Sunday, August 27, 2017

A Visit To The NC Wyeth Home and Studio

I recently went on a fun road trip to NC Wyeth's home and studio in lovely Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.

The house and studio are part of the Brandywine Conservancy and Museum.  Upon arrival at the museum, you can purchase a ticket for the tour and then ride over on the shuttle bus.  Our guide (a retired art teacher) was at the house to greet us.

The grounds are absolutely beautiful.  In 1911, with the proceeds from his illustrations of Treasure Island, Wyeth purchased the land and built the house and studio.  The tour started with a walk through the house.

The photo above is NC with his wife Carolyn (known as Carol) and their five children.  None of the family is alive today.  The home and studio were passed to the Conservancy upon the death of daughter Carolyn, an artist who lived at the home her entire life and worked and taught classes in the studio.

Even after the home got electricity, NC insisted the family continue to dine by candlelight.

Carol had quite the dish collection and was clearly a blue and white lover like myself.

Upstairs are NC and Carol's bedrooms as well as the kids rooms.  Some of the rooms were built on as the family expanded.

Next we moved on to the studio.  I have to tell you, this building is enormous.  At least three times the size of my apartment!  We started in an entryway that contained books and props.

Portrait of Andrew Wyeth ( Andrew is currently having a centennial year exhibition in the museum).

We then walked into the actual studio.  It is amazing.  All the books, props and supplies look like someone just finished painting.  The museum is doing a great job of preserving the space.

It was impossible to get a good shot, but in the corner hangs NC's paint covered smock.  I wonder if anyone will want a picture of mine someday!?

Portrait of Carolyn Wyeth.

Can you believe these frames?  They are beautiful.  There were a bunch of them just hanging around.

This is the most amazing contraption.  It is so large that I could not get a photo of the whole thing.  It is a staircase on wheels.  NC used it to work on very large paintings.  He could just walk up and down and move the whole thing to wherever he needed.  Considering I'm suffering through an 18x24 right now, this is pretty impressive!

Our last stop was the prop room, which was more like the prop apartment.  The room is enormous and filled with all of the props needed for paintings and illustrations.

After the tour we went back to the museum to see the Andrew Wyeth show.  I hope you enjoyed this look into the Wyeth home and studio.  It makes me very happy to see art studios being preserved for generations of artists and art lovers to visit.   I will have a separate post up soon to show you some of the work from Andrew's exhibition.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Painting Sunflowers

I'm happy to say that after having a few months of nothing working, I now have two completed paintings.  First up, I will show you my sunflowers.  Years ago there was a grower at the Long Island City farmers market that sold the most amazing variety of sunflowers.  I used to buy bouquets and paint them, but unfortunately, that was back when I did not have a clue what I was doing, so those paintings never worked out.  After that one summer, I never saw sunflowers like that again until a few weeks ago when I spotted them at the Union Square Greenmarket.

I grabbed a bouquet and got to work.

My placement on the canvas and the color block in went very well, so I deluded myself into thinking the painting was going to be easy.  Of course, that was not the case.  I've long said that the reason Van Gogh occasionally went off the deep end was not unrequited love, syphilis, epilepsy or the latest theory, neighborhood kids.  It was the sunflowers!  They are one of the most popular flowers in the world, but painting them is extremely difficult.  They have a ton of little petals and buds and the color looks the same on many of them, so you have to fake the shadows.  But I must confess, the biggest issue I was having was that I kept comparing my sunflowers to the most amazing sunflower paintings of all time, Van Gogh's.  That is not something that I usually do, but like many people, his sunflowers are in my brain.  I pulled out my books and started looking at his paintings to get some inspiration, but also to remind myself that my paintings are not suppose to be copies of a Van Gogh.

A little tip:  these art books are heavy.  In order to avoid lugging them to my studio, I snapped pics on my phone so I could easily refer to them without having to bring heavy books all over town.

I kept building up the layers, but if you look at the set up in this photo, you will see that the flowers were croaking out and I was nowhere near finished.

After six days, the flowers were starting to lean over, so it was time for drastic measures.  I took some old brushes and used them to prop up the flower heads.  Between the brushes and the blue tape, I kept them standing up for another day or two.  In the end, I used three different bouquets of flowers, but I'm glad I was able to use the original long enough to get the painting on it's way.

I was happy when i reached this point.  The background was finally working and the pitcher was looking like porcelain.  I was not completely happy with the flowers, but I decided to just keep going with the rest of it and deal with them later.

I began to paint the blue pattern onto the pitcher.  I did this in one afternoon and it was the easiest part of the painting.

However, I still was not happy with the flowers.  They looked bland to me, especially once the blue was on the pitcher.  After going bonkers for days painting and repainting them, I happened to be talking to Gregg and showed him a picture on my phone.  Of course, he spotted the problem right away.  The shadows!  They just were not strong enough.  He suggested using some transparent red oxide for the shadows in order to pump everything up.

That worked like a charm and I was able to finish the painting.

Here it is fresh off the easel.  I'm very excited to have a finished painting after a dry spell of things just not working out.  And I'm especially glad to have another sunflower painting to add to my collection.

Happily, I also finished a still life painting last week.  I'll have that on here as soon as I get a signature on it.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Organizing Art Books

I recently posted on Instagram that it was time to get my art books in order, and judging by the responses I received, it seems there are many of us who have a large collection of books and not enough space.

These are my bookshelves in their original messy state.  They weren't too bad, and then this winter during one of our snow storms, I was looking around Amazon and suddenly there were a bunch of Dutch still life books available.  Of course I was all over that and bought them all.  A week or so later, I was wandering around the Strand and happened upon another bunch of Dutch still life books.  Again, I bought them all.  I'd been looking for these books for months and suddenly a bunch cropped up.  What could I do, right?

Once they all arrived, they did not fit on the shelves so I just started shoving them in everywhere.  It was messy to begin with and now things were really out of control.  Aside from that, I could not find anything.  When I saw a book on Amazon I was interested in and could not remember if I already owned it, it was time to take action.

I started by taking everything out of the shelves and throughly cleaning them (what I really mean is my hubs did that part).  There were books everywhere, but I wanted them all out for two reasons.  One, I wanted to go through them and get rid of what I was not using and two, I wanted to group them into categories.

I have a bit of a bookshelf obsession fueled by decor blogs and Pinterest, but arranging the books by color or mixing in decorative items is not practical for me.  I don't have a bit of extra room, and I need to be able to find specific books when I need them.

We piled the books all over, then I began the task of separating them into categories.

I kept all of the art books, but ended up getting rid of three shopping bags of cook books that I was not using.  That made some extra room which really helped.

I ended up with a few categories.  One shelf of technical/instruction books, one shelf of Old and New Masters, two and a half shelves of Impressionist art and one shelf of American artists and a mix of biographies and historical fiction.

One of the first art books I ever bought.  I still look at it today.

And here are the finished shelves...

This reorganization not only looks so much better, but now I can find everything I need right away.  For instance, two weeks ago I was going bonkers over my sunflowers and really needing inspiration, so of course I wanted to look through my Van Gogh books.  I knew right where they were and could pull them out immediately instead of rummaging all over the place.

Of course, I've recently acquired another pile of books, but as many Instagram commenters told me, there is no such thing as too many art books, and I completely agree!