Sunday, September 28, 2008

revisiting new mexico

(approx 2x4)

The in-progress scene below is the view from the back of Mabel Dodge Luhan's house in Taos, looking into a Native reservation. I just loved how the orange bank of tree was framed by purple mountains and green trees.
In a way, I'd almost like to consider this "done"; I'm pleased with some things about it and started to question what "doneness" is, anyway.


Robert Pinsky from "Samurai Song"

When I had no eyes I listened.
When I had no ears I thought.
When I had no thought I waited.
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Saturday, September 27, 2008

september VSD: tree peony


Such a dark background scares me: I'm not so good at darks. In the first attempt (top) I tried to follow advice in a book about changing colors as I went, but it seemed too much--maybe because the colors in the flowers are so delicate. I stopped and put a wash of mars violet over it to try to pull it together.
In the second version I didn't try to get creative with the background and tried to not put so much paint into the flower.
I really enjoyed, in both, painting the vase: the shapes inside it were easy to see and helped to show the volume.
See the links at Virtual Sketch Date, which will be posted Sunday, to see what others have done with this reference photo.
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Friday, September 26, 2008

different strokes

I think I'm about three days behind the deadline, but I wanted to do this anyway: it's the reference photo posted last Wednesday at Different Strokes from Different Folks, where a new reference is posted every Wednesday evening. Go to the site and check out all the interpretations of this man reading a newspaper--it's really amazing!
I painted this on some Arches paper--I usually use Fabriano--that did not behave very well ... after a bit of washing it got sort of pilly: I like a paper with a lot of sizing, that I can push the colors around on; this sheet seemed too absorbent.

Unfortunately, I'm doing this month's Virtual Sketch Date painting on a piece of the same sheet! Since it's Friday afternoon and that has to be posted tomorrow, I think I'll just forge ahead and hope for the best!
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Thursday, September 25, 2008

essential pleasures



Two exercises from my first watercolor class, which I took at Cooper Union--my dad's alma mater--after work. Must've been in 1989 or 1990 ... It was a very good class; the teacher encouraged 1) working big and 2) glazing. I don't do much of either now, but it was a good place to start from, for me anyway. I should title these "Problems with Ellipses."

I've drawn my VSD sketch and better get painting if I'm to make the Saturday posting deadline!

I'm proofreading a great book, Essential Pleasures: Poems to Read Aloud, edited by Robert Pinsky. It's wonderfully slow going as I do as the subtitle suggests.
Here's one poem from the first chapter ... No doubt I'll be unable to resist adding more as the job progresses.

William Butler Yeats, "A Coat"

I made my song a coat
Covered with embroideries
Out of old mythologies
From heel to throat;
But the fools caught it,
Wore it in the world's eyes
As though they'd wrought it.
Song, let them take it,
For there's more enterprise
In walking naked.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

end of the dock



While I was unpacking my beach bag yesterday I found these two sketches in my small Moleskine that I did sitting on the end of the dock--I wished I had spent more of the summer just sitting there!--while Peter was getting Lulu ready. For the top one I used Sai watercolor pens and for the bottom one, a tiny (about 3.5x1.5x1") ingenious W&N watercolor travel set. (I love travel sets--so compact and irresistible.) It only has eight colors: cad. yellow, cad. red, alizarin, ultramarine blue, cerulean,raw sienna and burnt sienna. I'm amazed I can paint anything without cobalt blue and cobalt violet!
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Monday, September 22, 2008

Saturday, September 20, 2008

three of six




Three of the six small two-object still lifes I'm doing for a Wet Canvas project. I painted the second two this morning, though I rushed through them a bit--though that's not necessarily a bad thing. I do feel like I'm not giving this the thought it would benefit from; maybe in another series. See how easy I am on myself!
(Honestly, I'm thinking I should be working on my Virtual Sketch painting.)
But I do like this carrying over one object from each painting--it's a chance to rethink it and move on both! Which appeals to my mercurial nature!

There are small craft advisories because of the wind but it's so sunny and pleasant, Peter and I may take the Little Lulu into the back bays at high tide this afternoon and cast for stripers. Knowing Peter, we'll be out till after sundown; maybe I'll get to do some sketching with my watercolor pencils or pens.
Then it's home for Mahattans!
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Friday, September 19, 2008

WC still life duo

Here's another fine mess I've gotten myself into! The Wet Canvas Still Life Duo project sounded so easy: six small two-object still life. Since signing on last week I've been in a dither trying to select objects. Last night I looked at my Giorgio Morandi book, which helped me choose a subject (at least for the first painting). Then I tried to paint it--more dithering: I add paint; I remove paint.
The problem, which is obvious to me now, is the lack of strong lighting. It's harder to make anything of a simple subject if it isn't lighted dramatically. These could be good paintings without the dramatic light if the cups were, say, drawn perfectly or if they were painted strongly (like a Wayne Thiebaud painting).
So tomorrow I'll set up a spotlight and try again.
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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

o'keeffe's blue river


I think this river is the same one O'Keeffe painted in Blue River; it could be the Rio Chama River, but I'm not sure.
During the Jan Hart workshop I attended in New Mexico last October, we visited many of the places O'Keeffe painted, including Plaza Blanca, which was astounding; I want to paint that scene someday. Jan will be moving to Cosat Rica in December--I wish I could get back to NM before she goes!

I love the colors in my New Mexico photos--pinks, purples, oranges! And the pinons--I get carried away with the pinons.

When I first began painting, after grad school, O'Keeffe was my inspiration. And, just as she sent drawings and paintings to her friend Anita Pollitzer for critique, I used to send mine to Robin, who lived in Key West at the time (I lived in Jersey City, NJ). My attention, and devotion, went elsewhere the more I looked, but the trip to NM brought me back to O'Keeffe.

Below are two O'Keeffe watercolors, Red Mesa and Canyon with Crows, from the book Georgia O'Keeffe: Art and Letters (National Gallery of Art, 1987). I love the light on the pink mountain, the Pedernal, and the way space is simply divided into overlapping triangles. And the pinons!

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Monday, September 15, 2008

labor day scenes

I took a picture of this woman walking a toddler down to the water on Labor Day weekend--I edited out the crowds!; a hackenyed subject, but I liked their hats.

I took a photo of these chairs, well, really, of these chairs' shadows when we were leaving the beach. It would be nice to do a series of beach chairs ... But first I have to figure out what to do about the expanse of sand. I'm not really happy with it here, so will stop and think it over before going on.
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Visiting Teresa's blog, Blueberries, Art, and Life, I read about a postcard exchange she's involved in that looks like a lot of fun. Investigating further, I found that the website WetCanvas hosts numerous such projects and that you can join one simply by registering at their site. The project Teresa's involved in--dream or actual vacations--appeals to me, but has a lot of participants already, and I don't want to get in over my head first time out, so I opted for the Still Life Duos project, for which I'll only need to produce six paintings.
WetCanvas, in addition to these projects, seems to offer a lot of other resources, which I look forward to delving into.

Sunday, September 14, 2008



All of a sudden I have so many things I want to paint ... and I think my ideas for paintings are more ambitious than before; there are things I want to try--larger, more planned paintings; new techniques--but I don't really have the wherewithal--the space, the lighting--so I'm feeling a bit frustrated and stagnant working in my usual mode. But now that I've identified the problem, or named the excuse, I can start rectifying it.

I'm thinking of getting an opaque projector--to project drawings/photographs and enlarge them to trace for painting; many watercolorists seem to use this. I don't envision myself using it for everything--I like to draw--but I can see its usefulness, especially for doing more than one version of complex subjects. Any thoughts?

These paintings are from photos from her recent trip to NH given to my by my friend Carol, who I met at a workshop in New Mexico; Carol really has an eye for composition and takes the most amazing photographs. I don't think these paintings are done, in the sense that I think I could work on each one a bit more ... but that's the trap, yes? So I'll move on.
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Saturday, September 13, 2008

A whole week of no painting! I feel guilty ... and now I'm dragging my feet about beginning again.
I just don't seem to have any energy for creativity--I don't even want to cook; I've been living on takeout and cereal. Going through a bit of a drudgery phase: working, cleaning, TCB.

I worked on this little scene from New Hampshire all week--a minute or two here and there. I think I just wanted to use orange.
Should be a quiet weekend here--the threat of rain has kept houseguests away--so I'm going to use the time to try to get back on track.
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Saturday, September 06, 2008

plein air friday

It was a beautiful day at the Physick Estate yesterday: warm but breezy and we managed to stay in the shade most of the time. Our teacher, Marie Natale, suggested we take just a piece of the building--very sensible; it saved us lots of frustration!
My first go, trying out Marie's method of painting the sections freely and in one continuous wash; that is, when I painted the roof, I moved right into painting the side of the building, not worrying if one area bled into another.
Marie is also an advocate of using triads--a red, a blue, and a yellow--as the basic palette of a painting. It's a very useful method: you never have to stop and worry which color to use and you inadvertently achieve harmony and nice neutrals.
Triads are not rigid though: the "red" could be burnt sienna, the "yellow" ochre ... and other colors can be used; teh triad is the basic though.
I abandoned my first painting after the first wash, for which I used naphthol red, which I thought was a substitute for cadmium red, but it's much pinker, cooler.

I borrowed some cadmium and started the version below; then went back and worked more on my first try.
Here's Marie demonstrating her splatter technique! Note how nearly vertical her painting is as she works on it. I usually paint on an angle myself, but yesterday held my painting on my lap--not ideal.

Below: These are by my fellow painters--Trish, Dick, and Leslie (Cathy's is out of the frame!)--at critique.

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Thursday, September 04, 2008



Packing my plein-air kit today--selecting paper and a travel palette; doing the checklist: brushes, pencils, sketchbook, water, bug spray, hat, Jersey peches to snack on--painting makes me hungry! ... I think I'll also bring my Sai Japanese watercolor pens and Niji waterbrushes too--I did the two studies above while putting my kit together. The colors are so bright; I haven't gottne the hang of the pens yet, how to mix or control the color, so I "adjust" them a little with watercolor pencil.

I should also bring Hawthorne on Painting and read a bit before beginning to morrow: "Let the objects in your study be simple in form--few in number--and let the arrangement of them be simple." Charles Hawthorne
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