Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Crystal Coast

I'm still trying to work on water, so Christina said I could try a water picture in class tonight. I guess the more you do it the easier it gets or something, LOL. But true with many things. I had a lot of water reference photos, but decided to do this one. I took the photo down in Morehead City, NC where my dad lives. He has a lovely house facing Bogue Sound, and there is a nice little public beach just a couple blocks from his house. I took this photo at the public beach, and that was what I used for my reference tonight. This was hard work, and I took the entire class session on it.

But when I find myself thinking how hard it is, it's also nice to reflect on how far I have come since I took up pastels four years ago. In those early days I had no idea what I was doing. In May of 2005, only 2 months after I had first tried using pastels, I went down to visit my dad for a week. I decided to try to work on a couple pictures en plain aire while I was down there. And as it happened I chose this very same setting as one of my pictures to try.

So after I got home from class tonight I managed to track down the photo (and a poorly taken photo at that) of that original painting of this same scene and I'm actually giving a public airing down below! But this is one of the reasons I keep everything I've ever done. It's nice to step back in time to see where you came from sometimes on the days when you don't feel you are making any progress. :-)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Happy Birthday Dear Blog

Wow, hard to believe it was three years ago today I started my blog. I was going to celebrate by spending the day working on a lovely painting of some sort. But my day started shortly after 6 AM with a call from work. By the time I was done it was 8:30 AM and too late to get back to bed. I have to be in the office at 7 AM tomorrow morning for a big system upgrade, so Sunday is mostly shot too. So I decided I was going to do my *taxes* today since the weekend was mostly shot anyway. I thought it would go pretty fast using TaxCut software, but it ended up taking me 12 hours! 

The good news: Well, the taxes are all done. I owe the state of New Jersey a mere $4, and I'll be getting a nice refund from Federal.

The bad news: I finished up so late it left little time for the grand painting I wanted to work on, but I had to do something to mark this blog's occasion. So I did take the time to do this quick little portrait of my house, only about 45 minutes of work on a 9x12 sheet of Art Spectrum, but I just needed to get something done, and my own house seemed like a good way to mark my own blog. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Canadian Inlet

I guess this one can be included in my Atlantic Canada series of paintings. I finished up my still life in class last night with over an hour to spare before class ended, so I decided to noodle around with one of the photos I had in my bag for potential landscapes. This is from a photo taken up in New Brunswick, Canada  - just down the road from where my dad owns our summer home.  So I spent about an hour on this one - done on 9x12 Art Spectrum, as all my stuff has been recently. I do prefer a slightly larger size, like the 12x16 Canson I have long used. But the wonderful texture of the Art Spectrum is so seductive. I just love it, even though I have achieved nice effects on the Canson as well.

I told Christina that I really yearned to be able to do better with water,  so she suggested I find some nice water pictures to bring to class next week and we could work on that. So I need to start looking through my photo files and see what  I can come up with. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Fiery Fruit

This is just a still life Christina set up in class tonight. I loved the bright, vibrant red of the fabric that she used, and the wonderful reflections in the shiny black vase. Nothing "heavy" to post about tonight, just a pleasant art class, and fun painting in the company of others.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Gerry Niewood

I've known Gerry Niewood for over 20 years. Not well - he traveled a lot, and seemed to be always on the road, the story of a musician's life. But I knew his family better. His wife Gurly and I sang together as fellow altos in the church choir for many years. She has a lovely voice and I've always hoped she would consider returning to the choir. Son Adam was in high school with my own son. Later on daughter Elizabeth took voice lessons from the same voice teacher I take lessons from. We had a recital at the Niewood's house one time, a lovely old Victorian filled with books and old furniture and worn rugs. That last part may not sound flattering, but I mean it to be! The Niewoods had a *home*, well loved and well lived in, full of charm. It was a real home where real people lived, not a showplace.
So when I heard that Gerry was one of the victims who perished in the dreadful crash of Continental flight 3407 in Buffalo, NY I was overwhelmed with shock and grief. How could such a dreadful thing happen? I saw Gerry just two weeks ago. Our church has an annual antique show every year, and the opening night there is a lovely reception with appetizers and music, and this year the music was provided by Gerry and Gurly. He on flute, she on piano. The whole family is musical, but Gerry was outstanding. As Gerry's MySpace page says "Gerry Niewood is an instrumentalist (soprano, alto, tenor, baritone saxophones; flute, alto flute, bass flute, piccolo, clarinet) who has lent his melodic invention to artists as diverse as: Chuck Mangione, Peggy Lee, Simon and Garfunkel, Sinead O'Connor, Anne Murray, Thad Jones, Mel Lewis, Mark Murphy, Gil Evans, Astrid Gilbeto, Judy Collins, Frank Sinatra and Gerry Mulligan to name only a few. Gerry is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music."

In fact it was a gig with Chuck Mangione what was taking him to Buffalo. If you go to his MySpace page you can also hear some of music. I'm still so sad, and sorry for the whole Niewood family. Today I could not settle after church and choir, and finally decided that painting a picture would be cathartic. I could not follow my usual practice of only painting from life, or using my own photos. I have no photos of Gerry. And if I had they would have been snapshots of Gerry the man, not Gerry the musician.

But I was much taken by the photo posted of him at the nj.com website. Not only did it incorporate Gerry with his sax, but was taken in the town where we both live, in the local train station where I have many times waited for trains when I had job assignments or training that took me into New York. So that was what I felt I needed to use. I would not call this a good likeness of Gerry. I'm not a portrait artist. If you want to see what Gerry really looked like there are plenty of images you can Google, like this one.

But doing this today helped *me*. I'm so sorry for all the lost victims of Flight 3407, but Gerry was the one that I knew.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I think I've mentioned here before that birding is another of my hobbies. I'm not obsessive about it, and most of my birding is done just watching birds from my own home, counting birds at the feeders in my yard for Cornell University's "Project Feeder Watch". But I do enjoy seeing other birds when I can, and adding to my Life List, such as it is! When I saw that Snowy Owls had been seen wintering in New Jersey's Meadowlands I had a buring desire to go see them. 

So last weekend my sister accompanied me to go on the quest of the Snowy Owls. With the help of other birders we did spot the owl - quite tricky as his camoflage was wonderful, and after watching him a while we decided to go a little further down the road to the marvelous Meadowlands Environment Center to see if we could also spot the rare Eurasian Teal who was said to be wintering there as well. 

With that goal accomplished we strolled back along the waterfront path, and happened to catch sight of a most glorious sunset. I had to snap several photos of it. And then I decided I needed to turn the photos into a painting, so that is the subject of my painting above, done my my new favorite of 9x12 Art Spectrum Colourfix paper, the rose grey color. 

And as a special added bonus, here is a photo below that I took of the Snowy Owl. When I went home to add him to my list I found that he was actually bird number 100 on my Life List, so that made him even more special.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Mac on the Beach

Art class was canceled last night due to bad weather, so I just took it easy instead. But I hate to miss an chance to create something, and going to class makes me get out and do it! But no meetings tonight, so I decided I could paint something right here at home.

Since it's cold and snowy out I decided to paint something warm and inviting. This is from a reference photo of my cousin Amanda's little boy Mac at the beach. Either Amanda or her husband Tom, who is a professional photographer, took the initial photo, so if there is any merit at all in the composition I owe it to them, and not to me at all.

But I loved the photo and when I saw it I asked Amanda if I could have a copy. I knew I wanted to paint it some day. And now, 2 1/2 years later, I'm finally doing it!