference, and if we wanted to use someone else's work to contact them and ask for permission. It's only an extension of the Golden Rule.

So I got the photographer's contact info for the Sisters painting from the family who had commissioned the painting, and emailed her. How hard is that to do? She was delighted that I'd asked, and very generous. Yeah, there are those who would sniff at this and say, "Oh, I wouldn't bother with going to all that trouble," but that's them and this is me. And now I don't have to feel guilty while I'm painting, or worried that I'll get caught when someone recognizes the source material.


Going Viral

May 18, 2009

It's been a whole year since I had anything respiratory, so I'd figured I was due. Everyone around me, family, friends, all had some bug in the last week or two and I've obviously picked it up from one of them. Or from shopping at Tyson's. Anyway, I'm sidelined for today. Will watch painting videos and maybe work on some drawing or watercolor.

I've been prepping a couple of little hardboards for silverpoint, see at right.


This and That

May 11, 2009

Working on a number of tasks today, alternating between art stuff and domestic. Also need to finish up a press release I started on Friday for the gallery. Have put in a little time on four paintings so far, staked up some foxgloves, done some KP, etc. Taking a short break. Really need to find more time to read up on Vermeer's techniques and a couple of books on Zen, Wabi-Sabi, and a great essay by Mark Helprin called "Modernism and Fascism: Sleeping With the Enemy."


Artomatic: Lighting

May 10, 2009

Installed the lighting set-up on my wall today. It looks good, and I'm anticipating that Artomatic will be an incredible show this year. Wandered around a bit; only a handful of people had their work actually up on their walls by midafternoon, but I'm sure this will all change over the next two weeks. Already you can see that it'll be mind-blowing.

I did get to put in about an hour's worth of work this morning on painting, mostly on the new little Street Life Series, Waiting for the X10.  I love the color contrast between the red curtains, their deeper shadow color, and the dark blue-green of the building. The trip to New York is paying off bit by bit in terms of interesting subject matter for paintings.

Still, I think there's something else out there that could be a whole different line of work... something more dreamy and surreal.

Ordered a whole bunch of frames last week. Also picked up some glazing medium, which I had run out of, and needed desperately for the water lilies painting. The glaze of ultramarine blue I washed on it last week is just a little too dark. The lily pads stand out nicely against the blue, but it feels too heavy and depressing for what should be a joyous colorful experience. I'm not exactly sure what to do as a remedy, but I know I need the glaze.

Recently received two new silverpoint styli, and some special medium to paint onto the support. This is exciting---I've been working in color for so long, and the silverpoint will make me focus on draftsmanship. I can probably do it at night, too, since color matching won't be an issue.

Also am venturing a bit more into both pastel and watercolor. So Summer seems promising for a smorgasbord of work at this point.



New Old Art

May 6, 2009

I find more and more pieces in the corners of the studio from the days when I had a full-time job and couldn't finish them. And since I got the slides somewhat organized last year, it's been possible to find the original reference from the 90s for most of the pieces. One by one I'm going to get them done, so things will start to appear on the Works in Progress page that look like they came out of nowhere.


Fun with Casein

May 5, 2009

Casein is a paint which uses milk curd as a binder for pigment, and it produces a tough, matte-finish surface once it's dried--- which it does rather quickly. It's been my experience that it's more opaque than acrylic paint, which makes it more attractive to me, as I like to be able to paint over my mistakes and generally don't do a lot of glazing. We worked with casein in our freshman year of art school, and no one could manage it except for one girl who realized its potential and did some lovely impressionist paintings.

I purchased a bunch of tubes a few years ago, started a project or two, and then got sidetracked (probably by the dissertation) and never got back to them. A couple of the tubes have dried out, but the rest are usable, and I found a little pastoral scene in the studio yesterday, so I worked on it a bit this morning. It's described by Ralph Mayer as having a "heavy, robust body" and can be used on panels in a "juicy" technique. He also states that oils can be glazed over them when used as a base. This is all in The Artist's Handbook of Materials and Techniques, by the way; fifth edition. We called it The Bible in art school.

I'll see what happens. Maybe I'll replenish my dried-out supply; maybe i'll just concentrate on other stuff instead. More later on silverpoint...


More Dismal Weather

May 4, 2009

Apparently it's going to rain forever here, if you look at the extended weather forecasts.

Settled in on Conversation this morning despite the absolute lack of light. There's been some interest in it recently, and there's nothing like an inquiry to make me sit up and take notice. And get back to work. Anyway, it's coming along; I straightened out a few wayward planes and lines on the columns, and added more highlights the areas on the back wall that are getting hit with spotlights.

This afternoon I hope to finish He Searched.


Sunday Painter

May 3, 2009

The only painting I got done today was my wall at Artomatic. What a dismal, dreary day it is. Anyway, we need the rain, and i guess it's better to be in an office building that's under construction, painting the wall your art is going to hang on, on a day like today rather than one in which the sun is shining and the birdies are singing and it's 70 degrees outside...

Come and see my work on the 2nd floor when Artomatic opens! No need to use the elevator, just a quick flight of stairs... May 29 - July 5.


Nearly Done!

May 2, 2009

He Searched is nearly done! The entire left two-thirds of the painting is finished, and all that's left is a little refinement on the figures in the seated group. If they weren't still wet from what I did yesterday afternoon, I could finish the whole thing off today, but best to let that area dry before reworking it.

If you look at the latest image, the shiny areas are the parts that are wet from my working on them today.


Much Better

May 1, 2009

Using a different reference photo, I went back in on the little seated restaurant group in He Searched, and repainted three of the women. The one farthest to the left has been bugging me for a long time, but now looks much better.

Yesterday I had to go to the dentist, but afterwards got to take care of a few things: bought a new external hard drive, a sleek, black, 500GB beauty. My regular (and aging) 80gig HD was almost full--- now I can store lots of pictures, scans, and photos. Next I went to the art supply store and picked up a bunch of small- to- mid-size stretchers, 6 tubes of oil paint, and some brushes. I'm planning some new pieces for all of the shows that are coming up. Finally, visited Applegate, and got some good feedback from the owner. This will be a nice opportunity.

Finished the little still life of oranges. It's been a struggle to get the shadow color right, as I kept vacillating between brown and blue tones... Finally found a color somewhat in between that works. I do like it very much now. And it only took about 20 sittings!



Just Thinking Out Loud Here

April 29, 2009, 12 noon

In case you're having trouble figuring out what's been done to update Conversation, I worked all around the main chandelier, some of the back wall and its trim, the bar and the mirror. I know it's hard to see changes in the detail work in the photo updates. This painting still has hours more to go, and I keep wondering just how realistic I want to make it. It could be really an astounding piece, but as M.L. said yesterday of one of her own paintings, "Do I want to put 40 hours into it? 60? How far do I want to take it?"

I'm still scratching my head over the recent positive reactions to my paintings from several different quarters. When I'm painting, it seems like the worry center of my brain has to be occupied, and I think of all sorts of things. I worry whether I've somehow offended the guy who wanted to interview me; if I sounded like an idiot on the phone the other day with an art gallery owner; what to show at Artomatic, etc. Sometimes though I remember words of wisdom from old friends, like B.S.'s insistence that I get out there and start showing my work to people. "I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the response," he said.

It's time a bunch of things were finished, and it's a bit of a dilemma to decide what to work on any given day. I'm constantly pulled toward the cherry blossom painting and the peaceful water lilies one, also the coffee shop (mostly because it's nearly done). But I have far less interest in the big paintings in the autumnal palettes. The color is a big part of it. I've also been watching a lot of painting videos lately, and they excite me and make me want to try new techniques. I started a watercolor a few days ago with disastrous consequences, as I didn't press enough of the water out of a really soaked paper, and the color bled like crazy all over the place. There's a lot of pressure right now to finish the little paintings of Old Town Alexandria for the June show,  but what I really want to do is start a piece based on the Newark, New Jersey Amtrak platform called "A Long Way To Go."


Things Are Happening

April 29, 2009, 9:30am

Headless has sold, and is going to a good home. Apparently there is interest from other quarters in a couple of other paintings.

I'll be having a solo show this August at the Applegate Gallery in Vienna, VA. This is a very recent development, and I'm looking forward to it. More on this as I get new information, but it's another step forward and I'm very excited.

Planning to spend all of today painting. If I get enough time in the studio over the next two weeks, I'll be able to finish several works. There's plenty of new material up and coming.


Artomatic 2009

April 25, 2009

Just got back from the first visit to Artomatic. The new building is just as wonderful as the one we had last year, orientation went smoothly, and I've picked out a wall on the 2nd floor (see picture at right).

My excitement level at this point can barely be contained, what with getting into Antreasian Gallery and now looking forward to Artomatic. !!!


Antreasian Gallery

April 24, 2009

That's pronounced, an-TREES-yan--- and it's a great art gallery in Baltimore, MD. Check it out when you get to town, there's really some wonderful artwork there!

Drove up to Baltimore first thing this morning. It was a completely different trip than the last one I made, when the rain was coming down so hard I could barely see I-95, and seemed to last forever. Today couldn't have been nicer, and the fact that the trees are blooming like mad alongside the roads made it glorious. Parked the car on 36th Street, and met with Robert, the owner. He is a very likable person, easy to talk to, with a great sense of humor. Left him with six of my paintings, and then drove home where I promptly fell asleep. The new exercise regime of walking a couple of miles in the early morning hours with my neighbor has caught up with me, and today I'm in the kind of achy all-over pain that you get when you haven't used certain muscles in a long time. Finally got to the easel around 3:30pm to work on the lily pond painting, which seems to be speeding along. And it's fun to work on, too!

So far, I'm keeping to my promise to myself to complete two paintings a month. Now, back to work.


Gallery Sitting

April 22, 2009

Today was my day to gallery sit. Worked on the pencil drawing for a new watercolor. Will paint tomorrow.


A Late Start

April 20, 2009

Had to run some errands this morning, so I got a late start on painting, but ended up working on four. Fashion Statement is one sitting away from being done. I have to refine the details on the mannequins' faces, and that's it.

Also picked up again on Le Monde des femmes, alternately brightening up and greying down the walls a bit. It was too late in the day for a decent photo by the time I put the brush down, so will upload tomorrow.

Coffee After Work looks pretty good, but the furniture is tricky. It looks like light, blond wood in some parts of the reference--- I guess the spots where there's strong, direct lighting--- and then there are places where the coloring gets really warm. I love warm... and it gives the scene a nice feeling... but how to get it to work with the light yellowish-tan highlights?

And the cherry blossoms painting is zipping right along. The foreground's looking more finished all the time. I worked on it this afternoon, and then went into the tree blossoms, using combinations of soft violets, pinks, and blues. Soon I'll put in the background details around the edge of the Tidal Basin, and finish the figure.



April 18, 2009

Hoping to achieve a balance today between painting, gardening and more cleanup work on the basement big painting studio. We have saturated light outdoors, and everything is in high detail. Weeds need to be pulled, and mulch needs to be thrown.

Indoors, I want to build on the work of the last couple of days. I worked extensively on the back wall in Time Piece yesterday, especially the sign. The wall color is tricky. In the reference photo, it's a warm green, or maybe a greenish salmon color. But I've found other photos of the same scene, and it looks like the wall is made of white tiles. Whatever happens, the color has to work with everything else that's going on in that little painted universe, so it's all relativity.

Realized that because the areas above and below the horizon line in Cherry Blossoms (I really have to get a better name for it) are so different in color, I can work on alternate days and paint one while the other dries. The painting is speeding along.

Closer and closer to finishing a couple of things.

  distortion on verticals and horizontals due to camera lens

Two Days of Productive Work

April 17, 2009

Am about ready to throw in the towel for today; have been painting like mad, and have pretty much run out of canvases that are dry enough to work on. We did get two successive days of splendid weather, and the yard beckons...

Server issues popped up unexpectedly, so I was unable to write notes in the blog yesterday. All seems to be running smoothly now.


Cold, Gloom, and Blossoms

April 14, 2009

The trees and shrubs are blooming like mad now in colors of white, pink, purple, fuchsia, orange, salmon, and yellow. It's a gorgeous display, and once the dogwoods are fully open (they're starting now) it'll be spectacular. The sky, though, is completely overcast in a dead shade of grey, the kind of sky that you'd suspect would portend snow if it got much colder. It's not conducive to working on large paintings that require natural lighting, so I'm working on some of the smaller stuff today.


How Does Everybody Keep Up?

April 13, 2009

Facebook. Blogs. E-mail. It's getting out of control.

Managed to work on four paintings today; I say "managed" because I didn't get near a paintbrush until 2pm. There were too many tasks to take care of. But I did make some progress on a few things.

The daffodils painting I mentioned a few days ago looks better. We are at the height of the daf season, so I have plenty of live material to work from. The shadow color on the white petals is a curious shade of grey-green, hard to mix, and the whole thing's still a challenge. I decided to put it back up on the website today and realized I'd started it two years ago! It's not my best work, but at least the flowers look like flowers now.

Can't seem to keep my hands off the cherry blossoms piece. Have to find a better name for it. Worked on the foreground, which had dried, and some of the water in the Tidal basin.

Darkened the skin tones in He Searched. It looked pretty good to me around 5pm, but I'm not so sure now. Used the new Holbein Lemon Yellow Light that I'd bought last week, and it's a magical color, especially when mixed with white. It almost has a bluish cast when painted over darks, and it's a wonderful color for highlights on skin.

Added an extra plane to the right side of the quiet little Interior With Trees. Now it makes more sense as a wall. Also worked up the landscape area that reflects in the mirror.



What If?

April 12, 2009

What if--- instead of hurling myself at a painting, going in all directions at once, which doesn't seem to help the complicated cityscapes at all--- what if, instead, I just started in one small area, developing it reasonably far, and then working out from it? I am going to try this with the clock painting and see if it keeps me from feeling overwhelmed. I think I'll make fewer mistakes, be more likely to pick the painting up to work on it, and finish it more quickly.


The Ecstasy of White

April 12, 2009

I never thought the idea of painting white on white would make me as happy as it did this morning, but there it is. The light coming through the cherry blossoms is positively luminous. I wonder if the white I'm using, Permalba, is the whitest white available?  Will have to check. Of course, there will be more detail in the trees as the painting progresses; it won't end up being a white-out.

It makes me happy, too, that the figure's coloring reminds me of Botticelli's Birth of Venus (commonly known during grad school as Venus on the Half Shell), and related to this, of my friend I.C.

In other news: Finally got in touch with a very dear old friend from my undergrauate days last night via e-mail. This also makes me happy.

Started drawing on the clock painting.



April 11, 2009

It's one of those early spring, miserably wet and chilly days, too dark to work on the skin tones in He Searched, though I did try a couple of sticks of pastel on the side of the face and thought the shadow color looked good... It's the kind of day that disappoints, because you're craving sunlight and mild air temperatures and instead you get gloom.

Deadlines abound for shows, and I worked on the little scenic of Christ Church in Alexandria for the June show. Will head down to the basement storage room for the better part of the day to clear it out--- it's going to be the Big Painting Studio.


The Technology Dance

April 10, 2009

After my AC power adapter gave up the ghost yesterday, I shut down my laptop and sulked. Took off for Microcenter today, where I know they have a room in the store completely devoted to Mac stuff. They had an adapter in stock, so I bought it and went directly to the Tech Support area. I actually ripped the nasty plastic clamshell packaging open with my bare hands (this is how desperate I was), plugged it into the wall, and connected it to my computer. It worked like a charm. So happy!

Bought some art supplies in the same shopping center, and felt good about not having to waste extra gas on the trip since I'd been planning to do the art supply run today anyway. Came home and worked on three paintings, then made some lists of projects and did a little organizing. Also read more color theory as it relates to skin tones, this time in a book called Painting Beautiful Skin Tones with Color and Light by Chris Saper. He Searched feels dry to the touch, but I want to give it another day before I go in and rework the face.

A couple of paintings are getting close to being finished, and two of them are from the Street Life series. One of those, Sunday Afternoon Tourists, is already sold, so I'm going to have to make tracks on some new ones in that 11" x 16" format. They're all based on street scenes in Manhattan. One of the new ones features the clock on 5th Avenue and 44th Street, and I'm excited about getting started on it. I'm going to re-title the painting currently called Street Life, and name it Walking the Walk instead. Fashion Statement is either almost done--- or not. I'm worried that the color of the building just under the window is too cool and needs to be warmed up. Worked for a while on the mannequins today, making them look as snooty and superior as possible. I love the fact that they're a pale shade of green.


Exciting News is on the Way

April 9, 2009

Forgot to mention that I got some very good news last night concerning gallery representation. More on this in a few days. !!!


The Word on Skin Tones, II

April 9, 2009

Hair---no problem. Water---can handle it without any problem. Folds in clothing---easy. Skin tones? An exercise in frustration!

Why is this? It's not like I can't draw. And I'm aware of the color of the light in a painting, the reflected color, all that stuff. It's the values more than anything else. I just can't seem to go dark enough in the shadowy areas.

Picked up Everett Raymond Kinstler's Painting Portraits, New Revised Edition, last night. When the paint dries on He Searched, I'm going to take Kinstler's advice and try out some colors on the side of the face using pastel. Then when I find the right match, I can whisk it away. In the meantime I seethe in frustration.

Worked on four paintings so far today, though not as much as I'd like. One is a portrait for a family member and it doesn't appear on the WIP page. Refined some of the fronds in He Searched and some of the background detail. Still have to finish the shirt and get the stripes on the banquette to line up properly. The water's coming along nicely in the water lilies painting. And I worked up a lot of the sun-dappled foreground in Cherry Blossoms. Taking a break right now while my laptop battery charges up; have been having some trouble getting the connecting pin on the AC charger to make contact, so I get worried when the battery gets low. It's tricky to find the one single position where the charger actually makes contact, and when it does, I just leave the computer in one spot and check email or take care of other business until it's fully charged. Ordered a new one today, hopefully the problem isn't the slot instead of the pin.


The Word on Skin Tones

April 8, 2009, 3:15pm



Psyched and Ready

April 8, 2009

Woke up ready to hit the ground running. Except for one brief detour, I plan to lock myself in the studio for the next three days. Have already worked on one of the little Old Town paintings.


You Do What You Can With the Time Allotted

April 7, 2009

Had a long meeting at the gallery last night, and stuff to do outside of the studio today. Got only a little painting done. I did pick up on a square panel I'd started a year ago and had bungled's a close up of a daffodil bouquet that I felt needed an expressive style with fat, brushy strokes. I'd globbed the paint on then, and it just looked awful. Added a new flower to the center of it today, made a few of the petals more readable, and now there's hope. I left the room for a few hours and when I came back and got a fresh look at the piece, it seemed better. Will continue to work on it since there's plenty of dafs around right now. When and if it meets muster, I'll put it on the website.

Spent most of my painting time slowly blending more of the Key West postcard sky.

At right is a little watercolor I started yesterday named "Sharon's Cat." It still needs some detail. It's another of the bin piece project for the gallery. I brought two in last night, hope they sell.


Cherry Blossoms

April 6, 2009

Have fallen in love with another image, and am so head over heels about it that I couldn't keep myself from starting the painting immediately. This is in spite of my determination not to add anything new to the Works in Progress page until I've finished another painting. The woman in the picture could be you, me, or anybody viewing the shower of petals in the spring breeze. The blossoms are a transcendental white, with touches of pink.


A Flurry of Outdoor Activity

April 4, 2009

Had to deliver a painting to a family member in Baltimore, so yesterday I got up early, snarfed a cup of coffee and headed out to the wilds of the Beltway and I-95 in a torrential downpour. It was truly beastly driving, but once I arrived and got dried out, the weather cleared and we had a wonderful time. We had lunch down at the Inner Harber, a place I've been curious about for a long time, and had a great view of the water. We also went to a little gallery whose name I forgot and must look up, and saw some very nice eclectic stuff. The owner was pleasant and said he'd like to see some of my work if I brought it with me on my next visit, so that was encouraging and made the day even better.

This morning I got to see the cherry trees at the height of their bloom, and after returning home finished a little watercolor of apples, then started another one of a friend's cat lying in the sun. These will be bin pieces at the gallery. The new table's working out great for the watercolor work.

More company due to arrive tonight!


Back to Work

April 2, 2009

It is a wonderful thing to wake up in the morning to a house that's relatively orderly, with flowers in vases in several rooms, clean bathrooms, a kitchen that doesn't invite condemnation by the Board of Health, etc.  All the same, it's also good to get back to the easel. The company has departed in merry spriits for points south and azalea sightings, so I picked up on Water Lilies first thing. Unfortunately, I find it hard to get back into the zone I was in yesterday on Conversation--- too much activity makes it hard for me to settle down and focus. Maybe later in the day. The quality of outdoor light remains gloomy (it started to rain around 3pm yesterday), so that's another factor.

There are a couple of juried show deadlines approaching fast, and I don't know if I'll be able to meet them. Also the little paintings of Old Town need to be done for the June show at the gallery. Hmmm.


Conversation Columns

April 1, 2009

It's a very dark day here, but I'm managing to work up the trickiest areas of Conversation--- the columns that slip and slide ever so subtly from one value to another as the light hits them. Or at least I think I'm handling it--- we'll see when the sun returns. Could be the color's way off and I'm deluding myself.

G.S. called, and we had a nice short chat about art while I was taking a breather.

There is some serious weeding to be done ASAP, since it's just a matter of days, if not hours, before the ferns start to break through the ground. Then it will be impossible to weed that area without stepping on their fragile heads and crushing them, ruining the entire fern season. So I have this weighing heavily on my mind, as well as the attendant company cleaning, which includes a lot of vacuuming, washing of pots and pans, scouring bathrooms, and the annoying hair-and-makeup thing. But Conversation is moving along at a better pace than it has for months, and I'm weirdly unafraid to tackle its most difficult areas today. I guess everything will fall into place as the day goes on.


Catching Up on Conversation

March 31, 2009

The imminent arrival of out of town guests has sent me scrambling. Had very little time to paint today, but did get a couple of things done. Those intimidating pillars on Conversation are still nerve-wracking, but I got started late in the day. Tomorrow I'll still remember what colors I used, so maybe I can make some progress on the largest columns.


On a Roll

March 30, 2009

Every painting I have on the Works in Progress page has been--- well, worked on--- in the last week. This is a change; used to be I'd have things sitting around for months at a time. Put in some time on four pieces today. Tomorrow I tackle the light on the pillars in Conversation.

Expecting a houseful of company in the next several days. It's a good thing, otherwise the place would never get dusted.




March 27, 2009

So I'm registered for another round of fun with Artomatic! It took 2 hours and thirty-five minutes (apparently the server crashed) but I got the days and hours of volunteer time that I wanted, and can now go about my business again. I spent the whole time sitting at the computer, clicking with one hand, painting with the other. Well, no; clicking, picking the brush back up, and painting.

After registration was done, I went out into the back yard and did some early spring maintenance. There were a lot of branches lying about from where they'd fallen over the winter, so I cleared those out, did some sweeping, and pulled some weeds. The daffodils have started to bloom.

Painting went well enough today though I was pretty distracted by the Artomatic sign-up. Putting the complex pattern in on the oriental rug in Late Afternoon Still Life is just painful since it has to be drawn in perspective, but I'm inching along on it. The pink/violet/red bricks on the little Old Town painting are mostly done, and they have a nice cheery feeling to them. Next I'll work on the window reflections. While I was all hung up waiting for the Artomatic server to come back, I spent a long time stroking on the color blends around the sunset in Postcard 7. It was very slow work--- blending (if done properly) always is.

The water lilies painting continues to roll along. I brushed a lot of blue paint over the underlayer of peach, and let that warm color show through. It gives it depth and richness. Having to paint in the huge number of lily pads that are in the reference photo aggravates me, so I'm not going to do it. I'll use more of the sky-tinted water in some areas instead. I think it's a better design decision, anyway! The lily pads were just massed together in a horizontal line across the top one-third of the canvas, now they'll be broken up a bit.

Recently ordered a little laptop table which arrived yesterday, and already can't do without it. The idea was to use it in my chair at night while watching TV to attend to computer stuff, and then switch over to watercolor or drawing. The table is very flexible as far as height settings and board positions go--- there are two tabletop surfaces, and each is independent of the other and can be set at an angle. This will be great for watercolor washes! I really need daylight for the oil work, but at night can rely on a strong little pole lamp with a very directed light source for watercolor and drawing.



March 26, 2009

Today was my gallery sitting day, and the weather was wet, chilly, and dismal. Bad weather means little foot traffic, so I got a lot of work done. Tomorrow I look forward to painting all day. I'm cheered by how quickly things are going--- have completed 6 paintings already this calendar year, and I should get at least 3 more done by the end of April. At right: my cow paintings, in the gallery right now. They'll be on display through Sunday. Oh--- the distortion you see is caused by the camera lens; the paintings are actually hung properly.


New York, New York: Part 2

March 23, 2009

The Met, as I mentioned earlier, was loaded with inspiration... Triptychs. Remarkable figure groupings in huge historical paintings. Dramatic uses of color. Photorealist work from 1879 (Jules Bastien-Lepage's Joan of Arc). Some glorious stuff by Sargent. I spent a lot of time looking at skin tones, and it seems like all the advice in books on painting can just be thrown to the wind. There were plenty of natural looking figures that didn't adhere to things I've read about or learned.

Today I worked on five paintings. The little campus pond one will be done very soon, if not tomorrow. I darkened the floor tiles in Coffee After Work, after visits to two Starbucks over the weekend, and paying close attention to the colors they use on their floors (which seem to be the same everywhere). It does throw all of the attention on the figure--- I had been thinking that there was too much going on in the painting--- but it might be too dark now. There's always this kind of back-and-forth adjustment.

I can't seem to resist working on the lily pond, but have mentioned this before. It's the color. Four of the pieces I've worked on all winter have a rust/moss palette, which I find myself irresistibly attracted to, but now it feels like Spring is coming in a rush, and all I want is sky blue, violet, rose, peach, yellow, ivory,,, It's going quickly, too. Lately it seems like all of the paintings are taking less time. I keep remembering A.B. (one of the best realist painters I know) chuckling and saying, "We have to learn to paint fast, Sue!" Am I painting fast? Or making fewer mistakes? Or spending more time in the studio?

The 7th postcard took a real good turn today. I washed over the water area with cobalt blue, and it's a lot more dramatic. Also worked more on the sky, which will, after several more layers of paint, graduate fromblue through green to golden orange and yellow and then white where the sky, water and sun meet. More tomorrow, as I will again have most of the day to paint.


New York, New York

March 23, 2009

Took off for New York City very early Friday morning. I needed to do a number of things: visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, take scads of reference photos for paintings, briefly visit with a very old (though not old) and dear friend, go to galleries to see what's up, and pick up some supplies. Accomplished all of this and more. Saw everything I'd wanted to see, and walked EVERYWHERE. I am in real pain today as a result, but it was so worth it. I took 461 photos. There's material there for the Street Life series, and possibilities for a couple of others. Grand Central Station was one of my main destinations, and it was a surprise to discover that I would not be hassled by the police for taking pictures there, as every other person in the building was snapping shots left and right!

The light was so dark on arrival Friday morning (it was, in fact, snowing) that it seemed sensible to head to the Metropolitan and save the outdoor shooting for Saturday and Sunday. The Vermeers were not as easy to find as I'd hoped, but there were six of them instead of the five I had expected to see! It was astonishing to see how unappetizingly grey the shadows were on the skin of the Woman With a Lute...but that soft light is so seductive.

Everywhere I turned there was another super-famous work of art, and more inspiration. But I've been surprised, too, by how critically I've come to view much of the work of the Impressionists. Monet's Water Lilies, I think, are one of the major turning points (toward abstraction) in modern art, but a lot of the stuff I saw on Friday by Renoir looked sketchy and even sloppy to me now. I have to keep this in mind as I work on my own water lily painting, which I got back to first thing this morning. My plan to glaze blue over a peachy base looks like it'll work splendidly, and I'm very excited about it. Also, the mixing of the greens is going very well, something that I usually have trouble doing. But I do have to focus on the design elements, and make sure they "read".

Went to one gallery in SoHo on Saturday. I'm still trying to sort out how I feel about the state of the art world, at least the commercial side of the art world, lately; the visit didn't help. I should have gone to more galleries. My art school's motto was, "Be true to your work and your work will be true to you." I've always felt in tune with that, but when I read articles written by newspaper and magazine art critics, and see the kind of work that commands the most exhorbitant prices, I have to wonder if that little motto has become quaint.


Soho Crossing

March 15, 2009

Spent nearly all of yesterday running around town, going to the hardware store, the post office, shopping for groceries, visiting the library, and picking up art supplies as well as a birthday gift. That leaves time for painting today, and I just finished Soho Crossing! Woo-hoo!

Jay on Read needs some more attention to the awning on the right. I did, actually, a lot of repainting on it today, adjusting the color on both the sun-exposed and shadow areas of the awning. The face needs a bit more shadow detail, as well. Next I'll repaint the stripes, but the human hand--- even when it's remarkably steady--- can only do so much when painting a line thinner than a millimeter. Part of the problem is the nubbly surface of the canvas itself. But--- it's almost done!


The Lure of Blue

March 13, 2009

Took part of today off to visit with a friend, and didn't really feel much like painting when I got home. This weekend will be busy enough that I don't expect I'll get much done then, either... but I did start the water lilies painting a little while ago. It doesn't look like much right now, but just wait...The colors of the reference photo (see just a small portion of it at right) are very seductive, and I'm enthusiastic about working on it. It'll be like eating dessert.

Have also been reading about Courbet. The Stone Breakers is a powerful painting. Must find a copy of his Realist Manifesto.


Old Town Paintings

March 11, 2009

The gallery's showing art work of local scenes in June, so luckily I've got that set of five little 5" x 7" panels in the works. The first one, a painting of a young woman walking up King Street in the rain, is done. I started a 14" x 18" of Christ Church today, and am studying Monet's Rouen Cathedral series to see if there's any way I can do this painting with a looser brush stroke and impressionist color.

The newest Postcard is a view of the tourist-mobbed sunset at Mallory Point in Key West. I love the way the color of the sky graduates from blue to a faint strip of green to yellow and orange as it nears the horizon.

Spent some time yesterday and today gessoing two canvases for other new work. One will be a colorful painting of a lily pond from a shot I took last September at an area winery. The other is a night street scene in Brookline, Mass. But I'm still trying to develop The Big Idea for my solo show next year.


Closer and Closer

March 11, 2009

Two of the paintings on the Works in Progress page have maybe one more sitting left before they're done. Jay on Read needs only a little detail work on the stripes on the awnings, maybe some detail on the figure; Soho Crossing, just a few touches left here and there. In both cases I just need to let them dry for a couple of days so I don't smear what I worked on today.

Started a couple of new pieces. More on these later.


One Down

March 6, 2009

I finished the pastel! It was a real bear towards the end--- the trees on the hill required a lot of detail, and my hand kept smearing the green of the hilltop just below them. I resorted to a cotton glove (the kind animators wear) and a barrier sheet of paper, but still had problems. And once I got the tiny branches in place, the sky behind the trees needed reworking in some spots, so I had to go back in and re-draw that; then I'd end up obscuring some of the tree branches again. So it was back and forth, back and forth. But now it's done, and I will rely on G.S., who has experience as a professional framer, to tell me what to do to keep from messing it up.

I did like working with the pastel. This was my first attempt, and I bit off more than I could chew. But next time around, I'll do a smaller piece, and use what I've learned on this one.

So far today have worked on four pieces. Time to get back to The Big Three.


My Inner Color Junkie

March 4, 2009

Despite the recent snowfall, there are signs that Spring is on the way. I saw snowdrops blooming on the 28th of February, and the tree buds are getting fatter by the day. My inner color junkie is responding; I'm far more interested in painting Le Monde des femmes with all its pink girliness than the mortality-driven Time Piece. I've stretched 8 canvases of varying sizes in the last couple of days, and they are calling my name, like sirens. An idea that features a summery pond, rife with water lilies, beckons. But--- I must adhere to my New Year's resolution, and continue to work, like a monk, on the other stuff.

I did some work on Conversation today, darkening the left side where the beveled mirrors (what was I thinking?) reflect the wall opposite the main view. It turned out great. You know how it is when you lean a painting aside against a wall, and then come upon it as you're wandering around, and it surprises you: you see things with a fresh eye? Well, whenever I came across Conversation today, it made me excited and happy to see how well that little area was working. I'm irritated by the fact that there's so much distortion from the camera lens, and glare from the windows, which make the lines go all wonky and the painting look less dramatic than it is in real life. But you get the idea.


The Usual Dilemma

March 2 , 2009

I had been hoping to finish at least two pieces by the end of February, but each time I sat down to work on something, I'd find more fine tuning that needed to be done. The question inevitably became: finish the work to make a(n artificial) deadline, or do it right. So... even though I'm champing at the bit to get started on new stuff, I'm slowly finishing a couple of things first. Falling Dark is maybe one or two sessions away from completion, as is Old Town Alexandria: King Street, Rain.

We had a terrific snow day here today. It's absolutely lovely. I think we ended up with six inches.


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