Friday, March 26, 2010

Week 9 at the Studio

First let me say how nice it is to sit here in my studio in Millville surrounded by paintings and works in progress. I am feeling particularly energetic this week. I had a good day in spite of positively miserable weather. I enjoyed my class at Princeton with Kenny Goldsmith this week as we get deeper into the exploration of language and words. Great class…makes me think for sure.

I was in the studio many days this week but when I arrived on Tuesday I realized that I only had panels that were half prepared. So, I decided for a day to focus on exactly that. I worked on finish-priming about 8 panels and pre-priming about 8 more as the small paintings are happening rather fast. You can see the finished panels above as they are in their last state the an imprimatura in place.

While they were drying I set up a still life of some paint tubes (the primary colors) and lit them from one side. In January I did a rather unsuccessful painting of paint tubes and the metal was lost on me. This time I decided to focus, focus, and focus. I did two layers as the last was to modify the shapes, metal and background. Primary Trio (below) came out much, much better. I manged to capture the metallic sensation of my favorite brand of oil paint - Old Holland. As you can see I am very bad about cleaning the tops of my oil paint tubes before putting the caps back on.  I get incredibly impatient when I am ready to paint.

Today I decided to do a vertical panel and focus on the ethereal quality of the atmosphere again but this time in oil. From a photograph, I loosely interpreted a tree, Silhouette, and its surroundings. I used transparent paint for nearly the entire painting. I also used a very limited and muted palette to keep the colors quiet. I also used an Old Holland turquoise color in some of the first strokes as it changed the gray to a blue-gray.

Both of these paintings are 6 X 8 inches. I hope to increase the size of my panels. So, today I took the bold step of calling Cheap Joe's and ordering 10 X 20 inch panels in pursuit of larger landscapes. I hope to find references as I am not prepared to paint oils outside (but itching to paint watercolor plein air for sure).

Next week is very busy as Princeton will occupy Monday and Tuesday. I will also be moving my paper forward (made possible by the input of many kind faculty and friends at ACCC). So, with Easter coming and a visit to my parents in Delaware with John and the pack of three, studio time will be limited to Wednesday and Thursday of next week but as it warms up, the studio will be outdoors! More to come next week as I continue at Princeton, the gym with my brother, the studio for much of the later part of the week progressing rather slowly but surely.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Week 8 at the Studio

What a busy week this has been in spite of spring break for both ACCC and Princeton. Between working out at the gym with my brother who is training for a triathlon to my wonderful afternoons in the studio it has been very full and fulfilling. This is good! It has been a joy to spend time with my brother and his family even though I am far below his level of fitness. Let me step back a minute to last weekend and get to the art.

If you read last week's blog, I noted I was going to be at ACCC's Studio Art Workshop (Painting Mist and Fog in Watercolor) with Barbara Cox. It was an interesting workshop. I made three small studies on scraps of watercolor paper from provided references. (These are above, right, and below.) The gray you see is called Getz Gray made by Cheap Joe's Art Stuff (American Journey brand) and though an opaque color, it is very beautiful. I added a few other subtle colors to achieve that wonderful, wet, misty feeling you get in the morning or on the beach. In the one of just clouds I added some white gouache.

What was really ironic about the workshop was that the weather was horrible. It was a perfect day for mist and fog as the winds rattled the classroom windows and we had thunder and rain in the morning and downpours in the afternoon. As I left campus feeling really good about my little paintings, I noticed that ACCC lost another pine tree; it toppled over onto the area where a new building is to go so I guess it sacrificed itself before being taken down. We lose about one a year due to the short root system. The nice thing is that the weather has cleared but I did not do any plein air painting this week but that is coming soon. Read on...

In the studio I made a watercolor and gouache painting called The Crab Shack (above). The building is gone but years ago this shanty was several yards out in the marshes at Morris Beach on the curve of Jeffers Landing Road in NJ where I used to live and consequently where I met John. (Morris Beach was also the theme of my first one woman show in Philadelphia in 1990 so historically speaking, this place has been very inspiring.) The shanty was a place where the crabbers would rest and get shelter from the sun, rain, and any of the elements. It slowly crumbled with each season and was gone by the time John arrived at the beach.

Recently, John and I have reunited with some of the Morris Beach islanders. In fact, my painting on the landscape project for my class at Princeton was held at a property adjacent to Joe and Marge's homestead (who you see in the Web-based photo show-link below in Weeks 4 & 5). I do plan on returning there to paint plein air as soon as the weather stabilizes even more.

At the studio on Thursday I also did a small 2 hour study of two garlic heads and an onion. This painting was drawn in charcoal (contour only) and then painted with transparent darks and opaque lights. I was careful to soften edges like the master painter Vermeer as I am still exploring how he painted so beautifully. I think this painting is done but I am not sure if the painting of the shanty is. I need to think about that.

I return to the studio tonight for the monthly Third Friday celebration. I expect us to be very busy as the weather has kept everyone away and this evening's gallery walk promises to be absolutely beautiful and crowded. If you have never been to Third Friday in Millville's Glasstown Arts District, give it a try. My studio will be open until 8:30 PM. It is Studio 3 in the Riverfront Renaissance Center for the Arts and I am sure the restaurants, bars, shops and galleries will be bustling.

Next week I return to Princeton on Monday only as we move forward with my Uncreative Writing class. I expect to get my time in at the studio, move my research paper forward towards completion.  I will spend another day with my brother as he prepares for his big race. More next week! Stay tuned.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Week 7 at the Studio

This week was really great. First, the draft of my research paper was critiqued by the administrators of Princeton's McGraw Teaching and Learning Center and my 11 fellow Fellows and the paper was well received. I do have to make some additions and modifications but this has happened every time I publish so onward. I plan to add the final outcomes of my research and finish the paper. Of course, life outside of the studio goes on and Wednesday was devoted to having my taxes done. I have been going to the same place since I was 15 and sat in my lucky chair. Yes, I don't owe. That is a good thing in the context of life!

Once life was out of the way and my paper was put to bed (for a little while anyway) I returned to the studio on Thursday. I decided before starting anything new that I would complete two watercolors that have been half finished for months. I pick them up, do a little bit and set them down for weeks. I am also adding imprimatura to the panels and debating to order a larger size for oil painting.

I completed the Mott's Creek Fleet watercolor (above) by adding the detail. I decided to include the old white branches to provide a foil for the focus which is the fishing boat. I decided to deviate greatly from the photographic reference (as I usually do) and to add color to the sky which in actuality was a single wash and a lucky one at that. I let the paint bleed and move along the distant marshes. I put my signature on it to tell my brain to stop painting.

As many artists know it is not so much about starting painting but more about when to stop or when to simply start again. I have learned that stopping is critical. Also, admitting that a work is not going well, not worth saving, not a failure but an opportunity to learn is really critical. So moral of the story is...know when to fold...and more importantly, know when to stop.

I also had another painting done from a summer scene photograph of cows in a field. I started it in a workshop with noted watercolorist Jim McFarlane. What I like about taking workshops with Jim is the challenges he relays to his students and as a teacher I appreciate his articulation of concepts and his verbal clarity. He is a great teacher and a fantastic artist.

This painting Winter Moon with Duo, was very challenging. Of course my favorite color combination of Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna were ever-present. I used white gouache to complete some of the highlights in the sky. It is a quiet, moody piece and I think I am also done with this. I will probably exhibit both watercolors in the upcoming Associate Artists show at RRCA...coming in April, opening is the 3rd Friday in April and I think I will be in great company with some new Associate Artists (some of my most esteemed students).

Tomorrow I will be attending a workshop with Barbara Cox. In the midst of a torrential rain storm our topic will be the painting of mist and fog in watercolor. Barbara is another inspiring teacher who challenges me. If it goes well, watch for the painting here in the blog next week.

Spring break is here for both ACCC (even though I am on sabbatical leave) and Princeton University. So, next week I return to the studio for each afternoon Monday through Friday unless a day is so nice that I paint outside. I have coated several panels with an imprimatura of first raw sienna and then burnt sienna. I was going to Lehman Lake to paint plein air, or Delaware but I think my travel plans over spring break have been dashed so it will be a full week with each morning at the gym and each afternoon in Studio 3 at the Riverfront Renaissance Center for the Arts in Millville. More to come as I continue to make art! Below are two small pictures of my studio. Forgive the mess but art is happening there!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Week 6 at the Studio

This week can be described as classic "crazy-busy." Though making great progress on my paper for Princeton, my studio days were limited to two because I went to meetings at the college on Thursday and Friday. So I had to really make studio time count! But the good news...the research paper draft has been sent in and will be critiqued on Tuesday night. This is a very big thing off my list (for a while anyway). I have also completed my homework and just have to post it and do my reading for class.

This week I decided to try a portrait. John did not have school on Wednesday so I asked him to come to the studio with me. I asked him to bring a book and be prepared to sit for a few hours. I lit him from the right (the sitter's left) and painted on a panel with an imprimatura of raw sienna. The panel was 9 X 12 inches.

Let me give a little background on this one before I go on. Last semester I took a class with a wonderful professor ~ Professor Tom Hare at Princeton. The class, The Portrait in Text, Paint, and Stone, gave me the opportunity to study in depth a subject that I don't paint or draw ~ the portrait. In fact, the last portrait I painted was back in 1983 in my second year of studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art.

I feel that my seminar with Professor Hare benefited me greatly. I understand a lot more about portraiture, origins, meanings, symbolism, etc. and decided to undertake it as a subject from time to time instead of ignoring it completely as I have for years. John being off from school gave me a subject that I am not only related to but someone I relate to. I feel having a connection with your subject is important.

I did the portrait rather under two hours. I used the classic application of opague lights and transparent darks and for the first time ever in making a portrait, I used my fingers to blend but was careful to preserve my brushstrokes. So, here is my oil portrait (Liquin medium) of John on a primed, cradled panel. I left the ground in spots so it could be seen. After this feeling far more effortless than it was in art school, I may try a portrait of a head and part of the body.

Today I returned to the studio. We got some rather unfortunate news yesterday so John and I are both rather solemn today. The studio building was really quiet. As I was preparing panels I looked out the window and saw the buildings across the street washed in light and I thought, wow, that is very "Edward Hopper." So, with a single cord hanging in a window, I painted a window and a half as a small tribute to a man who could capture a mood like no other. I call the painting To Edward. (I must confess that the other buildings next to it with wide bay windows and flowers and oddities are very intriguing so perhaps these will be future subjects.)

Next week will be busy with school early in the week but I return to the studio Wednesday and hope to progress and continue to paint in a modified direct method in oil. I may get to those two half finished watercolors yet. The weather is also warming up so, soon, it will be plein air time! As always, stay tuned.