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

Monday, December 30, 2013

A Moment of Perfect Equilibrium or Equine #13

2013 was a wonderful year for painting, creativity and inspiration and I hope that 2014 is even better. My artistic goals are moving forward with me into this new year - to paint more and to paint better, to work from life whenever possible, to paint without fear and with great boldness and confidence. Such lofty goals - but very worthwhile striving for.

Here is my last completed painting of 2013 - oil on linen in my favorite size 18 x 24.

A Moment of Perfect Equilibrium or Equine #13 / oil on linen panel / 18 x 24
I took several  progress photos as this painting came into being and thought I would post them as a small WIP:

The ideas emerges and a careful oil sketch is done as the anatomy is very important in this equine position

Beginning with the darks in a thin mixture of burnt umber and dioxazine purple.

Working with color and beginning the background.

Composition fully established and background progressing.

The final picture

I have so much to be grateful for as 2013 comes to an end and my heart is full. I hope that all my internet friends enjoy a year filled with art that makes the soul take notice and the heart sing, I wish for good health and joyful days filed with peace and inspiration. Happy New Year everyone and many, many thanks for keeping me company on my blog and for allowing me to visit yours this past year. You have all affected me and inspired my own work. Happy New Year and happy creating!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

May Your Days Be Merry and Bright

Oil on linen panel 18x24

Merry Christmas, happy holidays and a wonderful, joyful and peaceful New Year to all!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Black Beret

Lori / graphite on white laid paper /  24 x 18
 I seemed to be in such a hurry in this mornings portrait session and could not slow down. This larger sketch was done in the first hour and I was not happy with it until I smudged the black beret to give it a softer look. Large black hats always seem to throw me.
Lori / Sienna Cont on tan paper. 14 x 11
 Changing positions to the other side of the studio and picking up the Cont stick, I drew this one in about 40 minutes - picking up speed as the day went on.
Lori / black and white charcoal on tan paper / 14 x 11
Then a 20 minute quick charcoal sketch. I am not very familiar with charcoal and rarely use it but decided to use some time for experimentation. I was inspired to try darkening the background after leafing through Sargent's book of portrait drawings. A productive, even if not exactly relaxing, morning!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Dancing Horse Revisited

Equine #12 / oil on linen panel / 16 x 20
I have painted this particular equine dance step before but it intrigues me so I tried it again, a little larger this time.

Renoir / oil on linen panel / 14 x 11
And a quick oil portrait sketch of Renoir from a black and white photo, of course!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Enough is Enough

Frank / oil on linen panel / 12 x 12
I have had enough of this slump and all the negative effects it was having on me. Determined to rid myself of these evil demons, I have practically locked myself in my studio for the last three days and painted nonstop. As Frank was such a great model in our life sessions, I attempted a portrait of him - this is my third attempt and I am finally pleased. Its not about liking the outcome - its more about the feeling of the paintbrush on the canvas and the movement of the paint. It began to feel familiar again. I don't know if I am out of my slump or not - only time will tell but I am feeling better today than I have in weeks.

Being part of this online artist community is such a wonderful experience - I received so much support, understanding and sugggestions and all of it helped me get through this. A special thanks to Suzanne Berry for her very caring personal concern and to Sandra Busby for her suggestion to read  Art Bytes about the slumps other artists have had and their suggestions for getting through. I am so touched by all of your comments and the fact that so many wonderful artists have persisted in following my blog even though I have been lagging in postings lately. A warm heartfelt thanks to you all!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Back to the Drawing Board

Frank / Conte crayon / tan laid paper / 14 x 11
After long weeks, days, hours of struggling at my easel, I finally found inspiration this morning in the interesting and unique face of our wonderful model Frank. Frank is an investigative journalist, a professor of journalism, a historian and an author. He is funny and kind and he relaxed easily into his role of model and muse. For the first time in a long long time, I felt a connection to what was happening on the paper - the graphite and Conte marks emerging on the rough paper were Frank but they were me, too. This gives me hope that I will be able to break out of my current states of despair and exasperation at the easel. Is there such a thing as trying too hard? That is what is happening to me - but today, with Frank, I felt free of that - free of the need to succeed. After carefully considering the subject, choosing my spot wisely and freeing my mind, I let the pencil do the work.

Frank / Ebony graphite / 20 x 18

And a word of wonder and thanks to those of you who noticed my long absence and privately expressed concern. The very singular relations that have developed with fellow artists here in cyberspace are, without a doubt, strongly influential  and deeply meaningful to me. Thank you.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Equine #11

Equine #11 / 12x12 / oil on canvas panel

Trying desperately to break out of my painting slump, I decided to revert to the leaping equine series. I had stopped at #10 and so, today, #11 has appeared. I am hoping that getting back to a familiar subject will shake up my painter's brain a bit and allow me to feel some comfort with brush and canvas again.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Drawings, But, Sadly, No Paintings

"Painting is easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do." Edgar Degas

Having recovered from my virus, I am now trying to recover from doldrums at the easel. It's not that I have not been painting - in fact, I paint almost every day. It's just that I am so unhappy with myself right now. These things that are emerging from my brush - the strokes, the lines, the color, even the subject matter - are not mine. I have wiped them all off for fear that someone might think I have painted them - that would be horrible!

And so I will show you my drawings from this morning. At least I know that I drew them!

Constance / Sienna Conte on white sketch paper /17x14

Constance / graphite and white charcoal on tan toned paper / 14x11 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

My throat is dry, my nose is red, I have a cold inside my head......

A week of cold, congestion, coughing and sleepless nights. Ugh - something miserable I caught during my trip to Los Angeles and have had a hard time beating.

I did manage to drag myself to this mornings portrait session to draw the lovely, young Ashley.

And the portrait from last weeks short session - Willow.

Now off I go to wrap myself in a warm throw (its rainy and cold here today with new snow on the mountain tops), drink some hot tea and read the Degas biography that I started a while back.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Real Live Cowboy and a Bashkir

Cowboy Brad / graphite and white charcoal on tan paper /14 x 11

Brad / graphite on cream paper / 24 x 18
Back home from my trip to Los Angeles just in time to attend Wednesday life session with a real live cowboy. Brad owns a ranch and breeds Curly Coated Bashkir horses and also breeds paint mustangs. He is deeply involved in  charity work and frequently auctions off a paint foal in order to give the proceeds to a children's cancer group that helps families pay for treatment. He surely will have a special place in heaven. He was a very rugged guy with a well tended mustache and a flat brimmed hat. The hat challenged me the most as it was deep black with very little nuance or color and seemed to absorb rather than reflect the light. The tassels hanging over his shoulder are called a Storm Chaser and apparently work to hold the hat in place in case of high wind! He was a great model. Never having heard of curly coasted bashkir horses, I did a Google search and this is what I found:

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Drawing and Painting

What a joy this mornings portrait session was! Jeff was a perfectly composed model and somehow he neglected to bring  his parrot, his dog and his pony to the studio! He, did, however, insist on wearing his heavy tortoise shell glasses - but  no matter. Although I could not see his eyes and this session was so well attended that there was no hope of moving my easel, I feel that today was a success. I allowed my mind to fill with thoughts of Jeff and how they might translate into marks made upon the paper.
Jeff / graphite on cream paper / 24 x 18

Jeff / graphite and white charcoal on tan paper /  14 x 11
 In a week filled with family dramas, I found time to dash off a quick portrait study on cardboard and to begin Ballerina painting # 31. Its been a while since a ballerina called to me and I was most definitely caught by surprise!
James McNeill Whistler study / oil on cardboard / 12.5 x 12
 I love this concept of her and can't wait to work on it again - however, tomorrow I am flying to Los Angeles to attend to some family matters so she will have to stay in her unfinished state a while longer.
Ballerina 31 start / oil on linen / 24 x 18
To keep myself grounded and occupied in quiet moments, I purchased a used copy of Ray McMullens definitive biography (written in 1984) of Edgar Degas to read and absorb - Degas: His Life, Times and Work.

I would also like to take a moment to thank everyone that follows my blog, reads my thoughts and comments on my artistic endeavors. I value each person that takes a peak and each person that responds. You all leave deep impressions on my heart and I am so grateful to you all.

Friday, September 13, 2013

And then there was a Shepherd

Jim and Bella / graphite

Jim / graphite
"The heart is an instrument that rusts if it is not used. Without a heart, can one be an artist?" Edgar Degas

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

And Then There was a Parrot!

“She was not quite what you would call refined.
She was not quite what you would call unrefined.
She was the kind of person that keeps a parrot.” 
― Mark Twain

I was so excited to attend life drawing this morning! I got up with thoughts of truth and sincerity abounding in my mind and rushed off to the studio with lofty goals of rising above the mediocre, of guiding my pencil to hint at the complexities of emotion and substance of my model. How funny that I should be so taken aback by the presence of a parrot! She was a glorious green with a yellow head and one or two red wing feathers and was a paragon of mystery - warbling softly to herself, laughing heartily at her own jokes, crunching mightily on toasted oats, occasionally bobbing her head in wonder at the action around her. Oh, to draw the truth of a parrot! And so, confronted with the enigma that is her mind, I decided to focus on her owner instead!

Milo and Linda / pencil on cream laid paper / 24 x 18

Linda / pencil on cream laid paper / 24 x 18

Monday, August 26, 2013

Legion of Honor Art Museum In San Francisco, CA

Oh, what an extraordinary visit to an extraordinary place!  I will try to tell you the story of my trip in photographs and words. I had not been to San Francisco for many years, not since my children were small and we ferried over to Alcatraz and spent time at Fisherman's Wharf. This trip was different and San Francisco struck me as such a vibrant, whirlwind of a city. We were fortunate enough to stay on the 29th floor of the Grand Hyatt with a sparkling view out toward SF Bay where the Louis Vuitton Sailboat Races were in high gear. This view was even more incredible at night!

Saturday morning began overcast with a dense marine layer but soon cleared and we had a perfect day. The Legion of Honor is a re-creation of a French Palace and was given to San Francisco in 1924 to honor soldiers of WWI. It is a spectacular building in  pale gray marble set high on a hillside overlooking the Bay and surrounded by groves of old and elegantly sculptural cedar trees.

What a surprise to walk through the center archway into the starkly beautiful Court of Honor and find it dominated by Rodin's The Thinker!

The special exhibition, Impressionists on the Water, was perfectly done and displayed in one awe inspiring room after another. Although photography is allowed in the permanent collections, it was prohibited in this special collection so I can only tell you that it was a true joy to see. For almost 2 solid hours I was surrounded by Monet, Pissaro, Signet, Sisley, Vuillard, Bonnard, Pissaro, Renoir and others. I had a chance to see how they covered their canvases, to analyze their brushwork, thickness of paint and intensity of color. I was mesmerized. After viewing the collection, my overall feeling was that the picture most well done, the one that shimmered with dappled sunlight and glistening water, that whispered with the rustle of women,s skirts and shivered with leaves dancing in the gentle breeze was Monet's Harbor at Argenteuil - this is a photo from the internet of the painting and, as always, does not come close to portraying the incredible skill and beauty of this piece.
But, surprisingly, this was not my favorite. I found myself going back numerous times to view a small oil painting on cardboard by Toulouse Lautrec. It was painted as if Lautrec was sitting in the front part of a boat as it cut through the turquoise waters of the lake with the prow jutting forward and the sky racing with clouds overhead. It was so emotional, so fascinating in its utter focus and intensity. I adored it. Unfortunately, I cannot find a photo of this painting on the internet, nor did they have anything in the gift shop with this painting reproduced - but it is etched in my memory forever!

After lunch in the very charming museum cafe, I meandered through the permanent collections and photographed a few pieces.

Having grown up in Philadelphia, I spent a lot of time at the Rodin Museum there, and was delighted to see that the Legion of Honor has an extensive Rodin collection beyond The Thinker in the courtyard, all magnificently displayed in two private rotundas.

Auguste Rodin / The Three Shades / 1880

And then there are the paintings:

Jacopo Pontorino, Italy / Madonna and Child with Two Angels / 1445-1557
 I was surprised at how modern this piece appeared with the tender positioning of the figures, the delicately painted faces and the brilliant colors.

Modigliani - his approach and canvas surface texture is so unique!

Joos van Cleve, Dutch / Lucretia / 1525 - her face is utterly remarkable. I could have spent an hour looking only at that.

Peter Paul Reubens / 1612 / The Tribute Money 

Rembrandt! / Joris de Caulerii / 1632. The depth of insight into this gentleman displayed by Rembrandt's brush is nothing short of miraculous.

Frns Hal, Dutch / Portrait of a Gentleman in White / 1635. A stunning portrait that dominates the gallery it is in. It made me gasp when I saw it.

Gustav Courbet / The Wave / 1869 - his brushwork deeply influenced Monet

Jules B LePage / Sarah Bernhardt / 1879. I am not familiar with this artist but this portrait is so breathtaking and so exquisitely done. She is a presence to be reckoned  with.

Louis Maurice Boutet de Monvei / Portrait of a Man / 1875. Another unfamiliar artist that did an awe inspiring portrait.

A gallery with a large Monet Waterlilies
Oh, I could go on and on as I took hundreds of photos and have been pouring over them. But I hope this gives you an idea of the wealth of paintings in this gem of a museum and perhaps inspires you to make your own visit one day. In November the special exhibit will be Anders Zorn. Imagine that!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Truth and Sincerity

Owen / 18x24 / ebony pencil on cream paper

After a lifetime of drawing and painting, I remain awed at the marks left behind as my pencil nervously moves over the smooth grained surface of the paper, connecting here and there, linking blank spaces, creating hard tension and soft grayness. The hand of the artist is so apparent but this is, in the end, a pictorial equivalent of the model. I have been thinking a lot lately about the model, about how much more he/she is than the curve of a nostril, the line of the mouth or the play of light across the skin surface. And so today, as I guided my lines, I tried to hold foremost in my mind the truth of this sitter, the unique aspects of his life and personality as shown in his face and posture, I desired to try and draw him with utter sincerity and respect for his uniqueness in the universe and without flattery.