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

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Phillips Collection and a New Steeplechase

18 x 24 / Untitled / oil on linen panel
After a harrowing Sunday at Art Mash - trying to paint a Viking - I gave up and wiped off my attempt. I don't know why I had such a hard time painting him but after returning home it struck me that I was not in love with this Viking. He was dressed all in brown and raw siena against a dark background, sitting on a dark brown furry throw and holding a black sword. He just did not excite my senses and, try as I might, I could not paint him.  And so I show you my slightly unfinished current steeplechase painting instead.

And now for The Phillips Collection!

 Located near Dupont Circle in Washington DC, the Phillips family collected over 600 paintings in their private residence before turning it into an art gallery open to the public in 1921. Today The Phillips Collection is home to an extraordinary collection of more than 3,000 works ranging from masterpieces of French impressionism and American modernism to contemporary art. By displaying superb works in an intimate setting, founder Duncan Phillips hoped to encourage visitors to appreciate new, challenging forms of artistic expression. Art from different eras and places is often juxtaposed to suggest visual "conversations." And the art itself nothing less than extraordinary!

Pierrre Bonnard / The Circus Rider / 1894
 Such a powerful small painting! I could have spent an hour musing over this small piece. The horse and rider are one in intent and emotion -  and the joy and tension evident in their union is masterful to behold. I felt like the magic of this moment eluded the somber faced participants watching from the stands and is truly an intimate dialogue between the painter and the viewer. If only I had gotten a better photo.

And then I turned a corner and entered a small dining room and surprisingly, above the fireplace, most likely where it has hung for over 100 years, was this intense and familiar self portrait that I have seen time and again in books on Cezanne. Looking closely at the brushwork was like having a lesson from the painter himself!

Paul Cezanne / Self Portrait / 1878-1880
 And a lovely, serene Cezanne landscape...

Cezanne / Mont Sainte Victoire / 1886-1887

I was completely captivated by this stunning portrait - and  look at that fantastic frame! I don't know much about Chaim Soutine, but after seeing this work, I am motivated to research him and his work.

Chaim Soutine / Woman in Profile / 1937

Gustave Courbet / The Mediterranean / 1857
 A magnificent seascape by Courbet - the color is unlike any sea or landscape that I have seen. It is a complete wonder.

And upon turning another corner, I had my breath taken away by this incredible Degas masterpiece! It is very large - 51 x 38 inches and vibrates with color and brushwork that delights the eye from corner to corner. The ballerinas skirts, skin, bodices are all fused together with color and brushwork while the languid tension of the ballerinas as they stretch and turn at the barre is overpowering.

Edgar Degas / Dancers at the Barre / 1900
 And in this close up shot below, you can notice the strong sketchy dark blue lines curving around the limbs and here and there on the bodices. And just look at her face! There is a lesson here for me as a painter in boldness and freedom from fear. I wanted to take this painting home with me!
Close up - Dancers at the Barre
 And an earlier Degas - so different from the dancers - it is small and very somber with sorrow etched in her face and throughout the composition.

Edgar Degas / Melancholy / 1860
 A graphite sketch by Renoir of Rodin!

Pierre August Renoir / Portrait of Rodin / undated
 And lastly, this very beautiful, very decorative interior scene of a woman reading by Vuillard. There is so much to see in this painting - each stroke of paint is like a little surprising gift!
Edouard Vuillard / The Newspaper / 1896
There is so much more to see and marvel at in this gem of a museum - including a Van Gogh, works by Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins,  Chardin, Goya and El Greco! I could go on and on..... However, I will end with the work that this museum is most well known for  and one I would suppose every art loving person on earth is familiar with. This work by Renoir -

Pierre Auguste Renoir / Luncheon of the Boating Party / 1880
It is so large ( 51 x 69 inches) that it takes up an entire wall and is so much more fascinating in real life than can be captured in any photo. It gave me a new found appreciation of Renoir! I hope that all who read about this wonderful collection of art will have a chance some day to visit the Phillips Collection. It is well worth the trip and the wonder of it all lingers in my mind.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Portrait Painting and New Gallery

Tuna / 14x11 / oil on canvas
Life is slowly returning to a more normal routine now that I have returned from vacation, recovered from jet lag, shipped my two entries off to the Women Artists of the West exhibition in San Diego and attended the portrait society session this week. Tuna (yes that is his name - apparently it was a nickname that stuck) was our model and he did a great job for his first time modeling. He will be running for public office in Reno in November and spoke a lot about the real estate market as we painted him. Interestingly, I was so focused on the painting that I can't remember any of the details of the conversation or the office that he aspires to.  All I remember is that it is not Mayor!

Susan Roux of the Roux and Cyr International Gallery of Fine Art in Portland, Maine was kind enough to send me some photos of the gallery in the final stages of renovation. It will be ready and open for business in May. The gallery has new paint, new carpeting, refinished hardwood flooring and wonderful art from around the world waiting to be hung. In addition to being a beautiful, light filled space to display art, the gallery will have weekly classes and host workshops. It promises to be a dynamic and exciting venture and I am happy to be part of it!

The Mayor of Portland will be participating in an official ribbon cutting ceremony on May 2 at 5:00 PM. It marks the soft opening of the gallery and the commencement of  First Friday Art Walks and will be open to the public. Then the Grand Opening celebration will be on Saturday May 24 from 5:30 - 8:00. I wish I could be there! I heartily invite any of my blog readers who are in the Portland area to stop by and enjoy the celebrations and the international fine art that will be displayed.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Washington DC - an Overview

Checking in to the JW Marriott Hotel, just 2 blocks from the White House!

View from hotel room overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue and the Washington Monument

3,800 cherry trees were at peak bloom!
         Thomas Jefferson Memorial and view back toward the White House

The Capital - so magnificent and grand. We were lucky enough to tour the original Supreme Court which is located inside the Capital.
Interior of the Library of Congress - Wow!

Thomas Jefferson sold 27,000 volumes of his personal library to begin the Library of Congress. They are kept all together in this room. The topics ranged from art to zoology and most books were digitized so you could flip through the pages on the computer screens located around the room. I do believe Jefferson probably read every single book and it was awe inspiring to stand in this room.

The statue of Lincoln, designed by Daniel Chester French and carved by the Piccirilli  brothers, is extremely beautiful. Some say his hands rest in the American Sign Language symbols for his initials A and L.
WW II Memorial looking down the Reflecting Pool toward the Lincoln Memorial - its very grand and a fitting tribute to our soldiers and to our victory.
Ford's Theater where Lincoln was shot. We were surprised to come upon this while just walking down a regular Washington street.

We had a wonderful dinner in this tiny French restaurant directly across from Ford's Theater.
The weather was so warm and lovely, we wandered the streets at night to get a feel for the city.

The lobby of the Willard Hotel where Presidents-elect spend the night before their inauguration. It was next door to our hotel!

It was raining as we packed to come home. 
As a place to visit and steep yourself in American history, I absolutely loved Washington. The architecture is glorious, the monuments are overwhelming in that they inspire such a feeling of awe for what our founding fathers accomplished. They were great intellectuals, great men, and that feeling stayed with me throughout our trip. I was overcome with emotion when I stepped into a small room in the National Gallery of Art that contained only 5 portraits, all by Gilbert Stuart, of five Presidents of  the US. The portraits are so wonderfully done, so soft and life like that I almost felt as if I was in their presence - it was a moment I will not forget. We had a few disappointments. We were unable to get into the National Archives to see the Constitution and Declaration of Independence as the lines were wrapped around the block. And I wish we had not wasted time at the Museum of American History - it was dark and dirty and not well done. The one saving grace was standing next to George Washington's uniform - he was very tall and slender with long arms! When we planned this anniversary trip we had no idea it would be at the same time as the Cherry Blossom Festival and we would be part of the 1.5 million visitors in DC at his time! We managed to escape the worst of the crowds but, I do admit, I have never seen so many people in one place at one time! For me, as an artist, the highlights of the trip were the time we spent viewing the Phillips Collection, a gem of a museum with a collection of extraordinary art, and at the National Gallery. I will share some of those photos with you in my next posts as it is in those places that my artistic soul was stirred.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Home from Washington DC and Portrait Practise

Daryan / oil on cardboard / 16 x 12

Edward / 14x11 / oil on canvas panel
Back from a wonderfully perfect trip to Washington DC - exhausted but very happy! I have so many photos and will share some of them and some of my experiences there as soon as I can download and categorize the photos. Today I am packing my two ballerina paintings for shipment off to San Diego for the Women Artists of the West show. In the meantime, I thought I would post these two portrait sketches that were done from models at the Reno Portrait Society - I could not seem to get a glare free photo of Edward.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Art Mash 6 and Anniversary Celebrations!

Gary / oil gray toned on canvas panel / 18x14
Gary, with bushels of gray and white hair, was our very poised and professional model in open studio this beautiful Sunday afternoon. He never waivered from his pose and resumed the exact same position after each break. Even so, when we started out, I once again had a bad case of the jitters. Taking a few deep breaths and plunging ahead, I found I could not fit his right hand on my canvas. From past experience, I knew that wiping off and trying again would likely leave him without a foot or with his head cut off, so I decided to press on. I am always amazed by the amount of color that my eyes see at these life sessions - I wish I could always paint from life. But, alas,as that is not possible, I can only hope that lessons learned here will translate into my studio paintings.

Its been a busy month as my husband and I decided to celebrate our anniversary for a full 4 weeks! Last week I had a chance to dress up as we went to the Nightingale Concert Hall to listen to the Reno Chamber Orchestra play an all Beethoven program. The music was powerful, majestic and quite emotional.  I was absolutely swept away by Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano in C major, Op. 56.  This piece was an impassioned conversation between the violin, cello and piano and was completely unforgettable. We are so very lucky that Reno has this level of classical music.

Stephanie Sant'Ambrogio on violin, Ditri Atapine on cello, James Winn at piano and Theodore Kuchar conducting
Our next stop was to the Shriner's Circus at the Reno Events Center. It is a delightful, small town circus that benefits Shiner's Children's Hospitals.  It was apparent that all the animals in the eclectic menagerie trained by this red headed lady loved her immeasurably and equally apparent that she loved them. The entire circus was thoroughly enjoyable and the blue cotton candy the best I have ever had!!

On Wednesday, we are off to the east coast for a true vacation. We are headed to Washington DC and hope to see the cherry trees in bloom, explore the Smithsonian and National Gallery of Art and see as many iconic monuments as we can! See you when we get back!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Back to the Drawing Board

Daryann / ebony graphite and white conte on grey paper / 24x18

After having a rather rough week of painting, I decided to leave the oils at home and take only drawing materials to the Wednesday portrait session. It might be that I am low on motivation. I have been painting up a storm recently but now I think that a break may be in order to refuel and refresh my creative energies. Perhaps returning to a medium that I have not tried in a while might be just the thing. To be honest, I did enjoy myself immensely and felt freer with the pencil than I have lately felt with my brushes. The model had a lovely tilt to her chin and her face was washed perfectly by the light. I am happy with the top drawing - it was the first time I tried out Strathmore gray toned paper and liked it very much. The paper has a nice tooth and it accepted white highlighting with Conte in a subtle and pleasing way.

I am less pleased with the second drawing, which was done after the model had been posing for over 2 hours - perhaps by then she did begin to look tired and not quite as happy with posing for us after all!
Daryann in Profile / 17 x 14 / graphite on white paper

This is one partially completed figure from a piece I began earlier this week and ended up wiping off - it is one of many canvases that ended up in the recycle pile. Oh well, as so truthfully stated one fine day by Picasso "“There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into sun”.  And so, keeping those words in mind, I am off to my easel to try again!