Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Like Frosting a Cake

I frosted two canvases last Saturday at a MCA workshop, "Seeing the Forest for the Trees", http://www.paintingpersonalandpowerful.com/2010/08/blog-post.html
held at the Arnold Arboretum http://arboretum.harvard.edu/visit/ .  Wielding a palette knife, similar to a trowel used in masonry, I thickly layered my canvases.  In the eight years of plein air painting, I have never applied so much paint to a single 12X16 panel.  At times after squeezing another long tootsie roll of paint to recharge my palette, I would calculate the cost per paint tube. For example, a 200ml tube of Cobalt Blue cost around $58.00.

But heck, I was there for a new painting experience...so I smeared 4 colors (phthalo green, Alizarin Crimson, cobalt blue and cadmium yellow) into slippery striations, swirling mark making, palette knife daubs here and there; buttery, at times unbeaten.  Soon, I began to smell the essence of color: mossy forest floor green, Sunkist orange, melty dark chocolate.

For the other canvas, I scraped up two complementary pigments, cadmium orange and French-ultramarine blue and mixed them together with dollops of titanium white yielding the color of mushrooms: cremini, oyster, porchini, shiitaki, Chanterelles.

Ooo la, la- a juicy sensuality and physicality spread across the surface.

This freshly applied paint was my new seducer.

Bon Painting!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Cedar Point Trail

Inhale the weather
Buckets of salted fishy cold
Silver beach blankets grind
While tidal waves roll the fluid edges.

I enjoyed the solitude of my painting at the Crane's Estate in Essex http://www.thetrustees.org/crane-estate/  this past Thursday.

My walk from the parking lot along Cedar Point Trail was a hardy, heart pounding journey exacerbated by my over-loaded painting cart pulling from behind.  I trudged; first down a winding stony road, then along a flat dirt path which divided the expansive marsh grasses undulating on either side, then onward through the valley of brightly lit sand dunes.  At last, I could hear the ocean waves.  I leaned into my last steps with my cart cutting a deep granular path of two, parallel deep troughs.

*One hiker of the day wondered at such pecular scars carved into the sandy path as she walked along... she thought perhaps two bicycles?  "No! Now I understand,"she said aloud to me as she glanced upon my painting set-up after descending her last dune to the beach.  "Enjoy this good day!" we said to each other.

Standing at the end of the trail, I observed first how cold the wind was, the deep blue of the waters, then the brightness of the sand beach and the brilliant whiteness of the cottages tucked in the dark greeness of foliage; how bright the autumnal sun was reflected.  There I painted; in four hours the tidal waters found my planted soles and painting easel.

My walk back to my car was a reflective activity rather than a physical one.  I carried my back pack where it belonged... on my back, making a lighter load of my rolling cart.  I recorded my return journey's observation through the lens of my camera. 

Please go to
to see the marsh flora and fauna of that particular day.
Bon Painting!

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Great Paint Out

Dan Shaw, Bud Smith, Marjet Lesk, Betsy Lewis and I joined the Plein Air Painters of Maine for the 8th Annual "Great Paint Out" sponsored by the Oil Painters of America. http://www.oilpaintersofamerica.com/index.cfm   Painters from all across the United States will be plein air painting at their own venues throughout the month.  There were 15 participants who painted at Grimes Cove which is located along the scenic Ocean Point Road in East Boothbay Maine.  The weather was glorious and Grimes Cove is such a beautiful place to paint!

Dan (left) and Bud at Grimes Cove 

We had our group portrait taken by the photographer from the Boothbay Register newspaper.  Many new artist friends were made including Carlton Plummer (of the rocks) http://www.plummergallery.com/carlton.html and Bobbi Heath of Westford. MA http://www.bobbiheath.com/  and who I enjoyed meeting and talking to. My friends and I visited area galleries including Corrine McIntyre's Ocean Point Gallery, who was the organizer for this year's paint out.  http://www.oceanpointstudio.com/  

Donning ocean creature hats before dinner
We lodged at Sprucewold Lodge http://www.sprucewoldlodge.com/ where we ate delicious family-styled breakfasts and dinners.  Each evening we relaxed in front of the stone fireplace while enjoying a glass of wine and chatted about art matters, circulated art books and critiqued each other's daily work.

To the right are a few of the plein air paintings I completed during my two day stay in Boothbay.

Also, it is well worth the time and effort to sketch a little drawing to deconstruct the scene and compose the painting's layout before beginning the painting  Below are two of my quick sketches used in the paintings. I tore them out of my book and taped them to my easel support for easy reference.  There's not much details but the quickly drawn shapes and lines help me to contain and simplify the complex scene.

Monday, July 23, 2012

A couple of Summer Shows

Now through August 4, I'll have prints on display in the 9th annual “Making an Impression” print show at the Newburyport Art Association on 65 Water Street.  13 member printmakers of the Association will be exhibiting in the main gallery and the upstairs Hartson Gallery.

“Hadley Tobacco Barns” and “Forging a Silhouette of Indestructability” are two, new prints I am exhibiting as well as a number of other reduction linoleum prints.

There will be an Artists Reception Sunday July 29 , 5-7PM and print demonstrations on Saturday, July 28th from 1-3PM.  The public is invited. 

On Friday evening of July 27 at the McGowan Fines Arts Gallery in Concord, New Hampshire there will be an opening for “Summer Selections” show.  “Winter Sentries” and “Blue Skies, Pink Boughs”, both reduction linoleum prints will be exhibited on the gallery walls as well as a small selection of other linoleum prints.  To see show, https://www.facebook.com/mcgowanfineart?bookmark_t=page#!/photo.php?fbid=258805915437&set=a.10150306346990438.553279.258784260437&type=1&theater

Also, "Antique Bottle; Strawberry Milk" was juried into the 3rd Biennial "footprint" International Exhibition at the Center for Contemporary Printmaking in Norwalk, CT. The show runs through September 2, 2012 http://www.contemprints.org/ccp-exhibitions

Friday, July 13, 2012

Development of the etching series, "Mountain Byways"

I have returned from Zea Mays Print Studio in Florence, MA http://zeamaysprintmaking.com/ where I was hard at work on a three plate color etching, the first in a series being planned called "Mountain Byways" during a five day workshop conducted by Lousie Kohrman. http://www.louisekohrman.com/

Here is my first plate called the key plate.  A simple etched line image was developed and printed in black.  This printed image was then transferred to the two remaining  plates by printing the wet print onto de-greased copper plates using proper registration methods on the press bed.

After the image was transferred to the two plates, I developed one using a deep bite etching technique with the idea of inking up the relief with a hard roller.  The other plate was developed using aquatints for tonal values.  The key plate remained the same.

This image is the first color proof I pulled printing the three inked plates consecutively.  I reversed the order the three plates were developed by printing the aquatint plate first, the deep bite plate second and the key plate last.

The next day, I changed my ink palette to blues, reds and yellows (primary colors) An umber intaglio was used in the deep bite plate.  I also re-etched my deep bite plate for additional line development to the image's middle ground.  And on the aquatint plate, instead of a single color inking, I used a la poupe method to introduce a range of colors in selected areas.  Key plate was inked in blue intaglio.

I like this second color proof very much. So to document the printing process and colors used, I printed each plate separately.  These images would be used as a reference for future printings.

Eureka!  An Epiphany!  What I had printed was not only a record of the plate image but... also the image transfer from the previous printing.  In other words I have another unique image.  (Note: the aquatint plate had no transfer image because it is the first plate to print on a blank paper.)  This is the same technique used in transferring the key plate to the other plates. 


The first image is the key plate with transfers of deep bite and aquatint plates.
The second image is the deep bite plate with aquatint transfer (no key plate transfer).

*Something to think about...these two softer versions (ghost image with previous plate image transfer) could perhaps be printed as an edition as well.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Are you a Rusticator?

Late in the afternoon after painting at Grimes Cove in Boothbay, I arrived at Sprucewold Lodge located on the quiet side of Boothbay Harbor, Maine.  I had no interest in staying on the heavily commercial side of Boothbay.  My only lodging pleasure was to be deep in the spruce woods.  Besides, I was only a few minutes' drive from the wharfs and harbor for painting pleasure.  But if material needs arose, there was access to the bustling town via a sturdy pedestrian bridge which offers great views of the scenic and lobster boat packed harbor.

While staying at Sprucewold for two nights, I had experienced a Rusticator's get away.  Rusticator is a word which defines the summer urban tourist from Boston and NYC who between 1840 and 1920's traveled by train, boarded steamboats to sample a few weeks of rustic country life and a whiff of fresh air along coastal Maine.  The lodge, Sprucewold, built in the early 1920's is one of the last remaining Rusticator lodges east of the Mississippi.  Think of western US lodges built by the Great National Railroad in the early 1900's to entice tourists to the Rocky Mountains and away from traveling abroad to see the Great Alps of Europe.  Although Sprucewold is much, much smaller in scale of concept and design, it is alluring and relevant enough to want to re-live a bit of Maine's coastal history with a lodging reservation.

Many 19th century Victorians obtained their first sampling of the area's scenic beauty from attending the big cities exhibitions of paintings by the likes of Thomas Cole, Frederick Church, Fritz Henry Lane and other famed Hudson River Painters who painted along the Maine's coast especially Mt Desert, Cranberry Island, and Monhegan Island. 

Just as the Victorians brought along their butlers, maids, nannies to support their accustom urban way of life while at the same time enjoying the benefits of the ''rustic' life, I too was treated to a pot of coffee served on the porch each morning, a delicious cooked breakfast of my choosing (blueberry pancakes, yum!) as well as the availability of Wi-Fi, cell phone coverage, and 70" wide, hi-def television for watching the Red Sox battle the Miami Marlins in the evenings.  I also enjoyed being surrounded by rustic architectural features of hand-hewed beams and logs, white birch chandeliers, bent wood furnishings and a vast collection of antique games and other household bric-brac.

...and while sipping my morning coffee on the open porch each morning, I delighted in the sightings of a flock of wild turkeys foraging in the under-brush nearby.

CLYDE FARRIN'S HOUSE,corner of Lobster Cove Road and Atlantic
With the beautiful weather and scenic Boothbay at my call, I painted outdoors during the day and dined in the evening at the wharf eating freshly shucked oysters and boiled lobsters while enjoying the sun setting over the harbor from the quiet side of Boothbay.
HARBOR SUNSET from Boothbay Lobster Wharf

http://www.sprucewoldlodge.com/Pages/about_us.html for info regardng Sprucewold Lodge

A must read:
The Lobster Coast, Rusticators and the Struggle for a Forgotten Coast by Colin Woodard

Friday, June 15, 2012

Cripple Cove, Gloucester

Yesterday, I traveled to Rocky Neck, Gloucester to do some painting.  I found an ideal spot called Cripple Cove along 127A well before Rocky Neck Art Colony.  I guess what attracted me first was PARKING!  I pulled in and took in the harbor views.  This public landing has a fenced in playground, free parking and beautiful views of the Gloucester Inner Harbor with docked fishing vessels and stacked lobster traps.

First I sketched very quickly three drawings in marker and soon found a composition I wanted to paint. I then snapped a few photos for future references. The chosen composition has strong verticals in the foreground representing the pilings (I liked how the pilings diminished in size as they moved from the shoreline); a strong diagonal line of the dock leading into the picture plane with two boats located on a horizontal band in center of panel with lots of 'noise' in the background represented by the groupings of work sheds and trees.

Because of the clear skies and bright sunshine, there was an abundance of color, color, color.
I couldn't help but paint those loud fluorescent  reds and orange buoys... oh, and throw in some cad yellow for the lobster traps.

A gal from Manchester stopped by and painted  with watercolors the same scene but without the pilings and dock in foreground.  Everyone who stopped by remarked on what a gorgeous day it was to be out and about.   Amen.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Picturesque Five Islands

For the long Memorial Day weekend, my husband, Ken, and I packed up our new Chevy Volt with food, gear, a Corgi, a Cockatiel and headed to mid-coast Maine to the island of Georgetown.   The Plein Air Painters of Maine were painting Saturday at the Five Islands wharf.  What a great excuse to get away to the great state of Maine for a long holiday weekend.

The small, charming fishing village, Five Islands, is known as "the prettiest harbor in Maine" and truly is a picturesque spot for painting, paddling and eating lobsters 'in the rough'.  The village's working wharf is used by the local lobstermen for selling their catch and baiting their traps.  In the distance across Sheepscot Bay, the Hendricks Head Lighthouse can be seen.  The local scenery was exceptional for out-door painting.  But... typical Maine weather greeted me and others upon our early morning arrival at the Five Islands wharf: the air was thick with fog.  A lovely gray palette was worked up for the occasion.

We stayed at Back River Bend http://www.backriverbend.com/cottages/index.html in a converted sail loft perched at treetop level.  The height of our one bedroom accommodation  afforded us panoramic views of the river and marshes as well as sounds of the boatyard below. In the loft, Ken, a radio fanatic, enjoyed tinkering with frequencies while I painted afar in the fields and on the wharfs of Georgetown.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

My new print, 'String Around the Posies', displays black flowers in a color arrangement of individually inked cut-shaped linoleum.  The center linoleum design with the circular red string, black flowers and yellow background were printed using the reductive method of one block.

My printer's alchemy changed the petite, yellow daffodils into mysterious blacks and laid them on a field of yellow. Bright colors always sing out loudly when highlighted next to black.

Black flowers were favorites of the Victorian gardens. My favorites are the Black Hollyhock and the 'Queen of the Night' tulip.

Or maybe the print expresses a little Goth in me, representing the touches of darkness and shadows in the corner of the garden.

With an invitation to create an image for 13Forest Gallery's summer show, "Tag, (you're it)", the catalyst for the print's image came from the children's nursery rhyme (see below) and a table arrangement of dainty daffodils from my garden.

Ring around the rosies
Pocket full of posies
Achoo, Achoo
We all fall down.

Some researchers associate the poem's meaning back to the time of the Black Plague in Europe.

My print, 'String Around the Posies', is a play on words and color: in an edition of 8 on BFK paper.

Tag (You're It)
@ 13Forest Gallery, 167A Mass Ave, Arlington, MA
May 11 through August 31

Sunday, April 29, 2012

HARBINGER print at the D'Amour Museum

My linoleum reduction print, 'Harbinger', is now on exhibit with other selected Zea Mays Print Studio prints at the Springfield, MA, D'Amour Museum of Fine Arts.  The print exhibit will be on view through October 25, 2012.

The print, 'Harbinger' was also selected by Jim Dine, juror for the  Boston Printmakers' National Print Biennial 2011 and was awarded the NYC Legion Paper Award.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Little steps toward saying a goodbye

This past week, I traveled via of a mail boat to stay on an ever so slowly sinking island.  The island is called Tangiers and was so named by Captain John Smith in 1608.  Located in the Chesapeake Bay, 12 miles out from Virginia. It is home to 525 or more people; a hardy breed of Virginians.

Good friends (Bob and Terry) of Annapolis joined my husband (Ken) and me for a week long vacation, to celebrate birthdays, savor southern island life and hospitality and to paint.  Gracious islanders acknowledged our presence by always waving hello as we passed each other while walking, cycling or riding along in the ubiquitous golf cart.  No cars are allowed on the island.  One on one conversation was always light and friendly with the people who spoke with an Elizabethan English dialect.

The island laborers are called watermen and their labor of love is catching the Atlantic blue crab or Callinectus sapiadus.  I prefer the more poetic Latin translation: beautiful swimmer, savory.  Please read the Pulitzer Prize winning book, "Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay" by William Warner http://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-Swimmers-Watermen-Crabs-Chesapeake/dp/0316923354 to learn more about this Chesapeake Bay heritage because the blue crab population is in decline as well as the watermen's revenue and their way of life.

Within the Tangier's landscape of modest settlements, marshes and crab shanties is a beautiful Sandy Beach which is connected to the southern part of the island; hook-shaped with a lagoon in the middle for bird watching pleasure.  Walking along the shoreline, I averted my eyes from looking too long upon the romancing teenagers hidden away in the dune grasses.  I'm guessing privacy is at a minimum on a small island.

Every morning Terry and I packed up the golf cart with our painting gear and headed out to find a painting site.  And everyday we donned our sun hats and painted in cool temps of 50 degrees and  a frisky breeze of 20 mph... perfect weather to paint beautiful marsh and island scenes.

Here's a link to our trip photos of Tangier Island, VA  http://www.flickr.com/photos/printmaker_who_paints_plein_air/sets/


                               Bon Painting!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Destination Singapore

Luck would have it when I arrived in Portsmouth, NH this past Wednesday: a foreign owned bulk cargo ship was docked on the river.  It was being loaded with ton after ton of ferrous scrap.  While the scrap yard's construction vehicles, looking more like a child's Tonka toys in scale with the ship, were maneuvering around the wharf and continuously dumping scrap iron into piles, the ship's numerous massive cranes were lifting these deposits with huge claw grabbers and then releasing it into the ship's cargo bays below.   What noise!  What dust!  (Exception: there was extreme quiet on the docks at lunch time.)

I enjoyed working out the painting's design of complex, overlapping shapes as well as developing a color palette for the color play of blue and orange.  How does one begin to create this Transformer-like scene of dimension and complexity with mere paint on a 12"X16" canvas?  A challenge indeed.

Just a note:  U.S. container exports is dominated by junk.  Scrap metal is our most valuable export accordingly to Metal Management-Sim, an iron recycle company.  Today, China buys much of our paper waste and metal scraps.  The export/import cycle goes like this: after the container ships are off-loaded with new consumer products bound for Wal-Mart and Target, these cargo ship's empty cargo bays are then filled to capacity with our scraps and waste products which in turn will be made into new consumer goods bound once again for U.S. consumers.

The scene I painted is more than a canvas organized with overlapping shapes and colors. The dominate feature of my painting is a big global business selling our cast away, metal junk and waste.

Perhaps I should have painted this scene in the color of 'green'?

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Thickly Settled

Yesterday, the weather in Portsmouth, NH proved a bit of a painting dare.  The tenacity of some seasoned plein air painters is proven when dealing with the many weather challenges here in New England. A few of my fellow painters, Phil Bean, Mary Byrom and Barbara Carr painted the gnarly trees within the confines of the sheltered gated garden in Prescott Park.   Others like me painted in the open putting their vehicle between themselves and the brisk, 30mph NE winds.  My friend Marjet found a cozy spot behind the Harbor Master's shack, next to a cast away Christmas tree strung with colored lights.  (Hmmm, good old Yankee frugality would have had that tree stripped clean of those light sets before disposal.)  Look closely at the picture though and take note of the long log balanced as as extra weight for her French easel.  It was that windy out.  Not to take pre-caution like Marjet, the attached canvas acts as a canvas sail stretched high to catch the wind and the easel can go a sailin' into the wild blue yonder.  But hey, there was sunshine!

My painting site of tightly, clustered homes and fish businesses in the area called Peirce Island made me think of the unique New England road signage, 'Thickly Settled'.  This sign is not just a quaint descriptive phrase for the clusters of antique homes and buildings of Puritanical ancestral lineage.  Drivers in Massachusetts who observe this signage must drive no more than 30 mph or risk a speeding ticket according to the official DMV driving manual. 

So slow down and enjoy the scenery.  When plein air painting, I do!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Up and Coming exhibits

Group Print show through February 25, New London, CT
Plein Air Painting Show, Haverhill, MA
Group print show in Portland, Maine

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Most Endangered

Last week I painted on the wharf along the Piscataqua River in Portsmouth, New Hampshire dwarfed by the nearby hills of salt and rusted scrap piles.  In the distance stands the Route 1 Memorial Bridge, closed permanently yesterday to all motor traffic, pedestrians and bicyclists.

I had no idea when I painted the riverside scene, the nearly 100 year old iron tress bridge was to be dismantled the following week starting with the removal of the lift span yesterday.  The bridge which is one of three bridges that cross the Piscataqua River connecting Maine and New Hampshire was designated as one of America's ten most endangered historical places.  The Memorial Bridge was dedicated to all Sailors and Soldiers of New Hampshire who participated in World War I, 1917-1919.

A replica of the iron bridge will be constructed and is scheduled to open 2013.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Human Faces

This past Wednesday, my painter friend, Meredith and I traveled to Williamstown and visited the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute http://www.clarkart.edu/ . On displayed was an exhibit entitled, "Rembrandt and Degas: Two Young Artists".  As a young artist, Degas had spent three years in Italy studying and copying the masters including many of Rembrandt's self portraits. This show is intimate in number, 16 artworks  in total as well as in subject matter, Degas's and Rembrandt's self portraits, in paint and print. I opted to skip the overwhelming MFA, Boston Degas Exhibition for this little show. I wasn't disappointed.

A few years ago  I wrote a little essay about portraits.  The piece follows :

This past winter my plein air painting friends decided to rent a studio to keep our friendship fires warm and our painting eyes and hands honed.  On Thursday mornings, while the Northeast winds howled and the ice dams grew, we each drew numbered lots and took turns sitting quietly to pose for a 30 minute period as the hub for searching eyes and sketching tools.  These portrait drawing sessions were an experience that included both vulnerability and veneration: the former for the sitter, the latter for the artist.

Alexej von Jawlensky (Russian, 1864-1941) was fascinated by the sensual and spiritual power of the face.  About the end of WWI, he started to draw "mystic heads" or faces of the saints and entitled them poetically.  By 1916, he progressed to a spiritual brand of abstraction called Meditative Art, a unique contribution to Modern Art.  I too found myself drawn to the transcendent spiritual qualities of my painter friends' faces.
There is a similarity of approach to the painting of an outdoor landscape and the landscape of the human face.  With lines, colors and textures, these elements express much and then more.  They describe the terrain by delineating flesh into deep fissures, soft wrinkles and perhaps end with a dimple.  The landscape maybe capped with a snow white crown, or covered with the rosy patch of blood vessels steamy on the surface or divided into dark and light by the vertical slope of the nose.  Will the focus be on the smile or the pensive look or the inward glance towards the soul?  Look deeply at this landscape.  Give quiet pause.  Let the eyes move across the surfaces.  Travel their history. 

The artist's challenge is to fill a small format with  rapid chiseling paint and brush into the jewel we all are.

"Come meditate upon my face and I upon yours and then with point, line and mass express the sensual and the spiritual represented in the human face while coming to terms with the question of who we are: we are merely humans with the face like His."  SJS