Thursday, April 29, 2010

Another Visit to the Canary Islands

11x14 inches, oil on canvas board

I have plenty to do, so I'm not sure what made me revisit the Canary Islands, scene of April's Virtual Paint Out challenge.  I just dropped my little yellow guy down, and found this sun drenched scene.  I'm still trying to work on my use of oil paint, and also my representation of buildings, so I guess this is just another practice. What attracted me in particular to this scene is the repeated shapes of the flower pots and the shadows on the road.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Wildflower Walk

This afternoon the sun was out, and I decided to return to Riverside Park to photograph some of the wildflowers I saw a couple days ago on a hike I took with my husband.  That day was cool and overcast, and all weekend it rained, but today was perfect.  Over the past few years volunteers here in Janesville have spent hundreds of hours rehabilitating the park, and especially rebuilding this segment of Wisconsin's Ice Age Trail.

There are lots of steep stairs to climb, though the sturdy handrail is helpful on the old stone steps.  

The path itself is narrow, and has not railings, though there is a steep slope that falls to the Rock River below.  In the spring before the leaves are all the way out, the path is strewn with hundreds of wildflowers.  

There were many more of these Dutchman's Breeches last week.  Apparently the rain we had on Saturday and Sunday beat the tender while blooms to pieces.  I found this little clump, though.

These white flowers carpet the hillsides and bottoms of the limestone outcroppings in the park.  I am not sure, but think this might be a false rue anemone.  
 I really need a wildflower guide to the upper Midwest.  Is this a type of buttercup?

This is another flower I need help in identifying. I'm leaning toward woodland phlox.

This one is easy because I have it all over my back yard, and it is Wisconsin's flower symbol, the blue violet.

I think this is a yellow bellwort.  Not a pretty name, though the blossoms are elegant.

A couple of my flower portraits didn't turn out - the wild geranium and the spring beauties were simply out of focus.  I was too late for the blood root flowers, and too early for the trillium, trout lily and May apple  That's fine, because it will give me an excuse to return to the path and see what treasures are there to be found.

Also, the Hedberg Library  has an exhibit of more professional wildflower photos, so maybe I'd better go there for help in identification.  Or, maybe I'll go on the guided walk this Saturday, May 1, at 10:00 AM.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


11x14 inches, oil

I am enjoying my continuing experiments with oil paint, though I am not sure I like the results as well as my watercolor work.  Still, I have been working with watercolors for years, and I just started with these water mixable oils.  One real problem for me is photographing the results.  I have not found out a way to avoid glare,  This time I took the photo while the wet painting was still on my easel, and turned the painting away from a nearby window.  Still there is a little glare in the upper left corner. Perhaps I should let the painting dry a few days before I try, but in this case I wanted to submit my entry for April's Studio Atelier challenge.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Madison Weekend: WI Film Festival

Tulips and the state capitol building in Madison, WI

It was a glorious Spring weekend, and we got to spend it in Madison at the Wisconsin Film Festival.  The place was jumping because it was also the first weekend of Dane County Farmers Market on the Square, the Wisconsin High School Forensics Association state competition, and I'm not sure what else.  It was wall-to-wall people, on the street, in restaurants, at the movies, everywhere.

Ramp to parking at the Monona Terrace Convention Center, Lake Monona

In several past years we saw four or five movies a day, hiked up and down State Street, caught food in stray moments in between, but this time we only saw three movies on Saturday and two on Sunday, and left ourselves lots of time in between to wander and snack.  As you can see in this photo, skies were blue and on Sunday the winds were calm, so that from the top of the Monona Terrace Convention Center we could see all the trees around the lake leafing out, boats and birds on the lake, bikers and runners on the paved paths around Lake Mendota.

Runners on the path around the lake

Plaque at the Monona Terrace dedicated to Otis Redding, 
whose plane crashed into Lake Mendota in 1967

We loved attending the film festival, and haven't missed one for ten years.  We have seen dozens of documentaries, animated features and shorts, foreign and domestic films over the years.  Some we enjoyed, some not so much, but we have never been bored.  There is something really wonderful about overdosing on movies in crowds where everyone is there for the same reason: they want to watch films. There's excitement in the air at a festival like this, anticipation, discussion.  We have heard actors, producers, directors, and the subjects of documentaries speak here.  We sat in the middle of a crowd of excited extras one year.  We watch the vast majority of our movies at home on DVD (often with the cat on one of our laps), and that's affordable, comfortable, and convenient.  But it just isn't as exciting as sitting in a filled up movie theater and reacting along with hundreds of other fans to what is happening on the screen.

Here what we saw this year in my order of enjoyment:

I was fascinated by an insider look at Disney animation from 1984-1994.  The director, whose parents live in Madison, answered audience questions thoughtfully.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo feature film from Sweden
I may have been the only person in the packed Orpheum Theater who had not read the book, but I still was sucked into the story, violent as it was.

Eggshelland documentary
How did I not know about the folks near Cleveland who have been decorating their front lawn for 50 years with thousands of brightly painted eggshells?  The audience started out snickering, but fell in love by the end of the movie.  Both the director and producer (who had a minor role in, and helped cast A Christmas Story) spoke at length.  It was great, but I couldn't help wondering if they had a thing for bunny suits.

A Town Called Panic stop motion animation
My husband loved it, and apparently so did most of the audience.  I fell asleep for the middle of it, and I'm OK with that.

Scrap  documentary
I wanted to love this movie that documents some of the eccentric artistic accomplishments of Jim Bishop and Tom Every, especially since I have visited the Forevertron park of recycled scrap metal, and the man himself was in the audience. But I thought the film rambled and failed to reveal anything much about what motivated either Bishop or Every.  The director spoke afterwards and said nothing to change my mind. This was a missed opportunity.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Inspired by a Marge Piercy Poem

vintage bluebird trading card

I headed out to my Thursday painting group this week only to discover that it had been canceled, and I was not informed.  Rather than stew over this inconvenience I headed out for a latte and a browse through a local used book store, where I found a good copy of The Moon is Always Female, poems by Marge Piercy.  This one stood out for me.  When people say that I am talented (this doesn't happen every day by any means) I always think that a decent painting is more the result of years of working at it than some trait I inherited from my mother or great aunt, like straight hair or green eyes.  Anyway, I liked the poem.

For the young who want to

Talent is what they say
you have after the novel
is published and favorably
reviewed.  Beforehand what
you have is a tedious
delusion, a hobby like knitting.

Work is what you have done
after the play is produced
and the audience claps.
Before that friends keep asking
when you are planning to go
out and get a job.

Genius is what they know you
had after the third volume
of remarkable poems.  Earlier
they accuse you of withdrawing,
and ask why you don't have a baby,
call you a bum.

The reason people want M.F.A.'s,
take workshops with fancy names
when all you can really
learn is a few techniques,
typing instructions and some-
body else's mannerisms

is that every artist lacks
a license to hand on the wall
like your optician, your vet
proving you may be a clumsy sadist
whose fillings fall into the stew
but you're certified a dentist.

The real writer is one
who really writes.  Talent
is an invention like pholgiston
after the fact of fire.
Work is its own cure.  You have to
like it better than being loved.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Virtual Paintout - the Canary Islands

5x7 inches, watercolor, 
original scene on Google Street View, the Canary Islands

This is my effort for this month's Virtual Paintout (see sidebar of challenges).  I originally planned to do all oils and acrylics for these challenges, but this month and last I ended up reverting to my comfort area of watercolor.  I like learning more about places like the Canary Islands, which up until now were a big dark closet in my brain.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Getting Out: Rotary Gardens in Bloom

magnolia tree, Janesville's Rotary Gardens

Today is one of those perfect spring days in the Midwest, cool, sunny, calm.  Spring flowers are bursting into bloom all over the neighborhood, including my yard (along with the creeping violets and dandelions).  But I talked Dick into a walk to Rotary Gardens.  I had to find our membership card, buried in the desk over the winter, but I located it and we set off.  The local botanical garden is about a mile from our house, so walking there, wandering through the various gardens, and walking back is a bit over two miles.  It was a perfect walk to walk off our breakfast.

an early blooming hellabore - I think it's a Lenten Rose

some sort of weeping tree - a cherry?

a robin at the base of a forsythia

spring tulips and daffodils

by Barb Cranford, in the Wisconsin Poets Calendar

If you don't stand idle at the study window
on a chore-laden spring morning
filled with bills, laundry, and house-cleaning,
you won't see a fat old woodchuck
ease around the bottom step of the porch
or four deer skip through your greening woods
just beyond the chickadee-busy birdbath.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Why Do I Keep Painting Food?

11x14 inches, oil on canvas board

Over the past couple years for some unknown reason my favorite paintings have been of food.  I've painted peppermint candies, lemons, cupcakes, and now these donuts.  I wonder if my subconscious is trying to tell me something.  But what?  I eat plenty, as shown by my current middle-aged stockiness.  Peasant woman.  This experiment in pastry painting was completed for an online challenge (Calypso Moon Artist Movement), as were all the other food painted already mentioned.  The little sprinkles just about drove me nuts, although I think they turned out OK.  I think the strongest part of the painting is the chocolate donut, which was the first one off the plate and into the mouth.  The weakest is the lacy-edged milk glass plate, though with that chocolate donut, my attitude is more or less, "who cares?"

I've been doing lots of online challenges lately, partially because I enjoy seeing how lots of other people respond to a prompt, partially because it motivates me to get going and paint, and partially because I wanted to write an article for a regional art magazine encouraging people to try online challenges.  The article is done and mailed out, so I may slack off for a bit.  Or maybe not...

Friday, April 2, 2010

Blooming Bowl and a Poem

Altered photo, from a trip to the florist

April has brought my daffodils up out of the ground, and the lilac leaves are the size of mouse ears.  We could use some moisture in the back yard to green up the grass, though.  Today we're planning a field tip to Racine to see the Watercolor Wisconsin show.

April Rain Song
by Langston Hughes

Let the rain kiss you.
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops.
Let the rain sing you a lullaby.

The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk.
the rain makes running pools in the gutter.
The rain plays a little sleep-song on our roof at night--

And I love the rain.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Tea With Lemon?

11x14 inches, oil on canvas board
painted for the Inspiration All Around Us challenge

I have painting pretty darned fast lately because I have been participating in several online art challenges, with the idea that I will write an article for a regional art magazine.  Painting fast is a new thing for me, the former perfectionist, now going for quantity and hoping that all the practice will pay off.  I actually think it is.  For years, when I was teaching. I'd get a couple things done every month or two, and spend so much time slaving over them that I couldn't possibly let them go.  My sketch books were labored and perspired over too, hoarded, saved, left half empty.  No more.  I am cranking things out.  And guess what? I'm feeling pretty good about the results.

This little still life was painted for a challenge at the Inspiration All around Us blog.  The original teapot was shorter, and it had some sort of flowers or berries stuck in the spout, but they did not speak to me, so they were edited right out.  I am not wildly happy about the sort of orangy/beigy surface in the painting, but the blue under painting saves it from being too blah, or too similar to the lemons.  What attracted me to the reference photo was the strong light reflection on the fruit, and I think that shows in the final painting.

I'd probably be more critical in the dark cold days of winter, but spring has sprung here in southern Wisconsin, and people are outside in their yards, taking walks, riding bicycles. Daffodils are blooming and the robins are going wild in the flower bed.  I won't even say what the rabbits are up to.  In short, I am feeling happy and looking forward to longer warmer days.  I even went out and got some pots of pansies.  They go in clay pots that can be taken into the garage.  Sometimes it snows in April in these parts.