Gazebo With Fall Foliage oil

Painting in plein air is my therapy.
Painting in plein air is my therapy.

I enjoyed it so much, sitting on the thick root of an old Magnolia to work on this painting. It’s kind of a Zen thing for me.

I’d be more comfortable standing up to draw and paint, but I walked all around the gazebo and thought the best view was  more uphill from it, under the tree. A big branch was partially blocking my view so I had to move around  too see. I decided not to paint the branch that was in my way, but I also enjoyed the way the leaves glow when the sun shines through them. Have you ever noticed that? This painting wasn’t about the Magnolia, though.

If you look in the other direction from there, you can see the end of the Italian Garden, with a stone wall and roses. It smells sooooo sweet, even in the end of Oct. I’m going back to that tree next year.

What I don’t get is, why am I on this beautiful path alone?

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Exquisite Corpse by Bernard Dumaine and Paulo Cunha

graphite
graphite

This is my favorite piece in the Exquisite Corpse show at Artworks.

The show opened tonight.

I met Paulo Cunha who came down from Canada. Dumaine is in France. That’s one fun thing about the Exquisite Corpse game. Artists from all over the world can collaborate. These two guys have a lot of experience working together on corpses.

The Exquisite corpse is a surrealist art game where two or more artists work on a piece and neither knows what the other has done until it’s finished. The second artist has to try to connect to what the first artist started with only an inch showing of the lines the first artist drew. It’s not easy to explain and it helps to have more than one try because it’s not always easy to do. It only works if both artists use the same medium or colors.

The show is in the skylight gallery at Artworks on 4th St. and Hull St in Richmond VA.  If you’re in the Richmond area you should check it out because there’s some crazy stuff in there!

A Spray of Goldenrod by Charles Courtney Curran

At the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk VA.
At the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk VA.

It’s a great show of American Impressionists titled “The Artist’s Garden”. I drove to Norfolk yesterday to see it. The show ends in the beginning of Sept.

It’s exciting to see old Impressionism. There’s a lot of variations in the different artist’s styles. These artists had academic training. You can see it in the beautifully drawn female figures. An artist doesn’t get this kind of results by tracing a photo. This took years of figure drawing practice.

I wanted to see if the old Impressionists used glazes, and yes, I see layers of glazes in a lot of the paintings. Modern Impressionists don’t use glazes. This painting shows a lot of variation in the way the paint was applied. Some is glazes and some parts are painted thick.

The old Impressionists didn’t have a formula. I doubt this was finished in one day. They had inspiration. They were daring and groundbreaking. Modern Impressionists are in a big hurry to finish paintings because they think it makes them look “prolific”. They have a good level of successful paintings that are marketable because they have a formula, which they might call “streamlining” a painting, or “simplifying” or something like that. That’s why all modern Impressionists work looks the same. Modern Impressionists are on some kind of art treadmill. I want to paint like this guy, Curran.

Soy Beans With Crepe Myrtles / oil

building texture with a palette knife
building texture with a palette knife

At York Academy of Art, (long ago) our teachers told us to vary the textures in our paintings. This helps make the viewer’s eye move around the canvas. Heavy texture is fun to paint and to look at, but you need a smoother texture to contrast with the heavy palette knife texture, and to give the eye a place to rest.

I painted in the couch, the way they taught us to paint at YAA, which means you put a layer of Maroger Medium on the dry canvas in the area you want to paint that day. Then paint on top of the medium with color. The paint slides so nicely on the Maroger Medium, which is what the old masters used. I have a tube of Alvi’s  Maroger Medium. It’s great to work with. Sometimes when I get home and sit back and look at my painting, I see things I want to correct. With this medium, you can just wipe the paint off without destroying the dry layers of paint underneath. Also you can thin your paint and make glazes, or go thick impasto on top of the medium.

You can use the palette knife in different ways. Use the flat side of it to spread your paint like butter, to cover a larger area. Or you can dab in thick chunks of paint with the tip of the palette knife. But the technique I use most often with the palette knife is to blob in some glazes of paint with a brush on top of the medium and scratch through the paint with the palette knife to make lines and textures.

The James River From The VA. War Memorial / oil

james river from war memorial

I was sitting on top of the hill there at the War Memorial to work on this painting. It’s more comfortable to stand up at an easel, but I was in plain sight of 1000s of commuters on 2 busy roads. Also, people working in tall buildings could see me there in the sun on the hill. Sitting down makes me feel less obtrusive in the scene.

When I did my 1st charcoal sketch for this painting, I drew a pile of logs in the river, then later decided to eliminate them from the painting. But, in reality, the logs are there in the river providing a habitat for all kinds of wildlife.

You can see the Southside floodwall and the pilings from the old bridges that got destroyed. Plus the Manchester Bridge and railroad bridge.

Ocean In Motion / Exquisite Corpse / collage

I started this Exquisite Corpse  on the top half and Emma Lou Martin finished it with the bottom half and titled it.
I started this Exquisite Corpse on the top half and Emma Lou Martin finished it with the bottom half and titled it.

The Exquisite Corpse is a fun art game where 2 or more artists work on a piece and neither knows what the other artist did, because the 1st artist covers what they did except for 1″ in the center. The 2nd artist can see a few lines and colors to connect their half to what the 1st artist leaves showing. You never know if it’s working or not until it’s finished. Then the 2nd artist can uncover the whole thing and have a look. The 2nd artist has the more difficult part. You have to use your imagination. It helps if you can “think outside the box”.

Our Exquisite Corpse show is happening here in Richmond VA. in Sept. at Artworks on Hull St.

The Trio / oil

Is it just my imagination, or does it look like the Pitcher Plants are singing?
Is it just my imagination, or does it look like the Pitcher Plants are singing?

They’re standing in the hot sun on the edge of the pond. The 1st few days I worked on this painting, it was rainy and cloudy, which kept it from getting too hot. Now the weather seems to be going back to the hot and humid. I like to work on my painting in the morning before it gets too hot outside. I can find some shade to sit in and mix my colors, then I usually stand in the sun with the plants to paint. It helps me see if I have my colors and values close to what’s natural in sunlight. I’ll stand up to paint because it’s more comfortable than painting sitting down. After 45 minutes or so, I take a little break and look away from my painting for a few minutes. I can go back to it and get my concentration back for another 30 – 45 minutes. But when the temperature goes up to 85 or so, I’m done.

Now I’m looking for a place to sit and stand in the shade for my next painting.

Pitcher Plants / charcoal study and drawing story

pitcher plants charcoalThe Pitcher Plants are my favorites in the garden! I’ll never get tired of drawing them.

I’m planning to do a painting with 3 plants and call it “The Trio”. I got inspired by a Rembrandt by that name.

This particular Rembrandt was on loan to the VMFA last year with 2 others. They are small paintings. He did his Trio painting of singers. It was so great to see it!  So I got a sketch started of Rembrandt’s Trio in graphite standing in front of it in the museum.. In fact, I had it to myself. I STOLE Rembrandts composition! hahahahahah I don’t see what’s wrong with stealing something great from the masters if you can do it. But then, the 2nd time I went back to steal a little better from Rembrandt, a guard did actually tell me to stop drawing. Drawing wasn’t allowed.  I probably can’t show you my sketch of Rembrandt’s Trio. I know photography isn’t allowed in all the exhibits, but drawing?  oh well, I got the inspiration. I studied the Rembrandt for hours too.

I’m pretty sure Rembrandt did charcoal studies before he did a painting. This is my 2nd try on a sketch for my Trio painting. The 1st sketch didn’t work.

Rose Garden ’15 / oil

2 important things I learned from gardeners without having to ask
2 important things I learned from gardeners without having to ask

#1   ”  We can only do this because we’re rich.”

#2    ” It’s not work if you don’t HAVE to do it.”

I though about it later. This is what happened.

When the Tulips wilted all at once , the volunteer gardeners at Lewis Ginter Botanical pulled them out and replaced them with Summer flowers so fast. I was amazed.  As I walked past them and saw the new plants going in, I said to the gardeners, ” OMG , You guys work fast! ” and “Nice work, you guys!”

They were all on the ground digging the dirt. A man said to me, “We can only do this because we’re rich.” I laughed and told him, “I’m in that club too!” hahahhaha

Then another day I was sitting in the shade mixing up my colors, and some guys were pruning the roses in the hot sun. One of the volunteer gardeners was very friendly and talking to people walking through. I heard him say, “It’s not work if you don’t HAVE to do it.”

Which answered one of my questions, because I can’t decide if art is “work” or not. I still don’t know. Do I HAVE to do art to keep my sanity? Does that make it ok for me to call it “work” even though it’s so much fun and it doesn’t pay?

We could debate that subject, but it sure looks like work to me what the gardeners do!

Exquisite Corpse, untitled

Sarmistha Talukdar did the left and I finished it on the right.
Sarmistha Talukdar did the left and I finished it on the right.

The Exquisite Corpse is a Surrealist art game where 2 or more artists work together on a piece and neither knows what the other did until it’s finished. so they come out all crazy!

Sarmistha started this one with the Teddy Bear and balloon on the left and covered it up except for 1 ” in the center for me to connect my lines and match colors. Then as the 2nd artist on this corpse, I had to imagine something to connect to the edge of Sarmistha’s side, without taking off the wrapping paper on her side until I was finished.  I did the side with Nature. On the 1″ of Sarmistha,s side I could see a touch of green in the cut out shape under the bear’s chin. That’s why I used green too. I found a gell pen at AC Moore that’s close to the color she has. And she used oil pastel too, so I used my oil pastels.

I think it’s an amazing coincidence that we both drew an oval on the top of the picture! I didn’t cheat by lifting the wrapping paper. Maybe we have ESP!

Sarmistha is a scientist for real! she’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dept. of Human and Molecular Genetics at VCU

This is an exquisite corpse I started for Henrietta Near to finish.
This is an exquisite corpse I started for Henrietta Near to finish.

I tinted an 8 x 10 board with blue acrylic and collaged some pretty and shiny paper on it. I’ll give Henrietta the same paper I used and she can add anything else she wants to on her half. Using the same colors or papers gives the corpse a continuous look to the halves. I covered my half except for 1″ for Henrietta to go by and marked “up”.

Helene Ruiz is having an Exquisite Corpse workshop at Artworks on Hull St. in Richmond VA. on June 18 6:30 to 9. I think it will be fun! If you’re interested in the Exquisite Corpse, join us!

No Camera Needed