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

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. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Proceeding with Certainty and a Birthday Celebration

Proceeding With Certainty / oil on linen panel / 18 x 24
Painting the background landscape was almost as intriguing as painting the horse and jockey!

Today is my birthday and although I have had a difficult time lately, today is a day for celebration and some fun. My husband woke me up early (6:30 am) by playing Paul McCartney's Birthday Song - a rousing start to the day! He also surprised me with some almost antique art books including this one from 1943:

Although the dust jacket is worn, the book is in excellent shape and is absolutely fascinating in mostly black and white. Such incredible, meticulous work. One personal feeling that I get from leafing through it is that I must take my life drawing sessions more seriously. And, as a girl cannot have too many easels, she also cannot have too many art books!

Later this week, we are flying to San Francisco to see the Impressionist exhibit at the  California Legion of Honor Museum. I am so excited as it has been a while since my eyes have feasted on impressionist work. There is no photograph or reproduction in the world that comes near the experience of seeing the actual work, life size as the artist intended. I can hardly wait - what a birthday week!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Life Demands a Profile

This has been a very difficult few days for me in my personal life and, although I forced myself to go to the portrait session on Wednesday morning, my heart was not in it. My first two sketches were so forced that they failed miserably - one I erased entirely and the other I felt like tearing into tiny pieces after struggling with it for a long and frustrating time. Finally, I moved to the corner of the studio and quietly composed myself enough to do a quick profile. This one I am happy with as there is a good likeness and perhaps a little more.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Arches Oil Paper and the White Pony

The White Pony / oil on paper / 12 x 9
Always in the mood for experimenting, I recently bought a tablet of Arches cold pressed paper for oil paint. The marketing information states that it is a professional grade paper formulated to be used for oil painting without any preparation. It is ready to be used as is and contains a unique oil barrier that prevents bleed through. I would have preferred to try it out in a larger size, but the 9 x 12 pad was all that my local art supply store carried. I enjoyed it very much as I really like the way the surface grabs the paint and keeps it there. It was fun to use but I struggled with this small size as I prefer to paint larger. It took every ounce of skill I could muster to fit this on the paper!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Hold the Thought Delicately in the Mind

Finally, finally, finally a painting turned out something like I had in mind before I started. I have had such a tendency to tighten up lately when painting in oil. I was beginning to fear that my Wednesday portrait sessions, where I am trying to draw what I see so I can capture a likeness and an expression, were beginning to affect my painting. Thank goodness this piece has looser brushwork and a more abstract quality.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Purity of Life

Genelle left profile / 20x18 / graphite on Strathmore 400 series drawing paper

Genelle  right 3/4 view / 22 x 18 / ebony graphite on Strathmore 400 series drawing paper
What an adorable, beautiful, lovely, fresh and personable model we had this morning!  Genelle, the granddaughter of one of the portrait artists in the group, will be 11 years old on Friday and begins 6th grade on Monday morning. Having just returned from an adventuresome vacation in Oregon, she was eager to tell us all about it and found it hard to stay awake unless she was chatting. I wish I had drawn her yawning - her yawns were priceless and she had a tendency to randomly say things like "I can't wait to get out of here and run around!" It was a most relaxed and delightful morning and I feel very pleased with the likenesses that I captured. This week I used a more grown up paper than the newsprint I have used for so long. It is a cream colored 80 lb smooth surface Strathmore drawing paper. I like how it grabs the graphite but I had trouble with my hand smearing the lines quite a lot and found I was using my eraser much more than usual. Perhaps it will just take some getting used to.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Untitled Oil #2

Finally got back to this picture that I started and posted on June 12th - I didn't realize that I left it sitting on the easel that long. But today it called to me and demanded I bring it to completion. I will think about the titles for my two new pieces and perhaps have them named by tomorrow.

Untitled #2 / oil on linen panel / 18x24

And a photo of me with both recent equine paintings wearing my brand new prescription Jimmy Choo sunglasses!
The small easel just to my left is a Mabef folding easel that I bought to take to my Wednesday life drawing classes. It folds up very compactly and weighs only 3 pounds. It is made in Italy of elm and is a work of art in itself with gorgeous brass hardware. Its nice and sturdy and I may have started a trend in the drawing sessions as another artist already purchased one! It is lovely and has additional front supports to hold a palette if you want to use it for field sketching. I also use it in my studio for paintings that are drying. A multipurpose purchase that I am happy with!

Untitled Oil

Unusual color for me! Oil on linen panel / 16 x 20 / untitled as yet. The bottom photo is a close up of a section of the larger piece.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Life Sketches

 Back at the Portrait Society, Beatyanne was our Wednesday morning model and I was able to sketch her twice. Both are graphite on newsprint about 18 x 16.

I am feeling like I should try a higher grade of paper for my life drawing sessions as the newsprint does not have a flat surface but is kind of ripple-y. It does not make for a good finished product and does not photograph very well. Does anyone have any suggestions for a good smooth textured drawing paper? I would like to try a slightly toned paper - perhaps a cream or tan color.