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.