My work and words, featured in my favorite art supply catalog!

DickBlick2014-15-p17

Well, hot-diggety — my artwork and my endorsement are featured in the new 2014-2015 annual Blick Studio catalog! One of my other pieces was shown, without endorsement, in the Spring 2014 catalog supplement — not too shabby either — but this one’s quite a thrill. Featured is Unlikely Dance: Golden Clouds (30 x 48 in., oil on canvas), and yes, it WAS painted with Blick Oil Colors. I’ve always loved Blick — have dealt with them both personally and professionally for nearly forty years — but now more than ever! Looking forward to receiving it in the mail. (You can request one for yourself, here.)

Blick_spring2014-p68
My painting Morris Dance: Half-Gyp (20 x 16 in., oil on canvas) was shown, without endorsement, in the framing and matting section of the Spring 2014 Blick Studio catalog supplement — not too shabby either!

Arts festivals, classes, and commissions — oh my!

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Binghamton JulyFest has come and gone once again, and I’m seriously considering skipping it next year. It is So. Hot. It is So. Exhausting. (If they decide to move the “Artists in Action” section back to the shady courthouse lawn, from the brick oven of Washington Street, I’ll look on it more favorably.) It takes me almost a week to recover. It was fun, of course — not party-city with Mary Robertson & family, as I’d expected, but there was good company all around. I spoke to some lovely people, shrugged off the inevitable idiots (“Did you paint all these by hand yourself?”) for the most part, and made some sales — enough to pay for admission and a little more, though nowhere near what I made last year. That may have been partly due to skipping Sunday, however — violent thunderstorms were forecast and Ron Sall, the super-hospitable festival coordinator, told us we were free to go if we felt the need. I felt the need, as did many others. Of course the thunderstorms didn’t materialize until late afternoon. Of course. This coming Saturday is Johnson City Carousel Day.

The class list for my  Introduction to Oil Painting course, at Your Home Public Library in Johnson City, was filled more than a week before the class starts, due partly to the handouts I distributed at JulyFest, and also to the distribution of the class description to the FASST (Fine Arts Society of the Southern Tier) membership, for which I’m mightily grateful — also, I presume, to the Library newsletter, events calendar, postings, and Facebook event.Intro to Oil Painging So looking forward to it (it starts a week from today) and a bit anxious — having to rein myself in so I don’t spend all my earnings on class materials I didn’t think to include in the initial price!

Meanwhile, I’m about ready to start on a commission — a piece ordered through the “Custom Order” function on Etsy. (See my shops at www.greenboat.etsy.com, and www.GreenBoatVintage.etsy.com .) I am so psyched about this painting. It started out vaguely enough, with a request for “a painting of a contra dance,” and I rather expected it to disappear when the client saw pricing and started answering hard questions… but that didn’t happen! She’s made a down-payment, signed a commission contract, and for the most part approved the initial composition sketch — some minor changes forthcoming by request — and I can’t wait to get started painting. It’s a very ambitions composition — will post progressives here and on my artist/designer Facebook page (click “Like Me on Facebook” in the right-hand column) — and a real challenge. You know how I love a challenge!

My eyes are still not working right and it looks like I’ll need to fit in retinal surgery sometime soon — and perhaps vision therapy to re-train my brain — but that will be as it will be. I just need to see better.

On with the show!

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.

An emerging new process, and The Joy of Dancing

KwanYin and Chrysanthemums, 20x16 in., oils on canvas
KwanYin and Chrysanthemums, 20×16 in., oils on canvas

Two weeks and two days ago I had eye-muscle surgery. Nothing scarier for an artist than eye surgery, except maybe encroaching blindness. I’ve had this wonky left eye, which tracked upward and to the left of my right eye, since I was a kid. All along there were murmurings about the possibility of corrective surgery, but as time went on either the opthamologist was discouraging it or I was avoiding it. Prism arrangements in my glasses lenses brought the disparate images together, until recently. My optometrist encouraged me to see a specialist about the surgery — for real — because the maxxed-out prisms were no longer adequate to the task and he was concerned that my right eye would lose sight to the dominant and errant left. I’d already lost some depth perception, and had a growing cataract in the right eye. So I did it. Quite a do, and I’m still recovering. My eye is still not tracking quite properly all the time, but the surgeon said it would take six weeks to heal so I’m still hoping it’ll all straighten out. Meanwhile the cataract in the right eye has grown significantly in density, so that’s scheduled for surgery in May.

Hasn’t stopped me from painting, however — in fact, I’ve been quite productive. In my last post I talked about a paint-together still life session with Mary Robertson and Jan Wood (just before my surgery), and I’ve finished the painting I started that day, Kwan Yin and Chrysanthemums. Using a process new to me, I painted in semi-transparent glazes (mixed colors thinned with oil/resin medium) over my initial underpainting, saving the lightest lights and darkest darks for last. I love the result. So I started another — Henry and Rebecca — and have worked on a couple of earlier underpainted pieces, Demeter and Rebecca.

Demeter 04 -- almost finished!
Demeter 04 — almost finished!

 

Rebecca 03 -- progress!
Rebecca 03 — progress!

 

Henry and Rebecca 02 -- first color glazes
Henry and Rebecca 02 — first color glazes

These last two had given me problems due to my use of Turpenoid Natural for thinning the paint in the underpainting, but they did finally dry and I’m quite pleased with their progress. I’m close to finishing Demeter, thanks to a lovely paint-together session at Mary’s studio today.

This painting in transparent layers over a show-through underpainting has intrigued me for some time, and although I’d tried it before, to a limited extent, I’m finding it really freeing as an overall technique, That, plus saving the lightest lights and darkest darks for last — a lesson from John Singer Sargent — and I’m in a whole different ballfield than before: one I like a lot.

Meanwhile, my first long drive alone since surgery was the hundred-mile trip to Ithaca and back, to help take down the Joy of Dancing exhibit at the Tompkins County Public Library, where my Unlikely Dance series was the cornerstone. What a wonderful space, and wonderful show. My thanks once again to Sally Grubb, Scottish Country and contra dancer, exhibit coordinator at TCPL, and curator of this show. I got some photos before we disassembled it. A wonderful review of the show is here.

Yuletide is coming on…

Our Yule tree
Our Yule tree, with its growing collection of birds in the branches

After a wonderful closing reception on December 6, I’ve taken down Unlikely Dance at the Broome County Arts Council gallery space — leaving two studies that were sold — and the six paintings are back in my studio for a couple of weeks before going to Ithaca for

GoldenClouds: Study 1
GoldenClouds: Study 1 – sold
Golden Clouds: Study 2
Golden Clouds: Study 2 – sold

three months for a small-group show called “For the Joy of Dance,” at the Tompkins County Public Library. (The opening reception for that show will be in February, though it’ll be on view January through March.) It’s like having old friends come home, only to leave again.

RiverRead show
My show at RiverRead Books

Meanwhile, my smaller dance series is hanging, in part, in the lovely RiverRead Books shop in downtown Binghamton, That show includes a series of large heads of dancers wearing floral crowns, which I’ve never shown before. The opening was quiet, but the music of Idlewild was full of life.

And I’m offering earrings and cards for sale at Old Barn Hollow Local Food and Artisan Market.

GreenBoat Gallery earrings
GreenBoat Gallery earrings

The tree is up, in our front room, the cards are mailed, and shopping looms; as I did last year, I’ll go to Boscov’s, the local Pennsylvania-based old-fashioned department store which anchors Binghamton’s downtown shopping district, with possible side trips to RiverRead and Tom’s Coffee, Cards, and Gifts. And it looks like we’ll have a record number of family coming to our house for Christmas dinner 2013 — eighteen at last count!

Yulecard 2013
Wings of Desire / Snowy Rooftops, Johnson City NY – our holiday card this year — next year I’ll sell them

Completed Unlikely Dance series premieres at the Broome County Arts Council

Unlikely Dance at BCAC
Unlikely Dance, hung in the small gallery at the Broome County Arts Council

In the days leading up to it, I wasn’t sure I could pull it off, either artistically or socially. I had six large paintings to show for a year and a half of work, but they seemed dwarfed by even the smaller gallery at the Broome County Arts Council. Due to personnel changes at the BCAC I was hanging the show myself, but suddenly felt unequal to the task. Earlier there had been scheduling and communications misunderstandings. And I’m not good at schmoozing. In short, I succeeded in making myself crazy-anxious about November First Friday’s BCAC opening night of Unlikely Dance.

But now November 1 has come and gone, and the opening came off beautifully — well attended despite the many other Binghamton First Friday events happening all over town, fun, and yes, I believe I was reasonably socially adept. There were old friends, newer friends, Facebook followers, family members, the director of the funding foundation, and some simply interested people I’d never met before; there were dancers who’d been my models, dancers who knew my models, a high school friend/classmate I hadn’t seen since then, models I’ve drawn at the Windsor figure drawing sessions, supportive artist friends, and my GP doc.

Ballyclare dancers at the opening
Several of the Ballyclare Irish Dancers showed up, and wanted a photo with “their” painting. Photo courtesy of Sharon Ball / BCAC
My husband Leo heeded my call for chips and salsa and showed up in the nick of time to save the day, keeping the food table from going bare (those incredible cookies from the Gallaghers went REALLY fast!).

That morning I’d managed to edit and upload high-res photos of each of the paintings so they were available as prints and cards on my Fine Art America site, and then to put together a handout flyer about myself and the grant, including a hard-copy order form for people not comfortable with shopping online. (I encourage you to order directly from Fine Art America.)

At the suggestion of BCAC director Sharon Ball, I’d matted, framed, and hung some studies for the paintings, and they not only filled out the space but seemed to truly interest onlookers, and sparked a lot of conversation. In fact, one of the small studies is already sold — to a morris dance and Facebook friend who’s been a great support throughout this process. And he made sure to tell me EXACTLY what he liked about each painting. In fact, I was surprised and pleased by the number of people who felt compelled to lead me to their favorite pieces and tell me just what they liked about them. I have always avoided the artists at solo openings — not sure why, but I think I’m afraid I’ll over-participate, or talk about myself rather than their shows — but from now on I’ll try not to draw back like that. I love talking about my work, and I must assume other artists do too.

And did I mention the ego/approval rush of the whole thing? And the ribbon-tied garlic bouquet? And the date-night out afterwards with my sweetie? Yeah, those were really good too.

Next up: two or three new, smaller dance paintings — the start of a new, unfunded series on a recent English Country dance — to round out my December show at RiverRead Books. Then, in January, Unlikely Dance moves on to Ithaca, and from there to the Community Foundation for South Central New York.
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The “Unlikely Dance” project was made possible by a grant from the Artists Fund of the Community Foundation for South Central New York, facilitated by the Broome County Arts Council.

The Unlikely Dance series: finished, and soon to be shown!

Unlikely Dance: Roundabout - 30 x 48 in., oils on canvas
Unlikely Dance: Roundabout – 30 x 48 in., oils on canvas

Finally, I’ve finished the Unlikely Dance series — and what a journey it’s been: a year and a half of learn-as-you go planning and painting! Except for the first one I’ve started each piece with a growing sense of confidence, only to be waylaid by an obstacle or three in the form of illness, competing time demands, technical issues, composition, lighting, line…

In the case of Unlikely Dance: Roundabout, the first issue was naming; I didn’t have the piece finally composed when the call came for a list of exhibit information. Knowing at least what dance figures I was using, I called it “Unlikely Dance: Velveteen,” for the velveteen waistcoats the figures wear. But, unhappy with the provisional visual context, I decided to change from Cutler Gardens to a shoot in downtown Binghamton’s courthouse square, and settled on the new traffic circle as an unlikely — and visually interesting — dance site. The light was wonderful, and shot specifically to match the angle of the sun in the original photos of the figures. So I renamed it “Unlikely Dance: Roundabout,” for a nice dance-like reference. That caused some confusion about the exhibit name… but all is well now, and the show is scheduled to open on First Friday, November 1.

Skintones palette for Roundabout
Skintones palette for Roundabout – warm lights and cool shadows

On the painting end of things, the primary challenge of this piece was the composition, which proved to be overly heavy on the right side. The angles of the figures #2 and #3, the mass of the neoclassical bank building on the right, and the unstable curved line of the traffic circle’s edge all conspired to rotate and lean in that direction; I actually found myself tilting my head when I looked at it. The darker buildings and the cloud formation on the left were meant to counterbalance that effect, but they seemed to be outweighed.

Fortunately, a darkening of left-hand elements, a lightening of the right-hand elements, a few added or revised stabilizing vertical elements (the bank window, the central figure’s spindle, the end of the cloud formation, a subtle color trail in the sky) worked pretty well without spoiling the dynamics. It’s all a lot easier to say than it was to do, but I’m happy with it now.

So: the exhibit! The culminating show of this grant-funded painting project will be in the gallery space at the Broome County Arts Council, 81 State St., Suite 501, in Binghamton. Along with the complete series of finished paintings, I’ll be showing studies and preparatory materials with each piece. Read more about it here!

Now I have to get all those smaller materials matted and framed — and in some cases, ready to show — and get print-quality photos of all the paintings in the series, to post for sale in my online shops in time for the show.

Here’s the progression of “Roundabout” as it went together:


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The “Unlikely Dance” project was made possible by a grant from the Artists Fund of the Community Foundation for South Central New York, facilitated by the Broome County Arts Council.

Down to the wire with Unlikely Dance

Unlikely Dance: Confluence, 30 x 48 in., oils on canvas
Unlikely Dance: Confluence, 30 x 48 in., oils on canvas

My Unlikely Dance grant period is over on November 1; today is October 2, and I have one more painting to do. Yes — it’s deadline time again. In fact, I have a solo show of the completed grant-funded Unlikely Dance series OPENING on November 1 (details on that to come). That means I really have to have this last painting finished by the 24th so it’s dry when I hang the show on the 29th and 30th. Yikes. Work steadily, and hope that everything comes together well — that’s my plan.

It’s the second part of that plan that didn’t work on the piece I just finished (above), and I blame the Pre-Raphaelites. You know the Pre-Raphaelites, that super-sincere, uber-romantic, technically amazing group of 19th century English artists? I’ve loved them since my college days, when my second-generation abstract expressionist instructors were horrified by that forbidden love. I wrote papers on the Pre-Raphs. I collected books on them. I hung prints of their works on my walls. Meanwhile, over the last 15 or 20 years, they’ve become enormously popular in the mainstream. Oh, it’s gorgeous, schlocky stuff, and I still love it. But it’s not where I’m going with my own work. What happened was, after I’d done the underpainting of Unlikely Dance #5 – Confluence – I was unsure of how to proceed with the foliage of the tree, both on the trunk and over the figures. So I pulled an art book from the shelf to consult… a book called “The English Dreamers,” a collection of Pre-Raph and related works.

I’m so easily unconsciously influenced by others’ work I love — it amazes me sometimes. It just happens, somehow — images come off the ends of my brushes, with no conscious thought of the original on my part, that reflect some art I’ve recently seen. (Take for example the Della Francesca-looking face, far right, in Unlikely Dance: Golden Clouds, which appeared just after I’d seen “Piero Della Francesca in America” at the Frick.) So Confluence turned itself into a Pre-Raph imitation: pretty, detailed, and without visual impact of any kind. I loved it — until I suddenly hated it.

I despaired. I combed the internet for clues. I discussed on Facebook. But in the end, I went back to Degas, and then, for some reason, to John Singer Sargent. I own books on Degas, but not on Sargent, so I went to the public library and borrowed a couple. I’ve seen and admired more of his work recently, thanks to a Facebook page called I Require Art, but knew little about him except that he was American, turn-of-the-century (19th to 20th), and had painted Portrait of Madame X, that wonderful profile portrait we had to learn in art history. He was a master of “bravado brushwork,” (his idol, Diego Velazquez, was, as well) and that’s what I was after. Degas was never as consistent as Sargent, so I spent a couple of days perusing Sargent… and it worked. As I posted on my professional page on FB, “Confluence 18 – finished at last! John Singer Sargent certainly had a thing or two to teach me, this time around. Clarified the light source, punched up the contrast, simplified many elements, changed a head. I could go on…”

So now I’ll go on. Here’s what got straightened around:

1. In the first place, I’d made a composition with four equal figures, and that’s a no-no. Three, yes. Five, yes. Not four. I realized that in my previous paintings of four figures, I’d singled out one in some way, so it read as three plus one, rather than four. How to do that here?

The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, by John Singer Sargent 1882
The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, by John Singer Sargent 1882

After a couple of days with my library books, I turned back to Sargent’s portrait of four young girls — The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit — and noted how he’d not only singled out the sitting figure for that necessary “three-plus-one” compositional effect, but also set them in varying degrees of light , with one girl barely visible in the shadows.

2. I’d gotten far too detailed and democratic with the tree on the left, and it was a distraction. So I painted a dark glaze, made with a brownish “mother grey,*” over the tree trunk, and then over the foremost figure, which overlapped the tree. This solved the problem of visual clutter, of singling out one of the four figures, AND of the next —

3. My light source wasn’t clearly defined. I had light falling on the back of the left-most figure (#1), on the backs of the two right-most figures (#3 and #4), and on the face of the second-from left figure (#2). The face of figure #4 was also in multi-directional light, and I had dappled light falling through the foliage onto the grass.

My current palette, clockwise from left: titanium white, cadmium yellow light, cadmium yellow medium, cadmium red, alizarin crimson, cobalt violet, ultramarine blue, cobalt blue, viridian, sap green, burnt umber, burnt sienna, raw sienna
My current palette, clockwise from left: titanium white, cadmium yellow light, cadmium yellow medium, cadmium red, alizarin crimson, cobalt violet, ultramarine blue, cobalt blue, viridian, sap green, burnt umber, burnt sienna, raw sienna. *Mother grey is made up of all of these colors mixed together. This preserves and promotes color harmony within the painting.

With the dark glaze on the figure #1 and the tree, one of my light sources went away. With a change of head on figure #4 and a diminution of highlights in the figures’ black dresses, the light became more defined and less ambiguous. And with a slight shading of figure #2’s face, that ambiguity gave way. I also gave the piece more contrast, mostly by making the darks darker — divisions between rocks, the underside of the waterway under the bridge, and the barely-visible rocks under the water on the right.

And I think it all worked. I have impact. I have definition. And I have two weeks left to paint Unlikely Dance: Velveteen! I can do it.

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.

Carousel Day, Two Biennials, and another Unlikely Dance finished

Unlikely Dance: Beethoven Oaks
Unlikely Dance: Beethoven Oaks – 30 x 48 in., oils on canvas

Got a lot to catch up on, here!

I’ve been back to the Roberson Regional twice, but both times was so bowled over by the art I neglected to take photos. I didn’t win any awards, but I’m honored to have work in such a superb show. That’s award enough! The show runs through October.

July 27 was Johnson City Carousel Day, my village festival — instead of setting up for on-the-spot portraits, which seem not to be very popular anymore (I made a living with them when I was in my early twenties), I worked on a demo painting… between tying things down and retrieving things the wind had blown down.

Working on Cutler Maples at Johnson City Carousel Day. Photo courtesy of Darlene Clark Photography
Working on Cutler Maples at Johnson City Carousel Day. Photo courtesy of Darlene Clark Photography
It was a lovely day despite the wind, and again I won two prizes, one each for booth presentation and for my artwork. The demo painting was a lot of fun — I do enjoy teaching, and there was lots of interest. The kids were wonderful — full of questions and very impressed. Some said, “I want to paint too!” so I had to explain that these were grown-up paints, and not safe for kids to use. I’m so grateful for the help and good company of my friends at the next-door FASST (Fine Arts Society of the Southern Tier) booth, and of course for my sweetie, Leo, who fetched and carried and helped put up and take down the tent.

Spurred on by the submission deadline for a themed FASST exhibit at the Broome County Public Library, I finally finished Unlikely Dance: Beethoven Oaks on July 31… JUST in time. In fact it was still a bit tacky in spots when I dropped it off, despite having a fan on it for 48 hours, applying a hairdryer, and using a ton of Liquin drying medium in the last paint applications. It looks marvelous on the wall of that cavernous room. I had to remove it for a day to photograph it for printing, for a customer’s gift request (after editing the heck out of an on-site photoshoot and ending up with an unprintable image).

AND… today I received word that two of my paintings have been accepted for the Northeastern Biennial, in October! They’re Princess Royal and Puppet Parade. (The acceptance of Puppet Parade in particular is a sweet vindication, for me.)

PrincessRoyal, PuppetParade
Accepted for Northeastern Biennial Twenty Thirteen: Princess Royal and Puppet Parade, each 16 x 20 in., oils on canvas


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.