July 25, 2018

Picnic in Bordeaux

After returning from a trip to France and Spain and looking at my many photos and sketches (not so many sketches -- I can relate to the cave painters 19,000 years ago who went deep into caves to find a quiet place to draw!), I was interested in the image of a picnic we had in Bordeaux.

After the painting workshop I attended in March with Colin Page, I had been thinking about tackling complicated still life set ups like those we did in that workshop.  The picnic we had reminded me of that kind of composition -- we had peaches, pate, cheese en croute, wine, bread, saucisson, frais du bois, and bright red plates.  We used the paper bags from our purchases to cover the dark wood picnic table.  And somehow, the casual arrangement of a picnic for 4 spread those items in a pretty pleasing arrangement.

May 25, 2018

House Painting Commission

I was asked to donate to a school auction and I chose to offer up a painting of the winning bidder's house.  The winner was the owner of a house on Capitol Hill in DC, a rowhouse that wasn't the biggest or most dramatic house on the block, but was very much loved as the home in which the family's young children were born.

I met with the owner to ask what time of year they liked to see their house-- spring flowers, fall color, snow?  --  and was told that they loved to see their redbud tree in bloom in the spring.  It was a perfect time to pick since it both allowed the tree to show its beauty but didn't obstruct the view of the house with its full leafy summer foliage.

We also talked about the fence, the DC flag, the toys in the yard and other ways that the house felt like home to the family.   I asked if the neighbor row houses should be included and got a firm yes -- being part of a row of neighboring houses was something they loved living there.

I took photos when I visited last year, got more photos from the owner this spring, and then when I started working on the painting I went back to the house to check whether the paint color I saw in the photos was really the color of the house and the neighboring houses.

This was a fun commission-- and a challenge since when I paint on my own, I'm looking for the color or light or object that interests me and in this case I needed to think about how to capture the owner's feelings for the house and the life they lived there.

April 19, 2018

Montana Fishing with Jeff

When I was last fishing on the Gallatin River with my husband, I was a bit more focused on taking pictures for future paintings than catching fish.

I finally had time to get into the studio and look at the references to put together this one.  It captures the moment when he is getting a new fly on the line to see if mixing things up can fool the fish into biting.  What I remember is that it worked!

I am building up the color in the scene, I think tomorrow I may get it wrapped up.

April 13, 2018

Simplified Scene from the past

This is a painting done from a kodachrome slide of my mother and me from the early 1960s.  The slide was pretty colorful, given its age.

I decided to keep it simple, using a light and a dark for each color of the painting.  I tried this out with less contrast, and then with more contrast, to see how it played out.

April 11, 2018

Still Life in the Studio

I had a round vase with tulips, ranunculus, and roses in my house so I set them up in a still life with a black orb, quilt and draped scarf in front of a mirror.  Just as an exercise. The scarf was a stiff fabric and it didn't exactly drape as I'd hoped, but I painted it anyway.

I don't know that I'll fix the issue with the left side of that scarf, but it was good to get some painting done.

March 8, 2018

Portrait Exercise

I'm headed to Montana for the rest of the month and before leaving,  I wanted to spend time fooling around with a colorful portrait.  This is based on a photo from Maine a couple of summers ago.

Workshop with Colin Page

I took a workshop last weekend with Colin Page.  He's an artist whose work I've admired for years, seeing it in galleries in Maine, and keeping up with his website.  The weather last weekend was crazy windy and crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to get to the studio was nerve-wracking.  It was good that the focus of the weekend was painting still lifes indoors.

The setups were colorful and chaotic and intimidating.  Without the challenge, I wouldn't have even tried to tackle setting up a still life like that, much less painting it.  Doing it helped me realize that I put up a lot of barriers (takes too long, silk flowers are icky, can't get the arrangement right etc) that really fall away when I have the opportunity to focus exclusively on painting.

Here's the one of my paintings, about 90 minutes in, during the workshop (and that's Colin in the background working with another painter).  I did take it further than this in the workshop, but I think it's not ever going to be "finished."

February 27, 2018

NY Cityscape in process

I was recently in New York City and took photos of the fronts of old apartment buildings with fire escapes.  There must be plein air painters in New York City... but I've never seen anyone out on the narrow sidewalks, so I'm thinking a lot of what we see in art as city street scapes are painted from photo references.  That said, there's photo references and then there's projecting a photo onto a canvas, tracing the outlines of buildings and then painting from that.   I'm fine with people doing whatever works for them, but I personally draw the line at drawing lines from a traced projected photo.  It's just not my way.  I don't use projectors or rulers and I generally don't draw at all on a canvas before I paint.

Which could explain, in some measure, why a lot of photo-realist paintings look a lot more realistic than what I'm going for.  I'm less interested in reality than illusion.

I have been fooling around with the very complicated structures, iron work, looking-up perspective and light patterns on the building facades in this small painting.   It's coming along.

January 18, 2018

The Card Game in progress - Big changes!

I broke away from the color of the slide that I'm using as the reference for this painting.  I was feeling like the warm colors weren't working and that maybe the color was an artifact of old light bulbs or old film.  Here's the new look!  I'm feeling like it's much closer to what I want in the painting, so I'll give it the weekend to see what to look at next.

I've moved on from studies of my grandma's card game, where I was working to find the right way to paint the expression on the faces of the players.  I'm now into a large painting that's coming along, slowly.  I'm still working out composition issues that didn't seem so important in the small studies -- whether or to to paint the Hummel figures on the inset shelf behind the card players, for one -- as well as trying to figure out whether the warm colors of the old Kodachrome slide should be retained or changed to a more balanced warm/cool look.

Here's where it is as of now.

November 28, 2017

Back to the Card Game - updated

Here's the latest update 
I've returned to the old image of my grandmother and friends playing cards.  The earlier sketch I'd done has attracted a lot of comment and interest, especially when people look at the woman on the left.

As with all of these  old images, I'm finding that as I sketch them, they go from being intriguing at this stage (a a lot of white, unresolved space) to a stage that I find less satisfying.

detail from the earlier sketch
I think, in part, it's a function of photos (whether old or not) that lack my eye in defining a focal point.  Of course the other part of that is that I need to adhere less to the strict depiction of the image and more to my vision of what I want to see in the work.  I find the initial sketch brings out large shapes, relationships between objects (or people) and allows me to tell a story.

I'm going to keep playing with painting these old slides and see how I can find the interpretation that works for me.  And for now, I'm going to leave this "unfinished" and think about whether or what comes next.