Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Color and Aerial Perspective in the Sky

The sky itself, the lightest element in a picture, has different gradations, which causes variations in color and value from its highest point to the horizon. The reason for this is that the atmosphere for the sky at its highest point is the shortest distance with the clearest view. At the horizon, since the distance is longer, there are more “sheets” of atmospheric particles made up of gases between our eyes and the horizon. Like the colors of a rainbow, the zenith is a violet blue, as your eye turns toward the horizon, it changes to a truer blue, then a green-blue, a yellowish green, and finally a small strip of smoky warm rose nearest to the horizon, all the while lightening in value.  
An exception to this is sunrise and sunset, where the horizon takes on more oranges, reds, and purples because of the sun.
The above picture is an exaggeration of the color changes in the sky under sunny conditions.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Aerial Perspective

Aerial Perspective is the change in appearance on items brought on by atmospheric conditions and its effect on color distinction, contrast, value, and hue. The atmosphere is made up of varying densities of gases composed of water particles that are perpetually suspended, similar to a mist. These gases act like slices of films rather than a solid body that collect in layers between our eyes and the distant horizon. The more slices of films between us and the horizon, the more it will affect the hue, contrast, and strength of the items in the distance.  It is said that all colors become cooler as they recede from the eye, except white.  Cooler means that colors take on more blue as the distance increases.
For blue to increase, some colors must decrease. The first hue to decrease is yellow. Yellow alone and in mixtures such as brown, green, and orange, decreases as the distance increase, while violets and blues increase in intensity. For very long distances, such as those found in the mountains and large open spaces of the western United States, after the loss of yellow, reds will then also decrease and blues will finally prevail. Along with the change of hues, all things will become lighter in value as they recede from the eye.  
What this means to an artist is that care should be taken to paint the nearer scenery darkest and most powerful in color and have more yellow and red, while items near the horizon should be painted in lighter values, and contain more blue, and less yellow, and desaturated reds. Edges should be softer, contrasts less distinctive. Whites, the exception, get warmer and darker as they recede.
This is my painting of Camden, Maine, from the park overlooking the harbor. The nearest trees were bright with autumn colors, but as the landscape recedes, the colors become lighter and the yellows start to disappear. The far horizon colors are purples and blues, devoid of all yellow.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Artist Reception, Woodbridge Library

On Saturday, December 11, I had an artist reception at the Woodbridge Town Library, in Woodbridge, CT. It was a nice day, and I suspect that there were a lot of people out shopping for Christmas. I brought cupcakes, cheese and crackers, and drinks. A steady stream of visitors came by to see the 21-piece collection of paintings and to visit, so it was a nice time. I took advantage of the time to explain my art to some interested viewers, and I think that they appreciated it.
It’s important to educate the public about art and about your style and process. For example, I prefer to stretch and prepare my own canvas and linen, and my own boards. It takes time, but it is worth it to me. My style has evolved to become modern impressionist, influenced by some modern painters in the New England area and by European and American art of the 19th and 20th centuries.

While it is certainly a challenge, I also prefer to paint outdoors whenever possible, en plein air. There’s just nothing like the aroma of a soft summer breeze over a wild country field, the deep earthy dampness and pine scent of a New England woods, and the fresh ocean breeze rushing in to the shore. It really sets the mood for a painting and I think that my paintings are more successful when I am able to be on location. Sure, you have to deal with strong winds, sudden rain, and frigid temperatures sometimes, but you can also experience the warm, gorgeous sunny days that make you never want to stop painting.

While I didn’t make a sale at my reception, I did get a tip about a gallery to check out in a nearby town. A trip to the gallery on Sunday proved to be promising. I will go back on another day and speak with the owner about representing my art.

I consider it a successful reception, all in all. It was fun visiting with people and talking about art, and I was able to get some helpful feedback about my work and my progress. The library will continue to exhibit my paintings until December 30th in their beautiful meeting room. If you are in the area, come by and see it.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Finding Vanishing Points When Painting Outdoors

According to Wikipedia, a vanishing point is a point in a perspective drawing to which parallel lines not parallel to the image plane appear to converge. The number and placement of the vanishing points determines which perspective technique is being used. The concept was first used by Renaissance artists such as Donatello, Masaccio and Leonardo da Vinci.

It is very important when painting outdoors to establish your vanishing points with objects, especially when painting buildings and structures. If you do not figure out your vanishing point early in your composition, your structure’s drawing may sit incorrectly and no amount of change, including values, painting technique, or even a great composition can fix it.
In my painting, "White Silo," the vanishing point is actually outside of the painting's left edge.

"White Silo" by Patty Meglio

Suppose that you are painting a building from a side view. A quick and easy way to figure out your vanishing point is to use your arms and feet as measuring devices. To do this with a building, face your building, and turn your left foot to line up parallel with the left side of the building. Raise your left arm and point it in the same direction as your foot, at eye-level. If you draw lines along your arm and from your foot outward, the point at which the lines meet will be your vanishing point. Do the same on the right side, with your right foot pointing outward parallel to the building’s right side, and your arm sighted along your eye-level looking towards the right. You now have two vanishing points from which you can measure the correct proportion of the sides of your building.
"The Last Supper" by Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci used perspective in this painting to draw the viewer’s eyes to Jesus as the star of his painting.

Da Vinci photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Finding Your Horizon Line

Perspective is a very important thing to grasp if you are a landscape painter, or for that matter, for any type of subject, even still life. However, to properly figure out vanishing points, aerial perspective, and reflections, you must know where your horizon line is. Understanding how to find the horizon line and to line up buildings and other objects properly to get the correct perspective is something that a lot of artists forget to do once they set up their easels. It’s very tempting to just throw some paint on the canvas and guess at the proportions, but you will end up spending more time scraping paint off and redoing your work if you don’t. Or, you will be disappointed at the results and not realize why it just doesn’t look right.

The first thing that you should do after you prepare your canvas is find the horizon line. To do this, you will need a straight object like a pencil or flat sided stick for measuring. I use a square edge dowel that is marked off with colored lines at one-quarter inch intervals. This dowel is about 12 inches long, with different colored marked lines for every inch. I use the different colored markings to measure and compare proportions of items in my picture. To find the horizon line, hold the stick or pencil out horizontally as straight as possible in front of you at your eye level. This will be your horizon line. If you are looking out from a high vantage point, your horizon line could actually be in the sky. Likewise, if you are looking towards a high point in a land mass, your horizon line will often be below certain aspects of the land mass or object.

You might want to do a few quick thumbnail sketches to figure out your design and where you would like to put your horizon line on the canvas. In most cases, it is best to avoid cutting the picture in half by centering the horizon line on your canvas. When you are ready, use a thinned transparent oxide red or brown or burnt sienna and draw the line, keeping in mind where your center of focus will be in your picture.

For my painting, Ship's Harbor, Maine, the horizon line is marked in yellow. This line was at my eye level from where I stood. I placed it high on my canvas so that I could focus on the rocks and grasses nearby and also so that I could include some of the water.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Part V: The Tour of the Boston Public Library

The last installment of the Boston Public Library Tour series is the main reason that I wanted to tour this library in the first place. One of the largest and most controversial murals of all time is known as the Sargent Gallery. This 84 foot long, 23 foot wide, and 26 foot high space is actually a hallway between the Chavannes Gallery and Bates Hall. The atmosphere in this gallery is rather somber as is the subject matter, which is the progress of religion from pagan worship to modern individual freedom and spirituality. Named the Triumph of Religion, Sargent worked for years on the murals that depict Christian and Jewish religious scenes from the Bible and other writings. The figures depict the influence of pagan gods on mankind, and religious law, redemption, and guidance. Figures of the Messiah, Madonna, the blessed Trinity, and angels are painted in storybook style illustration in large murals high on the walls.

Sargent began the Triumph of Religion mural project in 1890 in Gloucestershire, England, and later, when he moved to London, he constructed a one-third-scale of the Library’s Special Collections Hall. Some of that construction still exists today. He made hundreds of preparatory studies in graphite, charcoal, and oil and sometimes added text to his murals from religious writings. He traveled extensively abroad for inspiration, visiting museums, and making sketches of historical monuments abroad. He copied Byzantine style painting, Egyptian and Greek art and hieroglyphics, medieval sculpture and European architecture.

Sargent used plaster and gold inlays for the first time on some of his murals to give them a three dimensional appearance. A crucifix is the most sculptural of all the pieces in the Hall, with the arms and heads of the figures rising outward completely from the wall.

The Synagogue panel was the subject of much controversy when it was displayed. Both Jewish and Christian individuals and groups urged its removal.

The Massachusetts state legislature passed—and then repealed—a bill to remove the picture. In 1924, two months before the repeal of the legislature’s bill, an unidentified individual splattered Sargent’s Synagogue with ink. Sargent and Herbert Thompson from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, headed the restoration and were able to repair the damage done. Though it is unknown why, the controversy appears to have been the main reason that he abandoned Triumph of Religion before painting the planned keynote image, Sermon on the Mount. There remains one lone panel that is empty.

Another reason might be that after WWI, the artist’s metaphorical use of Jewish and Christian history and scripture to signal the progress of Western civilization from a pagan, dogmatic, and institutional past toward individual freedom and spiritual subjectivity became a less compelling subject.

The Triumph of Religion was completed in 1919.

Photos courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Part IV: The Tour of the Boston Public Library

From the Chavannes murals, we passed into the Bates Hall, which was featured in the film, "Good Will Hunting." The reading room was dedicated to Joshua Bates, who donated $50,00 for books for the library. It was simply decorated with green shaded reading lights that light the rows of plain wooden tables.
Occupying the whole front of the building on the second floor level and lighted by high arched windows, it is 218 long, 42 feet wide, and 50 feet high, to the crown of its barrel vaulted ceiling.
The next room that we entered was the Edwin Abby Room. This room held the murals of the Tennison version of the Search for the Holy Grail. Installed in 1895, Edwin Austin Abbey painted fifteen scenes from Tennison’s story and arranged them in a circle high up on the walls in this large room (64’x22’) that is now often rented for special events and parties. The ceiling is made of heavy ornamental rafters, and the floors are made of Istrian and red Verona marble. There are also two grand fireplaces made of red Verona marble.

The Holy Grail was fabled to be the sacred vessel from which the Lord had eaten at the Last Supper. Joseph of Arimathea had gathered the divine blood of the Lord’s wounds after purchasing it from Pontius Pilate. Its existence, its preservation, its miraculous virtues and properties were a cherished popular belief in the early ages of European Christianity. From twelfth-century narrators, Walter Mapes in England, ChrÈtien de Troyes in France, and Wolfram von Eschenbach in Germany, came folklore that the Grail was guarded for ages in the Castle of the Grail by the descendants of the "rich man," to whom the body of Jesus had been surrendered, where it awaited the coming of the perfect knight, who alone should be worthy to have knowledge of it.

King Arthur’s court first introduced us to the romances of the Holy Grail and to the perfect knight. To the one who possessed the Grail was granted the ability to live, and to cause others to live, indefinitely without food, as well as the achievement of universal knowledge, and of invulnerability in battle.

The scenes recount the journey of Sir Galahad and the knights of the round table to find the Holy Grail, and the mishaps, dangers, and triumphs along the way. Sir Galahad, always in red, the symbol of purity, eventually breaks the spell of Amfortas, the Fisher King, King of the Grail, and later frees the Virtues, maidens of the Castle of the Maidens. He remains virtuous and renounces every human desire, and is able to accomplish his mission. The Holy Grail appears before him and his soul is freed from his body.

The room is magnificent, the paintings are very powerful. If you have a chance to read the book and then see the paintings, do so.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Part III: Tour of the Boston Public Library

Puvis de Chavannes (1824-98) was a French painter and the president and co-founder of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. He was born Pierre-Cécile Puvis de Chavannes in Lyon, Rhone, France, the son of a mining engineer, descendant of an old noble family of Burgundy. Pierre Puvis was educated at the Lyons College and at the Lycée Henri IV in Paris. A journey to Italy inspired him, and on his return to Paris in 1844, he began his study as a painter under Eugène Delacroix, Henri Scheffer, and later under Thomas Couture. It was not until a number of years later, when the government of France acquired one of his works, that he gained wide recognition. In Montmartre, he had an affair with one of his models, Suzanne Valadon, who would become one of the leading artists of the day as well as the mother, teacher, and mentor of Maurice Utrillo.

His work is seen as symbolist in nature, even though he studied with some of the romanticists, and he is credited with influencing an entire generation of painters and sculptors. One of his protégés was Georges de Feure.

Puvis de Chavannes is noted for painting murals, several of which may be seen at the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) in Paris, the Sorbonne, and the Paris Panthéon, and at Poitiers, as well as at the Boston Public Library in the United States.

His paintings were done on canvas and then affixed to the walls (marouflage), but their pale colors imitated the effect of fresco. He had only modest success early in his career but he went on to achieve an enormous reputation, and he was universally respected even by artists of very different aims and outlook from his own. Gauguin, Seurat, and Toulouse-Lautrec were among his professed admirers.

At the Boston Public Library, his mural designs were influenced by four academic categories:  Poetry, Philosophy, History, and Science. His murals decorate the marble staircase leading to the second floor.

On the right-hand wall of the staircase as you enter appear in three panels Pastoral Poetry. Virgil, Dramatic Poetry. Æschylus and the Oceanides, and Epic Poetry. Homer crowned by the Iliad and Odyssey.

On the left-hand wall, three panels display more academics: History-attended by a Spirit bearing a torch calls up the Past, Astronomy-The Chaldean Shepherds observe the stars and discover the law of numbers, and Philosophy-Plato sums up in an immortal phrase the eternal conflict between Spirit and Matter. "Man is a plant of heavenly not of earthly growth."

 On the end wall to the right and left of the windows there are two murals.

To the left is Chemistry (mineral, organic, vegetable): A process of mysterious change evolves itself under the magic wand of a fairy surrounded by watching spirits. To the right is Physics: By the wondrous agency of Electricity, Speech flashes through Space and swift as lightning bears tidings of good and evil.

In my next installment of this series, I will describe the Quest and Achievement of the Holy Grail.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Part 2: Tour of the Boston Public Library Central Branch

The original site of the Boston Public Library was where the Colonial Theatre is today. The current site was built on what was once a swamp in Back Bay. Back Bay was filled in with hundreds of wood pilings before anything could be built on it. Many of the surrounding buildings are also structured above wood pilings sunk deep in the mud, and the water was extracted.

Inside the McKim building, the vestibule harbors a statue of Sir Henry Vale, Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1636-7. Three large bronze doors with sculpture reliefs designed by Henry French grace the entry way.

Iowa sandstone piers line three aisles of the entrance hall, which is a feast for the eyes. A vaulted ceiling displays thirty names of famous Bostonians, including writers, politicians, and community leaders, in marble mosaic. A seal on the floor of the lobby denotes the founders of the library, and signs of the zodiac in brass are inlaid in the center aisle. Everywhere there is marble and sandstone, in pale earth colors that are illuminated by mostly natural light from large windows from the second floor landing.

Connecting the Entrance Hall with the Main Staircase is a deep triumphal arch. The marble of the very polished steps is ivory gray Echaillon, mottled with fossil shells and the walls are a richly variegated yellow Siena marble.

The great twin lions, couchant, on pedestals at the turn of the stairs designed by Louis St. Gaudens are made of unpolished Siena marble. They are memorials to the Second and the Twentieth infantry regiments of the Massachusetts Civil War. My next installment will describe the paintings by Puvis de Chavannes at the top of the stairs.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Part I, Tour of Boston Public Library

I recently participated in a tour of the McKim building in the central branch of The Boston Public Library. The Boston Public Library Central Library is located in Copley Square, a major hub of activity in the city of Boston. Established in 1848, it was designed to be a free library for the people, which was unheard of at the time. It was the first publicly supported municipal library in America, the first to lend books, the first to have a branch library, and the first to have a children’s room.

There are two buildings in the central library, the McKim and the Johnson buildings. Designed by McKim, Mead, and White, the oldest building known as the McKim building, is a huge mass of granite and marble with carvings and embellishments on the exterior and interior spaces that make it a work of art unparalleled today. McKim hired mostly American artists to create murals and sculptures that decorate the many rooms and lobby areas of the library, and the entrances. Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, graces the central keystone over the main entrance directly over the seals of the Commonwealth of Mass, the Library, and the City of Boston. The façade is decorated with the names of the great masters of art, science, religion, and statesmanship, and two large statues that represent Art and Science flank the steps leading to the entrance.

The Johnson building is the modern part of the central library and is only briefly described in the tour. Its architecture is not as impressive as the McKim building, though it does have modern amenities.

My next post will describe the interior architecture of the McKim building, which is very impressive.

Friday, October 15, 2010

American Modernists on Paper

The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, CT is currently hosting an exhibit of 100 watercolors, pastels, and drawings on paper by leading American modernists, called American Moderns on Paper. Some of the artists exhibiting include John Sloan, Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper, John Marin, Salvatore Dali, and Andrew Wyeth. My favorites of the show were two watercolors by Edward Hopper, Captain Strout’s House, Portland Head, and Methodist Church – so like New England and very cool angles, perspective, and color harmonies,

and a painting by Georgia O’Keefe, Slightly Open Clam Shell. O’Keeffe’s subtle use of color and softness inspire a curiosity to open the clam shell and explore the mystery within.

Another drawing that I thought was interesting was William Glackens’ Far From the Fresh Air Farm (East Side). It was packed with so much information so that there was very little white space and really spoke of a typical New York city scene, fast paced and energetic, even then. Eugene Berman did some nice sketches for the theatre and Granddaughter by Andrew Wyeth was inspiring both with color choices and composition. There was a nice mix of abstract and realistic art that was separated by different eras in history. Sections included Progressive and Avant-Garde artists (Demuth, Marin, O’keeffe, Dove), Regionalism, Social Realism and American Visions (Burchfield, Hopper, Bacon), Surrealism and Neo-Romanticism (Paper Ball, Calder, Blume, Tonny), and Postwar Abstraction and resurgence of Realism (Tobey, Wyeth, Kelly). Each section had a nice summary of that period in time and described the way that history affected the art of that period. You can see a slideshow of the exhibit and take an audio tour by going to Exhibit goes on until January 17, 2011. Be sure to see it.
Photos courtesy of Wadsworth Atheneum.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Visit to the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

I visited the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute  over the weekend and was very impressed with their collection of American and European art from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. There were fantastic paintings by Monet, Remington, Pissaro, Sergent, and Homer. What I really fell in love with was the Giovanni Boldini (1842-1931) collection. The Clark has the largest collection of Boldini paintings in America. His paintings at the Clark were mostly small, but done with an impressionist style that was intricate, colorful, painterly, and vibrant. He painted landscape and street life in Paris where he lived and was famous for his portraits as well.

Portrait of Mrs. Howard Johnston by Giovanni Boldini.
Sterling Clark settled in Paris and began collecting works of art, an interest he inherited from his parents. When he married Francine Clary in 1919, she joined him in what quickly became a shared passion. Together they created a remarkable collection of paintings, silver, sculpture, porcelain, drawings, and prints with complete reliance on their own judgments and tastes. In 1950 the Clarks founded the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute as a permanent home for their collection, and the museum first opened to the public in 1955. Since its conception, the Institute has had a dual mission as both a museum and a center for research and higher education. It is in this spirit that the Clark has expanded over the last five decades to become the influential institution it is today.

A variety of special exhibitions is offered throughout the year, bringing together works from collections around the world and presenting them in intelligent, enlightening, and visually appealing installations. Recent exhibitions have included Dove/O'Keefe: Circles of Influence; Toulouse-Lautrec and Paris; Like Breath on Glass: Whistler, Inness, and the Art of Painting Softly; The Unknown Monet: Pastels and Drawings; Gainsborough, Constable, and Turner: The Manton Collection; Consuming Passion: Fragonard's Allegories of Love; and Remington Looking West.

The current exhibit is of John Constable, including works by his son, Lional. Coming in November, Albreckt Durer, the German Renaissance painter and printmaker. I highly recommend that you see this collection and their regular collection.

Picture courtesy of

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Designing a Bag for Support of CT Foodbank/Foodshare

I recently broke down and bought an Intuos professional pen tablet for my computer. I had been thinking about purchasing one for a while now. I've struggled without one when designing some illustrations for a cookbook and for a logo for a flag project. While I'm not an illustrator, I love to design things and have struggled with the mouse for a while now.

I must say that it isn't an easy thing to learn because you can't watch where your pen goes on the pad, but rather you have to watch it on the monitor as you draw. At least that is true of the model that I bought, which is the Intuos4 medium. One thing I struggled with at first was resizing the monitor to fit my tablet size. Once I was able to do this, it went easier.  I think that I will enjoy using the tablet, but it will take some practice. I would like to buy some of the extra pens with brush tips to go with it. It sure makes it easier to draw a design from scratch on the computer. I drew it in Photoshop in black on a transparent background and then converted it to white. The white will show up better on a dark background.

Here's the design and the bag for a promotion for the CT Food Bank through the Northford Women's Club and the North Branford Women's Club.

The bag with design in white.

The bag is an 8"x5" fold up nylon bag that you can easily tuck in your purse or carry bag and whip out when you are in a store. It comes in royal blue and black and goes for only $5, not including shipping. If you are interested, email me at All profits go to supporting the GFWC/CT State Project, which is the CT Food Bank/Foodshare.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Workshop in Maine with Stapleton Kearns

I went to Acadia, Maine last weekend for a three-day workshop with master painter Stapleton Kearns. The first day, we painted on top of some large rocks on the shoreline in Thunder Hole. It was warm and sunny mostly and quite pretty that day. Stape began with a demo with an underpainting in burnt sienna. He worked up a lot of the drawing into precise details. It was interesting to watch him use his large brush to work in the rocks and hills. He recommended that we work on the largest areas first, but keep working on different areas rather than finishing one area before going on to the next.

The next two days we spend painting at Ship's Harbor on the south side of the island near Bass Harbor. We had a short hike, though it seemed long when you had to carry a bunch of painting equipment, to a great spot near the water with beautiful pine trees hugging the shore. Both days were gray with mist and clouds, so it made for a softer, cooler painting. The colors were more intense but muted by the atmosphere, rather than a lot of light bouncing off of objects and desaturating the color.

Stape started out with a demo on the first day in Ship's Harbor with a purple underpainting, because of the cool light filtering through the picture. He then added color, working all over the canvas, bringing up one area and then another. Many of us had too short a range of values, with too little darks and too few lights. We tended to stay in the middle ranges. Perhaps the grayness of the day influenced our decisions. He did say that we needed to hone our drawing skills and work with larger brushes.  He told me to take a value scale and compare it to photos of masters' paintings so that I can see their range of values. Getting the values right is not as easy as it sounds. I hope to take this painting and work on it more at home this week.

The group was a fun mix of artists and art lovers, all enjoyable to be with. It was small, there were only ten of us, which is the best size, I think. I even met an artist from Durham, the next town over from mine. That was a coincidence.
The rain kept threatening by the end of the day on Monday, so I packed up and drove home. I would have loved to stay another day, but not with a forcast of rain.  It was a long drive, 7.5 hours, but it went okay. I will go back again on my own maybe next spring. I want to see more of the park and do some hiking. What a great place to paint and hike!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Open Doors Auction

Well the Open Doors of DT Milford Auction was Sunday, Sept. 19th. There were 25 doors auctioned off, including mine. My door sold for $350, which is about average for the group. There was a nice crowd and really good food provided by area businesses. Bidding was fairly subdued for an auction, but the economy is affecting art like anything else. Rosemary Gordon of Gilded Lily got the highest bid for her door, which was over 2K. Here's Rosemary's door:
It was painted on glass with a type of cloisanne style application. Very pretty and colorful. I heard that the same couple that won the bid for Rosemary's door also won my door and two others. Rosemary's door will go in the couple's new Milford home, and the others will go to the couple's children. 
So, on to next year and hopefully, the economy will improve and bidding will be better.  The Milford Fine Arts Council benefits from 45 percent of the sales. They are a wonderful group of which I am a member.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Atwater Library Painting

I painted this of the original Atwater Memorial Library building built in 1943. It was dedicated to Charles Atwater, and funded by his son, James. The new building that was just reopened after a year-long renovation project,  is three times as large, and incorporates the old building.

They are currently trying to raise funds for the Rock Crusher, a painting that I did of the mamoth rock crusher at the Tilcon plant in North Branford.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Recognizing the Effort Behind Your Art

What is talent? The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines talent as “the natural endowments of a person” and “a special often athletic, creative, or artistic aptitude” but, it doesn’t go so far as to say that some people are born with talent. So, are some of us just more inclined towards talent than others? And, if we are talented, how important is that in the scheme of things, especially to those who want to be successful in our artistic endeavors?

When showing my artwork, people who do not paint insist that they don’t have talent, but that I do and I must have been born with it. They tell me that this is why my work is superior to anything that they can produce. It’s very frustrating to hear this. I know that they mean well, but it’s rather insulting. They don’t take into account the many hours and years of work and study that it takes to produce a pleasing work of art. In fact, they dismiss this idea. This implies that talented people instantly produce good work from the start, which we all as artists know is not true. I spoke about this with a friend of mine who is an award winning floral designer and she agreed. No one sees the many lonely hours of practice, the frustrations of color mixing and design, and the countless disasters that end up in the trash. It took her years to perfect her style, in the form of hard work and hours of study.

While not obvious in the resulting work, all successful artists look to others sometime in their careers for guidance. The key is to find an artist that you want to emulate or learn from. And, the resources available to artists now are boundless. I’ve got pages and pages of notes and many work-in-progress photos taken in countless workshops and classes, and articles of all kinds downloaded from the Internet. Anatomy drawings with diagramed measurements are taped to my cabinet doors. My bookshelves are filled with how-to books on art, art philosophy, museum books and biography books on artists that I admire. Many of these books are riddled with yellow highlights, the pages dog-eared from repeated turning. I’ve got piles of old art magazines scattered all over my house.

As an artist, you have to develop a tough skin because you can’t progress without experiencing some frustration and disappointment. I’ve received countless rejections from juried shows and galleries, but I’ve also been accepted by some wonderful venues. I’ve had great experiences and learned a lot in artist workshops and classes, but I’ve also had to endure some harsh critiques from highly respected art instructors. As a student, you invite the criticism, knowing that the instructor is going to pull your work apart and leave you bleeding. But, without the critiques, your work can stagnate; a wall of doubt builds from not knowing how to fix something that you know is not right. You might not realize that the drawing is incorrect or even know how to correct it, or that the values are off. As much as you want a critique to help you improve your piece, you long for some scrap of approval, some small bit of encouragement that all is not lost. And sometimes, you are rewarded.

The day will come, as if an epiphany, when your work starts to improve. Slowly, you begin to unconsciously do things that you heard repeated many times in classes and read in books. It’s finally sinking in! You check your composition and values, your edges and focal point. Your way of seeing things change, and you learn to see things as a critical, conscientious observer. At the same time, you never stop learning and you never stop growing. But you don’t mind because you love every part of the creation process.

To be successful in any type of creative endeavor, you have to want to do it very badly and be willing to work hard and put a great deal of time in to achieve it. It’s not enough to have “talent.” You may have a creative tendency, but, just like anything else, you get out of it what you put into it. The harder that you work at it, the greater the rewards.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Open Doors of DT Milford Open House Report

The Open Doors of Milford Open House on Friday night was a busy night for artists and shop owners. There were many people who came out to enjoy the perfect summer weather, packing the restaurants and bars, and taking in the tour of the doors. I had the perfect location, a very bustling corner with lots of traffic. I met some nice people, including artists, friends of the shop owner who came by to visit, and many area residents. My door got a lot of attention and admiration. The brownies went quickly, though I got no takers on my paintings. The shop owner, Martha Reed, was fun to work with. She did a lot of business that evening. We both encouraged people to fill out the application for People’s Choice for favorite door.

Now until the week of the auction, people can walk the tour on their own or take a guided tour on Saturdays up until Sept 11th. The doors will be inside the stores. After that, the doors will go to MFAC building. The doors will be auctioned on September 19th. It should be a lot of fun. I’m hoping for a big crowd.

Canvas Patch, where my door is located.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Open Doors of Downtown Milford Art Exhibit

This is the door that I will be entering in the Open Doors of Downtown Milford Art Exhibit. I started my design and study in May by doing small studies of places in Milford that I enjoy and find interesting. Once I decided on the scenes that I wanted to use for the door, I chose a base color for the door, painted it, and started drawing my scenes using charcoal directly on the door. I decided to combine two themes that are prevalent in Milford.

One is the river that flows through the city to the ocean, along which a pastoral pond and park have been the site for numerous visits by residents. For many years, wedding photos were taken at the falls with its gorgeous pastoral view, and parents and their children come by to feed the ducks and geese.

The other theme is the sea, with the Milford Marina filled with all types of boats, and the sailboats out in the open sea on the bottom panel, and the popular Silver Sands Beach with Charles Island in the distance on the top panel.

I attached sound cards on each side, with recordings of geese and ducks quacking for Tranquil Waters and ocean waves and seagulls singing for Sea Breezes.

Please come by and visit me on August 20th. I will be there with my door and some additional paintings of Milford for sale. The auction in September is an exciting event as well. There will be food and refreshments and a lively crowd.

The finished door.

The falls in progress and then finished.

Closeups of each panel.

Monday, July 12, 2010

My Portraits From Liberace Workshop

Here's three of the portraits that I did while in Brattleboro, during Robert Liberace's workshop. I feel like I did pretty well, considering that I have not done many portraits as of yet. I hope to do more, though. I bought his video and find it very helpful. I will refer to it over and over as I progress. His teaching is very precise and easy to follow.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Robert Liberace Workshop

The Robert Liberace workshop in Brattleboro, Vermont was great. Robert shared his brilliant skills as a portrait artist with about 18 students at High Street Painters Studio for five rather hot days in June. The studio was divided into two areas, with two striking models per day. Setup positions for the students were picked by lottery out of fairness to all, though there were very few bad positions to speak of. Robert gave demonstrations each morning, for about two hours.

He lectured and demonstrated, all the time waving his arms in enthusiastic gestures. The students sat their attention rapt in his words, and soaked up as much information as they could. When it was their turn to work, Robert would come around and give pointers, all the while giving positive reinforcement and encouragement. Time flew by as day after day, students labored over their work, until all five portraits gradually appeared.

Robert did these two.  I won the lottery for them, so I was able to purchase them. It will be great help when studying brushwork and value relationships.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Artist Workshop at North River Arts Society

I took at workshop with Stapleton Kearns in Marshfield Hills, Mass last weekend at the North River Arts Society. The area was an old New England town with original houses from the 17th and 18th centuries. It is very close to the ocean with lots of salt marshes and wonderful views of islands off of the mainland.

The first day, we headed to the beach just south of Scituate. It was a test of wills with the wind, and somehow I managed to keep my easel upright, though I did have problems with the painting from the start. I was amazed at the stability Stape's Gloucester easel  in the 59 mph wind. It didn't move at all. His setup looked stable and seemed light to carry. The Take-it-easel is a similar design.

The next day, we headed over to some salt marshes, as tried to quickly capture the view before the water drained down at low tide. The scenery was gorgeous, and you could see for miles across the water and marshes to an island in the distance.

Stape gave me some good pointers in design. He said to divide up the space into three spaces, Papa Bear, Moma Bear, and Baby Bear. Make one area the largest and most important, another secondary, and another, the smallest. Also, he warned against leading the eye off or too close to the edge. Think first of design, where the eye leads within the picture. He also tried over and over to get us to hold our brushes at the ends, with thumb pointed up for upward or side motions. For downward motions, hold at the end and pull down. But, pull and push the brush for light, easy strokes that don't destroy the work underneath.

For my sky, he had me take some very light peach and pull across in small patches to illuminate the sky and give it life. This is over the blue and white areas. In one painting in the beginning, he also took light peach and used it on the horizon line in a large swath, then mingled in blue and white at the top edges of this. He seems to have a lot of sky in his landscapes, but he never cuts the picture in half. To get the horizon line correct, he uses a stick or a brush to measure down from the top of the canvas.

I seem to make my distant land a bit too dark. Stape corrected this for me. I have to watch out for this. Also, put a line of lighter blue across the water near the horizon line to give the water some glimmer. Add darker tones for water ripples here and there, to counteract flatness.

The last day was spent at World's End, a nice island set in Nantasket. It was a wonderful day there, though the hike to the painting spot was hard work. I will definitely have to replace my glass palette with plexiglass or wood for large treks. We had a nice breeze off of the water that helped to displace the hot air.

The group was fun, and because it was small, we had great input from Stape and lots of attention. He liked to ask us what we learned, after each visit and day. It kept us thinking.

I think that the hardest thing when learning how to paint is to remember everything while you are out there. It has to become intuitive. I think that it takes years to develop this skill.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Tilcon Rock Crusher

Last year, I went on a tour of the Tilcon facility in Northford and got an eye opener view of what has been one of the town’s largest industries for many years. Tilcon Connecticut Inc. is a leading supplier of crushed stone, hot mix asphalt, and ready mix concrete in Connecticut.

Giant rock slicers pierce big slabs of rock in the nearby quarry. Using monster front loaders, workers load the rock into huge dump trucks. The dump trucks deposit their loads into the rock crushers at the top and collect it at the bottom. I have long wanted to paint this enormous rock crusher, one of two in this location. It is a huge iron green machine, able to crush very large blocks of rock into various sizes of stone, depending on the order. Workers are able to enter and climb the rock crusher through a system of doors and stairways.

I was unable to get access to paint en plein air, so I was restricted to photos that I took from the bus and from across the street. I made up a couple of drawings before I started to paint just to get a feeling for the composition. I tinted the background with a mix of thalo green, ultra marine blue, and transparent oxide brown. I began by blocking in shapes starting with the darks. The overcast sky and serenity of the scene belied the powerful force of the rock crushing jaws, and heightened the strength of the greens and shadows of the structure. The American flag, the only spot of bright color, is a tribute to patriotism probably put there just after 9/11.

Painting: Rock Crusher, 12x20, Oil on Canvas, $350.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Rembrandt Exhibit at Wadsworth Antheneum

I went to see the Rembrandt exhibit at least three times at the Wadsworth Antheneum in Hartford. It is small but really special. As you might expect, you get so much more out of viewing a painting in person as opposed to looking at books or other reproductions.  The brightness and livliness of the colors is incomparable. And, even more important, you get to see the brush strokes, which are quite deliberate and facinating. His self portraits are my favorites, the colors and design really stand out and demonstrate his brilliance. I bought the museum book on Rembrandt, which has wonderful photos of many of his works and details his life and experience as an artist.  The museum also played an old movie of Rembrandt, starring Charles Laughton. The film takes you to 1642 at the height of Rembrandt's career and follows his life until his last year. It was pretty old and quite amateurish by today's standards, but the details were not that far off from official accounts of his life. What an interesting man he must have been.

This exhibit is going on through January 24, 2010. If you have a chance, go and see it.