Thursday, September 30, 2010

what now?

After my intensive two weeks of paintings, I find myself here at home wondering what to do now!
Yesterday I took a little break to try to loosely fiddle around with the faces from the Unhappy Couple.
Each face is about 3 inches high.

By the way, did you know this is National Banned Books week? I was looking at a list of books that have at one time or another been banned from schools in the U.S. and trying to see if I could find a common denominator. Nonconformity or any taint of "outsiderness" seems to be a red flag. Oh, and sex!
Banned Books weeks ends October 2, but I'm heading to the library tomorrow to get a banned book I never read, Fahrenheit 451. Apparently, after the book was banned from schools, the publisher sold a sanitized to schools for years--without Ray Bradbury's knowledge or consent!

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

wip: mia, day 2

I can see in this side-by-side how getting just a few lines a bit wrong can thros off the whole likeness, like the outline of the left side of her face--I let it bow out too much (but I think I can fix it).
I tried to get the baby teeth in there but really didn't like they way they looked ... I think I still need to broaden the smile a bit.
Or maybe start again ... I'm feeling that this portrait doesn't capture Meezie.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

wip: mia

I thought I'd better start another painting trying to do what I did in Ted's class before I forget everything; I hope it's not too late!
I did this drawing of my niece, who's now grown with a son of her own; her pose and expression are pure Mia.
Unfortunately for me, the painter, she has the family's characcteristic fine wispy hair! A thick, straight bob would be so much easier!
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Sunday, September 26, 2010

about the workshops ...

Practicing modified contour drawings, a la Charles Reid, on trees, above; notebook page with sketch of the Physick estate and notes from Charles' first demo.
The Ted Nuttall and Charles Reid workshops were two different experiences: they were different; their methods were different; the subjects were different. But it seems to me both teachers stressed, explicitly or implicitly, three things.

1) Seeing. I thought I was already doing it, but I wasn't--I was rushing through it to get to the fun part, splashing around in the paint. Ted pointed out all the small, unexpected things--the way the light hits the edge of a cuff or reflected light catches a hat's brim--that make a painting a delight and a revelation to look at. Charles emphasized connections and exploration of your subject with your pencil; Ted would call it interpreting; finding the emotion.
2) Applying the paint. Many of us share the optimistic delusion that a certain paint or color or type of paper will do the trick for us. Neither Ted nor Charles seemed very concerned with any of this--though they both had favorite brushes: big soft ones. They apply their paint in completely different ways--Ted in successive light washes; Charles in small bits that he "places" on the paper then pulls and pushes around ... but however you do it, in stages or all in one go, think before you do and while you're doing it.
3) Find your own way. There is a lot you can learn from other painters, past and present, especially perhaps when it comes to design, but ultimately you have to find what you do, how you do it, and commit to that, whatever the subject, method, or materials.

I hate to ruin the simplicity of my little tripartite summary, but I have to add one thing Ted talked about that really struck me: nonattachment to outcome. That's the hard one; the essential one. 

I just saved you all a whole lot of money! Just kidding. For me the best part of the workshop is the experience of meeting and painting with other painters, regardless of who the teacher is, though these two were great and I'd recommend both if you have the chance.
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Friday, September 24, 2010

charles reid workshop

Day One: We painted at the Emlen Physick Estate in Cape May. The Physick house is a huge monstrosity; really quite ugly--even Charles Reid had a hard time with it. So I turned my back and painted the little house across the street. I started with a contour drawing--the contour drawing was my favorite part of the workshop. Charles thought this was a little tight, and I agree, but it's not as ugly as the Physick house.

Day Two: We painted indoors from a black-and-white photo Charles supplied. This was a real opportunity to try out not only his "modified contour" drawing--it is fascinating to watch him draw; he clearly enjoys it--but also his method of applying paint: place the paint; modify it while wet, if necessary; then pull the color into adjacent areas.
Day Three: Outdoors again. This time on the grounds of two restored old whaling cottages, which were charming, but I was more interested in the grove of old cherry trees out back. I would really love to be able to paint trees well! Slow contour drawing helped me see the shapes, and I was pleased with the drawing; wish I'd left more of it showing. I suspect I'll be doing a lot more contour drawing, especially of trees: it's a great learning tool.

Day Four: More plein air. We went to St. Mary's by the Sea, a retreat for Catholic nuns at Cape May Point; the nuns who had previously agreed to let us sit on their extensive porches reneged, which forced us to sit out in the blazing sun! Most un-Christian of them.
Shelby and I found a shady spot, but were eaten alive by flies. It was intolerable, so we packed it in and painted at the hotel. I painted this from a photo on my camera's screen.
Day Five: We stayed indoors (hurrah!) and painted from old photos. I call this one "The Unhappy Couple (Or, Oh No, What Have I Done?)"
Charles liked it, and thumped me on the back, but I'm not entirely happy with it: I wish I had, a la Charles, lost more edges.

Shelby and I had a great time, for our second week of painting together: painting all day and talking about it all night. What could be more fun?
But now I have a lot of work to catch up on and hope I can manage to find time to paint regularly as well before I forget all I've learned.

PS: Per your requests, more on the teachers and the experience of the two workshops to come!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

nuttal workshop

I'm back from Ted Nuttal the 3-day workshop in Lewes, DE, with one day to recuperate before the 5-day Charles Reid workshop begins.
The workshop with Ted was unbelievable: he is the most generous teacher, and such a sweet and thoughtful man. I think I learned things from him that I will be able to, and want to, work and build on on my own. And I really want to take another workshop with him as soon as possible!
I also imagine it'll be awhile before I have any interest in painting anything other than people.
The last day of workshop is always a bit sad, but, happily for me and Shelby, Ted will be coming over to NJ tomorrow to attend our meet-and-greet prior to the Reid workshop.
These are the three paintings I worked on, one a day. The first one, A.J., is done; the other two are incomplete, but not by much.
I don't think I've ever worked with such a warm palette, but I'm enjoying it, and enjoying also working slowly, which is not my usual method. Ted impressed on us all the importance of looking at each and every detail and thinking before, and while, painting.
I had more photos, but I left my camera in Shelby's car! I hated to be without a camera on the ferry ride home, because everywhere I looked, I saw people who would make great paintings: the was a family of Mennonites, with four daughters--all with long braids and stray hairs flying, standing at the railing in the morning sun! And a family that may have been Guatemalan or Ecuadorian--they were all beautiful, and the grandfather especially so, with his rolled-brim straw hat.
I have notes, from which I'll share ideas as I try work on other paintings keeping Ted's advice in mind. I'll just say, if you have a chance, sign up for one of his workshops. ... I am just too spent to think any more tonight!
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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

off to DE

I'll be on the 4:30 ferry to Lewes, DE, today; workshop begins tomorrow ... And I'm a nervous wreck! The butterflies have already started.
Here's a little postcard I did this morning. Thank you for all your encouragement and good wishes!
Back Saturday with paintings and posts about the Ted Nuttal workshop!
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Monday, September 13, 2010


Still not happy with the lips, but I've crossed over into the ill-advised tampering mode so really must stop!
I painted this 140lb. Fabriano paper--my comfort zone--and can see why Ted Nuttall recommends you work on 300lb paper ... All my fiddling around the lips has bruised the paper ... But now that I see it here, on the blog, I realize I will go back, one more time, maybe tomorrow when the paper's totally dry and attempt a small, the smallest possible, adjustment.
Tomorrow afternoon I'm off to Delaware; the Nuttall workshop begins Wednesday.
I think I'll reattempt this Cimabue-like pose of Melyssa on 300lb paper.

Melyssa's brother Pete pointed out that I didn't paint Melyssa's freckles! I thought about it, but I'm not ready for that yet: can you imagine trying to paint freckles--not too many, not too few; not too speckly, not too birthmarky ...? Maybe Ted will have some suggestions; Pete thinks I should go for it.
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Sunday, September 12, 2010

wip: melyssa

This is Peter's daughter, Melyssa. I took the picture, in which her eyes are in deep shadow, so I'm inventing a bit.
I started this last night (and photographed it then too, which is why the photo on the bottom is so much warmer), and this morning realized that, although her lips really are very defined, it didn't work in the painting, or at least not the way I drew them. So I've done some lifting, esp on the top lip.
The next step will probably be the hair, which in this case is daunting: Melyssa has deep auburn hair that shimmers with myriad colors in the sunlight! Many times I've been amazed at the depth and variety of colors, from golden, coppery red to russet: it's truly gorgeous.

After this one, I think I'll take a break from painting people to conserve some energy for Ted Nuttall's class, which starts Wednesday! I'm still working on making drawings; I'd like to have as many as possible to work on for the three-day workshop.

It would have been a nice break to paint some Victorian architecture in Cape May this weekend, but yesterday, which was a glorious day for plein air painting, I intended to join the class after lunch but, though I drove all around Cape May I couldn't find where the class had gone to paint, and finally gave up. Today is wet and gray, so I think I'll concentrate on getting some paying work done while I have a chance.

Friday, September 10, 2010

cassidy & another wip

I feel a temptation to fiddle with the hair more, but in the spirit of the good decisions I made yesterday, I'm not going to.
I started another painting of my sentimental favorite, Walt Whitman. I made poor Walt a bit cross-eyed, but I'll fix it in the next wash.
I recently took up yoga again, and I think it's good for my painting, among other things. Sometimes when I'm painting I'm able to turn off my busy-mind, be calm and just be, as opposed to the rest of the day when thoughts, problems, and words churn around.

Come, said my Soul
Walt Whitman

Come, said my Soul
Such verses for my Body let us write, (for we are one,)
That should I after death invisibly return,
Or, long, long hence, in other spheres,
There to some group of mates the chants resuming,
(Tallying Earth's soil, trees, winds, tumultuous waves,)
Ever with pleas'd smiles I may keep on,
Ever and ever yet the verses owning – as, first, I here and now,
Singing for Soul and Body, set to them my name,
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Thursday, September 09, 2010

wip: cassidy

I took this picture of my boyfriend's son's girlfriend's six-year-old daughter, Cassidy, this weekend. Cassidy feels comfortable being photographed--an enviable trait--and the photos I took of her look so appealingly natural.
(BTW I think we need some new words to describe our modern web of relations.)
I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself at the moment--and may open a bottle of Prosecco--because I made two good decisions: I decided 1) to fill in the background before painting Cassidy's hair; it's a mid-brown, but I don't want to lose the light on it and the dark background will help me not overdo it, and 2) her bathing suit was elaborately patterned, which I decided to ignore!
Her head is tilted down a bit which I'm worried about: it distorts the features ... Can you tell her head is tilted?

first wash

second wash
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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

uncle bob

I'm collecting some photos for Ted Nuttall's class and borrowed this one of my mother's brother Bob taken around the time my parents got married, 1957; mom was 20, so Uncle Bob was 18 or, at most, 19.
My entire childhood I had a crush of sorts on Uncle Bob: I was just awed by his beauty! When I was 10 he came to help us move, and he had longish shaggy hair and a beard and mustache: better-looking than ever. That was the last time I saw him well, before he was diagnosed with cancer.
I genericized (unintentionally!) his face too much--it should be longer, narrower; the space above the upper lip wider ... And yet, when I stepped back, I was astoundded to see my brother John's son John, who is 19. Right down to the curled lip!

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010


This could use a bit more tweaking, but here, with apologies to his parents, is my portrait of my friends' firstborn, Ned. The likeness is not great: Ned's eyes are more almond-shaped (these look like his mother's eyes!) and the jawline is maybe too narrow ... And of course, there's my perpetual downfall of not knowing what to do with a nose! (Perhaps the result of my lifelong ambivalence about my own nose?)
I remember distinctly when Ned was baby: the most beautiful baby you ever saw! And now he's a handsome fourteen-year-old.

btw: Marge Chavooshian, who I've been taking a weeklong summer workshop with for (gulp) twenty years, will be in town this coming weekend for a workshop. Despite being signed up for two other workshops this month, I can't not go see Marge! So, three workshops in a month: I don't know if  my stamina and my bank account will survive, but I'm going for it.
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Monday, September 06, 2010

nuttall class countdown

My workshop with Ted Nuttall in Rehobeth, Del., will begin in less than 10 days. (There's an interview with Nuttall in the summer 2010 Watercolor magazine, illustrated by several of his paintings.)
My weekend company, Peter's kids and their satelllites, are all out at the beach. The breakfast dishes are done and dinner's all prepped. Painting time.
I was working from a soft-focus black and white photograph, which, along with the young girl's naturally rounded and smooth face, led to some indecision about modeling ... and about what colors to use.
I went as far as I could in the first stage. Then took a break and came back and added a few darks, mostly around the eyes.
Poor kid looks awfully grim, though in the photo, she looks very sweet.
(ps: I rephotographed this: though I took the picture outside in daylight, it was too blue; this is more like it!)

(first stage)
Then I messed around with mom and dad some more. My mother looks like Yvonne de Carlo! And my father's mustache isn't readable, but the more I mess with it, the worse it looks to me. May be time to abandon this and chalk it up to experience!
Another summer gone. And I wish, like Joni Mitchell in my favorite song of hers, "Urge for Going," that it'd stay around for just another month or so.

I awoke today and found the frost perched on the town
It hovered in a frozen sky, then it gobbled summer down
When the sun turns traitor cold
And shivering trees are standing in a naked row
I get the urge for going but I never seem to go
I get the urge for going
When the meadow grass is turning brown
Summertime is falling down and winter is closing in

I had me a man in summertime
He had summer-colored skin
And not another girl in town
My darling's heart could win
But when the leaves fell trembling down
Bully winds did rub their faces in the snow
He got the urge for going
And I had to let him go
He got the urge for going
When the meadow grass was turning brown
Summertime was falling down and winter was closing in

The warriors of winter they gave a cold triumphant shout
And all that stays is dying and all that lives is getting out
See the geese in chevron flight flapping and racing on before the snow
They've got the urge for going, they've got the wings to go
They get the urge for going
When the meadow grass is turning brown
Summertime is falling down and winter is closing in

I'll ply the fire with kindling and pull the blankets to my chin
And I'll lock the vagrant winter out and bolt my wandering in
I'd like to call back summertime and have her stay jut another month or so
She's got the urge for going and I guess she'll have to go
And she get the urge for going when meadow grass is turning brown
All her empires are falling down
Winter's closing in
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