Saturday, January 1, 2011

Wayne Thiebaud Ice Cream Sundae 1/1/11

My new year begins with both good news and sad news. My dad passed away two days ago after a full life and a mercifully quick ending. Today I stepped away for a while from being immersed in family "to do" lists; I began moving in to a studio. My own studio! Today I put an embarrassingly large quantity of art supplies into a beautiful white space downtown with high ceilings and two big windows. Tomorrow my husband promises to put up shelves and hooks for me. When that's done, I'll close the door and have the space to myself, to clutter up, tidy up, contemplate, write or paint as I wish.

I have some paintings to finish, and some woodcuts to print, and some more woodcuts to carve, and I'm thinking about a piece about my dad. It will just be for myself. All I know so far is that the main color will be red. At least to begin with.

I asked Tim if he had a pushpin to hang my calendar -- it is new year's day after all. After he left me alone to arrange things, I unpacked a trash bin I had used to ferry some bulky items (paper towels, a lamp). When  I got down to actual trash, there among the empty plastic bags was one with something lumpy inside: I reached in and found a twist-top cap from the cheap wine my dad was drinking for a while last spring, and one silvery push pin. I said, "Thanks dad," and used it to put up my 2011 calendar. It's all Wayne Thiebaud. January is an ice cream sundae (though not these "Dark Cones."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"What happiness feels like"

Last week, wonderful art: at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, there was a Wayne Thiebaud retrospective. He turned 90 on November 15, and he still paints AND plays tennis every day! Maybe the most satisfying museum show ever: most delicious paint. In 2001 in the NY Times, Michael Kimmelman wrote: 
"If the world were a perfect place, the Wayne Thiebaud retrospective ... would be nailed to the walls for good and we would be free to stop by whenever we needed to remind ourselves what happiness feels like.” 

The next day, I went to the de Young Museum in SF with John Dabney (who, it turns out, is related to the painter Daubigny!). Many post-impressionist treasures were visiting from the Musee d'Orsay in Paris, including some I didn't think would ever leave Paris: Vincent's Bedroom at Arles, Starry Night, a roomful of Cezannes, and more. I turned the corner and there was "my" Toulouse-Lautrec, "La Rousse," that I copied in pastel a few years ago, studying it inch by inch over 5 weeks. It was such a thrill; I ran back around the corner to share the news with John, who was basking in the glow of the Renoirs.

On Saturday, before heading for the airport, I went to the Museum of the Palace of the Legion of Honor in SF for a show of Japanese prints and western prints they inspired in the 19th century. I arrived just in time for a woodblock printing demo, HANDS ON, yes! A beautiful tiny martial-artist woman with shaved head and dangly earrings and work boots showed how the traditional woodblock prints are made. Then, along with a couple of dozen others, I got to carve my own little woodblock. I carved a turtle: had just seen a dignified turtle in an old print, reminded that it signifies longevity. 

I have just seen the portrait of me that Beth had told me about! How she sees me is interesting to me: I don't quite feel like that's the face I inhabit, but I like the look of that person, and I think she should go mix up some colors. 

Friday, April 30, 2010


Kenneth Branagh as Ivanov, originally uploaded by Skeinfest.
Kenneth Branagh as Chekhov's "Ivanov," November 2008, Donmar Warehouse, London. Pencil sketch (Inktense pencils) from the program cover photo, April 28, 2010, in Beth's studio. (I'm going to put up some March entries, a bit belated: New York, MOMA, Marina Abramovich "The Artist is Present," and more....).

Saturday, March 20, 2010

"The Artist is Present": a New York week

Susan came down from Boston and we met at the Manhattan Club (timeshare graciously ceded by my brother and sister-in-law) for a week in New York. I had arrived on a bumpy flight, but at least my airplane, unlike others that night, landed where it was supposed to. After a quick bus into the city, I couldn't resist walking from the Port Authority Bus Terminal up to West 56th. Saturday night in Times Square with a howling rainstorm!

From our cozy suite, we could see Carnegie Hall and Central Park.

On Sunday we had brunch with Jack Snyder at Caffe Cielo, then went to the Museum of Modern Art, packed with refugees from the rain. During the week we also walked through Central Park, still mostly leafless, to see:
  • the Whitney Biennial and the greatest-hits show "Collecting";
  • the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum -- where, like most of the visitors, I spent too much time trying to figure out how to make the iPod Touch tour-guides work instead of looking at the exhibits;
  • the Guggenheim -- the main (corkscrew) building closed for installation of a new show but in the new wing I discovered a gorgeous painting by an artist I'd not been aware of: František Kupka, Planes by Colors, Large Nude, 1909–10;
  • the Metropolitan Museum of Art; and more.
Plus a bit of St. Patrick's Day parade, the Apple store, art galleries in Chelsea, and some great food.
One night Susan and I saw "Fela!" with amazing dancing (thank you Bill T. Jones and dancers) and music by Fela Kuti, originator of Afro-Beat music; the musical is set it his club in Nigeria, "The Shrine." On another night (2 blocks walk to front-row seats in a small theater!) we saw "Equivocation" by Bill Cain, riffing on the Gunpowder Plot, Shakespeare and his acting troupe, and the efforts of the powerful to torture truth into the shape of a story that will keep them in power. My idiotic choice from the TKTS  booth for my last night was a farce; I missed my chance to see Alfred Molina as Mark Rothko in previews of "Red." I'll be wincing for years that I didn't go. But I did see this (Rothko "No. 10") ---

and this (Clyfford Still). 
My last day in New York (weather had turned to spring by then), I stumbled onto the 6th floor of MOMA looking for something else. Passing by warnings of nudity and disturbing images, I entered the retrospective, with recreations, of works by performance artist Marina Abramovic. The show is called "The Artist is Present," and Marina is indeed present for the whole run of the exhibition, almost 700 hours from March 12 to May 31. Trust, stamina, being "100 percent present."
I found the show unexpectedly moving. Early originals from her work starting in the 1960s were projected in B&W, later ones shown by color film. Some pieces were recreated by performers in the galleries. The show made me think (and feel) about trust, and the artist's bravery in trusting her audiences. In "Luminosity," a young woman stood on a perch halfway up a wall, spotlit; while I stood in this gallery, a young man nearby was gazing at her, and she was gazing down at him with a beautiful expression of stillness. Slowly, slowly, her arms raised: so slowly the motion almost imperceptible. It seemed to me that she was spreading her wings; it felt like a blessing.

Live streaming video is here.  Photos of people who come to sit across the table from Marina are here. I am not alone in wishing I could hear the thoughts of the performers who recreated her works: the June 2 symposium with the performers is already sold out.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Worldwide Sketchcrawl Day, 2/27/2010


I love finding the preserved fragments of art-deco and art nouveau elements that were integral to older downtown Seattle buildings.

I wish I could capture the peculiarity of a forest built in a boxtop set atop a freeway surrounded by giant glassy buildings!
Seattle has changed so much since my younger days when the Smith Tower (yes!) was the tallest building in town. Then came the Space Needle, then the Sea-First building, where I worked for a few years several decades ago. The views from its top floors were spectacular, but not much else there was fun, so sometimes I took refuge at lunchtime in Seattle's Freeway Park, then new. I would sit close to the fountains where the white-noise of the rushing water drowned out the rush of cars on Interstate 5 below. Seattle has grown; fortunately Freeway Park has grown too. Yesterday was a typical grayish February Seattle day, but urban sketch-crawlers found color everywhere! Thanks again to Beth and everyone who came along for the fun!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Port Townsend Bay

Seattle Plein Air group met in Port Townsend on a windy day; five of us painted and drew from inside the new Maritime Center and were rewarded with waves and a peek at sun on the Olympics. 2/11/2010 (painted in Kroma acrylics, 6x20 inches or so). Others' work is here; I was glad to welcome Beth to Port Townsend for the first time!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Second Bowl, Half Filled

On Christmas Day, in the Half Sweet Studio, I put layers and layers of paint on my friend's face (well, on a little canvas panel).

Then, I threw some paint on to a black-gessoed panel. Whoo!

Now I'm scared to continue -- what if I wreck the part I like?!

But that splash of golden in the corner needs attention. Or actually, a little less attention....
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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Half Sweet, Christmas Day

She dreams in colors and dreams colors into existence. She painted me in joyful colors, and from my somber colors her blazing red heart emerges. She describes herself as "98 percent water, half sweet."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Still holding the bowl steady

A third and fourth day of painting. Limited palette: Kroma acrylics, Vancouver Grey 2009, as a base. And some Kroma Zinc White. The mountains came fast; everything else took until now, with Golden Open acrylics: alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue (lots), burnt sienna (mix with blue to get the darks), titanium white and touches of Indian yellow. Plus a teeny bit of Pyrrole Red near the end. Here's how it started a week ago.

Stage 1: last Saturday --

Monday -- no brush, just sea sponge, rag, fingers....


And this morning, Saturday, I think I'm ready to go on to the next painting.

Monday, December 14, 2009

"Hold the Bowl Steady and It Will Fill"

I sat looking across the Skagit Valley for a long time on Thursday just before the sun went down, and again the next morning before the sun came up over Three Fingers in the Cascades. Came home and started this painting, and gave it a name; painted some more today. Seeing it abstracted to a photo, I can see what I want to do next.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

What to do in Port Townsend

Gabi Campanario, the "Seattle Sketcher" and illustrator for the Seattle Times, and founder of Urban Sketchers, drew and wrote up his day trip to Port Townsend with his family. He even credited me ... and I was a little slow making sure I had a fresh post in case somebody came by to visit. But, better late than never, here's the advice I gave him!

I wish we could show you around, but you will have no trouble finding wonderful places to sketch. Victorian buildings, boats, water, mountains (if it’s clear), and farmers market complete with musicians. Can’t wait to see what you see in my town!

As you come in to town on Highway 20, you might want to visit the boat building yard at Boat Haven (turn right at the traffic light at the bottom of the hill you will descend as you enter town; landmark is a Safeway Store and a MacDonalds on your left). If your kids need to run after being in the car, a waterfront path -- the Larry Scott Trail -- begins at Boat Haven and runs back down the bay toward the paper mill (the mill usually sends up a very visible plume of steam). Drive through the boatbuilding yard straight toward the water; the path begins there and runs to your right along the waterfront and there’s also some beach to explore. You’ll see a giant “heavy haulout” boat lift that looks like it should be a Transformer toy.

If you continue driving on Hwy 20 into town you will pass the dock for the that ferry goes to Whidbey Island. Beyond, Hwy 20 becomes Water Street with several blocks of 3-4 story Victorian buildings on each side; this is the main downtown area, right along the waterfront. Find a place to park, and you can stroll down Water Street windowshopping. I highly recommend William James Booksellers used book store if your kids will let you have time to look around!

On the left side of Water Street, away from the water, at the first of the Victorian buildings you will come to, you’ll see Sport Townsend outdoor gear shop (owned by my friend Mari, a terrific rower!). Also on that corner, if you can take a few minutes, visit Belltower Arts, which has, alas, just started its going-out-of-business sale -- everything is 20% off right now, including Moleskines. Marc, the owner, is a lovely guy and I will miss the store; it started out at another location just a block from my house which was way too tempting!

There are many eating options along Water Street. Next to Belltower Arts and Sport Townsend is the Publick House; the menu has lots of choices and it is in a pleasant high-ceilinged room with old cedar racing shells hanging from the ceiling! Down that side street (Polk Street) is the Spot Café which features soups. Continue further on Water Street, 2 or 3 blocks, and you’ll see Nifty Fiftys on your right, a 1950s style hamburger shop. Windows at the back look toward the water. I haven’t actually eaten there but it looks like fun for kids.  Elevated Ice Cream (link to Google Street View) is further down on the right (water side of Water Street) and has delicious ice cream and a candy store. Just beyond it is a small park with playground for kids on the waterfront, and a dock out into the water. There are several places along Water Street where you can overlook the waves, or even find a tiny beach for playing.

If you continue all the way past the Pope Marine Park to the end of Water Street, you will see some road construction, and just past it is the beautiful brand-new Northwest Maritime Center (two big new buildings just dedicated in September, with a beautiful INDOOR place to store rowing shells!). They give a wonderful view from the upper deck and the plaza on the water side of the building, overlooking Point Hudson Marina just beyond. You can see across the water to Whidbey Island and, on a clear day, the Cascade Mountains from Mount Baker to Mt. Rainier; good luck with weather! Between here and Whidbey is all the Puget Sound shipping traffic: freighters, cruise ships, fishing boats, sailboats, and of course rowers on a calm day. We have even seen Trident submarines, just a bit showing above the waves, with a Coast Guard escort.

In the Marina are all kinds of boats. You can walk around the marina to Hudson Point; there is a casual Chinese restaurant on the point called Shang Hai, a fancy restaurant called “T’s” and, at the very end of the point, Hudson Point Café which features all kinds of breakfast until about 2 p.m. or 3 p.m., so if your kids like scrambled eggs, waffles, etc. it is VERY good (perhaps an oyster scramble for the grownups?!). I had a great breakfast/lunch there with my visiting English mother-in-law the other day. Great view; it is right next to the boats in the marina.

You should certainly find your way “uptown” to the Farmers Market! There are signs to point you there. It is on TYLER STREET at Lawrence Street (I live a block away from it! I’m lucky.) It is on every Saturday until mid-December. There is always live music; there’s food; lots of beautiful fruits and vegetables, crafts, doggie treats, art, interesting people wearing interesting clothes and doing interesting things. It runs from 9:30 to 1:30. You can drive up the hill, or walk up via the steps that lead up from downtown; follow TAYLOR street (it crosses Water Street and has the only traffic light in the middle of the Victorian district), walk away from the water one block (admiring the beautiful Rose Theater!) and you will see a neat little park with steps going uphill behind it. At the top of the steps you will see signs pointing you one block left, one more block away from the water to reach the Farmers Market, which usually has dozens of booths even this time of year. Find the bakery booth in front on Pane D’Amore; EXCELLENT bread and treats. If you haven’t had lunch, you could go in to Aldrich’s Market on the corner of Lawrence and Tyler; the deli at the back has a big variety of fresh sandwiches, soups, sushi, and other good things, which you can take upstairs to the tables on the mezzanine which has a view to the water and could be a good place for casual lunch with kids.

A mile or so from downtown Port Townsend is Fort Worden State Park! Great views, great beach and woods for walks and runs with kids, beautiful lighthouse out on the point. You could also visit the Port Townsend School of Woodworking, started by my husband Tim plus master craftsman John Marckworth and woodworking book author Jim Tolpin.

You are going to have to make it over here more than once! Have a great day!

Crow and Gate pub, Ladysmith BC

Finally got there.

Air Mail to the Center of the Universe (Fremont)

Correo Aero at the High Dive, originally uploaded by Skeinfest.

Juli took me to see AND DANCE TO Forro in the Dark. Before they came on, wonderful music from Correo Aereo!

Monday, September 7, 2009

They don't look that much alike now, do they?

Hmmm... not done yet! Every time I take a picture, I immediately see a line or a mark that needs to be nudged. But I've been having fun with this, painting for 3 days, working from a photo of a friend and a printout of a da Vinci painting. I learned so much from putting these two faces into my painting and working back and forth between them. It is so amazing to see what a tiny TINY bit of shadow does to change expression or likeness. I'm not really there yet; I haven't captured the expression I so liked about the picture of my friend, but the more I look, the more I begin to see what I could change that would move the picture closer to what I want.

Used a very limited palette of alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, titanium white and, in the latter stages, Indian yellow and burnt sienna. There were a few dabs of Van Dyck brown and yellow ochre in the early stages but I didn't like them. These (except the ochre and burnt sienna) were part of the sample set of "traditional" colors in the Golden "Open" series of acrylics. I really like working with this paint: it is buttery and slippy, stays open for quite a long time.

Things I learned from this painting (again): draw first; keep the palette limited; cool and white tones first; work up to warmer layers. Perhaps best: I find that painting somebody I know well and like thinking about has kept me interested in working on the painting long enough to get it beyond early stumbles. I still want to work on this painting and get it better!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A friend

A sketch for a painting.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Vancouver BC with Beth

A glorious visit to Vancouver BC with Beth, my oldest friend. We drew near the waterfront on a glorious afternoon in the clear, warm light: Burrard Inlet, ships, cranes, boxcars, and the sail-like structures of the convention center. We began our visit with Dutch paintings and drawings at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Beth used colored pencils on drawings she had made two weeks earlier; I visited and discovered. Here is my drawing of Rembrandt's loving painting of his son Titus, age 19, dressed as a monk.

Titus was the only one of Rembrandt's children to survive infancy. I see so, so much tenderness in Rembrandt's strokes of paint.

I copied a lovely 1653 drawing of girl by Leendert van den Cooghen. Never heard of him. The small drawing in black and red chalk, brush and black ink was so beautiful.

The first day, my sketches were not very satisfying, but after I drew in the museum, my sight got clearer.

Later we enjoyed some wine and more drawing, followed by a leisurely dinner, at sidewalk tables. Beth drew me, I drew the Gastown Steam Clock, which tooted the quarter-hour for us as the beautiful afternoon turned to dusk.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Aphrodite Gets Around

Watching a documentary in which Rosamund Bernier talks about "The Matisse I Knew" and then "The Matisse Nobody Knew" I caught a glimpse of a 1919 Matisse painting that includes a familiar torso!

In hunting it down on-line last night, I found that the Matisse painting lives in Sao Paulo now. I also found this Chirico, called "The Uncertainty of the Poet" (Tate, London).

According to the Tate website: "The identity of the classical sculpture depicted in 'The Uncertainty of the Poet' has not been firmly established. It appears to be an Aphrodite-type cast which had its origins in the practices of nineteenth century academic art rather than in any Greek or Roman prototype.... Roland Penrose (1900-84), an English artist and critic who lived in France in the late 1920s and early 1930s ... purchased a similar plaster cast in 1935. He brought it home to England and used it in his construction 'The Last Voyage of Captain Cook', 1938.... In conversation with Richard Francis of the Tate Gallery in 1984 Penrose said of this cast, 'it was well known in Paris. It was on sale in lots of shops round Montparnasse. Always that size'. Freely available in Paris, this cast featured in works by other artists. It appears in a painting by Henri Matisse, 'Plaster Torso and Bouquet', 1919 (Museu de Arte de São Paulo). Max Ernst [also] transformed the front and back views of the cast."

The Tate also has Penrose's sculpture, "The Last Voyage of Captain Cook."

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Incomplete Venus

Week 4 of my cast drawing class: I continued the block-in but after a while I couldn't resist beginning to indicate the shadow lines. Fascinating to follow with great attention and understand how minute changes suggest the rounded form.

I was looking forward to completing the drawing a week later but instead we practiced shading on a sphere. The one on the left was done with soft charcoal; I have a hard time having a light enough touch! The one on the right was done next, with harder charcoal, and it was easier to make many light marks, letting layers accrete with more subtle transitions. Three hours to draw these! Brain cells busily reforming....

"Slow Looking"

In the New York Times, an article by art critic Michael Kimmelman is headlined At the Louvre, Many Stop to Stop to Snap but Few Stay to Focus. However, he notes, "Artists fortunately remind us that there’s in fact no single, correct way to look at any work of art, save for with an open mind and patience" and he goes on to say:
Recently, I bought a couple of sketchbooks to draw with my 10-year-old in St. Peter’s and elsewhere around Rome, just for the fun of it, not because we’re any good, but to help us look more slowly and carefully at what we found.... Slow looking, like slow cooking, may yet become the new radical chic."

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Weekend drawing class

Three days of drawing with Danny Adams; I always learn a lot. Probably bite off more than I can chew. Drew the model's head on Day 2 after bashing around a bit with too-soft charcoal, wish I'd settled on medium to start with.

Same model on Day 3, tried out Trois Crayons, pastels in white, black, and sanguine on a very dark paper. Again with the bashing around; I was just starting to get the coloring figured out when we ran out of time.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Fast draw

On day 1 of a 3-day drawing class, Danny Adams' son obligingly gave us 3 twenty-minute sessions in the same pose (more or less). Fun to draw.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Venus, part 1

Venus (sight size drawing), originally uploaded by Skeinfest.

Third class in sight-size cast drawing, learning the "block in." Again, these are the fruits of 2 and a half hours of sighting, measuring, marking, checking, correcting, and measuring again. The result may not look like much but the eye-hand-mind training is the purpose. This is like playing scales would be for a musician, I suppose.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Rogue Sketchcrawl

A big fishing reel , originally uploaded by Skeinfest.

Seattle Sketchers met on Sunday, July 19, 2009, at Fisherman's Terminal. This time I focused on finishing a single sketch.

Beth painted the same boat from further along the dock.

Frances drew this beautiful motorcycle.

Hope somebody drew the Ballard Bridge opening in the distance!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Head: cast setup for sight-size drawing

Here's what I managed in about 2 and a half hours during drawing class. Many brain cells were rearranged in the process and new neuronal pathways formed. At least that's the plan.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

SketchCrawl 23 Seattle (zoo)

SketchCrawl 23 Seattle (zoo), originally uploaded by Skeinfest.

A great day at the zoo with Beth and other SketchCrawlers. More to come when the paint dries....

Friday, July 10, 2009

Cast drawing class

Last Monday I began a class at Gage Academy to work on cast drawing. This method relies on starting the drawing with a pains-taking block-in of dots and lines, with repeated measurements and comparisons, always looking from the same position.

Although on Day 1 my results were feeble, I felt that something good could come of this. Evidence: the almost audible shrieking sounds as the two halves of my brain duelled for control.
"The mind wants to turn deliberate, newly learned skills into unconscious, automatically performed skills. But the mind is sloppy and will settle for good enough. By practicing slowly, by breaking skills down into tiny parts and repeating, the strenuous student forces the brain to internalize a better pattern of performance."

My hope is that the harder it is, the more useful the hand-eye training. We'll see! Four more Monday afternoons to go.

(Quotation is from this book review.)

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Last day of art camp: channeling Edward Hopper

Done from a magazine photograph; alas I do not know which magazine or who the photographer was. Paint was all mine. 10x16 in fluid acrylic on illustration board. Updated 7/8/09 with a clearer photo!