Monday, March 30, 2009

My First Pastel

"Old copper kettle"
Pastel, 17" x 14"

Last week I started this drawing in my Monday class at University arts. I mentioned that I erred with the fixative and basically the picture turned all dark. My instructor told me I could continue over the fixative. Still lifes like this are not my favorite subjects, but we do a lot in class to practice our drawing skills. Lately, Bob has been introducing color. We start by drawing and blocking in the values in charcoal. Then we apply the pastels. You can see that the kettle is old, with blackened areas and some oxidization, which suggest a kettle with history. I really enjoyed doing this piece, and I plan to buy some pastels of my own.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Another Gaucho Woman

"Mujer de Gaucho 2"
Watercolor, 13.5" x 20"

While in South America, I painted a gaucho woman dancing in a modest sized format from snapshots I took of gaucho dancers . You can see the first sketch here: My second one has a bit different background and lighting. I will be showing this piece in the Silicon Valley Open Studios.

We are having glorious California days and I want to get out and a take some photos of the wild flowers. Yesterday we took our bicycle class on a 50K ride along the valley's eastern hills. They were so green in the sunshine. Later they will turn golden (as we like to call them); think raw sienna or ochra. I should have brought my camera along. Today I had to spend some time buying a dress for Bob's daughter Jamie's wedding, so hiking the hills is not possible today. However, I was pleased with the speed with which I found the dress, as I am not a shopper.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Hike and Sketch in Uvas Canyon Park with Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society

"Basin Falls"
Micron Pen
"Trail on the Mountainside"
Micron Pen

"Trailside Waterfall"

Yesterday I spent a delightful day in Uvas Canyon Park, just 9 miles from my house, with members of the watercolor society. This was an impromptu plein air session and there were just four of us, but we had a lovely time hiking the waterfalls. The newspaper recently featured the park, noting that with winter rains the falls are especially beautiful. I would guess that by fall they are a mere trickle. We sketched at several of them in lovely spring weather, which required modest layers in the dappled sunshine of the wooded areas.

I almost didn't go, but a call from Jenny, one of our leaders, put me over the edge. I couldn't resist. Unfortunately, I didn't give much thought to art materials, nor did I bring my small canvas stool, so I had to sit on the ground and draw with pen, charcoal, or graphite. The others all had their small watercolor sets and did such lovely work. These sketches don't do justice to the beauty of the park, though I could use them as reference in developing a painting. Check out Sylvia's blog for the work she completed yesterday:

You might like to know more about the falls in the park. Read about them here:

One cute aside: I chuckled to myself at Black Rock Falls when I mentally pictured the thoughts of a young couple that worked their way up the steep side of the trail to see the falls, startled to find four women with stools and painting gear working away. I got home just in time to clean the kitchen and sit on the patio of El Amigo Restaurant for dinner with Bob before entertaining my Thursday night art group in my home.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Work related to art

"California Cuisine"

The business of art is keeping me busy the last few days. I am in the process of preparing for the Silicon Valley Open Studios in May. I will be hosting 5 other artist at my home on the weekend of May 9 and 10. "California Cuisine" is one of my pieces that I feature on the SVOS website. You can check out artists here:

Yesterday I went through my artwork to select pieces that I want to mat and frame. Some pieces I will simply bag as is or bag with mat and backing. Actually the process is rather fun. I squirrel away much of what I paint, and it's pleasing to get out everything and look at the body of work and select the strongest pieces. I also spent some time lining up Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society workshops for 2012. Can you believe that we've filled 2010, 2011, and much of 2012? I love talking with the excellent artists we engage. You can check out upcoming workshops here: and

I created "California Cuisine" as part of the series I did during a Mike Bailey workshop. Mike just pulls out all the stops on himself and the participants. This is one of 20 full-sheet paintings that evolved from a simple still life that featured a bottle of olive oil, a bowl, a spatula, an egg, and a jar. Those elements are in this piece with some embellishments. I love California Poppies. They conjure up warm sunshine, fresh air, garden smells, still-green hillsides, and spring in Santa Clara Valley.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Painting from the Maine Coast

"Breakfast at Five Gables Inn"

I've been super busy teaching cycling and ballroom dancing, having so much fun that I haven't had time to paint. I had hoped to feature the results of my first try at pastels in our drawing class this morning, which was coming along nicely until I applied fixative (apparently incorrectly) and it just melted the lovely color. Back to the drawing board really applies here. I will rework it next week in class. I haven't invested in any pastels yet, but there is something very satisfying about working with them. It takes me back to my childhood love of coloring, though doing pastels is quite a bit more demanding!

This is one my favorite oldies from a few years back. Five Gables Inn is a charming spot on the coast of Maine in East Boothbay. I went several years ago without Bob, so this time Bob and I checked in for four days after crossing the USA on our tandem bicycle. It's truly the most pleasant B&B I've stayed in. I love the porch where people spend hours reading and relaxing, and you can take your breakfast there if you want. This picture shows a somewhat foggy, yet mild, morning on the coast in late September, and my friend and I enjoyed our breakfast at the table in the foreground. Bob got to have this same pleasant experience last summer. They are getting a free ad here -- check it out:

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Plein Air Painting at a Historic Home

"Too Early for Roses"
Harris-Lass Historic House Museum
Santa Clara, CA

Today was perfect for plein air painting with the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society. Jenny and Sheila obtained to permission for us to paint at this lovely historic home, the last remaining farm in Santa Clara.The house was built by James Harris in 1865, the year of Lincoln's death. James had come to California for the gold rush, but soon decided to farm instead. The original home had 13 acres. By the time it was sold at below-market value to Santa Clara to remain a historical museum, there were 2 acres remaining. The city sold four lots to fund the restoration, but the remainder is a wonderful reminder of our agricultural past. There is the original barn from the 1860s, a summer kitchen, a tank house (water collection system), and lovely gardens.

After multi-generations of Harris's, the home sold to the Lass family. Christian was a retired cargo ship captain who had traveled worldwide on his 18 cargo ships. When the cemetary around the corner wanted to expand into Lass's orginal property, the family bought the Harris home. The last of the Lass family to live in the home was Johanna, who lived their until 1987, at which time she offered the property to Santa Clara.

Bob Byrd, president of the Historic Preservation Society that manages the property, is a retired librarian and history buff, so he gave us lots of information and a tour of the house. The artifacts, family possessions, and pictures made history come to life.

I painted the fountain, gardens, and part of the house. We had temps in the 70s and sunshine. I sat in short sleeves. Bob tells us that in another month there were be all kinds of gorgeous roses, hence the name of my piece. We lunched under trees in the garden on tables Bob set up for our picnic, and he even provided us with cold drinks and dessert bars. I was sitting there thinking, "I LOVE retirement."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Almost spring flowers

"March Camillia"
"Proud Cyclamen"

Tis looking a lot like spring here and the garden beckons. The camillias are almost done, so I captured the last one on paper. The cyclamen always amaze me. In the winter, the colder it is the better they seem to do. They continue to look perky, so I took a couple photos from above. I had fun using lots of different colors, loose and wet, and letting them mingle on the paper, then I added some negative painting to push and pull the shapes. They were a pleasure to do because I planned the shapes and light patterns, but then I kept responding to the painting as it developed to bring out the value pattern.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Monday's drawing class

"Monday's Tea"
Charcoal and conte, 17" x 12"

This was my first day at drawing class since the end of January because of all the travel I've done. It's great being home! We did a still life with an aged pewter tea pot, a lemon, grapes, and tangerines. It was good to get back and flex the precision muscles. Bob would like to have more live models, but the attendance is somewhat erratic. However, I learn from each exercise and enjoyed seeing my drawing class buddies.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Argentinian tango dancers

" Argentinian Tango Dancers"

We returned last night from a conference in Washington, DC. Yesterday morning before leaving I had a bit of time to complete this painting. Bob and I take ballroom dance classes, and I love art that features dancers. While we were on the cruise in South America, we danced every night, but we could only watch at the Milonga (the Spanish word for a venue for Argentinian tango) as South Americans did beautiful renditions of this dance. We only know Ballroom Tango, which is really quite different. We saw a wonderful tango show on the ship, and the following day, the performers taught a tango lesson. We ended up taking two private tango lessons from the performer's brother, Leandro, and his wife, Sol, in Buenos Aires, and they were excellent teachers. Now we are signed up with an instructor at our dance studio for Argentinian tango. George used to teach tango in Buenos Aires.

I mentioned two artists in my previous post and added a link to Jean Pederson's blog. The link had a problem, but is working now if you would like to check out her blog and her website. She is a wonderful artist.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Two artists that I admire

" Leo and His Ladies"

What does a flock of chickens have to do with the title of this blog entry? Let me explain the convoluted connection. This feisty, handsome, blond rooster lives in North Danville, Vermont, in a coop on my son Jeff's family property. I will never forget the day he attacked me as I went unsuspectingly down the steps from the porch and landed his spur in the front of my shin. Jeff had to rescue a screaming and bleeding mom from Leo. He does protect his flock and he is gorgeous. When there are extra eggs in the summer, granddaughter Kelly sets up the honor stand with it's bright sign, "Leo's Ladies Eggs." Some devoted patrons make their trek up the back roads to buy all they can get. I painted this picture one year for Beth's birthday and it hangs on a kitchen wall. Today I want to talk about two great artists, and one of whom paints handsome Vermont roosters.

Check out the work of two artists that I greatly admire: Jean Pederson and Annelein Beukenkamp. I'm hoping to get them onto the West Coast for workshops.

Jean is a wonderful artist from Calgary, Canada, who paints in various watermedia. Her book "Expressive Portraits" is a terrific resource, especially if you like to paint people. I first learned of Jean through articles in art magazines. When she published her book, it went right on my Christmas list. Jean not only paints people, but she also does gorgeous still lifes and landscapes. You can check out her website here:

A link to Jean's blog is on my list of blogs to the right so you can keep up with her latest works.

Annelein I found through Myrna Wacknov's blog. Myrna loves her work and so do I. Annelein paints in transparent layers. You have the sensation of seeing through objects. She often paints from the perspective of looking down on the objects. Recently she began experimenting in oils, though she hasn't posted any yet. The fact that Annelein lives in the state of Vermont where I grew up and where my sons and much family live just makes her ever more special to me. Annelein does lots of florals, roosters, and landscapes. She is very accomplished and has licensed her work to some prominent businesses and organizations. You will find her website here:

You can link to Annelein's blog from my list of blogs to the right.

I head to Washington, DC, tonight for the League of American Bicyclists Bike Summit 2009. Bob and I are instructors and coaches for the League, and in the time of diminishing resources, we are big believers in bicycles for transportation. (We practice our beliefs - we carried home a $130 worth of groceries with our bikes the other day.) We will be meeting with members of Congress to focus on transportation accommodations. I will likely not post anything until my return the following week.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A beautiful life

" It's a Beautiful Life"

This picture, done this morning, is in memory of Kathy, mother of Bob's daughter Jamie, who passed away after a tremendous two and a half year fight against cancer. We were very saddened by the news, but grateful that she is no longer in pain. Jamie and her fiance, Dave, will be married on April 18, and we know that Kathy will be watching over them and all of us attending the wedding.

Bob, a musician, spent some time before church services Sunday, playing flute music that Kathy loved and has exchanged e-mails with mutual friends around the country. I express myself in art. This picture depicts Kathy's beauty, zest for life, and spunk in hard times. I admire Kathy very much. She loved life, and in adversity, she was strong, optimistic, and helpful to others, including a friend of mine undergoing the same treatment. I wanted to depict that beauty, passion, and strength. Influenced by Annalein Beukekamp's layered transparent paintings, I incorporated a camelia, a lavender vine, a lemon, and an orange from our garden, and a colorful napkin, wine bottle, vase, and plate from our home.

Tomorrow we gather with Kathy's family and friends to celebrate her life. She lived it well.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Elements of design

" Frenchman with Line"
A Myrna Wacknov challenge

Several months ago Myrna Wacknov had some challenges on her blog based on a photo that she took during a Mike Bailey workshop in the Dordogne. Thus this picture is purely an experiment and the Frenchman image belongs to Myrna. She had us work with the Line element of design. This one I did on Tyvec using acrylic paints. Doing experiments is so freeing -- it gives me permission to fail so I don't worry about ruining my painting.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Challenges in 2008

I've been consumed by taxes for the past few days and playing catchup after our long trip. I haven't really had any time for my art. My drawing class also was cancelled this morning. The images of the dancer were done for a challenge on Myrna Wacknov's Creativity Journey early in 2008. Myrna randomly drew three elements of design, which turned out to be a vertical format with texture, using the mother color of red orange. I created these three paintings based on those elements.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sailing Chilean Fjords

" Chilean Fjords 1"
Chilean Fjords 2

"Bob as the ship approaches a glacier"
These two watercolor sketches are the result of spending many hours sailing through the Chilean Fjords. Our captain told us to be up before 6 as we would be pausing near a glacier. Dutifully we ordered some , fruit, and rolls from room service and took our places in the increasingly colder and wetter air on our balcony. We knew we were getting close when we began seeing the ice floating by as you can see in the picture of Bob.

I grabbed my paints and sat on the balcony trying to capture the terrain. The atmosphere literally became a part of the picture. The moisture left the dots and the paint moved around a lot. The second picture shows the high snow-capped mountains along the coast of Chile. I don't often do pure landscape without a sign of man's existence. However, we passed hundreds of miles of gorgeous landscape with nary a sign of human life on shore. Of course, that is what makes this terrain so very special.