Saturday, July 3, 2021

Temptation of the New! Exploring.

Albert Einstein said, "Once you stop learning, you start dying." That seems a bit intense, but when brother Buddy asked me if I had worked with water mixable oils, I had to admit, of all the crafts I had not tried, that one was not tempting. He said it is such fun to work with oils but not have the smell and the cleanup. You just wash out your brush and containers with water! "Why not," said I!

Exploring online, I liked what I read about Cobra brand water mixable oils and bought a set of ten tubes. I was going to NYC to see Alice Neel before it closed at the Metropolitan Museum, Cezanne at MOMA  and the Medici Portraits at the Met, so these paints would be easy to get into and carry on the spirit. At the art store I had earlier asked a helper what had most recently excited her that the store started carrying. She introduced me to Arches paper that is gessoed. Although she suggested the gessoed paper for studies, I like the fact that Cezanne often put several paintings on one big sheet or canvas and Tanquy his dealer could be seen cutting out the assorted gems to sell, three paintings from one. I loved the oil paints.

I had read in the Times and seen photos of Cezanne's drawings and watercolors or colored pencils and thought I must be prepared for that as well. I went armed with a good 0.7 mechanical pencil with leads that were darker than usual. I loved working in a Cezanne spirit,  but of course forgot the colored pencils. I picked up a limited number at the Met. It was 95 degrees in NYC but it seemed open and beautiful again, while nightly I would color: paint and draw. When I returned home I couldn't quit. Cezanne said he sketched daily; and the late in day drawing prepared him for painting the next day.

The oil painting did not dry immediately  like my gouache paintings did, so I ordered  Daniel Smith water mixable medium that speeds up the drying. However. the water mixable oil paint lifts so beautifully and covers so well when wet, I was excited to keep working on the self portrait. I was so mesmerized drawing sunflowers one early morn in the dark with my new mechanical pencil and dark lead, I dated the drawing 2020 instead of 2021.  

And I haven't even told you about the superior drawing lessons online: Art Making at the Princeton Museum which reference their collections and take you on more trips of the mind and hand.Nor did we discuss synthetic squirrel watercolor brushes. As Michaelangelo said at 87, "I am still learning." I also like "The expert in anything was once a beginner."

Monday, May 31, 2021

Building and leaving the nests

       Spring has sprung, people are vaccinated and leaving the nests they built during the pandemic. The robins and I have been creating. I found a delightful video put out by Amanda Hilburn:  Painting a Nest With A Palette Knife - YouTube about how to paint four nests at a time using palette knives. In the past I have only used palette knives to mix paint, so this was an adventure. I had so much fun, I painted four more and plan to paint more to drop off at friends.'

       At the same time, a mother robin was building nests in several spots under the deck roof, just outside our back door. I became obsessed with photographing the building of the nest with dry grass and mud, watching the mother shape the cup of the nest where she would deliver. 
How we have thrilled daily as the birds appeared, grew and are about to fly. A wonderful video can be watched at made by a young father and his daughter. Below are my photos of our robins. Unfortunately, they fledged today before breakfast and we missed their first steps out.

      I had some very small canvases; and I put the nests in different spots on each. I used a small piece of cardboard to squeeze out my colors. I used a two-inch palette knife with a point to lay out black for the center, brown loosely around the edges, and then added a yellow gold and white, one atop the other. A little gold or white strips around the black gave depth. I went back to lay in the background and sides with titanium white, mixed a little here and there with bits of black or brown, but mostly white. I cheated a bit with a tiny brush and I touched up some of the straw. I used turquoise for the eggs, mixed with white and touched up with a little background color. I rounded off the eggs by darkening the edges. Amanda does it better. 

      I recommend you paint a nest or do as Terry Gay Puckett did and paint a totally different scene. I am trying to think how to add some of Emily Dickinson's lines on birds and nests. Google "bird nest quotes" to pick up some or write your own. Time flies. Baby robins are the size of their parents in two weeks, and sadly ready to fledge; but then it is almost two weeks more to be strong enough to fly and learn from other robins.


Saturday, May 1, 2021

May Day ...Celebrate


       The sun is out. May Day beckons one to create festive baskets for neighbors' doors. There are numerous videos and instructions to make cone baskets with ribbons, filling them with flowers, and secretly leaving on a door handle! Next year for certain! Google May Day baskets and join me next year.

       Today I want to share the birthday card part of celebrations. Every time the grandchildren had a birthday I made a card to go with their gift. At first the cards were mini journal quilts and with age have become mini posters. I rely mostly on Comic Life, a Plasq company to create since it is fast and fun. Great company to deal with. You can try it for free. First, some quilts:

Hannah at 5

Erika at 2

    For paper cards,  open the Comic Life app, choose a page to work on, find a photo to use and write a poem that fits the grandchild this year. I find ways to insert the poem in a bubble, choosing different backgrounds, fonts, balloons. You have to be flexible, expect changes over the years but not be shy to look around for all that is offered to play with and click on. The tools are not just for comics!

And it is not too late to make a May Day basket!

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Inspiring Notions to Draw and to Paint

      Picasso says he draws like other people bite their nails. Artist John Sloan said to never graduate from drawing when you start to paint. For myself, I love to go back through journal sketches and relive times drawing such as “while making Valentines with Hannah” or “during the Democratic debates.” John Berger said that drawing absorbs him and he forgets everything else in a way that doesn’t happen in any other activity. Last night I was drawing Easter bonnets on Zoomed friends using MarkUp in iPhoto. I could neither stop nor Erase, but i learned how.

      One must have a sketchbook, paper and pen or iPad with stylus always available.This happens when I am on vacation. It is more work when I am dreaming up a painting and struggling with ideas. The Zoom photo below is not art but was fun and has potential to surprise when one has time. I drew on my iPad with an iPad stylus and also a Meko Tech universal stylus to make Easter bonnets for our church group. What else to do with all those Zoom candids.

     Looking at art, hoping to find an idea to express the Texas electric power fiasco, I found this expression of Heaven and Hell, but didn’t make much progress toward a painting. I usually sketch a painting while painting, not before, but I tried..    

      I sketched family from photos but I know that only-from-life is better. Yes, this is a month of incompletes, but I found some great inspiration looking at Cedric Morris’s flowers. His student Joan Warburton said Morris had such close contact with his subject and deep understanding of their design that he was able to paint flowers as if they were people, with a mood and personality. 

        I hope to go at flowers with more interest and intelligence; draw in general with Picasso’s yearning; do more sketching since it is important for painting; and enjoy the meditative breaks drawing provide

Cedric Morris


“Drawing used to be a civilized thing to do, like reading and writing. It was taught in elementary schools. It was democratic. It was a boon to happiness.”  Michael Kimmelman

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Pandemic Surprise.

Shock, surprise. What happens when we take off our masks and see each other in person? 

Every birthday I write a poem or doggerel for the grandchildren along with a small quilt, or now a card. With little information I search for photos and put them into Comic Life which enlarges and makes smaller without loss.  I collected photos from young to teen last year, but I asked Erika if I could see her favorite photo should I want to paint her. I had sent her birthday card, but when I got the photos of this year, her favorites without the mask, I saw she had grown up and I needed another card,  I returned to Comic Life. I added a flattening filter just for fun and more mystery.

The first card I created, made more sense of the "ears." Looking at the two, you can see what a difference a year has made...what I didn't see happening under the mask.We will all have plenty of visual surprises once this pandemic has passed, as it will. Click to enlarge.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Painting the Kids and the year

      Joe handed me last year’s holiday card and said, “I want you to paint the kids!” I said, “I can’t paint the kids.” But to keep the framer happy, I primed two more 6” x 8” birch plywood panels with gesso and then a background color of orange which I paint over, sometimes letting it show through. I used Holbein Acryla Gouche for ease in drying and clean up.

     The effort is not one painting, but three portraits. Three people in one painting takes 3 times the effort of one portrait. Painting teachers always say you should be painting the entire canvas all at one time, but some of us go piecemeal when the occasion calls for it. Like Amanda Gorman who built her inauguration poem a line a day at a time, I felt today’s two panels came together very slowly. Painting felt like an idea every few days or a week. There was the election, after all. The photo had big smiles so I had to invent closed mouths. I never show teeth. I had to wait for the muse to suggest a table in front and a shelf behind.

       It is easy to put books on a shelf, but I was stumped for the rest of the space. No room for the pet pugs. Desperate for ideas, I studied stencils. Joe suggested hints of sports which seemed impossible. I had wanted to just use trophies, for that is what the grandchildren can seem; but then I bit the bullet, sketching stick figures atop the skinny trophies I searched trophies online. The biggest trophy suggests more. I hope I painted the affection I feel for all three grandchildren.

        I had made two sketches of my reading the newspaper every morn and thought I wanted to paint those as well. I wanted to add masks and glasses and other symbols, but the newspapers capture my 2020 world in some important way. I didn’t really want to paint all of 2020. We are starting anew!

Thursday, December 31, 2020

New Year's Eve framing the new year

    Thinking about framing the new year and what one wants to do next, I will say I am really enjoying getting back to painting, the easy way. Painting takes time. I once painted from 9 AM until 9 PM.  Those paintings were more interesting, perhaps. But now I like to paint for a couple of hours before or after supper. I often finish a painting in a couple of hours. Is it the Pandemic? My attitude?
     My secret for fun is not to care whether the painting is good or not, or people's reactions. It is fun to paint. It is good to have easy clean up and since I have books and crafts over most flat surfaces, it is good to have painting that can be done in a very small area. Remember, Paul Klee painted at his kitchen table.

      Joe picks up 1/4 inch birch plywood at the lumber yard and cuts it into 6* x 8* pieces, usually 4 or 8 panels at a time. I go over them lightly with fine grit sandpaper. I brush on Golden's' white gesso, both sides, or a corner to corner X on the wrong side. Meditatively, I gesso the side I will paint several times, lightly sanding between coats. I next apply an orange, green or sienna layer of Golden acrylic paint. This gives me a color to paint on. It unifies and gives a medium value to work against. The panels are then set aside, ready to be transformed in a short period of time.

       I lay out Holbein Acryla Gouache, two amazing Holbein hair paint brushes to apply colors, water and tissue. Anything can be a palette, but I just fold heavy white paper. The acryla gouache dries fast so I put out very little at a time. I often paint from a photo from a trip. It will be dry by bedtime and the next day I can varnish the pretty matte with Liquitex matte varnish. A brush leaves streaks, but a foam brush floats the varnish beautifully. Then another day, Joe frames.

       Joe buys 1" x 2" pine boards to frame these little paintings. He uses his table saw that he won't let me touch. The paintings sit on the notches he has created and are glued down. I am sure that painting is in the frame for my new year. I have had Jim and Colin mail me photos from the Bahamas and I have my own to work from. I have more subjects to think about. The process is fun and instructive.