Wednesday, September 29, 2010

More Pictures of the Old Storefront/Studio/Gallery

Here are a few interior pictures of the front room. The large painting on the bottom photo is one of Jack's large studio landscapes. It was painted from his plein air studies, and it was on the cover of American Artist magazine in February 1991, where we had a feature article (our 15 minutes of fame). To the right of the painting is the magazine cover, and I will try to take photos of the whole article and post that for you. Looking at the photos now, I wish I had the hanging system then that I now have in my new studio. It would have made switching painting for display much easier.

When I first opened the studio/gallery, I only showed my paintings and Jack's paintings. We are fairly prolic, and we had more than enough paintings to fill the walls. But after a while, I decided to show some other artist's work, too. The third photo down shows a painting by Elizabeth Torak, and the forth photo down show 2 of Elizabeth Brandon's paintings ( the 2 paintings above the table - she did the covers for Cook's Illustrated for many years) and 1 small vertical painting by Ann Scanlan (lower right).

Monday, September 27, 2010

Drawing in the Old Storefront

My storefront was located in Jeffersonville, VT. It is a rural community in northern Vermont that is located near a ski resort. Many tourists came through looking for "local art", and they wanted something affordable.

Being an artist is not an easy way to make a living, but I believe that everyone should have something "real", not just a poster to put on their wall. So, I offered head studies from life. These were drawings in pastel/pastel pencil that were done in about 30-45 minutes. The customers would come in and sit by a window, which gave me a dominant light side and shadow side. I would sketch them, as we chatted, and I sold them unframed. Although I did not charge a lot for these sketches, I came to think of it as drawing practice. People paid me to practice....I just didn't get to keep the drawing. :D

Painting in Small Spaces - My old Studio/Storefront

From 2001-2007, I rented a storefront on Main Street in Jeffersonville, VT, which occupied the entire downstairs area of the building. It was my studio/gallery where I painted from life, taught classes and sold my paintings (and my husband's and a few fellow artist's paintings). My storefront was one of 4 galleries that were located on the road, but I was the only one that was an Open Studio/Gallery that was open year round.

Although I painted throughout the store, most of my paintings were done in a tiny, unheated back room, that had acted as a storeroom for the stores, and at one point, post office that had previously occupied this storefront. This back room had shelves all around and a north-facing window. I blocked off the bottom section of this window with foamcore, so that my light could come in at a slight angle. All of my props were stored on the open shelves, and I often used the shelves themselves for my still life table. If I wanted to do a larger painting, I had to set up a table (and sometimes a small dresser which contained more props and draperies).

The room was very small, and it was impossible to step back far enough to get a picture of the painting and the set-up together. To analyze my paintings (because I usually step back to check my painting as I paint) I began using a reducing glass, which gave me the effect of stepping way back. In the first picture which shows the room, my painting in progress, and a bit of the set-up, you can see part of the door on the left. In that photo, you can also see the ceiling, which was made of wooden slats. If it rained for more than 2 days, water would begin to drip along the slats onto me, my work, my props, etc., and I would have bowls, buckets and various containers catching the water that plopped around me as I painted. The longer it rained, the further in the rain would come along the slats. My other concern (besides water) was that the paint chips rained down. I had the suspicion that they were lead chips.

I painted here almost every day, and anyone could come in and watch. Customers were usually surprised to find an artist actually painting from life, and it was a great teaching opportunity.

The 2 paintings that are shown in this post were 24"x30" (top painting) and 20"x24" (bottom painting), and these were about as large as I could go. Both of these paintings sold at the storefront.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Painting Demo Under Artificial Light

Every Tuesday evening from 6pm-9pm, I teach a still life class. Because it is an evening class, we paint under artificial light. These lights run parallel to my skylights along the north side, so the light mimics the natural light. The previous post shows these artificial lights above the skylights. I usually set up several still life arrangements on the east and west sides of the studio, and the students are free to choose an arrangement. Most students stand to paint, so I have the arrangements raised to under eye level. For the students who are seated, lower arrangements are set up. In these photos, you can see some of my other arrangements.

This past Tuesday night class, I painted a demo of my geraniums. It is painted on a gessoed panel that is 14"x18". In the top photo, you can see the start, with the gesture indicated, and the background started. The following pictures show the general mass into flat value shapes for the leaves, pot and blossoms. Once these were in place, I started adding planes of light, and I began modeling in the light, as well as in the shadow, always keeping in mind where I was on my value scale. With each pass, I tried to get a little tighter, drawing into the mass. I talked the whole time, and students were free to ask questions. I think that demonstrating is important, and I feel that students learn a great deal when the demonstration is interactive.

Painting under artificial light

Because most of the students who take my classes have day jobs, I teach a still life class on Tuesday evenings from 6pm-9pm. This means that I have to use artificial light, instead of the beautiful natural light coming from the north-facing skylights. To replicate the effect of natural light, I have a series of full spectrum lights installed above and parallel to my skylights. This allows the light to come in at the same (or approximately the same) angle as the natural light from the skylights. Sometimes I choose to turn all of the lights on, but I have the option of just using the middle lights or the end lights, too. In general, I have many still life arrangements for the students to choose from set up on the east and west sides of the studio and the students are in the middle of the room, so any of the lighting possibilities work, and we try them all to see what looks best. It all depends on the effect we are trying to get on the arrangements.

Before teaching in the evenings, I generally never painted under artificial light, but these lights and the high angle make it an acceptable alternative, and we have gotten some nice results. With artificial light the shadows are harsher than with natural light, but knowing this, one can soften these.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Camping & Painting

September 15, Jack & I drove to Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island in Maine, which is about an 8 hour drive from Vermont, to do a little ocean painting. We camped out 2 nights, one in the pouring rain, but we did manage to do a couple of plein air sketches before driving back on September 17. We would have stayed longer, but I had hired a model for the Open Figure/Portrait session (which we host twice a month).

Cadillac Mountain is accessible by car and has numerous walking paths around the summit for a spectacular view of the water and surrounding areas. We hiked out along the path and set up our equipment. It was really windy and cold, which meant hanging on to the easel and paper towels, so they wouldn't blow away. To my amazement, they were tons of tourists who kept stopping by to say hello and take our pictures.

Here are my 2 sketches, along with a shot of our campsite in Bass Harbor. The top photo is of Jack by the tent. We were the only tenters at this time of the year, so we got a prime site with a platform (good for when it rains...and it did...quite a bit). The second photo is the sketch I did by Otter Cliffs in Acadia. The figure in the painting is Jack. It is a 10"x12" oil on linen. The bottom photo is from the top of Cadillac Mountain, and my sketch is 11"x14" and is also an oil on linen. Both of these sketches were done on site on Thursday.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

More Changes

Jack has changed paintings before. Some have radical changes and some have subtle changes. Here is a radical change. The top photo is the before picture. On this painting, he completely repainted the sky, making it much more dramtic, and he also changed the cows.

Making Changes

Recently, My husband Jack asked me to retrieve one of his paintings ("Framing") from one of the galleries that shows our work, because he wanted to make some changes. He had been thinking about them for a while. The painting was actually started in September 2008, right before he started painting the large vertical landscape. Both this still life, "Framing" and the "By the Upper Brewster" first hung in Southern Vermont Art Center in June 2009.

I looked through some old photos to see if I had any showing Jack working on this still life, as well as a photo of how the painting did look before the recent changes. I did. So, I hope that you find this interesting.

After thinking about this painting for some time, he decided that it needed a little "something", and I think his additions are fabulous.

The top photo shows the painting the way it looks now, with the addition of the sticky note and label on the box of screw eyes. The photo under that shows the way the painting looked previously. It was framed originally in a black frame, and now it has a plain, weather-beaten green one. The photo under that shows the start, and the one below that shows him painting, where you can see a glimpse of the set-up.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Prismatic Palette Painters

Frank J. Reilly was another artist who studied with Frank Dumond. He also started his own art school, the Frank Reilly School of Art, that continued the tradition of a controlled prismatic palette. Students would mix a very exact palette of value scales. One of the artists that joined us in the June landscape group, Randy, came from this background. Dumond's influence on plein air painting is huge.

Fran Hoyt studied with Frank Dumond in the 20s and 30s, and continued to paint and teach the Dumond palette to serious students for decades. Gil Perry studied with Fran, and he also painted with our group this June.

It was so much fun to meet and paint with other artists who use the prismatic palette.

Prismatic Palette Painters

When Frank Mason passed away in June 2009, students who had studied in his landscape painting workshops, continued to go to Stowe, Vermont. Some of us continued to meet, using the same format (meeting 2 days for field study and 1 for a general crit). In some ways, it was a tribute to a great teacher, in addition to being inspired by working alongside of other artists coming from the same tradition. Many of these old students had studied with Frank in different decades, and we all shared what we had learned during our years of study with him.

The prismatic palette, and its use in landscape painting, originally came from Frank Dumond (Frank Mason's teacher), and many of Dumond's students went on to teach this palette, as well. Arthur Maynard was another Dumond student, who opened his own art school, the Ridgewood Art Institute. In turn, Arthur's students, like Frank Mason's students, continue to teach this tradition. So, some of the artists that continue to come up to Vermont to paint together for the month of June include artists who studied with other branches of the Dumond Family (not just Mason students), but who understand and continue to use this palette.

The box that you see in many of my photos is the landscape palette in a vertical format. The colors that you see are in steps, or gradated tones (values), and they can help the artist quickly "key" or "pitch" a painting to create an illusion of light. This palette helps to establish atmospheric perspective, establishing space and depth in the painting.

This year, we met at some of the old "spots", shared many new "spots" and had Saturday crits, followed by pot luck dinners, at different host's homes.

Prismatic Palette Painters

Frank Mason taught at the Art Students League from 1951. I studied with him from 1973-1978, and I also studied in his month-long plein air workshops in June. In his landscape class, the students met with him for outdoor painting with instruction 2 times a week, usually one sunrise and one sunset class. The third class of the week was a big crit, where students brought plein paintings that were done during the week (which Frank hadn't seen). He taught by "showing" the student how artistic principles work, so yes, he painted on your painting. Painting is visual, and it is best to teach it visually, so the student not only could hear the teacher's instruction but see it. Students would follow Frank around to the different easels, watching and listening as he transformed each piece. Often, the "crit" or instruction you needed was on another student's painting, that "Aha" moment.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Prismatic Palette Painters

I have an interesting painting lineage. I studied with Frank Mason at the Art Students League and in his outdoor landscape painting workshops in Vermont. In Frank's class, we mixed a Prismatic Palette for landscape painting. The bottom picture of me (1982) is from one of Frank Mason's landscape workshops, which he held every year in Stowe, Vermont for the whole month of June. Frank Mason learned this from his teacher, Frank Vincent Dumond (top photo), and I continue to use it and teach it in my classes.