Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Experimental landscape: Sunflower fields #3

6 x 4 in. (15 x 10 cm) original oil on hand-made canvas panel. Unframed. Sold.

Ground fog was lifting in the early morning sun as the Amtrak Empire Builder rumbled its way toward our first stop, Glacier National Park, after leaving Chicago. We were in our first day of our 12-day 45th anniversary trip.

It's a scene that I'll be revisiting many times. Everyone who was awake came to the windows on the left side of the train to exclaim over the beauty.

I'm pretty sure this is my third try in oils - this time with an experiment in removing detail. It still isn't the soft band of colors that I'd like, but we're getting there. #1 was claimed by Kittie; it won't be for sale.

Excursion - Rose in the style of Clyde P. Parsons

 6 x 4 in. (15 x 10 cm) original oil on hand-made canvas panel. Unframed. Available in my Etsy store

Again, trying to loosen up, work in a painterly style.

Claude P. Parsons (1995-1972) was a California artist who published two Walter Foster art books. This is a study of a still life in his How Claude Parsons Paints Flowers, one of Walter's best efforts. Claude's great granddaughter, Erin Jones Graf is an active painter in Wyoming (see her work here) .

The oversize booklet has some excellent paintings in a style reminiscent of Edouard Manet (to paraphrase van Gogh, only a few motions of the brush, yet a capture of everything about a flower). This, in addition to incredibly useful information on how to mix colors for flower painting.

Erin writes me:
He made his money (so that he could paint full time) working with Howard Hughes in the oil industry. I think he did that for around 20 years....  He then worked for a wallpaper company designing wallpaper prints, ...[later working] with Walt Disney, painting for Pirates of the Carribean in [the Anaheim] Disneyland.  He stayed in LA and lived in Beverly Hills. After his first wife died, he married a beautiful girl named Virginia who was Greta Garbo's legs in movies (I guess Greta didn't like her own, or the producers didn't)  He died in 72 of Leukemia.
Erin writes of standing close to Parsons paintings at her home as a child:
As far back in my life that memory allows, I remember perching my eyes ever so close to his strokes so that the only thing in focus was color and texture. I would then back away and be amazed at the simple image that could transpire from such complex rhythms of paint application.
 Everyone's friend in adolescence, Holden Caulfield, talks about writers you wish you could meet, in Catcher in the Rye. Claude is an artist I wish I could have met. Few of his paintings make it to the auction market, probably because people hold on to them.

Claude's second Foster book, the improbably named Common Faults in Oil Painting, is on its way to me from a used book seller in Florida. Look for the eradication of common faults in what I do...

2 Experiments: Mount Baker from the Anacortes Ferry

6 x 4 in. (15 x 10 cm) original oil on hand-made canvas panel. Unframed. Available in my Etsy store 
6 x 5 in. (15 x 13 cm) original oil on hand-made canvas panel. Unframed. Available in my Etsy store

 The sun was  setting, literally in the sky and figuratively on our 45th anniversary trip to the Pacific Northwest in August, 2009. K. was writing postcards in the Washington State ferry's food court while every once in a while, I'd go out into the wind and cold to see what could be seen. We had left Sidney, BC on Vancouver Island, on our way back to the US mainland at Anacortes, Washington.

At one point, I stepped out and saw Mount Baker in the waning sun. I didn't know it was Mt. Baker until long after we got home. The air was clear enough that the snow-capped mountain looked to be a mile away, but instead, Baker was some 44 miles away.

Here are a couple of experiments. The first is a knife painting - the only brush work was the reddish glow on the snow mass, applied by brush.

The second is a brush painting - with a little knife work on the mountain's snow - another attempt to loosen up.

I'll be trying Mount Baker again, a stunning sight, as beautiful as Japan's Mt. Fuji.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Experiment: Whistleriana (Portrait of the artist's mum)

6 x 4 in. (15 x 10 cm) original oil on hand-made canvas panel. Unframed. Sold.
After running across a photo of a yellow-gold chrysanthemum in my collection, I decided to have a go at it in oils.

The experimentation is two-fold. First, I need to loosen up, so I tried for a painterly approach.

Second, I wanted to get familiar with some new tubes of water-mixable oil paint. Winter is upon us, and we have to shut the windows and doors here in the Northeast. Fumes and odor from "odorless" paint thinner are more than we can take.

Water soluble oil paints allow me to keep working with the windows shut... instead of turpentine or odorless paint thinner, I can use water both to thin the paint and to clean brushes. Great invention.

As for the title, sorry about that. These things occur to me and then it's too late.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Experiments & Excursions... new Etsy shop section

I'm putting together a new section of my Etsy shop - Experiments & Excursions.

Behind the move is a dual need. First, I want to stretch my capabilities by trying new effects. Second, I want to loosen up while waiting for enough income from sales to get larger canvases. The small size of the paintings that I do have a tendency to make me focus on small details, when I need to work more "painterly" and free.

A couple are ready to go and I'll be listing them soon.

About shop sections
Etsy allows each seller to add virtually any number of sections. They aren't anything except a handy way to chunk up our offerings into categories that we set up.

We decide what they are; we name them. They're just pigeonholes, hopefully to make shop navigation easier.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What to do with a useless teapot

6 x 4 in. (15 x 10 cm) original oil on hand-made canvas panel. Unframed. Available in my Etsy store

This began as a small bouquet of late-summer flowers, picked when frost was imminent. I tossed them into a teapot left over from inventory in the late 1970s, when I was a potter. Actually it was a leftover mistake - the bottom was too thin, and I never put it on sale.

I had devised a rich glaze in an oatmeal color, with painted decoration in blues, blue-grays and muted turquoise. It was a hell of a good glaze, though I'm immodest in saying so myself.

The whole thing is set in Edouard Manet style - black background, polished mahogany table.

I think I was remembering the summer sun - look at those yellows!

Three poppies and two daisies

One of the most engaging TV painting teachers is Gary Jenkins (and, when she's allowed, his with Kathwren). Gary specializes in floral painting. The Create Channel runs their series but won't re-run them. Omroep MAX, a public television channel in The Netherlands, not only runs their series when new, but cycles through ones from the recent past. And MAX puts each episode on its web site for a week, so you can watch all you want.

Out of this comes three paintings. The first is of Gary's original composition, with some additions on my part to cover up some less than great brushwork on my part:

6 x 5 in. ( 15 x 12.5 cm), original oil on hand-made canvas panel. Unframed. Available in my Etsy store .

The second was a slightly different aspect ratio, and I added a new poppy and played with the background:

6 x 4 in. (15 x 10 cm) original oil on hand-made canvas panel. Unframed. Sold.
Immodestly, this is one I like. Available in my Etsy store .

Then I had a shot at seeing the composition through the (imagined) eyes of Edouard Manet (1832-1883), who is not Claude Monet, gotta watch those vowels. Edouard was an inspiration and friend to Claude.

Here, in its mahogany and mauve glory, is the result:


No daisies, you say? Ed would not have painted daisies. He hated the country and daisies are country; he was a Paris boy through and through. Turning one poppy around, sort of a can-can view.

I added a Japanese fan. The fan was my grandmother's, brought back from a barely-operational Osaka by my father at the end of World War II. Dad was communications officer aboard a troop carrier that brought home thousands of soldiers as part of the Magic Carpet fleet managed by the US Navy.

One big scene and one tiny scene from Long Island

Nope, not that one. Long Island, Maine.

It's a tiny island in Casco Bay off Portland. Kittie and I opted for a mini-holiday - drove to Woburn, Massachusetts, Amtrak train ride Saturday morning from Woburn to Portland, Maine - ferry from Portland to Long Island - and a great weekend stay at The Chestnut Hill Inn.Travel in reverse via the same means was on Sunday afternoon.

Since it was weeks past Labor Day - the end of the season - tourists were gone from Long Island. We brought in our own food (told our hostess, Carol Doughty, that we'd be bringing a chicken and an axe with us on the train.) Carol gave us the run of her restaurant kitchen, the restaurant being closed, and provided some great muffins and coffee the next morning.

We walked the half mile south to South Beach (no diets involved in this one), a huge expanse of granite sand. An empty expanse. We explored until nearly dark and the landscape below is one souvenir.

The wind was blowing fiercely, the temperature in the 40s, the water (strangely) almost calm. Record high tides the night before kept us from the foremost tourist attraction (beyond beauty) of the beach, the singing sands. They were too wet to sing (apparently the sand squeaks underfoot as you walk).

Cool colors, cool weather, cool scene.

Then with the light fading, we made our way back up the gravel road to the inn. Looking down, I saw an incredible play of color and pattern in the crushed granite - can anyone guess what underlies the island? - littered with fall leaves.

Both paintings are 6 x 4 in. (15 x 10 cm) original oil on hand-made canvas panel. Unframed. Available in my Etsy store .
The weekend was filled with friendly folks. A Long Islander driving up from the ferry saw us trundling toward the inn, dragging our roller suitcases behind us. He didn't have room for us, but he could take our suitcases to the inn. We then had a liesurely walk past permanent homes and neat little summer cabins.

His sister-in-law, it turns out, was a guest at the inn, and she took Kittie for a long stroll to meet several islanders as I trekked around solo to make photos of bits and pieces of the island.

Everything jibed. Amtrak's conductor was a hoot. The restaurant waitress on Saturday was fun, even if she didn't let me have the apple pancakes (we were too late for breakfast). People on the ferry - two stops at smaller islands before the mile-long Long Island - were (a) friendly or (b) fun to watch or (c) both. Our hostess at the inn was delightful.

Rain, which had been forecast to stream down in record amounts for both Saturday and Sunday, held off until Sunday afternoon as we were (after shopping in downtown) 25 steps from the Portland Holiday Inn. There the concierge called us a taxi to get to the train home. The taxi driver gave us a life tale that was full, but punctuated with depth. Matter-of-factly, he told us of the loss to cancer of his girl friend, about his many drives from Portland to Woburn, 100 miles each way, where the Lahey Clinic did what they could and then wrote off most of the charges because the doctor hated it that she had gone.

Highs, lows, friendly people, good food, human depth, human warmth - decompression at its best.

A couple of orchids

I've carried forward the concept of orchid portraits drawn against a backdrop of their (original) natural habitat. I have two new ones.

Both are 6 x 4 in. (15 x 10 cm) original oil on hand-made canvas panel. Unframed. .

The first is a Miltoniopsis roezlii; behind it, Brazilian cliffs. Available in my Etsy store

The second is a Bifrenaria harrisoniae, nestled in a Panamanian valley. Sold.

Since the time in October that I painted these, I've been to my first orchid show, the Massachusetts Orchid Society show at the Tower Hill Botanical Garden. There, I came to realize two things.

First, orchids are three dimensional. They are hugely three dimensional... something not clear in photographs or in the small range of orchids at Home Depot and Stop and Shop. I have a lot of work to do, a lot of things to learn, if I want to fully depict this dimensionality.

Second, orchids are overwhelming in every respect - color, shape, plant habit and (for those with fragrance), their perfume.

Many at the show asked me if I were going to grow orchids. I mostly said, "I don't think so." Early this summer, I planted onion sets. A couple of weeks into October, I harvested onions that were smaller than the sets. Orchids wouldn't stand a chance against me.