Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Usually, photos are only interesting to the people who took them, especially vacation photos. I usually leave the "tourist" type photos to my husband and I spend my time searching out potential material for paintings. Since I am mostly interested in faces and figures, the majority of my photos reflect my interest. Digital cameras are so amazing and they allow you to take tons of photos and edit later. I often focus in on small details that can be inserted in other images. Shoes, hands, etc. A good zoom lens keeps me anonymous. The slide show will give you an idea of the kind of people who catch my eye. My friends have me all figured out and are good spotters for me when we are out together. The Museum of Modern Art was a wonderful place to take interesting photos. Most of the museum had no restrictions on taking pictures and they allowed you to get quite close to the art work. For those of us who want to see every brush stroke, it was a welcome bonus.

Today is the first of the month, so I have a challenge for myself and any of you who want to join in. Let's start with the title and see what image pops into our heads! With this in mind, I have an exciting web site for you. It is designed for writers to give them ideas but it works beautifully for artists as well. I will give you three titles to pick from. If you don't like any of them, you can go to "" and play around until you find a sentence or phrase that inspires you to paint. Many of them lent themselves to images other than people. Because of my desire to do a figurative painting, these are the three that set my imagination off on a journey:

1. "Her Friendship is like a birdcage"
2. "Finding my Marbles"
3. "The Picture in the Catalog had lied"

If you come up with some other wonderful titles, be sure and share. It will be fun to see multiple interpretations of the same title.


Something was not working well with the web site. My slide show was not loading properly. After 5 tries, I decided to forget it for tonight and try again tomorrow. I am posting the little color sketch I did on the return flight from New York. I found a black and white photograph in the newspaper to work with. I usually travel with some of my photos to work with. I didn't think to do that this trip.

I wanted to share some discoveries I made on the web recently. First is a website of a wire sculpture artist who does very original work, many of the pieces look like drawings. This kind of work requires seeing the image in simplified terms....what to leave out?...what to leave in? It's a great way to think about capturing the essence of your subject. Here is the web site for Spencer Little: SPENCER LITTLE WIRE SCULPTURE

Google has a free service called Google Alerts. Whenever my name or web site appears on the Internet, I receive an e-mail from Google with the website. I received one of these alerts the other day and found myself on a website that had quite a few of my images from my web page. It was in a foreign language that looked somewhat like Spanish but turned out to be Portuguese. I was more than curious to discover why my work was there. A friend who had lived in Spain for a few years told me there were web sites that can translate other websites. Who knew! I Googled "Translate Website" and sure enough the first entry did the trick. It turns out that all the text was poetry by different people. You just put in the website url and then choose the language you want translated into English. The website with all my work on it appeared on my screen in English. WOW! This is an amazing service. I thought this was so special, I have added this service to my blog. The company is called Babble Fish.

Tomorrow is a new month, so look for a May Painting Challenge. It will involve another very special web site which I will reveal on my next post.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


They are painting the outside of our house today and the paint smell was giving me a headache, so I stayed away for much of the day. I was anxious to start painting after being inspired by all that great art in New York, so I came back in the afternoon and started work on this little abstract. I have posted the original photo I shot from the window of the Museum of Modern Art. They were doing some reconstruction on a building across the street and I thought it might make an interesting abstract painting. When you are in the MoMA everything starts looking like a potential abstract painting! I normally do not attempt this type of painting as I never know when I am finished. I plan to add some lines to this and maybe lift out some additional light shapes. I might collage some small pieces into it. Sometimes you have to let an image marinate for awhile and then go back and work on it. So far I like what is happening.

Tonight I went with a friend who was speaking to a college class studying interior design about her business of Art Representation. She works with local designers in placing art work in client's homes and businesses. I talked a little about the latest innovations in watercolor and how it can be put on canvas without glass. It made for a long day, so I didn't get my slide show of interesting people of New York made. Hopefully, I will get it done tomorrow.

Monday, April 28, 2008


It was a long flight, so I entertained myself by painting in my sketch book. I took a small 6 x 9 Aquabee Super Deluxe sketch book with me on this trip. I love this paper for doing detailed graphite renderings and it works well with the Elegant Writer Pen but I wanted to see how it accepted watercolor. I'm still working with the same image. I saw a beautiful woven sculpture before I left that had heads divided down the middle with different color schemes. It was very interesting so I thought I would try it. Warm on one side, cool on the other. Awhile back, there was a terrific suggestion in Watercolor Magic magazine to make a small watercolor travel set by taking 6 plastic bottle caps from bottled water and glue them into an empty Altoid Mint tin. Load the caps with a warm and cool of red, yellow and blue. I used Cad Red Light and Alizarin Crimson, Quin Gold and Cad Yellow Light (wish I had used a less opaque yellow) and Thalo and Cobalt blue. The lid made a nice little mixing space. I like this set so much I want to load a second tin with some other colors. The paper takes the watercolor very nicely. I did some glazing and it held up. This is the same set I used to do the Central Park sketch.

I am still editing my photos from the trip but I posted a small slide show of a few pictures from the top of the Empire State Building (87th floor). We arrived at dusk and saw the sun setting over Manhattan....a beautiful site that is impossible to photograph perfectly...and we stayed until the lights of the city came on. It was the perfect way to start our stay in New York. Our hotel was a short walk away. I couldn't resist taking these photos though I usually leave the traditional photos to my husband while I am busy taking pictures of subjects for future paintings (translation: on the prowl for faces and figures). Tomorrow I will make a slide show of some of the interesting people of New York.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


I'm back! We only had 3 days and 4 nights in New York but they were jammed with exciting activities. The weather was spectacular in the high 70's and all the flowering trees were in bloom. I spent a few minutes in Central Park while waiting for a gallery to open, so I did a small plein aire painting which I have posted. Everywhere people were enjoying being outside. We lived in New York our first year of marriage and I hated every minute of it. It was a rude, mean, dirty unfriendly place. What a difference 45 years make! There was no graffiti, the subway was relatively clean, people were pleasant and helpful. You still see people talking to themselves but now they are on cell phones.

The Salmagundi Club is housed in an old historic home. It has been an art club for many years. One of the photos is the outside of the building where the AWS banner and a poster advertising the exhibit were on display. We met up with some other exhibitors on Thursday afternoon to view the show as it is too crowded during the dinner to really study the paintings. The show is on two levels and all the work was truly remarkable. So many styles and techniques. We were anxious to see the Gold Medal Winning painting in person as it looks so much like a photograph in the catalogue. Honestly, we peered and peered closely at it and it still looked like a photograph!! Amazing! I have no idea how she was able to paint like that. The Silver Medal painting was the polar opposite in feeling....very playful and inventive in every way. It was fun meeting the artist, Mark Mehaffey. His personality matched his painting. I also had the pleasure of spending some time with Donna Zagotta, who is not only an outstanding painter but one of the very best workshop instructors around. I am looking forward to taking her workshop in September.

Friday evening was the long anticipated event, the Awards Dinner. I met and enjoyed talking to many more of the artists in attendance, including Jean Pederson who was so complimentary and wanted to get together and paint sometime. She promised to show me how to get that great background texture explained in her book. I made such a mess of it on my first try.

There were cocktails in the downstairs gallery and everyone had a chance to mill about. I met one gentleman, Anthony Ventura, who is 81 years old and was receiving his signature membership this year. He has been trying for 25 years and was so excited and justifiably proud.

They set up tables in the upstairs gallery for the sitdown dinner. Frank Webb was the master of ceremonies and he told lots of jokes, some of which were funny. The president, Janet Walsh, handed out the awards and everyone had their photo taken. I received the CFS Medal which is very beautiful and quite heavy. It would make a nice paper weight for the desk but I think I will display it on a shelf.

Like everything, one waits and anticipates and then it is over in a flash. But, it was a beautiful moment in time.

My good friend, Mike Bailey, also was an exhibitor for the first time this year with AWS. We spent lots of our time in New York with him and his adorable wife, Diana. That made the trip that much more fun and enjoyable. I will post more of the highlights of the trip tomorrow along with a slide show.

Monday, April 21, 2008


Today was filled with last minute preparations before we leave early tomorrow morning, so there was no time to paint or draw but I did receive a wonderful e-mail from Kate Cissell who attended the Littleton, CO. workshop. Here's what she wrote:

"Myrna, Hurrah! I finally finished my painting of Bill a couple weeks ago. Here're shots of it at the end of the June workshop in Littleton and the finished version. I love how it turned out. You got me to step out of my comfort zone with great results. Thank you!"

Great Job, Kate!

This is the last post until next Sunday. Here are the final words of wisdom from Bruce Mau to inspire you through the week. You will notice breaks in the sequencing of numbers. That's because I have edited the material to be relevant to us.

11. Harvest ideas. Ideas need a dynamic, fluid, generous environment to sustain life.
12. Keep moving. Allow failure and migration to be part of your practice.

15. Ask stupid questions. Growth is fueled by desire and innocence. Assess the answer, not the question. Imagine learning throughout your life at the rate of an infant.

17. ____________________. Intentionally left blank. Allow space for the ideas you haven’t had yet, and for the ideas of others.

20. Be careful to take risks. Time is genetic. Today is the child of yesterday and the parent of tomorrow. The work you produce today will create your future.

21. Repeat yourself. If you like it, do it again. If you don’t like it, do it again.

22. Make your own tools. Hybridize your tools in order to build unique things. Even simple tools that are your own can yield entirely new avenues of exploration. Remember, tools amplify our capacities, so even a small tool can make a big difference.

27. Read only left-hand pages. Marshall McLuhan did this. By decreasing the amount of information, we leave room for what he called our "noodle."

28. Make new words. Expand the lexicon. The new conditions demand a new way of thinking. The thinking demands new forms of expression. The expression generates new conditions.

29. Think with your mind. Forget technology. Creativity is not device-dependent.
33. Take field trips. The bandwidth of the world is greater than that of your TV set, or the Internet, or even a totally immersive, interactive, dynamically rendered, object-oriented, real-time, computer graphic–simulated environment.

34. Make mistakes faster. This isn’t my idea -- I borrowed it. I think it belongs to Andy Grove.

35. Imitate. Don’t be shy about it. Try to get as close as you can. You'll never get all the way, and the separation might be truly remarkable. We have only to look to Richard Hamilton and his version of Marcel Duchamp’s large glass to see how rich, discredited, and underused imitation is as a technique.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Today was another drawing marathon. I had to miss the morning session but made it to the afternoon one. Too bad! The models for the morning were two of my favorites. In all the years I have done life drawing, I don't think I fully appreciated a good model until this afternoon. It's too bad it takes a negative experience to contrast with a good or great one to wake me up to the extraordinary talent it takes to be a good model. I didn't realize what creativity it takes to invent lots of interesting and varied poses not to mention strength and focus. None of that was in evidence this afternoon. The model yawned through the entire afternoon and her lack of energy infected the room. The gentleman was much more accomplished but tended to just do variations on the same pose. Anyway, it was good to be drawing from life. It's a very different experience than working from photo references and I might try going to the Tuesday night weekly session more often.

I kept switching materials for drawing today, trying to get excited about what I was doing. I tried a new combination on Tyvek which I think has some possibilities. I worked some nupastels into the wet wash and they worked very well. Above are the best of today's session.


7. Study. A studio is a place of study. Use the necessity of production as an excuse to study. Everyone will benefit.

8. Drift. Allow yourself to wander aimlessly. Explore adjacencies. Lack judgment. Postpone criticism.

9. Begin anywhere. John Cage tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: begin anywhere.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


In between laundry, preparing my share of the Passover meal (soup, 20 matzah balls and 2 cakes that look like bricks to build a pyramid!!) I found some time to paint. SERENDIPITY! I managed to incorporate all the elements I most love into one painting. Texture...line...color...and a blend of abstract and realism. Unfortunately, this painting is only 10 x 14. I will try to do a full sheet of watercolor in this technique but you never know if the same magic will happen.

I have been rescuing pieces of used watercolor paper by applying gesso over the dreadful paintings and then taking wax paper and placing it on top of the wet gesso and running a brayer over the paper, then lifting it off. I decided to take the messy wax paper and press it down on another useless painting and deposit the gesso that was on the wax paper to it. I did this a number of times until I was satisfied with the balance of gesso blobs to leftover painting showing through. Today I decided to paint on this surface. I drew my "guy" on with a Pitt pen in Sanquine and then used Hydrus liquid watercolor by Dr. Ph. Martin. I must try this technique again as I just loved the results. Fortunately, I have an endless supply of used watercolor paper to play with.

As promised, more wisdom from Bruce ( I don't know him but I feel we are now on a first name basis)

5. Go deep. The deeper you go the more likely you will discover something of value.

6. Capture accidents. The wrong answer is the right answer in search of a different question. Collect wrong answers as part of the process. Ask different questions.

Friday, April 18, 2008


This is a sketch I did in my new sketchbook. It took me several tries to get the posture right. A simple mechanical pencil is one of my favorite drawing tools. I love never having to sharpen the lead.

I spent a little time today preparing more watercolor paper covering up unsuccessful paintings with textured gesso. I hope to be able to do a little more painting before I leave on Tuesday for New York. I have spent quite a bit of time planning my itinerary. There are so many fantastic museums so I have to decide which ones to visit this time. I have been to the Guggenheim (which I think is such a marvel of architecture) so this time I plan to go to the Neue Museum to see the Klimt painting of Adele Bloch Bauer, The Whitney Museum ( I believe the Biennial is there now) and the Museum of Modern Art. The Metropolitan is too huge to tackle this time. Ellis Island was closed when last we were in New York but luckily we were able to climb up into the Crown of the Statue of Liberty. Now you can only go as far as the base. They may never open up the staircase inside again. We have 3 days to see the sights of the city. It was 45 years ago we spent a year living in Manhattan. I couldn't wait to leave. Now, I can't wait to go back!...but a few days is plenty.

More words of wisdom from Bruce Mau:

3. Process is more important than outcome. When the outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we've already been. If process drives outcome we may not know where we’re going, but we will know we want to be there. 

4. Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child). Joy is the engine of growth. Exploit the liberty in casting your work as beautiful experiments, iterations, attempts, trials, and errors. Take the long view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


I think I have solved my distortion problem, at least when I work in my studio. I have a rolling case that has a flat top surface. By placing the painting on top of this case, I have a stable surface and I can look straight down on the image eliminating the parallax effect. It is high enough off the ground that it is comfortable to paint. You wind up painting with your whole body rather than a tightly controlled wrist movement. For demos, I could draw the image in an upright position first and then paint flat.

I have posted both the original version and the finished painting for comparison. I think it has become more sculptural, richer in tone but more textural. I love what the paint does on this Tyvek surface. It is so pleasurable for me to work on this surface. A wonderful way to spend the afternoon.

More Words of Wisdom from Bruce Mau:
2. Forget about good. Good is a known quantity. Good is what we all agree on. Growth is not necessarily good. Growth is an exploration of unlit recesses that may or may not yield to our research. As long as you stick to good you'll never have real growth.

Monday, April 14, 2008


I spent some time today working on this painting. I wanted to finish it and move on. The surface is so liftable that it is easy to lose something you like while trying to correct something you don't. I had to really analyze each area I was contemplating changing and decide it it was important enough to risk the change. I hate when paintings become "precious" because you lose the fearless attitude of "go for it". It still bothers me that the face seems slightly skewed but I don't want to go any farther with this one. I learned a lot in the process and want to continue exploring painting on this surface. I have posted the original version and then the corrected version. It's truly amazing that one can make this much change in a watercolor.

There are people who express themselves with words that say what I feel and think so much better than I ever could. In my wanderings around the internet, I find some of these great bits of wisdom and save them in a file. I would like to share the "Incomplete Manifesto" by Bruce Mau. Who is Bruce Mau? I have no idea, but I like what he has to say. The Manifesto is quite long, so I shall post a little each day.

"1. Allow events to change you. You have to be willing to grow. Growth is different from something that happens to you. You produce it. You live it. The prerequisites for growth: the openness to experience events and the willingness to be changed by them."

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Saturday's class was very small. Illness kept many at home, but those that showed up did a great job with a complicated concept. The idea was to keep the same image but change the light source on the head, therefore creating different moods and effects. You really have to think through each change. I had everyone do fairly quick value sketches in watercolor. We were all working on the same bozzetto at the same time. I had lots of reference material to share and a great book by Hogarth on dramatic light and shadow.

Everyone will have their bozzetto sheet as an excellent reference in the future. This is a great exercise for understanding the structure of the head. It also gives one more options than the lighting of the original image. I have posted my bozzetto sheet above. If you look closely, you can see that there is still some wet paint in the upper right corner! I finished the sheet today while I sat at the Gallery Concord and became a little impatient to photograph the page. It's always best to let things dry.

The slide show has the student's finished bozzetto sheets on the color for people of color and their full size painting done this past week plus the light changing bozzettos. I think they did an amazing job. Enjoy!

Friday, April 11, 2008


I am very excited about this painting! I covered a disaster of a watercolor painting with lots of gesso and textured the surface with wax paper brayered over the tackie surface. I could not find my Utrech Gesso (which is very thick) so I used regular gesso troweled on with a palette knife and left to dry. When it was still wet but not runny, I used the wax paper. I was trying to duplicate the surface of the last painting in the "Vern" series which had the most amazing texture. (Series on my website) The consistency of the gesso makes a big difference in the results. Anyway, I am pleased with the texture on this painting.

I only had a vague idea what I wanted to do with this painting. I started with one of my simplified drawings and drew those shapes on the painting using the oiler boiler from Cheap Joes with the walnut ink. It bounced and skipped over the surface leaving a line and lots of little droplets of ink. I let that dry. Then I started painting the large shapes with color linking areas together into larger shapes. At this point I was thinking about creating different textures in these larger shapes. With that in mind, I pressed some plastic wrap into the hair section on the left and let it sit for quite a while. When I lifted it off, it wasn't totally dry but the pattern was set. It is soooooo hard to have patience to let things dry in watercolor. I spritzed some on the right and blotted up the spray and I liked the texture that created.

From there I began painting back into the shapes. The image became more and more realistic and 3 dimensional. I have a difficult time letting things stay "flat" and decorative. The first colors I put down are showing through in a beautiful way. I think I have discovered a great way for me to start a painting. This surface is wonderfully liftable. I can work back and forth. The lifted areas have a soft edge and leave a little of the color behind. This is helping create a lot of depth.

The whole painting was done while the paper was totally flat so there is a visual distortion happening. When I was photographing it I kept it flat because there were still a few wet areas and I didn't want it to drip. When I angled the camera I distorted the image. This is more exaggerated than the eye sees but it is the same phenomenon. Notice how the eyes look properly positioned and the face isn't skewed in the second image. When the painting is viewed upright, the distortions become apparent. I like the distorted image a lot. I may try and do a painting from this perspective. In the meantime, I will make a few corrections on this one....move his eyes farther apart and make sure the features line up better

I have added a website to my links section that has all the details of the October workshop in Ocean Shores, Washington. This looks like such a beautiful area.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


I had the pleasure of doing a demo for a local art organization, Artists by the Bay, in San Mateo. There was some talk of doing a workshop exploring the possibilities of Tyvek. It will probably be a one day event. If it happens, I will post the information.

I had a lot of fun with this painting and it came together faster than usual. Overall, it took about an hour. I worked from one of my sketches rather than the photo. I used a Cheap Joe's Oiler Boiler (the thinnest one) loaded with Walnut Ink to draw the image onto the Tyvek paper. This is a really fun way to draw. Most of the line eventually disappeared by the time the painting was complete but it held up long enough to get the features established. The most difficult part is working flat without being able to hold it up to see if the drawing was correct. Time pressure kept me from checking the drawing before applying the paint. I used a very soft Isaby 1" flat brush to paint most of the time. In the end, I took out my favorite #4 Dragon's Tongue brush for some fine lines. It was pretty tricky getting the painting home as it was still wet. I didn't want to stop the capillary action of the wet paint with a hair dryer. By the time I arrived home, most of the painting was dry. The left eye needs correcting by moving it over a bit. With this paper, that should be an easy fix. Otherwise, I am very pleased with my first full size version of this image. I'm looking forward to doing more as I really like his face.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


I was hoping to start a larger painting today. I managed to cover the disaster popcorn painting with gesso and tried some texturing ideas but the only painting I actually did was the door to the studio. Sometimes real life intrudes on artistic life! I am making headway in the studio reorganization and have finally come up with a solution for where to store all the large framed paintings.

In the meantime, here are two more bozzettos I painted on Saturday. I was trying to simplify the shapes. I don't think I am a simplified shape person but I feel it is good to strive to reduce an image to it's essence. Detail is easy, simplicity is amazingly difficult! What is the least amount of information that will still convey what you want to say? These little color sketches are the perfect vehicle for this kind of exploration.

Monday, April 7, 2008


I started this second sheet of bozzettos on hot pressed paper and decided to use my Hydrus Liquid Watercolor by Dr. Ph. Martin. I started adding watercolor pencil to the mix. I don't usually work on hot press paper, so I was enjoying exploring another surface. This is one of the images I played with.

Wednesday night I will be doing a demo for the Artists by the Bay group at the San Mateo Sr. Center at 2645 Alameda. It is across from the Beresford Rec. Center. The meeting starts at 7 PM. I think I will do this guy on Tyvek on Wednesday. If you are in the area, everyone is welcome to attend the meeting.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


Yesterday we had a great session. One of my students, Leslie Werner, had broken her right arm. Being right handed, this was a challenge, but she gamely drew and painted with her left hand. She was pretty impressive! I decided to try and draw a few images with my left hand, to get a sense of what she was up against. It is an experience I encourage all of you to try. I didn't try painting with my left, but I will do that soon. I have posted the slide show of some of the work. Everyone is encouraged to do a full version of one of the bozzettos during the week. I used my new overhead mirror for the first time. I think it made things much easier for everyone. It is reasonably light weight and fits in my car for transporting. If anyone wants more information about this mirror, drop me a note.

I had an unhappy surprise when I returned home from the workshop yesterday. Watercolor USA had returned the slide I had entered telling me it was ineligible because it was not painted within the past two years. I don't know about you, but "2 years" means 24 months to me, so something completed in late 2006 is within two years. I guess they were counting 2008 as an entire year even though we were only 3 months into it at the time the slide was submitted. This is the first time anything like this has happened to me. I don't mind if my painting isn't accepted because the judge chose other paintings but I feel unfairly treated when this painting should have been eligible for consideration. I wanted to share this information in case you are asked the year something was painted. I know what I will do next time

I have added a new link to the blog. Annelein Beukenkamp is a wonderful watercolorist in Vermont. Her florals have that fresh, exciting feel like Shirley Travena. Check out her blog and website. We are discussing a date for me to come to Vermont for a workshop.

The workshop page of my website is now updated.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


Today they started replacing all the windows in the house. It is amazing how quickly they can do this. I was able to photograph some of these guys hanging out of the upstairs windows in very precarious positions! The noise of hammering and the draft of cold air circulating through the house was too much, so I packed my drawing supplies and sat in the car drawing and listening to my book on tape. I was hoping to be able to start a painting but I guess that will have to wait until Friday. The window installers return tomorrow to do the first floor windows and sliding glass doors. I guess I'll be doing more drawing tomorrow as well. I can see a lot of paintings in these drawings but I still have some ideas to get down on paper.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


This is how the sheet looks all finished. The tape worked fairly well but some paint still slipped underneath. Having coated the surface made it easier to clean up the dividing lines of errant paint. Overall, it is a good representation of the lesson I will be teaching.

I am looking for people within driving distance of Concord who would be interested in coming to one or more of the Advanced Portrait classes as subs. Since each class is a separate topic and doesn't depend on the previous lesson, you should have no problem. Stretching this class out over two months means life gets in the way and some of the participants can't make all five sessions. If you are interested, send me an e-mail and let me know which days you would be interested in coming.

I want to thank everyone for the wonderful messages in the past few days. It means a lot when people are cheering you on! Until I experience everything in New York, it won't feel real.

It's a new month, so I am throwing out another challenge. This month, pick an element of design: Line...Shape...Size...Direction...Color...Value...Texture. Now, keeping the same image, see how many ways you can work with that element to create a new painting or drawing. I am going to work with texture and the image in this bozzetto page.

Related Posts with Thumbnails