Moon Watcher

Moon Watcher - 30 x 40 in., oil on canvas
Moon Watcher – 30 x 40 in., oil on canvas

After a long time off the easel, Moon Watcher — the latest in my “Watchers” series — is finished! The Watchers are all based on statuary I love, imagined into strange and significant places.

The depiction of moonlight was really tricky — the reference for the background was not originally moonlit — but once I added a cobalt violet glaze to the sky it really worked, and gently popped the foreground figure’s orange-y tones.

I’ve left this piece pretty loosely rendered, maybe more so than usual. Here’s how it went together:

Click in any of the tiled photos below, to switch to a slide show of progressives. To exit the slide show, click the small X in the upper left corner.

Inspiration, impetus, or … just making art

Inspiration is for amateurs
::: inspiration: noun in·spi·ra·tion \ˌin(t)-spə-ˈrā-shən\  1. something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create : a force or influence that inspires someone  2. a person, place, experience, etc., that makes someone want to do or create something  3. a good idea ::: impetus : noun im·pe·tus \ˈim-pə-təs\ 1. a force that causes something (such as a process or activity) to be done or to become more active 2. a force that causes an object to begin moving or to continue to move  / Merriam Webster Dictionary

I’m a great adherent of Chuck Close’s declaration that “inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work.” There’s more to that quote, about the work producing the direction, and how you won’t get much done if you wait for inspiration. I don’t know; maybe that’s a purist’s point of view, and maybe I’m too old to become a purist. But I’ve been in a slump for months, now, and not painting much at all (except for the demo piece for my last painting class, and that was dreadful). I’ve been meaning to sew — an art I also love — but not doing that either. Meaning to clean up my office and studio, getting a bit done but not much, and of course, meaning to paint. But not. Even meaning to doodle and sketch, for pity’s sake, but not doing much of that either. I’ve been reading, mostly. Reading good stuff — mostly Margaret Drabble — but not painting with any will.

IMG_8411sm
Breakfast at the Roycroft Inn

However. A couple of weeks ago on a Sunday, Sweetie celebrated my 65th birthday by taking me on a rural New York State ramble, unbooked, unplanned, heading roughly in the direction of Niagara Falls via secondary roads. The weather was perfect, the scenery beautiful — I’m sorry I took so few photos! Stops at the Glen Curtiss Museum, a stay in Brockport, a brief excursion past the falls in Canada, a stay at the wonderful Roycroft Inn (and campus), and finally, a long stop at the amazing Corning Museum of Glass, before heading for home under the threat of thunderstorms… so refreshing.

Bronze statue of Artemis and a deer - Greek or Roman, Late Hellenistic or early Imperial, 1st cent. BC or 1st cent. AD
Bronze statue of Artemis and a deer – Greek or Roman, Late Hellenistic or early Imperial, 1st cent. BC or 1st cent. AD – Metropolitan Museum of Art

The following Saturday, I got on a bus for NYC with a group from the Fine Arts Society of the Southern Tier, and spent a fabulous day in the City looking at great art with fine companions — including a visit to the Met’s John Singer Sargent collection and the Artemis/Diana bronze (which is the basis of my current painting, Moon Watcher).

And I’ve had this bunch of lovely new-to-me paints, given me out of the blue by a colleague, just waiting to get into a real painting instead of minor dabbling…

So: was it inspiration that got me painting again? Or impetus? Is there a difference? Would Chuck Close see one? I kinda think not, but that’s the way that cookie crumbles. I’m just happy to be working again.

 

River Watcher

River Watcher
River Watcher: oil on canvas, 40 x 30 in.

I worked on River Watcher and Night Watcher (see the previous post) concurrently, switching off as one dried enough to work on, and then the other did. Each time I switched – rolling my taboret cart from one to the other, shifting the left-hand easel (River Watcher) to fit the taboret between or beside each piece – it was emotionally difficult to leave the one I was quitting. But I’d gamely work into the current piece, and eventually be reluctant to leave that one! Guess I’m a bit obsessive.

GreenBoat Studio
Working concurrently in GreenBoat Studio

I have a penchant for the 19th-century visual sense, both the popular esthetic and the experimental high art of the time, and it’s showing more and more in my painting. Maybe it’s hokey, but it’s me – at least for the time being. The figure in River Watcher is from the same photo shoot, same cemetery in Manchester, NH, as the one in Night Watcher – another muse-like beauty. She’s placed beside the Susquehanna River in Endicott, NY.

This is the first piece I’ve done, since childhood, which features an expanse of water, and I’m quite pleased with it. A lot of the underpainting is left to show, and I like the resulting depth.

River Watcher presented more challenges than the previous piece, as you can see in the progression below.

Click in any of the tiled photos below, to switch to a slide show of progressives. To exit the slide show, click the small X in the upper left corner.

 

Night Watcher

nightwatcher_1200px144-cprt
Night Watcher – oil on canvas, 40 x 30 in.

On with my Watchers series. This is Night Watcher, a piece I’ve been meaning for a very long time to do.

It was an oppressively grey late afternoon when I went for a photo shoot in a large old cemetery in Manchester, New Hampshire. We’d driven by it many times since we’d moved to Manchester, and I had always meant to go back with a camera. The place was FULL of 19th-century statuary and elaborate gravestones – obviously it had been a resting place for the wealthier dead. The day I finally went back was a bad one for me – I’d gotten a flu shot the day before, and had woken crushingly depressed yet restless. I had to do something, get out of the house, and for some reason the cemetery seemed appropriate. The light was diffuse, so there were very few clear shadows, yet it was bright enough and low enough to make the figures into mostly silhouettes. At best I’m only a point-and-shoot photographer, and the digital camera I used was not all that good – the year was 2005, and I didn’t even know how to eliminate the timestamp on the images. I also didn’t know just what I was going to do with these images. But it was a satisfying task, and I found out the next day that the flu shot that year had caused depression and anxiety in many people.

I’ve tried a few times to use this particular image in artwork – I still have a couple of attempts in colored pencil, and one in graphite pencil – but until I gave the landscape and figure a night sky, it hadn’t really worked.

Here’s how the painting went together:

Click in any of the tiled photos below, to switch to a slide show of progressives. To exit the slide show, click the small X in the upper left corner.

The First of the Watchers

Woods Watcher, 24 x 36 in., oil on canvas
Woods Watcher, 24 x 36 in., oil on canvas

I still haven’t figured out how to show a progressing project with alerts to my followers, so I’m continuing to post progressives on my professional Facebook page. But here’s the whole progression (below) of the first of my “Watchers” series. I’m pretty happy with the way it’s turned out, and I’ve submitted it for the Arnot Regional.

So, what is a Watcher? It’s a concept I picked up somewhere in my youthful reading — Watchers were pagan religious symbols, or figurines, or minor deities, ensconced or trapped in tree trunks along hidden paths. The idea took root in my mind, and when in middle age I lived in the back hills of northern Pennsylvania, there were a couple of standing tree stumps along the road that I mentally christened “the Watchers” — they seemed alert, attentive. Statuary sometimes strikes me that way, especially in incongruous or unexpected settings. And then I ran across a mannequin head in an Etsy shop that triggered the “Watcher” alert in me. With permission from the generous shop owner, I’ve commenced a series of paintings based on her mannequin (this one), as well as more statuary, mannequins, and other humanoid objects as they dispassionately observe the impending disasters of our world. There is something in them that is positive — not hopeful, not despairing — but also not clinging, and open to whatever comes.

I don’t normally explain my work and motivation like this, but this piece comes from deep within me. And that I can’t explain. I can only let whatever is in me manifest itself in my work, with little or no conscious input from me. As I tell my painting students, don’t put any effort into expressing yourself or your emotions — that will happen despite your best efforts, and it’ll be more genuine if you just let it happen while you’re concentrating on other things. After so many years as a rational planner and designer of publications, I myself find this a hard lesson.

Click in any of the tiled photos below, to switch to a slide show of progressives. To exit the slide show, click the small X in the upper left corner.

New year, new paints, new paintings, new process

newpaints.jpgOh boy — new professional-grade paints arrived yesterday from Blick: Gamblin* oil colors in my basic palette! (And a free sample tube of Titanium White Alkyd!) Compositions and canvases were all ready… and today I started two new paintings: Winter Solstice, 30 x 24 in., and Watcher 1, 36 x 24 in. Both are still in underpainting stages (one simply tinted). I’m continuing to use Blick* student-grade oil colors for tinting, but I’ve added a couple of new pieces to my process: first, I’m giving up acrylics for tinting oil canvases: the colors just aren’t as translucent or luminous as oils. Second, I’m very roughly brushing in the painting subject in the tint — before gridding — as a first stage of the underpainting. I’ll correct the drawing in the values phase (as I have in Winter Solstice).

For several years now I’ve published albums of “progressives” — photos of and comments on my new paintings as they progress through various stages — on my “Artist/Designer” page on Facebook. But this year I’m going to try tracking that progress here on my blog, instead, in the form of galleries. My only puzzlement is how to let my blog followers know when a new photo has been posted in an established gallery. Hmmm. If you have a suggestion, please let me know!

*Neither Gamblin nor Blick Art Supplies has paid me for these endorsements. I just like them.

The Holidays,and my 2015 card

"Solstice"
Solstice — original digital montage, my 2015 Yuletide/Christmas card.

Another year, another Christmas card panic, but this year my solution was different; I’d found an earlier un-executed digital montage I meant for a card a few short years ago, and thought I’d like to use it this year. So I started (way too late, of course!) a painting. It’s coming along well, but I realized I’d never have it done in time to send a photo of it off to Shutterfly in time for Christmas, so I simply played with the original image in Photoshop. So pleased with the way it came out! The cards may be a little late in going out (and what else is new?) but they’ll be lovely, I think. And right, my hand never touched the image — my definition of “art” includes that I must be able to touch it — but it IS original. Enjoy!

However you celebrate, wishing you all lovely winter holidays.

 

In which “The Body Electric” opens, and I survive

The Body Electric, at Cooperative Gallery 213
The Body Electric, at Cooperative Gallery 213

Yes, I survived. The sleepless nights beforehand, the shaking hands, the matting, the framing, pulling my back at the mat cutter. The transport, the hanging and arranging and re-hanging. The oppressive humidity. The transport and arrangement of the tons of food (with my sweetie, who not only framed my paintings beforehand, but provided first-rate food — which we will be eating for weeks, if not months — for the Thursday night opening reception).

And yes — I survived the publicity, the newspaper profile, the exhibit announcements, the interview for local TV, the praise, the hugs, well-wishes, and compliments from old friends and from family, meeting new admirers, answering the questions, discussions of artistic techniques, the help and support of my co-exhibitor and my other Cooperative Gallery 213 colleagues, and all the other great and nerve-wracking stuff.

And we packed up the remaining food, and cleaned up the gallery, and came home, and I read a glowing write-up of my work in the Triple Cities Carousel, had a couple of glasses of wine with my sweetie, and slept soundly with a profound sense of relief. Tonight is First Friday — the crowds may easily be larger, the action more hectic, but I survived the opening. Thank you to all.

Click in any of the tiled photos below, to switch to a slide show of the painting series. To exit the slide show, click the small X in the upper left corner.

The Body Electric opens July 2 at Cooperative Gallery 213, with London & Beyond

At Last Only Here, oil on canvas, 24 x 36 in.
At Last Only Here, oil on canvas, 24 x 36 in. (© Glenda Blake 2015)

This July, Cooperative Gallery 213, 213 State St. in Binghamton, NY, opens a dual exhibit by Glenda Blake and Chuck Haupt, titled respectively, The Body Electric and London & Beyond. The exhibit runs July 2-25, beginning Thursday, July 2, 6-9 p.m. with a reception, open to the public, at the gallery. The show will also be on display for the First Friday Art Walk from 3- 9 pm. Both artists will talk about their work in a public presentation on Third Thursday, July 16, 7 pm at the gallery.

Glenda Blake is a painter in oils whose realist/impressionist work frequently incorporates dramatically lit dancing figures. The Body Electric, her new work, celebrates the beauty of the human body with a series of nude figures seen from the back and side in dark studio interiors, in ambiguous dance-like postures. The series has its inspiration in the 1855 Walt Whitman poem of the same name, and exhibits a 19th-century-like sensibility.

“I make art to make marks,” Blake says, “and to search those marks for meaning. I make art to reveal to both myself and others the often unnoticed piquancy of the world around us.” She has exhibited her work in juried shows throughout the Northeast and New England. In 2013 she was awarded a grant from the Community Foundation for South Central New York for her ground-breaking series of paintings, “Unlikely Dance.” Visit her website at www.glendablake.com.

Windsor Sentry, © Chuck Haupt
Windsor Sentry, Chuck Haupt

Chuck Haupt is a photographer whose work as a photojournalist graced the Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin for 30 years. His black and white photography in London & Beyond leads the viewer on a profound visual journey. “Photography freezes moments in time, forever,” he says. “The camera alone does not make the picture; I make it, using my eyes, emotions, and heart.” His website is www.chuckhaupt.com.

Cooperative Gallery 213, a popular stop on the First Friday Art Walk, is located at 213 State Street in Binghamton, and is open on both First Fridays 3-9 p.m. and regularly Fridays 3-6 p.m. and Saturdays 12-4 p.m. Follow the gallery on Facebook at Cooperative Gallery 213; find out more and sign up for the weekly e-newsletter at www.cooperativegallery.com or our Facebook page Cooperative Gallery 213.