Saturday, November 22, 2014

November 22, 2014

Today, as Thanksgiving approaches, we are grateful for many things—first and foremost, you, our loyal readers. We're also thankful for each other, the things we've learned and seen and the friends we've made. Today, our photographer is not high on our list, however. You'll notice there is no video and the photos have an eerie green cast. To be fair, we can't blame the photographer for everything—the video camera simply wouldn't turn on and the Truman lights cast the strange green glow over everything. Still, we'll be grateful if everything's back to normal in two weeks when we return.

Meanwhile, there's plenty to see. We begin with a wonderful seasonal painting. Entitled Freedom From Want, Vivian's painting features her cat gazing at the Thanksgiving bounty. We are all salivating just looking at the turkey and the pie—and don't you love the composition and the way the cat is seated like a guest (and dressed in a festive bow to boot)?

Mark also has his mind set on holiday eating. Notice he's returned to the festive pears for a second week in a row? But this week, he's added background and another foodie touch. The black specks on the pear skin aren't painted on—those are genuine poppy seeds. It's multi-media!

And while we're on the subject of food, it's time for the three-way fruit exercise. Seems especially appropriate this week, doesn't it? Here Victoria does a banana very wet....

...very dry...

...and in a combination of techniques. And then she ate the evidence! But rest assured, this is a very accurate portrait of her banana.

Even Susan's centuries old church looks like a wedding cake. It's actually an old ruin, tethered to a support by rope to keep it from falling.

Ken's latest building is decorated like a fancy cake too. This is #15 in a series of 16; we'll be sorry when he reaches the end of this series. But he usually has a show when he finishes a series; we're looking forward to that.

And do you remember where we started? With turkey? Madeleine brings us back to that theme with a painting of Turkey (the country). Notice the lovely sparkle on the water, the striated rock formation and the fine foreground grass? There's a real feel for texture here.

Alan's finished his lake painting too, and it's even more beautiful than the screenshot conveys. Look at the texture of the bark, the reflections on the water and the exquisite detail of the birch trees and houses on the opposite shore. Another quintessentially autumnal painting.

Abla continues her Asian-esque painting, adding a blue bird to one of the magnolia branches. Definitely the blue bird of happiness!

Mohammed adds a bluebird too! Along with some flowers and buds. We are loving the way different artists handle similar material.

No blue bird of happiness here. Bill finished painting a flooded Chicago street corner at night. Nonetheless, this is strangely festive and sparkly with city lights and neon signs beautifully reflected in the standing water.

Like many of us, Bill's painting in a series. Here he's taken a sketch from his sketchbook, printed it several times on multi-media paper and added color. In the next four paintings, he manages to get four very different feelings beginning with the same basic sketch.

There's a lot to be said for painting in series, isn't there? Greeta has made progress on two paintings of Graceland cemetery. Ultimately, there will be three paintings, with only size, orientation and location in common. We love the seasonal feeling of the place and are looking forward to seeing the full triptych.

As if that weren't enough, Greeta revisited an old painting (below). She wasn't satisfied with the original background, but this is looking great. Love the expression...and the hat!

Seriously, how can you miss with a little boy in a hat? Elaine makes a similar subject choice as she experiments with new colors below.

And interestingly enough, she also features a hat in the painting (below) where she experiments with Yupo. What's with this strange group obsession with hats?!'re invited! And remember, tomorrow is a special day for the DePaul Community Chorus (our very own Steve is a member). They are a 150-member chorus and present three free—yes, you read that right—concerts every year. Tomorrow is the first concert of the season. Bring Brass II happens on Sunday, November 23 at 4pm. Besides the large chorus, there is a full brass ensemble, along with organ and percussion. This concert will be held at St. Paul's church at Orchard and Fullerton. And it is absolutely free! Click on the poster to learn more about this concert, the rest of the season and even hear selections from previous concerts.

Finally, we'd like to take this opportunity to remember everything we're grateful for—and you are all high on our list! Thanks for joining our painting circle and for your support.

We'll be off next weekend but we'll be back and looking forward to seeing you on December 6. Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

November 15, 2014

All too soon, winter has arrived in our corner of  the world. It's cold with no prospect of a warm-up for at least a week. In fact, we're looking forward to snow tonight—at least an inch of measurable, accumulating actual snow.

We may be living in denial, but we are loath to give up painting the beauty of autumn. And it's not just one lone holdout. We seem to have gotten back into mind-meld mode; you'll see how we're painting in pairs (or trios). For instance, we are all about trees (of course! It's fall, isn't it?). Ellen starts with an entire very colorful forest.

While Alan adds a lone tree to his foreground.

Tony, too, paints a single tree, but his is a 400 year old olive tree in Greece.

Zooming in even closer, Mohammed and Abla concentrate on single branches, but they fill them with different objects. Here, Mohammed adds three colorful birds to his bare branches...

...and Abla paints lovely magnolia flowers and buds.

And just when you think you can't zoom in any closer, Hector paints a single leaf, meticulously examining every vein, setting it against an energetic background that calls to mind swirling, falling leaves.

Vivian, too, brings us colorful, swirling fall leaves. But she adds a beautifully furry squirrel, no doubt storing nuts for the winter ahead. Sigh!

And the communal thinking doesn't end there! Even when we aren't painting trees, our thoughts are still on nature. Here, Madeleine begins to describe the ocean in Turkey.

Marva begins work on an ocean, too, but hers flows under a wonderfully active sky that looks like something Van Gogh might have done.

Bill, too, paints water. However, this time, the water is in a flooded street during a flash summer storm. Still, bad weather made for a beautiful painting. Just look at the lovely reflections and intriguing point of view.

Bill's also fearlessly experimenting. Here he combines sketching, digital art and watercolor in a lovely abstract.

Ken's urban landscapes also span the gap between representational and abstract art. Unfortunately, we didn't get a photo of his finished #14 in his latest series (you'd have loved it, we assure you), but here's the beginning of #15. Of course, it's going to get a whole lot more colorful, so keep watching this space.

Mark starts with the same minimal colors to sketch a pear.

And, just to show how serious we are about color, watch here how Steve spent hours of time and pages of his sketchbook in search of the perfect shades of green....

... for a pair of bromeliads (sketch below). Feel free to refer back to the color swatches to see how Steve uses them to paint sunlit leaves and dried out ones.

Elaine, too, spent her day experimenting, but with paper, not color. The painting of Berthe Morisot (after Manet) is painted on Yupo, not paper. Yupo is a synthetic paper that takes paint very differently than paper, as you can see here.

And she's not the only one of us interested in people. Susan adds her family and friends to her paintings of Lurie Garden (this is crystal clear in real life; our photographer's skill leaves something to be desired)...

 ... and the mountainous Philippine summer capital.

Finally, we know you want one last look at John's drawing. Like Susan above, his art is all about storytelling. And here, every square inch contains a different story. Enjoy!'re invited! As many of you know, we've been following and promoting the DePaul Community Chorus (our very own Steve is a member). They are a 150-member chorus and present three free—yes, you read that right—concerts every year. It's time for the first concert of the season, so save the date. Bring Brass II happens on Sunday, November 23 at 4pm. Besides the large chorus, there is a full brass ensemble, along with organ and percussion. This concert will be held at St. Paul's church at Orchard and Fullerton. And it is absolutely free! Click on the poster to learn more about this concert, the rest of the season and even hear selections from previous concerts.

See you next week!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

November 8, 2014

It's been a somewhat confusing day today. The morning was cold and gray, turning bright and sunny for the afternoon. Meanwhile, we're bracing for a cold week ahead.... with snow! Yes, they are even using the words "polar vortex" again.

And like the winds of November, there are all kinds of themes and ideas swirling through our classroom today—but these are all good. Nothing to dread here! In fact, there's so much going on, we're going to get right to it right now....

We begin with something a little different. Today, our circle was presided over by a stained glass portrait. Beautiful, isn't it? And it had a perfect reason for being there, too. It's based on a watercolor self-portrait of Mississippi artist Walter Anderson, masterfully executed by Alan, one of our own watercolor artists. Have you noticed how we attract all kinds of different artists through the years? We've featured artists who work in acrylics, pastels, oils, even textiles—and now, glass.

As for the rest of us, we continue our fascination with autumn. Vivian is experimenting with a new set of watercolor cakes. Apparently they work just perfectly to capture this adorable red squirrel perched on a lawn among colorful autumn leaves.

Leaves were popular with many of us today. Greeta contrasts colorful leaves with cool gray stone in a cemetery...

... while Madeleine tries her hand at new techniques. She sponges the leaves and features a bloom to highlight the rise of the foreground hill.

Alan (yes, the Alan of stained glass renown) paints trees and their reflections in a Michigan lake. Having seen his glass, it's no wonder he has such a sure hand with color.

Mark, too features the colors and leaves of fall in a seasonal mashup with gym shoes and architecture. 

Hector switches to colored pencils for this study of a single fall leaf. This marks the beginning of his work with The Plan. We're always excited to see the results of The Plan; after a series of steps, the final paintings always mark a quantum leap for our artists. And Hector is already starting with a distinctive viewpoint—notice the energetic marks in all his work? So tune in to see how this comes out.

It's "study" day all around today. Having finished a major painting, Steve does thumbnail sketches of bromeliads and orchids preparatory to his next set of paintings. Way to use elements of The Plan!

And Bill continues with larger color studies of his pathway. Still using The Plan, he varies the saturation, values and hue, trying to perfectly define his intent in paint. Which is your favorite?

And here, he starts another study. This is a flooded corner in Chicago (Foster and Broadway, to be exact) during recent torrential rains. While we love the reflections and the feel of the storm, we can't wait to see where this goes after The Plan.

Our next two artists took their inspiration from Chinese brush painting. They both have elegant composition and painterly brushed leaves and branches. Abla uses complementary colors to add delicate blossoms...

... and Mohammed adds a bird with brightly contrasting plumage to his crisp branches.

Marva is also beginning a new painting today, full of color. Look at this sky! It moves like a Van Gogh, doesn't it? And we still have pounding surf to look forward to. Keep watching this space.

Speaking of pounding surf, Susan takes us below the ocean (okay, the surf probably wasn't pounding on the day she went snorkeling) to share all the lovely fish and coral she saw. Also beautiful, colorful and full of movement.

Using only the bright blue of the sky, the dusty beige of the mountains and building and the vibrant green foliage, Tony celebrates his vacation in Greece with this beautifully minimalistic cityscape. Look at the depth—incredible, isn't it?

Ken is on #14 of his building series, but he uses bright colors and a flat plane to describe his view. (By the way, neither the real buildings nor the painting have that strange curve. Must be the photographer!)

Elaine, like Tony, uses a minimal palette for her buildings. And, like many of us, she's working on quick studies. Here she finishes a study for her last large painting (strangely enough, since most of us do the study before the painting).

And she uses the same colors to describe the glaring morning sun under the train tracks in a Chicago alley.

What's with our new people lately? They are some of the quickest, most prolific artists we've seen. And they're good, too! You really need to watch them. Here's our latest, Victoria, beginning with a wonderful plaid. It actually looks like a woven plaid, doesn't it?

She moves on to a deeply saturated color wheel...

... and explores the relationships between colors, particularly complementary colors...

... culminating in the famed "paper towel" exercise.  Now that she's successfully done this one, she's on the road to becoming an old master. Great job, Victoria.

See you all next week. We'll have more great paintings, along with news about concerts and other goings-on.