Friday, October 31, 2014

Gazing out the window

Window gazing on a Sunday morning in October (while sketching on my Samsung Galaxy phone using the Sketchbook app).

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

all the selfies

I teach part-time at a private classical school. This means I get to make up a lot of art history lessons and other fun stuff. We recently tried a fund-raising project. Every child in the school from Pre-K to 12th grade made a small self-portrait. The portraits had to be in a certain size and format so I had to resort to giving them templates and pre-cut panels. All of the art was sent to a fund-raising company that is reproducing the art on mugs, calendars, cell phone covers, magnets and more for the grandparents to enjoy.

The company sent each child a page of stickers to use as proofs and I took one of each to make up a collage of everyone in the school. I used rainbow tissue paper to make up a background. Which worked out because I had made each grade group paint a background on their selfie in a co-ordinating color.  I have also scanned the entire picture and made digital copies for the school to use for the yearbook or a poster. This is why I am everyone's favorite teacher!
I gave the middle-schoolers (Logic School) the option of painting over a photo. Some chose not to. Either way they came out charming.
And I gave the Rhetoric School (9th-12th grades) an extra challenge; to paint their portraits in black and white using a posterized version that I printed out from photoshop. 
       Of course the cutest results came from my Kinders and 1st graders.

And my fifth grade girls made a sophisticated personal style page out of theirs.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

best bits and pieces

I have posted before that I go to a life drawing group every Saturday (or as many Saturdays that are possible with my big family around). Sometimes my favorite work is the result of the five-minute warm-up poses when we get started with a session.  We then set up our model for a two and a half hour pose (they get breaks every 20 minutes, don't worry). I challenge myself to paint the long pose using acrylics.
I like the shadow falling across this
model's thigh and body.
I toss out 75 percent of my work from these sessions but keep the few where I can see a bit or piece that I like. (I'm running out of space to store them in my studio so probably more tossing will happen.)
Often the bit of the painting I am interested with is not the figure work but the painterly effort to surround the figure, give it a ground, an edge to present against.

This figure study was from last Saturday, I was happy with my handling of the figure but really loved how the background looked behind the flesh tones. In fact I think that background is the best part. She was posed against a gold toned cloth, I added the shadows with some cobalt blue.

This model is also a belly dancer! She posed with hand-dyed silks that she had made herself. The colors were irresistible.
I liked how just a bit of her hip shows against the brilliant fabric.

And her knee peeking forward wrapped in swaths of color.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


October is my month, I claim it for myself. The rest of you people can have the other 11 months.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

the dinosaur room

I painted this mural in my youngest son's room nearly 20 years ago. It is now a beloved family treasure. At one time or another everyone in the family and many, many guests have slept in this room over the years under the gaze of these benevolent dinosaurs.

When I painted this, my son was still in diapers, he is now about to graduate from college. Although he still enjoys this room, he moved into a larger room when his older brother left home. Now we have two grandchildren and more on the way. Our 15-month-old granddaughter has decided she loves dinosaurs and this room was her first introduction.  We keep a crib in here now and when she wakes from a nap the first thing we do is walk around talking to all the dinosaurs.
They all have different voices and only she can understand and talk back to them in her special baby language.
It is the smallest room in this house, a baby room, tucked under the eaves of a little Cape Cod style home in the Chicago suburbs. We hope to keep the happy dinosaurs in here forever to continue to delight new generations of small paleontologists.
I painted over the switch plate for the room light with a smirking parasaurolophus. 

A mother dinosaur and her newly hatching babies.

 I tackled the whole project without much preparation. One day at home with my toddler, inspiration hit and I began to sketch out the entire wall with images out of my head. I referenced our large collection of dinosaur books frequently but it was mostly a free association fun sort of composition. Our very-most-absolutely favorite dinosaur author is James Gurney writer of  "Dinotopia" and other stories. 
After I had sketched all the creatures and vegetation out with a soft prismacolor pencil, I painted in the line work with a brush and a grey-brown mixture. I then washed in loose areas of light color. I was going to keep the whole thing that way, very loose and not too high contrast or detailed. With the encouragement of my little boy, I got interested in detailing a few of the dinos. This spinosaurus, the velociraptor on the facing wall, and the parasaurolophus by the door. And then we decided that we liked it just the way it is. Not too overdone and finished but just enough detail. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

modern art at the youngest level

When I first saw this painting I thought perhaps it could have been painted by Helen Frankenthaler or by Mark Rothko or another great Abstract Expressionist from sometime in the 1950s to 1960s.
But in reality it was painted in 2014, a week ago by a Kindergarten student at Naperville Classical Academy where I teach art. Although this 6 year old was painting with much concentration and deliberate intention in his choice of colors, we could call it naive or primitive art. I was delighted with the result.
Three of my favorites by Mark Rothko here:
And one of Helen Frankenthaler's soft floating colorscapes:

Sunday, October 12, 2014

fairest beauty

A fellow blogger by the name of Melissa (anthem sweet) has written a lovely piece on Beauty in the Church. She mentions me and the work I have done for the Church of the Resurrection here in Wheaton, Illinois.
I appreciated her thoughts on making beautiful things and contemplating the reasons for the creating. She admits that money is one of the reasons. But we creative people know the truth is that we will continue to paint, sculpt, photograph, or write poems for no ulterior reason. We feel the interior drive, the urge to create and will continue no matter the reward or lack of it.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Old Testament last Sunday

Last Sunday in church my husband was a Scripture reader. The passage he read was Judges 6:11-27, a militaristic story about Gideon meeting the angel of the Lord sitting under a terebinth. The angel says to Gideon "The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor." (Gideon is skeptical).  And then the Lord said to him; "But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man."  I don't know how the Midianites felt about that, they might have been trying to conquer the Israelites but weren't they in the land first? It's a long complicated story in more ways than one.
My attention was caught by the word terebinth. The angel sat under the terebinth? What is a terebinth? My first thought was that it was an architectural term, a type of column.
I pulled out my smart phone, (in church!),  looked it up, and found out it is a kind of tree. A large leafy spreading branches sort of tree. Outside the church windows is a very tall leafy spreading maple tree with wonderfully interesting branches.  I thought of the angel of the Lord waiting under the terebinth and how appropriate to the day and our church to have our own terebinth outside the front doors.
Sketched on my android phone using SketchBook for Galaxy.