Monday, July 18, 2016

This Used To Be a Nude

This 11 x 14 oil painting is what came off of my easel last night.
It actually started off as a life study painting of a model 
as I tried to see if I might have it in me 
to consider submitting to an upcoming juried show,
at Wayne Art Center.
Since I now have an abstracted landscape I'm calling
Frozen Dream,
you can guess how that went.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Revisiting Some Paintings

As I prepare for several shows that are scheduled for later this year,
I'm pulling out old paintings that are not ready for public viewing. 
Some of the paintings are incomplete, temporarily abandoned when I either hit the wall of frustration or allowed myself to be sidetracked by a newer inspiration.
And then there are the paintings that I had previously considered complete but now realize
that I could have/should have done a better job.

This painting, from a couple of years ago, falls into the latter catagory.   
A photograph in my pile of "Images for Art" provided the inspiration as did the movie 'Take Shelter', which features some dramatic, stormy skies.
If you haven't seen that movie, starring Michael Shannon, I highly recommend it.

I took some liberties with the image
and felt happy with my painting.

But....
a couple of years has made a difference with my perspective and presumably with my level of skill.
Looking at the old painting,
I now think that the sky is pretty dreadful.
The only thing that I do like is the thin band of light blue at the horizon,
otherwise.....
bleh!
And speaking of the horizon...
I now don't like how it is located almost at the center of the painting.
Moving the horizon up or down would almost certainly introduce a more satisfying dynamic to the image.

Also, the dark, stormy atmosphere wasn't working for me anymore.
With an abundance of conflict swirling around in daily news,
I decided I wanted this painting to take on a new personality.

I keep my camera in my car in case I see a sky that I want to remember and have quite a few images of clouds on file.
This particular cloud cluster over the football field of our community high school....
seemed like a good candidate to inform and guide me as I revised the stormy sky.

The horizon was dropped a bit.
The tire tracks shifted slightly.

The sky and the field brightened,
and the clouds became friendlier.
A little more work is needed,
but I'm feeling better about allowing this painting to be viewed by the public.

Also reworked...
this painting from a workshop a few years ago.
I abandoned it when I got frustrated with the shadows.
 As I recently looked at it with a more knowing eye,
I realized that I had created a scene where the sun was shining from both the left side and right side of the painting.
No wonder I was confused!

Thankfully,
I am now wiserer.
The shadows now make sense,
and I now like this a bit more....
maybe enough to allow public viewing.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Rookie Mistake

A few weeks ago, I came up with a new necklace design.
This is not one of those designs that began with a clear vision;
 it evolved as I went along.
I cut out a large circle from a sheet of 24 gauge brass and textured the surface with one of my old, flea market chisels.
Sitting on my workbench were parts that I had made for portal charms, intending to use them for more bracelets.
Bringing a portal charm and the large brass disc together seemed like a good idea.
After doming the brass disc and soldering a bail on the back, 
the portal charm was riveted in place with segments of sterling wire.

I had an appointment to deliver new inventory to Woodmere Art Museum in Philadelphia 
and planned to bring the necklace.
It seemed like a good idea to have some companion pieces for the necklace,
but that meant I had to work fast to develop that idea and then make something.

Bracelets!

I cut out smaller brass discs, 
textured them with the same chisel, 
domed them and soldered sterling bezels in the center.
The bangle portion was cut from 14 gauge brass wire and shaped on my circular bracelet mandrel.
What a rookie mistake!
Once the wire bangles were shaped and work hardened,
I soldered them to the formed discs.
Cabochons were set in the bezels
and the metal was cleaned.
I was so pleased that I finished the bracelets in time for my appointment
but then realized what an error I had made in using the circular mandrel.
The weight of the disc makes the bracelet slip down,
completely hiding the featured texture and bezeled cabochon.

I should have used my oval bracelet mandrel,
creating a form that would have sit comfortably on the wrist without freely slipping around.
These lovely looking bracelets are still on my workbench,
waiting for me to revise the design to make them functional and marketable.

My other rookie mistake of the week...
leaving a mixed metal piece in the pickle pot for a few too many days.
Whoops....
I forgot it was there.

The word of the week...
doh!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Blocking, and Reblocking, a New Painting

I blocked out the beginning of a new painting a few nights ago
and thought,
"All right... 
this could possibly be the beginning of something worthwhile."
And then I really looked at it.

I was using a photograph for inspiration,
and realized that I had diverged from the image in some significant ways.
Diverging is not inherently a bad thing,
because, 
after all, 
a painting is not a photograph.

But... 
diverging can be a bad thing 
if the changes are not making an improvement.
My first session had everything a bit too high on the canvas
with the net effect of minimizing the sky...
not a good thing.
The expansiveness of the sky 
is one of the things that I find compelling about this photo.

I went to my easel last night to reblock the image.

Since I was primarily interested in getting the elements more properly situated,
I put only three colors of paint on my palette.
That limited palette was also a factor of my frugality.
The layout still needs quite a bit of finessing,
but I think that this updated version 
better captures the essence of the photograph.

More work, 
with more paint selections, 
later tonight.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Happy Clients Are a Gift

After being the selected landscape architect for a project in northern Pennsylvania over 20 years ago, I never had to promote my business.
The initial clients continued to hire me for a series of projects in Pennsylvania as well as New Jersey, New York and Nevada.
One happy client can often be the most effective path to more work and hopefully,
more happy clients.

Because of that first Pennsylvania project,
I was hired to develop a Master Plan for a community park in northern New Jersey.
The local Garden Club funded the Master Plan, so I ended up coordinating with the club's President which led to a nice friendship. 
The President and her husband eventually left New Jersey, relocating to a plateau on the edge of Rapid City, South Dakota.
During a post-move phone conversation, President mentioned that their new home needed a completely revamped landscape but she had yet to find anyone in Rapid City to develop a design.
That's when I said,
"You know....there are airplanes that can solve problems like that."
And....
I was hired.

Rapid City presented a landscape significantly different from any that I had previously worked with.
The soil on the plateau is very acidic and very dry.
The winters can be bitterly cold and the summers, staggeringly hot and dry.
The winds are powerful and the threat of a wildfire constantly hovers.
I visited nurseries to understand the local plant palette and noted which trees, shrubs and perennials were thriving in nearby landscapes.
Being one who likes to do work that's compatible with the vernacular landscape,
local stone was selected for the paving and wall surfaces.

The existing entry drive as well as all other parts of the landscape appeared to have been laid out as a simple reaction to getting from one point to another with no intention of purposeful lingering.

That needed to change.

A new walkway and entry patio was designed to make the arrival more gracious and welcoming. 
The front side of the house has a view to Mount Rushmore, 
and I wanted family and guests to have a comfortable gathering place where that view could be appreciated, 
especially in the evening when the other Presidents are washed in glowing light.
Aside from a few small trees, 
the landscape on the back side of the house was pretty barren.
The space between the house and the garage served no purpose.

Selecting the best location for a pool, 
I thought that the back side of the garage would provide an effective anchor
but the location was definitely more about the extended views.

A new doorway to the house was added 
for direct access to the newly rennovated lower level,
requiring significant excavation,
retaining walls
and some careful drainage planning.

Paths and steps were built
to comfortably navigate the different elevations.

The pool,
with an accompanying trellis structure for a bit of shade,
became a refreshing retreat for those hot, dry summer days.

That underutilized space between the house and garage
became a comfortable outdoor dining area,
complete with grill and a built in buffet surface
as well as welcomed protection from the unrelenting wind.

I recently found out that President and her husband sold the property 
to live full time on the west coast.

How fortunate for me that a project in northern Pennsylvania
eventually led me to a plateau in South Dakota.

Happy clients are a gift.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

New Inspiration, Old Canvas

When I'm able to, I paint once a week at Wayne Art Center.
I appreciate being able to learn from the talented instructor, Georganna Lenssen
and usually welcome the occassional in-class 'assignment'.
For a while, I avoided the model assignments, choosing instead to work on my own projects.
Painting people makes me anxious.
If the scale or relationships between features is even a little off,
the result can be kind of goofy.
I am so disappointed with myself when I end up with goofy on my canvas.

But....
since I have declared that this is 'My Year',
I decided that includes pushing myself into areas of discomfort so that I can learn things that I might otherwise avoid.

A few months ago, I showed up at the art center with a prepared
18 x 24 canvas, 
thinking that I would work from one of my photos
but decided it should be an evening of being uncomfortable.
Does this look like the model?
Not really.
I'm pleased that I kind of got some of her features kind of rightish,
but...
her nose is too small, too high and too red, as if she's suffering from algeries.
I also gave her prematurely gray hair.
I apologized to her.

Did I learn something?
Definitely, yes.
Do I want to keep this painting?
Definitely, no.

Last night, my prematurely gray model painting became the canvas for a new painting that is in progress.
Something has been gnawing at me to try some more abstract work,
and my model became the underpainting for a new piece.
So that she wouldn't distract me, 
I turned her upside down before I began my new composition.
(the blue chair, green top and right arm are still visible in the upper right corner)
I think I know where I'm going with this, 
but it's all right if I end up in a completely unexpected place.
What is it?
This does represent something specific to me,
and I've decided to keep it to myself.
I've come to realize that I rarely enjoy describing my inspiration...
it's just too personal.
My hope is that, 
whenever I paint, 
I'm able to create an image that somebody else, 
maybe just one person,
connects to with their own interpretation.
I won't ask for an explanation.

And a few day later...
calling it completed
(at least for now).

Monday, May 16, 2016

Exploring New Textures, Again

I recently went to the 
show at Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia.
The Guild shows are consistently wonderful because members must meet and maintain a certain level of mastery in their particular area of craft.
I'm always interested in seeing what other jewelers are creating and was again reminded that most professionals have developed a particular line that can be recognized...
(some fabulous work was seen by Janine DeCresenzo and Heather Stief)
a definite advantage when promoting one's work.

I continue to believe that, when seen as a whole, the body of my work has a degree of cohesiveness,
but individual pieces might not be attributed to me.
This approach does create a marketing challenge,
but I have not been able to deny my interest in exploring new techniques...
like the texturing of these copper discs.
I had cut a few discs, wanting to experiment with texturing.
The plan had been to do some fold-forming,
so the discs were annealed.
As I prepared to get to work, my focus shifted to my dapping block
and ended up with a a texture that calls to mind a lotus seed pod or a lunar landscape.
Once I had a small collection of these lotus/lunar discs,
the brainstorming began.

I have what I think are promising ideas for earrings and bracelets that incorporate the new discs,
but chose to move forward with a necklace.
Three discs, of gradating size, 
were soldered to a base of etched silver nickel
that I had cut with my jeweler's saw.
A bail was formed with pliers
and soldered on to the back
allowing for a clean connection to the woven cable.

Could this be the beginning of a specific line in my jewelry empire?
Possible....
but probably not.