Catching Up & A Challenge

I spent most of last night and part of this morning catching up on Danny Gregory’s interviews with some of the artists he features in his new book, An Illustrated Journey:  Inspiration From the Private Art Journals of Traveling Artists, Illustrators and Designers.  I had the videos playing while I was doing other things in my studio when I realized…  This would be a prime opportunity to try my hand at sketching people.  So, I gave it a try.

I enjoyed it very much and was surprised with the outcome.  It was challenging to sketch while they were conversing, moving their heads and having the light change on their faces and such.  I did not pause the videos at all to do my sketches, just when I had to answer the phone or when I took a break.  I am disappointed in not getting their likenesses, however; so, that just means I need more practice.  I was disappointed, too, that, of all the people I tried sketching, Danny was the hardest person to do!  Maybe if I go back and colorize them, I’ll get a better likeness.  I hope no one is offended with my sketch of them.
kgf_01032013_aij_ 002Danny & Liz

As I was scanning the sketches in to my laptop, I noticed a difference in my drawing methods.  I usually do contour drawing when I draw and the first two pages (Danny & Liz and Danny & Prashant above) are sort of done that way but the others aren’t.

I think it’s bekgf_01032013_aij_ 003cause I took my glasses off for the final three sketches.  I don’t know for sure if that’s what I did because I can’t remember consciously making the decision to remove my glasses because I was listening intently to the conversations.  I’m thinking I probably kgf_01032013_aij_ 004did take off my glasses because I had been on the computer most of the day and I usually remove my glasses to avoid getting to the point where my eyes can’t focus anymore.  I had also started going to each of the illustrator’s websites to view their kgf_01032013_aij_ 005work and, maybe their work influenced how I was drawing.  Obviously, I’m not drawing enough to have a set practice in place so that my drawing becomes wrote–I’ll have to pay attention next time.

I’m also including two street scenes I did as a challenge to Tommy Kane…  I thought it might be fun if he (or anyone else) can tell where in Brooklyn these were done.  In the interview, Tommy said he’s sketched every brick in NYC.  I’m hoping he can identify this street.  I did these sketches in 2008 when I was visiting my son–he had gone to practice with his band and I went out on the stoop to sketch to pass the time.
kgf_03022008_aij_ 001kgf_03022008_aij_ 002

I’ve kind of avoided daily sketching because the way I approach things is all-encompassing.  A day’s sketch, for me, means five hours of my day–that’s:  doing the sketch, in a Moleskine or on a separate 5″x7″ watercolor page, and then, applying watercolor.  It’s the watercoloring that takes me so long.  But, doing these “portraits” seemed to take no time at all; so, I think I might just give it another try.  I forgot how fun it could be.  I don’t have to work until I fully complete a “masterpiece”; I can set a time limit and work into finishing as much as I can in that amount of time and, eventually, I’ll develop expediency.

Can’t wait till Danny’s next interview!



A Magical Day

I had a magical day yesterday…  At least it seemed magical.

I was awakened very early–early enough that I could watch a movie I need to return to Netflix and get in the mail before the postman came.   Then, I took a shower and got my stuff together for my painting class with Robert Roark.  I am involved in a huge project at home and I wasn’t going to go.  I reasoned to go anyway, packing a checklist of ‘things to do’ on my way there and back again.  On my list was stopping at The Barn to see if they still had the toolbox I should have bought last Saturday.  It was gone; someone snapped it up.  No wonder–it was a great box.

Next stop, Cape Cod Museum of Art for my class.  It was a good class.  Mr. Roark spent some time looking over my painting, pointing out different things I should remember when I get to certain areas. I’m painting from one of his reference photos–a painting of eucalyptus in a handmade potter’s vase sitting on a wood table with light streaming across both.  I’m almost done with it.  Before leaving class I made sure to borrow a few more of his photos so I could start another painting or two this week.

I also went around the room to see my other artist-classmate’s paintings.  Everyone is working on different subjects and each artist is such a joy to talk to.  One woman, Cathy, is so amazed with my painting and I with hers.  She asks if I’ve been life-long painter!  No, I say.  I started tole painting in 1995 but got away from it a few years later.  I have only started back really painting in the last year.  I think Cathy has been painting regularly much longer than I.   She has a wonderful style.

I love what Cathy is painting in class.  She’s painting from photos of her grandchildren.  One, of her granddaughter she took this summer, painting at the easel in her, Cathy’s, home studio.  The painting is so beautiful.  She’s only using two colors, ultramarine blue and burnt umber, giving it an old-world feel.  It’s big, too!  Next class, I should ask if I can take a photo of it.  In the painting of her grandsons, the brothers of the granddaughter, the boys are playing at the water’s edge and their sister is swimming in the background.  What great keepsakes for the family!  I love seeing the progress of these paintings.

And, the progress of the others…  Norma is a first-time painter.  She’s painting a landscape scene from a photo taken on a trip.  It is marshland with rocks in the foreground and a body of water in the distance.  Tom is painting from a picture his wife took when they were in Aruba of a huge piece of driftwood on a beach.  My friend, Gail, is a rapid painter and she’s done several paintings.  She and another artist are the only ones so far painting from life.  Some of what Gail’s done is a still life of a bowl and pitcher; a rowboat anchored in the harbor on a densely foggy day, and other beach scenes.  The other three women of whom I have yet to commit their names to memory…  One is painting from a still life of a vase of bright orange and yellow flowers; another, a beautiful water scene on a stormy day with the sun peeking in through a break in the dark clouds; and the last, a close-up of large rocks onto which numbers will be stencilled and made to look like graffiti.  An interesting assortment of ideas, wouldn’t you say?

It was such a nice day when I got home, I decided to set my painting gear up outside on the patio and continue working on my painting.  I painted till a lone mosquito buzzed between my face and my palette, finally deciding to sit in the piles of paint.  It was too dark by then to see what colors I was actually making.  I didn’t want to mess up my “masterpiece”.  So, I brought everything in, washed up my brushes and palette and put my colors in the fridge.

My paint box was a mess!  The colors fell and mixed in the lid and on the palette from being transported to class and back again.  I thought I wiped down all the areas where the paint landed but when I put everything in its home and went to make supper, I had a band of yellow ochre across the palm of one hand.  That tells me there’s still paint either on a leg or the handle of my paint box.  I decided to try and find it tomorrow.

So, what made the day magical?  I think it was the combination of everything I did yesterday–the movie (an Orson Welles thriller), seeing the goodies at the barn sale (loads of beautiful wooden desks, tables and dressers), interacting with the artists at class and being inspired by their work, and then, finishing the day outside working on my painting in the fresh air.

It was a day when I was really present.  I guess I actually ‘lived’ each moment throughout the day.  That’s what art’s supposed to do for you.  Art did it for me yesterday.

Here’s hoping you had a good day…


My Favorite Classical Piece

My favorite classical album…  It came to me in a dream–literally.  I had my clock radio set to wake me up to classical music.  Still asleep, I dream I’m on an artist retreat in Rockport.  I’m on the pier, painting with other artists, on our fourth day and it’s a free-paint day.  I’m just realizing that I got to the fourth day without feeling like I’ve fallen behind on any one day and, I am only now feeling like I’ve hit my saturation point.  I need to take a break.  All of a sudden, I hear the most beautiful violin playing this most beautiful music.  I turn to put my brushes aside when the violinist walks along the edge of the pier to the end, still playing the tune.  I sit back in my chair, close my eyes and just listen.  The violin, so crisp and clear–most certainly it is a finely crafted instrument.  I couldn’t get over how beautiful it sounded–how my ear picked it up right away–it was so striking.  I kept listening and didn’t let anything else interfere…  I could listen to this tune all day.  I had to find out who this person was, was the violin anything special?  If not, this violinist is a master …  Where did he come from?  Why was he there?  What is this piece he’s playing?  As the piece ended, I began to wake …  My clock said:  5:23 a.m.  It was Friday, I’m remembering.  That music!  It made it into my dream!  How?  How could it do that?  OMG…  I had to find out what was playing before I woke up and if, it was what I was hearing in my dream.  I called the radio station.  The woman was so excited that I liked the music–they, at the radio station, love this album.  The music was Romance in F Minor, Op. 11 by Dvorak, #7 on this album.  She told me I could get the album at HMG.  She told me a little bit of the violinist, Ivan Zenaty, and of his violin.  That was about 15 years ago.  If I get married again, I’m going to play this piece at my wedding–Or, ask Mr. Zenaty if he will. 😉

Vanhal/ Myslivecek/ Dvorak:  Violin Concertos

Happy Holidays


We had a good Christmas with a minor snafu.  One son’s absence was very evident–a few minutes via video mail to Wisconsin had to suffice.  My other son, the host, cooked a prime rib again only not on the grill…  The propane tank had the wrong nozzle and, therefore, couldn’t be used for the grill.  The scramble was on for a roasting pan large enough to fit a 19-lb roast.  Pan located, rack missing.  Rack was at ‘the shop’.  A trip to the shop to retrieve the rack also bagged some coffee as there was none at home to serve invited guests.  Grazing on desserts, salsa, crackers, cheeses, guacamole and chips and creating festive trial “eggnogs” afforded us to embibe in more conversation than what otherwise would have been had.  Once everyone arrived, attacked the presents under the tree and cousins played for awhile in the playroom in the basement, the roast was finished and we were hungry enough to enjoy it.  More conversation ensued, cousins left and the base family’s home returned to normal…  Merry Christmas and may God bless you all.


Breath-taking Surprise

I couldn’t start my day without writing to Julian Merrow-Smith first–to thank him.  I received his book, Postcard from Provence, in the mail yesterday.  It is absolutely breathtaking.

I had forgotten that the book was on its way to me so when I opened the package, it was a very pleasant surprise to behold, indeed.  My dream since, well…  forever, has been to spend a month in Provence painting and living as the natives do.  Looking at Julian’s wonderful work has hastened the urgency to make it happen.  I spent about hours last night just taking each painting in, as though I was standing behind him watching him paint.  Oh, to be a fly on the wall…

I love that he paints with so much bright color.  In print, they are living beings.  In person, they must be overwhelming.  It has to be much like seeing Van Gogh’s The Cottage (1885) for the first time at MoMA in NY in the Van Gogh And The Colors Of The Night exhibit.  On-line and in the accompanying book to the exhibit, the painting is dark and unlikable.  But in person, it breathes.  It has life.  It lives.  I couldn’t walk away from it.  You HAVE to see it in person to know what I mean.  It’s the very same with Postcard from Provence.  I will spend more hours with it, just in awe.

I have only just started painting en plein air and Julian’s book has inspired me to explore more defiantly.  The book is an awesome addition to anyone’s collection, especially artists.

Chuck Close Project

I was on Danny Gregory’s site and noticed he tweeted about Patti & Jack visiting Chuck Close and I thought I’d share my Chuck Close project with you.

This is my favorite picture of my sons when they were little.  I thought it would be a nice project to do as a keepsake for each of them.  It is not easy to do but it is very fun.  What I have finished here took me almost 30 hours to do.  You should give it a try.  Maybe start with a picture of your favorite stuffed animal or cup or something like that.  Here’s how I got started:

1.  Preparing the image.

I imaged the photo into my scanner and printed it out as an 8×10 on plain paper with the color exaggerated, in great detail, so I could get a good contrast between lights and darks as well as pick up on what colors to use.  In MS Word, I set up a grid with 1/4″ squares.  I put my printed photo page in the printer again and printed my Word grid right on top of the photo.  Then I penciled numbers along one side of the page and letters along the other side.

2.  Make sketches.

It’s always good to do a few sketches before you paint.  I find it’s like a pre-painting.  It forces you to look at the scene and dissect it into parts.  You’re made to figure out the lights, the darks, and the shapes, not only painting them in your mind but physically seeing what you need to do on the canvas.  It’s like you’re being “primed” in a way to get ready for this painting.

3.  Preparing the canvas.

I base coated my canvas with a colored gesso that I tinted with a little green acrylic paint.  When it dried, I marked out and lined a grid on the canvas with an HB pencil.  My squares are 1/2″.  I then marked the sides to correspond with my printed photo.

4.  Choosing the palette.

I usually use Jo Sonja acrylic paints for the special projects I work on.  They have some really unique colors, effects and finishes.  My palette for this painting is:  Warm White, Naples Yellow Hue, Yellow Light, Gold Oxide, Purple Madder, Ultramarine, and Jade.  I first picked out the colors I really liked.  To make sure they’d be combinations I like when blended, I do “mixture triangles.”  (See Johannes Itten’s book, The Art of Color.)  I did three different triangles and I really liked all the combinations and they matched all the colors, lights and darks, I think I see in the intensity of my printed photo.

5.  Paint.

Paint square by square and, only square by square.  If you look at your printed photo, each square will look different from the one next to it, above and below.  If you match the tone, value and hue when you paint, you’ll do well.

It seems like a lot of work (which it is) but it’s a lot of fun, too.  Just relax.  Enjoy and be surprised in the end!


Not Enough On My Plate

Not Enough on My Plate