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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Painting the Figure

Sunday evening as I was preparing dinner a friend called me to tell me that the instructor of a week long figure workshop she had signed up for had just let her it was okay for me to substitute for her the first two days of the workshop. My friend was not able to take the whole week off from work. I offered to fill in for her if she wanted me to keep her abreast of what was going on and take notes for her. I offered because my friend spoke so highly of this instructor and she keeps inviting me to join her in these workshops, so here was an opportunity for me to get a feel for what she was saying. We had spoken about it a few weeks ago so when she called Sunday night I had quite forgotten about the whole thing. And the class started Monday morning.

I was able to make it work into my schedule although this week was not a prime time for me to be taking two full days away. What swayed me to go was the opportunity to paint from a model. I have not done that in years and years. Here is the portrait from Monday.
9x12 head study in oil
The instructor had us do a monochrome portrait in the morning. In the afternoon you could finish the portrait continuing with monochrome (5 values using burnt umber and white) or add temperature. I worked on top of my monochrome portrait adding temperature (not color). You can still see just the value on her collar bones and shoulders where I did not quite finish painting over the morning study. All things considered, I was happy with this portrait. Painting from life is a whole different ballgame. I really enjoyed the exercises. The model had such good bone structure too.

Tuesday we did another head study adding color. I wiped that one off as it was fine but nothing I cared to keep. In the afternoon we were to stay with temperature and value alone or add color. I added color. Her skin was so fun to paint. I would have like to have been able to 'finish' this piece but I was happy enough with it as is, until I dropped it on my garage floor face down when I was unloading the car. I had not photographed it yet, so here it is dried grass and all.
12x16 figure study in oil
An artist friend I had seen at the Summer Art Market a few weeks ago invited me to join her at the Arts Students League of Denver to paint long pose uninstructed. This little exercise was just the thing to get me to want to go to just paint from life and be among other artists.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Syrmata or Greek Island Boat Garages

Boat Garages, oil on linen panel, 12x12
Here is the first painting completed from my recent trip to the Greek island of Milos. I painted it small to see if I might want to paint it larger at some point. This is in the little village of Mandrakia, which if you Google 'Greek boat garages' most of the images that come up are from this particular bay. Mandrakia is a collection of mostly vacation homes but it does boast its own little chapel and a part time/quasi legal Taverna during the summer.  I picked this particular boat garage to highlight because the 'owner' is one of the local fishermen whom my friend knows. Stellios is one of the few year round residents of Mandrakia. He takes it upon himself to paint all the steps down to the water every year. His is the black boat, painted black after the loss of his wife. His 'garage' is open as he was working on someone else's boat on this particular day.

We were fortunate to have coffee with one of the other boat garage owners from whose garage I took this photo. Yannis has more of a man cave thing going on although his boat is berthed inside as well. He fixed us fresh coffee in his tiny kitchen and brought it out to his little patio. I took this still life that was set up where we enjoyed our first afternoon on Milos.

These boat garages are grandfathered in, as technically you cannot own water front property on the island. So people like me are free to wander around since it is considered public property. No new garages are legal to build.

This is the long view from where I was staying and it looks right down onto this little cove. At the end of the gully there is a small beach, which when we were there we had to ourselves.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

An Aha! Moment

Last week I read a daily essay/meditation that comes to my inbox. Last week's theme was on art and creativity. Each day had it's own thought on that subject, but Friday's theme was what caught my attention. The title was "Unconsciousness Awareness."  It resonated with me because I had shared some photos of some paintings I was working on with some friends in a social situation. I have been very excited by my new work after spending 2 weeks in Greece and had three paintings I was working on from that trip. Someone in the group really liked one of the paintings in its very early stages and asked me what it would cost when finished. He asked about it again the next week. In that intervening week I had not put a brush stroke to its surface. I had not even looked at it. I attributed this hiatus to being on another house project and no time for painting, yet I was working on other paintings, so that could not be the answer. After reading this article, I realized that I had lost my intuitive or 'unconscious' approach because now I was "afraid" of ruining it! Has anyone else had that happen to them? I think it has happened before to me, because I have found it odd when what seems to be "all of a sudden" I lose my mojo.

Friday, May 11, 2018


I figured out why I was so stuck on one of the paintings I started in January this year. It seems to always be the area one is attached to that is holding up progress and/or one's unwillingness to let go of said area. So even though I haven't finished this piece yet, I wanted to post it to show how attachments you need to let go of, hold you up.

Last Saturday I had dinner with a writer friend of mine. She was talking about a new essay she had written for her online newsletter. She was lamenting that she had to cut the best line out of her latest work to make the rest of the article pull together. How her attachment to that one line was keeping it from being a cohesive whole. But that maybe she could work that cut line in some not yet unwritten piece in the future. I then proceeded to tell her I had the exact same thing happen to me! Except in paint. Her first response was oh how sad! I could not ever reuse it. Which isn't exactly true. I feel that every time this happens there is always a takeaway from it.

This first image is where I had finally roughed in the sky really liking the energy of it. Unfortunately, I put it in after I had already begun painting atop the block-in of the rest of the painting. I remember being intimidated by the sky in the reference, so I was in avoidance mode. Leave it until I am ready or can't ignore it anymore.

When not done in proper order, confusion results
If I had added the sky when the rest of the painting was in the same state (below), who knows where it might have gone, right? My aim is always to keep some of that block-in brushwork but it is so rare, not sure why I keep thinking that will happen.

block in as I figure out shapes and proportions
Here is the painting with the new sky that better fits the rest of the piece. The new sky actually helps the piece overall so much it almost seems like a new painting and yet I feel I was able to keep some of the brushwork I had become so attached to. I can finally go back to the rest of it now that it doesn't feel like two separate paintings. I don't think it will take much to finish. To be continued.
Starting to pull together finally

Thursday, May 3, 2018


Welcome back Me!

A perfect swimming 'hole'
I spent two weeks on a Greek island in the Aegean Sea. The water is every bit as beautiful as you see in all the promotional photos, and more. This will not so much be a travelogue as on Icons. One thing I found out is that there are little chapels all over the island of Milos. I doubt it is unique in this quality, but I don't know. Churches too. Most of them were unlocked and you could stop in for a quick prayer any time of day.

Typical screened front. The alter is behind the doors
I have been contemplating taking an Iconography class this summer from a Greek Iconographer who is coming to do this workshop. It is an intense program, lasting 5 days I think it is, and full days. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. And only finishing one smallish icon.

With this in mind, I was paying attention to the icons. My first impression is that so many of Jesus and especially the saints, looked so dour. The overall images could be beautiful but still not something that would inspire me. I realize showing a peaceful or holy continence is not necessarily easy. The ones I tended to gravitate towards mostly had an enigmatic smile.

Here is one that I found on a book cover of all places, but really felt an affinity towards. It is called the Blue Angel. The artist has a shop on Oia, Santorini which we did visit. He was there the two times we stopped in to see his shop and studio and he never once said a word to us!
I wish I knew more about who the saints were. This saint above I started to recognize by his robes, his white hair and beard and always holding a book. He never 'looked' the same twice but by these symbols I learned to recognize him as he was in many of the churches and chapels I stepped into.

When in Athens at the end of my trip, I went to the Byzantium and Christianity Museum hoping to see some amazing Icons. This museum took you through the history of the Orthodox Church in Greece so it was a large collection dating back to the 2nd or 3rd century AD. Icons came rather later on that timeline. I did like the cartoons that the museum had on display and these were for large icons. Here is one of Mary and baby Jesus that had color added so it is easier to see. The tracing paper had thousands of tiny holes to transfer to the panels.

One of my favorite icons in this museum is not a typical one, if it is even an icon. It shows St Peter mourning his betrayal of Christ. It may be a painting on a panel from a church. I think I assumed it was an icon so really did not read the tag. He is more life like than is typical of iconography now that I am writing about it!

I am glad I went to this museum. It was well laid out and had not only religious artifacts but also how the early Christians lived, so included household items, jewelry, clothing, etc. I did not realize that hooks and eyes were in use as early as the 9th century, for instance. It was also like a little oasis in the sea of tourists that descended onto Athens everyday I was there from the cruise ships. There were people there but not many!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Southwest Hydrangeas

20x16, oil on canvas, available
This painting is from a time before time. It is dated 2002 so I know it has never been published or put online. Isn't that before the internet?? It has been hanging on a wall on the back porch all these years. I brought it upstairs to fill a spot where a painting sold during my last home show. Since I now see it while seated on the throne, I have had time to appreciate it more and I realized that I still like this painting so I thought I would post it and see if anyone has any bright ideas for a title other than "Blue Hydrangeas." It is local tone although this was painted before I knew that term.

I remember planting these blue hydrangeas in my garden hoping for a bush to grow but it never did. I eventually planted an Anna Belle Hydrangea which is hardy enough to survive Denver's low temperatures. I know that since then, there are now hybrids bred in blues and pinks for our climate, but they are still not as hardy as my Anna Belle.  Here is a painting I did of that bush, plein air, in 2005. I still like this painting too! This was and still is the largest painting I have ever painted plein air. I remember how fast it went together, although I did go out two days in a row to get it all in. It is light and shadow but with a very subtle shift from light to dark. I believe I was outside around noon or 1 pm with just enough shade from my house for my setup.

Lavender Hydrangeas, 24x30, oil on linen, available
My next post will be from an exotic island, if there is internet, that is.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Friends - a journey back in time

Friends - A Journey Back in Time, 20x30, oil on canvas
Friends, here is a painting I did just for me. Another one from my slides I went through that were my mothers from the 1960's when we lived in Europe. I had a bunch of them turned into digital images. This is the second one in the series I have done from her collection. My mom is on the left and her French friend, Beatrice is on the right. This old farmhouse had been in Beatrice's family for generations. I am not sure who took the image, possibly the caretaker or family member who lived there. Since I was a snot nosed brat, I never took my mother up on the invitation to go with them. We lived in Orleans, France at the time, and my mother had met Beatrice at the Franco American Women's Club. They remained friends even after we moved to Germany, up until the time Beatrice died. I visited her when in my 20's and home to visit my parents who still lived in Germany. My mom and I took a road trip to visit Orleans, her friends still there and then on to Paris!

I really picked this image not so much for my mom and her friend, as I had actually thought to leave them out. I thought the composition was well suited for a painting. I liked that it was basically local tone but with a bit of light and shadow. A very diffused light source. I kept the background diffused; I know it is 'not done' to pick out bricks and stones, but that is what I liked about this image. I wanted to highlight how it was built and survived for centuries.

Here is the link to the previous post on the progress of this painting.