Thursday, December 12, 2013

Monday Morning Drawing: Turkish Treasures and Colandars

"Turkish Treasures"
14" x 12" Pastel
"Fall Cooking
14"" x 12" Pastel

Bob brought in this wonderful Turkish pitcher, the colendar, and fruit. This was something of a challenge to do. I had to put a few finishing touches on it at home with soft pastels. 

My Sennelier pastels arrived so I used them to finish "Fall Cooking" which I had started in the previous week's class. I won't be taking this 120 piece set of pastels to class because I have a tendency to fumble them and they land on the floor. That is never a happy experience. Bob tells me that I am turning out some nice pastels. I have finally learned that I do best if I use a dark pastel paper and immediately put in my background and the highlights. Then my values work better for me. One of my biggest challenges in pastels is getting enough chroma. I pick up what looks like the right color and it often lacks enough saturation strength. I'm learning, though.
We have had a cold streak here. I know that most of you live in colder areas than I and will have no sympathy! I would not either if I was in my native Vermont. I am debating my usual bike to gym and have talked myself out of it because it is 32 degrees. Below 32 I definitely drive the car, and its been in the twenties each morning when I leave the house before 6 a.m. We can get ice because the thermometer probably dipped lower.

Time to dig out the Christmas decorations as we have the Southbay Recorder Society, one of Bob's music groups, coming for their holiday party on Friday night. I get to be an audience and a host and look forward to enjoying the music.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Room with a View: Venice Beach

Venice Beach watercolor sketch
"Guesthouse Fireplace"
Venice Beach watercolor sketch
I should really say view of the room. For my birthday, we flew to Los Angeles and stayed for two nights in Venice Beach. We had a lovely time taking in "Lion King" live in Hollywood, strolling the beach and canal areas, and doing a progressive restaurant tasting with a group. We rented a place off, where private folks list rooms and houses for rent. We had the loveliest place. The hosts are wonderful, non-intrusive, but helpful. They left me a birthday card, two bottles of wine, cheese, and crackers, and the place was well stocked with staple items and cosmetics. One day the owner invited me to sit in front of their outdoor fireplace while I painted these two little sketches. He went off on his bike while his wife was working from home. The Venice area is very interesting these days and enjoying a renaissance. I can highly recommend the accommodations!


The evening before going to LA, on my actual birthday, we enjoyed a Christmas party for IBM retirees, where we danced and had a lovely meal.

My Scotsman bought us a corsage and boutonniere.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Monday morning drawing class

"Fall Pears"
14" x 12" Pastel

The setup

Here is my Monday morning production. I really liked this still life. The lovely pottery vase was nicely complemented by the leaves and pears. I am always amazed that chalk can make a shiny object. With less than three hours to draw and paint this piece, instructor Bob Semans showed me how to quickly create the impression of leaves with simple strokes of the side of the pastel chalk. I like the texture and diffuse minor elements next to the carefully rendered vase and fruit. Unfortunately, I'm not a great photographer so colors and contrast are a bit off in spite of invoking Photoshop.You can see that our instructor is using a light box these days.

My pastels are generally NuPastel  Prismacolor which are rather hard sticks. The reason I chose them, as many in our class did, was because of price. Pastels can be very expensive. Sennelier can be $6.00 a stick! However, a couple years ago I saw that one of the online art suppliers had a modest set of Rembrandt soft pastels for a very reasonable price, so I bought them. I guess I wasn't experienced enough, because they did not work for me then, and I stored them away.

Monday I grabbed that box along with my NuPastels and mostly used the Rembrandt soft pastels. I found them amazingly easy to work with, which must mean I have developed more skill. Friend and accomplished pastelist, Judith, told me she loves Sennelier soft pastels, and  Dakota Art Pastels had a great deal on a box online. Now, we are still talking serious money, but I decided that this is my birthday present to me and ordered them. I triumph over another year of life on December 3, so let's celebrate!

Friday, November 22, 2013

French Sunflowers

12" x 9" Torn Magazine on Canvas

After completing my sunflower collage, which is quite large, I decided to do a couple small pieces. I will be participating in Silicon Valley Open Studios (SVOS) in May and would like to show  my watercolors and collages. I am thinking a few smaller pieces might appeal to people who don't have large walls for art. I am in the registration process so you will not yet find me on the SVOS website. Check back after the first of the year.

I chose a French theme for this one, inspired by a page from Wine Spectator magazine. I found that most of the magazine is printed on a natural, not glossy surface. I made a failed attempt to use one of the sheets with a wonderful Eiffel Tower on it. Back to my glossy papers I went. A few of the ads in the same magazine were printed on lovely glossy paper, so I chose one that featured "Cherry Noir." The word "Noir" is mostly under the sunflower petal. I included some French, some of which I wrote onto the black background, and some done on the computer.  I also drew my own Eiffel Tower using Sketchbook. I envision this Sunflower growing in a narrow space next to an old building near the tower.

After a good night's sleep, I decided to vary my edges more and added some papers and text. I added a few random pieces of a women's face under a veil. To the artist, it's a reminder of the hose worn by dancers I once had the pleasure of seeing perform at Moulin Rouge in Paris. To viewers, it's likely decorative.

You can find some fun pieces - sheep in the dark center of the sunflower? colorul graphics of buildings in the stem? the French word for sunflower, "Tournesol"? a cherry topped cocktail? "Paris"? I am now mulling over plans for my final piece of the trilogy (the collages are a three-part novel, not a tryptic painting).

Saturday, November 16, 2013

"Pure Panache" in Torn Magazine on Canvas

"Pure Panache"
22" x 28" Torn Magazine on Canvas Collage

Just before Halloween, I stopped by Spina Farms Pumpkin Patch, a few miles down the road,  and was so taken with the families having fun. Those photos will likely evolve into paintings. However, I was fascinated by the huge field of sunflowers that backed the patch. The hay wagon ride pulled by a tractor takes families through the sunflowers. I've been wanting to do more collage as everyone who sees them at our home are really drawn to them.

I realized after I started this piece that I should adopt a new process that I saw Derek Gores use in his Florida Studio. Derek is immensely successful these days, and I took the magazine collage class from him last year. Derek says he was trying a different approach where he covers the entire canvas before tackling the image. As you can imagine, applying background around these sunflowers was a task for a someone with more patience than I.

The drawing
I began the piece with a freehand drawing using a felt tip pen on the canvas.  

In the beginning

Several days later I started the process of applying some torn magazine with acrylic mat medium. I apply the gloss medium to the back of the paper, put it in place, and then paint medium over the top of the paper. Derek says you embrace the wrinkles. This is such a messy process for me that I do the work in the garage, a bit inconvenient -- take out the car and do setup and takedown each time. We have one car and many bicycless without an inch of space to spare.

A third of the way
Here is the painting partially done. At this point I had some black and color in the lower right. Later I decided to cover over them. Immediate feedback and the ability to easily make changes are perks of collage. Gerald Brommer says keep applying paper until the painting won't stay on the wall. Notice at this point the edges need more variation.

Almost done

Unfortunately. I forgot to photograph a few of the stages I would like to show you. At one point, I put some bright yellow checked papers in the upper right corner. That sent the high key meter off the wall. I needed to tone it back down. Now you see that I am almost done. I varied the edges so the images did not look like it was made with a cookie cutter. I was so taken with the tops of red lipsticks that I thought I could use them in the left upper corner. That looked unbalanced so I applied a few hints of petals in the lower right corner. I prop my painting up where I can walk by it frequently. My eyes were drawn to the corners of the art, not to the center of interest. They had to go.

Not quite done

In the process of eliminating the corner color, I came up with an interesting variation for the stem in the left corner - a double gold chain. Then I couldn't resist adding a few jewels. You see them in the center of the main flower, the stem of a leaf on the left and the stem of the large flower. Eek -- doesn't work in the center of the large flower. I covered over some and thought it was okay, but I realized I liked the previous version and that was lost forever. So back to the National Geographic and Vogue papers.
Some of the new variations worked. I added pieces of a black and white printout of my photos of sunflowers from Spina Farms. I like to weave parts of my inspiration into the art. I also spent time adding bits of paper here and there to give the edges more variety. Sometimes I purposely added words, which led to the title of this piece. Can you find the title in the painting?
At the top of the post you see the final art. Of course, I can always change my mind. Right now I am looking at a couple of my framed watercolors and I'm going to removed them from the frames and make a few final changes. So I never quite know if I am done.


Friday, November 8, 2013

November in the Vineyards

"November Morning at Byington Winery"
10 x 13 Watercolor

"Artist at Work"
10" x 14" Watercolor

"November in Byington Vineyards"
10" x 14" Watercolor

A gorgeous Northern California November day greeted the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society (SCVWS)  Paintsites group at Byington Winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Upon arrival, I did not even wander the beautiful grounds with fabulous chateau after spotting the breathtaking view of Monterey Peninsula from a picnic table. The overcast was still over the ocean, soon to be replaced by glorious cobalt blue skies. I loved the landscape shapes as the mountains marched to the sea. I covered the entire paper with my first wash, with the exception of the sea. I am a must do person and find it hard to wait for things to dry, so there are a couple happy accidents in the top third that I think enhanced the painting. In this first layer I was able to capture "the planes of recession" as Maggie Siner taught us in Provence. I exaggerated the oranges and yellows that were visible, and selected a few trees to be the darks. Varying the greens is always a challenge in landscapes.

After taking time to wander the beautiful grounds, I moved to a nearby table to paint a far off view of an artist with her easel capturing the beauty of the vineyards. An olive tree dominates the left front, and colorful shapes suggest the orange-yellow vines and burnt sienna soil. Distinctive evergreen shapes completed the scene.

It was now 1 pm and we met to enjoy our picnic lunches and did a show and tell. Unfortunately, the shadows fell on the paintings so the show pictures are not worthy of display. You will have to check out the paintsites blog. I was carpooling so I stayed longer than usual, and began a third painting. A couple of the artists had done wonderful work on vines, so I to painted the vineyards on the hillside. I was joined by John, a new member, who was thoroughly enjoying himself. He joined our society because he likes plein air painting. He found the group very welcoming. I was not quite done when we were ready to leave about 2:45, so I completed work on this piece at my Thursday night South Side Art Club weekly session.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Monday Morning Drawing Class with Buckeyes

"Pitcher and Buckeyes"
12' X 15" Pastel
A brief intermission from our travels to show you my Monday Morning drawing. I played with all the adjustment options, but the chroma is just not like the painting. Sorry about that as our instructor told me the pitcher is one of the best pastel objects I've done. I love the clay fired pitcher, a real beauty with natural burnt sienna and hints of green.

Wikipedia has some neat information on Buckeyes. The native Americans used the poisonous nut to stun fish. They also found a way to leach the toxin and use the nuts for making flour.

The tree should not be planted near aviaries as the toxin will kill the bees. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Final Days of the Artist Retreat in Croatia

My Artist Trading Cards

The cards that I received from Karen, Lisa, Marion, and Jenny

On the sixth day of our retreat we spent time painting at the beach and swimming in the Adriatic. All beaches are available for your use, even the ones in front of the fancy hotels.  This lovely spot had many families enjoying the day. The beaches are pebbles, not sand, so I was wishing for some swim shoes I left at home in the interest if weight. I did not produce any art worthy of bringing back to the states. That evening we visited the largest berg on the island, Hvar Town, with a wonderful fortress at the top of the mountain, a good little workout. Our leader, Marion. documented our fine day here.    

All too soon it was the final day of our Art Retreat. Lisa and I spent the morning painting our Artist Trading Cards that we would exchange later in the day. The activity sparked interest among folks and a French couple tried to purchase one of mine. We also chatted with a couple from Stockton, CA, who spends half a year on their catamaran in Europe based out of Sardinia. They were docked in Stari Grad and visiting Vrboska for the day. Later in the day we met in our courtyard to share all the work we had done. 

That evening we went to Pitve, a sweet hillside town with a fabulous restaurant where they do traditional Dalmatian peka, food roasted in a bell over hot coals -- delicious! But first we went to see the Dubokovic's vineyards and new winery where they make their restaurant wine. Johnnie, a family partner, took us on a bit of hike up the hills and we saw fabulous views back to the mainland. With my lack of good sketching materials, I used by tiny sketchbook and pen. Lacking watercolor, I painted in wine from the glass I was enjoying, which pleased Johnnie to no end. The next day I attempted another on watercolor paper with multiple layers. I was not successful at either. In the photo, the top one had faded somewhat by the time I took the photo.

Sketches painted in wine

We also got to try some grappa just made at a still next to the vineyard. At dinner, a group of men, including the restaurant owner, sang beautiful traditional music.

Marion documents our final day here with some fun pictures. Because Bob and I chose to continue our trip in Croatia, there is more to come in another post.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Family Fun

"Faster, Daddy"
15" x 14" watercolor
Gilroy Gardens Family Park

The day our Paintsites group created art at Gilroy Gardens, I did a landscape, begun before the park opened. An hour later the families began to arrive for their Saturday outing. Just below the deck where we were painting were the paddle boats, lovely large swans and ducks with two people on board, usually one parent and one child. I grabbed my I-Pad and took a couple photos. I loved this particular scene with the wake linking the two boats.

I began the painting last Thursday night with my South Side Art Club, laying in the washes over the entire page. I saved the white of the bubbly wake using friskit. There was a row of green and white umbrellas on the hill over the pond. I wanted to suggest the background without drawing attention away from the subject, so I toned down the whites of the umbrella, leaving the pure white for the boats and wake. I also suggested foliage and flowers, without defining them too much.

You can read about our group adventure on the Santa Clara Valley Paintsites Blog.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Artist Disappearing Act

"Morning at Gilroy Gardens"
19" x 14" Watercolor
Where is Mary? There hasn't been a lot of time to blog after returning from Europe, with much welcome family visits from back East. I plan to create more entries for my recent trip, but for now, let me catch you up on a touch of recent art.

I  attended a few drawing classes and did a bit of plein air. Our SCVWS Paint Sites group painted last Saturday on a special Art in the Gardens day at Gilroy Gardens, an amusement park for young children with many beautiful gardens. The operational team wants to expose children to the creative process, so we were part of the entertainment! I loved this spot with ponds, rocks, and falls, backed by redwood trees. Just below us were large swan- and duck-shaped paddle boats with parents and children. I have a fabulous photo I hope to paint. It just captures the fun. I reached a point about 3/4 done when I made myself stop. I gave a lot of thought on how to finish the painting at home. Of course, as always, I struggle with values.

The previous Thursday, the group painted at the Saratoga  Historical Museum, a lovely little collection of old buildings and pretty gardens. I loved the artist at work. The color is off here - the sky is blue, not pink.

"Artist at Work"
13" x 10" Watercolor
I also attended a few of my Monday morning drawing class. The pastels are not finished because I never have enough time in class.

That last one is a hoot, based on a still life with skull, bottle, cup, and teapot. I always need a story. George O'Keefe must have been enjoying a spot of tea with a hit of liquor while creating her masterpiece.

Stay tuned for more updates and finally visits to your blogs.....

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Day 5 of the Croatian Artist Retreat

"Blue Door"
Malo Grablje
14" x 19"
We were going to have a  beach day, but cool weather changed our plans. We walked to Jelsa (YELsa) -- well, more like a leisurely hike with photo ops. It's over 6 miles round trip. The day is describe by leader Marion here.
Bob and I enjoyed the walk and seeing a little more of Jelsa where the catamaran had delivered us from the mainland. Several artists sketched in the town. We lingered over coffee and lunch at a cafe and then headed back, needing a bit of quiet time.

The port town of Jelsa
on the island of Hvar

Inspired by our trip to the abandoned town the previous day, I hauled out a fresh piece of paper and created "Blue Door" based on my original start, photos, and memory. You will see on Marion's blog her painting from the inside of the house, where we could not wander beyond the old kitchen area because some of the floors had collapsed. We just loved the lively blue door. I like the painting and would also like to do a more ancient and overgrown version.

An abandoned home

Late in the day we walked to the fields belonging to Dragana and Luis, our landlords, where they grow grapes, olives, and figs. While we sketched, they prepared a lovely feast on their large Dalmatian barbecue. We sipped their homemade wine and Prosecco and watched the sunset.  

Wine on the vine

Jenny, Marion, and Karen

Sunset over Stari Grad Plain

After an enjoyable evening with our hosts, we walked back in the dark to our respective homes.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Day 4 of the Croatian Artist Retreat: Painting in an Abandoned Town

"Morning in Malo Grablje"
12" x 14" watercolor

Day 4 was a fascinating day spent in an abandoned mountain town with a great story. Our sponsor, Marion, describes the day here.

The town was a pretty inconvenient place to live, so the entire population of Malo Grablje (GRABlia) made an agreement to move to the coast where they built a new town, Milne, seeking better economic opportunities. The villagers all agreed not to sell the properties. The old town has been abandoned since the 1960s with the stone buildings in various stages of disrepair. The town has proved to be an attraction, so descendant Bertie Tudor, has opened a restaurant in one of the old buildings for those who hike in or drive the narrow dirt road.

Old houses and buildings in Malo Grablje

Our intention was to hike from Velo Grablje at the top of the mountain, but it was pouring rain so we drove. Bertie was very welcoming with a large table set up near a window and he brewed some hot coffee for us. Many chose to sit at outside tables under a cover, but I was chilled. I set my easel up on the table inside the restaurant with a great view out to the limestone cliffs and mountains. I completed the painting by the time Bertie was ready to serve us lunch, which included fish done on the outside limestone barbecue.

Bertie Tudor preparing lunch for our group
at Stori Komen

A sunny afternoon view from outside Stori Komen
My painting is of a similar view from inside the restaurant

The beautiful sunshine returned in the afternoon and brought a few other hardy souls to town. I explored the empty buildings with Marion and set up my easel. I began another painting and liked the concept. The next day I started over in the convenience of my little apartment. But I save that story for the next post.

The village families return to worship in the church a couple times a year and the building is in reasonable shape. There is an intact olive press in another building. Most are family homes. It is fascinating to stand there in the quiet and imagine the generations of people who lived here.

The local church

In the very late afternoon, we left Malo Grablje for Milne on the coast. We spent a bit of time walking on the pebble beach very characteristic of Croatia.

Jenny and Marion in Milne, the villagers new digs

Friday, October 4, 2013

An Artist Retreat in Croatia

"Marinka's Figs"
8" x 10" watercolor

Where have we been? We spent 22 days in Europe so I could attend the Artist Retreat on the island of Hvar in Croatia. My friend Marion and husband Zdravko own a lovely stone house in the tiny town Vrboska and live there part time. Marion sponsored the retreat, attended by four artist and two spouses from the Bay Area. Marion has a lovely blog that will give you the itinerary. She's also been doing her own summary of each of the days. Marion plans to offer another retreat in 2014, so be sure to check it out. My highlighted links take you there for more information and some really wonderful photos.

We began with a side trip to Berlin, Germany, where we stayed on the East side of the old Berlin Wall. Berlin has put lots of money into rebuilding the area, and it is hip, trendy, and fascinating. While there we spent a day at their history museum which took us from the earliest history through WWII. We also took a bicycle tour of WWII and Nazi Germany sites with Fat Tire Bike Tours. Other days we meandered and took their wonderful public transit to see the city. We stayed in a sweet hotel, Kastanianhof,  run by successive generations of the same family through the turbulent history of the area.

Croatia is the land of consonants, so I will give pronunciations in parentheses when I know them. On September 8, we took tram, train, bus, two planes, bus, and the catamaran to Hvar island where Marion picked us up in Jelsa (YELsa). That evening, we had a lovely meal prepared on their newly built limestone barbecue, a magnificent structure. We enjoyed local wines. Zdravko (SHRAVko) is originally from Croatia, though he and Marion from Scotland have lived in San Jose for over 20 years, so he speaks the language and has a wealth of local knowledge. One artist stayed with our hosts and the rest of us had small apartments in a lovely old fisherman's cottage.

Dragana and Luis' Apartments
Ours is the top floor entered through the door on the left

The following morning we started off with an early walk through the town to find likely art subjects. I spent the day at Konoba (KONoba) Lem, a restaurant on the harbor, and painted while sipping coffee and water. The old buildings have served many generations. Bob used their wifi and relaxed. Late in the day we gathered for critique and then went to a wonderful traditional fish stew dinner at Lem's.

Fisherman sorting their catch
Vrboska Harbor

19" x 14"

The second day we ventured out in two vehicles to Stari Grad to paint in an ancient complex, have lunch on a local restaurant patio, and visit Roman ruins and a farm for sketching.  At this point I was frustrated with my paintings and realizing I should have brought more sketching materials, my fault alone because I pared down for travel -- too much. My fellow artists did some beautiful art in their sketchbooks. The Stari Grad Plain is a UNESCO site because it retains the field divisions with stone walls laid out by the ancient Greeks. I used Tombow pens to capture part of the Roman farm ruins.

Ancient Roman Farm
5" x 7" Tombow Pen Sketch

The third day was one of my favorites, a day at the Atelier of local artist Marinka. This is where I reconnected with my personal style and produced a couple paintings that I like. Marinka's group of old stone buildings filled with her art are on the hillside in the small town of Dol. After a tour and some time with Marinka, we shared a beautiful lunch on the patio. Then we got down to painting. I focused on a branch of pomegranates in the sunlight, next to one of the stone buildings.

"Sunlit Pomegranates"
19" x 14" watercolor

My setup

The Pomegranates

 After completing that I work, some time remained so I took a few photos of the fig trees and then drew the shapes of leaves and a few figs. Marinka had shared some paper she enjoys using which has a somewhat resistive surface, though she was unable to provide the brand. I liked the way I could mingle and manipulate colors.

We all admired Marinka's handmade frames, very interesting creations from scrap cardboard and wood glue covered with paper, such as toilet paper, or colored napkins. The frame developed during the war in the 1990s when Marin, her artist husband, was unable to get frames due to a blockade of the island. She said the process is tedious and boring, but oh my we loved the results. In the photo, the top four of Marinka's paintings are mounted in these frames.

We gathered in the evening with the men joining us and we had a delicious meal of fresh fruits, vegetables and lamb from the island prepared by Marinka. I loved the warm figs stuffed with goat cheese. Twas the end of a perfect day.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Life is a Cabaret

"Life is a Cabaret"
13" x 18" Watercolor
After my David Lobenberg workshop, I was fired up on portraits and had a fun picture of my granddaughter on her prom night. The theme was a gambling casino, but all I could think of was Liza Minelli in Cabaret. I dutifully did my small study in Payne's Grey. It was even less a good likeness than my final product, but it gave me a feel for values, the whole point of the study.

My black and white study
Here you can see  that Kelly is much more beautiful and wholesomely youthful than I painted her. However, I take comfort in David's comment that he doesn't worry about an exact likeness; he is going for a good painting. I will, no doubt, make a few more adjustments.

The model
I did the background last and I puzzled over it for quite some time. Suddenly, this one popped into my head as representational of cabaret and celebrations, and I like it. I used tape to mask off places where I would paint in the confetti. Once I had the dark values in the background, I had to rework the shadows and the hat to get appropriate values.
I've been wanting to paint a piece for our annual show coming right up. I am off soon on a major trip, so had little time. I have decided to enter this piece.