CHILDREN PLAYING ON THE BEACH

Mary Cassatt was the “new woman” of the 19th century – a highly-trained artist who never married.  During the Impressionist Period, when female artists were generally dismissed with contempt and confined to painting indoors, she competed admirably with established male artists.  She even developed a close friendship with Edgar Degas while living and working in France, and the two became close collaborators for a long period of time.

By 1866, Cassatt had established herself as a uniquely skilled painter of mothers and children.  Many believe Children Playing on the Beach was a tribute to her sister, who died in 1882, and was perhaps inspired by a trip she took with her ailing mother to Spain, where the two sought the healing power of the seaside climate.  Whatever the muse, this work was clearly special to her.

Children Playing on the Beach (original and copy in progress)
Children Playing on the Beach, 1884, Mary Cassatt (original and copy in progress)

Children Playing on the Beach is very special to me. It was a favorite of my late husband, who never got to see it in person, and after it was relocated to Gallery #85, I simply couldn’t resist copying it.

I also love this work because it’s one of the best demonstrations of Cassatt’s superior skill with color and process.  Palettes were quite limited at that time, and yet she’s able to bring out so many shades that the painting almost appears to echo contrasting moods.  For example, the subtle blues of the ocean and sky effectively convey the feeling of cool, possibly dreary weather over the sea, while the vivid blues she uses in the girls’ dresses evoke a feeling of warmth, sunshine and happiness.  She was an absolute genius with color.

As most paints do, Mary Cassatt’s have aged over time.  I could have chosen to copy Children Playing on the Beach using my interpretation of the colors she used in 1884, but instead I chose to create a copy as close to the current version as possible. As always, it will be a challenge because matching color is one of the most difficult tasks a copyist faces.

I’ve learned a great deal from Mary Cassatt. Her remarkable use of color as well as her ability to manipulate brush and paint to create beautiful strokes is inspirational. Join me in Gallery #85 where I’ll be working on copying another wonderful Impressionist painting The Harbor at Lorient, 1869, by Berthe Morisot.

 

 

 

“Woman Holding a Balance” after Johannes Vermeer

Recently I was commissioned to copy Woman Holding a Balance by Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675). Vermeer was a Dutch painter who specialized in domestic interior scenes of middle-class life and was perhaps better known for Girl with a Pearl Earring. I was very excited for the opportunity to create this copy as the old masters (particularly the Dutch) and the chiaroscuro style of the 16th century were part of my earliest training and I’m very fond of them. After having completed many commissions in the Impressionist galleries, I welcomed this new challenge.

Several of Vermeer’s masterpieces are on display in an intimate room at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., where I have been a copyist for the last five years. Because the room is small, copyists are typically prohibited from working inside and must instead work from memory and photographs.

Woman Holding a Balance takes your breath away as you enter the gallery room. It’s a dark painting with a brilliant focal point: a young girl and her fine fur cloak illuminated by sunlight streaming through a nearby window.  The young woman appears to weigh jewels and coins with a hand-held scale.  Vermeer positions a painting of the Last Judgment behind her on the wall.

Paintings-within-paintings were a common technique of the period, often serving as vessels for symbolism. Perhaps Vermeer includes the Last Judgment to remind us that just as the young woman weighs her riches, in the end God will weigh our choices in life.  Maybe greed and vanity should be avoided.

This copy required many layers of glaze to achieve the right amount of contrast between the darks and lights. Vermeer, having been self-taught and influenced by Caravaggio, probably used the same technique. It was a challenge creating this painting during this summer’s heat and humidity.  Each layer took quite a while to dry. However, the painting is now complete and ready for delivery. I hope my patron will be happy with it.  I certainly am.

A note to my followers: I am currently working on Farmhouse in Provence after Vincent Van Gogh in the National Gallery of Art. I always look forward to seeing fans. Please contact me through this web-site if you would like to visit.

Snowed-In

Soup's On
Soups  On

Like many in the eastern part of the United States where snow measurements were 25 to 35 inches when all was said and done, I was snowed-in.  But, the silver lining was that all that white snow inspired me to paint a “fantasy in white.”

I study Portrait and Figure painting at the Art League School in Alexandria, Virginia, with a well known portrait artist and teacher, Danni Dawson.  Danni is a fantastic teacher who feels that in order to achieve the necessary skills to be a good portrait artist, students need to paint everyday and paint everything and anything.  We have a weekly assignment, often a simple color study and sometimes complete paintings.  Coincidentally, our assignment for this past snowy week was to paint white objects.  One was to be done in natural north light and the other under warm studio lighting  using every color on the palette for both assignments.

Have you ever studied a white object carefully or taken a good look at the snow?  It is amazing how many colors you see.  You may see warm colors, yellows, oranges, pinks, greens, or you may see cool colors, blues, violets, greens, browns, depending on the time of day and sky conditions when you make your observation.  Painting with studio lighting will tend to warm the subject you are painting and can also pick up many reflective colors that surround your objects.

I have a north facing window near my easel so for my homework assignment I arranged a set-up of white dishes in front of the north light window.  I painted “Soups On”  each day at the same time, about 1:30 pm until about 5:00 pm in order to keep the light the same.  I didn’t want to turn on any artificial lights so by 5:00 pm I was pretty much in the dark.  I was able to observe not only the variations of cool colors in my set-up  but in the snow outside the window as well.  Although the light was not strong as the sky was cloudy, I managed to pick up a variety of colors on the objects.

Dessert Anyone?
Dessert Anyone?

To prepare for the study under studio lighting, “Dessert Anyone?”, I first had to bake a cake because I wanted to use my cake holder which I thought would add interest to the composition.  Luckily, I had all the necessary ingredients on hand.  Although natural north light is the preferred lighting for most artists, being able to paint at any time of day in the studio is an advantage and the lighting was much better.  Observing the warm colors on the dishes and the cake frosting was an interesting study.  Even though both are white, the frosting seemed to reflect a stronger, brighter white.  Perhaps because the dishes were picking up the reflective light of their shinny surface or I was eyeing the cake with more concentration because I couldn’t wait to eat it!

Being snowed-in is not so bad if you can find interesting things to do that you love.  I love painting and after two sessions with “Dessert Anyone?” I was able to eat the cake…..not a bad reward after a good day of painting.

“The Harbor at Lorient” after Berthe Morisot

Copy in progress
Copy in progress

I’m back in the Impressionist gallery, #85, at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.  I spent a couple of months in the American Gallery painting “Right and Left” after Winslow Homer.  I love the excitement and activity of the Impressionist Galleries.  It’s a bit noisier than other galleries but even some of the guards like it best for the same reasons I do.

The “Harbor at Lorient” is a little jewel that I’ve wanted to paint since it came into the gallery.  But because paintings are often sent out on loan to museums around the world, I had to wait for it to come back from tour even though I had previous approval on availability.

Berthe Morisot is the first female artist whose work I have copied, although we have many wonderful paintings by women artists. The “Harbor at Lorient” was painted when Berthe visited her newly married sister, Edma Pontillon, in the summer of 1869 while she was living in Lorient, France.  Edma was married to a navy man and did not have children.  Since both girls were interested in painting they were free to spend their time painting outside.  During this period Berthe was experimenting with a highly Impressionist style.

The “Harbor at Lorient” draws the eye to the sky’s refection in the water and expresses both movement and the future.  The boats in the background are leaving from the port and moving to another location,  a symbolic reason to create this work as she moved into Impressionism.  The harbor is lit from the right hand side which is clear from the line of shading that runs across Edma’s body.  Her parasol protects her face from the sunlight but the bottom of her dress is radiant in sunlight.  The tone of this work is merry and positive.

When Berthe returned home she anxiously showed her painting to artist friends and colleagues and it was declared as one of her best works.  It found it’s way to the first Impressionists showcase. Unfortunately, the  “Harbor at Lorient” received a critical reception, deemed painted too spontaneously and casually for the time period and with an unfinished feel.   However, after her death, the painting was displayed in a large number of countries and has been well-received by its many viewers who today acknowledge it as one of her foremost Impressionist paintings.

Berthe was influenced by Carot, Manet and Monet.  She was very close to her sister Edma, who was the model in many of her paintings.  Berthe Morisot was a copyist at the Louvre.  She is fast becoming my favorite female artist.

“Right and Left” after Winslow Homer

Final Copy Final Copy
Final Copy

I completed the copy of Winslow Homer in mid-December and delivered it to the client on December 22nd.  Right and Left” was the first Homer I’ve copied and although it is not typically what I would choose to paint, I found that copying this painting made me very much admire Winslow Homer’s work. It was very educational.

The painting depicts two ducks in flight attempting to avoid a hunters bullets.  The one on the left although possibly injured continues its escape while the one on the right falls victim to the hunter. It is almost monochromatic with many shades of gray.  The more I looked at it, the more colors I saw.  The many degrees of value required much concentration.  Homer used some very strong tints of greens mixed into the black feathers of the birds and it required strict observation to see it.

I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to duplicate this magnificent piece of artwork for a client who wanted to surprise her husband with it as a Christmas gift .  She told me it is his favorite painting and she also told me he is very happy with the results….I love what I do!

Scenes of Frederick Ornaments 2015 — Right and Left by Winslow Homer

Holiday Ornaments
Holiday Ornaments

image

Two years ago I began painting scenes of Frederick and other significant memorabilia on holiday ornaments.  These ornaments have been very well received by the public and have become a valuable imagepiece of one-of-a-kind artwork for many collectors.  This year I’ve added additional scenes and have created some commission pieces of homes and pets.

The ornaments of Frederick landmarks as well as blank note cards of winter scenes in Frederick are available for sale at The Candy Kitchen, 52 N. Market St., Frederick, MD  21701 (301) 698-0442, and at the Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center, 40 S. Carroll St. Frederick, MD 21701 (301) 698-0656.  For special orders and commissions, please contact me through the SALES AND COMMISSIONS form on this web-site.

 

Right and Left – Winslow Homer Original and copy in progress

Right and Left, a 1909 painting by American artist Winslow Homer, is the copy I’m currently producing at the National Gallery of Art. It’s quite a change from the Impressionist gallery where I painted for the past three years. It is a substantially different style. Also, I am physically located in a different gallery within the museum, one in which quietness and tranquility rule so I can concentrate with fewer distractions although I miss the hustle and bustle of the Impressionist galleries.

Homer painted  Right and Left a year before his death and is a culminating achievement of an extraordinary career.  The title, provided by a viewer during the works first public showing, refers to the act of shooting the ducks successively with separate barrels of a shotgun.  Scholars have suggested that the diving posture of the duck on the right indicates it is the one which has been hit by the hunter’s initial blast.  Its mate is attempting to escape the second shot which has just been fired, the flash of the shotgun barely visible within the gray smoke at the middle left.

This painting makes you want to stare at it and wonder what thoughts were on Homer’s mind as he worked.  Perhaps he wanted to convey an ambiguous message deliberately, in order to illustrate that crucial moment of transition between life and death.  Not ever being interested in hunting, I find this painting a bit sad but it is magnificently painted and although void of the brilliant colors of the Impressionist, it is filled with beautiful paint strokes and emotion.

I will be at the National Gallery of Art, gallery #68, working on this piece every Tuesday until mid December when I expect to complete my copy of Right and Left.

New Exhibition at Art At The Mill

Turnips
Turnips

The Art At The Mill exhibit in Millwood, Virginia is one of the most recognized and prestigious art shows in the Washington, DC area.  Artists from all over America compete for this juried show.  This year, Art At The Mill is celebrating its 25th season of exhibitions that bring artists together and promote the region’s extraordinary talent.  Today I am proud to announce that Art At The Mill has chosen me to participate in this year’s exhibition with five pieces of artwork juried into the show.

Peonies in Vase
Peonies in Vase

The drive to Millwood is a beautiful drive peppered with horse farms and wineries along the way.  The Mill is an amazing relic from the 18th century.  After viewing the beautiful artwork, make your way across the street to have lunch at the Locke Modern Country store or have a picnic in the meadow.

Art At The Mill is located at the Burwell-Morgan Mill, 15 Tannery Lane, Millwood, Virginia.  The show runs from October 3-18th, Mon-Thurs 12-5, Fri & Sat 10-5, Sun 12-5, with an artist reception on Sunday, October18th, 2-5 pm.  Admission prices are as follows: Adults $5, Seniors $3, kids 12 & under free.  For more information visit www.clarkehistory.org/art-at-the-mill.html.