Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Printmaking Exhibit From Last Summer

Stock Market
Ted Davies, 1959
Woodcut with gold leaf

With the Thanksgiving holiday and family obligations, I haven't had much time to paint lately, so thought I'd share some images from Breaking Ground: Printmaking in the US 1940-1960, an exhibit I saw at the Philadelphia Museum of Art last summer.

This first piece is a woodblock print by Ted Davies (1928-1993).  I don't have the exact dimensions of the print, but it was a good 3 ft. wide. What appears to be tan ink in the photos of this piece is actually gold leaf.

Stock Market detail from lower right hand corner

The details in the piece really blew me away. Each person is unique and doing their own thing. Look at the swags on the window drapes in the detail below.

Stock Market detail from upper left hand corner

Next up is The Hydrogen Man by Leonard Baskin (1922-2000).

The Hydrogen Man
Leonard Baskin, 1954

According to the label for this piece at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, "...Baskin made this life-sized print in response to the US testing of the Castle Bravo hydrogen bomb on Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands." It's a pretty powerful image, gruesome yet captivating. My photo doesn't do it justice and doesn't convey the size of the piece.

Detail from The Hydrogen Man

The intricate maze of veins must've taken a lot of patience and a very steady hand to carve out of wood.

Harry Bertoia, c. 1942-43
Color relief monoprint

I really liked this monoprint by designer and artist Harry Bertoia. Unfortunately the label for the piece didn't offer any information about it. A quick google-search didn't produce any further insight into this particular piece, but the website for the Harry Bertoia Foundation talks about how in 1943 Mr. Bertoia sent around 100 monoprints to the curator Hilla Rebay at the Guggenheim (then known as the Museum of Non-Objective Art) for a critique. Much to his surprise, she wanted to buy the entire collection for the museum! I can see why.

I took photos of twelve of the pieces in this show, but no matter how hard I tried, many of them ended up with harsh reflections in the glass from the gallery lighting, so they aren't worth showing here. It was really quite an inspirational show, and we caught it just a week before it closed. Of course the Philadelphia Museum of Art regularly has special exhibits of famous artists and artwork, but they also have these smaller shows of works on paper which gives the visitor who is willing to explore the museum a little deeper a real treat with the added bonus of not needing an extra ticket or having to try to view artwork in a crowd. Truth be told, they are my favorite exhibits.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Blackbird Woodcut

I may have mentioned in passing that aside from oil painting I'm crazy about printmaking, specifically woodblock printing. I've tried linocut printing (carving an image out of a block of linoleum) but there's something about working with wood that I really love. I usually work with white pine, since it is a soft wood and easy to carve. Over the last couple of months I've been working on a woodcut of a blackbird in reeds.

The inspiration

During spring migration, male yellow-headed blackbirds congregate in huge numbers at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Utah, just north of Salt Lake City. On our annual trip to the Refuge, we see hundreds of them at a time and this year the image of them in the reeds really struck me and ideas for a painting began to form.

While I was sketching studies and thumbnails for a painting it occurred to me that the scene would also make a great woodcut image, so I changed gears and began working on a print.

The bird's face reminded me too much of the bald eagle in The Muppets.

At first my plan was to use just one block of wood and black ink, however I was not happy with the bird's face after seeing the first proof. The only way to change the face was to completely carve it away and create a second block with a new face carved into it which would print over the first block. Since I was going to the trouble of carving a second block, I decided to change a few other things, too. Can you spot what I changed?

The new face

I printed the original block of wood with gray ink and printed the second block with black ink on top of the gray layer and got some interesting results. This got me thinking about printing with multiple colors. I think this might be part of the reason I love working with woodblock - it seems that every step leads to a new idea.

The brown layer.
When I inked the block, I wiped the brown ink off the area of the bird
before printing so that the bird's black ink layer would print clean and sharp over top.

So I printed the original wood block with brown ink, then inked the second block of wood with blue in the water areas and black on the bird and printed that over top the brown layer.

The completed image

The random black marks in this print are happy accidents. The unexpected things that happen with printmaking is one of the things I love about working in this medium.

For now I'm pretty pleased with this print, but I may make more changes as they occur to me.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Options for Painting Lights and Darks

In my oil painting class for beginners, we've started to delve into color after working in black and white for a while. This week I did a painting demo for them showing two different ways to lighten and darken an object, in this case an apple, so they could compare the two methods side-by-side.

Apple 1

The first method I showed them was using white to lighten and black to darken the paint. I used titanium white, but I did mix my own black rather then using a tube black. I think the difference between the dark areas of the two paintings would have been more striking if I'd used black from a tube (full disclosure here: I forgot to bring a tube of black). It's been a long time since I used white as my predominant lightener and it felt awkward. I had to really concentrate and fight my now-automatic color choices!

Apple 2

In the second painting I used yellow and orange to lighten the apple and only added white when absolutely necessary. For the dark areas, I used purple and blue. I had planned to use a more white-looking tabletop color, but I accidentally put a streak of that rusty peach color down and we all loved it, so I kept going with it.

While comparing the two paintings side-by-side, the students commented on how much more vibrant Apple 2 was, and they noticed that in Apple 1 the white mixed with alizarin crimson created a pink tone, rather than a sense of light striking the apple. As they were leaving class pondering all these color choices, one student half-jokingly said, "Can't we just go back to black and white? It's so much easier!"

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Before applying varnish

I have been a rather haphazard varnisher; some paintings I remember to varnish and others get forgotten. I used to use Crystal Clear spray varnish, but with mixed results. For one thing, we live in a perpetually windy and dusty area, so using spray varnish outside could be a nightmare. I also found it challenging to get an even coat. After reading about Mitchell Albala's experience with Gamvar varnish, I decided to try some myself. In my mind, there are two main advantages to this varnish: you apply it with a brush, which makes it much easier to control that spray varnish, and you can apply it as soon as the thickest part of your painting is dry to the touch. For oil painters, this is a huge time savings.

After applying varnish

So I decided to document my first experiment with Gamvar*. In his aforementioned blog post on the subject, Mitchell Albala stressed how important it was to use as little varnish as possible and apply it with a soft brush in a scrubbing motion (have a special brush for this purpose - don't use one of your good painting brushes!). I closely followed his instructions and found the varnish quite easy to apply. I didn't have any problem with streaks, either. 

One thing I did note is that in the past when I've applies varnishes, the varnish tended to bring out the darks and liven up the painting in general. However, I didn't see much of a difference in the appearance of my painting after applying this varnish.

Detail - can you see any difference in appearance?

But regardless of whether the varnish heightens darks and brightens colors (sounds like a laundry detergent...) in your paintings or not, varnishing also plays an important role in protecting your artwork. Over time dirt can build up on the surface of a painting and cleaning it can harm the painting. If you have a layer of varnish, the dirt attaches to the varnish and the old varnish can be removed and a new clean layer of varnish applied with no harm to the painting underneath. Here's a discussion about varnishing from Scott Gellatly when he was a guest blogger on Lori Putnam's blog. And if you're a painter and you don't know about Lori Putnam's blog, you best go check it out right now! 

Meanwhile, I think I'll become a more regular varnisher, since using the Gamvar was very easy.

*This is not a commercial for Gamvar and I did not receive any compensation from Gamblin.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Bird Bookplates

“It is with the reading of books the same as with looking at pictures; one must, without doubt, without hesitations, with assurance, admire what is beautiful.”
                                                                                                     ~ Vincent Van Gogh

Wood engraving, bookplate, J. Bieruma Oosting
Wood Engraving
J. Bieruma Oosting, Dutch, b. 1898, d. 1994

Hidden in the basement of the Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania is Robinson's Fine Prints. If you are a fan of prints, you might want to pay this store a visit. Plan to spend a few hours going through the racks and bins of prints, with prices ranging from just a few dollars to a few thousand. They also have a remarkable collection of books for sale on printmaking and printmakers.

Wood engraving, bookplate, Emil Kotrba
Wood Engraving
Emil Kotrba, Czech, b. 1912, d. 1983

One of the things Robinson's Fine Prints specializes in is bookplates, sometimes called "ex libris", which are usually glued to the inside cover of someone's book to show that it belongs to them. Some book-lovers commission printmakers to create a series of hand-pulled bookplates for their personal library.

Wood engraving, bookplate, Josef Weiser
Wood engraving
Josef Weiser, Czech, b. 1914, d. 1994

Not all bookplates are of birds, of course. I'm just into birds, so these were the ones that caught my eye. The American Society of Bookplate Collectors and Designers has a website with the history of ex libris and examples of hundreds of designs, and articles about various related topics. Aren't these just wonderful little treasures?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Delights of Drawing

"The process of drawing is, before all else, the process of putting the visual intelligence into action, the very mechanics of visual thought. Unlike painting and sculpture it is the process by which the artist makes clear to himself, and not to the spectator, what he is doing. It is a soliloquy before it becomes communication."
                                                                                                   ~ Michael Ayerton

G Sivitz, sketch, drawing, graphite, sketching materials, pencil, notepad, art
Drawing materials - graphite on paper

Every time I've been away from drawing, when I return I am reminded of how much I love to draw. To me, it is very soothing and comes much more naturally than painting. But perhaps that's why I take it for granted, that is until I haven't done it in a while.

G Sivitz, sketch, drawing, graphite, watch, art
Wrist Watch - graphite on paper

There are endless things to draw around us all the time and no expensive materials or lengthy set-ups are needed, so I have no excuse not to draw. When I am in a drawing phase, I like to get out of bed and draw something before I do anything else. It's a wonderful way to start the day.
G SIvitz, drawing, sketch, shirt on hanger, art
Shirt on a hanger - graphite and white charcoal on toned paper.

Everyone has their preferences, but my favorite drawing tools are mechanical pencils and Pigma Micron pens, which I will occasionally add watercolor to. I prefer paper with a smooth surface. I started using Strathmore 400 Series Toned Tan paper this summer and I really love the effect of the white charcoal pencil on the tan paper. It's been a nice change from white paper.

So now that I'm done the 30 Pears project, I'm eager to get back to making daily drawing a priority.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Drum Roll Please - Pear #30

G Sivitz, oil painting, pear
Pear #30
6 x 6 inches, oil on canvas panel

Have you ever been to a fantastic workshop that was incredibly intense and you learned an amazing amount, but by the last day your brain had shut down and you just couldn't force another bit of information into it, no matter how hard you tried? That's kind of how I'm feeling at the end of my 30 Pears in 30 Days project. Worthwhile? Yes! Exhausting? Oh yeah.

I had fantasies of my 30th painting being so brilliant that blog-readers were blown away by the difference between Pear #1 and Pear #30. Well, that remained a fantasy. Honestly, I could barely think straight as I painted this final piece. Sure, it would've been nice to finish the project with a stunning painting, but in the end I'm just happy it's done. There will be other chances to paint stunning pieces. Right now I am in desperate need of some rest and some time to absorb everything I've learned this past month. A break from painting pears might be nice too, although surprisingly I do still like them.

So did I achieve my goals for this project? Did limiting the subject matter lead to greater creativity and getting a good workout on some key artistic concepts? I believe it really did. I explored color palettes and color temperature, brushwork, and composition. I concentrated on tricky things such as fabric, and I tried to loosen up, be more expressive, and not overwork things (still struggling with that one!). And at this point, I think I could paint a pear blindfolded.

I am looking forward to blogging about other things now, looking forward to not having a daily deadline hanging over my head. There are woodblock projects to work on and I want to get back to my sketching routine. However, I've got a collection of vintage Hall china teapots that keep catching my eye. I wonder what a month of painting those would do...

Monday, October 31, 2016

Pear #26 - 29: Lots More Experimenting

"A deadline is negative inspiration. Still, it's better than no inspiration at all."
                                                                                            ~ Rita May Brown

Pear #26

As I type, there's a severe thunderstorm giving a final lashing to our area before it moves on. I fully expected the power to go out tonight, leaving me to paint Pear #30 by candlelight. Thankfully that didn't happen and my last painting for the month is finished and waiting for daylight so I can photograph it and post my final 30 Pears in 30 Days on Tuesday. It's no beauty, but it's DONE.

I apologize for the less-than-perfect photos of Pear 26 - 29. It's been gloomy out for a few days now, so I've been completely dependent on indoor lighting for photos. Even with color-corrected bulbs to augment the regular room lighting, my camera has not been happy.

Pear #27

This one, however, is not the camera's fault. I don't even know what to say. What happened???

Pear #28

Experimenting with temperature shifts across the folds of the cloth. This is one of those pieces that I absolutely love parts of and can't stand other parts.

Pear #29

I had a lot of fun with this one. I added naphthol red to my palette, which mixed with cadmium yellow light to make the delicious orange in the foreground. If you look carefully, I've got the full spectrum (good ol' Roy G Biv) represented here.

Happy Halloween everyone! 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Pear #21 - 25: More Exercises and a Whole Different Palette

G Sivitz, oil painting, pears, earth tones, art
Pear #25
6 x 6 inches, oil on canvas board

I have to admit to feeling a little pressure right now. The end of October is fast approaching and I lost a few days for painting this month when Life happened, so I'm running slightly behind. Although I profess to believe in the importance of sharing both good and bad efforts to show that artists don't create perfect paintings every time, I am sweating the quality of some of these pieces. That's why Pear 21 through 24 are not displayed at the top of this post...

However, I suspect that Pear 21 through 24 directly led to Pear 25, and not just numerically. I tried another exercise from Sarah Sedwick; this one on brushstroke economy. I painted my pear model 4 times, for 10 minutes each time. However, I was only allowed 25 brushstrokes in the first painting, then 20, 15, and finally just 10 brushstrokes in the last painting. (A brushstroke is from the time you touch the canvas with the brush to the time you take the brush off, so you can swirl the paint around a lot, as long as you don't lift the brush off the canvas.) Finishing the background was not a requirement. The point is to really think and observe, and consider each brushstroke very carefully. What do you really need to create the impression of your subject?

Pear # 21 - 24
Limited brushstroke exercise

Oh dear, I didn't do very well with this one. I often used up my brushstrokes long before the timer went off, which meant I was rushing and not concentrating on my subject. I came out of the exercise not only with some very ugly pears, but also knowing I hadn't gotten the point of it. I was feeling very frustrated with myself. I knew I needed to keep going and paint another painting, but my brain was refusing to cooperate. I looked down at my palette and felt an overwhelming sense of frustration and boredom, and I was very reluctant to pick up my paintbrushes.

As I was hesitating, I had a mini-temper tantrum inside my head. I berated myself for ever committing to this Pear Project, telling myself I was going to fail and embarrass myself, and that I was never going to be able to paint another decent painting ever again. Luckily another, louder part of me stepped in and decided that if I was going to fail, then I should just have some f*****g fun. I was sick of the palette I'd been using all month, sick of trying to get the values and shapes right: I just wanted to paint. So I cleared off my palette and grabbed the colors that appealed to me at that moment: yellow ochre, Indian red, Venetian red, burnt umber and raw umber (I couldn't find my siennas, otherwise I would've included them, too.). I made a very sketchy drawing of the pears on the canvas and then just started adding paint all around them. It was all very spontaneous, and when I was done it surprised the heck out of me that I discovered I actually liked the piece.

This was exactly why I took on this project in the first place - to see what would happen when I pushed myself, when I got bored, to find out if there was some way to tap into the more expressive side of my creativity. I just hope that I don't have to go through such angst every time I want to paint like that!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Pear #19 & 20 - Color Scheme Shifts

G Sivitz, oil painting, pears
Pear #19 - Experimenting with reflections

I seem to be unconsciously shifting towards more earth tones and darker colors. Perhaps it's all the brown leaves drifting down past my window, or perhaps it's that Halloween is in the air...

G Sivitz, oil painting, pears
Pear #20 - using up what was on my palette

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Pear #15 - 18

"I must continue to follow the path I take now. If I do nothing, if I study nothing,
if I cease searching, then, woe is me, I am lost. That is how I look at it -
keep going, keep going come what may.
                                                                                                ~ Vincent Van Gogh

G Sivitz, pear, pear painting, oil painting, still life
Pear #15
6 x 6 inches, oil on canvas board

I have long admired other artist's rendering of cloth, especially if the fabric has a pattern on it. Oh, those tantalizing polka dots, plaids, or stripes! My hope during this month was to experiment enough with painting fabric that I would achieve a decent ability to reproduce it. When I completed this painting, I did a little happy dance in front of my easel.

oil painting palette
My palette
Mmmm, love all those luscious greens

I should note that I added cadmium yellow light alongside my usual azo yellow in my primary color line-up this time.

I also did a couple of demos for my beginning oil painting students: 

Pears #16 and 17 - each done in 10 minutes.

One was Carol Marine's classic 10 Minute Apple exercise - only obviously I did it with pears.

Pear #18 - study in blue and orange

The other demo was to paint using only complimentary colors - this time blue and orange. This was also a good example of "do what I say, not what I do" as I overworked this one!

I can't believe it's October 26th already! This 30 Pears project has been great, but I'm going to have to start cramming my posts with paintings if I'm going to show you all 30 pieces by the end of the month!

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Rejects

 "To try and fail is at least to learn; to fail to try is to suffer the inestimable loss of what might have been."
                                                                                                   ~ Chester Barnard

The duds. Let's call them Pear #12, 13 and 14

The problem with painting is that it doesn't always go well. Many paintings, for whatever reason, miss the mark and end up in an artist's reject pile. Even the great Masters painted over unwanted pieces, which modern science is now allowing us to see. (If those artists knew we were exposing their abandoned works, I wonder how they'd feel...) This should give us artists some comfort, but I will admit it is small comfort to me. As many times as I tell my students "Every painting is just practice for the next.", my failed paintings eat away at me. I was not even going to show you the "bad" paintings from my 30 Pears in 30 Days project, but if I didn't then I'd just be perpetuating the belief that a "real" artist has talent that magically makes every painting perfect, which I firmly believe is a myth that needs to be dispelled. So many people give up on making art because their work is not perfect.

My mother subscribed to this belief, which is why she did not support me as a developing artist. I stopped showing her my work after a while. Many years later she happened to see some of my work through a family friend and was shocked at how far I'd come. Yet this still didn't dispel her belief in the myth. A few years later she decided she wanted to learn how to draw, so she enrolled in an evening class for beginning drawers. She quit after two classes because, in her words, the instructor hadn't taught her how to draw.

There is no magic formula to making art - just hard work and study. Art, just like any other skill, takes practice. Lots of it. Years and years of it. And even when you've reached a certain level of mastery, there will still be bad paintings, bad days when you wonder why you're even bothering, months when you wonder if you'll ever be "good enough". Too much self-doubt can lead to giving up, but in moderation, that doubt is a good thing. Perhaps without that doubt, we wouldn't push ourselves to keep getting better. If we thought our work was already perfect, we might not be motivated to keep improving. As the Robert Hughes quote goes: "The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize."

Friday, October 21, 2016

Pear #11 - Double The Fun

"Today is a good day. Today she feels she is the master of her craft. Today she is
free of the grinding tyranny of doubt. The voice that mocks her ambition. The voice
that bites and slanders and causes her more heartache that any other voice. Today
she is focused, she is exultant... If only painting were like this every day."
                                                    ~ Glenn Haybittle from The Way Back to Florence

G Sivitz, oil painting, pair of pears, pears
Pear #11
oil, 6 x 6 inches on canvas board

This is the kind of painting that makes you want to keep painting, the kind that makes all the frustration and self-doubt and stacks of failed pieces worth it. The kind that makes you blink and say "I managed to paint that!?" And yet, when you've stopped congratulating yourself, all that elation quickly dissolves into the realization of how much further you still have to go. Paintings like this are just mile markers on the long, long road.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Art and Stress

stressed out, morguefile

Our internet service was down for 4 days less than a week before my 30 Pears in 30 Days project was due to start. I had a long list of things I needed to take care of for my website, Etsy store, the new blog, etc. I was feeling a little stressed and overwhelmed, to say the least.

Life is stressful enough as it is, but being self-employed or an entrepreneur in a creative field has its own special set of stressors. We need to be focused and energized to accomplish all we have to do, as well as relaxed enough to allow creativity and new ideas to flow, and unmanaged stress can zap our ability to do any of that. Top that with the surprising number of artists who are full-time caregivers, or live with chronic pain, or any other added long-term stressor, and it’s amazing anyone can finish a piece of art.

cat, relaxing, sleeping cat,
If only we could relax like this!
Spending time with animals is a good stress reliever.

Dr. Eric Maisel is an author and creativity coach who writes a column for Professional Artist Magazine. In a blog post last year, he discussed stress and the artist:

            “An artist needs to honor the reality of stress and make plans
              for dealing with it...

            Take some time, have a fruitful conversation with yourself and
             answer the following four questions:
            1. What are my current stressors?
            2. What unhealthy strategies am I currently employing to deal
                with these stressors?
            3. What healthy strategies am I currently employing to deal with
                these stressors?
            4. What new stress management strategies would I like to learn?”

We’ve all heard the “eat right, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly” recipe for stress-busting, but honestly, when I’m stressed out, that doesn’t help much. Through trial and error, I’ve had to figure out what works for me. I hope you find something here that’s helpful to you.

chocolate, photo, morguefile

Chocolate has always been my go-to quick relief for stress, and there's scientific proof to back me up. Eating dark chocolate (in moderation!) actually helps reduce stress hormones in the body. Hurrah!

I’ve had an on-again, off-again meditation practice for 5 years now. When I meditate regularly, I feel much more clear-headed and better able to deal with Life’s little surprises. However, there are times when my mind is just too active or distracted by something to be able to meditate on my own, so I also use guided meditations, or guided visualizations to help me relax. I just pop on the headphones and let someone talk me into relaxation.

One of my favorite guided meditation/relaxation collections is from Joanne D'Amico and her "Relax for A While" channel on YouTube. She has the most amazingly soothing voice, and many of her guided meditations are short enough to use as a quick break during a busy day. Some of her videos include relaxing sounds such as rain or a babbling mountain stream. (My apologies - try as I might with YouTube's Share/Embed settings, I could not get the YouTube related videos at the end of this video to go away. According to the HTML, they shouldn't be there, but they are. At least I managed to eliminate the ads at the beginning!)

Okay, so maybe this sounds a little crazy, but I find doing the dishes relaxing. I kind of get into a zone in my head and the sound of water probably helps. Weeding the garden helps me de-stress as well. It's so satisfying to pull out stubborn weeds!

Many people find putting on upbeat music helps to clear their head and get them in a better mood. You can burn off the stress (and maybe some of that chocolate) by dancing to the music or playing air guitar. Even just a few minutes can make you feel better.

waterfall, forest, Glacier National Park, photo
Nature is a natural stress relief

Getting outside in the fresh air, whether to a local park, your own backyard, or out in the wilderness is a wonderful stress reliever. Throw a ball around, play with your dog, go hiking. If you've been holed up in your studio for too long, maybe it's time to see what that bright thing in the sky is.

We've now come full circle: just the act of creating art has been scientifically shown to decrease stress in the body, regardless of whether you're "talented" or not. So perhaps when we are feeling stressed, we just need to drop everything and make more art.

Please leave a comment and share what you do to combat stress.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Pear #10 - More Color Experimenting

"Colouring does not depend on where the colours are put, but on where
the lights and darks are put..."
                                                                                        ~ William Blake

G Sivitz, pear, oil painting, yellow and purple
Pears in yellow and purple
6 x 6 inches - oil on canvas board

As I said at the beginning of this month-long project, my intention for painting 30 pear paintings was to allow me to explore some key artistic concepts without always having to come up with new subject matter. For this painting, I wanted to work on breaking my dependency on the color white. When we lighten colors simply by adding white, we dull the color and often the painting comes out looking chalky and not as vibrant as we might like. For this painting, I used only yellow and purple; purple replaced black and yellow replaced white on my palette. I found it interesting that my color mixes ended up being much more green than I had expected; my purple mix must have leaned more towards blue.

oil paint, colors, palette
My palette with my usual colors at the top, and
the yellow and purple palette in a 8 step value scale below.

Artist Sarah Sedwick has a YouTube demo that she filmed for her online mentorship students, showing her working with a purple/yellow complimentary chromatic scale. In her demo, she's working with a still life set-up that is entirely white. I have yet to find a white pear, so I tried the exercise with a white & green tea towel on a white tabletop with my yellow-green pears. My yellow/purple combination certainly didn't make the most attractive shades of color, but I enjoyed the exercise and, as a bonus, gained more practice rendering cloth.

G Sivitz, oil painting, grayscale, pears
Painting converted to grayscale.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Pear #9 - Changing Up The Color

"He had that curious love of green, which in individuals is always the sign
of a subtle artistic temperament, and in nations is said to denote a laxity,
if not a decadence of morals."
                                                                                           ~ Oscar Wilde

G Sivitz, oil painting, pear,
Pear #9
6 x 6 inches, oil on canvas board

I love the intense reds and oranges I've been using lately, but with a wall full of these color schemes, I felt it was time to change up the colors.

I also set a timer so I wouldn't overwork this piece. I ended up finishing before the timer went off, which was very surprising. It made me wonder if my timer was broken, but when I took a peek it turned out I had ten minutes left! I'm really quite please with this one.

But nothing's ever that easy. A few hours later I accidentally bumped into my easel and this poor painting fell off, smearing some sections including the left side of the pear and the right side of the plate! Luckily I hadn't cleaned my palette yet, so I had leftover paint to patch this piece's injuries. How nerve-wracking to fix a painting you originally liked, holding your breath and hoping you can restore it instead of ruining it beyond repair. Somehow I managed. You can see the blotchy shine along the upper edge of the canvas where I tried my best to fix some other smears. Once I varnish this piece those areas will disappear, but I'll always remember what happened. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Taking a Pear Project Break to Ireland

Ireland, Rock of Cashel, photo
Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary, Ireland

All pears and no play make a boring blog, so I thought I'd post about something different today.

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to visit Ireland for a week when my husband went there on business. We stayed in Dublin, where I visited the National Gallery of Ireland and the archeological branch of the National Museum of Ireland, but I mostly took day trips into the countryside while my husband was stuck at work.

There are many small seaside towns on Dublin Bay just a quick train ride from the center of Dublin, and I happily whiled away my time exploring the flora, fauna, and food of these areas (fish & chips, seafood chowder with brown bread. Mmmm!)

gannets, Ireland, Howth, Ireland's Eye
Boating past cliffs of gannets (the white dots).

On the northern edge of Dublin Bay is the fishing village of Howth, with its bustling harbor and large selection of seafood restaurants. I took a boat tour out and around Ireland's Eye, an island teeming with seabirds. I was thrilled that there were gannets everywhere - preening on the cliffs, flying overhead, diving into the water - a lifer for me (for the non-birders out there, a "lifer" is what you call a bird species the first time you see it in the wild and then you add it to your life list.) An added treat was the occasional seal popping its head up from the water to watch the boat as we chugged along. One large seal swam alongside us for a little ways, seeming to escort us back to the harbor.

Ireland, seals, Dublin Bay, photo
The seals don't mind the wet weather.

Dalkey Island, Colliemore Harbour, Dublin Bay, Ireland, photo
Colliemore Harbour with Dalkey Island in the distance.

Another day I took a train south of Dublin to the town of Dalkey, and then walked to picturesque Colliemore Harbour just south of town. The wind was blowing and raindrops were beginning to fall, but I had a good rain jacket so I forged ahead. Dalkey Island sits less than a half mile across from the harbor and, according to the interpretive signs at the harbor overlook, is home to wild rabbits, goats and the ruins of a church that dates back to the 10th century. This ruin on the exposed rocky island captured my attention, and despite the light rain and the wind threatening to send my sketchbook into the water, I had to sketch it.

Dalkey Island, sketch, Dublin Bay, St. Begnet, Ireland, watercolor, pen & ink, Sivitz
Pen & ink sketch with watercolor and raindrops.

Dolphins and whales are not unusual around Dublin Bay, but although I scanned the waters every chance I got, unfortunately I didn't see a single one. However, everything else I saw and did in Ireland more than made up for it.

Now back to our regularly scheduled pear program...