Seven years ago, fascinated with the challenge of being able to paint transparency in oil paint using glazes thinned with linseed oil, I started a series of paintings on 12” x 36” gesso boards with a match that had just been blown out. Painting the stream of smoke wafting up from that match led me to paint a birthday candle, a stick of incense, and a big fat cigar. For the fifth and final panel, I intended to paint a pipe. I googled images of pipes and came across several before I settled on a calabash, the kind of pipe that Sherlock Holmes smoked. Fast forward to last month, when I was going through the photos on my iPad and found the quirky blond smoking that pipe that I had painted for my fifth panel. I’ve been looking at that blond for years and finally thought I’d try to bring her to life. As much as I always enjoy painting portraits—she was a trip! She looks so very 1940’s to me, and with her chin out, pipe in mouth…that’s attitude for you…so Retro is what I’ll call her.
It was mid-September 2018, and my husband and I had just spent a few hours on a Sunday afternoon at Devereaux Beach in Marblehead MA, him sleeping in the sun and me reading in the shade. We were in our car getting ready to leave, when I looked up to see two women on a bench under the canopy in front of me. I was immediately struck by the notion that the woman on the left looked like my mother, who had died in 2002. Of course I knew it wasn’t Mollie…but in that haze through the windshield, she did have her profile. I took two photographs with my phone from inside the car: one of the two women and one of her alone, reading a paper. I didn’t get out of the car. I didn’t walk over to her. I didn’t want to know if she actually didn’t look like Mollie, because for that moment and, honestly, the rest of the day, I was somehow feeling comforted by the thought that i had been visited by a vision of my mother.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago…having finished a very large painting of a roseate spoonbill and wanting to paint some humans again, I had a small canvas that I thought would be perfect for painting that apparition of my mother. Of course I still had the photographs! Even more of a personal painting than those I’ve done of my grandchildren, now she’s on the wall of my bedroom, in full view of my bed…someone to watch over me.
My first oil painting was a still life of three pears. I followed it up with a painting of a bowl of cherries, then the makings of an egg cream—seltzer bottle and all. I continue to paint a still life now and then, but that series was the start, followed by sandwiches, china cups, and more. My first painting of tango dancers was a happy accident that I continued to paint on sixteen more canvases over the years, sometimes just painting the legs, others up to the dancers’ waists, and a few including more of their torsos. A visit to the New England Aquarium with my granddaughters inspired me to paint my first jellyfish, and I’ve done ten paintings of jellies in all. Nervous at the thought of attempting portraits when I was a novice, I painted a series of pop portraits first, taking inspiration from Andy Warhol and other artists from the 60’s, because I thought it would be easier than capturing all the more realistic details of a face. I segued to realistic portraits and figures soon after and, today, consider myself a portrait painter above all.
So it was no surprise that after I painted In the Pink, my first roseate spoonbill, I wouldn’t be done. I thought I’d do another 36” x 36” canvas, perhaps to hang as a diptych. Commerce intervened, and I found myself with a commission for a small painting of a spoonbill. Ready For My Closeup was the result, and once he was done, I was ready to paint that other large roseate. I’ve worked on him for the last month and couldn’t help thinking that he looked all dressed up and ready to dance in his glorious pink feathers, so I thought I’d call the painting Shall We Dance? I’m not saying I’ll never paint another bird…there are eagles and cranes and blue herons that abound here in Florida…but this spoonbill is it for me for now.
I have a good friend who has had a good friend for many years who is nuts for spoonbills. I don’t think she gets to see too many in the flesh, since she lives in California, and roseate spoonbills are the only spoonbill species found in the Americas, mostly in Florida and parts of Louisiana and Texas. After seeing In the Pink, my friend commissioned a small canvas portrait of a spoonbill for her friend, and Ready for My Closeup is what I came up with. Hope she likes it…
I’ve said before that it’s lovely when people tell you how much they love your work, but the highest compliment an artist can get is a commission or a sale. When I exhibited Hair Love at the BallenIsles Art Show 2021 in January, the curator saw fit to hang her in the Elvis spot for the exhibition: the painting everyone saw as they entered the building. My friends Sydelle Sonkin and Herb Siegel loved it and asked to buy it—and now Hair Love lives in their beautiful home! It’s a thrill for me to see it hanging amidst all the other wonderful art they own.
I painted Contact in black and white three years ago, a suggestive image of a couple on the verge of a kiss, on a canvas 36” wide but only 12” high. A year later I donated it to the Lighthouse Art Center for their annual fundraiser, D’Art for Art. Earlier this month, between paintings and with a spot on one of my walls that was calling to me, I took a canvas 24” wide and 12” high and thought I’d enjoy the challenge of painting that same carnal image in slightly different dimensions. As it turns out, I think this is the better proportion for what I’m now calling Seduction. Go know…
When January comes along, it’s usually time for the BallenIsles Art Show. Despite the pandemic and luckily for 58 of the artists who live here, the art show opened today. It’s always a treat to see the work of so many talented people displayed, even if we have to be screened to enter the clubhouse, wear masks and be socially distanced. I can’t think of anything better to feed our souls right now than enjoying art…
A year after we bought our condo in Palm Beach Gardens, I was playing golf with my friend Marlene and suddenly looked up, because of an unfamiliar noise, to see a HOT PINK flock of birds flying closely past us. My immediate response was to say, “What the [expletive deleted] was that?” I knew they weren’t flamingos—the color was off—but what were they? Marlene didn’t know, so I went home after the round to see if I could find out. The first iPhone wouldn’t be launched for over a year, but my husband had become completely enamored of the birds of south Florida, so I had a beautifully illustrated book to look through. The roseate spoonbill was shown in all its glory. Not the largest of birds, it’s more the size of a greater egret or a stork than a blue heron or a sand crane. Its beak is remarkable—hence the name spoonbill—and it sweeps it back and forth through the water to gather its food in that spoon. I see the spoonbills all the time on our golf courses here, but always just one alone or perhaps two. I’d love to catch another glimpse of a whole flock again…now that I know what they are!
I’ve had it in mind to paint a roseate spoonbill for months and finally got to it. I’ve found that there’s so much less pressure around painting an animal than there is doing a portrait of a person. I’ve had some fun painting a few animals this year: JJ the Beast, my grand dog, Charley Redux, my friend Herb’s Shichon, and, now, In the Pink—a roseate spoonbill that has just touched down on the tip of a branch, not yet hiding those glorious hot pink wings.
Anyone who knows my friend Herb Siegel knows that he loves his dog Charley more than anyone or anything else on earth. A Shichon (a mixed breed cross between a Shih Tzu and a Bichon Frise), Charley has been with Herb for about fourteen years, such a sweet dog as his constant companion, even during those brief times when Herb didn’t have a female companion. A big supporter of the arts, Herb owns quite a few drawings and paintings of Charley, including a little 5” x 5” canvas that I painted of his dog over four years ago. I must confess that I tossed off that little painting in one sitting, simply to complete a grouping of portraits of Herb and his beautiful Sydelle.
Fast forward from four years ago to four months ago, when I had just completed a portrait of my granddog JJ. Herb took one look at that painting and turned to me to ask, “Will you paint Charley for me?” How could I refuse? Herb and Sydelle are dear friends and among the very few couples we see in these days of Covid-19. I have a habit of labeling photos of my paintings “redux” when I’ve revisited a subject, which happens from time to time, so here is Charley Redux…four years older, done by a better painter than I was four years ago.
Needless to say, in this time of Covid-19, everyone has to try hard to have a positive attitude and keep their spirits up. For me, that means FaceTime with my kids and grandkids, painting, playing golf, working out and staying in touch with good friends. Last week, I neglected to check what Gmail characterizes as Promotions and didn’t see that JJ the Beast had won Special Recognition in Light Space Time Online Gallery’s 10th Anniversary Art Exhibition, which opened online on Saturday and will remain on display until October 2nd. The gallery received 2,129 entries from 34 different countries as well as from 41 states and the District of Columbia.
I began entering art competitions at lightspacetime.art over three years ago, in April 2017, and have received Special Merit and Special Recognition for 28 of my paintings to date. Proud to be in such good company, I’m especially happy to have JJ the Beast applauded before this painting of him leaves for Wisconsin this fall with our granddaughter Maddie—as a reminder of home and everything she loves.
I am thrilled and delighted to have been invited to participate in this international exhibition:
M.A.D.S. is a contemporary art gallery set up with screens, aimed to create a continuous multimedia exhibition with the use of new video system projection technologies. It’s the first fully digital multimedia gallery, exclusive and unique. Hundreds of artists from all over the world find in M.A.D.S. the answer to their needs: of exhibition, curatorial, of marketing and sales.
Then, allow me, with pleasure, to present you the next event 2020 by M.A.D.S.: the International Contemporary Exhibition “BREAKOUT” that will take place starting from July 17, 2020 and has been extended to August 7, 2020. Opening will be on Friday, July 17 inside the location in Milan, Corso San Gottardo 18, Italy.
I lost my brother-in-law Ed on May 28th, at the age of 88. A great guy who my sister started dating in 1956, when I was not quite 12, I’d known him for over six decades. He was the big brother I had never had, and I will miss him, remember him with love and laughter, and hold him in my heart always. I wanted to paint a portrait of him for my sister to have, complete with his signature blue blazer, button-down shirt with a tee shirt under it and comb-over. I don’t have to see the rest of the reference photo to know he was wearing khaki slacks and cordovan penny loafers. I’d like to think of him at peace now, so I’m calling this My Blue Heaven. Edward W. Schwab, R.I.P.
My good friend and former student (Long Beach High School Class of ’67), Jeffrey Felner, posts #wakinguptofashion every day on FaceBook and Instragram, featuring fantastic fashion photographers of the past and today. Last fall, I took a screen shot of one of his postings—a beautiful, young model who was swathed in white tulle from her hat to her toes. I filed it away and came across it last week, when I was looking for something new to paint. The whiteness of her made me think of one of the earliest painting assignments presented to students at the Acorn School of Art: the white study, an exercise that teaches just how much color there is in a painting of white objects. I thought it might be fun to try a portrait in white, having just watched Debra Highberger’s portrait painting lesson on YouTube through acornartschool.com. I got to give myself the challenge of painting a portrait, painting a white study and painting the transparency of tulle…all in one. Having just finished two very large paintings, I decided to change the pace by painting a couple of small canvases. I painted JJ the Beast and A White Study: Portrait alternately, because one canvas could sit out on my patio to dry for a day or two while I painted the other.
I’ve been painting for twenty-one years but still love to take a painting class. There’s always something to be learned, and it’s always a good idea to have other eyes see your work. Lucky for me, my friend and mentor, Debra Highberger, is teaching online on YouTube through http://www.acornartschool.com during the pandemic. I watched her lesson on painting a white kitten and was inspired to paint JJ the Beast, our beautiful white lab granddog. JJ is a sweet and handsome devil and, like many pets, has been a particular comfort to my daughter and her family in these trying times I get to see JJ on FaceTime and in photos and videos my granddaughters send of him doing things like sitting down and shaking hands. Can’t wait to see him in person again…