Unlikely Dance continues, as my process evolves

Beethoven Oaks (finished underpainting)
Beethoven Oaks (finished underpainting) – 30 x 48 in., oils on canvas

I’ve got a good start on the next Unlikely Dance piece — the fourth in the series — which I’m provisionally titling Beethoven Oaks. The setting is a Binghamton park variously called “Recreation Park,” “Rec Park,” and “Beethoven Park” (because Beethoven Street runs alongside it); the dancers are sourced from a photoshoot I did in Gilbertsville NY last month. Once again, the dance is in incorrect formation, but I crossed that line again in favor of a lively composition, and I’m quite happy with both the design and the underpainting. It’s been a values-based battle so far, as the lights and darks are complicated in places where they intersect and contrast. The color block-in should be interesting!

Also interesting, to me anyway, is my evolving process of putting these pieces together. For one thing, I’ve changed my palette, in both physical shape and content. I covered the physical part in an earlier post — still figuring out how to best use it, but I really like it.

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

But I’ve also, with the last painting, Unlikely Dance: Entry Hall, added a couple of colors to my limited palette. Influenced by instructional videos from Sharon Sprung, Brian Keeler, and Rose Frantzen, I’ve added cobalt blue and raw sienna (a yellowish brown)… and what a difference they’ve made! Sprung is so right when she says that cobalt blue is not only a beautiful color, but “plays well with others” — so much better in the mix than ultramarine blue. And raw sienna adds so much to depth to fleshtones. I’m not giving up ultramarine (a deep, rich blue which makes a really delicious black, mixed with burnt umber), but I am going to back off on my experiments with yellow ochre; it’s very similar in its pure appearance to raw sienna, but unlike raw sienna it seems to go flat when mixed. In the painting of the piece, I notice I’m becoming more methodical, reducing the intimidation factor: starting with the middle third of the canvas, sitting on my high painting stool, standing as needed to concurrently work the top. Then I move to my low painting stool, to get the area directly below the middle, and finally move to a low chair for the bottom — sometimes even a little paint crate to get right to the very bottom. From each position I frequently stand and back off for the larger view. Rose Frantzen’s intriguing idea of using a large mirror behind me for a quick turn-around doubling of distance from the painting is one I’m intending to try, as well.

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.

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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.

Lydia
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.

“Golden Clouds” – finishing, and RE-finishing the underpainting

GoldenClouds04 - Final version of the underpainting
Final version of the underpainting

I post all my art-in-progress photos on my GreenBoat Gallery Facebook page as well as here, and when I considered the underpainting of Unlikely Dance: Golden Clouds finished, I posted it — proudly so, because despite a few correctable flaws I was quite happy with it. However, one of my FB friends — a long-time morris dancer/musician, and an accomplished designer and illustrator himself — began posting about the dancers I’d used as models, naming names along with suggestions to make the dance positions more correct. I’d changed the faces, but evidently not enough. He’s primary musician for the team I was using as reference, so is well acquainted with “the girls” by position and stance, but this was not my objective. I didn’t want to come off all prissy, uptight prima-donna (okay, maybe I am?), but my intention was a painting of dance, using my various photos of the dancers, along with others, as reference only. And I needed the less-than-perfect position for the compositional line. I hope I was courteous and good-humored in my reply, but one never knows how the written word will strike the reader — especially late at night — and I’ve been read and heard before as sharper than I meant to be.

For my part, though, it was a wake-up call which produced a welcome result. I spent another several hours amending my Photoshop image with the web-searched faces of vintage French mannequin heads, and I’m actually MUCH happier with the final underpainting. And my FB friend the dancer/musician/designer marked it with a Like. So that’s good, I think.


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 coming along…

Scottish Country Dancers
Scottish Country Dancers

I have quite a lot of photography done now for my grant-funded Unlikely Dance project. At Tuesday night’s session with the Binghamton Scottish Country dance group I finally figured out how to use the fast-burst function on my powerful little camera, and got some wonderful shots. They were so kind to dress up for the night, so I could get them in proper kilts and tartans. Currently I’m combing through the 2700+ images I captured that night…

B.F. Harridans Morris
B.F. Harridans Morris

Jo Malin of the B.F. Harridans, the Binghamton women’s morris dance team, alerted me beforehand that they’d be dancing at the Newark Valley Apple Festival on October 6, and I managed to find them (unlike their previous dance stand, when I managed to miss them altogether) and to take some pretty useable photos. Wish I’d had the fast-burst function figured out for that one, and that the light had been better — it was a typically chilly, rainy October day, and they were dancing under a tent roof. Strange lighting, but I’m working one of the photos — with some major adjustments — into a composition with storm clouds I shot earlier in the week.

Parlor City Commons
Parlor City Commons

Feels great to be finally putting together a composition for UD. I’ve been shooting landscapes and public places, as settings, for some time now — still need more trad dancers in other forms. I missed the October Binghamton Contra Dance, but hope to catch the Kindred Spirits Day of Dance put on by Binghamton Community Dance. We’ve had a bit of a go-round about how to manage the issue of photo releases from dancers — always an awkward issue, asking people permission to use their images — but I think I’ve arrived at a solution: a promise to not use any faces. Instead, I’m purchasing a male and a female mannequin head to photograph in

Clouds over Johnson City
Clouds over Johnson City

light set up to duplicate dance settings, and will patch in those heads during the digital composition process. Hope this will fly with the BCD folks — the Scottish Dancers thought it was fine.

And back to those Scottish Dancers — thanks to one of the dancers there, it looks like I’ll have a venue for showing the finished Unlikely Dance series, January through March, 2014, at the Tompkins County Public Library! This is very exciting, and I’m so grateful.

In the meantime, I hope to start actually painting UD by mid-November.
Now if I can just shake this cold…

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.

A trek to Philadelphia for art and music

For my birthday earlier this month, my sweetie gave me a day ticket to the Philadelphia Folk Festival, about three hours away — he’s not crazy about either folk music or festivals, but his sister Ghislaine in Philadelphia is, and he bought her a ticket too. I invited my museum-and-music buddy, Judy, to make the trek with me, and, last Friday morning, off we went.

Our hopes to see the new Barnes Museum were quashed by the wait for reserve tickets — now into October, unless one wants to go for a half hour in the evening — so we set course for the Philadelphia Museum of Art and their current show, “Visions of Arcadia: Gauguin, Cezanne, Matisse.” After a few wrong turns, unintended tours of the ghetto, etc., we arrived mid-afternoon at the museum.

'Where Do We Come From', 54.75 x 147.5 in., by Paul Gauguin -- 1897
‘Where Do We Come From’, 54.75 x 147.5 in., by Paul Gauguin — 1897

It was a wonderful exhibit, with works by many more than the three named headliners. The Arcadia theme was quite a clever umbrella for the collection, and worked well, I thought. Thrilling to see Gauguin’s Where Do We Come From? in person — the thing simply glows with light and presence. I liked some of the smaller Cezanne bathers, but the Large Bathers was a ho-hum for me. Call me a philistine. What really captured me was the work by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, an artist I was only tangentially aware of from art history in college, primarily for The Poor Fisherman, which — I am grateful to report — was not here.

'Summer' by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, 1891
‘Summer’, 1891, 150cm x 232.4cm — one of the rather grand but magical pieces by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

His Arcadian-theme work was a revelation: pale, mystical, ethereal, pristine yet sensuous — and somewhat self-consciously Grand — obviously influenced by classical Greek and Roman statuary and the frescoes of Piero della Francesca, they were the pieces that drew me back through the show. It was all dreamlike, spirit-lifting work, and a fine show altogether.

Ghislaine and her daughter Ahisha met us after work hours for dinner in Manayunk — and the next day we were off to the folk festival, supposedly a half-hour away. Excitement again ensued — bridges out, detours, truly “remote” festival parking, non-existent shuttle buses (you’d think the flawless organization of a 51-year-old festival would be a given, but such was definitely not the case; kudos to Ghislaine for talking the organizers into upgrading our tickets! ) — but with a lot of laughter and minimal whining we eventually made it there by late afternoon, missing a couple of the acts we’d wanted to see but catching a couple of them as well. One of my “must-sees” was Steve Earle. I’d never heard or seen him, but his song “My Old Friend the Blues” is a favorite in my trio‘s repertoire. He did not disappoint. As Ghislaine said, just before we headed back to find a shuttle bus, he alone was worth the price of admission… along with the fabulous Nag Champa body butter I bought in the arts & craft stands from BAMI products. I now smell like a particularly delicious incense shop.

Left my sketchbook at Ghislaine’s, but I have others and she’s promised to send it back… and the 3:00 a.m. fire alarm/evacuation of her apartment building added to our growing travel log as well as the general sleep deficit. A stop at IKEA, then a drive home, blessedly free of further adventures… yawwn. Glad to be home. Still recovering. Still aglow. Must find out more about Puvis de Chavannes.

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...