Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Finally -- Time to Paint

"The Travelers"
12" x 14" Watercolor

In New York City we saw a large flight crew for Singapore Airlines. The women were so elegant in their beautiful traditional uniforms. I removed them from the lobby of my hotel to a more abstracted background. The woman in red really stood out, and that is the way I wanted to paint her. Therefore I placed the two women in blue in shadow. I also wanted their traveling obvious, thus I added the "NYC."  I was also mindful of a statement made by portrait artist Ted Nuttal that one must use care with multiple figures so they don't seem to slide off opposite sides of the page. I used a wall to the right of the central figure to anchor her in the picture and a baseboard to connect the figures.

I am experimenting with an idea for a new painting to place in a Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society Exhibit at the Los Altos Library in February, called "Red or Read." Artists can paint something with a red dominance or a reading theme and place a 30-word quote with it. Should I decide to use this painting, my quote is from St. Augustine. "The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page."  I already have a framed painting I did a year ago as backup if I decide not to continue with this piece.

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Room with A View: Christmas at Big Sur, 2011

"Christmas at Big Sur, 2011"
6" x 4" watercolor sketch
 The Nepenthe Restaurant has a fabulous view of "Big Sur with it's awesome scenery

 Enjoying beautiful weather on the deck of the Nepenthe Restaurant
Christmas morning 2011

With family scattered, we often celebrate Christmas in Big Sur, staying at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park in the Big Sur Lodge. This year we had lunch in Monterey and continued on to Big Sur the day before Christmas. Christmas Day we always have lunch at the famous Nepenthe Restaurant. Check out the view from their Weather cam in the upper right. This area is very remote and I always feel a special connection with nature. We got to rest, read, enjoy picture-perfect weather, and ride our folding bikes.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Another still life at Monday Drawing class

"Christmas Lemons"
14" x 12" Pastel

Our instructor was not well today, so Rea brought a still life and we did our best to carry on. The still life used holiday colors and her lemons. Here the lemon trees seem to be very happy in December, even with a mild frost. About two thirds of the way through the session, we all put our pieces up and critiqued our work. That's when I discovered that the bowl of the colander was too deep, so I adjusted it a bit. It's amazing how important it is to step back occasionally.  We will be off for a few weeks and then resume in 2012. We plan to bring our work for Bob's critique on the first meeting of the new year.

Last Wednesday, my critique group met for its final session. We had a lovely potluck and were reminded how much we enjoy meeting to help each other strengthen our work. Becoming friends with a large group of really good artists is one of the benefits of being in the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society. Artists from this critique group have won a number of awards and participate in galleries. I am learning so much from seeing the art and hearing the helpful comments of the other artists. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Monday morning drawing class: It's the beer

"It's the Beer"
14" x 12" Pastel

Finally I made it back to drawing class after missing several Mondays for travel and meetings. We did a still life setup with a German beer stein and a fresh persimmon. The stein was challenging, full of ellipses and decorated with a lively scene. I felt pretty good that Bob didn't say, "Let me sit down a minute....," a sure signal that I need help. I began  with size, shape and placement, Bob's mantra. I carefully measured using my dowel stick.  I began by applying the background colors so I would have a reference. Next I did the darkest darks on the stein. I saved the persimmon for last. I found the drawing challenging and half the three-hour class time elapsed before I started selecting my pastels. It felt good to be "back in the saddle again." One more class scheduled this year, then a two-week vacation over the holidays,

Here is my favorite model dressed in his Anderson Clan formal attire for a holiday party, backed by my art. I will add that similar to the animal kingdom, I was much less fancy than my partner in my mundane red holiday dress.

Model Bob dressed in his formal Anderson kilt

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Room with a View: New York City for my Birthday

"A Room with a View: Morning on 47th Street"
6" x 9 " Watercolor Sketch
New York City, NY

New York City glows with Christmas lights on my birthday

Bob and I at Radio City Music Hall for the Rockettes Christmas Show

Bob planned a whirlwind long weekend trip to New York City for my birthday. I must say he is a most competent travel planner and outdid himself with his generosity. While there we stayed at the Lexington Radisson on the corner of 48th and Lexington, just a few blocks from Grand Central Station. Of course, I had to add to my "Room with a View" sketch series. Our room was on the 19th floor overlooking 47th Street. I was intrigued by the angles of the heating and air conditioning system backed by a small patio with some flowers (artificial perhaps) and sky scrapers. I took my usual art bag with tiny sketch pad, pens and pencils, Koi pan paints with water brush, and a bound Moleskein watercolor journal.

While there we had family time with one of my sons from Vermont, Bob's daughter Deborah and boyfriend Ryan living and working as lawyers in the city, and Ryan's parents who live in New Jersey. My special gift was seeing the Broadway play, "The Book of Mormon." It is hilarious and irreverent, with great musical numbers. I was certain I would be struck dead on the spot because I enjoyed it. The play won many Tony awards and is authored by the South Park guys. Need I say more?

We also got tickets to the Rockettes on Monday morning. They've been doing a Christmas show for 79 years and they have updated it with the times. There were many wonderful effects, including lots of views of New York lit up for the season. There were many children in attendance and they loved the show.

New York City is magical during the holiday season. I've been there the other three seasons, but not winter. We marveled at the tree in Rockefeller Plaza and decorations on the high end shops. We did lots of walking and in some places, the crowds were so thick that it was difficult to get through. People were kind and I was offered seats on the subway by two different young people (I think this might indicate that I look like a senior!).

We took the red eye home on Jet Blue. San Jose is the tenth largest city in the country, but our busy airport has very few direct flights to the East Coast. There are more from San Francisco and Oakland, but Bob and I like to take public transit to our airport, which is much closer. Jet Blue is our favorite run from the "left" to the "right" coast where we have a lot of family.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Monday morning drawing class: Life drawing

"Artist Linda"
14" x 16" Vine Charcoal

"Linda ala Twenties"
12" x 16" Vine Charcoal

One of my fellow artists asked her friend Linda, an encaustic artist, to sit for our class. It's been a while since we've had a live model and we were a bit weary of our still life sessions. Linda was delighted to accept and used her fee to buy art materials. Each session was one half hour and we focused on a portrait rather than full-body view.

On the first piece, I used my traditional approach of noting the top and bottom of Linda's head on the paper and then measuring using the dowel stick to find the width to height and position her features. Pretty much in this view, the features followed the convention of the eyes being half way between the top of the head and the chin and the end of the nose half way between the eyes and the chin. I like working with vine charcoal as it's easy to smudge out and erase, and it works well to shade form. Bob said I did a good job on this one, and one of the store managers complimented me on this piece as he used the vending machine nearby.

Bob took time to do a demo for us on how he approaches a portrait, and then we had our second half hour session. Linda brought several hats and we chose this lovely thrift store piece from the twenties. This time Bob made us take the first five minutes and draw without doing any measuring. In that time I was able to draw the head and hat and start the features. Then we could check ourselves after that. Surprisingly, I was pretty accurate. I'm sure that Bob had us try this approach to show us that we were becoming more accurate through practice.

This session was especially enjoyable and we have promises from Linda that she will return another time. I would like to develop a couple paintings from these pieces.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Room with a View: Cruising to Mexico

"A Room with a View: Port of Ensenada, Mexico"
7" x 5" Watercolor and Ink

"A Room with a View: Shoreline of Ensenada, Mexico"
Ink sketch

Bob and I could not resist taking a very reasonable cruise on Carnival Paradise from Long Beach to Ensenada on the Baja in Mexico, by way of Catalina Island. I believe the distances are so small that you could easily sail there yourself, but Carnival makes it a Monday to Friday cruise and you circle a lot. It was the ballroom dance part that captured our attention -- 200 dancers organized by a studio owner in Long Beach. Of course, the non-stop eating was pretty nice, too, and there were two fabulous musical shows as well. As a bonus, our randomly assigned dining table mates turned out to be a match made to order and we spent lots of time with new friends Char, Barb, Ted, and Janet, all terrific dancers and great fun.

Ensenada was our second stop. As we slid into port, I did an ink sketch and then painted a port scene after we docked. We decided to take a Wine Country Tour to Calafia Valley, a 45-minute drive that passes the port and traverses the mountains. We wanted to get out in the countryside and always enjoy visiting wine country. There we toured two wineries: L. A Cetto Winery, where we tasted and were sent along with a bottle of wine each; and one organic, where Dona Lupe personally served us homemade pizza and treated us to many interesting spreads and chutneys while tasting. Along the way we learned the history of the region. The guide told us the average daily wages are $4.50, which helps explain the number of Mexican immigrants we have in the US.

"A Room with a View: Catalina Island, California"
Watercolor sketch

On our second day, we visited Catalina Island, just 26 miles from Long Beach. We would be ballroom dancing at the Avalon Ballroom in the famous Casino, the round building on the right. Electricity can be iffy on Catalina and we almost missed our dancing opportunity because the casino staff arrived to find the power company had shut them down. With a bit of persuasion, we were allowed in and danced to music provided by our tour director on a portable unit under natural light. Not quite the big band sound, but we were happy to have this rare opportunity. The dance floor is very expansive and beautifully constructed, a nice change from tiny ship dance floors.

We completed our mini vacation with a stay on the Queen Mary and returned to San Jose on the Coast Starlight Amtrak train that connects LA and Seattle.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thursday's Plein Air in Almaden Valley

"Fall Colors in San Jose"
9" x 7" Watercolor

Yesterday was an informal plein air session for the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society. There are either two or three sessions each month. Often the leaders call for Hike and Sketch at a local park on one of the off Thursdays. This week the park was close by, Guadalupe Oak Grove Park in the middle of residential Almaden Valley. Soon more photos of work done by the artists will be posted on the SCVWS Paint Sites Blog. Give about a week for them to show up.

We had a half dozen of us who set out on a cool sunny morning and soon had to shed layers as the day warmed. We hiked up a steep hill and had a marvelous view of the valleys and Almaden Lake. We stopped to sketch for a half hour. I was too ambitious and more work is needed on that piece. We dipped down and up following the ridge to an old sandstone quarry. Many chose to paint the quarry, but I liked the view of the downtown across the neighborhood trees that had quite a bit of Fall color. Interestingly, most people think we don't have seasons and thus no color, but that is not true. It cools by now, sometimes into the 30s at night, but 50s to 70s in midday. I come from the very colorful state of Vermont, but I am still impressed by the colors of San Jose, especially when viewed from above. You see, our deciduous trees tend mostly to be in the flats of our valleys that can stretch for miles, best viewed from a hill or mountain. In Vermont, the ubiquitous mountains are covered with trees that change, so can be viewed from the valleys.

I was thinking a bit of our recent Frank Francese demo and the vivid colors he uses as I did this little piece.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Monday morning veggies and a Sunday demo

"Fall Vegetables"
12" x 16" Pastel

I originally was scheduled to help coordinate a workshop, but someone nicely stepped in to substitute. Lots going on these days so I needed a break. I went to my drawing class this morning. We had a bit of fun with a misunderstanding of who was supplying the setup. Folks scrounged among their farmers market goodies and instructor Bob produced the faithful old white porcelain pitcher. Some of you may recall that pitcher from past pieces. Bob early on advised me to push the values, so I went for it. This is the first time I've attempted corn, and the whole piece was not quite done when I left class. I did my best to bring it to completion when I got home.

On Sunday, I assisted the workshop coordinator with the demo. That means I did some food shopping, set up some of the refreshment table, and drove instructor Frank Francese to the demo and back to his hotel. As Leader of the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society, I also made some announcements about coming events. I enjoyed getting to know Frank on our round trip drive. He is an exciting and much awarded watercolor painter. I am sorry I did not have the time to take the workshop, as I could have learned a lot. He is all about values, exciting design, and eye-popping color that he paints directly.

Frank does lots of drawing and sketching daily. From his sketch book he develops value studies on letter-sized sheets. He paints without putting any lines on his watercolor paper to keep the painting fresh, referring to his value sketch. Though he does not pre-wet the paper, he paints wet-into-wet and uses his sponge liberally to remove excess water from his brush. He also clips his paper to his support, so he frequently lifts the edges of his paper to wipe the support and the back of the edges so he does not get blooms from back runs. At points he dried the paper with a hairdryer before continuing. His final steps are to develop the light pattern with shadows to direct the eye to the center of interest and to make any small adjustments. We were awed by his speedy creation of a full-sheet painting filled with exciting color and light. Here are a few snapshots I took during the demo.

Frank Francese talks about his art career.

Frank begins the painting of the Colorado Rockies
using a Frank Web pallette with open wells.

Frank is half done about 20 minutes later.

The painting is complete, except for a few small adjustments,
30 minutes after Frank put brush to paper.

If you live in the Santa Clara Valley area, these demos are free and open to the public, a terrific service of our society. Information is available at .

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fall Persimmons on Monday Morning

"Fall Persimmons and Crystal"
12" x 15" Pastel

Monday I had to leave the drawing class early to help with takedown on the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society Annual Show, which was a huge success. Instructor Bob Semans lamented that I had to leave as he considered what I had done so far very successful. I was pleased that he made no corrections. Today I spent a little time bringing this to a finish from a snapshot I took of the setup. I like to think that if I had the crystal bowl in front of me, it would be better!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Plein Air at Castillo Winery in Morgan Hill, CA

"Olive Trees at Castillo Winery"
14" x 18" Watercolor

"At Home in the Vineyard"
10" x 13" Watercolor

Another beautiful day to paint outdoors on Thursday. The morning started out crisp, but the sun soon leveled the temperature to the low 70s. We traveled to a relatively new winery 10 miles south of my home in Morgan Hill. The Castillo's Hillside Shire Winery was built by people who owned a construction company. Having a winery was their dream, as it seems to be for many people. Make no mistake, a winery is a huge amount of work. The owners built a large home, a sweet little cottage tasting room similar to Marie Antoinette's Petite Hameau on Versailles grounds. The architecture is an eclectic mix and very interesting. The hillside rises steeply from the manicured grounds and is planted in grapes, of course.

I settled on a landscape done from a beautiful loggia overlooking a pond that reflected two olive trees, my center of interest. I was remembering my wonderful day in Provence painting in an olive grove. I also recalled instructor Maggie Siner's planes of recession and applied those concepts. The pointed mountain in the background is a famous Morgan Hill landmark, El Toro, a fitting name for the steep topography of an extinct volcano (those of us who live close hope it's extinct).

My challenge was to vary the masses of greenery. I used Winsor Blue Green, Ultramarine Blue, and Cerulean Blue as my base blues. The contrasting "red" that you see is Scarlet Lake. I imagined that a bit to liven up the center of interest. Dick, a fellow plein air painter and off-duty instructor, happened by and said I did the reflections properly, not too detailed and not the same intensity as the reflected object.

While we painted, a fifth wheeler group stopped in for wine tasting. The more they tasted, the livelier it got. By the time we gathered in the loggia to eat our lunches brought from home, the mid-day sun was warm and the place was again quiet. Janice and I had carpooled and settled on a 1:30 departure time. I like to do the finishing touches on plein air pieces in my studio, something that Kay Duffy also recommends to make it a good painting. At home, I intensified some of the tree line behind the olive trees, softened some edges, and lifted some color to create more light in the foliage.

For my final hour, I grabbed my smaller Arches watercolor block and turned my easel 90 degrees to the hillside and a partially visible home. Though my Thursday night paint group thought the piece was done, I decided to increase the values around my center of interest, the house, and to add some splatters to the vineyard. I'm happy with the results.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

SCVWS Flower Painting Competition

"Competitive Lilies"
14" x 20" Watercolor

"Peaches and Pears"
12" x 16" Pastel

I had several very busy days in the art world. You may have seen my previous post of my rewarding plein air outing on Thursday. Friday I went with friends to two art galleries on the North Coast and Duncan Mills on the Russian River. Drawing instructor Bob Semans has a wonderful show at the Christopher Queen Gallery in Duncan Mills on the Russian River. I highly recommend stopping in at this gallery in the postage-stamp sized town. They have superb art for sale.

We also stopped at the Ren Brown Gallery in Bodega Bay , specializing in Japanese art plus contemporary California artists. My friend and her late husband have a fine collections of art from the Gallery and she found another piece to add to her collection. It was a picture perfect day on the coast. This is quite a trek from the South Bay, more than three hours of driving one way from my home. We made it back by 9 p.m. and then I quickly changed into my ballroom dancing duds and joined Bob at a studio dance.

Saturday the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society sponsored a Flower Painting Competition at the Sunnyvale Art Gallery that is hosting our Annual Show. The owner of the art gallery has a floral business and she set out many bouquets. At least 20 or more artists participated. We checked in, our paper was stamped for use, we set up and promptly at 1 we were told to begin painting. We continued until 3:30 and then set up our paintings around the room. Artists voted for the first, second, and third places with cash awards. Guests voted for "People's Choice." My friend Kaaren Marquez got both First and People's Choice. I totally had a wonderful time. I brought my plein air easel and the experience of painting outdoors in a limited amount of time was helpful. Though not a winner, I was satisfied that I completed a respectable piece in the time allotted. I made use of some negative painting and I liked the way the upper left and lower right is suggested, while the lilies are the center of interest in my closely cropped design.

Monday morning I went to my weekly drawing class. We had a choice of doing a bowl of fruit or a small statue. If Bob brings the statue again, I will try that next. Bob gave me some personal attention. He liked the drawing and the way I used some straight edges along the rounded curves. However, he said I was making my pastel task too difficult. He grabbed a few pastels and showed how he would block in color and value very quickly using the side of a small piece of pastel, then work from there. I had blocked in values with vine charcoal, but had not used the pastel. Indeed, the remainder of the painting went much more quickly, and now I know a little more about this medium that is a recent addition to my repertoire.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The perfect plein air session in a Redwood grove

"Fall in the Redwoods"
10" x 14" Watercolor

Thursday was a special plein air session for the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society. The paint site was the Redwood Nature Preserve in Los Altos. Kay Duffy, a member of SCVWS and professional art instructor, gave a demo. Because the morning was misty, she would occasionally stop and have us paint, so we got to complete a painting as well.

One of the things that was most helpful was how Kay started the painting. I was reminded to put some loose color down before developing the parts. Thus I painted the left side of the paper with lighter yellows, blues,and reds, and the right side with darker greens, blues, and reds. We've heard this advice before but it bears repeating: be selective about what you include in the painting. When you get to a certain point, you are no longer looking "out there." You are responding to the painting and making a good piece of art. She also suggested something I tend to do already. Just select a small part to paint if you are overwhelmed by all that you see.

Kay Duffy instructing artists

Kay is midway through her painting

Shortly after 1 p.m. we adjourned to the home of another artist, Karen Druker, and had a lovely potluck. There were at least 20 of us present. By then the sun was shining and the view of the Bay was magnificent from Karen's deck as I chatted with friends and members of the society that I had not met.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Experimenting with Life Drawings

"A Model Woman"
" x 20" Watercolor

I love painting figures and I keep working at improving my drawing skills by attending sessions with live models. In August I led a drawing workshop where Jane Ferguson was the model. I've painted Jane several times before. Jane is a wonderful artist and a super model. Jane just won an award at our Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society Annual Show.

I decided to be playful with some of the sketches, using these three:

2 minute sketch
2 minute sketch
25 minute sketch

I used acrylics and collage. I have not done a lot of collage, but usually I would prefer to use rice papers I painted myself. However, I wanted some pattern so grabbed papers I had on hand. In fact, the right figure is some wrapping paper that I love and came from my son Jeff's family on my birthday presents one year. I used it once before to make thank you cards to the family. You can see them here. I was channeling Matisse on this piece - lots of color, organic shapes, and a pretty woman.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday Drawing Class: Variations in Chroma on Spherical Shapes

"Fall Gourds"
12" x 15" pastel

Today's exercise at Monday drawing class was a collection of fall gourds. I see that I caused a bit of a line on the right gourd when transporting the piece home by bicycle and light rail. The challenge was to get the mottled texture and the gradations in value and color on the three gourds. I believe the left gourd was my most successful, and I modified it when instructor Bob Semans came by and noted that I needed a change in chroma as the gourd rounded into the shadows. I liked the slight modification; this is the final result.

Friday, October 14, 2011

West Coast, East Coast - Landscapes Abound

"Sunny Nook"
Patterson Home at Ardenwood Farms
Fremont, CA

"Fountain at Ardenwood Farms"

"Fall on Lake Eden"

Yesterday, I did plein air painting with the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society. We went to Ardenwood Farms, a wonderful gem of a park amidst the electronic-fueled growth in the East Bay. This is a working farm with live animals, old and newer machinery, and crops. At this time of year, the pumpkins are ready for harvest. I liked the old house, but found painting the entire structure too daunting, so I selected the top of the turret against a towering Eucalyptus tree. The original owners of the home and farm were the Pattersons.

The brochures tells us , "It was 1849 when George Patterson joined the stream of young men leaving the Midwest for California’s gold fields. His dreams left little room for failure, but after a year and a half of mining he was ill and broke, so he turned to work he knew well: farming. George gradually bought land with the money he earned by working for farmers near Mission San Jose. By the time he married Clara Hawley in 1877, he was on his way to acquiring nearly 6,000 acres of land and was one of the wealthiest and well-respected men in the area. At last he had struck “gold”—not in the hills, but through farming the fertile plains of the East Bay."

We had a lovely warm fall day and I painted this piece in about 2 hours with a few slight modifications after returning home. We ate lunch to the sounds of school children playing on the lawns. Then we had a half hour, so I quickly did a small, very traditional light watercolor of the fountain. I was channeling Bob Semans, my drawing teacher, as I did the cherub. Bob tells us to use values to describe form and little detail is needed.

After returning home, I repacked my art supplies and headed out to friend Penny's home for my South Side Art Club Thursday night painting session. The photo showed just one bright streak of Vermont fall color amidst darkened hills, sky and lake. Lake Eden is where Jeff's father, my late husband Gary, had attended Boy Scout camp, a defining moment in his young life. I was very tired and not motivated to paint, but I finally grabbed a brush and small watercolor block and without any drawing, did this small piece in 20 minutes. The painting is more vibrant than this photo and I liked the way the bright yellow and orange paint caused granulation into the darker color of the mountain. I waited until this layer dried and added the dark line of evergreens. I left a few imperfections because I didn't want to destroy the freshness and excitement.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Room with a View: Down the Hill in Pacific Grove

"A Room with a View: Down the Hill"
7" x 10" Watercolor
Pacific Grove, CA

On Friday, we drove a little over an hour to the Monterey-Carmel area to spend the weekend celebrating Bob's birthday. I chose Pacific Grove Inn, a B&B made up of two lovely old homes about five blocks up from the bay. On Bob's Birthday on Saturday, I had time to paint another of my "Room with a View" series out our window while waiting for 8:00 breakfast.

We spent the day riding our small wheel bicycles. You see them here with Bob when we stopped in a park in Monterey near the rental paddle boats. We love our Bike Fridays, as small as our touring tandem is large. They are geared like big bikes, with 27 gears and also carry loads well on the racks. I use my "Merlot" (named for her color) to ride to the gym before dawn each morning and to run local errands. She travels nicely on Light Rail to my drawing class.

We had lunch on the Municipal Pier at Sandbar Restaurant, an old staple and away from the major hubbub of nearby Fisherman's Wharf. We leisurely rode 15 miles along the gorgeous coastline. Pacific Grove has fabulous rocks where the waves break and can be climbed at low tide. We went dancing at an Argentine Tango Milonga in the evening.

Bob celebrates being Medicare eligible

Sunday we returned home in time for the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society Annual Show Reception. What an event! We had more than 300 guests show up to view the art, watch the Awards Show, and enjoy beautiful nibbles, wine and sodas. Our Exhibit and Hospitality teams are top drawer.

Some of the more than 100 watermedia paintings on display

"Family Duet" (top, left) had a home next to an award-winning painting

I gave the welcome address and turned the ceremony over the Exhibits chair.

Welcoming more than 300 people to the awards ceremony

Monday, October 3, 2011

Monday Art Class: Challenged by a Cherub and the SCVWS Members Show

"The Apple of My Eye"
12" x 16" pastel

At my weekly drawing class for the last two Mondays, I have worked on a still life containing an 8-inch cherub and an apple on lace. Bob always reminds us that though we are working in pastels these days, our class is all about drawing. I was able to achieve a good likeness here of something known as a putto, though we were calling it a putti. According to Wikipedia:

A putto (plural putti) is a figure of a human baby or toddler, almost always male, often naked and having wings, found especially in Italian Renaissance and Baroque art

Bob makes the rounds and when he got to me, he saw problems with values, a drawing problem. The cloth behind the putto was a pale beige shiny fabric. However, the values of the cloth looked too similar to the values in the putto, so Bob went to town with green and grey. This is something I would have considered with my watercolors because I am in charge, but in Bob's class, I try to be fairly true to the still life. He also reemphasized getting the value patterns established first and then little detail is needed.

SCVWS Members Show, October 3 thru October 29, 2011:

Postcard Art: "Group Therapy" by Michael Rogan (c)

Our Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society 44th Annual Show opened today at the Sunnyvale Art Gallery. I entered "Family Duet" into the show. I recently got to paint at the Carmel Paintout with Michael Rogan who's art is featured on our promotional postcard, above. The shows and receptions are always so well done. If you live in the Bay Area, do come by to see all the wonderful art and enjoy some refreshments.

251 West el Camino Real, Sunnyale, CA
Sunday, October 9, 3:30 - 6:30 pm

An unhappy accident has made me the new leader of SCVWS a few month's early, so I am stepping into the position now, rather than in January. I will be kicking off the awards ceremony.

You are also invited to participate in or attend our Flower Painting Competition on Saturday October 22, 12:30 to 4:30 (all artists and mediums welcome). The Gallery is a combination floral shop, cafe, and art gallery, so the owner will be creating arrangements that the artists will paint. The competition includes awards.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A painting of landscape shrouded in fog at our Carmel Paintout

"Fog over Monterey Peninsula"
20" x 16" Watercolor

Here is the first piece I painted on the Carmel Paintout. I left sunny San Jose and travelled to cool and foggy Pacific Grove. I was one of the first artists to arrive. I looked across the water towards Monterey from Lovers Point in Pacific Grove. The trees were just muted shapes in the fog. I painted them wet-into-wet using Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Umber, and Magenta.

The sandstone cliffs were topped by the rusty color of the prolific ice plant. The rocks were awash in breaking waves. Below my perch, the surfers were already out and their voices drifted up from the water.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

"Carmel Paintout" - a local art adventure

"Lover's Point Sentinel"
Pacific Grove, CA
16" x 20" Watercolor

For quite a number of years, the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society has hosted a three-day event, the Carmel Paintout, each September. My home is about a 1.5 hour drive to the area at most. Two years ago I actually stayed at Asilomar for two nights and had just a wonderful time painting plein air at different locations. This year, with a change in management, Asilomar priced itself out of artist range, so people signed up with the agreement they would find their own lodging. Sadly, you miss the comradery of staying in the same place, where I became fast friends with several artist I had not met.

This year we met to paint, do critique, and go to dinner at a local restaurant. I decided at the last minute I would attend just Thursday. Karen, friend and leader of this outing, invited me to stay overnight at her lovely second home in the area, along with four other artist guests. Thus I stayed on and painted a bit at Monterey Fisherman's Wharf. With commitments and family arriving from the East Coast, I missed the third day of painting at breathtaking Point Lobos.

We were roughly 18 artists gathered at Lover's Point on Thursday morning. I arrived about 10 a.m. and the fog was still thick. I have a bit more work to do on my first fog-bound painting and then will post it here. Later in the day, the fog cleared and I did the painting posted here. I set my easel next to a picnic table, so supplies were laid out conveniently. This view looks out over Lover's Point, though most of the amazing rocks were not visible in my limited landscape. This is the area where singer John Denver crashed his plane into Monterey Bay some years ago.

I had the perfect day -- doing art in one of the beauty spots of the world. I enjoyed mixing the colors in the tree foliage on the Arches 140 cold press block paper. Mostly I used Winsor Blue Green, Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Scarlet, and Magenta, with a bit of French Ultramarine Blue. The graying effect comes from the mingling of the blue green and the scarlet. I started with a wash in the sky area, then I painted each of the foliage areas starting with a blue green/cadmium yellow mix, and charging in the other colors while the paper was damp. I had to use care in the amount of water to paint so as not to get mud. I mostly used my favorite squirrel mop brush by Isabey, very large (close to an inch in diameter) to the hold a lot of water and paint and shapeable to a lovely point for small areas.

I had grabbed my limited palette that I used in Provence with no Burnt Sienna which I often use with Ultramarine Blue to create darks. I mixed Raw Sienna, Burnt Umber, and Ultramarine Blue to achieve the suggestion of the rocks. Lastly I created the sunlit foreground and painted in the blue of the ocean.

To get a sense for my use of artistic license, here is an image of my view in closeup. Notice I removed the low bushes and placed the rocks where they created the strongest design. The tree was one of a grove of three trees. The piece received a favorable critique with one suggestion, place a bit of the blue of the ocean into the foreground, which I did at home before creating this post.
A photograph of my view from the picnic table of Lover's Point

We gathered in a sheltered spot as the day was cool and damp (the coast micro climate is very different from warm, sunny San Jose). Two women from California Watercolor Association who joined the paintout did the critique. Susan and Ilona were gentle with their observations. At 5 p.m. we adjourned to The Fishwife Restaurant near Asilomar for a fish dinner. At Karen's home we six artists sat around the dining table with nibbles, talking art and life until bedtime.

If you are in the area, join our watercolor society with over 400 members and participate in the many great events, such as frequent plein air adventures, exhibitions, and workshops given by world class instructors. The membership fee of just $35 for 2012 is an exceptional value. I will be the leader in 2012 and look forward to meeting new members.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Live clothed model session

"Jane with Attitude"
Graphite and watercolor
15 minute pose

Three friends who are very successful artists now share a large studio in Sunnyvale. Today they hosted a two hour session with a live model. Jane Ferguson, one of the three artists, is one of my favorite models. I've posted other pieces with Jane on this blog. Jane changes several times and we have a new challenge with each outfit. Don't you love the bright pink hat -- it was covered with sequins.

We began with 2 minute poses and worked up to 5, 10, and finally 15. I always feel a bit intimidated surrounded by so many excellent artists, but I figure I have to learn. Doing these quick gesture drawings really helps warm us up for longer poses. I used vine charcoal so I smudge out lines as necessary. You can see my proportions are off.

Gestural drawing for 5 minute pose

We moved to two 10 minute poses and I challenged myself to use the broad Copic pen in sepia. It made me be more sure and deliberate with my marks. You can see that I tend to shorten the lower half of the body during these quick pieces. I corrected.

"Jane Relaxed"
Copic Pen and Watercolor
10 minute pose

The final two poses were 15 minutes each. On the last one, Jane posed as herself, an artist at her easel. What I show below is two pieces done in the last 15 minute pose. First I did the complete body, then I moved on to doing a portrait of the upper body. I received kudos from a couple fellow artists on this final piece; they commented that it really captured Jane.

"Jane Paints"
Part of 15 minute pose

"Jane the Artist"
Cretacolor graphite
Part of 15 minute pose

Myrna Wacknov participated in the session using her I-Pad2 and an app that simulates watercolor painting. Myrna is always so experimental and she's won many awards internationally. She is also a terrific instructor who travels the world teaching art. Hopefully she will post some of her sketches from today, so check back on the link to her blog in the next few days. There is a sample of a sketch she did last night on the blog.