Thursday, April 30, 2009

House under Framing Seige

Framing Table "aka" Dining Table

"Nepenthe Christmas"
11" x 14"

Here you can see part of the mess created by our matting and framing activity as I get ready for Silicon Valley Open Studios on May 9 and 10. The adjoining livingroom is equally disheveled. We are making good progress and might even finish today. Fortunately, Bob is really good at cutting mats, so he cuts and I frame. We have good tools; I use a power stapler and portable drill in the framing process. Bob uses a Logan Mat Cutter.

I've been going through my stash of painting sselecting the works I want to feature at Open Studios. Every Christmas Bob and I spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at Big Sur Lodge. On Christmas Day we treat ourselves to a lovely meal at Nepenthe, an iconic restaurant developed by the Lolly family in the 60's during the hippy era. The family still owns the restaurant and were featured recently in the San Jose Mercury News. The restaurant sits high over the Pacific with a southern orientation over the coast. Mountain ridges meet the sea and recede into the distant view. The restaurant is surrounded by lovely old gnarled trees. This year, Bob set his new camera, a Christmas gift from me, on our table and took a photograph. I loved the reflections, so I developed this painting from it. You see the distant view through the window and the reflections of the greenery on the table. The bench cushions look colorful and add some abstraction to the painting. I love the shapes in this painting, and as I discovered in Mike Bailey's class, I tend toward being a shape painter when designing works for which I have no reference.

Cards are very popular items at the Open Studios. I have some prints being made now that I will adhere to the Photomount cards I ordered from ASW. I also want to make up "story cards" for the framed works, in which I will explain why I painted this particular work. This is a suggestion from Jeff Bramschreiber of University Arts on Meridian Avenue who taught marketing your work at "SVOS University." I am quite impressed with the organization that runs Open Studios. If you are in the Santa Clara Valley/Santa Cruz area, check your library or other public places for the Mapguides that give samples of artists's work and maps to guide you to the studios.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A busy week

Charcoal and conte

The post-wedding week has been very busy with cleanup, gift transport, ballroom dancing, teaching cycling on a 50-miler, and preparing for Open Studios. Plus, I've had some computer problems, which Bob has worked on for me. Nice having my own system administrator.

Our drawing instructor, Bob Semans, returned from Washington, DC, with good news that he received the People's Choice award at the Portrait Society of America International Competition at their annual conference. We are very proud of him. He set us back to work on simpler shapes using some onions. I chose to do just one and use just charcoal and conte, rather than pastel, to focus on the values without the distraction of color. However, the color is very seductive and I will likely go back to pastels next week.

My house is in a upheaval with frames, matboard, and art pieces all over the livingroom and diningroom. Bob will begin cutting mats tomorrow and I will be doing the framing. I've been sending out invitations to Open Studios and stopping by local shops to put out flyers. I hope to get back to painting tomorrow. I've been reading a wonderful book I bought, Nita Leland's Confident Color. I have learned a lot from my first pass. Now I want to go back and do the exercises, especially making color wheels for various pallettes and experiment with color schemes. Mike Bailey has some paintings in this book; he is a real master of color. Mike brought these very paintings into our class when I took Watercolor Beyond the Obvious; so I easily spotted his work in the book. Incidentally, SCVWS will be offering Mike's WBTO class again in the fall if you care to enroll.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Gifted to the Newlyweds Last Christmas

Lisbon, Portugal

I spent all of yesterday doing the work of art, not creating art. I finished arranging a workshop with Annelein Beukenkamp,, for SCVWS that will be offered in the fall of 2012. I am thrilled about having Annelein come from her home in Vermont where I grew up. In fact, when I am in Vermont in June, I've signed up for a one-day workshop with Annelein in Burlington. I expect to receive the award for the person who travelled the farthest to take her one-day workshop. I also did a lot of prep work for a final meeting with the group of artists who will be doing Silicon Valley Open Studios at my home on May 9 and 10. We met last night to finalize plans and agree to a timeline.

So let me continue the wedding tangent. The newlyweds, Jamie and Dave, housesat for us while we crossed the USA on our tandem bicycle last summer. "Resto" hung on the livingroom wall. Jamie kept telling me that if I wanted to get rid of one picture, she would be happy to take "Resto" off my hands. At Christmas time, I gifted this piece to her.

In 2005, my good friend, Pam, and I went to Portugal for 8 days. Pam's husband really didn't want to go there, Bob was busy working, and our time was limited. We decided to stay in Lisbon. I found an interesting discussion about renting apartments in Lisbon on Frommer's Message Board. I e-mailed the gentleman who had spoken highly of an apartment he rented in the old city center to get details and contacted Raquel. When we arrived, we found the apartment was perfect for us with 2 bedrooms, a bath, kitchen, livingroom, and balcony, all for a reasonable price. An upstairs was closed off where Raquel kept personal items. Raquel gave us a walking tour of the area and also recommended the best place to go to listen to fado. We loved having an apartment where we could prepare some meals and relax between outings in and outside of Lisbon. We also loved the neighborhood on top of hills reminiscent of our own San Francisco. We counted over 300 steps on our climb from the supermarket to the apartment buildiing, where we then climbed up five floors. We had strong legs by the end of the week.

One day we were wandering the city and were looking for a restaurant. We spotted this young woman standing in the doorway of what appeared to be an eating establishment. Using our best 10 words of Portuguese, we inquired about eating and were told the place was an art school and this was a private restaurant for the students and faculty. The young woman nicely gave us a tour of the place high on a hill overlooking the harbor and consented to be photographed.

Later I took a class from Arne Westerman, a wonderful figurative artist and a very charming workshop instructor. The class was hosted by the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society. You can check out Arne's wonderful lively paintings here: We were told to bring photos we might like to use as reference materials, so I dug out the young woman at Resto. Arne had us do 8 x 10 prototypes first, which worked really well. I didn't get to do the actual painting until some months later, but I liked the results. I'm really glad I have a prototype to display in my home as I was quite attached to this painting when I gave it away.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Robert Semans, Fine Arts

"Antique Vase"
Charcoal and conte crayon, 8" x 11"

This vase is a small study done during my Monday drawing class taught by Robert Semans. My art career began in the 90s after the children had left home and I had some time to devote to myself. I went to an art gallery and reconnected with the art part of my brain. With a busy career at IBM, I had to find small blocks of time when I could do art. In preparation for retirement, I requested a flexible work schedule and worked three nine-hour days for two and a half years, freeing up my Mondays and Fridays. I noticed a small blurb in the watercolor society newletter about a drawing class offered at University Arts on Monday mornings. I began my art career doing watercolors with no formal drawing training, so this class sounded like the perfect way to spend my Mondays. I've continued taking the class now that I am retired.

The ongoing drawing class is taught by a top-notch artist, who does many genres, and specializes in portraiture and figures. Bob Semans has made his living as an artist for many years. One of my earlier posts is a charcoal I did of Bob.
You can check out Bob's biography and work here:

I am very impressed with the Governor Gray Davis portrait that Bob was selected to do by the state of California. Bob's latest accomplishment is being chosen as one of 15 finalists in the Portrait Artists of America 2009 International Competition! Bob travels to Washington, DC, this weekend to participate in the celebrations. We are rooting for him to bring home the gold medal with his portrait of an elderly neighbor. He's in erudite company. Past winners include Andrew Wyeth, Richard Schmid, and Everett Raymond Kinstler, to name but a few. You can read more about the competition here:

Bob is the nicest, most humble man, and a wonderful instructor. He was classically trained in this country and in Florence, Italy. I feel so blessed that he wants to take the time to teach others what has taken him a lifetime to learn. My drawing skills have improved immensely, which is reflected in my most recent art. I have a long way to go, but devoting most Monday mornings to drawing class for the past three years have paid off.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Fabulous Wedding and Art Inspiration

"Father-Daughter Dance"

"Attendant's Bouquet"

"Bride's Bouquet"

"Treasured Doll"

Recent posts mentioned that we were excited about the marriage of Bob's oldest daughter, Jamie, to Dave on April 18. As time got closer, I needed to spend time on the house, yard, and entertainment planning, so I've been quiet in the blogging community for the past week. The wedding was perfect, with lovely weather both the day of the rehearsal and wedding day. Brunch day with 80 friends and relatives at our home was also beautiful, though by 2:30 it was over 90 degrees in our back yard. We resorted to a bit of air conditioning about 3.

The first picture shows Dad and Jamie doing their father-daughter dance, compliments of Jamie's friend, Ally. They planned to cha cha to Tommy Dorsey's "Tea for Two" but the DJ threw them a curve ball and played a different, much faster rendition. The two adapted beautifully and apparently impressed the crowd. Daughter Deborah said they would be talking about that dance with the grandchildren!

We had the pleasure of having possession of the bridal and attendant bouquet's after the wedding and using them to carry through the wedding colors into the brunch. I am so taken with the modern style of the flowers, so different than the cascading bouquets in my wedding decade. I took some pictures and hope to paint them one of these days. Jamie's Lilies were just fabulous and will be so much fun to paint.

Today I returned to art after delivering the rented chairs we used to augment seating at the brunch back to the rental place. In my drawing class this morning, we continued drawing the doll and applying pastels. Instructor Bob asked us to start over after demoing an approach. I don't think I will have the patience to master pastels, though I am enjoying doing the class work. I've put a lot of hours (though far short of the 10,000 hours to achieve mastery) into watermedia and that is my first love. To my son, Jeff who finds dolls freakie, hang in there. Next week we revert back to simple still lifes.

I will be spending my next few weeks preparing for Silicon Valley Open Studios. I'll keep you posted on progress on the blog.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Spring Religious Holidays!

"Holly's Irises"
5" x 18"

I have friends from many cultures, so this is my way of saying happy celebration of your particular day, whether it be Easter, Passover, Sinhala and Tamil, Spring Solstice, or other day special to you. I don't consider myself a flower artist, but every spring I can't resist painting from live flowers when the sun shines, the earth warms, and the air fills with the sweet perfumes of spring. Holly's Irises grow on my patio, a gift from my friend, Holly, at a very difficult time in my life when my husband, Gary, was dying from cancer. I had a newly poured concrete pad and bare dirt. First my friend, Pam, gave me some Primroses that I planted. Then Holly gave me bulbs that she had saved from her garden. These irises are from some famous old gardens in Willow Glen that no longer exist. The owners sold the property for homes and moved to the coast to grow more irises. These gifts were the beginnings of a very lovely oasis outside my dining room.

Creating this piece was pure fun. I washed in the colors and let them dry, then I used negative and positive layering. I had had a frame for a number years that is long and narrow and I had never quite figured out how I might use it -- a wide panoramic landscape, tall trees, flowers? As I decided to paint the irises, I realized they could be the perfect match. I will feature this piece at my Silicon Valley Open Studios (link to the right) on May 9 and 10.

Yesterday Bob and I were treated to wonderful spring vistas on country roads as we took our cycling academy class through Gilroy and Morgan Hill country areas. I especially love the yellow-orange California poppies mingled with purple flowers along the roads and hillsides. Friend Pat has promised to collect some seeds from her native poppies. Years ago her dad gathered some poppie seeds in the wild and planted them. When Pat moved to San Jose she planted some of the seeds from Dad's plants. So I will have beautiful poppies with a worthy historic geneology.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Future experiments

Source for future experiments

My latest edition of Watercolor Artist had the most interesting creativity article. The author suggests using Photoshop to alter your original art, which will help you abstract your painting. I played around with his suggestions a bit yesterday. (1) Open an image of your original art in Photoshop. (2) Select Filter, Artistic, Cutout, and then play with the three parameters presented to get variations of your art. (3) Use these as a source of inspiration for a series of paintings that can be ever more abstract. Here are a couple of mutations that I did with "Mujer de Gaucho 2."

I can't wait to try these, but wait I must. We have a major wedding in the family with Bob's daughter being married on April 18. We are very involved with events and will be hosting about 80 people for brunch the day after the wedding. So if you don't see much activity here in the next week and half, you know I'm cleaning house, shopping, or cooking. We are very excited about Jamie getting married and being a part of the big event.

I just tried the same Photoshop process with one of the cyclamen pictures and that one has awesome potential as an abstract./p>

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Another cyclamen

"Hardy Cyclamen 2"
11" x 14"

Inspired by Annelein Beukenkamp and Jean Warren, I'm enjoying layering and negative painting with the flowers from my garden. Here's another cyclamen that thrives on cold nights done in a bit larger format. I first drew the flowers lightly with pencil. I then applied washes all over the paper in a very wet manner so the washes ran outside the lines. After the paper dried, I drew the leaves and stems with a green watercolor pencil that would dissolve as I painted. Using both negative and positive painting, I responded to the washes to develop the image. I will include this painting in the Silicon Valley Open Studios on May 9 and 10.

The other day I found out that the Webmaster decided to feature a photograph of three of us plein air painters at the waterfall in Uvas Canyon Park on the home page for the watercolor society. I am the person sitting on the ground on the left on the day I left behind most supplies that I needed, including my three-legged stool. In a few months this photo will be replaced by others more current. Last night, Jenny asked me to send her the Rosicrucian Museum piece as she wants to feature it and a couple pieces from others on the watercolor society plein air page.

I was reading my latest Artist Magazine and found a mixed watermedia portrait by Jean Pedersen, a frequent contributor the magazine. I just love her work. There is a link to Jean's blog to the right.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The base layer of another pastel

Preliminary layers of "A Classic Baby Doll"
12" x 17"

I didn't have much time for doing art over the weekend, though I went to a wonderful demo. Saturday I helped take a group of students to the top of the Santa Cruz Mountains in bicycle Academy. The students did great and always feel very accomplished after making their way from Lexington Dam to the Summit Store. I have to say I always feel accomplished myself, and that day I felt especially strong.

Sunday I went to the Jean Warren demo offered by the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society. Jean is a wonderful artists from our area and she paints the sea, landscapes, historic places, and abstracts. The demo featured her approach to abstracting a subject. Her abstracts contain recognizable elements and she approaches them as "process painting." You can check out her work here: It was fascinating to watch her take paintings in various stages and add some negative or positive marks seemingly in random spots and watch the piece emerge. She said she will work on as many as 6 paintings at a time, as there is some drying time involved with her layered approach. I would like to take her workshop, but we have a family wedding coming up. You might like to check out the workshop here:

This morning I took light rail and bicycle downtown to my drawing class. Bob brought in a doll from his wife's childhood. The doll is lovely and we've drawn her in the past. Today I did the beginnings of the pastel and applied a very light fixative before bringing it home in my bike bag. Please forgive the funny looking lines at the bottom of her face, where I was establishing some waypoints for the next layer. This is all very preliminary. Bob has us start with drawing the large shapes and shading in the values in vine charcoal. Once the values are established, we begin applying the pastels.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Rooster on a Mission

" Rooster on a Mission"
11" x 14"
You can take the title of this piece literally. A few days ago when I painted in San Juan Bautista, the feral chickens and roosters were busy running the streets of this tiny town. This rooster was hanging out at the Mission. He kept me company for a while as I sat painting, so I grabbed a fresh sheet of paper and quickly painted him without first drawing as I was afraid my subject would fly the coop. He had the most lucious colors in his feathers. This one was just plain fun. After a time, he drifted off and I packed up my painting supplies for the day.

Awhile back I added "Leo and His Ladies" to this blog. He is the family rooster, belonging to my son's family. Jeff told me that never in Leo's wildest dreams did he imagine he would be that famous. I told him that Leo would be surprised when people started "flocking" to his coop. I am hoping that Leo isn't jealous with he sees the Mission Rooster. Yes, we do have some fun with the art.

Plein Air at the Rosicrucian Museum

"Rosicrucian Museum and Planetarium"
11" x 14"

I didn't get to blog for a few days because I was busy with art and life. So here is a second post in the same day. Thursday was a lovely day here and the plein air group of the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society was painting at the Rosicrucian Museum. I decided to go green and rode my bike to light rail, got off downtown, and rode to the museum. I call this stealth exercise because I am riding for transportation, but get some exercise to boot.

I found a lovely spot to paint and I'm afraid I can't find a map of the grounds. This area is approached from Naglee Avenue. I love the Egyptian columns and the palm trees. Plus, big advantage, there was a table and chairs where I could sit comfortably in the sun and protected from some wind. I was joined for a time by Jenny and also by Jo Mary whom I had not met. We had a lovely time painting. Just before lunch I walked to the Starbuck's across the street to buy coffees for two of us. We ate our picnic lunches in the same area. Along about 1:00 it was time for me to make the 16 mile trek home. Jo Mary was so intrigued by my loaded Bike Friday, florescent vest, and helmet that she took a picture of me. I put a few finishing touches on my sketch this afternoon. I can't seem to get the color and light quite right onthis photograph of my original, but it's close.

An Afternoon in San Juan Bautista

"San Juan Bautista Mission"
"11 x 14"

San Juan Bautista is a very special tiny town about 30 miles south of my home. It is the location of one of the original chain of missions established by the Spanish. This mission remains a parish church, unlike the other original missions taken over by the state of California park system. The mission bell tower played a prominent role in Alfred Hitchcock's movie, "Vertigo." The mission sits on a corner of a large, grassy plaza, surrounded by historical buildings maintained by the state.

I met a church friend who was recently widowed for lunch. We ate at the Jardines de San Juan on the sweet historic main street of the town. They have a lovely patio and the day was sunny, though breezy. While we ate, a rooster kept crowing. Jan explained that the town has many feral roosters and chickens that free range the streets. Later I met one of those beauties in the front of the mission and tomorrow, when I put the finishing touches on the piece, I will post the picture of him.

I planned to remain in San Juan painting near the mission and then drive north to Gilroy to hit the outlets for a few essentials, pick up Bob from work, and rapidly drive north 40 miles to take Argentine Tango lessons, as we always do on Wednesday evening. The mission was buzzing with school childen on a field trip, but they left shortly after I arrived. I set my little three-legged stool up in some grass and drew the mission, then retreated to a picnic table on the green to paint. I had a light jacket on because of the wind. The scene was tranquil with gardeners working around a very lovely bronze statue. I painted this sketch of the mission, a somewhat different orientation than an earlier painting done on a field trip with Bob. I sold that piece a few years back. I found this a lovely way to spend the day and avoid adding more carbon to the environment by driving an extra 50 miles had I returned home immediately after lunch.