Solstice and the holidays coming ’round again

YuleDoor_1000cprt

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.

OldBarnHollow_cards
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.

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A successful festival, shadowed by sad news

My booth at Window on the Arts
My booth at Window on the Arts

Saturday’s Window on the Arts Festival was a smashing success, both for the festival itself and for me personally. I was a bit concerned about how large (or small) a crowd it might draw, with this year’s relocation away from the central town square to a nearby but not-so-central park; and the night before, the winds and rain came crashing down on the early set-up gazebo tents (mine amongst them). However, the local Binghamton newspaper had given the festival the front cover of its Thursday “Good Times” supplement, the Friday night storms stopped in time, and all began — and continued — well.

Parade of the Puppets opens the Festival
Parade of the Puppets opened the festival, just before the sun came out
End of the Festival Parade
End of the Festival Parade

I showcased my “Feathered and Feline” series of art about birds (mostly owls) and cats — along with a few other pieces, and had matted art prints and art cards of most pieces, as well as many not hanging at this show. I was so busy selling prints, cards, and earrings that I never did have time to set up for on-the-spot portraits. It was so gratifying the way people responded to my cats and birds, and I even sold a larger print of The Flood,

The Flood
The Flood: 10.7×8.3 in., pastels over ink underpainting on fibered buff paper

a pastel piece of last year’s flooding Susquehanna River.

And beyond the sales, everyone wanted to interpret and discuss the art. I just love hearing people’s interpretations of some of my images, especially when they’re not speaking directly to me. “Oh, look,” said one man to his wife about Window, “it’s a cat looking into a mirror, and he sees himself as an owl.” Wow. That’s the one that’s stayed with me.

Window
Window

In the early afternoon, Sweetie brought food, the dog, and a break (after calming me down and packing the car for me in the morning — not to mention helping me set up the gazebo tent the night before). We were both impressed by the quality of the arts and crafts there, as well as the quantity of fifty artisans… and Sweetie is not easily impressed!

Alan Crabb 1942-2012

As I walked around the festival on my break, he took over the sales for a while but called my cell phone, after checking Facebook on his phone, to tell me that Alan Crabb had died. It was not unexpected; Alan had been in the UPenn hospital for a couple of weeks, suffering open-heart surgery and severe complications after a risky heart procedure, but it was still a shock and a sorrow. He was friend and maestro to so many, a beloved high school music teacher in his working years not so very long ago, a gifted world-class tenor, and one of a kind. He was a manic, maddening, arrogant, rude, distracted, and self-centered Welshman with an aura a mile wide: a demanding but gentle mentor to all who sang under his direction, a warm and loyal friend — father of two adult sons from his first marriage (to the first — and so far only — woman mayor of Binghamton) and of a two-year-old son from his recent second marriage to a lovely young violist. Sunday, I felt consumed by exhaustion and grief, and laid low for a day. Rest in peace, Alan Crabb — 1942-2012.

This week I have several projects to start or continue: finish unpacking the car (and clean it), mat and frame my two entries for the upcoming Rude and Bold Women show, get back into the new still life (calling to me now from its easel across the room…), replace the traded-out still lives in the Acme exhibit, design and build the Acme business window, photograph contra dancers for Unlikely Dance, sing Diamonds in the Rough‘s “Eldercare Tour,” and — as if that’s not enough — start a call for images of Alan, with which I plan to build a commemorative/interpretive painting of him. More on that next.

Cat, Owl, Pussycat, finished – and other small victories

Cat, Owl, Pussycat is finally finished! And has a first coat of damar varnish to even out the surfaces of the various dull and glossy paints. I’ve recently added an earth pigment to my deliberately limited palette, and it seems to go dull or shiny at different times, with different amounts of medium.

The new pigment is burnt umber. I cut all earth tones from my palette a while ago, in an experiment to make color harmonies easier; if all colors are mixed from the same basic pigments, they’ll bear a closer relationship to one another than colors from a broad palette. But I’ve grown weary of mixing all my blacks and browns, so burnt umber — which I happened to have kicking around in my taboret — is a welcome addition. Combined with ultramarine blue it makes a deep, rich black, and with various combinations of cad yellow, cad red, and viridian it can fill in for any number of other earths. I still practice the art student avoidance of pre-mixed blacks.

So, my palette now consists of (clockwise from bottom):

  • titanium white
  • cadmium yellow light
  • cadmium red
  • alizarin crimson
  • cobalt violet
  • ultramarine blue
  • viridian green
  • burnt umber
  • … and, in the center, mother grey (a mixture of the other colors, made from palette scrapings of still-viable paints when each painting is finished)

I try to use as few solvents as possible — my studio is the second floor of our home — so my medium is a half & half mixture of stand oil and walnut oil, with a little Liquin (an alkyd drier), and I clean my brushes with a baby oil/turpenoid mixture and then dish detergent.

Just bought some long-bristled synthetic bristle filbert brushes, in sizes 2, 4, and 6 — I’ve been using sable and synthetic flats and rounds — and I LOVE them! So versatile and sensitive.

I’m exhibiting at the offices of the Community Foundation of South Central New York in March, and my work will be the backdrop for a special public event — how exciting is THAT?!

Also in March, my solo show Feathered and Feline will hang at Tranquil Bar and Bistro, and in April I’ll have two pieces in the group show Accompaniment at the Broome County Arts Council. Small victories all!

Midtones, Mardi Gras, and upcoming shows

Date night out for Mardi Gras, last night — mostly watching the revelers while sipping at a martini, but I took quite a few photos with a bar series in mind… the lights and movement are great.

Over the last couple of days I’ve been experimenting further with altered digital collage*, as Cat, Owl, Pussycat has dried — nothing to show you yet of the former, as the latest experiment hasn’t worked out, but there are more on track. Hoping to have something to show, and soon, since I’m scheduled to hang Feathered and Feline a week from today! Gotta love deadlines.

Meanwhile, yesterday I got into the midtones of Cat, Owl, Pussycat, adding some depth to Cat, Pussycat, bowl, pot, and greenery. Today I’ll go wet-into-wet with some lower lights, and start tackling the tablecloth. I want some indication of texture and pattern there, but don’t want to go all nit-picky with detail…

Cat, Owl, Pussycat: stage 4
Cat, Owl, Pussycat: stage 4 - going back into midtones, after rushing too far ahead on the lights in last stage. Next - lower lights wet-into-wet, and some texture/pattern in the tablecloth. Apologies for the paint rag, lower right! These pieces of discarded t-shirts are my erasers; as I work, I use them as needed for wiping paint from the canvas.

Another show coming up, involving another art I participate in: Diamonds in the Rough at Dorothy’s Music Room, in Trumansburg, NY, March 8. More info here.

* If you’d like to see some earlier altered digital collage work, here’s a sample. Basically, I assemble a collage in Photoshop, print it out, and then work back into it by hand with a variety of media. My aim now is to go larger, and use paint as well as colored pencil for alterations.

New for Feathered & Feline: Cat, Owl, Pussycat

I’ve started a new painting, in the last couple of days… and surprisingly enough it’s based on one of the Sylvia photos taken last week, after I noticed a lovely curved compositional line in one of the photos. I’m calling the piece Cat, Owl, Pussycat. It’s taken a fair amount of Photoshop work on the initial image, and while doing that I came to the conclusion that it has to be done in oils. Why? Dunno, just that intuition thing again — not that it’s always right.

So here are the first two stages of Cat, Owl, Pussycat – the underpainting in cadmium red, and initial color block-in. Started to block in the Cat, but realized that if I blocked in the whiskers first, in white, I’ll be able to scratch back to it in successive darker layers for a nice, subtle look. Some Liquin in the medium, but it’s still drying more slowly than I’d like, so I’ll take the opportunity to finish up Blue Eggs, Silver Bowl and get started on Barn Owl, Winter Moon. More on those to come!

Cat, Owl, Pussycat - stage 1: cadmium red underpainting
Cat, Owl, Pussycat - stage 1: cadmium red underpainting
Cat, Owl, Pussycat - stage 2
Cat, Owl, Pussycat - stage 2: starting the color block-in

Starting a new series, and adding to my calendar

Owl, Alighting
Owl, Alighting
I’m starting a new series of works, on owls and pussycats – both separately and together. The Edward Lear poem has always been a favorite of mine, and is an important symbol for my husband and me (you may notice my business name and logo…) – my two currently existing owl and pussycat pieces are popular at my Etsy shop and locally, so I’m going to give a try at expanding on the topic. Still have one more morris dance painting I want to do, but it will have to wait.

First up, I’m exhibiting my colored pencil drawing, Bert at Ease, in a group show called Canine/Feline at the Windsor Whip Works Gallery in Windsor NY (more information and links in my schedule). The show is a benefit for the True Friends of Animal Welfare shelter, which is in lovely Montrose PA, where I once lived.

Bert at Ease
Bert at Ease

Then, a solo show in March at Tranquil Bar/Bistro in Binghamton NY – one of my favorite restaurants, and a lovely setting for art – and I’ve set myself a deadline by titling the show Feathered and Feline. As a publications designer I have always lived by deadlines, and I’m finding they’re a great motivator in fine art too.

I’m also looking forward to teaching a course in colored pencil at Broome Community College, and giving a demo on the same, as well as a brief talk on marketing via Etsy, for the Fine Arts Society of the Southern Tier. (More info and links in my schedule)

The Broome County Arts Council is a great help in finding shows and exhibits, but I’m looking beyond – maybe you can help! Last year I had a wonderful time at the New England Folk Festival (NEFFA) in Mansfield MA, but lost money because of travel/lodging expense. So this year I intend to stay closer to home unless I can line up low-cost lodging with friends or family in further-flung places, or a show doesn’t require my presence (such as invitational or regional juried group shows). Any suggestions? Please leave a comment or contact me!