Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Lemonade Award

Here it is, the first public award I have received that relates to my art. The Lemonade Award, presented to me by fellow painter and friend, Celeste Bergin.

Last fall, Celeste and I challenged one another and ourselves with a painting a day goal. The only rules were that we had to finish a painting and send one another a jpeg by 9:00 pm. Every day. We also posted those jpegs on our blogs. Celeste is a dedicated painter and her drive and dedication to her art inspires me. I check her blog frequently to see what she is painting. She has posted many comments on my blog and encouraged me to paint more and paint better.

So, here's to Celeste with thanks and heart felt gratitude. Thank you.

Here are the guidelines that award winners must follow:
#1 Link back to the person who gave you the award
#2 Place the award jpeg onto your blog
#3 Nominate 10 bloggers who are deserving of this award!
(if you have been tagged with the award previously and I give it to worries...carry on!)
#4 Let the winners know they have received the award by leaving a comment on their blogs

My nominees:

Maeona Urban
Jonathan Farley
Lloyd Williams
Portland Plein Air and Studio Painters
John Holland

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Which way does it go?

Which orientation appeals to you most?

Inspired to Abstraction

Abstract 1.1
18 x 24, watercolor on Arches

It started with a few members of the Portland Plein Air and Studio Painters talking about their upcoming workshop with John Salminen. It was the week before the Watercolor Society of Oregon convention in Seaside, OR and the workshop was part of the convention agenda.

It continued when the three artists returned from the convention and workshop with beautiful samples of their abstract work from the workshop. As they described what they learned, they were talking over one another in their enthusiasm.

It built up even more when one of members acquired a DVD of the workshop, on design and composition, and another member hosted a viewing of the DVD.

It led to me painting this abstract based on the concepts I heard from the members and from the DVD.

So, a special thanks to Carolyn Rondthaler, Carrie Holst, and Donna Sanson. You went to the workshop with open minds and curiosity and a willingness to learn something new. And you shared that with others, like me, who caught your excitement and accepted the invitation to step out, step up, and go beyond what is already known to what might be.

Thank you!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Plein Air Painting!

Lewisville Park at 7 am
6 x 9, pastel

Ridgefield NWR at 10
9 x 12, pastel

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Drawing Class: Tom

This drawing is the result of a memory exercise.

Picture this: the model is on his stand, holding his pose. When he looks out at the artists, they all have their backs to him.

That's right! Their backs!

We were attempting to remember more and remember more accurately by turning to look at the model and then turning back to draw at the easel. This was not easy.

I don't think that this is a particularly good drawing, but I am thrilled with some things I notice when I look at it. I have used a variety of lines to describe the form. I've also varied the pressure I use when I apply the charcoal. I think that the figure in this drawing looks natural, the pose is believable (he's not about to topple over), and the proportions are good.

Too bad it doesn't look at all like our short, stocky, 60 something model. As one of my fellow artists quipped about my drawing:

"Great drawing! From about 20 years ago."

The chair looks good.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Crop a bad painting into a good one?

This is a story of a painting gone bad.

My original idea was to let the water-based underpainting carry the painting and use pastel just for the detail on the ducks and a few highlights on the reeds. The first photo is of the finished painting. Not finished because I thought it was beautiful or actually done in any sense of the word. I had given up on achieving what I set out to do and I was finished with that idea.

The second painting shows the first painting but cropped down by a LOT.

So, now my question: is it possible to crop a bad painting into a good one?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Caps for Sale!

Caps for Sale
18 X 24, pastel

Spring break and my chance to spend a few days at the beach with energetic college girls and other friends. It was great to share in their energy and witness their exuberant sense of play. The owner of the hat shop just smiled and looked away as the girls tried on most of his inventory while striking poses and making faces in the mirrors.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Children Take the Dory Out (Malcolm Island)

Children Take the Dory Out
12 x 16, pastel

Last summer I took a photo in the Historical Museum of Sointula on Malcolm Island, British Columbia. I was delighted by the photo, blown up to 24 x 36 from a sepia print. From the children's clothing, I guess circa 1920. What do you guess?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Finding Music in a Gesture

Sometimes, when Kitty walks around looking at our drawings, she comments on what is working or not working with what is on our easels. I always value those moments.

A couple of weeks ago, she told me that I had captured what was lyrical about the model's pose. But, I had missed the harder edges that indicated the strength of the bones beneath.

I think that this one minute gesture captures both. Lyrical strength.

I like that.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Monday, April 13, 2009

Andrew Wyeth

Andrew Wyeth died this January 2009.

I knew he was old, but his death caught me by surprise. Maybe what really surprised me was that I would feel his loss so strongly.

His work is spare. Frugal. Beautifully lit and exquisitely rendered. But sad. Or maybe it is I who feel sad when I feel the loneliness of his vision.

I supposed I would characterize my own work as vibrant and somehow juicy with color and emotion. In contrast, Wyeth's masterpieces are contained and dry.

It has taken me months to figure out how I wanted to honor Andrew Wyeth. Artist to artist.

So I begin. First with a couple of his paintings. And a moment of silence for a great man. A second moment to recall his work. Here is a beautiful slide show of paintings by Andrew Wyeth.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Pastel making with Kitty Wallis

Her formulas have been written down over the years, the results of many trials and errors, and Kitty consults her notes before we mix the pigments. Some pigments require additions of clay to keep them soft. Others require alcohol to allow the water to break the surface tension and wet the dry mixture.

Once the pigments are mixed into a stable, moist clay-like form, we fill jars with the mixtures and get them ready for shipping.

I have had a lot of fun, and learned a lot, helping Kitty get ready for her upcoming workshop in LaConner, WA. On the final day of the workshop, she will teach the students how to make their own pastels, using the pigments we have processed this week.

Don't you want to dig in and play with the color? I know that I do!

What is that stuff in the final photo? That is quinacrodone magenta dispersion. It looks like swampy red pudding. Part of the formula for getting the cool red pigment for mixing luscious pinks and corals. The possibilities are dizzying!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Drawing groups of figures

One of our assignments this month in drawing class is to draw groups of people. I carry a Moleskin sketchbook with me wherever I go, and while I was downtown this week, I made these two sketches of groups of people.

The first is the audience seated in front of me to hear Amy Dickinson (writer of the "Ask Amy" column) speak at the Voices Lecture series. I like how I captured each back and head as an individual. Different hair, clothes, perspective. I like it.

The second drawing was from a coffee house on Taylor. I watched the construction workers as they worked in the road. Hard to draw a bunch of ever-moving subjects, but the sketch has a nice feel to it.

Have sketchbook, will travel!

Thursday, April 9, 2009


18 x 24, pastel

Pondering Degas at Portland Art Museum

One of the benefits of having a membership at the Portland Art Museum is that I feel free to go just to look at one or two paintings. No obligations to really tour the entire place to get the value from an admission fee. Just go and look at what interests me.

Yesterday I spent a long time with this portrait by Degas, of Madame Nittis. It strikes me that her head is very much shaped like an egg. And she slouches in the chair. I looked at her head for a long time and the masterful way her features are placed on this egg shape.

The museum is sometimes just the right place to go for a breath of fresh art air. I bought two books at the museum store. And I came home filled to overflowing.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Critique tomorrow!

The Photographer
18 x 24, pastel on Wallis Museum paper

It is difficult to stay real as an artist. One day I will feel great about a painting and think that I have finally arrived and that this painting is excellent proof that I am getting somewhere with my work. The next day I will find that I can't draw to save my life. Ups and downs like a wave machine. It's hard to avoid.

And hard to have an objective sense about my work.

That's where a good critique group comes in. I meet monthly with a group of dedicated artists. We each bring in one or two paintings and present them to the group and wait for feedback. Feedback comes in all sizes and shapes. I try my best to let it all come in, without trying to defend or shape it, and listen. And learn. The learning is the most important part of all.

"The Photographer" is not a completed painting. I think it's about 90% done. The feedback I get tomorrow will help me decide what and how much more to do.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Plein air at the park again on Sunday

It was warmer today! I was dressed warmer, too. So, not too bad for another plein air day at Lewisville Park. The river was beautiful with the morning light on it. I love this place!

Good thing I finished up before 12:30! As I loaded up my car with easel and other plein air stuff, a contingent of minivans, station wagons, and other vehicles pulled into the lot. Out came families of people dressed in church clothes, all speaking Russian.

I waited to see what would happen next. Within minutes, they had erected two awnings near where I had painted, and a priest came and a baptism service started. You never know what will happen next while plein air painting. At least, this time, I wasn't in their way or in the middle of their service.

Do you have a story about something unusual that happened to you while you were painting en plein air?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Plein air at Lewisville Park

Sun! We had sun today! It didn't matter that it was cold, I just wanted to paint outside.

At first it didn't matter that it was below 40 degrees, but as the morning went on, I felt colder and colder and colder. By the time I packed up, I think that my feet were cold all the way to my knees!

But, oh, it was wonderful to paint outside in the sunshine! I think I'll go back again tomorrow.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Figure Drawing and indicating form

This week's model was very good, an actor. His poses seemed to be vignettes that told or implied stories. I enjoyed drawing him.

In these drawings, besides spending an inordinate amount of time getting the figure right, I was attempting to show form by shading the figure darker where the planes moved away from me. It's funny for me to see how little shading I did on these drawings, because at the time I drew them, I felt like they were nearly black with charcoal. But, the figures look right. The poses look like the body parts were placed accurately. I even managed to get the slouch right in the second drawing.

Like most art practice, some things go better than others. It a matter of doing the work. In piano it was scales and chords and arpeggios. Endless practice that was necessary for fluid playing. These drawings are my scales and chords. In the future, I will draw the concerto.

Making pastels

I had a great day in Kitty's studio making pastels! Don't they look delicious? Little confections of color.

Pastel making is labor intensive. Hand mixing. Hand rolling. More rolling. More mixing.

Mix the moist pastel pigments in the right combination to achieve the right color. Create values by adding increasing amounts of white pastel. These colors are beautiful and impossible to find in any store. Soon enough, they will find their way into my paintings!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Blame it on Renoir

"Jeunes filles au piano"
Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1892

I've always liked this painting. I like the feel of the girls sitting together at the piano, figuring out a new piece of music. I spent many years at the piano, sometimes with my sisters, so I relate to the subject in a personal way. No surprise there.

When I went to a Corban College production of "Little Women" last week, I enjoyed watching my friend's daughter play the role of Amy. And I took a lot of photos. One of the photos really touched me as it featured two young women at a piano. It didn't take long to come up with the idea to paint from that reference photo.

How many things can go wrong with a painting? Well, I'm sure I hit almost all of them.
  1. I picked a smallish piece of paper for my support, which made the figures smaller than comfortable for a pastel piece.
  2. I made several drawing errors that erased the intimacy between the characters.
  3. I did not pay attention to value cues that could have tied the figures together
  4. I was faced with painting 2" faces with blunt 1" pastels.
I could go on, but you get the drift. Not a positive outcome.

But I learn a lot even from paintings that don't turn out well. Maybe I even learn more from those kinds of paintings. I plan to take my idea back to the studio today for another go at the subject.