Monday, May 20, 2013

The Powers of Observation

Through the Looking Glass / Art Deco Mirror Self Portrait

For as much time as I love spending time at my easel, I equally love spending time looking at other artists' work. This weekend while teaching in Atlanta with Binders Art Supply and School, I had the pleasure of taking in the High Museum of Art. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the Art Deco and Art Nouveau furniture, vases, and silver coffee/tea services. This is my favorite era of art history, so I lingered on this floor more than any other. Having recently cut my hair short and taken in the film "The Great Gatsby" with all the wonderful 1920's clothing and fashion, I really could see myself having tea at one of these grand table and chairs. 

I was happy to be able to experience two of Maxfield Parrish works, as well as Norman Rockwell. These artists in my eyes were fine artists, but considered illustrators. What's the difference? An illustration is made for mass consumption. Illustrators create art is specifically for magazines, books, and other publications. 

Two pieces in the museum made me stop and linger for a long time. First was Robert Henri's Lady in Black Velvet. I often talk about the lost edges in a painting with my students. This weekend in Atlanta I tried to encourage and remind students that it's ok to not be able to discern where the subject ends and the shadow begins, as long as you have sharp edges in the light areas. One of the best examples of this was the Lady in Black Velvet, how lovely the bottom of her cloak was that it totally melted into the background, yet her face was so crisp in the light!

Robert Henri, Lady in Black Velvet

For as long as I lingered with the Lady in Black Velvet, I spent double that amount of time with The Blue Mandarin Coat. How DeCamp captured the light in this painting on her face and shoulder is so incredibly lovely! and her deep blue coat then disappears into the darkness. I spent a lot of time up close, looking into the flesh tones of her face. DeCamp has blues and violets painted under the flesh tone, which peek through here and there, making such a beautiful vibration of color. I was about an inch from this piece for a long time just trying to technically dissect it. 

Joseph Rodefer DeCamp, The Blue Mandarin Coat

In my work, my lost edges are typically in darkness or shadow, but rather in an area where the background bleeds into the foreground subject, and the edge is blurred as a result. 

Here Boy! collage on birch panel / 24x20 / click to enlarge

You can see in the bottom of this dog that the green drips of the field behind him have seeped through his fur, and then everything fades out to natural wood. For as sharp as the top of his head is agains the sky, his edges start to get lost just below his ears. I love this effect as I feel it connects him to his background. I want to experiment more with it. After this weekend's visit, perhaps I need to try some darkness too. 

But remember, dark is not always black, it's deep sea blue, royal purple, alligator green, rich burgundy, woody brown...

Viewing art in galleries and museums has always been a passion for me since my first trip to Europe as a high school senior when I found myself standing in front of Picasso's Guernica in Madrid, Spain long after everyone else in my group had moved on. Never before had I seen artwork so powerful, on such a large scale, with an entire room dedicated to just this one piece. I am very lucky to be able to visit art museums and galleries in most of the major cities I travel to teach these days. 

Thanks for being a part of my art journey. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Paint the Trail

Being an avid cyclist, I find myself on the Seminole Wekiva Trail pretty frequently. Over the past year I have watched a section of fence behind a house in Longwood, FL become covered with wonderful artwork, a couple of panels at a time. It started slow, one or two, and then it took off! Now the art has completely covered two adjacent yard fences and has moved on to another.

I always stop and admire the art on the trail, it makes me smile with it's big bold images of actors and musicians, comedians and recognizable figures. Most have funny quotes on them as well. Recently I read an article in our local Lake Mary Life magazine, that told me where to find the artist on Facebook. And that's all it took.

I checked out the page and then reached out to Jeff. I wanted to purchase a fence panel from him to display in my yard. Since my house is full of original art and I have no more wall space, I've moved on to outdoor art. What could be more perfect?

Jeff Has a Vision

"I see  people getting exited about what's going on.  I'm doing as much as I can to let those who want to get involved.  It's morphing into some bizarre community project.  I visualize artists and residents alike displaying artwork on the trail. I've set the impossible goal of 5 miles. Even if it only reaches a mile , wouldn't that be something worth packing up the car , grabbing the kids and going to see ? I think if everyone gets involved people will be amazed at what this community has done together.  It's something fun we can do and it's something others will want to see."

See a great TV interview with Jeff here

So what did he say when I asked him about purchasing a panel? "No." Truly, he did. He said he just wants to put them on the trail as part of a community project, he doesn't want to make money from them, he doesn't want to take commissions. Heck, he said he doesn't even see himself as an artist. 

What happened next was kind of fun. Jeff said to me, "You're an artist, why don't you paint a panel for the trail?" That's when he explained to me that he can't get to his vision of 5-miles on his own, so he's recruiting help. Not just from artists, but from anyone who wants to give it a try. Jeff is not only providing the panels, (some are saved from the land fill) and the paint (all is saved from the recycling station) but he's also willing to sketch the panel out for you and give you detailed instructions, if you are not an artist. He's handed out many panels, paints and instructions, in the hopes of getting the entire community involved in his project. 

Jeff not only provided me with the fence panel, but he gave me the paint!

So I went over and picked up a panel, dug through the paints, and threw it all in the back of my van. Why not? It will be like a great big under painting, only on a fence.

Are you a local artist in Seminole County or someone who just wants to be part of this great project? Get involved, get a panel, contact Jeff through his community Facebook page

here's my panel, ready to go in my van, what will I paint?

Spread the word, share this with a friend. And visit my Facebook page for an album of photos from my visit to Jeff's shop. I'll continue to add my in progress panel photos to this album. So check back!

and PS, how did I get myself into painting a fence panel when all I wanted to do was buy one?

Stay tuned, and thanks for being a part of my art journey.