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Posts from the ‘General’ Category

It’s still winter

The weather outside has mellowed a little, but I continue to paint these simplified winter scenes on mini (6×6) canvases with a palette knife. In my head it’s still winter.

Winter 5

Winter 5 is fascinating to me. Seen up close it’s just a mess of pale colors and raised paint ridges. When you pull back a little it becomes an abstracted winter scene. There are bands of clouds in the sky, trees and even a path or two. At the time I painted it, my nose was about a foot from the painting and yet I was painting the scene you can only really “see” from a distance.

Winter 6

In Winter 6, I simplified the colors, modified one of my favorite trees a little and placed the land at an angle. I’m starting to like the way my shaky hands and the palette knife create the texture.

Winter 7

I brought back the yellow oxide for the clouds just over the top of the hill, but now that I re-examine it, Winter 7 doesn’t look like much of anything real. It’s the most abstracted of these mini paintings so far. For years, I struggled to abstract from the model, or from a real scene. Here it just happened.

Winter 8

And last but not least, Winter 8 is a little more representational, but still pretty abstract.

So with all of these Winter minis, I couldn’t create what I was trying to (smooth expanses of snow with muted, vague shapes). The palette knife made that unrealistic. Instead, I’ve created mini abstract paintings with a lot of texture. And I like them — some more than others — but I like them.

But in my head, it’s still winter, so I think I’ll try to recreate these scenes using my preferred acrylic on raw canvas. To be continued…

Experimenting with Winter

Well, it’s cold … and bleak … and the colors have disappeared (like New Jersey, normally seen from my window). Winter is here, and my attempts last month to dispell some of the gloom by painting summer colors just didn’t last. So this time I’m just going to wallow in it, paint winter scenes, some from childhood memories, some from photos. I am experimenting with Winter, using a pallette knife (instead of a brush), on mini (6×6) canvases, gessoed (not raw canvas) and with a very limited color pallette (white, blue, brown and varying shades of gray).

It’s been a challenge, but that’s what I needed. I’ve never used a palette knife before and I admit it’s been hard to get the effect I want. These canvases are small, so the compositions are very simple. Since these are all experiments, I haven’t given them names…

Winter 1

Not that it matters, but the hill is based on a childhood park hill I used to ski down, and the tree is based on an old NYT photo. The more I look at it, the more I think it could be a summer beach scene (wishful thinking?) the snow is more beige than white. City snow does tend to get dirty fast, but …

Winter 2

Well, the snow is still beigey, but it is smoother. Maybe the pallette knife was the wrong choice for the look I’m trying to achieve.

Winter 3

This is clearly not a beach scene and it reminds me of the view I had in Patagonia from the top of the chair lift. I did a very different painting on raw canvas right after that trip. That was in the summer, of course, so it’s interesting I used that memory for this winter scene.

Winter 4

This makes me think of a fairy tale. I think I still need to soften the path leading up to the little house in the trees. Not sure where this one came from.

I have four more litttle mini canvases so there will be a sequel to this post. It’s still winter, but the weather is not bothering me so much now.

Let the experiments continue

My studio isn’t huge. That’s the bad news: it restricts what I am able to do. It’s also the good news. Because I have minimal storage space, my recently completed paintings are often propped up against the wall, here and there, forcing me to look at them, reminding me of what I’ve done and what I was trying to do. It’s motivation to keep trying. Let the experiments continue.

My two most recently finished paintings, although very different in technique from each other, are very similar in style and technique to experiments recently started.

Blue Ridge is a continuation of my desire to combine the atmospheric effects of acrylic thinned with water on wet raw canvas (wet-on-wet) with some harder edges achieved by putting the thinned acrylic down on dry raw canvas (in which case I have to put the wetting agent directly in the paint … and remember to let the previous layers dry).

Blue Ridge 16×22

Blue Ridge is a wonderful combination of soft and hard edges, both atmospheric and stylized.

It’s all rather complicated and fraught with peril. My initial attempt, Intense, was a total failure in terms of the technique, although I liked the resulting painting. (You can read about it in my Oct. 7, 2020 blog post.) My next experiment, Just Glow, was more of a success with the hard edges, although it doesn’t look like anything I normally should have produced.

My second painting, Aaah, is the result of a totally different experiment: painting with unthinned fluid acrylics on textured canvas (light molding paste added to gessoed canvas).

Aaah 12×12

In my earlier experiments with painting on textured canvas, I created the texture by simply gessoing over previously awful paintings. With Blown, the texture was used to help show the force of the wind. In Aaah, the wind and the clouds are more chaotic, less unidirectional.

I seem to be making some headway. My experiments are a little clearer and I’m remembering what I did and why I did it … and most importantly, what did and didn’t work.

So, let the experiments continue…

Thank God for my son!

I really don’t like to burden my son with all my computer problems. He’s very tech savvy, works for one of the big tech companies in Silicon Valley … but he has a job, a wife, a new son … in short, he has a life. So I usally get my tech support from the Geek Squad. They’ve been pretty good in the past, but this last time drove me crazy. Three days and no answers. I couldn’t use the computer and I was so frustrated I couldn’t paint. Well, one quick email with my son and I’m back in business. Thank God for my son!

And now I’m trying to make up for lost time. I’ve gessoed over a painting I hated and couldn’t finish. And I’ve also added some light molding paste to give it some texture before I start to paint. It’s a new technique I’ve been wanting to try and I had to cover over some of the texture from the previous painting. So, double whammy!

And now I’m starting to paint again. And here’s the first layer…

Feel the Wind Blow

It needs work, but that’s okay. I’ve got nothing but time.

I’ve got to lose

At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, I’ve got to lose the dreaded Covid-15 (15 extra pounds, that is). My painting pants have been feeling a little snug lately, but that’s not it. I actually looked in the mirror and didn’t like what I saw. Haven’t weighed myself, so I don’t know exactly how bad it is, but the exact weight doesn’t matter. I just have to lose.

Suddenly I said to myself, “Self, what have you been doing with all that extra time you have?” And Self answered: “Not much. A little painting. A little shopping. A little cooking. A lot of eating. A lot of sleeping. And very little exercising.” … [You see what Self and I are getting at.]

Something has to change. Actually, somethings have to change. Exercise three times a week (already started). No snack with my 6:00pm dry vermouth (already started). No more cookies (aww…). Walks at least once or twice a week (not started yet; can’t do it in 90 degree muggy weather). More painting (already started). [The list will grow.]

In fact, the one good piece of news lately is that I have been painting more, trying new things (new for me, that is). And painting more means that I feel better, which helps with the other things that have to change.

So, to cut to the chase, some new paintings:

Storm’s Coming

This isn’t finished, but I think I’ve captured the feeling.

Storm on the Rocks

I thought this was finished, but now I’m not so sure. See how I feel about it tomorrow.

In both of these, I like being able to see the brushstrokes. It’s very different from painting on raw canvas.

Might as well keep experimenting …

Well, there really must be a backlog of orders for stretched raw canvas, so I might as well keep experimenting. And actually I kinda like working with acrylic on canvas board or gessoed canvas (which is fortunate, since that is what I have available).

And the really great news: if you don’t like the result, you can just gesso over it and start again. In fact, I’ve actually gessoed over a couple of my acrylic paintings on raw canvas that I didn’t like, thus giving the canvases a whole new life. As that obnoxious commercial on tv says, “Who knew?”

So, continuing my blog about experiments from almost exactly one month ago (Experiments can be tricky… ), here are my latest two experiments:

Ghost Light 2020 18×24 Acrylic

When theaters are closed and dark (as in a pandemic), they keep a “ghost light” on. I suppose it’s to make it easier to find the things that have to be turned back on when they reopen.  Somehow the phrase “ghost light” stuck in the back of my mind after reading the NYTimes article. I didn’t want to paint a real theater with a real ghost light, but did want to convey what the words meant to me, the hope that everything would get turned back on.

Stormy 2020 9×12 Acrylic on canvasboard

There was a storm brewing over the Palisades, but I wanted to change it up a bit.  I kept the sky, but modified the Palisades and the river. Everything else seems to be changing, why not my view?  And this is my still relatively new experimental technique, so that is changing too.

This new experimental technique arose due to my running out of raw canvas, but having plenty of gessoed canvas and canvasboard. Once my raw canvas orders materialize, I’ll have to figure out which I want to use. Decisions … decisions. It’ll be nice to have a choice.

I KNEW I remembered collage…

While I was flailing around trying to figure out what to do with my gessoed canvases and generally making a mess of things, I KNEW I remembered collage … and I thought I knew where I had put all my colored papers, construction paper, glue stick, etc. Lo and behold, I was finally right about something.

And it also was coming back to me how much easier back in 2015 it had been with collage to experiment with planes, shapes, composition, push/pull … all the things you want to be mindful of while painting.

Every night, the spectacular sunsets over the Hudson River and the Palisades are displayed in all their glory and make me want to paint them. So while waiting for my raw canvas supply to be replenished, I decided to experiment with collage.

So I experimented …

Sunset Pieces 2020 9×12

Well, that wasn’t too bad. It took three or four tries to get the sun, the clouds, the Hudson River, the Palisades and the composition to all work together.

Now, this is starting to feel like it should be a painting. To be continued …

I’m losing it …

It’s a month since I last posted something and … I’m losing it. When asked (not often), I say I’m doing fine. And I mean it. I’m not severely depressed or suicidal. I’m home with my husband and neither of us is sick. We argue about the small stuff, but agree on all the big stuff: how ridiculous Trump is but how hillarious Sara Cooper on Twitter is, what program to watch on Netflix, what to eat for dinner. After checking our phones, we even agree on what day of the week it is.

And there is some really wonderful news: at our advanced age we have become grandparents. Our son and his wife have just had a beautiful baby boy. We couldn’t be happier, unless we were actually there to hug him/them.

My painting is coming along. I’ve painted a couple which I like:



Hwange Sunset Acrylic on raw canvas 24×30

I’ve gessoed over three canvases which I didn’t like (from earlier, not painted since Covid19).

And I’ve started another African Skies sunset, similar to Hwange Sunset, which I think I’m gonna like.

But the excitement isn’t there. I used to rush to the League, eager to start on the next painting. Now, I spend as much time avoiding painting as I do actually putting paint on canvas. I still spend time thinking and planning what I’m going to do next, but the tingle, the oomph, just isn’t there.

And it doesn’t look like it’s going to change anytime soon. All this talk about everything opening up (and I really can’t wait to get back to the League) is music to my ears, but I’d have to figure out how to get there. It’s way too far to walk and I’m not getting on the NYC subway for the foreseeable future. And assuming I could get there, masks and gloves would not be a problem. But safely social distancing in otherwise crowded studios is hard to imagine.

My husband says, “If this is retirement, it’s not so bad.” And it’s not. It’s just not great either.

Fixated on sunsets

I’m fixated on sunsets lately.  Some are more repesentational; some are more abstract. Some are over the Hudson River; some are over the ocean. Some are on raw canvas; some are on watercolor paper.  Some look like watercolor, even though I’m painting with acrylic (fluid acrylic).  But they all have to do with sunsets and the always changing colors.

All three of the following paintings of very different sunsets were painted in much the same way.  I wet the whole paper with water and then lay in the colors, starting with the lightest and finishing with the darkest. Once that dries, I repeat (again and again) the process, intensifying and darkening selected colors. When I am satisfied with the colors, I look to see if the painting needs any hard edges or accents. Throughout the process, there are an almost infinite number of decisions to be made, many completely unconsciously. (See my final paragraph below.)

So in no particular order …


     Waiting      24×18      2018      Acrylic on watercolor paper      $1400

I was a total bystander, simply waiting and watching as the sunset evolved. There was nothing for me to do … just appreciate the beauty.



     Inspiration      20×14      Acrylic on watercolor paper      2018     $950

This painting is a synthesis of my view of the sunsets over the Palisades and the Hudson River and a caribbean sunset, seen from a beach in Costa Rica.


Far Horizon

     Far Horizon      14×10      2018      Acrylic on watercolor paper      $700

Abstracting a sunset is not as simple as it might seem. What not to include (boats, birds, people, specific details of the waves, etc.) is at least as important as what to include. Getting the color gradations in the sky and the water is not easy either. And finding the right balance between hard and soft edges is another not so obvious decision. Every sunset I paint includes these and other equally difficult choices. I love it.







Searching for the perfect sunset

I see beautiful sunsets almost every night outside my living room window and they are often spectacular. So I’ve been painting them, sometimes on raw canvas, sometimes on watercolor paper. Sometimes they really look like sunsets, sometimes they are more abstract. Sometimes they are garish, sometimes muted. So I’m searching for the perfect sunset, though I often think I’ve found it every evening outside my window.

In no particular order, some of my recent sunsets:

My View

My View     10×8     2018     Acrylic on Raw Canvas     $400


Palisades Sunset

Palisades Sunset     13×9     2018     Acrylic on Raw Canvas     $625

The cars on the Palisades Highway can be seen intermittently through the trees, and the little bridge over Spuyten Duyvil at night looks like two lines of light.


Nth Sunset

Nth Sunset     14×10     2018     Acrylic on raw canvas     $700

By now, I’ve lost track of how many sunsets I’ve painted.  But they all bring back the wonder at how beautiful our world can be.



Up and Away

Up and Away    12×9    Acrylic on watercolor paper    2018    $600

This is based on a very small watercolor sketch I did on a plane years ago.  Don’t remember if we were coming or going or where, but do remember the feeling of awe.


Searching for (the perfect sunset)

Searching for (the perfect sunset)   10×13.5 2018    Acrylic on canvas    $700

Perhaps this should be titled Trying to capture the perfect sunset. I often think I’m seeing the perfect sunset, but painting it is something else.