Cooperative Gallery 213 … and me!

Planning our show at Cooperative Gallery 213
Planning our show at Cooperative Gallery 213 (artwork © Kit Ashman)

I’m working my way slowly and happily into the role of exhibiting member in Cooperative Gallery 213 in Binghamton, NY — though I suppose that volunteering to pull together a compilation of identity standards for the gallery is not exactly slow; it’s quite a process. I’m afraid I’ve already accidentally stepped on some toes with that one, but hope to do a little less crashing about in the future. A cooperative comprises many different voices and opinions. SO looking forward to the beautiful new gallery website, soon to be made public by webmaster/figure painter Ken Weir.

Yesterday I did my first gallery sitting, with experienced member Barbara Bernstein, for the First Friday opening of a wonderful shared show by Karen Fedczuk and Alexandra Davis. Barbara is fine company as well as a fine artist, and she patiently answered all my newbie questions about how to open and close the gallery (banner, lights, food for First Fridays, etc.) and conduct sales. There was a block party outside, as well the normal First Friday jollity, so the joint was jumpin’ already when I left after my 3-6 p.m. sitting shift.

I’ve also already designed an ad for the gallery at the request of the PR committee, and am planning to take in some of my art cards for the Members’ Gallery section.
But most important, for now, are ongoing plans for our dual July show, The Body Electric / London & Beyond, with photographer Chuck Haupt (seen above, during our recent planning meeting)! I’ll be showing my new Les Poseurs series of nudes in oils, as well as some worked-into figure studies in colored pencil. Exciting!

I do love a deadline. How about you?

Solstice and the holidays coming ’round again


We’re into the dark and dismal days of winter — particularly grey in my area of New York State — and I’m pining for the light.

Every year I go into conniptions about our Yuletide card — what medium? What subject? — and my sweetie has to remind me that it’s not of earth-shaking importance. This year I really wanted to do a nice holiday still life in oils, but managed to agonize about it for too long (with four separate compositions, none of which was QUITE perfect) and ended up doing this perfectly fine colored pencil piece of our front door.

In the meantime, my cards and earrings are once again for sale at Old Barn Hollow Market, but through missed communications I didn’t make it into Cooperative Gallery 213‘s holiday members’ show. Disappointing, for sure.

GreenBoat Studio holiday cards, available at Old Barn Hollow Market.

However, I have just sent in my application materials for full exhibiting membership at Cooperative 213. Fingers crossed — I know there are some very fine artists out there who’d also like to join, and memberships are limited in number.

My latest painting course at Your Home Public Library ended on December 1, and the next one is scheduled to begin on Saturday, March 21. I know there are some who will be happy it’s moved to Saturdays, rather than Mondays, and I’m looking forward to it myself. This last group of students was just terrific — some very strong work came out of it — though I did feel bad for the student who felt she was in over her head, and dropped out. I hope she’ll try again — I’m rewriting my class plan again! (To get a place on the waiting list, contact YHPL.)

I still have my shopping to do (I know, I know) and a gift painting to finish. Oh, and after hosting 18 people for Thanksgiving, sweetie and I will be hosting 12 or so on Christmas day. If only Lydia the kitty doesn’t pull down the tree by then!

Wishing you the best of holidays, and a happy new year.

Coming up in August!

Stillness and Motion
Apples in a White Bowl, by Mary Robertson – 30 x 24 in., oils on canvas
Unlikely Dance: Beethoven Oaks, by Glenda Blake – 48 x 30 in., oils on canvas

Throughout the month of August 2014 the Broome County Public Library presents “Stillness and Motion,” a joint exhibit of still life and dance paintings by artists Glenda Blake and Mary Robertson.

Artist and designer Glenda Blake received a grant from the Community Foundation for South Central New York’s Artist Fund for the series Unlikely Dance, featured in “Stillness and Motion.” She began painting as a teenager, and, after a hiatus of thirty-plus years, resumed under the guidance of New England impressionist June Latti. Traditional dance is a frequent subject of her work in both oils and colored pencil. She has exhibited throughout the Northeast, and is currently teaching oil painting at Your Home Public Library in Johnson City, NY (July 28-August 25).

Taking up painting later in life, award-winning fine artist Mary Robertson has been painting for over thirty-five years now, studying locally with both William Grausgruber and the late Michael Tanzer, and teaching her own workshops on painting. Oils are her primary medium, along with watercolor and acrylic, and still life a favorite subject. Mary was Artist-in-Residence at Riverfront Antiques in Binghamton, NY.

Both artists have exhibited their work with the Fine Arts Society of the Southern Tier, at the Community Foundation for South Central New York, and at the Broome County Arts Council as well as in other regional venues. Their common ground is a love of clear colors and dramatic light.

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.

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.

Reflections on hanging art in a restaurant

Dance Like No One is Watching (abridged version)
Dance Like No One is Watching (abridged version)

Today I had my first unpleasant experience hanging a solo show in a local space. Granted, hanging my previous show at the Broome County Public Library was a little weird, due mostly to the strange young man who makes the conference room/gallery his office-away-from-home. But libraries are magnets for odd ducks, he was relatively pleasant and interesting — if odd — and he seemed harmless.

The restaurant I hung in this morning — which shall, in this post, remain nameless — is possibly the only full-service “health food” restaurant in Binghamton, and though I’ve never much liked their food, they have a history of local community support, as well as a long association with the local morris dance teams. (Though it doesn’t seem supportive of the community that they choose to sell their house-brand pestos at the Syracuse farmers’ market 60 miles away, rather than at Binghamton-area farmers’ markets.)

So I thought it’d be a cool place to hang my morris dance series, despite the fact that they charge an “administrative fee” to show there. My experience is that most restaurant and business proprietors consider hanging original artwork on their walls to be an even trade: publicity and possible sales for the artists, traded for free and unique wall decor for the business, along with free word-of-mouth advertising from — and food sales to — the artists, their friends and families, and the curious. This restaurant, I was told by one of the owners, allows artists to hang work there “out of the goodness of our hearts,” because of her personal love of the arts. Ah. So, what’s the fee about, then? Oh, that pays for the time she spends coordinating artists (six per year), “emailing back and forth,” and forwarding artist information to the First Friday art-walk organization. Wait, is that the odor of bull-poop, wafting by? The one restaurant I’ve shown in which charges a commission on sales also takes care of the sales. And they use a refreshingly business-like contract and art inventory, not just a CYA waiver of responsibility. So this latest venue charges whether or not there are sales, without taking either a hand in any sales or responsibility for any damage to or theft of the artwork.

I agreed ahead of time to use the existing nails and hooks so that there would be no more holes in the recycled bead-board Dance Like No One is Watching - view 2wall. (That’s wall, singular — about 25 feet of wall allowed for art. For a fee.) I was appalled to find that the existing nails and hooks were a motley and largely loose and wobbly assortment, from tiny brads and occasional low-weight picture-hooks to bent roofing nails, scattered higgledy-piggledy across the wall. (For my part, I take no responsibility for any artwork falling off wobbly nails and clobbering their customers.) There was no way to line up artwork, or to make a coherent display of the work with even spaces, inward/outward-facing content, or esthetic groupings. Nothing but random placings. And that’s not how I hang my shows.

Frustrated with the lack of arrangement possibilities, about halfway along I asked if I could remove existing nails from their places and replace them in other existing nail holes. The owner I spoke to thought that was reasonable, as long as I made no new holes. Unfortunately, the primary owner did not agree, and stopped me in mid-process to say that he simply wouldn’t allow it. Fine, I said finally. Yes, of course it’s your restaurant. I simply won’t be back.

I contemplated taking down the art I’d hung up to that point, and walking out. (In fact. looking at the photos, I think I will go back and remove one piece — an unglassed oil painting hanging far too close to a table. Just what I need: hummus splatter on “Half-Gyp.”) But I’ve already put the notice in the newspaper and spread word of mouth about my show there.

They DID kindly provide an excellent stepladder and a glass of water, offering me a cup of coffee as well, and I appreciate those courtesies. But this is also the only place where I’ve shown in which I was expected to remove the previous artist’s work from the walls before hanging my own.

I let them know that I’m not pleased with the way I had to hang my work. And I did suggest that they install a proper art hanging system if they don’t want new holes in the wooden wall. Those systems can be pricey, though, and the owner I spoke to assumes they can’t afford one. But, you know, I could devise an inexpensive, minimalist, wall-sparing hanging system for them. For a fee.

It don’t rain but what it pours…art!

Thursday was an eventful day, in terms of artistic new beginnings.

First I got a call from BCC Continuing Ed asking if I’d like to take over the instruction of a summer non-credit course called Painting with Pastels, as the scheduled instructor couldn’t do it — of course I said yes, though it’s been a while since I’ve used pastels. I re-wrote the course description somewhat, ran out to the bookstore and the art supply store, and brought home an excellent book called “Pastel Pointers,” by Richard McKinley, and a new set of soft pastels to replace the old incomplete set I had. I have until June 6 to brush up my skills and put together a lesson plan, and I’m psyched. Until then, I’ll be working only in pastels. They’re similar enough in working method to colored pencil that I’ll have my skills and know-how back well in time. I love teaching. I also love being pushed back into a medium I once knew well, and will soon know even better.

While I was out shopping for pastels, a former colleague at the New Hampshire college where I worked as a designer until 2010 — she’s now the head of the department — called to ask if I’d be interested in doing some freelance design work for the college. I surely would. I loved working there, did some of my best design work for them, and know all or most of the people involved. It was an exploratory call — nothing for sure yet, but I’m excited and hopeful.

Then in the evening I finally got myself to the mostly-weekly figure-drawing circle at the Windsor Whip Works Art Center — a real breath of fresh air. I haven’t drawn from a live model for several years, and have missed it terribly. It was a small, friendly group, with a good (if very chatty) model, and I enjoyed it immensely. I’m pretty pleased with the results, for the first time out in so long, but in live figure drawing the process is more important than the product, as far as I’m concerned. It’s like yoga for artists — immediate payback in stretching, relaxation, sociability, and play, and long-term benefits in attitude, confidence, and eye-hand fluency. I must make this a regular part of my practice, even if I can only make it once a month.

Here are a few of the pieces I brought home last night — all except the last one are done in Prismacolor Stix (colored pencil in the shape of a pastel stick). For the last — a longer pose — I broke out the new pastels. (I’m not planning to offer these in my online shop, but if you’re interested in buying a print of any, let me know.)

Wol is finished, and the Lost Dog show is hung

Finally finished Wol and the Stone Goddess yesterday, and got it framed in time to add it to my Feathered and Feline show, which I hung this morning in the Lost Dog Cafe.

Today proved to be a bit of a bad art karma day; when I got to the Lost Dog, there was already art on the walls, and complications ensued — which included my discovery of a broken piece of framing glass on one of my pieces. Delayed by the brouhaha and confusion, I hung the show as quickly as possible (whew — what a simple way to describe a LOT of work!), took the broken piece back home, re-framed it, and ran it — along with the missing tag for Wol — back to the Dog, only to find a jam-packed restaurant. I do hope Nicole was able to put the drawing and the tag in place when the crowd thinned out!

So here’s the finished Wol and the Stone Goddess. It’s also now available as prints from my Etsy shop — just click on the photo to go there.

Wol and the Stone Goddess
Wol and the Stone Goddess - colored pencil on painted hardboard, 24 x 24"

And here are some photos of the show in place, before the onslaught of diners. It’s such a popular place, and the people are so nice; I love showing here.

Feng Shui art

Much to my chagrin, I missed the deadline for drop-off of my dance pieces for the Accompaniment show at the BCAC… I’d marked it wrongly on my calendar. But, well — I guess I’ll use those pieces as part of my in-process application for exhibiting membership at Cooperative Gallery 213 in Binghamton. Tomorrow I’m taking down my show at Tranquil Bar and Bistro, and I’ll be hanging it in the Lost Dog Cafe on Wednesday morning. In between times several of the pieces will go to Co-op 213 for the membership committee. Would love to be a part of this group!

Meanwhile, I’ve posted a piece from 2009 at my Etsy shop. I made this art based on a tip from a Lillian Too book on Feng Shui — to sell your house, draw a picture of a bird flying out of your house, carrying a piece of paper in its beak. Optionally, write the amount you hope to sell the house for on the paper the bird carries. Hang this picture at the right (facing out) of the front door.

Since we knew where we wanted to move to, I bordered the house and bird with an image of our destination area.

After a more than a year of having our house on the market, I made this artwork and hung it as directed, and we sold the house on favorable terms four months later. I’m also offering custom pieces for people trying to sell their houses.

I love this technique — such fun. It’s a digital collage printed in partial opacity on fibered paper and worked back into with colored pencil and pen & ink.

Feng Shui Moving Bird
Feng Shui Moving Bird