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.