Friday, October 31, 2008

I am so delighted to let you know that my portrait 'Rob' was sixth in the Popular Vote at the UKCPS Exhibition. The fact that anyone would vote it as their favorite from the show is shocking. :-) Thank you! You can see that portrait in progress in one of my previous posts:
I'm working on a bit of a written project right now, so I may not have much exciting for a little while to post. Don't go away - I will be back!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Cameo on Pastelbord

This will look very humble after the last one!

This is a little 5 x 7 on Pastelbord using Prismacolors. It is of my niece and is supposed to match the two I did of my daughters that I gave to my mother.

This little project has reminded me just how much I enjoy working on Fisher 400 and just how much working on Pastelbord is a struggle. Why would I even use Pastelbord? Just because it can be varnished and framed without glass. Its ok, despite the struggle, for still-lifes and even gives them a pleasant illustrative quality, but for portraits its just not worth it. & then there is the grain problem, unless you want to add watercolor, solvent or wear out your wrist with a blending brush, then you are left with the grain which in the case of portraits I find distracting.

So I fulfilled my promise to my mother and back to Fisher for my next portrait!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Grey Matters finished!

27" x 40"

I still don't have a name for this one either... names are not my strong point!

I may fiddle with the grey area a bit more on this, but we'll call this tentatively finished.

I did this piece with two shows in mind: a regional show at the Thorne Sagendorph Gallery at KSC locally, and the 2009 International Exhibition of the Colored Pencil Society of America. Well, that was until Katherine Tyrrell (of the Making a Mark blog) reminded me that there are size constraints for the CPSA show. The regional show is fine - which I am sure of since they regularly get 9 ft high pieces in the semiannual event, but I won't be able to submit my all colored pencil piece to the national Colored Pencil Society of America show. :-( The rule is that the FRAMED work must not exceed 32 x 40", which means with matting and framing the maximum the piece can be is 24" x 32."

Size makes an impact. In an art world where bigger is better, an art society that is trying to promote a medium, that in some circles, is considered a hobby medium, constraining the size of the artwork entered to such a small size seems a silly thing to do. I understand that not all galleries can take very many large pieces, and this show is huge, but maybe that could be a prerequisite for the gallery chosen for the event?

Size had been on my brain when I started this piece after the discussion Katherine had on her blog: Juried Art Competitions - does size matter? In the Thorne Sagendorph show, my piece of 40" tall will actually be dwarfed by the other pieces trying to get in, if the show looks as it has in the past. I love the show. Yes there are more intimate pieces that get in, but its the larger than life pieces that strike you from across the gallery and pull you in....

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Upcoming Classes!

In just a few weeks a new session of my 9 week colored pencil class will be begin. It covers the basics of working in colored pencil on sanded supports and is open to both beginner and intermediate students. If you've taken one of my colored pencil classes before and would like to try it again, we can work together to create challenging assignments to advance your technique and adjust to your interests. The class is in Keene, NH at Artworks, 30 Washington St. To sign up call the Moving Company at (603) 357-2100.

I am also very happy to announce an upcoming 3-day workshop in Fort Lauderdale FL. Feb. 20, 21, & 22nd! It will be a crash course in working with sanded supports! Lots of fun will be had, but be ready to work hard! I only do one "away" workshop a year, so this will be it for 2009. Click here for the .pdf for sign-up instructions and a better description of the workshop!

edit: I just updated the link to the class form and it SHOULD work now. I think the file name was just too long. Please let me know if you can't get it, and I will email you the .pdf.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Walking Into a Rothko

Mark Rothko
Untitled / Grey and Black

The more I work on this the more I feel like the model walked into a Mark Rothko painting and leaned on the mass of colorful greys.

Words from Mark Rothko (taken from his wiki)
"I am not an abstract painter. I am not interested in the relationship between form and color. The only thing I care about is the expression of man's basic emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, destiny."

In the June 13, 1943 edition of the New York Times, Rothko, together with Adolph Gottlieb and Barnett Newman, published the following brief manifesto:

1. To us art is an adventure into an unknown world, which can be explored only by those willing to take the risks.
2. This world of imagination is fancy-free and violently opposed to common sense.
3. It is our function as artists to make the spectator see the world our way not his way.
4. We favor the simple expression of the complex thought. We are for the large shape because it has the impact of the unequivocal. We wish to reassert the picture plane. We are for flat forms because they destroy illusion and reveal truth.
5. It is a widely accepted notion among painters that it does not matter what one paints as long as it is well painted."
[Rothko said "this is the essence of academicism".]
There is no such thing as a good painting about nothing.
We assert that the subject is crucial and only that subject matter is valid which is tragic and timeless. That is why we profess spiritual kinship with primitive and archaic art."


As always the art world is ever changing. I believe the art world is struggling right now with how realism and figurative art fits into the world that modernists such as Rothko created. Struggling not only with being seen as going backwards in the progression of the art world, but also with the notion that using the tools of our time (photography, computers) makes realism redundant.
Personally I find our times exciting and hope I live long enough to see where it all takes us!

I can hardly believe I am almost finished with this. Unfortunately I can not work on it today... I have to drive to a gallery and then obligations at my kids' school, but it is probably fair to say it will be finished by the end of the week. Not too bad for how big it is and how small my paintbrush was (the tip of a pencil).

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Update and a Trip to the MFA Boston

I live about 2 hours outside of Boston in New Hampshire, moving here from the Chicago suburbs about 6 years ago. I've wanted to go visit the MFA Boston since before I moved here and, finally, just went this weekend for the first time.

It was perfect timing too. I've been second guessing my decisions on these portraits, particularly the ones I've been doing, including this current one, in which one side of the face is in darkness. What have I been second guessing myself on? Well, mainly how dark to go on that side, the colors that show through, and how much detail and the values to attribute the eye that is cast in darkness. So I went through the collection of paintings, century by century, focusing on portraits with similar lighting and noted their choices. The MFA was perfect for this lesson; they have a great room with several John Singer Sergeant portraits including the Daughter's of Edward Darley Boit, a painting that can not be described. I made my way down in history next focusing on the Colonial portaits of John Singleton Copley, best known for his famous painting of Paul Revere & my favorite in the collection, a painting he did of his brother and his pet squirrel early in his career. I then worked my way through the European paintings on the second floor, again going from the most contemporary to the older. To my complete surprise, at the end of the wing, the MFA boasts an amazing collection of dutch work from their golden age: my favorite still-life painter Claesz as well as several portraits by Rembrandt. How can I get a better teacher than a Rembrandt portrait for my little "problem" in these portraits!? I was so happy I looked through the entire room with tears in my eyes!

As soon as I got to the studio yesterday I reworked parts of the dark side of her face in my portrait, bringing out more of the highlights around the eye and adding a bit more darker value and detail in the eye. I am extremely happy with how it looks now; it just feels right, thanks to the great masters at the MFA!

One thing I was worried about in these portraits was how much "red" I see in the dark side of the face. I wasn't sure if I was seeing wrong, but I was happy to confirm that that's how others see it too, when looking at all the portraits at the MFA. If anyone knows why that is the color left in the dark side of a face, I'd love to know! My theory is that it may be a reverse to aerial perspective.

& now finally for updates! I've decided to rearrange the studio and hang the piece on the wall to work the rest of the drawing.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Standing on the table and leaning over the image with a camera, is just not the best recipe for clear, straight photographs. It is not worth the risk to smudge the work done by taking it off the table.
The plan was to have just a light grey tabletop in the bottom portion of the composition, but I decided to make it into a concrete wall. I walked down to the parking garage down the street from my studio today and took several photographs of the low concrete walls to use as reference. This change of plan will, however, make this small (hah!) endeavor take a bit longer.
If the strange delineated composition of this piece and the last one I did just doesn't make sense to you... let me show you some of my favorite paintings, which I think will clue you in partially to my pshyche.
The Death of Marat by Jacques-Loius David is one of my all time favoites, if not my favorite painting.
as is this painting by Gustave Caillebotte "Paris Street, Rainy Day." Actually look at the range of Caillebotte's paintings and the types of compositions he chose. It makes me salivate.
Add to these a fascination with all things Edward Hopper & I think you WILL understand me better!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Experimental Wisdom 2

I am taking a midday break, having to stand while working on this is taking a bit more out of me than usual. I moved my table out away from the wall and leaned against the wall while working which helped.

An Anonymous commenter asked what colors I used for the face so instead of typing them in, here is a photograph of them. If you are familiar with Polychromos, you should be able to make out the colors I think. If not, I didn't use anything unusual for me so you can search my blog for past skintone colors that look similar.

Yesterday when opening my web browser, which defaults to a news page, I was surprised to see a picture of my town Keene, NH with the heading "America's Most And Least Vulnerable Towns." Surprisingly Keene, NH ranked #3 in the LEAST vulnerable towns to the current economic crisis from a study of over 100 small cities and towns in the US by Forbes magazine.

People must have liked hearing that news because I've been stopping at Starbucks every morning for the past month (I received a $100 gift certificate for my birthday and I am stretching it out). I have been the only one in line or just one other every day for weeks, BUT today there were 9 people in the Starbucks drive-thru line! I guess people feel like they can afford a latte in Keene, NH this week.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Experimental Wisdom

On to the next one!!

I am going for it with this one. It is about 27" wide and 46" tall. Whew. See what I mean.
Since I am using Polychromos on Fisher 400 and they are very unstable on this surface, like pastels, I am more than a bit worried about this piece. How will I get it to the photographers, for instance, without smudging it? I'll worry about that when the time comes I guess.

The piece of paper fits 2/3 of my 6 foot drawing table. Don't freak out though folks, most of the drawing will be the figure at the top and then a bunch of light grey tabletop below it. I should be able to pull this off working standing up and walking around the table to get at specific parts. I would hang it on the wall and work, but it just doesn't suit my technique, and never feels right when I do that excpet for in later stages when I am just fixing things here and there.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


I've tried to thik of a name for this, but everything I come up with "longing" "Yearning" seems so cliche!

Katherine Tyrrell made a great blog post yesterday on the size of artwork entitled: Juried Art Competitions: Does Sixe Matter. She brings up the fact that artwork seems to be getting bigger and bigger in many galleries and asks the question if size can influence an artwork's effectiveness in a juried show. To which I answered:

Personally, when I view shows, I admit size does make a difference, but size must be backed up with skill. A big painting does not make it good, but a good painting that's big makes a huge impact. On a another note, the smaller pieces in shows that are MAGNIFICENT despite their size, get a boost from the size matter as well, IMO. I'll never forget going to my first CPSA convention in Chicago and being able to see Cecile Baird's work clear across an adjoining room of the gallery and it pulled me to it. When up close it was just as beautiful; that makes a winner as well. So in short, yes i believe larger work (if good or up to par) can be a shortcut to success in a show where the winners are juried in person, but that doesn't mean small works can't have impact as well. I just believe the smaller works have to be just a bit better in skill terms to win the prizes.
& in honor of that great post of Katherine's, here's a shot of this image in my studio so you can a feeling of the scale. Not too big, not too small.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Update/Open Studio

This is where I've gotten to over the weekend. A big thank you to all that came to see my in my new studio!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Open Studio Progress

I've been having a lot of fun at the Open Studio today.

Here's my progress, click it to see it bigger. I'm not sure yet where I'll crop the left - I may leave the whole thing.

The Open Studio is tomorrow too - hope to see you there! Thank you to all who stopped by today!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Open Studio This Weekend!

Sorry I've been a bit MIA this week. I've been getting ready for my Open Studio this weekend, part of the Fall Foliage Art Studio Tour.

Come see what I'm working on as well as new work that hasn't left the studio yet. There will be refreshments while they last! Actually that's what I will be doing tomorrow - baking them!
The studio location is 17 Roxbury St. in Keene New Hampshire. I'm right off the Main St. circle, on Roxbury St. There will be signs out front directing you. I'm on the second floor, and down the hall, #7, and will be here from 10-5 both Saturday and Sunday.

Here's what I have on the drawing board, and will be working on - on and off on Saturday and Sunday:

Hope to see you there!

Monday, October 6, 2008


I received some great news yesterday. My piece, Night's Agents, won the President's Award (3rd Place) in the United Kingdom Coloured Pencil Society Annual Exhibition 2008.
You can view the entire show on their website:
& Katherine Tyrrell has a great post about the exhibit on her blog Making a Mark.
If you remember, this piece has a sister called Light Vanity, which had the honor of being accepted in the Catharine Lorillard Show in NYC in 2007. Light Vanity is now on display at Chasen Galleries.
I've started a new piece that I was going to photograph and post last week, but I couldn't find my camera. I did find it now, but the piece is ALMOST finished, so I might as well wait and post it tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Little Pot

Little Pot
10" x 8"
$450 framed - $350 unframed
Another I can't photograph well! The colors have gone garish on my screen... but you get the picture, a bit anyway!