Friday, December 31, 2010

In the footsteps of Van Gogh - Goodbye 2010

8.5" x 11" Graphite

Light effects in Adobe Photoshop

While my housecleaners prepped the house for our major New Year's Day Open House, I sequestered myself in my art room. I had too much on my mind to start a serious project, so I decided to do a self-portrait in pencil. I quote Hallie Farber from a comment she left on an earlier post, " Self-portraits are easier; we don't need to please anyone else." I've only tried one other years ago when assigned to do one in colored pencil in a university class. I tried to be honest with my wrinkles, earned in a life well-lived.

As I tackled this project, I was thinking about good friends Myrna Wacknov ("Drawn to the Mirror") and Peggy Stermer Cox, both masters of self-portraits. I also recalled the Van Gogh self-portraits I've seen in museums in Europe and in our own DeYoung Museum's "Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne and Beyond: Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay."

The second picture was created in Adobe Photoshop when I was poking around looking for a way to sharpen this image a bit for this post. I discovered Filter->Render>Lighting Effects. This one is the default, but there is much to play with here -- interesting.

Back to prep work for the Open House, usually attended by 70 to 100 people. We do lots of cooking. To all my blog friends, Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Retreating to the familiar

"Jamie in Sunshine"
14" x 12"

After a few paintings done with unfamiliar mediums, I retreated to watercolor. This is my granddaughter Jamie, 16, as she sat on the edge of the water at Capitola. I did an earlier version in acrylic. I find it much easier to mingle colors with watercolor and to obtain soft edges where I want them. I felt like I needed to do a watercolor to make sure I hadn't forgotten how! I will continue to work with both acrylic and the water miscible oils, though.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Adventures in 2011

"The Landscape of Georgia O'Keefe"
9" x 12" Oil

A friend has invited me to go with her to a Maggie Siner workshop in Provence in July. I was hesitant for several reasons -- Maggie is an oil painter as is my friend. Also, Bob and I will be riding our tandem bicycle from Florida to Maine to Vermont from April through June. I won't bore you with all the complications this presents. I was assured that Maggie's instruction is appropriate for any medium, so as my friend was heading off to New Zealand for three weeks, I said yes.

I found that I get allergic reactions when I am in close contact with someone painting in oils. I believe it is the Turpenoid that bothers me. Recently another friend offered me her water miscible oils so I could give them a try. Of course, I don't know how to paint in oils, but what the heck. I took a small canvas panel that had the beginning of an acrylic painting on it. I simply went over it with the oil paints, creating the shapes as I painted rather than drawing them onto the canvas. The shapes come from several snapshots I took while in New Mexico in October. This piece was certainly a challenge, but a pleasurable experience none-the-less. I seemed not to have any unpleasant health side effects. I'm hoping that I will fare okay in France as we will be painting plein air. I don't know if I will paint in these oils, acrylics, or my watercolors.

As far as this painting goes, I like the variety in the foreground, and would prefer more variation in the mountain. Being oils, I can easily make changes to my experimental piece.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Personalized Thank You Cards

Cards for my granddaughters
Left -- Kelly playing her flute at my home
Right - Jamie competing with Sky in a Vermont horse show

I always like to personalize my thank you cards. Last year I was really creative with my cards for my son's family. You can see the collaged cards here. This year, I printed cards with images I recently painted of the girls and shown earlier on this blog. I know they will appreciate receiving them. They are very thoughtful teenagers.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy Holidays 2010

"Delft Bowl and Fruit"
12" x 16"

"A Light Repast"
12 x 16

Always the pastels are not quite done. We draw from life and the setup is available for just 3 hours, which includes any instruction Bob gives us. I've done the delft bowl before. Both times I've found it a challenge to draw -- getting the ellipse and the depth of the bowl is a challenge. I use the dowel stick method of measurement to help me get proportions correct. Drawing a center line across the ellipse and vertically on the pitcher helps, too. I like the way I did the grapes. I don't have a pastel dark enough for the grapes, so I first used charcoal pencil and then came in with a red-purple and the cream highlights.

I did the second piece a couple weeks ago and had no way to bring it home on my bicycle and light rail. I usually take a large drawing pad and carry the art inside it, but I had a smaller pad that week. Bob took it home for me and returned it on Monday. The ceramic pitcher was turned so that I could not see the spout. It's a challenge to get the white in light and shadow to read correctly.

Good news for those of you who live in the valley -- I've signed a contract with Robert Semans for a three-day drawing workshop in August of 2011 for the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society . He's such a marvelous artist and a very good instructor.

Wishing all of you a Happy Holiday and I look forward to seeing some wonderful art in 2011.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sketches from Local Travel - Rooms with a View

"Historic California Theater in December"
from St. Claire Hotel
San Jose, CA

"A Grey Day in the City by the Bay"
from Mark Hopkins Hotel
San Francisco, CA

December is always a busy month, with my birthday and then Christmas. We usually like to do something special on birthdays. This year we took light rail to our own downtown San Jose, about 10 miles away. We checked into the historic Saint Claire Hotel, enjoyed Christmas in the Park, and attended a live musical about Ginger Rogers at San Jose Repertory Theater.

Christmas in the Park on my birthday

My art supplies were meager -- a sketch book that does not accept watercolor well and my Koi watercolor set with brush pen. I depicted what I could see of California Theater, a restored movie house turned symphony and opera house, from my room. You see the valley and the mountains of our fair city done on paper that does not take watercolor well. I sketched in sepia ink and then applied color.

Yesterday we returned from two nights in San Francisco where we met up with a friend from the East Coast. We stayed at the Mark Hopkins Hotel, only because I am very good at bidding on rooms on Priceline. We did however, spend our room savings having the breakfast buffet twice at the Top of the Mark, that venerable institution with the best views in town from high on Nob Hill.
View from our table at the Top of the Mark on Day 1
(Grace Cathedral is visible in the foreground)

Day 1 we awakened to sunshine and a layer of fog. Day 2 we awakened to rain and mist. I did this little piece on Day 2 from our room, and all I could think was shades of grey. You see the TransAmerica Building (pyramid shaped), some of the Bay, Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island, and the hills of Berkeley in the distance. Here is my photo of from the room:

"Grey day in the city by the Bay

The piece was done on the same sketch pad not meant for watercolor with the same pan paints and brush pen.

In retirement, we have an uber social life, so time for art has been limited the past week. I've been doing some pastels in drawing class, but I hesitate to show them as they are only half done. Maybe Monday I will accomplish more.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Portrait in Acrylics

Acrylics on gessoed paper
12"x 10"

This is a first for me - a portrait done in opaque acrylics, and truly I had quite a learning experience. Unfortunately, I can't get the colors true in this reproduction. I have not yet bought any Ampersand panels as suggested by Hallie, so I gessoed over a failed watercolor painting on Arches 300 pound paper. The support is quite rough and very rigid. I drew the figure on tracing paper to avoid erasures on my support. I transferred the drawing using a method I learned from Myrna Wacknov. I turned the tracing paper over and went over all my pencil lines with a blue watercolor crayon. Then I placed the tracing paper over my gessoed paper crayon side down and used a ballpoint pen to trace over the lines. A very thin line of watercolor crayon gets transferred to the support. The line disappears when painted over as it dissolves with water, more critical when using watercolors, but a great method.

I wanted the acrylics to remain open and blendable for a while, so as recommended in Barclay Sheaks classic book, I used an acrylic gloss medium over the surface and to mix, slightly diluted, with the paints as I applied them. At first I was like a young child trying something new. Then things began to come together for me as I found how much paint I needed to apply and how to blend the edges. I like the way I managed to keep the edge of Jamie's hair soft and to blend her left shoulder with the background. I am inspired to try more people paintings. The gesso over rough thick watercolor paper provides an interesting subtle surface that glows from the glossy gel medium.

The source was a photo of granddaughter Jamie at the beach in Capitola during their July visit. Like everyone who visits California, Jamie expected very warm days. This summer was about the coolest on record in recent years, but even in the warmest summers, the coast and San Francisco can experience fog and cold. Mark Twain once wrote "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." He was surely exaggerating as Vermont winters trump it every time. But you get the picture. So Jamie wore her sundress. She was able to shed layers briefly and enjoy the warm coastal sun about 2 p.m.

Using Photoshop, I isolated the portion of the snapshot I wanted to use and enlarged it a bit so I could see Jamie's features. For the background, I took inspiration from the colors of the beautiful beach houses reflected in the water where the San Lorenzo River meets the sea. Here is the source photo.

I had a lovely time with my latest adventure in art. I need lots more practice on how to apply thicker paint and paint skin.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Painting with Opaque Acrylics on Canvas

"Jamie and Sky Compete"
9" x 12" acrylic on canvas

This is a thick application of acrylic paint on canvas, like painting with oils, my third attempt at painting in this manner in the past couple years. To achieve the color of Sky, I mixed a magenta and orange as I had no burnt sienna. For the Vermont grasses, I put down a base coat of Permanent Green Light mixed with Hanza Yellow. I came in with a feather brush and Cad Yellow Light to make the tall Vermont grasses. I went back in with a green and magenta mixture to suggest variations in the grass. The same color creates the trees and I added some touches of orange and yellow with the bristly end of a stiff brush. To create dust clouds at Sky's feet, I scrumbled Hanza Yellow with a touch of Ultamarine Blue into the canvas. Next I need to work on blending edges. It's fun to tackle a new medium and painting with thick opaque paints is very different from working with my beloved watercolor. Hallie suggested painting on Ampersand panels, so I am going to get some. I also want to try mixing media, such as watercolor and acrylic, or acrylic and pastel.

Jamie is my older granddaughter, now 16. This photo appears on a family calendar that her Mom made and is likely more than a year old. A few years ago Jamie really wanted a horse because she loves to train animals. She saw a handwritten ad for Sky, an Arabian-Quarter Horse mix, in the local hardware store. Sky was just two and half, very young for an inexperienced trainer to take on. However, Jamie's instructor evaluated the horse and agreed that Jamie could probably succeed. Sky is a sweet horse, and she has come along nicely. I believe she was about four in this picture.

Jamie pooled her money with sister Kelly and bought the horse for a very modest price. Later, Kelly was able to purchase her own horse and in fact, now owns two. The girls are not from a family that has grooms and stable hands, so they do the heavy lifting. Jamie also works at her instructor's horse farm to help pay expenses. Both girls enjoy training their horses and competing in Vermont horse shows.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Flute Player

"The Flute Player"
10" x 12" Acrylic

Yesterday, between making a few things for Thanksgiving with family, I started this painting in acrylic. Today we rode the tandem to pay for our gluttonous ways yesterday and then I finished this painting. I captured a reasonable likeness of granddaughter Kelly. This is acrylic done in watercolor style with impressionistic tendencies.

Wishing my blog friends a lovely Thanksgiving weekend doing your favorite forms of relaxation.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Preliminary Sketch

A Kelly Sketch
8" x 10" Acrylic

Kelly and Grandpa Bob practice the flute

This summer we had a wonderful treat -- my son Jeff's family came from Vermont to stay with us in California for a week. Kelly is the youngest at 14 and has so many interests. She and sister Jamie spend a lot of time caring for and showing their horses, and they both play sports. Kelly's flute playing has been largely set aside. However, she enjoys playing with Bob who is a very accomplished woodwind musician and a patient teacher. She surprised all of us and brought along her flute. The final day, she and Bob spent an hour playing together. I took several pictures of this heart-warming scene.

There's a nice story behind the dress Kelly is wearing. Her mom had been looking for a clever dress made up of much two-sided gauzy material that supposedly can be tied into 99 different styles. On the Web the prices were too high, but of all places, a tourist shop on Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey featured them for $12.99! The girls each bought one. Turns out that Jamie, the artist, is a pro at concocting outfits from this dress, and styled this one for Kelly. We were having an extended family barbecue that night and we women decided to wear summer dresses. Bob took time out from preparing the barbecue to play flute.

I've been wanting to paint more in acrylics, but I love my watercolors, so I seldom use them. I decided to begin experimenting with doing figures. I have a 1996 book by Barkley Sheaks, an early acrylic expert, in which he suggests painting on construction paper because it's very absorbent. Unable to locate my stash I decided to try pastel paper, which is obviously different and did not take the paint well. Good enough, though, for a first sketch. I concentrated on the figure, and now will work on an overall design. More shading is needed on the figure and the angle of Kelly's arms and the flute isn't quite right. After I complete one of Kelly by herself, I would like to do one that includes Bob, my favorite model. It will surely be titled "The Practice Session."

I have a great urge to abandon the acrylics and do a watercolor, but I intend to persevere and do an acrylic on watercolor paper. I may also do one in watercolor. Blog friend Hallie posted the most luscious acrylic on her blog. I want to do that!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Stormy Weather and a Successful Reception

"Les Trois Artistes"
Jeanne de Campos-Rousseau, Moi, Diana Henrichson

Bob awaits the crowd

The reception begins

Many people braved the stormy weather
and were blessed with rainbows

As we drove the winding highway over the coastal range to Santa Cruz, rain fell in buckets, making driving pretty unpleasant. I worried that not many people who planned to make the hour drive would brave the elements. Vino Primo is upstairs and you walk across an open, suspended walkway between the wine bar and a restaurant to enter. From my sailing days, I estimate about 40 knots of wind blasting us. So much for the careful hairdo! Later we lined the windows to view double rainbows.

Surprisingly, we had a wonderful turnout. People were treated to a glass of wine and appetizers as they browsed the art and chatted. I was delighted to sell three of my paintings during the reception. The first that sold was included in the official show:

"Franken Vine"
16" x 20"

I also sold two unframed pieces: "The Coast", which I've been asked to frame, and "Sunset Over Tuscany", along with a few cards.

One of my brothers lives on the coast, so he and his in-laws joined us, along with some friends, for dinner in Santa Cruz after the reception. We had torrential downpours and a lightening show, though its unusual here to experience electrical storms. Three gallant Bob's lined up on the windward side of the table near the entry door to protect us, where they managed to intercept most of the blown raindrops when people opened the door. We drove back home over storm-swept mountain roads.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Birthday Bouquet and Reception Coming Up

"Birthday Bouquet"
15" x 22"

Bob's daughter gave him a fascinating cut bouquet for his birthday on October 8. The twigs had small gourds in green and orange and looked so Fall festive. Jamie suggested that I might like to paint the bouquet. I started a few weeks ago, before heading off to Santa Fe and then leading a workshop. My Thursday night South Side Art Club was down to two of us painting at my home last night. I did quite a bit of work on this piece and then finished it up this afternoon (well, give me a few days of eyeballing it in passing and I will likely make adjustments). The setting is entirely imaginary, befitting a birthday boy.

If you are in the area, please join me for the reception on the Santa Cruz Wharf tomorrow between 2 and 6. There will be some nice art, three artists, good company, accompanied by appetizers and wine. You will be treated to million dollar views from Vino Prima.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"Les Trois Artistes" Reception on Saturday

"A Study in Black and White" (charcoal)
"Red Peppers and Pitcher" (pastel)
"Georgia O'Keefe's Mountain" (watercolor)
"Rain in the Fjords" (watercolor)

"The Coast" (watercolor)
"Memories of Ghost Ranch, NM" (watercolor)

"Matinee Memories" (watercolor)
"Villa Montalvo Gardens" (watercolor)

"Sunset over Tuscany" (acrylic)
"Dancing Poppies" (mixed media collage)

Some of the Matted Original Art for the Show

After coordinating the Frank Webb workshop, I immediately turned my attention to the ongoing "Les Trois Artistes" show on Santa Cruz Wharf. You can read about the show here. Because of a number of circumstances, we decided to have our reception on November 20. I've been organizing greeting cards, Bob cut mats, and I prepared the matted art in crystal bags for the canvas bin I will place there Saturday. I have a limited number of pieces hung, and I wanted additional recent art to display as many of my guests have attended previous shows. I selected a variety of pieces in different media. I even have one charcoal.

If you live in the area, please stop by our reception. You can make a day of it in Santa Cruz.

Vino Prima Wine Bar
Towards the far end of Santa Cruz Wharf
Saturday, November 20, 2 to 6

Monday, November 15, 2010

Back to Monday Drawing Class

"Persimmons Please"
14" x 12"

A week in New Mexico followed by a week coordinating the Frank Webb workshop equals no drawing class. I like my drawing class with Bob Semans on Monday morning. I had an "I Love Lucy" kind of morning, if you get my drift. Out of my usual rhythm, I traveled to the class 16 miles away by bicycle and light rail. I leave myself time to have coffee at McDonalds. I ordered coffee and then I could not find my wallet. I was sure I had put it in the pannier on the bike and was afraid that it had somehow fallen from the bag, so I retraced my steps to the light rail station a couple miles away. No wallet. I had left my phone in my gym clothes and I had no money, so I couldn't call Bob to check for it at home. I decided to return home where I found the wallet on the kitchen shelf. Oh yes, now I remembered that I loaded it into the pannier then decided to take it out to put together my fare for light rail. The various scenarios of calling to cancel credit card and bank card companies faded.

It was now an hour after class had begun, and I was determined to go to class, so I transferred art supplies to the car and drove. Bob was real impressed that I made it in spite of myself. There was a table set up with 5 still life arrangements and people all around it, some that I had not previously met. I found a chair, which happened to be closest to this still life. Unfortunately, I had to mentally move the fruit in front of the porcelain pot. The still life would have been perfect from the other side of the table. When Bob came and sat in my place, he had me move the fruit as no one else was doing this setup. That helped me see that I had to rework shadows on the red persimmon just a bit. Bob liked what I had done (yippy!). After just an hour of work, I was satisfied that I had done some drawing. I had lunch with friend Susan from class and returned home, where I applied a bit more pastel.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Frank Webb Workshop: Day 5: The Calligraphic Mark

"Dining Italian Style"
11" x 14"
"Life above the Elevated"
11" x 14"

Calligraphic marks in watercolor was the painting approach of the day. I will probably use this approach rarely, but I have used it before on sketches. Here is Frank's demo. He first did wet-in-wet washes, leaving his white area alone. Of course the paint diffuses and mixes quickly, so he used a hair dryer to stop the flow and dry the paper for the next step. Using various flats and rounds he applied the calligraphic marks. He says it's important to leave open areas and not close off structures entirely. His finished painting is playful.

Frank Webb's harbor scene

I met with Frank and showed him the sketch I did from our room in Chicago looking down on a small section of the elevated train amidst the buildings in the area of the Loop. He liked the painting, made some suggestions on the design for varying the shapes and marks. I wasn't too happy with this painting. I felt I put in too many marks, and Frank suggested that fewer on the buildings would be better. He also noted that my design had more variation in the size of the buildings; my painting has buildings of similar widths.

I had about 40 minutes until until critique and I wasn't happy with my cityscape, so I grabbed a black and white printout of a street in Portovenere, Italy. Of course, after 5 days of learning how important design is, I skipped that step because painting is more fun, and besides everyone was going to see whatever I painted during critique. The upshot is I went oh oh, I almost forgot to preserve some whites and of course, the best place would have been on the awnings. Frank loved the calligraphic marks, but noted that my white "felony" could be reduced to the lesser degree of a misdemeanor by shading a bit of the right corner. Also, surrounding the right canopy with greenery (which it was in the photo) is bad design. I should have left a break in the greenery. Of course, nature doesn't make good designs, artists do.

I intend to make myself a little checklist for reviewing my designs -- variation and overlapping shapes are especially important for me to remember.

Also, I made notes of many art quotes that Frank gave us throughout the five days.
"Art is man-made order."
"We restore the disunity of nature to unity."
"Art is pleasure objectified." (George Santiano)
"We are shape improvers."
"Beauty is the quality that emerges from the deliberate relationship of the parts to the whole."

He shared much more wisdom with us that I didn't capture even though I am a prolific note-taker, as you can tell. I learn through writing, even if I never look at my notes again.

Frank again commented that this was the best organized workshop he has ever done. The Society has many years of workshop experience and those of us who worked on this one have inherited the wisdom and processes.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Frank Webb Workshop Days 3 and 4: Painting Patches and Drizzling Paint

"Memories of Ghost Ranch"
15" x 22"

Frank Webb's demo: Mixing Color on the paper
Sugar House
Arlington, VT

Frank has demoed a unique approach to watercolor each day. Let's start with Day 4, as I felt more successful. Frank calls this drizzling paint on the paper. He told us to bring a table easel or he would show us how to use a folding chair. I like an easel and have had one at the workshop all week. We would be placing our paper at a 60 to 70 degree angle. I usually work on an angle, usually about 45 degrees.

Frank first laid the board flat and put on a cool blue wash, making sure it was plenty wet and painting around his whites. Then he placed the board on the easel and brushed on other colors. At this point he dried the underpainting so he could continue. From there he worked on various sections, mixing the colors on his paper, not on the pallete. I could especially relate to this painting as I grew up in Vermont and I'm familiar with Arlington, the long-time home of Norman Rockwell who painted his neighbors.

I am still feeling inspired by my visit to New Mexico in the past few weeks, so I referenced several photos and created a design. The cliffs are reminiscent of Ghost Ranch and Georgia O'Keefe, as is the dead Pinon tree in the foreground. I totally made up the pueblo-style home, and made vegetation in keeping with that desert area. I then met with Frank to review my 4" x 6" sketch with value patterns. He made a few suggestions in which I enlarged the house to get better overlap with the trees. I had envisioned the cliffs at a distance from the house, but Frank said cliffs rising right behind the building would be much more effective. I am so impressed how each day he meets personally with each of us to discuss our design.

Frank emphasizes saving our whites, but I felt the cliff was too large a blank to leave totally white, so I modeled it in very light washes to suggest white. I worried that Frank might say I had committed a venial sin, but he totally liked this painting and deemed it very successful. He noted my whites in the cliff and the left side of the house. I felt like I had gotten an A for the day.

'Taos Pueblo, New Mexico"
15" x 22"

Frank Webb's demo painting: Patches of color
Spanish church south of Phoenix, AZ

The demo on Day 3 emphasized painting patches of color. Frank said this is a real good exercise for learning to keep the values the same using multiple colors. He talked about warm and cool colors as he did his demo. What strikes me about his painting is how fresh and painterly it appears. The key is to lay the colors down and gently blend them by touching the edge of the previous color.

I decided to work up a design using photos I took in 2008 while visiting the Taos Pueblo, one of the most intact pueblos in the US. However, I had none in the configuration or the orientation I wanted. The wall is an entry to the Catholic Church in the pueblo, and I wanted it in the foregrounds. So I managed to draw pueblo buildings and the wall at angles so I could play up the light and shadow areas.

Frank did not mention any errors, but I know that I did not achieve the same degree of freshness as he did because I put my brush back into some of the patches. Paint to water ratio is key to success. I like the composition and want to try it in a Day 4 or a Day 1 (layers with mother color) technique. Perhaps I'll even do patches again. Patches was an excellent exercise on values.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Frank Webb Workshop Day 2: Painting Wet-Into-Wet

Frank Webb demos Wet-into-Wet technique"

I'm a day behind in describing the workshop. I just came from a lovely dinner with Frank and some of the workshop participants. We take the instructor out one night and attendees are welcome to join us for a no host dinner. We had a very nice visit.

Frank's Day 2 demo was Wet-into-Wet. I had hoped to do a Southwestern scene, but I felt that a wet technique lent itself to foliage, so I again did sunflowers and a French farm in the Dordogne. The photo is cutting off a bit of the left side. When we met to review my design, Frank a suggested a change to the mountain for a more effective sky shape. I had a second mountain on the left. At critique, Frank noted that the the three cypress trees were of similar size and intervals, a no no. I know that -- when will this consideration become automatic? He also would prefer more overlap of the two buildings. The rest of the painting passed muster. Frank does a great job emphasizing design principles.

Frank has an interesting perspective on making a living with art. He doesn't believe that it is realistic for most people; of course, there are exceptions. He says most full-time artists either are wealthy or have a spouse who provides some support. Frank attended art school on the GI bill and started his own advertising design company. He worked with many major companies, especially the steel industry in the Pittsburg area where he lives. In the 70s, he attended 10 summer sessions with Ed Whitney in Maine. After 30 years, in the 1980s, he gave his company to his employees and focused on his art. Read his biography of art accomplishments here. Frank is a warm, humorous, and very well-spoken instructor. It's obvious that he loves to teach. Now in his 80s, he still teaches about 17 workshops a year. Frank's story is similar to that of other well-known artists who teach. Mel Stabin was in advertising design in NYC. Tony Couch flew commercial aircraft for a major airline. (He told us about describing his vacation with Ed Whitney doing art to his fellow pilots. They looked at him like he was from Mars.) Gerald Brommer taught high school and wrote a lot books.

Tomorrow I will recap both Day 3 and Day 4.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Frank Webb Workshop Day 1: Using a Mother Color

"Sunflowers in the Dordogne"
15 x 22

Frank Webb discusses design
(His painting is visible in the overhead mirror)

One of the best things about being a volunteer on the workshop committee of Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society is meeting some of the best and most well known watermedia artists. When I first started doing watercolors in the 90s, I was especially taken by the artists who had studied with Ed Whitney. I took books out of the library and especially enjoyed one by Frank Webb.

Yesterday I hosted the open demo, free to anyone who wishes to attend. You need not be a member of the society. Frank proved to be charming, witty, and very clear in conveying his thoughts on design. The airlines had mis-tagged his luggage containing paints and other supplies, and sent them to a remote Texas town, so we were into improvising. I provided a board and full sheet of Arches paper. What to do about a palette? Frank likes one without a barrier between the well and the mixing area and I had the more common design. I suggested my turkey platter and that's what he chose to use from several options I presented. I brought my paints and took him to the art store before the demo to buy a tube of Quinacidone Gold. We all had a good chuckle when I explained the unusual palette to demo attendees. His supplies were waiting at the hotel when he returned after the demo.

Today we began a 5-day workshop and I was very busy opening the facility at 8, getting hospitality food and coffee ready, and starting the workshop on time. I was flattered when Frank said that we were the most efficient and organized leaders he had had. I suppose he says that to "all the girls (or boys)," but it warmed my heart. Those 30 years of IBM project management pays off, and I have equally skilled managers working with me.

Here is the workshop synopsis in Frank's own words, "The single, most important focus will be pictorial design, which includes planning, color, tonal values, expression and visual theme." Frank told us he would demonstrate different approaches to creating a successful painting. Today he used a very wet wash to lay down a "Mother Color" (Quinacridone Gold) over all of the paper except where he wanted to preserve the white. This painting focused on shapes, and did not have a great deal of modeling. Frank is not interested in exact reproduction, but rather in creating a pleasing design. He built the structure in layers. Putting in the darkest darks and some calligraphy last.

Frank first gave a demo, all the while discussing overlapping shapes, variation, harmony, repetition and most of all value. He says you can use any color, but the values must read correctly. Frank always works from small sketches he's done on location or from memory using a 6B graphite pencil. He divides the picture in 4 values - white, plus light, medium, and dark. The mid-tone values are what holds the pictures together, so there will be more of them. He grids his sketch and his support, then he does freehand drawing from the sketch. While painting, he frequently refers to the sketch for value choices.

The rest of the day, we designed and painted. During the final hour, we had critique. Frank has a wonderful approach to providing individual instruction. He has people sign up to review their designs with him. I chose to paint a farm in the south of France amidst sunflower fields. My references were a painting done while on an art vacation and two photos. He liked the design, but made a few suggestions, including adding the vertical tree in front of the smaller building and a path into the farm area. He liked where I was saving whites and suggested I do the same along the top of the sunflowers. Along the way, I failed to keep the whites of the sunflower tops, duly noted in the critique. Frank says to leave mostly white and introduce touches of yellow to suggest the flowers. The other criticism was the shape of my mountain. Rarely do mountains have a concave section like I drew on the left, they are usually convex. Mental notes to self on both items. Frank was quite complimentary as a whole on this painting.

I felt that I was working so hard to use non-standard color and correct value that I lost the sense of place. This scene conjures up memories of lots of yellow, bright sunshine, hazy hills, and lovely French architecture. I believe it's a fairly strong painting, but it's not true to my memories. Perhaps I will redo it sometime in higher key colors and I will keep that white along the tops of the sunflowers.

I also reviewed with him a small watercolor sketch done from our room on the Sognefjord in Norway. The link takes you to it. Frank really liked the painting and made a few small suggestions to strengthen the design. I want to do this one during the workshop on a half sheet.

The third painting we discussed was one I did in Tuscany on an art vacation.
"Mazzola, Italy"
11 x 14

Frank liked this painting just as it is, so I will repaint only if I decide to do it on a larger sheet of paper.

Tomorrow I hope to do a Southwestern scene recalling our visit to New Mexico.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Frank Webb Workshop and a Report on the Post-Impressionist Show

"Birthday Gourds"
In progress

Will the real birthday gourds please stand up?

As I sign off for a bit to coordinate a demo tomorrow and a 5-day workshop featuring Frank Webb, I leave you with a work in progress. Bob's daughter Jamie gave him a wonderful and unusual cut bouquet for his birthday in October. The fruit looks like little pumpkins, most in a bright red-orange, but some still in their lime green phase. These colors are Jamie's favorites and were featured in her beautiful wedding last year, so the gift is extra special. We were tickled pink (as they say in New England) so I photographed them on the dining table. Before leaving for Santa Fe, I took one branch to my Thursday night art group and drew a composition free-hand on my watercolor paper. Last night I hosted the Thursday night bunch and began the painting.

Now I will set the painting aside until after the workshop. I've been busy coordinating with the artist, helpers, and attendees; shopping for hospitality food; making badges; and arranging accommodations.

Let me take a few minutes to recap the Post-Impressionist show from the Musee d'Orsay on loan to the de Young Museum in the city. My drawing class took a field trip the day before we left for New Mexico. We had a wonderful time viewing pieces by Van Gogh, Degas, Cezanne, Gaugain, and beyond. Let me say that "Starry Night" looked just as vibrant as when I saw it in Paris. After feasting on the masters, we enjoyed the semi-outdoor seating at the museum cafe. Here is a picture of instructor Bob Semans fittingly seated beneath a Van Gogh self-portrait.
Robert Semans

Bob is a wonderful drawing instructor and has made his living doing commissioned portraits for many years.

Here is the view from the top of the de Young:

View from the top of the de Young Museum
toward Golden Gate Bridge

We had a wonderful day shared with fellow artists and some spouses.

I'm sure I will have much to report about Frank Webb, a watercolorist who has had a fabulous career.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Georgia O'Keefe's Mountain

"Georgia O'Keefe's Mountain"
The Perdenal
Ghost Ranch, NM

Georgia O'Keeefe said God told her she could have this mountain if she painted it enough times. Friday we drove north to Abiquiu and on to Ghost Ranch. There we took the O'Keefe Landscape Tour on a clear sunny day. We stopped at a number of places that inspired her work. We passed her summer home on the ranch where the view from her front yard was of the Perdenal. As we drove away from the ranch, I took a photo of the Perdenal fronted by beautiful fall colors.

I ended up with a shape painting with my simple Koi set and water brush. The grey shapes represent the sage. There were layers of color with the pale green grass in the front. The mountain looked almost black in the distance.

This morning we visited the O'Keefe Museum which had a lovely display of her landscape, bones, and abstract paintings, some inspired by the places we toured. We attended a continental breakfast and gallery talk by the chair of the Art Department at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Driving the RioGrande in New Mexico

"Driving the Rio Grande"
South of Taos, NM
Bob's Photo from the Car

Yesterday we did the Taos loop from Sante Fe. On the way to Taos, we traveled on the High Road through snow-capped mountains and the colorful trees. I will likely paint at least one of those scenes later. We stopped at a great, funky little cafe in an old theater, Sugar Nymphs Bistro, and they delivered on their promise -- fresh pies, cobbler, and cookies arrived on top of the counter while we dined on very fine Southwestern cuisine. Bob could not resist the chocolate, maple pecan pie with ice cream. I had to have a couple bites and it was yummy.

We drove the River Road along the Rio Grande where we were treated to brilliant fall colors against muted grey sages and sparse flora on rugged mountains. This morning between breakfast and a Georgia O,Keefe landscape tour, I referenced Bob,s photo taken from the car at a dirt pullout to paint this scene using my tiny Koi pan paints and water brush.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday Pomegranate and Plums

"Pomegranate and Plums"
13" x 16"

We did a still life today using fresh fruit and a pretty, small white porcelain bowl. Bob set the table in the middle of us to have more room, but that meant that the setup was less than ideal. The plum was right next to the bowl so I artistically moved it over in my drawing. I eliminated the second pomegranate that just stuck up behind the bowl. Bob stated midway through that he now realized the bowl was rather small for the size of the pomegranate. I struggled with getting the right color and value for the background. As always, this is partially done as there just isn't time to do a completed piece on a Monday morning.

Tomorrow our group is going on a field trip to the De Young Museum in San Francisco to see "Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne, and Beyond, Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the Musee D'Orsay." This is very exciting. We saw the Pre-Impressionist Masterpieces, which included Whistler's Mother among the famous works of arts loaned during a remodel of the D'Orsay. That trip was in early June. Our wonderful artist, Bob Semans, gave us commentary about the works. We get to bring guests if we like, so my Bob is going with us this time.

Then we install the house sitter and visit Santa Fe and Georgia O'Keefe country for 6 days.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Playful Poppies and an Art Show Report

"Dancing Poppies"
11" x 14"
Watercolor and Collage
***See addendum***

This past week I decided to experiment with my favorite California wild flowers, Poppies. However, I was not happy with the intermediate stage and got bogged down. So I thought about Gerald Brommer and collage and decided to cut out some of the Poppies and tear up parts of the half-done background. I arranged the pieces on 300 lb. Arches watercolor paper until I found a harmonious arrangement. I used gel mat medium to glue the pieces to the backing. I need to let this one simmer a while to decide if I want to do any more to this piece.

The Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society Members Show hosted the reception at Rose Shenson Gallery at the Triton Museum in Santa Clara on Sunday. As we left church that day, the skies opened up with the first real rain of the season. I don't believe we've had rain since May. The reception is always outside the gallery, so I wondered how Janice Faulstich and her helpers would pull this one off. They did so beautifully and we had a huge crowd attending. They used portable covers over the deck of the gallery where the food was layed out and over the rows of seats set up for the awards ceremony. I really could not get a good look at the show with so many people and must return. Award winners included friends Myrna Wacknov (second place) and Jeanne de Campos-Rousseau (sponsors award). Jeanne is my fellow exhibitor in Santa Cruz. At the moment our SCVWS website has not yet posted the winners.

An invitation via Facebook resulted in a fortuitous intersection between my bicycle riding life and my art life. One of the women in my bike club replied that she would be leading a ride in the area and they would stop by. Sure enough, when I arrived a bit after the start of the reception, there were my cycling guests with mud trailing up the back of their day-glo green jackets. These hardy souls rode in the rain and made good on Joanne's promise. They enjoyed the art, used the facilities, skipped the buffet line, and went on their way. They made my day!

Addendum: Originally I titled this work "Playful Poppies," but Kathy Cartwright, a superb artist, said they were dancing. I loved the description so much, I've retitled the work. Check out Kathy's wonderful blog and her website.