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….
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?!
It must be because the temperatures are in the 70’s today, here in the depth of our Northern winter, that I’m moved to paint flowers — in warm colors. Actually, I don’t ever need ANY encouragement to paint flowers, but today it does seem reasonable to imagine that these blooms can’t be far away from showing off in the garden …. The watercolor red roses are a practice/color study for painting wet on wet and wet on dry — an excellent exercise on any day, really.
On what’s become an annual trip to London to visit my son Jonathan, I was delighted to spend a few hours almost every day at some of my most favorite museums in that fabulous city. Among these is Somerset House — I love that its Courtald Gallery has on permanent display a relatively small — and impressive — collection of late 19th century impressionist and post impressionist works. (Pictured above is Banks of the Seine at Carrieres-Sur-Seine by Maurice de Vlaminck.) It was so inspiring to stand next to these works — to really look at the iconic interpretations of form, color and light, so controversial in their time..
The Abstract Expressionism exhibit at the Royal Academy of Arts took my breath away — the works I’d only studied in Arnason jumped off the walls. I hadn’t expected to be so affected by these room-filling pieces, but if I close my eyes, I can still see them. When I was in the room with them, I wanted to inhale their color and drama. I loved that one of the main displays in the museum gift shop was loaded with oil paint sets all ready for inspired visitors to take to their easels.
but this painting by James McNeill Whistler, Nocturne, Blue and Silver: Battersea Reach, is all the more striking because of its monochromatic composition. On a recent visit to Boston, I was so happy to visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum to spend time with its magnificent collection. This wonderful little painting is in the Yellow Room and you really need to look at it head on for a minute or two before the shapes of the boat, lights and clock tower emerge. I can’t wait to work on some color studies in the near future that will be largely in one color. So much depth and mood to convey …
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?!
After a few weeks of travelling, which took me to both coasts, I am happy to be back in my Milwaukee studio (which is a very sunny corner of my loft) and am ready for the cooler weather. This vegetable still life came to be as a result of my farmers’ market haul over the weekend. I am so thankful to my wonderful teacher, Pat Hidson, for introducing me to the incandescent delight that is gouache. I don’t work in this medium often, but every time I do, I fall in love again.
You can see here how I jerry-rig my table top easel in order to paint a small canvas. One of the aspects of creating small works that I particularly enjoy is the ability to complete a painting fairly quickly and then be able to do another painting of that same scene to capture it in a different light, at a different time of the day, while the paint’s still wet on my palette. My sketchbook color studies are especially helpful here, recording the changing light at different hours of the day. At present I prefer to create plein air watercolor color studies and then to complete the finished oil painting in the studio, but that may change.
Since a good part of my time is occupied with my “day job” (my specialty baking business), it’s encouraging to be able to sit down for a few hours and actually complete a painting, which in turn inspires me to paint often. I also find that just about everyone can find a spot for a small painting — 6″ square, 5″ x 7″ or 8″ x 10″ at most. It’s a good size for a gift, souvenir or a thoughtful design element for your own personal space.