Reggie, Grand-dog

A weekend visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art provided plenty of inspiration and awe, but it was a small portrait of a white dog by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec which gave me an idea about how to draw my grand-dog, Reggie. I used short, vertical strokes for the background and scribbly hatching for his fur, trying to use Lautrec’s technique to catch Reggie in a contemplative mood on the sofa. I finished the drawing in one class and trying not to overwork it, I left the grey paper showing through the marks. I feel that this was a good attempt at catching Reggie’s ‘dogginess,’ and I could use this technique for other quick works.
Portrait of a dog

Reggie, pastel on paper

Dog by Lauren

Dog, oil, Toulouse-Lautrec, Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Salt Marshes, again, and again

Last May while visiting Stone Harbor, I took an iPhone picture of the salt marshes along the causeway leading to Seven Mile Island, a barrier island along the southern end of the New Jersey shoreline. The marsh grasses were a spring green with some winter browns mixed in at that point.Landscape New Jersey

View of Stone Harbor, NJ

Last summer, I took a charcoal drawing course and drew the scene of the salt marshes in black and white, with soft vine charcoal on watercolor paper:

Landscape

Today, I revisited the scene in pastel: 12×18, Canson pastel paper:

Salt marshes, New Jersey

This part of New Jersey is so beautiful. I enjoy revisiting it, in person, and in different art mediums. Next, sometime this winter, I will paint the scene in watercolor then oils. By then, it will be time to drive ‘down the shore’ again, as we supposedly say in New Jersey.

Still Life with Gourd…and problems

What can you learn from a painting with problems? I knew the glass bottle I picked for my still life would be challenging with its transparency and reflections, but I decided to face the challenge with the help of my teacher. I did not anticipate that the folds of the black cloth and the elliptical shapes of the plate and bottle would also be tricky. I felt that the gourd would be forgiving – what’s a bump or curve here or there going to matter? You can draw a gourd that looks gourd-like even if it doesn’t look like that specific gourd in front of you and no one will be the wiser. But if you draw the perspective of a cylindrical bottle or round plate inaccurately, the drawing will look amateurish.

The photo collage shows (clockwise from bottom left) the still life in the studio, an early version of the drawing and a later version after two 2 1/2 hour classes and quite a lot of work at home. The drapery is toned down and blended, the black drape shows through the bottle and the sky is darkened. The whole drawing reminds me of some artists I like: Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley and Charles Burchfield, but I can’t claim that was intentional.

Still life with gourd

Still life in progress

I learned that I need a lot more practice with basic drawing. I learned that folds of drapery are really tricky and that’s why all those Renaissance painters went wild with their virtuoso renderings of draped figures. I learned that using black is worth a whole study of artists like Whistler and Manet. I realized I was right about the gourd. Gourds are forgiving. Just don’t put them on a reflective, white plate seen at a foreshortened angle. Oh, the ellipses!

Still life with gourd, pastel

Storing your art

After you finish your work of art, you have to make some finishing touches. Just Google any of these phrases and you will see that artists think about these issues a lot. Before you see a work of art displayed in a gallery or on a website or in someone’s home, all these things should have happened:

Don’t forget to sign your work (search for ‘artist signature’ posts on the web)

(Seriously it’s easy to forget to do this!)

Don’t forget to use fixative, varnish or other preservative appropriate to the medium

Did you photograph it for your website or records?

Store it somewhere safe until you frame it for exhibit or sale

Storing your art

I am at the ‘store it somewhere safe’ step. The photo collage shows that I have safely ‘stored’ and (Bonus at No Extra Cost to me !) displayed, my two latest charcoal sketches by thumbtacking them to the walls of my studio space. One small pastel still sits on a tabletop easel taunting me: are you done or not? And my biggest recent work, a pastel of Verona, Italy, is clipped to a drawing board, covered with glassine and resting on top of the old wardrobe filled with crafts supplies. That’s me with my iPad snapping the pic of the resting pastel. The wardrobe itself is decorated with oil pastels, paper collage and acrylic sketches, so that’s another way to find storage space for your artistic efforts. Just paint on your furniture.

So anyway, to my friends and family who are super supportive and kind about my late-blooming artistic journey, this is what’s going on. It seems like a long way to get these works framed, exhibited, sold, gifted, turned into cards or pillows or even a proper website. But I am learning a lot and slowly producing work. And enjoying the process. And liking some of the results enough to thumbtack them to the walls without cringing or climbing up to change one more little detail. Progress!