Saturday, December 17, 2011

Building Blocks

When my Grandson, Tyler, was a toddler (he'll be ten next month), he loved to play with a collection of wooden blocks made of indestructable hard woods. Heavy and cumbersome as they were, over the years and many moves, I managed to squirrel away these blocks.  They are from my children's childhood. They were saved with the hope of replaying the familiar scene of adult and child building fantastic environments together. 

After each building session with Tyler, I thought of documenting these imaginary structures (completed with touches of rowdy cowboys, carnivorous dinosaurs and zooming cars) not only for their playfullness and inventiveness but knowing changes were coming: from the immediate swipe of the child's hand and the adult's knowledge of childhood's brevity.  I never did take the photographs but the block collection remains.

Yesterday, I traveled to North Andover to Smolak Farm for a painting session.  Cold, gusty winds greeted me as I stepped from my car.  High on a ridge, I looked out over a beautiful vista; the farm with its pond and grazing Canada geese, the impressive illuminated white barn with its outbuildings, acres of orchards, with dark gentle hills and fair weather clouds as a back drop.

Painting these bucolic scenes is thought of by many as a quaint endeavor... but nothing lasts forever except maybe a painting.

Bon Painting!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Not a day to force paint on a paint brush

As discipline as I am when Thursday comes round for plein air painting, it was not a day to force paint on a paint brush.

Indoors, I really tried to paint from a colleague's small color photograph: a marsh scene.  It wasn't meant to be though.  When I returned home, I wiped the canvas panel clean with a rag soaked with turpentine.  I then scaped my palette down to the color of bone.

Because... I really wanted to paint out in the Garden of Eden today.

To stand tall among the swirling grasses and embracing trees

To see all the luscious, earthy details, to gather in all with hawkish eyes.

There! On a distant horizon, set upon its arc; an angel

Observes, ponders then lifts a glistening brush

To the canvas made from the most delicate woven threads

of spider webs, friends' fine hairs, spittle and ocean mist

and paints a most glorious new day.

Good bye my gentle friend.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Printmaker, G. Baumann and outdoor painter

Recently, had published a short article about my all-time favorite color woodcut printmaker, Gustave Baumann. The article speaks of Baumann's love of outdoor painting accomplished in gouache and watercolors on mid-tone papers.  The paintings are beautiful works of art unto themselves but they were only landscapes studies to be finalized in print form...He painted to be a better printmaker.

When the Boston Antiquarian Book and Print Fair comes round, I locate the booth where his prints can be held and the print surface scrutinized for the soft, rich color combinations and mark making.  They are modest designs, unually 9"X11", and were often printed using up to seven woodblocks.  Simply beautiful!

If you are ever in Sante Fe, be sure to stop by the Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of New Mexico to check out their extensive Baumann print collection.

This Thursday, I painted in Beverly at Goat Hill (see link for more historical info regarding this area) overlooking the Bass River.  A lovely, sunny day with temps in the 40's and no one around except for the pick-up truck rendezvous at noontime.  This was my second spot for consideration, the first being at Long Hill.  My Corgi and I sat for a while on a log watching a flock of colorful chickens, a pair of turkeys and comic Guinea hens scratch in the pine straw at the Children's Garden.  Though not inspiring enough to break open the paint box; a comtemplative time well spent.

My attraction at Goat Hill was the busy tumbling of factory buildings lining the river's edge with a distant bridge and checkered water tower contrasting the quiet, blue shape of the water plane.  Of course, the rhythm of the vertical dock pilings in the foreground and the diagonal cutting shoreline and boatyard cranes delighted my eye.  The challenge of organizing such a jumble of shapes and line into a dynamic 12"X16" format, invigorated my painting senses into using color spots.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Sting of Death...

...and finding solace in Nature and paint.

We need some pines to assuage the darkness
When it blankets the mind,
We need a silvery stream that banks as smoothly
as a plane's wing, and a worn bed of
Needles to pad the rumble that fills the mind,
And a blur or two of a wild thing
That sees and is not seen,
We need these things
Between appointments, after work,
And if we keep them, then someone someday,
Lying down after a walk
And supper, with the fire hole wet down,
The whole night sky set at a particular
Time, without numbers or hours, will cause
A little sound of thanks---a zipper or a snap---
To close round the moment and the thought,
Of whatever good we did.


       'Around Us' by Marvin Bell

In loving memory of my brother,
Joseph Jaworski III, who died November 11, 2011

Memorial Donations can be made to the
National Brain Injury Association

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New Prints, New Shows

SUSAN JAWORSKI-STRANC'S new prints are being exhibited at the following venues:
'Print Fair North', November 12 & 13, 10A-5P at Zea Mays Printmaking Studio , 221 Pine Street, Studio #320, Florence, MA
'Trees', November 4 - December 23 at Byran Memorial Gallery, Jeffersonville, Vermont www.byrangallery,org
'PLENTY', 2011 Invitational Group Show, November 17-January 28, at 13Forest Gallery, 167A Mass Ave, Arlington, MA
'Annual Juried Members Show', November 19- December 30 at Whistler House Museum, Lowell, MA

Monday, November 7, 2011

Jeffrey's Neck Road

For Thursday's painting date, I traveled along Jeffrey's Neck Road (JNR) in Ipswich. The morning was sunny with temps in the high forties when I reached the appointed spot; a small beachy cove on the left hand side just before JNR splits into Northbridge and Little Neck Road. I donned my hunter's orange knitted cap... not as a fashion statement but as a pre-cautionary alert. So no one would think me a dear deer standing there... it's hunting season.
There was a smokiness quality to the light that morning. Most likely the light frost and the warming sunshine had an impact on the morning atmosphere. On the beach, I found the changing of the tides to my satisfaction. For the tide was waning and would return to the same height around 4PM giving me the opportunity to re-visit the same high tide and beach exposure of my first painting of the morning.
I painted on tinted gessoed printing paper (Rives BFK) approximately 8X10 inches. I find this type of prepared surface to be very receptive to quick painterly sketches. I have a selection of warm and cool grounds to paint on. Gessoed watercolor paper works well too.
I was joined by my painter friend, Marjet Lesk,
We both enjoyed painting the cluster of homes built on the bluff over-looking this part of Great Marsh called Great Neck. The beach we painted on is just one small area of the 25,000 acre Great Marsh here on the North Shore. For more inofmation regarding the area see
So quiet was this part of the beach at this particular time of year. Gone were the frenzy of beach goers, tourists, cars, motorboats! There's the old saying, "So quiet you could hear a pin drop"... well on this day it was so quiet you could hear the sounds of hard, crusty shelled oysters hitting the low tide, exposed beach rocks...Click!Clack! Pop! Oysters dropped by high flying sea gulls that then swooped down and pecked out the sweet flesh exposed.
Oddly I observed, there were only oyster shells strewned about. No clam shells were to be found. Do these two mullusks not live and flourish in the same area?
Another sound had permeated the beach area. It echoed the same repetitious, staccato sound I was making as I stippled small rock textures onto my canvas with my brush; the sound of a nearby woodpecker. Tap, tap, tap, we both worked in unison.
Bon Painting!

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Misty Day in Essex

On Thursday I traveled to the quaint river town of Essex for my weekly engagement of plein air painting. To my delight, the construction of Route 133 was finally complete: no diesel fumes, no noisy steam shovels and jack hammers, no long lines of idling traffic. Also, because of new concrete sidewalks, an easy care-free walk along both sides of this scenic stretch is now safe and pleasurable.
Essex is a favorite spot among painters because of its natural beauty and maritime history. Birthplace to about 4,000 schooners long ago, Essex Shipbuilding Museum and Burnham's boat builder outbuildings with catboats are nestled in a cove located on the Essex River. This is the scene I chose to paint with my easel set-up behind Periwinkles Restaurant.
Now I can't be choosey when it comes to Thursdays' weather, because Thursday is my only day dedicated to plein air painting. The rest of my time is spent in the studio making linoleum prints Well, it wasn't raining but the atmosphere was quite misty. All days can't be sunshine and rainbows; some days can elicit a mysterious scene shrouded in mist and fog... and this was such a day. While painting that morning, a serviceman for the restaurant inquired if I was good at painting in sunshine. Who needs bright colors steep in sunshine when I can work up a palette of exotic greys.
I knew painting was coming to a close when two elderly ladies wandered near and I asked if they had a hair dryer, which would have been a wonderful drying tool because the fine mist had coated my canvas and droplets began to form and hung along the bottom edge.
Finished in two and half hours, I packed up and traveled to Corliss Brothers Nursery to pick out three dozen tulips bulbs for spring forcing... there was sunshine on my shoulders for the rest of the day.
This Saturday, October 22, is Essex Clamfest.
Bon Painting!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pochade Paint Boxes

Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, died last week. Because his life's passion was to turn the computer into "something wonderful", today I am much impressed by the computer's mobility and its diverse applications considering what my personal computer looked like and how it functioned (remember floppy discs?) a couple of decades ago.
The same type of revolution has happened to the pocade box. A pochade box is a portable paint box which holds paint brushes, paint tubes, palette, etc. and is carried into the landscape. Developed and used in the field for many, many decades, the ubiquitous wooden French easel weighs about 18 pounds (oh so heavy) and the wing nuts used for adjusting the length of legs are cumbersome.
Five years ago, after purchasing a few types of pochade boxes, I invested in a Soltek. This easel has a contemporary, sleek design made of light weight, space-age material, weighs in at 9 pounds; it's sturdy with automatic locking, telescoping legs makes this easel quick and easy to set up. I thoroughly enjoy the look and function of this easel. (In photo, I have included my iPod for comparision to my Soltek)
"Welcome to 21st Century plein air painting",
Oh... my favorite APPLE product.... warm, homemade apple pie.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Open Studios at Western Ave, Lowell

How is a working print studio transformed into a gallery-like setting... with extra furniture removed, open storage shelves covered with black drop cloths and white paper, extra display panels brought in, and portfolio boxes open and placed upon the 4'X6' glass inking table. Tranformation complete!
On the weekend of October 1 and 2, hundreds of people strolled through the studio with an array of interesting questions regarding the reductive block print process and my prints.
My 4 year old grandson, Ethan, was on hand as well. He was sitting at the office computer when my daughter decided to do a little wedding gift shopping at Gary Destramp's studio a few studios down. Upon her leaving, there was a rush of people into my studio. I happily chatted wawy.
When the studio emptied, I found Ethan holding a ball point pen and my guest book with a most delicious smile on his face. There on the book's pages was a familiar drawing motif of his, TORNADOS. I looked around and found more swirling, triangular forms, gyrating across post cards, price lists, anything that could be considered a drawing surface. eyes were upon a print in progress at my workbench; an 'open studio' demonstration complete with carved linoleum and printed paper in the registration gig. There on the print, I see tornados drawn with such passion as only a little four year old could draw.
I immediately sat down... called him over to me. I wrapped my grandmotherly arms around that happy, proud little boy and told him, "I love you!" Nothing is as precious as grandchildren.
(Ethan, 1.5 years old, already a connoiseur of his Nana's plein air paintings).

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Experiential painting

I traveled to the Portland Museum of Art this past Sunday to view the exhibition, "John Marin, Modernism at Midcentury".
Anyone who is drawn to the intense forces at work along Maine's rugged coastline, this is the painter for you. Just name a few adjectives to describe the coastline i.e., turbulent, frothy, excitement, choppy, clashing and these words are expressed in Marin's paintings. Marin's interest lays in all things that clash, the push and pull, the calm and energized or as he collectively names it, 'modernist dissonance'. His expressive brushwork and color vitality offers the viewer an emotional and descriptive, symbolic experience of the sea and coastline.
While contemplating the exhibit, I recalled a summer course I had taken, given by Natalie Alper at the Museum School. I enrolled in hopes of strengthening my plein air painting. After showing her a few samples of my work, she told me to forget about them. "Tomorrow, bring with you a bigger palette a larger substrate and big, big brushes like house painting brushes". She instructed me to paint what I knew and BIG.
Water became my theme. And what came pouring out on paper was a wellspring of personal experience: beaver dams, rushing streams, tree shadows on a frozen tundra, waterfalls. The images I called forth with my large brushes were numerous and captured a joyous celebration of nature. Because there was no need for photographic references or to be physically placed in open air surrounded by Nature herself, this type of painting experience was liberating.
Viewing John Marin's paintings, I too can feel his experiential excitement as he painted the waters as he knew them.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

on the streets of Newburyport

submitted and published in the Newburyport Daily News, 9/2/11

To the Editor:

Hey Paradise!

Time to put up a parking garage? Things are getting kind of tight out there on the streets of Newburyport, and it's not just the parking.

A group of local plein air painters, known as the Newburyport Ten, were in town to paint scenes of the port city and to talk up their recent show at the Newburyport Art Association with the good people they meet while painting outdoors.

I was one such painter on Green Street to capture the fabulous view of the Mission Oak Grill's church steeple, City Hall, and the waterfront with sailboats afloat on the river.

At 8:40 a.m., I set up my easel and canvas on the street while standing close to the front of my parked car. What a great morning to be slapping oil paint on my canvas while enjoying chats with passers-by. Then, while working on the final strokes, a most unfriendly comment was rudely hurled at me by a man who indignantly strolled by and entered the nearby Green Street Executive Offices building..."With the shortage of parking spaces in this city, I suggest you not be set up there."

As I looked around at the empty parking space ahead of me, another behind me and yet another across the street, I had to wonder what would motivate such a remark. It clearly was not parking that was tight.

Sorry buddy, I got this space.


Open Air at Appleton Farms, Hamilton, MA

This past Saturday morning with plenty of warm and brilliant sunshine warming the air, I welcomed autumn by painting at Appleton Farms.
With the commencement of summer greens turning into honey color, I'm in palette paradise. Favorite paint combo is phalo-green and cadmium orange which equals ochre(s) galore. My outdoor palette is slim-trimmed to the use of cad yellow, cad orange, cad red, alizarin red, cobalt blue, French ultra-marine blue, viridian, phalo-green and a mountain of titanium white.
I couldn't resist setting up my gear near this over-sized barn with cooing pigeons atop and the fresh manure being discharged by a conveyor belt to the awaiting pick-up truck outside.
Appleton Farms is a land trust and is the oldest operating farm in the country... a rural gem to savor and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Be Prepared

...Who's bringing the umbrellas, tarps, ponchos, towels, wellies, even a clear shower curtain?
Fellow painters Dan Shaw, John Kerwin, Jacob Towle, Mary Altieri, Betsy Lewis and I traveled to Jeffersonville, Vermont for some pre-autumn painting knowing full well the foreboding weather forecast for our four day visit.
Two weeks earlier Hurricane Irene dumped as much as 12 inches of rain in Vermont, overflowing river banks, crippling roads and knocking out bridges and power. And now the large swirling mass of Hurricane Katia was out in the Atlantic bringing in more moisture to the water-logged state. Calling the lodge owners at Sterling Ridge Resort in a panic, their re-assuring response was..."Come on up, everything is fine here!"
Fortunately, the daily view from our cabin's back porch included slow moving bovines munching their way through a pasture and a mist-shrouded Mt. Mansfield in the distance. Some painters took full advantage of the protected space and painted. Others undeterred by the rain, packed up gear and drove their vehicles to paint the lower valley along the Lamoille River as well as the small cascades on the Brewster River at the Grist Mill Bridge and further up on Canyon Road, a beautiful waterfall. Just be aware of fast rising rivers and seek higher ground the weather forecasters and locals told us!
There were successful paintings created during our trip and not all from under the shelter of a porch but from under umbrellas and car hatches.
NOTE: To increase painting success in damp weather, be prepared to make large piles of paint on palette to slap on the canvass. Using paint sparingly in such conditions will cause the paint not to adhere properly to canvass...Remember! Oil and water do not mix. Be prepared.