Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Designing Nature With Katie Whipple

The past few weeks I have been taking a class called "Designing Nature" with Katie Whipple at the Grand Central Atelier here in New York City.  As all of you know, I love painting my fruit and flowers, but drawing is another story.  I really do not like drawing.  I'm not very good at it, so I avoid it if possible.

At the beginning of the year, I decided that it was time to get back to drawing.  I've been wanting to take a class on drawing flowers.  Not because I'm going to stop painting.  It was really more of a desire to learn about the structure of flowers.  With oil paint, it is very easy to just get something on a canvas.  Plus I always feel stressed to go as quickly as possible before the flowers start wilting and die.

All I was finding were botanical classes, which is not something I am interested in.  I like to look at botanical art, but it is not something I want to do myself.  Over the summer, I looked at Katie's Instagram page, and she mentioned her new class.  I checked out the description and it sounded like the perfect class for me.

Each week we bring in a bloom or a piece of fruit and just work on that one thing for the entirety of the class.  We have the option of drawing or painting, but I am sticking with drawing as that is what I need to work on.

Here is a sunflower I did the second week of class.

I am working on grey toned paper using pencil and white charcoal.  Of course, I started out trying to draw every little petal, something I would never do while painting.  Luckily, Katie spotted me and came over to remind me to start out with the basic shapes and work from there.  

After getting the shape of the flower right, I started putting in the petals, paying careful attention to their shape and making sure they went in the proper direction.

At this point, I started adding in the darks and some lights.  This was my first experience using white charcoal and I really like working with it.  

As you can see, I went a little heavy on the darks.  I'm still trying to master getting the right dark with a pencil.  In a painting it is very easy.  You just mix up the appropriate color and put it on.  If it is too dark or not dark enough, it is very easily fixed.  Not so with pencil.  I'm practicing using a lighter touch and I think that is helping.

Leading up to the big finale...

This is where I finished for the day.  It's not great, but not horrible considering it was my first time out drawing flowers.  

The week after I did the sunflower, I decided to tackle a pear.  Pears are hard to paint (for me) and I discovered, even harder to draw.

This is the end result of the pear drawing.  I can't believe I'm going to put this on the internet for all to see, but I like to be honest about my art trials and tribulations.  This little pear drawing took me about three and a half hours!  Yes, you read that right.  Just getting the shape and proportions right took a long time.  

Katie doing a demo of a rose for the class.

All drawings and paintings by Katie Whipple

Katie brought in some of her own drawings and paintings for the class to see.  Aren't they amazing?  If you would like to see more of Katie's work, check out her Instagram feed.  Tons of beautiful roses and peonies that she has been painting.  

Even though drawing is hard for me, I'm really enjoying this class.  It's always good to challenge yourself and drawing is certainly doing that for me!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

New Still Life: Red And White Vase With Fruit

I recently finished a new still life.  This painting was a bit different for me.  I did not use one of my usual blue and white vases.  Instead I did something new and went with red and white.

Back in September, I attended a still life workshop with Gregg Kreutz at the Chelsea Gallery and Studio in Huntington, NY.

We started the day with a demo, then we all moved on to our own set ups.

This was the original set up.  I made one change right away.  I started the painting as if the still life were resting on a wooden shelf instead of on the fabric.  An all fabric still life can sometimes be trouble, especially if the fabric does not have a pattern.  As Gregg says, you want to be sure your painting does not look like a window display at Macys.   I blocked it in and then got to work on the background and covering the canvas with color.

The block in went pretty well and I did manage to get the rest of the painting covered by the end of the first day.

On the second day of the workshop, I continued putting in the color.  I tried to get as much done as possible since I would not have the set up available after the workshop finished.

This was the painting at the end of the workshop.  It was nowhere near finished, but a pretty good outcome for me.  I rarely get very far during workshops, so I was happy that I had enough done that I could attempt to finish in my own studio.

I worked on the painting for a few sessions and while it was going well, the bottle was just not happening.  It was hard to paint when it was in front of me.  There was no way I could do it from memory.

Instead of giving up on the painting, I subbed in one of my own porcelain vases.  I decided to go with a red and white vase this time.  You know I love my blue and white, but the red made a nice change and fit in well with the rest of the painting.

I drew in the shape and went to work from there.  It took quite a few coats of paint before the vase began to look like porcelain, but there is no way around that.  You have to take the time to get the base right before you paint in the pattern.

I'm not sure if you can tell the difference in the photos, but the more coats of paint I put on the vase the more it started to look like porcelain.  After five or six tries I was finally happy with the look of the vase and added in the pattern.

And here is the finished painting.  I had a good time doing something new and I'm thinking about getting some different colored vases for future paintings.

If something is not working in a painting, don't be afraid to change it up!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A New Still Life: Fruit Compote On A Rug

I finished a new still life last week.  It is a small 9x12, but it took me weeks to finish it.  There is an old saying that a small painting takes just as long as a large one, and in this case it was true.

This time I used a rug for the background.  I think this is only the second time I've painted a rug, and this time turned out much better than my first attempt.

This was my first day block in.  In order to get the colors of the rug the way I wanted them to be, I used many coats of paint on the background.  Even though there are a few different colors in the rug, I began by putting a mix of transparent red oxide and cadmium red light on to the background and then letting it dry.  I chose the red mix because that seemed to be the most prominent color in the rug.  I let each coat dry and then added another.  I think it took a total of five coats of paint.

I believe this was my fourth week on the painting.  As you can see, the color of the background is very rich.  After this dried for a bit I was able to start putting in the design of the rug.  I also finished the fruit and the compote, with the exception of it's blue pattern.

This is the finished painting.  I had a crazy last day working on it.  I began by putting in the pattern on the rug.  I used my small t-square to make sure I got the lines straight, painted in the colors of the pattern, then used a palette knife to make the edges just a bit imperfect.  That is how I achieved the "ruggy" look.

Since I was on a roll, I then painted in the blue pattern on the compote.  Amazingly, I finished that in about 10 minutes!  You just never know with a pattern.  Sometimes it goes right in, other times you agonize for days ( as I did in the painting I just finished).

I'm really happy with this little painting.  It was fun to do and something different from my normal work.  I finished up a new still life today and I will have a post on that coming up soon.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Artist's Garden Exhibition At The Florence Griswold House And Museum

In my last post I showed Florence Griswold's historic home and property, but the main reason for my visit was to see The Artist's Garden exhibition in the museum.  I made it just under the wire on the last day and I'm so glad that I did.  It was a beautiful exhibit and one of the best I've seen in a long time.

It is about a two and a half hour ride to Old Lyme, CT from New York City, so we jumped in the car and made our way up there.

It was a gorgeous day out and it was nice to get out of the city for a few hours.

Aside from being a beautiful exhibit, it was very educational.  I had no idea that there was a Garden Movement or that it inspired the American Impressionists after having spent time in Giverny.  I knew that they had visited there, but I did not know that there was a formal name for what was happening at the time that they began returning to the United States.

As the article above states,  the creation of public parks and private gardens happened during a time (1887-1920) of great political and social change.  When these American artists came back to the US they started their own gardens as a source of creativity, in and out of their studios.

Robert Vonnoh, November, 1890

Theodore Robinson, Autumn Sunlight, 1888

Willard Metcalf, The Eel Trap, 1888

Willard Metcalf, Dogwood Blossoms, 1906

The above photo, The Garden Path, by Frank Vincent DuMond was started on a trip to France in 1897.  In 1892, DuMond started teaching at The Art Students League of New York and frequently took his students abroad and later taught as a summer instructor in Old Lyme.

Daniel Garber, St. James Park, London, 1905

Bessie Potter Vonnoh, Water Lilies, 1913

Sculptor Bessie Potter Vonnoh switched from bronzes of mothers and children to large garden sculptures and fountains to meet the demand of art consumers and gardeners.  The model for this painting was the daughter of Frank Vincent DuMond.

Harriet Whitney Frishmuth, Joy of the Waters, 1920

I love these two sculptures and I've developed a bit of an obsession since seeing the exhibition.

Anna Lea Merritt, An Artist's Garden, 1908

An Artist's Garden is one of my favorites from the exhibition.  Anna Lea Merritt was a writer and painter and an expert on artistic gardening.  Merritt believed that being a gardener made one a better artist and referred to her garden as a teacher and an outdoor studio.

John LaFarge, Hollyhocks and Morning Glories, 1884

The exhibit also had a few stained glass pieces.  The piece above was done by John LaFarge.  He embraced the style of the Impressionists and found a way to express himself using glass.

Theodore van Soelen, Summer Morning, 1915

Daniel Garber, Sun in Summer, 1919

Harry L. Hoffman, Childe Hassam's Studio, 1909

Another favorite of mine, Childe Hassam's Studio, by Henry L. Hoffman.  Miss Florence allowed the artists to take over various old buildings on the property and use them as studios.

Childe Hassam, Summer Evening, 1886

Clark Voorhees, My Garden, 1914

Philip Leslie Hale, The Crimson Rambler, 1908

The Crimson Rambler by Philip Leslie Hale was my absolute favorite of the show and I'm not the only one who loved it as the museum used the painting for their publicity materials.  The crimson rambler was imported from Japan to the United States in 1894.  According to the article next to the painting, the blooms here are bigger than the flowers actually grow, possibly suggesting that Hale idealized the flowers as well as the woman in the painting.

William Chadwick, On the Piazza, 1908

On the Piazza shows Nan Greacen on the side porch of the Griswold boardinghouse.  The point was made several times in the exhibition and even in the house tour that very few women artists were welcomed into the art colony, as women were preferred to be models and muses.

Jane Peterson, Spring Bouquet, 1912

Louis Comfort Tiffany, Peony Window Panel, 1908-12

This peony window by Louis Comfort Tiffany was made by Tiffany Studios for the Richard Beatty Mellon residence in Pittsburgh, PA and is part of a larger 10 panel landscape.  I would love to see the whole thing as you know peonies are my favorite flower.

These six flowers were popular in American gardens in the late nineteenth century and appeared frequently in art work from that time. The rose, phlox, poppy, iris, peony and hollyhock were used in informal gardens in suburban and country homes.  In my opinion these flowers are still popular with artists including myself.

There were many more paintings in this incredible show.  As I said, it was one of the best exhibits I've seen in some time.  And I must give a shout out to the front desk staff at the museum.  They could not have been nicer or more helpful.

Art and flowers are two of my favorite things so it was great to see a show devoted to both.