Wednesday, April 27, 2011

portrait study, Martin's friend

My friend Martin Wainwright who is a noted author and journalist, not to mention the husband of Penny, my long-ago flat-mate in London, can claim among his millions of interests a passion for the study of moths. He writes a blog on the subject which is by turns esoteric and amusing as well as a totally accurate written form of the way he talks! My father, who was also a journalist, was much the same: he wrote as he spoke, so when I read back over his letters now, it is as if he is still in the room. Martin's writing has that quality too. Recently in his blog he posted a photo of this gentleman Sir Harrison Birtwistle - a composer and, like Martin, a moth enthusiast. Even though the photo is a little blurry for painting purposes, it has a wonderful and very British feeling about it, what with the hyacinths in the vase at the back. So having nothing particular to do today since my model is coming tomorrow, I made this study. I hope, if Sir Harrison Birtwistle ever sees it, he finds that I did justice to his extraordinary face.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

two-hour Kate

Not only does Kate have a full time job, but she is also in a play at the Flea, so modeling for me is way down on her to-do list. But when she has a couple of hours on the weekend, as she did yesterday, she comes over and sits for me. I figure that with only two hours every now and again, I should just go for it and paint as good a picture of her as I can in the time allowed. So this was my first sortie into the territory of alla prima portraiture. I found it a little nerve-wracking, but invigorating - kind of like an athletic event. And in the end the study is both not as good as I hoped it would be (I didn't get back to correct the values on the nose, for instance) and better than I expected because it actually does look like her. So I hope she comes back soon for another try!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

the old Chapman farm, a plein air-ish study

Our road is strictly a farm road. It goes nowhere, really, though I think that the few cars who drive along it on weekends are using it as a short-cut to get from Route 10 over to Route 23 and then on to Oneonta, where there is commerce - the inescapable Hannaford, Home Depot and Walmart - on the outskirts and at the center, a charming main street where several independently owned stores and restaurants struggle mightily to stay afloat in the face of the behemoths at the periphery. But our road is all about the farms - four of them, all dairy. Our farm is not exactly a working farm. We have no cows of our own and the only crops we raise come out of my yearly vegetable patch but the three other farmers from the road make use of our land - take its hay, pasture their heifers, store tractors in our barn and so we feel very much a part of this increasingly rare agricultural community. From my studio I can see the Chapman farm which has been in the same family for at least two generations. It is a little run down now but I have always loved the look of those old barns nestling into the valley as if they grew there as organically as the trees that surround them. The colors of the land right now, just before it turns spring upstate, are beautiful and subtle and a heartier woman than I would have bundled up against the chill and painted this scene outside. But I didn't. I positioned my easel next to the window and while listening to Schubert, painted quite comfortably and with only the faintest twinge of guilt.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

drapery study

vase wrapped in liberty scarf
graphite on paper

Friday, April 1, 2011

Rambouillet, recalled

gifts from le patron
5" x 5" oil on linen board
My husband and I spent two weeks at French language school in Rambouillet last fall. Every day after school, we went to one particular cafe for coffee (for my husband) and hot chocolate (for me). Then we would go home to our studio, complete the day's homework and then go back to the same cafe for a glass of wine before dinner. Little by little, the owner of the cafe came to know us and, treating us like true regulars, stopped taking our order each time and just simply appeared at our table with coffee and chocolate or wine (red for my husband, white for me). The last visit we made to the cafe, we mentioned that we were leaving the next morning and after he brought us our wine, he went back to the counter, and returned to our table with a gift of a deck of cards and a tiny bottle of Ricard pastis for each of us. I put a small liqueur glass with the cards and the Ricard and painted this thinking of that cafe with great fondness and a certain amount of longing. Sold.