Blue Glass and Teapots – in progress

I’m really enjoying this new still life so far. Very exciting to work on the different reflections and forms, the perspective, the color harmonies…

Blue Glass and Teapots_step1
Blue Glass and Teapots_step1: starting the cadmium red underpainting

Blue Glass and Teapots_step2
Blue Glass and Teapots_step2: finished cad red underpainting

Blue Glass and Teapots_step3
Blue Glass and Teapots_step3: overpainting in colors, corrected perspective on left-hand teapot

Blue Glass and Teapots_step4
Blue Glass and Teapots_step4: two color layers on leaves, articulating more of the forms in the blue glass vase

Okay, so it’s running a little later than I’d hoped (like, maybe a month later), but I think it’ll be a nice addition to my body of work. I’m using a lot of Liquin — an alkyd dryer — in my medium, since this one was initially meant to be ready in a couple of days. (What WAS I thinking…?!) Generally I use a 1:1 mixture of stand oil and walnut oil, with just a little Liquin mixed in, but I think I mixed this batch 1:1:1. It’s an interesting texture to work with, and I’m working more in the direction of transparent glazes than opaques. I like the way the cad red underpainting shows through the first layer of dark green in the leaves of the plant. Thought I had a photo of that first layer of green, and will add it later if I find it.

Jim Mullen, printmaker, at the Fine Arts Society of the Southern Tier
Jim Mullen, printmaker, at the Fine Arts Society of the Southern Tier
On Monday I attended my first board meeting of the Fine Arts Society of the Southern Tier (FASST), as secretary — woof, it’s been a while since I had to take notes! Next time I’ll set my iPhone to record the meeting, I think. Later that evening, the program for the general FASST membership meeting was a talk on miniatures, printmaking, and the solitary process of making art, by Jim Mullen, professor of art emeritus at SUNY Oneonta, and now a Greater Binghamton resident. I know Jim from the weekly drawing group in Windsor, but hadn’t seen his finished work close-up or heard him speak before. What a wonderful presentation! His manner and dry wit reminded me a great deal of one of my favorite professors from SUNY Oswego, his old friend George O’Connell.

Meanwhile I’ve been contacting the various dance groups of Binghamton Community Dance — Contra, English, Scottish, with a possible connection to Sword — about photography for Unlikely Dance. As I expected, some are enthusiastic, some not, but I think I should come out of the dealings with some good dancer shots to work into the landscapes and cityscapes I’ve already captured for the project. Also planning to photograph the Binghamton Morris Men, the B.F. Harridans, and their guests during their Harvest Home event in October. The leaves are turning now, so here’s hoping for some autumn pieces for the series! Should it be seasonal, I wonder…?

A successful festival, shadowed by sad news

My booth at Window on the Arts
My booth at Window on the Arts

Saturday’s Window on the Arts Festival was a smashing success, both for the festival itself and for me personally. I was a bit concerned about how large (or small) a crowd it might draw, with this year’s relocation away from the central town square to a nearby but not-so-central park; and the night before, the winds and rain came crashing down on the early set-up gazebo tents (mine amongst them). However, the local Binghamton newspaper had given the festival the front cover of its Thursday “Good Times” supplement, the Friday night storms stopped in time, and all began — and continued — well.

Parade of the Puppets opens the Festival
Parade of the Puppets opened the festival, just before the sun came out
End of the Festival Parade
End of the Festival Parade

I showcased my “Feathered and Feline” series of art about birds (mostly owls) and cats — along with a few other pieces, and had matted art prints and art cards of most pieces, as well as many not hanging at this show. I was so busy selling prints, cards, and earrings that I never did have time to set up for on-the-spot portraits. It was so gratifying the way people responded to my cats and birds, and I even sold a larger print of The Flood,

The Flood
The Flood: 10.7×8.3 in., pastels over ink underpainting on fibered buff paper

a pastel piece of last year’s flooding Susquehanna River.

And beyond the sales, everyone wanted to interpret and discuss the art. I just love hearing people’s interpretations of some of my images, especially when they’re not speaking directly to me. “Oh, look,” said one man to his wife about Window, “it’s a cat looking into a mirror, and he sees himself as an owl.” Wow. That’s the one that’s stayed with me.


In the early afternoon, Sweetie brought food, the dog, and a break (after calming me down and packing the car for me in the morning — not to mention helping me set up the gazebo tent the night before). We were both impressed by the quality of the arts and crafts there, as well as the quantity of fifty artisans… and Sweetie is not easily impressed!

Alan Crabb 1942-2012

As I walked around the festival on my break, he took over the sales for a while but called my cell phone, after checking Facebook on his phone, to tell me that Alan Crabb had died. It was not unexpected; Alan had been in the UPenn hospital for a couple of weeks, suffering open-heart surgery and severe complications after a risky heart procedure, but it was still a shock and a sorrow. He was friend and maestro to so many, a beloved high school music teacher in his working years not so very long ago, a gifted world-class tenor, and one of a kind. He was a manic, maddening, arrogant, rude, distracted, and self-centered Welshman with an aura a mile wide: a demanding but gentle mentor to all who sang under his direction, a warm and loyal friend — father of two adult sons from his first marriage (to the first — and so far only — woman mayor of Binghamton) and of a two-year-old son from his recent second marriage to a lovely young violist. Sunday, I felt consumed by exhaustion and grief, and laid low for a day. Rest in peace, Alan Crabb — 1942-2012.

This week I have several projects to start or continue: finish unpacking the car (and clean it), mat and frame my two entries for the upcoming Rude and Bold Women show, get back into the new still life (calling to me now from its easel across the room…), replace the traded-out still lives in the Acme exhibit, design and build the Acme business window, photograph contra dancers for Unlikely Dance, sing Diamonds in the Rough‘s “Eldercare Tour,” and — as if that’s not enough — start a call for images of Alan, with which I plan to build a commemorative/interpretive painting of him. More on that next.

“Flowered Kettle” finally finished, as I gather references for Unlikely Dance

Flowered Kettle - oils on canvas, 12 x 16 in.
“Flowered Kettle” – oils on canvas, 12 x 16 in.
Finally, I’ve finished, and — no less an accomplishment, gotten a good photo of — “Flowered Kettle.” Thanks to a value study in Photoshop (see my earlier post on this painting) I’ve achieved more depth and cohesion, but that involved using several dark glazes over the already textured canvas, and I had a lot of trouble with glare and reflections from those dark glossy surfaces. It’s now posted in my Etsy shop, and on my Pinterest board, and the painting itself will go into a storefront exhibit my friend Mary Robertson and I are hanging this week in Johnson City. Mary and I have a line of coincidentally similar subjects in our still life work, and we’ll be showing those together. (We’re also planning to do some painting together this fall.)

Meanwhile, I’ve been using my new camera to shoot locations around Binghamton for possible use in Unlikely Dance, and this Friday — First Friday Art Walk in Binghamton — I’ll be tagging along on the B.F. Harridans‘ morris dance tour in the arts district, photographing the dancers. Hoping for a little sun, Friday, to match the mostly sunny lighting in my location photographs!

Binghamton, across the Susquehanna
Binghamton, across the Susquehanna
Last Thursday I took a particularly promising shot across the Susquehanna River from the Park Diner. It reminds me of a Corot landscape, only awaiting his dancing nymphs. I’ll rearrange the skyline somewhat, if I do use it, and I do rather wish I’d had the Canon ELPH with me; I had to use my iPhone, and the zoomed photo is a bit fuzzy.

Tomorrow morning I’m hanging “Dance Like No One is Watching,” the series precursor to Unlikely Dance, in a local health-food restaurant. Here’s how the series looked, at Tranquil Bar and Bistro last year; there will be changes when I hang it at the new venue. Will post photos of the current show as soon as I can.

New camera, and a (possible) new experience as an artist

Finally, after much asking of advice and online research, I decided on a camera to use in my grant-funded Unlikely Dance project. And yesterday I bought it, along with a tripod, an 8GB memory card, and an extra battery pack. Woohoo! I’m not a photographer, and have no ambitions to be one, but I have needed a better camera for quite some time, for shooting reference photos and for photographing art for reproduction, online posting, and entry applications for shows. Think I’ve found just the thing. It’s a Canon ELPH 110:

Canon ELPH110
Canon ELPH110 – my new camera
the size of a pack of cards, shooting 16-megapixel images, good in all light situations, with a very good “auto” setting and “burst” (rapid shooting) and slo-mo video functions for action shots — and all within my budget. I’m thrilled. On with the project!

And then last night, fresh from the triumph of getting my camera, I had an interesting encounter. Sweetie and I were out for a date night at our favorite bar, Number 5. I’d brought a sketchbook, as usual, to keep myself occupied while he watched sports on TV. Art Show sketchNext to me at the bar was a former colleague from Broome Community College, with her date. They were quite interested in my sketches, even taking my sketchbook to look at while I was busy eating, oohing and wowing over the faces I’ve sketched while sitting at art shows. Art Show sketches“Would you be interested in doing courtroom sketching?” he asked. “I’d LOVE to do that!” I answered. He, it turned out, is a state police investigator. I’ve always been fascinated by courtroom sketching, and I wasn’t exaggerating. We exchanged business cards. Later, as they left, he leaned over my shoulder to see the sketch I was working on. “Who’s that?” he asked. It was a woman over at the opposite corner of the bar.More art show sketches “The one in red?” he asked. Yep, I said. He looked at the woman, looked at the sketch, and said “I’ll be in touch.”

The woman in red, and a pretty bartender
The woman in red, and a pretty bartender
Okay, it was an encounter at a bar. And though I find that friendly people at bars are generally sincere, at the time, about getting in touch, it seldom happens. But what a nice possibility! What an adventure that could be.

Moving along…

Thank you, FedEx guy — I’m now in possession of the painting materials for UNLIKELY DANCE – six large Premier Studio canvases and a box full of paints and varnish, from Blick Studio! Now I just have to choose and buy a camera, and I’m set to get started. Very exciting! I was hoping to start shooting dancers (photographically, I mean) this last Saturday at the Binghamton Contra Dance, but have been sick all weekend.

Bungalow Tour
Bungalow Tour
Girl in a Tutu
Girl in a Tutu
Day at Bretton Woods
Day at Bretton Woods

In the meantime, I’ve helped hang a small downtown Binghamton storefront exhibit with three other artists — we’re all members of the Fine Arts Society of the Southern Tier, but this little show is independent of FASST. Many thanks to Rich Nolan for pulling it all together, and Mary Robertson for including me. The fourth in the group is Richard Henry. Will try to get a photo to include here — please stop back to see. It’s at 97 Court St., a great location, next door to the new nightclub, Loft at 99, right off the new downtown roundabout. My body of work is stretched a little thin right now, so the pieces I’m showing are older work — “Bungalow Tour,” “Girl in a Tutu,” and “Day at Bretton Woods”. (For more information on these pieces, see their listings in my online shop, GreenBoat Gallery.)

97 Court St. exhibit
97 Court St. exhibit – photo courtesy Richard Nolan

I was planning to include a small new still life titled “Flowered Kettle,” but after I’d started framing it, decided it wasn’t quite finished after all. But what was wrong? Seeking answers, I dug back into a book called “The Simple Secret to Better Painting,” and decided to do a value-level analysis on the reference photo (I’d started the painting from life, then photographed the set-up for further work). The author recommends doing value-level sketches before starting a painting, but I think it’s a good diagnostic tool as well. Opening the reference photo image file in Photoshop, first I cropped it to match what I’d done in the painting (noting a linear flourish, bottom right, that seems to have been a mistake), then converted it to a greyscale, and ran it through the Cutout filter with 3 value levels. Then I ran the filter on the original greyscale at 5 levels. And now I see what I need to do: level out the bottom edge of the tablecloth, for compositional stability, and better delineate the value levels in the reds of the tablecloth and bottom book. I’m also wondering if I need to add another element to the right side of the painting, but first I’ll do the value and line work, and see how it shapes up. This is the third rework of that tablecloth, but it’s gotten better each time so I have hope. Moving along…

Flowered Kettle - not finished after all
Flowered Kettle – 12 x 16 in. – not finished after all
Flowered Kettle value analysis - 3 levels
Flowered Kettle – value analysis of reference photo, at 3 value levels
Flowered Kettle - 5 value levels
Flowered Kettle – value analysis of reference photo, at 5 value levels
See this painting finished, here

An art-filled life is never dull

It’s been a couple of months since I last posted, and my life has certainly not stood still during that time.

In June, my upcoming pastels course at BCC was cancelled for lack of enrollment: so disappointing for me, and for those who’d enrolled as well, I’m sure.

Blue Morning, by George Bellows - 1909
Blue Morning, by George Bellows – 1909 – one of the many surprising and powerful pieces in the National Gallery of Art’s Bellows retrospective

But that cancellation was tempered by a trip to the Washington, DC area the next week, for a family event and visits with friends… and a trip to the National Gallery of Art, where a friend and I saw the Bellows and Miro exhibits. Bellows was astounding — I’d never realized the scope and power of his work, and was familiar with only his boxing paintings. Miro was interesting and charming in real life, as in print, but a bit enervating after the excitement of the Bellows. (Later I was glad to have seen the Bellows show before reading the undeservedly tepid New Yorker review.)

My art and prints at Binghamton July Fest
My art and prints at Binghamton July Fest
My art, cards, and earrings at Binghamton July Fest
My art, cards, and earrings at Binghamton July Fest
Later that month I went into a scramble to be ready for Binghamton July Fest, a lovely — if brutally hot — jazz and arts festival in the heart of downtown Binghamton. I did well there, with my new line of standard-size matted and wrapped prints of all the original works I showed.

And last week I showed/sold at Johnson City Carousel Day, a beautifully pulled-together neighborhood festival at CFJ Park, a few blocks from where I live. Much to my surprise and delight, I was awarded a first prize for my artwork, and a second for booth presentation!

But the biggest news of all since my last post is that I was named as one of three recipients of grants from the new Artists Fund of the Community Foundation for South Central New York! My funded project is “Unlikely Dance” — a series of six 30” x 48” oil paintings depicting traditional social and ritual dance in the landscape and public spaces of the Southern Tier of New York. More information on that here! I’ll be regularly posting here about my progress.