Sunday, May 31, 2009

"Song of Myself"

Happy Birthday, Walt Whitman.
I made these little paintings from photos found at, where there are dozens of photographs of this handsome poet.
For a short bio go to poetry.about or, where you can also read some of his poems.

Walt (I don't think he'd mind if I called him Walt) was born May 31, 1819 in New York.




"Song of Myself"
Walt Whitman


I Celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

My tongue, every atom of my blood, form'd from this soil,
this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and
their parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.

Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
Nature without check with original energy.
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Portrait of Myself

(Or, Portrait of Self with Botox: the top lip got a little too full! I have what I think of as the characteristically Irish thin upper lip. Also gave myself more flesh and fewer wrinkles.)

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

One thing I learned the last two days painting apples is that I need to set a time limit on myself to keep from re- and overworking them.
Put it down one time and forget it.
I couldn't figure out what to do with all the white space in this arrangement; then I remembered a Charles Demuth painting in the catalog to the Cezanne and Beyond show and added the red stripe.
Here is the page from the catalog: Demuth's 1925 Still Life with Apple and Bananas (11x18):

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Friday, May 29, 2009

who's the fairest

Another what's-at-hand still life. I wasn't happy with the middle apple, so decided to try to make the one on the left the focus, but then those little runbacks above the middle apple occurred, calling more attention to it! So, I surrender!
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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

This is the kind of simple subject I find so appealing, and that the "daily painters" all do so well, but that I feel insecure about approaching.
So many times, when I see, especially, a bowl of limes (which I often do, as I favor mojitos and caipirinhas), I think I should paint it ... but then never do.
Today I decided to try to reverse that dynamic.
Seeing the Charles Demuth paintings at the Cezanne and Beyond show has me looking at such subjects.

I was too lazy yesterday, but here are couple of links to info on Demuth: at Handprint and the Demuth Museum.
Every online source shows hi "I Saw the Figure Five in Red and Gold," inspired by a William Carlos Williams poem, and his illustrations (he illustrated Henry James's story "The Beast in the Jungle"), but unfortunately it is not easy to find his watercolors of flowers and fruit, which are the ones I like the best.
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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

"My Star"

Not much time for painting this weekend--really too bad because we had beautiful skies with dramatic clouds!--with a full house and a pulled muscle in my back, but yesterday, when everyone was out, the dishwasher emptied, the washer and dryer going, dinner prepped, I painted the packs of seeds of morning glories I had planned to plant.

Should've left out the box with growing info ... I can still paint over it, I think.

My Star
Robert Browning

All, that I know
Of a certain star
Is, it can throw
(Like the angled spar)
Now a dart of red,
Now a dart of blue;
Till my friends have said
They would fain see, too,
My star that dartles the red and the blue!
Then it stops like a bird; like a flower, hangs furled:
They must solace themselves with the Saturn above it.
What matter to me if their star is a world?
Mine has opened its soul to me; therefore I love it.
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Friday, May 22, 2009

While I was painting this, I kept thinking of Charles Hawthorne's advice: Never try to repeat a success! Though this lady looks concave, and has a pinched expression on her face (funny how the tiniest shape can convey an expression!), there are things I like about it, particularly the hat.
Advice from Laura: Always paint people in hats.

Here I was applying the same method as yesterday, and when I thought it was finished, I was a bit disappointed--it seems (is?) "weaker" than yesterday's. But now I look again, and I think I can see that this is a bit of synthesis; this is just more "me."

Yesterday Jennifer asked what paper I use. Today's and yesterday's were done on scraps of Fabriano Uno I found in my closet. It's great paper--strong, "workable," which to me means you can lift and the paint seems to sit on the surface longer.
I don't think they make Uno anymore, so I've been using Fabriano Artistico.
The full sheets are great--the cold press is a little smoother than Arches.
Recently I bought a couple of packs of 10 11x14 sheets and I found that paper to be a bit more flimsy; it can't take too much water. Though Fabriano blocks--I have a small one (6x8 I think?)--works great and is very handy; an the CP surface is really nice.
I'm always trying different papers--Arches, Whatman, Winsor & Newton--always looking for that magic bullet!, and Fabriano suits me best. I do also like the Sennelier block, which come in small, odd sizes, and not at all, I think, in full sheets.

I'm always looking for a watercolor paper that has a "wove" surface, if you know what I mean (if I know what I mean). It's briefly described under "paper finishes" on Handprint: I like the uniform, linear pattern that shows through. I think Sargent used it for sketches ... I don't think it's made anymore; at least, I can't find it.

Thanks for asking, Jennifer. I should ask you what paper you use for your beautiful paintings. Your palm tree really appealed to me, and that was on paper you didn't like!!
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A little page of gray-making. I seem to have the best luck with blue-orange combos (at least these appeal to me the most) ... and should stay away from yellow-violet ones! The cadmium yellow + manganese violet swatch produced a not-too-bad beige when watered down, but the aureolin + ultramarine violet swatch is frightening! well, maybe it'd do for storms at sea then.
Does anyone has a yellow-violet combination that produces a nice neutral?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

practice makes wet


I should know (myself) better than to complete a drawing and not jump right in with the painting. Having finished my two 11x15 sketches Monday afternoon, and put them aside to think it over after a bad start on one, I'm afraid to paint them!
I did the study above to trick myself into not being scared.
Actually, it was fun ... I let the paper get very wet and just kept working it: when the blue ran into her chest, I flooded it with water and lifted; when the shirt ran into the leg, I left it.
I was also trying to work some neutrals in, and maybe you'll be surprised if I say I think I did!
I've always enjoyed e.e. cummings's poems; they feel so good to say, like, "anyone lived in a pretty how town/with up so floating many bells down"--say it; it's pure pleasure, like wet paints.

Here's a poem I happened on recently; seems to fit this post. (Poor Molly!)

maggie and milly and molly and may
by E. E. Cummings

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)
and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;
and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.
For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea
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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

wading with naked feet

Actually I started on this one, but messed it up right off the bat (just as I was afraid I would). Happily, but for that one spot of quin red that stained, I was able to lift my false start.


I guess I'm getting in the mood for summer holidays.

by Walt Whitman

Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge
of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed
at night with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a
summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars
shining so quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of
the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct
and in its place.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Thank you for all your well-wishes re the workshop--I missed blogging and especially visiting your blogs! It'll take me the rest of the week to catch up with you.

There were a few questions in the comments to yesterday's post that I'll answer here.
We used a Tombow brush-pen for the b&w sketches; they're available in colors, but we used the black one only. And I should have added yesterday that we did the sketches on Bristol, which is heavy and smooth.

(And, yes, Ontario, Canada: we camped in a wonderful provincial park called Sandbanks a few years ago. The dunes were beautiful, and you could camp practically on the beach. I'd love to go back!)

Ken said we should do the sketches smallish, leaving ample white paper all around so we could judge later whether to add space anywhere (as shown below with the pieces of mat).
We didn't have good weather for painting outdoors, but Ken suggested that these b&w sketches are great to do outdoors in preparation of in-studio landscapes--fast and with all the info you need about value relationships. I thought that was a great idea; when I sketch outdoors, the sketch is usually an end in itself, but to do a painting from such a sketch, I'd need to get more, or maybe just different, information.

So, here are a few of the paintings I did in the workshop. I was pretty much frustrated with my results--the damp, the limp paper ... I also think I spent more time belaboring these than I would have at home; I had a whole day to fill up!
Painting away from home just jarred my whole thought process (and not in a good way!).

(11x15; a very damp first go)

In the final critique Ken suggested I work more neutrals into my paintings--an assessment I've heard from other teachers (!) and one I agree with, but find myself largely unable to comply with. I may be uneducable. ;-)
Actually I may try to acquaint myself with some grays, or neutrals--
I always admire Jeanne Dobie's grays so much! I think I keep away from them because I don't know how to make nice, glowing ones. I should practice.
Any suggestions of exercises or subjects that are good practice for making neutrals?
(11x15 sheet)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

ink sketches

Virgin Islands

Hawk Mountain, Pa


I'm back and exhausted from my five-day workshop. The teacher, Ken Hosmer, was really very good--his demonstrations were astounding and he covered a lot of information on value, design, and color, which it'll take me some time to absorb!
The first day we did ink value sketches using a water-soluble brush-pen, which I enjoyed very much.
Ken suggested we stick to only three values: dark, middle, and light. We were to exaggerate and simplify, and to notice or accentuate details that occur on the edge of a value change, e.g., the dark edge of the trees against the light sky in the Ontario sketch, or the foreground rocks in the VI one.

These black-and-white studies were probably the best work I did: it was rainy or humid all week--not optimal for watercolors!
I never expect to come home with good paintings from a workshop, and it was a great time, nonetheless, thanks to my friends Betsy, Lori, and Shelby, whose house we all stayed at and who kept us in coffee, sandwiches, and wine--no small feat!

I'll post a few of the watercolors--even though most were, and will remain, unfinished!--tomorrow.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

"a gift"


In response to Vivien's challenge to paint the sky on her blog Paintings, Prints and Stuff; Vivien does the most beautiful sky studies herself.
Leaving for my workshop in Delaware this afternoon, taking the Cape May--Lewes ferry across the bay, and I won't be near a computer until next Saturday! I can hardly imagine. I'll miss you all and look forward to catching up when I get back.

Czeslaw Milosz

A day so happy.
Fog lifted early. I worked in the garden.
Hummingbirds were stopping over honeysuckle flowers.
There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess.
I know no one worth my envying him.
Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.
To think that once I was the same man did not embarrass me.
In my body I felt no pain.
When straightening up, I saw blue sea and sails.
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Saturday, May 09, 2009

"this be the verse"

"Don't learn how to do things, keep on inquiring how." -- Hawthorne on Painting

Ta-da. I took this picture outside, which really helped brighten it up. Naturally, I'm not entirely happy ... but last night I happened on the quote from Charles Hawthorne, above, so I have my "out."
Mostly, I think I just went a little overboard with the fronds! And I kind of lost the tree trunk, but that can be fixed.
In the spirit of "inquiring," I did these two little studies too.


In honor of Mother's Day, a poem you'll never find in a Hallmark card.

Philip Larkin - This Be The Verse

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

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Friday, May 08, 2009

"lovliest of trees ..."


I previously tried the middle and the freehand way with my coconut palms; last night I began on a version using more planning (or as much planning as I am capable of; I don't think I could ever put the time and effort into a very detailed, photorealistic type painting; I don't have the space or equipment, either).

Today I stared to add some of the palm fronds. The areas that are painted now are going to be the dark, detailed areas. I hope to be able to restrain myself in the other areas, leaving some space, and maybe some whites (though, since I didn't leave any whites on the coconuts themselves, I'm not sure I want white spaces competing with them ... well, I'll have to wait and see).

Barbara mentioned her cherry tree, which made me think of this poem by A. E. Housman, whose poems always appealed to me, being susceptible to the elegiac:
Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my three score years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

This Housman poem may be credited--or blamed--for turning me from
geology and starting me on a career in English.
I was a sophomore and my English teacher buttonholed me between classes
and asked me what I thought of this poem.
All I could think of, then and now, was what he meant by asking me!


The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:

Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.

So set, before the echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl's.

I plan to to finish and post this tomorrow. Then it's off to Delaware for a week of painting with Shelby, Lori and Betsey.
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