En Plein Air Event in Hampton

Come join me and my fellow painters for an en Plein Air Painting Event in Hampton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.

What is en plein air painting, you ask? Instead of painting in my studio, or out on my back porch, I’ll be painting outdoors along with a few other artists. It’s an adventure bringing all my gear and then being inspired by the surroundings (or not). Come see what painted creations we put together. Here’s the scoop:

WHEN: Saturday, May 8, 2021
TIME: 11:00am – 3:00pm
WHERE: Downtown Hampton Virginia Waterfront at the hotel/parking garage site.
NOTE: Masks and social distancing required

Dancing in confetti en plein air painting

Live Painting during Garden Week at Historic Yorktown

Our weather is starting to be beautiful. What a great time to participate in the Hampton-Newport News Garden Week. This year garden week will be held on April 21st (which doesn’t seem like a week long, but I must have missed something there) in historic Yorktown.

I’ll be painting live and in person at the On the Hill Gallery from 11 AM until Noon on April 21, 2021. Stop by and see me. The gallery is open to anyone during the event. You can also visit my solo show there, too.

The Garden Club of Virginia has all the details to take advantage of the various garden tours here.

Looking forward to seeing you there.

Colonial Girl during Garden Week

TV during COVID

watching tv in covid

We have been glued to the TV since the COVID-19 crisis started. To be honest, we binge watch. You do, too. Don’t lie.

While I am by no means an Anglophile, I have become a huge fan of British series on Netflix and Amazon Prime. I am starting to compare them with their American counterparts, trying to figure out why the British series are so compelling and some of ours so meh. Yeah, yeah, meh to me. I never claimed to speak for anyone else.

I am a woman of a certain age so I am biased, but I am thrilled that the young and older women actors are so—- normal. They look like us. Or at least those of us who aren’t Barbie sizes with looong straight or wavy hair or years of botox and fillers and facelifts and liposuction.

And their male counterparts are human as well- they have double chins and fleshy waistlines, bags under their eyes and not beautiful hair or not much or any hair. Their skin has – oh my god- warts and moles and back up- so do the women!!!!

The music is not upbeat and always incessantly there. Occasionally there isn’t any music at all and the camera takes its time. How refreshing! You are sitting there enjoying dialog, well written stories, and facial expressions, and seeing slices of life that happen to be part of a drama. Dull perhaps to younger folks but anyone with older children and grandchildren can identify.

They also seem refreshingly slower. Very few explosions, gunshots, bleeding bodies. Can I say entertainment that is not written for teens? Sorry teens. Plots seem real-life based. Actors don’t seem to screech at each other as much. The f word is there sometimes, but not overwhelming. Maybe I am being too complimentary to foreign TV. Of course, there is a place for the series that is based on cartoons and on car chases that last forever. But I could drive to Starbucks and return with my cappuccino and the chase would still be on.

I admit I put on closed captioning because I cannot understand the British / Scottish / Irish dialect sometime. Well much of the time. Well our hearing isn’t what it used to be. So we watch, then try to read the closed captioning before the scene changes. Then we hit the pause button so we can read the closed captioning.

I once turned on an audio function by mistake that had a voice describing the scene. Weird. “He exits the car, closes the door and makes his way across the yard where birds are singing and the victim is hanging clothes.” Yada. Yada.

Tonight I watched 2 episodes of a car show with my husband. I have trouble bonding with mechanical equipment though. It’s like purgatory, but then again he suffers through some of my period dramas (period meaning eras in time not related to female cycles though some of them have the same hyper emotional levels).

It’s a compromise. I cook, he cleans up. We watch the news until we want to scream and then it’s a toss-up between watching Netflix or Amazon Prime.

One thing that is interesting is that we both fast forward the explicit bedroom scenes. Although I think there should be a special cinematography award for best scenes that avoid pertinent body parts while dragging on five minutes of moaning.

I just re-read this blog and wonder if it needs an adult rating. Should I worry about my grandkids? Nah- they are totally absorbed in their social media cocoons.

On the Hill Gallery Solo Exhibit

On the Hill Gallery

I’m so excited to share with you my upcoming live (in-person) solo exhibit beginning April 3, 2021. The venue is the On the Hill Gallery (part of the Yorktown Arts Foundation) in historic Yorktown, Virginia. It’s a beautiful location and such a lovely place to pass an afternoon.

Opening Reception on April 3 from 6-8pm

If you’d like to join me at the opening reception, please RSVP to yorktownartsfoundation@gmail.com.

COVID-19 precautions will be observed. Masks and social distancing are requested.

On the Hill Gallery Scoop

WHERE: On the Hill Gallery, 402 Main St., Yorktown, VA (directions)

WHEN: April 3 – 30, 2021

Gallery is open: 11-5 Tuesday-Saturdays and 12-5 on Sundays.

Let me know if you get a chance to stop by and which painting is your favorite. Of course, paintings will be available for purchase as well.

So Here I am Sitting in

View from my hot tub

Written after our wedding anniversary on January 30

So here I am sitting in the hot tub with light fluffy snowflakes falling on me and my large billed hat. It’s about 9 o’clock and I am not feeling guilty about sleeping in because I have decided not to feel guilty about a lot of things. We live in the woods but there are lots of houses across the marsh. If any distant neighbors have nothing better to do than watch older people going into their hot tub on the deck, they are to be pitied.

Yesterday we met up with some friends to celebrate our anniversary. I am all excited. I am actually in a restaurant! So I harangued him about doing a blog because of his incredible experience in the world of sports journalism. He stared at me with a blank face the whole time I was ranting out my feelings about having a passion of writing which I wish I had, etc. And that he should write a blog himself. I will have to call him today to apologize. And I will send him this little writing.

Anyway after 56 years, my husband and I have our routines even though he won’t be able to go back to work until after his second COVID-19 shot kicks in.

It has been OK for me until now this living through COVID-19. I do miss seeing people and doing normal things. I work at home anyway and don’t have obsessive compulsion issues about how and when I paint.

But lately my brain has gone into overtime even after I fall asleep reading a book. I jerk myself awake. Every little issue is magnified. I watch the clock with the time passing and me still awake, which of course makes me more anxious.

Over the years I have sworn mentally that I would just get up and go paint if I could not fall asleep, but I never have. Or get up and move to another bedroom if something involving snoring keeps me awake. I have also sworn feebly to give up a cocktail late in the evening knowing the liquor is a stimulant. But last night my daughter and granddaughter came over and we had a rousing hysterically funny charades-like game and she brought some elderflower liqueur. So my recipe is two parts lime infused gin to one part elderflower liquor with a splash of jalapeño juice which is another story. Maybe that is why the game was so funny.

So last night I decided to leave my husband asleep and venture upstairs to my studio to finish changes on the commission and to splash some paint on something I am playing with. I was happily satisfied and by 1 o’clock I decided to go to bed and promptly fell asleep and woke up at eight. We will see if this regimen continues. If my circadian rhythm has really changed I may as well adapt to it.

Support 2021 Nanesemond-Suffolk Academy Art Show & Sale

I’m excited to be again be part of this broad artistic show and sale to support the Nanesemond-Suffolk Academy. To keep everyone safe during this time of COVID-19, the sale will be entirely virtual (except when you pick up your painting, of course, that is live).

This year I have two paintings available for purchase. Please click on the links in the painting titles to purchase from the Art Show and support NSA.

I Still Have My Phone

Nanesemond-Suffolk Academy Art Show I have My Phone have My Phone 30x24

Size: 30×34
Acrylic on Wrapped Canvas

Riding the Waves

Size: 24×30
Acrylic on Wood
Includes an elegant gold frame

A Long Walk with a Friend

A long walk - featuring Riding the Waves

Sometimes it takes a long walk with a friend on a cold, post-Christmas Day to talk out your thoughts and perhaps come to some conclusions about where you are going or where you might want to stop going.

I was trying to figure out why I have been at a bit of an impasse in terms of my art. What I mean is that for years I have gone from one subject or approach to the next as a grand evolution.

I did illustrations.
I did commercial work.
I did watercolors which were mostly landscapes and a few people.
I did my series on music, dance, coffee coffee shops on and on.
And I loved it.

But for the past few years I can’t really say that I have latched onto anything new or experimental or even a brand new subject matter. I would love to get political, but I cannot allow myself to do that. So anyway here I am walking on the Duke of Gloucester Street in Williamsburg trying to analyze how I can continue to paint without being redundant.

I am working. I have some commissions. I find that I resort to the old way of doing things because I know that is why I have been hired in the first place. That is the unsatisfying part of it is for me or I think I would be able to express myself better. Now I am thinking it is not that I dislike the subjects I have painted, but it is that I believe I have to change my approach to those subjects.

I know I would love to be more abstract, more enthusiastic in my brush work. Painting with more instinct than deliberation. But for some reason I have not allowed myself to do that.

Here we are in hopefully the final few months of our self-imposed quarantines and avoiding the people and the groups we have formally enjoyed. Maybe now is the time to do exactly that. To finish up with our obligation. The question is how do I really do it.

The dancers and dancing might be a way to start. The unfortunate thing about them is that especially in formal dance, there are certain prescribed postures and forms. When a couple is doing a waltz, there are certain prescribed steps.

Maybe I need to stop thinking about rules; both in the subject matter and my approach to painting Maybe the mere act of losing edges, changing color away from reality. I don’t know.

If I do that who knows what kind of success I might have. And that is what I tell people; to keep pushing their envelopes.

Easy to say, hard to do.

The easy part is to wake up, do morning rituals, have coffee, check texts and emails. What is hard is to walk into the studio and to start to work.

How I Sabotage Myself

The Coffee Was Suspect

Myself Sabotage - My second cup of coffee

Recently I had a cup of coffee at home that wasn’t the best.

I thought as I was driving to Manteo, NC that I would stop and pick up a better cup of coffee. I went through a drive-through, ordered, and because I was giving myself a break from being health-conscious, ordered an additional bagel with cream cheese.

I went to eat my breakfast in their parking area and found that they had added too much sugar to my coffee. It was too sweet and I couldn’t drink it. Because I felt it was probably my own fault for not enunciating properly into the voicebox, I went through again and ordered another coffee.

I explained my being dumb about my first coffee order and the young woman at the drive-through window gave me a delicious doughnut (which I of course ate) in addition to my new coffee order.

In retrospect this breakfast wasn’t all that good. Taking the time to fix my own coffee at home would have saved me half a day’s worth of calories and lots of guilt.

Painting a Healthy Lifestyle

A few months ago, I was congratulating myself on consistent healthy eating and reaching a decent weight (except for my waistline which, let’s face it, ain’t ever going away). Tonight I climb on the scale after months of feeling no need and I am in a state of shock! Did I mention the holiday season has just begun. Add to that the winter retreat to the great indoors, coupled with more COVID isolation, and who knows where that dial will stop.

I can no longer fool myself into believing that slopping paint around canvases is an upper body workout. No, it does not result in more muscle mass and thus a heavier healthier body.

Staying at home has led us all into daily wardrobes only slightly more formal than pajamas. Designers are putting out more elastic waistbands. No need to diet when all clothing fits nicely. Wearing masks camouflages us so well no one recognizes us so who needs makeup. Turtlenecks cover what masks do not so poof no more turkey wattle.

The first step to getting healthy again is no more takeout. No more bang bang shrimp, mashed potatoes and the wonderful warm, crusty bread with pesto.

Can’t blame takeout though. I do a wonderful eating my own cooking. Must ease up on chunks of cheddar and cream cheese in a green jalapeño boat covered with bacon. Won’t even mention Luke’s homemade divinity, fudge, and brownies (It is the holiday season). It all leads to an apron that is not made of fabric.

Carbs begone!

Not waiting for any new year’s resolution.

Stay shut refrigerator door!

Going to practice Hygge the Scandinavian approach to dealing with long cold dark winter-exercising outside regardless the weather. Enjoying it. So stay tuned.

The Finale

But talk about sabotaging yourself. I just saw a young man looking through his mail at the curbside while standing in the road close to where cars are passing him. Did I mention he was smoking a cigarette? When he gets hit by a car he will be able to say it wasn’t COVID and it wasn’t lung cancer. it was sheer stupidity. UGH!!

Many Ask How They Can Loosen Up

Obviously. they are talking about how they can loosen up their art technique. Of course many of them are very uptight so they could be talking about other things. In general they want to be less realistic and more interpretive, but cannot give themselves permission to break the rules of art taught by teachers in their pasts and rewarded by judges who are sometimes smitten by realistic technique.

So why ask me?

My First Guitar (loosen up your painting)

Some History

My past training was to be a counselor; a masters degree from William and Mary which took 4 years. I was working around moving into a new home and 2 babies. But at the tail end of the program. when offered a part-time newspaper illustrator job, I jumped at it and it totally changed my career path.

Newspaper illustration is by necessity quite anchored in realism. You drew and added color to stories that, at least in the 1980’s, reflected the current world, nation, region, city as well as holidays, events and culture.

  • I did serious stories
  • mental illness,
  • the prison system,
  • relationship issues

that were interspersed with stories that could easily use a cartoon approach.

I was not a painter. That was an evolution. When I quit I went back to traditional watercolor. Even that medium has hard edges which were no longer satisfying. Defined foregrounds, focus area and background became predictable and tiresome. Since I never went to art school I didn’t know what rules I couldn’t break except, of course, the old traditional “leave the white of the paper” watercolor rule. I gradually pushed that envelop aside and created my own style. I say that with confidence because whether the work is good or not everyone insists they know it is mine.

So how do I answer that question?

I make suggestions. The most frequent suggestion being to take a painting you have worked hard on, but are not happy with and give yourself a challenge.

  • Put it aside.
  • Haul out canvas or paper and do it again but this time force yourself to change 25%.
  • Remove some edges.
  • Let the background bleed into the foreground or the most prominent shape.

You can’t ruin your painting because you are not messing with it.

  • Put it aside.
  • Do it a third time using painting number 2 as your guide and change 25% of that one.
  • Throw caution to the wind.
  • Throw on new color or create more or less contrast.
  • See how far you can kill your subject matter before you cannot “read” it anymore.
  • You will be surprised how little definition is required to read an object. Our brains fill in the blanks.
  • Look at it in a mirror or upside down. Have you made any interesting shapes? How would you feel about cropping it? No one is looking, judging.
  • At the very least you can force yourself to use bigger brushes and play with color. If color is too intimidating use black and white which will create grays. If paint is too scary use charcoal and a smudge stick or your fingers that you can dip in water. You can always tighten up afterwards.

Of course then you go back to same ole same ole. Doing the same thing over and over expecting a different conclusion. But some artists are more courageous than others and some just can’t shake the critics off their shoulders. Your choice.

I take my own advice and will revise art that I no longer find exciting or satisfying. In most cases they are pieces that I subconsciously am second guessing because of the critic on my shoulder.

If I ruin it I haul out the gesso, but most times I feel I have brought it back to life.

Thinking about Landscape Painting

I am at the beach thinking about landscape painting.

I think the reason that I did not become a landscape painter was because I got so tired of seeing the same old same old photographic postcard copy a beautiful scenes. And that was decades ago.

By now every scene has been rendered and most of them that are so technically exquisite are just boring and repetitive to me as an artist. Which leads me to the thought of how do you look at your environment and want to paint it yet want to avoid just duplicating reality?

I found an old art book dated 1978 and the author was addressing pretty much the same issues. By now we all realize that a beautiful depiction of one’s landscape environment is always a wonderful thing to see hanging in your home.

It takes you back in your memories.

It gives you calm and peace.

But from the point of view of an artist who wants to do something that is unique and even unusual, one needs to try to see your world a bit differently.

Landscape Painting Describing Your World

I say your world because artists should be describing their world. Yes, it is fun to paint photos from your vacation abroad. John Singer Sargent painted magnificent landscapes, watercolor, and sketches in Florence, Venice, the Tyrol, France and Spain. (Personally I think his people sketches are his best). But artists like Andrew Wyeth and Georgia O’Keefe painted what they knew. Wyeth interpreted such as in Christina’s World, but O’Keefe took her Southwest and really made that environment her own. She threw all caution to the winds in her flowers and I am blown away by her courage.

So how does one do that? How do you look at a forest or seascape and see it through different eyes? This is when it gets hard. Your inclination is to look at the waves crashing on the rock and render it. See the beach and the ocean and there you go… one horizontal seascape coming up.

I have done it more times than I can count. They are always best sellers and that reinforces the idea of frankly duplicating your environment. And the more paintings you see that do just that do not encourage you to break out of that mold.

If you want to see the world in a more abstract, personal way, you have to throw away your preconceived notions based largely on the millions of postcards you have seen or purchased, and try your best to be an interpreter.

What is it that attracted you to that particular scene:

  • a close-up of a flower,
  • or was it the light,
  • was it the color,
  • was it the shape,
  • was it an ethereal feeling of mist or snow or fog,
  • was it the old architectural structure such as a barn, a shed, an old car, farm implements, was it an old part of town with engaging architectural elements?

If you start your painting and forget what led you to it, trust me you will lose its essence. So write it on a post it.

If you merely render these visual things and you don’t stretch yourself to interpret them, all you are doing is being a photographer with a paintbrush. I do this all the time and I kick myself every time. I want my art to be unique.

The world is our oyster as the saying goes. If you put aside the juror and buyer hanging over your shoulder, your work will be more satisfying. Now of course, I am not talking to those artists who have to sell to pay the bills.

Engaging in Memory of Feeling

And I think that when I am painting my other themes (not landscape) I am engaged in my memory of what I feel about the subject perhaps musicians and dancers so I think I can get out of the photographic realism mode.

  • I can add motion,
  • I can add exaggerated color.
  • I can add in music especially cluster groups of musicians together and play with those elements.

For some reason in landscapes (maybe because it is in most cases static) I find it much more difficult. It isn’t begging for interpretation.

Painting in a More Personal Way

We are influenced by what the public buys. And I can paint and sell them all day long. But I want to be able to paint in a more personal way, yet still reach a public that loves them enough to buy them. But first I have to do enough of them to show a small collection. And to do that I probably need to pick one theme and work it until I like it.

It could be the James River. I live here. I love the river and it’s marshes, the osprey, the great blue heron that fly over my backyard.

What is it that I want to do, that will be important to me, meaningful to me, and unique. Otherwise, frankly, I am a hack. Another artist painting another beach scene. Or another marsh landscape.

So I am a work in progress. And you will have to stay tuned to see what actually happens. Even at my age I can evolve. So long as some part of my body can hold a brush I will paint.

Perhaps by writing this I can force myself to commit to actually doing the experimentation.

During this era of self isolation I don’t have much of an excuse. But like all of you, I put everything else first, then say I didn’t have time. Seriously though I have higher expectations of myself than anyone can put on me. I want to do my best, but have to remember- the perfect is the enemy of the good. Maybe next time I will have something positive to relate about this journey (the reality show word I loathe).

Crashing Waves Landscape Painting

And if you still need the perfect holiday gift …

I’m available to meet with you at Associates in Dermatology to share a tour of my paintings that are currently available for purchase. Since it wasn’t possible to do my Annual Show and Sale due to COVID restrictions, I want to make sure you can find the beautiful painting you’d love to see hanging on your wall or the wall of a loved one. Reach out and contact me today.

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