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>

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Upcoming Workshops and Inspiring Artists

"The Basketmaker"
11" x 14"
Watercolor on Yupo Paper

I've just been doing some coordination activities for watermedia workshops as a member of the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society (SCVWS) Workshop Committee. I've done some bicycle education at local public schools. I haven't had much time to paint since Monday so I am posting a Myrna Wacknov challenge that I did about a year ago. We were challenged to feature one design element (line) and draw three colors out of a hat (cadmium yellow, pyrole orange, and permanent green). This is an experiment that took me out of my comfort level, something I need to do to grow as an artist. I took the source photo in a small town in the Dordogne area of France in 2007. This man was in his nineties and continued to work full-time making baskets. He looked amazingly vigorous.

Myrna will be giving a workshop for SCVWS on January 15 to 19, 2010, with a choice of attending the first three days or all five days. We have just a few open slots remaining if you would like to join the fun. Myrna is a wonderful instructor, amazingly creative, and both award-winning and featured in popular art magazines. You can visit her blog and her website to see her fabulous work. You can attend a free demo by Myrna on January 10, 2009, 1:30 to 4 p.m. at Hoover Historic Theater in San Jose.

I'm also helping with a Betsy Dillard Stroud workshop on October 19 to 23, 2009, with a free demo on October 18 at the same location and time. Betsy is very creative and experimental, an author of art books, featured in art magazines, and has won many awards. If you want to pull out all the stops and throw caution to the wind, join Betsy's workshop. We have a few openings.

To learn more about the workshops, fees, and how to register, check out Artist Workshops and the watercolor society pages.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday Drawing Class - Gina with Hat

"Gina with Hat"
9 " x 12"
Charcoal and Conte

This is phase one of drawing Gina at art class this morning. We are to bring the piece back to continue working with shading next Monday. Bob moved her nose a smidge to the left, and I see now that the mouth and right eye need rework. When our instructor was at Atelier in Florence, they would work for three weeks on a piece, so surely I can refine this for another three hours! Gina wore the most wonderful green hat with feathers. With her lovely bone structure and natural ability to pose, she is a delight to draw. Another very satisfying class with friends.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Plein Air at Shoup Park in Los Altos

"Cradle of Liberty"
10" x 14"

Shoup Park is a small redword preserve with children's play area, picnic tables, and this lovely Veteran's sculpture placed in the park 11 years ago. The soldier represents the protectors of our country, and the baby repesents liberty.

About a dozen of us turned out for plein air with a promised potluck luncheon at the home of one of our very active leaders. Karen's home is lovely in the hills overlooking the bay. We sat out and had a delicious feast, and some shared comraderie. After lunch we quickly displayed our work. There were some beautiful pieces done of this sculpture and many of the redwood tree grove. I especially liked a gnarled old tree on which the artist used watercolor crayon to add some energetic line work. I am fortunate to paint with so many wonderful artists.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Life Drawing in Monday Morning Drawing Class

Vine charcoal

Gina was back to model for us today at my Monday morning drawing class. She has such a lovely, natural beauty and wonderful bone structure. Gina does not model professionally, but she is a a great model. We did several 5-minute poses and then this 30-minute pose and a second 30-minute pose. This piece captured Gina's likeness the best.

I always so enjoy Bob's class. He is a perfectionist on accuracy and values. His critique included suggestions to work on the where the right eye meets the under plane of the bridge of the nose. The shift from the dark of the eye socket to the under plane should be more subtle and gradual. I could work on my edges where middle values meet the darkest values. The most defined edges are where the lightest light and darkest darks converge. I could lose some edges where dark meets middle value.

Several of us enjoyed a casual lunch together and Bob talked about his instructor Maynard Richart Stewart at San Jose State University who, at 85 years of age, remains Bob's mentor. "Dick" Stewart was mentioned in the most recent Artist Magazine on it's final page. Dick's father was also a well-known portrait artist, and Dick had a fine reputation as an artist and professor. We always enjoy talking with Bob about his route to becoming a professional artist, including his time in a Catholic seminary, diversion to art school, and two years in Florence studying under a great portrait instructor.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Plein Air Painting on the Coast and a New Art Workshop Network

"La Nebbia Winery Garden Entrance"
In the sketchbook

"La Nebbia Winery Garden View"
In the sketchbook

"Water at the Winery"
11" X 14"

Yesterday was a very hot day in San Jose, but on the coast it was lovely -- 70s and sunny. I arranged to carpool the almost 50 miles to Half Moon Bay on this "Spare the Air Day" in our area. There were four of us hardy souls who showed up. The La Nebbia winery is so charming and personal. The property is on busy Route 92 that is a main connector from 280 to the coast, but it is a charming oasis. There is a small home, nice tasting room, a big barn that includes a glass blowing studio, and beautiful gardens with picnic tables. The gazebo is adorned with some of the blown glass - flowers reminiscent of Chihully and the Belagio in Las Vegas.

First I painted the fountain on an Arches watercolor pad. I pulled the waterstreams out of the color with a thirsty brush. The greenery backing the fountain was actually roses, but I made the bushes more abstract. I found myself getting a bit carried away with the red geraniums, and Jenny reminded me that she's learned to mass colors. I've probably heard that a half dozen times, but this time it sunk in. I reworked them, pulling out some color and massing the reds. The other plants would likely benefit from massing as well, but I called it good enough.

The last 40 minutes or so, I grabbed my sketchbook and micron pen. I have a small Robert Bateman sketch book with 110 lb. paper. It holds up well to first drawing with the pen, skipping lightly over the page and then dashing on some watercolors. First I sketched the entrance from the garden to the parking lot. That was so much fun, that I sat in a shady spot and did the outdoor deck and hyderangeas with painted milk can. I remembered to mass the color!

I am delighted to write about a new website where you can list workshops or find a workshop to attend. Peggy Stermer Cox and her husband Robert have started a website for artists after seeing a need. I was pleased to be asked to list workshops here, and I posted the Betsy Dillard Stroud workshop in October offered by the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society. I will be adding more. Go here to list or find workshops on Artist Workshop Network. If you are looking for a new art adventure and a way to stretch your imagination, sign up for the Betsy Dillard Stroud workshop. Betsy is an amazing award-winning artist featured in many prominent magazines. We are honored to host her in San Jose. I will be assistant coordinator for this workshop.

Monday, September 7, 2009

An acrylic on canvas panel

"Cooking Italian"
9" x 12"
Acrylic on canvas panel

I've never had lessons in using acrylic, but I wanted to try painting on canvas. I see that I should have applied gesso and sanded it as you can see the canvas texture through the paint.

Inspired by a trip to the Farmer's Market in Morgan Hill and the Spina Farm Stand near my home, I set up a still life with a fresh tomato, a pepper, and olive oil from San Antonio Olive Ranch in Paso Robles, owned by a former work colleague. I wanted to try various techniques, so this is a hodgepodge of palette knife and brush work. What a tactile experience. I liked the buttery feel of the paints as I applied them. Lots to learn here, but another adventure.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Another experiment with Arabesque gowns

"Arabesque Bridal Gowns"
11" x 14"
Mixed watermedia

Thanks to Peggy Stermer-Cox for her suggestion that the background should be more geometric on the piece that was not working. Great idea. This my experimental piece that needs repainting to be a finished piece.

I cut the paper down and changed the scene to a quarter sheet landscape orientation, rather than a half sheet portrait. I looked on the Web for blurbs about the show at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, last spring and found the Arabic symbol on the left (this is only part of it) that was their logo for the show. The other two symbols are stamps that I own and are decorative lines used in the Arab culture.

Having recently taken Gerald Brommer's class, I boldly went where I never dared before -- I gessoed out the background. I then used acrylics which are very new for me to paint in the new background, with the exception of the floor rug done in watercolor. I am much happier with the feel of this design.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Lovely Lilies

"Lovely Lilies"
11" x 14"

In April, Bob's daughter, Jamie, was married to David in a beautiful spring wedding. Jamie chose green with orange accents as her colors. This is the wedding bouquet that she carried, tightly wrapped orange Calla Lilies. They were stunning, and so different from the bridal bouquets of my era long ago. The bouquet was on display at our home for the large family brunch the next day, so I quickly took several photos. Last night while painting with my Thursday night bunch at my home, I pulled out all the stops and went for a very wet, loose rendition. I've always liked the shape element, and I like the results.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Arabesque Bridal Gowns

"Arabesque Bridal Gowns"
"15 x 20"

Today's work is a piece I've developed from photos I took at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, where we attended a Chieftains concert in March. In the lobby were featured about 40 wedding gowns from the Arab world on mannequins as part of their upcoming show, "Arabesque." I was so taken with the beautiful gowns that I decided I would paint three of them as an entry for the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Show, "Linear Visions." That was likely a mistake right there -- best to paint all year what you want and select from finished paintings. If you've read earlier posts, you know I will enter "Pepere's Blacksmith Shop, 1909 - 2009."

I decided to flatten the plane and I designed a background suggesting dry mountains in keeping with my impression of some of the Arab lands. I did several prototypes shown earlier in this blog and settled on one using neutralized colors that would show off the clear, bright colors of the gowns. I added a strip of decorative work along the bottom using a stamp with Arabesque pattern. (In the original the decorative line is straight.)

When I got done, I thought the piece was well-painted, but lacked emotional appeal. I set out to show the beauty of another culture, but the final result seems hohum. I'd be interested in your reactions and suggestions.