I've been spending Saturday mornings learning about gouache painting, and it has been challenging. I have used gouache before, but still have so much to learn and, so far, my work has not been "blog-worthy." However, I missed the sketch group this week and wanted to put something on the Plum Gallery blog. So, here is my painting of a blue umbrella at the West end of the National Botanic Garden, done last Saturday. It was a really lovely spot, with a fantasic fountain. I wish I had taken a picture of that. I think it is called The First Ladies' Fountain. We're going back next Saturday. This painting is very small, about 5" x 8." My teacher, Bernie Dellario thinks I could go even smaller, but I would kind of like to go bigger. It is hard to get used to putting light over dark when I have done the opposite in watercolor for so many years.
I was very fortunate to draw again at the Luce Foundation last Tuesday. The assignment was challenging...it was to draw sculptures that show concepts relating to balance. After last week, I had decided I would focus on work that relates to Nam June Paik's archives for the time being, but I wasn't sure I could find something.
I was delighted to see that there are some exquisite little figurines in the case devoted to Paik's archives, and they were perfect for this exercise. They are ceramic and, as I understand it, Paik collected these figurines for assembly into larger works. They are related to him because they were in his warehouse at the time of his death. They are pretty small (maybe 10"), and are behind glass, but were fun to sketch. I did three fairly quick sketches. The one above demonstrates that, if one leg juts out, you need an opposite arm and maybe a little head action to counterbalance it.
This next sketch shows that the leaning back and protecting with your arms pose needed to be counterbalanced with a strong thrust of the front leg:
I might do him again because his expression was so severe! I would like to capture that.
The next one was actually the first I did, and I think I missed the mark.
It is very dramatic, and the actual figurine shows that you have to have a strong leg and a front arm out if you are going to balance on one leg with your back arm in the air. I may have overdone it, so may do this guy again. I am not sure it would work the way I portrayed it. The drape behind his standing leg does add some weight, but probably not enough to make the center of gravity actually work in my drawing. It does work in the figurine. This is why I keep trying!
It is fun to do these assignments and to challenge my sketching skills..not to mention learning about balance!
My friend Jan recently went to Mexico....now, that is always fun. She had a good trip and was so thoughtful to bring me a "Dragonfly" gift. This is a very unusual little treasure. It is a holder for sticky notes. On the top, it has a woodburned design and some openwork. I love it. It sits on my kitchen counter and I always now have a place to make a note and pull a sticky when I need a quick jot. Thank you, Jan, for the gift and for thinking of me on your trip.
I went again last Tuesday to what they call "Sketch and Discover" at the Smithsonian American Art Gallery/National Portrait Gallery. The assignment was to draw something showing perspective. We talked briefly about various kinds of perspective. Linear perspective where objects in the background are smaller than those in the foreground; atmospheric perspective objects in the background are less clear than those in the foreground; color perspective where saturation of colors is less in the background than in the foreground (and I also think actual colors: warm colors move forward and cool colors move back), and planar perspective, where overlapping planes create a sense of depth. I was fascinated by an assemblage by Nam June Paik, "Untitled (robot)." It is also known as a "Paaikbot." It includes portable tvs, a movie camera, a tv, record players for "45"s, a large speaker and radios. It has real personality and Paik did make a cartoon face on the screen. My sketch of it is above.
I took a picture of the piece, but there were too many reflections, so I lifted a better picture off the web that shows how it looks when it is plugged in:
I signed up to take a plein air class with Bernie Dellario to learn about techniques of painting plein air in gouache. I think it will be a little more freer in execution than watercolor, but with the same efficiency of supplies...just a palette that can be transported dry, a few brushes and a surface. We had our first session last Saturday at a park near my townhouse, Folger Park. I should look it up, but the same Folgers who supported the Shakespeare Library and Theater may have funded this park. It is a quiet place in the neighborhood. Bernie told us about the materials and methods he uses and then we went to work. I decided to paint what may be boring to some, but the composition was challenging. There is a huge cement marker (I don't know what else to call it) set off with benches on either side. What I like is the texture of the trees behind, contrasted with the wall of the marker. I also noticed some interesting angles in the sidewalks and grass. I wanted to give it a try.
Unfortunately, there was a lot of wind and I was seized with a huge allergy attack. I simply could not finish my painting and had to give up. I saved my start and will go at it again next week. I am not showing it here because it was a simple start.
These are my painting companions, David and Bernie. I think they made it through. The good thing is that the wind made the atmosphere so clear. I loved Bernie's approach and look forward to learning from him.
Suzanne and I met Thursday to go to museums. It is always great fun to catch up on each other's news and to enjoy some art at the same time. We first looked at the National Gallery of Art, focusing on works recently acquired from the Smithsonian. We also saw a show of works by Piero di Cosimo. They are very religious and very Italian. We went to the gift shop and made a few purchases before walking over to the American Portrait Gallery where we had a little snack before taking in the art.
Lunch is bought in a nice little coffee shop, where the one person on duty made me a grilled cheese sandwich to go with my tomato-basil soup....while he was tending to barista duties and manning the cash register. A very nice guy. The really great thing, though, is eating in the Kogod Courtyard, which is completely covered with undulating glass panels. It is so light and airy, and I often see someone I know. I did that day, when I saw Tim Krepp.
The museum itself is designed so that one side is the American Art Gallery and the other side is the Portrait Gallery. We were interested in the Portrait Gallery that day. The most memorable art was that of Elaine de Kooning. There is a video where she does a demo painting from life of the painter Aristodimos Kaldis. It was just amazing. It looks like she is just throwing paint on a huge canvas, but it comes to life when she gets to the facial features. This picture, of course, doesn't do it justice.
She painted Kaldis once a year for several years. I can see why he was fun to paint. I have a much greater appreciation of her having seen that video and the exhibit. I learned that she usually paints a subject several times. I think she did something like 30 paintings of John F. Kennedy and about 50 sketches. Here's a picture of her in her studio...pulled from the internet, but it is part of the exhibit, too.
We also saw some interesting art from Time magazine covers in the 60s. It was surprizingly diverse. We then went to the gift shop and met Walter for dinner at Ella's. Fun day. I'm glad we have kept the friendship, Suzanne!
Yesterday I went to the Luce Foundation for American Art to a weekly sketching group. I have gone before, but it is at the same time that I usually pick up my granddaughter from school, and so I haven't been for a long time. It is on Tuesdays and now I won't be picking her up on Tuesday, so I hope to make this a regular thing.
It is a lot of fun. One of the staff organizes a weekly challenge. They provide all the materials--even stools. The challenge yesterday was to sketch one of the sculptures. I chose to do "Fisher Girl"--a life-size sculpture done in about 1858 by William Randolph Barbee. It is marble, so she was very still. I used pencils, charcoal and eraser and worked for about an hour. I had a little trouble getting into it, as it has been awhile, but I had fun. After about an hour, everyone reconvenes and shares their work. Yesterday, there were people who had never done sketching and also at least one professional artist.
We started with a blind contour, but I am not posting that. It was pathetic.
I don't know why this nude woman is making a fishing net. She has a lovely garland of shells in her hair, which is lovely.