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Friday, June 29, 2012

Painting in Bermuda

Canary Palm, 2012, oil, 14X18

Visiting Bermuda this week I was stunned again by the exotic tropical plant life.  The juxtaposition of dead-ish bark and vibrant life is what attracts me most.  Here's a painting I did one morning while I was there.  There are ferns growing out of the trunk where former branches were cut back, and bright yellow spiny spikes at the base of the new palm fronds.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Negative Space

I bet you've heard the term "negative space."  It's art lingo for everything in your piece that's not your subject.

I realized after some frustration that the negative space was what I needed to think more about in the penstemon paintings from a few weeks ago that weren't working out right. Working in watercolor, I was thinking of using a dark background to make the delicate white flowers show up in the foreground but I didn't want the dark background to get too heavy, especially since the stems of the penstemon were also dark. Here's one of my sketches:

After my watercolor didn't turn out the way I wanted, I got a canvas ready to work in oils but by then aphids were on the flowers! My chance had past. But at least there's always next year...

Now the thalictrum is blooming!  Look at the purple stems!

As with the penstemon, I like the airiness and delicacy found here. Look at the airy space between the height of each group of leaves and flowers.  It's so tall it's almost comical and yet lovely.   For me it's just magic--so delicate as it waves in the breeze.

I'm puzzling about how I'd paint these to show their airiness. Like the penstemon, I would want to convey delicacy and elegance. I could use dark backgrounds to define the negative space and show up the lighter purple stalks and fronds of tiny flowers but that could make the whole seem heavy.  I'll have to keep thinking about that one...

I hope you enjoyed these photos!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Joe Mangrum's Sidewalk Sand Art

Have you ever done that craftsy art project where you pour different colored sand into a transparent plastic cup or glass bottle and then poke along the inside edges to create a kind of terrarium landscape design?

Last week I went to the Museum of Art and Design in New York City to meet my friend for a lunch date. Lunch had to wait as I had to stop and stare at Joe Mangrum's artwork in progress using colored sand on the sidewalk. The colors really show up against the grey of the pavement. It's a grit against grit kind of feel but with color!

He poured, drew, and changed colors with the sand creating brilliant symmetrical designs. It was so fun to see in action, I wanted to share this video:

This was in the heart of Manhattan, at Columbus Circle, 57th Street. As you can see, pedestrians walked right over Joe's piece. For me, this only added to the intrigue. It became a kind of performance that engaged people to look as they walked through. They became part of the work that changed as Joe poured the colors and they shifted the design with their footsteps. I love that visceral idea of walking in the colors -- of being bodily involved with art.

The fact of our impermanence is beautifully engaged for me here as well. Everything changes! But for now we are here, free to drink in color, human interaction, and art.

Turns out Joe is a graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago. He says his goal is to bring art to people and out of museums -- to inspire them and delight them in a non-intimidating way. Way to go, Joe!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Robins are hatched

 I've been watching the drama of nesting, sitting, expectancy and new life as robins nested on the pergola over our terrace the last few weeks.

Robin on nest.

That one's a chick. Can you believe it? Their beaks are big!

I'm watching them grow so fast.  Soon they'll fly off and our drama will be over. Ah well, everything changes.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Penstemon: Delicate Abundance

I've been drawn to the penstemon in our garden for several years and have drawn and painted it several times, but unsuccessfully. Now I'm planning to give it another go.

It has delicate white flowers, that contrast with gracious curving leaves  atop tall deep purple-reddish stems.

It grows in a kind of profuse abundance and reminds me of stars on a dark clear night.