Sunday, January 29, 2017

Flower Paintings: Part II

In a previous post "Flower Paintings: Part I" I explained that I am engaged by the challenge of making colorful paintings of white flowers. White Tree Peonies seen below is one of my favorites.  The sharp edges of the green leaves and open line work allow the abstract underpainting to show through, providing surprising interactions of color.

White Tree Peonies
36" x 32"
oil on canvas

I await the day when the beautiful Magnolia tree on the campus where I teach art announces the arrival of Springtime. Often it blooms on the first day that is warm enough to take my drawing students outside to work. Facing south, it catches the sun's warm rays.

30" x 40"
oil on canvas

Pale Pink Double Peonies
30" x 24"
oil on canvas

The lavender shadows on the white daffodil petals contrast here with the flowers' yellow trumpets.

White Daffodils
24" x 30"
oil on canvas

Yellow daffodils are so cheerful!

24" x 30"
oil on canvas

This is my only completed artwork of roses. I find them to be particularly difficult to paint and have made several failed attempts. The loose shape of these climbers is less angular and structured than most roses I've tried to paint.

English Roses
30" x 24"
oil on canvas

I will share images of vibrant red and bright pink peony paintings in my next post. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Flower Paintings: Part I

Cutting my peonies down while preparing the garden for the long winter ahead, I am reminded how much I love their lush, colorful blossoms.

I planted varieties specifically with intention to paint them and have tended them to maturity. The vibrant pinks are spectacular and have inspired many oil paintings. Several examples are pictured below.

Pink Peonies II
24" x 30"
oil on canvas

Mixed Peonies
30" x 36"
oil on canvas

I enjoy brilliant color. Often bold blocks of color have been used as under paintings to provide surprising color interactions and contrasts with the blooms' hues. However, I find the challenge of making paintings of white flowers vibrant a particularly interesting endeavor.

White Single Peonies
24" x 30"
oil on canvas

Pink Peonies III
30" x 24"
oil on canvas

24"xx 30"
oil on canvas

White Double Peonies
24" x 30"
oil on canvas

Pink Peonies I
30" x 24"
oil on canvas

I will share more of my floral oil paintings in an upcoming post to brighten the dark months ahead.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Moving into a New Painting Studio

The university where I teach art courses has classrooms and research facilities in a remodeled industrial building. I am excited to receive a key to an art studio in this beautiful building! 

Kenilworth Square, built in 1914, was originally a Ford Motor Company factory where Ford Model T cars were produced. 

Wisconsin Historical Society's records reveal that the building was a Ford assembly plant until 1942 when it was sold to the US government to be used for wartime production.

Kenilworth as it looked in the prior to the 2006 remodeling.

As I take a first peak at the studio, the helpful maintenance staff offer to move the furniture and polish the concrete floor.

Wow, these windows provide wonderful light -

and a view of a lovely Art Deco building across the street.

I can't believe now how great the shiny sealed concrete floors look. 

Installing the sound system is a priority.

Work surface set up. 

Brushes and pencils organized.

Canvases stretched. Ready to start a new project!

But first I must prepare to ship twenty paintings to Colorado for my solo exhibition.

I am fortunate to have a place to work.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Pastel Figure Drawing: Part III

The pastel figure drawings featured in this post  are drawn on white paper directly without a colorful underpainting. For this technique burnt umber was used for the value study because it would blend well with colors of the flesh tone.

22"x 30"
chalk pastel on printmaking paper

Marquayla (detail)
22"x 30"
chalk pastel on printmaking paper

The same model also posed a year later for the session recorded in stages below.

A gestural line in sepia conte crayon measures proportions while creating volume and structure. Tones are rapidly placed. Here placed brown PanPastel tones rapidly with a makeup sponge.

Next warm and cool colors are added.

Finally highlights and shadows complete the image and detail.

Marquayla II
22"x 30"
chalk pastel on printmaking paper

Marquayla II (detail)
22"x 30"
chalk pastel on printmaking paper

We see the same stages of this technique used again for a drawing of another model.

A dark blue line gives specific contour and contrast.

Capturing this model's curls were unusually challenging. 

A glimpse of the setup -

The white sheet looks crisp against the vibrant colors on the body in the finished piece.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sifting: A Collection of Work by Nirmal Raja

A few days ago I had the opportunity to see Sifting, a solo exhibition at UW-Parkside of work by Nirmal Raja, my friend, fellow RedLine Milwaukee artist, and mentor.  Raja is an interdisciplinary artist holding an MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee who exhibits nationally and internationally.

Born in India and based in Milwaukee, Raja explores themes of cultural negotiation in this inventive body of work utilizing a variety of materials and media including printmaking, photography, drawing, and installation art.  

The Artist's Statement
"The intangible and the ever-changing are fascinating places to explore in my work. I often feel like I am a porous membrane through which experiences are filtered, absorbed and digested. My work is a response to life experiences that are distilled and strengthened by research in the studio and through reading. I approach my practice as a process of sifting and communicating sensations and ideas with varied materials and processes. 
As a transplanted individual living between two cultures, I am constantly trying to identify where and how I fit into a place and I find myself constantly translating. Liminal concepts like memory and perception of time and space are natural extensions for this exploration. I approach remembrance as transitional: how we add to, subtract from, and refract our memories. These fleeting and ephemeral moments are activated and brought to the present through material explorations and installation strategies. I implicate the audience in my installations by employing cast shadows and reflections to facilitate unexpected encounters that question what is imagined and what is real. In some work, notions of time, rhythm and music are explored, while in other work, different aspects of language - script as form, legibility and illegibility - are explored. I ask the questions: is communication possible beyond and outside of our conventional understanding of language? What is lost in translation?"

The centerpiece of the exhibition is a large installation titled Cloud Palace. As we enter we are immersed in an etherial environment of floating fabric indigo prints suspended over a reflective surface. The effect is breathtaking. One rarely sees contemporary installation art this aesthetically pleasing.

On closer inspection, we notice that the artist has incorporated  4th century poetry.

A wall of long, loosely rolled mixed media works on paper are displayed hanging from pegs.

Experiments in Time and Music, 1-7
Mixed media on paper

The rolled scrolls tease us with glimpses of the hidden layers of painting, drawing, and printed word. There is a feel of mystery in what is not revealed to us.

Long rolls of paper unfurl as they hang from ceiling to floor. Here Raja addresses ideas of measurement and proportion in relation to the human body.

In this beautiful photo-transfer work the artist deals with concepts of time and memory.

In Scribed Series, Nirmal Raja engraves on palm leave scrolls and intaglio prints on paper, referring to ancient book forms of Southeast Asia.

The works in the Scribed Series are small, intimate objects that beg to be handled.

Screen prints and hand-cutting on ledger paper

Other works in the exhibit include embroidery, and watercolors on player piano rolls.


The exhibition in the UW-Parkside gallery runs August 10- October 12, 2016. It is well worth the trip to experience this installation.