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.