Monday, February 28, 2011


Finding an interesting photo at WetCanvas of a wet and bedraggled crow, I printed it out and kept it on the back burner for a while.  Finally got it out and started it this week. 

Thursday night, while watching t.v. and hearing a noise that sounded like someone dropping something on a piece of plastic over and over, I looked up and realized the ceiling was leaking - a tiny drip drip drip from a tiny seam coming away from the wall.    It had been raining all Wednesday night into Thursday night, steady, heavy, always raining.  Obviously, a leak in the roof into the attic that was dripping down enough to cause problems with the ceiling.  So....

I thought this was appropriate to share this now, even though it's just started.

And I titled it before Thursday night.

It's called Wet but I'm thinking about calling it
Rainy Days Always Make Me Blue (there will be a lot of blue in the crow and in the ledge on which he's perched.

If you've never used WetCanvas' large Image Library, you should - all the photos are copyright free and good reference when you can't get your own photos of specific things.

This is where is stands right now with more color in the breast where much of the reflected blue is showing.  I'll need to make the feathers more "piecey" to look wet, too.

And guess who will be getting a new roof this spring?

Sunday, February 27, 2011


For some reason, my blogroll has decided NOT to show the thumbnails for some of my sidebar blogs.  I don't know why.  I haven't changed anything.  And it's not every blog - just some.  It's a not-so-funny Google thing, I guess.

Anyone else having this happen to them?


Malice Neel.

This is what some of her “friends” called her. She showed that temperament in her relationship with John Rothschild, whom she called “the money man.” She was often biting, sarcastic and rude to him in front of others. She maintained their relationship for years, keeping him around on the side even when she became involved with others. But this was not a one-way street. John had many lovers besides Alice.  In fact, he was married to his second wife when he met Alice in 1932.  He left his wife and children, spending the summer of 1935 with Alice in Spring Lake, New Jersey in a little house Alice later purchased with help from her parents and John. When Alice got on the WPA’s easel project in 1935, she found her own apartment and John was out - used only as the money man and occasional lover.  When she refused to let him live with her, John moved just a few blocks away. Alice told people John was a masochist and she provided what he needed in that respect.  Even though their relationship was often bitter, John was always supportive of her, even when she returned to Kevin Doolittle for weekend treks  - even when she met her next love interest, Jose Santiago Negron. Jose was a handsome musician, 10 year's younger than Alice.  Not long after meeting – during a night out with John Rothschild – Alice moved him into her apartment in NY. She lived with Jose and continued to paint WPA projects for a monthly sum.

By 1937, Alice was pregnant with Jose’s child, but lost the baby 6 months’ into her pregnancy.

By 1938, Alice was pregnant again. John offered her money for an abortion. Alice used the money to purchase a photograph instead. While pregnant with her first son, Richard, Alice moved to Spanish Harlem, where she would live for 24 years.   She painted many portraits of the residents of her neighborhood.

1938 was a good year for Alice. She was the only female member of the New York Group (founded by Jacob Kainen). She had her first solo show in Manhattan at Contemporary Arts and not long after that show, she was included in a show of work by the New York Group at the ACA Gallery.

In 1939, when the New York Group gave it’s final show, the Social Realist movement of which Alice was such a large part, began to wane. Early work in the Abstract Expressionist style of de Kooning and Gorky were beginning to take hold. Alice was included in several group shows between 1939 and 1942, but she would not have another solo show for 5 years. So began the obscurity that enveloped her for more than a decade of her life. In July 1939, Alice’s WPA payments were adjusted down and she was terminated in August of that year. The WPA was terminated by Congress in 1943.

In the summer of 1939, Alice's daughter, Isabetta, came to Spring Lake for a visit.  Alice was living there with her parents, Jose and his daughter.  Alice hadn’t seen Isabetta for 5 years. Nothing is known about the visit except Isabetta, on her return to Havana, said she would never go back there.  Something very bad happened to Isabetta when she was living with Alice – hints of someone molesting her. Isabetta did call the police and asked them to contact her Cuban aunts, who were then staying in New Jersey. They came and got her. Whatever happened, Isabetta never talked openly about it and from then on, would only visit her aunt Lily, Alice’s sister. Lily did not approve of Alice’s lifestyle, but loved her niece and allowed her to live with her for Isabetta's 3rd year of high school.

It is not that surprising that Isabetta might have caught the eye of a pedophile among the group surrounding Alice, especially given the nude painting done during the visit.

Alice’s first son, Richard (named Neel Santiago and often called Neel Neel at school), was born in September 1939. Just 2 ½ months after Richard was born, Jose left. Jose’s sister said Alice “was more interested in her art and Jose was more interested in himself” to keep a relationship going. Alice was not heartbroken over Jose’s leaving. Jose moved in with a 16-year-old model, Ruth, and Alice kept in touch with Jose’s mother in Spanish Harlem.  She, and Jose's sister and brothers were still a part of Alice's life after Jose was gone. 

Although Richard was healthy when born, about a year later his eyesight was so bad he was almost blind.  At the time it was thought that Jose had syphilis and passed it to Alice who passed it, in utero, to Richard.  But doctors who treated Richard and tested him for syphilis said it was a severe deficiency of Vitamin A.  In fact, hospitalizing Richard and giving him Vitamin A intravenously and then sending him home with recommendions for eye drops and a diet strong in Vitamin A helped Richard for a time.  His eyesight was never good.

Why would Alice's son be so deficient in Vitamin A?  Because the man who came into her life about a month after Jose left starved Richard, putting him on a very restrictive diet.  He was known to put salt in Richard's bottle and terrorized him to such a point that Richard would often vomit in his presence.  Alice met that man, Sam Brody, at a WPA meeting in January 1940.  Brody would father her next two children and be her companion for the next two decades.  And he would continuously verbally and physically abuse Richard, often calling him names and childishly kicking him under the table as they sat together.  Alice, when asked why she put up with that behavior said, "I did the best that I could." 

Saturday, February 26, 2011


One of my all time favorite painters, Carol Carter, is having her one woman show, The Italian Suite, at Cedarhurst Center for the Arts in Mount Vernon, Illinois.  I've been there before, to view a group show that featured several of Carol's watercolor figures.  I couldn't attend the opening night this past Friday due to other plans early Saturday morning, but will definitely go later this spring to visit this show of 80 acrylic paintings showcasing Italy.  Until then, I ordered the book on Blurb.  It came Friday morning.  And it is beautiful!  (I have been very impressed with the Blurb books I've purchased so far.)

If you are near Cedarhurst and Mount Vernon, Illinois, stop in and view these paintings.  Schedule an hour or more to really take them in.  Take your time.  Walk the grounds.  There is a lot to see and enjoy there. 

Friday, February 25, 2011


According to the author, Bill Buchman, he says that "line is the most essential, the most powerful, the most abstract, and the most versatile means we have for conveying our responses and ideas.  Line can suggest or describe.  Lines can enable you to see inside and through things."

He talks about the personality of lines = your personality = the way you draw your lines/move your drawing instrument.  Energy = energetic lines; delicacy = delicate lines.

We begin with contour lines.  Contour lines record the edges of a thing while still conveying three dimensional qualities.  How?  By conveying edge contours or surface contours.  So...the first exercise is learning how to determine significant space.

First, take a photograph. 
Then draw the lines along the photo (inside and outside lines). 
Then remove the photo part and just show the lines (this was easy because the lines I drew over the photo showed through on the back as just the lines).

Then, using that line drawing as your guide, draw again the lines of the body you see.  (Since I was using the line drawing made on the back of the photo, the line drawing I make will be the reverse of the photo.)

Another way to work with lines is to do the Straight-Line Edge Contour Exercise.  In this one, we express the contours of the body ONLY using straight lines.  Don't use too many short lines but try to convey the curves in 2-3 lines.

I liked the way this one turned out, and it seemed easier to draw by doing it in short straight lines.  It slowed you down to see the contours of the body better (I think).

The next exercise was the Blind Contour Exercise.  Many of you have done this.  The task is to draw using a model or photo and NEVER look at the paper as you draw.  It creates some odd looking things but it also helps you draw and helps you see the shapes of the body.  (The goal is not to get a perfect drawing - if it's perfect, you cheated and looked at the paper!).

The poor guy at the bottom ended up with three legs - typical when doing this type of thing as you can get lost in the drawing and not know where you are.  So I wet him to test out the new drawing marker I just got - and began again with the right-side up guy.  Not back at all but I did choose a pretty straight-forward pose to work on.

Returning to the large chunky charcoal sticks, I then did the Thick, Continuous Line Exercise.  Moving the stick around from thicker to thinner to make different lines.  Not great so I went back in with a conte crayon and tried it with a smaller stick = worked better for me. 

This guy had a bit of flesh on him and was posing like an archer with arm out and arm brought back towards his face.  I like the energy of this one.

And the last one of the day = another
Blind Contour Drawing.

I got out another of my new water soluble markers (just got them from Daniel Smith) so I included the markers in the shot so you can see what they are called.  I also did a smudge of color and bled it out to show their ability to blend with water.  The colors are really bright but few of them (just red, green, blue, orange and violet).

I see a lot of really crazy blind contour drawings and have done a lot of crazy ones, too, but maybe I just did this one slowly enough to feel my way around the body - like sculpting - to get it looking not too bad at all.

Only one more line drawing exercise to do before we move on in the book to Structure.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


We finish up the section of the book, Expressive Figure Drawing (by Bill Buchman) with another exercise on Mass.  He called his exercise/example
Mass and Line Drawing with Acrylic Gouache and Water Soluble Crayon

(I don't even know what acrylic gouache is - I thought gouache was a watercolor that was opaque.)

Anyway, I used my white gouache with a touch of Verditer Blue from Daniel Smith (it has white in it and is very opaque.

First, using the gouache and water, paint the figure, thinking about the muscle masses.  The trick is to leave out as much as you put in (something that is not easy for me to do).

While the gouache is still wet, go back with the water soluble crayon and mark in lines.  Again, you are supposed to use the lines ONLY where it's necessary to show the figure - not all over like I did :(

Oh, well.  I WILL get this one day.  I feel like the little train that keeps saying, "I think I can.  I think I can.  I think I can."  I'm hoping I'm on the uphill climb right now and the peak isn't that far away.

After this one, I got a bit carried away and just played with the next one.

Both of these were done on brownish kraft paper, 15" x 22".

(Again, this one should have the kraft paper color showing through in areas where I wanted the darks, and instead I covered everything.)

Before we move on to LINE, I wanted to try my hand again at the "less is more" type of painting and drawing.  Sometimes the best way to "see" is to try to copy what's there from someone who knows how - so these are direct copies of some of the figures in the book.  Painting first and then putting in the lines, I realize how hard it is for my hand to stop! ha ha

And if you really want to see some beautiful examples of this style, go here:

and look at the beautiful figures done in watercolor by Wendy Artin.  She is amazing!!!  She says she's been doing figures for 25 years (she must have begun when she was 10 because she can't be more than 35, if that).

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


For those of you who have been reading this blog, you know I was the VERY LUCKY recipient of a recent give-away by Mary Beth Shaw, that little red-haired, cowboy-booted mixed media whirling dervish.  And now, Mary Beth has published her own mixed media book, featuring some outstanding artists in the field.  And she is giving away a copy.  In fact, you can enter several times because the other artists in the book are also sharing in the give away and creating links to sign up on their blogs.

So - if you're interested in some very unusual and creative and beautiful mixed media artwork, hop on over to Mary Beth's blog at
and sign up and share the news. 

And visit the other blogs, too, so find some new art and make some new friends.

Words the describe Mary Beth:

Red Hair
Cowboy Boots

Oh, there are many more.  But these are just a few I know from meeting her here in Cincinnati once and in following her blog.  She is just like she seems - open, friendly, funny, and beautiful!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Just got my latest (April) issue of Watercolor Artist.  In it, there are always links to what's online.  This time, I found Karen Frey's work with underpainting the figure/portrait interesting.  She begins with the smallest rigger and then goes to a big brush - exactly the opposite way most other artists work.  Good watercolors, though, so that technique must work for her.  The link is here:

And these photos show where I am with Figure in Red and Black (I started this one over after being unhappy with the way the first was going). 

Going to try to remain true to the watercolor on this one and let the paint and water do its thing without so much manipulation from me (I hope).  I just put down the color on prewet paper and then tipped it to let it run and blend.  This is a full sheet (22" x 30") of Arches 140# hot press (could be a pain to use but we'll see) watercolor paper.

The "black" which isn't dark yet (but will be) looks like a mess right now but I'm not worried yet.  I'll go much darker in all those areas and still try to let the colors (Indigo + Transparent Orange) do their thing without my forcing it.

Monday, February 21, 2011


Neck is getting better - more range of motion and less pain :)  Now let's get back to the Expressive Figure Drawing exercises...

We're now learning about Mass.  Mass can be captured in a variety of ways.  You can evoke mass by emphasizing the large shapes, rounding the muscle masses with dark and light; or you can evoke mass by looking at the negative shapes around the figure.

The Mass Gesture Exercise tells us to go back to the sumi brush and ink (I used a watercolor round brush and watercolor pigment).  The author tells us to express the masses by darker and lighter use of the pigment.  Building the figure based on the brush strokes, you turn, twist and pull the brush around the shapes.  I did this twice and like my second effort best.

The Building Mass with Line Exercise was easy and fun.  With a ball point pen (I used my Tombow black marker), you do 2-3 of these side by side, building up the mass of the body gradually with squiggles and circles.  The author says to think building up the body with some material like clay or wool or wire as you do this.

Then we're asked to return to the conte crayon and do the Mass and Line in Two Layers Exercise - just what it says:  create the mass with the edges of the crayon, moving it, twisting it; then going back in and reiterating the lines around and in the body.  Don't care for this one but I think it's the material - I don't really like conte crayon for some reason.  It's a bit hard but also crumbly (if you press too hard on it) and I can't seem to get a light touch and still get a mark on the paper.  Maybe I'm too impatient to slowly build up tone with these.  

Before we finish with the section on Mass, we'll do one more exercise:  Mass and Line Drawing with Gouache and Water Soluble Crayon.

Then we'll move into the section on Line.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Continuing the summary of the biography of Alice Neel...

“I was a neurotic. Art was my salvation.” Alice Neel

By the age of 31, Alice had suffered many painful experiences. But when she was in the midst of those experiences, she repressed any feelings she had. In a frenzy after the “loss” of her 2nd daughter, Isabetta – her father took her to Cuba and did not return – Alice threw herself into painting. She said that, during this time of mania, she painted some of her best paintings. She did not think. She did not act. She painted.

Eventually, the mania stopped and the true feelings arose. She was admitted to Pennsylvania General Hospital in October 1930 for major depression. She was released in January 1931, returning to her parents’ home. There, taking a cue from a threat her mother often gave her father, Alice put her head in the gas oven. Her father’s comment on finding her was that the gas bill would be high. So Alice was returned to the hospital where she tried to swallow glass she’d smashed, tried to strangle herself with a pair of stockings, and jumped down a laundry chute. During Alice’s stay in the hospital, her mother never came to see her. Perhaps we can see a bit of the coldness Alice felt while growing up and trying to make her way. She did not like or want these people – but she needed them for support, both financially and emotionally.

Carlos came back to the states (with a ticket paid for by Alice’s sister). He tried to talk her into going to Paris with him. She would not go. She said that, by then, she was “too far gone” and nothing mattered. He left without her and in May 1931, she was put into an asylum in Pennsylvania. She was there for 4 months. During that time, she had a respected therapist and, perhaps the real treatment, she was allowed her to have drawing materials. After she was given her art materials, there were no more suicide attempts and she began to get better. When she was released, she returned to her parents’ home, penniless, without prospects. She was invited to spend time with an old friend from the Village, Nadya Olyanova, in Stockton, New Jersey. Alice stayed with Nadya and her husband on and off for several months. It was there that Alice met a red-haired sailor who would become her next lover – Kenneth Doolittle.

By early 1932, Alice and Kenneth Doolittle had moved into an apartment in NYC in the West Village. They lived there together until December 1934. Those years with Doolittle were exciting for Alice. To Alice, Doolittle was a sexy Marxist bohemian. He introduced Neel to the great thinkers and socialists of the day as well as other artists in NYC. Unfortunately, Doolittle was also an opium addict and a very jealous man. During her years with Doolittle, Alice painted freely without ties to children and being a traditional wife. She showed in many local shows and received her first American review in the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1933. Alice enrolled in the Public Works of Art (PWAP) Project (the precursor to the WPA) in 1933 and created “revolutionary paintings.” The PWAP was run by the Whitney Museum and, although it lasted only 7 months, it gave work to over 3,500 artists, including Alice. It was the precursor to FDR’s Work’s Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project (FAP) which began August 1935 and ended in 1943. Alice was on the project payroll from September 1930 through August 1942. Alice and other artists of those years became known as social realist painters, painting unsparing portraits of the suffering and starving people of the time. Government funded, there were no restrictions on what an artist created (except nudes were not allowed).

For paintings of that era that survived, see

Alice’s ambivalence about the men in her life was true to form when she was with Doolittle. She says, “When I lived with him [Doolittle] I still loved Carlos."  And she had gained another man in her life – one who would become a life-long supporter - John Rothschild. However, true to form, her inability to act when it came to making hard decisions, she had the chance to be with Carlos but froze. 

Carlos, whose mother had died, wanted to return to Alice. She was living with Doolittle, pursued by Rothschild, but she wanted Carlos (or so she said).  However, rather than making plans to reunite with Carlos, she stayed with Doolittle. And began a sexual relationship with Rothschild. Because of the relationship with Rothschild, Doolittle got high and destroyed all of her clothes and her art: 60 paintings, 300 drawings and watercolors. He used a knife, cutting up the papers easily and burning them; the canvases he sliced through.  He told his friends he did it because she jilted him. Alice says she became pregnant by Doolittle, did not want to bear his child and had an abortion (paid for by Rothschild). At any rate, Alice fled their apartment, never to return, moving first into a hotel paid for by Rothschild and later to an apartment he set up for her. Again, Alice has suffered a terrible loss – this time of something even more personal to her than her children and husband – her artwork.

I decided to return to Alice Neel since none of the newer followers (for a potential Sunday Sharing) have blogs.  However, I do enjoy seeing the number slowly climb past 105 and am happy that others see enough of interest in my blog to become a follower :)

Friday, February 18, 2011


I did start over on the figure in red and black that I shared the other day.  Going slow.  Might have to take longer breaks from the computer since I seem to have strained my neck.  Hurts - don't have much range of motion.  How did this happen?  Doing Pilates and Yoga in order to not hurt my back, I strained my neck - and going to the hairdresser yesterday and bending my head back over the shampoo bowl = more strain on strain.  Ouch! 

And today had my eyes examined - so can't see well.  It takes HOURS for my eyes to return to normal after all the drops the doc puts in - I look like an owl with huge black eyes! ha ha

So...whenever I get back to normal - or closer to it...I'll be back drawing, painting and posting.  Until then,
Have a Good Weekend. 

It's warm here - over 50F!!!! Hints of spring coming :)

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Jeanette Jobson shared a puzzle with her blog viewers the other day, in honor of Valentine's Day.  If you like puzzles, you'll enjoy this one.  Just takes a few minutes of your time and it's fun.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Dancing Movements Exercise:  Apply brushstrokes (I used watercolors) rapidly with a free motion, capturing mass, line and structural elements.  Stop.  Switch to a water soluble crayon and draw into the wet wash, adding just enough overlapping contours to bring out the position of the body.

I used the stills from a movie for the top two but too much blur when I paused the tape so...

went to the book and copied the one below, trying to see more what he was trying to get us to do.

Again, for me, it's a matter of putting in too much information.  Something I'll just have to keep working on.

This one is a copy of his demo:  Gesture Drawing with Black Pastel Chalk.

You were to create the mass of the body first with the chalk on its side, then draw around it, reiterating the shapes and edges. 

I found myself a bit frustrated with the gesture drawings and think I need to do a lot more than these to get the hang of it.  Hard for me to leave a lot out - which is one of my goals. 

And since I really wanted to play with some color today, I started a large painting.  But I already see where it's overworked and I can feel the frustration rising...!!!  (It's the figure at the top of the page with her red dress on.)

I think I need to spend more time on these gesture drawings, getting the angles of the body correct but also leaving out everything - stopping and letting it be after just a minute or less. 

Next exercises and information is about Mass.  Mr. Buchman says that "it is much more crucial to be able to render mass than intricate details (again, less is more!!).  Accurately sensing mass greatly improves the chances of creating a successful figure drawing."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


The next section in the book, Expressive Figure Drawing, talks about gesture drawing.  The author, Bill Buchman, says that a gesture drawing tries to "capture an essential feeling, meaning, or action - or all three."  When you do a gesture drawing you should consider the gesture of the model but also consider your gesture when drawing.  Don't be tenative but be sure and let the model's pose dictate what materials you use.

Here are a few of the things I did following the Brush Gesture Exercises:

First, you use a sheet and do two gestures on each sheet of paper. 

The first gesture is about continuous elliptical movements, creating the body shape by using quick swirling motions with the brush.

The second gesture is about mass and line, varying the pressure of the brush to create both solid masses and thinner lines.

The third gesture is about fluid lines, holding the brush at a constant distance from the paper (I pinned the paper up on the bulletin board over my painting desk so was stretching my arm out to touch the paper).

The fourth gesture is about contours and structure, seeing that the body parts are pointed in different directions and showing that as well as more roundness and depth than the first gew gestures.

As you can see (I hope), the model for this one was laying over a small, short stool with her hands touching the stool's legs or her own foot.  An awkward position that I don't think a model could hold very long, but an interesting one - definitely different from what you normally get.

From here the book goes on to the Oversize Gesture Exercise.  Using a chunk of charcoal, you work in broad strokes and thinner lines, depending on how you hold the piece of charcoal.  It's partly about letting go and letting the charcoal do what it does without trying to be too fussy.

I let myself get too involved in this one and lost the spontaneity of the original drawing.  I wasn't happy with the shape so kept reworking it, then put the dark charcoal around the figure and blended it a bit.  Finally, I just drew in the whole figure with charcoal and erased the shape with a kneaded eraser.  I'm not unhappy with the result but it definitely isn't a quick gesture drawing!  Control issues again, for me :(

For this one I returned to just depicting the lines and gestures and NOT getting too wrapped up in accuracy of the pose.  It's about the direction of the arms and legs and head. 

The next exercise should be fun = Dancing Movements Exercise.  Since I don't have a model who will provide those movements of dance, I've taped Moulin Rouge and will use a dancer there as a model.  Using light and swinging movements, I'm to do 2 or more gesture drawings each lasting about 6 minutes.  I'll do those and share them tomorrow.

Monday, February 14, 2011


For Valentine's Day - a few of sketches/paintings/collages from my Heart Journal (begun in 2009).  I now have a new cardiologist (my old cardiologist changed practices and I decided to stay with the practice, not the person).  I haven't met him yet but will see him next month.  A check-up and some new things to discuss.  (Did you watch the Barbara Walters program about heart surgery last week?  It talked about her valve replacement and recovery, as well as those of Robin Williams and Bill Clinton and others.)

If you held my heart in your hand,
would you find it lacking?
Would it be the right size and shape
for a woman's heart in love?

Where would you find that love?
Not in the heart, but in the mind?

The mind creates our love stories -
stories good or bad.
But if you could hold my brain instead,
would you also find it lacking?

Where does this love reside? 


Sunday, February 13, 2011


First, I'd like to thank all of the new followers/viewers who have come along and saw enough to click on that button and check out my latest posts via email.  I appreciate you all.

Second, I'd like to apologize to the many followers I've picked up that use a Cyrillic text in their blogs that I can't translate.  I would love to feature you in a Sunday Sharing but don't feel like I can tell what the blog is about enough to be able to do that.  Perhaps another time?  I do appreciate all of you, though, and hope you understand.  While the world is getting smaller, it still seems like English, Spanish, French and Italian are the easiest to translate and read when it comes to the blogger world.  Again, my apologies - but it anyone does read these well, there are several followers to visit from the follower block on my sidebar.

Now, for today, let's talk about a couple of my newest followers:

1.  A Blob of Color??  I don't think so.  This blog, by artist Cristina Dalla Valentina (of Verona, Italy), has the most delicately painted watercolors I've seen in a while.  Absolutely gorgeous!  The kind of watercolors that make you say, "Why can't I do?  How long has she been painting?  Why can't I do that?"  Go over, visit, and look at the sheer watercolor beauty (she also shares her sketches) - one that takes my breath away is  It doesn't get any better than this - and now you can count to three in Italian :)

2.  Joseph Cator calls his blog A Beautiful Lie after the quote by artist, Edgar Whitney:  "I don't want it true - instead, I want a beautiful lie!"  Some of the finest drawings I've seen can be found here, and beautiful soft watercolors.  Excellent work is being done by Mr. Cator and I intend to add him to my sidebar (along with Ms. Valentina) so I can continue to check on his (and her) work.  If you do the same, you won't be disappointed in the quality of work they display throughout their blogs.

3.  Cori Berg shares not only artwork on her blog but photos and daily thoughts, plus she has a Saturday Sharing day where she shares blogs she's come across that she wants you to know about.  Her blog is called Sacred Arts and there is something spiritual and compassionate about her postings.  Go see and see if you agree that here is another to keep an eye on.

I've had so many new followers join just since last Sunday.  I'm sorry if I skipped anyone - but it's hard to keep up when you have a little burst like that (not that I'm complaining as I seem to be close to the 110 mark now - not that I'm counting! ha ha)

When you find an artist you love and follow, check our their sidebar and see who they are following and you may find someone special just waiting for you.  Check out their followers, too.  Great ways to gather new artists to watch!

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day.  I hope you have something good planned for yourself or a loved one.  Celebrate the day with red and pink and chocolates and spa days and new clothes and whatever makes you happy.  Valentine's Day doesn't have to be about couples - maybe right now you are not part of a couple.  It should be about love and that means loving yourself and caring for yourself as much as you love and care for others.  So...that new pair of shoes you've been wanting, that new brush or tube of paint you've been putting off --- go get them!

Saturday, February 12, 2011


This book, by Phoebe Hoban, is a biography of the artist, Alice Neel.  Alice was known for her portraits of everyone from women and children in Spanish Harlem in the 1920's and 1930's to Mayor Ed Koch and Andy Warhol in the 1970's and 1980's.  I love the title of the book because Alice's portraits were never pretty.  They dug through the veneer of a person into his or her inner life and fears.  Like a shrewd psychologist, Alice sought out the insecurities and the foibles of the person's life and painted that.  Many people were afraid to pose for her (I would have been) - and yet she talked many people (family, friends, famous and infamous) into posing nude for her.

Born January 1900 in Philadelphia, Alice Neel was raised in the lower middle class neighborhood of Colwyn, PA, the 4th of 5 children.  She knew early on that she wanted to be an artist.  

In 1921, Alice used her own savings of $100 to pay the tuition for her first year at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women.  She didn't want to study at the more prestigious Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (the alma mater of Mary Cassett) because she said she didn't want to be taught Impressionism.  She also knew that boys distracted her and she wanted to be taught in a women's school.  She was good enough that first year to earn a full scholarship for the remaining 3 years, and she was among the first women students to be allowed to study live male nudes. 

While attending the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts' summer school in Chester Springs, Alice fell in love with Carlos Enriquez, a tall, dark and handsome Cuban from a wealthy family.  Carlos did not want to follow in his father's footsteps and run the sugar plantation in Cuba.  He, too, wanted to create art.  In Alice and Carlos we find two souls, with very different backgrounds, both striving for the same thing - the freedom to create art.  Alice and Carlos had a 3-week romance at the summer get-away, in spite of the fact that she was at the summer school thanks to a boyfriend paying the $30 fee for the 6 week course.  Alice often juggled 2 men at the same time, with one being her romantic and sexual interest and the other being her financial and emotional support.

The antics of Carlos and Alice at the summer school caused quite a stir (events that included them dressing in drag with Alice as the man and Carlos as the woman at a school party).  Carlos' beligerent attitude toward his instructors eventually got Carlos expelled.  Carlos' father called him back to Havana and Carlos and Alice didn't see each other for a year.  They did continue their relationship via letters.  Carlos returned to PA in May 1925; he and Alice married in June 1925, and became parents of their first child, Santillana, a baby girl born in December 1926.  The child was born in Cuba, where Carlos and Alice lived with his parents for 8 months before finding a small apartment of their own. 

(Alice gained a strong art background at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women.  She took many drawing and drafting classes.  For those who think her paintings show a lack of drawing skills, others say her skills were excellent and she chose to "warp" certain features of her sitters to make a point about the person.)

Alice's time in Cuba was a time of Cuba's political and cultural growth.  Carlos and Alice joined other artists who painted together, and they both had several paintings at the Salon de Bellas Artes from March - April 1927.  They were both well received and were something of a famous artistic couple in Havana at the time. 

For whatever reason, Alice (with Santillana in tow) returned to Colwyn, PA while her paintings were still on display in the Bellas Artes show.  Perhaps her inlaws were too conventional and didn't understand Alice's bohemian life-style; perhaps she knew Carlos could not support the family (he quit the only job he had and lived on a stipend from his father); perhaps she was simply homesick.  She never said why.  She stayed in Colwyn without Carlos (living with her parents) until he returned to PA in October 1927 and they moved to a tiny apartment in New York City.  Because he left Cuba and didn't bring back his wife and daughter, he was cut off from his father's monetary support.  Alice, Carlos and Santillana were almost starving in NYC and it is no surprise that young Santillana became ill - with diptheria - and died in December 1927.  Friends of the family say she was malnourished and could not fight the disease that killed many children that year. 

The painting, The Futility of Effort, was based on a sketch Alice drew when Santillana died.  Grey, sad, minimalist, it perhaps portrays some of the feelings Alice felt on losing her first child.

Alice said she was so empty losing Santillana that there was nothing for her to do but have another baby.  She got pregnant almost immediately even though times were still very hard.  Alice and Carlos had to take any job they could get, Carlos drawing and illustrating for newspapers and Saks Department Store, Alice working at a bank. 

Isabella (who was always called Isabetta) was born November 1928. 

Alice painted Well Baby Clinic after Isabetta's birth.  No private rooms and specialized care here, but a room full of newly delivered mothers and their babies. 

Although Alice had her second daughter so soon after the death of her first, she knew she was not cut out for motherhood in the traditional sense.  She wanted to paint!  How could she paint when she had to work a full time job and care for an infant child?  How could she paint when that child became a toddler, having to be watched at all times?  There were stories of her lax mothering from several friends who said that Isabetta was often left outside on the fire escape when Carlos and Alice had parties at their house, or when Alice was trying to find time to paint and didn't want the little girl underfoot. 

There was no wonder that Carlos took Isabetta back to Cuba when he returned in May 1930.  It was supposed to be a trip to introduce their granddaughter to Carlos' parents; a short trip and then on to Paris, where Alice would meet them.  Carlos and Isabetta went to Cuba; Carlos went on to Paris, leaving Isabetta in the care of his family (his parents and 2 unmarried sisters). 

What does Alice do when she realizes what Carlos has done?  Nothing.  She does nothing to get her daughter back.  She tells friends that her inlaws would have returned the girl but she was better off in Cuba.  She let her daughter stay in Cuba, and would only see her again only one more time in her life. 

Alice said she was torn between her love for her art and her love for the girl.  She couldn't choose so she did nothing.  Doing nothing in the face of having to make a hard decision was, like her juggling of two lovers at once, a life-long theme for Alice. 

Was this decision to leave her daughter in Cuba an easy one?  If the dissertion of Carlos, the death of her first daughter, and then the loss of her second daughter was easy, I don't think Alice would have gone through the next few years fighting clinical depression and many suicide attempts.  I don't think she would have been committed (May 1931) to a private asylum one year after Carlos left with Isabetta. 

The photos shared here of Neels' paintings are from the book.  For more paintings and information about Alice Neel, please go to the site:

More to come later on Alice Neel, her life and work.

Friday, February 11, 2011


Since Part II of the book, Expressive Figure Drawings, went into media - what we use and how we use it - I thought I'd get out some other dry media I rarely use.

First drawing is with Prismacolor Nu-Pastels.  I bought a box of 24 years ago when I was taking a university drawing course.  I didn't care for them much and they aren't my favorite now.  Something about how hard they are and how dusty.  Anyway.  This is with the nupastels on a soft drawing paper (can't recall the brand and no watermark).  I did think the softer paper helped them seem not so hard and brittle when using them.

The second drawing is using the same soft paper but using Rembrandt soft half pastels.  Not sure how long I've had these but I rarely touch them.  So it was good to get them out and find that I like the softness and the smaller and rounder shapes (the Nu-Pastels are squared).

One of the complaints about the Virtual Pose figures is the lighting - harsh shadows on all and the same lighting for all.  But I kind of like incorporating the shadow shape into the drawing so used it here.

And then I went to wet media. 

I picked out an old, used piece of yupo which I'd tried to clean off using alcohol (after spray sealing it with whatever was there at the time).  So there were some blotches and things I liked on there, including the shape of a figure behind the woman, which I intensified with Indigo watercolor.

I drew the leaning figure with Caran d'Ache water soluble crayons and then took a rough angle brush and scrubbed at the edges to get shading and modeling of the shape. 

I still intend to do the previous exercise where you practice putting in the shadow shapes of the body and then outlining just a bit, leaving more to the imagination - but I'll share that another time.

Tomorrow, I'll start working on the summary of the Alice Neel biography.  Follow along, if you're interested.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


This first exercise is called The Directional Swaths Exercise and helps you "reduce a pose to its basic directional swaths."  You gain control over the figure by rendering it this way - you see the directions the "hinged I" goes, breaking down the body into 14 segments (head, neck and spine = 3).  The author, Bill Buchman, used sumi ink and a 1 or 2 inch brush but I used Indigo watercolor and my No. 10 round.

I was only going to do the 2 in the box but then decided to try some more so turned the paper and did a few more.  These are fun and usually easy when doing a simple pose.  Just remember to separate the swaths into 14 for the whole body (don't worry about hands and feet).

The next exercise helps you get a feel for the direction of the body angles.  Using a conte crayon, you move the point in a zigzag fashion that replicates the directional movement you see as your eyes travel around the body.  You never let the crayon leave the page once you start. 

I wasn't satisfied with my first effort, so tried this one again with the same photo.  (I think a combination of both of these would be more directional and accurate.)

The author talks about the psychology of perception and how implications of , partial and fragmented images and visual cues will lead the viewer to fill in and complete the drawing/painting.  Let the viewer's mind close the image and don't fiddle with every little detail = less is more.  Well, we all KNOW that, but how many of us DO that?  I know I have a hard time with doing less. 

So I was looking forward to the next exercise to elucidate that idea a bit more.

So...for the closure exercise, the focus is on only what is essential.  With Indigo watercolor and a No. 10 brush, I began putting in some shadow shapes.  The author says "delicate shadow shapes" and I think I got a bit heavy-handed, not delicate at all!

The author, again, used Sumi ink - and says that while the ink is still wet you add a few overlapping contours with a dark water soluable crayon, including ONLY what is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL to hint at the action of the figure.

You are to leave out more than you put in and put the crayon down.

I don't think I succeeded with this one when I got to the crayon lines, but I'll try it a few more times to help me know when to stop and leave areas untouched by brush and paint or crayon. 

I know I can do better.  How about you?  Are you going to try this one?

Part I of the book, Expressive Figure Drawing, was about the essentials of drawing.  Part II talks about the different drawing materials, from dry media to wet media and everything you can think of to make marks with, including reed pens, water soluble crayons and oil pastels.  There are only 3 exercises in Part II, which are set up to help you become familiar with those materials you want to try out for drawing; then we get into Part III - Drawing Concepts and Techniques.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


I just discovered that I'm listed as one of the top 50 watercolor blogs on this site:

I found it from a visit to Carol Carter's blog - she is in the top 50, too (much higher than I am, thank goodness, since I know she should be).

Take a peek and see if you find your favorites or someone new to check out.

Also, I have a question for you:

I just finished the biography of Alice Neel.  Would you be interested in having a summary of it like I did for the Egon Schiele bio I read?  If you want it, let me know by sending me a comment and I'll work on it in between other posts.


I regularly get poems sent to me.  Sometimes I spend the time to read them - if the title captures me.  Sometimes I don't read them.  This one I read.  And I liked it.  And I began thinking about beginnings of things.  What are you doing now that is creating a beginning of something else?  Think about it...and enjoy the poem.  It seems, in a lot of ways, like a Valentine poem.

On The Origins Of Things

by Troy Jollimore

Everyone knows that the moon started out
as a renegade fragment of the sun, a solar
flare that fled that hellish furnace
and congealed into a flat frozen pond suspended
between the planets. But did you know
that anger began as music, played
too often and too loudly by drunken performers
at weddings and garden parties? Or that turtles
evolved from knuckles, ice from tears, and darkness
from misunderstanding? As for the dominant
thesis regarding the origin of love, I
abstain from comment, nor will I allow
myself to address the idea that dance
began as a kiss, that happiness was
an accidental import from Spain, that the ancient
game of jump-the-fire gave rise
to politics. But I will confess
that I began as an astronomer—a liking
for bright flashes, vast distances, unreachable things,
a hand stretched always toward the furthest limit—
and that my longing for you has not taken me
very far from that original desire
to inscribe a comet's orbit around the walls
of our city, to gently stroke the surface of the stars.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


This exercise in the book was to place the figure within the picture plane by using a box around the figure.  One should study the negative shapes the figure makes within the box.  Eventually, you should be able to do this by just looking at the model and placing him or her within an imaginary box.

One thing I've always done is scribble my lines tentatively.  I would like to become more sure of those marks and make strong, single stroke lines for my figures.  Some day.

The next exercise was done after reading the book where the author (Bill Buchman) talks about using guides like the compass or the clock to show you how to make your angles. 

I placed the figure within a box, then darkened to show the negative shapes (not that interesting, really).  Then I looked at the clock face (below the sketch) and decided where the angles were (you can see the numbers and the lines strengthened there).

So...the figure's shoulder has the angle 2-8 (or you can just say 2 or just say 8) while the figure's left hip has the angle 12-6.  See where these are on the clock face?  Mr. Buchman says this gives you more angles and more delicacy  than using the compass verion (N-S, E-W).  You could even break down the clock face into 1/2 hour increments, if you choose.  I think this gives you an idea of what he's telling us here.  Will it help with figure drawing?  Not sure but I think I'll try it for a while, putting the clock on my board and using it for a while.

No painting today.  Just didn't get one done and feeling under par today so probably nothing happening here unless I start feeling better later today.  I'm using the cd-rom from the Virtual Pose 3 book - the Virtual Pose 2 cd-rom wouldn't allow me to print out the photo I wanted :(  I may buy the Virtual Post 4 book and cd-rom but I've read that there are only 2 male figures in the book.  Why don't they have as many male models?  If you want to focus in on muscles, I'd think you'd want a male model that showed some strength.  (Virtual Pose 3 only has 2 male models, too.)

Monday, February 7, 2011


The next exercise from the book is an easy one - just mark-making on the paper.  Using a large enough sheet so you can get the movement from the shoulder, not the wrist.

Then I took that idea of mark-making and reworked some quick sketches I'd done in my figure drawing sessions - was that a year ago or more??  Gosh, time flies when you're getting old.

I liked the roundness of the figure on the viewer's right so I made the figure on the left more angular.

Since I liked the figure on the right the most, I used it to begin another painting but I began the painting by using watersoluable crayons to draw the figure on the watercolor paper.  Then I played with the drawing a bit and added watercolors with a brush and kept going back in with the crayons. 

And this is what I finished with (yes, I know that arm looks weird and is not positioned correctly but accuracy isn't what this is about right now so I'm giving myself a pass on that one).

I'm never quite sure why I use the colors I use in these - it just seems to be an unconscious choice (but I have been reading a biography of Alice Need and she outlined her figures with black and then blue marks so maybe that influenced this one).  I've got blues and yellows and ochres and pinks and oranges in the body colors.

The background is conte crayon put on while the paper there was still fairly dry, mixed with some watercolor crayon that had been wetted down and blended.  I like the vibration of it.

Did "your team" win the SuperBowl?  I watched it - but just for the commercials :)

Did you see Nancy Standlee's torn paper collages all featuring SuperBowl stuff (helmets, shoes, etc.)?  Pretty cool.