I've hardly touched a paintbrush in the past week, what with grading and graduation ceremonies, and I felt rusty in life class today. Not my best effort, but by the end of the session I felt like I was back in the swing of things.
My mom is a wonderful person, and one of the many things I love about her is that she inspired me to take up art. She's also a terrific artist in her own right. You can see more of her work at http://www.bethwatson.com/ .
She did this painting of roses some time ago, and when I admired it last Christmas, she sent it to me as a surprise gift! So she sent me Mother's Day flowers. It's supposed to be the other way round! :-)
I'm sorry for the glare on the photo; it's been raining all week, and I've had trouble finding a good spot to photograph (or create!) paintings. Anyway, Happy Mother's Day, mom!
Today my son graduated from The Catholic University of America at its 129th Commencement ceremony! Because I'm on the faculty at Catholic, I had the honor of greeting my son on stage and handing him his diploma. That was great!
Also, the theme of the ceremony was remarkable. It was about immigration, and about welcoming. First the University awarded several honorary degrees to immigrants from Cuba, Syria, Pakistan, Italy, and Lebanon. Then we heard from the main speaker, Archbishop Jose Gomez, who spoke movingly of immigration's role in American history and culture. President John Garvey described a painting he hangs in his home that welcomes guests, and he urged graduates to welcome guests into their own lives. And one of the closing speakers quoted Emma Lazarus: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."
I brought my sketchbook but forgot a writing implement. My new best friend from the Drama Department loaned me a pen, and I drew the sketch below with it. I'm pleased with it, though I got hot and tired by the time I reached the right half of the page, and my vertical lines there wandered off in the wrong direction. Still and all, the picture captures the essence of the thing. Hats off to CUA for a great Commencement!
Today The Catholic University of America held its Honors Convocation for graduating students -- including my son! The event took place in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. I wore my red academic robes, processed in with the faculty, and got a nice front-row seat. I had my handy sketchbook with me, so in between applauding and cheering, I did some drawing! I hope to do more of the same tomorrow at Commencement.
More softball! This time I sketched the whole field across two pages of my sketchbook. The game ended before I finished; I wanted to darken the darks, for example. Still fun!
I brought my fountain pens and watercolors to a softball game today. First I sketched a few people hanging out before the game.
At the diamond, I started with this quick pen-and-ink sketch of the catcher.
And a quick sketch of the coach. Alas, I closed the sketchbook too soon, and some of the ink ran, but it still captures his gesture.
Next, a ballplayer.
I have some earlier sketches of players at bat and some infield action, but I haven't gotten around to photographing them. So for now you'll have to settle for a watercolor sketch of fans in the bleachers.
I had a great time painting this house today! The weather was perfect, and the passersby were friendly and supportive. I'm happy with this painting, but I'd like to try this subject again from a different angle, and I'd like to experiment with softer edges everywhere except at, say, the chimney and circular turret. Anyway, what a great day to be outdoors!
I've been using my new fountain pen all over the place -- in the doctor's waiting room, on the softball field, at the shopping mall. Here are a few more examples.
I did this quick oil study of a local mansion today.
Here's an ink study I did of it beforehand. I think I prefer this to the painting!
Behind me was the church I painted last week, so I did a quick ink sketch of it for fun too. It might have made for a better subject than the mansion, but I wanted to try something different. I may return to the church later, as I do like it a lot.
I bought a Sailor fountain pen and decided to give it a whirl at Mazza Gallerie, in the Friendship Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC. I brought along a waterbrush so that I could create ink washes -- diluted areas of ink used for shading and blending. I started in the lobby area, which features big comfy chairs. Lots of people flop in them to snooze or, more commonly, to use their phones.
The fellow below didn't notice me, but his companion did. They liked my drawing.
Here are a couple more guys with phones.
I then wandered over to a nearby McDonald's and has a small order of fries. While eating, I sketched a group of boisterous friends at the table next to mine.
I also sketched people waiting in line to order.
Then I wandered into TJ Max and sketched a few folks shopping. Shoppers move around more than I expected, so this was more of a challenge. Here's a shoe-shopper.
Finally I wandered back to my starting point and sketched one more person in a chair. It was a nice afternoon!
This portrait was a real challenge, as I had to contend with three light sources: two light bulbs, plus off-and-on sun streaming through translucent window shades. I wiped it off halfway through and restarted! I'm afraid some of the shadows are too dark, but I don't like to retouch it once the model is no longer in front of me. It's still kinda cool.
I've long wanted to paint this church, and especially its steeple. I set up my easel in the church parking lot yesterday, under a beautiful sunny sky. A few parents came by to pick up kids from school (or was it daycare?), and then I seemed to be completely alone.
After I'd drawn a couple sketch lines, a large group of elderly folks appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. They walked by me on their way to an exercise class in the social room of the church. They were friendly, and a couple of them asked me how long it would take to make the painting. So I was hoping to show it to them when they finished their exercise. But when I stopped painting, the exercise group was nowhere to be seen. The group must have exited in a different direction. Rats!
One nice thing about keeping a blog is that it helps me remember little episodes like that. (Like the time my easel blew into a lake.) I used to dread that passersby would watch me paint. Now I kinda like having an audience!
James Gurney has posted the portrait he painted for us this past weekend. You can find the whole post at his blog here: https://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/2018/04/portrait-demo-at-yellow-barn-workshop.html . He did this picture in half an hour, maybe less, from life. Pretty amazing. If you like this, you should take some time to read the rest of his blog. I think it's the best art blog on the internet.
James Gurney writes my favorite art blog, the "Gurney Journey," updated every day. You can find it here: http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/ . The blog explores art technique, art history, the science behind art, and many other subjects. It also showcases Gurney's bravura draftsmanship and his mastery of many media -- oil, watercolor, gouache, casein, graphite.
Gurney is best known for his wonderful multi-book series "Dinotopia," but I most enjoy the little gouache and watercolor paintings he does in his small sketchbook. You can even get apps containing the sketches as well as sound and video relating to the scenes James paints. Check one out here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/living-sketchbook-vol-1-boyhood-home/id1209783393?ls=1&mt=8
Mr. Gurney was in town today, and he gave a talk at the Yellow Barn Studio here in Glen Echo, Maryland. It was great! First he spoke about composition, and he elaborated on some of the themes from his blog -- e.g., that people don't view pictures the way art professors have long assumed, that figures and faces often draw more attention than high-contrast points or "golden mean" spots, etc. His second talk was about faces -- about the curious ways in which we recognize faces. (One interesting result of empirical study: women recognize faces better than men, but men recognize vehicles better than women.) Finally he did a delightful gouache portrait demo of a courtly gentleman dressed in period attire. If he posts the picture on his blog, I'll link it here.
Anyway, check out the Gurney Journey!
I did these two charcoal figure studies in life class today. This first one took about 10 minutes. For some reason, some sort of watermark showed through while I was shading! Can you spot it?
For the second, we had only five minutes. But by golly, when I shaded, I uncovered another secret message! I have no idea what's going on with the sketchbook I was using! But I'm gonna keep using it because it's sort of hilarious. :)
It was a cold, blustery, windy day down by the Potomac River today. That didn't stop me from getting out there and painting! Alas, I got cold, so I didn't really finish this piece. I still had fun with it.
Our cherry trees reached peak bloom yesterday, I'd say. Today we see more green in the trees, and fallen blossoms at our feet. They're still pretty glorious, though.
In this picture, I was interested in the "arch" formed by the trees dueling each other from across the street. But I also sought to convey the subtle gradations of color on the street and in the sky, and I experimented more with the palette knife. I think I'm just starting to get the hang of these cherry blossoms -- just in time for them to disappear for a year!
The wind blew again today, and the cherry trees lost more of their blossoms, but they still look great. It was also downright hot -- 85 degrees or so. So it was a good day to get outside and paint once more.
I struggled with this one more than the past few. I drew a few sketches and settled on a plan, but once I started painting, I started rethinking the composition -- adding and removing background elements, fussing with shadow placement, etc. I think I managed to recover, and I hope the picture doesn't reflect my early indecisiveness. In any case, the blossoms look pretty, and that's what counts!
It was a glorious day here today, 70 degrees and sunny, but the wind picked up, and our cherry trees started to shed blossoms. A dozen blossoms fell onto my canvas as I painted. (I picked them all off. I don't think they're archival.) The falling blossoms mean we'll be past "peak" bloom in a day or two, if not already. So all the more reason to paint them again!
It was especially fun today because I got to try out a new batch of gorgeous brushes from Rosemary, which are hand-made in England and yet reasonably priced. Also, I painted larger than usual: 16" x 20." I thought it turned out pretty well!
The National Park Service says DC's cherry blossoms supposedly reached their peak five days ago, on April 5, but our blossoms in Maryland seem to be peaking right around now. (For the NPS view, check out https://www.nps.gov/subjects/cherryblossom/bloom-watch.htm.) So of course I had to get out there and paint them again!
This time I chose a more ambitious composition -- a shadowed foreground and a lit background -- even though I knew it would be easier to paint the blossoms with a dark background, as I did in my previous blog post. I guess I wanted a change of pace. I also wanted to depict how the blossoms form a canopy over our streets. To do that best, I'd have to stand in the middle of the road and paint, but that's not feasible, especially with the caravan of tourists. The piece turned out reasonably well, but I still prefer the single tree I posted on the blog two days ago.