Monday, March 14, 2016

March 12, 2016

You're invited

We may be on Spring break, but that doesn't mean the art stops!

You are cordially invited to the free Spring concert by 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. Requiem happens on Sunday, March 20 at 3pm. This concert will be held at the DePaul Concert Hall (a lovely converted church) at Belden and Halsted. And it is absolutely free!

Duruflé: Requiem
Sunday, March 20, 2016, 3pm
DePaul Concert Hall
800 West Belden, Chicago

Click on the poster to learn more about this concert, the rest of the season and even hear selections from previous concerts.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

March 5, 2016

It was a cold, gray day today and we took our photos under the ghostly green lights in the solarium. Sadly, that explains the strange green cast to all our photos. We apologize in advance for the color. But there is still plenty to enjoy (including the birthday cupcakes, celebrating Vivian's birthday. Yum!). We are still fascinated with portraits, as you can see. Vivian has finished her man, who appears deep in thought.

...and has begun to sketch an equally classical woman. Ignore the color above. Both these portraits have the monumental, solid feel of Picasso's Mother and Child. Seriously, look for it next time you're at the Art Institute.

Melissa has put the finishing touches on her painting and matted and framed it, preparatory to sending it to the subject's family. Again, the color is much better in real life.

Here, Sara begins with a soft color wash for her dual portrait. In a sort-of mini-theme, there have been technical difficulties we've had to overcome. Sara used workable fixative to prevent the graphite lines from smudging. It did that, but it also affected the way the paper took the paint. Still, it doesn't seem to have slowed her down, has it?

Steve too has experienced a slight problem. Look at the merman's left shoulder. That's not a birthmark, that's some issue with the paper scarring. Rather than give up in disgust, Steve's determined to save his painting. We're sure he'll be successful, and we'll be watching carefully to see how he does it.

Elaine's portraits are coming along, too. Again, we apologize for the color cast and assure you that child is not jaundiced.

Remember our assignment from last week? To bring in a painting we consider "good." Melissa has done so below and, in the process, is at the forefront of our latest trend.... gold! Notice the nails? That's shiny gold paint. In this triptych, she's hit all the things we defined as elements of a good painting. Kudos!

Glen is experimenting with watercolor pencils in the streetscape below. That may not be gold, but the golden yellow cast is on trend for us... and he's also incorporated elements we agree make for a good painting. (Don't ask for an explanation! We discussed this at length and, in a rare instance, actually asked to see the reference.)

Madeleine's streetscape is also drenched in yellows and golds and features a graphic lampost. And we love the perspective.

It's hard to see, but there is gold paint in this Istanbul church interior. Madeleine bought it specifically for this painting and we're eager to see how it comes out.

No gold paint here, but Bill's experimental abstract feels like Klimt, doesn't it? We can almost see Klimt's typical gold background.

Isaac's background feels like burnished gold. This is another experiment; in this, he's using watercolor pencils.

Here's another burnished gold background by Isaac, framing a subtly beautiful white orchid. This would be perfect on a golden Japanese screen.

Nicola's crocus is equally lovely, but almost a negative of Isaac's orchid, with the clear white background and the rich deep petals. All they share is the elegant arch of the stalk... and the fact that they are both excellent examples of botanical painting.

We're all about nature! Even Ken's abstract feels like shoots bursting from the ground. It's spring!

Rosemary's right in line with her textured painting of mushrooms. It may be fall instead of spring, but she's captured the essence of the flora, from the grass to the craggy bark.

Bill's painting of a bridge in Michigan leads us deep into a stand of trees that shares Rosemary's warm autumnal palette.

Ellen's composition is similar to Bill's as she uses a raft to lead the eye into the Chinese landscape. But there the similarity ends. Her palette is bolder and more colorful, as befits the season. And  zoom in to see how the drybrush in the foreground adds sparkle and freshness.

Contrast the marine painting above to Bill's below. The soft, delicate colors suit the mood of the waves rolling onto the beach.

In another landscape, Bill uses layers to emphasize the feel of the city at sunset.

Susan is back from the Philippines and she has a lot to show. Here are some beach scenes from her hometown. And she captured the water without a speck of turquoise!

Like Monet, she painted the same scene at different times, showing a 4pm pre-sunset...

... which quickly changed to a golden sunset at 6pm.

The highlight of her trip was a reunion with her sorority sisters... and the fact that they used her painting on the cover of their memorial book. There is also a spread of 12 of her paintings from her trip to South America inside.

Here are the paintings from the center spread that we haven't seen yet (unless you were lucky enough to get her 2016 calendar). Zoom in for a closer look at each. They range from light-hearted paintings of Susan and Tony dressed as toucans to more serious tributes to the desaparecidos, or disappeared persons.

And lest you think that Susan got off without answering "What makes a good painting?," she said it was one that made you want to be in it.

That's it for now. We'll be off the for the next three weeks, but after all the talk about good paintings, we have homework! We'll be back with deliberately "bad" paintings. (Should be easy, don't you think?) Anyway, we look forward to seeing you when we get back.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

February 27, 2016

Another full day today! Besides the art, we have class dates through the end of the year. And we have another one of our artistic discussions; this time, we try to define what makes a good painting. So, without any further ado, let's get started.

We're still all about portraits, from Vivian's monolithic painting (he just looks large and important, doesn't he?)...

... to Sara's study of the second person in her dual portrait. We love the glasses! She's certainly ready to begin the final painting.

... to Melissa's portrait of a young victim of gun violence for the Faces Not Forgotten project. Enjoy this now as she'll probably be mailing this off before our next class (see last week's post or the link above to find out more). We hope she manages to get a picture to share with us first.

Ellen added the final touches to her sweet portrait of two flower girls. The striking contrast between the fluffy tulle and the richly textured dark background guides the viewers' eyes right to the subject.

Elaine's dual portrait is another study in contrasts—the ages, head sizes, facial orientations and even the skin undertones of the sitters. Here's where the "match your skin tone" exercise would be useful... 

... unlike Glen's painting below. Yet this tour de force captures the feel of Clown White makeup perfectly and hints at the real skin beneath. Look at the composition, the triadic background, the subtle vignetting and the texture of the hair and hat. I have to say it—I am afraid of clowns, yet these two fascinate me.

No skin tone on Steve's merman yet, but zoom in to see another textural masterpiece. This is a great example of Steve using a variety of techniques—but you don't notice the technique, you see rocks, mountains and sea.

Tony eschews photorealistic texture below. Instead, he relies on line and shape to capture the essence of these swallows against a flat blue sky. We love the graphic quality of this.

You can tell spring is around the corner (we hope!). The swallows are returning to Capistrano and a Coopers Hawk was spotted in a Chicago parking lot. Bill took the opportunity to name the hawk D.B. (get it?) and paint it. The bold fresh brushwork suits the subject perfectly!

Definitely spring. Isaac adds a delicate white orchid against the rich golden background. That's a lot of modeling with a tiny touch of color!

Nicola felt the need to paint flowers too. But hers are a far cry from Isaac's subtly elegant orchids. Nicola's exuberant bursts of (complementary) color are stylized, fresh and happy.

And lest you think our newbies have skipped the exercises and vaulted straight through to still life paintings and portraits, here is the noted wet/dry/combo series by Melissa. Strangely we only photographed two of the three paintings, but rest assured there were actually three lovely red onions.

Rosemary added a deep rich background to her still life—and now the lemons and limes positivelyt glow. The pot too, seems richly burnished and, all in all, this has the feel of a portrait by Rembrandt (except that this is citrus fruit).

In start contrast is Bill's high key seascape. He has revisited an old painting and changed the composition. He's wisely kept the moody colors, though, to really give a feel for the space and the atmosphere.

Another seascape with a totally different feel. From her vantage point on a raft, we see mountains, trees and water in China. We love the composition—and notice how well Ellen used what she learned in the "drybrush" exercise?

Ken uses some of the same elements in his abstract. The straight, clear lines stand in sharp contrast to the soft wet background. We couldn't decide if it felt like a view through a misty window (with rainbow mullions) to a building or trees, but we loved it!

Madeleine has started to add color to her urban landscape. We're already enamored with her choice of extreme perspective and now we're in love with the vibrant color choices too. Look at all the variety in the (seemingly) single color.

Question of the week. You may recall "question of the week" from year or so ago, wherein we all answered an art-related question, like "how do you know when a painting is finished?" or "how do you choose your subject matter?" Well, we resurrected that practice; today's question being "What makes a good painting?"

The responses were very interesting. Some of us cited qualities inherent in the painting itself—Steve looks for good value contrast, Madeleine looks for balance and Pat mentions interesting composition. But overall, we seem to have made the distinction between a painting and "art." As Ellen explains it, a painting needs balance and composition, but art evokes something wonderful in your soul.

Most of us feel that a good painting involves more than just the skills and techniques of the artist. There must be a dialog between the artist and the viewer. Even those of us who mentioned value and composition (Pat, Madeleine and Steve) also required an emotional response from the viewer.

According to Rosemary, Tony, and Elaine, a good painting evokes a feeling, emotion or response in the viewer. Isaac and Nicola say a good painting captures the very essence of the subject, and  Ken, Bill and Steve say a good painting draws you in and keeps you coming back, always finding new things without getting bored.

Going one step beyond, Glen says a good painting transports the viewer to another place. And while they are there, they are changed, according to Sara and Melissa, who feel that a good painting teaches or changes something—in the viewer, the artist, or both. Vivian feels the response can include more than an emotional response; it can provoke discomfort or thought. At any rate, the viewer walks away seeing the world differently.

Quite a tall order! Yet, that's what our next assignment is.  Watch us next week as we try to paint a good painting and/or bring in one of our paintings that we consider good. And it doesn't end there—going forward, we're going to try to bring some quality of a good painting to all our art. Keep coming back to keep us honest.

2016 Schedule. In case you need to know when we'll be in session—so you can plan your vacations perhaps?—here's our schedule for the rest of the year. We have only one more class this term—on March 5. After that, here is the schedule:

OFF — March 12, 19, 26
BACK—April 2, 9, 16, 23, 30, May 7, 14
OFF—May 21, 28, June 4
BACK—June 11, 18, 25, July 9, 16, 23, 30 (Off for July 4 holiday)
OFF—August 6, 13, 20, 27, September 3
BACK—September 10, 17, 24, October 1, 8, 15, 22
OFF—No break here!
BACK—October 29, November 5, 12, 19, December 3, 10, 17 (off Nov. 26 for Thanksgiving)

Mark your calendars! Or better yet, join us for any one of these 7 week terms. You'll be glad you did.