Night Watcher

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.

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.

To Be Published… Soon!

Morris 1: Half-Gyp is one of the images requested by both Blick and Vestal Life. 20 x 16 in., oils on canvas
Morris 1: Half-Gyp is one of the images requested by both Blick and Vestal Life. 20 x 16 in., oils on canvas. It will be in my December show at RiverRead Books, 5 Court St., Binghamton

Through entirely separate channels, my work is soon to be published in two different commercial venues.

Vestal Life Magazine
Vestal Life Magazine

The first is Vestal Life, a full-color ad-supported magazine put out by a Philadelphia-area publisher.

Their publication manager called the Broome County Arts Council, who suggested a story on my Unlikely Dance project and the exhibit in the gallery space there — so I’ve sent a write-up and photos to VL for the December issue. (What a great support system BCAC is for their members.)

Sample page from Dick Blick
Sample page from a Blick catalog — this is a treatment similar to what I’ll get in the spring catalog.

Then the creative director for Dick Blick, my longtime favorite mail-order and web-based art supplier, emailed in response to some sort of survey form I’d filled out; in return for an endorsement of their house-brand oil paints (which I use, and ARE great — no problem with that endorsement) my words, artwork, name, and website address will be shown in conjunction with some of their products in their spring catalog supplement. (She requested specific images she’d found on my Fine Art America site.) How cool is THAT?! Very exciting!

Back to Beethoven Oaks: fun with whites and lights

Unlike Dance: Beethoven Oaks (unfinished) -- 30 x 48 in., oils on canvas
Unlikely Dance: Beethoven Oaks (unfinished) — 30 x 48 in., oils on canvas

After a few days off, I’m back into Unlikely Dance: Beethoven Oaks (actually, the least “unlikely” setting in the series so far). Really enjoying playing with the white clothing in the clear spring light — whites are seldom actually white. I’ve used cool colors — cobalt blue, cobalt violet, alizarin crimson, plus titanium white and some cadmium yellow medium to tone down a bit — in the shaded parts of the whites, and sparked it up with a complementary yellow-white mix for the lights. These whites are poppin’! Tree branches are roughed in, to be defined further by eventually painting the sky in between them — meanwhile I’ve begun to establish a bright blue “color trail” amongst the branches to lead the eye back into the center of the composition. I’m trying to paint more in value ranges than in color matches, and so far I like it.

River Willows - 20 x 16 in., oils on canvas
River Willows – 20 x 16 in., oils on canvas

I’ve finished River Willows, but something about it is bothering me. Too weighty, too dark, too something. I may have overworked it.

Once again a “bridesmaid” at the Fine Arts Society Members’ Show, in May I won an Honorable Mention for Dance Study: 2 and 1. It’s a nice recognition nonetheless — and I’m happy for the award winners, several of whom are good friends.

Dance Study: 2 and 1 - 11 x 16.5 in., colored pencil on laid blue pastel paper
Dance Study: 2 and 1 – 11 x 16.5 in., colored pencil on laid blue pastel paper

The “Unlikely Dance” project was made possible by a grant from the Artists Fund of the Community Foundation for South Central New York

To follow my progress in Unlikely Dance, just click on the “Unlikely Dance” link under TOPICS, on the left of any page in this blog.

Unlikely Dance: Golden Clouds – finished!

Unlikely Dance: Golden Clouds
Unlikely Dance: Golden Clouds – 30 x 48 in., oils on canvas

Finished… and being submitted this afternoon to the 2013 Roberson Regional Art Exhibition, along with my other finished Unlikely Dance painting, Green Skirt. No guarantees of a place in this juried show, of course, and it’s impossible for me to be objective about it. As my artist friend Barbara says, we’re always in love with the latest piece. And I do love it, as well as the many friends and fans on Facebook who’ve Liked it. I’m such a sucker for approval.

My assistant, Lydia

Getting good photos of these larger pieces has been a real trial — I was afraid I might have to pay a professional to do it (which I’ve done in the past — photographers have to make a living too, but I don’t make a lot of money with which to pay them). Finally I found a place/time that worked — it’s at the top of the stairway to my studio, where at midday or thereabouts there’s even, diffused light coming from the rooms at either side of the landing. Here’s an unedited version where you can see how I’ve set the painting into the center doorway, with door closed:

Golden Clouds, uncropped
Golden Clouds, uncropped

You might notice the small wadded-up piece of paper in front of the painting, which was deposited there by my young studio assistant, Lydia. She’s not the most helpful assistant ever, and can be a distraction at times, but she means well, loves the work, and is very soft and comforting. :)

And now, onward with Unlikely Dance — I’ve got a finished underpainting all ready for the easel. But first, the whole process of Golden Clouds:

The “Unlikely Dance” project was made possible by a grant from the Artists Fund of the Community Foundation for South Central New York

To follow my progress in Unlikely Dance, just click on the “Unlikely Dance” link under TOPICS, on the left of any page in this blog.

Golden Clouds: blocking in the colors

Unlikely Dance: Golden Clouds, stage 8
Unlikely Dance: Golden Clouds, stage 8 — colors blocked in except for heads

Golden Clouds is coming along nicely, I think, though it is a cause of discomfort — and derision, I understand — for some morris foremen. (It is art, after all, not a dance manual… I suspected this might become an issue.) I’m not having as many problems with glare now that I’ve rearranged the easels — had to fit my smaller easel in to work smaller pieces concurrently with the large (30″ x 48″) Unlikely Dance paintings, and although a bit crowded, the change has resulted in some lighting improvements.

My theme painting for Window on the Arts is now finished and drying — next post will be on that piece. Meanwhile, I’m doing some further preliminary studies on the heads in Golden Clouds, before painting.

The “Unlikely Dance” project was made possible by a grant from the Artists Fund of the Community Foundation for South Central New York

To follow my progress in Unlikely Dance, just click on the “Unlikely Dance” link under TOPICS, on the left of any page in this blog.

Painting large, then and now: a bit of history

Stage 7 – color block-in, of Unlikely Dance: Dark Angel. To see my progress all in one space, “Like” my GreenBoat Gallery page on Facebook (see right-hand column), and click Photos / Albums to find my “Unlikely Dance: ‘Dark Angel'” album.

I know I painted this large when I was college, too many years ago. I still have a couple of those paintings, as evidence that I did.

But it sure seems like a new experience now. After college — and a couple of feints shortly thereafter — I didn’t paint for something like thirty-five years. I was too “busy” with full-time-plus jobs in graphic design and communications, and all the unexpected dips and turns of an interesting life. I didn’t even draw, for several years, until a life crisis drove me into non-credit classes and I got my art jones back. That led me into some heavy-duty drawing as well as teaching in evening classes, and from there, feeling socially and artistically isolated after a move to New Hampshire, I moved into tight, surrealistic colored pencil work. It wasn’t until I put together a composition — for another colored pencil piece, I supposed — from a dream image, that I realized I needed to paint again. The dream image was of a woman holding a paintbrush. As I transferred the composed image to good rag paper, I suddenly asked myself, why would I render this image in pencil? So in 2009 I found a painting class right across town at the wonderful Currier Museum of Art in Manchester. And I lucked out with instructor June Latti, a fine impressionist painter and mentor. She not only taught me a lot of technique, she knew just when to push at me, when to encourage me, and when to leave me alone. I still miss her guidance and friendship, but am so grateful for the time I had as her student.

Since then I’d been painting no larger than 18″x24″ (which was as large as I ever got with my drawings as well) until this grant opportunity came along.

"Dark Angel" in progress in my studio
“Dark Angel” in progress in my studio
And here I am, struggling to cover, to render, and to consider all at once what seems to me a huge canvas (though I know I once painted even larger). I’ve had to reconstruct my easel, down-sized two years ago to accommodate the low ceilings of my home studio, and for the most part give up my painting stool to stand, so I can frequently move back for a full view of the painting (June would not have approved of the stool anyway).
cake-carrier palette
My cake-carrier palette; waxed with a cheap candle before I deposit paint, it cleans easily, and meanwhile keeps the paint soft and workable for days. For a buck from the dollar store, or four bucks (for a slightly larger surface) from the remainders store, it works far better than the much pricier flat palette keeper I bought at the art supply store.
I may have to go back to a larger palette size, though I’m not sure that regularly clearing my cake-carrier palette is altogether a bad thing. So, pushing my boundaries? You bet I am! Sometimes it’s tough getting started, but it’s surely become another fascinating journey.

The “Unlikely Dance” project was made possible by a grant from the Artists Fund of the Community Foundation for South Central New York

To follow my progress in Unlikely Dance, just click on the “Unlikely Dance” link under TOPICS, on the left of any page in this blog.

Finally finished: Blue Glass and Teapots

Blue Glass and Teapots
Blue Glass and Teapots

It was supposed to be a three-day project, for the still life exhibit in Johnson City. Instead, Blue Glass and Teapots took five weeks. Or was it six? But it was worth it, I think. Whatever possessed me to think it was a simple still life?

It features two of my teapot collection, a favorite glass vase of my husband’s, and a long-lived houseplant, in our sun-filled family room, on one of my vintage tablecloths. The nested spoons were left in my car by my friend Judy, after our trip to Philadelphia (they’ve since been returned). Sunny, warm, and convivial is the feeling I was after. Though I’ve published some of the progress in an earlier post, I’m showing the whole progression here.

I used a lot of semi-transparent and transparent glazes in this piece, as opposed to solid, opaque colors, due largely to the larger proportion of Liquin dryer I used in my medium, and I think that helped with the luminosity of the piece.

“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.