Saturday, December 20, 2014

"Logical Nonsense", My Nibblefest Contest Entry for Dec's "BOOKS" theme....

 "Logical Nonsense in Wonderland"

"Logical Nonsense in Wonderland": painted on an 8x10 found wooden plaque

 Nibblefest Art Contest time rolls around once again.  December's theme is 'Books'.  Well, despite it being an especially busy month on my end (for me and EVERYONE else) I wasn't about to sit this one out.   With a theme like "BOOKS", how could I *not* partake...?  And so I managed to squeeze together an entry....

I admit at first I was ever-so-slightly stumped by the Theme, but only because "Books" felt so entirely b-r-o-a-d.  Upon refection, the plethora of potential ideas seemed limitless indeed.  Fortunately a friend came to the rescue, suggesting"Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" -- all that was needed to get the neurons firing in the right direction.  Because what could be more fun to paint than a tribute to Lewis Carroll and his beloved classic....?  

"Logical Nonsense", something at which author, Lewis Carroll, was especially deft!

What I have here did end up quite different in composition from my friend's original suggestion -- but I just went with what I first envisioned when thinking about "Alice" (knowing all too well by now I usually get best results when simply going with what's in my own head).   And so we have here several characters from the story, all while fancifully incorporating the fabulous Mr. Carroll himself....

 Regular followers of my blog/art may recall a few years back, when I painted my own interpretation of The Cheshire Cat , for a past Nibblefest...:

My first in a series of "Alice in Wonderland" tribute pieces

As you can see, he makes an appearance again in this particular iteration, just for fun (or 'grins', as they say), and because I liked him and wanted to paint him again anyway....:

A view from the side, showing the painted edges

So all in all:  fun theme/fun topic -- painted upon a recycled, 8x10 found wooden plaque rescued some time ago from a landfill fate (and held onto all this time).  Here's hoping you enjoy my whimsical entry this month as much as I did painting it....!

More painted edges....

(To see all this month's lovely Nibblefest Art Contest "Books" entries this month, click here...)

Friday, December 12, 2014

My Entry, "L'Automne: Victor Hugo", Wins 'Member's Mention'/2nd Place

"L'Automne: Victor Hugo"

My 11 x 14 EBSQ "Naked Trees" entry, painted on a support I constructed myself from an old, discarded wood frame)....

EBSQ, the online art community I have been a long-time member of, hosted an online exhibit last month (November '14) with the theme of "Naked Trees" (and on this blustery December day, surrounded as I am by very barren, naked trees every which way in the views out my windows, it feels appropriate indeed to be writing about this, brrr....!).   I entered.  Voting commenced.  And..., I'm happy to say my Mr. Hugo was awarded 'Member's Mention' (2nd Place)...!  

Inspired by a memory from my youth, the following was my artist statement...:


When reflecting upon this month's EBSQ "Naked Trees" exhibit theme and casting around for ideas about which to paint, one of the first things that popped into my mind was the poem "L'Automne", by the classic french author and poet, Victor Hugo (1802 - 1885).....

It is a poem for which the words have been burned into my memory ever since the 7th grade, when, as part of a class project, we students were assigned to learn a French poem, in order to recite in front of the rest of our class.  I can well remember how this struck terrible fear and dread deep into my 12-year-old heart.  Not the memorization part of the assignment so much, but the perfectly awful recitation part.   Given that I was painfully shy as a child, and absolutely despised anything that even remotely smacked of public speaking (still do in fact!), I couldn't imagine a worse thing to be forced to do.  I can still remember how uncomfortable it felt to sit in class on recitation day, anxiously awaiting my name to be called -- and then when it was my turn, trudging up to the front of the classroom (as if to the gallows) in order to recite my little French poem, my voice barely above a whisper, to all my fellow students and Madame Teacher.  Indeed, this very poem....:


L'aube est moins claire, l'air moins chaud, le ciel moins pur ;
Le soir brumeux ternit les astres de l'azur.
Les longs jours sont passes ; les mois charmants finissent.
Helas ! voici deja les arbres qui jaunissent !
Comme le temps s'en va d'un pas precipite !
Il semble que nos yeux, qu'eblouissait l'ete,
Ont a peine eu le temps de voir les feuilles vertes.

Pour qui vit comme moi les fenetres ouvertes,
L'automne est triste avec sa bise et son brouillard,
Et l'ete qui s'enfuit est un ami qui part.
Adieu, dit cette voix qui dans notre ame pleure,
Adieu, ciel bleu ! beau ciel qu'un souffle tiede effleure !
Voluptes du grand air, bruit d'ailes dans les bois,
Promenades, ravins pleins de lointaines voix,
Fleurs, bonheur innocent des ames apaisees,
Adieu, rayonnements ! aubes ! chansons ! rosees !

Puis tout bas on ajoute : o jours benis et doux !
Helas ! vous reviendrez ! me retrouverez-vous ?

~Victor Hugo

Well, apparently we can conclude from his writing that Mr. Hugo did not much care for the season of Autumn....!  This poem is all about how dreary the Fall season is, what with it's cold temps, biting wind, dull grey skies, and shorter days.  In it, he expresses just how much he already misses the charming months, and how summer feels like a friend who leaves him.  Because, Alas!  The trees here have already turned yellow....!  Farewell, all the lovely things of Summer....!    To Mr. Hugo, the very thought of "Naked Trees" was surely a cold and barren one (a little like I felt inside at the thought of having to recite his poem in front of my peers....!).

Sadly, I managed to lose most of my French over these ensuing decades, but I can still remember this poem.  And, looking back, I thank Madame Teacher for forcing me to get a little out of my comfort zone in her classroom all those years ago, because as agonizing as it was for me at the time, in retrospect I can appreciate how positive and character-building it was for me to have to go through all that.  I also thank Mr. Victor Hugo for all his wonderful writings that we still enjoy to this day -- not only his poetry, but also his much beloved masterpiece tales, like the "The Hunchback of Natre Dame", and "Les Miserables".  This painting/entry, "L'Automne: Victor Hugo" is my own little personal tribute... to it all.

It's Autumn, and Victor Hugo is NOT amused!


Thanks so much, EBSQ....!


Saturday, November 22, 2014

"Nevermore", My Nibblefest Contest Entry for Nov's '2+ Creatures in 1" Theme

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary, 
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, 
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"T'is some visitor", I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door'-
Only this, and nothing more...."

~Opening lines from the Edgar Allan Poe classic, "The Raven"

 My Nibblefest Art Contest entry and Poe tribute, painted on a 6.5 x 8.6 recycled vintage wood plaque.


What is it about Edgar Allan Poe that fascinates us so....?  

"The Raven", that famous poem written by this most venerable and mysterious of American authors, was originally published all the way back in 1845.  Yet here we are, nearly 170 years later, and still something about his works of darkly flowing, gothic-y writing continues to draw us in, with the passage of time having done little to dampen our enthusiasm for his literary genius (my personal fave of his still being "The Cask of Amontillado").....

It is Nibblefest Art Contest (NFAC) week,  and this is my entry.  The theme for November is "Two or More Animals Mixed Together".   I tossed around a several ideas for this theme, all of which were passable, though nothing especially....compelling  (Medusa???  Did that.  Minotaur???  Sighhhh).  Anyone reading this blog knows how much more fun it is for me when I seize upon a concept that I can REALLY sink my teeth in to (and because I'm so artistically fickle, there is never any telling what exactly that's going to be).  It wasn't until I was riding my bike home last week in the snow (yes, the snow!  Early for us) that an idea of a Poe/Raven hybrid came to mind, as a tribute to his epic poem, "The Raven".  I was so excited about the concept that I came up with two quickie sketches straight away:

Poe/Raven Hybrid: Vertical (or "Portrait') Orientation

Poe/Raven Hybrid: Horizontal (Or 'Landscape') Orientation

 I tossed around both orientations, going back and forth between the two, and even asking the opinion of some buddies (ya'll know who you are ;-) ).  In the end, as you can see I went 'landscape', because of the 2nd hand plaque I'd picked out for this project.  As we know, I hoard the old, unwanted frames and wall hanging plaques and such that I find used hither and yon, giving them new life in my art projects, and re-purposing as I see fit.  This particular wood plaque is vintage, and had been covered with a poster of a painting of waterfowl on a lake (which I scraped off and sanded and gesso-ed over).  I love its gently curving sides -- plus, it's very lightweight....:   

Side View of "Nevermore", showing off its curvaceous, painted sides

It is also good that I came upon this concept because I've had some recent requests for another Poe tribute piece (ya'll know who you are ;-) ), having done one before (and hey, the picture of it above in my masthead!).  But that was a few years back now, and so the timing felt right for another....

The following is my auction description:

My entry for this month's Nibblefest Art Contest (NFAC),  the theme for November being "Two or More Creatures Mixed Together", features a tribute portrait of the esteemed American author and poet, Edgar Allan Poe.  Painted in acrylics on a recycled, 6.5" x 8.5" vintage wooden plaque, this original is signed and ready to hang.  (**To note:  Due to the timing of things, all Nibblefest auctions this month will end on Thanksgiving Day (U.S.A.), so you might want to keep that in mind when bidding....!)   


Allow me to introduce "Ravenpoe" (kind of like "Ivanhoe", but not...).  A corvid/Edgar Allan Poe hybrid, he perches high upon a tree branch, soaking up the moonlight while contemplating the maudlin and the macabre.  Painted as loving ode to E. A. Poe's much beloved, classic poem, "The Raven", I'm hoping you enjoy this piece as much as I did painting it....!


To see all of this month's lovely Nibblefest Art Contest entries, click here.....


****UPDATE, UPDATE:*****

Pleased and happy to say my 'Ravenpoe' won Third Place in last month's contest!   A big thank you to all my lovely bidders...!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Where Be Your Gibes Now....?" Hamlet Tribute for SKULLS Challenge

"Where Be Your Gibes Now...?" (11 x 14) Hamlet Tribute Painting....

"Where be your gibes now? 
Your gambols? your songs? Your flashes of merriment,
that were wont to set the table on a roar? 
Not one now, to mock your own grinning...."
~Shakespeare's Hamlet 

Anyone who reads this blog knows I love me some Shakespeare.  I'm a fan of all his works, but I always fall back upon Hamlet as my fave.  And so, when I decided to participate last month in Daily Paint Works October "Skulls and Skeletons Challenge", as hosted by my good buddy, Christine, of CES Paintings, I knew EXACTLY what I wanted to do for it.  No indecision or pussy-footing around on my part this time -- to my mind a skull challenge and the Hamlet 'Grave-digger' scene go hand-in-hand.... or, more precisely, SKULL-in-hand, if you will.  And so here we see poor tormented Hamlet pondering his own mortality, as he observes the effects of time and mortality upon the beloved old court jester from his youth, Yorick.....:

"To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die—to sleep,
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to: 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there's the rub:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause—there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th'oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of dispriz'd love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th'unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovere'd country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action....."


Sigh, powerful, isn't it.....?

In any case, please check back soon for art updates -- I have a number of projects in the works, including an entry for the fast approaching Nibblefest Art Contest (starting tomorrow actually, on the 20th....!).  Come back to see what I've conjured up for November's theme: "TWO OR MORE CREATURES MIXED TOGETHER"......

Saturday, October 25, 2014

"The Monster's Bath", My Nibblefest Contest Entry for Oct's 'MONSTERS Theme

~"The Monster's Bath"~

An 8x10 painted tribute to Mary Shelley, and her enduring literary masterpiece, "Frankenstein"

It's the week of the Nibblefest Art Contest.
As always, the contest began on October 20th, with the theme this month being 'MONSTERS'.

(Click for Auction Link)

"The Monster's Bath"....

I had oodles of fun working with this month's theme.  Reflecting upon the subject of "MONSTERS", naturally, that classic creature from the Boris Karloff 1931 "Frankenstein" movie was one of the first things to come into my mind.  As such an iconic image, plastered hither and yon (especially this time of year) and fully entrenched in popular culture, I'm sure this would probably be true for most anyone.  But of course, the actual story of 'Frankenstein' is way, waaaay older than that old vintage film -- written as it was in the early 19th century, by a brilliant and complex woman who lead a truly fascinating but highly complicated life.  I recall reading the book, "Frankenstein", back in high school, and knew I wanted to incorporate its author, Mary Shelley, into my entry's composition, along with the classic "Frankenstein's Monster" creature, as we all know it.  Yet I was stymied on exactly how to combine the two...., until yet another 'Mary' came to mind. A certain Mary Cassatt, that is.....

Mary Cassatt's beautiful painting, "The Child's Bath'

So yeah, we're getting pretty tongue-in-cheekishness here...but I promise you it was a real hoot painting my entry this month.....

The following is my auction description:

"The Monster's Bath"*
(*with apologies to Mary Cassatt...!)

My entry for this month's Nibblefest Art Contest (NFAC),  the theme for October being 'Monsters', features a portrait painted in loving tribute to author, Mary Shelley, her classic 1818 tome, "Frankenstein", the iconic movie character from the vintage 1931 filk of the same name, plus a certain famous work of art ('The Child's Bath") by yet another Mary, the impressionist, Mary Cassat.  Painted in acrylics on a recycled 8x10 wood plaque, this original painting is signed and ready to hang....:


What "monster" could be more inconic than the grotesquely, hulking figure played by Boris Karloff in the classic 1931 horror film...?  Universally recognizable, its moniker has become synonymous with the title, "Frankenstein" -- though in the film, and the book upon which it was loosely based, it's actually the name of the Creature's creator, Dr. Frankenstein.  But who was the REAL creator behind it all? -- the whole creepy concept, published first in 1818, and considered one of the earliest works of Science Fiction.... 

Author Mary Shelley lead a highly fascinating and unconventional life.  Brilliant and educated and marching to the beat of her own drummer, her life was not without its share of pain, illness, trauma and loss.  Losing her mother shortly after her birth, then facing the early deaths of three of her four children -- the first, an infant who survived only weeks in the year or so before her book's publication, it's thought there might have been a certain amount of mother/baby loss and longing in her idea of returning life to the dead.  I chose to portray Mary Shelley as the mother that she was, to children, both real and 'literary'

Painted upon a thin, second-hand wood plaque that originally had some ugly poster on it, which I rescued from certain landfill doom after a charity sale and gave "new life" to -- hmmm, rather appropriate use given the nature of the subject matter here, no...?

To see all of this month's Nibblefest Art entries (including mine!) click HERE....


"The Monster's Bath" wins First Place October's Nibblefest Art Contest...!  Thanks to all my bidders, commenters and Likers -- your support is much appreciated....!

"The Monster's Bath" wins First Place!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

"I Heard a Fly Buzz....": Emily Dickison Tribute Portrait (Ties for 2nd Place in EBSQ "Celebrating Fan Art" Exhibit)

"I Heard a Fly Buzz...."

"I Heard a Fly Buzz..." 

How do I always get so behind in here....?!?  

Last month, in September, the online community of self-representing artists, EBSQ, hosted a themed art exhibit, entitled 'Celebrating Fan Art'.   While I figured the prospectus was probably primarily geared toward subject matter from more recent pop culture, I decided instead to make my entry yet another ode (because you can never have too many odes, amiright?) to that one-of-a-kind lady poet born 184 years ago (but who's counting?) -- the late, great Emily Dickinson....

The following is my artist statement:


When reflecting upon this month's EBSQ exhibit theme, "Celebrating Fan Art", I thought about all the innumerable and diverse popular cultural, social and artistic influences, present and past, that have impacted me in one way or another throughout the course of my life.  Narrowing such a number down to one posed a big challenge -- however, being as that it so happens that the last several consecutive painting projects of mine lately have depicted male figures, I decided to at least concentrate on a woman, if only for a refreshing change of pace (no offense to men).  There are any number of amazing female cultural icons of whom I am a fan and believe deserving of tributes....but finally, the familiar first lines of an old poem, by a certain enigmatic classic American writer, came to mind....:

".....I heard a Fly buzz - when I died -
The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air -
Between the Heaves of Storm...."

And so begins one of Emily Dickinson's most notable pieces, "I Heard a Fly Buzz...."..... 

I recall my first taste of Dickinson, coming across this particular poem in English class all the way back to middle school or so.  I remember the struggle at the time to understand the meaning that might lie behind those few short lines of carefully chosen words.   What did the author mean...?  A Fly.  Somebody's death.  Buzzing.  ???   But I was intrigued, and my interest piqued enough in that classroom all those years ago, that I, as have so many others, went on to become a fan of her unique, unconventional writing style.....

An expressive composer of over 1700 poems, Emily Dickinson never actually received wide recognition within her lifetime.  She was undoubtedly an introvert -- something I can surely relate to.  An intensely private person, she instead became known more for her near reclusiveness in her later years and her penchant for wearing all white than she ever did for her writing. It was only after her death, when her secret stash of writings was discovered by a relative, that the astonishing scope of her work was finally revealed.

Emily Dickinson never married nor had children, but we can all agree she gave birth to a legacy of another kind: an incredible body of poetic verse, that continues to speak to us today nearly two centuries later. Thus I portray Miss Dickinson in this, my tribute portrait, in a dress of white, along with a friendly fly to keep her company....

(This is my 2nd in a series of tribute paintings to the great American poet, Emily Dickinson.  The first is here)

"I Heard a Fly Buzz...." -- A view to the side

And, I'm pleased and happy to say my entry, "I Heard a Fly Buzz...." tied for "Member's Mention" (or, 2nd Place) in the show!  (And there were more than four entries this time around, lol ;-) )  Thanks so much, EBSQ....!

"I Heard a Fly Buzz...":  Emily Dickinson Tribute (4 x 6 Oval)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

"If I Had a Hammer....": Pete Seeger Tribute, for EBSQ's August 'Toolbox'-themed Art Exhibit

8 x 10 Portrait of the folk legend, Pete Seeger, in tribute to his classic song

"If I Had a Hammer....."

EBSQ, the internet community of self-representing artists of which I have been a long-time member, features monthly, themed online art exhibits.  One of the shows this past August had the theme "Toolbox".  This was my entry (as can be seen here).

The following was my artist statement:

My entry for the EBSQ 'Toolbox' exhibit features a tribute portrait of the late American folk musician, Pete Seeger (1919- 2014).   

When reflecting upon the theme 'Toolbox', the first tool to come to mind was 'hammer'.   Thinking about hammers had the classic vintage folk tune, "If I Had a Hammer", popping into my head.  Written by Pete Seeger in 1949 in support of the progressive movement, the song has endured through the decades, recorded as it has been by numerous fellow musicians, and taken up as a freedom song during the American Civil Rights Movement.  I myself have many fond recollections of "If I Had a Hammer" over the course of my life -- singing it round the campfire as a young girl with my scout troupe, and then later to my own two children when they were small.  I always appreciated the simple melody and uplifting lyrics.  For my entry, I painted a portrait of the young Pete Seeger, who was 30 at the time he wrote "If I Had a Hammer" (after a lifetime of musical achievement and acclaim, Mr. Seeger passed away just this past January at the age of 95).  A prolific composer and performer, the "tool" of Mr. Seeger's trade was his guitar, with which he was often photographed playing.  I swapped out the one tool for another in this tribute to Pete Singer and his timeless classic.... 

If I had a hammer, 
I'd hammer in the morning,
I'd hammer in the evening,
All over this land.

I'd hammer out danger.
I'd hammer out a warning.
I'd hammer out love, between
My brothers and my sisters,
All over this land.


"If I Had a Hammer...",  First Place Tie.....

There were but a total of four entries in the Toolbox show, still I'm very happy to say I tied for 1st Place....!   I got to split the $100 cash award prize with my fellow winner, April Trice -- $50 for each of us, how lovely!  Thanks to any who voted for me -- and many thanks to EBSQ....!


(And now...., just a side note to add here, for interest and posterity.  As we all know by now (because I harp on it constantly in here), I no longer purchase new art supplies (aside from a few notable exceptions like paint and brushes) if I can in any way avoid it.  It's my own little, personal attempt to resist adding to our society's problems with over-consumption and the dreaded Affluenza  (and yes, I realize my small actions in this regard aren't likely to save the world any time soon, but can at least sleep at night in regards to my own personal artistic pursuits).  This personal moratorium includes the purchase of canvases, or even purchasing the ingredients to stretch my own canvases (too lazy to do that anyway)....because I often come across perfectly suitable alternatives when I happen to be out and about (tag sales, thrift stores, and the like (with a big emphasis this time on "the like")).  As a result, my paintings are typically created upon found wood or wooden plaques, or even supports I make myself using 2nd-hand picture frames.  I've amassed a decent hoard of these painting supports by now -- out of which the one for this entry was fished.  It's actually just a regular, gallery stretched, 8 x 10 store-bought canvas, but how it came to be mine is the more interesting part....

Years ago, when my husband and two very small children and I first moved back here to my hometown, we chanced upon a home to rent with which we fell in love.  With so many of the features we wanted in a house, we felt we had really hit the jack-pot -- cozy and old and with loads of character, a decent location, decent size (and nice to stretch out after apartment dwelling), nice yard, near the things we liked to walk to, and, most importantly, all at a reasonable rate.  We lived there for a time, until ready to purchase a house of our own.  And so we eventually moved out -- still, I always kept a very special place in my heart for our sweet old rental....

After we resettled, our cute little rental, which we were so happy with and had such good memories of,...turned into a something more of a haunted house.  It was within several years that we noticed it looking pretty beat up.  A few more years, and it was clearly run down.  Trashed even.  Hoarders, or something, had taken over, with piles of useless junk overflowing the driveway and yard, windows broken and patched with duct tape, chunks of stucco missing and shingles falling off.  What the heck happened?  Sometimes we would walk or drive by, and just pause to take in the mess that had become what had been a big part of our lives.  Where we'd had parties and celebrations, and heck, just lived. We couldn't image who could have done this to 'our' house -- much less that our old landlord would have ever allowed such a thing....!  That mystery was never solved.

Fast forward to just over a year ago, when my daughter and I were bike riding, cruising through our old neighborhood.  Passing our old house, it was clear by now it was completely empty and utterly abandoned, trashed beyond repair, and even slated for demolition.  We parked our bikes in the alleyway behind the house, and looked and looked.  She was young when we'd moved out (4 years old maybe?), but my daughter could still conjure up lots of memories.  We climbed through the gaping holes in the fence into the yard to get a closer look, pointing out nostalgic landmarks we once used to enjoy ourselves -- the patio, the outdoor brick fireplace (or, the place where it once stood anyway), the swing set, all while taking care not to trip all over the assorted junk and crap strewn about posing a booby trap.  We got a little closer, and closer still....until we were pretty much standing right next to it, staring at the gaping back door.  I'm sure you can guess what came next of course.   "Oh no, they didn't", you might be asking.  But yes, we did.  How could we not?  Our poor old house!  *OUR* house.  I know, I know -- risky, plus it was trespassing.  But I wanted to see it one last time before she was demolished for good....

Well, suffice it to say, time had not been kind.  Not easy to see the house that I'd loved so much, and held such fond memories of just 10 years before, in such state of wreck and ruin.  Still I'm glad my daughter and I had our chance to say goodbye.  And it was in there, amidst all the shattered glass and beer bottle caps (gazillions of them) all over the floor, that I stumbled upon this little, 8 x 10 canvas.   There was paint on it, but to call it a "painting" would be way too much of an exaggeration.  Just some color splashed around, and what looked possibly like some Chinese characters, although it could have just been some sort of attempt at 'abstract' something or other.  But, I took it home with me.  And when it came time to paint my little tribute to Pete Seeger here, I sanded it a bit, gessoed it, sanded it again -- and voila, good as new.  Was it stealing?  Technically, I suppose -- though guess what?   I can't say I feel much like a thief.

The house was pushed over and hauled off to the landfill just a few weeks later.  One thing I do know though...I sang this song many times over to my two young kids during countless bath times/bedtimes/naptimes, in that old house.....)

Monday, September 22, 2014

"Land of Lincoln", My Nibblefest Contest Entry for Sept's 'Furry Friends' Theme

"Land of Linclon", Original Acrylic Painting on 5.5" x 12"Wood Panel

September's Nibblefest Art Contest week has started (on the 20th).  The theme for this month is "Furry Friends" and this is my interpretation/entry.....

  I kicked around only a few ideas for "Furry Friends" before finally settling upon this one.  It's actually an image I've had in my head ever since a Nibblefest contest a few months back, when the theme was "Animals in Hats".  I had fully intended to participate that month -- ruminating on all kinds of well-known, historic hats that I could potentially work with.  Lincoln's iconic 'stove-pipe' top hat came to mind, and so I planned to create a portrait of Abe sporting an exaggeratedly tall top hat, with an owl peeking out from a hole in it.  The owl (appropriately symbolizing 'wisdom") would literally be "IN a hat", rather than the more obvious route of having an animal WEARING a hat.   In the end however, it was such a crazy busy summer that I never did manage to even start on an entry that month, despite my clear concept and the fact I'd fished around in my stash of second-hand canvases and painting supports to find the perfect, tall-and-skinny piece of found wood....    

Fast forward to this month when I was thinking about "Furry Friends".  Animals came to mind of course, but while I do adore critters of all ilk -- I just couldn't get myself in the mood to paint one.  Mostly I couldn't stop thinking of my earlier Lincoln portrait idea -- the image repeatedly popping into my mind.  And so, figuring he's portrayed often enough in the historical record with a beard that he reasonably counts as 'furry', it's the route I took....

"Land of Lincoln" Side View, showing painting extended on all sides, as shown here.....

I did change a few things from my original concept.  For one, I swapped out the owl I'd initially had in mind, with a cardinal.  The Cardinal is the official state bird of Illinois, Abraham Lincoln's home state (and mine).  The following is my auction description:


I live in Illinois, not so terribly far from the state capital of Springfield, where Abraham Lincoln, our much-beloved 16th president, lived, worked, grew a beard (hence was 'FURRY'), and got his start in politics.  I recall taking school trips to his home and his grave in my youth -- and went on to take my own children to these revered sites, plus others that have opened since (such as a really terrific museum/presidential library).  All of this Lincoln lore attracts multitudes of tourists to our area, and as a result Mr. Lincoln is mighty Big Business in these parts (like, nearly as big as Corn and Soybeans). Sadly, despite this legacy, my state (whose official state bird is the Cardinal) is not currently on especially sound footing, not financially, politically or otherwise.  As we continue ride on Mr. Lincoln's coattails, I can't help but wonder sometimes what he might think of our "Land of Lincoln" , as the marketing slogan goes, if he could somehow be with us today....."

Monday, September 15, 2014

More Fun Ballet Company Commissions....!

The Nutcracker Ballet's "Mother Ginger", as painted upon an 8+ tall plywood cut-out

So I'm finally getting around to posting about another project I was recently commissioned to create for our local ballet company (as mentioned in my previous post)....
 Our local ballet puts on a lavish production of The Nutcracker Ballet every year, which has become quite the December tradition in these parts.   A highlight of this family favorite, is the 'Mother Ginger' (AKA 'Marie Antoinette') vignette... whereby a person, shoe-horned into an impossibly enormous, hooped dress, comes out onstage  (so big she must be discretely wheeled out of the wings via a special platform), with an entire passel of wee child clowns escaping from underneath her skirts to cavort and dance, much to the delight of the audience.   Often the person portraying Mother Ginger is a man in drag, which can be quite hilarious, and on other occasions things go even a step further and a local personality of some sort agrees to portray her for a performance or two.    It's fun stuff! (You can see a pic of the real Mother Ginger here)....

At any rate, our ballet company recently hosted their big annual fundraising soiree/gala event, and I was requested to paint the Mother Ginger character as a prop for use as part of the festivity's decoration and entertainment.  The company provided me with the plywood cut-out (over 8 feet tall).  I asked if I was supposed to portray her as a guy in drag, like our Mother Ginger often is.  'No, not necessarily', I was told.  Instead they said they were looking for a 'sexy' Mother Ginger (all while remaining strictly PG of course!).
Well all righty then!

The following is what I came up with:

A 'sexy' painted 8+ foot tall Mother Ginger (AKA 'Mare Antoinette')

Is that 'sexy' enough for you, lol....?

Additionally, I was also asked to paint two other characters that are always featured in the show -- a young Maid and Footman...:

A painted Maid and Footman (a little over 5 feet-ish tall)

At over 8 feet tall, the Mother Ginger cut-out was especially far too large to get into my house, but thankfully I have a wide, old-fashioned veranda front porch, with a roof.  That's where she lived for a goodly chunk of my summer...:

Mother Ginger in progress on my porch (see the ladder for size reference)....

I did get lots of strange looks from the neighbors and passerby, for weeks....:

Nutcracker Maid and Footman in progress on my front porch

But in the end the projects were completed in time (thank goodness), and then I myself was able to attend the fancy shindig that all three figures were requested for (I managed to discretely snap pictures of them in use during the party)....:

Mother Ginger at the party

Maid and Footman, part of a fundraising game involving champagne glasses and fancy jewelry prizes!

I got a big chuckle at the event too, because they'd dug out my old papier mache Boar's Head (which I blogged about way back when), to use as party decoration.  That thing really only sees the light of day at Nutcracker time (used as a stage prop), so I was quite surprised to be "reunited", lol....!

My paper mache Boar's Head, used as party decoration

Doesn't he look grand up there on the pedestal....?  (Seems to be pimping some wine here)....

As for Mother Ginger, she even made the local newspaper afterwards
(note the striking young woman posing with her here is NOT me, but the ever lovely dancer, Erica J.  ...).

Mother Ginger makes the local society pages....

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Sleeping Beauty Ballet Stage Props

As usual, time gets away from me.....

A grouping of Sleeping Beauty Ballet papier mache stage props.....

 ....I was meaning to post a fun project I was recently commissioned to do for our local ballet company, when I realized I never did blog about a previous one that I also did for the Ballet, this past spring.  Well being that it seemed like an exceptionally busy spring on my end (and thanks in no small part to this particular project actually), I guess I just forgot to write about it despite the fact I do like to keep general track of my various projects in here, if even just for my own records.   Therefore I'll do so now, and save the original post I was going to blog for a later day....

As it stands, our local ballet company here in town put on an opulently lavish production of 'The Sleeping Beauty' Ballet back in the Spring (May '14).  I was asked by the artistic director to come up with some stage props to be used as part of the story line.  At Baby Princess Aurora's christening ceremony, the fairies of the kingdom are invited as honored guests to bestow upon the infant their especial gifts of character and talent.   The ballet director explained to me that there were to be six fairy blessings in all, and that she wanted the dancers acting the fairies roles to be able to carry props representing these gifts.  What exactly they were to be, and how they were to look, she was leaving up to me....

A little research of the old, original Brothers Grimm tales lead me to choose the following as my fairy gifts:  The gift of 'Wisdom', the gift of 'Radiance', The gift of 'Music', the gift of 'Dance', the gift of 'Grace', and the gift of 'Beauty'.  I then set about designing prop pieces to reflect these abstract traits (created in papier mache, but of course).... 

The following is what I came up with:

The Gift of Wisdom....:

A paper mache Owl to represent 'Wisdom'

The Gift of 'Radiance'.....:

A papier mache Sun to represent 'Radiance"

The Gift of "Music"....:

A papier mache Harp to represent "Music"

The Gift of "Grace"....:

A papier mache Sun to represent 'Grace"

 The Gift of "Dance".....:

A papier mache Louis XIV Court Shoe to represent "Dance"

The Gift of "Beauty"....:

A papier mache (and restaurant take-out box styrofoam) Rose to represent "Beauty"

(This white rose blossom was created by hot gluing bits and pieces of two take-out boxes that I cut up and strategically re-assembled....) 

All fairy 'gifts' are approximately 18 inches high, and composed of pretty much....garbage.  Well, that is to say, recyclables.  Can you picture the styrofoam trays that hold sliced mushrooms from the grocery store at the very bottom of the bases...?  Or the yogurt cups that make up the upper portion of the bases....?

Here's an early WIP pic I took of the props' (very) humble beginnings.....:

What I began with (the bast on the far right with a fresh, gooey layer of papier mache).  We're talking plastic trays, yogurt cups, bulk CD containers, old telephone cord, etc etc.  Repurposing galore, People!)

So, while they all started out as refuse, in the end, they turned out like this....:

Something from Nothing!

 And they really did look lovely on stage.  Here's to fun 3D projects....!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

"Henry David Thoreau", My Nibblefest Contest Entry for August's 'Forest Creatures' Theme

"Henry David Thoreau": acrylics on 6 x 8 canvas panel (permanently mounted to an 8 x 10 rustic wooden board)

So what do you think of when you think of 'Forest Creatures'....?  Such is the theme for August's Nibblefest Art Contest .   The above is my interpretation.  I suppose I could have taken a more 'literal' approach, but, as anyone who reads this blog (if there actually is anyone still reading this blog, lol) knows, I generally prefer to take a more literary approach when it comes to the Nibblefest themes.  Therefore one of the first things to pop into mind for me when reflecting upon 'Forest Creatures', was the old tome, "Walden: Life in the Woods", by the classic 19th century author, Henry David Thoreau.  Mr. Thoreau went off and lived for two years on the remote property of his buddy, Ralph Waldo Emerson, in a self-built cabin tucked in the woods, along the shores of a pond, as an experiment in simple living (then he wrote about it).  Worked for me, so I went with it...

Once I knew I wanted to paint a tribute portrait of Thoreau, I dug around in my stash of second-hand frames and painting supports and came across what I decided was the perfect thing to use.  As I've mentioned in this blog previously (numerous times), years ago I made the decision to forestall buying any new art supplies (excepting paint and brushes) in favor of supports I can either make myself, or find second hand.  Since then I've amassed quite the collection of second-hand frames and wood plaques and the like.  One of these was a small canvas panel that had been permanently mounted with metal brackets onto a very (very!) heavy, very (very!) rustic chunk of darkly stained, textured wood.  It was leftover, unwanted, after a local charity garage sale, and so I schlepped it home with me to save it from the landfill, but without any idea of what I might actually get around to using it for, being as that it was rather...unique?  Well, with its 'old-timey' look, it turned out to be the perfect thing for my particular subject matter.  Not to mention fairly appropriate I think too, what with the whole 'forest'-y themed thing we've going here (because what represents Forest more than a big, heavy chunk of actual wood plank....?).

Side view.  Thick chunk of wood!

The following is my auction description...:

"Henry David Thoreau"

My entry for this month's Nibblefest Art Contest (NFAC),  the theme for August being 'Forest Creatures', features a tribute portrait of the venerable author, Henry David Thoreau.  Painted in acrylics on a unique, second-hand 8" x 6" canvas panel permanently mounted onto a heavy and rustic 10" x 8" wooden board (see side view photograph), this original painting is signed and ready to hang.

When reflecting upon this month's theme, 'Forest Creatures', one of the first things to come to mind was the classic 1854 tome "Walden: Life in the Woods", by Henry David Thoreau, wherein he writes about to his personal experience with the simple life while residing in a self-built cabin within a natural setting on Walden Pond, surrounded by forest...: 

"....I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. ... I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion...."

  ~Henry David Thoreau

To see all the lovely 'Forest Creature' themed artwork this month, click HERE.....