Saturday, February 28, 2015

February 28, 2015

It's the last day of the term for usand it's beautiful! Sure, it's cold, but the sun makes it feel warmer than it is outside. And despite the sunshine, we had a smallish crowd todaythanks to vacation starts and stops, sinus infections and surgeries. Those of us who showed up, though, all had something to crow about...

Okay, sorry about that one. Couldn't resist. We are starting and ending with non-watercolor works of art. Here's an incredible stained glass rooster by Alan. Notice the rooster's tailfeathers and how much the glass looks like watercolor. And that's actual sunlight shining through the art glass!

The happy mood continued as we all painted "feel-good" things with a song in our hearts. Sing along (to the tune of These are a few of my favorite things) as we look at "donuts and roses and flowers and kittens...." Seriously....

Hector's donuts may be of the plastic Playskool variety, but they certainly make us smile.

Sara couldn't be with us, but she sent photos of flowers she painted long ago. They are both beautiful and springlike and give us something to look forward to. Plus the softly mixed colors are exquisite (still one of Sara's trademarks).

Seems like we haven't had a cute kitten painting in months. Here's Mohammed to remedy that situation. Layla is painted in a perfect mixture of abstraction and realism, but there's no denying how soft, warm and loving she is.

Of course, we can't skip trees.... more of our favorite things. Abla's finished her majestic urban winter tree. It's simply beautiful. No wonder she's painted herself into the picture as a sort of signature.

Alan's trees are as finely textured, but they are summer trees, painted with tremendous control on Yupo (notorious for being difficult to control). You can see the warmth of the sun and the fine details on the bark.

Stands to reason that he'd also enjoy hot press paper (below) as he begins a cozy interior. This is Napoleon House in New Orleans and we're loving the cozy warm browns.

Ken's Wacker Drive windows are some of his favorite things. And we are enamored of the warm "flannel" look he manages to impart to cold steel, glass and stone.

While we're talking about favorite things... can you ever go wrong with children? Mark paints two small children as they play music together. Probably playing our song :-)

Greeta's grandson is obviously one of her favorite things. Just look at the little cutie. Those eyes!

Greeta also manages to capture the joy and energy of Janis Joplin  (below). This stamp could easily become one of our favorites (yes, Janis is really on a stamp!).

Elaine paints her husband on vacation.... a favorite theme of hers (and a favorite person).

We end as we began, with "non-watercolor" art. John has moved from colored pencil to digital as he illustrates a story of his own invention, set in Peru (as you may be able to guess from the llama).

Artist of the day. We begin at the beginning of art with Ken's book on prehistoric art. No names or famous artists, but the cavepaintings are beautiful and full of life.

Taking a break. We are at the end of our term and we'll be taking a slight break. We'll be back on March 21, just in time to celebrate some of our birthdays, so you know we'll be in a good mood. If that's too long to be without us, feel free to explore our archives or visit Ten Cat Tavern while Ken's show is still up.

See you in March!

Monday, February 23, 2015

February 21, 2015

What a beautiful day! Very, very cold, yes...but not nearly as cold as it's been, so we are happy. I think you can tell from our paintings. Looks like we all had a touch of cabin fever, too. We seem eager to be out and about. Keep going and you'll see what we mean. Ken's continuing Wacker Drive series makes the cold wind canyons glow like jewels. Or like an intricately painted Ukrainian easter egg. And look at the windows top left. The screen shot doesn't do them justice, but they truly shimmer.

Who'd have guessed the painting above starts out with a grid like this?

Mark is also painting architecture, but his house is smaller, cozier, and has a snug cottage feeling. Can't you picture a warm fireplace inside?

As we all know, Mark is a big fan of negative space. Below, Bill's mixed media abstract owes a lot to his use of negative space, especially around the border.

Bill also re-visited his urban landscape (with elevated train) from last week. That's one of the benefits of painting in series. Once you know the subject, you are free to interpret. Here, for instance, the emphasis shifts from the movement of the train to the city itself. Beautiful!

Madeleine's architecture is far from the cold and gritty city. And she matches her style perfectly to the subject. These clean, crisp cottages are the epitome of  the word "pristine." Makes you want to start planning a vacation to Costa Rica, doesn't it?

And speaking of series and "epitomes," we feature Ellen's next two paintings. It's love around the world. She's painting the young lovers in various settings. Here the Chicago skyline provides a magnificent backdrop.

And here, we move from the city to nature. The same subjects are in a forest against fall foliage. To be honest, they seem oblivious to the backgrounds, don't they? They only have eyes for each other. Awww... young love!

Greeta is also painting fall, but the setting is Graceland cemetery. Notice how she combines architecture with natural elements like trees and grass? Nice combination!

Another combination of elements, but a different season. Do you recognize the bridge in Monet's garden in Giverny? The impressionistic style suits the subject so well. And who'd have guessed that such a limited palette could be so exuberantly colorful?

Alan is also using a limited palette and combining nature with architecture. Yes, he's using Yupo! Can you believe the deep rich value and texture he's getting with the bark? Set against the soft atmospheric stone, this is going to take Yupo to new heights. Don't be surprised if more of us become converts.

Another tree.... a totally different feel. This exquisite painting features a snow-covered tree in the middle of a downtown street. Zoom in and look at the tree. It feels very Van Gogh, doesn't it? And it's framed perfectly by the lovely soft skyscrapers on the right. We love this painting!

We like our trees, don't we? Here's another one, but this is a summer tree far from the city. The warm sky is the perfect complement to the warmly textured bark. The painting feels like Rousseau and says summer.

We love our pets... as much as we love trees, it seems. Here's a character-filled portrait of Alan's dog Jake. We've had confirmation (from an objective source) that this is a very accurate portrait. And it's on Yupo. Who knew you could work like this on Yupo?

Combining many of our themes of the day, Bill's Costa Rican scene is of cows and cow herons (so called because they hang around with cows in a symbiotic relationship). Look closely for the birds. They don't look like the tall birds we picture as herons.

We end with paintings that make you smile. Ellen revisited an old portrait and added a flurry of brushstrokes to the hair. So apropos for Mardi Gras (even though it was originally for Halloween).

Finally, who doesn't love monkeys? Especially this mother/baby pair. They certainly have personality, even though they are a stone carving. Stop by and visit them next time you're at the Art Institute.... a great destination if you've got cabin fever!

Artist of the day. We had books by and about our own Pat Otto and Kris Dodd. You've seen them before, but it was fun to go back and see Kris' retrospective and Pat's trip to visit her mother and the catalog from her Caged Dresses show. We're hoping there are more books by and about us in the future.... hint, hint, Ken!

Raffle winner! Besides the library table, we had a raffle. Ken won a sketch pad and colored pencils and raffled them off. Ellen was the lucky winner... and we're looking forward to her sketches. Stay tuned, everyone.

A message for all of us who couldn't attend today: Whether it's vacation, illness, recuperation... or just a general reluctance to brave the cold... we missed you! Look forward to seeing everyone next week for the last session of the term.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

February 14, 2015

Happy Valentines Day! Sorry, no candy or valentines today, but we have painted our own warm and loving valentine greetings. It's the next best thing to a bag of conversation hearts.... but easier on the waistline.

And so we begin. To quote Shakespeare, "If music be the food of love, play on...."  But no frills, pianofortes or violins here. Hector's colorful guitar is music stripped to its essence. There's rhythm in every brushstroke.

Alan uses Yupo to paint his self-portrait. And, in the tradition of many fine artists, he's hidden a message. Look at the reflection in the his sunglasses to see a secondary portrait. Yes, it's the apple of his eye. Aww, how sweet!

But lest you think he's getting too mushy, he has another "aww" painting. It's Jake, his dog.

What says "I love you" more than hearts and monkeys? (Elaine and Madeine are trying to start a new tradition.) Elaine's painting of an ancient sculpture celebrates maternal love. It's a sweet simian mother and child.

While Madeleine's capuchin monkey is all about the fun and playful aspects of the day. Don't you love that face?

Suddenly, we seem to have developed a fascination with birds lately. Mark adds a tropical bird to his snow scene.... surrealistic, but beautifully composed. In honor of the day, let's call it the "bluebird of happiness."

Mohammed goes one better, featuring two birds and a butterfly! Take note of the beautiful mottling on the butterfly wings and the bark texture.

What would Valentines day be without flowers? Sara's delicate paperwhites aren't the typical red roses, but they are exquisite.

While we're on the subject of romance, Madeleine is sketching her next painting.... a row of cottages in Costa Rica. What a lovely romantic getaway!

There's romance in the city, too. Abla is beginning to add paint to her urban snow scene. The buildings at right look wonderfully atmospheric. We're eager to see how this progresses.

Bill, too, is working on an urban landscape. We love the train and the delicate skyscrapers in the background.

Ken's skyscraper is less dreamy, but equally seasonal. There is a lighthearted, whimsical quality to this painting that makes the whole building look like shimmering stained glass.

Can a cemetery be romantic? In Greeta's hands, yes! This beautiful painting celebrates some intriguing memorials. Like the Taj Mahal, we see these as memorials to love until death.

And in case you were waiting for another one of Greeta's lovely glass paintings, we won't disappoint you! These glass baubles are as sparkly as jewels. So apropos!

The library table is back... with a vengeance! Sara brought a library book featuring the watercolors of John Singer Sargent. Best known for his beautiful oil portraits, he turned to watercolor later in life. And the results are incredible. We were awed by his paintings and his mastery of the medium. Each series was more beautiful than the last--Venice, Bedouins, Florida, landscapes, even World War I. This was truly an inspirational book.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

February 7, 2015

After last Sunday's blizzard, we know you'll appreciate Sara's lovely painting of a pot of paperwhites. Besides being beautiful and delicate, it reminds you that Spring is coming, doesn't it?

Alan is drawn to spring too in his self-portrait. Notice the magnolias budding on the tree behind him? Another thing—zoom in close and notice the reflection in his sunglasses. Yes, it's Greeta! And yes, this is painted on Yupo! We're very impressed with how well he takes to this sometimes problematic paper.

Still working on Yupo, Alan uses its unique characteristics to paint a portrait of Jake, his dog. Look at the texture on that fur! Makes you want to reach out and pet him, doesn't it?

But he's not a one-support painter. Here Alan uses standard watercolor paper to paint a beautiful spring green door with a Mardi Gras wreath. Looks like we're all ready for the end of winter.

But while many of us are looking forward to spring, some of us are embracing the winter. Steve's winter scene is of a stand of snow-covered trees reflected in a creek. The quiet water, snowy banks and the hint of color in the sky remind us why we love the peace and serenity of the season.

Abla is also inspired by the beauty of snow on her neighborhood trees. Below, she's started sketching. Come back to see how this progresses.

We just can't get enough trees, can we? Ellen's young lovers are still waiting to be painted as Ellen concentrates on the beautiful fall foliage.

Bill's back with one of his favorite subjects—trees! The landscape below is in Costa Rica and includes trees, mountains and clouds in a vast panorama.

But Bill's equally good at urban landscapes, and at injecting a touch of greenery. Notice the green rooftop gardens against the concrete and glass skyscrapers in the fog. And while you're at it, enjoy the beautifully atrmospheric quality.

Ken's skyscrapers are bright and sunny... not a trace of fog here. We don't know who painted more windows, but we'd rather watch and enjoy both of these paintings than count windows!

These windows are by Madeleine and convey still another vibe. The bright windows and complementary shadows give a spiritual quality to these urban windows.

And then, Madeleine begins sketching a fun new subject. That's right! It's a capuchin monkey jumping onto a boat in Costa Rica. So cute!

With a subject as unlikely as a monkey, who would have thought we'd see two in the same class? Yet Elaine has chosen monkeys too. Hers are not real, though. It's a statue that has intrigued her for a while. No surprise, it makes us smile too.

Greeta continues with her Graceland series. No monkeys here, but plenty of trees, foliage and stone. The yellow lines are masking fluid. Keep watching and they will be removed... all in good time!

We're delighted to introduce a new and wonderful direction for Greeta. She is inspired by colored glass and has begun a series showing glass bottles, orbs and decanters, along with their equally colorful shadows. This series promises to be as breathtaking as her fruit series. We can't wait to see more. Scroll down and see some sketches from this past week alone.

We promised details on Ken's opening at Ten Cat. It was wonderful! There was quite a crowd of people from many areas of Ken's life. All of us enjoyed the paintings (arguably one of his best series yet) and the venue, not to mention the good food and drink. We caught up with friends we hadn't seen in a while, enjoyed ourselves and got home safely before the blizzard. Plus, Ken sold some paintings. All in all, a huge success! If you haven't seen the show yet, drop by Ten Cat Tavern at 3931 N. Ashland Avenue in Chicago. Or, if you can't get there, you can also visit his website.

See you next week!