Join me....

I believe that art enriches and informs our lives everyday in many positive ways. Sharing those experiences, whether as an artist or as an appreciator, is part of the pleasure. I welcome your comments and hope you find something of value: a laugh, an insight, a new idea or just a happy moment. Enjoy art!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Road Trippin' in Art

My husband and I went road tripping last weekend, we knew where we wanted to end up but not exactly how we planned to get there.  Everything for the last month had been so rushed and precisely planned that we decided to defy our default mode and just take a slow jaunt.

We pulled out a map, a book of trails and settled back to see the sights.  I was amazed at what I had forgotten a map offered: byways, points of interest, parks and historical markers.  Who knew?

 Of course we had lots of decisions to make and sometimes I was positive we should stay straight and he was adamant that our exit was upon us.  But that is part of the adventure: unexpected surprises.  I got to thinking that a lot of my art is exactly the same amble through new territory with no expectation of the outcome.

This is NOT to suggest we throw our GPS away (as a directionaly-challenged person I would never be seen again!)  When time is of the essence it pays to take a direct, fail-safe route with no second guessing.  And many times I approach a painting the same way:  I know exactly where it should go, I map out the way to get there, I practice the color combos and I paint with full attention AND intention.

But other times I get in the driver's seat, or in front of the easel, and I really want to take my time, smell the roses, try a new path and look for the sights along the way.  This is when happy accidents (as they are called) take place, it is when you discover a new technique or a different way of doing things.  If I had to approach every canvas in exactly the same way, I think I would pack my crayons and find a new outlet.  We need to have enough faith to allow ourselves to get lost and enough bravery to think we can find a way out.  (Ever watch someone in a class or workshop absolutely refuse to try the teachers approach?  They are in a rut in their comfort zone, gps on a loop.)

I'm easing back into the studio and was hunting a photo of the tree house I took in Italy.  As the frustration was mounting I just decided to "wing it."  Simply work from my imagination and see if I could plot a new route.  It was really quite relaxing, after all, there was no photograph showing me that I was off course ("recalculating, recalculating").  And sorta looks like a tree house.

I'm not good at stopping, one more sight to see, one more dab of color to try.  I have ruined as many pieces as I have improved with that one "last addition."  Is this calling for a side trip of pink? or shall I leave it be?  I honestly don't know where it is going or if it will ever surface again.  But I do know that I have plans to engage in many more wandering ventures...both in the car and on the canvas.

Artistically yours,

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Re-visiting the Sainted &Painted

I'm's been a crazy six weeks of highs and lows and every emotion you can imagine.  I am going to a place, mentally and physically, where I will not have to live out of my backpack thrown on the floor and wonder where I am when I wake up.  For that reason I am reposting a previous blog for you this weekend.

When I posted this blog several years ago, my mother was quick to order a set of books to share with her book club.  Why?  Well, the primary reason was that her daughter was the author.  But I also like to think that she was proud of being one of the models for a saint: Saint Jane of the Generous.  (If this temporary computer I am using had the photo I would share...). I read that chapter during my tribute at her celebration service, and every word felt as true then as it did when I penned it.  So in her honor I bring back the Saints.  Here's the archived blog:

I've always been fascinated by saints.  The stories, the histories, the miracles and the art...not to mention the icons, the relics, the lore and, did I mention, the art.  So without any special saint to call my own I decided to claim several, canonize them, paint them, light a candle for them and then share them.

This dozen admirable women are truly saints you will want to meet.  Some you may already know: Saint Jane of the Generous, Saint Amy of the Adventurous and Saint Kathy of the Courts.  

Others, Saint Sharon of the Survivors, Saint Christabel of the Been-to-Hells, and Saint Wilda of the Wise are saints you will admire and strive to emulate.  They all have miracles to share and they all have walked in our shoes.

If you know art you might detect a bit of Modigliani's influence in the style of portrait.  I love his portrayal of women and found it very freeing to paint from the heart instead of a photograph.  While several of my saints don't recognize their image as fully as others do, to me each portrayal is painted from a careful inventory of memory and imagination.  The book explains the deliberate choice of icons, colors and backgrounds chosen to further each story.

You may order the book on-line by going here. It's priced at $12.99 which makes it a very affordable gift to share with others.  Get yourself one but don't forget to order a few to share.  (Disclosure: I have noted that very often has them at an even cheaper price.....)

Today modern heroes are in short supply, they all seem to be falling off their pedestals rather quickly.  But real saints never put themselves on a pedestal and never held themselves up for example. None of these women ever thought of herself as a saint but each gave me permission to share her story.  If you've been needing a modern day miracle-worker to relate to, you will enjoy "Sainted & Painted: Stories of the Not Wholly Holy."

ARTfully yours,

I plan to find my paints during this respite and have new stuff to share soon.  Meanwhile, look for the saints in your life and honor them in some way.  Have a colorful weekend...thanks for the day off!

Blue now but tending towards a lovely purple-pink,

Saturday, June 13, 2015

In the Sanctuary of Women

I am bone tired, wondering if I can put one foot in front of the other and curious if the fog in my head will ever lift.  This past week we said a final good bye to my Mother.  After months of caring for her we gathered to pay tribute to a generous, elegant, southern lady who also happened to be my number one fan.  

There were days I spent with her that I longed to paint or create or at least get my hands busy doing something "normal."  Art wants to emerge even under strange circumstances.  

This is a photo from my visit to the castle in Umbria.  It was one of those scenes that stayed with me...such a clutch of strength and intertwining and yet delicate as well ...even the swing hanging from a branch was a detail vivid in my mind.  I kept going back to this memory, not sure why, but I could feel its power whenever someone reached out, literally or figuratively, to assist in the care of Mom. 

I found my way to a few supplies (left in my backpack from sketching trips); I cobbled together a drawing board from a cardboard box and borrowed painters tape from the handyman.  Pencils and pens and a few moments here and there to doodle helped distract me and refuel me.  I realized that once again I was calling upon this scene of endurance.

This is what eventually emerged...I know it is rather cartoonish and I am itching to re-paint it in a more serious vein.  But I realized that the photo I took was really a metaphor for those folks we depend on, our sanctuary of friends, the ones who hold us up, whose roots are all tangled up with ours, whose minor differences are almost invisible when we all stand together for good.  I just let my thoughts direct my pen and my art critic for once was silent.  It was therapy, it was healing.  My mothers sanctuary of friends was surrounding us with their love and help just as mine was sending vibes of strength and support.

Art as therapy was a new experience, I hope others will sometimes allow the heart to direct the hand and tell the head to be quiet. It may serve an art purpose totally unexpected.  

Always Art FULL,

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Meet Kelly Medford

Meet Kelly Medford ( my friend, Italian hostess, teacher, critic, co-adventure-lover....oh, did I say:  ARTIST.  Before you get to know her through my eyes, go to this site and watch this professionally made,  very short video about her:


Sounds like a dedicated artist, eh? Here's Kelly (above) painting on the rooftop of our apartment in Procida.  Yep, she's just the kind that looks out the window during wine time, sees the soft yellow light of sunset, grabs her paints and runs to catch the glow.  I followed but gingerly carried my wine and camera up to catch her catching it!  Kelly came to Florence, Italy to study art about 10 years ago.  She soon realized she could learn more painting daily on the streets than copying the classical busts that were protocol at the academy.  The rest is history....

After several years she moved to Rome to live and work.  In addition to her daily plein air discipline she conducts "Sketch Rome" tours, teaches and collaborates on myriad other art projects.

We didn't paint 24/7 however, because breakfast coffee was a must no matter where we found ourselves....above is our favorite coffee setting overlooking the fisherman's harbour from a hotel we stayed at in Procida.  Of course we discussed the light.....but look at those rooftops and colors and lines and arial perspective......oh my!

Kelly loves her work and is happiest when painting but she is a fine teacher as well.  I have great appreciation that she recognizes we all have our own style and approach, "I'm not trying to teach you to paint exactly like I do," she begins, "I am here to help you apply some basic formulas to your own work." Nothing "basic" however about the depth of knowledge she shares.  Everything from mixing all the colors you"ll ever need from 3 tubes of paint to the principals of perspective. 

Kelly engaged us in a number of exercises which I greatly enjoyed.  Many of us lack the discipline to do the daily work that really advances us, so this rang my chimes. Here she is moderating a critique of our work....mine on the hot seat here!  I'm not thin skinned but I will always be grateful that she commented on how most of my work, even the timed exercises, seemed to offer a story in them....something I have tried to do since the day I picked up a brush.  Of course her noting this, unprompted, makes her brilliant in my mind!!

We later crawled around Rome sketching in the various parks and looking for new angles to paint.
Kelly has made me want to work on my watercolor sketching more, it is a different ballgame than oil but has such portability that I will enjoy honing my skills.  If I need inspiration I only need look at the photo above done in a park before we indulged in a birthday lunch and bottle of wine.  Further nudges will come from the jewel below.  A tiny little sketch I loved and then found in my card as a precious gift from a sweet friend, a valued teacher and a fine plein air painter.  Lots of grand memories!

P.S.  I would be remiss to let you think this piece is as blue as it appears....blame my camera and my lack of technology on an iPad.  You can see more of her work and sign up to get notices of new work at her website,  I know Kelly would love to hear from you.  If you are in love with Italy keep in mind that she does commissions and visits the U.S. in the winter.  

Ciao Italy and ciao Kelly!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Sketch crawl and coffee

My adventure is winding down...but you can bet I've packed in enough sketches, paintings, photos and memories to last me months of delicious review.  

Kelly met me in the corner bar yesterday for coffee before we headed off (2 buses, 1 tram and a short walk) to her new studio space. On the third floor of a school ( middle-ish) she shares a large room with two other artists. A huge wall of north windows sheds gorgeous light over the areas where they have each established their own spaces. 

I'm being silly here but this great organization happened because I convinced her that shelf assembly was one of my fortes and together we made this IKEA piece come together. Now she is one huge step closer to working en situ! 

We headed out to sketch the city...since it was the most gorgeous day ever we headed to a park to lunch and draw. 

Rome is filled with my favorite tree ever; umbrella pines. They are the source of the versatile pine nut and are so graceful and personality-filled. I have painted them often and could draw them forever. This is a quick sketch before I pulled out the Watercolors. 

We hopped all over tackling some challenging areas (I'll post Kelly's work seperately).  I decided to work on some perspective and got part way into this fence before we decided it was wine o'clock. 

While I used to freeze in fear while drawing in public, it doesn't phase me now. It's rather fun to see what happens, no final pieces, all studies and it is interesting to see people's curiosity. One "brava" can make your day. 

The sun was casting a golden hue to everything as we left the park. My forest of umbrella pines looked magical with all the shadows. That's me on the bench raising my  arms in joy and sending up prayers for a return trip. 


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Art of Wine

This is Libby, our British chef, hard at work in the kitchen (no sign of a microwave, I snooped). She created the most amazing vegetable dishes for luncheon and provided, everyday at 4 pm, a delicious, warm from the oven, cake for tea time. I will sorely miss the 7pm dinner bell which summoned us to a  4 course dinner nightly. Big sigh. 

Lunch and dinner were accompanied by carafes of white and red wine and bottles of water, still and mineral. I preferred the white for lunch, it had a slight aroma of sherry but was fresh, thicker tasting than Chardonnay, not sweet and not oaked.  

But it was the red I really, really enjoyed. Being a fan of blends I knew immediately this would have to be such. As I was ready to pitch all my belongings and fill my case with bottles, I inquired of our host David where I could purchase it. 

I was informed I could not. To make a long story short ( do I ever?) the delish elixir is the product of a local co op where the local grapes are blended, fermented and sold by the litre to those showing up with their own assortment of jerry cans.  Poor me could never be so lucky as to take some home. David was very coy about the price, a good buy, was the most he would disclose with a sly grin. So of course I indulged every evening knowing I would never again taste such vino. And believe me, our gracious host never let the carafe become empty. 

When we visited the castle we learned a great deal about how the handsome Marquese, Lorenzo, ran their operation. My photos of his casks and stored bottles are on a camera and can't be retrieved (yet). But I did recall a few interesting notes: they pick all of their grapes by hand when ready as they can be very selective as to the ripeness ( getting the female clusters only) and do not have the trouble later of sorting out leaves and sticks. Much better flavor he insists. The oak barrels come from France and the wood they are made with greatly affects the flavor. A small barrel costs about 700 E to purchase and will hold 300 bottles. The barrel size(they use 3 different sizes) is also an influence on how the aging proceeds. Each barrel is used for 5 years and rotated. The European community forbids the addition of any sugars, wine is strictly and purely, fermented grape juice. 

During our tasting of 5 different bottles he also explained that a wine which drinks well young rarely ages well.  Many that age well he explained are quite undrinkable for the first several years. And he made a joke about people rarely disliking a very expensive bottle because, as he laughed, when one has paid a great deal for a drink one is rather determined to enjoy it. 

He explained a lot more about the grapes and the weather and so on but I was more interested in examining the round ceilings and stone walls dating back to the 14th century. It was naturally quite cool inside them. 

So that is what I learned about wines in Italy. The reds are generally less expensive than the whites (no white at the castle). And despite the wonderful elegance of the Marquese, who sent us back to the Villa laden with opened bottles, I was looking forward to my co-op carafe of locally made red for dinner. I have simple tastes!