Wednesday, March 1, 2017

My First Art Acquisition

What art does an artist want on the walls their own home? 

That is a something I have thought about over the years. The question is even more important to me now, because I have minimal wall space in my home and I have to choose very carefully. My own art is already hanging in a few spots, but I also want to surround myself with works of art that inspire and move me in some way. To own a work of art by someone I know and respect adds an extra dimension of pleasure to my experience.

So, I am happy to start my art collection with an original pastel painting by my teacher, Jeanne Rosier Smith. I heard of Jeanne a few years ago, when my first pastel teacher described her technique and beautiful paintings of waves. Eventually, I made my way into her classes (which wasn't easy!) and when I viewed her seascapes up close I was stunned. I didn't know it was possible for pastels to capture the translucent quality of waves with such painterly strokes. 

When viewing the new painting from 8 or 10 feet back I see color and light dancing across the crashing wave to create an image that could almost be a photograph. But as I move closer, I understand that Jeanne has created an illusion for the viewer through perfectly planned strokes and blocks of color. 

The new piece, "I Can See Clearly Now", is the start of what I hope will be a well-planned collection of my favorite artists. And I can't think of a better beginning.

You can view more of Jeanne Rosier Smith's gorgeous pastel art at:

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Painting a Memory

In 2013 I was fortunate to travel to India for a wedding and spend ten days exploring this remarkable country. The trip was memorable on many levels, especially sharing in the joyous wedding of people we love and seeing the country through their eyes.

From an artist's perspective, India is undoubtedly one of the most visually compelling places you could ever hope to see. Once you are able to turn down the volume, aromas and chaos you can focus on the ultra-vibrant colors that populate this region.

In the photograph (on the right) we had stopped for lunch during our camel ride adventure at a location in Rohet. While we enjoyed icy cold drinks and catered lunch I was fascinated by the women working busily at the water's edge. At first I felt guilty under the luxurious shade of the tent, but as I watched the women I could see the playful interactions between them and the laughter from them was refreshing.

Even on this steaming hot day, they were layered in gorgeous, patterned clothing. The silky head wraps were nearly transparent and cast a soft, tinted glow over the other layers adding to the complexity of colors. In my pastel painting (on the left) I worked to capture the vibrancy of the fabrics as they appeared against the neutral foreground of the dust and dirt. What was most fulfilling about this process was the opportunity to use pastel colors that generally don't see alot of action. Especially in this combination. While creating this artwork I found myself sinking back into the memory of that day and enjoyed reliving the unique experiences we had in India.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Flow of Still Life

Flow is defined as a state of complete absorption in an activity which leads to energized focus and increased enjoyment of the process. 

While carefully crafting the subtle intricacies of the pears' shape, and texture I lost all awareness of time and self. Whatever part of my brain that generally nags me with worry, self-doubt and the sense of a never-ending rush softly departed from my psyche and left me open to the joy of pure focus.

From time to time, as I stepped back to view my art in progress, I would feel the familiar voice begin to criticize my work. But as soon as I put pastel to paper I became entranced again. At the end of my two hours working on this piece I gently returned my consciousness to the room and felt almost giddy from the invaluable respite from my overactive mind.    

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Yoga and the Art of Looking at Nothing

Yoga and I have never mixed. I like fast, adrenaline-inducing exercise like skating, biking, sailing and anything combining speed with a dash of danger. Frothy waves rushing by me and gravel blurring beneath my feet demand my attention and have been my favored activities since I was a teen.

But yoga keeps coming back for me. I have tried probably twenty times over the past forty years and every time the same thing. Not strenuous enough, too slow, boring, tedious. And you want me to close my eyes and quiet my mind? Insane.

Last year while nursing my injury of the month I decided to venture forth into the land of Namaste once more. It was a gentle yoga class taught by a calm, patient woman name Michelle. The first twenty minutes of the first class I plotted my escape. When everyone is facing due east in their warrior 1 pose, I will sprint west and out the door to freedom.

Then, at minute fifteen something started to shift in me. I watched Michelle, eyes closed, as she spoke of self-acceptance and gratitude. The tranquility radiating from her was mesmerizing and I wanted to get me some of that zen stuff too. I closed my eyes tentatively and did not disappear as I had anticipated. In fact, I started to feel more present than I had in a very long time. With my eyes closed I no longer had to judge myself or others and that was an unexpected gift. From time to time I still peeked around the studio. Was I in the right pose? Was everyone looking at me?

Nearing the end of class our instructor had us lay back into Shavasana (or corpse pose) where we are completely still and alone within ourselves. Hard to believe that being alone with myself could be more frightening than thrusting my downward facing dog butt out in front of thirty other yoga participants.

Still, I persevered and many months later I finally understand the yoga mystique. I choose to stop the endless chatter and judgement in my head as I release all "the thoughts that do not serve me" and kick them softly downstream like wayward logs in a river. Or I place them on puffy clouds and gently blow them off into the vast sky.

As we return to the close of class gratitude oozes out of me and I am now reluctant to open my eyes and leave behind the gorgeous views I have seen within. But I know I will be back because I'm gonna  get me some more of that beautiful zen.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Creating My Perfect Caribbean

If I can't be in Jamaica, I may as well paint it in pastels. I am taking a big risk here showing you my painting as it begins (see original photo at the left corner in each image). As one of my teachers loved to tell us, most pastels don't look remotely attractive until the last ten minutes. So I apologize for the progress images, but I think it is worthwhile to study what colors need to build up to create the rewarding final ten minutes.

A key component of this process is the color wheel. In the early stages of the painting I am laying down approximate tones that are the complementary colors to the final ones I want to achieve. I am a little loose with my choices because I am not looking to create a replica of the scene... but instead, an interpretation. The under painting (which is seared into the sanded paper with alcohol and brush) is what creates the beautifully rich, layered tones that made me fall in love with pastels. Unexpected rusts peek out from underneath the ocean while coral and pink lay softly under the blue sky foreshadowing the sunset just hours away.

After gently applying many layers of blues in all my favorite permutations, I generated a sky that transports me back to my heavenly gazebo on the sea. As for those pesky clouds in the original photo... not sure how I feel about them interfering with my idyllic Caribbean sky. Stay tuned and watch me decide if the weather in Jamaica will be a cloud-free sunny day or if I will add some white puffy reality to my world.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Inside Out

The arctic winds are blowing (again) and another foot of snow is falling into place (again). Since I can't be outside in my natural habitat I am supremely grateful for my windows. All 28 of them. My house is tiny, but I can see the elusive outdoors from almost anywhere I sit. As claustrophobia and cabin fever edge toward me I snuggle up to the glass, and peer out into the vast white wasteland. Even though visibility is limited I still feel a sense of relief touching the cool glass and hearing the wind whistle by.

Windows have always been my virtual escape. As children we traveled in station wagons, untethered and in motion like Mexican jumping beans. When bored, annoyed or just desperate to escape the chaos... I would lay flat in the back of the car and watch the world pass by upside down. Trees, stars, power lines all stringing themselves out behind me and providing that sweet remove. Even now I much prefer to be passenger rather than driver as I never tire of the show just outside the window. As my children will attest, my roving eyes should have me permanently assigned to riding "shotgun" while someone with better visual control takes the wheel.

Looking out my window at dusk I scan the landscape for clues as to what undertones I might layer into my pastel painting. I spy lilac nestled behind the spruce trees and coral peeking out from beneath the periwinkle sky. Rust is woven throughout the maple trees with amethyst layered softly underneath the snow. But darkness is descending and the colors exit stage left... leaving my winter canvas of white, gray and black. No pastels needed. Charcoal will do just fine.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Fear of Drawing

I sketched today at the Isabella Stewart Gardener museum and found myself battling the demon of perfection as usual. The assumption always seems to be that I will fail or create a visual that is supremely subpar. Do all artists face a blank canvas with trepidation? Or do they reach a point of unchallenged confidence and start every sketch, painting, sculpture with a pure, anticipatory sense of excitement?

For me it seems more like dread I experience as I lay down that first tentative mark on the hopeful empty sheet. With over 20 reasonably good pastel paintings under my belt it is still impossible for me to believe that I am capable of creating a successful painting again. When does that doubt subside? At 100 paintings? 1000?

I choose to wage war against my self-doubt and armed with my shiny, new sketchbook I will go forth to do battle at the MFA, at home, in class... wherever I can. And each time I find something pleasing, but imperfect in my sketch or pastel painting I may be slowly marching forward into artistic confidence.

My First Art Acquisition What art does an artist want on the walls their own home?  That is a something I have thought about ov...