Friday, December 19, 2014

Artwork versus Art Work.

There is a big difference between creating "Artwork" and the often long process leading to its' finish,
the actual "Art Work."


Today I'm sharing with you a few of the steps in the creation of a posthumous portrait of "Nimbus," a majestic Belgian Sheep dog whose owner, a close friend, was mourning the loss of  her companion.of many years. She needed some cheering up, although I knew, if I was successful, there would also be tears.
I did Nimbus's portrait during a warm week in the fall, taking advantage of the cool shade on my porch.


When I do portraits, whether of people or animals, I prefer taking my own reference photos, so I have control over the light that describes my subject. When the subject is deceased, I don't have that luxury.
This is the basic pose I used for the painting, which showed his long lines, and enough indication of his
elegant "double coat," unique to his breed, and something I knew I had to capture.


These images gave me more information about the structure and details of Nimbus's powerful head.
In particular my friend wanted me to capture his beautiful eyes, which she described as "the color of light
coffee beans." Having done quite a few portraits of dogs in the past, I knew the ultimate "likeness" always
comes down to the eyes. Pretty true with humans, for that matter. There is a saying; "The eyes have it."


After doing many compositional sketches I trace the final one onto the canvas, faintly seen here.
I start with the most obvious and easiest part of the painting, just to get me going.. In this instance, one of Nimbus's favorite toys, a mailman doll. Unlike my landscape paintings, my portraits tend to be much tighter and detailed. I also early on establish the "darkest darks," (here; his paw) so I'll have a frame of reference when painting the mid-tones, and heading up to the "lightest lights."


When painting people I work either in oil or watercolor, but my preferred medium when painting animals is usually acrylics. Acrylics are water-based, thus easier when cleaning up. They also dry within a few minutes.
The colors on my palette, no matter what the medium, are pretty basic. A warm and a cool version of the primaries red, yellow, and blue, an orange and a cool green, and two "Earth" colors; Raw Sienna and Burnt Sienna. I put out two piles of white; one for warm mixes and one for cool, so neither contaminates the other.


Using complementary colors I mix my own blacks, and with the addition of white, my own warm or cool versions of gray. One of my long time favorite artists, Jeanne Dobie, calls them "mouse colors."  Next time you see a mouse in your kitchen, see if he or she is a "cool" gray or a "warm" gray. Or not.


Here is the finished painting of "Nimbus." I knew his owner's favorite color is "tomato red" (a warm red, not a cool red.) so I put him on a red rug in the room where his portrait now hangs. Nimbus looks down
with his coffee colored eyes from his place above the fireplace. Our dear mutual friend loves the painting, and that makes me very happy.      













Friday, December 12, 2014

Louise Ternay; Wife, Mother, Artist, Agent, And Adventurer.

This past Saturday marked the seventh year anniversary of my wife Louise's death.


Louise was one of those "left-brain-right-brain" people who prided herself on her work ethic, and her ability to "Get the job done!" She did that as a Business person, and as an Artist.This is a water color I did of her
when she was doing her co-op at the Fabric Workshop, in Philadelphia. Here she is cleaning a silk screen,
part of the very involved process of printing images on fabric.

She explained the whole process to me one day, so I decided to do this illustration, based on her description. So many steps that must be done right.


Here is one of the many more "free form" hangings she loved doing.


As I've mentioned in other posts, going to the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Maine in the early seventies changed our family's lives forever. Louise expressed her love of crafts by taking classes in many mediums. Here she experimented in paper making, embedding leaves in the wedded layers of  paper.


In this instance she put delicate natural fibers in the mix of wet paper, creating a subtle surface texture.


On three different occasions Louise spent a month at "Arcosanti," the experimental desert living community
envisioned by Paolo Solari, seventy miles above Phoenix, Arizona.. While there she became a stone mason, building walls and fireplaces (Count Rumford) from rock she cut and gathered in the surrounding desert and canyons. It is here where the famous "Solari Bells" are made. This is a cartoon showing Louise "Before and After" her adventures...of which she had many.


In this ceramic tile her design reflects the architecture and graphics she saw while at Arcosanti.


A few years before she died, Louise took another class at Haystack. This time it was woodworking.
She decided to build a rustic four-poster mortice and tenon cedar bed for our cabin.
The eight poles cost us fifteen bucks at the local saw mill, and the two-week course at Haystack cost at least
fifteen hundred bucks. She stripped each log, carefully cut and joined each section, and when assembled in
our cabin bedroom, proudly carved "Made By Louise Kates Ternay," on the rail at the foot of the bed.
 

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Monday, December 1, 2014

Thanksgiving, Family, And A Nostalgic Drawing.

Most of us are no doubt still indulging in leftovers, but I am indulging in nostalgia and childhood memories.
Thanksgiving this year was wonderful, delicious, and poignant. But throughout the festivities I was reminded
of how thankful I am to have had the "Norman Rockwellian" childhood I shared with my parents and brothers, in South Jersey. This is a drawing I gave my parents and brothers at Christmas, in 1988, illustrating that upbringing.


On the left are my brother Bob and me in our teens. In the middle is my dad, Bud, and our mom, Helen, and my youngest brother, Frank, who sadly died within weeks of our father. Life and Death; still a magical mystery tour, to the end.


My parents had a country store, with a cast of characters from the local farming community. One of them, Billy McClintock, used to hold me over the grease pit and threaten to drop me in when I was little.
On the roof is our pet crow, Blackie and on lower right is our dog. Someone had cut off her tail when she was a pup, so we called her Numpie.


In addition to the store, Pop farmed the land. I loved walking in the furrow behind the plow, especially on hot days. The freshly turned earth was cool under my bare feet. Cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, and always sweet South Jersey strawberries were favorite crops.


My brothers and I spent most weekends, even in winter, playing in the fields and woods. If the ice was thick enough we'd skate on the small pond in the woods. In the summer we'd take our horses and my Kodak camera, and make cowboy movies in the local gravel pits. I was always the noble, but of course treacherous, Indian. Forgive me, my Native American brothers.


On rainy weekends we'd play in the barn, daring each other to walk the beam from one side to the other.
Or we'd have cap-pistol gunfights among the hay bales in the loft, scaring the nesting pigeons. The horse rearing below was brother Bob's palomino. It hated wearing a saddle, and would try to toss Bob.
Pop got rid of that horse within a week. None of us had the nerve to use the brier covered outhouse, for fear of spiders, and snakes.


On hot summer mornings I'd often be awakened by the buzz of a bi-plane as it roared over our house.
Beyond the woods were fields being dusted with chemicals dropped from the planes. Pretty horrific to
contemplate, in hindsight. But I'll bet it was fun flying one of those relics.


Equally scary was our second grade teacher, "Miss Reeves." Our grade school was just across the road. I still have a vivid image of an angry Miss Reeves holding a belligerent student by his ankles, out the window, over the sandbox below, as punishment. For awhile Miss Reeves lived in the spare room in our house,
so I had many reasons to not get on her bad side.    


When I was a teen I'd often climb onto the roof  at night to look at the glow on the horizon of what I assumed were lights from far away and mysterious Philadelphia. The lights were actually from the local town of Elmer, only about three miles away, and little did I know I'd spend most of my life living only blocks away from Philly. Note the cow staked out on the lawn. My Dad's way of cutting the grass.


With the exception of my brother Bob and me, everything I drew in this picture is long gone, except for some photos, and many wonderful memories. In the late 1950s the store, our house, the barn and outbuildings (and outhouse) and orchard, were razed. Where the barn once stood my brother Bob built a store patterned after "Seven Eleven." Above the entrance on the inside of the store are pictures of the old store, and of Bud and Helen making "Subs," and pumpkin pies...and...mmmmm... I wonder if we still have any pumpkin pie left over from Thanksgiving? I hope you all had a really enjoyable Thanksgiving, friends.



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Coffee, Bagels, And Fine Art.

Growing up in the '50s in South Jersey I spent most  Friday nights, after bowling, hanging out at diners.


I still love diners, diner food, diner coffee, and diner lemon meringue pie. This is an illustration I did for what eventually became a "bas-relief" sculpted diner interior, to hang on a wall.


Here's a color sketch (not the "finish) for another client, who owns a puzzle company. In this case she wanted me to design a "Shaped" image. The "inside-outside" view is a bit "Surreal", but along the way I got an idea for yet another diner related project.


I love diner coffee mugs, and the same is true of bagels. So I thought; why not re-create some of my favorite artist's images, but also incorporate my coffee mug and bagel into the composition? No photo-shop here,
just my left hand with a brush and paints. This is a famous painting by Van Gogh, of the chair in his room.


Pablo Picasso loved women, and here is one having a bit of brunch. Looks like she spent the morning bent over backwards, pleasing Pablo.


Trying to replicate the strokes in a watercolor is difficult enough, but one done by Cezanne is truly a challenge.


I suspect more people know the paintings of Dali than Magritte, his fellow Surrealist. But I think Magritte had a bit more of a sense of humor. Magritte would enjoy pointing out to you that is not a bagel on the plate.
It is a painting of a bagel on a plate. This mind-twister was so much fun to do.
Next one on my list will be a painting by Freda Kahlo.  

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Obsessive Need To Fill Blank Pages With Drawings.

"Horror Vacui," from the Greek, refers to "fear of the empty." For a variety of reasons, hoarders have it,
and historically artists in all cultures have displayed a need to "fill up that space with Art!"

"Wow, look at all that detail!" is a comment I often get from people viewing my sketches. What they are actually responding to is the variety of marks; from simple lines, to overlapping layers of cross-hatching
suggesting mid to dark tones, as in the sketch above.

Unless I want an exacting portrait, I never rough things in with pencil. I start with my pen, usually on a person's eye, then let my pen take me for a walk across the page. My pen and I are not motivated by fear, but by FUN. At some point the drawing is pretty much all in simple "line." I was actually in line at the Post
Office without my sketchbook when I got the urge to draw the folks ahead of me.

At some point I must decide whether to make the leap into texture. I use cross-hatching a lot when in a dimly lit bar or restaurant, in my attempt to imply the ambiance and intimacy of a place.


Sometimes, to make a dark area just a bit darker, I'l wet my finger and do a smudge; a "spit-wash."
Here it is the in hair and top of this young artist. Then I've gone beyond just line, and it is an actual half-tone.


I often get seduced by what I hear people saying, or lyrics in songs, all adding another level of texture to the visual mix. This is my friend Joe de Pasquale, retired principle violist with the Philadelphia and Boston Symphony Orchestras. Now in his nineties, Joe still teaches at the Curtis Institute of Music.

This drawing was done while on vacation at our cabin on Deer Isle, Maine, in August. My son Pierce and his partner Maggi and band-mate Justin and my granddaughter Diver were performing that night at the "Black Fly Festival," in Machias. To make use of my time on the 3 hour ride the "Silver-Pop-Pop-Baby-Sitting-Roadie" did this view out the window. Lotsa' line and texture; not much actual crosshatching.
As my old mentor at Channel three used to say, "We are Masters of the cheap optical trick."
Next time; more tricks.          


Monday, November 3, 2014

The Gentle Art Of Scaring Children Young And Old.

               Halloween has come and gone, but the fright lingers on. At least at the Ternay house.
           Everyone has something that scares them silly, seems to me. For my favorite middle son, Pierce,
           that means Spiders and Clowns. I did this as a birthday card for him about ten years ago, when
                                                      he lived with his band-mates in an old mill.

                                                                        He loved it. (hee-hee)
                                                                        For me it's SNAKES.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

"Creating In The Middle Of Things."

The title of this post is from a book that I keep at my bedside. "Coaching the Artist Within," is one of many books written by Eric Maisel, a "Creativity Coach."for Artists of all kind.


Maisel's thoughtful and encouraging proddings help keep me on the straight and narrow path of dealing with all the "stuff" life throws at us daily, yet still maintain some form of creativity. The easiest way to keep in practice is to reach for my always handy sketchbook.


As you know by now, my sketches are done in a variety of locales, some on the fly in line at the post office or market, or a more lengthy wait at the doctor's office, or when I'm settled in at a restaurant or bar, or Barnes &  Noble, or at an airport. The woman above and I had drops in our eyes at the Ophthalmologist..

 Our local School Board was trying to quietly push through a project that would create a depot for High School buses in an already crowded residential area a few blocks from my home. Neighbors were up in arms about the proposal, needless to say. I felt an obligation to document the Board's confrontation with my fellow irate citizens.  


I never know where my pen is going to take me.


But wherever we travel I know I'll encounter a cast of unsuspecting fellow characters, and a wonderful pile of shapes on the page.

I'll soon be creating a little book with drawings done over the past forty-five years at "Hymie's Deli."


And as long as they are performing within 25 or so miles from me, I'll show up to hear
"Dr. Ben's Backbone Blues Band."

I cannot resist putting in comments uttered by bartenders and fellow patrons. The total often makes for a funky composition that just evolves.


This man was more than a bit befuddled by who was paying for what...and yes, I know; TMI!   
Life and all the accumulation of stuff continues, and my sketchbooks get full.