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.

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.

Copyist Program – National Gallery of Art

I began the Copyist Program at the National Gallery of Art on October 4th, and although I was excited and eager to begin, I have to admit I was a bit nervous. I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle the crowds of people who visit the museum on a daily basis. The application process for the program took about to 2 months to complete, but the wait was well worth it.

Stop by and see me if you happen to visit the NGA on Tuesdays.  I’m on the main floor of the West Wing, from 10am – 4pm. If you don’t see me, I’m probably having lunch in the Cascade Cafe around 12:30 or 1:00.

Hope to see you there!

A Painting – from Conception to Completion

I begin with a toned cotton or linen canvas or panel.  After setting down markings, where the size of the head, body, arms, etc. will go (like a map), I next sketch in the figure using simple large shapes, making sure I mark where the facial features will be, measuring with a paint brush or carefully by sight for accurate distances between the features.  The next step is to lay down the darks and the lights, where the shadows will be and where the light falls on the figure.  When I’m satisfied my drawing is correct, I follow with the of skin tones and clothing color always paying attention to color relationships.  Details are left for the end, kind of the icing on the cake.  Hopefully, I will end up with a very satisfying painting as with A Young Girl Reading, after Jean-Honore Fragonard, in preparation for the Copyist Program at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.