Moving along…

Thank you, FedEx guy — I’m now in possession of the painting materials for UNLIKELY DANCE – six large Premier Studio canvases and a box full of paints and varnish, from Blick Studio! Now I just have to choose and buy a camera, and I’m set to get started. Very exciting! I was hoping to start shooting dancers (photographically, I mean) this last Saturday at the Binghamton Contra Dance, but have been sick all weekend.

Bungalow Tour
Bungalow Tour
Girl in a Tutu
Girl in a Tutu
Day at Bretton Woods
Day at Bretton Woods

In the meantime, I’ve helped hang a small downtown Binghamton storefront exhibit with three other artists — we’re all members of the Fine Arts Society of the Southern Tier, but this little show is independent of FASST. Many thanks to Rich Nolan for pulling it all together, and Mary Robertson for including me. The fourth in the group is Richard Henry. Will try to get a photo to include here — please stop back to see. It’s at 97 Court St., a great location, next door to the new nightclub, Loft at 99, right off the new downtown roundabout. My body of work is stretched a little thin right now, so the pieces I’m showing are older work — “Bungalow Tour,” “Girl in a Tutu,” and “Day at Bretton Woods”. (For more information on these pieces, see their listings in my online shop, GreenBoat Gallery.)

97 Court St. exhibit
97 Court St. exhibit – photo courtesy Richard Nolan

I was planning to include a small new still life titled “Flowered Kettle,” but after I’d started framing it, decided it wasn’t quite finished after all. But what was wrong? Seeking answers, I dug back into a book called “The Simple Secret to Better Painting,” and decided to do a value-level analysis on the reference photo (I’d started the painting from life, then photographed the set-up for further work). The author recommends doing value-level sketches before starting a painting, but I think it’s a good diagnostic tool as well. Opening the reference photo image file in Photoshop, first I cropped it to match what I’d done in the painting (noting a linear flourish, bottom right, that seems to have been a mistake), then converted it to a greyscale, and ran it through the Cutout filter with 3 value levels. Then I ran the filter on the original greyscale at 5 levels. And now I see what I need to do: level out the bottom edge of the tablecloth, for compositional stability, and better delineate the value levels in the reds of the tablecloth and bottom book. I’m also wondering if I need to add another element to the right side of the painting, but first I’ll do the value and line work, and see how it shapes up. This is the third rework of that tablecloth, but it’s gotten better each time so I have hope. Moving along…

Flowered Kettle - not finished after all
Flowered Kettle – 12 x 16 in. – not finished after all
Flowered Kettle value analysis - 3 levels
Flowered Kettle – value analysis of reference photo, at 3 value levels
Flowered Kettle - 5 value levels
Flowered Kettle – value analysis of reference photo, at 5 value levels
See this painting finished, here

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.

Cat, Owl, Pussycat: more paint

I haven’t worked on Cat, Owl, Pussycat since last Friday, due to drying time and little interruptions like dentist appointments, root canal work, and my own exploratory work in altered digital collage (more about the latter, later). All very exciting, but I’ve also been eager to get back to this piece. This afternoon I’ve laid down more paint, worked on a couple of bits that were nagging at me from that nail on the wall – like the terracotta saucer that had grown way out of proportion – and gotten the underpainting covered. Sometimes just getting some paint on the more intimidating parts is real progress!

Flowers aren’t a subject I’ve taken on very often, so this is a new challenge and learning experience. Hoping it doesn’t veer too far to the Cute and/or Pretty side…

Cat, Owl, Pussycat: stage 3
Cat, Owl, Pussycat: stage 3: at lower right, on the easel shelf, my Color Isolator tool. :)

The owl, the pussycat… and Sylvia

Doing an exploratory photo shoot yesterday, on a quest for reference images and ideas for my Feathered and Feline series, I arranged a set of owl and pussycat figurines on the dining table, along with a pot of croqui and various ceramics. But Sylvia, our resident pussycat, had her own agenda — she is a cat with a great sense of humor. The results are a little too Cute for paintings, I think, but quite sweet in themselves!