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Rocky Mountains Colorado April 2013Rocky Mountains, Colorado – Watercolor on 1/4 Arches  140 # cold press

Two weeks ago the Husband and I took a trip to Denver to attend the opening of Sense and Sensibility, The Musical at the Denver Center Theatre Company. My sister, Alice the overachiever, is co-producing this show and I am happy to report that the opening was a grand success and the reviews were all fabulous! (Yay Alice!)  The play is based on Jane Austen’s book and I was thrilled to see some people attend the show in full Regency costume.  Oh those Jane Austen people.  If you’re in the area, don’t miss it!

We also got to experience three, count ’em three, seasons in one week in Denver.  We arrived to a balmy mid-seventies day only to find the temperature drop dramatically and the wind pick up. And then it started to snow.   I wore my winter silks thermal underwear more that one week than the whole winter in NYC.  Ok,  that may have been too much information regarding my underwear, but still…baby it was cold outside.  It slowly warmed up again and we got outta there just in time.  Denver got three more feet of snow right after we left.

When not attending theatre openings we ventured out into the mountains and museums.  The day it snowed we went to the Denver Museum of Art and the Museum of Nature and Science.  We were also able to visit Rocky Mountain National Park and Red Rocks Amphitheatre where my brother who does not read my blog chose to do his imitation of Bono of U2 saying “this is Red Rocks” about three billion times.  My brother can say anything three billion times.  He always makes me laugh.

The mountains were spectacular so of course I wanted to paint them.  I decided to try a style I saw demo-ed at the Salmagundi Club.  The demo was by an artist named Joel Popadics.  He only does at a maximum three washes of color.  If you recall (and if you don’t you can read my previous blog post, I’ll wait for you.) I had taken a watercolor workshop with Antonio Masi who can do up to 60 or more washes of color on his paintings.

Boy was I confused.

I wanted to do this painting with fewer washes of color than I normally use, which I did, but ended up doing more than three.  (But not 60.)

The frigate bird I was working on is here.  I don’t remember if it is a “GRAND” or “MAGNIFICENT” frigate bird because I’m sure I was drifting as the naturalist in the Galápagos droned on and on talked about the different kinds of frigate birds. I almost said “frig it” to the painting, but it’s another learning opportunity.  Antonio Masi told us never to throw anything away.  We can go back and look at it later on and learn from it.

frigate 4-21-13

And for a  laugh here’s me with my Peruvian Hat and some shades I found somewhere between Denver and Boulder.  My brother who does not read my blog claims I look like someone looking for the medical marijuana store.   Dude!

Dude, where's my shades april 2013

Croatian road sketch

croatian road practice

sketches March 2013Some of the sketches I did in Antonio Masi’s workshop

I had the pleasure of taking an Antonio Masi workshop at the Salmagundi Club in NYC.   Antonio is a warm, charming man who paints large (40″ x 60″) watercolor paintings of NYC bridges.   He also has a handlebar mustache which he clearly waxes and which I was fixated on.  He’d come over to look at my work and speak with me and all I could think about was “what is that look all about?”  Anyway….

He demonstrated how he paints his bridges, but also spoke of his thinking behind all his paintings.   He does lots of sketches in a small (3″ x 5″) sketchbook with a sharpie marker and a small black gel pen to get the shapes and the composition.  Then he does some larger value studies with three main things in mind:

  1. What is my focus?
  2. What do I want to say?
  3. Paint shapes, think edges.

Antonio told us something Leonardo DaVinci said:  “If a painter doesn’t have a plan, it’s like a sailor without a map or compass.”

Antonio continues doing small paintings until he is ready for his large piece.  At some point he puts his reference photo aside and just works from his studies.  And then he will finally put his studies away and just focus on the painting.  What’s going on in here?  Sometimes Antonio (Tony by the end of the workshop) will only use his studies and put in what he can remember from his time on location.  If he can’t remember it, it obviously didn’t impress him that much, so he doesn’t put it in.

Antonio made sure to impress upon us that our goal was not to slavishly follow a reference photo/study/or even plein air drawing.  It was to really think about what was important to you when you were attracted to the landscape/still-life/portrait.  Tony also stated many times that he is NOT a colorist, but a value painter.  He also has no problem mixing opaque white in with his other watercolors.  (Interestingly, he started out as an oil painter and still mixes his paints with a palette knife.)  He likes the opaque white, he feels it cools the painting down, pushes some areas back and creates atmosphere.

It was a very interesting class and while I didn’t complete any paintings per se, I learned quite a lot.

On another note, remember I told you about Isabella, a young artist who comes to our studio sometimes.  She worked on these trees, which I painted a while ago, based on my reference photo of the cherry blossom trees in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden.  Here’s hers:

Isabella's cherry blossomsAnd here was mine:


I always look forward to the Cherry Blossoms and check their status here.

Finally, just so you don’t think I’m lying about (laying about? I never understood the difference) eating bon-bons and not doing anything, I started another Galápagos painting of a magnificent (or is it a great) frigate bird and a turtle.  It may be a diptych, or may be two separate paintings.  I don’t know.  I do know I own a scissor.  I can cut that baby right in half if I need to.  I hope I don’t end up cutting it to shreds as I’ve been known to do.

frigate and turtle 4-7-13

Antonio said we shouldn’t throw out our bad paintings.  But keep them, to look back on.

Two last things.  If you’re in NYC:  Some amazing exhibits at the Brooklyn Museum, particularly John Singer Sargent watercolors:  (Did you know he used both transparent and opaque watercolors in his paintings ) And an exhibit by El Anatsui which I absolutely loved.  The American Watercolor Society show is at Salmagundi and my blog friend Frank Eber is in it.

And if you’re in Denver, go see Sense and Sensibility, The Musical.  My sister, the overachiever, is one of the co-producers and it opens this week.  BREAK A LEG, ALICE!  I’m very proud of you.

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