Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Books and Docs ... of the Artistic Kind

It is not enough to know your craft - you have to have feeling.
Science is all very well, but for us
imagination is worth far more.
~Edouard Manet

Living in L.A., and with all the trips I take to Ojai, I've lately been listening to so many audio books! It's been great. I knew I wanted to read/listen to both of these books (below) so I listened chronologically by subject.

Both were interesting and informative. The Judgment of Paris was interesting because it went back and forth between Édouard Manet (who was having a difficult time of it with the art establishment and the Paris Salon) and a successful artist of the time, Jean-Louis Ernest Meissonier who had been a darling of the Paris Salon, and was doing very highly detailed, representational, more conservative works. I had honestly never heard of Meissonier, so it made it all the more interesting. When I got home I'd Google the paintings the author referred to. 

The way it was written, it kept my attention pretty well, considering I can often space out while driving and have to rewind a few minutes of a book. I felt so frustrated for Manet and what he went through, trying to make it as an artist, and having so many people not understand what he was trying to do.

Of course the best part for me was when he would give information like the fact that the pigment Cobalt Violet was first prepared by Jean Salvètat in 1859, and that Monet said that he'd discovered that violet was the "color of atmosphere." And, that he used Cobalt violet and Prussian blue for creating water. I pulled over and wrote that one down!

After Judgment of Paris, I listened to In Montmartre. Of course, who doesn't want to know more about the beginnings of Modernist Art? O.K., maybe not everyone. But, I have to say it made me want to know more about Matisse and Picasso in the very beginnings of the their careers.

This book seemed a tiny bit less engrossing than Judgement of Paris but when it's an audio book, I can't always put my finger on it. It could be the narration. It was still very interesting, with some nice anecdotes and stories about the artists. Somehow it made me feel better knowing Picasso worked on a a piece for months, filling sketchbooks trying to figure out the concept and structure of the piece. Of course, he ended up with Les Demoiselles D'Avignon, which now hangs at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, but still!!

Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.
~Pablo Picasso

When I started this blog, I wrote about a great documentary Matisse Picasso: Twin Giants of Modern Art (2002.) Definitely still recommend that documentary! I watched a DVD from Netflix, and it looks like they still have it, here. I saw that it's also on Youtube but unfortunately it's in French with no subtitles, so unless you're fluent, hopefully you can it on Netflix.

In general, I'm a non fiction gal, but I wanted to know more about these eras (of the Last Judgment of Paris and In Montmartre) and audio books about artists are a bit limited. So, next I went with novel about Claude Monet and his muse and first wife Camille, for my next "read." In fact, I'm so used to straight up biography that when all of the sudden Claude and Camille were making out, and then in a passionate embrace, my jaw dropped like puritan, looking around in shock to invisible passengers in my car! So funny. I think I even blushed.

I have to say, it's funny to have someone read love scenes aloud to you in the car and it was also kind of funny hearing this older British man reading Camille's dialog but I did get into the characters. I could really imagine this world of struggling artists in 19th century Paris, who later became legends of art history and I even sat on my bed and cried through the end of the book. It's not high literature  but interesting and entertaining.

The problem with historical novels is that I get distracted and have to look things up online to see if they really happened. Seriously? Did she really have an affair with this best friend?? No. No, the author made that up. So, that part bugs me. I mean, I get it, there needs to be drama but I'm someone who wants and needs the truth. I had fun watching The Borgias on Showtime, but after every episode I would Google the events of the 15th century to see what really happened.

Anyway, Claude and Camille, as I said, was entertaining and made me really think about how difficult things were for Monet and all his Impressionist friends, trying to make ends meet and justify their lives to their families, and their art to the world.

What you can watch on Youtube is the BBC's The Impressionists, which is great because much of it is scripted from the artists' actual letters and writings. I love that!

A painting requires a little mystery,
some vagueness, and some fantasy.
When you always make your meaning perfectly plain 
you end up boring people.
~Edgar Degas

A work of art which did not begin in emotion
is not art.
~Paul Cezanne

Hope you all had a lovely June!
Blessings and light!

Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places 
where other people see nothing.
~Camille Pissarro

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Terri Ford Pastel Workshop and Ojai Preserve Painting in Plein Air

These landscapes of water and reflection 
have become an obsession.
~Claude Monet

Terri's Beautiful array of pastels ...

Terri Ford Workshop
Ojai, Spring 2016

It had been, at least, a couple of years since I'd taken my last intensive 3 day pastel workshop. I'd loved taking a couple of those workshops with Richard McKinley, but he hadn't done one in Ojai for such a long time, so I'd been keeping my ears open for a great instructor. Terri came highly recommended and after checking out her website I got really excited! Her work is loose, gorgeous and vibrant. Bingo. 

Day 1
In the Studio

Terri sketching in her darkest values ...

It's always wonderful, as an artist, to stretch and move yourself in directions that you wouldn't ordinarily take with your art. It's not always easy but sometimes you have to make yourself uncomfortable in order to grow. Life lesson, right?

Terri's demonstrations were great because, like Richard, she explains her process as she goes along. She lets you in on why she is doing what she is doing and is very generous with all her knowledge. She's also just a really great gal and easy to spend time with over 3 days of working.

Here's her first finished demo. I'm sorry I don't have the reference photo but the finished pastel painting is so much more beautiful and interesting than the photo ... which is the hope, right?

That first day, we worked in the studio all day, having been told ahead of time to bring reference photos. Plus, as I recall, the weather forecast was a little dicey. 

Day 2
en Plein Air

Ojai Preserve

Ah ... spring in Ojai! Just wanted to mention, that it's amazing how many art supplies I can fit in my Mini!!

It was obviously a gorgeous spring day! Terri set up with a view of the Eucalyptus trees. When you work outside, you have to get in the broad strokes. There isn't a lot of time to work before the light completely changes!

I loved loved loved this demo. So fresh and loose and vibrant ... and all the information you need is there and just sunny and beautiful. This underpainting was vibrant using pastel (you can see that magenta under the sky!) and then washed with denatured alcohol. Then soft pastels over the top!

Of course, the big question is where and what do you want to paint?

I must have flowers, always, and always.
~Claude Monet

I decided to set up near the water, in part, because usually water isn't really my forte. Sometimes I get lucky but ... well, at least it was a pretty spot and I was stretching, remember?

The reflection of the reeds in my pastel were kind of cool and I liked the texture on my mountains but the water?
Eh? Not so much. Oh well. I'd have another chance on day 3.

In the meantime ... photos and enjoying the gorgeous afternoon! (And a fabulous almond cacao smoothie from Farmer and the Cook down the road.!)

It's on the strength of observation and reflection 
that one finds a way.
So we must dig and delve unceasingly.
~Claude Monet

Day 3

Terri set up, in the morning, with a view of Eucalyptus trees, mountains and sheds. It was fun to watch her edit what was in view and even lowering the line of the mountains. 

Another fabulous demo and it was even more wonderful in person. So yummy.

She wanted us to loosen up so she told us to be done with our painting by lunch. I think we had an hour or something? Maybe a little longer but not much! 

I loved this tree and the light coming across the grasses so I quickly threw up my tripod and attached my pastel box!

I loosely sketched in my little composition ...

Then used a paint brush to add the denatured alcohol, so it became a wash. (looks like  very saturated watercolor.) Then, I took a couple of pictures of the scene and before I knew it the sun had gone behind a cloud! No more light and shadows! Thank goodness I'd taken pictures!

My day 2 set up ... 

A nearby log that caught my eye. Might have to draw ...

OK, back to work! A little sun coming back ... 

And after my friend Tom took this photo of me, below, the wind started coming up and a few raindrops so ... time to break it down and get out of there before our paintings became pastel soup!

I did a just a tiny bit more in the studio, adding the lights into the tree, and will still want to add a bit of darks below the line of trees in the distance but until then, this is what it looks like ... My favorite of the weekend.

I worked on another piece in the studio that afternoon (of Italy, surprise, surprise!) I can share it later but I'll end with this, for now. It was fun to work more bold and colorful than most of my other pastel work. See? Good to stretch!

Eventually, all the information you gather and all the various things you learn from different artists and experiences, influences your work and it helps you grow as it becomes incorporated into your "toolbox" and merges with your own style, personality and creativity. 

Anyway, you should check out Terri Ford's work Here, and if you enjoy working with pastels, I definitely recommend taking her workshop! When I win the lottery I'm buying her paintings that she did in France.  GORgeous!!! 

Every day I discover 
more and more
beautiful things.
It's enough to drive one mad.
I have such a desire to do everything,
my head is bursting with it.
~Claude Monet

Happy Summer!
Blessings and light!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Ventura en Plein Air

for whatever we lose
(like a you or a me)
it's always our self
we find in the sea.
~e.e. cummings

Back in January my pastel group (Pastel Society of the Gold Coast) set up a date to do a "paint out" en plein air. It was at our member Sydney's house, and as you will see, it was a perfectly beautiful location!

After we all chit chatted for a while, the wind calmed down and the sun peaked out from behind the clouds. It was the perfect day to be outside with my pastel box! That is my Heilmann pastel box above on the tripod, and below ...

You can see the watercolor underpainting in the photo above, and my setup below, as well. Dont'cha just love those cool blues, greens and purples in the pastel box?

The world is mud-luscious
and puddle-wonderful.
~e.e. cummings

It was like a little art homecoming to be working in Ventura where I grew up, and down in the Ventura Keys, the neighborhood where some of my childhood friends lived.

Well, the piece did not get finished outdoors and still needs to be resolved in the studio (more work on the water and it needs some palm trees!) but it's always so great to be doing art outside in a beautiful place.

After meeting with my pastel group, I headed to the Ventura Pier for dinner and a margarita with my friend Tina, who I met in nursery school! After we ordered, I looked out the window and saw this guy! Isn't he beautiful?!

I love pelicans, especially after hearing in a documentary how sweet and loving they are! Some of the people who worked on Winged Migration, behind the scenes, said the "pelis" would literally come up to the people who raised them, and hug them by putting their wings around them! Makes me tear up to think of it!

I remember fishing on this pier as a kid.  One time, I was out there fishing and I cast out my line and a pelican flew right in front of me, grabbing my bate and the hook! It was awful and terrifying. We cut the line immediately and prayed he would be OK. I never fished off a pier again, and think of it every time I see someone fishing on a pier somewhere. 

Just look at this face! What a sweet beauty!

Once we believe in ourselves,
we can risk curiosity, 
spontaneous delight,
or any experience that reveals the human spirit.
~e.e. cummings

I thanked him for be such a generous model and letting me take his picture, before he flew away. 

We had enormous fish tacos and then walked down onto the rocky beach. This was back in January after the storms. It was a gorgeous evening ... cool, crisp and breezy with the salty air of the Pacific.

trust your heart if the seas catch fire,
live by love though the stars walk backward.
~e.e. cummings

Tina and I on the beach!

I host a blog for the Pastel Society of the Gold Coast, and did a post about the plein air day on that blog, as well. A few photos are the same but there additional shots, including work by other artists if you want to check it out! Here is the link Pastel Society of the Gold Coast.

I thank you God
for this most amazing day,
for the leaping greenly spirits of trees,
and for the blue dream of sky
and for everything which is natural,
which is infinite,
which is 
~e.e. cummings

blessings and light