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Archive for December, 2010

Maddalena’s admonishment

December 30th, 2010 No comments

There are always social changes with each new generation. These differences can be great when generations span continents as well. As the grandchild of two sets of Italian grandparents, sometimes this became very apparent to me. Despite their greatest efforts to become Americans they still retained some of their old world ideas, particularly my grandmother Maddalena.

As a little girl, one of my favorite things to do was to grab a street light pole and swing myself around it. My hair flying in the breeze, I would reach a state that felt like I was flying as my grip on the pole caused me to spin instead of just fall. I can remember clearly one day my grandmother scolding me for doing this thing out in front of her house.

“You look like a gypsy!” she scolded. I stopped for a moment and giggled, clearly this was not the effect she meant to have on my behavior, I wondered, what do gypsies look like? And then I decided, I liked looking like a gypsy! and continued swinging around that pole much to her consternation. Shortly after that, my father asked us to come back into the backyard, where probably, our gypsy-like behavior would not be seen by the neighbors.

The painting today is 9″ x 12″ and is done with watercolors. It is based on a painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau called “Crown of Flowers” of a lovely little girl (whose face I painted) with her hair just so and someone putting flowers in her hair. The painting is lovely, but the little girl looks like she’s rather swing around a street light pole.

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On painting Abraham Lincoln

December 20th, 2010 1 comment

I try to draw or paint every single day, it’s a discipline that I think helps me as an artist. I didn’t have a commission to paint Saturday so I went through the Shorpy archive of old photographs and found one of Abraham Lincoln. It was taken the year that he died. Perfect, I thought, and got to work.

Painting is an interesting process. The painter is completely engrossed, but the mind is still free. As I paint a person, I get to know them. But this man is someone we all know, or do we? This man’s shoulders bore the responsibility of the brutal blood bath we call the Civil war. He also agonized over whether or not to free the slaves, knowing full well that it would lead to a revolt. This past year I have read a lot of his words, and had come to the conclusion that if I could meet a president, Abe would be the one I’d most like to meet.

A self taught farm boy, his vocabulary was astounding, as was his memory. Many of the anecdotes I read about him alluded to his prodigious memory and his acerbic wit. He was so homely that he scared children, but once they got to know him, they didn’t want to leave him alone. He was merciful too, and pardoned many soldiers who had deserted, or worse, had fought for the other side.

As I painted his face, it was hard to ignore the fact that he needed a haircut, he needed his hair washed too. And no, I didn’t add the crooked bow tie, I was just passing information along, the President of the United States sat unkempt for a photograph and a few months later he was dead. I imagined him sitting for me and his being amused at my earnest attempts to capture him with paint. The most ironic part of all is the fact that I am older than he ever was. It was a great exercise and I feel like I got to know him just a little better.

How do you see Abraham Lincoln?

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The curve of the hornist’s hand

December 19th, 2010 4 comments


To excel at any instrument requires practice and dedication, but there are some other physical qualities that can give you a real advantage with most instruments including: dexterity for the violin family, long fingers for the piano, a good embouchure for all wind instruments, which includes the French Horn. The French horn, however, is unique in the way it can be “stopped” with a hand. So the shape of the hand is very important. I recently went to Canada with my son who is an accomplished, gifted and talented French horn player. This is his hand. It is a very meaty round hand, not too large, which fits perfectly in the bell of his horn.

This is a Pitt Pen sketch. No watercolors were used here. I have discovered these pens which are great for when I am on the road, I can have lots of color to play with and no mess.

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Back to the barn

December 14th, 2010 5 comments


Maybe you can think of a better name for this painting?
In the very middle of the last century, a very small girl who lived in a big city picked up a pencil and started drawing horses. I do not understand why these big beasts are so important to so many little girls, but no matter their background; girls who grow up on farms and girls who grow up in fancy houses and girls that live in shabby apartments in cities that are filled with asphalt and too many cars become captivated with horses. But this particular little girl who loved to draw horses drew her first horse at the age of three. By the time she was 12, she realized that the pony she wished for every Christmas was not coming, she was realistic; no one else in her neighborhood had a horse anyway. But reality did not interfere with art, now her horses were a lot more life-like and managed to impress a few adults, she even gave a few of her drawings away.
When she was 18, she left the big city and moved to Idaho where people did have horses. By the time she was 21 she had a horse of her own named Freckles. And she kept drawing horses. Her 9 years in Idaho gave her the opportunity to live with horses and know them intimately, and her understanding of how to draw them grew. Life changed again and she moved back to another big city where once again having a horse was a luxury beyond her means.
That person was me if you hadn’t already guessed. I still draw horses a lot but I haven’t painted many, because I didn’t want my horses to be trite, so I have pretty much avoided them entirely until just recently. This is one of a series of paintings I have been working on. I don’t think I’m “there” yet, but I feel like I am making good progress. Can you help me name this painting? What does it say to you?

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Worth more than money

December 12th, 2010 4 comments


Like many artists, I donate a fair number of my paintings to charities that I care about, so last month when I was asked if I had anything for Feral Care‘s fund raising auction, I offered one of my favorite cat paintings, the Smiling Cat. I liked it so much I painted it twice (I sold the first one so fast I had to paint it again)!
Anyway, a few days after the auction I received an email from the lady who had won that painting. She had a proposition, she would pay me more if I would change “Smiling Cat” so it looked like her beloved kitty, Carlos, who had recently died. I had a proposition for her too, I couldn’t bear to change my painting. For a good sized donation to Feral Care, I would paint a portrait of Carlos and she could give me back my Smiling Cat. We agreed. Photos were exchanged, plans were made, and in two days Carlos was painted. We met today at All the Best Pet store and what I received for that commissioned painting was immense gratitude, sublime satisfaction and a hug. I couldn’t believe how good that felt. That’s one of the best deals I’ve ever made.

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