Thursday, December 31, 2009

Get Your Party Sparkle On!

Happy New Year to everyone who reads this blog. Time to get your party sparkle on and ring in 2010. I for one won't be sad to see 2009 go.

With this in mind, I did a portrait sketch last night with some shimmer, oil on paper, applied with a brush, followed by a wash of gouache with watercolor. I first saw this technique done in Barcelona, but it took me two trips there to work out how they were doing it. After combing the streets, watching the plentiful and talented street portrait artists, I finally found a helpful artist who spoke English.

I have been playing with this technique for a while now in my drawing and really like the feel of it.

New Year's resoluiton: to draw more of course. It separates the men from the boys.

Favorite quote of the day. Winston Churchill:" I love champagne in victory but need it more in defeat".


Monday, December 14, 2009

The Best Painting EVER?...Waterhouse Gallery Show?

Today will be the day I see the best painting I get up early dragging my weary sorry sad non-morning self out of bed. THE GREAT AMERICAN FIGURATIVE ARTISTS SHOW at The Waterhouse Gallery is calling me to Santa Barbara.

This show will raise my bar as a painter. Promises to show me what I am missing. The elusive piece of the art puzzle. The golden nugget. It is a GRAND show for sure by the billing. All the big-shots are shooting there.

My sleep deprived derriere leaves its' Egyptian cotton sheets (ha!) way too early. I don't really want to go as there are deadlines at my own easel. This is always a problem for me and this is exactly WHY I need to go. I know that. My competitive self says, hey, see what the competition is doing. See what you need to learn. My fragile self says, hey, you weren't invited in the first place to exhibit. My pure self, says be open to all things...Zen....

My husband, the insanely talented barrista in our house, pours me a double expresso, knowing I need my fix. I don't do well with social commitments before 7 p.m.

In fact, I don't do much well without my double expresso at 7 a.m. period. I am beginning to accept this maybe a problem in my life. Caffeine INTERVENTION.

Santa Barbara is not that far. I meet my two art friends off a convenient freeway exit. It takes me a while to get into the idea that this is an "off" day. I really don't do 'days' out'. One must try to be a bit normal. Slow down. Shoot the breeze. Chit chat. Do some retail therapy and juicy java. I could not do the former in a wretched art economy so doubled up on the latter (LATTE?).

The clock is ticking. All I can think of after a quadruple expresso at this point is get to me to the gallery NOW. I just WANT TO GET THERE. I don't need a spangled anything. And I am not getting agitated. Am I???

So we arrive at 11.30 a.m. The gallery door is closed with a nice note. Back in 1o minutes. Gone for lunch...or something quite close. I love early lunches but not when you want to see Steve Hanks "Love for The Unattainable", 46" x 16", and marvel at how he paints those beautiful big pendulant breasts so magnificently in watercolor. I want those breasts. Or the equally spectacular cantoloupe butt of "Maude", 8" x 6", by Tony Pro. And those ever-so-slender shoulders and arms of the tiny figure painted by Jeremy Lipking in his usual supreme style, no back fat or bingo wings there.

Another cafe. Another espresso. Just to ponder the above!

We return to the glossy gallery. Still closed. I really was desperate to get in at this point, not so much to see that amazing Quang Ho, "Draped in Black", 42" x 24', displayed in the window which was awfully good in a modern Sargent-esque way, but I really needed a good diuretic pee in the restroom.

I press my nose against the gallery window hot breath steaming it up like a Dickens' Christmas Carol. Except my legs are crossed like a pretzel, way tighter than Marci Oleszkiewicz's nicely subdued nude, "Reclining", 8" x 23". Cystitis I fear now. That is an awfully nice shade of cranberry juice red Adrian Gottlieb gets into his robe in "Obelisk in Fall", 36 x 24, my bladder tells me.

I see a small superb painting in the window by Brent Cotton, 10" x 6", "September Breeze", of a gorgeous small figure, with a fierce hot back light. Drats. I don't care. The fire is not helping my mind/bladder/burning cause.

Rush to another nearby cafe. Relief of sorts but alas another espresso. It is a cold day after all. And I am hungry. But don't want to eat yet because I want to see THE BEST PAINTING EVER AT THE WATERHOUSE GALLERY.

Return to the gallery. Still locked! I feel desperate because I now just really want to see the artwork. I KNOW a caffeine crash will hit shortly. It always does. One has a short window. Clock is ticking. I have an hour I reckon. No more.

I suddenly see a rather handsome man approach with spirited step who has the air of an interesting worldly guy, not in a hurry, who can take an early lunch or meeting and not worry.

Good looks, greying tousled hair, casual clothes but put together in way that makes you take notice.

I knew it must be the gallery owner Ralph Waterhouse immediately even though we had never met. My big mouth announced this to him immediately in a double-shot kinda way.

Cut to the froth.. I was full of caffeine buzz. Showed him a trio set of cards of mine and he was very gracious in a way that gallery owners sometimes are not, in LA and NY anyway. Quite frankly I am often scared by the gallery world. He was probably scared by my 'single machiato' attack too.

Then I had a lovely casual chit chat, rather impromptu, and nothing art related with the chic and gorgeous Diane Waterhouse who suddenly showed up. I sat down in front of her desk in the certain caffeine crash while my other art friends were still ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the collection. I was now running on dregs.

Instead, I found myself rather enjoying Diane's beautiful chic bob haircut (very french and I have just come back from there, wondering if I should do the same) different from a layered cut she wore in a catalog she showed me from a while back which prompted the conversation in the first place.

I told her she was very Anna Wintour-esque (Vogue Magazine Editor). She said very kindly that Anna was her idol. Well, she is kinda mine too.

I also know Anna likes caffeine a lot. Unfortunately Starbucks. She just does her shots wearing Chanel.

I want that too. But not the Starbucks. That stuff sucks.

As I leave the gallery, I note how varied the work is along with the price range starting very reasonably with some small pieces at around $850 going up to the mega-thousands. The gallery owners say 16 pieces have already sold. I think that is really good in such an awful economy. But I suspect the Waterhouses know their business and do it with class. We went to another gallery on the way home and the lady owner was so desperate to sell me a painting, I had to run for my life. Hard sell never works for me.

So did I see the best painting ever this day? Let's just put it this way. Magnificent show at The Waterhouse Gallery. Magnificent gallery too although I do think they need to serve some coffee for visitors from afar. Mine's a double.

To see the paintings mentioned above, visit the Waterhouse show
The Waterhouse Gallery
1114 State Street
Suite 9
Santa Barbara
CA 93101

Top image: Cafe Au Lait by Johanna Spinks.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Postscript...Reality of An International Art Residency.

The dust has settled on my french trip. I am no longer trying to look french (impossible anyway), feeling the need to cut heavy bangs in my hair or smoke moody Gauloise ciggies through matinee idol rouged lips.

Occasional wine with lunch has long gone, along with the endless baguette and croissant-belly dietary regimen. The requisite scarf swagged ever so chic around my neck has gone too along with red bugs that crawled up my old rusty tub. No cater-walling cats crawl on my roof at night driving my scared-crazy, and I don't need to leave the light on at night to ward off intruders.

All I am left with are my memories and 22 small sketches. I am back home of course easily slipping into to all my creature comforts of the, ah, well, comfortable sort in all regards -studio, home, language and transportation. Oh yeah, and washer/dryer.

I was reminded of this at the weekend seeing my France sketches from my month-long international residency in Dinan, France, graciously hosted by Les Amis De La Grande Ville. The panels were re-united for the first time on a wall for my Open Studio this weekend.

Seeing them again together reminded me what an experience it was, that I am proud I did it. And grateful for the experience to grow personally and artistically. I had at times to dig in deep, knowing my sketches would not change the art world amid feelings of isolation in this tiny studio building at the end of a quiet off-season street where it got dark early.

It seems to me the learning from those varied panels, and my trip of a lifetime, has continued since I returned home. I was told by a master in these matters that this would happen and it has. That one should just paint simple statements and the rest of the learning would come later.

So by popular demand, here is the promised postscript from darling Dinan.

1. I learned the last week is always the BEST on any trip! Probably best I didn't post that last week! I made some good friends in Dinan by month's end largely because I didn't have a car and can walk and talk a lot. I got to know the locals along the quaint Port of Dinan, and they, me. That crazy artist with the rats-tail hair, walking up and down the River Rance endlessly. They could not have been kinder to me. Great interest in what I was doing. Free drinks, free nuts (expensive in France!), free coffees, free rides to the market and sightseeing trips laid on for me. I will return, see #11!

2. I have learned that I like what I painted there more than I thought I would on return. I don't want to sell any of the panels at this point. I am attached to them. I felt like dumping some them in the trash at the time so this is a good sign and a surprise. Everyone of those panels, painted from life, is a special memory now of a different moment from the trip. Even the still life. The walk to get the utterly wicked butter cake. The trek into town up that 90 degree centuries-old alley, town almost closing and cold, to buy fuschia pink french knickers/underwear to paint. Seemed vital at the time.

3. I have learned I like more of a finished look in my work. The landscape quick-sketch especially leaves me with a feeling of: "Well, I can do it much better with more time." One is always in a rush to catch the light, it seems, especially October in Britagne where the light goes up and down behind the massive clouds faster than a Jack in the Box on espresso. I know it is training my eye to work fast like this, but...

4. I enjoyed the value of working from a limited palette. It makes everything look consistent. Consistently good or bad!

5. I enjoyed on return and reflection the seemingly wide-range of colors I got from those three primaries, cyan blue, magenta and cad yellow. It was surprising on second view.

6. I enjoyed painting at 4 a.m. with no questions. I enjoy waking up late the next morning without any strange looks at my tardiness eating cheese for breakfast because that is ALL that I have. Unbrushed hair, unbrushed teeth. This was of course the ONLY time I got a surprise visitor to the studio who politely left quickly.

7. I enjoyed making muted paintings but learn I still love a real 'POP' in my work too with reflection. I guess it is a bit like a preference for hard or soft centers in Sees Candy. You might dip in and out of that chocolate box, try a bit of both, but maintain a life-long preference for one or the other.

In France I decided to really work hard on value and pushing things back a bit in my work. Work on putting more air in the shadows. Keeping my value range closer. My daughter, who has a good eye, said on my return:"It must have been grey there Mom as all your paintings look grey". Hmmm... I think she meant 'muted' really compared to my usual.

As soon as I got home, I got my Vermeer/Boldini books out and felt the need to study them hard, CRANK up the volume in subsequent paintings the next few weeks a little bit, while retaining my better knowledge of air in the shadows and not taking things so dark and dense. Landscape painting, along with some incredible instruction from my mentor, has taught me how much I needed to address this issue. It has been a consistent issue in my work. I learned more about this issue perhaps than anything else on my trip technically. Still, of course, got work to do. But I KNOW I made progress.

8. I am finding the desire to paint more finished pieces of Dinan. I obviously took a ton of photos but I am giving myself time to see what comes through. I had a list of six big paintings I wanted to do on return as MUSTS. That list is no longer there. I had too many SHOULDS in my head on that trip.

9. Writing is powerful! Well, of course. I was blown away by the emails from people who had read my journal there. I blogged from the one and only free internet connection bar (?) the price of a beer or wine - and I was going to have that anyway. The feedback was so incredibly rewarding for me and very unexpected. Thank you to all who responded so warmly to it.

10. I learned a deeper respect for the landscapes artists, the colorist/value painters I really admire. I referred to them often on my trip for inspiration on my computer. They helped me from afar. Thanks of course to the great Everett Raymond Kinstler N.A., Michael Shane Neal, Dawn Whitelaw, and Hongnian Zhang. Funnily enough, on my way to France I was lucky enough to purchase a small landscape by the incredible Ms. Whitelaw at The Artists' Fellowship Gala in New York. It came all the way with me to the studio in France, which had also hosted Ms. Whitelaw several years ago and was displayed for inspiration the entire trip.

11. I plan on returning. My wish is to teach an 11-day workshop near Dinan, gourmet food/wine, three meals a day, travel to to sightseeing/painting spots included. Accommodation at the most delightful Gite place I discovered, run by the most delightful french couple. Let me know if you are interested. I have the venue. I have the time slot for next October. I just need the people and the interest. A maximum of 10.

Let me know!

I was unprepared for the incredible feedback I received from people who read the extensive journal. People said I was bravely honest about myself and my art. I think I forgot sometimes my ramblings in that little studio,

Friday, December 4, 2009

Tweak, tweak, tweak...when is a painting done.

Tweak, tweak, tweak. When is a painting done?

After the quick sketches I did in France, I allowed myself to take my own sweet time on this one while starting two new portrait commissions. It wasn't the easiest. The shiny fabric was dazzling, different types of colored glass from super clear to sea foam frosty, patterned and plain, and the petals of the flowers frilly and translucent. At one point, I thought I might have to give up. But one thing I know about myself as a painter, is if I keep showing up I will get there in the end.

I worked hard to get the flowers finished before they died. To paint a wet petal and leave it. I just don't like working from dead flowers or photos. Once the flowers were in the bag, (bowl?) I relaxed a bit.

I chose the color harmony very specifically around red and green, all leaning toward the cool side of those colors. I geared my whole painting to that backdrop which I bought especially for it. The glass ALL from thrift shops. The flowers from the local market. My focal point was the white flower bending over the vase, the three front flowers in the light with that swatch of fabric on the left. Nothing goes higher in value in the whole painting. I tried to lose edges as wildly as I could in places, carefully in others. Yin and Yang. That is always the delicate balance. Can't all be soft or it is too mushy like pea soup needing some crackers. Can't be too hard edged. I find that just deadly in anything.

This still life is 18 x 24. Fresh off the easel, it will be hanging wet at today's Open House in my studio.

Overall a painting, still life or portrait, is done for me when I have said/painted all that I could with the skill set I have today, not in 10 years. I kinda know now when I reach that point. It can be frustrating to know that you can't paint it any better today - but you will in a decade. Keep chewing at the old bone, like my mentor says.

This holds true for me in a two hour sketch or a still-life/portrait that took many hours.

Come and see this today at the Open House. See if I tweaked it more overnight! Anyone got any toothpick's? I have some bone stuck in my teeth.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Santa says in Open Ho-use

Ho Ho's that time of year again and time for my open house this Saturday December 5th at my studio. Santa will be there. This one at least.

Details on previous post. Hope to see you there.

16 x 20
Painted from life
Channel Islands University.