Sunday, May 17, 2015

Members Show At The Art Guild Of Port Washington

Hi Everyone,

Just a quick note to let you know that The Art Guild Of Port Washington is having their members show and the reception is today from 3-5pm.  My painting, Pussy Willows In A Ginger Jar, is in the show.

If you are in the NYC/Long Island area, please stop by and see the show.  Check for info and directions.  Hope to see you there!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Longest Sunflower Painting In History

I'm not sure if this painting actually was the longest sunflower painting in history, but it sure felt like it.  I was just looking through my photos to gather some for this post, and I was shocked to see that I began the painting in August of 2013!

This is how I started off.  At the time, I thought the set up was ok, but looking back I can see that it had a few issues.

I added another flower to the side and got to work.  As usual with my paintings, the flowers went in right away, while the rest of it took forever.

This is what I ended up with.  Not good at all, so I put it aside and forgot about it.

Awhile later, I picked it up again and redid the red velvet cloth and repainted the background to have a stronger contrast between the darks and lights.  It was definitely better than before, but still not great.

During the next round of "edits" I decided that the shape of the vase was incorrect.  I started out by redoing the shape and using the T-square to make sure it was right.  I then repainted it making the darks darker and the lights lighter.

This is where I ended up.  I signed it and everything, but I still knew it was not quite right.  The painting went back in the pile leaning against my studio wall.

Luckily, I happened to be working on a painting in Gregg's studio and I was using a blue velvet fabric in that set up.  As I was setting it up, he told me to make sure the fabric was placed in a way that flowed across the canvas.  Lightbulb!! I instantly knew what was wrong with the sunflowers.  The red fabric was just hanging out on the left side all by itself.  This was causing the painting to be divided up into thirds.  Not what you want in a still life.  You want the eye of the viewer to look from left to right.

I got the painting out again and made some serious changes.

I started by bringing the red velvet fabric across the canvas so it was integrated in to the painting.

I also decided to lose the giant sunflower on the right side of the shelf.  It was contributing to the unbalanced look of the canvas.  I added these nectarines and a few sunflower petals (debris, as David Leffel refers to these little additions to the still life shelf).

The only issue left was to add a little life to the red velvet.  When you are painting a velvet fabric, you don't want to add too much detail or you lose the "velvetiness" (a technical term) of it, but it cannot be a monochromatic lump either.  A few gentle highlights are all you need.  Easy to say, not so easy to do.

Finally, here is the finished painting.

Unfortunately, these are iPhone shots.  My paintings are taking their sweet time drying with the humidity here, but I hope to have a real photo soon.

I know this post was a bit photo heavy, but I wanted to show you that not every painting happens easily.  There are often mistakes and corrections that have to be made along the way, but it is always worth it to create the best painting that you can.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Are Those Pussy Willows?

Yes, I painted a bunch of pussy willows.  But before I continue on with the post, we have to pay homage to the queen of pussy willows, Mrs. Beverly Sutphin .  If you have seen Serial Mom, you cannot even look at pussy willows without thinking of her.

"Are those pussy willows?"
"Dried ones.  Aren't they pretty?"
"What did you just say?"
"Pussy willows, Dottie!"

Is there anybody who can say "pussy willows" like Kathleen Turner?  I think not!

Anyway, back at the beginning of March, I stopped into Whole Foods to stock up for yet another snow storm and they had beautiful bunches of pussy willows right in the front of the store.  I decided that I would finally paint them this year, but I also knew that I would not be able to work around the delicate buds while doing the background of the painting.  I decided to break a few painting rules and lay in most of the painting and then add the flowers later.

I decided to put the flowers in a ginger jar, so I started by loosely blocking in the fabrics and the jar, then started layering in the background.  This process took quite some time as we had a month of snowstorms, rain, fog and humidity here in New York.  After painting over this everyday for 6 days, I finally let it sit for a week so it could completely dry.  I was then able to put the final coats on the background and let that dry so the flowers would go on easily.

The other delay in this project was the ginger jar.  I love my ginger jar, but getting the shape right is no easy task.  I don't know how many times I repainted it, but I'm going to estimate is was about ten to fifteen times.  I just can't move on in a painting if something is off so I kept at it until it was right.

Finally in desperation I turned the canvas upside down, got out the T square and spent one whole afternoon just working on the jar until it was right.

Now it was time for the fun part, the flowers!  I spotted these beauties at the farmers market and got to work.

I started by putting in the stems, then I blocked in the tiny buds.

I decided the painting needed a bit more than just the flowers, so I added some oranges and grapes.  I really liked this set up and at this point the painting came very easily.

Close up of the buds

Here is the finished painting.

Pussy Willows In A Ginger Jar, 18x24, oil

As I said on Instagram, I was thrilled to be painting a spring flower.  Now that New York City is no longer a frozen tundra, I'm looking forward to starting up with flower painting again.
Hope spring has finally sprung wherever you are!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Havana, Cuba: The Malecon

Greetings from snowy New York.  We are having our third blizzard in five days, so that has me thinking about the great weather we had in Cuba. One of my favorite things that I did in Cuba was to paint the sunset along the Malecon drive.  The Malecon is a five mile road and seawall that stretches along the coast of Havana. It is a busy road with very fast moving cars, but the main attraction is the sea wall and the incredible views, especially at sunset.

We drove down the Malecon every day on our way into town and on our second to last night, we decided to try and paint the sunset.  The sunsets there are amazing.  I've never before painted a sunset, but decided to give it a try.


The seawall is right along the road.  The waves come splashing up against it and sometimes people get soaked, but that does not stop everyone from walking along the promenade, meeting up with friends, and it seems to be the place for lovers to watch the sunset.

I took these photos at the beginning of the trip.  We asked our cab driver to pull over so we could take some sunset photos and he was kind enough to do it, even though traffic on the road is insane.

We had spent the day painting on the Paseo de Marti, so we grabbed a pedicab and headed over to the Malecon around 6pm.

Our wonderful pedicab driver

The pedicab was a wild ride, but a much more humane option than the horse drawn carriages.  Our driver was great and he even came to pick us up when we were done.

This was the view that I painted.  I set up my easel and paints, then got to work getting the canvas covered.  I knew I did not have much time, so I painted as fast as I could.  If you have read this blog for any length of time, you know that I am a very slow painter, so this was definitely a challenge.

School girls walking along the seawall

I painted as fast as I could for about 45 minutes.  I got just enough done to show the basic idea of what the sunset looked like.

I stopped at this point and just watched the incredible scene happening before me.

The little painting will never be finished, but it will always be a lovely reminder of a day spent with a dear friend in an incredible place.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Brass Pot Done Twice

I don't usually paint metal, but every once in awhile, I like to do something besides my beloved blue and white.  I began this painting in the fall.  I was setting up a still life and decided to throw the pot in so I could practice painting brass.

I got so involved in the painting that I did not take a photo of the block in, but this is the painting after the second day.

As you can see, I just blocked in the colors and the shadows.  On day three it began to look like a painting.

This is always a fun time in the painting process.  Your vision begins to come to life and you can start adding in the fun details like patterns and highlights.

This is the finished painting.  I was so happy with how this painting came out, that I decided to go back to a still life of the brass pot that I did years ago.  Unfortunately, I cannot find the original photo, but take my word for it, it was not good.  I don't feel bad about that as it was the best I could do at the time, but since I had the opportunity to fix it, I did.

Luckily, I showed it to Gregg, and he found the problem right away.  I had the pot and the bowl at the same height.  Not only was that incorrect, but it did not help the painting at all.  I have no idea where that bowl is, so it was very lucky that I did not have to do anything with it.

I started by repainting the background to add more shadow.  I then repainted the blue cloth as I did not have the first clue about painting patterns when I did it.  I also painted over the fruit and the yellow pot in front.  The shadow on that had not been very strong and the little vase really needed it.

I spent quite a bit of time on the cloth and the yellow vase, but it was worth every minute.  I'm so happy with this painting now! (As usual, I will varnish and properly photograph these paintings as soon as the frozen tundra that is NYC finally melts) :)