8″ x 10″ (20 x 25 cm) – oil on gessobord – commission
Finished it today. At least signed it! Showed it to the client and she likes it! What a great thing! It is now drying, then will get oiled out and studied with great precision – I already see two spots that need some touching up, – then varnish and done.
This was probably the most challenging painting I ever attempted. Was even harder than the crinkled paper! Are you seeing all these ellipses? Those who are curious enough can count them and let me know.
The client asked me – How can you stand to let your pictures go? After all you put into them?
That’s a great question! I remember time when it was hard to part with artwork I made, but it changed. Some time around 2011 I started thinking of myself as a professional artist. This is what professionals do – we make artwork and we let it go into the world. That is if we are so lucky that the world wants to take our works.
And yet they never leave completely, do they, these sold paintings, commissioned images, pieces of our imagination? I may be working on a passage and it would be a slow going, and then I’d remember – I’ve done this in Fiddlesticks or in Waiting for Adam. I learned something invaluable in every painting. And then there’s another thing… I flew over France on my way to Israel a couple of months ago and I thought: one of my paintings is down there in Normandy. And I heard some news from Fresno CA the other day and thought: ah yes one of my paintings is there in Fresno – how about it…
So yes, I am happy to let them go. And to be paid for them too.
6″ x 6″ (15 x 15 cm) – oil on gessobord – commission
Just finished Giselle yesterday. The painting is commissioned in honor of this client’s mother who worked as a seamstress for a dance company. In my mind I painted it for all workers toiling behind the screen-stage-platform with no spot light on them, but never-the-less indispensable. Just have seen Oscars, at least in movie business makeup people, costume people, hair people get recognition. I don’t believe in theater they do.
I learned an interesting technique while working on Giselle – painting translucent fabric. Really neat! I did quite a bit of work on transparent stuff, reflective stuff before – yes! But never translucent stuff until now. Apparently you can just physically mix the hue from underneath and hue from above and it tricks the eye just enough for “willing suspension of disbelief”. But then you still have go after it with glazes or dry brush or both.
This painting also was under a self imposed deadline as I am holding tickets to go on my yearly trip to Israel to visit my family. The painting had to be finished at least 10 days before my departure to allow enough drying time to be able to varnish and ship it. Yikes! Now it better cooperates and gets dry and ready to varnish by March 7 or I am in trouble.
Each: 6″x6″ (15 x 15 cm) – oil on gessobord – commissions
These two are commissions. The client saw them and approved, so I can show them to you. The two paintings were commissioned together to work as a pair or a diptych.
It turns out painting a pair is a fairly special project. Right away during the drawing stage I realized that blocks have to match in size – not a problem, but not something that you need to consider when painting a single painting.
When I started painting it quickly became apparent that I have to treat them as one painting. When I worked on surface of the mirrored table on one painting and then tried to match the color a few days later for the second painting – it turned out to be very VERY hard! It is much easier to do the mirror and the background for both paintings at once using the same color mix. Same goes about painting the visible wood of the blocks. Also if I painted blocks’ faces for 9-Rabbit on a sunny morning and faces for e-Bird on a overcast day – the color harmony would not work and I had to make adjustments in my lighting.
It is a rare opportunity to work on a pair and I am forever grateful to J.D. for it.
Oh, see this really cool block with a skull on it?… I invented it. I don’t have a block with a skull. But J.D. collects skull images so I made up one for him.
I am way overdue posting new sketches. I’ve been very busy painting and did not have much time for sketching or posting sketches. Now is a good time to catch up.
In December Urban Sketchers Chicago went to investigate the new Logan Art Center in Hyde Park. It turned out to be a wonderful building with spectacular views on Hyde Park, University of Chicago and even the lake from its glassed terraces on 8th and 9th floors. On the other hand the Center is so new it set my teeth on edge. It smells fresh cement dust.
When I called to check if Urban Sketchers can come and draw there, the event manager recommended the Penthouse views from 8th floor. Then he added that to rent the Penthouse for a group use would cost us $1000. That was pretty funny, and after we chuckled over it, he suggested that we just come and sketch in the Penthouse if it is available, and leave when someone arrives to use it. This strategy worked well. The brick gabled building in the sketch is a view down from the Penthouse. After an hour of drawing some people indeed arrived to set up a show, so we went down to a cafe on the first floor.
The cafe offered a moody and pleasant view on Midway Plaisance – all gray and misty in December afternoon. I’ve never sketched a landscape before and cars are still an unfamiliar business to me. I decided to be brave and try new things. The cars came out a bit wonky and cartoonish I think, but overall effect is kinda nice.
Here’s us in the Logan Art Center cafe with Midway Plaisance behind us:
6″ x 6″ (15 x 15 cm) – oil on gessobord – commission
It took a lot longer than anticipated, but I finished it this year! This is a very important painting for me and I wanted to do it right and took my time. This is my first commission. And an international one at that.
With this year almost gone I see many of my artists friends doing a recap. I read them with great interest – people have accomplished great things, painted significant works, showed work in important places, taught numerous students, and thought up amazing innovations. I thought to myself I must do a year-end post as well.
The whole time I was painting Fiddlesticks I was remembering “Odessa Tales” by Isaac Babel. If you haven’t read this, hurry – you are in for a treat … you can thank me later. It is better in Russian, that being the original language, but the English translation is very good too. I bought the English version for my husband who does not speak Russian and he laughed his head off from cover to cover . He is still quoting from it all these years later. Anyway, “Odessa Tales” was the originating influence for this painting.
I did not have any major painting discoveries during this work. I did confirm for myself that my homemade medium recipes work better for me than various readymade mediums from the store. I make a Lean medium for my first color pass and a Fat one for my second and later passes. Now I have a collection of fancy brand mediums that I don’t use anymore.
Something was right about this idea, or composition, or colors, or whatever… because it painted like a dream. Easy and smooth, without difficulties or usual anxiety, the colors and shapes just played along agreeably and it was all finished before I was ready to make a conscious decision about that. Ha! – it was ready to be signed.
But then I realized that I don’t have a title. I did not panic… so it would take me a day or several to think of it. But a good title was eluding me… I made my family think of the title… no, it was not happening for them either. After a few days of struggle with something that is usually so easy I made a decision – I would crowd-source it. So I put the painting on Facebook and called out to my friends.
In 8 hours I had 23 gorgeous titles! I had titles from as far as Australia, Singapore, Ireland, Israel, Canada, East and West coasts…. In the end I chose the title that came from two blocks away. Mary Lanigan Russo, my friend and neighbor and an urban sketcher from Chicago, suggested “Yesterdays”. A couple of hours later Jim Bumgarner, an urban sketcher from Tri-Cities WA, suggested ”All My Sorrows Seem so Far Away” and thus settled any doubts. I have amazing friends!
Some thought that I gave up painting… I don’t blame them! I’ve been posting sketch after sketch for months… but I’ve been painting too. Remember after “Unwrapping” I promised myself to avoid painting crinkled paper unless it is a commission? Well, I could not stay away – crinkled paper is addictive. I must be a glutton for punishment… It took this long and was a major pain.
This little painting had the longest “ugly” stage I can remember. Until three days ago it looked like the best candidate for recycling bin I’ve ever seen. I am not sure why I did not give up. My daughter says that I go through this with every painting. I think she is right, it is always a pain, uncertainty, major self-doubt, anxiety and confusion. I hear from my artists friends, writers friends, musician friends that it is the same for them too. So much for happy bohemian life style. I hope you like the painting though.
Skansen is an amazing open air museum. The sheer size of it is mind-blowing – 75 acres – one of the largest in the world. Just the entrance itself is so beautiful that I had to stop and take a breath. And sketch. The small figure with a backpack was meant to be Lou, my husband, added later for scale.
Inside the experience just gets better and better. A small 19th century Swedish town is situated on a hill. Shops, a post office, an inn, a church (kyrka), a couple of farms with goats and pigs, businesses, a tobacco-growing patch, all complete with shopkeepers and artisans in traditional dress doing the work, showing skills, talking about history and answering questions in multiple languages.
The people working there really impressed me – they looked so authentic, their faces (if not modern dental work) really belonged to the time. So I asked a young woman combing wool (in the sketch above) whether they were actors type casted. She explained to me that people working these jobs are not actors, but are historians and researchers working for the museum. Their duties also include educating the public by doing and demonstrating.
This Stockholm adventure was turning out pretty awesome, not withstanding a hotel room the size of a matchbox. But it reached a new height on August 19 when I met with Nina Johansson to sketch in Gamla Stan – the Old Town.
Sketching with Nina in Skeppar Olofs Gränd
This is Nina in the sketch! We found this little passageway where we could reach the opposite walls if we extended our arms to the sides. We hoped we would not be disturbed by hordes of tourists. We were wrong. Apparently this was a very important alley and FOUR tours traipsed over us in half an hour we spent there. They were VERY excited to find us there and took numerous photos of us. Two of the tours were English speaking, one Russian, and one – unfamiliar language.
One of the tour guides shared that she lives here in Gamla Stan. The basement of her building is very old indeed – 12th century. Her actual building is much more modern – 1600′s. Just imagine! From another tour guide I learned that this alley – Skeppar Olofs – was already built in 1587, that’s the first known mention of it in the records. It was named after captain Olof who was an important figure in Swedish Navy.
Swedish Academy and Nobel Museum in Stockholm
The reason Nina and I only had a half an hour in Skeppar Olofs Grand was that we were meeting Ed Harker at Stortorget – the Big Square. Ed is a sketcher from Bath, England. It turned to be a truly international sketch-meet. We had a great time sitting in a cafe and sketching Stortorget. My view was Swedish Academy and Nobel Museum – the very place where they decide the Nobel prizes every year since 1901.
Sketching with Ed and Nina in The Old Town, Stockholm