Saturday, June 17, 2017

Talisman ~ Painting an Owl

Every spring we have a big art show at my work, The Wizard of Art. Each student chooses an art piece for the show, frames it, and then the teachers hang all (133 this year!) works the night before the big reception. The faculty each puts a piece in the show as well. 

Here's a little unfinished charcoal demo I did of a snowy owl, for one of my private students.

White Owl Song, on the beautiful Native American flute!

It's nice because when we have the art show, the students can see what their teachers are working on and that can lead to some nice discussions about how we choose our subject matter, and on occasion, how artists sometimes need to be patient about finishing a piece! 

They come for an hour, or an hour and a half class, so after some of the kids have worked on a piece for a month they think it's been forever and I can say, yes but really it's it's only four hours. I often work for 5 hour stretches or more in one sitting and I can show them an example. Usually, the lights come on and they realize that it's not actually taking them "forEVER" as they say. This, of course doesn't work on a 4, 5, 6 year old!  

Anyway, I wanted to do a new piece for the show and for some reason I'd been kind of obsessing on doing an owl, before I'd ever done that charcoal demo (on the grey paper above.) I had taken a photo years ago of Riley, a little Eastern Screech Owl, when I was in Ojai meeting some of the birds that were rehabbed at the Ojai Raptor Center.

I'm still on my "oil on wood panel kick," so one night after work at the Wizard, I sketched in the owl with a little Cont√© Crayon. (above) Then, I went in with Gamblin's odorless mineral spirits (a paint thinner) and used it to move the Cont√© around ... 

Then, I started getting in the values (lights and darks) with burnt sienna and ultramarine blue ...

At that point, I went in with slightly heavier layers of paint and more color ... and for some reason this little guy wanted to be on magenta ... though I don't know why, or at the time where I was even going with that.

As I was starting the owl, I began looking online at all the different symbolic meanings of owls. It's fascinating and I thought the need to do an owl might have some deeper meaning for me.

Different cultures have different meanings for the owl, from wisdom (Athena) and protection, to mystery, to death, rebirth and transformation. 

My favorite is that the Owl represents night, the moon and the feminine. So, I'm going with that ... and the truth and honor part. That magenta/red seemed to work with the idea of the feminine, blood and creation ...

My owl palette ...

I was hanging out and painting with one of our old students, Audrey, who started at the Wizard at four years old and is now a fine art major at UCLA. She also teaches at the studio when she's on break. I think I worked a couple nights with her at the studio. Probably in 4 or 5 hour stretches. I loose track when I'm painting.

After that, I took the little guy home to work on it. I showed a picture to my boss who said, "We see owls like that in the desert. Is that a cactus he's on?" And that was it. It was a cactus. I just hadn't known it yet, and I needed someone else to tell me. If you throw something up to the art gods, just pay attention and the answer will come. Often from a smart fellow artist! 

I started doing the detail work at home. As you might have noticed, I love doing detail work. Especially eyes! It's funny because when I look at other artists, I love really loose painting with very expressive brushwork, but when I start working on something, I can't seem to help myself.

It's kind of meditative but at the same time, using a tiny 0000 brush can be tedious and intense. (The smaller the number the smaller the brush!) At that point you take breaks and start photographing your pants!

The claws and the cactus needles were also very detailed. I also added more reds ... Alizarin Crimson, magenta, Cobalt Violet, and Cadmium Red to the cactus.

Here is a National Geographic Documentary on owls ... at 6 minute you'll see one hatch, and you see them grow! 

And here he is! 

9" x 12"

To learn more about the Ojai Raptor Center on their website, click here.
To see my old blog posts about the Raptor Center, click here and here.

Where the bee sucks, there suck I:
In a cowslip's bell I lie;
Then I couch when owls do cry.
On the bat's back I do fly
After summer merrily.

Merrily, merrily shall I live now
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.

~William Shakespeare
The Tempest, Act 5, Scene 1

Sunday, June 11, 2017

San Gabriel Mission Playhouse and Laurel and Hardy

San Gabriel Mission Playhouse
dedicated 1927

Going back through my photos I realized so much has happened, and I have done a lot of things and taken photos of places I've been and haven't posted! Back on Superbowl Sunday I skipped the the ballgame and opted for a screening of a few Laurel and Hardy shorts, at a theater I'd never had the chance to see!

Los Angeles is blessed in the old theater and movie palace department. We have so many old theaters that were built in the 1920s, it's pretty incredible. I've posted about the El Capitan, The Million Dollar Theater and others, but as I said, this was my first visit to this theater and my first time seeing Stan and Ollie on the big screen!

My Grandma knew Stan Laurel and his wife Ruth (whom he married more than once!) because my Great Grandmother was good friends with Ruth, so I feel this kind of ... lovely distant connection. Plus, I've tried on and had my picture taken in a couple of Ruth's dresses!

Stan and Ollie! I wonder if they had any idea that we'd still be watching almost a century later!

The foyer ...

The movies that afternoon were Double Whoopee (1929) where they are hired as a footman and doorman at a swanky hotel, You're Darn Tootin (1928) where they play musicians who lose their jobs in a band, and Liberty (1929) as prison escapees. 

I had seen a famous clip from that last one, where the two end up on the skeleton of a high-rise that is being built ... the audience was screaming and my palms were even sweating! Some movies always hold up and it's so fun to see comedy with a great audience that's howling with laughter!

Here it is, if you want to see why!

And yes, there was an incredible live, in person, organist Lance Luce who played the completely refurbished old Wurlizer organ from the 1920s. It was great because he explained about the organ and how it uses air to operate all the various musical instruments that are hidden behind the fancy screens on either side of the stage. When you hear a horn or drum, that instrument is actually back there, but being "played" by the organist! I had no idea!

Between movies there was an intermission and we checked out the outside area ...

The theater was built for an epic "Mission Play" by John Steven McGroarty that told the story of the founding of the California Missions by the Franciscan Friars under Father Junipero Serra. How accurate it was, I'm guessing is up for debate. In any case the depression happened, it became a movie theater and apparently during WWII the dressing rooms were used as apartments.

The city of San Gabriel acquired the playhouse in 1945 and it became the "San Gabriel Civic Auditorium" but eventually 2007 rolled around and they went back to the original name.

More photos of the incredible interior ...

Beautiful, no?

We went for a tea across across the street and by the time we were done chatting it was too late to visit the San Gabriel Mission (below) which is just around the block basically, but I'll have to save that for another time and another post!

The San Gabriel Mission

Here I am in one of Ruth Laurel's dresses that my grandma ended up with. Sadly the dress is very fragile now but it worked for the photo shoot (2003?) the tiny embellishments on the bodice are rhinestones.  The silk crepe chiffon was so light it was like wearing a cloud! 

And below, my sister and I in Bangkok, in 1987. On the right, I'm in a dress of Ruth's in which she danced with Clark Gable!  The one I was wearing was a champagne colored crepe, if I recall correctly! My mom had a seamstress take a pattern off of another of her dresses when we were living over there. My sister, looking ridiculously gorgeous on the left, is wearing that dress. It was emerald green Thai silk.

Yep, the ham genes run deep. ;)

To read more about the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse click here

I'm busy researching my trip to Scotland and Venice at the end of summer! Can't wait to share that! In the mean time I have a few other posts I'll try to get together, from around here! Plus the kids have been doing amazing work in the studio! 

I'm getting a new pair of glasses for the computer so that will help with the blogging! As of now, I'm killing my neck, tilting my head back to see out of the bottom of my progressive lenses. 

Blessings and light to you all!