Monday, August 31, 2009

Bob's Boots in Monday Drawing Class

"Bob's Boots"
12" x 14"
Pastel and charcoal

The subject today doesn't look difficult, but the still life was a real challenge. The perspective on these well-worn leather boots kept us on our toes, pun intended. At one point, I asked Bob to look at my drawing, and he said that my measurements were okay, but some of the shapes likely needed work. He had me keep at it and was pleased with my final result. I spent most of the time drawing the subject and maybe 20 minutes adding pastels. The color is not real true on this snapshot, but I can't seem to make the adjustment on the computer.

We will have more opportunities to draw these boots as Bob promises to bring them back in the next month. Actually, I look forward to trying them again. We will have Labor Day off and then we expect to have a live model the following Monday if Gina is available.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Pepere's Blacksmith Shop, 1909 - 2009

"Pepere's Blacksmith Shop - 1909 - 2009"

Images of Blacksmith Shop
Paquet Farm
Barre, Vermont

The Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society is now accepting entries for their Annual Member Show, "Linear Visions," in October. I painted one piece that I will show another day, but I am ambivalent about how well I like it, so I did a second piece. I decided to use photos I had taken at the family farm in July when we had a major celebration for it's 100th year anniversary.

I am especially taken with the restored blacksmith shop, which had fallen into disrepair after the death in the early 1960s of patriarch Alphonse Joseph (Joe) Paquet from the Province of Quebec. The grandchildren pulled together to give the entire barn complex a facelift, and the Covino brothers shored up the blacksmith shop and arranged the tools. Jimmy, retired IBM executive, is also a sculptor and a blacksmith. The night of the big event, Jimmy gave an ongoing demo, creating lovely small hooks for the home on the old forge and giving them to visitors. The day following the celebration attended by hundreds of people, including the governor, the lead float for the farm in the Barre Heritage Festival parade, featured Jimmy as Pepere (grandfather) and his sister Joanne as Memere (grandmother), and the great anvil was part of the float display. We won one of the three prizes given out to three of the many participating groups, the "Very Barre Award." We were a proud block-long group of Paquet generations marching through my hometown.

I wanted to express the age and lineage of the old shop and capture the dusty air, the ancient wood, the darkened corners, the old tools, the anvil and the forge from an eye-level about even with the anvil. Using great artistic license, I developed my design. Having just done collage in Gerald Brommer's workshop, I decided that texture would greatly enhance the mood, as this place is certainly full of texture. I collaged rice papers onto the entire surface, some of which I had stained with watercolor and some left white. Afer the surface dried in the sun, I applied a very thin layer of gesso. I then developed the image using watercolor. For the dust-filled light rays, I swiped the paper with diluted gesso.

I especially like how some blue and green papers show through the gesso and watercolor to give subtle variety to the darkened interior. The interior feels dusty and old. The old forge glows very dimly with banked coals. The much-used anvil exudes the strength of generations of strong farm people. The rice paper textures give depth to the rock-lined dirt floor and the metal hood. In keeping with the Linear Visions theme, I enhanced some of the center of interest with black ink line work. Today's blacksmith and shop maintain their direct line to founder, Joe Paquet and his wife, Emeda Mathilde Savoie, who moved to Barre in 1903 and founded the farm in 1909. My linear vision of generations of a Vermont French family rooted in Quebec is expressed in this piece.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Plein Air at Vasona Lake Park

"Vasona Lake Park"
Eucalyptus Tree at Vasona Lake Park

Plein air was delightful this morning, sitting on a bench looking at the bridge backed by the Santa Cruz Mountains and the colorful bark of the eucalyptus tree beside us. The sun was shining , a typical summer day here. I enjoy plein air because I am not out creating my next masterpiece, just sketching and having fun. I also love being outdoors. I take a simple setup -- one bag with small pallette, a few brushes, some pens, sketch pad, a collapsible water bucket and sport drink bottle of water, a couple different sized watercolor pads. I also take a collapsible canvas three-legged stool.

The first piece I did ala Gerald Brommer, divorcing line and shape. I laid in some green and raw sienna in a cruciform shape, then I sketched the scene. I left well enough alone. The second piece is more colorful than it appears. The bark had fallen off the trunk, and exposed beutiful oranges, shades of greys and browns, even some greens and purple.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Florals in Monday Drawing Class

"Late Summer Bouquet"

Bob Semans brought in a lovely bouquet, but it all became a bit overwhelming when I tried to dive in with pastels. The same was true for all of us. So Bob again demoed to establish the very large shapes (clusters of light flowers against the dark green foliage) and fill in the darks with charcoal, dragging some across the shapes. Then pull out the flowers with a kneaded eraser. Establish the light and shadow patterns, fix, and add pastels. Without much time, I completed part of the charcoal underpainting before running out of time. Still lifes and even live models are easier than a complex floral bouquet when doing a meticulous realistic rendering. All said and done, I liked the beginnings.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Brommer Workshop Recap

St. Michel, the Dordogne, France
Collage and watermedia

"Puente Nuevo"
Ronda, Spain
Collage and watercolor

"Two for the Road"
Beginning phase of a montage of my bicycle ride across the USA
Collage and watercolor

The week was so busy that I did not even have time to post the final three days of the workshop. We had a wonderful time. I felt like a kid again with my matte medium, gesso, pens, rice paper, and paints. I also was humbled by the beautiful work turned out by my colleagues in the workshop. Jerry said this one of the two most accomplished groups of artists that he had had in his workshops over the years. Privately he told me that several were way beyond needing a workshop, but of course creative people love to learn new ways of working and thinking. Take this link (Myrna's name) to see the work done by Myrna Wacknov during the workshop, so good that Jerry needed a piece for his collection. Myrna teaches many workshops nationwide, is an award-winning artist, and has been featured in popular art magazines.

Jerry at 82 is just as excited about art as he was as a child. He keeps learning new things (for example, that gesso can be applied successfully to a wet collage) and pushes his experimentation. He is humble and inspirational. He kept giving us pearls of wisdom, and I enjoyed his stories of many of the famous artists we admire who have been his friends. He also gave me his full-sheet demo painting that I will treasure, though Jerry did not have time to complete the detail and darks over his underpainting.

The pieces I show here were done on days 3, 4 and 5. To be successful, I would need to redo them. I've said before that my engineering mind is very literal and it takes me a while to apply what I learn in a creative way. I will explore this medium in the coming months as I really love the textured surfaces and the effects we achieved. Each piece was supposed to maintain separation between shape and line. The piece on Day 3 is from a snapshot I took in the Dordogne, while on a Mike Bailey art vacation in 2007. We built up the surface by applying rice papers with pieces of brown paper bag for the dark values. We drew into the wet collage and added paint. Applying white gouache does some really interesting things to the surface.

Day 4 I completed the bridge in Ronda, Spain, that I visited in 1989. Ronda is one of the "white towns" in Andalusia. This bridge is the newest of the three bridges that have spanned the gorge. The first was built by the Romans, the second by the Arabs, and third is the "new" bridge built by the occupants of the town in the 1700's. New is relative. As we stood on the bridge, we could see remnants of the two older bridges hundreds of feet below us. I struggled with this painting and in the final 15 minutes before critique, I got a suggestion from Jerry to apply gesso over parts I did not like and rework them. I worked furiously and Jerry was amazed that I pulled the iron out of the fire in those few minutes.

Day 5 is just the beginning stages of a complex exploration of a theme, in my case my bicycle ride across the USA in 2008. The top 1/3 of the page is picture that embodies the theme, and the bottom 2/3rds will be filled with small line drawings with color and images of items related to the theme. I selected an image from the middle of the country, where we were treated like royalty, tiny Woodbine, Iowa. The L stands for Lincoln Highway, the first highway to be completed across the USA. The old service station had been turned into an internet cafe by the junior high science teacher and his wife. They love to take pictures of people touring the country in front of the mileage to two major East and West Coast cities.

We were instructed to collage the entire surface, let it dry, add a thin layer of diluted gesso, let it dry, and then work on that surface. As we worked, we could add more collage, more gesso, paint, photographs, pieces of related paper, whatever. Eventually, I would add a border of darker color around the edge to organize the collection. At critique, I was especially fond of a piece done by Jean D. who collaged using various old documents (or copies of them) and then had a male figure walking into the documents. A serendipitous smearing of the ink on the figure created the most wonderful results. To me it certainly suggested the past.

Jerry's approach, with any piece, is to do some planning, but he never knows exactly how the piece will turn out, very reassuring to me. He lets what's happening on the surface inform subsequent steps in the process.

The workshop went well administratively, my first time to coordinate one for the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society. Bob and I especially enjoyed getting to know Jerry and his wife, Georgia, first at home, then at two subsequent dinners, and a final drive to the airport. They are such wonderful people. Jerry says that we are changed with each experience we have in workshops. I can't wait to take that change to a new level.

I have a few more obligations and then in the next few days I will be checking out what I've missed from my fellow bloggers.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Gerry Brommer Workshop Day 2

"Carmel Cypresses"
Ink with collage
"Cinque Terre Flowers"
Ink with collage

Today Gerry had us use collage shapes with ink lines, maintaining the separation of line and shape. I decided to basically use the same images as yesterday and see what collage does for them. I decided to get a critique on "Carmel Cypresses." He said he liked the piece better than yesterday's. He suggested bringing a stem in the foreground off the bottom of the page and to darken some of the major lines on the rocks. There needs to be variety, but we also need to call attention to major elements of the design.

The blue stained papers were rather dark so Gerry suggested I collage some plain white tissue over them. Voila, lighter stains and more interesting texture. I think I will try some of my acrylics tomorrow as the watercolor does not like to adhere to the matte medium we used for collage. Critique was very educational. I stained some more rice paper today and we will be using brown paper bags in the mix tomorrow.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Gerald Brommer Workshop - Day 1

"Carmel Cypress Trees"

"Cinque Terre Wildflowers"

The workshop I am coordinating is "From Line and Shape to Complex Surfaces." Today Gerald Brommer explained that we should treat the two elements of design, line and shape, as independent of each other. We should not be outlining the shape, nor should we be filling in the shape we've created. Both would look like a coloring book. Instead, we either put down shapes in light to mid-tone values and then draw our image over the shapes, or we draw our image and add shapes. We finish with some overpainting, but again avoid filling in the lines with color. We were told not to erase anything. We could draw in pencil and then in ink, not following the pencil line exactly. We drew on quarter sheets from our own reference materials.

We selected one piece for critique (I actually did 3 quarter sheets and started a fourth). I choose Cinque Terre wildflowers, done from a photo taken when pal, Joan, and I went to Italy for a watercolor workshop in Western Tuscany. First we spent a few days in a tiny town just south of the Cinque Terre, where we relaxed, hiked, and sketched. Gerri liked the piece and made two suggestions for improvement, which I haven't done yet -- balance the right corner with a small shape of strong color on the lower left, and add more line to the two plants that reach above the sea on the left. He was enthusiastic about my cypresses, though I didn't put it up for critique. Gerri is such a wonderful instructor, and loved by many. We have a fabulous group of people taking the class, including Myrna Wacknov, so it's really neat to see the art they produce. It's also like old home week for my France trip in 2007 with Mike Bailey -- Myrna, Carrie, and Lisa are all in the workshop! We ended the day tearing pieces of rice paper, staining them with various shades of a couple colors, and allowing them to dry overnight. Tomorrow we begin the collage process.

Yesterday's demo went well, the first I've coordinated. The room was full, probably 75 to 100 observers. Gerri said he couldn't demonstrate collage on the spot and what we would do in class were small pieces. So I brought him a full sheet of Arches 140 lb. paper and a support so he could demo his design and painting process. Like all masters, he made it look so easy, and the crowd loved it. Gerri gives you permission to do anything in art -- no, a watercolor must not all be transparent; yes, you can use opaque white and colors; you can move things around; you can eliminate what you don't want and add something you do. You can do many variations from one simple sketch or photo.

I am learning the mechanics of being a coordinator, quite a bit of work as we provide a nice series of snack morning and afternoon during the workshop and for the demo on Sunday afternoon. So far, I've been to Costco twice, and the farm stand once. Then there are the various vagaries of the locks for kitchen, water supply, classroom, restrooms, and atrium. All is going smoothly and I am having fun. I have a terrific assistant, Irene, who has jumped right in on setup, cleanup, and ordering and picking up the instructors lunch.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Gerald Brommer Workshop

"Carmel in Glowing Color"
by Gerald Brommer

Today Gerri Brommer will demo for the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society at 1:30 at the Historic Hoover Theater on Park St. in San Jose (across from the Rosicrucian Museum). The demo is open to everyone and it is free of charge, so come if you can. I joined the workshop committee early this year and this is the first workshop that I am coordinating. Gerri is presenting "From Line and Shape to Complex Surfaces," with an emphasis on creative expression and originality. The title of this post is an active link to additional samples of Gerald's work.

Yesterday I met Gerri and Georgia, his wife, at the San Jose Airport, took them to lunch, and got them checked into their hotel. Coincidentally, Bob and I were hosting his Southbay Recorder Society at our home for a summer play-in, so we invited the Brommer's to join us. They graciously accepted and really got into the spirit of joyful, mostly medieval music, played by a group of artists who had not tried these pieces before. As Gerri pointed out, they were experimenting with their art form. After a delicious potluck provided by the participants, I returned them to their hotel. Gerri and Georgia are a lovely couple and we so enjoyed their company.

I am hoping to come away from the workshop with a whole new way of approaching my art.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Creating prototypes

Prototypes for "Arabesque Brides"

In March, Bob and I went to a concert at the John F Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, DC, while there for a conference. There was a gorgeous display of over 40 elaborate bridal gowns worn in the 22 countries of the Arab world as part of an upcoming show, "Arabesque." The mannequins were artfully arranged in the lobby. I took some photos intending sometime to use them in my art.

I am working towards a piece for "Linear Perspectives," the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society show in October. I must complete it before the end of the month if I intend to show this piece. (I have a backup plan, not to worry). So last night I painted a quarter sheet. I decided to invent a background that suggests mountains in a dry land, but very linear in keeping with the theme of the show. I know I want to show the beauty of the gowns, so they will be brightly colored and detailed, but the overall plane is flattened. I'm not great at Photoshop (I'd rather paint), so I printed out the three brides in a size that would work for an 8 x 10 prototype, and I cut out the three brides. By now I was recalling the paper dolls I so loved as a child.

I took two failed paintings and cut them into several smaller pieces. I drew the background on the back of each piece and experimented with color, tints, tones, shades, and value patterns. This process took little time and I could then put my three ladies on the background to check results. At one point, I looked at the blog of Peggy Stermer-Cox, one of my favorite artists. Peggy does non-representational work and has some knockout series on her blog. She spends lots of time experimenting with value patterns, design, and color. I checked out Kitty, Kitty, because I love her use of blue and orange, which is very soft. (Do check out her work -- her name is an active link .) I'm also being influenced by Myrna Wacknov's recent experiments with color on her blog.

I knew I would be using Cad Red for the bridal dresses, so I took some license with the color combination. The second picture shows my use of Cad Red Light and Windsor Blue (green shade) for the mountains and foreground. I loved how they neutralized each other. I did introduce one other color, Raw Sienna, into the sky, and dropped in the red. I decided that I am quite taken with the neutralized background. My next step is to do a half-sheet painting.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pastels in Monday drawing class

"Mom's Shoes and Pearls"
11" x 11"

Judith brought in some beautiful shoes and pearls that her mother had owned. The shoes were a soft green suede and satin. First I struggled with the drawing, but Bob rechecked my measurements and got me back on track. I am fairly satisfied with the shoes, but I am less than pleased with the golden drape. Also, I must order some decent pastel paper. I got to the point where the pastel no longer wanted to adhere, even after spraying with fixative. However, I had fun and learned more about perspective from this still life.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Home gallery and "Anything Goes" Art Reception

A watercolor, a pastel, and a charcoal and conte

Recent florals in watercolor

My primary gallery is my home. These paintings are hanging in the livingroom (hence the top of a harp is evident in one picture). Bob had cut mats for me recently and I was inspired by helping to hang the "Anything Goes" show in Palo Alto. I learned that unlike mediums can be hung harmoniously. So I framed some recent works and rearranged some art this morning.

The top photo includes on the left "Public Art Speaks," a watercolor, with "Pitcher and Peppers," a pastel below it. To the right is "Ancient Vase," a charcoal and conte. My drawing instructor, Robert Semans, will be happy to see these pieces framed. The bottom photo shows "Glamorous Peonies," watercolor on the left, and "Millbrook Farm Lilies," watercolor on the right. I am quite happy with the overall results.

Now that I am retired from the Corporate world and have expanded my art career, I am doing shows. "Anything Goes" by the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society, is my first entry in a society show. I sent out e-mail alerts to friends and collectors about the reception on Friday evening. A number of them attended, including some former co-workers that I miss very much.

The venue, the Elizabeth Norton Gallery in the Pacific Art League building in downtown Palo Alto, is really lovely. The gallery is on the second floor of a wonderful old Spanish building. Doors lead outside to a rooftop patio. Janice Faulstich personally cooked almost every item served at the reception, which included some lovely wines. What a treat. The evening was sunny and a perfect temperature. We had very large crowds, many from the Friday Night Artwalk held monthly in Palo Alto. I am aware that at least one large painting sold in the first ten minutes of the show, along with an unframed piece by the same artist, a very promising start.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Plein Air at Cooper-Garrod Winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains

"Fine Aging at the Winery"
14" x 10"

Yesterday I painted with the plein air group of the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society at the Cooper Garrod Winery on Mount Eden Road. What a fascinating old winery. It's not all dolled up and spiffed up. There are many old buildings and barns with stables. Horse classes were in progress while we were there - they have a very active and large stable.

I was very taken by this old Ford convertible with rumble seat parked under the cover attached to the old winery tasting room. The air long gone from the tires, parked on a tilted surface, the old car was doing some fine aging. I sat with Dick, a very accomplished artist who sells his work in a Campbell gallery. Later we compared images. How different -- mine is pretty close up with the car as the focal point and Dick's is a wonderful scene showing the building and the car. I think of Mike Bailey -- it's not about the subject, it's about the design. I would love to see Dick's finished piece. I had to finish mine last night while painting with the South Side Art Club at my home. What a nice time we always have on Thursday evenings. We've painted together since the mid-nineties.

Tonight I will be participating in the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society's "Anything Goes" show at the Elizabeth Norton Gallery in the Pacific Art League Building on Ramona Street, just one block off University Avenue. I wrote about hanging this show in an earlier post. The pieces are truly high quality and I recommend the show to all in driving distance. There are 48 artists with three pieces of art each, so you have much to see while enjoying wine and nibbles. We are also part of the Friday Night Art Walk, so come by if you can.

I've received a couple blog awards and due to a hectic schedule have not had time to thank both Claire McFeeley and Mhega Chhatbar for their thoughtfulness.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Monday Drawing Class - Veggies

"Pitcher and Peppers"
13" x 11"

After being gone two weeks, I returned to drawing class at University Arts. I had such fun. Judith brought in some fresh veggies from farmers market and some art objects from her home. This is the result of my drawing one of two setups we had. Bob's class is open and ongoing with new people coming and going almost every week, thus Bob must devote quite a bit of time to the new attendees. He helped the old faithfuls (four of us) get set up and checked our progress after we had drawn our subject and started to add pastels. At this point he gave me a great pointer -- establish the value of the drape so I could key off that value. He came back when we were near the end of class and was very happy with the results we had achieved. He told us that we had come a long way in this class. What we had produced could be nicely framed.

Bob said we should treat ourselves to better paper, suggesting Kitty Wallis sanded paper, so I have a good reason to spend more money on art supplies, always a pleasure. Of course, Bob suggested a few tweaks that really pulled it together -- some light to contrast against the dark edges of the peppers and more distinct lights, which would have one hard edge. As I am new to pastels, I was pretty pleased with the overall results.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society "Anything Goes" at the Palo Alto Art League

"Dancing the Blues"
11" x 14"
Watercolor and charcoal

One of my art goals this year is to enter two shows. I have actually met my goal. I entered Silicon Valley Open Studios in May and yesterday, I entered three pieces into "Anything Goes" being sponsored by the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society (SCVWS) at the Palo Alto Art League on Ramona Street in Palo Alto. Members were invited to submit pieces done in any media. You will see much watermedia, including acrylics, but you will also enjoy oils, collage, and a wonderful bronze sculpture.

Here is the beautiful flyer featuring art by several of our many accomplished artist. If you live in the area, the show is on through the end of the month. The reception is Friday night and this is my very first art reception for a public show sponsored by others. I am looking forward to a lovely evening. Please feel free to drop by between 6 and 9 p.m. Wine, light refreshments, and terrific art will make the event special, and you might choose a piece to add to your collection. Bob and I hope to see you there.

We could enter one framed piece and two matted, unframed pieces. I framed "Morning Light" previously featured on this blog. I did a bit more tweaking since I posted the piece, but I can't show you the improvements as I failed to photograph the finished piece. The unframed pieces include "Dordogne Sunflower" previously featured on the blog. "Dancing the Blues" shown above is the second piece. This is an image I have done in series as a part of a challenge on Myrna Wacknov's blog. I especially like the use of charcoal line on this one and the energetic background. Myrna has a lovely acrylic on display at the show.

SCVWS is a well-oiled machine and everyone who enters the show volunteers for a task. When I arrived at 11, the place was buzzing with volunteers examining the framed pieces to ensure compliance with show rules, receiving the art, and creating labels for the framed art. I was part of the hanging committee, with experienced hanger Karen Wong providing guidance to several of us. I was impressed with Karen's ability to group unlike art and provide a harmonious and eye-catching experience to the viewer. The two rooms with 48 pieces are very inviting. There are a number of windows and doors, so we put up the SCVWS show panels in places where they would not obstruct the overall view of the show. With two teams of hangers at work, we were done before 3! I learned a lot about how to successfully hang an art show. That's one of the things I love about volunteering in the society. I learn so much and have met many wonderful people.

I will exceed my goals this year as I also plan to enter "Linear Visions," the SCVWS Members Show that will be at the Rose Shenson Community Art Gallery, Triton Museum, in Santa Clara. Expect to see all things related to either using the design element, line (one I love!) or featuring some relationship to line. You can read about "LinearVisions." I am very excited to know that prominent watermedia artist Christopher Schink is the juror for this show and will select the pieces to receive awards. You can see that he really gets "line."

You'll be hearing more about my show experiences. Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

July Beauties

"Millbrook Farm Lilies"
North Danville, Vermont

The last several days have been filled with work on an upcoming workshop I am coordinating for the watercolor society. You will hear more about that as I learn to collage and texture surfaces and rise to new heights of creativity. I've also done some bicycle education, and I helped hang the latest SCVWS art show in Palo Alto today. More on that with my next post.

All that to say that finally I can write more about my Vermont stay and show you a piece of art done at my son's home. Most of my Vermont time was dedicated to a lovely town celebration of the Paquet family farm centennial. Over a 100 relatives were there for 3 full days of festivities. The farm hosted the fireworks, three music groups, and a barbecue for well over a thousand people last Friday. The upper barn was filled with memorabilia and the Jim Douglas, governor of Vermont, visited this special museum and bit of Vermont history. Family members directed the parking of 6 acres of cars and the state police turned the road into one-way traffic. Alphonse and Emeda Paquet, the farm founders, would surely have been pleased. You can read about the history and planned celebration.

On Monday I had time to sit in the afternoon sunshine and paint in the gardens of Millbrook Farm, my son Jeff's home. The Tiger Lilies are prolific and lovely in orange and yellow. I used some of the negative painting techniques I practiced in Annelein Beukekamp's workshop in June. The picture says "contented" to me. I had Bob cut a soft mint green mat for the piece and plan to hang it in my home.