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Accepted to Salmagundi Exhibit

I am really thrilled to report that the Salmagundi Club has accepted my painting, Croton, for their 33rd Annual Juried Non-Member Exhibition, July 12 – 23, 2010. The Awards Reception is July 23, 6:00 – 8:00pm.  This is the third year in a row that the Salmagundi Club has accepted one of my paintings into their Non-Member Show.

The Salmagundi Club is one of New York’s most prestigious art clubs and so I am especially proud that they think my painting, Croton, is good enough to be included. The Salmagundi Club gallery is open to the public 7 days a week, 1:00 – 5:00pm (47 Fifth Avenue @ 11th Street).

Most of the work at the Exhibition will be very high quality and available for sale at very reasonable prices if the three previous shows are any indication.  I will be at the Awards Reception on July 23 and would love to meet any of you fellow art lovers there.



Unbelievably Frustrating

I’d forgotten how hard it was when I was first learning how to paint with watercolor:  achieving the effect I wanted with a medium that is very hard to control.  Now I know how to get the effect I want, but not what the effect is that I want.  The truth is that I don’t yet understand what constitutes a successful abstract painting, so I’m not sure what I’m aiming for.

Unbelievably frustrating!

Frank O’Cain (who teaches my abstract watercolor class at the Art Students League) talks about repeating color in different places, but not in the same weight.  About bringing things forward and backward.  About linking and overlapping shapes, rather than having separate blobs of color.  About how the negative space is critical.  About preserving some of the white of the paper and/or adding white gouache to “deconstruct” part of the painting. About having more of the detail and focus be in the upper part of the painting.

Having seen a few of his demos, I sorta kinda  get what he is saying.  I just don’t know how to do it.   Looking at the really complicated still life set up in the studio at the League and hearing his advice to not paint the whole thing but rather pick and chose the things you like and that together make a good composition … well, I guess I’m still not sure what makes a good abstract composition.

My first tendency is to paint what I see — realistically — which is definitely not helpful but nonetheless very hard to resist.  In fact, it seems much easier to simply paint an abstract with no reference to anything real in front of me.  Just putting colors down on paper, spraying it, tilting it, letting the colors move and run, splattering it, intensifying here, softening there …  But that feels a little too easy.  And when I’m done, although I know if I like it, I don’t know how to improve it the next time, what would make it better.

The gallery at the League, currently showing the Merit Scholarship Winners, includes a wonderful, brightly colorful, abstract landscape.  It’s clearly recognizably a landscape, but it’s also undeniably an abstract.

Maybe that’s an easier place for me to start:  take a landscape that I’ve already painted and try to simplify it, reduce it to its basic shapes and colors, abstract it.

To be continued …

My brave new abstract world

My last (and first) blog talked about two important events that have happened to me in the last 7 months:  getting cancer and taking an abstract watercolor course.  Although a very different kind of event from cancer, my abstract watercolor course with Frank O’Cain at the Art Students League is shaping up to be equally momentous.

Up to now I’ve been a very practical, realistic artist painting watercolor landscapes.  If you were with me looking at the sea grapes in Florida or Cerro Dragon in Ecuador, you would recognize what is in my painting.  And the classes I’ve taken have largely been focused on technique, how to get the effect I want.   I have no Fine Arts degree and  very little knowledge about art history, art trends, etc.  Have you ever noticed that in a room full of people talking about a  painting, you can tell the people who have Fine Arts degrees?  They have a different vocabulary (which I don’t have).

Having been told by several people that Frank O’Cain is an excellent teacher and that they learned a lot from him, I decided to enroll in his summer Watercolor Techniques class.  Although his own paintings are abstract, I figured I could give it a try and get him to critique my landscapes if all else failed.

Well, much to my surprise I’m loving creating abstract watercolors.  Having admitted up front to not knowing anything about how to create an abstract painting, how to evaluate an abstract painting, or even how to talk about abstract painting, there was certainly no pressure to perform.  No place to go but up.  And I did start at the bottom.

But Frank is unfailingly kind and encouraging.  He does answer questions like “What can I do to make it better?”  And his demo a week ago when he painted two completely different abstract paintings from a single still life set up really helped to illustrate  the suggestions he’d given me the previous week.

So I’m getting better and better, but still not giving up my day job (painting realistic watercolor landscapes).  If my previous experience of learning something new is any predictor, I may soon look back at my current work and wince, but right now I’m loving it.

So here are two very different abstract paintings I created last week.  Tell me what you think.





Cancer was a good influence

An artist blogger wrote recently that people don’t come to your blog for your art, they come for you.  If you can’t write something personal, something that lets people (hopefully, people who like your art) get to know you better, then you shouldn’t bother.

So since this is my first real blog post, I guess I better write about something important to me.

Two really important things have happened to me within the last 7 months.  I was diagnosed with cancer in December ’09 and I started an abstract watercolor class at the Art Students League in June ’10.  They may not look like equivalent events, but they both have taught and are continuing to teach me a lot.

So what did my bout with cancer teach me?  (I’ll deal with the abstract stuff in my next blog.)  It taught me about love and friendship and the appropriate/human way to respond to a friend in crisis.

After the diagnosis of anal cancer and all my bad jokes about what a pain in the ass this was, I got down to the serious business of my treatment: 2 weeks of chemo and two months of daily radiation at Roosevelt Hospital.  Beyond the pain, which frankly wasn’t too bad, there was the mind-boggling inconvenience of not being able to sit down at all or even stand for too long.  Try eating lying down … it’s exhausting when you don’t have a lot of energy to start with.  And painting lying down was impossible (with an amazed nod to Matisse creating Jazz from his chaise lounge at the end of his life).

My husband, not otherwise known for his patience, was an absolute rock supporting and loving me every inch of the way.  My son dropped everything in his packed schedule (as part of a software startup about to go live) to drive me to and from the hospital for treatment once a week.  His girlfriend loaned me some hats when I lost my hair.  Three other friends each gave up a day a week to drive me for treatment.  Other friends and family called daily, weekly just to say hi, find out how I was doing and offer encouragement.  My brother somehow knew to call when I was feeling low and he and his wife made four hour drives to bring me cooked meals and soup. Other friends came to visit, brought books, interesting discussions, and laughter.  And people I barely knew called to say they were thinking of me and to wish me well.

It was awesome.  But the comparison with my own behavior in the past was sobering.

Looking back at occasions when my friends or acquaintances were going through difficult times, I know I wasn’t as good a friend to them.  I was too involved with myself.   Now I know how it feels.

Though I’m certainly glad it’s gone, cancer was a good influence on me.  I learned to really appreciate my family and friends and how to be a better friend myself.

Stay tuned for the next blog about my abstract watercolor class and what I’m learning from that.