Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Green Lady

I went to my figures charcoal class today. I was surprised by how quickly the three hours went by. The last two hours of class are divided between two - one hour draws. Boy, I really struggled. Because I'm new to all this, the teacher kindly selected the places where she wanted me to set up my easel. The point of it all was to help me work on perspective, foreshortening, all that jazz. But let me tell you, I STINK at this! The teacher left me a note at one point that said, "Draw what you see, not what you know." Good advice, yes -- but incredibly difficult for me to do.

At any rate, here's a drawing I'm willing to share, though it's clear I still have lots to learn. For this one, the result of the second hourlong draw, I decided to revisit a technique we used during "warm ups". First, I shaded the basic shape of the figure on my page with a colored chalk pastel. Then I went back in with charcoal, amending dimensions and adding highlights. I have to say; I had such a tough time with the model's leg. You really can't tell it here, but her right leg was outstretched and is supposed to be coming towards us. Feet give me trouble, too. Ah well.

At the end of class, we all lined up our easels with our final drawing so we could discuss and compare techniques and results. That was intimidating, to say the least. There is incredible artistry in the group: real mastery of the art form in a variety of styles. I'm curious to discover what sort of style I'll end up with. For now, I think I'm going to buy myself some colorful pastels so I can continue using the technique I learned today.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Farmers' Market

Every Saturday during the summer months and into October, one of the neighboring communities plays host to a wonderful farmers' market. Get ready for lots of harvest pictures!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Powers of Observation

It's raining out and though my daughter is on the mend (hurray!), she's still very weak, so we're not going anywhere today. I'm hoping that I'll get to spend a little time in my studio. But before I go, I thought I'd share info on two art-related articles in the October 2009 issue of Smithsonian magazine that I read yesterday. The first one, called "Teaching Cops to See" (by Neal Hirschfield) gave an overview of a program being used in New York City. In a nutshell, an art historian and lawyer named Amy Herman uses art to help police officers develop their observation skills. Using a variety of of artwork and exercises, participants fine tune their ability to note and describe scenes and people. In turn, this improves their chances of giving accurate descriptions of suspects and crime scenes. Officers are forbidden to use the words "obviously" and "clearly", eliminating preconceived notions. The artwork is presented without the title as well, so the officers aren't "led" into thinking one way or another. They have to develop their own ideas about about what's going on in the scene on canvas, just as they would in real life. I think it's pretty fascinating that art can be used in this way.

Carravaggio's painting, The Calling of St. Matthew, is just one of the paintings used in the program.

The second article had to do with Leonardo da Vinci. There is a beautiful altar panel in Florence, Italy called Beheading of St. John the Baptist. Andrea del Verrocchio was commissioned to create the panel. Now, an eminent Leonardo scholar named Gary M. Radke is positing that two of the figures on the panel may have been created by Leonardo da Vinci when he was a student of Verrocchio's. First, I was fascinated even to consider that Leonardo was ever a student. (Yes, that clearly shows my ignorance.) Apparently, Leonardo was an apprentice for at least a decade. Second, I was intrigued by how little we know of the Renaissance artists because they left few markings noting who worked on what. In this case, history, sketches, sculptural details and even the back side of the sculpture were all data points that Radke considered in making his proposition. For example, the clothes on two of the figures were rendered with more natural movement than in other figures on the panel. Even the back of the two figures in question -- which were attached to the panel -- had more realistic details. This was more in keeping with Leonardo's style. In addition, the face of one of the figures was similar to a sketch Leonardo made during the same time period that the panel was worked on. It's all a bit of detective work -- all about observing art. I think it's pretty cool.

Here's a detail of the panel. The figures the Radke thinks might have been made by Leonardo are the second from the right and the far left.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Spider Silk Cloth

Today, the 11 foot long brocaded cloth that was spun from the silk of over one million female golden orb spiders goes on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. From all the pictures I've seen on the web, this looks like an amazing piece of artistry. I'm definitely going to try to get in to the museum to take a look. I think the whole thing is just fascinating, from the process to the end result.

In celebration of the event, I'm posting a photo of a spider from my garden. Here's to one of nature's weavers!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Art Class at Home

Since I couldn't go to my charcoal class today, I decided to try a little drawing at home. I had a very ready, willing and able model in my daughter, who was happy not to move from her lounging, recuperative position. After a few quick draws to get into the zone (including one hand drawing that looked remarkably like a potato), I did a twenty minute sketch. Here's the result:

Again, there were clothes to contend with but the "model's" position made it a lot easier just to color it all in. This daughter has dark brown hair so I had a little dilemma trying to figure out how to differentiate between the two dark surfaces. I used the blending pencil on her shirt and I was surprised to discover how much it helped. I was sketching with the pad in my lap and made more smudges than I can count. I can't totally complain because one fortuitous smudge helped me form her nose. But, I do know now why it's so much better to use an easel when drawing with charcoal: you're less likely to rest your hand on your drawing and smudge your work. I know, I know, that's self-evident but I hadn't figured it out yet. I also think that I naturally pressed harder with the charcoal given the position the pad was in. It's interesting to note how position forces and/or changes your technique as you draw. At any rate, I'm reasonably pleased with this sketch. If it looks like a napping girl to you, then I can't ask for any more at this point.

My daughter wanted a turn drawing as well, so she used an "Ugly Doll" named Trunko as her model. Believe it or not, this is a pretty accurate rendition. The "G" in the corner stands for "The Big Germ" -- my daughter's self-assigned name for herself at the moment. HA!

Thanks for your feedback on the deer and crow picture. I agree with all of you; I think the picture is out of balance. However, when some friends saw the picture they thought it was cool. Perhaps I was missing something -- since I didn't agree -- and thought I'd throw it out there for your thoughts. You confirmed my feelings. Thanks!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Bit of This and That

It's been a hodge podge of activity here with my little darlin' still sick (she has pneumonia, but I'm certain she's on the mend with the new super-duper radioactive type antibiotic they put her on today.) At any rate, I thought I'd post the charcoal drawing I did this weekend of my eldest. She was lounging on the couch as I drew and let me tell you, this was Hard! First, she was all slouch-y, so it was difficult to get clear body lines. This was exacerbated by the dark clothing she was wearing. As a result I made harder outlines to delineate spaces, but I don't think I like the way this looks as much as the more "scattered" appearance of the drawing I did in class. I also now understand why it's important to start with nudes: you need to see defined lines to learn how to draw anatomy and pose / stance. The ripples and wrinkles in clothing are things I'm going to have to leave for later. So are faces -- I couldn't handle it, so I left hers blank. She's also a blonde and I didn't have a clue as to how to represent that on the page. Whew -- There's lots to learn!

Oh, and the opening reception for the exhibit, Made in New York, was last night. I wasn't able to attend, but I'm hoping that I'll have a chance to drop by while the show is hanging. The exhibit is being held at the Williams Club until November 14th and my piece, "Departure", is a part of the show. One of Norma Schlager's pieces was also accepted. She does incredible work and I'm honored to be included in an exhibit that she's in as well.

And finally, I'd love to have your thoughts. Here's a picture I took on vacation. I've had differing reactions to it and I'd like to know what you think. I'm curious to know if you think the bird in the picture is an asset or a distraction. Let me know! What else do you think?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Quick Walk

My youngest is still sick -- rats!. But I got a quick walk in to get some fresh air and took a picture of this lovely sunflower growing along the side of the road. Perhaps tomorrow I'll post a picture of the 15 minute charcoal sketch I did of my eldest while she lounged on the couch. That's all the art that's been happening right now.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Testing New Waters

Today I embarked on an adventure: life drawing class in charcoal. This is a first for me. Everyone else in the class has some experience, but all were very welcoming to me and generous with their support. The teacher was kind enough to say "Oh, I'm so glad! You're my favorite kind of student; you're going to see the greatest improvement!" Isn't that the nicest thing to say to welcome a complete neophyte?

At any rate, I was very unprepared for the class, both in terms of the supplies (I just signed up yesterday and didn't have anything!) and expectation. I didn't have a clue about what was going to happen. Here's what transpired:

We started off with five one-minute quick draws to get us going. Yech! Can you even tell that's a girl? I think not, unless you squint.

Then we went to two minute quick draws. The teacher suggested that I draw basic shapes to begin with so that I could get proportions right and ensure that I had enough room for the entire composition. (I kept losing body parts because I was drawing too big! You can see it here; I cut off the bottom of her leg.) Poor girl, now she looks like she's made from jelly beans.

Next we did some five and ten minute draws. The teacher was very encouraging though I think her profile -- as I drew it -- makes the model look old and she most definitely was not.

Alas, I had to leave an hour into the three hour class because my youngest is sick, so I did one last drawing for fifteen minutes, while the rest of the class planned to work for an hour. I'm pleased with the results of this and encouraged to continue the class. It's very helpful to know that, as per our teacher's preference, it's okay that lines aren't crisp nor the paper pristine. She welcomes seeing the beginning marks we make on the page. Now I can't wait to get my supplies, although the teacher did suggest I get the largest size pad of paper available (24" x 36") to accommodate my propensity to draw things too big! I'm also looking forward to a shoulder massage. I had no clue that I'd get sore.

Monday, September 14, 2009

All the Little Lovelies

Our fiber art group swap of 4 x 4 inch squares took place on Thursday evening and I can finally reveal the results. What fun it was to see all the beautiful creations! It's amazing and wonderful how 28 people can make such different art. Here's a picture of all the little lovelies I received in the swap:

The artists (with advance apologies for typos and misprints):
Top row L to R: Kathryn Lange; M. Buhl; S. Rieber; Gail Ellspermann; Micki Teceschi; Kendell Storm; Margaret Phillips
Second row L to R: Nancy Mirman; Carole Hoffman; Norma Schlager; Cindy Green; Joyce Sullivan; Melanie Hulse; Natalya Aikens
Third row L to R: Kathi Jahnke; Judy Gegiesi; Barbara Sfina; Joanne Lubchenko; Lynda Long; Mary Ann Healy; Mayann Weinberg
Bottom row L to R: Ann Louise Lyman; Jamie Horikawa; Susan Schrott; Jane Davila; Carrie Vollrath; Cecelia Leiseroff; Carolyn Cooney

And just FYI, here's a picture of most of the cards I made. (Somehow, I managed to cut off the bottom row of squares when I took the picture. I didn't notice until now and alas, I can't recreate the photo since the pieces are all off in new homes.) As you can see, I used the X stamps I made this summer as the cohesive element throughout. What did differ was how I created the Xs. Some of the Xs were stamped directly onto the background fabric (most of which was hand painted), while other Xs were foiled. Some were stamped onto another surface, cut out, then attached to the background. I added a bit of hand stitching to a good portion of the squares for texture and dimension.

When I started the project I was a bit flummoxed as to what to do, but this became a fun experiment in trying to make each piece different while keeping some flow amongst them all. Certainly, this is very different than most of what I create, but there's something fun (and occasionally frightening) about stepping beyond what you -- and others -- expect from your art. There were a few techniques I discovered along the way that I think I'm going to explore further. This was well worth it!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

SAQA Auction

The Studio Art Quilt Association (SAQA) annual auction begins tomorrow at 2:00pm EST. All the monies raised goes to support the organization and the many things it does to advance the textile / quilt arts. Many incredible pieces of artwork are for sale. Click here to read all about how the auction works and to preview the available art.

My piece, Together II, is included in the auction. It includes raw-edge fused applique, gelatin plate printing, and free motion quilting in metallic and rayon threads.


Monday, September 7, 2009

Busy Bees

Yes, it's another bee picture -- I hope you all aren't getting tired of seeing them because I've become fascinated by them. I think part of the reason is that I'm also enamored with the floral backdrop required for most bee photos. At any rate, this is another picture from my early morning walk on vacation. The air was literally humming with the drone of all the bees. They were flying all about, completely ignoring me, even when I bumped into the thistle trying to get a close-up. I just love in this picture how the one bumblebee is burrowing in to get nectar up top while the other is delicately tiptoeing on the thistle spikes waiting his turn.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Spider Web

An early morning walk on vacation revealed this gorgeous web that had been constructed overnight. It was sparkling with dew. Isn't it amazing? Talk about inspiration; this kind of fine work is something to aspire to...

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Hearing about the fires in LA recently had me remembering the fires that were burning nearby while we were on vacation in Carmel. The smoke changed the colors of the evening sky. It was bit eerie. On the one hand, the sunset was lovely; on the other hand, you felt a badly admiring sunset created by fires that were bad news for others. Certainly gave pause.....

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I'm taking a break from my vacation picture postings to share a little project with you. Today, I built a bundle for IBOL. What's that? Well, IBOL stands for Iraqi Bundles of Love, a goodwill project created by Kirstin LaFlamme and her husband, who is currently deployed in Iraq. All you need to do to participate is create a bundle that's filled with fabric, sewing, and/or knitting supplies, ship it in a large fixed rate priority mail box before September 7th to a specified APO address, and Kristin's husband will ensure that the supplies are distributed among the needy in Iraq. Here's a picture of my bundle, ready to be sealed and shipped.

I'm happy to give my fabrics, that have been languishing in bins, to someone who will be thrilled to use them. I'm happy to send off yarn that I thought I could use five years ago, but never have. I'm happy to diminish my stash by sending my fabrics off where they might, just might, generate a bit of good will. I'm happy to possibly make a positive difference in someone's life. If you'd like to participate, you'll find all the important details here.