Friday, December 14, 2012

Sky Window

This piece is from several weeks ago.  It was painted over a few weekends.  It seems to be from a more wordless place than usual, to me, so I have little to say about it.  Watercolor - 19 x 19 inches.  Click on it for a larger view.

The Cherry Dryad which Grenouille mentioned in the previous post, is all but finished and signed. I'll show her later. The commissioned piece has inspired me to try several more dryads. Like the patron, I've long been fascinated by the subject, though I had not thought to paint it. I also got interested in caryatids, and drew them in highschool and college.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Oui, une autre Grenouille

C'est moi, Grenouille, the "frog" authentique.  This is a painting Etienne kept for months on his table.  It is not a portait - I am not the subject.  For one thing I am not "green," though it is a color tres charmant.  For another, my hands and feet are tres chic.  Whereas these - ils sont ridicules.

It was très drôle to see such a large grenouille caught in the moment of leap.  But at last Etienne has finished it and it has vanished within the large portfolio that swallows all of the paintings, including a small portait of moi. 

Now he is painting a dryad naïf with hair and fingers of boughs of cerise.  The blossoms.  Her figure shows the influence of Etienne's time before the models.  The dryad has closed her eyes to her own beauty, or to miss the chance of flying petals.

Perhaps he should have spent more time before "frogs."  This compatriote shows not all of his "bone hints" as Etienne says.  I was no service to him as I have not one bone, being made of céramique.  I am more firm than bone, oui?  I am stone.  So unlike the word beneath the feet in this painting, which is more like sponge, soft from the pond.

While the size of this "frog" is fantastique (the painting is a square of 48 centimetres - 19 of your pittoresque inches) the way it is holding the hands is not bizarre.  Etienne did his "work of the home" prior to lifting the pencil, et oui, that is what happens to the hands of some grenouilles when we leap.  Perhaps to make us more aérodynamique?

Au revoir.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Life Drawing Nov 27, 2012

Complex, high pressure day at work, which left me satisfied, followed by a drive in the rainy dark down a country road to Life Drawing.  Haven't been able to make it in over a month.  Got there early and had time to walk up the dark gravel road in the drizzel and then to help set up.  Finally, I sat and unwound before the model arrived.

This model is becoming my favorite to draw.  Her poses are beautiful in a natural and spontaneous way, she holds them quite still, and she has the proportions the Classical Greeks sought at the height of their sculpting powers.  Long hips and proud powerful lines.  I never feel I do her justice, and I never tire of the attempt.

The warm up sketches were meh (none shared here) - but from the first long pose, the 25 minute one above, I found a way to say what I wanted with the Conte crayons and the brown craft paper.  These are 18 x 24, and are not cropped.  I sense bones under those lines - that's what makes it work.

This second drawing I include not because I'm pleased with it, but because it shows a more fresh and successful right brain approach for her lower half and a fussy left brain unsuccessful approach on her upper half.  I was on the right for about 5 minutes, and got stuck on the left for the remaining 20.

I tend not to attempt faces unless I'm prepared to do the work needed to capture a good likeness.  I keep intending to achieve some speed and confidence at home on photos, with a timer (maybe use a pose app I know of online), in order to develop a method, but I never get around to it.

This last is not entirely successful either, in my mind, but I can see where I might go with the white.  The best things about this were done in mere seconds, with confident strokes.  That's how I want it ALL to be.

I enjoyed evey minute tonight.  And I picked up six egg rolls (three kinds) at a favorite Chinese place on the way home and split them with Oldest.

Click images for larger views.  I would love to know what you think.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Olmstead's Voice

As we rose from the French Broad River toward the Vanderbilt chateau, I fell gradually behind, lost in the trees.  The strong quiet voice of Frederick Law Olmstead slowed my steps.  He had choreographed trunks and branches into a dance which sang to me as I walked through it, and as the sun passed over it, draping shadows on the grass.  Though the individual trees have grown up in unpredictable ways, as dancers' cannot erase the breathtaking differences in their bodies and movements, the placement of the trees was clearly the vision of a single spirit.  Through that vision, the landscape and the trees transcended the ordinary to become art.

Groups of younger trees nearer to the house remain ordinary.  It's not the age of the trees - I clearly sensed that the older trees would have sung the same Olmstead words, danced the same steps, when they were saplings.  The voice has deepened with the age of the oaks, but it's the placement and relationships which carry his voice, not the grandeur of the individual trees.  

Nor can film carry his voice.  I took dozens of photographs, and every one is empty and mute.  But I remember the feeling of a white dance as my daughter and others performed it last night - a dance similar to a pastoral landscape.  And I remember the movement and voice as I walked through Olmstead's landscape this morning.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Life Drawing Sept 11

My job change also means I'm in town more regularly.  So on Tuesdays I scurry from Cary to a Chinese restaurant in Chapel Hill, and then to "the schoolhouse" with several other artists who practice drawing from the live model.  There is a regular schedule of models, each with different styles of posing.

Tonight made three Tuesdays in a row, and some things were starting to click that haven't done so in a long time.  I can't get in the groove if I only go once a month (which was the best I was doing with my other job).

Usually I do better with the short poses and struggle on the longer ones.  Tonight I tried some different things with pencil and pastel on the longer poses and they have passages that work for me (and some that don't).  I'd be interested to know what works for you (or not).

Above is a 25 minute pose.  Below is a 5 minute pose, a 10 minute pose, and the two other 25 minute poses.  All pastel or pastel and pencil.  Click on the images for closer views.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

What Do I Want to Paint

I read a timely blog post today.  In fact, since I took a new job almost two months ago, making a leap of faith, a striking number of things have been timely.  Maybe because I'm looking for them, or because I find myself in complex, difficult waters and feeling lost much of the time so everything looks like a sign.

The post is on Tiny Buddha - a rich source of everyday wisdom, the kind that is deceptively simple and therefore deeply helpful.

When I took the new job I decided my motto would be one that runs against my nature, in some ways, and in line with it in others.  I took Rikki Tikki Tavi's family motto, "Run and find out."  The curiosity is easy; getting out and into other people's business is not.

I am at my best when I am self forgetful, letting the work and the facts and (mostly) other people be what's important, without much concern for the opinions of others.  Trusting (again, forgetful might be the best word) that my responses will be right because I was raised that way.  Doing what seems right and trusting others to understand or (better) to join in.

But when I'm stressed, and feel the stress of others, it's easy for me to turn and concentrate on my fears, or on my doubts, or on the feelings of dissatisfaction I imagine in others.  I hear their frustration or disagreement and take it as a judgement on me.  This is misplaced, but it's an old bad habit, and easy to fall into when I'm tired or out of balance.

It's like a rapidly turning machine that starts to oscillate when the center gets out of adjustment.  It's surprising how quickly the problem gets worse, as balance is lost.  And if you throw something heavy into this situation, the results can be destructive.

The trick is to slow down, recover the center (purpose and the perspective that it's not about me, it's about others and the work to be done), and restore the balance.  Then speed back up.

When the center holds, I can enjoy the newness, the uncertainty, the opportunity to learn and to do new things, and even the feeling of being lost.  It can be boring, always knowing where you are.  As a teenager I recall being frustrated and feeling inadequate if I could not identify every tree and wildflower around me.  Now I am delighted when I find a tree or plant I have never seen before (I saw two today, in fact).  I deliberately drive out into the countryside or wander off into cities without plan or map in order to get lost and have the surprise and delight of finding my way without knowledge (I did this last week in Chicago and ended up eating terrific pizza overlooking Ontario St and meeting some great Navy officers).

I'm getting it wrong when I start worrying about whether I'm getting it right.

Which brings me back to the title of this post.  My new job looms large in my mind nearly all the time right now - partly because the challenge is the infinite kind, where this is no limit to how much you can accomplish, and partly because it's still so very new.  But I have deeper challenges and older questions to answer which are in the same class.  The one that still haunts me most is, "What do I want to paint"?  I actually do think I've answered that, but I haven't begun.  And I haven't begun because I don't know how to begin.  And the new job and the Tiny Buddha post should make it obvious that my problem is I'm still concentrating on getting it right, rather than on doing it.

When will I begin doing it?  The first moves will be clumsy and unsatisfying, I fear.  But how else can I get to the place I want to go?  And I suspect I might be wrong about the "unsatisfying" - I think it will probably feel great.  Fear of judgement (my own and others') is what holds me back.

And, as another wise art teacher told me over 30 years ago, "You need to get over that fear right now."  The irony of that sentence didn't strike me until I reread it.

But "right now" is still available.  And the question has shifted; it's not "What do I want to paint?" but instead, "When am I going to start?"  I'm the only thing in the way.

(The image above is a painting I did several years ago that borders on where I'm going.  I think of this as a self portrait, where I am both birds.  I'm doing well when I'm the gleeful bird in front.  I'm doing badly when I'm the second-guessing, fearful bird in the rear.)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Playing with Food - Encore et Encore...

Oui, oui, it is summer.  The flies are fat and delicieux.  The other grenouilles of Caroline screeeee et pop et crique in the dusk.  It is a busy time.  Etienne once again has received vegetables for play and food from the farm of Deux Poussins.  These mesdames agricoles save fruits and vegetables with bizarre shapes for Etienne, and he images them as something else.

Last week they gave him a pomme de terre - a potato (a word très drôle, and which the wide mouth refuses to pronounce as Etienne does, to his amusement).  It was a potato très drôle, aussi.  But Etienne had to fly away before he could dream over it.  (He says he flies in an "air bus" but I will sooner see Etienne sprouting wings like a dragonfly, et voila, buzzing away in the dawn.  Flying is for insects, birds, bats, et la repartie.)  "Anyway," as les enfants say in the cul de sac, no painting, no play.  Last week Etienne was the "dull boy" in the story about Jacques and all work.

This week there was a tomato (encore, the wide mouth must stretch and make kissy O's to say this in the way américain).  Potato - tomato.  Bien.  The one imaged the other. 

Once home, Etienne set the tomato on it's ear (or head or derrière - I do not understand the anatomie of fruit), and voila, it was something else and the pomme de terre was transformed.  Chat et chien.

So Etienne made both dreams.  First les animaux (le chien will regret pushing the nose into the kingdom du chat), then the kiss ancient, which he pictured in a flash at the market when the tomato was first presented.  Clicque on the images for the better view.

The final image is a peek of La Royaume Pacifique, the "Peaceable Kingdom" on the bureau of Etienne.  Oui, I lived in that place for years when, tout à coup, I was whisked to the artiste colony of the kingdom where I live now with trilobite, baleine, large acorns of "burr-oak," and le poulet de verre vert.

Et voila, il est à la fin.  Au revoir,


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Playing with My Food - 2012 Number 1

Two Chicks Farm has a regular spot in our local farmer's market, and a regular spot in our Saturday schedule, as we pick up greens, peppers, potatoes, carrots, chard, etc. The two chicks have been passing me the occasional unusual vegetable to inspire posts called "Playing with my Food."  The first one for the 2012 growing season was what I called a Siamese Cucumber.  I thought of several things as I pondered the unusual shape of the double cuke.

I decided to make a maquette, a paper puppet.  This is actually my second (the first will be the subject of a post when it's fully assembled)- inspired by a post by Clive Hicks-Jenkins, who created a five part blog post series showcasing entries by various "maquetteers."

So here is my green clawed crab - modeled on the ghost crabs which frequent our NC beaches.  It's about a foot wide, in this view - watercolor and light fast Prismacolor markers on scraps of Arches hot press paper.

Below is an "exploded" view of the maquette.  If actually assembled, there would be paper fasteners at all the joints, so the crab could be moved like a paper puppet.

Thanks to the ladies for the interesting produce.  After playing comes eating...

Previous food play:  One,  Two,  Three

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Life Drawing - It's Been Too Long

I've had small opportunity to get to the Tuesday life drawing sessions in the last four months.  The result is that I got quite rusty.  Last week I got to go, and this week, as well; the first time I've had two weeks in a row in a long time.  Last week I had not one drawing I would show anyone.  This week I had a few good moments, and caught myself smiling at the beauty of the light on the model, and the classical shape of her tall hips.  The images that follow are two ten minute poses, the first done on gray charcoal paper with dark gray and warm white Nupastel, the second with red Prismacolor.  The last image was a 40 minute pose, and the drawing is about twice the size of the others (about 24 x 30) and combines the red pencil and the pastel.

I found myself feeling that Bouguereau would have enjoyed painting her - I was reminded of the piece below, of a young woman holding love at bay.  It's in Raleigh, at the North Carolina Museum of Art.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Etienne at Drawing from Life again

Bien. Etienne has, again, been drawing from the model.

These poses are, 5 for 2 minutes each, 4 for 5 minutes each, one for 10 minutes, another for 10 minutes, one of feet for 25 minutes (Etienne said the pose did nothing for him where he was sitting), a light colored one for 25 minutes (Etienne wishes he had drawn this one larger), and a final blue one for 25 minutes. This is the entire session - no poses are omitted. C'est tout.

Etienne says you may clic any image to view grand.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

My Last Mile in Vegas

I'm at HIMSS12, the big annual Healthcare IT conference, in Las Vegas this year. Thirty five thousand people came this year - a record - filling the meeting space at the Sands Expo complex at the Venetian and Palazzo hotels on Las Vegas Boulevard, the famous "strip." This part of Vegas is arguably the upper crust of the casinos and hotels, with the Bellagio, the Aria, Ceasar's Palace, the Winn and the Encore as neighbors and peers for the beautiful Venetian and newer Palazzo. Luxury suites, gourmet dining in restaurants run by the finest chefs in America, the most beautiful decor and casinos, the prettiest cocktail waitresses...

The crowds, the constant party atmosphere, the noise level, were getting to me after two days, so last night I sketched the huge red Chinese dragon in one of the lobby spaces. It helped me unwind enough to sleep.

Today, after day three, I returned to my room, changed into jeans and denim jacket, and headed out to get some air and some perspective. Quiet is what I needed, but that is not something you can find on the strip except in the few hours before dawn. I more or less leapt out of the hotel lobby and headed north. I met some co-workers headed for a restaurant, and I had enjoyed the two previous evenings of fine dining and conversation, but tonight I needed to pass and spend some time alone.

This morning I had picked up a pedometer from the Kaiser Permanente booth, the "Every Body Walk" campaign. The goal was to walk 10,000 steps before 5:00. Five miles. Not unlikely at a conference like HIMSS, and I had actually done 7800 steps by 5:00. As I headed north from the Palazzo, I knew I'd finish the last mile+ on the walk up the street.

As I passed the Encore, the Winn's twin to the north, I crossed into another Vegas. I had heard that the area up by the Needle was "sketchy," but I was surprised at the sudden transition to tatoo parlors, cheap buffets, liquor stores, and dirty sidewalks. The manicured gardens and surround sound show tunes of the streets near the Palazzo were replaced by gravel pits, barred windows, and garish neon signs. The people on the sidewalks were mostly indistinguishable from the pan-handlers who frequent the pedestrian bridges at the crosswalks in the posh part of town. The tall, thin guy on in-line skates with six inch wheels, rolling along while playing electric guitar on his portable amp was the most memorable, but nearly everyone looked care worn, tired, and ragged. The Riviera and Circus Circus casinos are the saddest I have ever visited, with more cigarette smoke created by fewer patrons, who sit like zombies in front of slot machines, or lurch to the bar and teller machines for more. I eventually realized that the most common trait among the denizens of the Riviera was a limp.

On my return, with my feet very sore, and a bit sobered by the gritty heartless concrete mess that is the north end of the strip, I met a women with two small kids who asked me not for money, but for a meal for the children. There was a Denny's a half a block behind me, so I took them there. Ruby had lost her apartment, evicted because she could not pay the rent. This was mentioned on the way to the restaurant, simply as a fact, not a complaint. I heard not a single complaint from her, nor from Ashley, her 11 year old daughter, whose big beautiful blue eyes, usually full of smiles, looked out of a round Latino face, with hair cropped so short I initially mistook her for a boy. The youngest, little four year old Steve, never said anything. Ruby told me that he had stopped talking entirely. We had a time keeping him from drawing on the furniture instead of the kid's menu. Since we Steves sat together on one side of the booth, it fell mostly to me to remind him that the crayons were for the paper only. Ashley wished for a pen, instead of the fat crayons, so she could actually draw or write, and I handed her one of my Prismacolor sketching pens. I explained how gently the felt tip must be treated, and she spent several happy minutes impressing her mother with the quality of her cursive. Then we discussed what the difference is between ketchup and mustard (Ashley thought they were the same stuff, just different colors). Except for Steve, who never said a thing, but just fidgeted and sat closer and closer to me as the dinner progressed, the other two made a charming effort to keep up conversation and to keep it light and positive.

Since I had already eaten earlier, at an outdoor hamburger stand, a wonderful contrast to the gourmet dinners of the previous two nights, all I ordered was water. Ruby ordered for Steve, and Ashley was so excited to be ordering whatever she wanted that she had a hard time deciding. She finally chose the egg slam, which she jokingly referred to as a heart attack. It was a burger, with hashfried potatoes, an egg, cheese and bacon. We had to keep the ketchup bottle from Steve - we were unsure where the squirting would go. When he got up and got one from a neighboring table I had to fetch him and gently disarm him. As hungry as all three of them were for the burgers (their reaction to the food when it arrived was a lesson by itself) they were obviously just as hungry for the conversation and for ordinary time with other people. We talked about South Carolina beaches, where they had once spent a vacation on Isle of Palms, recently enough for Ashley to remember it. We discussed blue crabs and I told a story which made Ashley laugh so loud she turned heads - no mean task considering the gloomy weary crowd around us. Ashley and Ruby discussed that it might not have been the best idea for her to trade her sneakers for the prettier sandals, because the sandals were already coming apart. We talked about whether dogs go to heaven, and how it could possibly be that God and Jesus could be the same person, a topic Ashley brought up out of the blue. When I told Ashley she could keep the pen, she clipped it to the front of her shirt collar like sunglasses. Our waitress, with a voice like Harvey Firestein, joked with me that I must be preserving my girlish figure, ordering just water. I think she didn't catch on until I was leaving, letting the family finish the meal after I paid for it, that we weren't actually a family. I excused myself because I was exhausted and still had over a half mile to walk. When I tapped on the window outside the booth and waved at them through the blinds, I saw Ashley giggle one more time.

My remaining 700 steps on the pedometer went by in a blur. I was heart broken over little Steve, who seemed autistic to me, and who would not get care. I was amazed at the bouyant sunshine of Ashley, still fascinated by everything, and charmingly open to everything. I contrasted her spirit with the crushed looking people I passed in the remaining blocks of the strip and grieved for the way life was likely to erase her smile. As I returned to the noise and money of the Winn and Palazzo I heard all the whining and complaints of people around me - people who were well dressed, well fed, and would be sleeping in expensive hotel suites tonight. I had been one of those tired, petulant, spoiled people just an hour before, and I know I will be again, probably tomorrow. But tonight I crossed the last pedestrian bridge, catching a full sized reflection of the Palazzo in the glass side, everything backwards, and with stars shining through the dark shadows at the bottom, looking as real as the facade behind me, the money factory hiding the other Vegas from thousands of visitors. An old cowboy busker was playing a tune on an accordian on the bridge near me and I put a dollar in his bag. I stopped to listen a bit and left after he played the first two verses of Amazing Grace. It took my breath away.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Etienne at Last Goes to Life Drawing Again

Oui, Etienne has been away from home every Tuesday since who knows when. Today he was home and could go, so he went. Et voila, instead of something he wishes to destroy before anyone can see (which is what he expected after so long an absence), there are some drawings that (as Etienne says), "bear a second look." These are the last three in the pad, and took 25 minutes each. Etienne reports that the model, with the nom charmant of Angel, lost all feeling in her left hand during this pose, but she bravely endured à la fin. Earlier drawings in his pad (oui, I "peeked") show poses tres jolie and tres active - Angel is a dancer and it is obvious from her posture and the way she lives to her toes and fingers.

Moi, what would I do with fingers and toes gracieux? Learn to fly, perhaps?

These last poses are more relaxed, because they are longer.

Etienne said he struggled valiantly with the watercolors in the beginning, but then surrendered to tempation and embraced a pencil. Rouge seemed to suit the coquette of one of Angel's poses (non, he is not pleased enough with that sketch - quel dommage), and he remained with rouge for the rest of the evening.

This last drawing is about the hands and shoulders, non? (Shoulders en Grenouille? Pas vraiment.)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Notre Petit Ménage d'Inspiration

Oui, c'est moi, Grenouille, and other sources of inspiration. Two compagnons joined us during Noël. Le coq verre vert which Etienne calls a "glass rooster" (he does not yet possess a name) and a trilobite noir (à ma gauche). The trilobite is l'homme antique in our ménage, reportedly 500 million years old. I must admit he does appear older than Etienne. Give the photo un clic and see for yourself.

The acorns are from two different trees (mais oui). The petit specimens are from gluercus coccinea (Etienne uses the tres petit word "oak") which dropped them near la maison de belle-mere. The grand specimens are from an "oak" in Asheville, a "burr oak" says Etienne.

The chunk of rock, rouge et creme, Etienne insists was once a piece of wood. It is hard to credit this, but perhaps it is like the trilobite, non? A fossilisation, oui?

Tout notre petit monde is on top of a carousel which Etienne uses to turn his monitor either to his tall stool, or to his drawing, where he stands.

Et voici "in context," as Etienne says. Note his great fondness for pencils which have not yet any point. It is another "dragon hoard" along with the unopened music CDs under our table. And pointless pencils are far more charming than pointless quarrels. Perhaps someone should inform the politicards belligérantes?

Voila, it is time for Etienne to draw some sheep à nouveau et encore et encore... But these are French sheep, so perhaps he will endure it.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Etienne Squares

The family October holiday in the woods turned Etienne from his facade d'Internet and towards a quieter place. It is not that he has ceased to paint and draw, but, rather, that he has ceased to talk much about it.

With a little twisting of his arms, and with the encouragement of his cheri, I have persuaded him to allow me to post. I thought I would begin with a few of his recent accomplishments.

These are tres petit, only six American inches square. Perhaps, once you see, you will understand why I begin with these?

Etienne has been forever fascinated with trilobites. He told me he spent hours as a boy splitting rocks in search of these and other animaux antique. My bones hurt considering how the trilobites got in the rocks. So long in there, like genies in bottles. This painting (en acrylique et prismacouleur) was the first.

Then the escargot. It seemed to Etienne that these were all to be animaux petit. The muse had spoken.

Then there was a wren, which Etienne calls "the Ninja." The other birds fear the wren; it is here then there and not between.

Et finalement, Etienne asked me to pose.