Thursday, October 28, 2010


Waiting for Uncle Gabe
36" x 48"
 These fragile, antique sailboats are in Historic Spanish Point, Osprey, Florida.  One boat is named Uncle Gabe, thus the title, Waiting for Uncle Gabe.  The boats were tied to Cock's Bridge along the trail where small school children rattled past while I painted with some friends.  A few even stopped to look at our paintings and said, "Wow, that's pretty good."  The small, plein air painting I did that day was a reference for this large one.
Uncle Gabe (reference oil, 8" x 10")
 Stage one: After a quick sketch in vine charcoal, a slap-dash underpainting with a big old brush and cadmium red acrylic (the gesso was acrylic, so a thin underpainting in acrylic paint is fine, and it dries fast).  Values barely indicated by thinning the paint.  This stage was just to fill the space and get a jump start on a large painting.  After so many 8 x 10 inch paintings, 3 x 4 feet was intimidating. 
Stage two: Painted fast, using a small plein air sketch and photo reference on the computer.  The dog was mostly imagination.  Just wanted to get a thin layer of oils down to see how the colors would work. My goal with this painting: keep the spontaneity of a small plein air in a large painting format.  If it were an 8" x 10" painting, it would be almost finished except for the dog's reflection.
Stage three: Worked all over the painting with thicker strokes on water and added dog's reflection.  Refined masts and boat details. 
Stage four:  Detailed background boat.  Changed water reflections.  Added details to lines on mast.  Added lines connecting both boats to moorings.  Reworked dog.  And that's it.   Don't want to overwork it.  Time to move on to next painting.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Woman with Braid

12" x 9"
Took Nancy eight years to grow her braid while she painted coconuts in the Keys.  She's also a fine artist and instructor. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Atelier Open Studio

Atelier Model Sketch
12" x 9"
Had the pleasure of visiting the Southern Atelier in Sarasota yesterday.
Open studios are several days a week, and they have wonderful workshops.   Check out the schedule on their website:
John Ebersberger gave a lecture about the Cape Cod school of color and the mud heads.  I'm so inspired,  can't wait to start painting today and try out some of these methods.  I'll write more about this lecture and John Ebersberger's beautiful paintings later.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pastel Portrait

Orange and Blue
14" x 11"
Pastel sketch, Punta Gorda portrait studio.  This doesn't look exactly like the model.  Took photos and could have reworked it for a better likeness, but think it's fine for a study. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

After Lunch Sketch

Second on First Street
6" x 9"
Sometimes, they just work.   Really pleased with this one.  Used smooth side of Canson Pastel paper.  Roughed in the sketch and blended for underpainting, then scribbled away.  This drawing was done using only NuPastels, which are hard pastels.  Had a small, clear plastic fishing tackle box filled with broken pieces from the 96 color set and a small sketch pad of paper.  Sat in a chair on the sidewalk in the shade.   Squinted to see darks and lights and noted them before the sun changed the shadows.  Liked the cool green weeds in the foreground and dark tree with sky holes in background.  Fence slats were mostly imagination, letting building and background show through.  Wish they were all this easy. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sketching in the Shade

First on First Street
9" x 12"
Discovered endless shady spots perfect for sketching.  Will be going back here often.     Used wrong side ( Canson Pastel paper claims it's the right side) which caused the "screen-door" texture.  Almost like the way it looks on the wall in foreground.  But really prefer the smoother side of this paper.  Yellow buildings are as difficult as white ones when it comes to darkening values without the colors getting muddy.  Used a little purple and blue in the yellow, also yellow ochre and burnt sienna.  Some palm tree trunks really do look purple. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Moving Portrait

The Singer
9" x 12"
Had been talking about gesture drawing with another artist, Sally Christiansen, right before the "singer" posed.  We talked about drawing two minute poses and then how long time seemed to stretch for five minute poses.  Sally told me that in art school (Parsons) she had to draw models that moved in slow motion!  While we waited for the above model to arrive, we had the janitor pose for fifteen minutes.  Sally knocked out a super pastel drawing, signed it and gave it to the very impressed and beaming janitor.  Sally's drawings are fast and sure, what talent!
 The Janitor (15 minute pastel sketch)
Sally Christiansen
about 15" x 20"
When the "Singer" posed, he strummed his guitar and sang with such feeling he couldn't stop moving.  The music was lovely, we didn't dare to ask him to hold still.  I shredded my hour and a half drawing because I just couldn't "get" it.  Finally, we told him to hold still so we could draw the details.  My pastel, "The Singer," above, is from the last twenty minute pose (touched up back in studio!).  Maybe we should just draw faster?  
Meanwhile, I'm still working on my "Janitor" pastel from a photo.  I'll post it in a day or so.  Just taking my time...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Value Study

Church Door
12" x 8"
My inspiration for this study was the slice of bright light in the background.  The problem was to make the foreground darker.  Another struggle with a white building.  Cast in shadow, the front was darker than the sky.  Took many layers of color.  Liked playing with all the curved shapes, the door, royal palm bases, flower pots, window.  Also liked using the strong verticals as "slices" of composition.  The diagonal of the stair railing echos the roof angle in the background, and the diagonal slashes of sunlight on the foreground palm.  I didn't think about all of these comparisons while sketching, realized some after I finished. Getting a design to work like this one does, hitting all the right notes, makes it worth while.  Composition is visual music, created first by letting go.  Don't think, just see.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What Color is that Shadow?

Morning Bell
9" x 12"
Started on location and finished in studio.  Pastels on Pastel Card.  White buildings are a challenge!  What color are those shadows?  Think I threw every color in the box at this one.  Sometimes, it's a struggle.  Kept thinking warm or cool?  Darker or lighter?  Squinted a lot.  Had to remind myself that I'm not making a photo.  It's an interpretation.  Going to go look at  my Wolf Kahn book again and absorb his simplicity and stunning palette.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Full Circle

The Other Side
6" x 9"
This completes the four sketches from one day last week, including lunch break.  Started at 8 am and finished at 2.  Sketched on location with no tinkering back in the studio.  It was an interesting experiment to draw one subject from many angles.  At first, I didn't see much that I wanted to draw, but when I looked long and hard enough, lots of promising compositions appeared.  Sketched all four sides of this church, full circle.  For folks not familiar with Florida palms, this is the bottom of a traveler's palm.  Pastels on Pastel Card.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Third Sketch

View from Front
6" x 9"
Moved around the building and found this view in front.  Purple bougainvillea and red hibiscus blooming in hedges.  Sun splashed gravel with lacy palm shadows.  Charming cottage across the street.  Almost noon and the town's unusually quiet.  Folks still up north looking at leaves, but we have this to look at all year around.  Not bad.  
Original sketch with no tinkering later, pastels on Pastel Card.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Church Yard Morning
6" x 9"
Second sketch from a sunny and fruitful morning.  I feel blessed!  Happy with the way I caught the light as it moved over the traveler's palm base.  Left it without tinkering back in the studio.  Right before posting this, I came across a quote by Charles Hawthorne (credit to the artist who mentioned it later).
A sketch has charm because of its truth - not because it is unfinished.  
A serendipitous piece of information!  I always feel compelled to finish and polish my work.  Serendipity that I came across this quote minutes before writing about the same subject.  A sketch can be a study for future work, it can be practice, a visual journal, a snapshot of a moment in time.  And a sketch can exist as a piece of art in its own right.  Thinking that you're "only" sketching... takes the pressure off.  No need to create that masterpiece.  If it happens, fine.  If not, no big deal.  Sketches can be crumpled and tossed, stacked in a drawer, or maybe even make it into a frame. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sketchy Pastel

The Refectory
6" x 9"
A morning sketching in a favorite place.  This is the first of four,  left it in its original sketchy condition without any retouching in the studio.  Started at 8am and finished at 2pm, including a break for bag lunch and thermos of tea.  Sometimes, the conditions are perfect.   Quiet.  A lull before season starts, folks still up north looking at leaves.  High season here's only between Christmas and Easter.  Leaves the rest of the year for perfect painting conditions. 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Pastel Portrait

Persian Woman
12" x 9"
Venice portrait studio was fortunate last week to have this beautiful woman pose.  Fabulous features, great eyes, lips, strong personality, and she sang softly along with music we had playing.  What a treat!  Pastel on Canson pastel paper.