Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Audubon Sketch Journal Project #1

On the 2nd day of Autumn, my sketch journal project at Gilsland Farm, headquarters of The Audubon Society, begins. There'll be a workshop to teach & an exhibit of my notes & book later on. But for now, I go there, I slow down, I watch, I listen. An adventure, a journey of discovery begins.
There are surprises & discoveries in the yard of the Environmental Education Center alone. A gracious senior woman brings in a beautifully formed nest to donate & to identify, & with it an elegant story. Groundhogs, who will be sleeping under ground in another month, wander freely. They wear tags on their ears because a scientist at USM studies them. A monarch butterfly surprises me with camouflage on the underside of its wings as it feeds on some little weed on the ground...I make observations in ignorance, knowing that at the Center I can ask & learn about what I'm observing.
I walk one of the trails in late afternoon golden air & find a bench overlooking the the river. Colors so magnificent, even more so because as sunset approaches I know that they will fade...Day #1 at the Audubon.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Eiffel Tower

Sketchbook Wandering's rendition of La Tour Eiffel. 
This was the my first glimpse, during my 1st trip,as I turned a corner in the 7th arrondissement

I woke up with the Eiffel Tower on my mind & coincidentally, Virginia (click on Paris Through My Lens) & Genie (click on Paris and Beyond) also posted images of La Tour Eiffel today. Of course, when is it not on my mind? It symbolizes Paris & if you love Paris you probably know Paris Breakfasts who shares such wonderful Paris information & images. Images of the Eiffel are not uncommon:
Paintings by Maurice Utrillo & Raoul Dufy. I was first drawn to these paintings in my youth, when my love for Paris began.

Chez Toi en France is a gorgeous children's book."Paris a sa grande dame, La Tour Eiffel."..The book is bi-lingual in French & English. "Paris has a majestic lady, The Eiffel Tower."

 Delauney was obsessed by La Tour Eiffel, painting at least 30 versions. He appreciated it as a radio tower & symbol for global communication as well as for its beautiful design.
This book is one of a series on Paris arrondissements. The watercolors are by René Oghia & are gorgeous.

A book for children ABC de Paris: Découvrir la capitale est un jeu d'enfant by Raphaëlle Aubert has fun images & information for fans of Paris.

A children's book called Minou, illustrated by Itoko Maeno is a lovely story featuring many Parisian landmarks.

 Nine out of twelve images in the Paris Calendar by Cavallini & Co. feature the Eiffel. When I first went to Paris it seemed like such a cliché, & I almost didn't go to see it. I was thrilled to find that it was far more original, complex , magificent & impressive than I thought!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sketching in Parisian Art Museums

Sketching in museums is way I can make sense of the visual richness that has the potential to otherwise overwhelm me. My body & brain work together with the intense energy that comes from being surrounded by so much magnificent art.

It's a different experience for me than just looking. This woman at Musée d'Orsay spent a long time with Cezanne's Le golfe de Marseille. During one visit to d'Orsay I heard a Mom say to her family: "Hurry up! We still have 3 more floors to see!" An opposite approach from mine, I'm happy if I only see a few works each time. But, when you're far from home, you do want to see as much art as you can...
 At d'Orsay, during my first visit to the Van Gogh paintings, I not only got to see & sketch, but I heard 2 lectures: for elementary & for high school school groups. Having been an art teacher & being a French language student, I was in a state of bliss. An Asian woman tapped me on the shoulder at one point & said: "You~ charming. You~ happy." Taken out of my reverie, & having been witnessed, I burst into tears (of joy) & I thanked her. (I admit, not the first time I have cried happy tears in an art museum.)

 "Magnifique! Magnifique!" said a senior Frenchman looking at Cezanne's Mont Sainte Victoire. J'étais d'accord. The brush strokes took my breath away.

 A mother & daughter spent a long time in front of one of five Monet's Rouen Cathedral paintings. They were very serious. The daughter was reading a pamphlet describing the painting.

The people at museums are their own works of art. Magnifique!

 One time I was in the Louvre sketching Renoir's Portrait de femme assise. A fellow sketcher, a Parisian, sat down next to me. From sketching to conversing, it was a memorable experience. I'm grateful to him to this day for all of the information about Paris & art that he shared. Lately I'm getting messages from different sources: Copy master works in order to see them better & to learn from them. Above you can see how my sketch missed so many subtleties that are in the painting. 

Centre Georges Pompidou & the Musée d'art National Moderne, the largest modern art museum in Europe is also magnifique. Kandinsky, Matisse Miro! This collection pushes edges more than the other museums do. It has humorous, provocative & disturbing art, along with lovely abstractions. Centre Pompidou, as well as the other Parisian museum buildings & spaces are also masterpieces...There is so much, so much to discover! I would love to live in Paris for the museums alone! 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Learning to Paint

Working on disciplined color charts in the cognitive mode. David Dewey & Carol Gillott (click on Paris Breakfast) say you have to do studies, studies, studies. I admire the watercolors of both of these artists. The more you understand the laws of nature that govern color & the more you get to know your paints, the more grounded you will be when painting intuitively & expressively. 
I'm working on learning to paint without my lines, however,  I adore making marks with ink pens. I could just scribble all day. Above is a scene from Owl's Head at Dewey's workshop.

Is it a coincidence that much of my artistic practice as a child was with old fashioned coloring books? When I taught art to children I got to enjoy my own creative lessons, but they did not get as rooted in my psyche as the art experiences from my own childhood. So, you work with what you know & love, but keep pushing edges too. Painting outside of the lines as well as within...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fort Williams Park: Many Delights

 Going to Fort Williams Park has become my Habit. This morning, accompanied by brisk September breezes & powerful surf I had the luxury of taking a longer walk & then sketching on one of the benches along the path. To describe how I was feeling: A toddler person in baseball cap (with his Dad) was speed-toddling. Down the path he went, partly animated by gravity, pad pad pad pad, with his arms raised, humming with his mouth open so his aaaaaaaaaah became ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah with the bounce of his steps. As he passed me he slowed, we made eye contact, & we laughed, we just laughed. I suspect he experiences this kind of stuff in a lot of his young life. But for me, when such moments come, moments of open full joy, I treasure them.

What I tried using my David Dewey concepts: To vary my values (could have done it more...)To leave white to show the lovely rhythms & lines of the foliage, to simplify it. To not use my colors in full intensity from the tube. To use a few warm colors as highlights. And, simply: To capture the view before me. Palette: Cerulean blue, Winsor blue, Cadmium yellow, Hooker's green, and touches of Cadmium red, Alizaron crimson & Raw sienna. (The blue ocean in my sketch is actually not quite as aqua as my camera wants to make it.)
 Last night, we went for a walk at the park. As Monsieur J was taking my picture, a passerby very seriously separated from his companion. As if on a mission he started climbing the rocks behind J. I thought maybe he was going to offer to take my photo from a higher elevation. But no, when he reached the top, he put his fingers in his mouth, pulled it sideways & did that old kid trick with his tongue, making like a lizard (or is it snake?): Lalalalalalalala! Snap, J took the photo not even knowing why I was laughing.  I'm still laughing! A little gift from a stranger...

 Boats punctuate the blueness of the sea so beautifully. This one was pulling a huge barge, also mostly red, toward Portland Harbor.

Sunset on the rocks that are to the right of the little beach. One of the delights in the morning & the evening by the sea is watching the changing light & colors. Just one of the delights....

Friday, September 7, 2012

Seaside Sketching

Direct from the sketchbook. No improvements made, no re-do's.... Today I wanted to sketch after my walk, but Hello! I forgot to bring my water, as in WATER-color... So, I'm posting older ones, the first 2 are from last week at Fort Williams Park. 
 Today I sketched in my mind as I walked: A dog trainer from the company Sit Means Sit, putting a dog through some amazing jumps & commands; a dance between the two, with the lead giving verbal & visual cues, eagerly followed by the canine. The athletic canine seemed to be loving it with great energy! • Two young fresh, healthy mothers & their tiny new babies, each mom holding their baby close, tenderly close, as they chatted on a bench. •  A senior couple, she helping her mate down some steep steps of the remains of old fort at Fort Williams, he taking them one foot at a time, like a mother & child they were, much tenderness there also. A round, red-faced youngish woman in bright pink tank top, speed walking with her ipod, huffing, but with a set jaw & determined brows. She was definitely sweating, which I'm told is necessary for weight loss. I cheered her & me too, though I'm a tortoise compared to her hare. •  A middle aged man in Bermuda shorts, t-shirt, baseball cap & camera (American Tourist Uniform, even seen in Paris sometimes, Horrors!) asking me if I'd seen a "horde" of young people somewhere on the trail. I hadn't. •  A tourist boat out of the harbor, a trolley out of downtown, both chock full of people pointing & snapping. •   And friendly doggies on leashes, sniffing, sniffing, wagging, wagging, some sniffing me, nudging me with their noses saying "I was here."
 There was a time when I used to ride my bike down to the little Spring Point Light on Sunday mornings to visit a friend who ran the small museum there. The museum is gone, but my memories & sketches of those visits remain.
At Spring Point one can wander around remains of Fort Preble. It was built to enforce Jefferson's Embargo Act in 1808. I find that using it to frame up sea views  is much more pleasant than housing soldiers with guns. But that's just me.
Several autumns ago, on a wet afternoon I sketched at a spot near The Lobster Shack where you can wander on the rocks. Autumn, that wonderful season of change is approaching. But for today, it's still full (& glorious) summer.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Atterrissage: Landing in Paris

The first time I saw France's countryside from the descending plane I was more excited than if I'd seen a masterpiece in the Louvre. (and every time thereafter...) L'atterrissage, it is the glorious welcome & the first sign of the adventure that is about to begin. The window view is a prize for suffering through insomnia, cramped legs & a perfume drenched cabin.

You have to sketch madly to try to keep up with the rapid fire changes. But it takes the pressure off of trying to be accurate. Zoom! Observing a high speed morphing design takes all of your focus! The above ink & watercolor drawing is based on my airplane sketches. As in the actual sketches, you get to enjoy a freedom to allow things to sort of happen on their own. It is something CarolG at Paris Breakfasts does in her recent  melanges, "blobs" & color charts.

Speaking of Carol's "blobs" she's been enticing her readers to try them. Today I took one of my little color charts and glazed over it, most often letting colors run into one another. These were great fun after struggling with some drawings that required slow parallel lines & linear perspective. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

City Girl in the Country Garden

One day last week I woke up with the excitement of childhood summer mornings: "Today's the day we're going to the country!!"  We visited a friend's country house & magnificent MAGNIFICENT vegetable garden. We got to sit a spell & sketch. The colors, lines & forms, lights, shadows, patterns~a bounty of brillant design!!
I snapped some photos, but to sketch, for me is to notice so many intricacies~ overlapping leaves, some torn, some with little holes in them. The variety of colors in one plant alone makes me shake my head in wonder. And, then, to sit still is to notice the movement all around:  leaves fluttering, tall bean plants & sunflowers swaying, insects going about their daily rounds.
The sunflowers are my favorite of favorites. Not just their grand height & the size of their blossoms, but their gorgeous design. Giant girls dancing along the edge of the garden, bowing and nodding, watching over it.
Each section, each view is stunning!
Oh! The squashes & pumpkins, laying on the ground, under abundant leaf awnings!

Indeed I am still a city child, not having much experience with vegetable gardening. I am totally awestruck by this magic that comes from seeds that are nurtured by caring, hardworking & knowledgeable humans!! For those of you who know Maine's singer songwriter Dave Mallet: 
"Inch by Inch, row by row, gonna' make this garden grow. All it takes is a rake and hoe and a piece of fertile ground. Inch by inch, row by row, someone bless these seeds I sow, someone warm them from below 'til the rains come tumbling down."