"Paintings have a life of their own that derives from the painter's soul." Vincent Van Gogh

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Winter's Chill and Masterpiece #3

Winter's Chill / 14x18 / oil on linen panel / Sold
So happy to have had another sale this week - this one from the Reinert Fine Art Gallery in Charleston, South Carolina. Here is a link if you would like to look through the work of the other tremendous artists in this gallery: Reinert Fine Art Gallery. They have sold quite a few pieces of my work and I am forever grateful to Ann and Rick Reinert.

To continue with the life and works of Michelangelo - after the great success of the David, Pope Julius summoned him back to Rome, this time to paint the vault of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo was reluctant as he considered himself a sculptor but Pope Julius was adamant, leaving the artist no choice. The ceiling was 134 feet long and 44 feet wide with a 5800 square foot expanse of blue speckled with gold stars. After initially agreeing to paint the 12 Apostles, the Pope saw the benefit in giving Michelangelo free rein.

Frescoeing and painting began in 1508 and was completed in 4 years with a 6 month hiatus in the middle. A vast scaffold of Michelangelo's design, hanging from holes near the upper windows, was erected allowing the artist to paint in a standing position. Each morning an assistant would trowel on wet plaster and another would transfer the cartoon drawn by Michelangelo onto the wet surface allowing the artist to paint color quickly and in shimmery, transparent veils before the plaster dried. Apparent is his obvious delight in the human figure, his passionate and unconventional vision and his success in creating a somehow miraculous, transcendent masterpiece. More than once, Michelangelo depicts God - not standing  firmly on solid ground, but instead hurtling through space, endowed with titanic energy and supreme confidence.  In the end, this massive project is a link between our world and the celestial realm. Pope Julius was awed, however, 10 days after unveiling this masterpiece to the public, he became ill with fever and died 2 months later.

Personally, upon seeing this masterpiece, I was overwhelmed with joy that that human mind could create something of such wondrous complexity, beauty and almost violent emotional impact. The Creation of Adam is so stunning that I could hardly turn my eyes from it to look at the surrounding figures and scenes. It is a masterpiece within a masterpiece.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

New, Sold and Masterpiece #2

Oil on cardboard / 20x16
 Not quite finished with this oil sketch on gessoed artboard - the jockey still needs a few tweaks before I will call it done.

And another painting sold from the Roux & Cyr Gallery in Portland, Maine - thank you, Susan Roux, you are wonderful!

Piping Plovers Cubed / oil on linen / 9 x 12 / SOLD

The second masterpiece by Michelangelo, according to Miles Unger in his book "Michelangelo: A Life in 6 Masterpieces" is the sculpture originally referred to as 'Il Gigante' or, as we know it today, 'David'.

After completing the Pieta, Michelangelo returned to Florence with accolades while his fame spread to all corners of Italy and beyond. At this time, there lay in the courtyard of the cathedral of Florence a massive block of Carrara marble. It had been there for over 30 years exposed to wind and rain, covered in dirt and surrounded by weeds. The abandoned monolith was "a monument to frustrated ambition and humbled pride". Florentine's referred to it as "the Giant" as it faintly resembled the ill formed figure of a man inexpertly hacked at by two obscure artists over 10 years time who both abandoned the projects they had barely begun.

In 1501, overseers of the cathedral took a renewed interest in the massive piece of stone - 18 feet from end to end - which had been excavated in 1464 from the mountainside and hauled over 80 miles to Florence at great expense. They were eager to commission a new statue to adorn the exterior of the cathedral and it seemed prudent to use the perfectly serviceable stone what was already on hand. They decided that the symbolism of an underdog emerging victorious in the face of long odds would be perfectly encapsulated in a statue of David, a shepherd boy who defeated the giant Goliath with a stone.

Michelangelo was hired to "make and carry out and to finish perfectly a figure...within 2 years" and he immediately set out to carve a giant figure that would inspire, astound and amaze. As was his habit, he enclosed his work site, carved in solitude and worked with furious speed. The stone was now upright and in order to carve a column more than 3 times the height of a man, he erected a surrounding scaffolding.  Michelangelo was forced to fit his figure into contours of the stone that were less than ideal as the two previous attempts on the stone left it damaged and "badly blocked". As the statue progressed and Michelangelo was forced to allow  overseers of the church to view his progress, they realized it was worthy of a more prominent site - in the heart of political Florence - the Palazzo della Signoria.

David is not only beautiful, grand and of enormous size, he is fully in command and perfectly at ease. Armed with a sling he is confident but uncertain of his fate - a heroic version of man.

Here is David, the shepherd boy, on the verge of battle in the very moment that he becomes aware that Goliath is approaching. He turns his head, looking over his shoulder. The tendons of his neck stiffen as he realizes the critical moment is at hand. He knits his brow and shifts his eyes toward his enemy. He shows determination in the face of uncertainty, the eloquently portrayed shepherd boy who became the holy warrior.

With the installation of David, Michelangelo became the most celebrated sculptor in Europe, his reputation as an artist surpassed only by that of Leonardo da Vinci.

Next up: the Sistine Chapel.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Wee Elodie and A Series of 6 Masterpieces

Elodie at 5 / 12 x 12 / oil on linen panel
Such a challenge to paint the gorgeous granddaughter of my dear friend with the bright sunlight and tousled hair covering her eye. She is so adorable (and extremely creative, brilliant and precocious). How can a paintbrush capture all those things?

A note to John Simlett - John, your recent series work painting your great grandchildren spurred me to do this portrait. Thank you for being my inspiration!

Ever since my trip to Europe in May, I have been thinking and thinking about the Pieta and how arrestingly sublime it is - while in St. Peter's Basilica I longed to get closer to inspect it more intimately but of course that was impossible. I was also a little bit disappointed that the way it is displayed, raised up above eye level, caused Christs face to be obscured. Since coming home, I have poured over as many photos of this magnificent sculpture as I can find and decided to learn more about Michelangelo himself.

My interest in the sculptor led me to a scholarly book by Miles J. Unger enttled Michelangelo: A Life in Six Masterpieces. It is a critical biography that provides insight into the genius of the man as well as the struggles he encountered in his quest to remain true to his artistic philosophy while working for the most powerful, wealthy and influential men of his era. I was completely surprised to learn that Michelangleo carved the Pieta (his first masterpiece) from a single flawless piece of Carrara marble when he was the tender age of 24 years.  After seeing a slightly tipsy Bacchus sculpted by Michelangelo standing in the garden of a Roman merchant, the French Cardinal to the Vatican was impressed enough to commission him to carve a pious work for his tomb. Interestingly, the contract stipulated that the finished piece must be "the most beautiful marble there is today in Rome and that no other living master could do better." The basic form for the Pieta was worked out in a series of drawings from live models and Michelangelo insisted on carving mostly in secret. Unfortunately the French Cardinal died before the sculpture was completed. But, nonetheless, the world agreed that Michelangelo lived up the the contractual terms as it was immediately declared a masterpiece that not only surpassed the work of his contemporaries but challenged the ancients themselves.  My love for this statue is due to the absolute humanity emanating from the hard cold marble making it powerfully evocative and profoundly moving.

Shall I tell you about Masterpiece # 2 in my next post?

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Two Figure Studies

Red Cheeked Reclining Nude / oil on linen 14x18

And the preceding quick ala prima oil sketch on art board

Nude oil sketch / oil on artboard / 16x20

Monday, October 3, 2016

Hound Dogs and Snow!

Collaboration of Imagination Oil on linen / 18x24

Three dog paintings in a row! Perhaps its time to get back to some figurative or equine work.

Winter has arrived very early with a blustery snow storm in the mountains last night treating us to this view from our house this morning:

Snow in the Sierras on October 3rd!
This is the earliest snowfall we have experienced since moving to Reno - but the forecast is for a warm up over the next few days so perhaps we will have some autumn weather before true winter arrives.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

2016 Coeur d'Alene Auction of Western Art

New hound dog painting hot off the easel!

Focused Resolve / 16x12 / oil on masonite

In July, as we do every year since moving to Reno, my husband and I attended the Coeur d"Alene Auction. The catalog cover this year featured a delicate oil by Charles M. Russell called The Tenderfoot painted in 1897. Charles Russell was a real and rugged cowboy in addition to being a painter and sculptor. This piece engendered some spirited bidding and sold for $700,000.00 USD.

2016 Auction Catalog and bidding paddle

 The center painting in this photo is Howard Terpening's  Blackfeet Storyteller 1988. He is such a magnificent painter with enviable brushwork and is a master of lost edges.This one also sold for about $700,00.00 USD. (That is the Charles Russel Tenderfoot painting on the right).

Harry Jackson's 60 inch high sculpture called Pony Express 1983 shows the kind of energy and motion that I love to paint!

 A portion of the display of over 300 paintings and bronzes that encircled the entire ballroom.

Two Conte drawings and two acrylic paintings by contemporary artist Bob Kuhn. I was impressed by the crispness and purity of his colors.

 Paul Pletka's Crow Warrior was one of my favorite pieces.

 This romantic painting by Richard Schmidt seemed very nostalgic to me, hearkening back to more carefree times.

After viewing the lots the night before the auction there is always a buffet dinner. This year the food was bountiful and better than ever including prime rib,lamb shanks, cheddar cheese balls, tiny quiche lorraine and wonderful pastries for dessert. The auction itself is always the most fun as it all happens at such a fast and furious pace. Most things were sold quickly. I learned that western art is alive and well in the United States although I must admit that generally the subject matter is not my cup of tea. My absolute favorite was not an American Western painting but instead an arrestingly beautiful picture by Leon Gaspard, a Russian trained painter and adventurer. The painting is Siberian Christmas and the story is that at 17 years old, after winning a gold medal at an exhibition at the National Academy of Russia, Leon set out into Siberia on a solo painting trip. The year was 1899 and after paying abut 12 cents for a ride in a horse drawn wagon from a passing family, he was dropped off at an inn deep in the interior of Siberia. This painting is a result of that experience.

Siberian Christmas / Leon Gaspard / 24x24
The photograph does not even come close to doing it justice. It sold to a lucky buyer for a mere $250,000.00!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

New Painting Sold Painting and a California Chill!

Just completed and awaiting a title -

Untitled / oil on linen panel / 14x18

Sold from my gallery in Blowing Rock, North Carolina:

A Moment of Disciplined Pleasure / 11x14
And a few photos from a short trip to California. In mid-July, my husband and I had just completed some business in Palo Alto (outside of San Francisco) and decided to drive to Half Moon Bay a few miles away on the coast.  It was a beautiful, warm sunny day but the weather in Half Moon Bay was quite different! The wind was blustery and the temperature was so cold that sweatshirts and jackets did not keep us warm. We were not able to walk on the beach but were forced to shelter ourselves inside the Ritz Carlton Hotel and drink hot chocolate while looking out over the ocean! Summer on the northern California coastline!

I am going to make an effort to post more regularly and next time I will have some photos from the Couer d"Alene Auction of Western Art that was held here in Reno in July. Until then - many thanks for taking the time to follow my blog!

Friday, June 10, 2016

European Odyssey Comes to an End

European Odyssey 24x30 oil on canvas

 The finished painting - I wanted to celebrate our trip in a painting that showed the exuberance and joy of our experience together as a family.

And some final photos of the magical city of Rome to share with you:

Ruins of the Roman Forum with rose garden in full bloom!

Piazza del Popolo with the Leonardo da Vinci Museum

The Vatican inner courtyard

Laocoon - what an amazing sculpture. I was mesmerized by the strength and emotion of this piece.

Some "marble taxidermy "and one of the most interesting rooms of sculpture in the Vatican Museum!

The Hall of the Muses

Raphael Room in the Apostolic Castle

The Sistine Chapel - what a masterwork it is! Much more impressive than any photo could ever show!

Entry to St. Peter's Basilica

The Pieta- sublimely beautiful and most definitely the highlight of the trip for me.

Inside St. Peter's

Bernini sculpture

Doorway relief sculpture

Inside the Tomb of the Popes underneath the Basilica - no photos allowed :0!

On this trip, our European odyssey, I saw and experienced things that I never dreamed or imagined. Upon returning home, I felt an overwhelming connection to the people of the past and to the history of mankind through the ages. This feeling came more through my experiences of living in the ancient cities for a time and sharing their cultures than it did from antiquities in a museum or a church. I found that people are open and friendly, are eager to share their own stories and to make connections. On the last day in Amsterdam before our long flight home, I had a chance to meet up with a Scottish friend of mine that I had not seen in almost 30 years. Seeing Gwen and her husband and introducing her to my family was perhaps the best ending that such a magical trip could ever have had.

Friday, June 3, 2016

On the Easel - and Rome!

Untitled / 24 x 30 / oil on canvas
 Still on the easel - this is at least the third painting on this particular canvas - the other two being wipe offs. I wonder if I will keep this one......

And then there was Rome! What a magnificent city - so ancient and so new. I loved every minute of exploring it. This is the lobby of the Marriott Grand Flora Hotel with hundreds of tennis balls hanging from the ceiling - we discovered that the Italian Tennis Open was being played in Rome the week we were there. We had a magnificent room - complete with feather mattress on the bed and balcony over looking the Borghese Villa and gardens. I had no trouble falling asleep in Rome!

Marriott Grand Flora Hotel - Rome

 The daytime view from our balcony overlooking the Borghese ruins. The Vatican was not far in this direction also and the American Embassy was a short walk down the street. It was a perfect location.

Some incredible churches that we happened upon as we explored Rome - we saw so many - each one more beautiful than the last.

Church interior with mass in progress

Church with gorgeous life size wooden crucifixion carvings

A not atypical church entry
 The Pantheon is in such perfect condition you would think it was built yesterday however it was completed by the Emperor Hadrian in about 125 AD. The rotunda is resplendent with sculptures and art work and is still the world's largest unreinforced concrete done. The Pantheon is still actively used as a church with masses held every Sunday and has also functioned as a tomb. I was surprised to learn that the painter Raphael, 2 Italian kings and a queen are all buried here.

The Pantheon - under the rotunda

Inside the Pantheon

Roman rooftops
 Our next stop was the Colosseum. We spent several hours there exploring and wondering about the intricate Roman engineering that allowed it to function. Not only did it house the gladiators and many very large, wild animals beneath the main arena - there were very sophisticated mechanisms for moving them about and up to the arena. And did you know that it was occasionally flooded and ships held mock battles there? It was an almost inconceivable drainage system that allowed this to occur.

My family and I at the Colosseum  - typical tourists!

The Colosseum held over 50,000 people and it was not hard to imagine the spectacles that unfolded here.

Inside a Roman delicatessen!
What a holiday trip - and more yet to tell you about!