Night time River Cruise, Saranac River 6x12

Night time River Cruise, Saranac River 6x12
Night Time River Cruise, Saranac River 6x12View at Strand Center for the Arts Plattsburgh, NY

Monday, November 5, 2012

Taking the Red Queens Advice

"Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!" The Red Queen said to Alice.

Drawing is an end to itself.

Drawing is about seeing. No other visual art seems to sharpen ones ability to see and appreciate the world as much as drawing does. Drawing is also a foundation that for probably a good 50 years was dissed in art school programs. Not until the late 80s and early 90s did drawing begin to be part of foundation for visual art programs again. That's a good thing.

Ten years ago I had a year-long project involving drawing in the near dark of the regional theatre, Pendragon. For a year I had to look to see, know where my sketchbook was and be able to rely on my eye to tell my hand what it had to do. The results were fascinating to me. Some drawings were useable as is, others had lines that were eloquent but in such a rats nest they had to be extracted from the drawing to compose another drawing. I still find myself drawing without looking whether in life sessions or plein air landscape.

I gave a workshop, "Seeing in a New/Old Way – Language of Drawing" which left both the participants and myself exhausted. I approached the content for the sessions by making each day a surprise and challenge to some preconceived ideas about what drawing is and is not.

What was I doing that made drawing such a challenge for my participants? I worked to get them see without looking. Pencil on paper. Eyes on object. Draw. No looking at the paper. No lifting of the pencil. No peeking. Different mediums were used over the week: pencil, charcoal, compressed charcoal, charcoal pencil, ink and brush - even eraser. Inspiration for some of the exercises came from England, a book, "Drawing Projects". Other daily projects were from past drawing workshops that prove to be good wake up exercises for someone exploring drawing.

Assigning various "blind drawing" exercises kept knocking on the doors of awareness in each participants head, making them reach past the logical way of "looking" at things to discover actually seeing what they were looking at. It was exciting to see the progress in the weeks time. Yet, every day there was a lapse in seeing, a reverting to looking that needed another wake up kickstart to get back to seeing again.

What that means to me (I'm no scientist so bear with me) is seeing, drawing needs to happen on a daily basis in order to stay in one place, let alone move forward in ones work. Since drawing is the basis for painting - at least for me - making it a point to to draw/see every day is the way to move forward in my work.

I take the Red Queens advice with regards to drawing - I draw as often as I can. Even with that effort, it always surprises me what I miss when I have not made the point to see what I am drawing. So it is resolved; draw twice as much in order to see everything that is missed by only looking. "… to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast …" That's my take on the Red Queen.

Back to the studio.

Monday, July 30, 2012

If a tree falls in the woods…

I did this little pastel this past Saturday during our Saturday Plein Air Painters meeting. I started in on my painting and looked up to see a doe looking back right through the light I was trying to capture. She is not quite there in the painting. Just as she seemed real, she moseyed on into a dark patch.

"Light in the Woods"  approx 7x5

Painting plein air is a recording of a place and time. The light changes. The shadows move. The sky grows cloudy. The temps go up and down. The wind blows. Critters grace the painting with their presence. It can't be replicated - that moment in time. It is a record of a couple of hours and then the world turns again, on into a different space and time. 

And that… is why I paint outdoors.

We worked at a classic Adirondack camp that has been in the same hands for 60 years. The property had suffered a bit of blow down in the most recent storms that have swept across the 'Dacks this summer. A huge white pine was down from the roots up, narrowly missing "The Studio".

For more information about Saturday Plein Air Painters contact me:

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

And the good news is…

Busy? Yeah a little. Doing work that pays for the work I love doing has gotten on the heavy side of the seesaw. But the good news is some things pay off, in their own way. I wrote earlier this year about the Mapping the Familiar project I was a part of. I am pleased to say my map "An Incidence of Bridges" has been accepted for publication in Strokes of Genius 5 to be published next fall 2013. I had entered a piece - "Dreamland", that had been published in the first Strokes of Genius several years ago. So that is some of the good news.

Other good news is I have a well attended one day workshop coming up at the Hyde Collection next week. It got switched from the 10th to the 31st. I am gathering my thoughts on how to get across the idea of the joy of painting plein air, how to work in pastel, about choosing a scene that one adjusts for composition, color and value - all in one day. Stay tuned for that.

Other workshops are filling including the Adirondack Plein Air 5-Day Workshop at White Pine Camp  in September.

Workshops and Saturday Plein Air Painters keep me charged up. I have to do it and while others benefit from the workshops and the painting, I feel like it is all just for me. By getting these events going and being immersed in the work and the painting, I feel like I get more out of it than the participants. I hope that my enthusiasm catches others and it gets into their own work.

I do need to get back to the other work. I will make a better attempt at writing a bit and more often.

I'll leave you with a couple of images quite opposite each other but both from my hand.
An Incidence of Bridges and Dreamland.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

On Wearing Different Hats…

Alice: Sometimes I believe in as many as six impossible things before breakfast.
The Mad Hatter: That is an excellent practice.

Being an artist in a rural wilderness area one gets to wear many hats. While it is raining today and I can't really go out to paint or pull weeds out of the gardens, I'll build ads and write press releases for various regional organizations for their summer play bills and flyers that are hopefully effective.

Today is a PR day. Giving back to my own artists community. By giving to the rest of the art community I am helping to build a fragile structure that we all benefit from. I'll spend time on my own events too. This is what it means to have an agent. In the end I am my own best advocate. I'd rather be painting but them's the breaks.

The pressure of deadlines is an interesting phenomenon. The Enterprise waiting for ads, then copy, for their Arts in the Park flyer.  I get visuals going for myself, for my workshops, for the Guild (which I am a member) and for my 6 year old contribution to the artists community - the Artist at Work Studio Tour. Did I mention I am also making a couple of ads for my husbands business?

My partnering workshop in the fall with Tim Fortune is next on the agenda. This is a fun 5 day plein air workshop that Tim and I tag-team, showing artist participants different methods of capturing the Adirondack landscape in pastel, watercolor and oil. The workshop is located at the beautiful White Pine Camp on Osgood Pond in Paul Smiths. Old great camp architecture including a bowling alley and a tea house on a slender glacial esker remnant jutting into the lake offer plenty of perspectives to choose. Five days is a lot of time time work with various personalities and mediums. The learning curve for most is fast and steep. It is very rewarding to see artists move from one place in to another in their work.

Other plein air opportunities for artists are the Saturday Plein Air Painters and two other workshops I will be giving this season: the Pastel Series at the the Hyde Museum in Glens Falls, NY, and Nocturnes Edge Plein Air Workshop.

The Adirondack Artists' Guild has organized plein air Saturdays for regional artists for 6 years running. I find several great venues to paint, we meet around 9 on Saturdays during the summer. Artists from the area bring their medium and work Plein Air in the Adirondack environment. These painting days are reminiscent of the original plein air painters in Europe and the Americas including the Canadian Group of Seven. The camaraderie is part of the process.

The Hyde Museum Pastel Series was initiated with the Adirondack Pastel Society. There are four Tuesdays in July with four different pastel artists incorporating part of the museums collection into a one day workshop revolving around a theme. I am scheduled for July 10. I have not yet narrowed down my theme. It will focus either on Degas and the figure or Plein Air, yesterday and today. Stay tuned.

Nocturnes Edge Plein Air Workshop originates out of my studio Point of View in Gabriels, NY. I have scheduled a five evening workshop spread out over the summer. The participants will first work during a May sunset, then in June, July and August - which includes a Blue Moon - we will have either the moonrise or the sunset to work with. That all depends on the the weathers willingness to cooperate, in which case we will meet at my studio and work on tone, composition and color in the nocturnal view. Homework will be included!

The Artist at Work Studio Tour presented by Saranac Lake Art Works supports the growing artist community of the Northern Adirondacks. A free 3 day tour can take you from Jay to Vermontville, Saranac Lake, Cory's, Lake Placid and to my own neck of the woods - Gabriels and Paul Smiths. Visiting artists in their studios is an eye opener for many people. Others view the tour as an opportunity to get up close and personal with their favorite regional artist and find new work for their collection of Adirondack art. Either way it is a golden time in the Adirondacks to enjoy art and the country side during the fall.

Studio Tour also provides incentive for participating artists to clean up their studio. Tough love. It is beneficial for every one. 

I have procrastinated long enough. Gotta get back to the design page. For more info on my workshops follow me here and check my website. For other events – oh you know how to find stuff.

Back to work.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A fragment of underdone potato.

March is almost done and it appears going out like a lamb is not going to be the method. Snow, freezing rain - just lovely. Good News though. Two pieces made it into the Wichita Center for the Arts Pastel 2012 which opens tomorrow. The show was juried by Sally Strand, one of my all time favorite pastel painters.

Getting that particular envelope in the mail was a vindication after receiving so many "Not Exhibited" notices. It does make one wonder why an artist submits work to juried shows at all. My husband the left-sided land surveyor, is always amazed by the process of art. Create, present, hang in the gallery and maybe someone wants to spend the rest of their life with it - or maybe they just need some eye candy.

In juried shows I have learned to rationalize that not getting into a show is sometimes about someone elses good or bad day, whether they ate their Wheaties or - my favorite line from "A Christmas Carol" from Scrooge on the existence of Marley, "You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato." Just a burp away from no.

In other words,  a bit of a bad day one day and the next day there would be a whole other perspective and an entirely different show on the wall. 

Then I came across a well written blog by an artist who had just juried a show and I have to say I got where she was coming from. Judging art is an arbitrary process. Everyone has a different idea of what works and the reasons for a jurors choices can be based on so many things there is really just no accounting for the choices. 

So why do it? Good question. It costs money to enter, to ship (yikes!),  to prepare the work for a good presentation, and in all likelihood whether you win anything or not, the piece will come back to you unsold and back on your own studio wall. I can hear my husband now. "Not good business." (Really he does support my work but we approach our businesses differently.)

It is about receiving the recognition. Getting bragging rights. Show off the work as validated. That recognition does come back in other intangible ways. I received an award for a plein air piece in 2010. Right after the announcement I was approached about giving a workshop at a beautiful location. Would I have been approached if I had not received that validation, that recognition? I don't think so.

And I still own that piece. Go figure.

On the plus side one of the works in the Pastel 2012 was sold. The process is all just a bit arbitrary.  

I 'm heading back to the studio.

"On the Cusp" 20x16 Pastel 2011 atf

Thursday, February 16, 2012

"Incantation" – Wishes for Good Snow

Half way through the month of February and it is a long one - Leap Day this year.

I have two pieces in the Adirondack Artists' Guild Benefit Show for the Dewey Mountain Ski Center in Saranac Lake.  The first, "Incantation",  is based on visions from my back yard here in the Adirondacks, where weather changes, light changes dramatically, really in the blink of an eye. One minute snow will be so thick I can't see the back line of trees, the next it can be crystalline with sharp edges on fast scudding clouds racing off to their next destination. In this strange climate change season of little snow and vacillating temperatures, "Incantation" stands for the wishes of all for a steady supply of snow with a balanced proportion of bright sun.

"Wind Rising" is the second piece in the benefit. Periodically I see the wind. One might say, no that is the effect, but in my mind it is the wind dancing, teasing the eye, letting light through then making tree lines vanish.  "Wind Rising" is not a particular place - more a particular feel of winter and light.

The pieces can be seen on line or better yet see them in person at 52 Main Street. Online pics sometimes are deceiving due to so many different variables. There are over two dozen pieces up for the auction. One could bring home a really unique winter scene for not so much and be helping the Ski Center move closer to their goal of a new building. Final day is February 26, but don't wait - cause ya never know - you may be snowed in. And February is alot longer this year.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Road Trip! Degas!

Sunday was the last day of the Degas exhibition at BMFA. Better late than never and peculiar logic (Super Bowl Sunday in Boston) led to the days itinerary. Arrived earlyish so we - I could spend as much time as I could there. Degas could draw. Even early work shows the soft care for the bend in a thigh, the structure of bones under the skin, and the nature of the models personality showing in her or his face. So many drawings proclaiming the round sweep of the curved back, then the towel - exploring the awkwardness of a figure drying ones back. How did the model do it? Long hours, soft light, translucent inner glow of life under the skin. Then the brothel minis - what a find! - never before seen little drawings and monoprints of the ladies plying their trade. So casual is their presence in these secret prints, one will always wonder how well the artist knew them. Degas first saw everything, then continued the rest of his life revealing and hiding simultaneously the bend of the waist over the towel and leg, get distracted by the life of the skin and move on to the flow of the hair.

            The Tub, 1886, Pastel, Edgar Degas, Musee de'Orsay, Paris, photo by Patrice Schmidt

I couldn't get home soon enough to my Monday night life sessions. 6 + hours in the car takes its toll. What I look forward to exploring myself is adding some mystery in the figure. Drawing is about seeing and drawing the figure is about seeing everything. I find with a new model there is a period of time of getting to know the nuances of that figure, the length of the chin, the curve of a shoulder, the tip of the head, the individual grace of hands, fingers, toes. Each series of sessions brings with it its own peculiar set of drawings, nights when the work flows out of the charcoal and times when the only solution has to be mulching the work.

I am inspired Degas' abundance of drawings. I know that no matter what other class I instigate or let fall by the way, drawing the figure will be my favorite.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Can't find your way? Mapping the Familiar is online.

Saranac Lake is one of those places that has seemingly dodged the homogenization of the American town. Yes - it does have a donut franchise and hamburger too, but what is important is it is home to a wildly diverse and vibrant population nestled in the middle of the Adirondack mountains. There is an embedded can-do spirit that is witnessed in this years ice palace construction for Winter Carnival. The palace is rising in defiance of global climate change. Saranac Lake often makes the weather news for being the coldest spot in continental US, but not this year. Today it is way above freezing, and rainy - all detrimental to the concept of Ice Palace and Winter Carnival, but I am very sure the palace will be finished for opening ceremonies. Saranac Lakes determination is also witnessed in its fierce resistance to that box store that guts so many other small town Main Streets. But that spirit did not stop there. Visionary positive thinkers came up with a viable alternative. Saranac Lake now has its own Community Store. Not bad for a population of about 5000.

At the Adirondack Artists' Guild Gallery in Saranac Lake, the exhibit Mapping the Familiar: Artist Maps of Saranac Lake closed this week. The exhibit focus is on methods of printmaking and artist ideas of place. Ten artists made art maps of the town and each produced an edition of 15 maps. The methods of making the maps encompass silk screen, intaglio, digital, drawing and photography. The concepts are as diverse as the town yet all have a connection to each other. Each piece holds an idea that lead viewers to look closely and appreciate not only the place but the sense of the community. In emphasis of this community spirit, the curator and map maker Jess Ackerson has involved the community in its own map - a community map that has been added to all month. Walking trails, secret places, locations of interest - like where one could see peacocks - have been added to the Community Map.

The exhibit is not gone. It can still be viewed online. The exhibit is looking for another bricks and mortar venue to continue to be viewed. In the meantime, the Guild has maps for purchase until February 28 and includes the full edition of all 10 artist maps, the purchase of which will provide the funding for printing the Community Map. 

Purchase my map "An Incidence Of Bridges", silkscreen on unbleached mulberry,  three prints available, by calling the Guild at 518-891-2615.

Logging bought a population to this junction of river and lake. Bridge-making made it a town. The Cure kept it here. The River is thinking about washing it away, begging the question: How would one get there from here?
Recollection of the first print project was kindergarten using pre-carved potatoes. Then lino cuts in eighth grade which is still in the artists possession. A fixation with pen and ink occurred for many years. When a pen and ink was completed after days of inking the original, Xerox never failed to astound that 50 could appear with a flick of the button. Other methodologies of reproduction have been used since, mostly direct scanning of originals then digital reproduction of the work.

Bottom line though, I'd rather be painting.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sidebars to Working in Studio

I've been enabling children and adults alike to draw for more than a decade. It is not teaching. It is more like giving tools and opening eyes. The sessions for children are after-school a respite from the school day. The kids are always different depending on the day. The involvement in the explorations is high. When the whole group is quiet I know they have been engaged in the process. The sessions last for 4 afternoons and inevitably there is disappointment when they realize they are not scheduled to return next week. Adults looking to re engage in the process of drawing have other issues: time, family and that 3rd grade teacher sitting on their shoulder saying, "That's not a fish!" It takes courage to come back to drawing after that long. Over all, after 4 sessions with adults there is satisfaction - sometimes even follow through to continue - and the 3rd grade teacher has been vanquished.

All that to let you know there are afterschool Drawing Explorations for Winter scheduled for January 31, February 2, 7, 9,  at LPCA . A second session follows later in February. Call 518-523-2512 and sign up your budding artist. Also a couple of adult workshops "Non-Judgemental Drawing for the Beginner" I love that title. Give drawing a try. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How to Get Out to Paint Snow

The last Saturday Plein Air Painters outing was in late October. It had been cold all month. I woke to snow, about 27 degrees, the first snow, wet, pretty - it was just covering the ground.

I had to go. Thoughts of a book and the fire did not deter me. Looked for long johns, wind pants-black-to absorb heat IF the sun came out, wind breaker, hat, Sorells, fingerless mittens-they're the best.

I am a pastel painter living in the Adirondacks of Northern New York.

Headed to the studio for my painting stuff.  I plan to stick to small work, a sketchbook and oh yeah the umbrella.

Headed out to the arranged site a not for profit farm set in fields with the high peaks surrounding the view. This day the mountains would vanish under the wet snow hanging in the air. I was the first one there. No one else is on the property. The snow makes a shushing sound. Lots of wonderful compositions. Apple trees almost finished shedding brown leathery leaves. Rocks still warm from some ambient heat have snow caps, black and white. The snow had come in from the south, stuck to the sides of the trees - straight up. A murder of crows hang out on the long drive,  keeping their toes warm I imagine. There is no snow on the road so it must be warmer than standing about in the snow-covered field.

The light low, obscured by the clouds, an amazing peaceful place.

I set up to get a small pastel done of an apple tree and split rail fence. About two hours into it one other brave soul showed up. I finished up - having gotten something in color and in my sketch book. The umbrella worked great - no spots on the work. We talked for a bit and she obliged me by taking some pictures of me at work. In the time we talked the temps rose and the snow stopped. The far tree line became visible but not the mountains.

I am only good for a short stint. I packed up and headed back to the studio. It was well worth the effort to get out to capture the essence of the first snow. I'm still revisiting those images.