Tuesday, February 28, 2012

abstracting the landscape

Chaim Soutine at the National Gallery of Art

Soutine, "Portrait of a Young Man", National Gallery of Art

Russian born Impressionist painter Chaim Soutine always gets my attention in a museum. I enjoy his generous and playful application of paint, bright color, and masterful physical brushwork. It felt like a double treat to not only see one of his paintings, but to see a portrait done OF him by contemporary Italian painter, Amedeo Modigliani.

Modigliani, "Portrait of Soutine" National Gallery of Art

The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. is a treasure. What a thrill to see masterworks there!

Here's more of Soutine

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Sometimes I use the sketchbook to "journal" about the activities of the day. I enjoy this, too.

Friday, February 24, 2012

observation leads to assignment

I was standing up on the parapet, trying to catch an ocean breeze (and avoid some of the biting green flies) when I did this quick sketch of the park ranger down below. We were at the Castillo de San Marcos National Park in St. Augustine, FL

Looking down on this figure presented me with all kinds of challenges, like the way the top of the foot shows in the buckled shoe, and where the shoulders met the neck (which I mostly couldn't see). My biggest challenge was figuring out how to shape the face. My brain kept getting in the way to insist that a face is an oval, but my eyes whispered that from this angle it was different. Look. Pay attention. Draw what you see. IGNORE THE BIG BOSSY BRAIN!

Overall, I was pleased with this drawing. It got many things right. 

But, as I observed it (and other sketches in my sketchbook) more, I realized that I was doing a lot of scribbling and my lines were often tentative and over-corrected. 

OBSERVATION: tentative, scribbling lines, a lazy look to many of my drawings.

From that observation, it was easy to come up with a little assignment for myself. I determined to draw several heads with very simple, certain lines. That meant looking more and drawing with a confident hand. And for me, that meant separating the BIG BOSSY BRAIN from the ever-curious and observant eyes and let my eyes direct my hand.

This is what I came up with.

I never really know what will happen in my sketchbook, ... but sometimes I absolutely love it!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

create a project for yourself

Before we set out for our trips, I always give myself a sketching goal. This trip my goal is to sketch one or more pages of sketches every day. I use a 9" x 9" Aquabee Super Sketch book, with 90# paper, it takes ink and watercolor like a dream, with very little warping.

You can see that I have finished more than half of the pages of this sketchbook so far!

A trip is a natural organizing theme for a sketchbook, but you don't have to travel to create a great sketching project for yourself. Read this post by the inspiring Roz Stendahl on the importance of daily projects! I have been a long-time follower of her blog, "Roz Wound Up" and hope that you will check it out!

So, if not travel, what other subjects might make for a good theme for a sketchbook project?

Draw a piece of fruit every day before you eat it.
Draw faces of people you know.
Draw faces of people you don't know.
Draw your shoes.
Draw the contents of a drawer or closet.
Draw a bush or shrub in your yard.

And then, DO IT! Every day. Just a little. Day by day, you'll find  your ideas evolving and developing. You'll innovate, express, experiment. And bit by bit you'll find that you have created something wonderful!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


On the menu at Kaya Island Eats, in the Florida Keys, Conch Steak! Florida is a wild place!

Sunday, February 19, 2012


I have always loved pelicans. I love their grace in the air and the rhythm of their flap-flap-flap-glide formations as they fly in the lift above the cresting waves. Florida has given me opportunities to see lots of Brown Pelicans up close. 

These stowaways sat on the front of our airboat before we left the marina. What a kick!

Friday, February 17, 2012

designs from Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park covers over 1.5 million acres! Only some of it is accessible by car. We took an airboat tour (remember "Gentle Ben" and "Flipper"?) of some of the mangrove and cypress groves and it was spectacular! Except for the part where the guide warned us of snakes in the trees. Yikes!

On land, I was especially intrigued with the pine groves and their unique ecosystems. From where we camped, I could see a nice group of trees and I studied them for a long time. Studying became sketching. Sketching became designing. Designing became abstraction.

Some of the trees were bent from the devastating 2005 Hurricane Katrina. Of course, many snapped and broke off, but some bent and stayed bent. I appreciated how their trunks created diagonal changes in the mostly vertical portion of the view.

I keep think of Hofmann's admonishment to let the landscape become the launching point for a painting design. As I look at these sketches today, I have more ideas about what to do with those shapes to move them further into abstraction.

On my morning walk around the lake, I was mindful of the ranger's warning about snakes in the ankle-high grass. I definitely didn't want to meet one of those giant Burmese Pythons everyone is worried about in Florida.

And, I was sure to walk in the morning, because, as another friend warned, "At night, there's just alligators and alligator food in the lake." 

Life is good!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

awakening in Key West

Key West! Turquoise colored waters, tan people crowding the narrow streets, the smell of cigars on the air ... and chickens. Everywhere, chickens! I guess it started with cockfighting and Cubans who brought their love of the bloodsport with them to Florida, but now the clucking and crowing fellows rule the roost, er, are everywhere!

Maybe this guy was a little unsure about his job performance, or maybe he had some OCD going on, but he crowed starting at 6 and then every few minutes until I finally got up and closed the windows and started the morning coffee. It's been a long time since I woke up to a rooster's COCK A DOODLE DOO. But, I sure did in Key West!

Here's a little something from John Mellencamp. Ahh. Key West.

Friday, February 10, 2012

for Dad

My brother took a day off of work (thank you, David!) and that made for a wonderful day in St. Petersburg, Florida. My husband, Dad, David, and I participated in hanging Dad's new painting on a nice wall in his sitting area. He was pretty happy about it, as you can see from his big smile. I've written about Dad before on this blog, so I won't belabor the sadder aspects of the visit. You can read more here if you are interested.

After lunch al fresco, we took a long walk with Dad to the Dali Museum. It was sunny and warm (and humid) but pelican-filled and lovely. We met up with the rest of my brother's family for dinner. Later that evening, when we dropped Dad off at his place, he told me, "I had a ferociously good time today!"

Some days are sweet like that!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

genius of Dali

The Ghost of Vermeer of Delft Which Can Be Used as a Table, Salvadore Dali

Dali's paintings are uniquely titled. This one sounds like the correct question for a "Jeopardy!" answer. "Yes, Alex, I'll have 'Artists and Home Furnishings' for $600, please." 

Surrealism? You bet!

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg

central staircase in the Salvador Dali Museum
St. Petersburg, Florida and I had the fun of spending several hours in the Salvador Dali Museum. They didn't allow photography in the museum, except here, at the central staircase! What ideas he had!

Many of the paintings in this video were in the museum.

Did you know that Dali and Disney collaborated on a short animated film?

Saturday, February 4, 2012


My brother's daughter made my day today with her curiosity about art materials. We spent a few hours playing with watercolor, ink, charcoal, and other assorted goodies.

Once she was involved in her watercolor project, I had the opportunity to sketch her!

And what better song to go with her sweet face but "Love Me Tender." That was one of the songs my brother and his lovely wife requested I play at their wedding, many years ago.

It was a great day!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

inspired by Hofmann!

sketchbook, designs inspired by Hofmann

Hofmann, Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX

Hofmann, Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA
I've been enjoying reading more about the life of Hans Hofmann in Cynthia Goodman's biography. Plus, in my travels, I have seen some of Hofmann's paintings in person. Brilliant color. Color fields. A sense of push/pull.

One afternoon, as I sketched the views outside the window, I thought of what I have read and seen of Hofmann's work. It changed how I drew, the colors I chose, and how I arranged the shapes.

Do you like Hans Hofmann?