As part of my efforts to grow as an artist, I have launched this blogsite as an online journal. I am not too bad at editing so I hope I can keep it short and simple enough to head off boredom for readers. I appreciate feedback - so if readers have questions or suggestions, please send them along!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Winter Bounty - Progress

Here is the next layer I added today to Winter Bounty.

I continued to work transparently in the darks, and midtone areas (i.e., the wood tones on the back of the bench table). Here are the colors I used:

  • Ultramarine blue + Burnt umber + Viridian for the painted surface of the bench table
  • Transparent Oxide Orange + Burnt Siena+ Burnt umber for most of the wood surface on bench back and mushroom drawer pull
  • Cadmium orange + Yellow ochre added to the basic wood tone mixture for the lighter areas, including touches of Unbleached titanium + cerulean blue for a few of the lightest and coolest spots (yes, these mixtures have body and were no longer very transparent!)
  • Ultramarine blue + Burnt umber + Alizarin crimson for the crow
  • Vermillion for the ribbon
  • Unbleached titanium + cerulean blue + Transparent Orange oxide for shadow areas on the skates
I am having fun working on this one... I think it is my attachment to the crow. I think about his brief life... what he saw, what brought him down.

Up until recently, I kept Salem, my taxidermied crow, in a studio window, sort of gazing out. One day I noticed one of the (very many) crows who frequent our yard was perched on the roof of our first floor, looking up and into the window where Salem rested. I wondered if he "recognized" one of his fellows...? The very next day, I looked out the window and saw two crows, perched on the first floor roof, just as the one had been the day before, both looking into the window, apparently at Salem! I fancied that they were lotting a rescue mission... and although I was tempted to follow the drama, I decided to move Salem so he was no longer visible, worrying my local crow friends that there was one of them, imprisoned by the same woman who put apples and corn out for them.

More to come after this layer dries.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

WIP: Winter Bounty

I have started this still life this past weekend. I had been wanting to do another painting using my precious taxidermy crow, but needed to have "the right" composition. For quite a while I did not have an inspired idea... then I got two! This is one of them...

The arrangement is set up on a green painted nineteenth century bench table (the table top flips up to form a back, with the drawer shelf forming a bench when the table top is not needed). The crow stands on the bench next to a pair of ice skates on the crow's left. (I used a clear glass jar to help hold him upright). On his right is a cast-off scarf. Above the crow is a red ribbon that cascades down over the flipped table top, and there is a note tacked to the underside of the flipped top.

The note is actually a 19th century handwritten posting of bounty to be awarded for dead starlings and crows turned in to the Philadelphia authority. I found the bounty facsimile on the internet and printed it out on cream colored paper.

The photos here show the initial underpainting, done in raw umber with highlights wiped out, on the 30" x 24" linen canvas.

Another image shows the bounty notice I printed out, and the final image shows the local color painting phase, on my easel with the studio life set up in the background.

Here are the colors I used for this first color phase:

Yellow Ochre
Burnt Umber
Burnt Sienna
Transparent Red Oxide
Alizarin Crimson
Ultramarine Blue

I expect to have this layer dry and able to accept the next phase by this weekend... and will post my progress at that point!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Companions II

This is a painting I completed just about one year ago. I had just moved to cape cod and was enjoying the winter, but somewhat lonesome without my husband, Kurt, who was still back in NY readying our house there for sale.

Two months ago, I submitted this painting to a call for works put out by an Art/Literature/Photography Journal called The Whitefish Review (www.WhitefishReview.org). It has, I am pleased to say, been included in their most recent publication (volume 4, issue 2). Here is more about the story of this painting and how it came to be:

The piece was inspired by an old photo, taken on a vacation out west, which had included a tour of an abandoned 1880s town. One of the toured rooms impressed me, with its forsaken antique sewing machine and frayed wallpaper hinting of better times. Like all my work, Companions II was painted in a realistic style that draws on my studies in atelier painting techniques. I looked at the room from which I drew inspiration for the painting, I was filled with a sense of competing influences: The room had vestiges of a sanctuary (the faded, peeling wallpaper was delicate and charming in its day, carefully selected, no doubt). The sewing machine, a dear acquisition, was used with skill and self-reliance. But now, in its abandonment, the room exuded a sense of emptiness, isolation and desolation. It was these tensions that drew me to the setting.

As I reflected on these tensions, I "saw" a woman - the woman whose room it had been. Perhaps myself (as a matter of fact, I had received a sewing machine as a going-to-high-school present, and had worked used it in my bedroom). It is her sewing machine... and her closet with but one garment hanging in it. The door is absent from the closet... and with it the separation in the passage of time (between the woman's past and her present and future) has been removed. She may have only one useful garment from her past: is that enough to attire her for her future?

I placed her at the window, looking out at the world. But the window necessarily affords a narrowed view of the world - incomplete to its left and right...will she watch the world go by from this room, with its comforts and its barriers -and do nothing about it? Or will she go into the world, and outside the room?

Finally, I put a cat on the bed, gazing at the woman. The cat is another aspect of the woman - often a symbol of feminine power, this cat is ready to animate the woman in another direction, away from the window, presumably out of the room and into the world. The companion cat makes it clear that she is not alone and need not be imprisoned by her past, as long as she has accepts her integrated self.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Making Plans

I have just spent a week with my parents in Chicago... a visit and some helping chores. How fortunate I am to have them both still with me and healthy at 84!

I grew up enjoying the story of how they met, in this country, the US, after each having separately fled Europe at the end of WW II. It seemed to me as a young girl that, more than most, my parents' coming together was surely a supreme work of fate. How amazing, it seemed to me, that these two people grew up in pretty close proximity (Lithuania is, after all, a very small country - geographically no larger than our state of Rhode Island)... shared similar experiences of growing up there and in that particular time, yet only met after many tribulations of war and the emigration that took them to the US. And once again, fate puts them both in Chicago, despite some "CLOSE CALLS" of sponsoring distant relatives almost taking one or the other to another city entirely.

But Chicago it was... they met, made plans and made a family.

With my brother gone now, I am nudging them to join me in making plans... for them to come live with me and my husband in Massachusetts.

Perhaps by next summer...

I had these kinds of turns of fortune in mind as I created this image. Kismet in all its forms... and we making plans within those of providence.

Monday, August 16, 2010


Just completed this painting... large format for me (40" x 30"). I was surprised at how much I enjoyed working larger... it did prompt me to go online and order a few more larger brushes!

I got the idea for the image when I obtained my own bike several weeks ago. Naturally, I have not used it as much as I thought I would, but am glad to know it is there, and ready. Even at the time I was buying my bike, I found myself wishing I could find more models that were designed like the bikes I was familiar with from my childhood: complete with fenders! They have these retro models today, of course, but as I thought about what I wanted from the bike, and considered that I would not be storing it indoors until after the season, I decided to go with the modern, "stripped down" model.

Once I approached this painting, though, I knew I had to outfit it with the fenders... which made for a challenge, since the "model" for the bike was my own... so I searched online for images of bikes with fenders... and of course could find none that were in the position I wanted, etc... this is the usual process I pursue for my paintings. I get the idea, fix on it, THEN look for ways to set up a reference for it! It is truly amazing that I get anything done at all...

I am pleased with how this came out, ultimately. I like the "story" it hints at... possibly not the same story for every viewer? And despite my cringing initially at the prospect of rendering the perspective on the wheels of the bike, I think it came out pretty convincing. I decided to leave out the wheel spokes and gear/brake wires in the interest of keeping things simple and clean... I am also pleased with the way I handled the sand. I did it with a palette knife... I have used a knife in rendering beach sand in other works, but none so completely as on this one. And finally - as I got ready to sign it, I decided my signature just had to look like it had been written in the sand... what do you think?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Abbey Road

Here is a painting I just completed... once again, from a cell phone photo taken on one of my daily walks on the beach. These little birds - "peeps" the locals call them... although I think they are formally a type of Sandpiper - are ubiquitous along the water's edge. Especially on the part of the beach (South Beach, south of Lighthouse Beach here in Chatham) that was created as part of a "break" in a sandbar several years ago. When I walk this area, I experience it as a series of sand islands surrounded by very shallow surf. Whole flocks of these birds cavort on the wet sand, seemingly chasing the shallow surf as it moves in and out... apparently catching something delectable enough of the time to reinforce their game of tag!

So, I got a number of photos of these guys... including one where these four were all lined up, just like the eponymous album cover. So I couldn't resist the title... And in this image, they are walking, as I walk every day on this beach, which is of itself, something of a miracle.

Every day as I walk I look and am awestruck by the ocean, including its many faces - smooth, mirrored, rolling, rough, covered with patches of foam; and its many colors - blues, greens, violets, golds; and its voice - rhythmic, soothing, roaring... as well as what it does for all life forms.

It occurs to me that, although it has not been a long time, that I have been taking these beach walks, spending time every day, side by side with the ocean has already had a nourishing effect on me, in a way every bit as much as on these little peeps. I feel that when I started these walks, I was somewhat shriveled and brittle, like a sponge without water. But Water relaxes me, as it does a dried sponge, filling me up, making me softer and more supple. The ocean satiates my senses and rejuvenates my spirit. It awakens me from my trance, imposed upon me by years of focusing almost exclusively on the insensible man-made world.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Faithful Tender

I completed this painting a couple of days ago. I had come upon this old-style (wooden) dinghy on one of my beach walks. This time, a walk along the beach at the end of our street, which follows the Oyster River as it dumps into Stage Harbor. At one point, this beach is directly across another one of my favorite subjects, Stage Harbor light (a private lighthouse owned by our next door neighbors). The dinghy was resting half way between that point and the boathouse at Port Fortune Lane (the small structure visible at the left). I was struck by a few things: first, the fact that it is in fact a wooden boat... most I come across are fiberglass or some other modern material. The other was the way the sun was striking its bright, lovingly painted interior and casting a strong shadow on the beach. So... I pulled out my trusty cell phone and snapped a couple of pictures. (This was before my vow to carry my watercolor kit and sketchbook... :-))

The photo I took was almost entirely of the dinghy and its immediate vicinity, I did not include any sky. I decided on a composition with a large sky area featured, to balance the dramatic boat, so I waited to start on this painting until I had a chance to go out on that beach again, in the afternoon, as had been the case in the original picture. At that time, I took a photo of the sky and made a quick sketch with notes when I came home. Then I was ready to start. I did a quick thumbnail of the composition, then went right to the canvas.

As I always do, I started by painting a monochrome underpainting to the level of a complete "drawing" with fairly well developed detail, and clearly stated lights, darks and midtones. I use the "wipe-out" method to get the lights, use colored ground of the canvas as the mid tones, and added darks using more of the chosen monochrome color.

Because of the dominance of the blue sky in this image, I wanted an orange toned ground, so I chose chose Transparent Red Oxide as the color for the underpainting. This is a pretty "fat" paint, so not ideal to use for an underpainting (both because it takes longer to dry, and also because it jeopardizes the "fat over lean" principal for creating stable paintings. I used Winsor and Newton's Griffin Alkyd Fast-Drying Oil Paint to get around these problems. As with many work-arounds, of course, this presented its own challenges: Griffin Alkyds dry fast, alright - so fast that they dry substantially just sitting in the paint tubes! irritatingly tough to get out of the tube in the first place, they aren't smooth and buttery to apply, either... I may experiment with Acrylics in the future, as I doubt that I will buy the Alkyds again.

Meanwhile, however, the underpainting came out serviceable enough... and I was pleased with the base created. One I started the actual painting, I worked on the sky first, putting on three thin coats of blue (an ultramarine mix at he top, shifting to cobalt then cerulean mixed with Zinc white and pink at the horizon) before I added the cloud forms.

Once that was done, I painted the background land mass and structures, painting directly. I also laid in the base for the water. I painted the dinghy and the foreground beach and grass, also directly, at which point the water mass was dry enough to accept some final glazes. I painted the foreground sand mostly with a knife, leaving some of the base ground to show.

I think I am happy with it... I say "I think" because usually I need to look at and reflect on a work for quite a while before I decide if it is "right." I probably make changes less than 25% of the time, but the need to go through this stage is nagging. I plan, however, to take this over to my gallery next week, so I have to condense my reflections this time... what do you think, is it finished?