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.

Advertisements

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.

 

Come paint with me this fall

Exploring Oil Painting with Glenda Blake

Exploring Oil Painting, with Glenda Blake

Mondays, 1-4:00 p.m., October 19-November 16, 2015

$15 one-time fee for supplies, for five 3-hour sessions
Enrollment limited to 10 students.

Explore the fundamentals of oil painting in a casual yet informative setting with artist/instructor Glenda Blake. Together we’ll paint from a still life in the classroom, learning as we go about composition, under-painting, light, shadow, and color mixing. If you’ve always wanted to paint in oils, now is the time! If you have painting experience already, come to learn new techniques and paint with others. If you have a portable standing floor easel you like, please bring it — shorter easels are provided by the instructor. Please wear a work apron, and/or older clothing to paint in.

Classes are on Mondays, October 19-November 16, 2015. Please plan to attend the first session, and all sessions thereafter if possible. Lessons are sequential; each builds on the previous. To sign up, stop by the circulation desk at Your Home Public Library, 107 Main Street, Johnson City, NY.

Call YHPL at 607 797-4816 for sign-up information, or contact me with questions or for information about class content.

The second-floor class space is beautiful, but, due to the historic nature of the building, there is no elevator.

A fine first class in Exploring Oil Painting

Session 1 - Exploring Oil Painting, 7-20-15
Wish I’d photographed the underpaintings later — what a strong showing.

The conditions were not perfect — a scorching hot and humid day, so the blinds were closed, limiting natural light; the window-unit air-conditioner making that low humming noise that makes chat so difficult — but what a strong group I gathered for this rendition of Exploring Oil Painting at Your Home Public Library014 The underpaintings were wonderful, and everyone was so helpful in helping me clean up at the end. There were lots of questions, including a request towards the end for a full critique. I did my best in all of this, and in return got hugs, thanks, and promises to come back next week. I do love teaching this class. It’s so varied in enrollment, and filled with people who really want to learn. I do my best to oblige. Thank you, YHPL, for this teaching opportunity! And thanks to the students, who continue to challenge me, and grant me such rewards.

Paint with me this summer!

ExplOilPainting_graphic4flat

Exploring Oil Painting, with Glenda Blake

Mondays, 1-4:00 p.m., July 20, 27, August 3, 17, 24, 2015

$15 one-time fee for supplies, for five 3-hour sessions
Enrollment limited to 10 students.

IMG_7166 Explore the fundamentals of oil painting in a casual yet informative setting with artist/instructor Glenda Blake. Together we’ll paint from a still life in the classroom, learning as we go about composition, under-painting, light, shadow, and color mixing. If you’ve always wanted to paint in oils, now is the time! If you have painting experience already, come to learn new techniques and paint with others. If you have a portable standing floor easel you like, please bring it — shorter easels are provided by the instructor. Please wear a work apron, and/or older clothing to paint in.

Classes are on Mondays, July 20, 27, August 3, 17, 24, 2015, 1-4:00 p.m. (No class August 10.) Please plan to attend the first session, and all sessions thereafter if possible. Lessons are sequential; each builds on the previous. To sign up, stop by the circulation desk at Your Home Public Library, 107 Main Street, Johnson City, NY.

Call YHPL at 607 797-4816 for sign-up information, or contact me with questions or for information about class content.

The second-floor class space is beautiful, but, due to the historic nature of the building, there is no elevator.