Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Underpainting for Jour de Noel, Strasbourg 
I am preparing for another Experimenting with Watercolor & Pastel class as well as a Show and Tell gathering of Stoner Creek Arts. And there is a project I've had on my mind since our trip to France, where we spent Christmas. It rained almost every day we were in France, but on Christmas Day in the afternoon, the sun shone. It was the lemon-y cool winter sun of Northern Europe. Very beautiful. David and Mary and I were walking around Strasbourg, where we spent a week, and I wanted to return to my favorite tree in that city. By the time we reached Petite France, the sun was beginning its downward slide and the cool golden sky back lit the massive limbs. It was a sight! I knew I wanted to make a painting of this luminescent scene.

       That is what I am working on.  To start a painting using watercolor and pastel, I begin with an underpainting.  The underpainting provides a rich and deep base for the pastel.  I add layers to the watercolor, letting the layers dry in-between so I can see how much darker and richer I need to go. From experience, I know what I am going to want to riff off of the pastel. So the painting above is not even half-way finished.  My goal is to leave the painting open for maximum flexibility.  Yet, at every stage, I want the ultimate feeling of the scene to shine forth (here it is the illuminated sky with the back lit and utterly substantial tree.)

      Would you like to try this yourself? I will be teaching Experimenting with Watercolor & Pastel at the Lexington Art Academy. A 4-session class will be held on Thursdays, 7 - 9 pm from February 2 - February 23, 2012. For more information and registration, please go to: lexingtonartacademy.com.
I will post an update of the painting when it is complete.

Friday, January 20, 2012


The Place to Start Art
In my dining room recently, a Think Tank gathered to consider the mission of the Lexington Art Academy. Cindy is the founder of the art school (please see A Certain Gift, June 9, 2011) and so she was the ultimate expert present. Mary-Louise brought her splendid gift for extracting the essence of an organization and through a wondrous alchemy produced the golden nugget. The question was: what are the goals of the Lexington Art Academy and how does the school fit in with the art scene in Central Kentucky. After some discussion, Cindy stated simply that she views the school as a place to start art. There it was: the essential calling of LAA.

        This rang true for me. Thinking back on classes I have taught so far, a common theme I hear from students is that they are surprised that they were able to successfully create a painting in a medium that they had not tried before. You have to start somewhere! For me, it is very rewarding to help someone feel confident enough to go for it; or in some cases, it is more of a matter that the painter feel free enough to head in their preferred direction. But this is not confined to artistic beginners.  I preach to my students that essentially, every artist is a beginner every time they start a new project. When I paint a tree, I don't think: "I know how to paint a tree."  I am seeing the tree for the first time--or at least that is my goal. I want to see the world afresh and paint from that perspective.  At the academy, there are classes for absolute beginners, but also classes geared for artists of more advanced skill.

       The goal of the Lexington Art Academy is to be a comfortable place to try something new; to start art.  Thanks to Mary-Louise, we got to the heart of the matter. And thanks to Cindy for coming up with the idea and creating the place. Visit lexingtonartacademy.com and jump right in!

Friday, January 6, 2012


Bright accent fruit at the Luxembourg Garden,Paris
 In a few weeks, I'll be leading a class on Identifying your Palette and so color has been on my mind.  There was a bit of serendipitous luck on our recent trip to Europe, because color and thinking about color were everywhere. We went to Nancy, where Art Nouveau has roots. Coming up later this month, that city will host a week-long, multi-disciplinary symposium on color with both scientific and artistic approaches represented. Bookstores featured books on color theory and symbolism. Color seems to be on the European mind these days.

        But the biggest break came when we visited the Kunstmuseum Basel.  On display was an exhibit of Josef Albers, whose career was focused on the interaction of color (he wrote the book!) The art museum in Basel is extraordinary, with a great collection of works by Klee, Chagall, Picasso and earlier artists such as Holbein. Reflecting on our visit to the museum, it occurred to me that color was the major lesson. Each artist had a palette--and here I'm remembering that Mondrian was on display as well. Are you thinking primary colors right now? Chagall favored jewel-toned colors (there were a few green faces.) Picasso had his blue period. Klee struggled with color early on, yet now it is perhaps his use of color that attracts us to his work. Josef Albers studied at the Weimar Bauhaus, where Klee taught. He later headed up stained-glass workshop. After the Bauhaus closed, Albers came to the United States to work at the newly founded Black Mountain College in Asheville, North Carolina. Most of the work on display is part of his Homages to the Square, a project that carried Albers from 1950 to his death in l976.  Essentially, Albers is playing with color. There is nothing particularly scientific about it.  In fact, the colors he chose seem very subjective to me and a lot of fun. It made me itchy to paint, as did the whole collection at Basel.

 My reflection on the work at the museum confirmed my original idea about guiding people to consciously explore their color preferences.  I do not believe we should simply adopt someone or anyone else's palette, mainly because we can not help but see subjectively. Even if we learn another's palette, we will by necessity apply it according to our vision.  Are you interested in thinking about this?  Come join one of the Identifying your Palette sessions at the Lexington Art Academy, January 24th or 25th. For more information and registration, please go to: http://www.lexingtonartacademy.com/.

Aligned megaliths at Carnac, Brittany