Saturday, April 30, 2016

April 30, 2016

Where to begin? With our cold, gray, rainy weather? With the strange temperature extremes in our studio? Or on a happier note—enjoying delicious Greek cookies and Easter eggs, thanks to Tony. No matter how we began, we wound up having a wonderful time. And in the process, it seems we've gone dotty! Read on and see what we mean....

Remember Sara's spring tree from last week? We're including it again for comparison purposes. She started with a fleeting impression from a train, using dots for the buds silhouetted against the morning sun.

Dissatisfied, she returned to the tree to look at it again. She scrubbed out her first attempt and produced the lovely painting below. This tree just glows with early spring warmth. Notice the skillful use of the dots to describe the buds. Tune in against next week to see the progress.

Vivian is not exactly using pointillist "dots" on this sketch of a Japanese maple, but the effect is the same. Again, this spring tree is obviously sketched from life (sorry for the blurry photo—it's the photographer, not the artist) and features colorful buds against stark branches.

Contrast the delicate texture on the sketch above with the smooth flat planes of Vivian's dual portrait. Both of the sitters are painted from life and both bear a strong resemblance to the subjects. We love this—the composition, the relationship and the promise of a backstory.

Another dual portrait, this one is a sketch with color added. The resemblance is already there. And now, Bill is experimenting with layering and subtle color modeling. We can't wait to see what happens when he switches to a stronger paper that can stand up to the multiple layers and scrubbing.

While he didn't exactly use pointillism to finish his spring painting below, Bill did rely heavily on texturing techniques like strong, active lines—as well as the dots, of course.

Ken is also into landscapes, finishing the one he began last week. We love the progression from moody softly striped sky through the more defined stripes, all the way to the pointillist foreground.

In his current series, wherein he revisits old series, Ken has returned to his first love and chosen the train painting below. In an interesting twist, he plans to use the original not just as inspiration, but as the base of his new painting. Using a technique Seurat did (again with the dots!), Ken plans to overlay the smooth washes below with more active dots. Come back and see how this progresses.

Ellen is also painting landscapes. Here a deer stops for a drink near a lake in Wisconsin. We love the contrast between the smooth water and the active dry-brushed trees.

 More dots! In this brilliantly conceptual piece, Ellen describes a trip to China. There is a snowglobe with a temple juxtaposed against the famed terra cotta warriors—all contained within yet another snowglobe.  

Zoom in to see the finely textured stone walls on Tony's castle. More dots! The limited color scheme makes these very subtle, but no less effective for all of that.

Elaine is also using a limited palette to describe stonework. But she's using complementary colors instead of an almost monochromatic scheme. Her brushwork is also more exuberant; while there are distinct brushstrokes, none of them are as small as a dot.

Perhaps you've noticed that we love to paint water and sky. Also that we don't have to go far from home to find a subject. Below, Madeleine paints both Foster and Montrose Beaches—for those who can't choose a favorite. Look at the beautiful sky, the colorful clouds and the weeds in the foreground walk. We love it!

Even though it isn't finished, we know we're going to be just as fond of Madeleine's painting below. The towers are beautifully modeled with a striking graphic quality, especially contrasted with the stonework on the wall.

You may not recognize the Tibetan scene below as Marva's. There is none of the lush foliage she's known for, but look again—this painting is definitely hers. The textured elements and the composition are exquisite. The yellow in the sky is masking fluid. Watch for it to come off next week to reveal wispy clouds.

Rosemary's back from a cycling trip, in which she actually saw a painted bunting—just like the one she started from a photo before she left. What are the odds? Anyway, look at the brilliant colors. Is it any wonder this bird is called a painted bunting?

And now for some announcements!

You're a kegger, no less!

That's right, our very own Ellen won a keg party in an athletic contest (okay, bags)... and we're all invited. Here are the details. Be sure to mark your calendars:

    Friday, May 6, 2016, 7pm

    Will's Northwoods Inn
    3030 N. Racine, Chicago
It's the Friday before Mother's Day. What better way to celebrate than to take Mom to a Wisconsin-style bar with friends? 

See Susan's artwork... in several venues
That's right, Susan's work can be seen in several places. If you happen to be downtown at Blick's on State Street, look for Susan's art (arrow below). She's one of 35 exhibitors for the Blick Spring show. It will be up through May 9, so stop by soon.
Or, if you are near the Harold Washington Library in downtown Chicago and happen to venture to the third floor, you'll see Susan as one of the exhibitors in the Asian Pacific Heritage Art Exhibit. She has eight watercolors on display throughout May and June.

See you next week!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

April 23, 2016

What a beautiful day! Yes, spring is here and we spent the morning painting people and places dear to us. We start with Bill's salute to spring. Here he's made some refinements to his painting of last week and has plans for more. It still says spring to us!

Sara is also ringing in the season with this painting of a tree. She's just begun, but already we can see the winter silhouette of a tree starting to bud. Notice the soft halo of green against the morning sun.

As for the rest of us, we continue to paint people, getting more daring with each portrait. Here, Vivian adds a bold background that really makes her model pop.

Did we say "daring?" Vivian moves from a painting based on a quick life model sketch to a dual portrait... of her husband and herself, no less--so it has to be right. And to make things even more complicated, she's based her composition on a photo, but painting the faces from life. We can attest to the accuracy so far.

Sara has also finished a dual portrait. Again, it's a portrait of people she knows well and again, it's spot on.

And speaking of daring, Bill goes for a double portrait of friends in this painting. It's wonderfully active and evocative for only his second portrait attempt, isn't it? 

Susan doesn't stop with painting two people. Here's a boatload of tourists in the Philippines as she revisits an old painting. In the process, she segues into our other theme.... places we've seen (or want to).

Bill is also painting water, but his waterway is in Michigan and a lone goose stands watch instead of a boatload of tourists. You can just see the melting ice, can't you?

We love to paint water, don't we? Madeleine begins a scene that's even closer to home. This is Montrose Harbor and we don't know which is more beautiful... the water or the sky.

Isn't this composition incredible? Marva moves the horizon way to the bottom, filling her painting with beautiful active clouds.

Even Ken has been inspired to paint landscapes. The intricately patterned foreground is based on his recent explorations with stripes, and we're looking forward to the trees in the background.

Ken has finished his painting from last week and we love the juxtaposition of the rigid structure with the organic contents. It's a perfect transition to more urban landscapes that follow... this travel painting by Madeleine. We love how the pushcart vendor she's incorporated really gives a sense of scale.

Tony's muted palette is perfectly suited to this iconic castle in winter. The touches of color define the cold grey sky and the stone path.

Ellen's travel painting is equally impressive, but as sunny and colorful as Tony's is austere and minimal. We love how the shadows define the bright sunlight.

Elaine is also painting European stonework, but she's zeroed in on a single arch. Sadly, this isn't anything she's actually seen (yet), but she's so taken by a Sargent watercolor of Venice that she's doing a version to try to figure out his genius. (Good luck there!)

Save the date

Ellen's athletic prowess has won her a kegger... and luckily, we're invited.

Friday, May 6, 2016, 7pm
Will's Northwoods Inn
3030 N. Racine, Chicago
It's the Friday before Mother's Day and what better way to prepare than to spend the evening in a Wisconsin-style bar with friends? 

Until then, happy painting!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

April 16, 2016

Another rather sparse showing today. But we think we know why! In sharp contrast to last weekend, today was a perfect early spring day. It was clear and sunny and beautiful.... a perfect day to play hooky. Those of us who showed up had no regrets, though. We spent time chatting, laughing and, of course, painting.

Today, Madeleine put a new spin on one of our favorite genres, the travel painting.  In the painting below, Madeleine couldn't decide if she wanted to include herself or just paint the Turkish street scene. So she did both! Look closely at the painting below. Madeleine is a small separate cut-out that can be added or moved around on the painting.... or even from painting to painting. We had tons of fun coming up with ideas!

Here's what we mean. Here's Madeleine....
 ... and here's the beginning of her next painting (not to size).

Here's Madeleine standing to the side of her painting, totally out of scale, compared to the figure sketched in the painting. You can thank us now that we thought better of having Madeleine "presenting" each of today's paintings...although it seemed hysterically funny at the moment.

Another travel painting, another dual portrait... this time, it's Susan and Tony posing happily in front of a Phillipine volcano. The volcano is inactive, by the way.

Sara's made some small but telling changes to her dual portrait. She's clarified the shoulder/arm position of her subjects and added background trees. It's amazing how those small changes push the subjects forward and establish foreground/background spaces. We are liking this better each week.

Bill's been hard at work over the last weeks. Here's a sketch from his sketchbook. He loved the soft amorphous quality of these people and wanted to get that feeling in his painting of a spring scene.

Instead, he created the painting below. While he claims not to be completely satisfied with the way the painting failed to match his vision, we count this as a success. We love the Cezanne-like feel, the lush color and the sprightly brushwork. It definitely says spring.

Bill has also finished his Havana street scene below. The people and active shadows add a sense of life that we love.

Vivian is also painting people, but her subject is a monumental portrait. Unfortunately, our color correcting isn't perfect today, so know that this looks much better in real life. Notice how she's bringing the level of detail to match that of the hair? The braid remains a tour de force.

Back to Bill's sketchbook for a misty dreamy travel scene of a place Bill hasn't been to... yet. The style suits the subject admirably.

Tony's nearly monochromatic painting of Chicago makes brilliant use of color to move from the sky through the windmill sculpture to the water.

We're enamored of Ken's latest abstract. The underlying structure is the same as the last few, but the contrast of the organic "windows" with the more rigid bars works very well. Adding interest is the fact that the bars to the right have been softened with water spatter.... accidentally at first, then deliberately. Talk about a happy accident.

Finally, Elaine doesn't have much to show. All she's done is sketch and plan colors. We'll have to wait until next week... although we can tell this looks like a stone carving, so we probably won't see a riot of color. But do join us next week to see more.

And join us next week to see if Pat's fully recovered from her sewing injury. It's been a hard week for her... unable to lift a needle, much less a paintbrush. Speedy recovery, Pat!

April 9, 2016

A cool and grey day greeted us today. Probably why we were small in number, but those of us who came, definitely came to paint. You'll notice that we had two themes going—faraway places and close-to-us people. Here, for instance, Ellen paints a rainy day in Paris. It certainly looks more inviting than the grey, rainy day outside our window.

Marva's back and, as always, can be relied on to take us on a virtual vacation with her incredible landscapes, like this one.

We love painting water, don't we? Tony paints a cold grey day on Lake Michigan. This elegantly simple seascape is very Monet-like in that this scene is obviously oft-observed and well-loved. The painting aims to show it in a particular weather condition—and succeeds admirably.

Susan revisits an old painting to add some of her new colors. This is a omnibus style painting commemorating Phillipine hero Dr. Jose Rizal's visit to America.... particularly Chicago. It includes clips from his diary and letters, historical scenes and information about Dr. Rizal. Zoom in and look closely.

Vivian continues our "people" theme. Based on her sketch of a life model, the painting contrasts flatly sculpted skin with wonderfully textured hair.

Elaine finishes her dual portrait. The sketchy background and clothing contrasts with the more closely painted faces, causing the eye to zero in on her subjects.

Sara is also painting a dual portrait. We love watching this come to life as she adds color, then takes it away, then adds more. The resulting layers of transparent color softly model the faces.

Ken's abstract is richly patterned and active. Notice how he uses the bits of blue to create focus against the golden background... or is it the foreground? It doesn't matter though, as our eyes keep moving back and forth.

Our newest addition, Carlina, is hardly a newbie, as you can see. We love her take on the beginning exercises, from the off-side plaid... the triadic color wheel....

... to a stacked exploration of tints, tones, and shades.

And, as if that weren't enough, here are some of Carlina's prior works. She's painted primarily in acrylics, but we think she'll have no trouble moving to watercolors. Just look at the landscape and floral below

That's it for today! See you next week.