Sunday, February 27, 2011

Jan Blencowe's Tonalist Workshop Was Eye-opening and Muscle-building!

Today's class at Maple & Main Gallery of Fine Art in Chester was very productive.  I have added several layers of pigment to yesterday's acrylic painting.  It is still not finished, but I thought you'd like to see my progress.
Unfinished acrylic painting #1 by Joan Cole

While I was letting layers of paint dry, I began a second painting.  I don't have the original underpainting to show you, but this is as far as I was able to take it today.

Unfinished acrylic painting #2 by Joan Cole

I will be continuing to work on both of these paintings, but not tonight.  I will keep you posted.  So stay tuned.

I did say that Jan's class was eye-opening.  I had no idea of the intense physicality involved in Jan's style of brushwork.   Much scrubbing in and scumbling over layer upon layer of paint is required, sometimes before the layers are completely dry! 

However, since it's Oscar night tonight, it's time for me to tune in to catch some of the preliminary red carpet interviews.  Have a great evening, everyone!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Jan Blencowe's Tonalist Class Today Was GREAT!

Underpainting for acrylic landscape by Joan Cole  12" x 16"

Today's class at Maple &Main Gallery of Fine Art in Chester was such a treat.  Jan Blencowe began by giving us more background on the Tonalist movement and its place in history.   She read to us from Emerson's essay, "Nature."  She shared a beautiful seven-minute video she had created just for our class, set to music of the period.   Listening to Claude DeBussy's "Reverie,"  we admired painting after painting by Tonalist masters.   An eye-opening experience, the beauty of these landscapes was overwhelming.  Simplified shapes in nature, emphasis on value and atmosphere, softened edges, an appeal to the spirit and emotions of the viewer--these are the characteristics that became evident in these works. 

We did several value studies, using as models postcards that Jan had brought of  well known Tonalist paintings.  We were looking for the BIG SHAPES underlying these beautiful works, and trying to capture them in 5 x 7 studies of 5 to 10 minutes each.  This is NOT my strong point, so it was challenging for me trying to SIMPLIFY sufficiently.  I am more likely to paint each tree in the forest, rather than suggesting the forest.  That was excellent preparation for watching Jan's demo of underpainting the basic shapes in one of her photos, using three basic values.

By the time we got to laying a brush to canvas, I was chomping at the bit.  I'm sharing the results of this first class, so I will be able to show you how it develops tomorrow.  This was my first time using acrylics, as I mentioned yesterday, so it was definitely a different experience for me.  My curiosity is piqued to see just what I can do with these new "tools of the trade."

Stay tuned.

Friday, February 25, 2011

After watercolors a week ago, this weekend it's ACRYLICS! M. & M., here I come!

I am very excited about this weekend.  Tomorrow and Sunday I will be taking Jan Blencowe's workshop on painting in the style of the Tonalists, using acrylics.  The workshop is being held at Maple & Main Gallery of Fine Art in Chester from 10 to 3 both days.  (She will be repeating this class on March 26 & 27, if you are interested.)  Because I don't paint in acrylics, I have purchased the basic colors Jan had on her supply list and put together the other materials I'll need.  I've gone through Roger's photographs, looking for suitable landscapes that would lend themselves to this genre.

Jan is thorough.  Today she emailed the class background information on Tonalism.  Among the wealth of material she included, I found the following very interesting.  Perhaps you will too.

Tonalism: The Defining Aesthetic of the Turn of the Century 1880-1920

In a post Civil War era Tonalism was a response to anxiety about the future.  Tonalist paintings offered a retreat from anxieties & physical stress and embodied a yearning for the values of an agrarian world.  Tonalism was a mirror to the anxieties and joys of its age.  Both traditional & modernist, tonalist paintings eschewed narrative elements which interfered with the purity of solitude necessary for contemplation reflecting Emerson’s transcendental ideas and Whistler's non-narrative abstraction.  Tonalism embraces the deepest love of the land and the deepest spiritual intuitions of the American character.   (A taste of Jan Blencowe's email notes to me.)

If ever there was anxiety about the future, it's now.  On the individual, state, federal, and international levels, life seems to be growing increasingly stressful.   If ever there was a time in history crying out for peace and contentment, it is now.  The greatest inspiration for my paintings has always been the land, and what grows on it.  If I can learn from Jan how to increase the serenity in my paintings, I am EAGER to do so.

I signed up for Jan's workshop for many reasons.   In addition to being an accomplished professional artist, Jan is an excellent teacher.   I have taken other workshops with her--painting in oils, building my own website, and marketing for artists--and I always come away with lots of information and increased skills.   She is very generous in sharing her knowledge with others.  Although I'm sure I will be "stretched" this weekend, I look forward to it because Jan's classes are safe places to be.  She encourages her students and points out areas where improvement is possible.  So I know I will grow as an artist, whether I ever paint in acrylics again.  As an artist who feels part of the family of Impressionists, I am looking forward to seeing what Tonalism can teach me.  Please keep me in your thoughts this weekend, and wish me luck.  Thanks.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Painting on vacation....

As you may deduce from my attire, the weather on Grand Cayman was sunny and WINDY!  But the view was spectacular!  [no snow!]

is like being a child in a candy shop in your dreams.  Everything tastes good.  No one is there to stop or influence your choices.  All colors look appealing.  Everywhere you turn, something beautiful or unusual is tempting.  Time stands still.  I am painting out of time, beyond time.

Writing is a recursive activity.  Thank, write, read over what you've written, think, make changes, write more, reread, think, make more changes.  Writing is an on-going revising process.

Painting is recursive in a similar manner, but with less stop and go.  The thinking process goes on simultaneously with the painting process.  Each color chosen, the placement of each stroke of the brush involves continuous decision-making, evaluating, assessment, adjustment.  However, painting in watercolors allows for much less revision than painting in oils or pastels.

"Carribean Morning," 9 x 12, unfinished watercolor by Joan Cole, copyright 2011

I have not painted with watercolors for at least a year.  It is so different from oils or pastels.   It is working from light to dark, which means knowing before I start where I want my lightest lights or whitest whites left.  So, the tops of clouds and crests of waves must stay untouched until I've worked my painting around them.

"Carribean Afternoon," 9 x 12, unfinished watercolor by Joan Cole, copyright 2011

That is the opposite thought process required for painting in oils and pastels.  There, I can start with midtones and build up and down in value.  Or, I can begin with my darks and work up.

How I long for my oils to push around like vanilla butter frosting to shape the waves I'm watching roll in and crest and break.  The colors are so spectacular, and I am so rusty with watercolor.  It's a delicious challenge.

(Note:  This post was written a week ago when we were vacationing on Grand Cayman Island in the Carribean.  I spent the week painting in watercolors, writing, and relaxing.  We'll have to wait to see what I do with the paintings I created.  As you can tell, I don't consider them finished yet.)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Upper Messerschmidt's Pond in Winter, a pastel

Upper Messerschmidt's Pond in Winter by Joan Cole
Pastel 9 x 12" $400

I am so excited by my work in pastels. Masterpastellist Claudia Post is sharing so much of her vast knowledge in our Gallery class.  (You may remember that still life of the apple, pear, and lemon?  I'm still working on that and others.)  Landscapes are in my blood; this one brought me great joy and satisfaction.

There is so much to learn about pastels.  Who would have guessed that it is advisable to sharpen one's pastels to get a finer line or point?  (I must say, it is NOT my favorite part of painting with pastels.)  Claudia can sharpen a NuPastel with a single-edge razor blade lickety split!  It takes me SOOOOOOOOOOO much longer, and sometimes I break the stick in the process. 

It is possible to use turpentine to affix initial layers of pastel to the paper.  I used that method with this piece and found it gave me a more painterly feel--more like the feeling of plein air painting in oils.  Anyway, then I was able to build over that layer with additional layers of color.

This afternoon, I picked up the painting from the framer, drove to Maple & Main Gallery of Fine Art, and Claudia hung "Upper Messerschmidt's in Winter" in the classroom on our lower level.  Teacher and student were both tickled.

When you are in the area of Chester, Connecticut, stop by Maple & Main and check out "Upper Messerschmidt's."  It's in VERY good company--among more than 100 diverse works of art by thirty artists from across the fine state of Connecticut.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

"Winter Snowfall," SOLD at Maple & Main Gallery AND Susan Pecora stopped by!

"Winter Snowfall" by Joan Cole
9" x 12" oil on linen
Last Friday evening was a hopping night at Maple & Main Gallery of Fine Art in Chester!  A great group of folks gathered upstairs and downstairs in the Gallery, enjoying beautiful art, fine conversation, tempting munchables and libations.  It was an opportunity to relax among friends--and to make new ones. 

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I sold my "Snowdrops" painting at the opening.  But I saved telling you about the sale of "Winter Snowfall" for today.  Of the four paintings that were sold that night, TWO of them were MINE!  Now that is downright INCREDIBLE!
My son wondered who would want to buy a WINTER painting given the weather we've been having.  Well, that is exactly the reason this collector wanted my painting.  She said, "This is a winter I'll always remember!"  She thought that "Winter Snowfall" captured the essence of this winter for her.  Needless to say, I was and AM very happy that this painting "spoke" to her.

Among the folks I got to visit with at the opening was Susan Pecora.  A renowned watercolor artist and teacher, Susan is a star of Public Television in Massachusetts and Connecticut.  She told me that she's been doing lots of demonstrations for Deerfield Village, Tobacco Valley Art Association, the Tolland Art Association and the Providence Art Association, among others.  A few years back, I spent two glorious spring weekends, taking  watercolor workshops with Susan in her studio in Thorndike, Massachusetts.  She has THE BEST sense of humor and is a marvelous teacher.

In a follow-up email this week, she wrote, "I am just enough of a ham to thoroughly enjoy myself. I invite questions while I paint and interact with the Provincetown someone suggested I put a dog in the painting. I told them to find me a dog and a man brought in a golden retriever. I painted him into the piece then and there."  If you EVER get a chance to take a workshop or watch a demo with Susan, GO FOR IT! 

I also made a new friend--Susan's neighbor Michelle DeMarco, who is an egg tempera artist.  Among other things, Michelle has done, she has illustrated a children's book about a PINK PUMPKIN!  What fun.  I hope to get to see it and read it.

Well, as Daffy Duck said (or was it Woody Woodpecker?):  "That's all, folks!"


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"Snowdrops" oil painting SOLD at Maple & Main Gallery's Opening! or How Can I Bear To Sell My Paintings?

You may remember me writing a while back about my oil painting on linen entitled "Snowdrops."   Well, a new friend attended last Friday's opening at Maple & Main Gallery of Fine Art and made a joy-filled decision.  She will be adding it to her art collection.  My painting reminded her of the snowdrops which bloom in her own garden.  This is the photo she sent me of hers.  It turns out that we both LOVE these tiny blossoms because they are such faithful little harbingers of spring. 

(And apparently rodents do not enjoy feasting on these tiny bulbs the way they do tulips and other tasty garden treats.)

"Snowdrops" by Joan Cole, 6" x 8" oil on linen

As you can see, the snowdrops in my painting don't have their "wings" spread because they were so cold.  The area where they live in my yard is tucked under a grove of mountain laurel bushes (Kalmia latifolia) and white pine at the base of a granite ledge.  (That is a lone laurel leaf in the painting.)  It's a pretty chilly exposure.  Yet, despite the lack of full sun, still they bloom.  Indomitable!
As an artist, it means so much to me to watch a person's face light up when she sees one of my paintings.  It is such validation of my artistic ability and all the years that I have spent painting.  When that person chooses to buy a piece of my art--out of all the many other incredibly beautiful paintings in the Gallery's present show--I am invariably humbled by the experience. 

The sale of a painting is a reminder to me that the beauty I saw in that insignificant cluster of flowers is an inspiration to another as well.  Something that touched my heart and made me want to paint it has also touched her heart.  I could call it "spirit" or "beauty" or perhaps "joy." 

Whatever you name it,
that quality,
that essence,
is passed from the earth where it lives,
through my hands working with paint on canvas,
to a collector's heart,
and from there to a wall in her home. 

I know that "spirit" will come to life every time someone is inspired by looking at the painting.  After all, that is the meaning of "inspiration":  a breathing in.

The money an artist makes from each sale is a necessity for the continuance of her work.  However, the passing on of joy is my greatest reward.  Really!

Many people have asked me if it bothers me to sell my work, to have to give it up.  This is the long answer to that question.  Usually, I give them the shortened version:  "No!"