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.

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Another painting started in a paint-together

KwanYin with Flowers 01
KwanYin with Flowers 01 — 16×20 in., oil on canvas, unfinished

Actually, I haven’t renewed my membership in FASST, the Fine Arts Society of the Southern Tier. I think my membership dues were due this last summer, but I haven’t been happy with the organization, with its muddle of amateur and professional affiliations, and its largely amateur exhibitions. But I have made some wonderful friends there, including Mary Robertson, mentioned in my last post. I’m thinking of renewing now.

Today we painted together at the temporary FASST gallery in the Oakdale Mall, in Johnson City, NY. Jan Wood, president of FASST, joined us. Thanks to Mary’s husband Rudy, who fetched her forgotten canvas and her clamp light, we set up a simple still life with the flowers and pots that Mary brought and the KwanYin figurine that I brought, and did our underpaintings. We also took photos for use in finishing our paintings. It was a very happy couple of hours.

Mary Robertson - Still Life at the FASST mall gallery
Mary Robertson – still life at the FASST mall gallery. My underpainting at right.

Meanwhile, a couple of days ago one of my singing partners from Diamonds in the Rough brought me a copy of last week’s Ithaca Times newspaper, which included an art critic’s review of the “Joy of Dancing” show at the Tompkins County Library. I was flabbergasted and delighted by what he said about my work. Wow! Thank you, Warren Greenwood!

NYC – a large dose of inspiration

Bronze statue of Artemis and a deer - Greek or Roman, Late Hellenistic or early Imperial, 1st cent. BC or 1st cent. AD
Bronze statue of Artemis and a deer – Greek or Roman, Late Hellenistic or early Imperial, 1st cent. BC or 1st cent. AD – Metropolitan Museum of Art

Now that I’ve discovered Megabus and Hostel International, I’m going to New York more often. My museum-buddy Judy and I got on an early-morning Shortline on Wednesday this last week, and headed for the Frick to see the Piero della Francesca exhibit. I’ve been determined to see it since hearing about it, and a della Francesca devotee since first seeing a slide of his Resurrection in college art history class. I hadn’t been to the Frick in years, nor to The City much. First we went to the Morgan, at Judy’s suggestion… and Judy dropped her wallet in the taxi, as we discovered after the cabbie had driven away. But as she started phoning around to lock up credit cards, etc., I wandered around the Morgan Library — first, the library itself, and then the exhibit called Degas, Miss La La, and the Cirque Fernando.

Edgar Degas - Mlle. La La at the Cirque Fernando, 1879, oils on canvas, 46.1×30.5" - National Gallery, London
Edgar Degas – Mlle. La La at the Cirque Fernando, 1879, oils on canvas, 46.1×30.5″ – National Gallery, London

Fascinating, and what an inspiration — nearly all of Degas’ working sketches and studies for the painting, as well as the painting itself, were hung together in a small second-floor gallery, along with related works by other artists. Recently I’ve been researching Degas’ working methods, planning to pull together a painting course called Painting Like the Impressionists, and I couldn’t have found a better show if I’d planned for it.

Piero della Francesca - Virgin and Child Enthroned with Four Angels, c. 1460-70, oil (and tempera?) on poplar panel, transferred to fabric on panel, The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
Piero della Francesca – Virgin and Child Enthroned with Four Angels, c. 1460-70, oil (and tempera?) on poplar panel, transferred to fabric on panel, The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

Then it was on to the Frick, and della Francesca. Most of his great works are frescoes (painted into wet plaster walls) in Italy, but he did some work on panel and on canvas, and a few pieces are in the US. It was these latter that the Frick had pulled together. And it was magical. Spell-binding. What can I say? Go see it if you can!

On our way to a restaurant for an early dinner, Judy’s phone rang — it was her sister in Michigan, who had just received a call from a young man who’d found the wallet on the cab floor! Further phone calls resulted in his promise to drop it off at the hostel for her. He showed up just in time for us to confirm our hostel reservations that night. New York is truly a city of miracles.

Another of those is the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where we spent the entire day on Thursday. I hadn’t been there for several years, hadn’t had that much time there in many years if ever. The Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity exhibit was a stunner, and the huge early Monets were a revelation in bold, bright brushwork.

Claude Monet - Luncheon on the Grass (left and central panels)
Claude Monet – Luncheon on the Grass (left and central panels), 1865–66
Oil on canvas; 164.5×59″, 98 x 86″ – Musée d’Orsay, Paris

Judy and I lost each other for a couple of hours at the Met, but evening saw us back on the 3-hour bus ride to Binghamton, where my sweetie was waiting at the bus station (having driven us there at ugly-o’clock the previous morning). Have to go back, and soon.

I rested for a day afterwards, and then painted up a storm yesterday.

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.

Talking at FASST, fixing a figure, and running art around town

I felt so appreciated at the FASST (Fine Arts Society of the Southern Tier) meeting last night. Such fun to speak to a group of artists about how I make — and attempt to market — my fine art. And it was so good of the Community Foundation to allow me to borrow back three pieces from my show there for last night’s talk — I re-hung them them this morning, with thanks.

In an attempt to do a quick fix on Wol and the Stone Goddess last night before the meeting, I succeeded in making the figure barrel-chested as well as pin-headed… but it was fun to talk about, with a sympathetic group. I’ll have to make it work soon, as it’s going to be an addition to my Feathered and Feline show when that moves from Tranquil Bar/Bistro to the Lost Dog Cafe next week.

Later today, I’m taking two pieces to the Broome County Arts Council gallery for their upcoming April show, Accompaniment.

Here’s the unsuccessful fix on Wol and the Stone Goddess:

Wol and the Stone Goddess - stage 13
Wol and the Stone Goddess - stage 13: pin-headed and barrel-chested goddess figure

…and these are the two pieces headed for the Broome County Arts Council’s Accompaniment show:

All-In: Morris 5
All-In: Morris 5 - 24" x 18", oils on canvas

Princess Royal: Morris 3
Princess Royal: Morris 3 - 16" x 20", oils on canvas

Wol and the Stone Goddess: still a work in progress

Sigh. Well, I finally had to go out and buy some stinky-toxic workable fixatif, but after that the finishing stages of the now-titled “Wol and the Stone Goddess” went swimmingly, I thought, until I photographed it, and, as I was editing the photo for upload, noticed that I’d screwed up the neck of the goddess figure with too much blue. And now the disproportionate head is much more noticeable. I’ve started repairing it, but the piece will have to go to my demo and talk as an actual in-progress demo…

Ah well. I’ve borrowed back a couple of pieces from the my Community Foundation show and will show progressives for this piece and “Spring Rites,” as well as my Etsy shop.

Here are last night’s and today’s progress. Other than the part in question, I’m pretty happy with it.

Wol and the Stone Goddess - stage 11
Wol and the Stone Goddess - stage 11
Wol and the Stone Goddess - stage 12
Wol and the Stone Goddess - stage 12... and the work continues...

Bottom to top, day to night

So it turns out I’m making a piece of art that shifts from day to night as one goes from bottom to top. It’s a bit of a surprise to me too, but that’s what’s happening. Love it when the art takes over.

Today I’m trying the new non-toxic casein- and alcohol-based fixatif — just applied the second layer. No fan needed, but drying time is required, and although it says it’s workable, I’m not sure it’s going to give me the texture I need to continue applying pencil in layers. The whole piece is slick with wax, now, and I have more layering — and virtually the entire owl figure — to do.

I’d really like to finish it for the FASST demo tomorrow night — may have to skip tonight’s Binghamton Downtown Singers rehearsal to do that, though sometimes work finishes rather suddenly when I’m not expecting it. I’m hoping for that, but right now this piece of art is paramount. Here’s what I got done yesterday.

Owl and Stone Goddess- stage 7
Owl and Stone Goddess- stage 7
Owl and Stone Goddess- stage 8
Owl and Stone Goddess- stage 8
Owl and Stone Goddess- stage 9
Owl and Stone Goddess- stage 9
Owl and Stone Goddess- stage 10
Owl and Stone Goddess- stage 10

Owl and Stone Goddess… day 3

Owl and Stone Goddess, stage 5, in studio
Owl and Stone Goddess, stage 5, in studio: my lighting consists of a close overhead fixture covered with a Japanese paper shade, a focused and moveable desk lamp (with wax-paper diffuser) to my left, and natural window light to my right. All artificial lights contain daylight-spectrum compact fluorescent bulbs. Although their light isn't truly full-spectrum, it's a remarkably good simulation.

After spending most of my professional life in the discipline of publication deadlines, as a freelance artist and designer I still find deadlines my most effective motivation, such as scheduled shows and exhibits and this FASST demo on Monday.

So here’s what I got into yesterday. Some literature on colored pencil says to work light to dark. I haven’t found that method altogether successful — in my experience, different colors work with one another differently, regardless of shade or tint. All are translucent; some, like white , are more opaque; some make a drier mark and are easy to work over, like the indigo blue I used first to render the goddess figure; and some are slicker and less easy to cover… like the yellow I laid down first for the owl figure. I’m afraid a lot of the darks and midtones in the plumage will have to wait until I apply the first coat of workable fixatif, restoring the grab of the surface. Before that happens, I plan to get the tree started, over the laid-in sky shapes, and then proceed to work the sky between the branches so the tree is integral to the piece rather than laid over it.

Owl and Stone Goddess - stage 4
Owl and Stone Goddess - stage 4: taking the color trail of indigo darks into the goddess figure, laying down midtones - dark yellow and lilac, respectively, into the owl and goddess figures
Owl and Stone Goddess - stage 5
Owl and Stone Goddess - stage 5: starting the figure rendering over midtones
Owl and Stone Goddess - stage 6
Owl and Stone Goddess - stage 6: darks rendered in goddess figure, and over-burnished with a lilac pencil stick. lights will come later. Owl figure's rendering will have to wait, due to the slick surface of dark yellow I used as a first layer.