Monday, January 29, 2018

"Newest Member of SMAL"

WOW, where has the time gone? We are almost at the end of January and this is my first post of 2018! 

It's St Michaels Art League banner time again. Every year for the past 8 or so years members of SMAL have painted banners which will be hung along Talbot Street (that's our 'Main Street'). The theme has always been "Celebrate St Michaels."

For those of you who may not know, St Michaels is a small village on Maryland's Eastern Shore. For many years it's 'industry' revolved around the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Crabbing, fishing, oystering - our watermen thrived here. More recently, we have become a tourist destination - shopping, good restaurants, lovely places to stay and interesting things to see and do. There are many ways to go with "Celebrate St Michaels."

However, I have stuck with the crab theme and have had some kind of crab in every banner. I began a series several years ago with "Mikey" - so named by a friend because he was from St Michaels.

Over the years, Mikey has been busy doing a lot of St Michaels activities including holding an anchor (last year), eating an ice cream cone, steering a boat, fooling the British, holding a mug of get the idea.

So, what to do this year... I decided that Mikey needed to join the St Michaels Art League. He would become a painter. I did a beginning pencil sketch and added a little color.

Little did I know how frustrating this would become! Have you ever thought about how a crab might hold a painter's palette? Is the claw on top? Does it go through a hole? How would I twist it to have Mikey holding it correctly? I did several sketches  - working the claw this way and that.

Was I making this too difficult? YES... This is supposed to be fun. I painted it several times - each time getting a little different look. Unfortunately (or maybe not) I do not have photos of all the attempts. And strangely enough, I was not careful to get a good photo of the final painting. This is the last one that I found in my file.

The original banner art work will be hanging in the St Michaels Library during the month of March and the banners will be hung along the street in mid-April. It will be interesting for me to see if this is really the final version!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Welcoming the new year

A few months ago I was talking to my youngest granddaughter, Hildry,  about the upcoming holidays and I asked her what she wanted for Christmas. Without hesitating, she answered, "I want you to paint me a pineapple!"

Why a pineapple? She just likes them...

I forgot about her request and thought maybe she would, too.  Then more recently she asked me if I had painted the pineapple yet. I knew I needed to get busy.

It is interesting to me that once someone mentions something, I see it everywhere. It is amazing how many pineapples there are on posts, wallpaper, clothing, lunchboxes, t-shirts - you get the idea. Hildry's family will be moving to a new house in the next few months...and yes, there will be pineapples in her room.

So, I got started...  I sketched it out in pencil and began to paint. Sometimes a painting just paints itself.  After a very few minutes, this is what I saw on the paper!

 I decided I'd better back away from it and take a good look. I put it on an easel across the room. Another one of my 'tricks' is to photograph a painting in progress. It helps me to really see what the painting needs. I did both these things and left it alone to dry. I didn't want to mess with wet watercolor at this point.

The next day I went back to it and tweaked it a bit. I darkened the shadow sides of each section of the fruit - giving it a rounded effect. Then I added darks to the leaves. I finished by highlighting some streaks on the leaves. That is done by wetting a brush, touching the part I want lighter and gently wiping the area with a paper towel. I also erased some of the pencil lines...not all of them. I think it's fun to see some of the original drawing.

Christmas morning, unwrapping gifts...she loved it!

As I thought more and more about pineapples, I remembered that they are a symbol of hospitality and welcome. The end of December is the perfect time to share this - let us welcome a new year. May you all have many experiences of hospitality in 2018 - of giving this gift to others and allowing others to give hospitality to you.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, November 4, 2017


This week we hung a new show at the St Michaels Library - the theme is "Critters." The students of Barbara Jablin (classes on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings) were all asked to paint pictures of animals.

I had posted a couple of my paintings awhile ago (back in March and in August). Here is another ...

This was painted from a photograph taken when this puppy arrived at my daughter's house. All her girls were so excited to have a new puppy - MANY photos were taken, but I have always loved this one. My daughter has four girls - three brunettes and one blonde. The blonde lying on the puppy - hair/fur similar color just tugged at me.

I began with a charcoal sketch.

A bit of tweaking here and there, I redrew it on watercolor paper and did some watercolor underpainting. It helps me establish the shapes and colors.

Now it's time to begin with my pastels. The painting is beginning to come together.

It was about this point that I took it to class for critique. It needed more darks between Leighton's head and the puppy. A bit more definition in her face... And then I needed to do something with the background.

I love this orange-gold color with dark green so I decided to try that... but thought a whole painting of that would be too much. I left the foreground natural and just added color behind.

I am calling it "The New Puppy" and it now hangs at the library for the month of November. If you are in the area, stop by and take a look at the whole wall full of Critters!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Mikey Has A Girlfriend

It is so nice to get back to my blog. Three weeks ago I had knee replacement surgery...there is something about being in pain that takes away all my desire to be creative!

However, the day before my surgery I had a phone call that did give me something to think about as I am recovering. There is a new group in town  - "St Michaels in Bloom." They are actively working to beautify our little village. Several planter baskets have been packed with flowers and are visible on a walkway in town. Also, they have sold 20,000 daffodil bulbs (and are ordering 10,000 more to sell) which will be planted everywhere! Next spring they will sponsor a daffodil weekend.

Which gets me to the phone call...they were looking for someone to paint a crab holding some daffodils to use for their logo. A mutual friend had given them my name as someone who paints fanciful crabs. For the past several years I have painted crabs for the St Michaels Art League Banner program. 'Mikey' has eaten ice cream, skippered a boat, held an anchor...why not hold daffodils?

What a delightful challenge. I began picturing a gardening crab...holding daffodils and a trowel...and of course, wearing a straw hat. This group did not have a specific deadline, so I had some time to work on it. I did a quick sketch (very rough) and sent it to the group.

A week or so ago, I met with a couple of people on the committee to talk about this more. Since they are not a garden club - we decided to go with more daffodils and no trowel.

This was the first 'sitting.' It's sometimes hard for me to critique my work when I am on top of it. It helps me to take a photo and then look at it apart from the original painting.

I like her 'attitude', but the daffodils got lost! It was too yellow and orange...  back to work. If I darken the underside of her shell and add a little more ink around the flowers...a tweak here and there...

Voila! Mikey has a girlfriend! Don't know her name yet. Look for her to appear around town next spring. It's been a fun project. They will have a website up and running in the near future. Google 'St Michaels in Bloom' and see what might come up.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Labor Day Show...and Sale...and Demo

It's almost that time - the art league's annual Labor Day Show and Sale. We will be setting up our racks and hanging artwork in less than two weeks!

I was all ready last year to do a watercolor and ink demo and we got cancelled twice due to weather - so I'm trying again this year.

I will be painting a huge ice cream cone (6 scoops, I think). I start with a pencil sketch. Then I ink and finally paint. I will talk about and demonstrate how to make the ice cream look round on a flat piece of paper. I will ask "What is your favorite flavor?" We can paint that in.

Here is my practice demo...
"6 Scoops"   10.5x25  
Then I am providing paper, paint and brushes for YOU to try your hand at it. It should be fun
Here are some visual instructions.

Everyone gets an already painted cone... pencil, pen, paints, and brushes... go to it! Fill it with your favorite flavors.

My demo is 10:00-11:20 on Saturday morning, September 2.

The Show and Sale hours are:
Saturday, September 2 from 10:00 - 5:00
Sunday, September 3 from 12:30 - 5:00

Come find us - Under the tent on the lawn of St Luke's United Methodist Church in St Michaels!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Chloe & Henry

Way back in May, a friend of mine posted a picture of one of her daughters in her Senior Prom dress...with the dog. Apparently, Henry (a rambunctious sheepadoodle) had just returned from two weeks at 'boot camp' and they were getting re-acquainted.

I love Chloe and I love painting dogs, and I really love painting relationships - the photo was begging to be painted! I quickly asked permission to do so.

However, there were several other things I needed to finish first - it's a little like having to eat the spinach before desert - so I didn't get to this until July.

I knew it was going to be a pastel and thought it would look good on toned paper. I did the pencil sketch and began painting with my soft pastels. Since the paper tended toward a darker value, I began with the light areas.

 I continued to paint and began to realize that the tooth (texture) of the paper was distracting. I tried to make it work, but kept being disappointed. A good learning experience, but I needed to start again. So much for the toned paper.

 I switched to my favorite - sandpaper. I have been using a 500 grit UART paper  - it's archival and has worked well for me in the past. I got this far and wondered what I was going to do with the background. The sanded paper is just beige, it needs a little color.

 Knowing that it I did not want to mess it up at this point and have to paint it again, I got out a piece of acetate paper. It's a clear (like plastic) sheet that I can experiment on. I laid the acetate over the painting and tried different background colors using my watercolor paints. I tried several - here are just two...  The original photo had an outside background.- grass, stone path and sky.

Although the photo had more color, adding a color (like the green) that I had not previously used seemed very artificial. 

Hmmm, I liked the blue dress - orange is the complement...

 That seems to being out Chloe's facial features.

Now to work on the dress. The prom dress was beautiful - navy blue with white flowers. However, as I tried to capture the flowers, I found them distracting. After all, the painting is about the relationship - them looking at each other - not about the dress!  In the end, I made the dress a solid blue.

Then I added the background that I had chosen...trying to add different values to it so it isn't solid and heavy.

This is one of the paintings I will be exhibiting in November at the library in St Michaels. We are having a themed show - "Animals"  More about that at another time.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Why Knot?

Every now and then I have to revisit ropes. Since I was shown the secret to painting ropes, it seems to be my 'fall back' thing to paint and helps me get out of 'slug mode.'

I looked at various rope pictures and came upon a photograph that my husband had taken years ago.  With his permission (I never paint someone else's photo without asking), I decided to try to paint it.

It's a bowline knot  - fun to tie. I find myself transported back to camp where I learned to tie it with a story. You take the rope and make a lake. (Just twist a loop) Then take the end of the rope which becomes a snake. The snakes comes out of the lake, goes around the tree and back into the lake. Then you pull on the head and the tail. Voila - bowline knot!

Enough of that... I began to sketch with pencil. The end of the line (rope) was very frayed.
Then I added some light watercolor washes leaving the frayed part until later.

Next step - add the frayed end, a little more definition on the line and some color in the background.

Then I took it to class for critique... Well...we began a discussion about where the light was coming from. The line shows the light coming from the right side. Wouldn't it be better coming from the top left? Then the frayed end would have more impact. They also thought the fray should be more prominent.

I took it home and washed some of it out, added more fray and defined the end a little more. Changing the light source was a little trickier. I switched to some of my pastels. So now the light side of the line is on the left. It's more yellow on the top left. Back to class the following week...

The suggestion then was darken the bottom right. The contrast of the opposite corners would help.

I did it and was really sorry...something happened that threw it all off for me. Having spent so much time with this knot, was there a way to salvage this?

Ah, yes...crop! I could get rid of some of that boring dark corner...   It's now an 11x14 instead of a 16x20.

Why Knot?
"Why Knot?"  11x14 watercolor & pastel    $100