Friday, January 30, 2009

Southern art

Tuesday's Wash
San Miquel de Allende, Mexico

I will be out of touch for a while as I head to South America. I leave you with one of the pieces I did during a trip to Mexico. Adios.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Guatemalan Religious Festival

"Festival of the Virgin Mary"

Quetzeltenango, Guatemala

I just finished wrestling with this piece last night. I think I'm done. In 1996, my husband Gary and I took a seven month leave to travel the US, stay at our family place in Vermont, and go to Guatemala. Gary had had repeated bouts of cancer over 14 years. In late October we had driven from Vermont to Florida and flew to Guatemala for Gary's last international travel before he passed away in 1998. We were being very adventurous, traveling independently for a month, with two weeks in the highland city of Xela (Mayan for Quetzeltenango) where we lived with a local family and went to Spanish school. One weekend we witnessed a beautiful festival where the women of the town honored the Virgin Mary by carrying her massive statue around the town square. The men provided music. There was a mix of women dressed in very modern styles and some who wore traditional clothing. Religion in Guatemala is generally Spanish Catholic with a liberal sprinkling of Mayan. Of course, I have a photo album (well before my digital camera days) with some lovely snapshots of the pageant. This picture of an elderly woman backed by the women in their special veils begged to be painted. I'm sure I could use some help with Photoshop, but this is best can do. I think I have the contrast right, but not quite the softness of the background lighting.

As I get ready for a trip to South America, I look back at those days in Central America. We were in the country while talks were going on between the government and rebels who opposed the government, so we were taking a chance. We had no problems. We got to see the fabulous way the country celebrates "the Day of the Dead" on November 1. I painted two pictures from the celebrations and sold one. I hope to do more

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

France and Sunflowers

Sunflower at Petite Rousset

While staying at wonderful Petite Rousset near Eymet in the Dordgone region of France with Mike Bailey's in 2007, we were surrounded by fields of sunflowers. That summer Europe had lots of rain, but our group was blessed with almost non-stop sunshine. The sunflowers were in full bloom when usually they would be past their prime. I had fun painting this one. Mike has some wonderful paintings on his blog from that trip, a couple of which feature the amazing fields of sunflowers.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Fun in the Dordogne

The Egg Lady

In the summer of 2007, I went to France on an art vacation led by Mike Bailey. I will miss his trip to Tuscany this year. We went out everyday to towns in the Dordogne region to paint and view the sights. I asked an old woman who was selling eggs and chickens on market day if I could take her picture and she kindly consented. While doing some of Myrna Wacknov's challenges, I resurrected the photo and did a number of paintings. This is one of the more successful paintings, which I did on Yupo, a synthetic support that resists the watercolor, thus making for a very painterly finish.

I had a busy morning, attending the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society Board meeting. I've signed on as a coordinator (one of several) for the successful series of workshops taught by well-known artists. I will be coordinating a few of the workshops later this year. When I got home, I did a bit of sketching using Pose Maniacs. I also have a half-sheet watercolor underway which is almost finished. If I get it done this week, I will post it here. If I don't, there will be a long wait while I head out for some weeks of travel.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Fun with public art

"Public art and friend"
Morgan Hill Library

I just returned from church services in Morgan Hill, about 10 miles south of where I live. We are next door to the open spaces here, so it's a nice drive. I'm featuring a piece I painted a couple months ago after a tandem bicycle ride one Saturday to the very lovely new library in Morgan Hill. The library grounds feature several pieces of public art done in bronze. When we drove up on the bike, the bronze mother reading a book to her son was enjoying the company of a gentleman on his red cell phone. The scene tickled my fancy and I took a picture from the back as we parked the tandem. Because the person remains anonymous, I was comfortable including the man in a painting. I am hoping that derivitive works that include the public art are not a copyright infringement.

There are some other wonderful bronze pieces around Morgan Hill, which is quite a charming small town. I've taken some photographs of one at the train station that features the Morgan Hill family (father, wife, and small child) with their luggage circa 1900. There are small children climbing on the statues, something that small children can't seem to resist as I've seen the same scene many times.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thinking of spring flowers

"Holly's Iris"

This morning with the rains, I was thinking ahead to spring and my Irises blooming. I got the original bulbs from my friend, Holly, who bought them from the Iris Lady, formerly in Willow Glen. When I redid my personal bathroom, Holly's Iris was a perfect piece to frame. I seem to be drawn to shapes, and I especially like the framing of the shapes in this picture.

I am going with a friend today to the Palo Alto Art League to view the art and enjoy lunch. This evening I host my art group for our weekly painting session. We've been painting on Thursday evenings for a number of years now, but recently lost our free space in a Community Center. My kitchen is the substitute as my studio is too small for the 7 of us.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Winter and our awesome country

Winter in North Danville, VT

My granddaughters, Jamie and Kelly, and grandhorses, Sky and Free

Yesterday Beth send me pictures of my girls -- the horses and the granddaughters from North Danville, VT. I dug out a quick winter sketch that I did when visiting one very cold winter a few years back (that morning, it hit -42).

Yesterday was such a special day for this country. I was moved to tears during the inauguration ceremonies. Myrna Wacknov has done a beautiful series of sketches in honor of the day. Do check them out by taking the link on the right of this blog. She also had a neat idea of how to obtain original photos of public figures so as not to violate anyone's copyright.

Through a comment on Myrna's blog, I found two blogs by Chris Beck. I love her work and you can view her blog here:

Chris also created a second blog to feature other artists.
I am familiar with many of the artists featured. Check out the paintings by Terri Hill whom I chatted with the other day at the Santa Clara Watercolor Society party. Being a cyclist, I am especially drawn to her bicycle pictures. You will enjoy her unique style.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Charcoal of our instructor

Robert K. Semans, Artist

Today our model was unable to come to drawing class, so our instructor sat for us. Bob gave us some handouts on the planes of the face and talked about the structure and how the light affects the planes. Then we spent a few hours drawing. In the final 30 minutes Bob demonstrated how he would approach the drawing, using one of our fellow students as model, by first shading in the planes of the face. Then with just a few magic strokes of his kneaded eraser, he suggested the features. It was like magic to watch him coax the face out of the paper. Something to work at next time.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Life drawing from a 20 minute pose

This is "Lydia" from the weekly Life Drawing session at the Los Gatos Art Museum the past Tuesday. The piece is done in charcoal and white conte crayon. I had the bulk of it done when I arrived home but worked the background and shading another half hour yesterday afternoon.

Mryna Wacknov has done some fabulous sketches on paper that she has collaged or stamped. I must get more adventurous.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

100th year anniversary of the Paquet Family Farm in Barre, VT

My very first post showed pictures I did of the Paquet Farm that belongs to my in-laws. I grew up in Barre, Vermont, and married a local boy, Gary. We were married for 34 years until he passed away in 1998. My sons moved back to Vermont since then and stay involved in the farm operations. This year is the 100th anniversary of the farm and there will be lots of big doings. I expect to feature more Paquet Farm pictures in this blog. The painting is the Paquet corn fields at end of day. That's Camel's Hump, a definitive VT mountain, in the clouds. I took a bit of artistic license and relocated it. Camel's Hump is featured on the VT quarter if you have one in your pockets. The colors say summer day's end in Vermont to me. These corn fields provide much of the income at the farm stand every summer.

I was excited this morning to join a Yahoo group created for the Paquet Farm. I will be able to keep up on the farm events on the calendar. Next up is a February date for buying seed. The group is featuring my most recent paintings and some family photos. The photo above is "The Pumkin Lady, " created from the farm pumpkins, and with her is my sister-in-law, Val, fearless leader of farm stand operations. (I've asked for permission to paint the pumpkin lady. Stay tuned.) With Val is her small dog and some corn stalks and squash from recently harvested fields. The third picture shows the healthy size that some of the pumpkins can become. Pumpkins are another major cash crop.

These art thoughts all began with a Saturday morning phone conversation with son, Jeff, in North Danville, VT. While we were riding bicycles in 70 degee temperatures yesterday, they were watching the horses sun themselves on a day that started out with -38 degrees and never reached zero. (This is why I have lived in California since 1976.)

Vermonters are hardy folks.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Experimenting in a workshop

What a busy week. I attended the Life Drawing session sponsored by the Los Gatos Museum of Art on Tuesday afternoon. I want to work a bit more on one of the charcoal pieces and then I will post it to the blog.

I did more work on Open Studios, which brought to mind the experimental work I had done on design at Mike Bailey’s “Watercolor Beyond the Obvious” workshop. Mike has participants take a simple still life, changing the elements of design through 20 full sheet paintings over 10 weeks. We did all the work at home and each class was devoted to an hour’s lesson on a design element and then a critique of each person’s paintings. Part of the class emphasizes looking at the masters. Mike liked “Let’s do lunch,” done after studying some of Kandinsky's work. The second one is “My Matisse” which was painted on watercolor paper primed with acrylic mat medium.

This class is being offered again this year and there might be some openings remaining in the Tuesday class, which meets in the morning. Mike is a master instructor who also teaches at UC Santa Cruz. He is amazingly enthusiastic, and you are never bored! Mike has been featured in a number of art magazines. You can check out schedules on the watercolor society’s website: You can check out Mike's work by going to the blog link on the side panel.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Drawing from a live model at art class

This morning I went to my weekly drawing class with Bob Semans. I love this class. The temperature went up into the 70s so I traveled the 32 miles on bicycle and light rail. After class, one of my friends and the instructor went to lunch. We folded my Bike Friday into Susan’s trunk and then I rode from the restaurant to light rail when we were done. We sat outside on the patio taking in the fresh air and warmth. Really nice, but we are worried about our water supply for the summer.

Here is my second rendition of Sonia, our model for January, who was more serious today. I used black and white charcoal on colored paper. Bob wants us to change where we sit to get different perspectives. Today I was head-on. While traveling on light rail, I sketched more eyes from Vanderpoel. I am beginning to see the subtle differences so important to accurately representing the eye when the eyeball and head are in different positions.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

An art party

Yesterday I attended the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society annual party. What a great time. The plein air folks were asked to display a few pieces and sketchbooks. My first piece is Villa Montalvo, an historic public venue for arts and performances in Saratoga. The day we painted in November it was pretty cold and we even had some rain, but we persevered. The second picture was done on a warm and sunny day in November at the preserved Jose Higuera adobe in a small park in Fremont. That day truly was the ultimate plein air experience. I also brought along my watercolor sketch book from my bicycle tour of the US, my tiny watercolor set, the newspaper feature, and a picture of the finish with explanation at the request of one of the organizers. Excuse the blurry photo.

The party was awesome with an appearance by Paul Cezanne, aka Ken Young doing living art history. What a delight to learn about his life, work, and contemporaries. We enjoyed a delicious potluck luncheon. There was a painting exchange, but I ended up deciding to hold off until next year after I have had a chance to see one in action. This society has an amazing group of accomplished artists and people went home with some wonderful art. Another year I will bring a painting.

We also created two group paintings by everyone adding some paint to the paper and two people assigned to pull the creations together. The results were raffled off and the winners went home with a matted and framed masterpiece. I wanted to reproduce them here but am afraid of violating the copyrights of others. I really loved the first one, which makes me think of a vibrant city reflected in water. Myrna Wacknov had done a quick pen sketch of me on the top portion. After much painting over by the group, it’s a rather faint impression. My friend from plein air, Wendy, was the lucky winner.

If you want to link to Myrna’s blog from the list on the right, you can view her description of the event and see a nice slideshow of pictures. The buffet line picture includes Bob in the middle, between Paul Cezanne and another attendee.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Plein air painting and experiments

Here you can see an experimental piece of Bob from a photo taken by a friend as we passed through Portland on our return train trip across Canada and down the West Coast after our bicycle tour. I had never painted on a gesso surface so this is totally an experiment inspired by Myrna Wacknov’s blog. I applied gesso over a failed watercolor. I loved the way the gesso resisted the watercolor and the fact that I could wipe away the watercolor if I wanted. I realized that I should not have used an eraser on the gesso as that left a residue and I had a real tough time in those spots getting the paint to adhere. The next time I will use a small paintbrush to draw the image. Another time I would take more care creating a nice texture in the gesso. This one pretty much has horizontal brush strokes. As always, I have a hard time getting the image I upload to the blog to match the original piece in terms of light and color. People tell me they recognize Bob.

Yesterday morning I joined a half dozen people from the Santa Clara WatercoloSociety to paint plein air at Las Palma Park in Sunnyvale, CA। This small park has tennis courts, a dog park, and two play areas for children. The day was cool, damp, and overcast much of the time we were there. Though possible rain was forecast, we had none. I decided to paint the sculptures and palms. I understand that in the summer, water flows from the three blue "pipes" and the decorative enclosure has a small pond, but I guess that goes away for the winter. We live in a very multicultural area, so I listened to people chat in more than one language, watched moms walking babies and an older man doing tai chi, to the sounds of happy dogs, one unhappy baby, and the kathunk of tennis balls on the courts. When finished, we enjoyed our picnic lunch together and I headed for home to warm up. I can see that the colors, were influenced by the grey atmosphere.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The art of cycling

After a long day of working on things like Open Studios registration for my group, I really wanted to do some art. I finished the painting I will take to the art exchange at the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society New Year’s Party on Saturday. After dinner, Bob and I had a really relaxing time sitting by the fire sipping camomile tea. Bob read a book and I sketched some eyes from Vanderpoel’s book on the human figure. I learned a lot about the bone and muscle structure that explains why the eye has its unique shape. I should be able to apply this when drawing the eye in different perspectives. There are more pages on the eye, so I will work through the entire section before moving on to the nose.

The painting shown is an example of the intersection of two of my passions: art and cycling. I took an Arne Westerman workshop a few years ago, and he emphasized doing 8 x 10 sketches to work out design, color, and value (it always pays to plan, doesn’t it!). I was intrigued by this picture of Bob, so I did the design sketch in the workshop, and Arne gave it a positive review. Some weeks later I painted "Repairing a Flat" of Bob as he was teaching a class about tire changing and repairing flats for the Almaden Cycle Touring Club Academy. Bob likes the picture so well that he has framed a print and hung it in his repair shop in the garage. Bob, a retired software engineer, works part-time at a job he loves, repairing and selling bicycles and related equipment for a local bike shop. He also maintains his personal, well-stocked repair shop at our home. I have not yet framed this painting, but I will soon, and plan to hang it on one of our walls.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Memories of painting in Mexico

Today was spent doing lots of art related tasks, but no art yet. I wanted to post something before I go off to do art and get busy with the rest of my todo list today. I will share one of the paintings I did on a trip to Mexico.
I was taking a watercolor workshop with Mel Stabin. That day he focused on painting people in their natural settings. Then he set us free to paint and return for critique. Rather than hang around the tourist area of San Miquel de Allende, I went off with one other person to a small plaza frequented by the local people. where a man was shining shoes under a tree. Many of the local people stopped to admire my work and I talked with them the best I could with my limited Spanish. Whenever I look at "Shoeshine on the Plaza," I remember the bright sun, the colors, the friendly people, and the sense of peace I felt that day. Mel found us after a time and immediately set up his easel and captured some gentleman sitting on a bench. I have since seen that picture in one of his books.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Life drawing and some of my summer bicycle tour sketches

Today I went to my drawing class and we had a model. The woman was a very lovely person who agreed to sit for us. She will be sitting for us again next week, so I just might improve on my rather sad first attempt. You can see where the instructor gave me some suggestions on the side of the paper. I still haven’t nailed perspective in the eyes, nose and mouth in a three-quarter view. This week, I plan to consult my trusty Vanderpoel, “The Human Fugure,” first published in 1935, and practice these elements of the face. That will be my daily drawing assignment this week. As Myrna Wacknov said in her encouraging comment, it takes 10,000 hours to reach perfection (about 10 years of hard work daily), and I have not come near reaching that goal. However, making art is a wonderful way to spend 10,000 hours.

I am very fortunate to have a very talented portrait artist, Robert K. Semans, as my instructor. He has made his living doing portraits for many years. Bob is a classically trained artist, having spent time studying in Florence, Italy. He is extremely knowledgeable about drawing and the human figure. A few years ago he was commissioned to do the official portrait of California Governor Gray Davis.

A little tidbit from my bicycling side of life. My partner, Bob Eltgroth, and I were featured in the "Wish You Were Here" column of Travel in the Sunday Mercury News. The picture shows us with our loaded tandem bicycle on the Canadian side of the Peace Bridge that connects Buffalo, NY, with Fort Erie, Ontario, about 20 miles from Niagara Falls. We pedaled 3200 miles between San Jose and Portland, ME, this past summer. We had to carry all we needed for 88 days on the bike, so I took a tiny Moleskine pad and an Idori pan watercolor set with brush that could be assembled with the handle holding the water. I painted at least one sketch in every state, most from memory after getting off the bike for the day. The first picture is of Corral Hollow Road that parallels Altamont Pass--our passage into the San Joaquin Valley. The second picture is of the wine country in the little piece of Pennsylvania that borders Lake Erie. The third picture is a sketch of Long Lake, NY, at sunset. We were treated to a wonderful evening by people we met on the street. They invited us to dinner, provided transportation, and gave us a boatride on the lake. You can read about our cycling tour and see tour watercolor sketches at

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Sketching and painting on a Sunday afternoon

Today was especially quiet here as Bob is working as he always does on Sundays. I spent my time on several art-related projects. I am learning about the blog features and added a few. The blog still needs some work, and I’m not sure how to do some things. Then I started a painting from a Christmas-day snapshot Bob took at Nepenthe that is really fabulous with reflections on the tabletop and a view of the trees. It’s coming along. I also did a bit of work for Silicon Valley Open Studios in May. I’m helping my Thursday art group put together at group show at my home.

Finally I needed to do some sketching so I fired up the Poser site that I learned about from Myrna Wacknov’s blog. This is a great place to practice drawing from life. The models look strange because they have no skin--you see the muscle structure. I sketched three poses, using the static function rather than the 30-second poses. However, I didn’t spend much time on them. I was intrigued by the guy on the right jumping. I need to keep practicing for my return to the Life Drawing sessions at the Tate Museum in Los Gatos every Tuesday afternoon.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

My first post

2009 is off to a great start and I wrote down my artistic goals for the year: create an art blog, complete two finished paintings per month, draw daily, experiment with one new technique or material every two months, and enter one art show in 2009. You can see that I've met my first goal!

The paintings I’ve posted are two recently completed pieces. Bob and I took an epic journey this summer from San Jose, CA, to Portland, ME, on a tandem bicycle. After the trip we spent time with family in my native Vermont where the Paquet Farm Stand was in full swing. One of their most popular items is the pumpkins and I liked the way they were displayed in front of the old barn silo. I gave “Paquet Farm Stand Pumpkins” to my mother-in-law, Priscilla, for Christmas.

The second piece is more experimental in nature. The colorful gourds grown at the farm are also very popular. The old blue wooden box caught my attention with the shapes and colors. I first painted the picture in portrait format and was not happy with the piece. My artist friends suggested turning it on its side into landscape mode. Voila! I liked the composition better, so I worked on the values and shapes to complete “Paquet Farm Gourds.”

Fulfilling my goals will be a challenge as I love to travel for pleasure and to train cycling instructors. I have a lot of travel planned this first full year of retirement, which will undoubtedly provide more inspiration. I hope you will enjoy following my Art Adventures.