Saturday, July 31, 2010

Tom Fong Workshop: More Fast, Loose, and Wet

"Fjord Country"
20" x 15"

Tom Fong's Painting of
Yosemite and the Merced River

As a member of the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society's Workshop Committee, I book and coordinate workshops by some of the best watermedia artists in the USA. One of our attendees who belongs to several art associations in the Bay Area says we have absolutely the best workshops. This week I assisted Jeanne de Campos Rousseau with a 3-day workshop taught by Tom Fong. Check out their websites. I love working with Jeannie; I will be showing my work on the Santa Cruz Wharf in October and November with Jeanne and another local artist.

Tom is a spontaneous and direct painter. Most of the time he attacks the paper without drawing his subject, working intuitively, wet on wet. Yesterday, on the second day of the workshop, he showed us how he might occasionally draw a few lines with his brush before he begins. I dutifully tried that method and sank into a deep hole -- Tom said I was being too careful. Seems that the minute I get some lines, I am suddenly cautious. So I threw the piece aside, grabbed another half sheet of Arches and did the painting of the fjords in Norway where I visited in late June. This time I wet the paper and painted with abandon with lots of paint and little water. By critique time at 3 p.m. I was close to completion. Tom blessed the painting as quite successful and suggested the weeds in the front, to connect foreground and middle ground, and the trees on the steep ridge for variety. I will never know if I would have thought of those design elements if I had contemplated how to finish on my own. One criticism -- next time vary the size of the trees (Momma, Papa, Baby). I like this painting and had nice comments from Kay Duffy, a fellow attendee who teaches watercolor classes at Hakone Gardens.

Tom's demo painting was done this afternoon in about 25 minutes. He makes good use of straight edge razor blades. He got the texture in the cliffs by dragging the razor over dry paper before he wet it and began painting. he also dragged the razor horizontally beneath the cliffs to recapture the whites. Notice Tom's use of contrast -- lights and darks, warm and cool colors, smooth and rough textures.

We completed the workshop today. Tomorrow I will write a bit more about the experience.

Tom Fong Workshop - Fast and Loose

"The Coast"
15" x 20"

15" x 20"

I helping with coordination on the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society 3-day Tom Fong workshop. Tom works loose, wet-into-wet, without drawing, and without a lot of planning.Tom judged both of these as quite successful. We have one more day. This comes on the heels of a visit from my son's family from Vermont. Very busy, very fun.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Remembering Norway

"Remembering Norway"
11" x 14"

The Oseberg Burial Ship was unearthed in 1904 and came from an 834 A.D. Viking burial mound. The ship dates to 800 A.D. We saw this ship at the Viking Ships Museum on the island of Bygdoy, near Oslo, Norway. While traveling on a bus, I did a small drawing that I discussed in an earlier post. On the same visit, I took a photo of a finely carved wagon found in the ship.

The carvings at the top of the painting came from this wagon. I was amazed at the beauty of the work done so many centuries ago. I love the stylized animals. The woodcarving tradition is alive and well today in Norway. We visited an aquarium with a display of carvings of local scenes from 1900 to the 1950s and a gorgeous room in the Kvikne Hotel decorated with furniture and trim done by a modern master carver.

When we stayed in Balestrand on the fjords, I did a couple watercolor sketches of my wonderful view from the small hotel there. You can see the painting that inspired the fjord representation in this painting. The design of this painting is very personal, recalling my thoughts when I was on the fjords. I could imagine the Oseberg sailing the Sonjefyord and feel the texture of the carvings on the prow of the ship and on the wagon. I chose a double analgous color scheme of blue to violet and yellow to yellow orange rather than using local color.

I had a difficult time photographing this painting, so it's a bit off kilter.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Teen Years

"The Teen Years"
11" x 14"

This painting is a result of our last trip to the East Coast in May when we stayed for a time with my son's family. The granddaughters are now teens, and suddenly my son was bemoaning the loss of time with the girls as they engage in horse shows, theater, soccer, track, and school events; and Jamie acquired both a boyfriend and her license. They are wonderful girls and we are very proud of them.

Among the photos Bob took while in North Danville, Vermont, was one on the sun porch where you enter the 1930's Dutch colonial home at Millbrook Farm. Beth, a woodworker extraordinaire, had built this shelf with hooks that comes in handy, as you can see. I was very taken with how this little nook tells the story of the teen years. The horseshoes and halter are an important part of the girl's daily life with horses Sky, Free, and Spirit. The parasols are from Kelly's theater roles. The Biology book speaks volumes about the two who are top honor students. The photo did not contain the keys or the soccer ball, but could have, so they joined the detritus of daily life. Jamie is a dedicated soccer player, on both school and club teams, and now drives herself to various commitments.

I added some shadows and some soft washes to pull the piece together. I started this piece before I left for Scandinavia. Thanks to my Thursday night art group, I pushed forward, and put the finishing touches on it this afternoon.

Monday, July 12, 2010

First Monday Pastel Since Returning Home

"Cooking Light"
16" x 12"

We arrived home from Helsinki via New York City last Thursday evening. We are still somewhat jet lagged with the 10-hour time difference. This morning I used my bicycle and light rail to attend my weekly drawing class.

Bob brought in an old colander that originally was copper, but was now mostly steel grey with bits of the copper showing. He also had some fresh onions, which really are fun to draw in pastels. We've decided that we will use the same objects next week with a different orientation on the colander.

I hope to soon visit the many blogs of friends. Still catching up and getting back into the swing of daily life.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Playful Art from Helsinki, Finland

"Market Square in Helsinki"
Watercolor and ink sketch

This playful sketch attempts to capture the busy and colorful Market Square at the port in Helsinki. The daily market features tourist trinkets, fresh local produce, and food stands with ethnic dishes to tempt the hoards of tourists that exit the cruise ships and ferries from Estonia and Sweden. Ferries and tour boats head out to the islands dotting the port. The Esplanade pedestrian area begins here and we were treated to a free jazz concert there yesterday. We are staying on a major summer special at the Scandi Grand Marina Hotel.

Using a simple 6.80 Euro day pass on local transit, we visited the World Heritage site of Suomenlinna Fortess via city ferry. We also took Tram 3T with an accompanying printed tour guide to view the major sites around the city. Of course, you can pay much more and be officially escorted, but we are seasoned "Europe through the Back Door " tourists who have traveled for years using Rick Steves' philosophy espoused in his books and PBS programs.

Our tour is coming to an end. We leave shortly for the airport and fly Finn Air on our American Airline miles to NYC. Tomorrow we will arrive home where we will savor our many memories of the Scandinavian and Nordic countries we have visited and the people who have shown us much kindness.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Room with a View 3: The Cathedral in Tallin, Estonia

"Aleksander Nevski Katedraal"
Old Town, Tallin, Estonia

This is the view from our windows on the third floof of Hotel Barons. The cathedral was built in the early 20th century by the Russians living in Estonia. I love the onion domes, the multiple crosses, and the framing by rooftops across our narrow street, Suur-Karja. Bob and I climbed up to see the cathedral yesterday after arriving by overnight ferry from Stockholm. The Old Town section of Estonia has been lovingly restored since the country gained independence from the USSR in 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union. The area is, of course, a picture postcard and filled during the day with large tour groups from cruise ships, great for the local economy.

The city was a medieval stronghold of the Baltic trading world, and the old town section within a city wall with 26 intact watch towers is the best preserved Nordic city from that time. It's our first visit to a Baltic country and one formerly under Soviet rule.

Today we took a 14K tour by bicycle with a local bike shop. We had an enjoyable 2 hours touring outside Old Town. We got to see neighborhoods, the beach filled with local families on this amazingly clear and very warm day, Peter the
Great's Estonian palace and gardens, the President's home, museums, monuments, and the 1980 Olympics sailing center. The area appears prosperous, and there are many large opens spaces and parks, a very liveable city.

Later we took the local tram and visited the Kumu Art Museum, completed in 2006, and is truly a beautiful building. It was interesting to see the art collections from three distinct periods of Estonian history: before WWII, the Soviet era, and recent modern art. Unfortunately, not much remains of the art prior to the last century and the collection was largely destroyed during WWII.

Tomorrow we take the 2-hour express boat to Helsinki, Finland for the final few days of our grand tour of Scandinavia. Happily all the complex bookings I made worked beautifully, and the one error I made worked out well. The Internet is an amazing way to book your own self-tour.