Friday, May 24, 2013

Catch of the Day

16x20 inches, oil over collaged advertisements from 1950s Popular Mechanics
from a small, black and white vintage photo

I carrying on with my experiments using vintage snapshots.  This is larger than I usually work, and this time I used collaged advertisements from a Popular Mechanics magazine as the base. My intention was to have more of the ads showing through, especially at the edges, but my oil paint ended up covering more completely than I planned.  

I had the figures completed for about a week, with the creamy background and ads showing, but the men needed more contrast to make them stand out, so I ended up adding the grass and trees.  I probably should have found a way to make the greens less strong, because now the men look a bit faded to me, an effect I liked before the background was painted.  

Another issue is the fact that the collage papers add quite a lot of texture, which may or may not be good.

But as of now, it is what it is, and I am moving on.  

This weekend I'm driving north to the Minoqua area for a workshop with Robert Burridge at Dillmans.  The workshop deals with figures, use of collage, and abstraction, so we shall see how that affects future experiments in figures. I'm excited to be going!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Spring Garden

The tree service has taken away the storm damage from Sunday, and I'm back to grubbing out shallow tree roots, replacing perennial flowers that did not make it through the winter, and planting annuals in pots and along the edge of long beds the line the back yard.  I am happy that the big storm didn't tear the poppies to pieces, since they are pretty for such a short time.

Today while I was working I  had to stop to enjoy the scent of lilac and lily of the valley.  It made me think of a song my mother sang to me when I was little:

Sweet coral bells upon a slender stalk,
Lilies of the valley line my garden walk.
Oh how I wish that I could hear them ring.
That will happen only when the fairies sing.

The coral bells are beginning to bloom, and the lilies of the valley are at their peak.  Time to see if I can hear them ringing. That might distract me from how sore my knees are after a day working outside.

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Big Wind

Spring can be beautiful.  Right now I have purple scented lilacs, lily of the valley, oriental poppies and alliums blooming in my yard.

But spring can be unsettled too.  Last night a strong storm blew up suddenly, with high winds and driving rain.  I heard a crash, and discovered a large tree branch had fallen. part on the car, and part between the deck and the garage. Another reason it's a bad idea to build a deck around a tree, perhaps.

This morning we discovered that the damage was not as bad as we feared.  There is a dent over the door on the passenger side of the car, and the deck railing is scuffed, but that's  it.  We were lucky.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

May Flowers

It is such a lovely spring day that I decided to visit Rotary Gardens.  Their army of volunteers was out mowing, mulching, and planting.

There are chair and benches all over the gardens, and one that caught my eye today said:

The flowers are blooming
Spring's in the air,
Come sit for a spell,
No one will care.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Work in Progress

Happy Mothers Day.  I'm nobody's mother, except maybe the cat's.  I feed her, police her litter box, take her to the vet when needed, and prop up her fragile ego every day.  Once again she neglected to send me a card.  I can't just sit around waiting for tokens of her appreciation; I made myself a nice rhubarb pie.

While the sunshine is bright and the birds are singing, it's nippy outside. It was cold enough last night that I  hauled the potted basil plants into the garage to prevent them being nipped by frost.  I'm something of a hothouse flower, myself, so I stayed inside to work on a project that I've had ready to go for about a month.  It's larger than my usual small work, 1950s magazine advertising collaged over a dismal watercolor, and then a drawing of two young men with their catch of the day over the collage.  I finally took a deep breath and started an oil painting. I use water mixable oil paint since I can't tolerate turpentine vapors.  I've never tried anything quite like this before, so we shall see how it goes.

I'm working a standard size, so it will not need custom framing, if it turns out to be a keeper.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Gothic Gazing

Spring has finally arrived, and I've been doing more outdoorsy things, killing dandelions, fixing up the deck, visiting the cemeteries for a bit of grass trimming and setting of flowers and flags before Memorial Day.  But a couple days of rain sent me back up to the studio for some painting.

Last summer my patient spouse and I took a visiting out-of-state niece to Chicago for a visit to one of my favorite places, the Chicago Art Institute.  I've been there often enough to be acquainted with much of their permanent collection, and I have real affection for their twentieth century paintings.  We made a stop at Grant Wood's iconic painting of his sister and his Iowa dentist, American Gothic.  As familiar as it is, I'm always interested in stopping to look at the details, the tendril of hair escaping the woman's bun, the plants on the porch of the house.

Has any American painting been reproduced or parodied as often as American Gothic?  For years when I was teaching I used a coffee cup from the Art Institute - doing duty these days as a pen holder.

Has any American painting been parodied as often? A quick Google search will turn up dozens, from Paul Newman and his wife as the famous pair, to Granny and Jed Clampett.  This Pinterest page is full of good ones.

The painting has inspired poetry, too.  I like this one by John Stone:


Just outside the frame
there has to be a dog
chickens, cows and hay

and a smokehouse
where a ham in hickory
is also being preserved

Here for all time
the borders of the Gothic window
anticipate the ribs

of the house
the tines of the pitchfork
repeat the triumph

of his overalls
and front and center
the long faces, the sober lips

above the upright spines
of this couple
arrested in the name of art

These two
by now
the sun this high

ought to be
in mortal time
about their businesses

Instead they linger here
within the patient fabric
of the lives they wove

he asking the artist silently
how much longer
and worrying about the crops

she no less concerned about the crops
but more to the point just now
whether she remembered

to turn off the stove.

Anyway, I enjoyed my husband's niece's reaction to the painting, and moments later a pair of black clad young men can up, museum guides in hand, to get a closer look.  I snapped a quick photo of them, and then this week I finally painted it.  My painting is oil on paper, and quite small, only five by seven inches.  That meant I had to simplify things.  I eliminated the little "keep-your-distance" fence the museum puts there to keep people from getting too close.  The man on the right had his legs tattooed, but I didn't want lots of detail in that part of the picture.  And of course the Grant Wood painting is very simplified; it had to be.  It's about the size of a postage stamp. 

But I think my area of real interest is in the young men, in their obvious interest and close gaze.  I think the fact that these urban  dudes are so interested in an old painting of serious-looking Iowa farmers speaking to the durable appeal of the painting.