Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Room with a View: Journaling in the Carribean

"The Pitons"
St. Lucia, Caribbean
5.5" x 8" watercolor
Recently Bob and I took a 14-day cruise with two other couples on Celebrity Eclipse in the Caribbean. The weather was outstanding -- 80s and sunny everyday.  We visited eight islands, going as far south as Curacao, which is off the coast of Venezuela. I took along a Strathmore 5.5 x 8" visual journal and my tiny Koi watercolor set with brush pen. I found the quality of the paper to be quite inferior to my standard Arches, and should have stayed with known supplies.
Our journey started with a flight to Fort Lauderdale, and a couple days later we boarded the ship in Port Everglades, strangely named because it is in Fort Lauderdale, not the Everglades. This was our view from our veranda as we prepared for our 5 p.m. sailing time.
"A Room with a View: Port Everglades"
We spent the next few days at sea, eating at different venues, taking in shows in the evening, doing dance classes, swimming in the pool, reading, and attending culture talks. We thoroughly enjoyed sitting on our veranda, where we often enjoyed room service in the morning.
"A Room with a View: The Veranda"
A Day at Sea
Our first stop was very predictable -- St. Thomas, the US Virgin Islands. There were a half dozen boats in port. This is the view from our veranda at the dock.
"A Room with a View: The Port at Charlotte Amalie"
St. Thomas
Bob and I decided to go our own way and took the local open air bus up over the island to Red Hook where we boarded the ferry to St. John. The Waterfront Bar and Grill is very colorful as you approach the island, so we immediately went and had lunch.

"Waterfront Bar and Grill"
St. John, Virgin Islands
Bob, a fan of locally brewed beers, ordered the Virgin Island beer. He chuckled when he read the label -- brewed in Portland, ME. That's okay. We've enjoyed the microbrews from that lovely small Maine city. We wandered the small town, visited the local Lutheran church, and learned about the native and European cultures and history of the island at the National Park Headquarters. This set the theme for understanding the exploitation of natural resources and people on the islands.
The following morning we docked at St. Maarten, a island shared by two nationalities -- the Dutch and the French. We were on the Dutch side of the island. The rest of the group took off to the beach and we went on a bicycle tour. Some of the participants were a bit taken back by the 18% climbs we did on the way to an old fort. I was the oldest woman to make it up the hill on the bicycle without walking. The island is very clean and colorful. The border was decided by a foot race in which the Dutchman drinking Dutch Gin did not make as much headway as the Frenchman drinking French wine. However, the Dutch pride themselves on owning the area with the sea and air ports. The border is completely open and determined by the oldest standing treaty in the world (the Treaty of Concordia in 1648).

"Biking  in Phillipsburg"
Dutch St. Maarten

Now the distances between islands are very modest, about 100 miles, so the next morning we docked in Antiqua. The port was very colorful. This lady was selling jewelry to the tourists.
"The Jewelry Lady"

Bob was needing a time out (vacations can be exhausting), so I went off with the other four on a taxi van tour of the island. Bernie, "King of the Road," stuffed a dozen of us into the van and off we went, to the old Nelson Boatyard, the fort, views of homes of the rich and famous (such as Eric Clapton), and banana groves. The King managed to deliver us all back safely on a tire missing a huge chunk of rubber, which I was thankfully not aware of until exiting back at the boat.
We sailed on overnight and landed at St. Lucia. The six of us took a private van tour of the island. The sketch at the top of the post features St. Lucia's notable landmark, the Pitons. We passed them enroute to their smoking volcano. The island has lush jungle and treacherous winding roads climbing over the mountains. Everything is so colorful.
A photo of the Pitons

A restaurant in the mountains of St. Lucia
To be continued.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Plein Air at Kirk Farrington House in San Jose

11" x 14" Watercolor
Kirk Farrington House
San Jose,CA
 The real deal from a different perspective

"Spring Peony"
9" x 7" watercolor

The model was in front of me
Artists at work

The Kirk Farrington House is a beautiful old Italianate-style Victorian house built in 1878. The last surviving Farrington put the home in trust for the use of the Junior League of San Jose, Inc., and it is run by the Farrington Historical Foundation. Today the site is reduced to 3 acres from a thousand acre farm on lovely Dry Creek Road, a meandering road that runs through the middle of San Jose and is an upscale neighborhood.

Our leaders got permission for us to paint there. We did not go inside the house, but we enjoyed the gardens and the beautiful landscaping. I first set up on the edge of the road and did a portion of the house. Two very large trees cover the front of much of the house from that perspective. About a half hour before we would break at 1 for lunch, I grabbed a few supplies and sat down in the peony garden. With so little time, I did a quick painting without drawing any lines.

The weather was gorgeous and the blooms have suddenly appeared all over the valley. We artists had a fine time together. As we sat munching our picnic lunches, we admired our output.

The paintings from the session are starting to appear on the paintsites blog:

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Monday Morning drawing class - Bob after a little break

"Scottish Bob"
14" x 16"vine charcoal
Here is Bob looking quite serious after returning from our 14-day cruise in the Carribean. (Watercolor sketches will appear in a future blog edition.) Our drawing instructor Bob Semans had asked my Bob to model for our class after we returned for vacation. For remuneration, we will receive a gorgeous pastel that Bob S. is doing as a demo for our class and his oil painting students. We are both very pleased.

Bob was asked to wear something colorful. That's his Balmoral (Scottish cap) that is usually worn with his Prince Charlie and kilt formal attire. He wore his fisherman knit sweater and bright vest that the class had admired when he stopped by several weeks ago. Our instructor selected the hat from among several.

Phase 1: Block in the planes with color
(c) Bob Semans

Bob S. began his demo by marking a few key points - height and width of head, centerline of the face, and location of the eyes, bottom of the nose, and mouth. He lightly sketched the edge of the clothing, and then blocked in masses of color. This is similar to his approach in oil portraits.

Phase 2: Begin to model within the planes
(c) Bob Semans
Next Bob began to model shapes within the planes. Notice how little detail defines the features and the simplicity of the beard.
Our group used vine charcoal to sketch along. My perspective is entirely different than the instructor's classic three-quarter view and lighting, so I did not see the nice shadows for my sketch.
Our model returns (with me, of course) to sit for us next week.