Tuesday, January 26, 2010

California Poppies

"California Poppies on the Fault Line"
14" x 21"
Watercolor on Paper

Today I completed a challenge from Betsy Dillard Stroud's "Painting from the Inside Out." Betsy's instructions were to draw a floral and then draw geometric shapes over it. I used my little Japanese brush pen that holds water in the handle and new gamboge to draw the image. Select a limited palette and start by painting some grays mixed on the paper around the shapes. I used Pthalo Blue, New Gamboge, and Alizarin Crimson.

Alternate warm and cool, light and dark colors.

Unfortunately, I can't quite replicate the colors here. The lower right rectangle looks green here and is more grey on the paper. I thought about how Peggy Stermer-Cox has such a fine sense of design and magnificent use of color in her pieces with strong geometric and organic shapes, the result of many hours of artistic work. Peggy is very inspirational to me. I'm glad I took the progress pictures, because I would like to create another painting and keep the greys light as shown above.

I just saw a powerful painting related to the Haitian earthquakes on Hallie Farber's blog. Check it out along with the comments. I spent time in Haiti in 1985 and was impressed by the strength of the people in an impoverished land. Living in earthquake country, my primal fears are stirred by such events, along with my compassion for the people. While Hallie expresses her emotions so strongly in her piece, I retreat to California Poppies. The fractured look of my painting reflects my thoughts.

Lastly, I want to thank Pam for her mention of my blog on her blog. Pam is very articulate and her art has simplicity, beauty, and depth, along with frequent humor. Come join the fun of following Pam's creative path.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Pastel of Susan in Monday Drawing Class

"My Friend Susan"
12" x 16"

Susan is a dear friend that I met through my Monday morning drawing class about three years ago. Today Susan was a little tired and didn't feel like drawing our ice skate still life, so she offered to pose for us. I had fun drawing her, but then I was a bit timid with the color. Bob showed me to use more chroma, and he quickly pulled some color across the planes of the face in a raw sienna for the lights and burnt sienna for the mid-tone values on the face. Who would have thought. So after I got that help I was able to continue developing the piece. Pastel is all so new for me. Great fun with friends!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Another Matisse - Or Perhaps a Gauguin

"Yellow Shoes"
22" x 30"
Acrylic on Paper

Last October I was one of the coordinators for a Betsy Dillard Stroud workshop. We had live models and this lovely young Asian woman came prepared with costumes. We loved her retro shoes. We had 20 minutes to capture her using a brush to draw her on the paper. The next day we were given the exercise to do a Matisse painting. At the time I did one of Jane Ferguson, a wonderful artist in our society. I really liked the results that you can see here.

We've been battered all week with wild wind and rain, so I hunkered down yesterday and pulled out the drawing, wanting to do another Matisse style painting. The greenery, the patterns, and the organic shapes mimic Matisse. I put a few finishing touches on the piece this morning. As I was nearing the finish, I began to think the piece looked more like Gauguin because the model has an exotic look. Somehow, life drawings are difficult to make into anything but what they are. The poses look very static. I'm lukewarm on this piece.

I am planning to do Silicon Valley Open Studios and registration closed mid-January. There will be three of us this year at my home. I was notified yesterday that my new pieces are now on my personal SVOS page. Each artist can display three. You can see them here. They've all been posted in 2009 on the blog.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Granddaughter Jamie's art and a souce of Tyvek

Art by Jamie Cyr

Jamie is my 15-year old granddaughter who lives in a tiny Vermont town. The public schools in Vermont always rank near the top of the 50 states, and they offer more than core subjects. Jamie is taking art this year, and she has always done art since she was a tiny child. I was so impressed when my son sent me these pictures of her art and wanted to share them with my blog friends. I could not crop the top piece as it was done at an angle, but you can appreciate her creativity.

I also have a source where you can order Tyvek if you want to give it a try as a support for watermedia. I learned about Tyvek from Myrna Wacknov who is a fearless experimenter. Myrna buys in large quantities and will sell large pieces at cost to anyone requesting them. However, a friend was able to locate a source online. The sheets are not as large, but they are a very good price and you can get low quantities. Check out www.allweatherblueprints.com/tyvek-sheets-printing.html

Myrna prefers to paint with Dr. Martin's Hydrus Liquid Watercolors because they have concentrated color. Tube watercolors work too, but fresh squeeze them. I have also used tube acrylic watered down. I definitely think the liquid watercolors is the way to go and I have some on order from Art Supply Warehouse.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Myrna's Workshop, Installment 2

"Quiet Beauty"
Profile painting
14" x 19"
Watercolor on Tyvek

"Baby Bob"
Child portrait
14" x 16"
Watercolor on paper

We completed our 5-day workshop today. I believe I made some progress. Of course, drawing is all about seeing, and in the case of portraits, about knowing structure so you can apply what you know.

"Quiet Beauty" was my profile portrait. Myrna pointed out ways to check relationships, and also talked about eye structure. I always wonder how many times I have to be told these things before they become a part of what I know. I chose to do this piece on Tyvek. We had critique at 3:00 and it was fun to see the results of our work. I was pleased when Myrna said she thought this was the best drawing she had seen me do, and over the past couple of years, she's seen quite a few. Myrna created a slide show of profile paintings.

Today, Myrna's morning demo focused on painting small children. They are born with adult-sized eyes, but the rest of the facial structure is infantile, so feature placement is different. There is more forehead above the eyes. She also pointed out that light, transparent colors say child. Children are very rosy, so she used lots of rose on her painting. When doing the eyes, do not close the bottom lid with a line. She works quite wet on watercolor paper to achieve softness. I chose to paint Bob as a baby. The photo is part of a collage of family photos that include Bob and his two daughters, when each were 18 months old.

Myrna said I had done a great job on the drawing. She suggested a better approach to adding the shadow colors on the lower face. She glazes single colors in layers rather than mixing the shadow color on the palette. I want to paint this piece again, but I want to create a full sheet with Bob and his two girls from the family photos. I am always struck by the distinctive shape of their mouths and full cheeks. I will work on a design. You can compare baby Bob to grown up Bob here , done in profile.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Myrna Wacknov Workshop

"Myrna's Friend Linda"
Watercolor on gessoed watercolor paper
14" x 18"

"Myrna's Friend Linda"
Watercolor on Tyvek
14" x 18"

"Myrna's Friend Linda"
10" x 16"
Watercolor on Tyvek

Myrna Wacknov
is teaching her Beginning Portraits class for the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society. If you like to do people and you enjoy Myrna's experimental approach to watercolor, take this class if you have the opportunity. Being raised in New England, there is a touch of the Puritanical upbringing that says it's sinful to have this much fun!

If you follow Myrna's blog, you will recognize Linda as one of Myrna's images. I painted Linda because Myrna likes my image of the Egg Lady, an old woman we saw in France. Most juried shows do not allow a piece of work done in a workshop under supervision, and Myrna did not want me to waste my image in class. She told me to practice the techniques and then do the Egg Lady. Thus I painted this image with Myrna's permission.

Myrna began the class by stating this workshop is more about drawing and less about painting, though we got to paint quite a bit. The first day was spent creatively learning about the proportions of a human face and how to design our painting. As Myrna pointed out, the photo is the reference, but you do not just reproduce the painting. You must apply design principles. She had us do 3 thumbnail sketches with different value patterns. She really liked my pattern that used rim light. Myrna saves pictures from magazines and newspapers that have interesting value patterns, so she pulled out a photo that used rim lighting and pointed out that the features were all visible, but the background was dark and the person was lit with a halo effect.

Next we cut our paper to size, ensuring it was proportionally larger by using a method Myrna demonstrated, that I had learned in Arne Westerman's workshop several years ago. Next we cut tracing paper to size, allowing for the space a mat would cover, and drew our image on the tracing paper using a simplified grid method. Basically we folded the paper lengthwise and crosswise so we had the midpoints in each direction. This makes it easier to achieve placement and correct proportions. Then Myrna showed us her method of transfer which she believes she invented. We turned the tracing paper over and traced over the lines with a turquoise blue watercolor crayon. We turned our tracing paper back to the drawing side, taped it over our support, and used a mechanical pencil to transfer the lines. Myrna does not like using carbon paper for this application because it can leave residue on the support. Watercolor crayon dissolves as you paint, and the blue is nice if any of it remains.

Myrna likes to paint on different surfaces. My first painting is done on watercolor paper that I gessoed. You can even cover over failed paintings and reuse your paper. (Just think how excited future art critics will be when they discover a second image underneath your Mona Lisa). I had not used this surface before and I really enjoyed the way you can apply paint and lift paint, and the wonderful painterly surface you can achieve. This is a wonderful tactile experience, and I had the feeling of sculpting my painting.

Myrna also paints on Tyvek. I'm not sure how she got started with this paper. It's the same stuff they wrap new homes in minus the writing. Art stores used to carry it, but no longer in our area. It's used by printers. Thus Myrna buys a bundle of 500 sheets at a time and freely sells them to others at $2 a sheet. However, a friend found a place where you can get 25 sheets. More one that tomorrow. The Tyvek has a very plastic surface and there are wonderful threads running all through it, so the resulting painting has great texture. Last year I bought some Tyvek from Myrna and have painted a few pieces on it, but I have little experience. This time I chose a standard lighting pattern, with a single light source from the left. I used a limited palette of Hansa Yellow, Ultramarine Blue, Magenta and Diozanine Purple. Myrna says using limited palette guarantees harmony. Myrna prefers to use Dr. Martin's Hydrus fluid watercolors, but I mostly had to use standard watercolor. She advised that tube watercolors must be fresh squeezed.

By now, it was mid-afternoon and I had a half hour before critique. Myrna had shown us that it's good to learn to use a brush and draw your piece directly on the support. I had also talked with Myrna about having trouble using non-traditional colors. She suggested painting with just three colors that are not flesh tones. When Myrna had talked about thumbnails, she showed us how she uses two L-shaped pieces of mat board and moves it around on the image to determine cropping. She then demoed using one of her favorites, her Morris image. The piece was close cropped and lost one part of the face.

With a half hour left, I grabbed a narrow sheet of Tyvek, selected 3 colors (Ultramarine Blue, Magenta, and New Gamboge) and did a brush painting using Cerulean Blue. Much of the line remains visible. You will see I straightened out the image and it's not quite as accurately Linda, but I had so much fun with this quick piece. Myrna gave me kudos for my bravery.

At critique we saw some wonderful paintings, some by artists who had never painted a person before this workshop. Outstanding! View the slide show on Myrna's blog. Myrna's personal favorite of my images is my first piece on gessoed paper. She said I achieved the best likeness and she loved the value pattern.

I have two more days of workshop -- one day of painting a young adult in profile and the final day is doing a young child. If you are in the area and want to take this workshop, there is a second scheduled for January 22 to 26 and a few slots remain. You can either take the first three days or all 5 days at a cost of $70 per day, a real bargain made possible by the watercolor society staffing with volunteers and taking a non-profit approach. I am the coordinator for this workshop.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Experimenting with watercolor on Tyvek

"Uncle George"
Watercolor on Tyvek
12" x 16"

Inspired by Myrna Wacknov's demo and knowing that I will be starting her workshop Friday, I dug out the Tyvek I bought from Myrna last year. I selected a photo of Bob's late Uncle George, a brilliant man who had engineering and law degrees and was the patent attorney for the Eniac, the first commercial computer. This photo was taken when George was in his nineties, sitting in a wheelchair at his son's wedding. It was very hot under the Utah sun, and someone had given him a baseball hat to wear with his handsome suit.

The Tyvek is great fun to work on, but I have very minimum experience using it. I find I like it as a support for people because it resists paint and has a wonderful texture because of the fibers running through it. Tyvek is the product used to wrap houses during construction. I was able to keep working and wiping off and redoing, adding and subtracting, until I declared victory. I especially like the texture and the suggestion of shapes in the background.

Young woman in France

Monpazier, France
Elegant Writer Pen and brush loaded with water
10 minutes

Friday I both coordinate and take Myrna Wacknov's portrait class hosted by the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society. We are instructed to bring digital photos of an elderly person, a young adult, and a child with specific orientations. So I've been searching through photos for some candid shots, and having quite a time finding any. I found this young woman in a photo I took in a town square in Montpazier, France, when I was there with Mike Bailey's group. Myrna was also there. A contingent of horse people walked their steeds into the square and tied their horses, so I snapped a couple photos. This one is a profile with a smooth face, so I might well be able to work with the image.

I've been under the weather and trying to get healthy for the class on Friday. No sketching yesterday, but I did this one this morning.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Heavenly Sketches and a Dynamic Demo

Substitute Pastor Lee Tyler
Ballpoint pen on church bulletin

Choir member
Pastor Warner
Ballpoint pen on church bulletin

Don't tell on me. I managed to get my sketching done while listening to the sermon at Advent Lutheran Church for the past two Sundays. I used to pride myself on being great at multiplexing until I read the studies that says multiplexers do a poorer job of the tasks than those who are single-focused. They're right, of course, because I can't repeat the sermon to you. Plus, I didn't do a great job on any of these while trying to be discrete and go unnoticed. Bob plays with the Gather Musicians and sits to the side. He caught me in the act! He's a big fan of my art, though, so he was pleased.

This Sunday was a delightful demo day for the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society. I am the coordinator for Myrna Wacknov's workshop that begins Friday, so she gave her demo today. We don't charge for this service, though of course we pay the artist. Many people attended and were spellbound by Myrna's portrait process on Tyvek. Myrna has posted the demo piece on her blog. Unfortunately, with all the things I had to think about for the demo today, I forgot my camera. Many folks were taking pictures, though, and Myrna has asked for some to make a slideshow of the demo. A bonus for all of us is having such a well-known artist as a member of our society, and she had fun doing a demo among many friends.

I leave you with a promise that one of these days you will see a finished painting, because one of my goals is to do at least two every month.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Big Art Weekend

Some of my 2009 plein air art on display

Progressive Painting
(c) Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society

"Jamie 1"
Vine charcoal
10-minute sketch

The Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society held it's New Year's Party, the second I've attended. Bob joined me and he was such a help in the setup. We had a fabulous time mingling over appetizers, viewing plein air paintings and sketchbooks, enjoying a marvelous potluck, doing a painting exchange, and winning prizes in support of an art project for children. I was on the decorating committee and worked with fellow artist, Wendy, to put together centerpieces for the Asian New Year Themed party. It was the year of the tiger -- many paper lanterns, chinese takeout boxes, gold coins, chopsticks, fortune cookies, two stuffed tigers, and a wonderful handmade dragon went into celebrating the the Year of the Tiger. I enjoyed seeing many of my art friends, including Mike Bailey and his beautiful wife, and artists who went to France on Mike's 2007 Dordogne trip.

Please forgive the quality of these pictures -- I have my new camera out being repaired at the moment. I displayed several of my plein air paintings from our lovely outings throughout 2009 along with many by other artists. Those are artists's sketch books in the foreground. I participated in the progressive painting. There were two done and this one has some of my strokes buried among the layers. We all added watercolor to the gessoed boards. Then two very accomplished artists, Karen Wong, and Jane Ferguson, pulled them together. They did a fabulous job of turning these paintings into lovely works of art. The one above was completed by Jane. Two lucky winners took the progressive paintings home all matted and framed. I was very happy to receive a wonderful watercolor by our SCVWS Webmaster, Marion Podolski in the art exchange. One of the highlights of our raffle were three paintings donated by two nationally known artists, Jane Hofstedter and Myrna Wacknov. I sure was hoping to win one, but I was not that lucky.

Tomorrow I will be coordinating Myrna's demo for SCVWS. If you are in the area, these demos are free and held at Hoover Historic Theater in San Jose from 1:30 to 4:00. I am so excited about the upcoming workshop with Myrna. No doubt you will get to see some of what I do starting Friday.

Finally, I had to do my daily sketch, so I grabbed a photo of Bob's daughter, Jamie, from her wedding in April. She was crouched over her tiny grandmother on the dance floor. Grandma is a in her late 80s and just loves to dance. I almost captured the expression of fun on Jamie's face. I see the proportions of the body are off a bit -- oh well, that's how we improve our drawing.

Friday, January 8, 2010

2010 Art Goals and a couple sketches

Mary - 1/8
Elegant Writer Pen

Bob - 1/7
Sharpie on Yellow Pages

I reviewed last year's goals, and found I met all of them with the exception of sketching daily. I probably sketched 3 or 4 times a week. So this year's goals are set: 1) Sketch daily; 2) Create two finished pieces of art per month; 3) Join a critique group; and 4) Participate in 3 art shows.

Actually, I've already failed to meet goal #1, but it's a worthy goal and I intend to keep plugging away at it. Here are two of my daily sketches. I don't have a good way of capturing my image so I used a photograph from Bob's daughter Jamie's wedding in April. The likeness is reasonable. I fight the desire to make myself less wrinkled than I am! I love the honesty of Myrna Wacknov's self-portraits that portray an attractive, mature, intelligent artist. (Please excuse the date error - it was done today, 2010.) I sketched Bob as he sat in his favorite chair. I hope to improve on capturing his likeness as I continue to use him as one of my favorite life subjects.

At first I was doing the sketches on an old Yellow Pages, but I decided that using a new sketch book would be more pleasing. I'm going to use some different implements and different design techniques to do the sketches. Tomorrow will be vine charcoal.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Yellow Line Exercise

"Big Night Out"
21" x 14"
(c) Mary Paquet

For my birthday, I requested and received from son Jeff's family a book by Betsy Dillard Stroud, "Painting from the Inside Out." In it there are "19 projects and exercises to free your creative spirit. When I asked Betsy in October which book she would recommend I buy first, this is the one she said would push me to experiment. This painting is the result of doing the Yellow Line exercise. I began the painting week before last and finished it up last night.

As instructed I set up a jumble of overlapped objects. The idea is to go for a lot of shapes. So I set up a couple vases, some flowers, a wine bottle, a scarf, a hat, some shoes, and a jewelry box. Betsy says you can incorporate architectural features and landscapes. I mixed up transparent puddles of acrylic paint and drew my still life using a round brush and yellow paint. I had to close off all the lines and show the lines of objects through other objects. The idea is to create a lot of shapes. Then I began filling in the shapes with a variety of transparent washes, changing colors and values. I evaluated and used glazes to unify the composition.

I'm pleased with the results, though I have some self-criticisms. I didn't stay transparent enough in the beginning, so I had to do more opaque painting than I would like to bring out the shapes I wanted to emphasize. I also struggled with achieving variety in a harmonious way. I'm still learning to work with acrylics.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Monday Pears

"Monday Pears"
13" x 10"

This was our first drawing class since before Christmas. There were just four of us there, all the more experienced students. The last time we met, we decided with Bob that we would like to do a relatively simple subject under his guidance. Even pears and plates are not so simple, with ellipses, spheres and cylinders with core forms, highlights and mid-tone values. This proved to be a very valuable lesson. Bob got us started and then we continued under his guidance. Every now and then, we would prop up our work and examine them from a distance. Bob would point out areas where we needed to do more work and we would go back to applying pastels.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

One Year Birthday of My Blog

California Cuisine
22" x 30"

This is the first birthday for my blog, which I created on January 3, 2009. I am reposting a piece that I did during Mike Bailey's "Watercolor Beyond the Obvious" for a special reason. This piece is one of my featured pieces of art on the Silicon Valley Open Studios website. On New Year's Day the wife of a friend saw it while attending our New Year's Open House and purchased it on the spot! I was very pleasantly surprised as this is a purely social event. This piece has attracted attention from guests, and it's one of my favorites.

That was an especially nice end to a wonderful party where we hosted about a 100 people from all parts of our life -- dance, cycling, art, church, the gym, neighbors, and friends. Bob and I do major cooking. He's famous for his lasagna, carrot cake, and Chicago Beef, a dish from his native city. We made many other dishes as well. We had a great time kicking off the new year, but I am definitely behind in setting goals and doing art.

Stay tuned....