Monday, May 6, 2019

When you just want to draw and paint: the Self-Portrait

      The first painting I made in a class as a newly-wed in New Haven a half century ago was a self-portrait in pastel. I haven't worked in soft pastel since then. There was the allure of oil paintings on canvas that didn't need framing and were more permanent. But pastels are fast to put down on a textured board. Years ago I found boxes of Sennelier pastels labeled for figure, landscape, marine and flowers inexpensive at a rummage sale, but never dove into them. I decided it was now time.

        Also, few weeks ago, I just looked out my window and wanted to sketch the tops of trees and houses in the sun.  Since mirrors were all around, I signed the sketch, with a self portrait in pencil. After watching a free art class on the Internet, I indulged myself in ink pens and brushes for that medium. I am eager to do some ink drawings with new pens.

        Whereas some artists LOVE self-portraits and make many, others have no interest. I find it the easiest start because with the self is where the ideas begin."Rembrandt, Reynolds, Courbet and Munich have had full exhibitions dedicated to their self-portraits."* I have led small groups in self-portraiture and love to re-read all my handouts on books, work and play recommendations. I suggest a dive into the fun of a self-portrait in a new media if you just feel like drawing and painting. Of course you can always let loose and go wild!

Note: I don't usually, or ever, think of what I am trying to communicate in a drawing or a self-portrait. But, in the portrait,  the watch must say something about our age.  (click on Narratives and Self-portraits at my website)
*See The Self-Portrait: A Cultural History by James Hall

Friday, March 29, 2019

Wake up to Spring with Paula's Paintings!

       Belmont is fortunate to have a spacious art gallery in a town hall building, run by creative administrators. Not only are there a variety of shows, group and individual, but art shows pop up and are installed in the main library. Always surprises!
       Jumping into spring, the BGA called for Spring Awakening: birds, blossoms and botanicals. I had not been painting, but found past paintings w birds. Friend Paula didn't think she had something to enter, but I said, "You have lots of birds!" The juror was to be a landscape architect, botanical artist and editor of the papers of Frederick Law Olmsted who designed the green spaces in Boston.

        Paula teaches at the MFA and is a prolific artist who leaves me in the dust. I enjoyed classes with her. Her imagination, so obvious at her website, is always a thrill. I sent her photos of what I was entering and she mailed me hers. I thought you would enjoy the thrill I got when I saw her choices. They woke me up that Spring is here!

        You will want to look closely at the robins. As Paula said in an article in the Boston Voyager, "When I step out of my house each day, especially to walk my dog, I delight in the small animals I see along my way. I am also painfully aware how stressed they are by pollution, pesticides, traffic, noise and micromanaged plots of land. I am hoping my paintings can be a reminder for people to take care of animals and make better choices in how they maintain their properties and ultimately the planet."
All paintings below are by Paula Pitman Brown!


Sunday, March 3, 2019

Playing the Field

    This past month I have jumped from one activity to another.I will count or list backwards. Last night Joe wanted a "business" card. I had seen an ad on Facebook for 500 cards, $9 or so, from Vista Print that makes handsome cards for artists. I had fun putting one together for Joe and then decided to have a professional one for my mini traveling art show... not for selling but to send people to my website or blog. I decided to make my card two-sided with info on the front and a bigger painting filling the other side. I chose a stiffer paper and a few other amenities that made the purchase add up to three time$ as much. The trick is to stay at the site for a couple of hours and click on all the graphic buttons and explore and explore some more for variation and possibility. Lots of fun!

     I attended a Winter Workshop for Quilters' Connection and learned about Boro stitching, the old traditional Japanese method of slow stitching and repair. I decided to practice these stitches doing Sashiko which I have enjoyed sewing in the car on trips to NYC. For Boro stitching one might take a piece of fabric and pin a variety of little fabrics to it and stitch away freely, collaging in different colors, wild and free without a machine..Carol Ann Grotrian was the teacher and has samples at her site. I got sharper needles with a wide gold hole for thread, and at PurlSoho in NYC some more Sashiko navy patterned fabrics/white thread to work in the car home.Here is Sharon's:

      At the workshop I learned another way to make fabric postcards which are a delight to receive and send.In the afternoon I got further instruction on Instagram from Julie Fei-Fan Balzer, tv personality and craft powerhouse. I have three accounts on Instagram and still learned from her. The important thing is to participate regularly on Instagram to remember all! My granddaughters are obsessed with Instagram, their brother says, so I am motivated and it is a good place to display my case, quick urban sketches.I love versatile, friendly, talented quilters.

     Joe and I were off in NYC when kids were in Egypt and stopped at The Compleat Sculptor to get a few more  tools for wax and clay. We attended the Neue Gallery's The Self-Portrait, from Schiele to Beckmann, opening day. I loved seeing some of my  favorite paintings from private collections, before viewed only in books.I found that Lovis Corinth painted himself on July 21 every birthday. Since my big one is July 20, I hope to follow that tradition. I want to do more ink, charcoal and block prints inspired by that show.I better get busy rather than typing!

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Stabilizing Erika in wax and wire

       When we left the last post, Erika needed a backbone or spine. She was made only of wax and kept collapsing. Aluminum wire would solve the problem.

        First, I drew a stick figure and arrows to show the most economical direction to bend the wire. I got tweezers and wire cutters from my workshop. I inserted a bit into my drill exactly the width of the wire. The end of the shaped wire fit exactly in the hole and the stick figure stood up, firmly without glue or staples...just the pine holding it!.

sketch in bottom left of the photo

        Next, I started moving pieces of wax from unstable Erika to the wire figure for her recreation. When needed, I sliced off thin pieces of wax from the block of dark wax with a paring knife.The thin wax was easily warmed by the heat of my hand and placed where needed. No hairdryer was needed for heat. This went quickly. At this point I awaited an invitation to supper so I have Erika pose for me. I felt the first creation was not wasted in that it was a sketch of sorts.

         I could still work on this piece, but it stands and was fun. I made the wire head too large but I wanted to start another figure. The third one will also need some back bone to stand.

         I am not impassioned to sculpt, but I like to try many crafts. When I sit at my vanity table every morning, I prefer to look at the "art" to work on or adjust rather than the mirror! Sculpting for me is almost a meditative craft. It is calming and fitting for the new year. William Shatner said, "You have to create your life. You have to carve it, like a sculpture." (from Brainy Quote) It is a work in progress.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Waxing away

      After purchasing my wax and clay, armature wire and a book, I couldn't decide what to sculpt. Finally, I cut off some wax with a paring knife, heated a chunk with my hair drier, squeezed and molded the wax in the palm of my hand. At first I modeled a small bowl in wax. I waited a few days, heated the wax again and the shape of a head with a lump of hair appeared. It made me think of a photo of Hannah on the sofa in NYC reading a book...something I always wanted to paint. So, I sculpted Hannah Reading in wax. I think it might have been better if I made the body first and then placed Hannah face down on the "sofa." It is in a simple rough form and that is enough for me.

       Working with wax on my mahogany vanity table was a bit messy, so I looked in the basement for some scrap wood. I liked the contrast of the light wood and the dark figure. I thought, "Ah, I would like to create each of the grandchildren in a typical pose on pine." I chose a more challenging pose for Erika.One can see why Degas liked models and armature. I had to pull off arms and legs and the head for Erika, reassembling once I started looking at a photo.

        I think I will reuse this wax to make Erika in a different pose, where the gymnast is standing on her hands. This will surely require wire. I made a quick sketch below. Hannah was a two-hour effort.Since Erika keeps falling apart, she is an ongoing project.
      I also have a drawing of my reading the NYTimes every morning...and more. I figure I will take an electric knife to some of the packing foam that arrived in presents this Christmas to form a mountain shape base for my cabeza and another portrait base for Joe's bust to be developed in clay.I am going to have to stop procrastinating and get to shaping the aluminum wire and attaching it to a base. December and January are busy times but that is not an excuse!

      Of course modeling in wax has me interested in the new book out about Degas' dancer Marie: Little Dancer Aged Fourteen by Camille Laurens and Willard Wood. When I went to look it up I found another book published by Yale Press by an instructor I had in London so I ordered a used copy of that. Mother had a large statue of the Little Dancer. I wonder what happened to it. On to read these two books.I loved ballet.Position four?


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Shaping life with the hands

     A new craft to me is like climbing a mountain. I want to try. Joe on return from his book club mentioned that Mary Ellen, the host's wife, had some exciting bronze sculpture in the living room. I had known ME for about 44 years and never knew she had an interest in creating art or sculpting.She LOVES sculpture.She indulged herself sculpting in Florida winters as a "snowbird"from Massachusetts. I phoned her and she invited me to see her bronzes. She also has a marble piece in Florida. I love to look at the bronze of her granddaughter, as the granddaughter, now a teen, also enjoys viewing...the flow of the skirt, eyes, expression and hair. Also, I enjoyed ME's appreciation of her father and how she shaped his form, running her hands over his head until it felt right.

     I had just seen a piece of sculpture at the WorcesterArt Museum and felt the synergy and inspiration. I immediately looked up how to get involved again. Back in the 80s, I had once made a bust of Dad using Sculpture House Plastilina which does not harden. I found it at The Compleat Sculptor in NYC and got some brown wax which one can shape when it is softened with hands or hair dryer, and some bendable armature wire. I asked the techie there to choose two tools for me. I searched the library and bought a book on figure sculpture (thinking Degas and Rodin which I viewed at the Metropolitan Museum) and am ready to begin. Maybe I will do a bust of Joe and figures of the grandchildren. I have several other ideas...but to choose and start. That is the challenge. Too much fun! I've looked up many videos online and am ready to begin. I hope I might interest the grandchildren in trying their hands at it.


Saturday, October 13, 2018

New Effort: Urban Sketching

urban sketch by Andre on Harvard move-in day

         Always ready for a new direction, a new craft, I landed one on Joe's and my 56th anniversary. We were at the Fogg Museum on a Sunday, looking at art and enjoying a treat in the courtyard when I noticed a young man drawing and journaling. Later I saw him a block away entering the Harvard Book Store where I said, "Didn't I just see you drawing and journaling at the Fogg?" "Yes you did. Would you draw a picture for me?" "Certainly, what would you like?" He said he had the idea to send a wandering sketchbook out into the world. The idea was a person would draw in it and post at Instagram online and leave for someone else to find to draw. Andre Behrens handed me the book and it took a week for me to get up the nerve to draw in it. Then I passed it on to the head of the Belmont Gallery of Art who had someone to pass hers on to. I had to learn Instagram to post it and that is where the torture and fun began.

         Andre said there is a local and international group of urban sketchers. He works during the week and sketches on weekends at meet ups w other sketchers. I enthusiastically looked in urban sketching books and got a couple of sketch Handbooks at Artist and Craftsman Supply. A Pigma Graphic pen fits just under the elastic that Andre showed me. Quick sketches are not easy but I set up lindapaintingtime at Instagram for urban drawings and two other accounts for other art as well: lindadrawingtime and amovingline.I am trying to keep the photos consistent.I am thrilled to learn Instagram via online instruction. It is good to get out into the world w no purpose but to record what one loves and to show what it looks like today. Google urban sketchers to look for guidelines.It is fun to interact w strangers in waiting rooms, eating places, and on the street. I recommend the terror and the imperfection.Maybe not the snow in coming days.

Andre's sketching which caught my attention

Andre's instruction in the wandering sketchbook

small sketchbooks that hold a pen under the elastic
books to get me started

my first very nervous urban sketch