Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Colorado, Day1 and 2

"Autumn Gold"
15" x 20" Mixed Media

We arrived at the ranch on Sunday afternoon, enjoyed a chance to meet fellow participants at dinner and an evening introduction. The following morning we began days filled with painting outdoors, delicious meals, and evening sessions in the workshop building. There was little time wasted. Steven began with an introduction to his approach to painting plein air. To familiarize us folks from California, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Connecticut, and other states with the landscapes of Colorado, he had us practice creating the tree shapes in the mountains. These were 30 minute sketches at most.

Sketch 1
11" x 8" watercolor

Sketch 2
11" x 8" watercolor
After lunch we queued up behind Steven's very able assistant, daughter Allie, and headed out on the dirt road higher into the mountains. There Steven demoed and then we all tried our hand at creating our first piece. Here is my first plein air piece of the workshop on Monday afternoon.

"Mountain Color"
14" x 18" watercolor
After critique, Steve showed us how he sometimes primes the paper with an acrylic underpainting, this time in Cadmium Yellow. The acrylic will not lift when we paint watercolor over it, and we can easily lift back to the yellow if we want.

Steven Quiller demos painting watercolor over acrylic on Day 2
We then tried our hand at it, and I did the painting at the top of this post. I fought that thing all the way as I selected a more complex scene. The yellow you see is the underpainting. In some cases I lifted back to it. To put in the blue sky, I used gouache and cerulean blue at Steve's suggestion. Here is the scene. As you can see, I was not wedded to every element in the scene.

Mary's view

On Tuesday evenings, the ranch throws a cocktail party for guests, so we all gathered round the fire pit outside the bar and had a great chat. Steve's wife Marta joined us. We were also treated to surry rides by Damon, a cowboy who has worked the ranch for 18 years and is raising his daughters on the ranch.

Riding in the surry with the fringe on the top.
(That tune went through my head during the ride.)

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Colorado Workshop

"Snow and Aspens"
10" x 20" Watercolor

In late September I attended a plein air workshop given by Stephen Quiller, a noted watermedia artist from Creede, Colorado, known as a color specialist who has authored books and DVDs.  The workshop was held at beautiful 4UR Ranch near Stephen's home. I went with an artist friend who had attended this same workshop with me in 2015. Again, we were amazed by the beauty of this ranch in the San Juan Mountains. We were treated to beautiful meals, a lovely workshop space, and several fun events.

The weather in 2015 was consistently sunny warm days with very cold nights. This year we had entirely different weather, ranging from sunny and cool, to rain, to snow. We found this a benefit, allowing us to learn some new techniques. Steven makes use of acrylics, watercolors, and gouache to interpret the landscape in an artistically unique fashion. His approach to color uses complimentary or near complimentary colors to make colors glow. By mixing these colors, an artist can "neutralize" or "grey down" colors. By surrounding pure color with neutralized colors, I can enhance the effects of the pure color. Additionally, Steven uses thick, dark mixtures next to pure color to make it "sing."

Steven  also emphasizes using granulating colors in neutral areas and often starts a painting with neutralized, granulating colors[. These colors do not sink into the sized paper, so it easy to lift areas back to almost pure white, as I did in "Snow and Aspens," to add the golden foliage. In other paintings, many of the white aspen trunks and branches were lifted from the background.  Acrylics make a good underpainting as it will not lift when watercolor is applied over it and one can lift back to the underpainting very easily. 

He also makes use of gouache and casein with his watercolors to achieve certain effects. In the above painting, done on Day 4 after snow had fallen in the night, I used gouache under the background mountains to achieve the swirling fog and obscure mountain tops. The white gouache mixed nicely with the cerulean blue of the sky.

Sometimes Steven uses dry bush techniques, other times he paints wet into wet. He emphasizes how you control the paint application with the ratio of water to paint. When painting into the wet surface, use a dryer brush with lots of pigment. That is how I created the trees in the foreground. As most instructors will tell you don't mess around after applying the paint. "Let it do what it will do" and "It is what it is." Steven uses the landscape for inspiration, but is not a slave to the scene. He told us "listen to the painting." He always approaches each stroke with a designer's eye. He also completes the last 15% of his plein air paintings in the studios so he can "listen to the painting."

The next post will show you how we began the workshop and other works created plein air with very stunning vistas.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Another Work of Bob

"Scottish Man"
12" x 15" Pastel
In 2013 Bob came into Monday drawing class to meet me for lunch. He was wearing his orange vest and a hat. Our instructor Bob Semans has become our friend, and the minute he saw Bob, he asked if he would come pose for us. That day, Bob chose to wear his Scottish Balmoral hat that he wears with his formal kilt. Here is is in his full kit.

Bob Semans did a demo piece on a large piece of pastel paper and gifted it to Bob in exchange for his work. We students were working on our own renditions, but I only partially finished. I only do pastels in class so I set aside. The other day I found the piece and decided to complete it in our hiatus of working without an instructor while he recovered from surgery. I was fairly pleased with my work, though you can see why Bob S. is our instructor. He gave me permission to post this piece. I was obviously sitting at a different angle. No two are alike.

Bob E. by Bob S.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Combining Collage and Paint

"Sounds of the City"
10" x 10" collage and acrylic
on museum quality canvas
I've been wanting to come up with ways to combine painting and collage with figures. I've painted Lisa Taylor before. She is a marvelous singer from Santa Cruz, CA, and I've danced to her live music a number of times. Her band's Facebook page gives you lots of info. I got permission from Lisa to use photos I've taken of her as subjects for my paintings.

I decided to use an unsuccessful canvas that had a highly textured surface. That is the least successful part of this experiment. I painted the background many different ways before settling on simple, then drew the figure in acrylic and painted it. I wanted a modern, flattened approach. I then found some interesting magazine pages for the collage and applied those with glossy medium. 

This method intrigues me enough to continue experimenting. Next I want to use a smooth surface canvas. I will also try watercolor on Arches with collage.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Drawing Class: Guglielmo Winery Supplies a Subject

"2015 Dolcetto
12" x 15 Pastel on Pastel Mat Board

Napa Valley is known as the wine valley in California, but Santa Clara Valley, known today as Silicon Valley, was the first premium wine production region, called "The Valley of the Heart's Delight." French and Italian immigrants brought their vines to our valley during the Gold Rush Era. That tradition continues with at least 30 wineries located here. We belong to two wine clubs and recently enjoyed entertaining guests with Guglielmo's wonderful 2015 Dolcetto.

Our drawing instructor is recovery for surgery, so we are meeting on our own at his suggestion. I created a setup with my empty wine bottle, a wine glass, and tea substituted for wine. Pastel colors are such a challenge. I had to mix multiple colors to achieve the shades I wanted.This time friend Susan gave me a sheet of Pastel Mat which can take lots of pastel. I found it a very nice support.

Here's to happy sipping at the wineries of Santa Clara Valley.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

"View from the Paladar in Havana Old Town"
18" x14" Watercolor
Recently we returned from a wonderful land tour of Cuba with Road Scholar. Relations between the USA and Cuba have been thawing, though the embargo we placed on them remains. President Obama opened travel with Cuba, but it remains quite restricted. You travel on a cruise ship or with a sanctioned tour company. Of course, there have always been ways to get there, but they are illegal. We choose Road Scholar because the company was one of the first US companies in Cuba even before Obama's actions. They've been doing tours since 2010.

The day we arrived with our Road Scholar manager on a flight from Miami, we were met by the Havanatour Company guide, Eneides. The company is owned by the government ad we had been told activities and hotels could be changed at the discretion of the government. If changes were made, they were not evident to us.

The first sights we saw from the bus reinforced some preconceived ideas -- there are few cars, which are mainly the old US classics from the 50s or Russian Ladas; and the beautiful architecture is suffering from decades of neglect due to lack of resources. We spent the rest of the day until 5 pm touring the city before checking into our hotel, the Capri, where the stars stayed when filming the 50s classic "Our Man in Havana." We found many of our preconceived notions to be statically stuck in time and did not reflect Cuba today.

Old Town Havana is a beautiful area with a 16th century fort and handsome architecture. Some of the buildings have been restored and more are in the works. While having lunch on the rooftop of a paladar (a privately owned restaurant), we looked up to see a wonderful old building, badly in need of repair, where one of the apartment inhabitants had hung the wash on the balcony. Bob took photos for later reference.

I wanted to show everyday life in this busy city. It was important to show the aging walls of the building. I stumbled upon a good way to do the cracked areas after applying the overall texture with sponge and a mop brush. I happened to get too much paint on the paper and voila, I had a crack filled with dirt.

Here are a fews photos from our first day in Havana. The descriptions are quoted from Wikipedia.

Built initially in 1589 in response to raids on 
Havana harbor, el Morro protected the mouth of 
the harbor with a chain being strung out across the 
water to the fort at La Punta.

The basilica and the monastery of San Francisco de Asis 
(Saint Francis of Assisi) were built in Havana, Cuba at the end of 
sixteenth century (1580–91) as the home of the Franciscan 
community, and were altered in the baroque style in 1730

In Plaza Vieja. The plaza was originally called 
Plaza Nueva (New Square).[2] It emerged as an open 
space in 1559, after the Plaza de Armas and San Francisco. 
Plaza de Armas

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Monday Morning Drawing Class: The German Beer Stein

15" x 15" Pastel

Drawing instructor Bob Semans brought in a beautiful beer stein and fruit. Usually I do a pastel in a single morning, but this one took two. The design was a challenge and though it looks complex, I simplified it quite a bit. As always, values are everything in making a successful drawing or painting.

Saturday, March 25, 2017


"Thundering Waters"
12" x 15" Watercolor
I changed out my old Windows machine for a Macbook Air which I love, but I had problems working on my blog. Bob solved the problem by installing Chrome. However, if anyone else has suggestions for a good blogger app, I would appreciate hearing from you. 

Now for the happy news: Recently I received an award at the 49th Annual Members Show of the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society. You can see the winners from the show and the juror's comments.

We were heading for a multi-week vacation and I almost did not enter the show. Usually I create a painting specifically for the show, but this time I entered a recent painting inspired by our winter storms. California has suffered a prolonged drought. After four years with two of water rationing, we have had more than the normal rainfall. In January the Anderson Dam spillway was in high gear and I loved a photo my sister-in-law, Jackie, took of the water. She gave me permission to use the photo as inspiration for my work. I was very honored to receive the award as the show was of a very high quality.

Check out the winners on the SCVWS website.http://www.scvws.org/gallery.php?cat=60

For those who are local, the show will be open until the end of April at the beautiful Jewish Community Center in Los Gatos. The show is hung on the second floor of the main building.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Gwen Fox Online Coaching and Critique Group, Continued

My abstract, "Balancing Act" 

"The Batchelor" by Andrew Wyeth

Back to the critique group after the post on my latest collage.

A few days after the graduation, we left  Brooklyn, NY, on the ocean liner, Queen Mary II. I could paint and when I got to England, I could post on our private group Facebook page. I selected "The Batchelor" by Andrew Wyeth and focused on shapes on the left side of the painting. If you look carefully, you can see how I arranged my shapes in a similar way. This was a tricky one, because I purposely violated the rules and put the center of interest smack dab in the center of a square. With my line work and a tiny sphere, I completed "Balancing Act."  This is also a small watercolor on paper done with Koi set and brush pen and using care to soften some edges and blend the shapes. Gwen said I succeeded. She liked the red and yellow at the center of the painting that emphasiΩed my balanced sphere.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

"Putting on the Ritz" Inspired by Klimpt

"Puttin on the Ritz"
36" x 48" 
Torn Magazine
On Gallery Wrapped Canvas
Contact the Artist for Purchase

After returning from Vienna, where we saw some of Gustav Klimpt's work in the Belvedere Museum and at The Secession, I was inspired to do a very large collage using gold. You will recall that Klimpt's painting of Adele Block Bauer, a Jewish woman, was ironically confiscated by Hitler's art team from her husband's home some year's after Adele's death. After the war, it was returned to Austria where the Belvedere believed they had a claim to the painting. You may have seen the movie, "Woman in Gold" which tells the story of Maria Block Bauer suing for the return of the painting and others to the family. Bob and I had the good fortune to see the painting when it was displayed briefly  in the LA County Museum in 2006 before being sold to the Neue Gallery in NYC where it remains on permanent display. 

My material of choice was not gold leaf, but simple magazine papers. I saw an opulent evening coat, which my imaginary woman wears in my collage. I finished the initial image about a week ago, and then came the really fun part, modifying and integrating the painting. We have a dreary Sunday here, so it was a good afternoon to do art. I decided that the bottom of her dress needed enhancing with more black and the red background. I also added touches of red throughout the painting, including the woman's earrings, headband, and choker. She already had that incongruous red vertical line on her throat, which I decided I liked.

Since visiting Klimpt's work, I have read three books related to Klimpt and "Woman in Gold." Though an admirable artist, Klimpt's personal life was not to be emulated. The book that inspired the movie has much more information about Vienna art and high society, and the Block Bauers who suffered tremendously at the hands of the Third Reich.

Gwen Fox Online Coaching and Critique Group, Continued


My abstract, "On the Move"


"Still Life with Fruit and Jug" by Paul Cezanne

I was on a roll with abstracts, and I was now in New England for our granddaughter's graduation from Smith College. I sat at the counter of our large rented Victorian amidst family and friends and selected "Still Life with Fruit and Jug" by Paul Cezanne.  If you compare my shapes with some of the larger shapes in the painting, you can imagine my selection process. I did lots of soft edges and blending. This I did in watercolor using my travel Koi set with brush pen. I got good reviews from Gwen and fellow artists.

I learned as I looked at Cezanne's still life paintings that he painted many variations on the same subject. For example, there is "Fruit and Jug on a Table" that is similar to this piece. Painting in a series was not invented recently.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Gwen Fox Critique Group: Getting Started with an Abstract


                  My abstract, "Dreaming in Color"
Actylic on paper

Picasso's "The Dream"

Gwen talked about a good way to start an abstract. Select a painting by a famous artist and use some of the arrangement of shapes as your starting sketch. I chose Picasso's "The Dream" done in 1932. I used acrylics on watercolor paper. I should rework it somewhat and haven't done it yet. I identified two problem areas, the highly eyecatching green shape on top and the lack of variation in the he sizes of the shapes on the right side. Gwen agreed. However, I had a blast painting this piece.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Gwen Fox Online Coaching and Critique Group

"Nature's Light"
Watercolor on Paper
7" x 9"

Continuing with my art year in review, I will tell you about some wonderful online coaching and critique group.

A couple years ago, artist friend Joan and I met in New Mexico for our yearly art vacation. We attended a workshop in Taos taught by artist extraordinaire, Gwen Fox. I wrote about that 2014 workshop beginning here. After that class, I signed up for a year of individual coaching from Gwen using Web services. I focused on my collages that year and Gwen really helped me along. Gwen began a online critique group and I could not resist participating even though I was traveling during half of the ten sessions. She recorded sessions, so any of us with other commitments could catch up.

Weekly we would meet, able to see and talk with each other via a private group on Facebook. Gwen would give some instruction on design and a challenge for the week. We posted our art, and the following week Gwen critiqued them. There were about a dozen artists from around the country who participated.
Because my collage work requires so much time to complete, I painted my assignments. The first project was to take shapes that Gwen provided and complete an abstract. I did a small one in watercolor while onboard Amtrak between Denver and San Jose. I used existing shapes from Gwen, a different approach than I learned in the Salminen workshop. I will explain her Getting Started method in the next post.

Here is my first abstract for Gwen. I did a second in collage which was decidedly not my best work. My collages are people or objects, not abstracts, and I decided that I prefer to paint abstracts. Gwen's assignments were broad after the first abstract, so we could choose to paint whatever we wanted.

Friday, October 28, 2016

John Salminen Workshop

"On The Edge"
Watercolor and Collage on Paper
20" x 32"
After a very busy travel schedule, I am going to post art done this year that I have not yet shown.

In February, I took an amazing workshop from very famous watermedia artist John Salmanin. John is both a great urban landscape painter and a fabulous abstract artist. I missed taking urban landscapes from him, but managed to enroll in Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society's abstract workshop featuring John. I really believed myself incapable of doing abstract art, but he proved me wrong. He is a wonderful instructor and his wife teams with him. In their workshops, everyone has equal access to the instructor and assistance.

He had us sketch four individual random objects, then we drew the objects onto a full sheet of watercolor paper, overlaying them upon each other. We removed some lines to create pleasing shapes in mama, poppa, baby sizes, while maintaining a path of unpainted white that is not cutoff at any point--a mouse could run through it. We spent the entire week painting and reviewed our progress each day in an individual session with John.

Along the way he taught us some favorite techniques: taping a shape, removing the paint, and repainting if we desired; using the Pat Dews atomizer to add shading to some areas; and adding bits of collage. Because I do collage, that part was especially pleasing to me. We were artists at various points in our journey, and he made sure that everyone was successful.

I was pleasantly surprised to have John tell me in a private conversation at the end of the class that I am a very good artist and to keep going.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

A Musician Series: "Hot August Nights"

"Hot August Nights"
20" x 25"

 I am participating in a online critique group with Gwen Fox, an artist from Taos, NM. She challenged us to paint a series, so I continued with the musician theme. Ala Jeannie McGuire, who recently taught a Figurative Workshop in Vermont, I focused on making this painting unique and created an abstract background. Though the sax player is more forward than the singer, I wanted the singer to be the center of interest. I gave her more detail and light, and the sax player blended into the shadows. Gwen gave me a thumbs up on this one and commented that I accomplished my goals.