Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene and memories of our East Coast tour

On May 11th I created this small watercolor sketch while staying at the Otway House in North Carolina. The following day we rode our tandem bicycle to the Ocracoke Island Ferry in the Outer Banks. There are no bridges to Ocracoke. A few days ago I read that the island had been evacuated. Yesterday I learned that Hurricane Irene hit mainland at Morehead City, NC, a mere 10 miles from the Otway House where we stayed. I hope that beautiful B&B and this fishing boat parked behind it still exist after nature's fury. The news reports have Bob and I recalling the places we visited on our extended bike tour, documented daily if you take that link. It's difficult to reconcile the images of the hurricane hitting these areas with our memories of hot, mostly dry weather, all the way from Key West into New York State where we got rained on during the last days of our ride to Portland, ME.

I keep thinking about my sons; Jason lives north of NYC in the Hudson River Valley, and Jeff and family live in North Danville, VT. I am scouring news reports to see how they are faring. I see online that my Vermont family can use an emergency shelter at St. Johnsbury Academy, but they are situated on high ground and expect to weather the storm at home. I see my brother Dave's town, Brattleboro, is under water and residents are being advised to get to the highest point in their residence. I have a very large family in my home state of Vermont and New England.

The sketch was done using my tiny Koi field watercolor set of pan paints and brush with water in the handle as I sat on the wrap around porch that evening. I like the line work that seems to go so well with a fishing boat.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

"Family Duet"
16" x 15"
Arches 300 lb. hot press

Kelly and Grandpa Bob play the flute

Finally, time to paint! I began this piece before I left in March for my long bicycle tour and trip to Europe. You can see the start here. As I described in that post, Bob played flute with granddaughter Kelly when my son's family visited us from Vermont in July 2010. When I took the photo, I grabbed it quickly and without their knowledge. I don't do my compositions with the camera, so I didn't mind that I did not have a real tight shot of Kelly and Bob. I had enough information to draw the figures. (This photo also served as source for a painting of Kelly that I did in acrylic. I created the background from imagination.)

I closely cropped the drawing so there is a sense of one, not two, subjects. I used Arches 300 lb. hot press, which I discovered I like for figure work when experimenting in Ted Nuttal's workshop. I layered the background, starting with a pale yellow/cadmium scarlet over which I put several thin washes of thalo blue/cadmium scarlet. I wanted a mottled finish, so I mixed the colors on the paper and finished with an extra caligraphic wash in the top third.

Kelly is not only a flutist, but a competitive horsewoman as well. I was so pleased to learn that yesterday Kelly did her first ever gymkhana on Spirit, her white horse. Kelly, 15, competes now in a class that can include adults and does not have the immensely expensive horse and tackle, nor a hired groomsmen. Kelly told her Mom she was just going to take it easy and get experience in the event. Apparently, Spirit has done this type of competition with her previous owner, and when she heard the starting whistle, she was off like a shot. Kelly always does well in horsemanship classes because she is an excellent rider. They took third place! I can see this pair doing more gymkhana.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

SCVWS Drawing Workshop completed

Sketching exercise in sanguine Conte on white paper

Last night I completed coordination for a three-day workshop for Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society. My Monday drawing instructor, Robert K. Semans, was the guest artist. Bob is an impressive and successful artist. Drawing seems like it should be simple to learn, but we participants can tell you otherwise. I overheard someone say at the end of the workshop, "I thought I knew how to draw."

The room was set up with four still lifes that would give us practice in the various principles of drawing and gave us ample opportunities to practice measuring using a dowel stick to check our accuracy. We rotated through the four tables during the first two days. We sketched in charcoal and conte. My conte drawing of the basket was my most complete and interesting piece. It was challenging to get different values using the Sanguine, which cannot provide a full range of values.

On the final day, Jane Ferguson, a fine artist herself (take that link to check our her website) and professional model, sat for us until mid-afternoon. I've sketched and painted Jane before and I did one large painting of her that is one of my favorites.

Bob had us do warmups with 5 minute sketches. that really forces you to go for the gesture. Bob demoed how to do that with quick fluid lines.

5 minute sketch

Later we got to do some 25 minute sketches. You can see that Jane is great about changing outfits. The two she selected for the longer poses enabled us to see the underlying body structure.

Jane posed

We sketched for 25 minutes

Our instructor, Bob Semans, demos how to approach a longer pose

Jane's final pose for 25 minutes

My final sketch

Bob did a critique of our last sketch and used the critique as a jumping off point to review some important concepts about drawing from life.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Drawing workshop coming up

"An Apple a Day"
12" x 16" pastel

You might ask what happened to Ireland. Joan and I loved our visit from July 9 to 14. We were so busy having fun that I did not paint or sketch at all. Joan actually did a small watercolor of the lighthouse at Howth to give to the woman who took care of us while staying at the guesthouse. I'm afraid I didn't get a photo. In our short time there we attended Riverdance, the National Symphony, and Evensong service at St. Patrick's National Cathedral sung by Trinity College and St. Patrick's choral. We took a bus tour across the country, and a city tour, visited the National Museum to see a Carravagio, and spent a day in Howth on the coast. I expect I will eventually do some Ireland-inspired art, but many events are taking precedence.

On Friday I begin coordinating a three-day drawing workshop for the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society. The workshop committee was asked numerous times for a drawing workshop, so I arranged for Robert K. Semans, the instructor of my weekly drawing class, to teach a workshop. Bob is a very accomplished artist and you can read a bit about him in the SCVWS newsletter.

I started the pastel shown at the top of the page the single Monday I attended class after my lengthy trip. Progress was stalled by jury duty. Thus I added a bit of color at home without benefit of the still life setup to complete the piece to this point. I don't consider this one finished. Sorry, the colors are not very accurate in this photo.

Below is a piece in progress, but I will not get to complete this one because the group finished their two-week session this past Monday, my first day back in class, and are moving on to other subjects. I decided it's a good example of how we approach drawing this type of subject. Bob and our group sets up the still life on a table under a natural skylight. If we can do without artificial light, this setup provides the best highlights and shadows for creating the three dimensional form.

Bowl of fruit in progress

Selecting a toned paper, I first look at size, shape, and placement on the paper. Using a dowel stick, I measure the relationship of height to width and determine how large I want to make the subject. I use vine charcoal to do the drawing, checking my accuracy with the dowel stick. Bob prefers charcoal over graphite because it provides a broader range of values. Vine charcoal is great for laying down the drawing because it easily erases with your finger.

Next, using vine charcoal, I separate the values, ensuring I identify where the highlights occur and keeping them clean of pigment. Thus, you can see the bowl and the shadows remain in charcoal at this stage. I also had indicated very dark values for the plums and lighter values on the colorful fruit and gourd. I then took the piece outside and put a light spray of Workable Fixative over the charcoal.

For those of us who have taken multiple years of drawing in this class, Bob allows the use of pastel on our drawings. Newer students continue to develop work in charcoal and later in conte. To achieve some of the richest colors, I have to mix charcoal or black pastel with a color (I prefer to use a charcoal pencil). Here I used a magenta pastel with charcoal to obtain the deep, rich color of the plums. Highlights are indicated on these colorful fruits with a cream charcoal. White would be too severe and unnatural. I would continue to develop the painting by carefully comparing relationships of value and color. This process reminds me of my workshop in France where we were constantly comparing relationships. Art is art, no matter what medium you use.

Either during or after the weekend, I will show you art from the workshop.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Our art show in Provence and heading to Ireland

Some of my paintings on display at our "Vernissage"

Our instructor, Maggie Siner, met personally with each of us for 15 minutes on Friday afternoon. We discussed what we had accomplished and Maggie selected works to hang for our evening art show. At 7 we gathered in the studio and invited guests joined us, people from the village that know Maggie, David, and Elizabeth. We had a lovely selection of appetizers and wines. Joan and I were asked to make thank you cards for Maggie, David and Liz, and Trish.

Instructor Maggie Siner stands near the refreshment table

The show was truly a powerful ending to the workshop. We were gratified to see our works on display and had a sense of accomplishment. I was humbled by Maggie's personal thanks for being an enthusiastic participant and her comment that my work stood up well against strong oil paintings. One of the visitors was immediately drawn to my painting of the olive grove.

This small display included one of my pieces on the lower right

Joan Kendall, my artist friend from Connecticut, beside her works on display

Marie from Paris stands between her paintings and mine

Leslie Powell from North Carolina next to her beautiful work

Sally Levie, a Washington, DC, area artist presents our gift and card to Trish Adams, our coordinator

The following morning, Joan and I arose very early to await our private taxi to Marseille Airport. We went into the kitchen hoping that we might find something light to eat before our long ride. David and Liz had thoughtfully placed croissants on the table for us, and we heated some tea water. We sat on the patio savoring our final view from Les Bassacs in Provence. Several hours later we landed in Dublin.

Breakfast on the patio

Early morning by the pool

Dublin awaits

And Connamara