I had my everyday life interrupted in a good way from mid-March until this week. I taught a beginner’s drawing workshop, called So You Think You Can’t Draw, in four 2-hour sessions for the Art Club at BallenIsles, participated in a panel discussion for the Art Club that included a 15-minute talk (with samples and slide show) about my “artistic journey” and co-chaired a luncheon for a dear friend of mine who was being honored. All of that meant that I didn’t have much time to paint, so A Garden of Love took forever to finish.
Inspiration strikes in many different ways, and I am often inspired by photographs I see online. I don’t mean that I go trolling for photographs of things I might want to paint; I mean that when I see a photograph that interests me while I’m reading an article or checking notifications on a website, I take a screenshot and save it. In October of last year, I saw a photo of a stained glass torso with an infant in utero that I thought was brilliant.
While I start almost every painting with a monochromatic drawing, my approach to painting this torso was a little different. I began with a simple drawing of her shape, but once I started to draw the flowers covering her breasts, I just set myself free and let my brush travel all over her body to include the leaves and blossoms and color wherever I thought they made sense. My proportions were also slightly different from the original image (she’s taller now…more like me), so I had to correct my version to include more of her body. A bit of a departure from my original inspiration, this was just great fun to paint. I can still see the stained glass in it, but I’m not sure anyone else would.
I like to name my paintings…to give them titles that convey at least some of what I’m feeling and thinking about them as they come together from drawing to finished piece. This beast of a 40” X 40” canvas took a couple of weeks to paint, giving me more than enough time to think of a name for it. The dancer is so powerful, so focused, so aspirational in this moment frozen in time that I chose to call it Reach. I see him on the prow of a ship, on top of a mountain, on a stage in a theater, on top of the world, calling to mind Robert Browning’s poem, Andrea del Sarto, “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?” In what I now call my first life, I was a high school English teacher and taught creative writing; now I’m a painter, who continues to write and just quoted a poet who used a painter for his subject…now that’s the circle of life.
Thanks again to Whitney Browne, a most painterly photographer who allows me to use her images for inspiration. See what she does, especially Dance for the Photographic Eye, at http://www.whitneybrowne.com.
Once again, I’ve been inspired by Whitney Browne and her painterly photographs. The dancer in Double Exposure and Closeup appears once more in On Fire, completing the triptych called Triple Play. Wonderful fun to paint (I do love red), I always enjoy capturing the suggestion of movement on a static field. That most of her face is missing is reminiscent of the tangos I paint from the chest or waist down (I do love cropping an image). Thanks to Alicia Keyes for providing inspiration for the title.
It’s been a busy month, so I just got to look through my website email to find and print my award certificate for Modern Family in the Seascapes Art Exhibition on lightspacetime.art. Imagine my surprise when I found two certificates, the second one for Aquarium! And Aquarium received a Special Merit Award! This painting was my first effort at jellyfish, the first time I painted on a gessoboard and the subject of the very first post I published on this website on July 13, 2013, called “Inspiration.”
The BallenIsles Art Expo | 2016 is open today through Sunday, showcasing the paintings, sculpture, photographs, woodworking, mixed media, needlework, paper art and pottery of eighty artists who live in this community. Given the opportunity to select only two of the paintings I’ve done this past year, I chose to exhibit Dancing in the Dark and Let’s Get Out of Here. Attending the lavish opening last night with some art loving friends, as always, I enjoyed the great variety of work displayed. Impressive…
When I met Whitney Browne this summer, I proposed a collaboration between photographer and painter…thinking we might be a good fit, particularly because of our interests in dance and in portraits. Having just spent months painting faces and looking for a change of pace, I went to whitneybrowne.com, Whitney’s website, for inspiration from her photographs of dancers. I can’t imagine how she got this shot, but the movement and flow captured in a moment made me want to paint it. I cropped and edited and took some liberties with her work, but I hope I did the dancer justice. Actually, I hope I did the photographer justice…
I love to paint portraits, especially of people I don’t know. I put a lot of pressure on myself to get those faces right, so it’s much easier for me to paint strangers, who are unlikely to ever view my efforts. Painting people you know (or worse, love) is much more stressful. I hold my breath when I give portraits as gifts to family or friends of mine, never certain that they really like my efforts. And painting myself? I don’t think so.
So I went to a professional—here’s a shout out for Whitney Browne Photography in New York City! I was looking for a good picture of myself for my website and social media, something a little better than the ones my husband has taken of me, usually out at dinner, when he tells me how great I look and tries to capture that with his iPhone 6. Yes, I’ve seen all the ads, but I’m afraid that the results have been mostly disappointing. So I had a fun couple of hours in Whitney’s studio last week, with a wonderful photographer, a backdrop and lighting–everything a woman my age should have when facing a camera. This is one of the final portraits; the other is on my website under “About Me.”
Whitney and I have talked about exploring a unique collaboration between photographer and painter—a new source of energy and inspiration for both of us. Give us some time…but stay tuned.
You feel like you get to know people when you paint them (staring into their faces for hours at a time), and when you paint two people, you find a narrative for them. Haven’t I Seen You Here Before? describes a man trying to pick up a woman with the oldest line in the world, which is likely the cause of her slight smirk.
Room 503 paints the woman as the aggressor…
Let’s Get Out of Here
as does Let’s Get Out of Here, though that appears to be more of an invitation than a full press.
Shh…Don’t Tell Anyone
Shh…Don’t Tell Anyone seems the least suggestive of this group—more a secret being told than any desire being expressed. But these are only my narratives…what do you think?
I continue to be fascinated by the juxtaposition of two faces on a canvas, most recently in the act of telling secrets or whispering sweet nothings. If painting a single portrait is an intimate act, painting two people relating to each other goes far beyond that. Are they friends or lovers? Do they even know each other? All sorts of scenarios can be imagined as their faces take shape on the canvas. And when the painting is done, I get to choose a title that gives the viewer a sense of what I’ve been thinking…sweet…and, in this case, sexy.
I usually paint my tango dancers on a colored ground, my focus being the image, not the setting. But over the last couple of years, my friend, Jeff Fay, a wonderfully talented young artist who specializes in architectural paintings (jhutchinsonfay.com), did a few night paintings—a convenience store, a gas station, an ice cream stand—that blew me away. I loved the atmosphere that black background created and thought it would work in a tango painting, enhancing the mood and highlighting the intimacy. It took me some time before I got to paint this, but I knew before I started that I would call it Dancing in the Dark.
I like to paint series.My earliest paintings were of food—pears, apples and oranges, salad vegetables—mostly meant to be displayed together.And after I had painted my first tango dancers from the legs down, I painted four more couples, so that I could hang them all together.My pop portraits were originally intended to be shown in threes, and I painted three versions of the same lotus plant and then that plant in bloom!So it should come as no surprise that Shh…Don’t Tell Anyone has inspired me to paint more couples whispering secrets (or lies) to each other. Let’s Get Out Of Here is my newest addition to this new series.Watch for more…
I do love a painting class. There’s usually a teacher or two there, someone to engage you in a dialogue about what you’re doing, what you want your painting to be and how to get there. And when you step back from your own painting, as you must do and often, you are surrounded by other artists and the myriad of subjects that they’re painting. You learn so much from other people’s work! Sometimes it influences you; sometimes you might even steal something.
Almost a year and a half ago, I stopped by the Acorn Gallery during the Marblehead Arts Festival and saw Lexi Baliotis (getting married next week, she’ll be known as Alexis Kereakaglow) working on a painting of a girl on a beach. I was completely enchanted by it—a back and side view that featured the girl’s ear in close up detail. You could have reached out to touch that ear or at the very least whispered a secret! So this year, I painted Shh…Don’t Tell Anyone with the image of Lexi’s ear in my mind’s eye. I’d call that inspiration.
My husband is my biggest fan. He loves most of my paintings, even the ones that don’t include pretty women or body parts, but he doesn’t really like my jellyfish. It’s not that he doesn’t appreciate the skill involved, but the subjects creep him out. He grew up in Brighton Beach, NY, spent his childhood at the beach and apparently had his fill of slimy, stinging jellyfish. That doesn’t stop me from painting the more beautiful and interesting of the species, but it doesn’t make him like those paintings much either. I’ve been fooling around with ways to paint other things that are transparent and in motion, as much to challenge myself as to find something he might enjoy. I decided to experiment with smoke: blowing out candles, lighting matches, watching smoke streams.
Up in Smoke
When I’m in Boston, it is my habit to come home from a day of painting at the Acorn Gallery, put my current painting on the easel in my studio (which faces out into my front hall) and look at it. I stop on my way out of my kitchen and study it; I stop on my way back to the kitchen and stare at it, often having to remind myself that I came down to make dinner or get a drink. I look at it when I’m bringing the newspaper in, and I see it when I’ve picked up the mail. But that’s just me being a little obsessive about my work—seeing what needs to be changed, what might be enhanced, what should come next. I never really expect anyone else to be quite as mesmerized by something I paint as I am. Until now. There’s something about staring at that smoke stream in Up in Smoke that keeps you hypnotized. I don’t know why it does that, but it makes me want to paint more smoke—a series, perhaps, with the smoke on each canvas coming from different sources. Inspiration sometimes floats in on a puff of smoke…