Monday, December 17, 2012

Painting in the Y Arts Studio

It never fails...when I am teaching an evening painting class, a teen wanders in. You know the type; excited by the mere presence of paint, ink, clay. Just lives for art. "Can I paint?" they ask. I have to reply, "well, this is a class. You need to register for this". "Oh, can I just watch?" "Sure." And so goes another night of painting at the Y Arts Studio.

When most people think of the YMCA they think of "swim and gym" and then maybe about the week they spent at a Y camp as a child. And then of course that song runs through their heads. Thanks to the Village People and popular culture the Y will probably always be identified as the only place that has its own song and dance.

In recent years many of the Y's have added art studios, so now we have a place to work our brains as well as our bodies. The East Area Family YMCA offers classes for budding artists of all ages which creates an interesting blend in the studio.

On a typical day we see little children covered in paint and glitter being led to the sink to clean up, as the adult clay classes wait anxiously outside the studio craning their necks to see if the kiln has been unloaded and whether or not their piece survived. There is a music lesson going on in Music Studio 2, providing a soundtrack to the setting. Outside the studio, in the bustling hallway people glance through the windows on their way to or from their workout.

Monday and Tuesday evenings are always busy, and those are the nights I teach painting. There seems to be a non-stop procession of people on their way to the gym; always in a hurry. But on the way out, they are moving much more slowly and often stop outside the studio to watch the painters' progress. If we are working from a still life, our audience spends a bit more time checking the paintings, making comparisons and often giving a thumbs up to the artist. My adult students don't seem to mind the audience and in fact will often turn their painting toward the windows to give a better view of their work.

But I really enjoy watching the students who are so involved in their painting that they have no idea that anyone is watching them. Working intently on mixing the right colors or capturing the curve of a line, they suddenly look up to see group of teens holding basketballs and gym clothes, grinning at them, nodding enthusiastically. Painting in the Arts Studio is somewhat like painting in a fishbowl. You are always on display. Often art is a solitary pursuit, where the artist has absolutely no contact or feedback from anyone until they have finished their painting. In some ways that is good, but we also need community. We need to share ideas and provide positive commentary. Little missteps we make in the course of creating our art are never quite as upsetting when we are surrounded by a supportive group of fellow artists to get us back on track.

And when you get back on can usually count on a thumbs up from someone in the hallway!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Deciding on a Focal Point

A few weeks ago I was bicycling around Hull Massachusetts when I came upon this scene, right next door to my brother-in-law's house. The sun dappled stone steps leading up to the kayaks stored away for the winter intrigued me. I grabbed the camera and took a few shots. I had to wait another week before I had a chance to get back into the studio to paint that particular scene. I had just finished a very soft, subtle watercolor (actually the subject of the previous post: Painting the Mist) and as much as I loved working with the delicate colors, I was more than ready to get back to acrylics and indulge in my passion for pure, rich colors! I had taken several photos for reference, but the one I liked best captured the steps, the stone wall, the fall vegetation and the kayaks. The steps are cluttered with leaves and the fall garden is shouting its last hurrah before the first frost of the season. The fall colors have been somewhat subdued, a bit more golden, more burnished, but I loved the challenge of mixing just the right shade. Although the painting is very colorful, my palette consisted of just a few colors to begin with. New colors, shades, tints and lively neutrals, were created with the existing colors on my palette. A word about lively neutrals; I do like my whites, grays, browns and dark areas to have a bit of life in them. Grays and browns are always mixed by adding two complementary colors together, and then tweaking with another color to play up either the gray or brown undertones. My dark areas are always created by mixing dark red, blue, purple and green together. Color temperature is controlled by the amount of red (warm) or blue (cool)used. And never really white. It reflects all of the colors around it, and the colors of the shadows on the white surfaces will depend on the surrounding colors. One of the hardest decisions to make with this painting was deciding on the focal point. To me it was obvious that the kayaks, nestled in for their long winter's nap were the focal point. But that might not be apparent to the viewer. As a kayak owner, I am familiar with the silhouette of the kayak in storage...upside down, piled on top of a bunch of other kayaks...I have always loved the contrasts of colors as they lay piled on top of each other. But the viewer would need more information. Another look at the scene told me that good luck and nature had solved the problem for me by providing a path of light from the bottom of the steps to the house at the top. And so my focal point shifted to include the stone steps, curving up the hill and leading our eyes to the area where the kayaks were stored. The light color of the steps and the stone wall draws our attention immediately. The light color, with a few subtle changes, is repeated in the trees and the house in the background, drawing our eyes through the entire painting. Areas of vivid color provided by the fall vegetation, weave in and around the path of light. Dark areas provide needed contrast. All of the trees, leaves and other vegetation are painted with a soft edge and no details which would distract our attention from the focal point. Although the focus on the kayaks has been minimized, I am still intrigued by them and plan to paint a close-up view...perhaps for my next painting! I titled this painting "Early November".

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Painting the Morning Mist

What is it about mornings on the lake? Waking to the call of the loon, watching the mist rise off the lake as you wrap your hands around a steaming mug of coffee anticipating the day's adventures. A paddle to the far end of the lake? a swim? a hike to the rookery or perhaps to the waterfalls? The whole day lies ahead of you, but for those first few moments of the morning you give yourself over to those ethereal wisps lifting off the water, slowly exposing the lake, the trees, the land.
Two weeks ago I came across a photo that my husband had taken of the morning mist rising off of the lake. Trees, rocks, loons and water were swathed in a fog which was slowly burning off in the morning sun. Not much color, or form, but lots of atmosphere. I chose watercolor as my medium. Using the photo as reference, I began to paint using lots of water and letting all of my edges diffuse and flow into each other. A paper towel came in handy to blot excess water and color. I had chosen a few different greens and blues, a bit of yellow here and there, but was unsatisfied with my results. I wanted to feel as if I was in the middle of the mist viewing the scene in front of me. I began to experiment a bit more with color adding pinks and a bit more yellow. It worked! Although the overall palette is subdued to convey the misty atmosphere, the warmth of the pinks and yellows created the push/pull effect. Or in other words, the warm colors came forward, the cooler colors receded, creating movement in an otherwise very still scene. The veils of warm color seem to be on a different plane than the cooler colors which adds dimension to the painting, making the viewer feel as if they are a part of the scene. When the paint was dry, I painted in the bare tree branches to create a bit of definition and contrast.

Monday, November 12, 2012

You're painting WHAT????

You're Painting WHAT????

Well, they always say you never know where inspiration might strike and I guess this proves that "they",(whoever they are) are right.

Whenever I am painting a still life, I usually look for interesting objects to group together or objects that somehow tell a story. But every once in a while, a mundane object, something I don't usually consider as an item to paint will beckon me. In this case it was the combat boots. My son Ben had left them behind, when he was home on leave in summer 2011.

The boots were probably left behind intentionally because they didn't fit well. Ask any military person about their boots and you are likely to get a long story about the trials and tribulations of finding just the right boot. The right boot is usually never the one they were issued; nearly always the one they had to pay for later. But...I digress. Somehow I kept looking at those boots, deciding; acrylic? watercolor? pencil? And why? Why do I want to paint the boots? They really hadn't gotten to the point of being beaten down and grubby...artists always love that stuff. But they did appeal to me.

Maybe because it would force my left brain to pay attention to a right brained activity as I made sure I painted every turn of the laces as they wove in and out of the eyelets. Hmmm. Maybe... But most likely I was intrigued by the universal symbolism of the combat boot. The boots, more than any other part of the uniform, show the wear and tear of the daily routine of the soldier. I had read an article written by a soldier's wife who lived in military housing. She mentioned the eerie stillness of the housing development when the troops were deployed. One of the things you miss is the sound of their boots on the stairs in the early morning hours as they left for work.

So with all of those thoughts circling around in my mind, I painted the boots in watercolor and my left brain was intrigued by the laces and the eyelets and my right brain was just happy to paint.

I later used the boots in two of my greeting card designs, adding a stylized patriotic background.

The traditional Irish verse (below) was later added in a graphic design program to create a poster.
May the road is up to greet you, may all your days be bright,
May love walk by your side by day and keep you warm by night,
May all you meet along the way be glad to call you friend
And may the road rise up to greet you, and bring you home again.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Along Cottage Hill Road

I have often heard writers say of their work, "Well it seems like the piece just wrote itself". I have had that experience with a painting many times. The last time was just a few weeks ago. In early October I was traveling throughout the countryside of Northern New York with my husband. He had business in Canton and Watertown, and since I also had business in Watertown, and our final destination for the day was our camp,in the Indian River Lakes, I was along for the ride. And was it ever a stunning trip! The Fall foliage was at peak in the North Country. Trees were gorgeous shades of gold, orange and red accented by the dark green pines against a sky that varied in color from shades of light blue to heavy gray. The clouds were massive and many times opened up to a shower, which only made the colors more intense when the rain cleared and the sun came back out. So of course all I could think of was, I've got to paint...NOW. Unfortunately, I did not have my painting supplies at camp... aka Windy Hill Studio North. My painting had to wait, but my head was full of the images I had seen and I was itching to paint! On Sunday night, when I finally returned to my studio I immediately began work on a painting based on a photo taken a few years ago. The photo however was just a starting point. The intense colors and shapes that I had seen while driving through the countryside (now known as my North Country Road Odyssey)all made their way into the painting. The photo was cast aside, and the painting took over. Many of the details in the trees were eliminated. Too much clutter and detail takes away from the emotion of the painting. The figure in the foreground is my husband; the colors of his clothing were changed to create a more unified composition with the colors in the painting. The figure gives a sense of scale to the painting, but does not become the focal point. The red hat calls our attention to the figure, but we tend to see the figure as secondary to the surroundings. The painting was about 3/4 of the way done when I brought it to my Tuesday night painting class. I usually have at least two or three paintings that I am working on and use as demos for my class. One of the topics I was addressing that evening was Hans Hoffman's push/pull theory of colors seeming to create movement as they either came forward or receded. Warm colors come forward, cool colors recede. Fall foliage against a cool blue sky, on a crisp autumn day certainly provided a good visual for the push pull theory. But as I looked at the painting in its nearly finished state, it seemed to be missing something. It seemed too calm and too orderly to be a portrayal of all that I had seen and felt during my North Country Road Odyssey. There was something that I needed to add. I grabbed a palette knife and began adding slashes and blops (my word...not a real art term) of color. It worked! I needed texture and movement and the slashes of paint in intense warm colors provided that. After a few minutes of adding slashes and adjusting intensities of colors, I was done. And happy. This painting, along with four of my other landscapes, will be part of the North Country Art Council's Juried
Fall Show, Nov. 3rd to 17th. The exhibit will be held at Dulles State Office Building, 317 Washington St., Watertown NY., and open 9am to 6pm daily.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hangin' With the Buoys, no.2

Hangin' with the Buoys, no. 2 is the acrylic version of a subject I have painted three times so far. And, I can probably paint them again and again because this little still life at the end of the lake never seems to change much from year to year. The first two paintings were done in watercolor, one from a distance and the other a close-up view very similar to this painting. In the watercolor version of Hangin' with the Buoys, much of the detail is left out and some subject matter such as the rocks and water are implied, rather than painted. My goal in that painting was to paint the path of light that flowed through the trees and over the buoys. In painting the watercolor, I often painted the negative space around the main subject matter, allowing the focal point to emerge in the unpainted or lightly washed areas. The acrylic painting has a completely different approach to the very same scene. Again, the path of light is important, but the emphasis is on the whole scene rather than just the buoys. And the shadows in this painting play a much more important role than they did in the watercolor. Our eyes are led to the shadows which create a strong contrast to the light colored buoys, and they emphasize the focal point. In this painting, trees, rocks and water are more clearly defined; we are more able to picture ourselves in this scene where more information has been given to us. The emphasis however, is on the buoys and they have been given more detail than the surrounding trees, rocks and water. The white buoys reflect so many of the colors in their surroundings. I have to admit, I loved adding the shadows and sun-dappled effect on the buoys, adding bits of yellow, magenta, blues and greens. Looking at this scene and especially concentrating on the large buoy, full of blue/purple shadows and subtle streaks of yellow, I feel like I am back at the lake, sitting in my kayak, watching the sun and water send bits of reflected light onto the shoreline. Sometimes we have a goal which we hope to achieve in a painting; sometimes the painting just takes on a life of it's own. I had planned a more impressionistic look for this painting, but somehow, the painting took over and a more realistic look emerged. Perhaps it is because I am painting this scene in Autumn, usually a time of reflection for me. As the summer weather dwindles down to a few warm days here and there and the chill of winter approaches, I need to hold onto the memories of the sun on my back, the splash of my paddle in the water, the loon calling in the distance and the ever present still life at the end of the lake.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Painting the Path of Light

Painting the Path of Light One of the things that attracts me most to watercolor is the so called "path of light" created by leaving spaces either unpainted or with minimal washes of color. In the painting Hangin' with the Buoys, I have created a sun dappled scene not so much by painting, but by leaving areas unpainted. Some subject matter, such as the rocks and water are implied, rather than articulated. The rocks and water have very little detail; a soft wash of color here and there. Because their detail has been minimized, we are drawn to the collection of buoys hanging from the trees, which is the focal point of the painting. In painting the buoys, I relied more on painting the trees and foliage around them (negative space) and letting the shapes of the buoys emerge from that space. I later added soft washes of color on the buoys to create form and shadows. When we first bought our camp in 2007, I saw this scene at the end of the lake and knew that eventually I would paint it. I have taken several photos over the last few years and it's always a challenge when you are sitting in a kayak. As soon as you get your kayak into the correct position for the best shot, you float away as you are retrieving the camera from the camera bag. It usually takes me several attempts to get it just right, but I enjoy the process! This is the second painting done from this scene. The first painting was also done in watercolor, but included a much broader expanse of space. I like the tight, close-up version here, where the subject matter becomes more important than the entire scene. The third version of this painting is in acrylic paint and I am currently using that to demonstrate techniques to my Tuesday night painting class. It is interesting how our choice of medium can determine the outcome of the painting. The acrylic painting has a completely different mood and will be the subject of the next post.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

One Day at the Art Park

One of the best parts of my job as the Arts Studio Coordinator at the East Area Family YMCA is teaching the summer Art Camps at Stone Quarry Hill Art Park. The next best thing is documenting the camps by taking photos our art camps in each of our locations: the Arts Studio, Camp Iroquois and of course Stone Quarry. Although I am there to take photos of the campers, teachers and the art projects, sometimes I get lucky enough to find subject matter for my own work. For instance, one day back at the beginning of August, I arrived at Stone Quarry when all of the campers were out for a hike around the park, so I took a little walk myself. Walking along the Ridge Trail I came upon the scene of two painters set up in the shade of the trees looking over the valley. A couple of people had stopped to talk to them...and probably inspect their artwork as well. I loved the setting, and the lighting created by the dappled sunlight, so I took a few photos. I wandered off in the opposite direction, then came back a few minutes later, and decided to take a closer look at the artists and their paintings. I was delighted to discover that I knew both of the artists, Wendy Harris and Linda Cohen. And of course, their work was lovely. A few days later I began a painting based on that scene, using the photos for reference. I was scheduled to teach a landscape painting class that week to adults, so that painting became my demo piece. Most of the painting was done in the Arts Studio as part of the class. I painted along with the students and used the painting to help each of them work out issues of under-painting using complementary colors, color harmony, atmospheric perspective, glazing and handling foliage. I finished the painting at home in my studio, found a great frame which sets off the colors very well. I plan to return to the Art Park to do some plein air painting, probably in September as the colors start to change for Fall.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Windy Hill Studio Make-over Part 2


Ok now where was I when I left off with Windy Hill Studio Make-over Part 1??? Oh yeah, working in a tight, cramped space, surrounded by art supplies spilling off of woefully insufficient shelves. I knew that something needed to be done with the studio and from time to time I would clean up and straighten all the stuff sitting on the shelves, but what I really needed were cabinets WITH DOORS!!! to close and hide the clutter.

My storage space; the shelves, did a fabulous job of holding supplies, but nothing to eliminate the cluttered look of piles of paper, dozens of art supplies, books, framing supplies, paperwork and odds and ends. So I knew they had to go......but first I needed to deal with the drafting table. As I had said in the last blog, the table was very large, and heavy and jutted out into the room pretty much taking up most of the space. Everything else was subordinate to the table. It seems like every New Years I would make a few resolutions and remodeling the studio was on the list every year. But, just like the "lose 10 pounds" resolution, it never got done.

Sometimes I would wonder why I was dragging my feet on this project. Not being able to make a decision is sometimes considered a sign of depression, but I think I was only depressed that my studio was on the way to being labeled a disaster area and the scope of the project was too big for one person working alone.


As I have stated a few times, the table was heavy and it would take at least 2 people, one of them being my husband, to dismantle and move it. Since I am not a good candidate for really heavy lifting, it seemed like I would need to enlist support from the kids. Unfortunately, by the time I was ready to make the grand studio transformation, the kids were no longer kids, and no longer living at home. My two able bodied sons, Mike and Ben, are both working in the military, several states away from here. And they never had leave at the same time, except for the weekend of Katie's graduation party. Hmm...would it be possible to combine a huge party, overnight guests, a visit to my mom in a nursing home and an Army vs Marines drafting table dismantling and moving competition? NO

So, the move was postponed. We had Ben home for a few days in November, but with all the holiday preparations coming up, the studio was the last thing on my mind. But, when Ben was home on leave this summer we finally began Phase 1 of the studio make-over. Ben and my husband Rich took the table apart and moved it to the garage where it sits waiting for either a new owner or a trip to the dump. That operation took one hour.

Two days later when Ben had returned back to Fort Bragg I began to empty the studio and pile everything on the bed and on the floor in his room. I also began throwing out a ton of stuff I didn't really need anymore. All of those little things I couldn't part with because maybe someday I would use them in a project with one of my classes....GONE! The studio was slowly becoming an empty space...or blank canvas so to speak.


Meanwhile Ben's room looked like something from an episode of Hoarders. How did I ever get so much stuff into one space? And how much would go back? I had thrown out quite a bit of stuff, but holy cow, there was a lot left. I threw myself into the next phase, painting the walls, washing the floor and choosing a new storage system. After a trip to Home Depot and Loews we put together a series of 3 hanging cabinets, a counter-top and 3 cabinets below. And for good measure one gigantic storage unit, and yes everything had DOORS to close to hide the clutter.

My husband did all of the assembling of the cabinets, I stained and polyurethaned the counter-top (which is actually a door)and we both hung the cabinets and installed task lighting with a minimum of swearing. As it turns out the gigantic storage unit is almost as heavy as the drafting table...go figure. But it does a much better job of containing the clutter.

My new studio has plenty of room for my easel, a comfy chair next to my bookshelves full of art books and plenty of room on the counter-top for framing, paperwork etc. All of the work was done in a two week span in whatever spare time we had, working around our work schedules and family obligations. I am so happy that my husband is handy with the tool box and has a good sense of humor...we needed it. I also need to thank my son Ben, for helping to dismantle and move the drafting table and Katie and her friend Nick for helping to carry lots of heavy boxes. Mike, the next time you are home I promise to burden you with a major renovation project too.


I am thrilled with the results. The studio is so much more efficient and a pleasure to paint in. And did I mention that it was a birthday present??? Happy Birthday to me!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Windy Hill Studio Make-over, Part 1


It has been over a month since I last blogged. What took me so long? I asked myself that same question many times as I was in the process of clearing out the old art studio and creating my dream studio. Emptying 20 years worth of contents from the studio, taking down shelving, cleaning the floor and painting the walls, I wondered, "why did I put this off for so long?" I can't remember a time when I didn't have my "studio", my place to paint and draw. When I was a teenager I created a space for myself in the basement. I grew up in an old house, with a standard old house basement...huge sprawling furnace, lots of creepy spiders, bone chilling cold in the winter, but nice and cool in the summer. And of course the lighting was terrible; a few bulbs here and there hanging from spindly crooked old wires. This was truly a basement. There was no attempt to try and pass it off as a rec room. Unless you use this spelling of "wreck". But it was my space and I loved it, or at least the idea of it. A space of my own. I painted under the spindly lights, shivered all winter long and created the usual high school quality art. Nothing special.

 In college we had large cavernous studios on campus so I grew accustomed to spreading out my supplies over as much space as possible. And the lighting was great! After college I had a small area in my apartment which served as the studio. One day my cat walked over the wet paint palette and then proceeded to walk across the rug...the only item I had purchased retail. (Everything else came from garage sales) So....I switched to dry media.


 A few years down the road in our very first house, my husband helped me create a studio space in the smallest bedroom of the house. I lost that room the next year, when my oldest was born, so I moved the studio to the guest room. A few years later my next child was born, oldest moved to the guest room, new baby in little room, so I lost my studio, and any guests we had, slept in the living room. My husband began preparations for the new studio in guessed it, the BASEMENT. It was a great space though, lots of room and some terrific storage space. And even the lighting was pretty good.

So I painted in the basement while the kids were napping which turned out to be not as often as I had hoped. Sometimes they joined my at my table and drew and painted along with me.


Well, I can't believe it has taken me five paragraphs to get to the drafting table. The drafting table came from either Carrier Corporation or Niagara Mohawk, I truly can't remember. We bought it from a friend who had purchased it from either one of the above corporations. This table was used by the engineers, so there was plenty of space on it for laying out blueprints, any other sort of plans and maybe even buffet for 10 people. The drafting side was 60" wide by 48" high and had a beautiful wood top. On the other side was a table, also topped with wood, and a large drawer for storage. The base of the entire unit was metal, very heavy and able to withstand earthquakes and other natural disasters I'm sure. It was perfect for my basement studio, where I had plenty of room to spread out. Unfortunately, upstairs we were running out of room to spread out and so we began to look for a new, larger house.


In 1989, we moved into our present home, which we had built for us. What would have been the bedroom at the top of the stairs was re-designed into an open loft-type of space. The open floor plan gave me the opportunity to keep tabs on the kids (we added one more, bringing our grand total to 3 children) playing downstairs or in their bedrooms while I worked in the studio. In theory a good plan. But the drafting table was so large that it took up a good part of the studio. It stuck out like a peninsula jutting into the available floor space and left little space for anything else. We added storage shelves which accumulated lots of art supplies and a ton of other stuff. Being an art teacher I tend to think that nothing should ever be thrown out because "I can use that in a project someday". I stuck with this arrangement for many years; the kids often shared the space with me. It was a great spot to work on any school project involving art. And I really did a ton of artwork in that cramped space! I knew that soon I would need to make a change, if only for my sanity. The room was just too cluttered and inefficient and I was so sick of looking at art supplies crammed onto every available horizontal surface.

But when to do it??? And how? And....most frightening of all... Where would I put everything during the process? Tune in tomorrow for the next, and last installment.....

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

On Location at Camp Iroquois

For the last two summers I have been taking a group of adult and teen artists to YMCA Camp Iroquois to paint on location. We get there around 5:30 pm...after all the kids have gone home. We usually set up along the waterfront and try to capture the ever changing color of the lake and surrounding vegetation as the sun gets lower in the sky. A few people opt to paint one of the cabins or the trails leading into the woods. Our set-up is primitive, at least by studio standards. We get by with just the barest minimum of supplies, and as we load our palettes and gather our brushes, inevitably someone starts telling "best and worst camping trip" stories. Usually everyone has a story to share and the conversation is lively. After my demo, (short for demonstration, not demolition...although there was that one time...) each person wanders off to the area they have selected and begins to work. Conversation continues for a while, but as our artists get more involved with their subject matter, it grows quieter. I love to watch the complete absorption each artist has with their subject. Some find easy success, others will need to experiment with several color combinations and blending techniques before they are pleased with their efforts. By the end of the evening each artist has something to show; some are finished pieces, others are not. But there is always tomorrow night! This year I have made a change. Instead of working in acrylic paint, we will be using pastels. I love the vibrant, immediate color we achieve with pastels and the clean-up will be so much easier. No messy palettes to clean (OK exaggeration here... we always used paper palettes) but you get the idea. We are not just trying something new, we are streamlining our process. If you are interested, come and join us on July 24, 25 and 26 for 3 evenings of pastel painting on location from 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm. You need to register by July 15 at the East Area Family YMCA. $50 for YMCA members; $60 for Non-members. All art supplies are included. We will meet in the parking lot at Camp Iroquois, 4795 Sweet Road, Manlius. And yes, there is a shelter in case of inclement weather.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Pansies and the Wolf Spider

Well it has been over a month since I last blogged. I would like to say that it was because I was re-charging my creative self, but it was just plain busyness that kept me away from writing anything more than a quick post on Facebook.

I painted Pansies! because I was looking for a composition that had contrast, specifically areas of darkness contrasting with bright color. I was teaching a watercolor class where the students already had experience with the medium, but many were unsure of how to portray dark areas without resorting to black.

I also wanted to use the random quality of watercolor bloom, to help define the leaves. After lightly sketching the flowers and a few leaves, I wet just the areas where I wanted color to flow. All of the leaves and dark areas were washed with various shades of greens and blues. When the paper had dried slightly, but the paint was still wet, I dropped bits of clean water on random areas to let the watercolor bloom create the effects of dappled light on the leaves. After the leaves had dried somewhat, I added a bit of Payne's Gray to the darker, cooler, green/blue colors that I had mixed before. I used that color to add the shadowed areas around the leaves and punch up the contrast.

The pansies were painted with combinations of cadmium yellow and lemon yellow. I used a dark purple for the markings in the center of the pansies and used a very very dilute (mostly water, very little paint) to add shadows and depth to the flowers.

So are you wondering why I titled this blog Pansies and the Wolf Spider? Don't bother looking for the spider in the painting...this isn't a hidden pictures game.

Here's the story: I bought the flowers which were in one of the "hang it on your house kind of bags" on Mother's Day weekend and hung them on the tree which overhangs our deck at camp. When I returned to camp two weeks later, I discovered a bunch of shriveled.....but not dead pansies. I gave them some water and promised to bring them home where I could give them more TLC.

So when it was time to back up the car to go home I put the plant in a box along with some other items which needed to go back to civilization. I loaded my car, being careful to leave a space for the box full of ailing pansies (which would of course receive the best of care at home). As I was placing the box in my car I saw a huge wolf spider, big as my fist sitting in the box looking at me. Now, put yourself in my place...small car, one and a half hour ride home. I did the only thing I could possibly do....and I'm sure the pansies are just fine, sitting in the box, in the yard up at camp.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Art and Science

Well, I am back from a long vacation (Hawaii and San Diego) and ready to jump back into the cycle of art exhibits and teaching. The next show that I am participating in is the Central New York Branch of the National League of American Pen Women exhibit at the Caroline Szozda Gallery, 305 West Fayette St. in Syracuse. The theme of the show is "Ekphrasis" which is a literary description of, or commentary on, a visual work of art. In our case, we have sometimes reversed the order, so that we have visual commentaries on literary work. If you are scratching your head saying "what does that mean????" here is the quick and simple explanation: Writers are exhibiting work based on visual art or music, artists are exhibiting work based on writing, or another art form. I have selected a piece done a few years ago titled "Art and Science". It is based on the work of the late Dr. Bonnie St. Andrews, Founding Editor of the Healing Muse, which is a literary and visual journal published each year by SUNY Upstate Medical Center. Art and Science are two sides of the Sword of Life; split halves of a maple seed... The opening reception is on May 11, 5:00pm - 8:00 pm.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Just Hangin' at the Lake

Down at the end of one of the bays on our lake there is a scene I had been wanting to paint for a few years. A kayak nestled in the weeds, surrounded by trees with buoys hanging from them, reflections dancing in the water, struck me as being the quintessential image of our laid back life here at the lake. Some days, when the surface of the water is like glass, the lake provides a mirror image. But with just a touch of my kayak paddle, I can stir up the most interesting abstractions of color and light.

I finally started the painting this past winter as part of a demo I was doing at Eve Galleria. After the demo, the unfinished painting got put away for a few weeks as I was busy with other things. I don't usually work that way; I like to keep the momentum going until the painting is done. But as we all know, life gets in the way sometimes and we put our projects on hold to deal with all of those other things. I finally was able to finish the painting last week. It's Spring now; the first flowers are in bloom and lawn mowers are whirring throughout my neighborhood here in the suburbs.

But in my painting, I'm at the lake and it's high summer. You can feel the sun on your back and listen to the sounds of the lake around you. A fish jumps, creating more of those wonderful abstractions on the water, birds call to one another and in the distance you hear the laughter of the children as they canon-ball into the water. Ahhh...summer.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Drawing classes begin the week of April 23

It's time to get out my pencils and sharpen my drawing skills (and the pencils too) as I get ready to teach "Intro to Drawing" beginning the week of April 23 at the Y Arts Studio. It is good to get back to basics every now and then, and teaching provides me with that opportunity every few months. I have been busy teaching Acrylic Painting and Watercolor, which satisfies my need for color! color! color! But now I will take a few weeks to just look at line, form and value. Eventually color will make it's way back into my work...I can feel the Prismacolors in my hands already!!!
Here's a colored pencil drawing from a few years back, based on a newspaper photo of Dale Earhart. My favorite part is the reflections in his sunglasses. The background is watercolor, the rest all pencil work.

Registration for the "Intro to Drawing" class is going on now. The class is open to YMCA Members and Non-Members; all supplies are included in the fee. The Y Arts Studio is located in the East Area Family YMCA in Fayetteville, NY. Visit for more information on registration.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Eat Your Veggies!!!

This is the second installment in my series of BIG FOOD. I'm teaching an Acrylic painting class for the next few weeks and needed some fresh ideas for Still Life that I could set up in the studio and paint from. I was probably hungry at the time and the idea of food popped into my head and thus began the series.

I like this series for a few reasons.

1.Using the idea of enlarging the object forces us to take a good look at details, edges, shadows and reflected color. Taking in all of this information and transferring it to the canvas without getting too fussy and illustrative is my goal.

2.Composition and Negative space. Placement of the objects in the picture plane determines the negative space. Well yes, we know that, but working with students to build the still life and experiment with lighting reinforces the principles of composition. Moving objects around until the placement is the most satisfying and then figuring out how to add drama becomes part of the learning process for developing a good composition. Drama is usually achieved by experimenting with lighting from above, below, behind. In playing around with placement of our light source we immediately see that how we perceive color depends on the available light.
My favorite point in this lesson is when students first see reflected color, or color reflected from one object to another.
Suddenly a whole new world opens up!

more on this later........

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Hungry Anyone?

I'm taking a little break from landscapes and working on a series of BIG FOOD paintings. I am using the paintings as demos for my Acrylics class which meets on Monday night at the Y Arts Studio. Boredom with the usual still life types of objects led me to the Produce aisles at Wegmans and Tops to look for food that was "good enough to eat...I mean paint". Although the canvas board is only 11 x 14, I decided to paint these objects in a larger than life size, as if bursting out of the frame. I am also trying to do a lot of the painting during the class, when I am not teaching or helping students. This forces me to paint faster and looser, with more lush brush work. Finishing touches are added at home in my studio.

And the best part is, that I do get to eat the food when I am done with the painting!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Creating Movement in a Painting

As we get closer to St. Patrick's Day more and more of the Irish paintings are appearing on the blog. This one titled Ceili! was inspired by the music, dance and excitement of an Irish Ceili (party). Two dancers, slightly left of center, leap toward opposite sides of the painting creating a diagonal tension and moving our eye toward the supporting elements, the musicians. One dancer's foot points directly to the fiddle player, drawing her into the area we call our focal point, or main area of interest. The two dancers and fiddle player create a triangle shape, which becomes our focal point. The viewer can see part of a bodhran and the hand holding the tipper. Part of an accordion is visible, but very abstracted near the left corner. And last but not least, in the top left corner we have what seems to be a band; they are very abstracted and painted in subdued color...I call them the "Muddy Neutrals".

In a painting such as Ceili!, pictured here, we have a moment frozen in time, yet full of the illusion of movement.

How do we capture movement in a painting? There are a few things to consider.
Edges for one, should be somewhat fuzzy, not sharply defined. A precise line indicates something static. A line which is looser, a bit disconnected can indicate movement.

Details should be minimal; enough to define an object without over-emphasizing it.
As the dancers leap through the air, their dresses and hair move with them; they are not static. The fiddle player tosses her hair in a movement that repeats the shape of the dancers hair, and reinforces the illusion of movement.

Color of course is of utmost importance when portraying movement. Warm colors come forward, cool colors recede. Bright colors also come forward and neutrals recede. This is something we can use to our advantage here.

*The artist Hans Hofmann (1880 - 1966) proved that the illusion of space, depth, and even movement on a canvas could be created abstractly using color and shape, rather than representational forms.
Although I did not use many cool colors here, I did use neutrals to create the shadowed areas and to provide contrast for the intense warm colors. I layered several warm intense colors on top of each other and next to each other to create an air of excitement. The neutral were all made by mixing those intense colors together to make a series of subdued tones to complement the intense colors.

The brushwork in this painting was done with a loose quick stroke which changed direction to reinforce the idea of shapes and movement. The palette knife work added a few textured strokes to complete the illusion of movement.

Below is the link for the Hans Hofman website, which further details the push and pull theory.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

In Good Company

"The artist's quest is to succeed in combining all compositional attributes and physical elements into those that are purely spiritual. That is the secret of art". Edward J. Fraughton

Those were the opening words to "Arts as a Spiritual Practice", our Worship Service this past Sunday at May Memorial, where I was one of the speakers. And was I ever in good company! Fellow visual artists Charlie Wollowitz (sculpture), Linda Wollowitz (fiber arts)and Bob Brudick (photography)were also speakers. I enjoyed Charlie's references to the "She-devil Muse" which compels him to create art. The multi-talented Fred Fiske composed a song "Sweet Inspiration" for the occasion. Writers Carey Pitzrick and Dick Pearson were eloquent and passionate as they read their poetry and musician Glenn Kime seemed to sum up our reasons for creating art so succinctly when he said we create art/make music/write, because it makes us happy. And that is so true. For all of the various media and approaches to art, we share a passion, a fire in our belly that compels us to create. To make art when we are happy, to make art when we are sad or confused because we know that somewhere in that search for contrast/emphasis/balance/line/shape/form we will find either resolution or acceptance. And to know and accept that our lives will often be shaped by circumstances that are out of our control.
...but when I dip my brushes into the paint, I am in control, I am in the driver's seat. Sometimes the paint takes me for a ride and that is good too.

I spoke about Art and Healing. Below are a some thoughts I had put together a few years ago on that subject, when I was preparing for a show at the SUNY Upstate Medical Library.

The Healing Arts. The Art of Healing. It’s strange how often we see these words grouped together, but seldom consider Art as healing. And yet as artists we know instinctively how therapeutic it is to create. How good it feels to take pencil to paper, or to lay one color next to another, or to carve, mold and shape. To knead the clay, to smell the paint, to feel the weight of the brush in hand. Sometimes even a new box of crayons can make us giddy with delight. So we plunge headlong into our latest artistic endeavor, considering line, shape, space, color, composition, proportion and perspective. And as we work through these issues, the bigger issues of life, love, relationships, families, religion, and death, will at various times enter into the picture. Through the act of creating art, either resolution or acceptance is achieved.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

An "Art-ful Weekend" coming Up

I have been gearing up for a non-stop "Art-ful weekend". Friday and Saturday I will be demonstrating watercolor at Eve Galleria's Winter Taste of the Arts. The two days will be full of art, music and great food. The event runs from 11:00 am - 11:00 pm on Friday and 11:00 am - 5:00 pm on Saturday. Eve Galleria is located at 6456 Collamer Rd. East Syracuse.
On Sunday morning I am participating in the "Art of Spirituality" at May Memorial, which promises to be an interesting church service. I will be sharing the program with other artists, writers and musicians.
And on Sunday night it's back to demonstrating painting (this time it will be acrylic) at the YMCA New Member Open House. Whew!!! My arms are tired just thinking about all that painting!
Pictured here is Music! Music! Music! a pastel painting to put you in the mood for a festive and "art-ful" weekend.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

"November", a new look at a familiar scene

Last month in a post titled "Seeing the Situation from a Different Angle", I posted a watercolor based on a scene that I came upon while hiking along the Indian River Lakes Conservancy Trails in November. I wanted to re-visit that scene in another painting, but try a different format for the composition. The first watercolor "Grass Lake Still Life" was done with a horizontal format, which enhanced the restful, serene quality of the painting. Minimal color and details, and repetition of flowing horizontal shapes added to the restful quality. In re-visiting the scene for a new watercolor, I opted for a vertical format which lends energy to the composition. There is also a bit more attention to detail and the colors are stronger. The scene is framed by the trees on either side providing a strong vertical contrast to the horizontal water and landforms.
The painting is titled "November".

Monday, February 6, 2012

Register Now for Painting Classes at Y Arts Studio

It's registration time again at the Y Arts Studio. I have three painting classes which I am offering for Adults/Teens: Introduction to Acrylic Painting, Monday nights 7:00 - 9:00; Advanced/Intermediate Watercolor Tuesday nights 7:00 - 9:00; and Introduction to Watercolor Wednesday mornings 9:30 - 11:30. Classes begin the week of February 27, but it is best to register early (at least a week before class starts) so we have enough supplies on hand. All art supplies are included in the price for the classes (68. YMCA Members, 83. Non-members)

The East Area Family YMCA is located at 200 Towne Drive Fayetteville, NY.
Hours: Monday - Friday 5:30 am - 10:00 pm, Saturdays 5:30 am - 9:00 pm, Sundays 8:00 am - 7:00 pm.

A Busy and Productive Weekend!

Still catching my breath after a very busy and productive weekend adding to my art-to-wear collection. I took a little break from painting on canvas to design some new Celtic Scarves and a tote bag. No photos for the website yet, but I should have them ready to go by next week. And speaking of the website, I had a bit of work done there too; some new images have been added, some sold work deleted. I had a brand new category added, "Shamrocks and Such" which features the Celtic scarves, bags and few paintings....and just in time for St. Patrick's Day!
Pictured here is Ceili! an acrylic on canvas painting, which features Irish Dancers, musicians and lots of swirling color.
And check out my announcement page on my website to see a list of my winter art shows, classes and demonstrations.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Two Art Shows Opening this Weekend

I am exhibiting in several group shows throughout the months of February and March. Two of them are opening this weekend; Admire/Inspire, with Associated Artists at the Manlius Library and May Memorial Loves the Arts (aka the congregational show) at the May Memorial Gallery.
The Admire/Inspire show has an interesting theme; all of the artwork exhibited is inspired by the work of another artist. I am exhibiting a painting titled Veterans Day Parade 2008. My intent was to capture the excitement of a parade filled with people, colors, flags flying and bits of our downtown Syracuse architecture. As I was working on the painting I realized that the subject matter and colors and impressionistic style reminded me of the work of Childe Hassam, one of our American Impressionists. After a bit of research I found that he had painted several pieces with the theme of parades and flags flying throughout an impressionistic cityscape, creating a textured mosaic-like pattern on his canvas.
Stop by the Manlius Library this month to view the painting and to see what inspired everyone else.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

February in "Art of Winter" at Thousand Islands Arts Center

I just dropped off two pictures for the "Art of Winter" show at the Thousand Islands Arts Center in Clayton. The first piece is Frozen River, which was also exhibited there in the "Along the River's Edge" show last summer. It's a mixed media piece which includes watercolor, colored pencil and decorative paper and was featured in a post from last year about the SAC Regional Exhibit. The second piece is titled February and is pictured here.It is acrylic on canvas.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Watercolor Demo at Eve Galleria

Well it's time to get the watercolor brushes out again! I am scheduled to demonstrate watercolors at Eve Galleria's Winter Taste of the Arts event coming up February 24 and 25. The schedule for the two days is still up in the air, so I don't know exactly which day (maybe both!!!) that I will be demonstrating. But I do know that it will be watercolor and probably somewhat experimental. will be interactive. That's right, everyone can participate and bring home a small watercolor.

When the schedule is set, I will send out another announcement, which will include the time I am demo-ing and directions to Eve Galleria, which is in Collamer. I will also have some of my paintings (watercolor and acrylic) for sale as well as a few of the velvet embossed scarves (you can see them on my website )
Pictured here is a watercolor in nice warm colors to help cast away those dreary winter blues.

Hope to see you all at Eve Galleria's Winter Taste of the Arts!

PS the food at Eve Galleria is fabulous!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I have been painting a lot of winter scenes lately...well it is January!Still putting some finishing touches on an acrylic painting and a watercolor painting, both done from the same reference, but completely different in character. I love the challenge of painting the colors of winter, especially the long blue and purple shadows stretching across the snow covered landscape and the delicate yellows, pinks and oranges found in the sunlight glinting off the snow.

Pictured here is a painting from a few years ago, based on a photo taken one day when we were out hiking around the lake. I love snow covered dock and boat "wintering" on the shore and the cozy camp nestled in the trees.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Seeing the situation from a different angle.... Grass Lake Still Life

While hiking along one of the Indian River Lakes Conservancy Trails, I came upon an absolutely beautiful, and totally unknown to me, view of Grass Lake. I think the scene took me by surprise. I usually photograph and/or paint the lake from the vantage point of my kayak or canoe, or from our dock. My husband and I have explored the various little bays and fingers of the lake, the islands, and the shallow weedy areas at the very end of the lake where the loons nest... at least as far back as we were able to kayak. But exploring the lake from the trails above, and at the end of November when so much of the vegetation has died gives one a whole new perspective on the lake. The stillness was extraordinary. The leaves were gone, the summer wildlife had fled to warmer climates or burrowed into warm winter nests. The scene before me seemed to be of a peaceful wilderness, getting ready for its winter nap.

I later created this watercolor based on the photos I had taken that day and the memory of the peaceful stillness.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The NIA Show.....Inspired by Movement

I wear a few different hats at the East Area Family YMCA. One of them is Art Gallery Coordinator. And so with that being said, here is the announcement for our next art show, which incidentally I am part of.

The NIA Show: Inspired by Movement opens tomorrow at the Y Arts Gallery at the East Area Family YMCA, 200 Towne Drive, Fayetteville, NY. This is a group show featuring the work of several artists/dancers who have interpreted their passion for NIA into drawings, paintings and collages. The gallery is open Monday - Friday 5:30 am - 10:00 pm, Saturday 5:30 am - 9:00 pm and Sundays 8:00 am - 7:00 pm. And for those of you who are wondering what NIA's Neuromuscular Integrative Action. NIA is a type of fusion fitness program that involves 3 types of movement; dance, martial arts and healing arts.
Pictured here is "Guts 'n Grace", a mixed media collage.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Capturing the cold, crisp winter light from the cozy studio

I am working on an acrylic painting for the Painting the Winter Show at the Thousand Islands Arts Center. The subject is the view from our dock at camp looking down toward the spot where our bay opens up into the lake. Long blue shadows stretch across the frozen lake, creating a beautiful web-like effect over the ice.
Since the thought of actually standing out in the frigid North Country working plein air does not appeal to me, I am painting from the cozy warm studio. Which of course means I am working from a photograph. I have underpainted in complementary colors, so there is a bit of warm orange peaking out here and there through the cool blue, creating a type of dynamic tension. The moment I observe this, is when I believe I depart from the photograph and let the painting take over. Occasionally I will go back to the photo for reference, but it no longer needed as much as when I am figuring out perspective and proportion. It is now time to let the painting stand alone. I am not making a painting of the photo, I am interpreting the winter landscape.
The painting isn't done yet, but here is the photo I worked from. Should be interesting to compare the two when I have finished the painting.

And here's a painting from a couple of years ago...another interpretation of the Winter Landscape.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year, New Look for my Blog

Well, one more New Year's Resolution accomplished: a new look for my Blog. It really did need an updated design! Take a look and let me know what you think.You should be able to view the artwork and posts from a few different layouts by clicking on the tabs for "classic", "magazine", "mosaic" etc. Well at least I hope so. If not it's back to the drawing board for me. And for those of you who are already tired of winter and dreaming of it is "Set a Spell".

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

It's the first day of the new year and I am up to my eyeballs in clean the studio! Got some new work coming along and a resolution to put together an exhibit of paintings based on an area close to my heart, the Indian River Lakes. In 2007 we bought a camp up in that area and we just can't get enough of it. The natural beauty of the area just begs to be captured on canvas or even in photos for that matter. I have put together a decent body of work, mainly acrylics and watercolors. Now it's time to find the right venue.
Here's a preview of one of the pieces I plan to exhibit. It's a painting of my favorite type of wildlife on the lake. I usually see him skimming along the water or sitting on top of the beaver dam like he owns the lake. Perhaps he does....