November 28, 2015

Deliberate Practice - Drawing Hands

I still clip photos from magazines and periodically select one for practice drawing hands.  I've been doing this for a number of years.  These are my last 3 sets of drawings.  The last one has interlocking hands and that is my new focus.  I keep hoping that this practice will make it easier to draw hands during longer poses at figure drawing, but it is a slow process.

These were all drawn with a watercolor pencil - but none of them were painted with water. 




November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

The cooking is well underway and this afternoon my 2 oldest grandchildren helped me make mushroom barley soup.  The tables are set for dinner for 19 adults, 8 children, and one baby.  The turkey is ready to be put in the oven.  And many of the Macy's balloons are already inflated according to my daughter and granddaughter. 

Our family wishes you a wonderful holiday with Family and Friends!  Let us all hope for a safer world!


November 24, 2015

Met Museum Exhibit

I went on an amazing one hour Gallery Tour with an exhibit Curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art last Friday.  The exhibit is called Fashion and Virtue: Textile Patterns and the Print Revolution, 1520 to 1620.  The Met collection of 60 Design Books from the Renaissance is the 3rd largest in the world - and I had no idea that even one of these books was created for needleworkers and other artisans during those years.  The first books were made using woodcuts, then later etchings, and they spread rapidly throughout Europe.  The books are on display along with representative pieces of embroidered fabric and lace made from the designs. 

I did some drawings in my sketchbook as I was walking and listening and added additional ink with a Sakura Pigma-micron brush pen later.  There is limited information in this above link, but approximately 1000 images from these pattern books were scanned and said to be available on the Museum website.



November 20, 2015

Vacation in Spain - 4

This is the last of my sketchbook pages from our vacation in Spain - this time drawings done while we were visiting the fantastic art museums.

The collection at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid is extraordinary, and even more amazing because it is a single collection.  I've been drawing more sculpture lately and this was a beautiful Rodin sculpture from 1906-7 entitled "The Birth of Venus."


The Reina Sofia Museum is the home of Picasso's painting Guernica.  I remember seeing this visual record of the horror of war at MoMA as a young girl before it was returned to Spain.  I didn't draw any of it, but after our Museum visit, my husband and I sat in the quiet courtyard and watched the Calder mobile slowly twist and turn in the wind. 




Our visit to the Prado was enriched with a running commentary by our traveling companion - a professor of art history.  After our husbands left the museum, I went back to sketch 2 pieces of art to remember this wonderful visit.  I love Goya and in spite of the horror, will never forget seeing, in person, his famous painting The Third of May.  I chose to just draw the soldier the soldier in the front and then sketched a piece of ancient sculpture before our hour was over. 





It was a special treat to visit the Picasso Museum in Barcelona.  I've always loved the very early drawings and paintings which were done in Barcelona when he was a young man.  There were many inspiring drawings, and my husband managed to take this one photo with his phone so I could remember our visit.  He sketched with a very loose style, in pen widths of varying size.  I used a Pigma Micro Brush pen to try to capture the feeling - but who can really duplicate lines by Picasso?


November 17, 2015

Looking at Art

I went to see Christie's Auction Preview for multiple auctions (Impressionist and Modern, Contemporary and Post War), and just sketched a few items on one Sketchbook page to remember the day.

Joan Miro's sculpture, Le Personnage, was displayed right inside the main entrance and 80 inches high.


It is wonderful - and I sketched it while waiting for our friends to arrive.

The other drawings were both from Picasso, a detail drawing from Jeux De Pages (1951) and two Picasso ceramics.  


Several days later I spent the day at Art Galleries on the Upper Eastside of New York City with my artist friends.  My sketchbook drawings, done to record and remember the day were two crazy sculptures by Joan Miro. 


November 15, 2015

Family Celebration

Yesterday was our oldest grandchild's Bar Mitzvah - and a wonderful celebration.  His greatest strengths are music and foreign languages, a perfect combination for a successful reading/chanting of the Torah portion in Hebrew.  He was wonderful!  This is our daughter, her husband, Henry and his younger siblings - Sydney and Callum - a photo taken with my phone when the official photo was being taken before the Service..



November 13, 2015

Watercolor Painting Class - More Chinese White

I had my FIT Watercolor class last night, and did a painting with transparent watercolors on cardboard painted with Chinese White.  Our model was excellent and she was in the same pose, in 20 minute blocks of time, all night.  I underpainted my binder's board cardboard (a 7.5 X 11 in leftover piece from bookbinding) at home, so it was dry.  All of the painting was done with Winsor Newton transparent watercolors and a #10 brush.


Our Professor wasn't ready with his demo, so I sketched her with a Sketch and Wash pencil out of boredom.


He then demonstrated using gouache, using what he calls "body color," which was really Brilliant White Pebeo Gouache mixed with his transparent watercolors (lamp black, yellow ochre, and vermillion).  I had trouble achieving strong color when combining the gouache and my watercolor.  He showed us Toulouse-Lautrec paintings as examples, and said you could also add a little cobalt blue or Paynes Gray. 



With both of these paintings, I had trouble painting her skin because the water changes the color of the cardboard and I needed to adjust for that.  Next week - more painting with gouache and the introduction of another substrate. He mentioned using black gesso painted substrate and even black foam board during some of our remaining classes.

November 10, 2015

Watercolor Class Questions - Help!

Last week I painted on a Chinese White watercolor underpainting on Bainbridge Hot Press Illustration Board. 

This is my portrait of our model, a dark-haired and stubbly face guy in a motorcycle jacket.  I painted the illustration board with Chinese White mixed with water, did a very light simple sketch, and then did all of the painting with a #10 round brush on the underpainting, even the lines of the eyes and nose.


I missed the class demo when I was away, and never understood why we were learning this technique.   

I searched for information about Chinese White Watercolor paint and didn't find much.   

I learned that Chinese White, a zinc oxide, was first used in watercolor painting in the 1830s.  Although the white of the paper is usually used for white color in watercolor painting, Chinese White can be used to add opaque white details, or to mix with transparent watercolors to make them opaque like gouache.  

This is all I found about using Chinese White as an underpainting:   

"Lifting after using Chinese white as a base: Using Chinese white as a base makes it easier to lift and manipulate applied color to create hazy, misty effects, and soft-edged, subtly blended areas of tone. This technique is also known as blottesque. In blottesque, you apply a thin layer of Chinese white to your paper, let it dry and then paint over it with layers of transparent watercolor in the usual way. At any stage, you can lift, scrub or rub off color to achieve the effect you want. You can use the technique all over your painting, but if you do not want Chinese white to mix the transparent color, confine it to a few appropriate areas, such as the sky, to create naturalistic cloud effects. The blottesque technique is ideal for lifting color where you want subtle gradations of tone. It gives more control than basic lifting techniques because both the white of the paper and the white pigment contribute to the lightening of tones. When you lift color laid on a base of Chinese white, the edges are soft and merge into neighboring washes. Exploit these effects for naturalistic skies, and hazy, moisture-drenched weather effects." 

I'd love to hear from watercolor painters out there who can help me understand this technique. 

November 6, 2015

Art Auction Previews

November and May are the months of the big Impressionist, Modern, and Contemporary art auctions in New York City, and the auction houses schedule previews for several days before the auctions so the public can see and assess the art.  In general, you see art that is being sold from one private collection to an individual building another private collection - and the previews rarely disappoint me.  Sotheby's auction this month included many pieces owned by A. Alfred Taubman and it was a thrill to see the art, especially the watercolors (Winslow Homer, Sargent) and many drawings Gustave Klimt, Egon Schiele).

I  took a class at Quilt Festival last week about "working in a series" and one of the exercises was to rapidly list all of the themes you loved.  At the top of my list was Mother and Child, perhaps in part because it is one of the few series I created in fabric.  These are small quilts in which I explored the many ways I could transfer my drawings of a pregnant nude model to fabric.  Here is my favorite.


At the Sotheby's Auction preview last week, this was one of my favorite sculptures -  Mother, Child, and Apple by Henry Moore.  I would have drawn it except for the constant presence of at least 10-12 people standing around it! 


Instead I painted one of Louise Bourgeoise' Spiders with Eggs (11 inches high) and Aristide Maillote's Jeune Fille (terracotta, 7 inches high).  I loved the spider shadows!



Tomorrow we are going to the Previews at Christies - with sketchbook in hand again! 


November 3, 2015

International Quilt Festival - 2015

I just returned from my annual trip to the International Quilt Festival in Houston Texas.  In high school I became a seamstress, then in 1980, while living in Texas, I learned how to make quilts.  By 1990 I was starting to dye and design fabric and loved mixing dyes and painting them on silk.  Watercolor painting became a natural extension after I retired.  But I only acquire new interests and don't easily give up the old ones.  This was my 30th annual visit to Quilt Festival where I look at 100s of quilts, take classes, and replenish supplies.

The Houston Convention Center is huge - think multiple football fields, and is now undergoing more building and renovation.  All 3 floors are devoted to this event and the last attendance record I heard, which was several years ago, was 55,000 attendees.


I painted once each full day I was there, and here are my sketchbook pages.  Jane Dunnewold's class was about working in a series, and we had many exercises to do during our 3 hours of discussion.  In one of the final exercises we had to quickly write down lists of words that we associated with colors.  Of greatest interest were the half of the class that hate purple and had lots of bad associations with it. 


My next class required 3 hours of sewing and I didn't paint during the session.  But I did draw one of my favorite dolls from the Hoffman Challenge Doll Exhibit as I walked through the exhibit areas. 


My third day and class was with Judy Coates Perez and we dyed and painted fabric using Acrylic Inks.  Wow!  the textures created were gorgeous, and were very different than those achieved with dyes.  But they also are not completely water resistant, making them better for art quilts that will never be washed. 


October 30, 2015

Figure Al Fresco at Battery Park City

I attended a figure drawing session at Battery Park City when I returned from vacation..  This weekly free program runs from May 1-October 31, weather permitting.  These are drawings from my last session, when it was cool enough that we moved down to the edge of the water to be in the sun. 

This is a photo of part of the group in the Battery Park South Cove,  The second photo shows the view over my shoulder, with the constant sound of water lapping under my bench. 




I am using one large sheet of watercolor paper for each of these series of drawings.  I sketch with a soluble graphite pencil and then add water with a waterbrush for shading.  Most of these were 10-20 minute poses. 





Shirley Parker Levine
New York City

November 2015

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