Sunday, June 30, 2013

SCVWS "California Harvest" exhibit

"South Valley Wine on the Vine"
20" x 18" Watercolor
Every since I saw David Lobenberg's wonderful grape paintings, I've wanted to tackle the subject myself. David is an art professor and will be offering a workshop through our society. I have signed up for it.
While attending an event at Guglielmo Winery in Morgan Hill, I took some photos of trellised grapes. I used the reference photos to create a composition of leaves, grapes, and vines. I wanted a somewhat playful version of grapes, enhancing colors of the ripening bunch and suggesting more grapes in the background.
The Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society (SCVWS) is sponsoring an exhibit entitled "California Harvest" at Harvest Coffee House in Morgan Hill (at Dunne and Murphy), so I delivered the art yesterday. The show has a wide range of harvest-related subjects and the work is excellent. I chose wine grapes because there are about 60 small wineries within 20 miles of Morgan Hill, with several being right in the town. The show continues until July 27th, so visit the show if you get a chance. I will be at the reception on July 6, from 4 to 6 pm, when Guglielmo Winery will be pouring wine and there will be appetizers at this free event open to the public.
I am especially pleased at the location. Most of our shows are done in venues north of my home. Morgan Hill is south by 10 miles. Our Publicity Chair who lives there found the location, and we hope to broaden our opportunities to show and sell art.  I look forward to seeing how the location works for SCVWS.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Art Roll Continues

"In the City by the Bay"
18" x18" magazine collage on canvas
Expect a few more refinements 
Seems that I get a lot of art energy from being around other artists. Between my trip to Murphy's for the Artist Getaway and my all-day plein air session with the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society (SCVWS), I can't  stop creating art. Friend Joan had been fascinated by my magazine collage work, done after taking a wonderful workshop from Derek Gores. After Joan left for home, I cropped an image of my granddaughter hanging off a parked cable car in San Francisco on a family visit to California in 2010 when Kelly was 14. Her hair was flying in the strong summer wind and I liked the angle of her head and shoulders.
I have been wanting to create this piece for a while. I spent several hours playing with the image and free-hand drawing it on tissue paper. Then I transferred the image to a canvas, using a broad Sharpie to go over the lines that would guide the collage work. You can see it does not require much detail. 

The drawing on canvas
I set myself up in the garage. This work is too messy for my upstairs studio that is just a side extension of my bedroom. Basically I tear lots of magazine pages into bits and apply pieces of them to the canvas with glossy acrylic liquid gel medium. 
The first day's work
I settled on a color scheme of fuschia, white and black, with some related colors for the hair. After a few hours, I had a good beginning. I knew that I wanted the hair to be ambiguous on the right, and darker to indicate some shadow there. Where does the hair end? That's part of the mystery.
The second day's work
I spent the afternoon in the garage tackling the face, always the biggest challenge for me. I know at this point that I will likely eliminate the watch face on her cheek and the lines of her neck are too defined and straight. The beauty of collage is it's easy to change my mind. Gerald Brommer, a famous artist who first taught me to use collage said, "Just keep adding paper until it's so heavy the painting will fall off the wall." I like the ambiguity that's developing. Is that the back of a woman forming some of her hair. Oh, I see a high heel and some flowers in her clothing. There is the San Francisco skyline.... (rescued from the newspaper a month ago as I thought about this collage).
The third day's work
Now that the canvas is covered, I can begin to refine the image. I eliminate the watch face, modify the neck, and put some white flowers on either side of her. Nope -- don't like those gardenias - too regular and fussy for suggesting a sophisticated city.

The fourth day's work
Gotta get rid of the white flowers. How about a cable car image? Try some black under the city. I don't like the long diagonal that the black creates. 

Final day's work
Will it help to break up the black a bit? Better, but I still don't like it. Time to revert back to white.
A repeated photo of the finished (?) piece
I kept the text, added some white with text, broke the long line at the top of her head, created some ambiguity in her hair on the lighted side, both on the outer and inner edges. Derek Gores would probably tell me that I need to vary the edges more, so this piece will likely change a bit yet as I contemplate how to make this piece more interesting.
Meanwhile, I was able to show one collage piece, at an SCVWS exhibit in the spring. The committee was pretty open-minded to include an all-collage piece as the society focuses on watermedia. My watermedia is the acrylic for the glue.  That event got me an invitation to show that piece and one other at the Rengstorf House in Mountain View during the month of August.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Long-Distance Plein Air All Day Event

"Heaven's Gate 2"
20" x 14" watercolor

"Mission San Juan Bautista"
9" x 5" watercolor
Once a year the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society makes a longer trek to paint all day on location.  This year's choice was the small Spanish town of San Juan Bautista. If you haven't been there, it should make your bucket list. We had around 15 artists show up, very good considering the distance for some. I live more south than many, so it's not a bad drive, The mission is the first I every visited, way back in 1976, and remains my favorite. San Juan Bautista has the only original Spanish Plaza remaining in California. I've painted here more than once and sold both paintings. I wrote of one such experience on my blog here.
We were treated to a beautiful day with comfortable temperatures. I stood at my easel under a tree and painted from a new perspective. After a few hours, I stopped and vowed to reconsider the work after I got home. We had a picnic lunch, viewed all the work people cared to share, and then selected a new spot to paint. The mission has a long low building with arches attached to the church. When we first arrived, I was taken by the view down the long outdoor hallway. So this afternoon, somewhat fatigued, we settled across the street at shaded picnic tables. I didn't have a great view of  the hallway, but I could see a nice vista. I settled on small and used my new Arches block that is perfect for small sweeping landscapes. I've seen other artists use that block and had to have one.  I removed some distant trees to add the expansiveness that I felt when sitting there.
The wind began to really blow, as it can in this area close to the Pacific Ocean. That's why San Francisco Bay is a great venue for the America's Cup. Friend Janice and I left about 3 p.m., having completed a couple paintings each, and Janice had done a wonderful ink drawing of an old adobe to which she will add color.
For a fun read, check out the paintsites blog: , Brad is a very charming writer and he keeps the blog updated. He always asks for people to send in their work, but only a few do. So this time he told us he was taking photos for the blog. We can tell him if we want to be named with our work. There were many nice pieces.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Book Cover

"King of the Batchelor Herd"
8.5" x 7"
 A friend from the gym where I work out asked me to take a commission for the cover of a book about working in Silicon Valley. She is in a field that is largely dominated by males and has many interesting experiences to tell. I won't say more as it's really Vicky's story to tell. Suffice it say, I never expected to paint a water buffalo and he was a challenge. I liked the results.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Artist Retreat in Gold Country Continued

"Morning on Lake Alpine"
14" x 16" Watercolor

The view.
Our foursome ventured to Angel's Camp looking for acrylics for Jeannie, but alas, the Mercantile did not open until 11 am. Coming from busy Silicon Valley we were constantly stymied by the very limited hours of businesses. Most restaurants closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Those that didn't. closed Wednesday and Thursdays. Most shops open at 11 or noon and close by 5. Now I understand why people have multiple jobs to survive in such beautiful, remote mountains.
I then drove us to Lake Alpine at 7303 feet of elevation. It was quiet there with just a few people kayaking, canoeing, or fishing. We settled in to paint the scenery. Mandatory was some shade, so I found a lovely place under the trees with a view across the lake. After a few hours, we enjoyed lunch and then visited Calavaras Big Trees State Park to show the giant Sierra Redwoods to my East Coast friend Joan (not to be confused with the Coastal Redwoods near my home).  She was appropriately in awe.
We were too late to attend the joint critique session, so we went straight to dinner. The following morning we painted at a gorgeous property just a few miles from the center of Murphys, Ironstone Winery. There were beautiful grounds, a huge outdoor amphitheater for performances by major entertainers, and a nice tasting room/cafe. We skipped the wine and went straight to painting. I did two pieces -- one a display of flower-filled wine barrels and the other a vineyard view. I framed the florals for the art show.
Wednesday afternoon was a wrap-up with an art show at Hovey Winery in town. We set up on the large lawn. We could show three pieces each, one that we brought with us and two from our getaway. I had Bob cut mats, I prepared frames, I picked out one landscape to bring with me, and in the haste of leaving home left all behind. Someone loaned me frames and I bought one. I showed "Morning at Lake Alpine" and these two.

My "Ironstone Winery" and "Mike's Barn"
on display at the final art show at
Hovey's Winery

Joan brought a lovely oil painting of two lambs.
Jeannie displayed a gorgeous texture-filled watercolor of the coast.

Janice showed a piece from her colorful crab series and a painting of rocks and water done at Ironstone Winery.

The following morning we wandered the town and had breakfast at the old Murphys Hotel, a place with lots of history since opened in 1856. Jeannie and I were armed with cameras for capturing our final reference photos to use in our home studios. We packed out belongings and hit the road back to San Jose.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Painting in Gold Country

"Gold Country View"
New Melones Lake
20" x 15" Watercolor

The view from the pool

Packing up after painting by the pool
Mike's Barn
7" x 5" Watercolor
Oldest barn in Calavaras County
Every year, my artist friend Joan and I take an art vacation together. Since meeting on a Maine workshop in 2002, we've maintained our cross-country relationship and taken some great trips, including to tiny Cauliagno, Italy, in Western Tuscany;  and Les Bassacs, a petitie hilltown in Provence, France. The link takes you to the final entry for that memorable 2011 experience. Italy was pre-blog days.
This year Joan came from Connecticut to attend an Artist Getaway in Murphys, California, heart of the Gold Country.  We were deep in Mark Twain's frog jumping country -- Calavaras County. Joining  us were 40 other artists, among them two of my good friends from the watercolor society. The four of us would pile into my little SUV and head out to paint the gorgeous scenery. We were enjoying a dinner at a nice restaurant on our first evening when a couple came up and chatted with us because we were having such a great time.  When we told them we would be doing plein air painting, they invited us to their property the following afternoon.
In the morning we went to Columbia, a wonderful state park that preserves an old gold mining town. There I painted my mandatory failure and got that out of the way. After our picnic lunch, we headed to the home of Penny and Mike. We bumped up a dirt private road and then entered their property via a controlled gate. They live at the very top of a steep hill, so we admired their cattle as I carefully took the hairpin curves to the house.
We scoped out the magnificent views out over New Melones Lake, and Mike piled us into his pickup truck to survey the property and visit his barn, the oldest remaining barn in Calavaras County. Returning to the cool shade by the pool on this very hot day, we set up and began to work. Penny told us the vineyards supplied the wine we drank the night before.
The panoramic view demanded a large painting, and it was just such a delight to do. I loved the shapes of the mountains, water, vineyards, and trees. Penny was amazed with the speed with which we painted. We were done in a couple hours.  When we shared the results with the AG group and told our story, everyone was intrigued by the serendipity we experienced. Life brings lots of memorable experiences when I am open to them.
Later in my room, I did a small painting of Mike's barn. The photo is taken behind glass, so not so clear. I will replace it soon.