Saturday, July 26, 2014

July 28, 2014

And, just like that, school is out for summer! Yes, we'll be starting our summer vacation beginning next week. But we'll be back after labor day—and that's right around the corner. If you can't wait until then, keep reading. You're invited to join our summer Sketch Club.

Meanwhile, we finished up the term in our usual colorful way. Marva ushers in the vacation season at the same time as she salutes the sun setting on our class with this exquisite painting of sunset at Laguna Beach.

Susan's painting also features palms, water and sky, but the mood is much more industrious as Filipino carpenters make lumber to rebuild after the typhoon.

A little closer to home, Sara also features trees at dusk—except hers are magnolia trees in an urban setting. 

Hector has officially finished his last exercise. And what a finale! "Banana Boat" is a burst of color and whimsy. We're excited to welcome him to the ranks of the "old Masters."

Equally colorful and whimsical is Vivian's sewing machine cat. We can't decide if it's more surrealistic or acutely observed; we just know we can't wait to see how it progresses.

John's scene is progressing, too. Everywhere you look, there's something new to see. Feel free to linger over the details—you'll be happily surprised.

Ken is beginning two new paintings in his urban landscape series. These are as colorful and happy as the rest of the series... and also feature windows in a wonderful new style.

We do love our architecture, don't we? Elaine's new painting is the entry to a Chicago church. Basically only two colors (brick and stone), it seems simple enough, but we suspect this may take a while to finish.

Did you notice that we were about "place" more than "people" today? The closest thing we have to a portrait is Elaine's marble sculpture and it's closer to architecture than any person we know.

Artist(s) of the day. Once again, we had some amazing books on our library table. Pat brought in a thin volume about Cezanne (perhaps he inspired our expansive color palettes today) and Ken brought one about Whistler. We were deeply impressed by his landscapes and portraits and especially by the incredible effects he  achieved with his minimalistic use of color. And, in honor of sketch club, the book on Twentieth Century Drawing made a triumphant return.

You're invited! Yes, you read that correctly. Sketch Club is back. For the next few Saturdays, you're invited to join us as we casually reinstate Sketch Club. Meet us at Rosehill Cemetery (Ravenswood entrance) at 10am. We'll roam and sketch independently for the next hour-and-a-half or so, then meet again where we started and compare sketches. We may even continue on for lunch. There's something for everyone—so much to see and learn. It'll be fun. Hope you join us.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

July 19, 2014

It was a perfect day for painting—warm and summery enough to make us feel mellow, but not so hot as to make us sluggish. In fact, you'll see that many of us were inspired to finish an entire painting in one session; some of us even have two paintings to show. And all of us are deeply tuned into our surroundings. Everything we painted has that undeniable Chicago touch. See if you don't agree, starting with Hector's beginner assignment. Yes, it's the cloth study, but the energetic brushwork is reminiscent of Van Gogh and makes you feel like you're at the Art Institute.

Did we mention that we felt like we were on a field trip today, with everyone finding a "buddy?" First up—our "vacation" buddies. Marva's tropical sunset and Abla's trip to Niagara Falls make us feel like we're on vacation. And Abla's grapes just shout Napa Valley.

Our next pair is notable for finishing paintings they have been laboring over for a long time—and we do mean long. Mohammed and Elaine each got an actual round of applause when they announced that they were finally done. We think you'll agree the results were worth the effort.

And the Chicago connection?  It's vacation in Chicago—visiting the Shedd aquarium, frolicking in the park, and visiting the Art Institute (for the sculpture this time).

And while we're downtown in Chicago, how can we not look up and admire the magnificent architecture? Ken and Vivian's colorful urban landscapes celebrate Chicago skyscrapers.

While Vivian begins a new painting that makes us want to visit the Magritte show at the Art Institute.

And if you see a cat, can birds be far behind? Mark continues his explorations of colored pencils and watercolor pencils by adding another bird with personality. They seem to be engaged in a serious conversation...

... as do Susan's aunts, conversing in the remains of their typhoon-destroyed Philippine kitchen. Chicago, with its large Philippine population, is watching carefully as new typhoons hit the island.

John's colored pencil drawing is so full of details and story elements, it's hard to know where to begin. We had to pass this around to get a closer look. And every time we looked, we found something new and wonderful to exclaim about. Look for the pets, the statues, plants and paintings, the fairies and people. And know that no seemingly blank space will remain. John has plans for every square inch... but you'll have to come back and see how he progresses.

Artist(s) of the day. We had some engrossing books on our library table. One was about Art Deco and featured architecture, household goods, paintings and furniture. Most appropriate as we looked at Ken and Vivian's paintings. And Pat brought in a wonderful book about Frida Kahlo, filled with beautiful paintings in large color plates. We were especially intrigued by the portraits and you can probably expect to see more of those in the weeks to come.

Artists to the rescue! As faithful blog readers may know, Ken is a big fan of Winsor & Newton's gum arabic. Imagine his distress when he ran out in the middle of the week... and the art supply store was out of stock too! A panicked email ensued and two fellow artists came to the rescue. Fortunately, Ken was only gum arabic-less for a day or two; he now has two full bottles to keep him going for a while.

Speaking of art mediums, Ken was experimenting today. Bolstered by his success with gum arabic, he did a test page to explore Granulation medium, Iridescent medium and Texture medium. So far, these don't look as promising for him as the gum arabic. Right now, he says he isn't seeing distinctive enough results to justify the effort, but it's early days. Keep watching this space!

See you next week.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

July 12, 2014

Pity today's relentless rain kept some of us away. We were a small group, but a fun one!

We probably formed some kind of communal bond as we huddled outside in the rain. That's the only way we can explain the common thread running through our paintings today—either that or some kind of weird science fiction mind-meld (and we don't want to start going there!).

Seriously, how do you explain that, despite the different subject matter, Ken, Vivian and Sara all used the same warm natural color palette? Strangely, they were all sitting in a row.... one after the other. Coincidence?

Or that Susan used the same colors—plus cobalt violet (a color almost unique to Sara, who was sitting across from her) to add layers of depth and interest to her painting of tourist boats exploring caves in the Philippines?

Elaine's brush didn't stray from the official class palette of warm yellow, green, blue (and purple).

Even John tuned into the universal palette....

...along with his newest protege, Mark—a potential convert to colored pencils.

Artist of the day. More wonderful books today. One was full of intricate Islamic patterns. The other featured Japanese art that had us reminiscing about a wonderful show at the Art Institute of Chicago featuring Japanese screens.

Getting to know Marva! You don't think we forgot, did you? Admittedly, we've been a little lax in posting, but we're up to date now. Take a moment and explore the last three posts to be sure you're up to date too. You'll see our last two group sessions, as well as a "Meet the Artist" installment starring Marva. Don't miss it.... you'll miss some wonderful art.

See you next week!

Meet Marva!

Welcome back to another long-awaited installment in our "Meet the Artist" series. This time, we're proud to introduce Marva. You may notice that we don't have a self-portrait. Instead, we include a scene from her past that's quintessentially Marva. If you ever looked through our blog, taken a deep breath and felt you were on vacation—chances are you were looking at one of Marva's landscapes.

Marva's been painting with us for a while now, beginning with the same simple exercises we all did. But even from the start, she imparted her own style to those exercises. The soft colors of her color wheel blur and blend like those of nature.

And her three-way fruit demonstrates the rich texture she is known for. No matter if she's painting wet, dry or in combination, you can tell who painted these.

Through the years, Marva has experimented with different genres—flowers and still life scenes...

... and even portraits. These early efforts highlight Marva's unique talent for bringing depth and texture to areas that could be flat and lifeless. Notice her masterful touch with details like the hair below.

But from the beginning, Marva has been irresistibly drawn to landscapes—intricate, detailed, richly textured landscapes, like these scenes from around the world.

And as she painted the different layers of foliage, mountain, sky and sea, Marva developed a mastery of the color green—one of the hardest colors to use well. See, too, how she's managed to differentiate the different types of trees and shrubs by color and texture. Yet, all the while, weaving all the disparate elements into a beautiful unified tapestry that puts us in mind of Klimt's landscapes.

Even water and sky are deftly patterned in her hands, giving a sense of movement and life.

Marva often returns to a favorite theme—a cozy dwelling nestled in foliage. As we are invited deep into the scene, we can't help but feel a tremendous sense of warmth and hominess.

In her hands, even stone and rock are warm and alive, as can be seen in these scenes from Greece and Ireland.

As a diversion from the intricate detail of her landscapes, Marva occasionally takes a break to paint flat poster-like paintings like these—sweet, retro tributes to her roots as a flower child.

Which brings us to the present. Marva's combined her love of nature and pattern with the color and simplicity of her posters in her latest series of silhouettes. She has incorporated people—flat and almost featureless, but filled with movement—silhouetted against the brilliant colors of sunsets and sunrises. We can't wait to see where this goes!

Don't you feel like you've just been on a relaxing vacation? Or do you feel an urge to put some flowers in your hair, mellow out and get back to the land? It's the Marva effect! There are some things we've noticed:
  • Marva loves nature. She's a master landscape artist, drawn to them from her earliest paintings. Yet, each painting is fresh and unique and deeply "noticed."
  • Marva loves detail. Yet, there's a meditative quality to her details that evokes a sense of calm and peace rather than frenetic energy. Her attention to every leaf makes us want to slow down and notice the beauty she's sharing with us.
  • Like many of us, Marva works in series. She has themes she loves and returns to, subtly moving forward and improving with every exploration.
  • Marva has a wonderfully sure hand with color. From the exuberance of her sunsets and posters to the subtle colors of her landscapes, every color is perfectly in tune with every other color on the paper. And no one commands the range of verdant, natural greens that Marva does. She's truly the queen of green!
We can't wait to see what's next for Marva. And we hope you're looking forward to seeing who's next in our "Meet the artist" series.