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.

New camera, and a (possible) new experience as an artist

Finally, after much asking of advice and online research, I decided on a camera to use in my grant-funded Unlikely Dance project. And yesterday I bought it, along with a tripod, an 8GB memory card, and an extra battery pack. Woohoo! I’m not a photographer, and have no ambitions to be one, but I have needed a better camera for quite some time, for shooting reference photos and for photographing art for reproduction, online posting, and entry applications for shows. Think I’ve found just the thing. It’s a Canon ELPH 110:

Canon ELPH110
Canon ELPH110 – my new camera
the size of a pack of cards, shooting 16-megapixel images, good in all light situations, with a very good “auto” setting and “burst” (rapid shooting) and slo-mo video functions for action shots — and all within my budget. I’m thrilled. On with the project!

And then last night, fresh from the triumph of getting my camera, I had an interesting encounter. Sweetie and I were out for a date night at our favorite bar, Number 5. I’d brought a sketchbook, as usual, to keep myself occupied while he watched sports on TV. Art Show sketchNext to me at the bar was a former colleague from Broome Community College, with her date. They were quite interested in my sketches, even taking my sketchbook to look at while I was busy eating, oohing and wowing over the faces I’ve sketched while sitting at art shows. Art Show sketches“Would you be interested in doing courtroom sketching?” he asked. “I’d LOVE to do that!” I answered. He, it turned out, is a state police investigator. I’ve always been fascinated by courtroom sketching, and I wasn’t exaggerating. We exchanged business cards. Later, as they left, he leaned over my shoulder to see the sketch I was working on. “Who’s that?” he asked. It was a woman over at the opposite corner of the bar.More art show sketches “The one in red?” he asked. Yep, I said. He looked at the woman, looked at the sketch, and said “I’ll be in touch.”

The woman in red, and a pretty bartender
The woman in red, and a pretty bartender
Okay, it was an encounter at a bar. And though I find that friendly people at bars are generally sincere, at the time, about getting in touch, it seldom happens. But what a nice possibility! What an adventure that could be.

Showing some of my sketchbook work at the public library

My show, "Up 'til Now," at the Broome County Public Library
My show, “Up ’til Now,” at the Broome County Public Library

Today I hung a solo show at the Broome County Public Library — it was a LOT of work; I’m pretty tired. But I’m happy with both the way the show looks and the new work I’ve included.

For several months I’ve been taking a sketchbook with me on date nights with my sweetie — I do like to talk to people at the bar with us, but I’m not into watching sports on the bar TV, as sweetie is, so I divert myself with a pencil (or sometimes a pen) and paper as I sip on my scotch and water. Sometimes I draw people at the bar — both patrons and bartenders — but have done quite a few “extended doodles,” abstract images out of my head which just happen on their own, with no thought or planning. I’ve been quite pleased with many of them, and decided I’d like to include some in my August show at the
public library in Binghamton. The conference room which doubles as the library’s gallery is quite large, and I felt the need for some new pieces to supplement the tried and true.

Most of my work is realistic to the extent that it’s clear what objects I’m depicting, so the abstracts are a bit of a departure. Some people are uncertain how to regard abstracts, but here’s my feeling about it: once a non-objective abstract piece is shown to the public, any meaning imbued by the artist is no longer relevant. It’s now up to each viewer to decide what the picture might show, how it makes him or her feel, and what it means. So to promote that ambiguity, I’ve titled all my sketchbook pieces with heteronyms — words which have two or more pronunciations and meanings, with the same spelling. How do YOU pronounce the title? What do you see? What do you feel when you look at it? What does it mean to YOU?

From the sketchbook

In the last couple of days I’ve gone to the life-drawing circle at Windsor Whip Works and out for the evening to the bar at Number 5 Restaurant (the latter with my sweetie), and have put my sketchbooks to good use. The bar sketches are in a 7 x 10″ book, the nude studies in an 18 x 24″, so the scale was quite different, one night to the next. I do love drawing from life. Here’s some of what I’ve done.

(These are not planned for my online Etsy shop, but if you’re interested in buying prints of any, let me know — the sizes and prices would run the same as those in my shop.)

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.

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