A Very Philly Christmas! This lovely little painting found a
new home while on display at Lemon Hill Mansion for Neighbors Day. The mansion is beautifully decorated in a Mummers theme. The Holiday House Tours are a beautiful Philly
“Why, sometimes I
eat six impossible things before breakfast.”
-Pat Coakley, Podsnacks Art of the Diet podcast.
A trip to the market netted these lovely Forelle pears. Crisp and sweet, these beauties are a perfectly healthy dessert as is or baked with a teaspoon of butter, ginger, cloves and
nutmeg and raspberries.
“What means the most to me is that for some unknown reason I
have been blessed (and I know how rare that is, and how Quixotic) to be able to
make things that sometimes have meaning to somebody else.” – Anne Truitt, Daybook
“I make a home for myself in my work, yet when I enter
that home I know how flimsy a shelter I have wrought for my spirit.”– Anne
Listening to Antrese Wood interview Kathleen Speranza
on her fantastic podcast The SavvyPainter, I’m struck by Kathleen’s inspiring honesty
about her approach to painting, her love of the qualities, forms and ephemeral
beauty of her subjects, her love of the language of painting, the discerning advantages
of aging. As I listen, this peach challenges
me to capture the way light melts into its fuzzy surface, its leaves turn and taunt,
the old, chalky green milk paint on the wooden crate opposes the living green
of the peach leaves. As I struggle to
communicate these textures, Antrese and Kathleen talk about being allowed to
paint whatever subject you want and really, most especially, the satisfaction
of being able to do so.
Naomi Shihab Nye defines the
word “contemplation” as a long, loving look.
Lately I have been hearing a lot about ideas calling upon creatives to
bring them into being. An idea might arrive
all of a piece, as Naomi’s poem “Kindness” did for her, but most require contemplation. Meditation. Seeing. A long, loving look.
“The conscious necessarily rejects the unconscious.” –
On this steamy summer afternoon I’m
listening to Stewart Cubley talk about process painting on his podcast The
Painting Experience. He talks
about the act of putting paint on the brush, touching it to the canvas, what
that feels like, the zen of that. The
inner critic. Focusing on the experience
of creating the painting vs the outcome.
“Let things exist in their own way, without coming or going”.
“Painting is but
another word for feeling” – John Constable.
Winds rose over Great Bay, sailors warning, to form ominous clouds advancing
a change in the weather. While tucking into heaps of crabs, clams and oysters, diners watched the dramatic sky from the screened porch of the Oyster Creek Inn.
inspiration does not come to me, I go halfway to meet it." - Sigmund Freud.
I’m pretty sure Freud
means I should go out to dinner more often. As if the great food in this little Rittenhouse
Square restaurant isn’t enough of a lure, and it IS, I love the deep window sills adorned
with huge bouquets of flowers.
My best model is always willing to sit in the surf for me as long as his cell phone is handy. I think that seagull wants to make a call. Framed against towering cumulonimbus clouds over the ocean, an Ocean City Parasail floats high above the wake of its speed boat. It's been a long time since I've gone up but I will never forget the joy of peering down upon a large school of skates gliding gracefully through ocean waters far below.
My daughter noticed her first. Suzanne wearing a bright green sundress,
holding tight to her shopping cart, standing alone on the Snyder
Avenue median. I introduced myself and
asked if I could photograph her. Suzanne
told me her favorite color is green. She loves the summer green of the trees along the
avenue. She was waiting on the
northbound bus, which was running late, her ride to a Sunday visit with her son.
Helicopters whirred high above my house, circling over good people marching for Black Lives Matter because two more black men were killed by police. Far below the copters, in my studio I delighted in painting two folks walking in front of the restaurant Fare, with its red umbrellas and endless display of beautiful plants, on Fairmount Ave on a summer’s afternoon. But my heart was with the marchers, grieving for black families who are not safe in this world. That every soul should be free to enjoy the simple pleasure of a sunny afternoon without falling victim to bigotry or hatred seems obvious.
Last night, after participating in a loving, positive and hopeful Black Lives Matter vigil at my church it was pretty depressing to hear about the Dallas tragedy.
“Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.” – Maya Angelou
Windows rattled in frames. Crumbs danced on
the floor. The cat hid.
Out on the avenue the Fairmount Art Fest was
happening. Across the street a makeshift
tent threw thin shade on a gathering of hot musicians. I caught a front row seat for drummer Karen
Smith. On a single djembe drum, Karen beat the whole steaming avenue into a dance party.
Karen Smith leads two musical groups: Weez
The Peeple and Sistahs Laying Down Hands With Love.
Artist at Work, Oil on Ampersand gessobord, 5 x 7"
Art lovers from The First Wednesday Group, a social group
created by mover and shaker Carole Sheridan, are meeting along Kelly Drive to
sketch and paint. I’ve volunteered to be
the “glue” for the group.
Two very kind ladies, Barbara and Sally, have been getting together for
quite some time to sketch the wonderful statuary and
scenery along the drive.
Carole discovered more folks who share their love of art, waved her organizational magic
wand, created a plein air group and viola! Barbara and Sally suddenly have a lot of company.
This is the study I painted of Barbara working on a sketch of the
cougar statue in the azalea garden during our first outing. She wore the most wonderful shirt!
Check out this article on Carole’s First Wednesday Group on
page 7 in the May 2016 issue of the
Jack's Firehouse, oil on Ampersand Gessobord, 5 x 7" sold
A Fairmount landmark, Jack’s Firehouse is a prime
neighborhood meeting place. One of the best times Pat and I have had at Jack’s
was the birthday of Lori “do one thing that scares you each day” Koch. After deliciousness and revelry in the restaurant we set off for Jack’s VIP Halloween tour of the
Eastern State Penitentiary. Lori
marched us straight to the front of the line.
Gulp! She alone donned the
glow-in-the-dark necklace giving the haunted house ghouls permission to invade
her personal space. At some point during
the tour she went missing. There are
tales only she can tell.
But hooray! It’s summertime! This painting of Jack’s
sidewalk is one of sunshine, heaping towers of cumulus clouds and a
lovely excuse to break open my brand new tube of Gamblin King’s Blue.
In my former suburban neighborhood observations made
during a morning walk were subtle, mostly changing leaves and blooming flowers,
hardly ever a person in sight. Here in
the city, my street throbs with life, cars bump with rhythm, all manner of folk
bob and weave up and down the avenue. Fade
boring ‘burb wear, say yes to pink hair and tiger stripes. This young lady’s bicycle sports a cheery
yellow bouquet of flowers on the handlebar.
Is there anything as comforting as a reliable ride
home? When in center city, either cold
and wet or hot and cranky, weighted with shopping bags, I feel safe when the
mighty 33 bus pulls up to my stop. My
ride. The 33 is a double bus with an
accordion middle. I love when I get the driver who asks, “Did you buy something
for me?” I never tire of her same old kind and wonderful jokes.
Perhaps it’s because I myself cannot properly rock a hat
that I love them on others. The
young lady in the extremely cool blue hat is treating the gent in the birthday
crown to a night out at a Japanese BBQ.
It’s such lovely good humor to don a bright orange birthday crown and
own it. Perhaps he knows that orange is
the perfect complement to blue.
In a jam jar, even dyed purple carnations look as whimsical as wildflowers, carefree as posies plucked from a field. Grocery store bargains, they are all the better scattered into tiny sparkling jars for liberal household distribution. Flower delivery!
"South" has just been accepted into the Philadelphia Sketch Club Small Oil Painting Show! Of course I'm thrilled, especially because this is my first entry into a show in the city. So many good thoughts are running 'round my head: hmmm, can I list them all? First this painting captures an unexpected lovely night out on the town with Husband and Daughter. We were overjoyed with our good fortune at being seated in the jazz section, which normally requires a ticket, because the restaurant was overbooked. But more than that, this painting captures what we love about being in the city - just being able to pop in and find excellent quality fun after 9PM on a Thursday night. And we have another such night in our future, to be sure, when Spring Term is over, Husband will be finished teaching and daughter will have completed her term. When I fetch them for a ride home on that night, where will we head? South, of course!
I posted this painting a while back and made a few changes. I darkened and warmed up the beams surrounding the stage and removed the onstage microphone. I posted this one on that page for a Before and After view.
My daughter Maura is preparing for her senior thesis show at
Pratt. Her show will celebrate women
artists as each in turn is asked what feminine identity means to her. As I struggle to answer her query, I find myself
looking around my studio at my own work.
How do the images I paint reveal my own feminine nature? My studio walls are hung with watercolors of
the Delaware River, rendered in fluid, poured color. The very act of pouring paint
feels feminine to me. A release of life blood. Small paintings of apples and figs reveal
ripeness and promise: to bear fruit is to give life, to be fertile, to eat
fruit is to be nourished. A painting of an
ample pear placed inside a delicate antique china cup feels strong and curvy, yet fragile,
like me. Paintings of my family
abound. My recent cityscapes feel the
least feminine, still, through my womanly eye, they reflect moments of quiet
beauty or happy circumstances, scenes of everyday harmony, that which we wish
I am not a painter of disquiet. In scenes of chaos and fear we must look for
the helpers. Bad things will always
happen, yes, but there will also always be the helpers. In crisis, to the helpers we turn. But for the soul we turn to family. To friends.
Food. Music. Art. To the idealized, wise grandmother to be soothed and tucked
in. It is she, and the crone archetype with
which I most identify, who will make chicken soup and tell you each
day is a new day, full of possibility.
I love to buy produce at the Italian Market in South Philly for winter vegetable soup. In between inspecting long tables of cold cabbages, zucchinis and herbs, a fortifying stop at Anthony’s Coffee and Chocolate
House is always in order. (Yes, I know, I have to paint it!) Then it’s back out to the cold of 9th Street, as snow
begins to fall and vendors feed ever more wood into the shooting flames of their
fire cans to keep warm.
The afternoon sun casts long shadows on mountains of snow the
day after a January blizzard dropped 30” of snow on Clinton Street in the Bedford–Stuyvesant
neighborhood of Brooklyn. My daughter
lives on this street and snapped this photo for me. The blizzard was
on a Saturday. Happily, by Monday she
was able to trek to her classes at nearby Pratt Institute and to her job at the
One night per week I pick up Husband after he teaches
his trial advocacy class at Temple or Penn. He
says me picking him up is lot more fun than his former hour long commute on I-95 back to
Bucks County. Ya think? After his first Spring Term class I
fetched both him and Daughter (she’s a 2L at Temple Law, shameless mama brag) and we headed to South, a restaurant and jazz bar on Broad Street. Lucky for us the restaurant section was packed, even
on a Thursday night after 9 PM, so we were offered free seats in the ticketed
jazz area just as the second set was beginning. What a fabulous night we had! Cool Saxophone, melt in your mouth Southern
cooking and a glass of wine – can you think of a finer combination? We can't!
I use PhotoShop to proportion my photos. For this painting I used a few reference photos. I made sure to place the sax player in just the right spot.In order to capture the soft interior lighting, I used
opposite hues to gray the local colors. I also wanted to capture the soft glow of
the candle on the table but not have it compete with the stage, which I hope I
This painting began as an iPhone snapshot of
Husband and Daughter enjoying a happy night of ice skating under the lights of the Ben Franklin Bridge. To begin this painting I cropped my the photo to the same proportion as my canvas, in this case 5 x 7”.
I use a grid feature to make sure my composition
more or less comports with the Rule of Thirds.
I began with an under painting of raw sienna to give a nice
glow to the ice. I filled in some of the
background figures with a darker value of raw sienna and wiped out along the
ice. I added the darks, burnt umber,
French ultramarine and black, to the night sky and the foreground figures. As I stood back, I noticed the pretty glow the under painting of raw sienna gives the skater figures on the
right. They almost have the feel of a
watercolor. Should I worry them with
detail? No! Do they convey all of the
information the viewer needs as they are?
It sometimes takes a heck of a lot of self-restraint not to go in for the
kill and worry every last element with detail.