WINTER ASPENS

This is the final painting in the four seasons Aspens series. A cool palette leads you into a chilly, wintry day.  The light is diffused and softly falling snow clings to the bark of the trees and the ground. Cool shadows are made up of blues, beige and violet and the sky is a mixture of blues with hints of white. I can imagine being bundled up in layers against the cold surrounded by quiet as the snow gently envelopes me.

Winter Aspens                 ©nancgordon2017

Winter Aspens                 ©nancgordon2017

Throughout the series, I envisioned the temperature, light and colors in my mind to translate them onto paper. This helped me to capture the feeling of the landscape  to convey the shifting seasons.

 

FALL ASPENS

Summer greens are shifting into warm autumn colors in this fall Aspens painting. The grass is beginning to turn towards yellows and reds while the bushes at the horizon line are a blaze of orange. The variegated leaves displayed against a dusky sky point to crisp air and brisk days ahead.

Fall Aspens in process     ©nancgordon2017

Fall Aspens in process     ©nancgordon2017

I'll make additional changes later to bring a cohesion to the entire series. In the meantime, I'm working on the winter Aspens painting with it's cool palette. Stay tuned for that painting next!

SPRING ASPENS

Spring has arrived here in the Southwest and the flowers are popping up. It's been an odd winter (or lack of) with the temperatures hovering in the 70s most days. This inspired me to begin my spring aspens painting to mirror the budding flowers and leaves. 

Spring Aspens     ©nancgodon2017

Spring Aspens     ©nancgodon2017

Yellow greens and a scattering of purple flowers announce the shift from cool winter colors. The soft gradation in the sky indicates a warming trend and overall you sense the appearance of spring.

I'm enjoying working on the same image and transforming it to reflect a different season. More to come in the next blog!

Summer Aspens

This is the first landscape painting in a series of the four seasons. Summer colors are strong with a rich palette. The greens are deep and dark with traces of olive and the grass is tall and lush with a scattering of yellow flowers. A strong blue sky dotted with white billowy clouds draws you into a warm summer day.

Summer Aspens in process       ©nancgordon2017

Summer Aspens in process       ©nancgordon2017

I'll make final adjustments when the entire series is finished to bring a cohesion to the collection. I'm starting spring and fall now. Working on four different paintings with the same image at various times of the year is definitely a challenge. I look forward to sharing the others with you!

 

 

The Four seasons

I grew up in the Northeast where the year was marked by the four seasons. The yellow/greens of spring, the varied greens of summer, the colorful red/oranges of autumn and the cool gray/blue of winter was an ongoing yearly pattern. I miss the seasons (not the ice and snow!) and thought I'd bring them together in a new series of Aspen trees paintings. 

Below are the beginning stages in a 9 inch by 12 inch format on watercolor paper. I have the pencil drawing in place and the value study done.  I've figured out my color palette and am ready to paint! 

The notable changes in weather and light pose an inviting challenge to me. In the ensuing weeks I'll post the watermedia paintings as they develop and you can experience the four seasons with me!

FOREST BATHING

I lived in New York City for twelve years. It was an exciting place but also stressful living amongst concrete buildings, nonstop noise and constant traffic. The West village didn't have any real parks and I missed green space. I later moved to the Upper West side where I had the choice of going to either Central Park or Riverside Park. I found myself wandering or sitting in the parks on the weekends just to be in nature.

nancgordon©2016

nancgordon©2016

I recently came across a Japanese term, Shinrin-yoku, which means forest bathing. It’s contemplative walking or sitting in the forest. It’s not about exercise but a reconnection with nature and has been proven to be therapeutic by boosting immunity, improving sleep and reducing blood pressure. Using all your senses being in the forest or park calms and distresses you. In Japan, it’s considered preventative health care.

I think that’s why I tend to paint flowers and now some landscapes. The meditative aspect of the forest and nature are ever present in my paintings. I find myself at the Arboretum regularly and love to walk around or sit quietly.

The next time you’re stressed take a walk in a park or the woods. Surround yourself with trees and greenery. See if it doesn’t reset and refresh you.

Finished Landscape!

Here's the finished landscape painting from earlier blogs where I showed my progress over the past month. This is an acrylic painting and a larger size than my usual watercolor paintings.

There were quite a few differences in mediums. In watercolor I paint flat on a table where this painting was done upright on an easel.  I didn't have to save my whites with a mask and could revise at will since I can paint over anything in acrylic. I think I hit all the subject matters in this one painting; a building, trees, water and a figure. It turned out much more detailed than I anticipated given all the reflected elements. 

Reflections  30" x 40"  ©nancgordon2016  

Reflections  30" x 40"  ©nancgordon2016  

It was a good exercise in using acrylic as a different medium from watercolor and one I will use in the future for larger paintings.

Max BeckmanN exhibit

This past week I checked out the Max Beckmann exhibit at the Met in New York. It was one of the best shows I’ve seen lately and highlighted seven of the German painter’s self portraits (he painted over 85 of them!). 

Paris Society by Max Beckmann

Paris Society by Max Beckmann

Beckmann painted expressionist images of modern life. He held a great alienation of postwar society and usually portrayed life as theater or circus. Being an ardent painter of the figure, he mixed reality, dreams, the circus and myth into narrative paintings. Intense color and emotion as well as distortion and angularity are hallmarks of his work. 

He was deeply affected by the war and fled Nazi Germany in 1937 to Amsterdam. He eventually immigrated to the United States in 1947 and after a stint in St. Louis to teach, spent his final years in New York City.  

This show celebrates many of Beckmann's paintings done in New York. If you’re planning a visit to the city this is a must see exhibit!

TALLY DUNN GALLERY

This past week I stopped by the Tally Dunn Gallery in Dallas to view an exhibit by the native Texan artist, David Bates.  The show consists of mostly landscapes and still life paintings as well as a few portraits and sculptures in wood and bronze. Bate's work draws from American Folk art and early renaissance art.  His subject matter reflects Southern culture including shrimp boats, swamps, fishing and magnolia flowers. He has a characteristic bold approach to painting with a thick painterly style evident throughout his work. 

Marsh Shrimper by David Bates

Marsh Shrimper by David Bates

I love the overall graphic approach to his paintings. "Marsh Shrimper" virtually glowed off the wall in the gallery due to Bate's palette. The depth of field draws you in and allows your eye to travel throughout the painting.

This exhibit was delightful, engaging and definitely worth a visit if you're in the Dallas area!

 

VALLEY HOUSE GALLERY AND SCULPTURE GARDEN

This is one of my favorite galleries in Dallas. They show high caliber 19th and 20th century art as well as contemporary American and European Art.  They have a special focus on contemporary Southwestern and Texas artists. The expansive 4.5-acre wooded sculpture garden is serene and a wonderful place to sketch or photograph flowers. On top of that, the staff is welcoming and informative. I stop by on a regular basis to view their exhibits and hear about the artist’s process. 

Deborah Ballard sculpture

Deborah Ballard sculpture

I was so excited to find this urban oasis upon moving here. It's a great place to not only observe art but lose yourself in the peaceful gardens. This is definitely one of my go to places to unwind and relax.

LANDSCAPE 3

Here is this week's progress on the landscape painting. Most areas are blocked in and I've begun the leaves. The leaves on the left tree are finished while the leaves on the right tree are blocked in and awaiting definition to show volume. Additional trees in the foreground on either side have yet to be placed as well as the water in the fountain. 

It may be a while till the next stage but stay tuned for the finished painting!

LANDSCAPE PAINTING 2

Last week I began a landscape with the elements sketched in using ultramarine blue on a large canvas. Here's the next step in the process. Notice most areas are blocked in using color to begin defining the shapes.

Landscape in process

Landscape in process

The inside area is actually a reflection in the windows of the building with a tree in the middle ground and it's shadow on the glass. A water fountain appears in the foreground on the right side.

I'll begin the leaves, bushes and water next and will continue to develop the painting. Stay tuned for phase three!

LANDSCAPE PAINTING 1

I absolutely love watercolor painting yet at some point would like to paint much larger. It would be difficult to do that in watercolor. So I’m beginning to use acrylics to paint in a sizable scale. This brings me to a current 30” x 40” landscape painting on a stretched canvas. 

Here is the initial “sketch” in ultramarine blue indicating placement and values. I’m sure it will evolve as I begin the painting. 

It’s a completely different approach from my watercolor paintings. In watercolor, I have everything planned from the design, composition, layout and palette before I even pick up a brush. Then I begin a long process of building up glazes to achieve glowing colors. Here I drew the sketch with a brush onto the canvas using a photo as a visual reference and will paint it as I go along.

I’m working on a number of watercolor paintings and should have a new one soon. In between the many glazes I’ll be working on this landscape and will post my progress. Come along for the ride and see how it develops!

THE ART OF PREP

As a graphic designer, I worked on multiple projects at any given time due to moving deadlines. As an artist, I also do the same. I may work on a watercolor painting in the morning building up glazes then switch to collage or monoprints in the afternoon and end my day working on a blog entry. I find the creative process for each medium spills over into the next and helps me keep a fresh eye. I may discover a process that could apply to another medium and that excitement is rewarding.

I have a great studio but it’s not big enough to include a dedicated area for each medium. I set up and break down each time I move to a different project. I’ve learned to stay organized so I spend my time painting and not setting up and breaking down projects. The key to doing this is preparation, trays and a limited palette. I put all my paints out I need for a particular painting on a tray as well as brushes and can easily move it at will. The same goes for paint and papers for collages. When I work on collages or monoprints I tend to stay in a given palette till I exhaust those colors. Lately I’ve finished approximately 50 monoprints in indigo. Now I’m onto greige (a combination of gray and beige). A limited palette keeps things simple and efficient.

You may think the prep time takes away from creativity but I find just the opposite. Having all my materials ready to go allows me to think about the painting rather than scrambling around the studio looking for a paint color or brush. It’s actually freeing once you get into the habit of preparation.

A KID IN A CANDY STORE

One of my greatest pleasures as an artist and watercolor painter is art supplies. Put me in an art store and I feel like a kid in a candy store! Talk about appealing to all your senses. The smells, touch of the paper, colorful paints and packages, and conversations surrounding the products are beyond enticing to me. 

Art_supplies_1A.png

When I was a student  in New York, I worked at Sam Flax, an art supply store still there on 20th street in Chelsea. I applied out of necessity since I received a substantial discount for art supplies but learned everything there was to know about the products. An invaluable experience I use to this day.

I always remembered how hard it was to be a struggling student and one day in Boston, I listened to two students try to figure out how to pay for supplies needed for a project. They spent quite a while agonizing over the cost of one paint versus another and then discussed which papers would fit their budgets. Unbeknownst to them, I quietly spoke to the sales clerk and continued my shopping. When they finally checked out, they were shocked to find their purchase paid for. I kept thinking how ecstatic I would have been if someone had done that for me.
   
Today, many old, established art supply stores have unfortunately gone out of business. Dick Blick bought up Utrecht, Pearl Paint in NY is long gone and recently NY Central Art (established 1905) closed its doors in July. The internet is swallowing up these stores and removing the experience of discovery and exploration. I admit I’ve scored incredible finds…once I found over 40 four ounce bottles of Golden Fluid acrylics for a dollar a piece! But I would rather have them stay in business and pay full price. 

We all have something that makes us happy and mine is going to an art supply store. It’s not chocolate but nonetheless, my candy high.

A MIRROR IMAGE 2

Here's the finished self portrait from last week's sketch. I opted to paint this portrait in acrylics on canvas which works so differently from watercolor. In watercolor I work from light to dark and save my  whites with masking fluid. None of that applies in acrylic. Here you can tone the canvas a mid tone, then apply white whenever you like. It's a contrary way of painting for me and I had to be mindful of that throughout the process. 

Self portrait                     ©nancgordon2016  All rights reserved.

Self portrait                     ©nancgordon2016  All rights reserved.

This was a great exercise in working with another medium and subject matter. 

A Mirror Image

The self portrait is the original “selfie.” Long before smartphones, artists would draw or paint maybe one a year. Now it’s more likely someone may have upwards of 50 on their phone! 

Schools are requiring self portraits these days. My daughter did a great one in kindergarten out of cut paper that I framed and hung in her bedroom for years. 

I haven't done a self portrait before so I did  a pencil sketch to prepare for a small painting. This sketch will provide a road map of values for me. I opted for a close up and hope to post a finished piece soon.

HIGH IN THE SKY

I’m usually sitting by the window with camera in hand when I fly. The bird’s eye view from the plane gives me an unusual vantage point to the patterns and textures below. On my last flight, the scenery changed dramatically from water to islands to mountains ranges. The weather was clear with colors and lines appearing rich and vibrant. 

©nancgordon   All right reserved.

©nancgordon   All right reserved.

I was putting my camera down when I saw the seat pattern fabric echoing the outside scenery. 

Nature has created remarkable designs that you rarely see unless flying. I have a collection of these photos and sometimes refer to them for background patterns. Take a look out the window next time you fly for a fascinating point of view!

JAW DROPPING VIEWS

Whistler Mountain in Whistler, British Columbia

I had to share these photos since I’d never seen anything quite like it. It took three separate gondola rides to reach the uppermost part of the mountain (about 7,000 feet above sea level). One of the rides was the "peak to peak" which is the tallest and longest gondola in the world. Some of the gondolas have glass floor viewing. I found this less dramatic than it sounds since it was a rectangle about 2 feet by 3 feet where you saw the tops of trees. The panoramas are best seen from the sides. 

©nancgordon   All rights reserved.

©nancgordon   All rights reserved.

The air was crisp, clean and refreshing (a major relief from the Dallas heat) and the scenery unbelievably spectacular. You could hike around the top and I even got to play in the snow! 

This was so inspiring that I'm contemplating some landscape paintings in the future!

BREATHTAKING BEAUTY

I’ve been to many gardens and aboretums in search of flowers for my watercolor paintings. Most have one or two areas in bloom given the season but other areas have already bloomed or will bloom soon. None have compared to The Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia. There are 55 acres of stunning gardens including a formal Japanese garden, an intricate Italian garden and an amazing rose garden. Everything was in bloom and well tended with an eye for striking combinations. 

©nancgordon   All rights reserved.

©nancgordon   All rights reserved.

I was told to visit the gardens at night as well. On summer evenings, the entire garden is lit up highlighting various plants and blooms making it an enchanted place. Live music plays at night and a wonderful jazz guitar trio was playing the evening I stopped by. 

The garden provides a flower and plant guide showing photos, names, type, blooming season, growing conditions and flower colors. It was incredibly helpful given the 700 varieties they have!  

©nancgordon   All rights reserved.

©nancgordon   All rights reserved.

This was a magical place at night and absolutely gorgeous during the day. It will take me weeks to go through the almost 1800 photos I took! So stay tuned in the months ahead to see new work!