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Cherry Blossoms 1-11-15Cherry Esplanade – Brooklyn Botanic Gardens – watercolor on 140# Arches coldpress

Now, I’m not one to complain but…oh wait, I AM one to complain.  So let me begin.  It’s a new year and after we’ve finished wishing each other a happy, healthy and prosperous new year it’s now the middle of January and really, what’s changed?  I work. It’s cold. It’s dark. I haven’t lost the 8 lbs I gained over the holidays.  I’m tired.  Everyone one the subway seems to be sick and breathing on me.  But,  looking on the bright side, the days are actually getting longer.  Yay!

I’ve been working on a few paintings and finishing up other ones. Since it’s been so cold, nothing says Spring to me but cherry blossom trees.  So I decided to paint some.   This is of the Cherry Esplanade in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

reid wine bottle 1-11-15

I also decided to do a painting from a Charles Reid book for practice. It’s a wine bottle with an orange and lemon.  Charles Reid is always fun to study from.  For fun I changed the writing on the label.

I finished FATE on the Gowanus Canal and the Red Tulips.

Fate finished 1-11-15

red tulips finished 1-11-15

Hope you are all hanging in there! Stay warm.  Stay healthy.  Spring will be here soon.

Church window wip 4-28-13Church window – WIP 1/2 sheet of Arches 140# coldpress

Spring has arrived in NYC which means the cherry blossoms are all a-bloom. The Husband and I attended the Sakura Matsuri festival this weekend.  This is an annual Japanese Festival celebrating the cherry blossoms and Japanese culture.  We saw a group called taiko-masala which featured traditional Japanese drumming.  They were great, but not that great that the Husband had to purchase not one, but TWO CDs of Japanese Drumming.  I predict a headache in my future!

Another interesting thing about the Sakura Matsuri festival is that there are a lot of people in costume. Not just traditional Japanese costume, which is cool, but people dressed in what I think are anime and sweet Lolita characters.  I don’t know for sure, but there were a lot of young people there with tails, cat ears, bright pink and green wigs and creepy contact lenses which made their eyes white.

orange hair

unicorn girl

And these were some of the more normal looking folks there.

Apropos of nothing, I had a hankering for some junk food.  Potato chips are my favorite, but I spied a bag of Cheetos “simply natural” that advertised it was made with expellier pressed oils (huh?) sea salt, no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives and as a special added bonus it was gluten-free.

I felt so healthy I ate the whole bag.

The painting above should have been of cherry blossoms, but I haven’t done one yet, so I’m posting this work in progress of a church window.  I liked the sky reflected in the glass and the branches and leaves. While I was painting it I thought of the two instructors recently (Antonio Masi and Joel Popadics) that both said similar things.  They paint with the lines going into the paintings. Don’t paint with your lines going out of the paintings or people will just move on.  So of course when I started painting this I had the tree branches leading right off the page, so I turned it around and have the leaves now hanging down into the center.  Now you can’t move on.  You must stay and gaze.  🙂

And now some good news from the medical industry. Guess what,  a recent study shows that if you have existential angst, and really, who doesn’t, taking Tylenol may help!  You can read all about it here.

angst /aNG(k)st/

  1. A feeling of deep anxiety or dread, typically an unfocused one about the human condition or the state of the world in general.
  2. A feeling of persistent worry about something trivial. Anxiety
Now you must excuse me.  I’m off to eat healthy cheetos (?!?)and will wash it down with some tylenol.

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.

Cherry Blossoms in Brooklyn, pastel on board, approx. 8″ by 12″

When one is at some fancy art show, what’s the worst thing one can say about an artist or their art?  Sneer and say it’s so derivative”!

Derivative, adjective:  (typically of an artist or work of art) Imitative of the work of another person, and usually disapproved of for that reason.

Well, I recently heard this word: mimesis.  It is the basic theoretical principle in the creation of art. The word is Greek and means “imitation” (though in the sense of “re-presentation” rather than of “copying”). Plato and Aristotle spoke of mimesis as the re-presentation of nature. According to Plato, all artistic creation is a form of imitation: that which really exists (in the “world of ideas”) is a type created by God; the concrete things man perceives in his existence are shadowy representations of this ideal type. Therefore, the painter, the tragedian, and the musician are imitators of an imitation, twice removed from the truth.

So there.

Mimesis not derivative.

Istanbul not Constantinople.


This is for a show called “Art from the Heart”  in a new gallery called the Look Art Gallery. I chose to go back to something I had already done.  The cherry blossoms seen here.  I rarely use pastel because it’s so messy.  So I only use it when I am at my sister’s house.  Thanks Alice!

Japanese Garden - BBG  5-17-09Watercolor on 1/2 sheet of 140# of Arches cold press – SOLD!

While many may think that living in NYC means that you only live within brick walls and concrete sidewalks, we are very lucky to have some beautiful parks right in the middle of all that brick and concrete.

One of these beautiful places is called the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

Among the many lovely spots in this 52 acre refuge is the Japanese Garden which was completed in 1915 by landscape architect Takeo Shiota.  It’s a lovely spot and I gave it a shot at capturing it in the watercolor above.   It’s  just a start, and as usual, I’m so-so about it.  We’ll see how it progresses.

In the meantime I progressed out my door and down the block. There is a street fair on 5th Ave. today.   And it’s the same crap every year, at every street fair that I’ve ever been to from here to New Hampshire.  There may be other crap at other street fairs that I haven’t been to, but so far I haven’t seen any new stuff.   Or any new food.  One must get some street fair food or one will not be happy.  One of my favorites is the fried dough.   Any variation of fried dough usually works for me.  Have you ever noticed that every culture has some sort of fried dough food.  YUM.  Street fairs in NYC always have the obligatory zeppole stand.   Zeppole are fried dough delights covered with confectioner’s sugar.  Light, fluffy and just damn yummy.  These trucks also sell funnel cake.  It’s the same dough, they just drizzle it out of a funnel into the boiling oil so you get something all squiggly instead of a big fat round piece of dough.  They still dump confectioner’s sugar on top.  How can you go wrong?  If you prefer something a little less sweet, find the Indian stand and get the samosas.  Or the Chinese stand and get the dumplings.   I could go on and on.  In fact, I think I will.

Ok, I won’t.  But you get the idea.  In about 20 blocks one could eat food from around the world, buy local artists’ works, get henna tattoos, meet the neighbors and listen to local bands.  Fun.  The Fifth Ave. Fair is the first of the summer.  By August you’re done.  Where can you hide?  The Japanese Garden of course.


I started this water color today in class using a photo my friend (or maybe I) took at the Cherry Blossom Festival at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in the Spring of 2007. It’s a wonderful festival, always enjoyed more thoroughly during the week before the actual festival. You can see all the beautiful cherry trees without having to deal with the millions of people.

I always am amazed when I take a picture with my phone camera and it looks better than the original. Maybe it’s the slight blurriness that makes the painting look better. Or maybe it’s just that by the time I get home I don’t remember really what the painting looked like. I still have quite a bit more work to do next week. I hope I don’t screw it up.

cblossoms.jpg I still remember it being New Year’s Eve, 1969 (I was a mere tot) and my mother and a friend saying “good bye to the sick sixties, hello to the sexy seventies”. (I don’t remember the sixties being sick. I thought they were fun. And I thought the 70’s were fun too. Well, at least what I can remember of them.)  And who can forget the mania when 1999 was going to become the year 2000 and everyone thought the world would end or the utilities would stop or the ATMs would no longer work and no one would have any cash! We survived that too. Now 2007 will soon be over.  I can only hope that 2008 will bring health and happiness and that ever elusive thing called peace.

Here’s a picture of the cherry blossoms from spring of this year. I love cherry blossoms. They make me happy. They are pink and pretty, but they don’t last too long and you always have to remember to enjoy them for the short time they are in bloom. I think I might try and do a watercolor of this photo. It seems like it might be hard, but I will give it a shot. I’m working on another landscape now, and I will try to post it soon.

Happy New Year everyone.

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