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

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Neptune's Court and Happy Thanksgiving

Neptune's Court / oil on canvas panel / 20 x 16
 A painting I did from a photo taken when my husband and I were on vacation in Washington DC in May 2014. She is one of the Tritons in the Court of Neptune fountain in front of the Library of Congress. It impressed me greatly and the memory of it has stayed with me.

The Court of Neptune Fountain , Washington DC
I wish to take a moment to wish everyone who celebrates it a very happy and peaceful Thanksgiving. My husband and I will be having a quiet dinner with our son while we await the visit from our daughter in early December. We have much to be thankful for including good health, good and active minds, and an abundance of temporal riches. Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Bunny Jack Toovey and Moscow!

A new bunny painting - this one along with the recent portrait of Wee Elodie will be sent as Christmas gifts to my dear friend Gwen who lives in England. 

Jack Toovey / 12 x 9 / oil on linen panel
Many of those who follow my blog may remember that my daughter Kimberly has been living and working for the past two years in Amsterdam. My husband, son and I recently traveled to Europe to visit her. She is planning to come home (with her close friend Hans) in early December to spend a few days with us and we are all very excited! In the meantime, her employer has sent her to Russia on a business trip to meet up with her colleagues in the Moscow office. She arrived on Saturday and on Sunday spent the day with her new friends touring the Kremlin!
Kim (3rd from left) with her Russian co-workers in front of St. Basil's Cathedral
Cathedral of the Assumption - first constructed in 1326 and rebuilt in 1479 of vaulted limestone with 5 golden cupolas. In 1547 the coronation of the first Russian Tsar, Ivan the Terrible, took place here and  Napoleons troops stabled their horses inside during the Russian campaign.
 
Inside the Cathedral of the Assumption

Inside showing frescoes

My daughter in Moscow!
 
WWII tomb of the Unknown Soldier


Kimberly with Russian Guards

In Red Square, Kilometer Zero is marked with a bronze plaque in front of the Iberian Gate. All points from Moscow are measured from here and it is tradition to toss a coin over your shoulder to please Lady Fortune.

I told Kim to keep her eyes open for a sighting of President Putin and I guess she did!
The surname of Smolensky is a Russian name and in the museums there are several paintings of Russian princesses:


Princess Ecaterina Smolensky
Princess Daria Smolensky


Some day I suppose we should investigate through Ancestry.com to see if we are truly related to any of these people but its fun to think we might be! Moscow also boasts a Smolensky Bridge and Smolensky Boulevard. The Boulevard was immortalized by Kandinsky in his painting  Smolensky Boulevard in Snow. What fun!

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Friday, November 11, 2016

Reinert Fine Art in Blowing Rock, NC

The Reinert Fine Art Gallery is so good to me! My paintings were just received earlier this week (on Election Day!) and they are already unpacked and hung. Carolyn, the gallery director, was kind enough to send me some photos. I hope I get to visit this lovely gallery one day and to meet Carolyn and Rick and Ann Reinert in person. But seeing the gallery in these photos gives me a good idea of how beautifully my work is displayed among the other stellar artists that are there. It's a great thrill and honor for me to be in such good company!

Four of my paintings are displayed in the front window! What a thrill!

Connoisseur of Comfort on the bottom left

Early Lies the Wintry Sun on the right

A Profound Understanding above Connoisseur of Comfort

Inspired by a Shared Objective and Exuberance Unleashed beneath two of my equine paintings.
This gallery looks like an enchanted place of beauty to me - a place to feast the eyes and feed the soul!

If anyone is ever in Blowing Rock, please stop by the gallery and tell them Susan sent you!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A Lively Sense of Haste and Master pieces #5


My husband and I just returned from a short trip over the Sierra Nevada's to California and back so I have not had much time at the easel - just enough to dash off this lively bunny.


A Lively Sense of Haste / oil on linen panel / 11 x 14
 And his beginning oil sketch:
A Lively Sense of Haste
 And Michelangelo has now completed his 6th masterpiece  - the design and completion of the New Sacristy of the Medici Chapel in Florence. Here Michelangelo integrated architecture and sculpture with stunning originality.  The chapel houses the remains of two Medici Dukes, Lorenzo and Guiliano -  seated opposite each other ans sitting stiffly erect, gazing toward an unfinished Virgin Mary. Each Duke is underscored by writhing twisting figures arranged sprawled across their sarcophagi - Lorenzo by Dusk and Dawn and Guiliano by Day and Night. The result is "an essay in dynamic contrasts, of commensurate forms and unresolved tensions".

Duke Lorenzo de Medici with Dawn and Dusk

Duke Guiliano de Medici with Day and Night




Sunday, October 30, 2016

Dogs, a Cat and Masterpiece #4

Four paintings, now beautifully framed, ready for shipment to the Reinert Fine Art Gallery in Blowing Rock, North Carolina gallery.






According to Miles Unger in his biography of Michelangelo, masterpiece #4 is the magnificent Moses that forms the riveting centerpiece for the tomb of Pope Julius. Moses is so powerful that he overwhelms the rest of the tomb. He is singular in conveying restless dynamism and smoldering power in a seated figure. He is thrust slightly forward as if about to rise and his gaze is fully riveted on something outside our field of vision. Michelangelo depicted Moses with two horns, something that is still debated by art historians.



According to legend, when the statue was completed, Michelangelo was so pleased with the realism he had achieved that he slapped the statue and demanded it to speak!

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!