Sunday, December 29, 2013

A bittersweet success story

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a former client in Connecticut and asked to paint her cats, one of whom had recently died. I had painted portraits of her three daughters years ago when I lived and worked in New York.

I have painted people's pets before. Why not: I have three dogs and five cats myself and love them to bits. The trouble is capturing the spirit of an animal that means something really special to someone... from a photograph.

The most difficult portrait I ever was commissioned to paint was of a friend's brother. The trouble was that I would never meet the sitter because he had died, and even worse, the reason that my friend wanted a portrait of him was that he didn't have any good photographs of him. He had two Polaroids to give me to work from. One was blurred and completely useless. The other was in focus, but an awkward, cropped shot. I promised to try.

A week later, my friend stared at my painting for a long time, before nodding and saying quietly, "You got him."

The following Saturday, he drove the painting up to Massachusetts to present it to his parents for their wedding anniversary.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Aztec/Inca gig

Got a gig illustrating some Aztec and Inca myths for an educational publisher. Usually never take on this kind of work because the deadline is always tight, the art direction usually overbearing, and the money terrible.

But I was intrigued by the job because although I had to familiarize myself with the style of art, I would have a lot of freedom to interpret the text because there wasn't much visual material out there to research.

Had quite a lot of fun with them: always nice to have a new challenge. Here are a couple.


Friday, December 27, 2013

Watermelon sale

The first morning of my watercolour workshop, we do lots of exercises practicing the wash, the foundation of watercolour technique, including soft and hard edges. (Soft edges are created by damping the paper before painting the wash.) 

In the afternoon we execute what I call a "Watermelon Haiku." I lead the students through various steps so in the end, everyone has a finished painting.

Often the stars of the morning trade places with the frustrated sloppier students, some of whom have come close to tears after spilling blobs of paint and water all over their exercises. These students usually excel in the afternoon with really stunning and interesting watermelons, made vivid, lively and fresh by spontaneous accidents.

After fifteen years of teaching workshops twice a year, I have a lot of watermelons.  Here are a few if anyone wants to fork over between 50 and 75 euros for one (mounted) plus shipping.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A peck of pears (and a few peaches and plums)

One of the exercises we do in the first week of my watercolour workshop are paintings of pears. They are nice bulky and speckled shaped fruit to study and to paint. We paint pears in the morning and after lunch, and a bit of wine, paint a full throttle nature morte.

A friend wants a couple of them so I scratched through my work files and I have posted some that I painted as demonstrations below. I should add that they are not really finished but just demonstrations to launch students into the exercise. But underdone watercolours are by far preferable to anything overworked and muddy.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Syria in more peaceful times...

One of my very favourite watercolourists is Lucy Willis:

Today's post brought this wonderful signed print of Aleppo that I snagged on the Oxfam site,

Lucy has donated several of her signed prints to raise money for Syrian refugees, so if you want to do a little bit for the refugees and a lot for your home, check out the Oxfam site, and then Lucy's site to see more of her fabulous work.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Hold that pose!

  Had lovely house guests all summer.  Among the most adventurous and generous was this lovely lady who offered to model for my life drawing group when I couldn't get one of my regulars.

The best thing about renting my winter cottage is meeting all sorts of really interesting people