Sunday, January 31, 2010

Late, As Usual

It all began years ago when I was in college. I was studying under the trees, carefully checking my watch every now and then to be sure I would be on time to class. Finally I went to the classroom. I figured I had about five minutes until class was to begin.

This particular classroom was oddly arranged. The door was in the front of the classroom, so that all of the 100 seats in the class faced where I was to enter. So I walked in and was surprised to find that all of the seats in the classroom (but one) were already filled and that the professor was standing just in front of me, lecturing.

So I sidled my way around the professor and, with several "excuse me"'s eased myself and my backpack down the aisle and into my seat in the center front row. I could feel 100 sets of eyes upon me (99 students, plus one professor).

"Nice of you to make it, Mr. Kent." It was the professor, of course.

So I unloaded my backpack and took out my pad. I was poised to take notes.

"Okay, that's it for today. See you all tomorrow." (The professor again.)

I try to be on time. I really do.

As a December 2009 monthly challenge, Cathy Johnson posted a resource photo of the Arlington Hotel here. She liked the early morning shadows, but when I saw the hotel, I wanted to paint it at night, in the hotel's heyday - the 1920's I imagined, or before. Cathy loved the shadows, and I figured that the light from the lamp post or from the unseen activity across the street could still produce those.

When she posted the photo, she invited us to "change it, move elements around, choose different colors." So I moved the telephone pole that I thought was in a bad spot for the composition and made party lights instead of wire, so that we are viewing the couple from behind those lights. I added a door, uncovered the windows, and added a small hitching post. I put trees in the distance.

Note that back then there were trees. There was no Interstate Highway System or tv or internet. People had to learn skills like piano or painting or writing to have something to do.

To be fair (to myself), I drew the scene in December, although I did not paint it until last night. This is still January, so I am only a month late, right?

I found it fun and interesting that to make the night sky first I had to lay a wash of Winsor Orange. So the sky was initially a very bright orange. Then I laid a wash of cobalt blue to make the dark color you see. Over that I lent spatterings of drybrushed cobalt blue. For the building and sidewalk, I began with a very, very light wash of the Winsor Orange, and built up from there. These are the two main colors, though I also used transparent yellow, and of course the bright cadmium red in the foreground.

I kind of wish you could see the original, since the scanning really did not like my splashes of color. The spots of orange on the building are not that annoying, really.

For Shadow Shot Sunday, I contribute a bench and a wastebasket. I played a bit with the composition, and tried to make a balanced and interesting contrast in values and shapes. When I saw this bench, I stopped dead in my tracks. I felt lucky to find the "hatching" in the shadow. To me it is a very "textured" shot.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Heart for Haiti

This is my Art Heart for Haiti. It is my hope that the kindness and sharing of the people of the world will help lift Haiti up.

If you would like to contribute a heart to Haiti too, there is still one day left. Your art heart is to be the size of an Art Trading Card (2.5" x 3.5" or 3.5 x 2.5") Visit Painted Thoughts for more details.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

My Mandala Exploded and Other Accidents

One day, some time ago, I drew the tables and chairs at a local Subway sub shop. I loved the pattern they created, and the drawing wasn't bad. But I had drawn it in that other Moleskine that doesn't take color. So some time later I returned with my watercolor Moleskine and drew another scene. Mostly I colored on site, though some was colored later.

The most valuable lesson from this sketch was about the color black. I sometimes use Ivory Black to darken other colors and although that's okay, using color mixes are better. This time, though, I used Ivory Black to color letters on a poster. I figured on a poster it would be okay. In fact, it was not - poster or no. The color is somewhat overpowering and does not match the feel of the rest of the sketch. And in watercolors, it is awfully difficult to lighten black. A mix would have been better. I accidentally created a very nice colorful dark on the lower right corner of the pole, just below the red-cushioned chair. That would have been better don't you think?

And this is why we practice, right?

Accidents happen. We learn from accidents. For example, my first mandala exploded.

I learned about drawing mandalas from Nancy who led me here. Vague mezmerizing Indian tunes play in the background on unidentifiable instruments when you draw mandalas. Beautiful wavy lines drift as breezes blow. And you expand into higher consciousness as you explore the present moment with breathless awe. That's what's supposed to happen.

But caution: your mandala may blow up. My mandalas have been taut with inner conflict and anxiety. It's probably something from my childhood. But they are getting better. My latest is on the left. Perhaps there's hope for me yet.

Anyway, art is everywhere. One day I got out of the car and looked down and was struck by the pattern of the stones, colors, and textures. All at my feet. Serendipity! It was like modern art. So I took this photo to preserve the moment for Shadow Shot Sunday.

The great thing about art is that accidents happen. And the best accidents beget great art I think. That's what I am hoping, anyway.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Blue Skies

If any of you have wondered why I have been away from this blog since the 3rd of January - making this only my second post of the year - there is a reason.

It's because I have only just thawed.

South Florida temperatures have finally eased their way up into the 70's and 80's. I can move again.

I know that it has probably been much, much colder where you are and may even still be. I know that if you have a blog, you have probably not missed one single post. You may even have ventured outside in 15 below weather to do fun stuff like paint in watercolors and see it freeze, or to dance or something.

This, of course, is impressive, but there are perfectly reasonable explanations for your ability to handle the frigid temperatures, and South Floridians' inability to handle merely cold weather.

Firstly, I have it on good authority, that South Florida's cold is different from your cold. I am quite sure that none of the hundreds of visitors to the University of Miami Beaux Art Festival this year were South Floridians, except my wife and I. We felt adventurous that day. But even visiting artists were chilled to the bone. Case in point: I met an artist couple from Vermont, Christopher Castelli and Christine Brenner. In my opinion their work was the best in the show. Their website is here. They do en plein air paintings.

Anyway, Christine Brenner said she could not wait to get inside because of the cold! Not one to mince words, although we had only just met, I taunted her, saying: "What?! You're from Vermont!" She said that she had been in 7 degree weather in Vermont that was more tolerable than our 20-plus degree weather. She blamed our humidity.

See? You can handle your cold, sure.

The other reason is that the people and all of the other creatures of South Florida are simply not made for temperatures that drop as low as the 20's. One person I know here in Miami said, before her hibernation, "I can't stand these extreme temperatures!"

During the record breaking cold-snap, the beautiful iguanas that hang out in trees here, froze in position and fell to the ground. Large turtles had to be rescued and laid out on blankets, their legs splayed in exhaustion. In Central Florida Manatees swam into shallow canals, 30 or 40 at a time to cuddle against one another. Here in Miami, they swam to the power plants' warmer water I am sure. In short, these temperatures turned South Florida residents into refugees. Our habitat was gone.

We are back now.

I have been getting somewhat acquainted with my new Winsor & Newton watercolors, and been trying to color neglected drawings in my Moleskine. I feel I need to get them out of the way before I can move on, you know? The above drawing was done in September, and colored a few days ago. This gentleman was in Einstein Bagels. I decided to put him on a train traveling cross-country through Arizona. I have no idea what the interior of such a train looks like, but he looks comfortable enough.

For Shadow Shot Sunday, I contribute an old warehouse and the setting sun:

A final note: I am so sorry for the terrible tragedy that has struck the people of Haiti, and extend my deep sympathy. One of the true reasons for part of the delay in posting on this blog was because I wanted to paint a special tribute to the Haitian people before continuing my usual frivolity. But I could not think of what to paint. I scrolled the web for ideas, exploring Haitian culture and landmarks and history. Nothing. If a picture paints a thousand words, for this event, there are no words. My sincere wishes and hope for the recovery and success of the Haitian people. If inspiration strikes, I will offer the small gift of a picture, for what it is worth.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Beers and Sears

At a New Year's Day family gathering at my house, my father-in-law turned to me, and said, "So, when are you going to paint?"

"Paint!? My god," I said, "it's all I want to do but I never find enough time. Do you know what it is like to always want to paint and hardly ever be able to do it?"

That's when he gestured to the door we'd hung a few months ago, but that I'd yet to paint on the inside.

"Oh, that," I said.

I painted the door the next day.

But today I had the chance to color a picture that I sketched in my Moleskine on site at Cantina Dos Amigos in Satellite Beach, here in Florida. I wasn't too crazy about the food, but from our booth we had a great view of the bar and of the bartender and of the couple she was serving. Wonderful place! Who needs good food anyway?

I've been reading so much on all of your blogs about the cold and the snow and the ice and I just can't imagine it myself. So I send a shadow shot your way from sunny Florida for Shadow Shot Sunday so that you can look at it for just a moment, close your eyes, and dream. This seems like some exotic locale, but it was just some palms against a Sears department store. (And no, I'm not trying to be cruel. Consider it a gift.)

My cousin Ellyn, when she visited from Boston several years ago, said I live in paradise. I laughed, but as time has passed I realize that it is true.