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.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Creating calms chaos.

Joe and I find creating and reading in lockdown very calming. There was the exciting election, promise of vaccines, work to be done, but we found a little time in the studio. Joe wanted to make a boot jack for his comfortable boots and I wanted to add to my six little paintings last month (the October posting). 

Joe made a template from an old plastic bootjack. After all, you need to take off boots upstairs and downstairs. He took the buffalo head from a wall clothes hanger and screwed it  on some wood and showed me a photo of a field he wanted painted atop. Afterward he varnished the bootjack several times.

I painted a beach fence scene from a Cape Cod postcard photo. Then I repeated the lonely houses from last month series, a group from Truro that reminds some of the loneliness or solitariness of the lockdown. I keep wanting to add stars to the sky that form an LED of 2020...but I have controlled myself. There is after all, a Christmas tree to be decorated and a positive attitude to keep afloat!

Joe's template for boot jack

Friday, October 30, 2020

Vacation paintings

    Recently I was reminded of a research story where a ceramics class was divided in half. One half was  instructed to make as many cups or bowls as possible in a certain amount of time. The other half of the class was instructed to make a perfect cup or bowl. The group that threw themselves into making many bowls ended up with some bowls that were beautiful. The other half didn't get started...just clay dust to show. For some reason this liberated me to make a painting every afternoon in my non spare time. Also, I dismissed any concern about what people might think.

    I had Joe saw mostly 6" x 8" pieces of birch 1/4" plywood. I sanded and gessoed the rectangles with Golden white gesso and then added orange gesso atop since I have always put a color down as a background. I like orange for landscapes but it may not be appropriate for seascapes. I think I will work on the white next time. I got some Holbein Acryla Gouche paints that dry fast but are fun to work with. Easy water clean up. With a little bottle of water for moistening, a tissue and two brushes I started on these little paintings about 4 pm and they were finished by supper time. Of course I went back to touch them up and sometimes made a mess. I worked in a tiny area on a table.

    I started with photos of our recent trip to Cape Cod, and borrowed Colin's and Susan's of Maine. I had fun not worrying about anything. I just looked on my iPhone for reminders of the sites and painted away. Some are more successful than others, of course! 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020


     A nut for journals, I started a self-portrait-a-day and learned a few things. I like to create each one in a new medium. My first surprise was working in black Akua intaglio ink from Speedball. You just roll this ink on a Gelli plate, put a soft cloth on your finger and wipe. You can work with semi-stiff brushes as well on this monotype.A beautiful demonstration of this is Art Professor Demos Gelli Plates & Monotype Printmaking - YouTube.I highly recommend the viewing on YouTube by Art Prof: Create and Critique. So Pro!  Eager to use the medium and clean up with only baby wipes, I messed up the nose and mouth. Solution: paint on a mask. I need some shadows and a design for the fabric. (Click to enlarge)

    Next I thought I would try a watercolor as the first piece in my journal. I find watercolor not easy, but I did this in about ten minutes before bedtime with my little acryla gouache portable paint kit. I felt free, and I thought it a sweet effort. You don't want all portraits to look the same and certainly not like me!

     The important thing is to leave paper and tools out so you can do art work ten minutes a day. I had a block about going into the studio to paint. Then I read something that made me think it is more important to paint or draw lots (quantity over quality) and not worry about what anyone thinks. This has been so much fun to just create and not worry about any comments. Periodically, quality will appear! Waiting, waiting! I have also started to work on some stitching-on-paintings projects to share later. 

Monday, August 31, 2020

Crafting away during strange times.

     Yesterday, Joe and I dropped by my old crafting friends, the grandchildren, to drop off the last Sunday of the month children's newspaper from the NYTimes. I took over several white masks that I thought they might like to paint. I had painted one that made me look like The Joker. I used textile paints from my quilting days and a permanent marker and felt very incompetent. Brush too wet, so paint ran. Eager to see what the grands do! It was fun to try. I found these Hanes 3 ply cotton slightly stretchables at Walgreens when we went to get our senior flu shots. I hope it was not too early in the season, but our drugstore in Cambridge had already run out of the senior shots.

       While up in the studio, I spotted a Gelli plate that I bought years ago to do some monoprints. After watching a Harvard webinar I got out some acrylics, a soft brayer, baren and papers. I collected some leaves and thought it would be so easy. I watched some videos as well. Wrong. Not easy. Lowered expectations. You can go so far to do intaglio printing and photo lifting with these Gelli plates; but I barely got started. Easy cleanup, small area production. Google "Gelli monoprinting leaves" and watch videos to see some possibilities. If you learn from mistakes, there is great instruction! Should be VERY easy, but I was humbled.

                                                  The Joker!



Friday, July 31, 2020

Missing Painting Maine during a Pandemic

      Joe and I were invited to join our children in Bar Harbor ME mid-August, a spot which has not seen a lot of the virus. Of course we are staying home, but it is a sign of the time that Massachusetts people really are not wanted in ME since MA virus numbers are not good enough. NYC numbers work! But I started looking through my old photos of painting getaways in ME since I am going to the studio soon.   

      A favorite trip of mine is to attend a painting workshop at Rock Garden Inn, Sebasco Estates, Maine. I have driven up to attend workshops for oil and watercolor painting landscapes and portrait painting.You live in little cottages on a point surrounded by water with many amenities, the best being the fabulous evening meals. You get a breakfast in the morn, a takeaway lunch for your painting adventure and return for gourmet dining in the evening after an energetic day wielding a brush with colors in the out of doors.  We venture out to rocks near the water, docks and cottages, to gardens and beaches. Should rain happen, there is an indoor studio.

    Teacher Don Nice would work on watercolor that would remind me a bit of John Marin's modern Maine watercolors. Then he would go further, tearing or cutting the old paintings to shape new pictures in collage. I did better in the oil and acrylic portrait and landscape weeks. Watercolor has always challenged me!


       We would paint one or two or three paintings a day and I had many canvases and tablets to show the effort. I found some photos of my studio before the fire and down almost at the bottom of the white shelves you can see lineups of canvas and cardboard of my enriching summer get-a-ways.