Thursday, December 19, 2013

Historical Costuming

If you have an interest in historical costuming, I recommend adding A Most Beguiling Accomplishment to your reading list. Cassidy (disclaimer: my daughter) shows fashion plates from centuries past, frequently from French publications of the times. 

Were the French always the arbiters of taste
 that modern arbiters of taste claim them to be?
See for yourself.

Also, Cassidy is running a contest, but not for much longer.

Historical...but was it fashionable?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

New Glasses, Alla Prima

Ron looked quite dashing in his new spectacles--dashing enough for me want to snap a photo before he dashed off, back to the farm, back to the pursuit of The Big One (as in deer.)

And then I made my painted version.

water-mixable oil paint on a 8" x 10" canvas
This came together pretty quickly--a couple of one-hour sessions, tops, and then a forced break in the shape of a weekend away. The very thinly painted surface is dry now, so my opportunity for blending and tweaking is gone. However "scrappy" it may be, I like the spontaneity of the piece, and rather than paint over the whole thing, I'll just set it aside and take out a new canvas....

Monday, November 18, 2013

Stand By: Technical Difficulties

Post-Election Season, and I haven't posted any watercolor portraits. That's because I dove back into work by getting out the oils instead. Water-based oils, but oils nonetheless, and so my work can't just be slapped on the scanner fifteen minutes after completion, like with watercolors. And I've had some bit of relative success.

But either my camera is not working, or my computer's not working correctly, because even though the camera seems to be taking pictures of my (not dry) work, the computer is not recognizing those pictures.

I'll figure something out. In the mean time, maybe the paint will dry. I'll throw a couple of extra logs in the wood stove. That ought to do it!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Gouache: You are not my friend

The election is over, and all of the non-stop meetings, door-to-dooring, sign-spreading and other hijinks are over (for now,) and I am free to focus on my artwork again. Really free, too, since my running mate and I will not be taking seats on the Greenwich Town Council.

That's OK (for now.) We were really, really underdogs to the point of being sub-underdogs. Submarine dogs. We made a good showing, and may have nudged the political thought in town just a little left-of-rightmost.

So why, for my much anticipated return to drawing and painting, did I choose to try a gouache landscape instead of good old watercolor portraiture? For cryin' out loud, GOUACHE DRIES ON THE BRUSH ON THE WAY TO THE PAPER. And it doesn't seem to dry the same color as it starts out. 

done with Cheap-O Reeves gouache. I think the whole 24 tube set cost less than $10.
Yuck! The photo I used for reference was of a section of the Au Sable River in Keene Valley, New York, where Ron was working on some river bank remediation. (The sides of this painted sketch are cut off, else you would see the teeny yellow excavator.) So while the back ground, right up to the middle ground trees was really there, the foreground was, in actuality, piles of dirt, rock and root wads. 

Lesson learned: Find a second photo reference instead of making up crazy looking foregrounds.

I'm going to pull up a photo of a face and get back to Comfortland.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Owen, Completed.

watercolor on vellum, 10" x 12"

I did a little more work on Owen,
but called it Done before the real fussiness set in.

I think the most challenging part of a
portrait like this is making the jaw stand out from the neck.
It's not as if there's a line marking the interface.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Owen WIP

A little more than mid-way through this work-in-progress...
watercolor on paper, abt. 10" x 12"
...and tomorrow he turns 21!

Happy Birthday, Owen.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Reflection and Election

I was digging around in my small studio this morning, once again postulating that a few hours spent on organization would be a good thing. But since I'm about to spend the afternoon out going door-to-door with my running mates (Greenwich Town Board! Vote for Us!) I scaled back my plans. All the way back, to:

Gather recent watercolor paintings: update my portfolio.

As a predominantly 3D artist, for a number of years my "portfolio" was a few sheets of slides. Woefully outdated--slides? Does anyone still possess a slide projector? My 2D work was basically sketches and graphic design assignments from college and that was...loooong ago. Not to mention, my portfolio book was one of those leviathan zippered books that needed handles in order to be hefted around, and a large, unburdened table to open it up on.

When I gathered up the work from this past year and spread it out all over the bed, I was pleasantly surprised, and recharged for a rating session, and to remake my portfolio.
 These are some of my drawings and paintings from the past 12 months-or-so...
A dancer with the New York City Ballet

 My ruggedly handsome husband

 and historical reenactors in historical costumes!

And Cassidy, alla prima, in oil.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Wilson: Final, Plus

Wilson, 11" x 16", watercolor on paper
Been a long time since I posted one of those lessons in the "Learn Art in One Year" book, and I could learn a thing or two today, so......
Proportion: the relationship of the various elements in an object to the whole. In drawing, one should make sure that the ratio of all the dimensions and of the angles between each element are as close to the original model as possible. Practice. Observation. Measurement.
I may have condensed it a little, but that's the gist of it.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Mini Detour

you're probably seeing it bigger than life-size
I'm setting out--right this instant!--to finish painting "Wilson," and we'll soon see how that goes. But the other night I took a few minutes to sketch Cassidy in my tiniest sketchbook. The tri-colour was an accident, sort of. I began the sketch with a brown Conte pencil. I decided it wasn't sharp enough after I had sketched in her eyes and the side of her face, so I sharpened it. The lead broke off. I sharpened it again, and the lead broke off@#$!^&%$!! So I switched to the Lyra Rembrandt Indian Red., and only used the Conte for her hair, which was done with the cracked-off stump and capable of no detail. 
But I like the result! Tiny sketch, sweet result.*

*And Sweetheart, I don't mean "sweet looking"!

Monday, September 16, 2013


I finally got tired of seeing the Sketchbook Soldier Guy, which I wasn't too keen on anyway. And I haven't had too much time for painting, because I'm racing to finish...painting. The House! I'm on the fourth side, and as the outdoor temperature drops, it's getting more and more imperative that I wrap it up, and quickly. My blood doesn't flow when it's cold.
Really. It's a disease. Cryoglobulinemia. (Fortunately, my case does not present itself in the way that the Wikipedia photo subject's does--in fact, my purple fingers and toes are the only visual clue. That, and the shivering when the temp dips below about 70 degrees!)
Here's Wilson...unfinished, but something new for you to view.
Sennelier watercolors on bristol vellum: a 10" x 16" work in progress

Sunday, September 1, 2013 least, to me

Here's the sketch, a little watercolor in my small sketchbook, based on a Wilson Friedman photographic portrait of a reenactor.
watercolor, about 4" x 6"
Just a quick, loose sketch, and an attempt to make him look a little lifelike with color. But as I was hitting the details, looking closely at his uniform...

...AAK! That's a swastika!*

And then I had this quite weird and unexpected "should I finish painting this guy?" moment. Was I somehow glorifying Adolf Hitler's regime, or approving the Nazis, by painting him?

Well, then I did finish painting him, but only after my moment of hesitation. It's a weird thing, how something like that can stop you dead in your tracks. I'm sure this reenactor is no more "Nazi" than I am, and he's portraying part of history so that he, and others, can learn from his portrayal--similar to the way there are reenactment regiments here near Saratoga, who portray American "Loyalists" (aka--those siding with the British during the Rev War years, who felt those battling the British were not being patriotic.)

So instead of whether or not to contine with him, I started worrying about gettig the colors in the right places.

*(Which you can barely make out because the one on his hat is teeny and the one on his jacket is at the bottom fade.)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Calling it Done

Did I simply want to move on to the next piece?
Or did I wisely stop fussing before fussiness disaster?
Soldier Boy, 11" x 14", watercolor on paper
We may never know!

This portrait is based on one of Wilson Friedman's photographic portraits 
which can be seen on his website, Historically Speaking.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Approaching Completion

watercolor on paper
Back from our short-but-sweet vacation to lovely, scenic Maine, I was able to spend another session with the soldier boy. 

It's so much easier to catch problems when seen on the screen than right in hand. The wonders of modern technology.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Painting--but mostly the house

Is it wise to show the stages of a piece in progress? I don't know. I know that I do learn from seeing how other people attack a painting, learn, and purely enjoy. So here's the third stage of my reenacting soldier boy.
watercolor on 140 lb. paper

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

After One Painting Session...

watercolor and pencil on paper
I'm hoping to get back to work on this kid after today's House Painting-Blueberry Picking-Library Meeting day. I'm starting to think that if one gets the proportions and the drawing right, just about any paint can be thrown on and it will still look good.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Rainy Day Yay!

Finally, a rainy day--good for the garden AND a day off from house painting! 

So today, I can paint something else. While listening to the splashes and patters, I've sketched this reenactor soldier boy, based on a Wilson Friedman photo.

When "done" with the sketch, I rolled over it with a kneaded eraser and nearly obliterated the fussy hat embellishment that had taken quite a bit of time to draw. However, the hat embellishment ought not to be the focus of the painting, so maybe that's OK.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Blacksmith's Shop

Another en plein air watercolor sketch from the
The original is actually smaller than this.

Monday, August 5, 2013

200 Posts!?! How can this be?!?

For a person who was never able to keep a diary or journal, or see a sketchbook through all the way to the end, 200 posts is a milestone! Hip Hooray!

Here's an en plein air view of the old schoolhouse on the grounds of the Delaware County Historical Association at the Gideon Frisbee House. It was a weird day. Alternately cloudy and breezy and then so sunny that the white of the paper was blinding. 

Oops. I meant to finish that tree on the right 
when I got back to the house. But I forgot.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Once Again Sketching in the Dark

small sketchbook, regular old pencil

Last night, Wendy and I went to Tanglewood to see the Mark Morris Dance Group perform.  It was spectacular and moving, and I found the Ozawa Hall venue as beautiful as the music, as beautiful as the dance. 

Before intermission, it was really more of an opera than a dance, with barefoot men in crisp white button-down shirts and spotless white jeans singing and sort-of dancing. Hard to describe, but interesting and aesthetically pleasing.

I had this spread on my lap through the entire opera. Although I didn't look down at the page very often, it is easy to see the progression of drawings--from when there was a little bit of light in the theater (guy behind the music stand) to when it was pitch black (something, top, just left-of-the-fold.)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Subtle Differences: VERY Subtle

Apparently, the difference is all too subtle to be detected!

My original sketch of Chelsea (who is actually MUCH more beautiful than in my depiction. In fact, this depiction is not even recognizable as her.) was done lightly, in pencil, from life, as she read a book. (I added the watercolor later, from memory.) Hence the downcast eyes. Downcast eye portraits of mine always look like portraits of subjects who have fallen asleep in their seats. 

In an attempt to remediate this problem, I penciled in a very small band of shading beneath her eyes--almost like lengthening her eyelashes. It worked slightly better in the sketchbook than you would think from these scans.

Monday, July 29, 2013

From Penciled to Painted

A pencil sketch for a portrait looks pretty funny without a 
range of values. Or maybe it's just the white eyeballs.

Yes--much better with eyeball color. 

and maybe some cropping...

Watercolor on Bristol 3 ply vellum--a new, smoother surface 
(still not hot pressed, though) for me. I've got to learn about eyebrow painting.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Consultation

Just a quick post--a sketch of a scene in the hay field. 
I have started to pencil it in on watercolor paper.
More later.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Watercolor Revolution(ary)

This is a watercolor rendering of a Revolutionary War reenactor. The original photographic portrait is Kelsey's work, and can be found at her beautiful website. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Back from the 19th Century

About a week ago, I was getting ready for bed, and listening to a raging thunderstorm and watching lightening flashes that seemed to be getting closer and clos...Yikes! The tree right outside my window snapped off ten feet from the ground and hit the house! 

Well, "skinned" the house. Upon inspection, I found that it only smashed some of the decorative railing on the front porch. AND it took out all kinds of wires, leaving me without power, telephone service, internet and cable. 

Luckily, my summer daytime activities don't require too much in the way of telephones, TV, or internet. I spent the week gardening, scraping paint off the side of my to-be-painted house, and drawing and painting at my desk.

I painted another reenactor, but I really messed her up. She's much prettier than this:

In fact, here's the only portion of the painting that I like.

This ought to teach me to plan ahead better,
 and to keep the paint clean and simple. 

However, my piece-in-progress is showing signs of 
over-fussing already.
More on this guy, later.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Lesson Ten: Curvalicious!

Drawing Curves, Freehand.

Using either a pencil or your brush (and we can safely assume a stick of pastel or a marker or even a loop tool would be acceptable substitutes, depending on your medium of preference,) rest the part of your hand beneath the pinkie on the support. Use your hand like a compass--with the point of your hand that touches the paper being the center and the tip of the pencil to that point being the curve/arc/circle's radius) and use a pivoting/rotary motion to:

First--hover above the paper (or other support) and "practice;"
and then--lower the tool to the paper and lightly put down that curve. Useful to know if you have to draw or paint these:
what are these beautiful things?

The final paragraph of this lesson puzzles me.
"For further exercises make tartan patterns, margins and other designs,
as well as letters with a brush, first with a ruler, and then freehand."
I'm not Scots, but I always thought tartans were made up of straight lines. Hmm.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Next Time, I'll Bring Color

Great music, great (expensive) "fair food" 
(and drink,) 
and great people watching.

Oh yes. The humanity. The SEA of humanity. Thousands of people, packed into a place that I'm certain should have held half as many. 
I psyched myself up to bring along a sketchbook, and right there amidst the crowd, I sketched some real, live people.

oops. where's her left leg?
Black watercolor pencil, with some NijiPen-wetted washes.
And guess what! No one came over and punched me in the face! 
Next opportunity, I'll do this again, and bring along an array of the watercolor pencils. Or maybe just a couple. I don't want to be too obvious.

Friday, July 12, 2013

More Sketching in the Dark

The amphitheater is open to the lawn in the back--at SPAC--and the ballet began at 8:00. So it wasn't pitch-black-dark in the very beginning, but it might have well as been. My attention was completely focused on the stage and the sketchbook was toned and the pencil was light. In effect, it was blind drawing. 

So during intermission, it was fun to see what I'd done, and encouraging to see that some of the scribbles even made slight anatomical sense. 
The next morning, I erased a couple of the scribbles that made the least sense, and used the new "clean" spaces to reinterpret a few blind scribbles. On some, I just drew over the blind scribbles, with little erasures where necessary.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Very Happy Reenactor

I haven't yet taken up reenacting anything more than "Lazy Farm Wife." (Oops. No. That's me in reality.) But I've often been tempted, mainly because it's fun to put on a different persona and educate people in things they are interested in--and because of the clothes. Of course, the clothes are also the very thing that keeps me from it. Coming up with the costume.... Cassidy has made many historical costumes, and to see her drape the cloth for cutting (no Simplicity Simple patterns back then; no Singer Simple sewing machines) and pin and pin and sew and sew. And...corsets...need I say more?

But this woman has tried it, and it looks like she's having fun.

I'm loving that foliage!Best foliage I've ever painted!

See the photo inspiration for this watercolor portrait at 
and check out the rest of Kelsey's beautiful photography.

And maybe become inspired to REENACT HISTORY!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Watercolor WWII (I think)

In my quest to find interesting faces to paint, I came upon Historically Speaking, Kelsey's beautifully-crafted website focused on historical reenacting. Kelsey is a fabulous photographer, and her portraiture is out-of-this-world. Please, check it out!

Kelsey was gracious enough to allow me to use her photographic portraits as inspiration for a series of painted portraits. 
the grey around the perimeter? shadows.
Look here for the reference photo.

About those shadows: I am a newbie to watercolor painting, and I have yet to do the whole soak-the-paper-stretch-it-staple-it-onto-subsurface business. I don't know how. Come on, Self. There is no excuse for this type of thing anymore. It's probably right there on YouTube! So my paper does get warpy, and those gray shadows show up on scans of my work. Note to self: Do some research.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Lessons 8 & 9: A Two Fer!

Lessons 8 and Nine seem to boil down--after a lot of excessive descriptions of "what is a line" are eliminated--to this: 
Lines connect points, and when "learning art," one should practice making lines. Freehand (lesson 8) and with the aid of a ruler 
(lesson 9.) And sometimes one should hold the pencil or brush perpendicular to the paper and sometimes one should hold the pencil or brush so that its length goes in the same direction as the line.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Flattened by Photoshop

Photograph. Photoshopped.

In my eternal quest to figure out how to paint the human face, I have been, mostly, painting from pictures that I find in magazines. It's convenient, and it doesn't involve "putting myself out there" where I am sure I'd face massive ridicule for my inability to paint a realistic face. Which is dumb, but it's the truth.

And I wonder why I can't paint a face that doesn't look flat and dead.

Now, much of this can be attributed to my lack of skill, but I think that my choice of reference photos is adding to my difficulties. It's hard to see contours, and to differentiate between planes of the face, when working from photos that have been stripped of all of their planes and contours. 

I resolve to do more sketching and painting from live models, 
and from my own photos.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Two Takes, or rather, Take & Revision

watercolor in 5" x 8" sketchbook

I took a break from cleaning, weeding and other related School's-Out-Catch-Up-On-Housework yesterday to sketch my front porch. The background is the memorial park across the street. OH how I need to figure out how to draw/paint trees! (Interesting note: My BS is in Forestry, so I know trees. I know a lot about trees. Just can't convincingly portray them.) I am not getting too hung up on it (today) though, because this is just a small, quick, simple sketch.

...but there was a blandness, a lack of...

I think it makes a big difference.

HERE is the work of 
Jamie Williams Grossman, 
who can make trees look like trees.