Sunday, September 16, 2018

Wallflowers At The Art Guild Of Port Washington

Just a quick note to let local readers know about a great show happening today at The Art Guild.  The reception for our big floral show, Wallflowers, is happening today from 3-5 pm.  I have two paintings in the show, and I'm thrilled to say that my Sunflowers won third prize!

Cherry Blossoms, 20x16, oil

Sunflowers, 20x16, oil

The Art Guild is located at 200 Port Washington Blvd, Manhasset ( LI ), New York.  Come join us if you are in the area.  New York City readers, the building is a ten minute cab ride from the Port Washington station.  Hope to see you there!

Friday, September 7, 2018

Setting Up For Robert Johnson's Painting Workshop At The Art Guild Of Port Washington

In July, The Art Guild of Port Washington was lucky enough to host Robert Johnson for a very rare New York area workshop.  I have a ton of photos from the workshop itself, but I thought you might like to see how we set up for a still life workshop.

I've been to several workshops where there are no set ups and the students are left to fend for themselves, often with lackluster props.  Also, there can be people in a workshop who are new to still life and may not know how to do a proper set up.   And don't get me started on sharing a set up in an expensive workshop.

When we do still life at The Art Guild, everyone has their own set up, already set up the day before the class starts.

We have a lot of props there as two of us are still life artists and there are also a lot of "community" props, things that people have donated and are for everyone to use.

Luckily, my studio mate is a very talented floral designer as well as a painter, so she is able to buy flowers at a distributor for the classes, and she makes the most amazing floral arrangements.

The first thing I do is get my own supplies together and pack them in my paint box.  It is one less thing to worry about in the midst of everything else that is going on.

Next up is purchasing supplies.  For a still life/floral workshop, we gather a few buckets full of flowers, and a variety of fruit ( lemons, red and green grapes, oranges, apples, etc).

We then get all the props in one place.  Fabrics, vases, small objects, crystal pieces and presentation boards to hold up the fabrics and create a background.

And then it begins.  We spend a LOT of time with the set ups.  It's quite rare that we just pull some objects and fruit and create a set up.  They go through lots of changes.  Fruit, objects and flowers go in and out until the still life is just right.  This can take some time and people often look at us like we are nuts, but what is the point in doing a workshop with all of these beautiful things if you are not going to make it the best it can be, right?

These are some of the set ups that we ended up with.  You may be wondering what the little post it notes on some of the shelves are for.  When using fruit in a still life, I like to include one or two pieces of cut fruit, but I don't want to do that until the morning of the workshop, so we put a mini post it in the spot we want to use for the fruit slice as a reminder.  This way it's easy to just come in and cut the fruit and not have to think about where it belongs.

Two other things I should mention.  Lighting is very important.  In a workshop, there is rarely natural light for everyone, so we use spotlights with daylight bulbs.  We just hook them up at either side of the still life to create shadows and they work very well.  The other is how we actually make the set up.  We use milk crates to create height and then lay wooden shelves on top of them.  If you go to Home Depot, you can just tell them the size you want and they will cut them up right there.  We then stained them with Minwax Dark Walnut.  We clip the fabric to the presentation boards and then you are ready to start styling.

When people see me doing set ups, they will often ask how I know when it's right.  I wish I had an answer to that question, but unfortunately, I don't.  I do follow two basic rules.  The still life should be a triangle and should read from left to right.  But the rest is just having an eye for when it is right.  I take my time with the set ups and if there has to be a ten minute discussion of whether there should be one grape or two on the right side of the still life, that is what happens.  I guess what I'm trying to say is, don't rush in order to get it done quickly and if something doesn't look quite right, change it.  No need to have anything that drags down the set up.

It is also really helpful to consult books on the type of set ups you want to do.  We had Robert Johnson's book open while we were doing these to make sure they were along the line of what he would want to paint.

In addition to Robert's book,  David Leffel and Sherrie McGraw's books are a great source of inspiration for this type of still life set up, as well as any book on Chardin or the Dutch Masters.  I look at them all the time and they are so helpful.

The students were so happy with the set ups and thanked us for making them available, which was so nice.  I want people at a workshop to be happy and if they are paying for the class, they deserve the best you can give. ( Can you tell I recently had a crappy workshop??? :)

I always love a behind the scenes look, so I hope you enjoyed this one.  I'll have a separate post about the workshop itself.  It was amazing.  If you have any questions about setting up a still life or a workshop, leave me a comment.  I'm happy to try and help!

** I just want to make clear as per the rules that I was not comped in any way for anything in this post.  I paid for the workshop and helped out as a volunteer. The props and supplies that were used were purchased by us or were things we already owned.**

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

New Painting: Cherry Blossoms

I mentioned in a previous post that I finished a second painting since getting back to the studio.  I started these cherry blossoms last March before the big mishap, and the canvas has been sitting in my studio ever since.  My first thought was to just leave it and finish it up next spring when the cherry blossoms are out again, and I also considered buying faux blossoms and trying to finish the painting that way.  But I never use faux flowers for painting and I really didn't want to leave it sitting around for another eight months.

Because the buds were so delicate, I painted the background and the ginger jar first.  This background has many coats of paint and I knew I would not be able to paint around the blooms, so as I did with my pussy willows, I let the background completely dry and then began doing the flowers.  I got two sessions in with them before I had to stop painting.

Fast forward to two weeks ago.  I finished the hydrangeas and needed another floral painting for a show I wanted to enter.  Since I am the slowest painter alive, I knew I could not crank out another painting in two days ( my time before the deadline).  On a whim I put the painting on the easel and just started painting.  I figured the worst that could happen was I would have to wipe it out.  No guts, no glory and all that.

This is where I left it the first night.  The flower buds went right in, and I faked the ones on the wood shelf, and they went in fine as well.  I also finished up the wood shelf without a problem.  I did all that with no reference material whatsoever, so what was the problem?  The ginger jar!  The one thing that was sitting right in front of me was the hardest part of this painting.

The problem was that I decided the jar needed a few more coats of paint.  That took some time, but was not too terrible.  The main problem was that I like to have my porcelains completely dry before I put the pattern on, but in this case that was not going to happen.  Now, I could have left well enough alone and just painted the pattern on the canvas the first day, but I have to have everything just right and the perfectionist in me could never just go with "good enough".  So the next day, deadline day, I got back to it.  I painted one more coat onto the jar and then got started putting in the pattern.  It was not as difficult as I had thought it would be.  The main difference is that it is not so easy to correct a mistake on a wet canvas.  On a dry canvas you simply wipe it down and start over.  With this situation, I still made plenty of mistakes, but had to be very delicate in removing them, as well as adding the paint back to the jar from the wipe out.  I also redid the highlight about a thousand times.  I was having a tough time getting it to look exactly like I wanted it to.  It either looked like a blob of white, or it took over the whole top quarter of the ginger jar.

Finally it all worked and I got my show submission in at 9:30 pm.  Two and a half hours before the deadline!  There are reasons my hubs refers to me as 'Last Minute Frances'  :)

This is the finished painting and I'm happy to say, it was accepted into the show!  I've already started a new painting, and it's very nice to just be painting without worrying about a deadline.  I'll have show info up soon.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Mauritshuis Museum On Instagram Stories

The Mauritshuis houses an amazing collection of Dutch and Flemish art from the Golden Age.  I've not been lucky enough to visit the Netherlands yet, but you know it is on my list, and the Mauritshuis will be one of my first stops.  I am a huge fan of Dutch and Flemish art and have been very influenced by the Golden Age painters in my own work.

Until I can get there in person, I happily follow their Instagram account.  Recently, they had a great Insta Story showing the details of a beautiful painting, Forest Floor Still Life With Fruit And A Wicker Basket Of Flowers, by Abraham Mignon.

I have never saved photos from an Insta Story before, but I loved this painting so much that I took screen shots so I could study it further, and I thought you guys might like to see them as well.

This is really one of the most beautiful paintings I have ever seen.  It has everything.  Flowers, fruit, insects.  All of the things that make the Dutch paintings so amazing.  I've been studying these shots since they were posted and will continue to do so.

One of the amazing things about Instagram is being able to see art from around the world.  If you love Dutch and Flemish art as much as I do, give the Mauritshuis a follow.

The Hague, Netherlands

Monday, August 20, 2018

New Painting: Hydrangeas In A Ginger Jar

Hi All,

I'm thrilled to be back to painting and have been spending a ton of time in my studio.  I was also painting for a floral show that I wanted to enter, so things have been a little crazy the last few weeks.

I decided to do some hydrangeas in the ginger jar.  I didn't plan that in advance.  I tried out a bunch of different vases and the ginger jar is what looked the best, so that is what made it on to the still life shelf.  I was not sure what else I wanted to add to the set up, so I just started out with the flowers in the vase, knowing I could add more later.

The block in went surprisingly well.  Trying to get the symmetry of the ginger jar usually drives me up the wall, but this time it just needed a few tweaks.

This was the magic moment when the flowers started to look like hydrangeas and I knew the painting would work.  I also added a few blooms to the shelf, but ended up changing those around as I went on.

The start of the ginger jar pattern going in.  I also painted out the pink hydrangea on the shelf, though it did go back in on the other side as I did not want to have an even number of flowers.

I lost track of how much time I spent futzing with the highlight on the jar. I painted it on and wiped it out many times over several days before I felt it was right.

Here is the finished piece.  It was almost impossible to get a good shot of this painting, so when it dries (which is taking forever now that New York City has turned into a tropical rain forest), I will varnish it and take out the pro camera.

This is the first painting that I have completed since last February and I've since finished another.  I'm so happy to be back in the studio!