Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Janna in the portable painting studio

This weekend found my daughter, Janna and me in Savannah, Georgia for a long weekend together! We packed the portable painting studio, AKA my Nissan Pathfinder, with painting supplies and headed to one of many peaceful southern vistas, Bonaventure Cemetery.
The second day, we were joined by our talented friend, Becky deMarco.
Like daughter, Like Mother

Guerilla Painter Setup - This pochade box and easel combo makes it simple to take the essentials outdoors.
Many thanks to Guerrilla painter, Carl Judson, for helping with my plein air setup and teaching me how to use it effectively.
Check out his supplies at judsonsart.com

My almost finished painting
This is the 5th in a series of cemetery paintings. As locations for painting, cemeteries are peaceful, mostly quiet spots with opportunities to paint a great variety of subjects. I tend to gravitate toward the headstones, grave markers and the statuary. Janna had her eyes on a huge oak tree covered with vines, while Becky was attracted by the open vistas and trees.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Drawing a Day

My mediocre drawing of a chair

"I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it."
Alice in Wonderland

As some of you know, I have been an art teacher for years. Every age from 3 to ancient (around my age) has come through my classroom.

There are different ways to approach the teaching of art, but for me the emphasis has to be first on learning to draw. Without this skill, there is no foundation for learning more and the aspiring artist is severely limited in scope of future work. The artist is working with a handicap if unable to draw.

Learning to draw is learning to see. To practice recording the world around you hones skills of observation that are essential to the artist. To study how a flower is put together, or how a building looks as it rises from the street, or the anatomy of a kitten while it sleeps, is to understand how the world around you is constructed. If you draw it, you understand it. If you understand it, you can communicate to your viewer.

I recently found the website of Michael Nobbs www.michaelnobbs.com: a Welsh artist who embraces the habit of making a drawing a day and he inspired me to follow my own good advice and sketch something, anything every day. I always tell my students this, but somehow acted as if I were exempt from following my own advice since I already know how to draw. One thing that I forgot - use it or lose it! My drawings are a little rusty, shall we say, but in the week or so since I've been dragging my little sketchbook around with me, it's gotten easier, even fun!

It is my belief that anyone with the desire and the time to practice can learn to draw. So don't be afraid to make a bad drawing. It's just a sheet of paper.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


I have in my studio a box labeled "Unfinished Paintings." Since I work mainly outdoors or en plein air, sometimes the weather or the time of day or a prior commitment means that I must leave the scene without completing a painting.

Today, I opened that box and took out a memory of a sunny day and a Savannah landmark, Polk's Market. Becky, Elaine and I stood in the median of Liberty Street across from the market and painted, attracting onlookers, pedestrians and Mr. Polk himself, curious to see our paintings. I must say that Becky's painting took the prize that day, and mine went home not quite done.

Here is a look at the painting in its unfinished state and a look at its current "finished" state. As finished as it's going to get, anyway!

Finished: Polk's Market, 9X12", Oil on panel

I warmed it up and gave an indication of dappled sunlight on the walls, added some details and finished the lettering on the signs. I think the finishing touches gave it a feeling of summer, with the addition of leaves on the trees, rather than the wintry feel it had before. The leaves seem to form a natural frame for the painting.
What do you think? Should I have left well enough alone? Would you have finished it differently? Is it truly finished?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

One afternoon 2 miles above Sea Level

It's been weeks since I posted, but since I finished the mural, I took a trip to Colorado to visit my family there - my son and his kids. They live in Georgetown, which is fully two miles above sea level! That makes it more than 2 miles above the atmosphere I'm used to breathing here in below sea level Florida. There's not much oxygen up there and the air is dry as a desert. It snowed most of the days of my visit and even now it is still snowing almost every day. It seemed like I was on another planet, one where I would need special equipment just to breathe the air.

I was excited about the prospect of painting another kind of landscape and thrilled that my son's house was perched on a mountainside with one wall entirely of glass!
After a trip to H.L. Meinenger's in Denver, I was set to paint en plein air without even going outside!

The first day that the kids were in school, I set up to paint from the living room windows. The view is spectacular and this little painting was my first in months, besides the mural. Unfortunately, it was the only one I was able to complete on this trip, since I was attacked by a virulent fly bug and was laid low for the rest of my time there! I'm just happy that I completed one painting of the view from that mountainside. I used Liquin for a medium and Gamblin Fast-Drying White and the painting was ready to pack when I came home.

Monday, March 29, 2010


Sunday, March 28 - the mural is finished!

It was a lot of fun - I got to work with three outstanding helpers: Becky DeMarco, Liberty, aka Libby Couch and Shannon White, and one valuable professional consultant, Paul Scibilia.
Thanks to the many residents of this historic building for the encouraging words as they watched the progression of the work, and thanks to Patrick and Anthony, who were there when we needed them to provide building access and help with equipment.
Most of all, thanks to David and Peggy Chiarella, who commissioned the work and facilitated its completion.

A little tromp l'oeil (fool the eye)
Stylized cacti are very Art Deco and draw you in to view the mural as you enter the building
The addition of the cactus in the front adds to the illusion of depth.
Building front
Whew! We're finished!

Friday, March 26, 2010


In reply to questions about the size of the mural, here is a full view with me in it.

I keep tweaking these two.

Come on in - the water's...almost finished!

After 10.5 hours yesterday, the mural is almost finished!
Had to finish the upper parts since the scaffolding is being picked up today, added 2 ladies on the side of the pool and worked on the myriad little details that just keep making themselves apparent to the perfectionist in me.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

MARCH 24th

Today we added details - frames on the windows and the important element of tiles in perspective on the front edge of the pool. This helps with the illusion of reality and depth.
The columns on both sides are finished and the lintel across the top is complete - important since the scaffolding is being picked up tomorrow!

Sophisticated Mom

Monday, March 22, 2010

We're making progress - the goal is to be finished by Friday.
Everything takes about twice as long as I think it will, and I try to plan for that, but perfectionism is working against me!

Making progress!
Mother and son


Friday, March 19, 2010

First Day Posting!

It's a new blogspot for Art ala Carte! We'll start by previewing my current project - a huge mural in an his
toric building in Savannah, Georgia. Currently a condo building, 119 West Oglethorpe was built in the 1920s as a YWCA, complete with a large indoor swimming pool. That pool still exists today, though in disrepair, and hasn't been used for a few years. As a tribute to the age of the building and the pool in it's prime, we are painting a mural of the old pool on the interior wall of the lobby.

Blank wall - this is the "before."

The pool still exists, but looks forlorn.

Front door

Becky, working on the scaffold
, duplicating the window

Libby, up in the air

Progress to date

Detail, woman swimming
Stay tuned - this mural will be finished by
a week from now.