Tuesday, July 29, 2008


No, this is not an image by Alice Neel. The website dedicated to her work was extremely specific about not publishing any of her images without written permission. I didn't want to risk it.

One of my favorite images by Alice is her nude self portrait at 80 years old. It is perhaps her most famous painting. This woman was independent, outspoken, driven, unorthodox in almost every way and a most interesting personality, not to mention a fantastic artist. She was born in 1900 and died in 1984. I am reading a book about her by Patricia Hills which was compiled from interviews by the author with Alice. The two things we have in common is she loved to paint interesting people and Alice didn't gain recognition until her 60's. (It's never too late!) Other than that, not so much. Her recognition was much more significant but until that time she was working pretty much in obscurity.

There is lots of information on her on the internet. Her grandson has made a documentary of her life which is just now being slowly shown around the country in a few places. Her life was hard and it was difficult for her children, as well. Here is a quote from the film:
“If somebody would say, was it worth it?” he concluded, “I would say, sure. Unless we write or we paint or we take photographs, who the hell’s going to know how we existed, except our family?”
Hartley Neel, Alice Neel's son.

It is interesting to contemplate that, as artists, we are creating our own legacy which will live on.

Alice is well represented in major museums around the country now and everyone should know of her existence.

Speaking of museums, the above image is one I did in colored pencil of an incredible marble statue in the Musee d'Orsay in Paris. The headress was a separate piece of marble that fit like a glove on the head. We marveled at the ability to fit so perfectly two pieces of marble seamlessly together.

Monday, July 28, 2008


Yesterday was my turn to sit at Gallery Concord, so I took some Tyvek and my liquid watercolors and spent the time doing a painting of my image. This was not intended to be a serious painting. I wanted to see positioning on the page and use some color and figure out a few things. The paper was damaged in that it had some creases that don't come out. This paper is so inexpensive that it is very freeing. I don't need to worry about wasting materials.

I drew directly with a watercolor crayon. These things never photograph well. If you click on the image, you can probably see it better. I started with the nose shape, positioning it on the page where I thought I could get the lower part of the head and some of the garment on before running out of paper. I also wanted room at the top for the lettering. I had to laugh when I realized I had positioned the head with the eyes in the absolute center of the page! I was able to correct the drawing by wetting a tissue and rubbing out the incorrect line and redrawing.

The second image is fairly far along in the process. I used the oiler boiler from Cheap Joe's loaded with diluted blue watercolor to write the words. I had the paper upright so that everything would run. I rather like the effect and I like how the color runs through the hair on the right side. I also like how the image and the background trade places in areas....become somewhat ambiguous. It creates an air of mystery. I also like how the writing is mostly lost except in a few areas. What I don't like is the pose. I have decided I am through working with this image. I am going to use the one on the Strokes of Genius 2 drawing. Hopefully I can get that started tomorrow.

The last image is how I finished it up. I started drawing lines with my Dragon's Tongue brush. I might have gotten a little carried away but I didn't really care. I learned some interesting things from this experiment so my objectives were accomplished. It was a lot of fun to play with and the time passed quickly.

On the way home I stopped at this incredible stamp store in Danville. The place is huge and filled with too many tempting things. I was looking for an alphabet that had large letters so I could try it out on the next version of this painting. I not only found an alphabet, but 3 or 4 other stamps as well. It only took me about 5 minutes to do all this financial damage. Tomorrow I shall put it all to good use.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


I was at the library today and found this gem of a documentary movie in the art book section. After a little research on the internet I discovered it was filmed in 2006 and came out, I think, in 2007. If you haven't seen it, find a copy to view. This is a wonderful true story of a woman (Teri Horton) who finds a painting in a thrift store, pays $5 for it and then is told it might be by Jackson Pollock...who, of course, she has never heard of...hence the title of the movie. I don't want to give too much away but Teri is a 72 year old ex trucker. She is tiny but tough out spoken. The story is about painting, painting "experts", authentification processes, class distinctions and assumptions, snobbery of the first order, yada, yada, yada. There are so many issues dealing with art and the the art world that it boggles the mind. I rooting for Teri!

Friday, July 25, 2008


This is the 4th drawing I did tonight and I think I am finally closing in on a fairly accurate image. I could draw it with measuring and guide lines for placement but I lose the spontaneous quality I like by drawing modified contour style. I don't mind redrawing the image multiple times. Each time I try a different starting point to move from shape to shape. I get better and better at gauging distances, angles, relationships, etc. I think if I draw this image a few more times, I will have it nailed. This one, the mouth is not right but the eye placement is better and the size of the nose is more accurate. This is a very odd vantage point for a head and has turned out to be much more difficult to draw than most. After all this drawing, I am not sure I really like the image and will probably do the other view.

In the meantime, I am waiting for another 40% off coupon for Michael's Art Supply so I can buy an alphabet stamp set that has bigger letters than any I have now. Once I have that, I can continue my background experiments.

Some of you have commented on how much preparation I put into my paintings. I don't go to all this work for many of them but when I plan to draw directly on the paper with no chance for correction, I do like to make a number of practice drawings before hand.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I dislike this drawing so much I almost decided not to post it. However, it serves it purpose so I put vanity aside. I have an idea I am excited about for my next painting but I have lots of choices so I am doing studies and experiments to narrow them down.

The first decision is which facial image I want to use. I have two I took with me looking up. I like the unusual angle of the head and the shapes of the features. One of the photos I really played around with in Photoshop Elements and distorted it a bit and rotated the head. This is the one I was drawing today. I think I may have gone overboard changing the angle of the head. I did about 4 drawings yesterday of this image in it's original orientation. Pencil drawings are hard to photograph, so I didn't bother this time. I will draw the image 5 or 6 more times at least until I feel confident I can draw it with pen onto a good sheet of paper. The size and placement will be important so I will probably draw onto tracing paper first and then transfer it. The other option is to put the drawing in my projector and then scale it up and down until I like the placement and size. It is easier to draw small and project larger. I have the projector on a rolling cart and the paper on my easel. Works like a charm. I only believe in tracing your own drawings, not photographs.

The second decision is the format of the painting. Right now I am thinking I want it long and thin with the head at the bottom looking up. I will be making lots of thumbnails to get a feel for the composition.

Third decision is how to put the writing on the wall in the background. Lots of options here, also. Today I tried gesso on watercolor paper using a variety of instruments to write with. Diluted gesso works better than straight because it flows. I was writing with the gesso on the untreated paper and letting it dry. Then, put a wash over the whole thing and the words show up lighter. Turns out the best lettering was done with a bird feather I picked up in Yellowstone National Park. I was going to make my own quill pens. I just used the feather in it's natural state on the end. The ones I tried to sharpen into a quill pen weren't good. Probably the wrong kind of feather for that. I want to try a bunch of other ideas before I decide on the background. The words are "stream of consciousness" all run together but can be read with a little patience.

I will try stamping tomorrow.

Monday, July 21, 2008


I'm working on these small paintings a few minutes here and there around all the minutia of my day. I am getting anxious to spend considerably more serious time on a major painting. I am excited because I thought of what I want to do. The dark side of producing a painting that turns out to be a major piece and receives a lot of attention is the pressure to do it again! I feel like I've peaked! I was contemplating how to photograph the drawing that will be in the next Strokes of Genius 2 book and I realized I never did a painting of this image, only the drawing. I think it should make an interesting painting. That will be my next project. I am going to change the format a bit. I will post as I work on it.

In the meantime, I need to evaluate my little experiments. Today I worked on 3 more bozzettos, only completing this one. The others aren't worth wasting more paint on. It's not always a virtue to keep going. I once heard a wonderful expression: "When the horse dies, get off." I learned what I needed to with the unfinished last two. The texture was too overwhelming and unattractive for a portrait head. The one I completed (above) is too textural in the face as well. The stamps seem to have less contrast than the plastic squares. I think the acrylic gel gets down in the grooves of the pattern of the squares and deposits too much texture. It does make an interesting background, however. Scale plays a part. This size pattern on a much larger head will look somewhat different.

I changed the set of primaries on this last head to see what colors I could produce. New Gamboge, Ultramarine and Primary Red. Don't ask what Primary red is. It's a hue but not a pigment. I just go by the labels on the bottles. The red mixed with Ultramarine creates a purple that is close to brown, very rich and beautiful. Excellent skin tone for darker complexions.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Today was a lot of fun playing around with texture ideas. I wanted to stamp into thick gesso. Unfortunately, the only gesso that comes really thick is by Utrecht and I was out. I decided to use heavy gloss gel and then cover with a thin coat of gesso so it would accept watercolor. I found a sheet of smooth press watercolor paper that I had divided into bozzettos of 5 x 7. This paper was a failed start that I had lost interest in. Perfect for today's experiments. I slathered on some heavy gloss gel onto one of the 5 x 7's, smoothed it out with a plastic credit card ( I save all those card offers that come in the mail ) and then stamped into gel with a rubber stamp. I then took the stamp and put the residue on another 5 x 7. I actually like the second one best. It leaves behind a more defined texture and uses less product. The stamp I used was a variation on a checkerboard. I also have these plastic squares with different overall patterns on them. I used two of those on different 5 x 7 's. I found these pattern sheets in the scrapbook and stamping isles of Michael's Craft Store. They come in sets with 4 different plastic sheets each with a different pattern on each side.

After the gel dried, I brushed on a coat of regular gesso and let that dry. Notice on the second image how there are streaks on the right side of the face. I must have been careless when applying the textural surface. These things show up after it is too late to fix them. I used the Vis-a-Vis pen and quickly drew on the head. I am gauging the placement mentally but with a pen you get what you get. I would have liked a little more of the head and shoulders in the frame, but c'est la vie! These are just studies so it didn't really matter that much. I have posted an image illustrating the process to this point. I then used my Caran d'Ache watercolor crayons and colored in everything. Next I wet a brush and dissolved the crayon and followed with Hydrus liquid watercolor. I did a second one holding off adding Caran d'Ache until the end. It makes a difference how the Hydrus flows onto the painting depending on the order of application. I like this look. I am very pleased with the rich saturation of color, the liftability of the paint, the edges etc. The first pattern reminds me of the textured glass on shower stall doors. I am going to try this on a large sheet of watercolor paper.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


I went to the Menlo Park Art and Wine street fair and who should I see but my subject. Meet Stephen Bruce, a talented artist creating art with various sheet metals. You can see his work at www.stephenbstudios.com. I informed him I had posted my painting of him on the blog last night and told him how to find it. I think he was fairly startled, but very gracious. This is a very handsome, imposing gentleman and I hope I captured his intensity and power.

After returning from the fair, I took out my set of watercolor crayons and set to work to complete the image. I was able to recapture some lighter areas and brought a little more color to the face. The watercolor crayons can be wetted and really smooth out with a damp brush on this Tyvek, making it difficult to detect. I left some of the tell-tale marks and smoothed out some others. I have posted yesterday and today's adjustment side by side for comparison. The way I photographed and adjusted the image in Elements makes it difficult to see much difference. If you click on the image it will show up enlarged which may help to see what I did.

I'm not sure I made it better but I don't feel like I ruined it so this one is ready for a mat. I have my next idea all ready in my head. Translating the images in my head to paper ... now that's a challenge!

Friday, July 18, 2008


So, here is the painting after another session. Is it finished? Ah, the constant dilemma....when to quit. It seems we can't stop fiddling with the image. This particular painting could be complete as it is. The problem I am presented with is this: I had a different idea when I started...more of an experiment with color and line. Do I play it safe and keep it the way it is, the way I usually paint .. OR.. do I risk screwing it up by adding watercolor crayon in various places as I had originally intended? I am inclined to push it and take a chance. See what happens. This isn't such an important painting and my whole idea was to try some new things. It's late. I'm tired. I will sleep on it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Nava has awarded me the Arte y Pico award. Arte y Pico is a blog from Uruguay, whose blogger has come up with this award. Here is Nava's description of this award: "It features this angel with a very cool dress (oh, it's a she-angel, or is she one of the muses?), that totally matches her wings. And she is wonderfully balanced on this golden, uhm, thingy - very impressive!"

What does Art y Pico mean? As Ana, the award originator puts it, "Basically, ironically, it translates into a wonderful phrase in Mexico, 'lo maximo'. It will never find its counterpart in English, but if it HAD to, it would be something like, Wow. The Best Art. Over the top".

The online translator tells me it means "Art and tip".

Thank you, Nava, for selecting me. It is always humbling when someone singles you out for an honor. I must say I like this better than school where I was the last one picked for kick ball or baseball or spelling teams or math teams. They didn't have any art teams in the good old days (probably still don't!) So, my message is to persevere. Eventually one will be appreciated for what talents they possess.

This is being tagged but with a charming trophy to boot! I received this award right before I left for my trip and I didn't have a chance to think about those I wanted to pass the honor. Now that I am back, I have given it some thought. There are so many great blogs out there but I want to honor those that I follow religiously.

First, the rules:
Pick FIVE blogs that you consider deserve this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also for contributing to the blogging community, no matter what language.

Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.

Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.
Award-winner and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of “Arte y Pico” blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award which is here: Arte y Pico.

The five blogs that I have chosen have links on the side bar to the right of my post under "My blog List"

1. David Lobenberg - an extremely talented artist from Sacramento, also an art teacher, with a wicked sense of humor. If you haven't checked out his work, now is a great time!

2. Peggy Stermer-Cox - a most creative designer of interesting paintings! We could all learn loads from her unique approach to a subject. She also has a tribute to her dad on her website. Looks like talent is a family tradition.

3.Annelein Beukenkamp - Beautiful watercolor technique not to be missed. She is from Vermont and her work reminds me of the lush florals of Shirley Trevena.

4. Nancy Standlee - A fabulous Texas gal who is painting up a storm. Her work is as vibrant and full of life as Nancy herself. If you want to know about different workshop instructors, check out her blog.

5. Pablo Villicana-Lara - Pablo lives in the SF Bay area but his Mexican and Indian heritage is the focus of his incredibly beautiful and masterfully executed paintings. He has a gentle soul and a huge heart which shines through his art work.

I could go on and on with so many more talented bloggers but we are limited to 5. Otherwise they wouldn't have anyone to pass the trophy to.

Friday, July 11, 2008


I am in Denver to attend my niece's wedding. The activities should keep me pretty busy but I brought my laptop along so I can keep up with e-mails and create a blog entry or two. We return on Monday, so this is a short little trip.

I decided to go back to one of my favorite images and see what I could do with it. My intention was to focus on line but I see that didn't happen with this one. The next one will be more line oriented. I painted this on Tyvek with it upright and didn't have that much running of pigment. In fact the paint absorbed right into the paper. I think the absorption is related to how much I dilute the paint with water...the more water the longer it sits on the surface. I drew the image with my oiler boiler filled with diluted liquid watercolor. I layered the color rather than co-mingling while wet. The effect is like glazing rather than wet into wet. This is what it looks like after the third session. I woke up early this morning, packed, had breakfast then spent a half hour painting. Took a fast photo and we were off to the airport. I see a few drips I didn't notice before. Hope I can lift those off now that they are dried. Wet paint comes right up. A little more tweaking and it will be done.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


This is a painting I have been working on an hour each day for a few days. It isn't quite finished but I wanted to show I have been doing something! It doesn't look all that interesting to me but I will finish it and probably just put it aside. I am going to add more bison in the background and a strengthen a few more areas. I might fiddle with the composition and do another in a different style or I may just move on. Funny how you get this idea in your head and then it falls flat when you actually paint it. They can't all be prize winners.

What is the title, you ask? "Endangered Species".

Sunday, July 6, 2008


I found this interesting video on u-tube showing a different way to make a cut paper image. Click on the title of this post and it will link you immediately to the video. COOL! This gal cuts out a figure from a photograph and backs it with colored paper (most colored paper will fade, so make a wise choice if you are going to do this). Then she cuts through with an x-acto knife small shapes that define the figure. Checks the colored paper side frequently to see what she is getting. When she is done, she removes the photograph and mounts the colored paper image on another interesting piece of paper. You could do this same thing with your own drawing or painting rather than a photo.

After several false starts, I finally finished another cut paper idea. First I took a piece of 300 lb watercolor paper and splashed it with color to use as the background for the cut paper image. Then I traced my original sketch onto another sheet of 300 lb paper that had been previously painted with random color. My idea was to cut through this paper and mount it onto the first. What was I thinking? You can't cut through 300 lb paper with any ease at all!!! Dumb. Set that aside. Next, I decide to use some of my hand painted tissue paper. I can cut through that easily enough! It was double thickness because of a mistake I made in painting it. I have a pair of very small, sharp cuticle type scissors for just this sort of work, so I slowed down and carefully cut out the image. I didn't like how it looked on the background I had prepared so I had to rummage around to find a suitable one. White worked well but I wanted something more interesting. I found a sheet of Tyvek I had messed up so I spread the Tyvek with matt medium (full strength) and attempted to attach the cut-paper tissue sheet. This was fairly challenging and I had some of the pieces shift around but over all I was satisfied. If I decide to do this again, I would use paper heavier than coated tissue for the cut paper part. Something that would glue down without shifting. How one goes about designing for this type of art is probably the biggest useful idea for the future. Working bigger would also make things easier. While I was working on this project, I also had another painting started on Tyvek. While one was drying, I could work on the other.

Maggie sent me the link for the National Portrait Gallery's portrait competition site. After looking at the 2006 winners, I decided to give it a try. Many of them were not your typical portrait. None of them were watercolors, but what the heck. I am going to enter my "Reflection on turning 65" painting. I only have the entry fee to lose and everything to gain. The entry deadline is the end of the month. https://entry.portraitcompetition.si.edu/ is the website.

Saturday, July 5, 2008


Here is my first attempt at the paper cut drawing. I just colored it in with markers instead of cutting it out. I think I will copy the image onto heavier paper and try cutting it out, just for fun and to see if it holds up! I decided I needed a border so I started with that. This is an image of 3 figures (cropped very close) The dark areas are the part I would cut out. Mostly my plan is to cut out lines to define the figures. I think I want to try it again and have the lines the parts that are left. While I was working on this drawing it occurred to me that unlimited options are the enemy of creativity. By creating limits, we force ourselves to come up with some new solutions and stretch.

Maggie Metcalf and Hilda Hall sent me their drawing series. It shows how multiple efforts really pay off. Each one found a face they couldn't resist! Great work, ladies. Thank you for sharing.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


I received a notification in the mail today that the above image will be included in the next Strokes of Genius 2 book! I am very excited and honored to be selected for inclusion in this book. I submitted about 7 drawings and thought I had created a folder on my computer desk top with the images and their "titles". It disappeared somehow. I wasn't sure for awhile which drawing they wanted but finally figured it out. I didn't want to seem too ditsy by having to check with Northlight for positive identification.

The book will be published next October 2009.

Meanwhile, back to the challenge of the month. Hilda was uncertain how to proceed. I suppose she is not alone so here is my
best attempt at a simplified explanation of a cut paper drawing. Think in terms of positive and negative shapes. The negative shapes would be the pieces you would cut away. The positive shapes would all have to stay connected so the piece wouldn't fall apart. Some of the connections can be quite slender lines. It isn't necessary to cut out the negative shapes, just draw the shapes in a way that it would be possible to do so. It is just a way of designing shapes and subdividing larger shapes. It is a parallel excercise to the wire sculpture drawings. That was a challenge with lines. This is a challenge about shapes. It is different from collage where you glue pieces on top of each other. Some of the paper sculptors do combine the cut paper in a collage manner. Don't worry to much about what is correct. The whole idea of the challenge is to get our minds thinking in new ways to interpret a subject. This is another way to think about shapes, pattern, representing your image. See what you can do. Get as creative as you can.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Here is a most exquisite example of what can be done with a paper cut. I don't plan to do anything nearly as complicated as this image. Thank you, Marilyn, for sharing. The following is the e-mail I received along with this beautiful image.

"This is a life size paper cut done by Xiaohong Zhang. She is a professor at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. She is originally from China.
I wish I could find her web site for a better image of this paper cut, this photo only shows the top part. The rest includes the legs,, with the veins being tree branches. She learned paper cutting from her grandmother. Her art is combining the western art with her Chinese art.

Marilyn Fuerstenberg"

Today I managed to get the NWS painting "Put Your Dukes Up" reframed and completed the paper work. This is the John Wayne image I did on Tyvek when we were working on starting with a grid.
There is a small window of 5 days when someone will be available to receive it, so I will wait until Monday to ship it off. The wooden frame required that I put the wire holders on by screwing into the frame. In the past I have often had to enlist the help of my husband because I didn't have enough strength in my hands to accomplish the job. Today I decided to manage the task myself. When I went looking for the electric screw driver I found 6 different ones (including 3 that looked exactly alike to me....two of these still sealed in their plastic packaging)!!!!!!!!!!! And I thought artists were compulsive about their insatiable desire for supplies. I decided to appropriate one of the three clones for myself. It is nice and compact, not very heavy and has about 24 different tips. I was very happy with my efforts...the wood didn't split and only one of the 4 screws is slightly askew. Next time absolute perfection!

I also spent a little time figuring out how to use my new mini printer connecting it to the computer. Before I just put the photo card in the slot. I printed out a few images, so now I will sit down and start my cut paper style drawing. Hopefully, I will have something to share tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Today Gallery Concord changed the exhibit for the quarter. I spent the last few days getting these paintings framed and ready for the show. I wanted to exhibit some new paintings this time. I photographed them on the wall in the gallery so reflections are showing up in the photo. Like a double exposure, it adds an interesting layer to the images. I guess double exposures will be a thing of the past. Without film it can't happen. I suppose one could create the same illusion in Photoshop with a little effort.

Now I have to reframe my painting for the National Watercolor Society show. That is my project for tomorrow. There is lots of paper work for that show, as well. After receiving my signature with NWS, I was rejected the following 2 years. Makes one think perhaps they have lost their touch! I was excited to get back in this year. I missed getting in the San Diego Watercolor Society show by one painting! They notified me I am first alternate. Seems the societies are protecting themselves these days by having artists at the ready to ship their paintings should there be a problem with any of the accepted paintings. When you don't get in a show, you usually don't know if you missed getting in by a inch or a mile!

As soon as I can finish packing up the painting to send off to NWS, I am going to get back to serious drawing and painting. I was thinking about ways to create a paradigm shift away from photo realism to draw the image when I came across a web site of an artist that does cut paper. I loved it! Then, today, I discovered another artist that does fabulous cut paper work! The universe at work. I am providing the websites to check out these artists and get the idea. The key to cut paper imagery is basically that the shapes that are "cut out" have to be surrounded by a continuous shape so it doesn't fall apart. This requires some thinking, designing, and planning. When I have mine done, I plan to actually cut out the shapes and put the sheet over a darker piece of paper and photograph the result. If you are confused as to this concept, I think looking at these two web sites will make things clearer. There is nothing like a good visual to clarify matters. The first website is matthillart.com/cut-paper-slideshow/. His work is the simpler of the two. The other is Patrick Gannon Paper Cuts. You can find the link on the right side of my blog under Blog Lists.

I am looking forward to seeing lots of creative drawings from everyone using this idea. Just send me an e-mail with the image attached and I will post them as they come in.

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