watercolor

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I was contacted by the Vermont Council on Rural Development who wants to use one of my paintings on their brochure for  the Newport Community Visit program.  Margaret, the office and communications officer of Vermont Council on Rural Development, stated that my painting stood out as a beautiful representation of a part of Newport.

Newport Flyer

I was honored was pleased to offer the use of my image for  flyer they are creating even though they were offering modest compensation for the rights to use the image.  They are a neutral non-profit organization dedicated to the support of the locally-defined progress of Vermont’s rural communities. They are  bringing our Community Visit process to Newport over the next 3 months.

The painting is one I did of Newport from Brownington lookout.  The original is a 20 x 16 watercolor which is available.

Newport from Brownington Lookout

 

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Interesting article, Water and Light about John Singer Sargent, the famous watercolorist and plein air painter and his use of photography. I’ve always maintained that artists of all eras used what ever tools were available to them. Some contemporary artists disdain the use of photography as a tool painting. Or claim that the camera gives a flattened image, but of course never explain this statement. In reading this article I imagined that Sargent was making small watercolors in his travels and wondered if he would have used a cell phone camera instead if he had one available. What are your thoughts as painters or photographers about the art of photography and painting and the fusion of both. 

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IMG_1378-002Teaching forces an artist to consolidate one’s own education, experience and knowledge of art history into a focused exercise in order to help the student learn. My own philosophy of teaching is to craft exercises where the student will discover new things on his or her own. That is the scientist part of me. To help students learn composition and creating form, I had them reproduce one of Cézanne’s still lifes. I gave them a line drawing of Still Life with Apples to help them learn composition and how to define form with color and shading.

 

Cezanne was a Post-Impressionist painter whose work laid the foundations of the transition from the 19th-century conception of artistic endeavor to a new world of art in the 20th century. He created space and depth of perspective by means of planes of color, which are freely associated and at the same time contrasted and compared. This was his way of translating and combining the observing eye of the artist and abstracting rather than reproducing nature. In so doing, he broke the rules of perspective and used this process to study the hypothesis of how to strip knowing from seeing—how to paint perception. During the last thirty years of his life, Paul Cézanne painted the same objects–the green vase, the rum bottle, the ginger pot, and the apples–over and over again. This, in my opinion, is truly experimental painting. His multiple paintings of the same subject matter were data in his experiments with shape, color, and lighting.

When my students painted this Cezanne still life, they were dealing with some of the same issues with which Cezanne experimented. Even though they were using line drawings of Still Life with Apples and had reference photos of the original and a watercolor painting I did myself as a demonstration shown here, they still the same issues distinguishing knowing from seeing. This was most pronounced when some students attempted to draw the perspective correctly rather than taking Cezanne’s approach. After they have the experience of not liking their outcome, they are more receptive to advice on seeing and how to look at what they are trying to paint.

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IMG_8736Getting back to painting more regularly has been good: good for me and good for my work. Painting is a lot like dance.  The muscles don’t forget, but to be good requires constant practice.

One of the directions I have been exploring is a mixed media approach using digitized watercolor combined with photography and digital painting.   The initial step is to complete a watercolor in the conventional manner. To create the initial image, there is nothing that can replace the dynamic and expressive way watercolor develops on paper.   Then, it is converted to a digital image.  It is quite exciting to see the details in an enlarged format in a digital image. This approach reveals a level of exquisiteness inherent in pigment in water that is otherwise invisible.

Once the image has been digitized, I combine it with a digital photograph, usually one of the images from my “nature’s wonders” series.  I, then, break up the photo highlighting design elements of the photograph and integrate them into the watercolor image.  In this way, I create the effect of the complexity multiple layers of nature and, if all works well, reveal a level of beauty that is otherwise unobtainable.

One of the digital paintings I’ve created with this process is Hidden Orchid.  Here, I have used a spider-webbing technique on the original watercolor with colors that incorporate the light and reflections of an orchid I photographed growing on a tree.  The photograph was manipulated also digitally to isolate the blossom and stem.  The background light of the photograph was further broken up and moved to enhance design and to integrate that image with the watercolor.  The watercolor image was also modified for transparency, and several layers of different sections with varieties of transparency were integrated with the blossom to give the effect of the complexity beneath the beauty of the blossoming orchid.

I have been pleased that the work I’ve completed in this Art/Science series has been well received on Fine Art America and my CafePress Store, Donna’s Art for Everyone  As much as I’d love to be seen as the next great artist to collect and have collectors in a bidding war over my work, I truly believe in art being accessible to everyone.  So, the fact that prints and merchandise of this new direction has had recent sales encourages me to believe that people are responding to my art.  The problem is most of the local venues for group exhibits do not allow digital work, so I am looking into finding venues that do allow it.  In my view, this is “the new art” of our time, and resistance to it has to be expected.

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webpage2So it’s the New Year, and I restarting my blogging. I’ve felt a bit guilty about neglecting it but life has a bad habit of getting in the way of the best intentions.

I’ll admit that being President of Palm Beach Watercolor Society the last two has taken up a lot of my time and my energy.  However, my term is now ending and I’m turning in a new direction.

For years, I’m been urging fellow artists that they get an artist website and join the modern world with their art. Many of them have replied, “I’d rather just be in the studio.” While I can appreciate that, it’s been a bit painful to realize the opportunities for exposure and sales they are missing.

With that in mind, I’ve started a place for artists who wish to be represented in an online gallery; I call it Art Evolution Gallery. The concept is rather simple but contemporary. Artists evolve over their career, and collectors are always seeking new and evolving artists. I see Art Evolution Gallery as a point of convergence for both evolving artists and savvy art collectors. To find out more about this, drop by www.ArtEvolutionGallery.com.

As you know, I’ve long been interested in art history and theory. I just finished reading But is it Art: An Introduction to Art Theory by Cynthia Freeland and have reviewed it on Barnes and Noble. Here is a copy of that review:

Coming from a science background, I wondered how theory could be applied to art. It seems that, in the case of art theory, the major and most relevant questions are: “What is art?” and “Why is art valued?”

The author provides an historical framework of how philosophers and critics have approached these questions. Looking at the business and politics of art, good examples and references are provided throughout. She also shows how ‘cultural biases’ can be intervening variables in both the framing of the initial questions and the answers.

It is not surprising that the conclusion is the investigation of art theory, like scientific exploration, often leads to more questions than are answered. The author characterizes art theory as an explanation of the diversity of the subject,  deals well with why art is special, provides a good overview of the topic and a stepping stone for further reading on the subject.

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It’s Saturday afternoon and the week is winding down this week… this really wonderful week. I’m so happy to have had this experience, and I’m sure everyone else who is here feels the same way.  I’ve gone around and taken pictures of everyone in their studios.  Perhaps I’ll make some kind of photo collage.

I was completely open when I came here; I didn’t have a plan and brought only blank paper and blank canvases.  I think that worked out to a good thing because it made me completely open to experimentation.  Yesterday afternoon when I was finishing “Awakening,” the one with the rainbow hair and the overt symbolism, I had an epiphany; I felt like I I was free and expressive.  At that point, a few people came by said that they really liked it.

This gave me such a feeling of affirmation… like I really was in touch with something inside of me.

Later, I decided to use a new medium, a watercolor canvas, with the geometric painting I’ve been working on.  I had begun that one very very methodically, and some of it had to do with the readings I’ve been doing on visual intelligence and the way the eye sees and interprets certain objects.

Part of my planning and process was the study of it all.  This, in turn, opened a cognitive door that has brought me in touch with my own process, which tends to break down into a lot of planning and investigating various processes, such as photographing, looking, touching, reading, studying…  all the various sensory approaches I can use to communicate the topic and environment of the painting.

Usually it’s an emotion or a feeling.  It can be quite tricky sometimes, but I now feel that, at least, I’ve identified the process.  An example of this happened when I was working on this geometric painting.  I had begun with the portion I’d planned out methodically in advance, but new ideas began to appear and overwrite what I’d planned to do with each section.  The painting was interacting with me.  It was like being in a Jazz dance with each new move flowing organically from what had come before, but in a living, dynamic and unexpected pattern.

I’m looking forward to trying this with an entirely new image.  Now, that it’s happening there is so much potential and I want to do something different with it.

Of course, I still have the rainbow hair one to finish; I’ll always see it as a treasure because of what it gave me.

I’m going to top off this week by getting a massage.  I noticed one of my studiomates this afternoon strongly resembled toffee in the warm sun.  When I asked her about it, she told me our life model is also a masseuse who is offering a special price to the Vermont Studio Week people.

That is just too good to pass up.

Main Street Johnson, VT

I’ll get the massage, finish up my painting tonight, drop in at the readings being done by the literary arts people, and tomorrow is Open Studio… then back to the real world.

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Bivins House

I’ve gotten all settled in at Vermont Studio Center and it’s a wonderful relaxing feeling.  I arrived yesterday and toured the facility and met some of the people.  After dinner, I was so exhausted that I went to bed about 8:30.

What a wonderful night’s sleep!

My alarm was set for seven, but only about five minutes before that I woke up naturally.

With a hearty Vermont breakfast under my belt, I’m ready to begin this wonderful experience.  It’s wonderful to be with other artists and writers, and the staff go out of their way to make it a very community oriented experience.  After only a single day, I can feel that clearly.  I think this is going to be great.

My first workshop is figure drawing, but before it starts, I plan to wander around a bit and take some pictures.

After returning from making assorted mundane purchases at Grand Union, I decided to paint outside.  It was cool this morning, but the day is warming nicely.  It promises to be a lovely day.

I’ve been thinking about the book I’ve been reading, Visual Intelligence.  Looking at things from the author’s viewpoint, I notice that I can see more things than my camera can capture, and I think that’s what for me about painting outside.

Peripheral images while not distinct are an integral part of the whole picture, so I feel surrounded and involved by the totality of the scene.

One of the reasons why I am here was to explore outside of my comfort zone, so I elected to make my first landscape a bit abstract.  The one I’m working on now is a bit more traditional but I’m drawing on a number of the value studies and putting a bit more detail in the trees.

Of course, there isn’t a lot of detail here, so it shouldn’t be that big of a deal.  I’m just trying to capture a sense of the place and the darks and lights.  It’s Spring here and things are just beginning to bud.

The trees largely seem grey but they also have that glowing “bud green” sparkling all over them.  To me this is the essence of Spring: just beautiful.  I hope that I can capture that in my painting.  I’m planning to make at least two attempts.  One against the sky and clouds; one against the trees.

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A friend of mine was visiting from Maryland and wanted to go to Art Palm Beach Show.  I’m so glad she asked as it was a marvelous show.  That’s one of the great benefits of visiting friends; they open eyes of possibilities.  It’s like when John lived in New York City; he hadn’t visited any of the sights until I came down from Boston.

It’s the 13th time the event has been held and it’s billed as a dynamic event in America’s premier winter destination, hosting international galleries.    It’s a wide-ranging presentation including contemporary art, photography, video, installation art, public sculpture and design.  One nice touch is part of the proceeds of the food and beverage sales go to the local art community.  It almost made a four-dollar bottle of water worth the price.  After spending that much, we made a point of savoring it as if it were a fine bottle of wine.

Since she is interested in mid-century furniture and my passion is watercolor, we did a good job of covering the entire fair.   However, what we both enjoy was “Risk,” an installation constructed from sneaker parts by Fredrick Uribi.  It was a fascinating exercise in the reuse of materials with, of course, a very strong Green message.

Later in the week, I went to the Norman Rockwell exhibit at MoAFL  with a few of my friends.  Although I had seen many of the same paintings in the Rockwell museum, in Stockbridge,  MA while on my summer sketch tour, it was great to see them in the expansive space of the museum.  The highlight for me was the room that displayed every single Saturday Evening Post Rockwell did on one wall, while the series of drawings showing the artists’ process and the final painting for ‘Southern Justice” was on the other wall.  The exhibit is a t MoAFL until 2/7/2010 so there is still time to see it.

In other weekly news, I went to the Palm Beach Society’s Paint Out at the American Orchid Society.  The cold snap had wrought a sea of change on the vegetation.  Much of it has suffered severely.  Fortunately, inside the greenhouse things were still spectacular.   I spent a lot of time in there.

In the art education department, I am again taking a figure drawing class at the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale.    Also, I’m taking a 3 day workshop called Creative Watercolor given by Miles Batt and sponsored by the Delray Art League.  I’m learning a lot and cannot wait for a block of studio time to put into practice all these new skills and techniques.

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Time has flown swiftly.   I was juried into the Delray Art League, and John and I started participating in their recurring show/sale, “Artists in the Park.”  It hasn’t been as steep a learning curve as it is for some artists because John used to own an Internet bookstore that did live sales at shows and conventions so we’ve had a bit of experience with selling from under a tent.

The first time through we didn’t make any sales, but the “old hands” tell us that this weekend is the start of the busy season now that all the Snowbirds have abandoned their snowdrifts for the beaches of Florida.

Paint-in with PBWS

I also joined The Palm Beach Watercolor Society and I’ve been participating in their “paint-ins” and “paint-outs;” these are opportunities for the members with a live model and lots of friendly interaction.  They are held at the Boca Community Center for the paint-ins.  These have been a wonderful adjunct to the figure study course I took in the Fall and I’m planning to take again.  For the paint-outs we have been going to the American Orchid Society for plein aire painting.

Right now, I’m in a show by The Palm Beach Watercolor Society.  It was a wonderful experience to go to the reception and seeing all the work by the Society’s members.  I’m planning on entering more of their shows.  It’s a good way to get exposure and to meet the other artists.

I’ve also taken to making copies of the Old Masters in order to learn the body parts better so my figures are more natural.

In December, John and I went on a cruise of the western Caribbean that yielded a number of good paintings and a number of reference photographs that, over time, I’ll use to create watercolors that show scenes in Grand Cayman, Isle de Roatan, Belize and Cozumel.

One highlight of the cruise was the submarine cruise we took off Cayman.  The experience was like being in plein aire or plein l’eau.  Now, I regret not taking my paints on the dive, but I took plenty of photographs as we cruised by reefs, dipping as low as 150 feet at times.  It was an interesting experience, sitting dry, in air conditioned comfort as the sea bottom cruises by only a few feet away.  I’m sure you’ll be seeing paintings on my site soon that will be a direct result of that dive.

I’ve been notified that I’ll be the featured artist in the Remodernist group on the website Red Bubble.

After a bit of procrastination, I sent in my application for the Vermont Artists’ Week.  If I get in, and I feel the chances are good, I’ll be going up there for a week in April.  If all that works out and I’m comfortable with the environment and the staff, I may do one of their longer residencies.   Those seem like a great opportunity.

On a personal note, the holidays were great fun.  At Thanksgiving, five of my nieces were together in Florida and I had a chance to paint will all of them.  They range in age from three to nine; each has her own style untainted by “formal art education.”

The nine-year-old was experimental, looking to try the techniques that I had used and to test out various tools and brushes.  The seven-year-old was more objective.  She plunked down this little stuffed turkey and “just drew it,” quite well in fact.  The six-year-old leaned toward impressionism with a free flowing style.  The five-year-old was “my little Jackson Pollock.”  I’d mixed paints for them in little cups.  She picked one up and dumped it on the paper, looking back at me for some sign of approval or disapproval.  I said, “You can do that, but don’t mix them ALL together or they will come out looking like mud.”  I kept mixing colors for her and she kept dumping.  The three-year-old was just at the point where she was learning  to control her brush with the help of the nine-year-old.

I recommend painting with children if you want to have fun and loosen up.  It’s hard to be uptight about the outcome when you are painting with them; they are so free.

Right now, I’m working on finishing up my “cruise series #1.”  If all goes well, I’ll have a number of those ready for the next outdoor sale.

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It’s time for another blog.  It’s not that I haven’t been inspired but I’ve been taking a number of classes that have been enjoyable, but they have taken time.  One is a figure drawing class in The Fort Lauderdale Figure Drawing School, which is part of Nova Southeastern University.  The instructor is a wonderful, classically-trained artist.  I’m learning a tremendous amount in each class each week the figure looks better and I can see places where improvement is needed.

I’m also taking a water color class from another wonderful instruction at the local high school as part of Palm Beach Community Educator Program.  The class is in an open style so each student can take maximum advantage of the teacher regardless of their skill level.

Another thing I’ve done is applied to the Delray Art League.  I had to bring in three paintings to be evaluated and was accepted as a member.   About the same time, I also joined the Palm Beach watercolor society.   That’s another great group.

Today, I’m spending part of the day at The Green Cay Nature Center in Delray Beach.  Now that the Florida weather has broken, it’s a beautiful clear day.

 

t was a lovely five mile bicycle trip from my home, and now I’m standing in a recreated hut used by the Miccosukee and Seminole tribes.  The roof is covered with cabbage palm fronds.  This kind of building was in use when the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the 1500.  The style was popular because it could be taken down and moved when invaders moved through the area.  It’s also a particularly sturdy construction since this particular hut has survived not one, but two, hurricanes in the past few years.

As anyone who has seen my body of work knows, I’m inspired by nature, and this is the perfect place for me to sit, paints in hand.  Right now, now I’m watching a flock of ducks fighting over some food and mulling how I can capture the incredible dynamics of the conflict in with is essentially a static medium.   I just wish I had the eye of Charles Thévenin in his La prise de la Bastille or George Bellows, who did the classic A Stag at Sharkey’.

Sadly, the recent mini-drought has reduced what is normally an impressive expanse of water to a number of smaller ponds and I suspect the conflict I’m observing will soon be the rule rather than the exception.    Still, it’s a wonderfully active ecosystem, turtles and frogs sunning themselves on logs and a number of alligators arrayed on the shore, mouths wide open, to allow the commensal animals to clean his teeth.   After the fray with the ducks, it’s nice that my last image is cooperation.

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