Monday, April 30, 2012

Inspiration Monday: Wayne Thiebaud

If you follow my blog regularly, you'll know that I'm currently the Get Your Paint On class and that last week's assignment was to use another artist as inspiration for your painting. Several people used Wayne Thiebaud as their inspiration, in particular his paintings of pies and cakes. He's a combination of Inspiration Monday and Friday Food all in one place! What's not to like?

Boston Cremes by Wayne Thiebaud, 1969

While his work often features pastries, that's not his only subject. He has also painted a number of cityscapes, usually with dramatic hills and intersections.

24th Street Intersection by Wayne Thiebaud, 1977

But back to the sweets...I'm inspired by his painting of every day objects and by the repetition of that object in different colors, at different angles. Yum!

Four Ice Cream Cones by Wayne Thiebaud, 1964
(All images are the works of Wayne Thiebaud.. Google Wayne Thiebaud to find more of his paintings. The works featured on Inspiration Monday are those that I enjoy and I have not been compensated in any way to include them on my blog.)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Get Your Paint On: Week 2

It is week 2 of Get Your Paint On with Lisa Congdon and Mati McDonough. Our assignment this week was to find a painting by another artist and take an aspect of that painting (imagery, color, or technique) and apply it to my own painting. I took a combination of Derain, Monet, and Turner as inspiration. You can see their paintings below. I tried to apply some of their techniques, and a somewhat muted version of Derain's color palette, to a local view in spring. This is a north-facing view so the sun would never be there, but I felt like the painting needed a focal point and a contrasting color. For me, this assignment was harder than the geometry of last week. And it was hard for reasons I didn't expect.

I realized (shame on me!) that I don't usually look at art that closely. Sometimes, if I'm curious as to how something was created, I'll take a closer look, but usually, I make a judgement based on whether I like the picture or not. This week, I spent some time looking more closely at the art history books I have and deciding what I liked and didn't like and why. 

Andre Derain, "Effects of Sunlight on Water," 1905
It's not perfection that attracts me to a painting. This surprised me a little bit because I always want to try to make art that is true to life and get frustrated that my drawing skills aren't good enough to do that as well as I'd like. It turns out though, that I prefer art that isn't so exacting and photo-perfect. I like the hazy impressionism of Monet, the fog of JMW Turner, the surreal architecture of de Chirico, the simplicity and color of Rothko. Landscape, architecture, color, and geometry are what attracts me, not perfection.

Claude Monet, "Impression Sunrise," 1872
Layering is what makes a painting great. With the little painting I've done, I've always tried to keep the colors from touching, afraid of what might happen if they blend or if I overpaint an existing color. Funny, because probably the best drawing I've ever done was with colored pencil, blended, mixed, and colored over bunches of times until the color, shading, and shape were just right. I think the wetness of the paint intimidated me from using the same process. 

JMW Turner, "Rain, Steam and Speed -
The Great Western Railway," 1844
Patience makes a painting. With dry colored pencils, you can keep drawing until it's just right. No waiting. Painting is all about the waiting. Which is good because it slows you down and gives you an opportunity to think about your next step. But it's hard if you're impatient like I am and want to see the final result NOW!

Still reminding myself that this is for me and that it's just important that I get out there and practice, practice, practice. My paintings will get better with time!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Food: Strawberry Pineapple Pie

In typical fashion, I found a recipe I could alter to use up the extra strawberries I bought this week, but then found that I didn't have enough strawberries to fill out a full pie. The original recipe used a variety of berries, but since I didn't have those either a quick search of the pantry found a can of pineapple tidbits that I figured would do the trick. Since I can't try the pie without my husband, I'm assuming it's tasty, but don't know for sure. I suggest a little dollop of whipped cream on top too.

Strawberry Pineapple Pie

Pastry for single-crust pie (9-in.)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
3 cups halved fresh strawberries
1-15 1/4 oz can pineapple tidbits (drained)
1 Tbsp pineapple juice

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Place pastry in 9-in pie plate and flute edges. Line pastry and edges with heavy duty foil. Bake for 8 minutes.
Remove foil. Bake 5-7 minutes longer or until golden brown.
Cool on wire rack.
In a large saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Add berries, pineapple, and juice.
Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until mixture just comes to a boil.
Pour into prepared crust.
Cool completely.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

One Tired Robin

I have 3 new friends, born a few weeks ago, who are keeping me company in my studio. Well, just outside my studio window, actually. My studio faces the front porch and the corner brick piers where Mrs. Robin took up residence this spring. She made a nice nest of dried grasses and sat. And sat. And flew away when I went out to get the mail. Then came back and sat. Since they've hatched and she has been running herself ragged feeding them with the worms in our yard.

Now don't let these little guys fool you. They may be happy to see mom and get free food, but I think they're about ready to fly away on their own. That nest is getting a little crowded and one of them looks like he's about ready to take off. I wish them safe flights and juicy worms when they leave the nest!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Inspiration Monday: John Salminen

I love paintings, drawings, and photographs of landscapes and streetscapes. I particularly enjoy them when they evoke memories of places I've been. John Salminen is a watercolor artist who makes beautiful paintings of cityscapes. His paintings of Paris remind me of the wonderful week I spent there exploring the city.

Eiffel Tower by John Salminen

The colors are muted, yet bright. I feel like I'm viewing the scene live and experiencing the weather and sounds of the day myself.

The Mall - Central Park by John Salminen

The details are wonderful too and really show the depth that a talented painter can create with watercolors.

Champs Elysees by John Salminen
(All images are the works of John Salminen.. Visit John's website to see more of  his work or click on the links above. The works featured on Inspiration Monday are those that I enjoy and I have not been compensated in any way to include them on my blog.)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Get Your Paint On: Week 1

I took a leap I had been contemplating for a while and decided to take the 5 week on-line Get Your Paint On class with Lisa Congdon and Mati McDonough. I decided on this particular class for several reasons. Though I've played with watercolors and acrylics a bit, I am by no means a painter so I thought it would be a good creativity boost to have to learn and think differently to paint the weekly assignments. Probably because of my architectural training, I am much more comfortable with black and white than I am with colors and exact representations of what I see. Lisa and Mati both use lots of color and imagination in their paintings. I'd like to learn to be looser and more colorful so this class seems like the perfect opportunity!

For the first week, our assignment was to make a gridded or quilt like painting to get familiar with the paint and make blocks of color using the Gee's Bend quilters of Alabama as inspiration. Many of their quilts resemble typical geometric quilt patterns, but the quilts are not so exact and resemble modern art. There's certainly a skill to being not quite exact in an artistic way rather than looking like you goofed up! I added the black lines to my painting below to try to give that feeling.

What did I learn from my first painting?
  •  I'm a planner. Okay, I didn't learn that, I knew it. I had the painting all drawn out  and colored in my sketchbook before I even bought my missing painting supplies. And I sketched it out on the canvas before I started painting. I didn't use a ruler to make sure everything lined up perfectly. And I did make some changes to the center square on the fly.
  • It's impossible to be exact with a paint brush. At least for me. I had a lot of difficulty making neat looking squares and lines of the weight that I wanted. Which may have to do with my brushes and my skill with them.
  • I need new paint brushes. I have a whole slew of paint brushes that I've gathered over the years, but most are either well-used or cheap so I had a problem with stray hairs dropping paint where I didn't want it to go.
  • I'm taking the class for me. We all share our paintings on a Flickr group and there are a wide range of skills represented amongst the others taking the class. I need to remember that this is for me to improve my skills and not to be intimidated by those with totally awesome paintings. Fortunately, the pinups and critiques of architecture school helped with this immensely, but sometimes, when I feel like I'm out of my element, I just have to remind myself that I'm here to learn and not to compete!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday Food: Impossible Cheeseburger Pie

I was reminded of this recipe when my dad's wife served it to us as "something new" last summer. Apparently the recipe, with modifications, was popular with her Weight Watchers group. If you grew up in the 1970s or 80s though, this recipe is probably familiar to you. In fact, my dog-eared copy cut from some long lost magazine, has a 1981 date on it. (And no, I didn't cut it out, I think it came from my mom's recipe file that I inherited after we copied all of her recipes into a single cookbook.)

What follows is the 1981 unmodified recipe from Bisquick. My photo is missing the tomatoes on top because I didn't have any, not because it's not good that way! You can, of course, make the recipe lower fat by using skim milk, one of the skinnier forms of Bisquick available today, and low fat cheese. If ground beef isn't your thing, just substitute some other type of meat or protein and change the name to "Impossible Ham and Cheese Pie" or "Impossible Tofuburger Pie" or whatever works for you!

Impossible Cheeseburger Pie

1 pound ground beef
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup Bisquick baking mix
3 eggs
2 tomatoes, sliced
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 10" x 1.5" pie plate.
Brown beef and onion; drain. Stir in salt and pepper. Spread in pie plate.
Beat milk, Bisquick, and eggs until smooth. Pour into pie plate.
Bake 25 minutes.
Top with tomatoes and sprinkle with cheese.
Bake until knife inserted in center comes out clean, 5 to 8 minutes.
Cool 5 minutes.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Inspiration Monday: Brian Holden

I found Brian Holden's work early on in my life on Etsy, probably when I joined the Printsy team. He is also a frequent contributor to the printmaking section of WetCanvas helping other artists with their questions and concerns. Brian is an artist, printmaker, and teacher who focuses mainly on serigraphy, relief block, collagraph plate, intaglio plate and photopolymer gravure. (If you don't know what those are, check out his website for more information.)  His subject is most often the landscape and wildlife around his home in Ontario.

Moon and Forest linocut
by Brian Holden
I like the subjects of Brian's work, but also the detail that is possible with different types of printmaking.

Downy etching with hand coloring
by Brian Holden

I also like the effect and possibilities that open up when prints are hand-colored. Lots of inspiration!

Water Pool Along Superior
intaglio plate print with hand coloring
by Brian Holden
(All images are the works of Brian Holden.. Visit Brian's website to see more of  his work or click on the links above. The works featured on Inspiration Monday are those that I enjoy and I have not been compensated in any way to include them on my blog.)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday Food: Blonde Brownies

We have our big spring community band concert this weekend which means I need to bake something for the reception afterwards. Blonde Brownies is one of my mom's recipes. They're quick and easy and are a yummy and chewy combination of butter and brown sugar. The only thing missing is chocolate, but that'll be okay since I'm giving them away!

Blonde Brownies

1/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine melted butter and brown sugar. Stir until well blended.
Add egg and mix well.
Stir in dry ingredients then add vanilla and nuts.
Spread in buttered 8"x8" pan and bake for 25 minutes.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

My First Color Reduction Print 2

When last I blogged, I had printed the darker blue of the 2nd layer of mountains and admitted this wasn't going quite as planned! (If you didn't see Part 1 of this posting, make sure you check it out to see the results of the first 3 layers of ink.)

Here's where I started to vary from my original plan. This layer of mountains was to be a darker blue, but I was afraid if I did that then the greens wouldn't show through. So, I changed my mind and printed the lighter green first which is the color of the hill that the church is sitting on.

The darker green is the valley below the church. There should be another layer at this point that is the darker blue for another set of mountains, but I tried it and wasn't happy with the results on the prints I tried. The blue ended up being too dark and didn't contrast enough with the green so I printed 3 that way, then decided against the blue. Remember from the previous post that I only had one print that was lined up properly so I was a little panicked about messing it up with the blue.

This print is the final result of the one and only well-registered print. It feels like it's missing something without the extra layer of mountains. Next time I'll know better how to line things up and will do something different with regards to a feature like the windows. Because they were to be the darkest element of the whole print, I carried them through with each layer of ink. But, they were small and unforgiving elements that really show that the print is not registered properly.

Ultimately, I wasn't happy enough with the print to enter it in the Bel Paese exhibition, but I learned a lot and look forward to trying another color reduction print soon!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My First Color Reduction Print 1

The local Appalachian Arts Center had a call for submissions for a juried exhibition entitled, Bel Paese, or "Beautiful Country" featuring artworks contributed by local artists in response to Italian art and culture. I decided that I would use the opportunity to try my first color reduction print. I had an idea about a church in the mountains based on my husband's Waldensian heritage and proceeded to design my print with all the color layers necessary to create mountains in the distance and the church on a hill in the foreground. Had I really thought it through, given my lack of experience with reduction prints, I wouldn't have used so many colors! If you are unfamiliar with reduction prints, the name comes from the process of carving more from the block with each successive layer. A new, usually darker, color is applied with each layer. There's no going back and printing more if you make a mistake!

The first layer was easy enough and I printed 12 figuring that at least 1 of them, and hopefully more, would come out well in the end.  Because I'm not using a printing press, I had to find an alternate way to line up the paper over the prints. The erasercarver printmaking blog I follow had just the solution, using a piece of foam board. However, because the foam board was so much lower than the block, I wasn't particularly successful at lining the paper up with as much precision as I should have.

The second color was a light blue for the farthest mountain range. Note that I carved out the church walls, leaving only the windows so that the walls would take on the gray from the first layer. I moved the foam board higher on the block so it was easier to line the paper up, which helped.

The third color was a darker blue for the next mountain range. Note that the layers of color are building up on the print. Due to my poor registration on the first layer of the print, by this point in the process, I knew I was only going to have one print that would come out as I planned. Though the layers of the other prints line up pretty well, they don't line up with the first layer so the windows are not centered where they should be. I kept telling myself that it's a learning experience and continued all 12 prints.

Stay tuned for Part 2 on Thursday!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Inspiration Monday: Lisa Congdon

I first became aware of Lisa Congdon when I saw an article about her book and blog, A Collection A Day, where she showcased one of her collections with photographs or drawings each day of 2010. It was certainly an intriguing premise to have a project that spanned the year and I've followed her blogs since.

A Collection a Day by Lisa Congdon

This year her project is 365 Days of Hand Lettering, but I found more than just the year-long projects inspirational about Lisa. She didn't start painting and become a professional artist until she was in her 30s. Her paintings are often a colorful look at everyday things.

Buoys by Lisa Congdon

Her pencil drawings are detailed and whimsical like the B below. I'm looking foward to taking Lisa's Get Your Paint On class starting next week for further inspiration! I'll post some of my results here!

Letter B by Lisa Congdon
(All images are the works of Lisa Congdon. Visit Lisa's website to see more of her work or click on the links above. The works featured on Inspiration Monday are those that I enjoy and I have not been compensated in any way to include them on my blog.)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Friday Food: Cheddar-Stuffed Chicken and Melted Strawberries

It's still too early for fresh strawberries in these parts, but I succumbed to the lure of bright red California strawberries in the grocery store this week. They weren't quite as good as the local berries that haven't traveled thousands of miles, but they weren't a bad reminder that Spring is here. Since it was a two-fer deal and I bought more than we could eat this week, I decided to try a recipe from an old Better Homes and Gardens magazine. The original recipe is here, but as usual I'll give it to you the way I made it. Enjoy!

Cheddar-Stuffed Chicken and Melted Strawberries

3 cups fresh strawberries (halve or quarter large berries)
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup strawberry jam
salt and black pepper
6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 3 lb)
3 oz white cheddar cheese
6 large fresh basil leaves (or dried basil)
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced

Heat oven to 400 degrees. In 3-quart baking dish, combine strawberries, vinegar, and jam. Sprinkle salt and pepper; set aside.

Cut a horizontal pocket in each chicken breast half by cutting from one side almost, but not through, to the other side. Cut cheddar cheese into 6- 3 x 1/2 inch pieces. Wrap a basil leaf around each piece of cheese (or sprinkle with dried basil); stuff into chicken breast pocket. Secure pockets closed with wooden toothpicks or skewers. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

In 12-inch skillet, cook garlic in oil over medium heat for 30 seconds. Add chicken and cook for 5 minutes or until golden brown, turning once. Transfer to oven-safe dish and bake in oven, uncovered for 5 minutes.

Add baking dish with the strawberry-jam mixture to oven. Bake 10-13 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink (170 degrees) and the berries are softened and jam mixture has thickened.

Serve chicken with melted strawberries. Sprinkle with basil.

Makes 6 servings.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Inspiration Monday: Art At Garden Corner

With all the flowers and leaves popping out, I'm thinking about the beauty of spring and summer: the deep colors, the fresh produce, being outside...The block prints and watercolors of Jill Evans-Kavaldjian of Art at Garden Corner really evoke the change of season to one of bounty.

Apples by Jill Evans-Kavaldjian

 I love the graphic quality of her hand-colored Farm Alphabet Print series.

T is for Tractor by Jill Evans-Kavaldjian
The gradation of color in this reduction print is just beautiful. Further inspiration for me to play with color!

Oriental Poppies Variation 2 by Jill Evans-Kavaldjian
(All images are the works of Jill Evans-Kavaldjian of Art at Garden Corner. Visit the Art at Garden Corner Etsy shop to see more of Jill's work or click on the links above. The works featured on Inspiration Monday are those that I enjoy and I have not been compensated in any way to include them on my blog.)