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 http://scvws.org/ .

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!