Saturday, December 17, 2016

December 17, 2016

It's the last class of the year and we saw the year out in grand style. Greeta brought her renowned kolacky, mini-pixies and even coffee. Our swap-o-rama featured mediums, brush holders, brushes, paints and more. We blame our sparse showing on the fact that winter is officially here. Susan's painting proves it! You can see the Christmas lantern hanging on her porch early this morning, while her husband valiantly shovels snow. It's our favorite part of winter when the last few leaves cling to some of the trees and the soft white blanket of snow sparkles under the holiday lights. Even Tony is dressed for the season in red and green!

These may not be Christmas trees, but you have to admit we love to paint trees. Here, Bill finishes his painting from last week...

... before doing another study. This one is more successful in depicting the depth of the scene. We love the texture of the leaves and the light spilling through the trees.

In this painting, Bill uses trees as a beautiful background. The foreground people are walking a labyrinth. There's something philosophical about how they seem to be walking in different directions, but ultimately they are on the same path, going the same direction. But even if your mind doesn't go to philosophy, this is a wonderfully composed painting with skillful color choices.

Greeta is painting portraits, too (another subject dear to our hearts). Here, she's working in her sketchbook, testing colors and doing a preliminary study....

... in preparation for this painting. It's based on a photo from pre-war Vienna. The little girl is grown up now and living in the American Midwest, but the sense of time and place is already very strong in this.

Elaine is also painting portraits... but she hasn't gotten far enough for you to tell what's going on.  Take our word that there are two little boys, a computer and a desk. Beyond that, you'll have to come back next year!

Erika has been very busy lately. She's finished her watercolor of the National Geographic cover from last week...

... before moving on to this acrylic tribute to Simone de Beauvoir. The painting is a commissioned piece and includes her date of birth, date of death, and a quote, in addition to the portrait of the famed feminist. We love the colors and the background patterns and we're sure her client will be thrilled.

If that wasn't enough, Erika tried her hand at gouache.  Gouache is opaque watercolor, but the opacity lets the colors glow against the black background.

And today, she was late to class; yet Erika still managed to crank out this lovely little painting of ducks. Aren't the colors and the water lovely?

Water is one of the more difficult subjects out there, but you couldn't tell by looking at Madeleine's paintings. Look at the layers and the colors—you can just see the reflections in the murky water, as well as getting a hint of what lies beneath.

This is a shining example of how to use color paths, even if the photo colors aren't quite right. Madeleine's Irish landscape uses pen and ink to draw focus to the cityscape. But also notice the way the bands of greens and oranges work to create focus. Just cover the framing bit of foliage at top left to see what we mean. Not the same, is it?

Speaking of colors, here's another masterful use. Alan paints a variety of cabbages from a farmers' market. It may look like only green and purple, but notice all the colors he's used. Who would have guessed vegetables could be so interesting?

Ken's latest series just proves our point. This is the last of the corn series. In this final (and most abstract) painting of the series, Ken uses color and pattern to create a very subtle shift between foreground and background. It's one of our favorite series yet. If you'd like to see them all together, you're in luck! Ken will be exhibiting his Corn paintings in January/February at Ten Cat. Keep watching for your invitation.

What's next for Ken? We're not sure about his next series, but we end our post, our class and our year with Ken's ever-popular Holiday Greetings painting. It's not finished, and we know he's running out of time, but he's never disappointed us yet.

Right about here is where you might expect to see a picture of us, smiling and wishing you good cheer. And it would have been a fine picture, too, with all of us in colorful Santa hats (provided by Susan—Thank you, Susan!). Somehow, however, we got distracted and forgot to take the picture. Sorry!

And so, from all of us, best wishes for a wonder holiday season. Thank you for your support this year, and be sure to join us on January 21, 2017 when our class and our blog resume.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

December 10, 2016

Winter snow warnings and Ken in a Santa hat passing out Hershey Kisses—yes, it's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas! Follow along for some wonderful seasonal paintings, as well as paintings of people, places and things we hold dear. We begin with Greeta's amaryllis. She's managed to capture the shapes and textures of this quintessential December flower, hasn't she?

And did we mention that we seem to be on a new kick? That's right! We have fallen in love with edges—particularly as described by the pen and wash technique. In this softer take, Greeta is using a Tombow marker to outline this lovely bouquet. And the color is a warm sienna, rather than the typical black.

You know how we love to peek inside each others' sketchbooks, right? Well, here's Greeta's. She's done a series of paintings of this still life, all using variations on the line and wash with her sienna marker. Lovely, isn't it?

Alan is also experimenting with line and wash here. He's using a more defined line than Greeta, but that's where the "typical" ends. Get close and look at how Alan uses line both under and over his washes to create both edges and pattern. The lines aren't perfectly straight; nor are they the same width.

Alan goes back to watercolor on Yupo as he begins this painting of cabbages (yes, we love our produce, too!). We love the colors and can't wait to see how this finishes.

Madeleine is also painting with line and wash in this Irish cityscape. For her, it's an old favorite style. Notice how each of our artists has their own take on the technique? For Madeleine, the lines are delicate, perfect and even. The washes are exactly contained in the lines, too.

Here's another Irish cityscape, but in a different style. This time, Madeleine emphasizes the textures of the stone wall and the thatched roof. They are wonderfully tactile, aren't they?

You'll have to trust us when we tell you that the color and finish on this one are much better in person. Madeleine has painted the magnificent Cliffs of Moher, using acrylic on canvas. The colors are vibrant; the finish is shiny and you really get the sense of the towering cliffs.

Tony has also painted a vacation scene, but his soft palette imparts a vintage feel we love.

We also have to issue a correction. Previously, we mentioned that one of Tony's sketches used no pencil; that he started in directly with paint. Unfortunately, we were misinformed—by our own teacher, too! If you look closely, you'll see some pencil in the sketch below, but not in the church above!

Another sketch by Tony, this one definitely uses pencil as he sketches a group of seven men in a train station. We love the composition and the story we can already see in each character. This will be wonderful when it's finished!

We did mention how we loved our sketchbooks, didn't we? Bill is using multi-media paper to do color studies of a sequence of waves hitting the shore. Ultimately, he's planning to frame and display three paintings as a triptych. You can see how sketches and studies guarantee success, can't you?

Bill finished his painting of a night sky over a Cozumel resort. The sky is darker and moodier than you see on screen, contrasting beautifully with the golden glow of the resort buildings. This is another one you have to see in person!

And this is why we do studies! Bill's trees below revealed to him some things he'd do differently next time.... as well as some things he loves and will do exactly the same. For instance,  he's succeeded at "tree holes" where we can see branches and sky through the leaves. And that is not easy to do!

Ken's final (?) in his corn series is the most abstract and ties into our "line and wash" theme. He's outlining the shapes to separate foreground and background, but he's using watercolor, not actual ink. 

Like the rest of us, Erika is into produce, people and color. She loved the colors of this National Geographic cover and is painting her first in a series.

Elaine almost gave up on this small painting of a baby. She tries to finish every painting, no matter how bad it looks in the middle stages, hoping to either salvage the painting or learn something in the process. In this case, she experimented with pencils to add definition. And it's still another version of the line and wash that we all seem to be into lately.

Michael's conceptual and philosophical painting is of the sun and moon together. And when they are together, they will think for you! 

Luciana is painting holiday cards for her friends. Look at each quadrant separately and you'll be amazed and amused. From the sophisticated trees to the adorable bear in a sweater, we are jealous of Luciana's friends.

Susan dropped by to share holiday greetings...and a painting... before rushing off to another party. In this colorful mashup, she's combined a perfectly shaped and decorated tree (in front a bank on Clark Street) with a sparser, but equally well decorated tree (on Ashland). Then, Susan added gently falling snow to make a lovely holiday scene.

We have one more class before the year-end break. We'll use this time for our popular Swap-o-rama. It's a guilt-free way to clear our painting kits and make room for new acquisitions. Here's how it works—anyone who wants to participate can bring in one or more items that just don't work for them. This can be anything from paper to brushes to accessories to tubes of paint. We put all the "lost toys" on a table and everyone is free to take whatever they would like to try. This is always fun! Don't miss it!  In fact, Greeta brought in an early pile of goodies today; we all swept in and the swap table was clean in minutes.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

December 3, 2016

There was a definite chill in the air today. It's winter in Chicago! If we didn't know how hardy and resilient Chicagoans are, we might suspect that's why we were missing some of our artists. But we know better. Meanwhile, we begin with another sign of the season. If it's December and it's winter, it must be Christmas. And so, Susan painted a lush poinsettia... before she had to leave early for a Christmas party!

But that doesn't mean we can't take a look back at the last of the fall foliage. Alan uses the changing colors as inspiration for his continuing experiments with Brusho. Brusho is a kind of  dry crystal pigment. Just add water and it bursts into color! Below is a painting using pure Brusho on translucent Yupo.

Before Alan moves to traditional watercolor paper to paint a tree with ink and wash in traditional watercolors.

Here are two interesting paintings by Alan. Same subject.... same Brusho colors.... just a different support. First, here's Yupo....

... and here's the painting on traditional watercolor paper. Notice the difference in how each accepts the pigment. Which is your favorite?

Alan finishes his landscape below. He's using both Brusho (for the bright colors) and traditional watercolors. We love the composition and the colors in the stone wall.

Madeleine is also painting a landscape with stone accents and a lovely composition. Notice the ripples and reflections in the foreground and the pops of color in the boats against the trees and stone bridge. So calm and serene.

Here, Madeleine has begun to paint a texture-rich painting of thatched Irish rowhouses. Besides the thatched roof, there is a lot of texture in the wall and street. We're anxious to see how this progresses (or if Madeleine will quit now and call it Irish Cottages in a Snowstorm).

Bill is also painting landscapes. Here he revisits a painting he did of the Botanic Garden. We love the colors in the leaves and the reflections in the water.

Here, Bill finishes up the Irish church he started last week. Look closely at the lovely texture in the roof and how he used drybrush and an unexpected color to achieve this. We love what he's done here.

Finally, Bill paints an incredible sky over a Cozumel resort. It's even more beautiful in person than on screen. He's planning to add more details and values to the buildings in the foreground. Come back next week for an update.

Elaine concentrated on the building (actually, just a small portion of the facade of the Art Institute). Her only nod to sky are the two small pigeons perched on the carving and the arch. She's also used only two colors for this sketch, but they are not what you'd think. Perhaps in a nod to the season, she's used red and green. Get closer and see for yourself.

From cold stone in winter, Elaine moves to a baby in summer. As you can see, she hasn't gotten much farther than the drawing and a light wash of color, so we'll check back next week for more.

Greeta is also painting summer... in this case, a painting of her as a little girl with her father. We love the straw hat and especially the hair. You can just see the sun glistening on her red hair. Beautiful!

Alan isn't  our only experimenter. Here is a page from Greeta's sketchbook. She's sketching a still life to try out water-soluble markers for outlines. Zoom in—this is exquisite.

 Winter spells the end to the corn season.... except for Ken! He's taking his corn series one step further with this painting of dried corn stalks. We love the color palette!

One more "dried corn" painting for Ken. But here, he's moving to the abstract, painting only the interesting shapes he sees.

Michael finished three paintings today. Each one has a story and is far more complex than originally meets the eye. Here is an apple, which rules man and woman.

This minimal banana is also majestic and impressive. We can see how it is the ruler of all fruit.

And finally, Michael paints a Chinese temple with a single worshiper, lighting a single candle.

We mentioned earlier that some of us were missing. Sara, for instance. But she has a great excuse—she's in Paris! And while she was visiting the Musée d'Orsay, she thought of us! As you know, we have our occasional Saturday group sketches, and many of us carry and use sketchbooks. Sara noticed and shared some sketches from Pierre Bonnard. As you can see, he also carried a sketchbook...and used it!

Here are some of his "feeling" sketches. Notice the gestural quality of his sketches...

... and how the marks express emotion.

Here is one of Bonnard's sketches, this time of a woman bathing...

... and in a more finished version.

And with that, we leave you with best wishes for the holiday season with this photo from the front page of the Chicago Tribune. Yes, it's our own Ken, wearing his Santa cap and Cubs hoodie. What says Christmas in Chicago better than this?