Saturday, June 27, 2015

June 27, 2015

It's officially summer! You can tell by the calendar and the weather, not to mention our watercolors. One more sign of the times is the attendance. Lots of people on vacations and out enjoying the beautiful day. Too bad, too. Those of us who were present got a double treat—Pat's birthday buffet and a chance to witness "the perfect paper towel." It's true! Lydia nailed the paper towel color-matching exercise in no time flat. And it wasn't just close, it was perfect. Take it from Ken. He attests he's never seen better in 25 years, so you know it's true. This is such a feat we're going to make you wait for it until the very end. Trust us, it's worth the wait. So let's begin.

Most of our thoughts turn to vacations and the great outdoors. Abla is no exception. Here, she's finished the fountain at the Detroit Zoo. We love the limited palette, the beautiful trees and water and the spray from the bear fountain.

Madeleine, too, is painting vacation pictures. Here, she sketches a houseboat in Amsterdam. We can't wait to see the water in the foreground, her forte.

Another vacation picture from Madeleine, this one features a cloudscape from Costa Rica. In this beautifully atmospheric vista, we seem to be actually standing above the clouds, looking at softly rolling mountains. Madeleine credits the soft edges and delicate modeling to an experiment with gum Arabic. A great use of the medium—and this is exactly why so many of us are fond of experimenting. You never know when you're going to succeed like this!

Marva's landscape is an equally panoramic vista, but she's painting the Great Smokies. Notice the crisp foliage that conveys the essence of fall. We love the colors and the depth she conveys. But that's not all—beyond the trees are a vast expanse of mountains and sky. This is going to be breathtaking!

One more sweeping mountain vista for your consideration. This time, we're in Peru where John's re-imagined temple stands solidly before a real mountain range and billowing clouds. Look closely. We love the contrast between the solidity of the manmade structure and the animated mountains and clouds.

Bill is also in a vacation mood. Below is an old painting of a beach scene at sunset. While this successfully creates a very distinctive mood...

Bill revisits it below. He steps back to give the colorful sky added prominence. At the same time, he doesn't lose any of the interest in the chairs, while the shadows of the people add to the mood. There's a lot to be said for working in series!

And speaking of series, here Bill revisits his still life of last week. He's moved in even closer to focus on the sparkling bottles and peppers against the inky background. The changed perspective creates a totally different mood.

We're all interested in perspective lately. Steve finishes up his beautifully composed cityscape below. The shadows are deeper and the plants on the balconies add life to the painting... as well as being Steve's signature! Look closely at the shadows, particularly the shafts of light between awnings. Those perfect little slivers of light totally define the shadows.

More perspective below, this time from Ken. He's begun sketching the next in his Ten Cat series. The architectural perspective is classic, while the sign stands in sharp contrast to pull focus. Enjoy the bones of this painting now. You know there will be an explosion of color to come!

Like this one! Here Ken directs the viewer as we look through the back door, through the length of the bar and out the front window onto the street. The colorfully patterned style is perfect for bricks, wood and the stained glass at the front. And we'd be remiss if we didn't point out the doorknob and plate. Yes, it's a cat!
Like the rest of us, Mark is painting in a series. Here he paints his "toe" shoes against his Wilson basketball. We love the coordinating blue colors and the lively composition.

Susan's back to her Venus/shower/flowers series. Here she paints roses and strategically places the leaves, moving from Venus to Eve. The simple blue background is the perfect complement to the colorful textured roses.

Elaine, too is working in a series. These vintage vignettes are sketchily painted to evoke the feel of a warm summer day. The warm tone of the colors add a touch of nostalgia.

We're getting closer to the perfect paper towel—a result of some breakthroughs Lydia made in the color exercises. Look at this lovely color wheel. She's made notes to remind herself of what she discovered. This is going to be a useful reference.

Here's her complementary color study. She was amazed to see the range and variety of neutrals she was able to achieve with just two long as they are the right colors.

And here's what we've all been waiting for... the perfect paper towel. To orient you, the real paper towel is on the right; Lydia's perfectly matched swatch is on the left. There's no other way to describe it than "perfect;" the color, tone, intensity and value are spot on. And how did she do it? Using what she learned in the complementary color chart above. It only took her two swatches, too—a 25-year class record. Kudos, Lydia!

Artist of the Day. More books on the library table today. Escher was back (we're fascinated with perspective, after all). Also, a book on Edouard Vuillard. Vuillard was a French post-impressionist/Nabi. His skill with pattern inspires us (and reminds us of Ken's). Finally, we had Proud of Our Feelings, a children's book, written and beautifully illustrated by our own Lindsay Leghorn. This was an autographed copy, no less!
Happy Birthday, Pat! Yes, we had a birthday buffet for Pat today. Her birthday is actually tomorrow but that didn't stop us from celebrating today with mango and tropical fruit ice cream bars and mocha cake, courtesy of Susan, and peanut butter kisses made by Pat's own true love, Kris. Everything was absolutely delicious!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

June 20, 2015

Can you believe we're nearing the end of June already? Summer seems to be the ideal season for watercolor and we're making the most of it—at least when we're not vacationing. Summer is also the time for summer reading and, appropriately enough, our library table is back. Scroll through the paintings to see who made the table this week.

We begin, though, with what we feel is the most difficult genre—the portrait. Although you'd never know it by the results we've achieved. First up is one of our newly advanced "old masters." Glen paints this incredibly moody and evocative portrait... from a tv screen capture, no less. That's skill! Notice how he's managed to direct the focus? And how well he handles shadows? Lovely!

Sara's self-portrait is equally skillful. She uses color to set a pensive mood here. Despite a soft and minimal palette, she's created a real person. Don't you want to know what she's thinking about?

Same subject, same pose, but what a difference the palette makes. Here, the colors are warm and sunny, and Sara uses temperature to create contrast. This is a perfect example of why artists paint in series. Monet had his haystacks... Sara has her annual selfie (in paint).

Mark, the master of the mash-up, manages to combine a self-portrait with a portrait. The hockey stick represents him (part of his self-portrait through objects series) and frames a portrait of Ken at Tuesday's Cubs game. Notice the ballpark background? And the delicately painted bear cub? We can't decide if it's going in for a kiss or a kill. Finally, of course, there is a topical reference to the Stanley Cup. Go Hawks!

Elaine expands her portrait to include two people (and a car). In this sweetly nostalgic painting, she keeps colors, brushstrokes and detail to the bare minimum. As a result, the subjects become iconic. They are more than her parents, they are every young couple from that era.

Like Elaine, Susan's couple transcends the specific (herself and her husband) to become everyman. The elegant couple is attending a gala ball that includes dignitaries and beauty queens. And decorating the front of the stage is deadly nightshade. No, it's not a commentary on the proceedings; it's just a lovely volunteer flower Susan picked up to paint. We just learned the name from Steve.

Flowers seem to be another of our themes. Isaac's tulips are a beautiful combination of animation and solidity. The background appears to be in motion and provides a perfect framework for the strong and sturdy flowers. Isaac's style is reminiscent of Diego Rivera, with the same flatly painted objects appearing so solidly 3D.
Marva is another master of flora, but she pulls back from a single plant to paint an entire Smoky Mountain landscape containing many different plants... not to mention mountains, mist and a fiery sunset. We love how Marva's deft touch lets us identify different plants by their texture alone. We also stand in awe of her rich colors and can't wait to see this progress.

Abla also bravely tackles an entire landscape, even adding water! This fountain is in the Detroit Zoo and features all of our most popular themes—landscapes, plants, people (see the people lining the rail at the fountain edge?), animals and man-made structures. And she's handled all of them successfully with a limited palette.

Madeleine finished her urban landscape below. Like Abla, she features water in the foreground, except her water has the murky sheen of a European canal. We love the skilled textures. And she's also tapped into our class love of experimentation, using Gum Arabic to make the water feel so shimmery and wet. It worked!

Madeleine then moved to a Costa Rican cloudscape. In contrast to the precise stones, bricks and tiles of the city, these clouds and mountains are soft and delicate. Zoom in and see how gently modeled the clouds are!

Another cloudscape, but Bill's is animated and energetic. He's carefully flattened the skyscrapers to allow us to focus on the real star of the show—the billowy clouds moving across the sky.

And in a change of pace from all the movement, Bill painted a still life. The highlights on the bottles really define the shiny glass and the shadow adds depth and mystery.

Steve's urban landscape is in Montevideo, Uruguay. The colors, clouds and shadows give a real sense of place and movement, don't they? And look at the little bit of sunlight spilling through the gap in the awnings. That exquisite touch defines the whole shadow.

John is also into warm and sunny cityscapes. Of course, his no longer exists, but you'd never know it from the drawing. John's deep research and detailed drawing take us right to this temple.

Ken is also into cityscapes... and research. Here's the back door to the Ten Cat, looking through the window from the beer garden. Like the rest of the series, the color and pattern make our eyes linger on the wood and brick. And did you notice the doorknob? That's right! Ken couldn't resist making it look like a cat!

...leading us to another of our themes—cats! We love Mohammed's kitten and we love the setting he's added this week. Mohammed is using his favorite technique, spongepainting, and he does it very well indeed. In his hands, the technique adds sparkle and movement, but doesn't detract from the subject.

Isaac is also painting a cat, but his is much larger and fiercer. Look at those eyes, and the fur! Not to mention the way he's softly vignetted the edges.
Underlying all the art above is skilled color mixing. And Spring's color wheel is no exception. She's nailed the blending, hues, tones, tints and shades—and she's managed to make it look like a hot air balloon in the process!


Spring goes on to explore complementary colors. Just look at the delicate swatches below, and how she creates beautiful neutrals from just two colors.

Artist of the day. As we mentioned, the library table is back! We had three books today, all inspired by work we've done. Ken brought in a book about Diego Rivera, inspired by Isaac's style. Hector's  studies in perspective reminded us of Escher, and there was a book on stage scenery by famous artists. John's temple would fit right in.

More news. Steve's concert was a huge success last week. And save the date for Delores' upcoming show. She'll be exhibiting in the Gallery at Unity Church through the month of July. Delores will be there on Sunday 7/14 and 7/21 from 10am–1pm. The show is open during church hours. If you want to go at any other time, make an appt. with Jay at 773-973-0007. Call Delores, too (773-338-3070) and she'll try to be there. The church is located at 1925 W. Thome (off Ridge Avenue and a block south of Devon).

Saturday, June 13, 2015

June 13, 2015

Week two and there's so much going on! We have themes of the week, clothing of the week (and it's not Pat this time!) and events of the week. So let's start looking and don't forget to keep scrolling all the way through. The clothing of the week is worth the trip—although if you want to see what Pat was wearing, feel free to visit Project Minima (link on the right).

Ken's back but he's been busy since last term. Just look at his breakout work on his new Ten Cat series. Here's the tree in the backyard. It builds on themes from past works (the patterning, the colors, the complements), but it's gone so much farther. The tree is beautifully textured and the fence positively glows.

Inside the bar, there is more color and pattern. Let your eyes wander around the stained glass, the bar surfaces and even the bottles and coolers. There's a lot going on, but none of it is random or purposeless.

And to think that those explosions of color and pattern start here... with a simple drawing and a grid. This is the back door from outside. We are looking inside, through the length of the bar to the street outside. Trust us! And come back next week. You'll see all that and more.

You may have guessed that buildings were one of our themes. In fact, all the "building" people sat together during Showtime! ... the better to see them, my dears. Even John's Incan temple and palace qualified. It may no longer be around, but it feels quite real here, doesn't it?

Abla combines two of our themes... water and buildings (okay, here it's a fountain and stone surround, but it's definitely a structure). She may not have started on either of those things yet, but the drawing is beautifully composed and the trees are exquisite.

More buildings and water! Madeleine's view of Bruges is taken from a boat on a canal in the foreground. We know she can paint water and we love her fine touch with the architectural details. Can't wait to see how this one progresses.

Yes, Bill is also painting buildings on water. (There's a lot of that in the Netherlands and Belgium.) The depth of the shadows under the bridge are wonderful and the stepped gables define the locale.

And here the theme segues from water in liquid state to clouds. Bill starts us off with an energetic cloudscape framed by skyscrapers.

Simultaneously, Hector began painting cloudscapes. Like Bill, his previous series had involved buildings with deep perspective. Unlike Bill's, Hector's clouds are subtle, soft and gentle. It prompted several of us to quote the song, "I've looked at clouds from both sides now...." We got through most of it, too, before Pat moved us along.

Hector also managed this colorful still life, too. He craved a burst of color after all the softly colored clouds.

And though these aren't clouds, they are just as soft and beautifully modeled. Glen's cherry blossoms are crisp and detailed in the foreground and become softer and mistier as they recede into deep space. This is lovely.... much softer and richer than the image on your screen.

We were blown away by Glen's flowers... all the more because he's relatively new. Isaac, from the same class, also did flowers. His are bold and animated, though. The colors are perfectly chosen and the background is reminiscent of a Van Gogh sky. It's alive and the flowers glow against that background!

But that's not all! Isaac was intrigued by a painting of water and attempted his own. Wow! Look at the reflections in the water! And the rich sunny colors of the boat against the deep background.

Susan's into flowers, too. She continues her series of flowers and showers. She's lost the towel and added spots to the cluster of cyclamen. The composition on this one is worth noting, too as the flowers and leaves create a flow to the painting.

Sara's self-portrait series  is also progressing nicely. She's added definition to her first study by adding value, both with paint and watercolor pencil. The complementary colors give focus and interest. She does a lot with very few colors.

Here's another one! Drawn from the same sketch, Sara gets a different feel as she uses warm colors. Her face is slowly emerging from the golden haze. Isn't it incredible how much you can see with such soft colors and shapes?

Mark is continuing his self-portrait series. As we mentioned, though, he is painting himself symbolically through objects used in his many interests. This still life includes a softball (16-inch) and a softball glove, surrounding a harmonica. And yes, he did serenade us before beginning to paint.

Elaine's doing people (another one of our themes of the day), but not a self-portrait. Well, maybe it is a sort of self-portrait after all. This is from an old grainy snapshot of her parents. She's trying for a softly nostalgic feel to this. We'll see if she pulls it off.... of if there are other attempts in this series.

As we mentioned last week, we have two new students... and they are incredible! Two weeks, two exercises completed. And two distinctive styles. Another promising crop of newbies. Here, Lydia does her plaid, taking all her brushes and colors for a try out. Look how the colors blend as she crosses still wet colors with perpendicular brushstrokes.

Here's Lydia's first color wheel. This all comes from only three colors... and look at the rich colors she's achieved by mixing!

Spring uses a #6 round and a 1" flat for her plaid. Look to the right side for a beautiful example of dry brush.

Spring's first color wheel is also great. She manages some lovely mixes and, interestingly enough, also mixes optically on the paper. Look at the triangle, oval and rectangle on the right side. Very Seurat!

We started with cats (well, the Ten Cat series) and had to finish up with the Mohammed's cat series. The drawings are wonderful, the sponge technique adds texture and life. In short, we are as enamored of his cat as he obviously is. We love this series.

We can't resist. There is one more cat item among our promised announcements.
Clothing of the week. It's Ken's t-shirt. Sure, there are 11 cats, not ten, but it's funny and whimsical and unique. It's a gift from his niece (that family gives great gifts. His sister gave him shirts with his own artwork) and has two of this favorite things—cats and hot dogs. It's cats on hot dogs... how can you beat that? This is a close up so you can see the cats (and count them), but rest assured, it's really a t-shirt!
Cats on hot dogs... gotta love it!
You're invited. Our friend Delores, also a former student, has a show coming up. Mark your calendars—she'll be exhibiting in the Gallery at Unity Church through the month of July. The addrss is 1925 W. Thome (off Ridge Avenue and a block south of Devon). Delores will be there on Sunday 7/14 and 7/21 from 10am–1pm. The show is open during church hours. If you want to go at any other time, make an appt. with Jay at 773-973-0007. Call Delores, too (773-338-3070) and she'll try to be there.
Click here for more info
One day only!!!
Concert of the week. Here's a chance to hear Steve and the DePaul Community Chorus in Opera Favorites from France and Spain. It's a free concert on Sunday, June 14 at 3pm at the DePaul Concert Hall at 800 W. Belden in Chicago. Find out more by clicking on the poster to the right. Take it from us—this is a wonderful experience. The chorus is some 150 voices strong and they are incredible.