Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Sketches -- from IPad to Watercolor

"Big Sur"
4" x 6" Watercolor Sketch

Concept created on IPad

"California Poppies"
4" x 6" Watercolor Sketch

Concept created on IPad

We just returned from a couple days at Big Sur Lodge for Christmas. With children grown and scattered, we celebrate in non-traditional ways. I used a bit of a very rainy afternoon to attempt a couple small watercolor sketches for the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society Holiday Party card exchange. This year we can bring a 4" x 6" watercolor and volunteers will help us adhere it to a card. These will be displayed at the party and then each partipant in the exchange gets to draw a card out the box.

I used my new IPad and stylus with a free program, SketchBookX, to create a couple concepts. Then I painted them. In some ways, I really like the simple IPad sketches the best. I'm not very good yet at varying opacity and selecting a variety of colors yet. With the Poppies, I was going for a modern twist, so after I painted the poppies, I added some geometric shapes and painted them in light, greyed down colors.  I like the poppies with less line added on a plain white background better than my watercolor rendition. I can always try again. My son Jason sent me a lovely brush kit for the IPad, and Myrna Wacknov recently gave me some tips on apps she likes to use and I will purchase them. I plan to do more preliminary sketches with the IPad.

Meanwhile, we had big storms in Big Sur (and at home). We arrived between storms to find a sign warning us the road was closed 30 miles south of Carmel. We calculated that with the lodge at 26 miles and Nepenthe at 29, we were okay. That evening we met a man from Long Island staying at the Lodge because he was headed for Esalen and as he drove south on Route 1, there were huge boulders in the road. He wisely decided to retreat for the night, and then Caltran closed the highway for maybe 30 miles. He's feeling a bit bedeviled by nature with the hurricane damage and rains on his annual CA trip. The next day he planned to go north and take an alternate route.

On Christmas Day we shared gifts in the morning and had a lovely lunch at legendary Nepenthe. We do the same thing every year -- tradition. Bob looked very dapper in his Christmas top hat.

The view from Nepenthe is always impressive. It was raining lightly. You can take their link and then use the Weather Cam on the right side to get the current view.

Soon the deluge hit. I actually began to wonder if we might get stranded and was picturing being removed by helicopter with our car left behind for months. We decided not to putter this morning. As it is, one section between Carmel and Big Sur is one lane because they are rebuilding the washed out cliff-side lane. This morning, we had to wait exiting Big Sur while they cleaned up a slide in our lane, then we followed the pilot truck through. Fortunately, that was the worst of it. The day has been filled with strong downfalls of rain followed by minutes of clearing and sunshine. There was a fabulous rainbow that disappeared into the ocean, but I was unable to find a good spot to get a photo. We are not easily deterred and I made reservations for next Christmas on our way out. Turns out I can save a lot of money reserving early -- who knew?

My granddaughters were happy to receive small prints on canvas of the collages I did of them recently. I used, which is quite reasonable, but I see that many places like Costco now offer this service. With my web order I was able to send them directly to the girls in Vermont. 
Jamie, "The Graduate"

Kelly, "Gymkhana"

Jamie will hang hers in her room at Smith College and Kelly will hang hers with her horse show ribbons.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Plein Air on the Coast and Monday Drawing Class

"December at Wilder Ranch"
"Wilder Ranch Vista"
"All the King's Horses"
Little time these days. Will add some text later, I hope.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

"Room with a View: Sunset at Jupiter River Park"
7" x 9" Watercolor Sketch
I celebrated a significant birthday in Jupiter, Florida with my family from Vermont, including my oldest brother and his wife. Days filled with sunshine, boat rides, the Lighted Boat Parade, swimming, an adventure in the Everglades, and visiting cousins on Merritt Island marked the occasion. We went to the Melbourne gallery/studio of Derek Gores who taught collage here in San Jose. I now own a small original and each of the family members purchased a print. One night we walked by the water near the house just as the sun was setting, depicted in the scene above. We flew down Thursday and home on Tuesday. It's the most time my sons, Jeff's wife, and I have had together in years. Bob enjoyed himself, too.
I received a beautiful family photo on canvas.  The granddaughters are often depicted in my art.
Jeff, Jamie, Kelly, Beth
Jason gave me an IPad because he knows that it would take me another 3 years to get around to treating myself to one. While waiting in the airports, I did sketches on it. I can see this will be a great addition to my art.
Today, I will be doing plein air on the coast with the watercolor society.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Graduate

"The Graduate"
20" x 20" Torn Paper on Canvas
(c) Mary Paquet
I love using my grandchildren as my subjects. Jamie graduated from Danville High School in Vermont as valedictorian of her class this past June. We celebrated with a barbecue on a beautiful June Vermont day. Friend James Farinha took some photos and I just loved this one with the bright green glasses and her mortar board. James gave me blanket permission to use any photo of the teenagers for my art.
(c) James Farinha
I followed the same process I described in an earlier post. My darks would be purple and green would be the accent color. It's quite fascinating and sometimes very frustrating to do. I am constantly having a dialogue with the painting and my magazine papers. I wove into the painting bits and pieces of Jamie's life. You will find the following photos if you look closely:
  • Jamie riding her horse Sky in January snows. She found this horse advertised on the hardware store bulletin board and trained the two-and-half year-old when she herself was barely a teen. Sky is ridden in horse shows by both sisters and achieved Grand Champion this year.
  • Jamie playing soccer for her high school; she now is on the Smith College team
  • Jamie teaching soccer to young boys in Senegal, Africa, while working with a volunteer group in 2011 (girls don't play soccer in Senegal)
  • Jamie teaching English to small children in French-speaking Senegal (she choose this country so she could practice her French)
  • A piece of Jamie's award-winning art - she paints in multiple mediums, sculpts, and does collage
There is a hint of her love of bicycles with the woman in a yellow bicycle jersey. I had to give up on a lovely chocolate bicycle on her shirt because it lacked color harmony. I also wove in the words "Love," "Danville High," "Smith," and "Senegal."

I think it's time to go back to traditional painting as I am beginning to feel rusty.I will do more collage in the future and have ordered a yearly subscription to a couple fashion magazines to use as paint.

An addendum:
I decided I needed to modify some of the straight edges for interest, so you will see changes here -- the shoulder line is broken and I added the word Ole because I wanted to enter the piece in the Cafe Ole show. That helped fit into the theme.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Room with a View: Paris

"Room with a View: Paris"
3" x 5" watercolor and ink sketch
Bob had never taken the Chunnel train between London and Paris, something I had done with my son Jason in 2000. Thus our departure point to return home would be Paris. We enjoyed the very fast trip and going under the Channel is quite a non-event, but definitely an item on any train buff's bucket list. We arrived about noon and checked into my favorite small hotel, Hotel Michelet Odeon, just off St. Germain, a block from the lovely Luxembourg Gardens, and walking distance to the Louve, the d"Orsay, and Notre Dame Cathedral.
Across the plaza of the Odeon Theater from the front door of the hotel.
Rain had just stopped when I took this photo.
We were nearing the end of the trip and slowing down, so we took it easy during our two-night stay, did quite a lot of walking, visited the museum at the Gardens, had dessert at the tea house in the Gardens, and enjoyed a couple small cafes near the hotel.
Luxembourg Gardens
Our view from our modest room was of narrow side streets and classic French row houses. So that's what I painted.
Our trip home was excellent because I booked economy and used miles to upgrade to business class. I am now so spoiled that it will be tough to travel internationally any other way. Huge legroom, seats that recline completely for sleeping, and great food. Can you believe this is the appetizer for an airline meal? More like traveling in the old days of flying.
American Airlines

The nice thing about the return is we arrive the same day because California is nine hours earlier than Paris. We left Paris around noon and walked into our home at almost midnight. We would have arrived home a couple hours earlier, but there was a delay in Chicago. We spent the next five days readjusting to West Coast time and pulling together the last of our remodel. That wraps up our 2012 European adventure: three weeks, five countries by plane, trains, buses,vans, a boat, a ferry, taxis, and foot, rotating between two currencies.* Notice this time there were no bicycles involved.

*I am counting Northern Ireland, Scotland, and England as separate countries, which technically they are not. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

"Down the Up Staircase"
3" x 5" ink and watercolor sketch

The real deal at Vicarage Hotel in London
Kensington Palace was in the hood

But we found the neighbors rather stiff
Goodness, what was she thinking. The artist was thinking of all the stairs she climbed to get to her room in a sweet Victorian House converted to a B&B in London. We arrived there by train from York. When our taxi drove up, there was no sign, the ultimate in discrete in a lovely neighborhood on the edge of Notting Hill and a block from the royals apartments in Kensington Palace (think Harry and Kate). I'm using some of Bob's travel humor -- an ideal companion on any adventure.
I booked everything by Internet and we prefer the B&Bs, so I was taking a chance. Great location for public transit and the parks in front of the Palace runs all the way to Buckingham Palace. We did lots of walking, toured the exhibits on Princess Diana and Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee celebration at the palace, completing with lunch at the Orangerie on the palace grounds. Our biggest event was attending a play in the theater district. We did the half-price ticket booth and settled on Mama Mia. Delightful!
We had a fair amount of rain (common on this trip). We were heading into the home stretch and feeling a little travel weary, so we were leisurely in London, a place that both of us had visited before, though not together.
I created all my travel sketches in ink and watercolor. A few times I sure wished for a pencil so I could erase, but no cheating ensued. Hence, the individuality of each sketch.

Monday, November 12, 2012

More Room with a View: York and Monday Drawing Class: An Onion

Room with a View: York, England
3" x 5" watercolor sketch
"Red Onion"
12" x 14" Pastel 
I last posted about Glasgow, Scotland, having started you in the middle of our trip in Edinburgh where we spent several days. From Edinburgh we traveled by train to York, England. Both Bob and I had been there previously, but not together. We enjoyed wandering the town and Bob grabbed a shot of me with a bicycle and the fattest little bird who was obviously used to handouts (he's on the rail over the bicycle handlebars). I enjoyed time with him, but I don't feed wild animals who need to know how to survive without begging from tourists.

The bicycle theme continued when Bob saw a shirt he had to have, but the shop was never open when we checked it. So after we returned home, I ordered one online in orange for his birthday. Notice it says "Cranky." The crank on a bicycle is the arm that attaches the pedal to the chain ring.

We stayed in a sweet little B&B, the Ardmore House,  a block away from the Minster (a famous old Cathedral). Cash only, nice breakfast, and very friendly hostess. The view being non-descript, I chose to paint the floral arrangement with a bit of artistic design of my own in the background. Apologies for a slightly askew photo.


Our biggest serendipitous moment in York came when we chose to attend Even Song with lovely singing by the children's choir. The church was honoring all the many generations of people who have made it possible to keep the church in repair. After the service we were invited to the side of the main seating area for a celebratory drink. We enjoyed a glass of wine and from a generous selection of red and whites a chat with one of the parishioners who made a point of talking with us. 
I've been so busy that I've been driving my car to Monday drawing class, about 16 miles away. Today I used my bicycle and light rail to get there. Somehow I always feel so adventurous when I do that. I stop at McDonald's with an eclectic mix of downtown patrons, buy a "senior coffee," and read a bit before pedaling over to class. Today Instructor Bob took us back to basics, modeling one object and really seeing the subtle changes that create three dimensional form. Bob set out a bunch of onions and told us to pick one and draw it oversize. I was the only one doing a red onion and was really mired down when Bob came over and showed me how to dig into one very small part and work the subtle differences. Doing parts this way turned what I thought was a mess into an onion. I learned a lot today.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Pushing the Darks in Pastel and Room with a View: Glasgow, Scotland

"Time for Pears"

"Room with a View: Glasgow"

Glasgow's classy shopping street
Monday drawing class and some new challenges. We worked two days on the piece shown. Bob wanted us to get over being timid about darks. The still life was backed with dark fabric. Bob first had us use charcoal to take the tone of the paper to the proper value, like an underpainting in oils. Then we applied charcoal. He also challenged us not to rub the pastel into the surface, especially in the last layers. I am addicted to rubbing, so this is a good challenge. If you love that left pear, I can't take full credit. Bob sat down to add a few finishing touches to show me how to achieve that wonderful texture and light without rubbing!
Back to our September travels in Europe. Glasgow was our first resting place in Scotland. We took the train from Belfast to Larne, then a large ferry across the Irish Sea to Troone Scotland. It was raining en route, so the views were muted as we approached the shores of Scotland. It was also late and as we searched for the train station, we watched the train head off to Glasgow. Fortunately, another would be along in an hour. Our chipless US credit card was pesky and the machine would not take it. A fine young man bought tickets for us and Bob gave him a generous couple extra pounds.
By the time we arrived in Glasgow and walked to the hotel, it was approaching 10 p.m. Rick Steve's, the travel writer, says it's a gritty city, but we loved it. Really pretty, a practical working city, and lots of culture. We got a smoking deal at a 4-star Carlton hotel because I couldn't find a  B&B to my liking. We got a complimentary bar in a handsome room, and breakfast at the beautiful rooftop restaurant.
Glasgow from the balcony of the rooftop restaurant
compliments of the waiter
However, the room viewed an inner air shaft, so not much going on. We were charmed by the Scottish plaid in the bathroom, and my sketch is just that. We stayed until late in the day, taking a Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus and enjoying a lovely lunch at a pub in our hotel. The misty rains continued.  Bob tried the Hagis stuffed chicken, but I don't do Haggis (it's a mental thing).
One final note on my previous post of the collage. My granddaughter was so amazed that she asked to use the painting as her Facebook profile pictue. It was fun reading the comments of her friends who were trying to figure out if it was a painting or something else.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Torn Paper

Torn magazines on 40" x 30" Canvas
In my previous post I mentioned working on a new collage piece, an art medium done with torn magazine pages and glossy acrylic medium on gallery wrapped canvas that I learned in a Derek Gores workshop. While in Vermont in June, I watched granddaughter Kelly, 16, ride a Gymkhana on her horse Spirit. I loved the action shot I took, so I cropped the picture which showed the entire horse and the arena.
Day 1: Draw the subject on the canvas with a black Sharpie
This looks like a simple stylized drawing, but I spent a lot of time making sure I got proportions correct and the action captured. I drew on several pieces of tracing paper taped together to make it the size of the canvas. I then transferred my drawing using graphite paper, doing small sections at a time and immediately going over the faint lines with my Sharpie. This was about a 2 hour job. I made some more adjustments after this photo.

Day 2: In the beginning....
I worked with Bob's daughter Jamie who wanted to learn the process. By the end of the day I thought is this mess ever going to come together. If you look closely, some things will later get covered over. Note the use of shoes to make the helmet and some of the black background. The horses nostrils include some horse shoes. Here I was thinking push and pull, with lights and darks. I had also selected a color palette. I decided on black and white with red. I worked about 4.5 hours.

Day3: I am encourage that this might work
I spent lots of time in the garage working away. My studio is a small L on my master bedroom and I have to be the messiest collage artist around, so I set up for collage in the garage. I also wear one outfit dedicated to collage work as I am wearing a liberal amount of medium by the time I am done for the day. Notice that the sweet row of olives has disappeared. Sometimes I have to kill something I like. I began to think this art was going to turn into something and shared it with Kelly's parents. Kelly was blown away with the work and her mom, an architect, designer, and accomplished carpenter decided she will try her hand at this type of art. Another 4 hours of work.
Day 4: The closer to the finish the slower I go

Now I am thinking how to vary the edges, refinements to the facial planes, the horse's eyes, the tack, and embellishments that tell a story. Kelly lives in a tiny town in rural Northeaster Vermont. My Vermont Life magazines helped with autumn leaves and words. Now I am thinking that the dark space is turning into a mountain. It's too abruptly steep for the weathered Green Mountains, but the state has few flat spots. Five more hours;  I even sent Bob off to dance without me.

Day 5 is the finish, or is it? I need to walk by it many times and also check in with my critique group. Viewing the finished piece at the top, you can see that I modified the mountain (perhaps it suggests Vermont's signature mountain, "Camel's Hump").  I added some additional Vermont memorabilia, the horse's name "Spirit" in the upper left, and two photos of Kelly, one with Spirit when she led the hometown parade on her tricked out horse, and one with her sister Jamie's horse Sky that Kelly rode to Grand Champion in her class at the Vermont Classic Horse Show.  They are small. You will have to search the right side in the darks to find them.

I had lots of fun telling a story. I added a bit of dazzle with gold and jewels -- Kelly is a stylish Junior in high school. The red sun glasses grabbed me after seeing Kelly's playful picture on Facebook wearing oversized joke glasses. Cabot makes our favorite aged cheddar cheese. The word Trail (part of the Long Trail micro brewed beer name) references the trail events she rides on Spirit. Another 4 hours.

I've been a bit obsessive over my art this week, neglecting all but the essentials. Bob and I did attend 4 Halloween parties and dances, though. We took first place with our Highlands Couple costumes at two events and second place at another. That is Bob's real kilt in his Anderson Clan plaid. I was the one that had to think up a costume!

Monday, October 29, 2012

:A great Sunday afternoon doing collage

 Jamie's collage
18" x 18" paper on canvas
Bob's daughter Jamie loved my collage pieces done in Derek Gores class. She asked if we could create a collage together so she could learn the process. We spent yesterday afternoon in our garage suited up in old clothes, tearing magazines and applying pieces to our gallery wrapped canvases. Jamie decided to do palm trees on a 18" x 18" canvas. She turned out to be a real natural at doing the process and was so creative in her selection and placement of magazine pieces. She went home with some art ready to hang. She will bring it back when mine is ready for the final stage, varnishing with a UV protective coating.
I began a piece of granddaughter Kelly riding her white horse Spirit in a gymkana. I cropped it to show the horse's head and Kelly's upper body. It is a huge piece, 30" x 40",  and I have much to do before I am done. I will tackle it again tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Monday Morning Drawing Class

"Silver and Persimmons"
14" x 12" Pastel
Susan brought some beautiful Persimmons and Bob brought the silver pitcher.  There could be lots more hours spent on this piece. We all agreed to work on silver next time to refresh ourselves on how to approach it in pastel. We are all reluctant to push our darks enough. I did after Bob gave us guidance.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Plein Air Adventures Feed the Spirit

"Autumn's Bounty"
 14" x 12" Watercolor
Triton Museum, Santa Clara, CA
"Pau-Hoa Buddist Temple"
San Jose, CA
Temporarily interrupting regularly scheduled programming...I bring you some plein air  pieces. Yesterday I joined my Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society in a plein air competition at the Museum in Santa Clara. This event was part of the month-long Member's Annual Show at the Rose Shenson Gallery. We painted on the grounds for a little over two hours. I loved this little Radio Flyer wagon with autumn goodies on the porch of one of the houses on the property. The artists got to vote for the three top places and visitors got to vote for the Honorable Mention. You can see show winners here and soon the winners of the plein air competition. We have some awesome artists.
It seems that since returning from Europe, art has taken a back seat, so doing some plein air painting makes time for art. This past Thursday we were welcomed at the Pau-Hoa Buddist Temple on McKee Road. The temple is very active and as we painted among the beautiful buildings, monks, volunteers, and worshipers came and went.
I have no in-depth knowledge of Buddhism, in spite of having friends who are Buddhists, so I hope I do not offend with my terminology or explanation.
The main temple building
Backlighting made it challenging to photograph and paint
A worshipper at the main alter
The alter contains many types of food

 A smaller place of worship where incense sticks burned in the urn;
People frequently prayed at the alter while holding burning incense sticks
Artists take a lunch break and admire the paintings
Show time

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Room with a View: Belfast, Ireland

"Room with a View: Townhome Living"
Belfast, Ireland

Murals from "The Troubles"
Our next stop was Belfast, via, trains to Dublin and Belfast, where we learned a surprising fact -- they are rated the second safest city in the world after Tokyo. We stayed in the Crescent Townhouse, turned small hotel, with a good B&B rate with one dinner. The room and bath was lavishly large in a country where small rooms are the norm. It was in the Queens University district. Across the street were well-kept brick townhomes seen above in my sketch.
The Botanical Gardens are lovely and a short walk from our hotel

The Chicago cow sculptures has caught on there
and we enjoyed a fall festival with locals

In the neighborhood
We had a lot of rain and chill, true of our entire trip. Our tour of town by Hop On Hop Off bus took us to Shankill and Falls Roads where something akin to the Berlin Wall and many political murals remind us of the troubled times when Catholic and Protestant neighbors fought for their ideals, and the region remained in the UK and separate from the Republic of Ireland. We were told that many people in the Republic have never visited "Ulster" as it is know in the UK, a mere 2.5 hours by train from Dublin.
Of interest is the Titanic Museum because the ship was built in these mighty shipyards. Compromises were made that caused despair among the designers. Unfortunately, our attempt to tour it without a reservation was unsuccessful, the museum is that popular. A bonus was seeing a road race from the bus.

Titanic Museum