Saturday, June 25, 2016

June 25, 2016

It's summer in Chicago and our thoughts seem to be turning to greenery. And what is more quintessentially Midwest and green than a field of corn? Ken finished the latest in his "Corn" series. We're viewing a field of corn through some waving grass.

Here, Ken begins a study for his next painting. We love the angled grid and the whole vibe of this. It reminds us of nothing so much as a Prairie School window by Frank Lloyd Wright.

More greenery as Greeta paints statuary and a glass birdbath from her garden against lush foliage and gentle wisteria.

Then, she moved on to another painting. This is a small view of Alan relaxing on a pier. We already love the water, the background and the model's pose. In fact, we had a great time looking through Greeta's sketchbook. She puts it to good use while relaxing on vacations.

Here's another sketch from that book. We love the way the painting continues into the spiral binding.

This sweet bit of Americana is her neighbor's house, as seen from her vacation cottage.

These boys drifted by and Greeta had to paint them. Don't you feel relaxed and serene just looking at this?

Notice the composition on Greeta's swans. The delicate verticals of the swans contrast beautifully against the horizontal waves of the water.

Rosemary has moved away from still lives and is back painting birds. This cute little Baltimore Oriole is perched in a garden of sunflowers against a background of greenery.

Here you'll notice Rosemary's still life, complete with beautifully modeled fruits. The highlights make the fruits just glisten, don't they?

Besides greenery and water, birds are getting to be a thing with us. Madeleine is making great progress on  her painting. She's saving the bird for last while she does a lovely job on the fabrics of the umbrella and towel.

It's interesting to see paintings in progress, isn't it? Here, Madeleine's added finishing touches to her ceramic shrine. Of all the elements in the painting, nothing received as much approbation as the radiator. We all agreed it's perfect.... it's a midwest winter thing, we guess.

Madeleine's been busy this week. Here is a fascinating composition. The verticals draw us deep into the space, while the sensuous fabric curtains make us want to linger and touch them.

Bill is also finishing up his painting from last week. This is a very drastic change, so we'll show both last week's and this week's version.  It engendered a great deal of conversation, not to mention looks through Bill's sketchbooks. Here's the finished version, followed by the gestural beginnings from last week.

...and the sketches have the same energy as the painting above, but without the color. Below, Bill combines our two themes of nature and architecture as he begins a scene from Turkey of a carved stone edifice nestled in foliage. A great beginning!

More stone and foliage from Bill, below. Here, he's painting a small intimate scene, using watercolor pencils on hot pressed paper.

Steve's textural tour de force is nearly finished too. We love the movement of the water and tail, the rough, lava-like texture of the rock and the distant, rocky headlands against the clear sky. We watched and cheered as he rescued the painting from possible disaster—can you even see the blotch on his shoulder from the poorly sized paper?  Definitely a painting worth saving!

Have you noticed how many of us maintain sketchbooks? And have you noticed how the sketchers are some of our best painters, too? Here, Sara fine tunes her self-portrait sketch...

... before launching into a sketch using paint instead of graphite. The pencil sketch has served to familiarize her with the subject so well that this monotone painting only took about 15 minutes. No underdrawing or gridding, yet the likeness is remarkable.

Like many of us this week, Elaine has finished up one painting and begun another. She's added some texture and touches like telephone lines to her vintage painting of the Z Frank sign, formerly on Western Avenue; now gone.

In what looks to be the beginning of a series, Elaine is starting another sign. This sign is also gone, but while it lasted, it caused her no end of amusement. It's the "Let's Pet Puppies" sign from Ashland Avenue. If you've seen it, you'll remember it!

Susan captures a scene from one of Chicago's beaches. In another "sign of the times," we see four people on the beach.... and three of the four have their eyes glued to their cell phones, missing the incredible scenery. Amazing, isn't it?

Summers are short, but glorious here in Chicago. Enjoy your summer!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

June 18, 2016

We're cool and comfortable today... in a new room. Yes, they moved us to the main building for the summer. So we spent some time exploring our new surroundings (we were especially impressed by the bathrooms!), but soon started painting. We hit the ground running, as you can see. Okay, sorry about that! Actually, this is Greeta's grandson running track. We love the composition and sense of movement here. It looks like it was painted from an expensive glossy magazine—yet she used a quick phone-camera snapshot as a reference.

Greeta's also proud of her garden, as evidenced by this beautiful painting. We love the statue and the glass birdbath, not to mention the wisteria. That's certainly an enjoyable place to spend a summer day!

More plants—but this time it's a dense, towering field of corn. In this painting from his "Corn" series, Ken has added patterning to the corn, bringing out individual stalks and making the rest of the field seem deep and impenetrable, like something out of a fairy tale.

Ken is looking at corn in a different way...horizontally. Notice the depth of the cornfield stretched out beyond the hill. And it's framed beautifully by the foreground corn tassels and leaves. 

Elaine's almost finished her memorial for an old sign... now gone. Our color correction isn't quite right here, but she's chosen to paint the scene in a eerie vintage cast that makes it seem even more retro. And the birds perched along the top gives a sense of scale, while making it even more eerie.

Madeleine's gone indoors to paint her ceramic shrine, perched atop a radiator. We love the warm colors that frame the mementos and contrast with the cool radiator. We also applaud her choice to angle the scene and add the slight vignetting at the top, making it seem active and dreamlike at the same time.

Anyone familiar with the Andersonville area has probably seen this bird. Probably at Pauline's, where Madeleine photographed him. She obviously had a good time painting the umbrella; it shows! And all those delicate feathers are done with a brush—not a pen!

You'd think Rosemary would be painting a bird, too—but no! She's trying her hand at a still life. Notice the lively complementary colors in the frame on the wall and the beautifully modeled orange in the bowl. Welcome back!

Welcome back to Steve, too. And we congratulate him on solving a particularly frustrating problem. When last we left our hero, you may recall he'd painted in a beautifully textured background...wonderful rocks, sky, water and clouds. And then he began to paint the merman.... only to discover a flaw in the sizing of the paper. His smooth washes revealed a giant blotch on the subject's left shoulder. Today, Steve experimented with colors and shading and he's disguised the flaw. Yay!

Bill went back into his painting to boost the saturation... and we love it! The flower really stands out and the gorgeous color palette reminds us of Roseville pottery.

From there, Bill moved on to a new interest of ours....architecture. This is the beginning of a painting of an ornate Byzantine building. The minimal palette and sketchy brushwork remind us of travel sketchbooks by Singer. Beautiful!

Mary is sketching buildings, too, but she's beginning with pencil. For all she claims to have trouble with the angularity of architecture, we can't find any problems with this nostalgic drawing of her childhood home.

Despite losing our cosmetology mirrors, Sara continues to work on her self-portrait, using a cell phone instead. We all agree that each sketch keeps getting better and better—and this is her best yet! 

Join us next week for more watercolor fun. And keep watching this space for news about an upcoming show two of our members will be mounting. You'll be invited!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

June 11, 2016

We're back! The good news greeting us on our return was that Truman installed a new air conditioning unit.... just in time for the 90 degree plus weather. The bad news was that it wasn't up and running yet, so we are looking forward to a more comfortable session next week. Meanwhile, what says summer in the midwest more than waving fields of corn? And so, we begin with Ken's newest series—Corn. He is planning to continue this all through the summer, finishing up in fall (just like the real crop). Here is the first in Ken's new series. It reminds us of a lush art deco mosaic.

We get a little closer here. The corn is still stylized with a mosaic background, but Ken has more of an emphasis on the stalks and tassels.

Moving even further away, Ken's cornfield looks like a dense forest with textured blue sky and grass. We love the difference in the angle of the corn from the background.

Bill, too, is painting quintessential midwest summer sights, but his is more urban. We love the vast expanse of water separating the urban fishermen from the distant shore. And the subtle directional fishing lines add just the perfect touch.

We're all about summer. Bill was fascinated by the planters on Sheridan Road and couldn't resist doing several fresh, lovely studies of urban flora.

Can't you just feel the concrete planter?

Moving even closer to home, Bill is painting a houseplant in bloom. (Greeta knew the name, but I forgot it, so we're just calling it a "houseplant.") The elegant composition really draws attention to the focus of the painting.

More urban flora and fauna. This time, Madeleine paints the butterflies at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Center. In a wonderful touch, she paints graphic leaves on the green background, mimicing the graphic nature of the butterflies.

More urban fauna! Greeta has her own personal robin's nest to paint. Seriously! A family of robins built a nest at eye level in her backyard. Here is the mother robin.

And here are the babies. One of them sticks his head up looking for food, while the other flutters his wings for the first time, trying to fly.

In somewhat of a theme, Greeta paints her grandson as he runs track at school. He's graduating this year and, like the robin above, is spreading his wings and preparing to leave the nest.

Susan is also painting people in summer. Don't you love the smiles on the faces of her niece and nephew? No wonder they are happy—they've just had ice cream! 

 We seem to be fascinated by the people in our lives. Madeleine paints her teacher. Zoom in to see the lovely face and fabric—not to mention the beautifully textured background. The angles of bricks and floorboards creates movement and energy around the still figure.

 Aren't we skilled? Madeleine paints a ceramic piece she created. Now she uses it as a sort of shrine to hold mementos and other small bits.

Here's another memento... of a sort. Elaine is painting a neon sign. The sign is no longer there, qualifying it as a memory. And the colors give it a retro vintage feel.

 It's time for Sara's annual self-portrait, an idea we love. She begins with a sketch (below). She made great use of the large cosmetology mirrors to draw from life and not a photo. We are eager to see how this year's portrait series progresses; the sketch is the best one yet, we think.

Allow us to introduce Mary, our newest student. Like Sara, she's doing a self-portrait. And like Sara, she's beginning with a pencil sketch. Given her skill with pencil sketching, we think this is the perfect way to move into watercolor for her. Welcome!

 You're invited

You are cordially invited to a free 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. Opera Favorites from England and America happens on Sunday, June 12 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!

Opera Favorites from England and America
Sunday, June 12, 2016, 3pm
DePaul Concert Hall
800 West Belden, Chicago
Click on the poster to learn more about this concert