Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Paper Art

"Jamie, Stepping Out in Style"

"Bailey and Free" for granddaughter Kelly

"Jeff and Beth, Down on the Farm"

What fun I had making Thank You cards for my son Jeff's family. I managed to eek out some time for art, be it paper art. When I opened my gifts from the family, I fell in love with the black wrapping paper decorated in gold spirals (my favorite shape) and stars. I couldn't just toss it out. I recalled Myrna Wacknov doing some value studies with cut paper, and my instructor, Joyce Barron Leopardo, showed me the wonderfully creative greeting cards she makes when she has some time on an airplane or in front of the TV. Joyce also let me select papers from a wallpaper sample book. I was also inspired by the designs of complex shapes by Peggy Stermer-Cox. And let's not forget Matisse who took paper cutouts to the level of fine art, and happens to be one of my favorite artists.

This morning I drew up my main images without references and later transferred them to tracing paper, taped the traced image onto the wrapping paper, and made paper dolls. I adhered the shapes to card stock and embellished them with other papers and some line. Jamie is a charmer in high school, so I decked her out in high heels, a skirt (which she seldom wears), and a purse under a spiral sun. Joyce's red wallpaper set off the black and gold nicely. Kelly is a newly minted teen who recently lobbied for a replacement dog. Both girls have horses at their small country farm. Thus, young Bailey is enjoying the company of Kelly's black horse, Free, on a carpet of wallpaper grass. Jeff and Beth love their mini Millbrook Farm complete with chickens, horses, a huge garden, birds, cats, a dog, and a lovely red barn. Here they are surveying their kingdom. I added thank you notes inside each card and posted them in the mail.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Special Note at Christmas time

"Autumn at the Paquet Family Farm" on display in Connecticut

Framed in old barnwood from Pepere's Blacksmith Shop

Two days before Christmas I received a lovely note from my late husband's cousin who had commissioned a painting of the Paquet Family Farm. (The link will take you to related posts that tell the story behind this painting.) Diane's brother is both a blacksmith and sculptor and played a major role in resurrecting Pepere's blacksmith shop for our centennial celebration (in the middle building pictured above). When Jimmy learned of Diane's desire for an appropriate frame, he made one that fit perfect from old wood he had salvaged during the reconstruction. Diane is delighted, and I've received positive feedback on the painting from other family members. Diane sent me several photos and a lovely note in which she said, "I couldn't ask for more---a painting of the farm which holds many fond memories, painted by my cousin's wife, with a frame made of barn wood from the farm and made by my brother. Truly a family effort." Bob cut the mat and backing for the art, as he does for all my art.

Creating this painting has been a very rewarding experience for me. Pepere' blacksmith shop is the subject of a collage and watermedia painting I submitted for the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society Member show. Art and life are circular.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"Reflections" in Monday's Drawing Class

14" x 10"

Bob brought in a lovely Delft blue and white bowl and some fresh lemons and oranges. Judith brought in a remnant from her granite countertop that reflects nicely. The setup was very appealing. However, I am always amazed that I have 98 different sticks of pastel, and I can't find a true lemon yellow. Layering colors filled the bill.

I wish everyone a happy holiday season!

Our Art Show at Plein Air Christmas Potluck

Art by Brad, Sylvia, and Jenny

Art by Jenny, Kaaren, and Mary

Art by Brad and Sylvia

I wrote the other day about our wonderful plein air Christmas potluck and painting session. We painted for a few hours before enjoying our potluck, and here are the results. Click on the pictures for a larger image. You will see several views from the front deck, each from different perspectives and with the unique stamp of the artist. You will see a few pieces from the back of Sylvia's home as well.

I am very fortunate to be surrounded by wonderful artists in the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society. The society offers many different opportunities for people to paint and show their art, and hosts outstanding workshops. Find out more about SCVWS.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Art

"Christmas, California Style"
9" x 6"

Mary's Flower Bike
San Jose, CA

Friday was a lovely sunny day in California, so I decided to paint the master for my Christmas cards. Almost every year, I paint my Christmas card art, photograph it, have it reproduced on cards, and include a letter. This year I am especially late, but timing does not deter me. I've been known to send them after Christmas. I have been to more than one home where the art reproductions are displayed on the wall, so I know that people enjoy receiving the cards. You don't get the full effect here as I am picking up the cards today at Costco where they are reproducing the art into one of their stock formats.

There is a story behind the garden sculpture I call my Flower Bike. When I retired from IBM, ready to leave in a few short weeks on my cross-country bike trip, my wonderful co-workers surprised me at my retirement party with a gift of this bike with all four planters filled with live flowers, sporting a lovely purple bow on the handlebars. Turns out Patti and Carolyn came up with the idea, found the planter online, had it delivered to their office, and assembled it themselves. Apparently I even walked into the office one day when they were working on assembly and I was totally oblivious!

I was totally thrilled with the gift given from personal contributions and since then, it's been an important part of family celebrations. When Bob's daughter, Jamie, got married in April, I decorated it with spring flowers and silver ribbons to greet guests at our large extended family brunch the day after the wedding. I used the bike at the entrance when we had Open Studios this last May. When I visited the hardware store a few weeks ago, they had wonderful poinsettias on sale, so the flower bike is the centerpiece of my very modest Christmas display. I added LED lights that show up nicely in the night, a fitting decoration for a home where the garage houses one car and 13 bicycles. People attending our very large New Year's Day Open House will have an easy time finding our place.

Back to Friday -- the weather was awesome after a cold and rainy spell. So I painted on the patio and created the art. I sat under a canopy of trees laden with oranges and lemons, facing the mountain that is Santa Teresa County Park, and revelled in life.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas with the Plein Air Artists

Sylvia's View - San Jose

The Hillside from Sylvia's Deck

Sylvia Waddell is one of our two Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society's Plein Air leaders. Throughout the year, Sylvia and Jenny Tero plan weekly outings to various places around the Bay area and on the coast for our members. All you have to do is show up with your art materials and join in the fun.

Today Sylvia hosted a little Christmas plein air painting session and potluck. The day began dreary with fog that acted like fine rain. Thus, we were a small, but wonderful group of 5 gathered up in the East Foothills at Sylvia's home. Her place has decks front and back with spectacular views. Three of us opted to paint on the front deck where we had a panoramic view of the Santa Clara Valley, or "Valley of the Heart's Delight" as it was known when you saw fruit trees rather than homes on the valley floor. I chose to paint the scene of downtown with it's modest high rises. We are a city with a population of over a million, but in many ways we are a small town. The sky was overcast. I grabbed my artistic license, removed some trees and made the buildings look closer than they were . What is that saying about objects in your car mirror may be closer than they appear -- well, this is the reverse. As I was finishing the painting, the Santa Cruz Mountains began to emerge faintly in the distance, so I swiped them into the background with some blue paint.

By now it was noon and the winter sun had appeared, though with a haziness common to one of the shortest days of the year. Next, I turned myself 90 degrees to face the hillside. Without putting a single pencil mark on the paper, I painted in the hill, the trees, the house in the distance fronted by a vineyard, and the gnarled oak next to the deck. Kaaren told me that Mike Bailey would have said there was good use of repetition between the angles of the house roofs and the angles of the oak tree. I didn'plan that design element; it was intuitive. So having someone tell me that will help me be more conscious of my design choices next time. By then we had been joined by our two fellow artists who had been painting from the back of the house, and we finished up our session about 1 p.m. with a little show of our work in the livingroom. Sylvia maintains a Plein Air Muse blog, so you will likely see her posting her lovely work sometime soon. She is a wonderful watercolorist, and she does fabulous drawings using pens or graphite. Sylvia specializes in pet portraits.

Then it was time for our group to savor our potluck: chili with lots of surprise vegetables, a beautiful green salad, a Waldorf salad, bread, cheese, crackers, fruit, butter cookies, and chocolate bar cookies. A perfect day. I then drove to the community center to grab a few dances with Bob at the Thursday afternoon ballroom dance session. Now I must begin to prep for my Thursday night art group's Christmas gathering this evening at my home. Will we have time to paint?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"Over the Top" Award

I was honored and excited to receive the Over the Top Award from Peggy Stermer-Cox, a superb artist. Check out her blogsite. I have chosen to pass the award along to the following people who have terrific and different blogs and show a passion for art:

1. Claire's Sketchbook
2. Charlene Brown's 1150 Word
3. Megha Chhatbar's Art on Sketchbook
4. Sheila's From Forensic to Fine Art
5. Jean's Watercolorist

Have a blast checking out their blogs by taking the live links on their blog names. I have so many wonderful blog friends with unique blogs, choosing just five is very difficult.

The guidelines follow.
As awardee, you have the opportunity to:
  • pass this award on to five people,
  • post on their blog to let them know I left this award
  • answer a list of questions in ONE word.
  • feel free to post award image on sidebar

Here are the questions with my responses; they require one-word answers.

1. Where is your cell phone? ...Purse
2. Your hair?… Short
3. Your mother?… Fun
4. Your father?… Trustworthy
5. Your favorite food?… Pasta
6. Your dream last night?… Weird
7. Your favorite drink?…Tea
8. Your dream/goal?… Painting
9. What room are you in?… Office
10. Your hobby?… Cycling
11. Your fear?… Loss
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years?…Here
13. Where were you last night?… Home
14. Something that you aren’t?… Boring
15. Muffins?… Bran
16. Wish list item?… Books
17. Where did you grow up?… Vermont
18. Last thing you did?… Sleep
19. What are you wearing?… Sweats
20. Your TV?… Old
21. Your Pets?… None
22. Friends?… Special
23. Your life?… Wonderful
24. Your mood?… Happy
25. Missing Someone?… Yes
26. Vehicle?… Tandem
27. Something you're not wearing?… Earrings
28. Your favorite store?… Art
29. Your favorite colour?… Many
30. When was the last time you laughed?… Today
31. Last time you cried?… ugh????
32. Your best friend?… Bob
33. One place that I go to over and over?… Europe
34. Facebook?… Little
35. Favorite place to eat?… Home

With many holiday parties, shopping, and general mayhem, I haven't had much time for art. In drawing class yesterday we watched two videos by Burt Silverman and Richard Schmid and then went to lunch to celebrate the holidays. So I didn't produce anything. I am promising myself today that I will make time for art.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"Birthday Memories"

"Birthday Memories, 2009"
11" x 14"
Collage, Watercolor, and Acrylic

As I was opening my gifts, mostly delivered from Amazon as we are a bi-coastal family, I was taken with the wrapping paper in lovely contrasting colors of blue and orange. One piece was blue with writing on one side and beige on the reverse. I decided I would recycle some of the interesting paper items into a piece of art commemorating my birthday 2009. One of my gifts is Betsy Dillard Stroud's wonderful "Painting from the Inside Out" given to me by son, Jeff. Inspired by "Everything but the Kitchen Sink" and recalling our wonderful workshop, I devised a compositional sketch centered around an orchid from a corsage that Bob gave me.

Let's call this experimental, as I don't know, nor do I care, if there is a right way to approach a piece like this. I drew my design on 300 pound watercolor paper, cut the collage pieces, and adhered them to the paper with mat medium as I learned from Gerald Brommer. When the base layer was dry, I painted the orchid in watercolor. I then began applying acrylics with a brush and stamping with acrylics to pull the background together. I found that I deviated from my design somewhat, responding to the image as it developed.

When I took Mike Bailey's 10-week Watercolor Beyond the Obvious workshop, I found that the process featured recently in Watercolor Artist magazine pushed me toward creating geometric shapes. I attribute this penchant to my engineering gene that guided my work life. By golly, that is what is emerging here as well.

I included elements that recall special moments, relationships, adventure, and where I am at this time in my life. The orchid represents my loving relationship with Bob, the gift wrap recalls my two wonderful grown sons, and Bob's little note on the Amazon gift card validates my role as artist. A piece of the 17-Mile Drive brochure provided directions on our bike ride to Carmel, and brings back memories of our cross-USA tandem bicycle ride in 2008. The coffee sleeves from a local Pacific Grove coffee shop take me back to several wonderful restaurants and cafes where we dined. The spiral pattern for growth and squares for stability are part of a stamp that I carved relating to my life. The rectangular decorative stamp reminds me of other parts of the world that I've been privileged to visit. One can say a lot about their life on a quarter sheet of watercolor paper

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pastel Christmas and 20 minute sketches

"Christmas Time in the City"
16" x 13"

"Birthday Celebration"
Rosedale Inn, Pacific Grove
6" x 9 " 20-minute sketch

"A Birthday with Wolf Kahn"
Rosedale Inn, Pacific Grove
6" x 9 " 20-minute sketch

We've been out of town and far away from my blog world. I start off today with work done in this morning's drawing class. To be truly done, this piece would need more work, but it's what I could accomplish during class and a half hour this afternoon. This proved to be a very challenging subject - I always struggle with value, and that tissue paper gave us all a run for our money. The center ball is most successful because Bob came over and added a few strokes of pastel to give me that "aha!" experience.

We went off mid-week to Pacific Grove to celebrate my birthday for a few days at the coast. We stayed at the Rosedale Inn, across the street from Asilomar. We walked the grounds at Asilomar and to the beach. If you know this stretch of Monterey Bay, you will recall the wonderful crashing surf on rocks. On my birthday we rode our folding Bike Fridays (travel bicycles) to Carmel by way of 17-mile Drive. I always wonder just where Clint Eastwood lives along there. No matter, the invigorating sunshine and cool ocean breezes made my day.

I received several wonderful art books as gifts from the family. Thus I did lots of reading in front of the fireplace. I also did two twenty-minute sketches inspired by Katharine Cartwright. Kathy is an amazing artist and provides some really wonderful discussions of art literature. Check out her website - her name is a live link. Kathy also started another blog challenging people to create a sketch in twenty minutes. Kathy did this for herself when traveling years ago to develop her technical skill and style. You just sit in your hotel room and sketch something in your medium of choice. You can see some results of her followers.

So at two different times during our mini-vacation, I sat and did a quick watercolor. The second one is especially meaningful to me because it includes the Wolf Kahn book that Bob gave me on the nightstand. I love Wolf Kahn's amazing work in oils and pastels, with his unusual color choices and minimal detail. In this book, the artist has brief vignettes about his travels and the resulting art. Because he now lives both in New York City in the winter and Vermont in the summer, I can really relate to many of the pieces that he painted, especially the Vermont paintings from my tiny home state.

I also received a Betsy Dillard Stroud book, a book on composition, and one on doing portraits. Likely you will see future references to them on this blog. My art library continues to grow.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Dancing in the Streets

"Dancing in the Streets"
Buenos Aires, Argentina
8" x 10"
Acrylic on canvas

We spent 8 days in Buenos Aires at the end of a trip around Cape Hope by cruise ship in February. While there, we visited San Telmo where we saw people doing wonderful Argentine Tango in the streets. We were inspired to take two private lessons from a professional couple who rented studio time to give them to us. When we returned home, we added Argentine Tango to our weekly ballroom dance lessons.

We learned that the tango got its start in the brothels where the men would dance with each other to pass the time while waiting. The upper class did not embrace the tango until it became popular in France and other European countries, which gave it respectability. The dance is now a very important part the Argentine social scene. A Milonga is the venue where people dance the tango, and we had hoped to go to a Milonga while in Buenos Aires. However, we are definitely Americanos who tend towards an early bedtime, so we never managed to stay up until 2:00 a.m. to attend a Milonga. How do folks get up the next morning and go to work?

I wanted to do a very simple rendering of dancers doing the corte step without a lot of detail. I covered the canvas with an orange mother color and then proceeded to paint the scene with little detail. I finished the buildings by adding some black line using liquid gesso. I have much to learn about working with acrylics. Near the end of the process, I used some gloss medium and I rather liked the smooth coverage I got from doing that. More experimenting is in order.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

"Mother's Table"
14" x 11"

Having grown up in New England and tracing ancestors to the Pilgrims on the Mayflower, I am steeped in Thanksgiving traditions. The day was filled with family and a lovely turkey dinner. When I moved with my young family to California, this was the day that I missed our extended family the very most. Eventually, after fits and starts, we developed our own Thanksgiving traditions in sunny California.

The boys grew up and moved back to my home state of Vermont. My husband passed away 11 years ago and a few years later Bob and his girls came into my life. Time for new traditions. A few years passed and with daughters and sons spread out across the USA, it was time to build new celebrations. For the past half dozen years, Bob and I have gone to the coast to have dinner at a Capitola institution, the Shadowbrook Restaurant. We don't even order turkey dinners, but rather enjoy other specialties offered -- baked brie with jalapeno sauce, creamy artichoke soup, roast beef, and mud pie were my choices this year. Needless to say, we had to walk for a bit before settling back into the car for the drive home over the mountains on a spectacular sunny day.

Tonight I grabbed my watercolors and painted the centerpiece on our dining table. The candle holder that friend Pam gave me one year, a real favorite, and gourds from Spina's Farm Stand two miles down the road are festive at this time of year. After struggling to master other mediums -- pastels and acrylics -- watercolors are home to me. A nice simple still life from a high eye level and my delicious watercolors and brushes made for a lovely few hours as Bob practiced his flute music for the advent season.

Here's to your special Thanksgiving traditions.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Very French

Fruit and Wine
17" x 14"
My apologies to anyone receiving posts that were empty or looked strange. I was having some problems that I believe I have now corrected.

Today I finished this still life in drawing class. Bob had to coach me along, and he even worked on the right persimmon and some of the wine bottle to show me how to achieve the appropriate values, chroma, solidity, and transparency. Difficult but an excellent learning experience. This one reminds me of several wonderful trips to France, where we enjoyed the fresh fuits and French wines.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Experimental Acrylics

" Plymouth Covered Bridge"
New Hampshire
7" x 5" acrylic

"A Rose Is a Rose"
7" x 5" acrylic

" Sunset over Long Lake"
Adirondacks, New York
7" x 5" acrylic

After my two private lessons on acrylic, I wanted to try some different genres with acrylic. Using the paints we had left over after the lessons (they kept well on styrofoam trays in a plastic ziplock bag), I did these three small studies.

The first and third are memories of our cross-USA tandem trip in 2008. We saw the covered bridge just three days before we completed the trip in Portland, Maine. As I am a native New Englander, these old relics are dear to my heart. The Long Lake picture was taken from a boat after we were treated to dinner with an extended family by people we met on the street. One of those great experiences that we will never forget. The roses are done from memory.

In each, I tried to get passages of transparent, translucent, and opaque paint. Some I succeeded in my goal better than others. The roses have a lot of opaque and translucent paint. The bridge piece has quite a bit of transparent and some translucent (far mountain) and opaque (green trees). The lake started with transparent rose washes that show through the translucent and opaque paint.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sunflower Fields at Petit Rousset

"Sunflower Fields at Petit Rousset"
Dordogne region of France
11" x 14"
Welcome to several people who recently became followers of this blog: Benjamin Rowan from Australia, Marie Theron of South Africa, Mary Lou Arnold, and Chris Casey from Tasmania. What an international group of artists!

Today was my second and final private lesson on acrylics with Joyce Barron Leopardo. I learned about using acrylics as watermedia. I had watched Stephen Quiller's DVD on the same subject, loaned to me by Joyce last week, so I had an idea of what can be done with acrylics. Joyce selected a subject dear to our hearts, our 2007 trip to France with master artist Mike Bailey. We stayed at a beautiful old farm house used for educational vacations. We lucked out with weather -- we got the only two good weeks that summer in France, and the sunflowers were in full bloom behind the house. We could see a farm across the sunflowers and the rolling hills of the Dordogne region.

Joyce had already done our sketches to save us time, as I was there to learn acrylics, not sketching. We painted together. She limited our palette to a triad, a frequently used Quiller method, and I selected Azo yellow, cobalt blue, and cadmium red medium. However, I ended up also using just a bit of a deeper yellow that Joyce was using. We wanted to suggest the warm haze over the countryside. We developed the painting by first laying in color on the barn and then glazing the paper with an underpainting of yellow. Everytime we added a layer of paint and allowed the mingling that we wanted, we would use a hairdryer to completely dry the surface. The major difference between acrylics and watercolor at this point was the fact that acylics, once dry, don't lift, so it's easy to glaze over the underlayers. One has to remember that they dry very quickly so you must work fast.

We wanted the sunflowers on the left to predominate, so those I painted more distinctly. The remainder are very subtley suggested. At one point, we glazed some yellow on a diagonal from the upper right corner to the lower left corner. After darkening the barn, and major trees left and right, I added the hint of trees in the receding background by wetting the paper and letting the colors mingle and drip. Finally, we glazed the sky with the red and yellow and spritzed it with water to allow the color to flow over the countryside, unifying the painting. Joyce finished the piece by matting it and putting it in a glacine bag. Joyce is such a wonderful teacher and she kept talking design and value throughout the lesson.

When I finished this painting and showed it to Bob, he asked if it was acrylics as it looks like watercolor. Joyce loaned me a Quiller book (I have one, but not this one), and I want to try his techniques where he creates transparent, translucent, and opaque areas for maximum glow. The painting we did today is mostly transparent with small passage of opaque color. I did not use any translucent paints, which you make by mixing color with white before applying it to the paper. I found the acrylic colors to be more saturated than watercolor.

I received word that the owner of the commissioned painting, "Autumn at the Paquet Family Farm," received the painting in Connecticut, and she and her family are very pleased with the piece.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Gaucho Dancer

"Gaucho Dancer"
Ushuia, Argentina

This is what happens when Mary meets Betsy Dillard Stroud - new experiments! I will experiment more with complex surfaces. Taking a page out of "Everything but the Kitchen Sink" day, I used stamping, gouche with watercolor, and layering to achieve an exciting surface. I did not throw acrylic or collage into the mix, which Betsy did. The young man is from a photo I took while watching young people do a gaucho show in Ushuai, Argentina, in February. I love to paint dancers. I would like to abstract the background more than I did here -- a step at a time towards the ideal.

Today I am off to an Acrylic Party sponsored by the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society this afternoon. The company supplies the materials and we bring our paper and brushes.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Private Acrylic Lesson

Acrylic on paper

In April I will take a workshop with Stephen Quiller, a master watercolorist and acrylic artist. I wanted to jump start myself with acrylics, so I arranged for two private lessons with a friend, Joyce Barron Leopardo, SWA, an award-winning artist. Joyce is a wonderful teacher who does workshops for children at the Ronald McDonald House, nuns at a cloistered convent, and Bay area artists. She began my session by showing me many examples of her work in acrylic and mixed media - very inspiring.

We sat out on her beautiful deck in the hills overlooking the Bay and painted for thee hours. We had a great time. Joyce planned an exercise using a pear because of the simple shapes. I was to learn how to apply opaque acrylic paint similar to doing an oil painting. Joyce would emphasize placing lights next to darks and texturing the surface. We started with 2 full sheets of Arches watercolor paper, one coated with a layer of orange acrylic, and the other coated with a layer of Aso yellow acrylic. We cut the sheets into pieces measuring 5" x 7 ." We then taped three of the pieces together with a quarter-inch separation. The acrylic mother color sealed the watercolor paper so the paint moves lusciously upon the surface and is easy to manipulate.

Joyce matted two of the finished pieces and placed them in plastic protectors. The top piece above was my first effort, and really my favorite of the six I completed. As I painted with Joyce, I learned to achieve different effects. I used a palette knife to manipulate paint in the upper left corner, a piece of ridged cardboard for the table top texture, and scraped down to the orange in the highlight area of the pear with a piece of Starbucks gift card.

The second piece also employs my new favorite mother color, orange. I used crumbled plastic wrap to achieve the textured background, and stamped into the wet paint on the bottom with waffled rubber. I also scraped out some of the highlights on the pear with a palette knife. This manipulation exposed some of the mother color.

The third piece was also done on orange. Here I used lots of texture, layering paint and scraping with a palette knife. Joyce suggested adding a highlight with some contrasting paint. I selected hot pink and placed some on the left of the pear and on the stem and leaf. I tried playing around with some white paint and some purple to add lights and darks.

The fourth pear was created on the yellow mother color and I found it more difficult to select my colors for pleasing results; however, I am satisfied with all three pieces. Joyce had to do a touch of scraping in the pear highlight and add bit of paint for asymmetrical leaves to add some excitement. Then she suggested I drizzle some "tar gel" on the surface for some very interesting results. The gel makes loopy, organic lines that dry clear to reflect light at interesting angles and please the eye.

After matting and bagging the two pieces, Joyce loaned me a Stephen Quiller CD for the week, gave me leftover paints, showed me how she and Myrna Wacknov make a little travel kit of watercolors using an Altoids box and bottle caps and the resulting original gift cards she created while sitting for two hours in a plane on the tarmac. Joyce and I finished the day at a sweet Mexican cafe with delicious prawn tacos. I had a lovely time and look forward to our final session next Wednesday.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Pastels in Drawing class

"Fall Arrangement"
15" x 10"

I worked on this piece for two classes. I like the pitcher. I'm still missing it on the gourds. Bob gave a great demo after he saw that we were struggling with them. He says to start by establishing the dark shadow so you can key values from the shadow. Do not create a hard edge; bring the shadow pastel up into the gourd. Establish the surrounding value. Work from the middle of the gourd outward, being especially gentle as you approach the shadow area. Carefully place the highlights.

Strangely, the pastel paper has vertical lines in it. I bought the paper at University Arts where we have class and didn't notice the lines until I started doing the pastel. I believe they had some oddball sheets mixed in with the Canson Mi Tientes paper. I will check carefully in the future.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Me and Matisse

"Me and Matisse"
22" x 30"
(c) Mary Paquet
Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse

This piece was an exercise on Day 4 in Betsy Dillard Stroud's workshop and we all had great fun doing it. Betsy said to create a painting in the style of Matisse. One of our excellent artists in the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society offered to come and pose. She was wearing a terrific outfit. Jane says she is the original "Second Hand Rose." It's difficult with many artists at tables around one model to get a great pose for everyone, and I didn't luck out. So I took a few photos. I drew Jane from one of the photos and embellished the background with Matisse-like shapes, drawing upon these two Matisse images.

We were to paint a full sheet in acrylic. As many of you know, I have almost never done acrylic, but I would like to develop my skills in the medium. I would like to try another "Matisse" sometime. I would go for more lively clear color, saving the greys to show off the bright colors. I would also stylize the figure ala Matisse. This was a fun exercise and I had a blast doing it. Nicely, with acrylics, you can change your mind, and Betsy said to play with design as we went along.

The title of the artwork was Betsy's suggestion. I commented that this was me and Matisse and she told me that it was the perfect title!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A commissioned painting

"Autumn at the Paquet Family Farm"
14" x 21"

Recently I was commissioned by a Paquet family member to create a painting of the farm buildings for her home. A cousin of my late husband, Gary, was very taken with a painting I had done early in the 90's of the farm in winter. She had seen the painting at the farm museum during the centennial celebration in July. I was asked to include the main farm buildings and given discretion to select a season. It's fall and I recall the lovely colors in Vermont, so I designed an autumn scene.

If you look real close, you will see a few pumpkins by the silos and under the tree in the center of the farmyard. Pumpkins are a popular item at the farm stand that opens in August with corn sales and runs into October. The farm stand is made up of a canopy and tables of farm-grown crops set under the tree. My sons, now living in Vermont and New York with day jobs, pitch in with extended family in their off hours to grow and sell the crops on the farm and to help maintain the farm.

Using bits and pieces of photos of the farm, I designed a scene that would include the buildings and terrain surrounding the farm that sits on West Hill in Barre, Vermont. Though my studio art has largely moved away from landscape in the past couple of years, I enjoyed doing this scene. I recalled getting to know Gary's grandparents, founders of the farm in 1909, hardy farm folks from the province of Quebec in Canada. I thought of all the good times we had with our young children on the farm, memories similar to those of the cousin requesting the painting. Most recently, I remet the descendants of Joe and Emeda Paquet's 13 children at the farm celebration, and we enjoyed many hours of reminiscing.

I am happy to report that the requester is delighted with the image that I sent her and the painting will soon be on it's way to her home in Connecticut. You can see more farm paintings and read more about the Paquet family farm on this blog.

Monday, October 26, 2009

From the Betsy Dillard Stroud Workshop.

"The Three Muses"
22 "x 30"

What a wild and exciting week I had. I got to know Betsy very well as her primary host and she is a generous and interesting woman and so creative and inspirational. I was busy day and night all last week, Saturday I did the 100K ride with our bicycling Academy students, and Sunday I attended the reception for the Santa Clara Valley Watercolors Society members show. Of course, Monday is dedicated to my drawing class.

I just grabbed a few minutes today to put the finishing touches on this first painting in the workshop where we drew Christina from three different poses. The emphasis was on watercolor and creating interesting surfaces using tape to mask off areas, divisions of space, and connections. We were to use a limited palette and the same set of colors for our light, medium, and dark, figures. I ended up with two fairly light and one dark, with the emphasis on the dark, colorful figure. My previous post showed the piece "in progress." Betsy was complementary of my surface treatment and division of space. The class was made up of 13 to 15 very accomplished artists, depending upon the day. Betsy said it was one of the most experienced groups she has taught. Check out Myrna Wacknov's posts to see what a very fine artist does with Betsy's challenges.

I especially enjoyed learning to make and use stamps to beautify the surface. Betsy told us there are 5 universal shapes: the circle, the cross (not religious), the triangle, the spiral, and the square. She asked us to number them in the order of our preference, stressing this is the way we order them today, and they could be different another time. She said our first choice is where we think we are, but we are not there yet. Our second choice is what we have mastered, our third choice is where we are now. Our fifth choice is been there, done that. I don't recall what the fourth choice is.

My choices were 1) the spiral, representing growth (not there yet); 2) the circle, integration of the masculine and feminine side, unity and wholeness (mastered, Betsy says probably on my cross-country bicycle ride); 3) the triangle, walking up the sacred mountain (where I am now); 4) the square, stability, earth, air, water, fire (?); and 5) the cross, relationships with a person, art, or some other part of our life (been there, done that). She showed us how to carve stamps out of soft linoleum, or rubber erasers using a linoleum cutter that looks like a curette to me. She told us to include symbols that we selected as 1, 3, and 5. What looks like squares on my stamp are repetitious crosses.

This exercise proved to be very tactile and rewarding. I'm hooked! Betsy has made stamps for a number of years, making use of symbology from ancient civilizations and modern times. I want to do some research. Before I left the workshop on day 2, I carved my stamp with repetitions of the three symbols. This is done simply, carefully, and free-hand. Because I was a coordinator at the workshop, I was unable to complete all exercises. So with Betsy's agreement, I focused on my Day 1 painting, above, and added stamping to the mix for beautifying the surface. You can see my three symbols. I want to find out more about symbols and make more stamps.

I love the way Betsy combines realism and abstraction. I have read Betsy's articles on creativity in popular artist magazines for years, and I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to learn from her. I have been forever influenced by this week.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Betsy Dillard Stroud Workshop

"The Three Muses"
22" x 30"
In progress
It's been a super busy week with coordinating Betsy's workshop. Betsy is so creative and such a free spirit. I've taken her to dinner a couple times and we've had some fascinating conversations.

Next week I will catch up with my blog friends and write more about the workshop. For Betsy, painting is all about making your personal marks on the paper. In the 90s she modernized her approach by making very complex backgrounds and mixing realism and abstraction. Her demo Sunday was fascinating. She started with a "brush painting" - no image drawn on the paper and no plan. Consulting with the group on what they wanted to see, she did a large floral with a small figure. She first sculpted a beautiful floral arrangement, then she started adding tape to the paper, creating divisions and random shapes to paint around. She added the top of a Freido Kahlo type woman in an abstract manner in one section and began applying beautiful combinations of about 5 transparent colors to the background. When she removes the tape, she paints into those areas.

For the first three days of the workshop, we are having a model. Christina returned. If you click the link on her name, you will see a previous painting I did and entered into a show. Christina is a wonderful model who can twist herself into the most interesting poses and hold them without a flicker. We had a bonus with one of our SCVWS members, Jane Ferguson, offered to pose without charge one afternoon.

Betsy begins with warmups, 2 minutes and five minutes, and no erasing is allowed. That's true even on our finished paintings. She said the artists marks and corrections add interest, so the piece I've shown has no erasures. This is the piece I started on Day 1. Betsy had Christina take three different poses and we drew all three on our full sheet watercolor paper. Then we followed the process of applying tape. We were to do a dark, mid-tone, and light value on the three poses. When this piece is done, there will be no white showing. Betsy told me she likes this piece very much and I made good divisions of space. Be sure to carry the Scarlet Lake and the purple into all parts of the painting. I am really liking this painting.

The second day, Christina was back and Jane joined us. We did lots of warmups and then drew Christina in a prone position on paper coated with mat medium. I haven't had time to work on that one yet. I also have a great drawing on watercolor paper of Jane in very colorful clothes. Jane is a very accomplished artist and wears such unique and beautiful clothing. She says she is the original "Second-Hand Rose."

I hope to describe soon the process I learned for making stamps.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society member show, "Linear Visions"

Personal Flyer
"Linear Visions"
SCVWS Members Show

A week ago I helped with intake for the members show held on the grounds of the Triton Museum in Santa Clara. There are 99 pieces in the show and the quality is superb. Christopher Schenk, a well-known watermedia artist, juried the show on Thursday. On Friday I attended a Gallery Sitters briefing and those present went around to view all the art and each person described the inspiration for their painting. SCVWS created a lovely show flyer and a blank where we could insert our art to advertise the show. I will be sending flyers by e-mail to my collectors and friends.

My entry is "Pepere's Blacksmith Shop, 1909 - 2009," that I've posted on the blog previously. The shop is part of the Paquet Family Farm built by my sons' great grandfather, currently owned by their grandmother, and they help maintain the business. The piece represents my linear vision of a Vermont farm family rooted in Quebec. You can read the description by taking the link on the painting title. The blog post became the basis for my show statement in the show binder. I received some very positive comments from those present.

The show runs the rest of the month, so if you are in the area, do stop in and view the beautiful art between the hours of 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. at no fee. There is a reception on October 25 at 1 to 4 and the public is invited to attend. Enjoy a beautiful spread of food and wine while chatting with fellow art enthusiasts and viewing the art. The award winners, already determined and notified, will receive their awards at the reception.

Starting today through the end of Friday, I am very busy helping to coordinate the SCVWS workshop by Betsy Dillard Stroud. Betsy is extremely creative using mixed media. Some of the people who have registered are highly accomplished artists so I will get to see some wonderful creativity in action. We picked Betsy up at the airport last night, and she was easy to recognize after seeing her photo in many issues of Watercolor Artist and Artist Magazine. The supply list is very lengthy, including both watercolors and acrylics in tubes and fluid forms, gessos, collage papers, and many more items. I have to finish assembling my supplies and put the final touches on our home for a cycling club event that Bob will host in my absence today.

I plan to post pieces I do in the workshop. Myrna Wacknov will also likely post her workshop experiments on her blog. Myrna is an award winner in the Linear Visions show and is waiting to learn which award she has won at the reception! Myrna will be giving a workshop for SCVWS in January. If you live in the area or want to visit, consider taking the workshop. More information on Artist Network, where the listing is a link to the description, and registration information at SCVWS.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday Drawing Class - the Full Figure

14" x 17"

This charcoal sketch doesn't look like much, but I struggled mightily with it. Bob has had us concentrate on doing the full figure in the last two sessions with Gina. Usually I concentrate on the upper part of the body.We were shocked when after some very quick warmups, we had about 10 minutes to do some measurements. The lower body is much longer than we thought. Bob says that making the lower body smaller than it should be is a common error.

When I started this 20 minute pose, I got the length correct, but did not have the legs as far to the left as they should have been. I found this out myself by carefully remeasuring with my dowel stick. Bob says you have to suffer a little to become better at art.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Quick experiment with watercolor and pastel

"Sunset in Monterey"
Watercolor and pastel
12" x 9"

I've been out of town without much time for art. Tonight I grabbed a small painting I did at the Carmel Paintout and added some pastel. My drawing instructor, Bob Semans, tells us you can do an underpainting in watercolor and then apply pastel. This piece was more than an underpainting and it was not on a smooth surface, but rather on cold pressed watercolor paper, so the pastel appears as dots. I left it that way in some places, such as the trees, but I swiped some of it with a wet paper towel and rather liked the results.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Carmel Paintout - Second Edition

"Glorious Morning"
Pacific Grove, CA
14" x 21"

"Afternoon Fog"
Point Lobos
7" x 10"

Here is a continuation of the Carmel Paintout. On Thursday morning I drove to Pacific Grove, that lovely piece of coastline between Monterey Bay and 17-mile Drive. I found our leader, Karen, hard at work at the edge of the golf course by the bay. This a great place to paint with restrooms and water available. Later we were joined by others from Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society. Karen is a gutsy painter -- she had a card table, folding chair, and was doing a full sheet in bold colors. I never realized how great tree trunks would look painted bright torquoise.

I set up next to Karen and painted the tree line and point of land, backed by the hills and mountains along the bay. The rosy color you see is provided by prolific ice plant. The trees are Monterey Pines constantly swept in one direction by the winds blowing in off the ocean. Again, the day was perfect and sunny. A local was telling us there had been many days of fog, so we were most fortunate with weather. The golfers were very friendly, offering to pose for us, asking if we included them, or admiring our work The piece suggests the sunny, delightful day, filled with fresh air.

The second piece I painted on Saturday afternoon at Point Lobos. I had already completed the half-sheet painting in yesterday's post upon my field easel. I located a couple of fellow artists about a mile down the road and grabbed my simple plein air setup -- 3 legged stool, small watercolor block, paints, brushes, and water bucket and set up looking down the coast. The afternoon fog was sneaking in against the mountains, but I was seated in sunshine. When I put these paintings beside each other, I can see the difference in tonal colors that I selected based upon current atmospheric conditions.

Again I enjoyed social hour with newfound friends, dinner at Asilomar dining hall, and joint critique. When I worked in software, I was often surrounded by much younger people who were my good friends. There is a lot of youth working in the tech industry in Silicon Valley, bright and ambitious and very likeable. Now that I am retired and have the luxury of attending mid-week events without counting vacation days, I am meeting many people my age or older. I have to say that I have grown to love older women friends. They have experienced both the highs and lows of a life well lived and they are very wise. They are comfortable within themselves and very strong. This group of older women was so supportive and very fun.

On Saturday morning I had to return home for another commitment, so I rose early and met Nardia, a new friend, for an hour-long walk along the coastal road. We had been cautioned that cougars (mountain lions) do prowl the grounds that are shared with numerous deer, so don't go out alone. It was dark when we met at 6:30 from our respective buildings with relief that we had survived our short solo walks. Dawn emerged and with it, the wonderful rocks similar to those in "Afternoon Fog" and wild crashing waves. Nardia was studying the waves as a basis for her planned painting. We noted how they build and crest, and where the lights and darks appeared. After a delightful breakfast with my fellow artists, I packed up and returned to daily demands.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The "Carmel Paintout"

"Headland Cove"
Point Lobos State Reserve
14" x 21"

View near the end of Cypress Grove Trail with my Cypress tree on the cliffs
My view as I painted

Another view from where I painted

I just returned from my first "Carmel Paintout" with the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society. I had a fabulous time staying two nights at Asilomar, a state conference center originally desiged for the YWCA by Julia Morgan. I felt like I stepped back in time to experience the national park vacations that people took almost a century ago. It's the same feeling I've had when stepping into the Lodge at Yellowstone and the Awanee Hotel in Yosemite.

In the next few posts I will describe more about the experience. I am jumping in with Day 2 because that was the only full-day I had there. I arrived Thursday morning and left right after breakfast Saturday for another commitment. Each day of the paintout, artists are given a suggested location for painting. For Day 2 it was Point Lobos State Reserve, an amazing confluence of land and sea. Some people chose to remain at Asilomar to enjoy painting on the grounds. I love going out plein air, though I will admit it's a lot more work than studio painting and few keepers emerge.

After breakfast in the dining hall, I arrived at Point Lobos to see one other artist at one of the trailheads. We went our separate ways. Last Christmas, Bob and I spent some time in the park hiking the Cypress Grove Trail and I knew just what scene I wanted to capture. I became concerned that I might not find a place to set up because the trails are carefully wired off with signs not to leave the trail for ecoological reasons. Fortunately, there is a overlook on Headland Cove open to hikers, overlooking the cove, and Sea Lion Point. Below me was a wonderful old Cypress tree clinging to the rocky cliffs at the continent's edge. If you've been to the Monterey Bay area, you know that Monterey Cypress are very special trees that cannot be cultivated away from the cool, moist sea breeze -- they will succumb to a fungus disease. They require heat or fire to release seeds from their cones. They are the original reason that Point Lobos was acquired. This stand of Monterey Cypress of one of only two naturally growing stands in the world.

I found a perfect spot for my easel where I would not be in the way of many hikers stopping by that day. To one side there was an old downed tree trunk where I could sit facing the scene sideways. As you can see from picture 3, I had to look around a part of a dead tree, but that was easy. I had perfect weather. Often this area is foggy, but that day it was picture perfect blue skies, sun, and a shirtsleeve temperature. As I painted, I could hear the sea lions barking from the headlands. The name "Point Lobos" refers to sea lions and their barking. The earlier Spanish name was "Punta de los Lobos Marinos," "Point of the Sea Wolves." I kept thinking, life does not get much better than this!

My photos of the scene do not do the beauty justice; I thought to take them after I completed the painting; the light had changed and was less dramatic. The local color is used in my artwork. The shades of orange around the base of the tree are algae that get their color from carotene, and they do not harm the trees. I suggest the energy of the wind and and crashing sea with many energetic strokes of the brush. I mostly used a very large Isabey squirrel brush to capture the scene. I love this brush as it carries lots of paint and water and creates a lovely painterly surface. I took time out to eat my boxed lunch that the dining staff provided. I chatted with a few of the hikers, all very respectful about wanting a peek at the work.

Later I drove to yet another parking area to find two of my fellow artists at work and joined them, but I save the afternoon description for another day. That evening I enjoyed some socializing before dinner with women I met for the first time and we all went to dinner at 6. At 7:15, we convened in a livingroom for critique. Karen, our fearless leader, set the groundrules for a gentle critique, modeling how we might make helpful suggestions. For everyone, exposing their work to others stirs up the self-doubt, but I always learn so much from participating in critique, not only about my own work, but that of others -- what worked, what didn't --- that I can apply the next time I paint. This piece was well-received, with one suggestion, which I added before signing the painting. The tree looked very flat across the top, and I painted it that way. I needed to add a bit of variety to the edge.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Susan's Pumpkin and a Special People in My Life

Susan's Pumkin
21" x 14"

In keeping with the fall theme, I am sharing a painting that I did last fall that is hanging in my kitchen dining area. I like the cheerful colors and the tonal values of this piece. It was based on a still life from my Monday Drawing Class with Bob Semans. Dear friend Susan, whom I met in the class, bought this pumpkin in Half Moon Bay, a coastal town famous for its pumpkins. Susan is also the owner of the turban squash in the last post. I did the original still life in charcoal, so all the values and highlights were already worked out before I put brush to paper and added my color choices.

Last Monday we learned from Bob Semans that he is featured in International Artist Magazine, along with other award winners in the Portrait Society of America's Annual Conference. I can't wait to buy the magazine, which I will do this evening, on my way to our ballroom dancing lesson.

I am getting my plein air gear ready to take off in the morning for Asilomar. Disappointingly, my roommate Jan has taken ill and won't be going with me. I was so looking forward to getting to be closer friends. I am hunting for a replacement, but will likely room alone. I have some wonderful plein air gear that I bought when heading off for Italy several years ago, but I didn't take it then because it proved to be rather heavy. It's a Sun Eden backpack capable of holding half sheets of watercolor paper, a wonderful easel, a stool and all my goodies. I'm now selective where I use it because it really weights me down. I am having fantasies about strapping it on the rack of my folding bike and riding from Asilomar to the locations -- hum -- might be able to do it. I have occasionally combined my cycling and art passions. Now if I could be as successful as Terri Hill is at it! Terri is in our awesome Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society and I am a big fan of her work.

I must mention fellow blogger Peggy Stermer-Cox who has had her piece, "Groovy Kitty" juried by well-known artist Christopher Schink into the Northwest Watercolor Society "Waterworks 2009" art show. "Topher" is a master colorist and I'm sure he was totally impressed with Peggy's harmonious color scheme featuring tints, shades, and muted tints. I am so proud of Peggy -- this is the second major show featuring a piece of her art this year. Coincidentally, next month Christopher Schink will be jurying awards for the SCVWS Linear Visions, our 42nd annual member show awards.

Finally, I want to thank two blogger friends for recently passing along blog awards: Claire McFeeley and Meghda Chatbar, both wonderful pencil artists. I have posted the blog awards proudly on the sidebar.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fall Squash in Drawing Class

"Fall Turban"
14" x 12"
One of my fellow students bought this beauty while visiting in Pescadaro on the coast. I decided to use pastels and did not have the exact color so I layered yellow-green, black, reddish brown, and deep green. The highlights are a pale grey and the squash surface has some golden yellow. I was pleased that Bob liked what I did. He suggested I add a bit of reflected light into the shadowed underside of the squash, so I used the golden yellow from the table covering. I learn so much about seeing and rendering values from my drawing instructor, Bob Semans. The mastering of faithful rendering is a years-long process, but I can see the work paying off in my paintings.

While doing the bicycle/light rail trip to class, I always have some time to read. Today I studied John Vanderpool's, "The Human Figure, " first published in 1935. The book is on our reading list for the drawing class. John analyzed and recorded the human figure in mass and detail. There are numerous illustrations with each section that deals with a facial feature or body part. Bob always says "we draw what we know, not what we see." Increasing our knowledge of structure, value, light, and perspective will allow us to draw what we see. On the morning ride I studied the eye, learning about the planes, the orbicular muscle, and everything about the structure of the eye and how it is affected by reflected light. On the afternoon return trip, I studied and drew the mouth from different perspectives and made some notes. The mouth is a very complex structure. When I analyzed my charcoal and conte of Gina last week, I mentioned that the right eye and the mouth needed work. I will apply my study to improving the life drawing.

At our Thursday night art group, I transfered my drawing of Gina to watercolor paper and started a wet-in-wet painting using a method described by Jean Pederson in her book, "Expressive Portraits: Creative Methods for Painting Portraits." I'm about a third done. I will also be starting work on a commissioned piece this week and traveling to Asilomar for thee days at the "Carmel Paint Out" sponsored by the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society for plein air painting on the coast. If you take the link to the society website, I am the person in front on the left in the featured picture of the plein air group at Uvas Falls, a beautiful area in the hills just 10 miles from my home. /p>