My three grandchildren and their senior staff visited me in Milwaukee for a week in August and we enjoyed every minute, but none more than the afternoon they all asked to paint. We had just been to the spectacular Milwaukee County Zoo on a gorgeous sunny day, where we enjoyed a Behind the Scenes tour of the Big Cat exhibit — we were up close and personal with some very big cats! Upon returning to my apartment, Jack, James and Charlotte wanted to paint their impressions of the day.
The children helped set up the studio area, chose their paint colors, carefully squeezed the paint from the tubes onto palette paper, and listened as I told them to rinse their brush in water before loading it with a different paint color. Then they sat down and began to work — play, really, as their imaginations took over. Jack (8 yrs) decided to paint from a photo I’d taken of jaguar Frankie reclining — he spent almost an hour painstakingly — successfully — creating the proportions (positive and negative space, intuitively) and the colors. James (6 yrs) chose a jaguar and Charlotte (4 yrs going on 21!) painted a jaguar with tiger and then an elephant outdoors.
I was intrigued, as always, by the ease with which they began their compositions, the attention they gave as they added elements and their increased ability to use the brush as a brush and not as a pencil or crayon. Perhaps I find watching them paint so delightful because they automatically include only the essential details, leaving out all the extraneous stuff which is so often a problem for me.
I LOVE James’s signature, so bold on the painting of a Jaguar outside on a sunny day — and their mom loved that these finished canvases would be Christmas presents for the relatives. LOL. They confidently enjoyed every minute of their time spent expressing their imaginations in color — I’m inspired.
Over the past few weeks, I seem to be seeing places that are part of my regular routine with new eyes — with attention to composition, light, shadow, contrast. It hasn’t been a conscious effort, but more of a realization as I decided to sketch particular scenes, that I was actually drawing/painting what I saw, rather than what I was looking at. This feels like such a welcome artistic development, helping me to simplify the compositions I choose to paint — to look at a scene more in large blocks/shapes of light/dark and color. I know this is a pretty common point of instruction, but it felt like a mometous “Helen Keller moment” when I actually “got” it….
On Sunday afternoon in the backyard with our sketchbooks and pencils, seven year old Jack and I agreed that the focal point of our drawings would be the small tree in front of the large palm. He also suggested that we draw only the outline of objects since we didn’t “have 3-D paper to show the whole shapes.” I just LOVED that comment — it revealed an understanding of the importance of the right tools for the job at hand as well as a glimpse into a very orderly mind engaged in observing and sorting his world. If you said, “Firstborn child?” you’d be correct.
When we’d finished, we showed our drawings to one another. Clearly Jack had paid more attention to the assignment (small tree) than I did. Oh, for the ability to concentrate and focus …. But we’d each seen things that the other missed and it was delightful to discover those elements and discuss. We were two artists interpreting what we saw — confident and able — on a very equal footing. I think I enjoyed that feeling more than Jack did — and he loved it!
I had my paintings for sale at a lovely annual event this afternoon and among many customers was this wonderful family — grandmother, mother and college student daughter. The mother purchased the gouache pictured as a birthday present for her daughter to take to college, while Grandmother cheered on.
It was delightful to hear how much this young woman enjoyed her painting, and art in general. Clearly the mother had learned art appreciation at the knee of the grandmother and has passed it along to the next generation. How happy am I that my painting has found such a happy home?!
This is a section of my floor to ceiling bulletin board, which has many drawings in charcoal, colored pencil, marker, pastel, crayon and any other medium my teacher could think of for me to use as I practiced, practiced (and practiced some more) my drawing skills on the challenging still life tableaux she prepared each week. She encouraged me to draw every day, which I did — and still do. My ability to draw improved dramatically in a relatively short time — it’s made such a difference in my work ….
I hope the sunflower painting by my grandson Jack (he was 4 at the time) makes you smile. We’d just spent the morning at a sunflower farm in Kansas and his interpretation captures the mood. I’m always inspired by the delight that’s so obvious here — and how about that signature?!
That first time I offered my paintings for sale was one of the most petrifying, vulnerable moments I can remember (second only to having a teen aged son with a brand new driver’s license steer my car out of the driveway for the first time). The reaction to my work was wonderful and I genuinely enjoyed my conversations with interested customers. I particularly loved that the persons who purchased the paintings of water saw in these small works bodies of water that had special meaning for them — lake, ocean, Atlantic, Pacific etc. I was delighted to realize that my work evoked memories that made these folks smile. That day, even more than usual, I headed home with a full and grateful heart.
In this, my very first post, I want tell you a little about what I love to paint. I have dozens of sketchbooks and many of them are filled with color studies of the water — the harbor on a cloudy summer afternoon, the lake shore on a sunny winter morning and so on …. My sketchbook, paints and water brush are always in my car and ready to go whenever the mood (I should say whenever the scene, because the mood is always there!) finds me.
I work from these color studies to create small oil paintings — many of these canvases are water scenes. My time on coastlines — Cape Cod, Ireland and Lake Michigan — inspires me every day.
I am also drawn to and inspired by the garden and everything in it — many of my paintings are of flowers, fruits or vegetables. Living in the North where the grey winter lingers, the need for color is an unrelenting force….