Town Center City Club Art Show and Sale

It’s summer time (or at least it feels like it outdoors!) so that means it’s time for wonderful art show and sale.  I’ve had paintings on display at the Town Center City Club for a while now.   It’s a lovely private club for business professionals in Virginia Beach.  It is one of the premier venues for business meetings, corporate vents, fundraisers, weddings, retirements and other special events. 

Come out and join me on Friday, June 28 at 6:00pm for champagne and desserts.  It’s a great opportunity to see the Town Center City Club and take in (or take home) some of my latest paintings.  Rumor has it, I’ll be doing some painting during our time there. 

Here’s the scoop:

Join us for Champagne and Desserts
Where: The Town Center City Club, 222 Central Park Avenue #230, Virginia Beach, VA
When:  Friday, June 28, 2019
Time: 6:00 pm until 8:30 pm
RSVP: Barbara Lewis (757) 490-8317 or Jan Digiovanni (757) 241-0666

Guatamalan Woman at Town Center City Club Art Show

Rant on Packaging

Packaging CartoonsDear Packagers of America.

You have taken child-proofing and theft control to such an extreme that most of us – not just the older demographic- cannot open anything without the help of scissors, pliers, wrenches, and in some cases, hammers.

  • A carton of milk has a tab that can almost break a fingernail.
  • A huge impenetrable plastic square that surrounds a teeny camera chip.  I know. It’s too small so too easily stolen so let’s pollute more of our environment rather than find a better solution.
  • A pull tab on the second layer of dairy products like yogurt that cannot be gripped by average-sized fingers much less pulled off.
  • A cereal box with glue so strong you demolish the box before you get to the inside plastic packing that needs scissors to open.
  • We groan at the words “pull here” knowing that won’t work.
  • And on and on.

Is there a solution? At least for the environment, can’t hemp (in addition to CBD oil for our aches and pains) be used to make a paper product suitable for packaging? Isn’t one of the reasons W. R. Hearst fought to make marijuana (from hemp) illegal so he could print his newspapers on paper from his tree farms without competition from hemp?

Are we really stuck with plastic islands in the Pacific and non biodegradable plastic in our landfills?

Maybe not. Come on folks- rise up! Demand our grocery stores customer service open our packages. When they get tired of wasting their time maybe they will demand that our packaging become better and easier to open.

Next rant: graphic design with illegible lettering.

P.S.  On another more jolly note …  I’m so proud of my son, Tad, with his new book, “The Santa Claus War.”  If you’d like to purchase a Kindle copy, please go to Amazon.   If you like it, will you leave a review?

Same Colorado Trip

 

We recently spent a week in Colorado where, yes, the scenery was beautiful,  no, the altitude did not affect us, and yes, the tour of Colorado’s most interesting crop was – interesting; but I have to tell you my moment to remember story.
 
Our Colorado friends found us a second floor room at a lodge right outside Rocky Mountain National Park.  It sits on one of those fast moving rocky mountain streams that provide background noise to sleep to. Because of the heat wave, our windows and sliders were wide open.
 
Around 1:30 am I was awakened by a horrible animal cry!  I got up and looked out the window into the darkness beyond the light that illuminated the walk beneath our room. The cries got louder and I could see a shape about the size of a fox pacing by the waters edge. it was obviously in distress.
 
About a minute later, I looked down onto the back of one enormous mama bear. Biggest I have ever seen and obviously not in captivity. She jumped the chest high fence into the thicket, the cries ceased, she (out of my range of vision) jumped back and, followed by her baby , proceeded back to the parking lot where I later learned she reunited with the two cubs she left behind to rescue her baby.
 
My heart rate returned to normal.  I returned to bed.  When the couple on the first floor heard how close the mama bear came to their wide open slider, they re-evaluated being first floor with an open door.

I brought my art supplies to Colorado hoping to paint by the side of the river while our group learned to fly fish. Well, I didn’t learn to fly fish, but I didn’t paint much either.

It was a learning experience though. I learned I am not a plein air painter. I don’t enjoy the process of hauling my stuff to a location and then preserving the memory on canvas. My iPhone does that. Rocks are hard to sit on, flying insects are a bother, keeping palette, water, and canvas or paper under control on an uneven surface is impossible. And the worst of it is that the final product is terrible. So back to the studio!

Visiting Colorado but no plein air painting

Artistic Rambles: Why the Sketch Was Better

Sketch was BetterI have been working on my painting for three days, weeks,months and it still doesn’t work. Why? My sketch was really incredible.  My sketch was better.  I  loved it.  But what could’ve gone wrong.

This happens to artists all the time and sometimes the error is that you probably never checked to see if your sketch’s proportions matched your canvas.

In my case the vertical sketch was thinner than the canvas. Therefore my two lady figures were not positioned perfectly. They were a bit farther apart and I was futilely trying to correct the design by filling in the area between them and it didn’t work. The interesting posture of one of them was gone.  No matter what I did with color- more red more yellow, etc.  I had lost the flow.  Plus the acrylic paint was gumming up on the canvas creating bubbles and losing vibrancy.

But I persisted. Usually persistence is a good thing – right Elizabeth Warren? Not in this case.

My fluid ladies were becoming awkward bias relief sculptures. They could not be deader than if I had taken a knife to the canvas.

But I persisted. At this point I pitched the brushes and tackled the colors with my gloves.  I started smushing paint around knowing nothing good would come of it. I even squirted expensive pigment right on the canvas – a sign of desperation.

Deep down I knew it was over. I thought about how an artist I knew had labeled some if his failures “sailors” because he took them to the beach and “sailed” them into the bay.  I am too much of environmentalist to do that. It would be just my luck the wetter paint would slough off revealing the original failure and some beach-goer would find it, dry it out, and with my luck I would see it at his retirement party. Thankfully unsigned.

There are many reasons a painting will never be as good as the sketch . What I have talked about is basically a design problem. Face it folks, bad design equals bad painting.

Epilogue
I used up my paint smearing it on the canvas and started a more textural painting.

 

dividing line

 

Afternoons with Gloria

Starting 2018 – Desire for Change

Summer Thoughts Sketch and Desire for Change

I think there may be a general misconception by the public. They see artists like me, who tend to get involved in what we loosely call creative pursuits, simply plodding along.  We go from one brilliant idea with a beginning, middle, and end.  We pause.  And then proceed to the next brilliant idea. Well, obviously most ideas are not brilliant.  However when we are in the inspiration phase, sometimes we feel that it could be the best work we’ve ever done.

Surprisingly to some, there are a lot more lengthy pauses where we feel, not just uninspired, but scared to death there will be no more brilliant ideas.  That the best we can hope for is to regurgitate the things we’ve done before, the tried-and-true, the successful (monetarily speaking).   I say we and I probably should not. Because this is just the way I feel.

So that was a lengthy lead in to the feelings I am having right now. I can always go back to painting the themes that people seem to recognize from me. But that is playing it safe. And you don’t learn and you don’t excel by playing it safe.  I’ve got a desire for change.

Then a painter like myself sits back and says, “All right so how do I not play it safe? 
What do I do differently?
Do I change my theme, my subject?
Do I change my technique?
Do I get more rigid or more exuberant?
Do I paint larger or smaller?
Do I tell a story or paint a feeling?
Do I paint more abstractly or with more representation?

Is the best really yet to come? I don’t know those answers right now, but I have to believe that the best is yet to come.

Fear not! I will continue to paint, because I can’t not paint. And you will be the first to know if I succeed in becoming inspired again. And it may be in the realm of technique and approach rather than subject.

I know where I play it safe. I know when I am painting for the public. But I also know that I am not getting any younger and I do not want to be merely spin my wheels.

If I want meaningful I have to give myself permission – to experiment, to waste paint, to fail.

Wish me luck!

How Do I Get My Painting Subjects

Ben Plays the Sax

Several years ago I wrote down my thoughts on my art process.  Much of it is still pertinent so I thought I would share them.   Since then, I have evolved some,  have made some changes,  and will share those thoughts later.

Many people have asked me how I paint my subjects and where do I get reference material.

Although it would be far easier to have a photo to copy, most of my work evolves from bits and pieces pulled together from a vast “morgue” of reference material that I have accumulated over the years. 

My Own Photos

The majority of the photography is my own. I took so many classes in photography at Thomas Nelsen Community College, I almost had to declare a major. After a masters degree in counseling from William and Mary, I did not need another degree.

Some of my music paintings are based on musicians of the past.  The subject matter is obviously culled from photos that have appeared in the media. But I am not a slave to any photos.  My work in its final versions bear very little resemblance to the material I use.

My Quick Drawings

I have the ability to draw well and fast.  I honed those skills during the 12 years I worked as a newspaper artist illustrator.  With the pressure of those incredible deadlines,  you either did the job fast or ( but there was no “or”)  the paper went to press without them.

My Process

I start with multiple photos usually laid out on my studio floor.  From there I develop a small color sketch.  Many of my music paintings are quite complex.  I am placing and rearranging the musicians until I am satisfied with the layout.

Then I introduce color. Many old photos are in sepia or black and white so the colors are selected by me.

The dancers series began when my husband and I took ballroom lessons for 3 years. We attended the dance parties and the ballroom exhibitions  (this was before the advent of digital cameras so I took lots of really bad photos and then I camcorded some dances). As I needed more info I would pause dance competitions on TV to see the moves I might want to paint.  An artist cannot take artistic liberty with dance positions. 

An art director once wanted to reverse a dance image for a magazine cover. Fortunately I got to review the changes first!   Because I cannot put the ladies right hand on the man’s left shoulder!  I can change attire and colors and design and exaggerate, but there are reality issues. Reality applies to musical instruments as well. I believe my work nudges abstraction, but always has a core based in reality.

My Color Choices

I do not use traditional color wheels.  I paint rather spontaneously and impulsively. An artist has to know the rules and then be comfortable breaking them for the goal of movement, power, and personal color.

My Methods

I have used latex gloves so I can paint with my fingers.  I have used sponges and old credit cards and modeling paste – whatever achieves the goal of painting something that excites me.

Rambles from a Jazz Festival

I am not unfamiliar with painting in public:

  • courtroom,
  • Virginia Living Museum,
  • art shows,
  • plein aire workshops.

But painting the musicians at the Jazz Festival in Duck, NC was a first for me.

Even though I was in a more isolated spot near the stage, I later discovered people were watching my art progress from the audience. Many stopped to chat as they walked to other areas of the green.

During my time at the Jazz Festival, I had the good fortune of meeting both locals and visitors and even the Chief of Police who shared my Bridgeport, CT heritage.

My biggest hurdle at this outdoor event in early October was how fast the acrylic paints dried even in the high humidity. I found I can be more successful in getting the painting how I would like it when I start by drawing with either India ink or acrylic using a smaller brush.

Next, I slopped on paint even when the sketch was still wet. Not overthinking color and doing what I call “brain stem painting” (i.e. painting by instinct which usually gives me a greater feeling that the end result will work). For me, “brain stem painting” means an emotionally positive feeling rather than an intellectual one.

If I really wanted to be a performance artist I would strap long handled brushes to my hands and have quarts of paint in buckets set in front of a huge canvas. That would be cool and probably messy!

Painting at the Duck Jazz Festival

Artist Sketch Rambles

Artist Sketch RamblesI keep a folder of 8×10 and smaller incomplete sketches and carry it around with me. Many times they spark something and I will often paint over them. Over and over.

When I am feeling ambitious, I organize them according to category:  women, women and the beach, women at a wine bar, women on cave walls, women in cave walls playing musical instruments. You get the picture.

I also print out photos of my paintings in progress. Sometimes I realize (too late) the best work should have been left alone.

Rethinking and painting over a work is something I do when I am second guessing what others might think. This is always wrong.

Yet many times, even I, at late middle age (I am an optimist),  paint with someone looking over my shoulder  – metaphorically speaking.   Like my husband suggesting, “It needs more red.” Or perhaps a friend commenting, “What’s that curvy line all about?”  But I’m just considering what they may remark.

Then I look at art painted by others that works for me.  I know I could critique the heck out them, but my corrections would only make the spark disappear.

The answer is to paint until I feel that any more intellectual effort will deaden it and then stop.  Then check back a few days later and any real problems will shout at me. But if I still like the painting, I will leave it alone. Art (unless you were hired to do something specifically) is for you and not the world.

Once in a blue moon, I haul out some art books to try to understand color better.  You know.  Fill in the blanks of info I never learned. because I did not go to art school.

Primaries,

tertiary,

split tertiary,

squared infinity (just joking) and it all looks so mathematical.

I look at the paintings shown as examples and frankly most are so boring. Maybe I am just too critical, but it seems to me once you have painted for years, you should have some intuitive feeling about what clicks for you.

One story sticks with me…

The widow of a famous painter (whose colors were incredible) was asked what color theory he used. She responded that he did not have one.  He just kept painting until it felt right. Bingo!

So after several hours of painting color sketches using the books’ suggested pigment combinations I put it all away. They sucked.

No real lesson here.  Just a nudge to fellow artists who struggle with color to just persist.

(Love that -just persist- SHE PERSISTED – might make me a t-shirt)

Rambles Art Kids and Painted Antlers

Painted AntlersToday I hired my two neighbor kids , a brother and sister ages 8 and 10, to paint gesso on some canvases. They did a great job. They got the first coat on at least seven canvases.

I needed their help, but mostly I wanted to teach them about the act of doing art not just the painting techniques you learn in classes. I wanted to teach them about the preparation, the application, the reason for applying a base on a canvas (or on the deer antler they had given me) prior to painting, and of course the clean up.

They were surprised how much you can accomplish in an hour without racing and being sloppy. I set the timer for one hour and went through the whole process of setting up dropclothes on my deck, putting on old t-shirts and plastic gloves, getting out plastic containers,  brushes etc .

They were very attentive.

I told them the difference between being paid by the piece or by the hour, and how they would be assessed for their work. They worked quite hard and deserved their pay.

When they return from their vacation I will give them each one of the canvases,  I hope they will paint a memory of their trip out west as well as enjoy their painted antlers.  Hopefully they will continue to want to work for me!

Saying Goodbye to a Great Influence

This morning I learned that Fred Adair has died. Fred was my professor and mentor when I was at the College of William and Mary for my MEd in counseling and guidance. He was the one who supported me during those crucial days in 1972 when I was a feminist in a conservative area (I was removed from my internship at Warwick High School because of my progressive thoughts on women).  He helped me decide to pursue art instead and to accept the illustrator position at the Daily Press.

Fred was the essence of everything superlative one could say about another person. Kind, intelligent, funny, supportive … I could go on and on. We kept in touch throughout the years and I will miss him.

Message from W&M Provost