Processing…

•January 4, 2012 • 4 Comments

We are welcoming 2012 here in the studio by painting apples.

Yes I’m still….painting….apples !

Try as I might, this final work – the seminal, keystone, massively fundamental focus of the apple themed series –  is just simply spanking my artistic self. And it’s all Chris’s fault. Back in 2010, when picking apples at the Tiasquin Orchard on the island of Martha’s Vineyard and visiting with it’s farmers, the Magnusens, my beloved gallery owner Mr. Morse had a vision. Wouldn’t it be sorta fun for someone to do a painting from the bottom of the hill looking up through the trees at a person picking apples ?

Simple idea, lovely idea…who better to do this painting than the woman whom Patricia Neal dubbed, “the artist who paints people without their heads “… Heather Neill.

OK she says and rounds up her favorite Vineyard model, Mr. Theodore Meinelt who happens to live just down the road from the orchard, and off we trot to pose among the heavily laden limbs. Now viewing this photo you will see one of the biggest challenges I faced in composition. These are ancient trees and, like so many of the island specimens which are battered by ocean storms, they are small. Wonderful for picking, and probably pruned to their diminutive height for just that reason…but when you put a human next to them he ends up looking like a giant.

One other challenge was that, good for Debbie tough for me…it was a bumper crop. Thousands and thousands of apples. I knew that in order to do this idea justice, again Mr. Morse must be thanked, it would need to be a panel large enough to let the viewer have the same panoramic feel that originally inspired my muse. And I knew that my ridiculously high standards would not let me take a pass on rendering every one of those apples (forgive me) right down to their core.

I debated, fussed, dripped with procrastinating angst…(Pat has been driven to longer and longer walks with Finn as each stressful day of whining passed) … and finally decided to use the 60″ panel thereby committing to what I knew would be weeks of work.

I started out taking daily shots of the progress with the idea of sharing the journey with you all. But I was so frustrated with the slow pace and the overwhelming amount of detail that I bagged on that early on. But now, as I am nearing the end…she says oh so hopefully… I have decided to show you the abbreviated “process” shots. I’ve been putting detail shots up on facebook  as I complete small sections and now seem to have a small but dedicated group of followers with whom I have been teasingly withholding the ” big reveal” of seeing the whole finished work.

There was a great amount of artistic license in play in an effort to wrangle the tree and background, concept and balance, in the pursuit of the “essence” of the orchard. Here is one of the dozens of photos that I used as reference…the closest to the finished comp…

The initial sketch…

First pass… Some sky…

Needs to say more about the island… so how about a water view ?

Flash forward…weeks forward…to the first detail shots…

And  now…I’m off to the easel to finish this baby. Have about two square feet of apples, leaves and branches to tighten up and one long branch to snap into shape. Might be two days of work since I have squandered this morning writing this entry…and allowing the tylenol to take effect…since the steady hours of resting my pinky on the panel to work the tiny brushes is taking a toll on my own limbs.

But I’ll get back to you just as soon as it’s done. I promise you will be able to hear the huge sigh of relief in the furthermost corners of your own apple orchards.

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Memorable…

•December 20, 2011 • 3 Comments

There was a surprising gift under the studio tree this week…

John Seed has included my painting, The Beginner…

in his Huffington Post Blog as one of the top 10 Mememorable Paintings of 2011 . The painting is currently on display in the Small Works Exhibition at Gallery 1261 in Denver, CO.

From the depths of my creative hibernation… I thank you John.

Here’s the extended snippet of the comments I sent to John with my thoughts about the work…

I’ve got this friend Ted who just turned 95 and lives on Martha’s Vineyard.
Ted was a high school art teacher and artist and has spent almost a whole century now inspiring and encouraging artists. I met Ted about 10 years ago and he has been “schooling me” ever since. (I’m working right now on a painting of him in an apple orchard which he posed for last fall.)
We talk often over the phone as he lives alone now but when we are on the Vineyard we spend a lot of time with Ted.
His house is chock-a-block full of antiques and stories to go with each one.
I noticed a tin can in his kitchen one day that had a bunch of those old pencils in it.
Wonderful chunky thick lead Dixon pencils that he used to introduce younger students to drawing.
I got up the nerve on our last visit to ask him if I could have one and he said, “Oh, those old things…here take the lot”.
When I got them home to the Pennsylvania studio and took a closer look I saw that they have the word “Beginners” embossed on them. And, since I’ve recently been hammering home the importance of a strong foundation in drawing skills to a couple of our grandsons who have brought their art questions to my studio… the idea of pencil as prop began to congeal.
The pile of rocks which are from the beach in Chilmark brought it full circle back to Ted and the tiny swiss army knife was one of the few items I brought home from Florida where I had to take my father off of life support earlier this year. That experience and it’s wake have been slowly filtering into my work in some quite unexpected ways. So, while I wasn’t aware of this until I just wrote this out for you, I guess it weaves a thread through three generations… with the iconic pencil as talisman.

Still time…

•December 12, 2011 • Leave a Comment

…to order studio prints for the holidays.

Our little studio workshop has been buzzing with print orders this week and Pat has been making daily runs to Fedex in the sleigh…

I’ve just updated the website but if you don’t see the painting that you want a print of…or if you have other questions about the ordering process…please don’t hesitate to contact us… hnartisan@comcast.net

Ho Ho Ho !

Thanksgiving

•December 2, 2011 • 1 Comment

Abstract teaching…

•November 14, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Here’s a response to the last blog post about the painting Finding Abstraction which  I got from Cori, the daughter of my friend Saren and someone who does that noblest of professions for a living…she teaches children about art !

(Cori is the hard working woman at the right, alongside her mom, on the day that the entire Zink family showed up to help us clean up after the flood.)

Hi
Heather,

Love Finding Abstraction!  My 4th graders just read Jackson
in Action in their new reading series.  I just finished a lesson with them
using the children’s book Action Jackson and then let them do their own
Pollock (sometimes I’m down right nuts).  I did not manage the consistency very
well and most of the paintings look like a mess but they had a blast.  I think
they had almost as much fun crawling around with a sponge to clean the floor and
chairs as they did making the mess.  And somehow I managed to not lose one pair
of pants to paint splatters!!!  Their reading about Romare Bearden now – collage
is next.  I’m loving this new reading series.

C.  🙂

I just love Cori’s creative way of putting lessons into action. My brushes are raised to her !

PS – today she sent along a couple examples of the student’s artwork.

They both have nailed the strength of the linear gestures and the resonance of vivid color. Wicked cool as they say where I’m from. These guys are from the Paxtang Elementary School.

J Mattey's Pollock inspired painting

Artwork by J. Mattey

Jeffery Gleiter's Pollock inspired painting

And here’s one by Jeffery Gleiter

Finding Abstraction

•November 10, 2011 • 5 Comments

The Current show at Gallery 1261 features this little play on the theme… Finding Abstraction

The set up for this was crazy. I wanted to use a real Jackson Pollock painting as reference and found one in my old college Art History text book which I scanned and printed out so I could enlarge it and make it look like a postcard with torn edges. Then Pat found me an old paint can from the stash in the garage and after I rigged them up I taped a canvas to an old fedex box and started to drip.

I remembered the scene in the movie Pollock where Ed Harris takes house paint and starts to drip it on the floor. Turns out there is a learning curve which involves refining the dilution of the paint and the movement of the brushwork. More of a slow dripline than a splatter. I was aiming for verisimilitude but my need for immediate gratification left me impatient with the process. Yes, I could fake it… but I eventually found the right consistency and made up four jars of color and then I dribbled one layer at a time with the panel flat on the floor and walked away while it dried (that was the hard part). Since I was using oil paint instead of acrylic, it had to dry completely between colors or else I ended up with an oily blooming mess.

Then there was the fun of trying to get the magnifying glass to stay on that teacup.

I was just about finished with the painting when, sitting at my easel, I felt everything start to shake. When you work with a Bernese Mt. Dog at your feet this occasionally happens so I yelled at Finn to stop. It kept on shaking so I turned around and yelled at her again…but she was asleep. Then my phone beeped and I read the breaking news that there was an earthquake in DC. Yep, that felt about right.

I looked around the studio and a couple of the paintings were hanging off kilter but the only real damage was to this still life… the postcard had fallen off of the brush that I had rigged to hold it up (I did fake that nail and tile background).

So there’s the rest of the story as they say… stop by if you’re in Denver and check it out.

Working on a theme…

•November 5, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Last year I started a series of …well series paintings.

I wanted to work on themes and explore them across several different compositions. There were more ideas than I had time to create and I’ve learned that there is a time, and a season as it were, for each painting. So, as the crisp fall air brings the colors alive, I have been studying apples… anew.

The October before last  I spent a day with our friend Ted in the Tiasquam orchards in West Tisbury…

There are dozens of good painting ideas from that modeling session and I decided to elaborate on the “theme” of apple picking.  Though I started the series last year with some sketches …

and then this painting from my studio yard…

Like I said earlier… last year life took some wicked wild turns … but life ebbs and marches on…and I’m now reaching back and pulling on the thread that started the theme.

I don’t usually put photos of unvarnished paintings up on the web but the new iphone has a good enough camera to  give you a decent representation of what is fresh off the easel.

This painting was inspired by a quote from  NC Wyeth, “I have all this and more, yet how I would like to relax; to be content with a wheelbarrow, a rake, an apple basket, a pipe.” He wrote that in a letter dated September 19, 1910. A hundred years later and that sentiment still resonates.

And what to do with all those apples ?

Well that’s the next painting in the series… Skillet Apple Pie.

You won’t be able to get much out of this shot of the still life set up…because I decided to change it up a bit after moving to the easel…but here’s a peak into the early stages of the creative process…

I’ve gotten this far…

And yes, it’s all about the butter !

Stay tuned…