Friday, July 17, 2009

Time Flies...

...when you are on a break from the blogosphere.

Has it really been 6 weeks?

As with art, one needs some time off from blogging in order to come back with recharged batteries. Or something.

But the good news is that in fact, I've been painting - and quite a bit. A new scene from Portugal is in the making. And a portrait that made me put the Portugal scene aside for a while. And a small flower I made for a friend who was hospitalized. And another portrait of a man whose photo I took last Saturday in an Art & Wine festival and just had to paint him. And...

So, the studio is active and messy, new ideas keep popping up in my mind, I've had a sleepless night with the adrenaline rushing through my (hmm... what does adrenaline rush through? veins? capillaries? Arteries?) followed by a merry night of trying to put what I had in mind to paper - quite exciting, actually.

I will post those once they all reach a finished stage.

Today I can share the little flower I made. By now, you may know that I do not paint flowers. However - a friend from our critique group had a medical emergency. Needless to say, sending flowers came up, but then WebbieM suggested a clever alternative: that instead, we each paint a little flower, as that won't have any issue of potential allergies; plus - they will keep longer. MembieK (whose name should now be changed to EmeritiK) took it a step farther out, suggesting we make a book-thingy from all the painted flowers. FergieJ created one and brought it to critique, where we all glued our little masterpieces into it and wrote something for our friend (who - I am happy to report, is back at home and very well, thank you for asking). This little painted flowery bouquet turned out a real beauty.

Now, if you've been paying attention, you may have noticed that my own name was not among those who came up with great ideas. That's due to the simple fact that I was busy wallowing in sheer terror...

OK - have I mentioned that I do not paint flowers?

Indeed, I was positively terrified: how can I paint a flower? but then again, how can I not be a part of this project that's all about friendship and support?

So, Wednesday night, just before the critique meeting, I got into my studio at 10:30pm, and - - - well, I have to admit: I had fun!

Still claiming my basic right to complain, I informed WebbieM that if I am ever in a hospital, I would like each and every one in the critique group to paint a portrait, just so they go through the same fear I felt.

I know, I know; one should look at everything within the big scheme of things, have the right perspective on life and possess a healthy sense of proportion... And yet: a flower!!!

Anyway, here it is. My second painted flower ever (at least in my adult life). It's tiny: 2.5" x 3.5". But hey, it's a flower.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Portugal Through My Eyes: Évora #2

Y'know how I always claim that I'm gonna do a series of paintings whenever something captures me? And then I move on to the next exciting image?

Well, not this time. Apparently, this image did captivate me. Not quite sure why - maybe it's the fact I loved Évora so much, maybe these two men and their curious stroll appealed to me, or maybe the fact that my second attempt at buildings since I've started to paint turned out to be so much fun. Add to it the fact that I wasn't overly happy with the composition and format of the
previous version - - - I decided to give it another try, and do it bigger.

Took out a half sheet of watercolor paper, changed the composition to be horizontal, being cautious with perspective and all that, and had tons of fun. I changed the men a bit, as they came out a bit too cartoonish in the previous version, and I wanted it to be more of a painting than a sketch. So, I gave the pot-belly guy a quick tummy tuck, changed the clothes for the sake of color consideration, and treated the building a bit differently, going for an even more weathered and peeling look.

At a certain stage, it was a nice watercolor. Fresh colors, hardly any texture, clean washes - like a watercolor should be. The JohnnyB liked it a lot, but I lost all interest in it. To me, it seemed boring; it lacked a story or emotion whatsoever. The JohnnyB said "I've seen paintings with less of a story to them in shows and museums". Well yeah, so have I. Thing is, I did not want to produce this kind of painting.

Which started an interesting discussion: who do we paint for? Are we trying to please our spouses/friends/teaches/critique groups? And if we do produce a painting that makes others happy but we are not satisfied with it, what's the point of creating? Do I want to leave it at the safe stage where it might get compliments but won't make me proud of it, or do I dare taking it a step or two forward?

Frustrated, I took out the white gesso and tried to give some character, breaking the overly-straight lines, adding texture and pretty much molesting the pureness of the colors. Ahhh - that was more like it! As LimaB put it "This is so much more alive!".

I like it much more now. Not sure if there will be a third version of this one, though, as I have other Portugal images that sit in my head and demand to be portrayed.

Plus, I cannot guarantee the man on the right will keep his pose for long... poor guy, he's been waiting waaaaay too long for his friend to move aside and have a peek at that door, I can't help feeling he's just about to explode.

"Évora Stroll #2", Watercolor on W/N CP paper, 21"x14"

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Portugal Through My Eyes: Évora #1

I am notorious for my obsessive photo-taking while on vacation (and any other time), and loyal to my fame I took dozens of photos in Portugal. OK, more like a dozen hundred of them, and then some. And maybe a bit more.

Don't give me this look! All those white washed houses, the laundry, the people sitting on benches, the tiles, the mosaic on the streets, the people, ahhhh the people! I had to document it, didn't I?

The down side of such an overwhelming amount of photos is that when I approach this stash in desire to paint from them, um... what do I paint first? So, since I was grounded at home wallowing in viruses and tea cups, I strolled through the photos trying to pick one.

Or two.

. . . Or ten.

Now, when it comes to painting Portugal, you cannot avoid painting some architectural elements, which I absolutely dread, to say the least. Y'see, I do figurative work; people, figures, faces, hands - all made of glorious curves and odd shapes and lost edges and beautiful flowing rounded surfaces. Architecture has straight lines. That is, linear, and as The JohnnyB would happily attest (with a deep, deep sigh) - I am not a linear person. So how can I paint linearly?

And yet, should one just stay in one's comfort zone forever and not travel at all to other domains, as challenging as may be?

I decided to start simple. My first candidate was a photo I took in Évora, a wonderful bustling town about 2 hours east of Lisbon. This town has an impressive main square (Praça do Giraldo) with a mighty church (Igreja de Santo Antão) and a 1570 Renaissance fountain (fonte Henriquina) with eight jets that represent the eight streets leading into the square (al uphill, as our sore muscles soon found out...). Hmm, now that I am shamelessly using Wikipedia to show off with all that knowledge I did not have while in Évora, I also see that this square has witnessed thousands of Auto de fes during the period of the Inquisition; 22.000 condemnations, it seems, in about 200 years.

OK then... maybe it's a good think I did not paint this square.

But I digress (told you I'm not linear!).

So, instead of all this glory, I chose to paint a humble mundane scene that I took on one of the streets while I was walking and getting hopelessly lost (Oh but what a town to get lost in).

I started it at 5pm yesterday (very early for me, as I usually begin painting when normal people go to sleep), and was done several hours later.

Being so different than what I usually paint, I was actually having a ball, until it reached the stage when it looked terrible.

But rather than give up, I remembered that while diamonds may be a girl's best friends, a girl who's a painter can find a true kinship with (watercolor police, please turn your heads away, just this time) white gesso and the magic sponge, which I used to cover some lame areas and add some texture to the whole thing.


Architecture is kinda fun to do!

But before I tackle it again, I feel a deep urge to do a portrait in order to relax in my comfort zone.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


We're back.

And I'm sick.

Honestly, one virus can be walking around the aisles of san airplane, and it would befriend me. That's because I'm special. Usually a pre-flight doze of Airborne takes care of that and puts an end to the flourishing friendship, but this time I was too lazy/tired/nauseous and decided to skip it.

So, while no jetlag was in stock for me, I'm imprisoned at home with a nasty cold for the last 5 days.

Portugal was charming, beautiful and unassuming, lovely people and incomprehensible language. And I absolutely fell in love with it all. I took lots and lots of photos, did quite a few sketches and came back with plenty of inspiration and a few extra kilos, as the food is so wonderful.

It might be blogged, probably some of it will show in my future paintings.

If I could come up with the ultimate photo that would represent this enchanting country, it would show a very narrow alley with steep stairs leading up to a red-roofed white washed house with blue-n-white tiles on one of its walls, where an old woman in black is looking out of a window under which a picturesque laundry line is waving in the wind, a street lamp nearby, a castle in the background as well as a cathedral, and intricate black and white mosaics on the cobbled-stoned pavement. Behind that woman, there will be a table with sardines and bachalau (cod fish) and pastries galore. near a cup of bica (the wonderfully strong Portuguese coffee) and a narrow glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. Oh, and a loquat tree. And three old men sitting on a bench.

Clearly, this photo exists in my mind only, but it's quite a good one!

For now, from underneath heaps of cups of tea and Dayquil, and until I get back to a painting and blogging state, I'll leave you with a photo I took in one of my favorite places in Portugal: the truly impressive monolithic Discoveries Monument in Belém, Lisbon.

Oh, and if the bridge on the right looks familiar, that's because it's a cousin of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco (both constrcuted by the same company).

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Taking the Scenic Road

Do you ever feel that force majeure is getting in the way of settling on a planned route?

You go on the freeway with a destination in mind, and suddenly you see an exit that calls for you, and you take it, surrendering to your gut feeling?

I have quite a few paintings in my queue. I'm still working on the untitled acrylics guy; I have another version of my grandfather in mind; I really need to start that commission; I already did the drawing for a new painting that's been marinating in my head for a while; I . . .

. . . and out of the blue, my sister has emailed me this incredible photo of our father (who died just over a decade ago). It's a photo I've been dying to have, a very unique capture of him a couple of years before he died.

OK, you know what's that means - I tossed everything aside, cleared a little space on my overloaded desk in my insanely messy studio, grabbed some watercolor paper, dipped my brush in some paint and just followed my overflowing heart. Two hours later, I was done, and exhausted.

And to think painting my grandfather seemed like an emotional journey... well, Einstein's theory of relativity was proven, yet again.

The painting got quite a few constructive comments at our critique group, which I agree with in the sense of design and composition. However, I realized it may have been a mistake to bring this kind of painting for critique. To me, it was all about the courage it took me to paint him, the feeling I had when I was caressing his face with my brush, and my success in capturing exactly what I was going for. The elements of design were not at the top of my priority list with this one.

So, that was quite a detour from the "appropriate" way to paint. And it made me realize that taking the scenic road from time to time - even if it doesn't lead to a preplanned and well defined destination - is OK. It's more than OK.

We'll be taking a lot of scenic roads in the coming couple of weeks. The JohnnyB is in dire need of a vacation, and due to the restricted time-window dictated by his work, we found ourselves on a spontaneity spree in a very fast-forward mode of pondering-considering-discussing-deciding-arguing-deciding-doubting-deciding-stressing-deciding-booking-planning a 2-week timeout.

To contrast the hectic pace of the Bay Area, we chose one of the more laid-back countries in Europe, that seems to be beautiful and charming and welcoming and different, with a language neither of us speaks.

Portugal, here we come!!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Acrylics Alert! - Addendum

Just had to share this!

After posting this painting, I went to visit some of my favorite blogs to see what's been going on there while I was out of the blogosphere.

And - lo and behold, I was astonished to find the soul mate of my cheery guy, in a wonderfully powerful painting done by Bonnie Luria of the St. Croix-nicity blog.

You have to
see it to believe it.

I am still speechless.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Acrylics Alert!

Haven't disappeared. Just took a break, turned 46, and - actually been painting.

The kind of painting that takes forever.

No, it's not the procrastinated commission (the deadline is June-ish, so of course I am doing everything I can to not do it yet...). Been working on a new painting that was marinating in my mind for a while; a new style, new medium, new support - and it's having countless iterations.

When I brought it to the two critique groups I belong to, there was a multi-shock effect by me working in acrylics (Nava? Acrylics?) on a relatively nice-sized (Nava?? Big??) canvas (Nava??? Canvas???) with relatively cheery colors (OK, you get the idea...).

There is something very freeing in trying somethign new. Plus, after almost 2 years of intentionally avoiding the use of purely line (I was forcing myself to learn more about shapes), it feels sooooooooooooo good to be back in my comfort zone and play with line like there's no tomorrow.

So - here it is, acrylic on canvas, 24"x24" (hey, stop snickering! To me, that IS big!).
Not yet titled, still unfinished, yet to be reworked and metamorphose until I'm happy with it. You are more than likely to see it again in its next stage.

It seems to stir up some serious emotional responses - I wonder what's yours.

Acrylics (yes, me!) on Canvas (yes!!)