Sunday, June 28, 2009

Another Head Sketch Clunker...

Another head sketch clunker from life that failed to do it for me.

I am referring to the bottom one.  I must have a room full of ravishing rejects now which is hard when you are trying to sell your house and clear out the studio decks which I did last week prompted by a new studio move.

I was left dissatisfied after an open house painting session at LAAFA yesterday. I didn't hate what I did but I thought I could have said it better and maybe in a more 'artful' way. So today, I did another sketch from yesterday's one, trying to work out my "issues" and spare the $$$ on an art therapist. And I liked how it came out. I like a more muted look in my paintings these days and am striving for that in my life-painting. But sometimes, too much OOOMPH and SIZZLE comes out of me.

I find this re-sketching  from a life study to be quite a cathartic learning experience actually. To really look at something I have just done, paint it again on a separate canvas, and work out what you feel you could have done better. What was it that you missed? What to take to the next...

The top is today's version, 9 x12. The bottom, yesterday's, 18 x 24, about three hours with plenty of breaks and, dare I say, interruptions. It was an open house and as a teacher at the school I expected that. But I know I didn't get into the art zone at all. Today I did.

Does anyone have any good ideas for all these reject head sketches that are taking over my house and studio? 

I am starting to put the ones I really like for sale on Ebay. Visit here:

This one is called "Family Jewel"...
11 x 14, oil on linen.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Oil Painters' Of America Western Show

This painting "Bella Marie" has just been accepted as a finalist in The Oil Painters' of America Western Regional Show. Yee-ha. The show at the Howard/Mandeville Gallery, Kirkland, Washington, runs through August 6 -30.

One of those rainy day paintings!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ravishing Radish!

Two things come to mind tonight. How much I love painting still life,  in between the rigors of portraiture, and how much I learn from teaching, albeit a bit of a love/hate relationship on some days if I am being very honest.

 Teaching just one day a week around long school semesters,  as I do,  is a commitment if you are trying to do it to your very best. It is not like a workshop where you get in and out before the dust has settled and no-one really has had time to process much before the teaching check is cashed and the teacher has left amid a glitter glow.

In semester teaching, as I have done for almost three years now, people get to KNOW you and hear your repeated teaching agenda over a 10 week span and 'process" in their individual way  if they are making progress. A lot of time to think.  They also get to show up on days when they have private dramas (putrifying skunks caught in the attic/loved ones rushed to ER/savings lost...all true) and I have private dramas of my own ( much loved family home suddenly on the market, abrupt studio move, and  putrifying menopausal face). I think there is a lot to be said for weekend workshop teaching.

 Bit like "IN and OUT BURGER". Good but fast. NO commitment.

SO as a semester teacher I take that commitment on. I prepare for my class in a steadfast way that I don't think many students understand.  Calls ahead to models for set ups, hunts in thrift shops to find interesting/lively set-ups. Color harmonies to think about. Thought-out 'mini' lectures, with art book examples from my personal library, to give. 

This goes on  week after week while planning your professional painting life around it including all sorts of other commitments, travel, sittings, shippings etc.. IT WOULD BE SO EASY TO GET LAZY. And that is where the love/hate comes in.

Having just read a great book on master painter Sergei Bongart (Sergei Bongart By Mary Balcomb) who painted and taught his whole career, as much concerned with teaching as painting it seems, producing a generation of  highly esteemed artists to this day in his school of thinking, I know this is the level required from a teacher if you are going to do it well for your students.  Not that I am close to Sergei of course.

Those in his school include Sharon Burkett Kaiser,, Ovanes Berberian, and Dan McCaw to name a few.

I certainly had my share of teachers in the past who just showed up and couldn't care less. I didn't know the difference.  Then I found a teacher, my mentor, Everett Raymond Kinstler, N.A., who not only showed me how it should be done painting-wise, a journey which will take me my life time, but gave me the confidence to teach through his masterful instruction which I will be eternally grateful for as all my students know.

There are very discouraging moments teaching if I am honest which is where the hate bit comes in.

Students are like kids in candy stores. Looking for the next perfect "bon-bon"  art confectionary from the teaching jar to give them the magic sweet pill of how art is done. 

One student of mine went to another class recently without saying goodbye after well over two years with me. I know students always move on, that IS the journey of it. I did it in the past too, with 'class' I hope,  until I found my school of 'art thinking' and knew I was home.  Didn't need that wretched candy jar anymore.

But all those times spent personally teaching this afore-mentioned person, caring that it was a great lesson for said person, personal emails/critiques etc. on non-paid time...and then not so much as a handshake goodbye. STING. 

I lost faith in teaching at that moment. And felt CROSS.

Why bother so much as a teacher? DETACH, I say to myself. CARE LESS. Afterall this is NOT paying the mortgage.

But then you get a nice email out of the blue tonight, which is where the  LOVE comes in.  from a former student who had to work SO hard to pay the $$ to study with me at an art school or two, between jobs, who is moving away from LA, and took the time to say she will never forget what I had taught her.  Wow...that is why I teach. It made my day.

So... let's get to these radishes. NO big concept in mind.  NO big aim to deliver a masterpiece. NO need to please a client. Just the delight of painting a few radishes after seeing how my students handled them.  All of them well. But a bit too much of a reflected light here, too shiny there: these are heavy dense little beasts. the lesson YOU paint them smart ass teacher!

I chose a cool color harmony of red and green, determined to make the leaves look abstract but good. Just like in portraiture, the hands/neck can let an artist down, so too in still life with the leaves. You will be judged by both your hands/neck and your leaves. Take time to study them all.  Hmm..note to self. 

Just like hands, Mr. Kinstler once said there is a whole workshop to be had around necks and to look to Sargent for that. So true. I was lucky enough on the evening of him saying that, to be standing in front of a Sargent or two at The Met. And it was a profound timely lesson. Sargent's necks were incredible. He knew what to leave out. Learn anatomy so you KNOW what to leave out. No bullet holes between the clavicle, I say. We do see a few of those! And I have done one or two myself.

We all know we don't need a radish workshop.

My new class semester starts Wednesday July 8th at LAAFA, combined portrait/still life. For all those of you taking a summer break....shame on you! But paint some radishes or a neck.

I go to France on a painting grant after the next semester ends so will be absent from teaching for while.  I will chew on a baguette and brie while I am missed. Hold the radish.

Monday, June 15, 2009

"Spring Geisha" popular is my other finalist painting in the Jack Richeson show "Spring Geisha".

"Opening Night"

How fun!  I was so flattered my still life painting "Opening Night" was just chosen for the front cover of the souvenir book for The Jack Richeson 75 International Floral and Still Life Competition currently running in WI until mid-July. There are some beautiful pieces in this show.

To see the show online and purchase the book go to 


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Do I wannabe Vermeer or Asaro?

I had the exquisite pleasure of visiting master artist Mr. John Asaro at his CA studio this week after he read my blog, see previous post about his recent mega show in Los Angeles, and called me out of the blue with a lovely invite to come and shoot the art breeze.

I was desperate to get up to his studio but had to finish a large portrait commission first. It killed me to keep putting him off. But Mr. Asaro graciously waited for me and couldn't have been more sharing of his wisdom the day of the visit or his time. I was in heaven. Just one of those great art days one will never forget. I learned a lot.

Asaro is one of my favorite painters. Morgan Weistling  told me I should study this guy, buy the book. so I did. Like Morgan, Asaro's color, values, and draughtsmanship is superb. Nah, make that unbeatable. Asaro's now out of print book " Asaro: A New Romanticism", is always close by me. What a treat to see some of these images at first hand. Breath-taking color. You just feel that sunshine.

So I came back to my studio and painted this head not only inspired by Asaro's color but also by my other idol Vermeer and his "Red Feather Hat" painting.  I am doing a series of paintings of girls in vintage hats from my collection, all over life size and on the same size canvas.  When I saw this hat it screamed Vermeer and I have been itching to paint it.

Now was the time. I was thinking of what Asaro had told me about color as I got going on my hat set under a cool blue light with cool blue gel. The red was a challenge. My feather hat and skin tone was very garish the end of the first day. Too much fun with color but not in Asaro's capable hands.

The next day I reigned it in a bit looking at how Vermeer used those cool greens and warm oranges in the shadow much like Asaro.  How Vermeer kept the shape of his red hat strong, the value statement of light and shadow bold, much like Asaro.  Vermeer's  ever so subtle color play theory has stood the test of color time.

And, just like Vermeer,  contemporary figurative painter Asaro will go down as one of the greats of our time, of that I am sure.

So do I want to be a Vermeer or Asaro wannabe?  Both are superbly stimulating to me as superior value/colorists but very different in approach.

Heck, I'll just stick to being me but always remember how the greats do it and what I am striving for. The bar is set high.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Angela Lansbury Wins Her Fifth Tony!

So many congrats to Ms. Angela Lansbury who picked up her 5th Tony Award last night for her role in Blithe Spirit at the tender young age of 83 years-old.

As I watched her elegant presence on stage picking up "Best Featured Actress" , I felt honored to have painted this legendary performer for The Players' Club in New York, recently unveiled this April. 

I couldn't take my eyes off her face to be honest on TV last night. And was really glad I had chosen to paint her in pearls as she so often seems to wear those. She also seems really quite tall and of course very elegant in her dress and carriage.  I am hoping my 16 x 20 head and shoulders somehow caught that!

I read Ms. Lansbury's authorized biography before starting the painting, She has had one helluva career. From old Hollywood to present. From Broadway's  "Mame" to TV"s iconic Jessica Fletcher on "Murder She Wrote". Ms. Lansbury, who has a love for gardening even has a rose named after her. That's why I chose to put that floral scarf on her in my portrait knowing her penchant for green fingers.

Ms. Lansbury is a reminder to us all who choose to be in The Arts that a lifetime of hard work, dedication, and practicing your craft to perfection is what it takes.  Talent like she has sure helps but one just knows she has also had her share of knocks in the tough world of theatre, film and TV. Cream rises to the top. And the other good news, evidenced by Lansbury's win in her eighth decade s last night,  is that those of us who want to, can go on for years and years with our performances for the sheer love of what we do.


For the record: Angela Lansbury won her first Tony Award for leading actress in musical in 1966 for "Mame": again for "Dear World" in 1969: another in 1975 and 1979 for "Sweeney Tood": culminating in 2009 for Blithe Spirit.