Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Day was not always on Jan 1

Various New Year traditions have been celebrated for a long time — the earliest recorded celebration was in about 2000 B.C. in Mesopotamia, where the new year was celebrated in mid-March, around the time of the vernal equinox. Iranians and Balinese still celebrate the new year with the spring equinox. The Chinese New Year is based around the lunar cycles, and it can fall between late January and late February. In Europe, the Celtic New Year began on November 1st, after the harvest.

The first time that New Year's Day was celebrated on January 1st was in 45 B.C., when Caesar redid the Roman calendar. I would have made NY Day on September 1. But that is the old "teacher" in me, I think. Fall is the time for "new beginnings". New shoes, new classes, new goals. There is a kind of "anticipation" in the air (at least up north).

In honor of "new goals" I started a little practice piece on Yupo, a paper that I hadn't revisited since last spring. I wanted to have a little example next Monday. And I didn't have anything in the works. I'll be teaching an "intro to Yupo" along with my friend Phyllis Crickenberger of WV in February. Many of the gals in my park Fine Art Group have not worked with Yupo and don't even know what it is!

I just wanted to show them some "possibilities" and let them feel the paper and show them a work in progress. The pair of porch chairs are actually from a photo at Phyllis' home in WV.

She paints VERY differently from me...loves florals and soft landscapes and still lifes. I tend to get more "abstract" with mine. So class participants will get a really different view of the paper and what it can do. I wanted to use some stamps and bubble wrap just to give the idea of how you can move the paint around. You can work so fast in Yupo and then go back and play and refine and change forever.

Hand Painting My Collage Papers

I remember Eric Carle paints his own collage paper too. Remember him? The Very Hungry Caterpillar? If you click on his name you'll see a slide show of him painting his tissue papers (similar to Elizabeth) except he gets really intricate patterns (also using stamps) because in his work he uses large pieces of collage.

Elizabeth uses tiny pieces in hers. (Although she does blob and drip and throw paint on her papers too!)

After viewing Elizabeth St. Hilaire Nelson's DVD...I got right busy and started painting some of MY own collage papers. Now I can go back and blob and drip and throw too if I so choose. First I am going through my photo references to see what I might be wanting to try first. I have to keep this so simple for my first try at Elizabeth's type of painting. I plan to use a piece of YES gessoed canvas board for my first piece.

These you see above are all rice paper ones here but she also encourage you to tint newspaper, sheet music, and homework papers (yes, she really did say that!) I used fluid acrylics and regular bodied acrylics for the tinting. Elizabeth makes the very solid point that if you paint your own papers you are now using your OWN palette of colors, not someone else's!

You'll really enjoy her reasonably priced DVD. Check it out by clicking her name above.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Art of Photography: Fred Noer

I have several friends who are marvelous photographers. I mean marvelous. Fred Noer is one.

He works primarily in black and white as shown here. I am always reminded of the "value studies" so many of us do in working with paint. These are like THE most ultimate value studies!!! When he writes about his photography I am reminded too of the hard physical work of finding, composing and recording landscapes. Fred is out in ALL weather to take shots.

His online gallery is full of amazing prints and cards for sale. Do take a look.

These three are taken of an area of Wisconsin where I used to live near Lake Geneva. (southeast WI). Many of his photos include the lake in it's many moods.

This year for Christmas he gifted me with a box of his cards. WHAT a treat. Thank you Fred!!!

Luncheon of the Boating Party: Renoir

I am currently reading Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland.
Have you read it? This was a recommendation from my friend Florie Enders. You can find it in the used book section on Barnes & Noble for as little as $1.99!!!!

A photo of the actual painting is on the cover but I had to go and find it on line so I could see it free of the overprinting and price tag!

Like the popular book Girl with the Pearl Earring (on Vermeer's life) by Tracy Chevalier, this is a fictionalized history of what it might have been like for Pierre-Auguste Renoir and his friends at this particular time period at the beginning of the recognition of Impressionism (1881).

The people in this painting are historically correct for the most part as Renior identified each. The girl in the flowered hat at the lower left was later to become his wife. I am about half way through the book. This is very fun to read about this artist's life and times and the author tries to take us inside his mind as begins to paint this canvas (which is quite large)talking about color, lights, shades, pigments, brush strokes, etc.. She talks about the way artist's materials are purchased and used, how canvas is stretched and about the trials and tribulations of hiring models.

Unlike some of the sadder artist stories, he seems a happy painter bent on painting beauty. He is quoted as saying, " To my mind, a picture should be something pleasant, cheerful, and pretty, yes pretty! There are too many unpleasant things in life as it is without creating still more of them." Amen. My sentiments exactly!!!

The friends actually posed for him in a group or in small groups for many weeks at this restaurant at Masison Fourmaise along the Seine River in Chatou, France. The painting is currently housed in The Philips Collection in Washington, DC.

I have read somewhere that when the painting was cleaned, it wasn't done professionally and some of the color has been lost from the original! How sad.

Last Sketches for 2009

Taking a moment to reflect.
Lots of things can interfere with reflection. But focusing and attentiveness are my constant goals.
I went through my sketch book last night and added two last sketches to the 2009 entries.

The first is the lovely stone/bead necklace and earring set from my dear sister. Lovely earth tones. A little reminder of her recent visit.

The second a reminder of our grandson's visit in mid-December and our trip with him to Sea World. As I watched him on the bungy jumper I did a little sketch of the Kracken roller coaster that Alex enjoyed.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Before Christmas

A few years back I painted this view of our Christmas table for my Christmas card. I loved how none of the chairs matched.

It was late in the afternoon when I took the reference photo and the sunlight danced over the tables and walls. It was that special moment just an hour before the first guests arrived when the presents were all wrapped, the turkey and ham were all prepared, the tree was decorated, the driveway was plowed, and I could sink down with a glass of wine and take a long moment to contemplate Christmas love. That special moment before the laughter and the wrapping paper and the snowy coats on the bed. Before the children called out joyous greetings to each other. Before the first hugs and the clinking plates. Just that moment before.

So I wish you joyous "before" moments today and tomorrow. Anticipation is half the fun. This year we will light the luminaries in our park in FLorida and then drive our golf cart around after Christmas Eve services to take in the beauty of the lights. Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter: It's Official

In the northern hemisphere, today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year and the longest night. It's officially the first day of winter and one of the oldest known holidays in human history. Anthropologists believe that solstice celebrations go back at least 30,000 years, before humans even began farming on a large scale. Many of the most ancient stone structures made by human beings were designed to pinpoint the precise date of the solstice. The stone circles of Stonehenge were arranged to receive the first rays of midwinter sun.

I painted this this watercolor some years ago as a gift for my stepdaughter at Christmas. At the time they lived in this lovely home in Brodhead, WI. It remains one of my favorite architectural pieces.

Here in Leesburg, Florida, we will celebrate winter today by taking a trip to SeaWorld with our 16 year old grandson and his best friend.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sketching on Siesta Key

Cool...windy...but lots of sunshine on the Gulf Coast today. While my grandson and his friend jumped waves, dug in the sand and did cartwheels in delirious happiness (they are from WI remember). I had time to plug my iPod Nano into Christmas carols and do a few little sketches. The surfers did their thing and kites were flying. Lovely day...started with brunch with friends at the Broken Egg on Siesta Key and they the afternoon at the beach.

The red warning flag was flying so I didn't want the boys in the water but they had a marvelous time anyway.

Weather is supposed to warm a little...we were up to 70 most of the afternoon. Saw photos of Washington DC and NY. Wow.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Rainy Day Trip to Kennedy Space Center

It's already way past my bed not many words on the post today...had a great day in FL with our grandson Alex (16) and his best friend CJ both from snowy and cold Waukesha, WI.
While they did a "simulated" space ride that I declined...I did a little sketch. I am always amazed and awed by the space program and all that it entails!
We are off to the Gulf Coast cooler but dryer weather. More later.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Finishing off Mossy Cottage

Now is a big step-back time. Asking myself, "Where is that interesting place to stop?"

Now I am looking mainly at lights and darks. I've added a lot of dark to the main entrance and some up in the architectural area over the door and under the roof.

My husband finds the vignetted foreground bothersome. He wants a little more detail in the bushes/flowers as he feels like it gives it an "unfinished" look. But I don't want to detract from the house with a busy foreground. Yet I do think he has a point. The actual landscaping had some nice grassy like bushes in the foreground which would add some nice texture. So I am "thinking" about that. He also thinks the shadows thrown by the pergola slats could be slightly darker. But I am not sure I want to touch those. There is a house # above the door which I think I am going to put in. This is a historic house in Mt. Dora, FL. So I don't mind identifying that.

My original plan was to put more trees behind the house. But I am holding off on that for now. I could go back and add a little more blue to darken the sky a little or infer some clouds. I left it pretty light just over the house and I could infer some clouds there. Or I could make trees that went right up to the top of the paper. So many ideas. If anyone has a thought about this, let me know.

I am generally pleased with the the work...the looser interpretation and the warm tones. With Christmas ahead now and a lot of company I am going to have to put it aside.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Woods at our Up North Cabin


When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
- Wendell Berry

A friend sent these lovely words to me today. I thought of the lovely
old woods by the lake at our cabin.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Mossy Cottage: glazing

Now it's probably time, as Judi would say, to "step back and think awhile".
The last two washes and some details have warmed up the painting considerably. I am using Judi's ideas about not painting in the windows some dead dark...but rather warm darks in layers. I think they will need to go darker as the painting progresses. Like Judi I am trying out oranges and orange-pinks and warm grays in the windows. I am trying not to cover up the nice early washes. I am thinking I may come back now with background greens because that is going to "pop" out the shape of the cottage and change the contrasts between the colors. So I want want to tweak some colors when that is done. At the very end, Judi often glazes areas of the painting to help you focus on the center of interest which in houses is "usually" doorways. The brick steps make a nice eye lead in for that. Judi keeps her foregrounds very simple and quiet so as not to detract. That will be a challenge. I may just imply and vignette it off.

Judi says that "No painting is ever done. You just learn to stop in interesting places."

Mossy Cottage...first two washes

The architectural painting of Mossy Cottage continues today...These are first two washes (ala Judi Betts style). It's always a stretch to move from what you are used to and try something a tad different. My first wash was, as she recommended, very watery and light and was mostly cobalt blues and rose madder genuine with a little auroleon yellow to gray up a few places. The first wash avoided some of the light areas but not totally. The idea being that it was SO light that even though it was a color wash, it would appear almost white as time goes on.
The second was was exactly the same colors only a tad darker and in the second wash I began finding more edges and focusing on "warming" the shadows. Not my usual style. I have always thought of shadows as cool. But not Judi. She lives in Louisiana. It is HOT there and even the shadows are warm. I live in Florida. The same rule should apply. I have to stop painting Wisconsin's cool shadows.

Now one thing Judi does is GO SLOWLY. She is a much more patient painter than I am. Two or three or maybe four layers and I am ready to lay in the details. Judi layers and layers and layers and lets each layer dry while she "thinks" about what she wants. She is so deliberate with her color mixing...thinking each step through and thinking about balance. She did a very complete colored value sketch before she did her final half sheet painting. I could not bring myself to do that. This is a quarter sheet, by the way.

She also leaves little patches of white paper as she paints. Now that is actually not totally new to my style. But with these first two washes being so very light I decided not to do that. She is not actually too concerned with "local color" either. And because this not a commissioned piece where I have to true to the house colors, I am free to think of the house as warmer (even though it is in actuality a nice blue-ish gray in real life as you can see in a previous post. Never mind.

The porch is, I think, called a pergola.
ORIGIN mid 17th cent.: fromItalian, from Latin pergula ‘projecting roof,’from pergere ‘come or go forward.’

I looked up Judi's most recent book A Quest toward Xtraordinary (1999) and in the used book section of Barnes and Noble the cheapest copy of it was $75!!! YIKES! So if you ever come upon this book in a used book sale or library sale GRAB it!!!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Looking at Judi Betts

I just thought real quick I'd show you one of Judi's architectural designs..similar to the one I am looking at on her video right now. Look at those shadows! Look at the wet juicy blends! Look at the design and composition! Yummy yummy yummy.

Now this is quite different from my usual style (see above). So I am challenging myself now to think a little differently about this piece. So...more about this journey as it unfolds.

Architecture: Closet Love Affair

Although I have a list about a foot long tacked to the cupboard in the studio in full view of my drawing table....and none of the things on it says "architecture", still here I am again.

The lists says..."work on a poured painting...ala Deb Ward" using garden photos for inspiration and it says "pre-view your George James videos again and start another Yupo painting...using some of the new photo references". (I am planning to teach a beginning Yupo class with Phyllis Crickenberger in February.) And there are LOTS of other ideas and suggestions tacked there besides. I am NEVER without things to try and experiment with!

But muse (remember Thalia?) did a big impish grin yesterday when I pulled out the photo reference of Mossy Cottage from Mt. Dora. These amazing little cottages (four, I think) sit in a inclusive neighborhood all their own just oozing charm. And OH those shadows. My fingers began to itch.

My father was an architect and I grew up around models of houses and blueprints. I think it is in my blood. AND I've been watching a new video by by Judi Betts called "Extraordinary Watercolors: Louisiana Architecture". You know Judi? Oh my gosh. I am hoping to sign up for one of her classes in WI next fall. Anyway, I am drooling watching her precise and lovely transparent old southern mansion come to life. So it's probably very obvious why this subject matter jumped out and grabbed me.

When I do a fairly complicated architectural piece I usually start by an enlargement and tracing of the home first. Many pieces that I have done in the past are commissioned pieces for people who want me to paint an image of their home. But when I do one just for the love of the architecture I can take more liberties and do more "painterly" abstraction. No pressure to please anyone but me!!! And my muse.

The hard work is getting the architecture onto the watercolor paper...what you see above is still on tracing paper so I have a ways to go yet. It's pouring rain here today in central Fl and would be a great day to work on this...but alas I have an appointment in Orlando at the Apple Store to learn how to use my new iPod Nano! So many this afternoon?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Just a thought....

Today I was cleaning out some folders of maps and notes etc from our trip north and then south again last week. Information on the Natchez Trace, old coupon books for motels, receipts, candy know how it goes. Then I came upon a small handwritten note that I had written as we drove into Florida. We were SO tired and the book on tape was over and we just wanted to be home (that's the context). I remember now, saying to my husband, "When did we cross the Mason-Dixon Line?" In popular usage, especially since the Missouri Compromise of 1820 (apparently the first official use of the term "Mason's and Dixon's Line"), the Mason-Dixon Line symbolizes a cultural boundary between the Northern United States and the Southern United States (Dixie).

So we began joking around trying to decide WHERE that cultural line was crossed..southern Illinois? Kentucky? We decided that there were far more interesting "lines" being crossed as we came south. Why had no one marked these along side the road? We came up with a list of "lines" that we felt we had crossed between Wisconsin and central Florida that deserve a wayside marker. This was the scrap of paper I found....

1. The sweet tea line
2. The bail bond office on every corner line
3. The boiled peanut line
4. the disappearance of the watch-out-for-icy bridges line
5. The palm tree line
6. The put-your-sandals-back-on line
7. The confederate flag line
8. The kudzu line

You will fill in the location of the line on our own depending on which route you travel, of course. I can tell you for a fact that Paducah, KY is the sweet tea line if you are coming from Wisconsin! North of Paducah if you ask for sweet tea they hand you a sugar packet.

Most of the others start in Georgia although we did see confederate flags and kudzu in Tennessee.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Fun at the Mt Dora Art Show

I got a ribbon for this painting at the Mt Dora, FL show this weekend!

This is an Yupo painting I did on semi-transparent Yupo paper with watercolor. It is from a photo I took on Cedar Key last spring of an old crab fishing boat that looked to have been put out to pasture.

The name on the transom "Miss Clarabell". So, that is the name of the painting, of course. I had some fun designing this one with some press-on textures. I liked working with the transparent Yupo as it gave me a chance to do things like design a crab image (top in red) and then to place it under the painting and trace the object wherever I wanted to place it before making a commitment. Haven't done a Yupo since this one. I would like to try some fluid acrylics on Yupo...I see them on Sandy Maudlin's blog but have not tried it yet.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Today is St. Nicholas Day. St. Nicholas lived in the fourth century, and he was the archbishop of Myra in Lycia (which is now Turkey). There are all kinds of stories about him, but one of the most famous is that there was a poor man who could not afford a dowry for his three daughters, which meant they would have to be abandoned to prostitution. St. Nicholas didn't want to humiliate the man by giving him charity in public, so he left purses of gold in the man's house at night — according to one version of the story, he dropped them down the chimney, and in another, one of the daughters had set out her stockings to dry and the gold was put in them. And so St. Nicholas, the bringer of anonymous gifts, inspired Jolly Old St. Nick, Father Christmas, and Santa Claus. St. Nicholas Day is celebrated in many European countries and in American cities with German influence like Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Cincinnati. On the evening of December 5th, children put out their shoes, and on this morning, they wake up to find those shoes filled with small gifts from St. Nick — chocolates and cookies, fruit, marbles or other small toys.

note: this is a watercolor I did a few years ago of our north woods cabin in WI as I "imagined" it looked under snowfall (I have never been there when it snowed!) 11 x 15 on Arches 140# cold press. I read it is snowing like crazy up there today!!!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Happy Holidays!!!

This year we decided one trip north...and one BIG holiday. SO, with the help of our 6 children and their spouses we had a whirlwind week up in Ill and WI!!

Thanksgiving was traditional...held in Lemont, IL at our son's house. Then...the Saturday following was the "Happy Holidays" party at my daughter's in Fontana, WI. WITH ALL 12 grandchildren!!! Whew!

My daughter seated 27 for dinner that night! What a wonderful party.
Our grandkids range from 19 to 3 years old! The oldest in college and the youngest yet to start pre-school!!! In fact in this photo the oldest is holding the youngest! We are pretty proud of this gang and so once I year I post them!!!

We have always had our Happy Holiday party at least two weeks before Christmas but this year was REALLY early! Still, it worked out great for everyone and the weather was great so no driving problems and for some miracle everyone was well!!! Lucky us!!! And thanks to all our children who made this such a wonderful start to the holiday season!!! Greg and I wish you all a very merry Christmas!

Journaling the Trip

By now you all know that I love to journal my trips. Some trips have more opportunities than others!

I already mentioned a few posts ago that we discovered the Natchez Trace on our way north and drove about 150 miles of it into Nashville on our way from Florida to Illinois about 10 days ago. (See map to the left side crossing Alabama and TN and the Tennessee River).

We are now back to Florida (on a cool rainy Friday morning). BUT oh it feels SO good to be home!!

I did not get to enter very much in my journal about this trip...the weather was not too conducive to being outside much and I had one of my sinus infections for most of the travel (sigh). And we were in pretty much of a hurry due to time constraints...not our usual "blue highways" type of travel.

But we were both fascinated to read quite a bit about Meriwether Lewis on one of the historical stops along the way up the trace. His burial spot is one of the markers. It is an unusual grave...a broken pillar to signify a life cut short. He died "mysteriously" and it is recorded that some thought he committed suicide because he had been "troubled". But then it is also recorded he died of two gun shot wounds which seemed to us highly suspect. But, in any case, it was sad that someone so involved in the early history of our country (and who was a respected journalist) died alone in a small cabin int he middle of Tennessee at only 35 years old.

Because the day going north was sunny and about 60, we bought picnic things and ate outside under some lovely old cedar trees not far from his grave (my first journal entry). Just beyond the tree line was the Little Swan Creek and up the road we found some charming small falls. There were many places it would be lovely to sketch but time drew us on!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The 29 Day Giving Challenge

Well, we are in Alabama again but this time heading south back to Florida.
Just 9 more hours of driving to go. SIGH. We are SO tired of living out of a suitcase that we are now getting grumpy! But the holiday was wonderful and I'll blog about that more tomorrow when I will have some photos to share and have slept one night in my own bed.

Meanwhile here's an interesting thought that my daughter has passed along to me for the holiday season. We often challenge each other on blogs (or in person) to accomplish certain things...paint silhouettes, or keep journals, or do portraits, etc. What about challanging ourselves to give a little something away each day? What a holiday challenge, don't you think?

Here's the website and it's called the 29 Day Giving Challenge. Remember this is about giving but not necessarily giving stuff...all the more challenging is to give of ourselves...our time, our love, our cheer, our art, our friendliness, etc. Read up and see. You can actually sign up and chat with other's about this or you could just do it on your own. It's just about being more intentional with your gifts. It's about calling that person you haven't seen for ages, hugging someone who really needs one but won't expect it, baking something for a shut in, etc etc. I love the idea and just thought I'd pass it along.