Thursday, December 24, 2009

happy holidays

Cape May in the snow, last year's holiday card.
Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for a joyous, peaceful, and prosperous New Year to everyone in the blogosphere and beyond.

And, where I'm off to day after tomorrow. See you in 2010.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

practicing, II

More clouds.
I'm choosing which watercolor blocks to bring with me. When I work on sheets, I prefer Fabriano, but my favorite paper in blocks is Sennelier. I love the surface texture--it's almost like "wove" paper--and the way the paint sits on it.
Unfortunately these blocks come in a very limited range of sizes: 4x6, 4x9, 8x8, 12x12 (approx.)
Last night I also took out a few art-instruction books to leaf through for last-minute inspiration and advice, hoping something useful would stick!
One book I always enjoy and marvel at is David Dewey's The Watercolor Book--I doubt I could ever absorb all the information in this book, especially on color theory, but it is inspiring to page through. I painted this little magnolia picture using his advice on grays (the grays int he painting are actually somewhat warmer than they appear here; I tried re-photographing but got the same, cool result: perhaps it's my perception and not the camera that's off) and glazing.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

a little practicing ...

I was admiring Mineke's post of a twenty-minute sketch of the sun breaking behind big clouds; Mineke, among other talents, handles paints the way I would like to: she's in control but she also lets things happen, lets the paint do what it does. In this painting, as in all her paintings, that facility produced a beautiful effect; her painting is so fresh, unworked-over.
I wanted to try to emulate her.
I used this photo from my last trip to the Virgin Islands.

For the last several years I've been giving my mother a holiday- or winter-themed painting: here's this year's offering--just in time!

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

idee fixe

I don't know why, I can't lay off these poinsettias! It'slike I'm painting them against my will ...

We had a big snow here starting late Friday night: it was like magic--I woke up Saturday and everything was covered in six inches of snow, a rarity here at the shore. I don't even have a snow shovel, but I do have a very nice neighbor, Jamie, who's outside shoveling my walk and driveway right now, while I sit inside and play with my paints (and bake an orange kugelhopf for Jamie).
I don't have snow boots, either, but the sun is out which means 1) beautiful shadows on the snow and 2) the snow won't last long, so I have to get out there and try to get some photos, even if it means wet feet.

Ever since Jan Hart, with whom I have taken two workshops, explained to me that instead of choosing paints by their names, I should look at the numbers on their side--e.g. PB36 = cerulean**--I have tried not to buy tubes of paint that are mixes of colors I already have and especially not to buy mixes that include white. Having said that, I just bought these three tubes from Cheap Joe's, thinking they might be useful in the Virgin Islands, two of which have white in them. This swatch really doesn't do the coastal fog justice--it's got a nice warm glow; and the mint julep does accord with my memories of shallow Caribbean waters. I'm waiting for a tube of Old Holland's "Caribbean Blue," before I finalize my travel palette.

** For more on and a better explanation of the labeling of pigments (or for anything pertaining to watercolor, for that matter!) see Handprint.
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"flower for eyes"

Never try to repeat a success! I botched this painting of a white poinsettia early on and so just kept adding colors to see if I could get anywhere with it ... The subtlety of the white--creamy, tinged with green--was too elusive.

Here's one of the folding books I made--takes about 5 minutes: fold a 22x30 sheet of watercolor into quarters lengthwise, and tear along the folds so you have 4 long strips, 5.5x30. Take one strip and fold it in half; fold the halves in half; then fold those halves in half. Unfold and refold in an accordian pleat. You'll have eight 3.75x5.5 panels. Attach some thicker paper to the ends for a cover: I used handmade watercolor paper.
You could glue or tape a ribbon or string between the end paper and the cover if you want something to tie the book closed with ... (I'll probably just use a rubber band!)

I'm going to give this one to Peter. He took his mom and dad and sister and her daughter, Quanah, to Florida the spring before his mother died; I couldn't go but gave Quanah some painting stuff. Peter suggested they each paint a palm tree. The results were really delightful
and fascinating. I had them all framed together for Mother's Day, Pat's last. I'll have to get a photo of it next time I'm at Peter's father's house; it's hanging in the kitchen.

Thanks for all your comments on yesterday's post: there were some great ideas in there!
Yesterday's book was based on instructions I found on Wet Canvas by Rosemarie Lutken. Her directions are very clear and easy to follow ... I "improvised" a bit because I didn't have some of the things she used on hand; and I decided to add beads because they're on some handmade books I have by a woman I took a workshop with once: we made three different types of books in one afternoon; it was one of the most satisfying experiences I've ever had!

And for no reason except that I liked it, maybe it was the winds last night, a poem I read this morning:

"Just Enough" by Nanao Sakaki

Soil for legs
Axe for hands
Flower for eyes
Bird for ears
Mushroom for nose
Smile for mouth
Songs for lungs
Sweat for skin
Wind for mind

Just got this link in an email from how to make your own chapbook!
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A little 28-page watercolor sketchbook I made to bring along on my trip. I did almost everything wrong in the construction of this book--struggling especially with the binding--and nearly drove myself mad trying to string a variety of Caribbean-colored beads I bought onto a too-fat string ... I managed to get a few on before giving up! I found these wonderful things called "glue dots," which I used to affix a little postcard-sized watercolor I made on my last trip to the Virgin Islands and a fortune cookie fortune--"Your dearest wish will come true"--to the inside covers.

On the inside back cover I made a chart of the colors in my travel watercolor kit.

I've also made a couple of simple little accordian books with not so many pages--8 on one side, 6 one the side with "covers."

I wonder if I'll actually have time to paint this much!

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

The over-the-top birthday cake Peter brought to my parents'; my mother got out the picture taken at the Flower Fifth Avenue hospital when I was new-born.

Making a wish. I've had good luck with my wishes this year: in fourteen days I'll be in the Virgin Islands!

Couldn't quite finish this today ...
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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

virtual paint-out: mexico city

Yesterday I visited Charlene's blog, 1150 Words, and found out about a great blog started by Bill Guffey called Virtual Paintout: he selects a city (previous months have included Amsterdam, Baltimore, Lisbon and London) and you select a scene to paint using Google's Street View (which is totally addictive: last night was the first time I used it and I spent about two hours moving my little icon around).
You have until the end of December to submit paintings to Bill's blog, so take a look.


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Thursday, December 10, 2009

"divine intoxication"

I shouldn't really post these--they're both "off" ... but, in my uplanned haitus from painting and blogging, I missed so many poets' birthdays--William Carlos Williams, T. S. Eliot, and W. S. Merwin in September; Wallace Stevens, e. e. cummings, Dylan Thomas, Pound and Keats in October; and, already in December, Rilke and Demore Schwartz--that I couldn't let another go by.

Exultation is the going
Of an inland soul to sea--
Past the houses, past the headlands,
Into deep eternity!

Bred as we, among the mountains,
Can the sailor understand
The divine intoxication
Of the first league out from land?

--Emily Dickinson
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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

too late for dsfdf

A couple of challenges back Karin Jurick posted a city rooftops photo on her Different Strokes from Different Folks blog. A subject I absolutely love but have never attempted (I don't have many chances to gather reference photos; will have to ask my NYC friends to help me out there!) ... so this is a first-ever try. And while (of course, you can guess) I'm not entirely satisfied, I'm not entirely unsatisfied either: what a fun subject to tackle--I enjoyed the thought process of making this.

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009


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I haven't yet, and probably won't, do much in the way of holiday stuff: this little poinsettia may be it.
I did write out a lot of cards last night, which, this morning, I spilled coffee all over (after debating my options, I took the lazy route and sent them anyway! Perhaps the recipients will think the postmaster's a klutz). And I did bake shortbread and fruitcake and will be baking cheesecakes.*
But that's it: no presents this year and no tree ... I'm already focused on the day after Christmas and sailing in the Virgin Islands.
One of the hardest thing to pack: what to read. I've narrowed it down to three titles: The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman and Old Masters, New World by Cynthia Saltzman (both nonfiction) and Homecoming: A Novel by Bernhard Schlink. The Lemon Tree and Loot will have to wait until I come back; and I want to finish the two books I'm currently reading--Winston and Franklin and The Street of a Thousand Blossoms--before I go.

I'm packing a little painting kit and a clumsily made (by me!) book of torn watercolor sheets.

And I want to say thank you so much to everyone who has welcomed me back; I was verklempted by the kind responses of the Gemeinschaft to yesterday's post: it's good to be back!

*I always use Jeff Smith's (the Frugal Gourmet) cheesecake recipe; I've tried many, and this one, in my experience, is foolproof. My own emendation: I put a pan of water in the oven on the bottom rack and the cheesecake on the rack above. I also let the cheesecake sit in the turned-off oven, with the door ajar, for about an hour after broiling the top.

Monday, December 07, 2009

watercolors redivivus

Hello--anyone still out there?
It's been ridiculously long since I've done any painting. When my mother fractured her ankle, I didn't have time; when she started having therapy and was able to do more on her own, I had time, but not the inclination; when I started to miss painting (and the blogging community), I had the inclination but not ... what? I've asked myself that, but there's no ready answer: the mindframe, "inspiration," confidence?
Whatever the answer, I've decided to stop contemplating the reasons for not and instead do.
So, here's a rebeginning.
My friend Carol took this photo in, I think, New Hampshire: the red and green color scheme appealed to me.
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Sunday, September 27, 2009

photos from chincoteague

Well, I had a very relaxing few days in Chincoteague--what a beautiful place; my photos don't do it justice. Peter was working, so every day I'd just set out on my own, exploring the town (and shopping!) and going to Assateague to walk the trails and the beach by myself. The solitude was wonderful, refreshing.
But, I regret to report, I only attempted one little painting, of the view from the hotel deck, and it was awful! Yes, I know, I'm too hard on myself, my friends will protest, but it really was dreadful: tentative, weak. I left it behind in the hotel.
I've tried two little paintings since I've been home, with equally disastrous results. I'm anxious, trying too hard. Since falling off my nearly daily painting schedule I've lost some confidence--everything I attempt seems hamfisted to me.
Like my mother trying to walk again on her shattered ankle, it seems it's going to take a little rehabilitation to get back to where I left off.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My father, Danny, age 29, and me, the first-born and only daughter.
Today's Dad's 78th birthday.
This picture is nearly 50 years old: I feel a strange combination of connection and remoteness when I look at these two ... but something in the gesture, in the way we're holding on to each other, strikes right to my heart.
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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

off to chincoteague


A couple more cheap-paper paintings ... I had the subjects sketched out, so couldn't resist. Just trying to warm up before going to Chincoteague: I'll be on the 2:30 ferry today and in Virginia before dinner. An adventure.

Pulling together a few supplies for the trip I found this old still life that I've been hanging on to for years though I never finished it ... the bottom part really wasn't working for me, but I do love those two poppy pods and the orange yoni-shaped things--no idea what they were!


Back from Virginia Monday afternoon with, I hope, some new paintings to post!
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