Binghamton July Fest 2013 — what a hoot!

The original art side of my booth
The original art side of my July Fest booth (not shown: cards, prints, and earrings). Photo thanks to Angela Cook.

It’s Wednesday, and I’m just now recovering from last weekend’s July Fest, the 51st year of Binghamton, New York’s downtown music, art, and community festival. What a hoot it was. Not a terribly profitable year for me or for many of those around me — though it was wonderfully so for a couple of my artist friends. But for many of us it’s as much a social and networking occasion as it is a sales venue. There were people from my high school class (FAR too long ago), Facebook friends I’d never actually met before, people who’d bought my work before, and many who hadn’t but loved it.
Artists in Action
“Artists in Action” booths on “Gorgeous” Washington Street – my booth was the third one down on the right. Photo thanks to Patti Schwartz
There were artist-friends and “neighbors” old and new who were both good company and mutually supportive. Dogs and children I adored and/or pitied. An appalling number of very fat people. Stressed-out but accommodating and helpful organizers (including Ron Sall, July Fest coordinator, who is every July Fest artist’s best friend).
Ron Sall (right, in orange shirt)
Ron Sall (right, in orange shirt) is the guy who pulls it all together. He well deserves the 2012 Heart of the Arts Award he received from the Broome County Arts Council! Photo thanks to Patti Schwartz.
The weather was hot, on Friday and Saturday, but brutal on Sunday. I had to leave early on Sunday anyway, due to a timing conflict with the Opening and Awards celebration of the Roberson Regional across the river, and although I hated abandoning my friends and the show, and disappointing Ron as well, I wouldn’t have been able to take the heat for much longer in any event. Thanks again to my volunteer “porters,” a lovely last-minute customer and two old dance friends who helped me haul all my stuff to the car, and of course to my sweet husband who leapt up at my last-minute phone call to come downtown and take my largest painting home separately so it wouldn’t get damaged. That large painting was Unlikely Dance: Entry Hall (visible at right in the photo at the top of the page), which got some rave reviews — including one from Marion Simpson, who is not known to give praise lightly, and another from Nancy Goff, whose own work I so admire. Pretty heady stuff!
Strollers on Court St.
Strollers on Court St. — the city closes three blocks of downtown Court St., plus a block each of cross streets Washington and State, for July Fest. Photo thanks to Patti Schwartz
It was altogether exhausting, and on Monday I was apparently still running on adrenaline when Mary Robertson and I met to re-do our storefront exhibit at 97 Court St. We were — almost literally — bouncing off the walls with laughter and fatigue.
On Tuesday afternoon I fell over for the rest of the day.

Next post on the Roberson Regional opening and show — a remarkable exhibit — but I’ll wait for that until next week, when I’ll have some photos to post.

Unlikely Dance: Entry Hall – in progress

Unlikely Dance: Entry Hall (unfinished) - 30 x 48 in., oils on canvas
Unlikely Dance: Entry Hall (unfinished) – 30 x 48 in., oils on canvas

I did the underpainting for Unlikely Dance: Entry Hall almost a month ago, while waiting for the block-in of Golden Clouds to dry and working on the smaller, unrelated Puppet Parade. But both of those pieces had deadlines closing in, so they took precedence for a while after this underpainting was finished. In the meantime, I bought a couple of inspiring instructional videos, and both — Alla Prima Portraiture with Rose Frantzen and Painting the Portrait in Oil with Brian Keeler — have affected the way I’m working on this piece. Not that I’m painting the faces in any way like these two fine artists do their portraits; I’m feeling their influences more in the way I’m handling the paint and the values, holding my brushes, and self-critiquing as I go.

Studio assistant Lydia (the kitten) studies my technique
Studio assistant Lydia studies my technique

It’s quite interesting to me how the pieces in this Unlikely Dance series are developing so differently from one another, despite the common threads of size, medium, and theme — I’m learning a lot as I work through this self-imposed assignment.

The dancers in Entry Hall are referenced from my photo shoot of a Scottish country dance group, though of course I’ve changed the visible faces (“borrowing” my niece’s face for the central figure) and placed them in a setting other than the school gym where they dance. To offset the very dark and brown decor of the local museum hallway I’ve set the dancers in, I’m leaning the colors more towards purples and yellows — which do combine to make brown — for some color snap. Pretty happy with it so far!

Here’s the process, up to this point:

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.

Blake+Robertson at Acme: the revival of one still life, and the start of a new one

Blake and Robertson, still lives at Acme
Blake and Robertson, still lives at Acme

At Johnson City Carousel Day in July I re-met Peggy Benz; she was handing out programs, and we realized we knew one another from long ago… finally nailed it down to the 1970s feminist health group we were both involved in. Some days later I got an email from her — she’s now waging a one-woman campaign to clean up “downtown” Johnson City. She’d seen the Nolan+Robertson+Henry+Blake storefront exhibit at 97 Court St. in Binghamton, and wondered if we’d like to do something similar in Johnson City. Hmmm. Despite my doubts, I contacted Rich, Richard, and Mary; Mary was enthusiastic. So Tuesday — in the midst of my struggles with a badly infected spider bite on my arm — Mary and I set up our show at Acme Cash Register, 238 Main St. in Johnson City. We both came equipped with easels and art, as well as my Craftsman-style 3-panel folding screen. Mary vacuumed the rug in the window (and subsequently the entire front office of the bustling family business) as I unloaded my car, then we cleaned the windows, Mary unloaded, and we started deploying easels and artwork in the lovely deep window.

Mary Robertson and I realized when we met each other two years ago that our still life subjects were eerily parallel, considering the fact that we did them with no knowledge of each other’s work. (We’d even had identical grey and white cats.) So this struck me as a fine theme for the exhibit.

Jug and Beanpot  - Glenda Blake
Jug and Beanpot – Glenda Blake – 16×20 in., oils on canvas – at

The human figure is my primary art interest, and lacking quite enough works for the window, I pulled out an old, partially failed still life from a class I took a year or so ago, re-composed it in Photoshop, and re-painted the bothersome bits. What a relief! All I needed was a concrete purpose for fixing it. I’m so happy now with Jug and Beanpot I hated to let it go.

I am an awful perfectionist when it comes to displays — and my sweetie took an awful tumble on the sidewalk, bringing the items I’d forgotten — but somehow we made it through, Mary and I with friendship intact and sweetie and I with marriage intact, despite his possible cracked rib from the fall. We think the window looks great, and so does Joan Sacco, the proprietor. The street traffic in JC may not be our constituency, but Acme has foot-traffic clentele from the restaurant, hotel, and academics sectors, so this could be a good thing. And it really does help beautify the old business district.

This effort took me back to the days when I designed retail windows, both for a full-time employer and as a freelancer. Fun. Rejuvenating. Next week I’m going to redesign the opposite window for Joan, with all their business items, as a thank-you for letting us use what is for now the art window. Really looking forward to it, and hoping we might be able to stay in the art window for a while.

Nolan+Robertson+Henry+Blake, v.2
+Henry+Blake, v.2

Meanwhile, we’ve done a change-out in the Binghamton window at 97 Court St., and I’m planning a showing of my “Feathered and Feline” series at “Window on the Arts,” in Windsor, NY, this coming Saturday.

Can I get a new still life done in time to take the place of Eddie and Blue Eggs,

Eddie and the Blue Eggs (Still Life with Cat)
Eddie and the Blue Eggs (Still Life with Cat) – at

in the Acme exhibit, so I can show “Eddie” in Windsor? Wait and see!

Cat, Owl, Pussycat, finished – and other small victories

Cat, Owl, Pussycat is finally finished! And has a first coat of damar varnish to even out the surfaces of the various dull and glossy paints. I’ve recently added an earth pigment to my deliberately limited palette, and it seems to go dull or shiny at different times, with different amounts of medium.

The new pigment is burnt umber. I cut all earth tones from my palette a while ago, in an experiment to make color harmonies easier; if all colors are mixed from the same basic pigments, they’ll bear a closer relationship to one another than colors from a broad palette. But I’ve grown weary of mixing all my blacks and browns, so burnt umber — which I happened to have kicking around in my taboret — is a welcome addition. Combined with ultramarine blue it makes a deep, rich black, and with various combinations of cad yellow, cad red, and viridian it can fill in for any number of other earths. I still practice the art student avoidance of pre-mixed blacks.

So, my palette now consists of (clockwise from bottom):

  • titanium white
  • cadmium yellow light
  • cadmium red
  • alizarin crimson
  • cobalt violet
  • ultramarine blue
  • viridian green
  • burnt umber
  • … and, in the center, mother grey (a mixture of the other colors, made from palette scrapings of still-viable paints when each painting is finished)

I try to use as few solvents as possible — my studio is the second floor of our home — so my medium is a half & half mixture of stand oil and walnut oil, with a little Liquin (an alkyd drier), and I clean my brushes with a baby oil/turpenoid mixture and then dish detergent.

Just bought some long-bristled synthetic bristle filbert brushes, in sizes 2, 4, and 6 — I’ve been using sable and synthetic flats and rounds — and I LOVE them! So versatile and sensitive.

I’m exhibiting at the offices of the Community Foundation of South Central New York in March, and my work will be the backdrop for a special public event — how exciting is THAT?!

Also in March, my solo show Feathered and Feline will hang at Tranquil Bar and Bistro, and in April I’ll have two pieces in the group show Accompaniment at the Broome County Arts Council. Small victories all!

Midtones, Mardi Gras, and upcoming shows

Date night out for Mardi Gras, last night — mostly watching the revelers while sipping at a martini, but I took quite a few photos with a bar series in mind… the lights and movement are great.

Over the last couple of days I’ve been experimenting further with altered digital collage*, as Cat, Owl, Pussycat has dried — nothing to show you yet of the former, as the latest experiment hasn’t worked out, but there are more on track. Hoping to have something to show, and soon, since I’m scheduled to hang Feathered and Feline a week from today! Gotta love deadlines.

Meanwhile, yesterday I got into the midtones of Cat, Owl, Pussycat, adding some depth to Cat, Pussycat, bowl, pot, and greenery. Today I’ll go wet-into-wet with some lower lights, and start tackling the tablecloth. I want some indication of texture and pattern there, but don’t want to go all nit-picky with detail…

Cat, Owl, Pussycat: stage 4
Cat, Owl, Pussycat: stage 4 - going back into midtones, after rushing too far ahead on the lights in last stage. Next - lower lights wet-into-wet, and some texture/pattern in the tablecloth. Apologies for the paint rag, lower right! These pieces of discarded t-shirts are my erasers; as I work, I use them as needed for wiping paint from the canvas.

Another show coming up, involving another art I participate in: Diamonds in the Rough at Dorothy’s Music Room, in Trumansburg, NY, March 8. More info here.

* If you’d like to see some earlier altered digital collage work, here’s a sample. Basically, I assemble a collage in Photoshop, print it out, and then work back into it by hand with a variety of media. My aim now is to go larger, and use paint as well as colored pencil for alterations.

Cat, Owl, Pussycat: more paint

I haven’t worked on Cat, Owl, Pussycat since last Friday, due to drying time and little interruptions like dentist appointments, root canal work, and my own exploratory work in altered digital collage (more about the latter, later). All very exciting, but I’ve also been eager to get back to this piece. This afternoon I’ve laid down more paint, worked on a couple of bits that were nagging at me from that nail on the wall – like the terracotta saucer that had grown way out of proportion – and gotten the underpainting covered. Sometimes just getting some paint on the more intimidating parts is real progress!

Flowers aren’t a subject I’ve taken on very often, so this is a new challenge and learning experience. Hoping it doesn’t veer too far to the Cute and/or Pretty side…

Cat, Owl, Pussycat: stage 3
Cat, Owl, Pussycat: stage 3: at lower right, on the easel shelf, my Color Isolator tool. :)

New for Feathered & Feline: Cat, Owl, Pussycat

I’ve started a new painting, in the last couple of days… and surprisingly enough it’s based on one of the Sylvia photos taken last week, after I noticed a lovely curved compositional line in one of the photos. I’m calling the piece Cat, Owl, Pussycat. It’s taken a fair amount of Photoshop work on the initial image, and while doing that I came to the conclusion that it has to be done in oils. Why? Dunno, just that intuition thing again — not that it’s always right.

So here are the first two stages of Cat, Owl, Pussycat – the underpainting in cadmium red, and initial color block-in. Started to block in the Cat, but realized that if I blocked in the whiskers first, in white, I’ll be able to scratch back to it in successive darker layers for a nice, subtle look. Some Liquin in the medium, but it’s still drying more slowly than I’d like, so I’ll take the opportunity to finish up Blue Eggs, Silver Bowl and get started on Barn Owl, Winter Moon. More on those to come!

Cat, Owl, Pussycat - stage 1: cadmium red underpainting
Cat, Owl, Pussycat - stage 1: cadmium red underpainting
Cat, Owl, Pussycat - stage 2
Cat, Owl, Pussycat - stage 2: starting the color block-in

Bert at Ease will benefit the Montrose animal shelter

Yesterday I dropped off my original colored pencil drawing, “Bert at Ease,” at the Windsor Whip Works Gallery for their Canine/Feline show; I’m so happy to be part of this! 25% of proceeds will go to benefit the True Friends Animal Welfare Center in Montrose, PA. I’m a firm believer in adopting — not shopping for — animal companions, as is everyone else in my family. I’ve never been without at least one furry companion, and usually have more than one. Each one has been special, and a character unto his- or herself.

The show opens February 11, 2012, and runs through March 3. I’ve also pledged 20% of my proceeds from cards and prints of “Bert at Ease” to the TFAW Center during that timeframe. (And I’m considering making it a permanent pledge.)

If you’re local to Greater Binghamton, do stop in to see the show! It was juried — coordinated by Marc Schimsky — and the work I saw yesterday at drop-off was superb.

Bert at Ease
Bert at Ease

The owl, the pussycat… and Sylvia

Doing an exploratory photo shoot yesterday, on a quest for reference images and ideas for my Feathered and Feline series, I arranged a set of owl and pussycat figurines on the dining table, along with a pot of croqui and various ceramics. But Sylvia, our resident pussycat, had her own agenda — she is a cat with a great sense of humor. The results are a little too Cute for paintings, I think, but quite sweet in themselves!