I recently got back from a month long trip to Italy where I both studied and created art. I was invited by other artist friends to apply for an artist residency in Tuscany where we would stay in a beautiful old villa making art and visiting surrounding areas for research and inspiration. The objective of the trip was to immerse myself into art....going to museums and churches seeking out the works of the great masters.
We spent six days in Rome, then took up our residency in Tuscany just outside the small town of Buonconvento (south of Sienna) . In our Tuscan villa we were focused on making art. The question is always....well, what do I paint? this is always a dilemma. I was in a foreign country, with different surroundings and different influences. Before I started this drawing I had spent many days looking at ancient Greek and Roman sculptures in Rome and Florence so sculpture was definitely on the mind. I was drawn to a particular marble frieze in the Vatican museum which was situated right next to one of the most famous Roman sculptures of Apollo. The pose of the woman in the frieze captured my attention...it was pure beauty and grace. The movement of the drapery swirling around her as well as the placement of the hands compelled me. The power of the human body with all its sensitivity of shape and form almost brought me to tears. Art does have the ability to strike a hearts string stopping us in our tracks, forcing us to take a breath and contemplate the image in our immediate gaze.
I spent many hours rendering each fold of the fabric, and just as long trying to get her hands just right. It was her hands on the sculpture that first caught my attention and I wanted them to be just as graceful in my drawing of them. This piece is my best drawing from the trip and conveys so much of what my mind walked away with from the visual roller coaster of art that is Italy. Maybe I could even go as far as to say that this is a self portrait of me finding my way through the vast and extravagant history of art, paying my homage to all the greats that have created art before me.
Well this pastel is almost finished. This project was started about one year ago when I did the photo shoot with my models. This piece has definitely been a journey for me. I have not worked on it steadily every day, rather it has been put aside, then reconsidered, reworked and reexamined many times. It has gone through many stages throughout the creative process. First the initial charcoal drawing (the start of which is below), then a gouache under painting to block out basic color, then chalk pastel to flesh out the color, values and textures. As one can see there has been some editing as well. At one point I took out the back piece of furniture with the globe and desk light after they had been almost completely finished at the pastel stage. I also took out the chair in the background at one point as well and I am also about to take out one of the white hangers in the foreground because I think it seems a little distracting. But I do see the finish line....hopefully today!
I recently started a new sculpture, quarter life size, and so far I am really pleased with the progress. At this stage I have put in about 8 hours of sculpting time and most likely have about 8 hours to go. The model is a dear friend of mine and the pose was inspired by Andrew Wyeth's Helga painting "On Her Knees." The simplicity of the pose is quite beautiful and I appreciate how natural it feels.... really showing off the elegance of the female form. The painting in the background is one of my husband's new works....a interior/still life of our bathroom shower window with orchids.
I tried a different approach to this piece I first started with a graphite pencil drawing, then began to add watercolor and several small passes of pastel. Recently I had visited an exhibition of Van Gogh's work at the Denver Art Museum and was completely inspired by his use of mixed media. In his drawings he regularly combined pencil, pen, ink, watercolor and even a touch of gouache paint. I thought if Van Gogh did it...I could too! I really had fun layering these mediums together and in the end, all of the layering really created a soft, aethereal presence.
The model is my neighbor, Morgan, whom continues to be my muse. The plants surrounding her are in my succulent/cactus garden outside my back door. My second passion besides art is gardening and it was rather nice to be able to include some of my plants into this painting. I spend so much time looking at the plants and caring for them....watering, weeding, trimming and now I had the opportunity to paint them.
Just finished my sixth painting from my Japan series! This particular image is very meaningful to me because of the events that surrounded its discovery. Another hot and dreadfully muggy day in Kyoto, Japan. We visited Japan in the month of July.... probably the hottest and stickiest I have ever been in my life.It was Adam's (my husband) 34th birthday and we had adventured out to the neighboring district of Arashiyama, an area on the outskirts of Kyoto where more shrines, temples, and a well known bamboo grove were to be explored. Adam and I had just gotten off the train, orienting ourselves with our surrounding when we realized we needed to navigate our way through narrow ally streets to get to the bamboo grove. This was one of the first scenes that we saw down the street from the train station....In the foreground a extremely silly cartoon like "kids at play" sign glowed before us! I really was drawn to its bright, saturated colors in juxtaposition to the overcast, heavy grey atmosphere. It stood out like a beacon of light in the darkness! In Japan there seems to be a desire to make all signs and advertisements into a cartoon world, and this was a perfect example of this phenomenon and I had to document its existence.
Here are some more pictures from that day......
Just finished this commissioned drawing for a couple in Orange County. The interesting thing is that this was the third time I created this image. The first time I drew this image I was still in art school and it actually was a project I did in a drawing class for a local church. The church wanted four different drawings to illustrate different stages of advent. My theme was on abundance...this is what I came up with. A couple of years later there was a couple in that church that commissioned me to make the same image for their home....five years after that again another request for the same image. This piece was fun to create even on the third time around, it is interesting to revisit after so many years even challenging to recreate. the first drawing was fairly large around 5 x 3 feet, this recent drawing was 30 x 22 inches. It is all charcoal, the clay pot is done with pastel.
I thought it would be nice to show you the beginning and the end of a painting. The above pencil sketch is the final drawing before I started putting paint down. The drawing was definitely challenging and probably took me 2 1/2 to 3 hours to complete. I wanted to work out all of the drawing issues with pencil before I started adding color so that my composition was solid and I knew exactly where every element and shape was going to be placed before painting. One of my favorite parts of the painting process is figuring out the drawing. For me it is like solving a puzzle. A puzzle in the sense that I have all these different shaped pieces of the composition and I have to literally fit them together to make the final image. I take it has a challenge to see just how close I can get to the real scene, how actuate my eyes and hand can duplicate what is in front of me.
The finished painting above is a result of many hours (about 10 to be exact) of layering the watercolor with delicate washes so that the end product reflects a sense of depth and atmosphere. This painting was done after we visited the Japanese town of Kamakura. It was the end of a long day touring the sights including paying our pilgrimage to the famous giant Buddha, devouring green tea gelato, and watching WWF style Japanese wrestlers down on the beach when we strolled down a small alley on our way to yet another temple. The sky was filled with that golden hour light, the time of day that makes everything seem so beautiful and perfect. Me and my camera just kept snapping away....at the time little did I know that I would make a painting of this scene, but for some reason this image spoke to me.
Matsumoto, Japan....A mountain town in the Japanese alps. One evening we were on our way walking into town for dinner and the sky unfolded this amazing sunset with cumulus clouds billowing with color! Of course I had to try to capture this memory. We were walking down this alley in the neighborhood in which we were staying ...looking up at the roof tops, tree tops and wires, it almost felt like our alley back in Santa Monica and it slightly made me homesick. Actually it made me miss our two dogs because it reminded me of our nightly walks. This painting is watercolor and gouache and is 5 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches.
I chose watercolor as the medium for my Japan series for two reasons. The main reason was because I thought that watercolor, as a painting medium, lent itself to the fluidity and airiness of the Japanese landscape. Japan, at least in the summer months, is hot and the air heavy and dense much like the balminess of the southern states in July. There is a certain transparency in the pigment of watercolor that when layered, color upon color in thin applications, has the ability to create a beautiful sense of light and complexity. That is precisely how I saw the Japanese landscape: filled with light and complexity of shape and textures!
The second reason why I chose to work in this medium was due to the scale that I perceived working in. I envisioned these paintings to be small, in fact almost miniatures. One of the quirkier sides to Japanese culture is there obsession with cute, ornate and small trinkets. Countless times I found myself lost in a store filled with endless amounts of miniature, quaint merchandise. Collecter keychains, perfectly packages tea sets and miniture handpainted sushi sets abounded. The Japanese at least from what I saw like items neately package and small so I thought that my paintings should be small too. Watercolor works great on a small scale because it is much easier to layer with delicate brushes. Pastel is hard to work with on a small scale because the pastel sticks in general are big and chunky, not good for tiny detail. This little painting is a Shogun's home in Kyoto it is 3 x 4.5 inches.
Finally a new entry....My summer has been filled with wonderful amazement. I wanted to begin presenting my new series, a sneak peek in to what I have been working on. My husband and I spent the month of July in the beautiful country of Japan! It was definitely a life changing experience for me and has given me many great artistic ideas as well as an excuse to capture in paint what I saw. This first painting is an image of the Silver Pavilion in Kyoto. This ended up being one of my favorite temples that we visited. Bright green moss covered just about everything: the rocks, the trees, the ground. It had a typical zen garden with the raked and sculpted sand, and tranquil waters flowing throughout. The quintessential Japanese beauty and aesthetic, and I had to paint it. Stayed tuned as more of my precious paintings are revealed.
It always feels great to finish a big piece and today was the day for the final touches. This pastel was a big break through for me as far as trying different things. I started this piece first with a drawing in charcoal, then I did an under-painting in gouache filling in big areas of color and value. Gouache paint for those who don't know is a water based pigment similar to watercolor, but opaque not transparent. Edgar Degas used gouache and pastel together so I thought if he did it so could I. After every area of the paper was covered with a thin layer of gouache paint I then proceeded with the pastel. The gouache gave a great base for the pastel even providing an extra gritty texture for the pastel to bite onto. I will most likely being using this same process on my next piece.
The image itself evokes a sense of stillness. The girl is my neighbor Morgan whom I see everyday. She is definitely one of those people who brightens everyone's mood wherever she goes. Her nickname is sunshine which describes her perfectly even down to the color of her hair. I always have to paint people that I know, people that I have a relationship with. I do not create work just to make a pretty picture...I always have a deeper meaning to each and every work of art that I make. This particular image evokes many feelings to me. When I was young we had a big bay window in our kitchen nook with a window seat in it. I spent a lot of time playing there propped up amongst all the pillows looking out that window. Whether it was raining, snowing or sunshine I hung out there with my nose pressed against the glass daydreaming and imagining other places while my mom worked in the kitchen. The imagery of the window is seen in other works of mine because it conveys the idea of two worlds...the safety and stillness of the interior space where everything is familiar and comfortable verses whats outside of that space through the window....the unknown. The girl sits almost anxiously, even somewhat awkwardly waiting.....the glass of water is full and the sunlight floods the room.
The title to this piece is "Outside My Window" I'll leave it up to you to interpret that!
Today was my last day to work on this portrait with the live model present...this is what I got so far. For the most part it is finished. I would like to refine the surface a little more, maybe another hours work. I am very happy with the way it turned out. I feel good about the likeness, but might want to make her smile slightly--she looks a little gloomy.
Sculpting is such a relief from a busy, exhausting life. All stresses seem to melt away from this insanity when my fingers hit the clay.
This was the beginning sketch for a portrait commission I recently completed. I always enjoy coming across these initial drawings that I usually start before the final piece.
After a long photo shoot with the family I then sat down and sifted through the images looking for interesting body language and facial expression for each person. This sketch was the third compilation of the the three figures and the one that I decided to go with. I liked how the mother(far left) gazed proudly at her two daughters, to me it gave the piece a more contemporary spin off of the traditional family portrait. I didn't just want to portray their mug shots I wanted them to appear as if we as the viewer were in sitting in the room with them listening to their conversation.
from that thumbnail sketch I then started the final drawing much larger and on better paper! Many hours later.... I finish the piece in chalk pastel.
Recently I had the opportunity to teach a blind person how to sculpt. The first piece I had her make a cylinder shape out of clay, then we used a subtractive method of removing chunks, twisting and manipulating the shape into something completely different.
I had never even met a blind person let alone given a blind person art instruction.
I found myself scrambling for descriptive vocabulary in order to instruct my lesson. I made a piece along side of her so that she could "feel" what I had done and make adjustments to her own piece. This was her finished piece.
The second piece I had her create was a portrait. Again I had made a sculpture myself, working alongside of her so that each step could be demonstrated. It was tremendously inspiring to be able to help someone with a handicap make something that they were extremely proud of. Not to mention how well both pieces turned out. Both have such expression and character, I never get tired of looking at them.
The work speaks for itself!
This is the day that I finally have started a blog. There is so much to say yet nothing to say. I am an artist and an art instructor. Everyday I get up, make my coffee, walk my dogs and either go teach drawing/painting at the Brentwood Art Center or I hang out at home which is also my studio and create art! Not to shabby of a life so far.
Today I submitted this drawing for a fundraiser show to be auctioned off. Art for Clare is a fundraiser where the proceeds go toward providing treatment, recovery, and prevention services for alcohol and substance abuse to low-income individuals, and families here in Santa Monica.
I have never done this kind of thing before, but it sounds like a good thing.
This is what I wrote about the piece:
On occasion an idea for a painting will come to me when I am out driving around the city. A lot of brainstorming happens in the car, there is time to observe and reflect upon the world around me. The ever changing scene outside the car window stimulates thoughts, evokes moods and can even bring up memory buried deep within. This happens to be true for my pastel titled 20th and Colorado. I had driven by this corner building with an empty parking lot and one lonely palm wavering in the sky many times before it captured my attention. I usually catch the red light right in front of this scene and on one particular day I was remembering a conversation I had with a close friend on this same route at that same red light and I never wanted to forget that memory, that moment that we shared together.