Archive for April, 2008

I’m no Plein Jane

April 28, 2008

Just ended a weeks’ workshop given by Bruce Williamson, an artist and teacher living in Texas who flew here to St. Croix to hold a plein air workshop with the idea of turning us into ” Painters of Light”. He refers to The Yin/Yang of Painting by Hongnian Zhang and Lois Woolley.

Some rapt students at the waters’ edge watching a landscape take shape.

Bruce is a wonderful painter and generous teacher. I wondered what the challenges would be in painting with acrylics while everyone else painted with oils.

I soon found out.

I likened it  to wanting to dance with the corps, but while they were in ballet slippers, I was in tap shoes! Did I enjoy it? Yes! Did I learn? Yes! Was I able to apply the same techniques and get the same results? A very frustrated no!

Our repertoire consisted of still life and landscape with the components of composition ( light and dark ), light source ( warm light, cool shadows ), focal point, and value based on grey scale ( Frank Gardner has a great post on this ) being consistent in whatever we painted. Varying directions of brush strokes for interest, giving the focal point sharper definition than background elements. He also included an exercise in painting with a limited palette ( two primaries ) to create harmony of color and deliberate thought of mixing to achieve a result that doesn’t rely on a quick grab of a tube.

I gained lots of insight into these important tenets of a good painting. Bruce starts a blank canvas by visually selecting his subject with a view catcher, then gives himself points on his canvas as reference.

He then loosely draws basic placements of his objects with a sienna wash. At this point, he blocks in his darks. So up to this point I was nodding eagerly ( I can do this, I get this …). Add some lights for a visually arresting composition. Still with ya’ Bruce.

Then the scientific adage of oil and water………

Even with a Sta- Wet Palette, my paint puddles dried before I could dip into them again. Every color had to be re-mixed over and over which creates two problems- a painting that takes forever, and colors that are always off.

Landscapes were impossible for me. I was cautioned by Nancy Moskovitz, well, she actually wished me ” Good Luck ” and said to work fast. Fast and good are not always best friends.

What do I do? I did quick studies of fruit, using the one stroke at a time method that he showed us to really ” see ” the warm and cool, light and shade.

I love the way oils look when working with them- the subtleties of color range and staying power of pools you can keep referring to. But how do I negate drawers full of acrylics. re-tool in oils and all their sidekicks, and justify it? The smell of turp, the safe disposal of toxic liquids on this little island?

I humbly bow deeply and respectfully to plein air painters while I ponder where to go with all this.

Oh No! I’ve Hit a Wall!

April 18, 2008

When your current medium of choice becomes a QUART of Gesso, and your favorite brush width is a 4″ housepainters’ special, you, fellow artists can surmise that I’ve hit the old 2000 mile long Great Wall of Nothingness!

Since my last two shows, I apparently used up whatever I had and have gone blank, should be relegated to drawing stick figures like the old hangman game ( remember that one? ), and haven’t been able to paint another canvas since.

I can further punish myself by looking, no, fawning over everyone else’s blog whose work knocks me out and imagine that they’ve never known moments like these because their work is endlessly luminous, prolific and they confess to loving every minute they’re in the studio. Not painting but looking at other art blogs is akin to buying the exercise clothes, paying for membership and NOT GOING to the gym.


This frustrating condition led me to a very interesting blog by Robert Genn covering a topic called painters remorse ( hmmm, I thought- there are others …). His writings are just the thing I needed to read as well as those of other artists expressing their points of view about the same dilemma.

One of my favorite artists Carol Marine– a great painter of still lifes so alive and frisky, you’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite, also posted a comment on his blog about this very frustrating perception.

Stop whining, I said to myself. Start painting or something, said my husband ( and cheerleader ).

What is that something! I’m ruining every canvas, hating everything, what do I do? This self-flagellation is sublimely easy when you work alone without other artists to commiserate with or learn from.

I began to sketch and do quick studies just for the practice of re-introducing my hand to my eyes again.

Pencil in a moleskine book and a loose watercolor ( my first, really ) doodle just to break this streak.

In the form of confessional here and as a way of segue-ing into a workshop next week, you my loyal, kind, admiring readers get to view these.

I’ve signed up for a 5 day workshop here next week given by Bruce Williamson ( more details next week…..). This will be my first official painting/drawing class in decades. Although he works in oils and I use acrylics, I’m going to take the classes anyway to be in the much needed company of other artists and a teacher. It’s 5 full days, 8 hours a day.

That ought to slap the whining out of my psyche and get me back in the mode or mood.

Wife Imitates Art

April 8, 2008

In one of my previous posts, I presented this painting called CaptuRED. I had no idea it would be as popular as it was, and on a greater level, never suspected it would become a totem of fertility to a woman who was told she would not be able to conceive. The woman I’m referring to, had seen this painting on the web and went mad for it. She told the man in her life and he contacted me about purchasing it as a surprise for her for Christmas. ( What a good guy! ) I shipped it to him in California and the night it arrived he presented it to her. I imagine there was that particular way in which a woman can express her absolute joy at getting such a surprise and guess what?? That very night, she conceived and is now 5 months away from the birth of a baby she was told she would never have! Women have a way of knowing almost to the second with accuracy envied by the NASA space team, when they conceived. She said she knew that very night.

There ARE of course other methods to determine when is the best time, like the lunar cycle.

You can move to a part of the world where fertility rates are the highest, like Africa.

There are ancient totems of fecundity that have been known to increase the potential for fertility like the Venus de Willendorf

But what would YOU rather have hanging in your bedroom?

This same couple was also here on St. Croix last month and she attended my art show at the Atrium Gallery, glowing, slightly rounded, and brought the painting back here with her from California in order to hang it in my show to entertain the many who attended with the magic of this great story. What’s next? One of her next year substituting the baby for the rooster!

I can see another commission coming……….