Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Little Bit of Everything (almost)

I met an abstract painter last week who was encouraging me to make a foray into abstract painting, as opposed to my comfortable zone of realism/impressionism. I told him I felt like I could spend a lifetime trying to master what I already do, and that working abstract would pull me away from that. He suggested that abstract work might enhance what I do, and my intuition tells me he might be right.
That being said, I am still playing catch up with 30 paintings in 30 days, and today I touched on the three genres I paint with some regularity - still life, landscape, and figure. Almost caught up!
Canteloupe & Grapes, 5x7" oil on gessoboard, $125

Tarpits Rocks, 8x10" oil on linen on board, $200

Lori Sketching on the Beach, 5x7" oil on gessoboard

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Catching up. . .

Grapes and glass, 5x5" oil on cradled
gessoboard, $125.
I am beginning to think that trying to complete 30 paintings in 30 days was a mistake, given that I've just started teaching again and have a solo exhibition opening in a gallery this weekend. But I am plugging away, even though I'm behind by a few.
I believe it is called "biting off more than you can chew," but I'm still hoping to catch up.
The added challenge will come in another week and a half, when I'm heading overseas on another adventure. What was I thinking?! Looking forward to working on some watercolour travel scenes after September 21; stay tuned.
In the meantime, here's a glass of tequila - the odor of which was more powerful than turpentine in the studio. It sits next to the easel but I think it's going to have to go back in the bottle until I have time to pick up all the lilikoi in the garden and make a fine margarita, and it doesn't look like that's happening anytime soon.

Monday, September 9, 2013


Vincent Van Gogh, Sunset at Montmajour, 1888.
Terroir is a French term that refers to the specific characteristics of a place that help shape the things that are produced there, such as wine, cheese, or vegetables. It can be thought of as a sense of place, and the concept even spills over into laws which determine what products can claim to be produced in a specific region. I think that terroir is something that landscape painters are quite familiar with; certain painters are strongly associated with certain places, and it is perhaps no accident that the concept is a French one. Think of Monet in Normandy, or Van Gogh in Provence.
Today it was announced that a painting that had been 'lost' had been newly attributed to Van Gogh. Sadly for the man who owned it, years ago the authorities had denied that it was painted by Van Gogh because it had no signature. But over time, methods of authenticating paintings have evolved, and when the heirs and owners of the painting brought it forward from the attic where it had been stuffed away, it was looked at anew.
Combining chemical analyses of the pigments, which matched those that Van Gogh was known to have on his palette at the time, and documentation from a letter he had sent to his brother, Theo, describing the scene and the painting, experts at the Van Gogh Museum in the Netherlands have proclaimed that it was definitively painted by him. They expect to sell for tens of millions of dollars when it goes to auction.
Old oak above Santa Barbara.
One reason I love southern France is that it shares some characteristics with the section of California where I live, but it has a different essence that feels deeper to me. But this afternoon I went out to paint in the foothills above Santa Barbara, in a rocky place with twisted oaks that resonates with the description that Van Gogh provided to Theo for Montmajour. This one still needs some work, but I thought I'd post it anyway, to honor the great painter on a day that one of his works has been 'officially' recognized.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Plum Process

Here are some plums, my third in the "30 Paintings in 30 Days" Back to School Challenge. I realize it's the 6th, and this is my third, but it does say 30 paintings, not a painting a day, so I will be catching up over the weekend and hopefully be back on track next week.
Recently I mentioned one method I use when building a painting using a cadmium red underpainting ( So I thought I would  illustrate the process - especially because process is paramount for so many painters, particularly when the goal is to create 30 paintings in a month.
For this little gem, it began at the Thursday afternoon farmers market, where I perused the offerings and selected a few choice pieces. People - vendors, friends I run into, strangers - always seem to think it's a little odd that I'm picking fruit for its good looks, not necessarily for freshness or flavor. I was hoping for peaches, but there were very few left. I did buy a few, though, so they might get painted yet, as they're still hard as rocks. Very pretty, though.
The plums, with their dusty blue skin, were more appealing, and I do like the little farmer who brings them to market from his Carpinteria orchard. He assures me they are delicious as well.
The cad red underpainting.

Laying in color - first the darks - and giving form.

Three plums - 5x5" oil on
cradled gessoboard - $125.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

In a Pinch

Monhegan Island Lighthouse, 5x7" watercolour on paper.
I am away from my studio and home for a few days in Connecticut to take my daughter to her new school. But to honor the "Back to School Challenge" of 30 paintings in 30 days, I brought along a little set of watercolors and stole a few moments yesterday to complete painting #2, from a photograph I took last summer of the Monhegan Island lighthouse.
I'm reluctant to post this, since I am clearly not a watercolorist, but to honor the commitment I'm putting it up here.
It's not all bad, though. Any painter will tell you that painting is a journey, and that it's mostly about the process as much as it is about the product. In this case, I wouldn't normally produce a watercolor, but since I'm away from home I'm forced to make do (for this short family trip, I couldn't bring my oil paints and easel). Working in an unfamiliar medium, which makes me feel like a rookie, is both humbling and energizing: I realize that in spite of the fact that I'm an oil painter, I can't tackle any medium (like watercolor, or acrylic) and expect the same results that have come from thousands of hours at my own easel in my own comfort zone.
At the same time, I have to say that this little work is not a complete failure - it's an exercise, and worthwhile in the way that cross-training can be for an athlete. It required patience, observation, and acceptance of my limited abilities, and an acknowledgement of this: at least I tried. And as I look forward to my first day back in the classroom in a few days, I'll have more compassion for my students who are always working in media they haven't mastered, with varied levels of success and frustration.
Now, in spite of the fact that I'm leaving my daughter behind, I am truly looking forward to being back in my studio, back at home, back in my comfort zone. This little lighthouse makes me grateful for that, even though I'll miss my girl an awful lot.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Back to School Challenge

Two apples with ginger jar, 5x5"
on cradled gessoboard, $125.
This is "back to school" week on several fronts in my house. We are leaving on a redeye flight from LAX at midnight tonight to take my daughter to her first year at boarding school as a freshman in high school. She will, at age 14, be living approximately 3,000 miles away in New England, a far cry from her native coastal California. And I will, for the first time in as many years, be living in a house without a child. Change is inevitable; how it will affect us all remains unforeseeable.
This is also "back to school" week for me, as The Howard School starts up this week, so when I fly back to California in a few days I will be back in the classroom with my kindergarten through 8th grade students. I love my job and I love being surrounded by the creative energy, frustrations, successes, and joys of teaching art. This year in particular I will relish being around children, as mine will be so far away.
In addition to being back at school, I have accepted the "back to school" challenge from a fellow artist, Leslie Saeta ( who has thrown down the gauntlet: one painting per day for the 30 days of September. More than 300 painters have accepted the challenge. I know I am already busy enough, but I am filling my calendar as full as I can, because I hope it will help me adjust to the changing seasons of my life.
So here's to September: for me, apples have always been a symbol of the season. Growing up in the Michigan, come fall we would go to the cider mills in the countryside surrounding Ann Arbor for cider and fresh, warm doughnuts (and always, yellow jackets all around). The farmers market would fill with paper bags and bushel baskets of apples, and chrysanthemums would start to appear in shades of yellow and rusty orange.
September here in southern California brings the best beach weather, the warmest ocean temperatures, and the end of the tourist season. We'll be heading down to the beach this afternoon for one last surf session and swim with my daughter before we drive down to Los Angeles for the transition to our new lives.
So here's to autumn, to apples, to changes. May we enjoy them all as best we can.